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42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 183

CONTENTS

Tuesday, May 30, 2017




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 148 
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NUMBER 183 
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1st SESSION 
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42nd PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Health

    Madam Speaker, today I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the federal framework on Lyme disease in Canada, pursuant to the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act, which will now be referred to the Standing Committee on Health in accordance with Standing Order 32(5).

[Translation]

    I would like to begin by stating that our government recognizes the impact that Lyme disease has had and continues to have on Canadians and their families and appreciates the hard work of all who contributed to the framework.

[English]

    Through last year's conference to develop a federal framework on Lyme disease and the recent public consultation period for the initial draft of the framework, we have heard very clearly that there is a desire for action. We considered the perspectives and feedback and have developed the federal framework on Lyme disease in Canada. It is now available online at canada.ca/lymedisease.

[Translation]

    The framework sets out the federal government's role with respect to surveillance, education and awareness, and guidelines and best practices. The Government of Canada is also committed to investing in research to better understand the causes and transmission of Lyme disease.

[English]

    Over the coming days, I look forward to providing further information about the actions we will be taking under the federal framework on Lyme disease in Canada.

Committees of the House

Health 

    Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure and honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder. After some incredible testimony and impressive witnesses with emotional stories to tell, the committee has studied the bill and decided to report the bill back to the House with amendment.

Public Accounts  

    Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, entitled “Report 4, Oversight of Passenger Vehicle Safety, of the Fall 2016 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[Translation]

Public Safety and National Security  

    Madam Speaker, today I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Main Estimates 2017-18”.

[English]

Income Tax Act

     He said: Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise to introduce an important bill to Canadians. This legislation would reduce food waste and hunger in our communities by creating a tax incentive to encourage food producers, suppliers, and retailers to donate food to charities. I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for seconding this bill.
    This bill is a result of the vision of two thoughtful high school students from my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, Gaelan Emo and June Lam from Windermere Secondary. June and Gaelan are this year's winners of my annual Create your Canada contest held in high schools across Vancouver Kingsway. They identified the need to reduce the 31 million pounds of food wasted in Canada every year and lend a hand to the 13% of Canadians who live in food insecurity. This is a smart economic policy and a progressive social initiative.
    I hope that all parliamentarians will help them realize their vision for a better Canada and support this excellent bill.

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

  (1010)  

[Translation]

Main Estimates 2016-17—Canadian Heritage

    The following motion in the name of the hon. Leader of the Opposition is deemed adopted:
     That, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(b), consideration by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of all Votes under Department of Canadian Heritage in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018, be extended beyond May 31, 2017.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Committees of the House

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

    Madam Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties, and I believe you would find agreement for the following motion:
     That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the debate pursuant to Standing Order 66 on Motion No. 12 to concur in the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, be deemed to have taken place, and that the said report, presented on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, be deemed concurred in on division.
    Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Electoral Reform  

    Madam Speaker, I move that the third report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform presented on Thursday, December 1, 2016, be concurred in.
    At the outset, Madam Speaker, I will let you know that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who has done excellent work on this file and is joined by tens of thousands of Canadians who have also contributed their hearts, their ideas, and their hopes and aspirations into this issue, into this most fundamental idea that, when we vote for something, we would get it; that when we put our ballot in the ballot box expressing our wish for the future, which is what a vote is, and there has been a promise made, the promise will be kept.
    We have watched the long and somewhat tortured saga of the story around electoral reform in the government for many months, 18 or 20 months or more, in which we had the opportunity to do something. We still have that opportunity to do something quite remarkable in restoring the hope and trust that Canadians have in their politics, in their governance, and in their way of doing things here in Parliament.
     Perhaps what we are attempting to do here today with this vote on the electoral reform committee's work is to have Liberals keep their promise. Some have said that is one of the trickiest jobs in politics. The evidence is quite strong that this is a hard thing to do sometimes, yet I have a great amount of hope, shared by many Canadians, that this can be done. The reason many of us got into elected office in the first place was to be able to lift up our communities, to keep our word when it is made, and to not break promises casually.
    That has not so far been the case with this particular issue, but let us walk through the timeline, because it is quite a story and it takes a bit to get through. The Prime Minister, as a candidate and then as Prime Minister, made a very clear commitment again and again—hundreds of times, in fact—that the 2015 election would be the last election under the first-past-the-post system. He made it so many times that Canadians can recite it themselves, and it was not just the Prime Minister, but every Liberal who stood for office, and every Liberal who was elected was elected on that promise.
    We in the New Democrats, the Conservatives, the Bloc, and the Green Party moved in good faith forward on this exercise not out of any sense of naïveté or lack of information, but simply because a promise so clear, so black and white, repeated so often by the leader of a country, ought to mean something. This issue is clearly about electoral reform itself, about the idea of making every vote count from all Canadians regardless of where they live in the country. That is an essential part of this conversation, so that people do not have to vote strategically or cynically or out of fear, but simply vote for what they want, vote for the candidate they want and have that vote mean something.
    We know that virtually all successful democracies around the world have evolved their way of voting over time to make votes more effective, to not have situations like we did in the last election where 18 million votes were cast, but less half of them actually went toward electing anybody in this place. The average vote required to elect a Liberal MP was 38,000, another 20,000 to elect a Conservative, more than 20,000 to elect a New Democrat or Bloc, and 600,000-plus votes to elect a single Green member. Clearly, with a range of 38,000 to 600,000, even a small child can understand the unfairness of that system.
    We moved ahead and struck the electoral reform committee, made up proportionally, by the way, of how Canadians actually voted in the last election. The committee worked well. It toured every province and territory in the country. It held open microphones and town halls, listening to every expert we could call here in Canada and around the world about the best way to move Canada forward to make that promise a reality, the promise the Prime Minister made, the campaign commitment that New Democrats had, that the Green Party ran on, that 63% of the members in the House ran on, a solemn commitment to Canadians. We produced the most comprehensive report on our democracy in this country's history. That is not bad.
     Unfortunately, the government's first response to it was unbecoming, if we can say that, yet we persisted. Suddenly with a cabinet shuffle and a new minister, there was somehow a mandate letter delivered from on high, breaking that promise, as if somehow mandates come out of the Prime Minister's Office as opposed to where they really come from, which is the electorate, which is voters. That is the only place, and it should only ever be that place. For all my friends in the Prime Minister's Office, it is good to remember that. It is good to remember who this place actually works for--not some unelected adviser to the Prime Minister, however long they have been friends, but the people who actually elected people to the House.

  (1015)  

    The evidence was overwhelming in support of proportional representation. Everybody on the committee could understand that because it was so clear. Ninety per cent of the experts who testified said that if we wanted to make every vote count, if we wanted to make the will of voters properly expressed in the House of Commons, we needed a proportional system.
    There are many choices under that rubric of different systems that would work for Canada, rural and urban, making sure that our various geographies and our orientations as a country are respected. Eighty-eight per cent of Canadians who came to those open mikes, wrote to the committee, or filled out our online survey, also expressed support for a proportional system. Ninety per cent of experts and 88% of Canadians who came forward expressed support, yet when the promise was broken, quite cynically, the excuses that the Prime Minister then rolled out on the forthcoming days were extraordinary and somewhat disturbing.
    First, there was the fearmongering. “Hope and hard work” was a slogan in the election. Now, the Prime Minister chooses to use more of a fear tactic on this, that extremists would get in if we allowed for a proportional system. The Dutch just proved that not to be the case. An extremist was running for the leadership of their country and it was proportional representation in that vote that kept him from seizing power in that alt-right fashion.
    Then it was the global instability. Donald Trump, I think, is what he was referring to. I will remind my Liberal colleagues that Americans use first past the post.
    Then there was this notion that there was not a broad consensus, because 90% of experts and 88% of Canadians was not enough. Then a fellow from Kitchener decided to start an e-petition, no. 616, which I sponsored and brought forward to the House. It contained 132,000 signatures, making it the largest petition in Canadian history to come forward, and it said that this was critical and needed to move forward.
    After all this, a cabinet shuffle, a broken mandate, and a broken promise, the Prime Minister said, finally, “It was my choice to make and I chose to make it.” In an effort to, I think, appear strong, the Prime Minister proved himself to be fundamentally wrong. It is not his choice to make. It is Parliament's choice to make.
    I know from my Liberal colleagues that many of them sent apology letters to their constituents, wrote op-eds in the local newspaper, saying, “It breaks my heart that we had to break this promise. I'm very sorry. I really wanted to see this happen.” I know my Liberal colleagues never had a vote on this. I do not think they ever stood in caucus and said, “Who's in favour of betraying this promise? Who wants to keep it?” Parliament has never had a vote on this. Parliament has never had the opportunity to weigh in on this initiative, on this effort, on this ability to keep a promise of the 63% of us who are in the House, and to make every vote count.
     By moving this report, we allow that vote to take place. We allow the conversation to move ahead. We allow, finally, hopefully, a table to be established at which we can negotiate with the government, as negotiations have gone on in British Columbia recently, maybe successfully. We will find out in a few hours about the idea that when 60% or more of the electorate want to go in a certain direction, politicians who are smart and have that core ethic understand that they should listen.
    Hope springs eternal. I was coming up the steps of Parliament today, passing all these school groups that are coming in, the thousands of young people who come to this place. We just saw a bill introduced through the “Create Your Canada” process from my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway. The Prime Minister, in the last campaign, I think very effectively, spoke to young people. He also spoke to Canadians who had grown cynical and tired with the last government. He said that we should hope for more and we should expect more.
    I was on liberal.ca this morning, seeing if the promise to make 2015 the last election under first past the post was still there. There it is, under the title of “Real Change”. It says that the Liberals would use evidence-based decision-making and that the Conservatives had lost the faith of Canadians because they had broken their promises.
    Here is the opportunity for the government to make good. I held more than 20 town halls and events in the last six weeks, all across the country, coast to coast. We talked to Canadians. They are not as cynical as some of the people in the Prime Minister's Office. They are more hopeful. They expect and want more from their government. They want this to happen. They support the evidence that we, as a committee, heard: that we can make every vote count, that we can have integrity in our politics, and that we can hold ourselves up to a higher standard.
    I look forward to the support of my Liberal colleagues because I know in their ridings that I visited over the last number of weeks, their constituents want this as well.

  (1020)  

    Madam Speaker, I know the member across the way visited Winnipeg North and his report might not necessarily be fully accurate. I too had a town hall in Winnipeg North on this very important issue, and what I have come to believe is that I can count on my hands the number of individuals over the last two years, even during that election period, who actually approached me on this issue.
     I can assure the member across the way that the residents whom I represent see the priorities of government as being dealing with the issues this government has brought forward to the House. I will cite, for example, the importance of a health care accord, the importance of retirement programs, the tax breaks, and the Canada child benefit program.
    Would the member not at least acknowledge that there was no consensus achieved on this issue?
    Only, Madam Speaker, if “by consensus” he means that the Liberals have to agree, and that the Prime Minister's Office has to agree. That is what consensus seems to be. Consultation is a very important thing, but it must be done with integrity. We did the consultation in the member's riding. More than 70% of his constituents answered a poll saying that they wanted this promise to be kept. Twenty Liberal ridings were polled, and this was the answer. We also know, by the way, that proportional voting systems around the world deliver better policy on economics and on the environment.
    Here is a piece of gum. Let us go for a walk. I bet the Liberals can do both at the same time. They can move and advance forward policies that are important to Canadians and keep their promises at the same time. It is as if one excluded the other. It is as if working on housing or health care meant that the Liberals had to break these other promises. What kind of twisted logic is that? Canadians want them to keep their word. It is simple, plain; that is all.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech and his ability to tell it like it is.
    I also took part in this extensive consultation process. I heard the minister repeat time and time again that Canadians had given the Liberals a clear mandate on this matter. I heard the Prime Minister and the minister repeat more than 1,000 times that this would be the last election under the old system. That said, we nevertheless had some concerns. We suspected that the government's sole objective was to put in place whichever system would benefit it the most. That is why we wanted a referendum, in order to make sure that whatever was proposed, whether a proportional voting system or otherwise, it would be what Canadians want.
    Since my colleague took part in all the consultations and has already heard all this, I have a question for him. After hearing the comments made in response to the question previously posed, and after all the other comments made by the government, do you think the government is being hypocritical, considering how it is handling this file?
    I remind the member to address his comments to the Chair.
    The hon. member of Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for the work that he did in committee.
    After holding consultations and hearing the testimony, the Prime Minister said that he preferred a system that works very well for the Liberals. It is incredibly unbelievable.
    I believe, as do all the intelligent Canadians who cheerfully participated in the consultations, that the government is being hypocritical and cynical. That is why I am asking my Liberal colleagues to make the right choice when it comes time to vote. We heard from many witnesses over the course of this process.
    The fact that the Prime Minister said he had a personal preference, which was not supported by the experts, shows just how cynical he is.
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for the wonderful work that he has done. He has been doing an excellent job on this file for some time now, since this was a fairly long process.
    I am very pleased to rise today in the House. It is a real honour to talk about this issue because no issue is more important than the foundation of our democracy. Voters can participate in the election process, which makes it possible to have a Parliament that reflects the diversity of views in society and a democracy that reflects the choice of the people as fairly as possible .
    That is the promise that the Liberal Party of Canada made during the last election. That was not a small promise involving a change to a rule or an administrative change. The Liberals promised a historic change that would improve our democracy and make Parliament more representative and more consistent with the message voters are sending.
    This promise was repeated hundreds of times, maybe even a thousand times, and people believed it. We, too, took the Liberals at their word. When the Leader of the Liberal Party, who became Prime Minister of the country, tells us that the 2015 election will be the last one under the current voting system, we have every reason to believe it. What is more, when he specifically mandates the minister responsible for democratic reform to make that change, we again believe it. When it is in the throne speech, we continue to believe it. When the parliamentary committee is tasked with making that change, we continue to believe it. Unfortunately, today, the Liberal Party is telling us and all Canadians that we should not have believed it. In fact, perhaps even the Liberals themselves never believed it.
    Coming from a government whose platform said that it would restore the public's trust in democratic institutions, it is a slap in the face. It is extremely serious because it deepens the cynicism of the people we meet in our ridings, communities, cities, and towns.
    After the Liberal promise was broken by the Prime Minister, many people asked us what needed to be done for politicians to keep their promises. This is serious, because the Liberals have just sown doubt in many people's minds or confirmed the doubts they already had.
    We uphold the principle of hope and keeping one's word. What is the word of a Liberal politician worth today? It is difficult to go on saying that we can trust them. Let us remind people that the Liberal Party has not kept its word on an issue that goes to the very heart of our democracy.
    The current system, first past the post, is almost no longer used at all by other western democracies, because it creates very serious distortions between the people's choice on election day and the representation in the House, in Parliament. In 2011, with 40% of the votes, the Conservative Party was able to form a majority government with 55% of the seats. This means that a minority can form a majority government that, for four years, can practically do whatever it wants. We saw what that bulldozer did.
    At the time, the members of the NDP, the Green Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the Liberal Party said that it made no sense and that the system had to be changed. In addition, 63% of Canadians voted for parties that wanted a more proportional voting system.

  (1030)  

    Once in power—with, guess what, 39% of the votes and 55% of the seats—and once the whole process was over, the Liberal Party pulled a 180, broke its promise, and said things are just fine as they are.
    That has consequences, and we think that a proportional voting system makes for better government. That is how it is done in 85% of OECD countries. It is not a hare-brained idea or so complicated that people will not understand how it works. It is simple, it works, and the principle is one that any elementary school child can understand. If a party gets about 20% of the votes, it should have about 20% of the seats. That seems logical to me, and it is what the people want.
    A parliamentary committee was created to study the issue. Thanks to the NDP's proposal, the committee makeup reflected how people voted in 2015. The committee was given a mandate to study possible changes and alternatives to the voting system. We heard a lot of things. As my colleague said earlier, roughly 90% of the experts were in favour of a proportional voting system. About 87% or 88% of the citizens who came to see us were in favour of a proportional voting system.
    The committee conducted an online survey that received 23,000 responses. Some 72% of respondents said they were in favour of a proportional voting system. The Liberals created their bizarre little website, MyDemocracy.ca, with completely convoluted and planted questions with no science behind them whatsoever, and people still said that they wanted a proportional voting system.
    At the end of the process, the four opposition parties involved in the study had a discussion. We all put some water in our wine. We accepted the principle of a referendum, which was important to two other opposition parties, the Bloc and the Conservatives. The committee produced a majority report, which, guess what, argued in favour of a referendum on a proportional voting system.
    Quite frankly, the Liberal government has a lot of nerve. I do not want to use unparliamentary language, so let us just say that it is resorting to a premeditated inaccuracy or planned misrepresentation in saying that there was no consensus. What a bunch of nonsense. This is the Liberals' way of getting out of a broken promise that was extremely important to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians all across the country.
    There was a consensus. The only problem is that this consensus was not in the Liberal Party's interest. That is what is happening today. Now, with this vote in the House, in Parliament, on the majority report of the committee on electoral reform, all Liberal members present have the opportunity to rise, keep their word, and respect the will of their voters. We are being generous by giving them the opportunity for democratic redemption. They should keep their word and respect the choice of voters and the consensus of society. People overwhelmingly said that they no longer want this old inequitable, unfair, and archaic system. They said they wanted real change, a system where their vote is respected and every vote counts.
    In the House tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to respect the will of the people, to keep our word, to fulfill the election promise, and to move forward with a new proportional voting system.

  (1035)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleagues opposite for their remarks today and for their dedication to this matter.
    Mention has been made of election promises, and absolutely, our government made a promise during the election campaign to look at a whole range of issues that would affect our democratic institutions, and yes, one of those was the way we cast our ballots. However, again and again, emphatically, repeatedly, and with tremendous emphasis, we said we would also consult with Canadians on these questions to find out the best way to proceed with Canadians.
    We did that. We spent just about a year engaging Canadians, hearing what they wanted to do. We got about 0.1% of Canadians engaged in the first round. We worked hard on the website and we managed to get about 1% of Canadians engaged the second time.
    I wonder if the member might be able to enlighten me on why he thinks it is a good idea now to change the fundamental nature of our democracy based on less than 1% of Canadians having weighed in on this topic, and when even among that 1% there was no clear consensus about which direction to go.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I believe it would be a good thing to change fundamental aspects of our democracy because that is what you promised.
    I would ask the member to address his comments through the Chair.
    Madam Speaker, I know you promised that.
    We must not show contempt for the choice that Canadians and Quebeckers made during the last election. A total of 63% of voters voted for parties that supported a proportional voting system.
    We consulted with people. That was the job that the parliamentary committee set up by the Liberal government was given to do. The broad consensus was in favour of a proportional voting system. That is what we heard from experts, ordinary Canadians, and the results of the online survey. One would have to be wilfully blind not to see the will of the people behind this fundamental change.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my hon. colleague on his speech.
    As I already said, I attended various meetings with him in this regard. I too have been very frustrated because there is indeed a consensus. I am very pleased that his party agreed to hold a referendum.
    There was a real danger because the Prime Minister had already announced that he wanted a preferential ballot system, which would put him at an advantage. We are really worried that the Liberals will change the voting system in a way that will benefit them.
    I would like to know what the member thinks about this dramatic about-face. The Prime Minister had already announced that he was going to change the voting system and go with the one that he wanted but that did not reflect the will of Canadians.
    What does he think about how the Prime Minister broke his promise and his way of going about it?

  (1040)  

    Madam Speaker, my thanks to my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for his question, but also for the work he did on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
    My answer is that it is a mix of cynicism, manipulation and hypocrisy on the Prime Minister's part. It is quite an unbelievable mix. In fact, let us not forget that, even after the election, when he did his media tour in December 2016, the Liberal Prime Minister was still saying he was going to change the voting system.
    This is not just one small aspect of our democracy; it is a critical issue. He was with Patrice Roy on the Téléjournal in 2016, and he kept repeating that, when he makes a promise, it is serious business, he believes in it, and he will not back down just because it is difficult. If that is not laughing in everyone's face, I do not know what is.
    In 2019, voters will remember the Liberal way.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am rising today to discuss the motion moved by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
    I want to begin by thanking all the members of the special committee on electoral reform for their excellent hard work in producing this report.
    The committee held 57 meetings in every province and territory, listened to the testimony of 196 witnesses, collected and considered 574 written submissions, reached more than 22,000 Canadians through an online consultation process, and received 172 reports from members of Parliament who had hosted their own town halls to gather opinions from their constituents, my own among them.
    Their report, entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform”, is a significant addition to the study of electoral reform in Canada and includes many important recommendations to improve our electoral system.
    I also want to thank all the expert witnesses, the tireless and dedicated committee staff, and the thousands of Canadians who participated in this very important exercise in democracy. The extent of their work was impressive, and a credit to our democratic system.
    Meanwhile, our government also spent the summer and autumn of 2016 engaged in extensive consultations on this important issue. We were elected on a commitment to listen to Canadians. The previous Minister of Democratic Institutions and her parliamentary secretary also undertook a cross-country tour during this period, holding community events in every province and territory.
    Our government also launched an innovative online tool to engage in a conversation with Canadians and learn more about what they value most in our democracy. This website, mydemocracy.ca, not only helped us to engage with as many Canadians as possible but also provided us with essential statistically valid public opinion research data. Every Canadian household was invited to participate, and more than 360,000 individuals took the time to share their views on democracy. We thank them for doing that. It is indeed rare for a government to be able to engage in such a significant national dialogue.
    As the electoral system is a foundational component of any democratic system, I think all hon. members would agree that any significant change in how we vote must have the broad support of Canadians.
    As was announced on February 1 of this year, these consultation efforts revealed that there is no broad consensus throughout the country to replace the current voting system or on what a preferred new system would look like.
    We learned that Canadians value the direct relationship between their members of Parliament and the constituents they represent and the ability of these constituents to hold their elected representatives directly to account.
    Therefore, our government has taken and will continue to take concrete steps to work with all parliamentarians to advance the five principles of the special committee's mandate. These principles are effectiveness and legitimacy, public engagement, accessibility and inclusiveness, integrity, and local representation.
    In his report following the 2015 election, our former chief electoral officer made a number of recommendations aimed at modernizing the Canada Elections Act. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is currently considering these recommendations. To date, two interim reports have been tabled, with further feedback expected.
    Another important step that we have taken to advance these principles is the introduction of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act. This legislation seeks to increase inclusion and voter participation by breaking down barriers that discourage Canadians from voting. It would also enhance confidence in the integrity of Canada's elections.
    Bill C-33 addresses many of the concerns we have heard from Canadians in response to the changes made by the former government's Fair Elections Act. Bill C-33 reflects our government's focus on how we can help all members of our society gain access to the democratic process, including youth, seniors, indigenous Canadians, new Canadians, those with disabilities, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
    Returning to the special committee's work, I would note that the committee made a number of important recommendations that extended beyond the foundational changes to the voting system, and I would like to address a few of those now.
    Let us start with committee recommendation 3, which calls on our government to not bring in mandatory voting at this time. Our government agrees with the committee that mandatory voting is not the correct approach at this time. However, we are committed to taking steps to encourage greater civic participation and greater citizen literacy to increase voter turnout in future federal elections.
    Bill C-33 aims to increase voter participation by reducing barriers posed by voter identification, expanding the Chief Electoral Officer's mandate to undertake broad education campaigns, and creating a national register of future electors.
    Furthermore, the government will continue to explore avenues to remove barriers to participation and improve voter turnout. We will do this by working with our partners and all Canadians. Our work will be informed by the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

  (1045)  

    Another committee recommendation, number 4, advises against allowing online voting at this time. Again, we agree, and while Canadians who participated in mydemocracy.ca agreed that online voting would improve voter turnout, their support was contingent on the need for solid assurance that such a system would not be vulnerable to manipulation by hackers. Similar concerns were heard from the experts before the special committee.
    Recommendations 5 and 6 call on Elections Canada to explore the use of technology to make voting more accessible, particularly for people with disabilities, while also ensuring the overall integrity of the voting process. The former chief electoral officer has made similar recommendations, and the government will consider them carefully in light of PROC's own deliberations. We will also consider consultations led by the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities on broader measures to help disabled Canadians participate in our democracy.
    Recommendation 8 calls on the government to amend the Canada Elections Act to create a financial incentive that encourages political parties to run more female candidates. The government acknowledges that more must be done to support the participation of women in Canada's democratic life, and we urge all parties to more aggressively recruit, encourage, and support female candidates. As such, the government is committed to building on existing measures as well as to considering innovative approaches to further this goal.
    For example, last year Status of Women Canada solicited applications for projects to create inclusive public spaces to increase the participation of women, including indigenous women, in the democratic life of our country. The call consisted of two themes: empowering women for political action to promote the participation of women in political life, and empowering women for community action to improve conditions for women by amplifying women's voices and enhancing their civic participation. A total of 14 projects have been approved for funding since the spring of 2016, totalling an investment of $8.7 million over the next three years.
    Recommendation 9 of the special committee report calls on our government to include youth in the national register of electors before they reach the voting age. Our government is very much in favour of this recommendation. In fact, we have already included a national register of future electors in Bill C-33.
    Canadians have told us that they want to encourage young people to vote, and research has found that when young people vote in one election, they are more likely to make it a lifelong habit. The Chief Electoral Officer recommended that we prepare young people to vote. It would happen by introducing pre-registration. The amendments to the Canada Elections Act in Bill C-33 would allow Elections Canada to work with young people in schools and other settings to register to vote. Young Canadians aged 14 to 17 would be able to pre-register and to access educational resources as well as other information about our democracy, elections, and voting. Upon turning 18, they would be automatically added to the national register for voting and would be ready to cast that all-important first vote.
    The 10th recommendation made by the committee has a similar theme. It asks the government to empower Elections Canada to encourage a higher voter turnout. We agree with this recommendation, as a lack information can create a significant barrier to participation. Under the previous government's legislation, the Chief Electoral Officer can only conduct educational programs for primary through grade 12 aged children. The Chief Electoral Officer has recommended that the mandate be extended to conduct education programs for all Canadians. We agree, and that is why our government has included a provision in Bill C-33 to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake non-partisan educational programs aimed at providing information to all Canadians.
    During our national electoral reform engagement tour, Canadians told us that they wanted more done to improve civic literacy and to build knowledge about Canadian democracy. They told us that they want us to make it easier to vote. They want to make it easier to learn about voting and the democratic process, and they want to make sure that as many Canadians as possible who are eligible to vote have an opportunity to do so.
     Although this is reflected in the measures in Bill C-33 I have already mentioned, the bill has several other key measures that underscore the efforts we would make to improve democratic participation in our country. First, it would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize the use of voter information cards as identification. Elections Canada piloted the use of the VIC as ID in 2010, and in the 2011 general election, approximately 900,000 Canadians, at more than 5,600 polling stations, were eligible to use the card as ID. The initiative was particularly useful at polling places such as long-term care homes and seniors' residences.
    Unfortunately, the former government's Fair Elections Act prevented Canadians from using the voter ID card as ID in the 2015 election. Last autumn, the CEO recommended to the procedure and House affairs committee that the practice to use the card as ID be re-established. He said that this would be particularly helpful for three groups that have difficulty proving residency: youth, seniors, and indigenous voters.

  (1050)  

    Reinstating the VIC would increase access to voting for a number of Canadians.
    Second, Bill C-33 would re-establish vouching so that a Canadian citizen could vouch for another to allow him or her to vote. Before the Fair Elections Act, an eligible Canadian voter could vouch for someone who needed to prove his or her identity and residence but lacked proper ID. The limitation on vouching created a significant barrier to voting.
    A Stats Canada survey last year estimated that some 172,000 Canadians said they were unable to vote because they lacked proper ID. This is a particular problem for indigenous people living on reserve and homeless people.
    Third, Bill C-33 would help Elections Canada clean up data in the national register of electors. This is in response to the Chief Electoral Officer's request for more tools to improve the register. Our bill, if passed, would give Elections Canada new resources to refine the register's data and to let it operate more effectively.
    Fourth, it would improve the public's confidence in the integrity of our elections by addressing concerns raised related to the independence of the commissioner of Canada elections as a result of the Fair Elections Act. The commissioner is a non-partisan official responsible for investigating potential voting issues, such as voter fraud or financial irregularities. The commissioner ensures that Canada Elections Act rules are followed.
    Previously, from 1974 to 2014, the Chief Electoral Officer appointed the commissioner, and the commissioner reported to the Chief Electoral Officer within Elections Canada. The previous government's Fair Elections Act transferred the commissioner to the office of the director of public prosecutions. We heard from Canadians during electoral reform dialogues that there were concerns that the commissioner would be subject to less independence. Bill C-33 would enhance confidence in the integrity of the elections system by clarifying this situation.
    Finally, it is estimated that Bill C-33 would expand voting rights to more than one million Canadians living abroad. Today, Canadians living abroad may only vote within five years of leaving Canada and must have an intention to return. These restrictions are currently being challenged before the Supreme Court of Canada. Our bill would remove a barrier to voting for those Canadians who, even though they choose to live abroad, care about the future of our country and want to have their voices heard. This proposal does not impact Canadian Armed Forces voters, who already have a full right to vote, regardless of where they are posted.
    I want to touch briefly on the Minister of Democratic Institutions' mandate to protect our electoral system from cyber-attacks. Working with her colleagues, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of National Defence, the minister has asked the Communications Security Establishment to analyze proactively the risks to our electoral system and to release a public report. Further, we will ask the CSE officer for advice for political parties on cybersecurity best practices.
    In conclusion, the government is greatly appreciative of the special committee's work in studying electoral reform as well as other important issues they raised as part of their study. We remain committed to strengthening Canada's democratic institutions and processes. Bill C-33 would remove voting roadblocks, encourage participation, and create a level playing field for political parties. We are also working to defend the Canadian electoral process from cyber-threats and are increasing transparency in the political fundraising system.
    Why take these actions? It is because Canadians value their democratic institutions, which remain the envy of the world. Our system is trusted by Canadians and is renowned worldwide. Our government remains committed to improving, strengthening, and protecting our democracy. The work of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform represents an important contribution to these efforts.

  (1055)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my thanks to my colleague for his speech.
    However, I must admit that I would hate to be in his place and to have to deliver that kind of speech. I would be very uncomfortable. It is fascinating how one can use so many words without ever addressing the issue at hand.
    I have three questions for my colleague. First, should political parties keep their promises? Second, when 85% of people want something, does that represent a consensus? Third, should Parliament faithfully and fairly represent the will of its citizens?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, coming from a long career based in public engagement before I came to this place, I know that when people say they are going to do public engagement, they must honour what they hear.
    We were very clear in the election platform that we would be improving our democracy and democratic institutions and that we would be engaging Canadians to find the best way to move forward with Canadians. We undertook one of the most robust public engagement processes the country has seen, and in the end, no clear consensus was found. Unfortunately, we had low participation from Canadians.
    I believe firmly that the Prime Minister made the responsible decision in not making a change to our fundamental voting system based on such a small number of Canadians engaging and such a lack of consensus within that small number. It would have simply been irresponsible.
    Madam Speaker, I, along with all my colleagues in this House, remember very clearly the number of all-candidates debates we were at through the last campaign where we heard time after time, dozens of times, probably, the Liberal candidates promising that this was going to be the last first-past-the-post election in Canada.
     Many times throughout my colleague's speech he commented on the democratic process. If the democratic process is so important, why would the Liberal government not allow the referendum, which was clearly recommended by the democratically appointed committee, to give all Canadians a say on the voting system they would like? It is not fair that the Prime Minister would take upon himself that one decision for the entire country. Why not allow the Canadian population to have its say on this important issue?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his devotion to this file. We know that in Canada, referenda fail. I presume that the member is keenly interested in improving our democratic institutions. I believe that probably one of the best ways to close the discussion on electoral reform is to hold a referendum. A referendum is a blunt instrument. It does not allow the opportunity for Canadians to become educated about what it is they are voting on. Of course, the ERRE report, for all its strengths, was very weak in one regard in that it did not actually describe what the question for the referendum would be. Therefore, we were really left, in this motion, asking for a referendum but with no question to ask.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, something my colleague said really stood out for me. When we do not want something to pass, we hold a referendum. That comment has implications for Quebec sovereignty too.
    I am not surprised at what the government did, but I am disappointed. When the Liberal Party was the second opposition party, it promised electoral reform and seemed to be strongly in favour of a proportional voting system to close the gap between the percentage of votes cast and the percentage of members elected. Once in power, the Liberal Party reneged on that promise because it came to power under the current system. I can only conclude that the Liberal Party wants a system that favours the Liberal Party. When it is the second opposition party, it wants a proportional voting system, but when it is in power, that no longer seems like such a good idea.
    Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that the Liberal Party's first priority is the Liberal Party, not democratic ideals?

  (1100)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I understand that it can be very politically tempting to attribute various other reasons to the decision of the government not to proceed with electoral reform, but the fundamental truth is that there was no clear consensus. We worked very hard to hear from as many Canadians as we could. I will just put a number to this. In the most inclusive and generous estimate, the number of Canadians who were involved in this consultation was a little less than 1%. That is a little less than 2% of the 17.5 million people who cast a vote in 2015. It is simply not responsible, nor is it the right choice, to move ahead with a change of this magnitude with so few people weighing in. Again, within that 2% of the people who voted in 2015, there was no consensus on which system to move ahead with, nor does the report suggest a specific system.
    Madam Speaker, I have to say to my friend from Halifax, the parliamentary secretary, that I am offended by what we just heard. I worked hard on this committee. We were never as a committee given a mandate to get large numbers of Canadians involved. We were not given a budget to get large numbers of Canadians involved. The government spent millions of dollars on Vox Pop, where it did get hundreds of thousands of people involved, and that survey said that 70% of Canadians would rather see a system in which many parties worked together by consensus rather than one party making all the decisions, even if it took longer. Therefore, the outreach the government did got hundreds of thousands of people involved and actually supported PR.
    The parliamentary committee, which came to a majority report, travelled 31,000 kilometres, to every province and territory, holding open-mike sessions with thousands of Canadians who gave up their time preparing briefs. More than 100,000 people went online to give us information. We were never told as a committee that we were supposed to accumulate numbers of Canadians to justify a promise the member's government made to Canadians, and that I voted for in the Speech from the Throne in this place, that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post.
    Madam Speaker, of course I would never, and have never, disparaged the work of the committee or any Canadian who has participated. I know everyone would agree with that. There is nothing in what I said that would suggest otherwise.
     The committee report made the statement that no electoral system was perfect. From expert witness testimonies, no clear preference for a way forward emerged.
    I do not understand how we could possibly move forward credibly and responsibly unless there were a greater mandate to do so.
    Madam Speaker, when we deal with electoral reform, it comes in different ways. There was an expectation, and the government is, in good part, meeting that expectation by changing some of the laws. The member made reference to voter accessibility, the voter ID card. For example, many Canadians thought that when they went to vote, they could use the registration card issued by Elections Canada as part of their identification.
    Could the member reinforce some of the things the government is moving forward on to reform our system, which will improve our democracy here in Canada?

  (1105)  

    Madam Speaker, the member has hit exactly on the areas in which there was great consensus through our public engagement process over the last year or so. Those are things like removing barriers to traditionally marginalized voters so they can get to the ballot box, through our work with Bill C-33. It includes efforts to engage youth into our political process through things like the pre-voter registration, a proactive analysis of cyber-threats to our democratic institutions and voting systems, making changes to make our political fundraising more open and transparent and reintroducing the voter identification card. It also improves large-scale efforts by allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to engage in education efforts for all Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I take issue with something the hon. parliamentary secretary said in his remarks. He suggested that there was a lack of consensus and that it would be irresponsible to move forward in the absence of that lack of consensus. I want to read the relevant recommendation of the report, recommendation. 12, to make the point that what he said was factually incorrect. It reads:
    The Committee acknowledges that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation...The Committee recommends that:
    The Government hold a referendum, in which the current system is on the ballot;
    That the referendum propose a proportional electoral system that achieves a Gallagher Index score of 5 or less; and
    That the Government complete the design of the alternate electoral system that is proposed on the referendum ballot prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.
    This acknowledged the fact that when there was a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, as there was among many Canadians, one would look for an alternative that had the largest amount of support. Broadly speaking, that alternative was proportionality. There are different kinds of proportionality. It is up to the government. It is the government after all that writes policy and does not try to find unanimity on issues before it pushes forward. It seeks majority consent.
    Therefore, the government would have made the decision whether to go with single transferable vote, which is a form of proportionality, or multi-member proportionality, which is another form. That would have been the government's choice. The government then would have submitted that question to the Canadian voters, who would have voted either yes or no.
     That is the way we determine whether a majority of Canadians support it, and a majority is what decides things. A majority would have to decide before we would go forward. Surely, a government elected with 39% of the vote is in no position to argue that a consensus is necessary for anything. There is never a consensus as to who should sit here. Occasionally one party gets more than 50%, but there is never a consensus.
    The hearings of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform terminated almost exactly six months ago, December 1. A report found the support of a majority of committee members, and also the support of four out of the five parties represented on the committee, in short, something very close to a consensus.
    The committee focused on producing a proposal that would allow the government to fulfill the commitment it made in the 2015 election and that it repeated in the Speech from the Throne, “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system”, subject only to the provision that the new electoral system would have to be approved first by the Canadian people in a referendum.
    Had our recommendations been followed, a new electoral system could have been designed in spring 2017, been voted on in a referendum over the summer, and if the Canadian people had given their approval, implemented in time for election 2019, and the Prime Minister would have fulfilled his election promise.
     The committee recognized that Canadians were not fully unified as to which electoral system ought to be in place in Canada. However, our hearings, as well as the extensive electronic survey we conducted, and the results of a dozen national polls, made two things clear to us.
     First, among Canadians who wanted to change the electoral system, which may not be a majority, there was a consensus that the change should be toward some form of proportionality.
     Second, subjecting the proposed new system, once it had been designed, to a national referendum, be it a new proportional electoral system or the existing system, would cause the winning system to be regarded universally as a legitimate system under which to conduct the 2019 election.
    My intention originally was to repeat the quotation I just gave from the report, recommendation 12, to make this point.
     However, as we know, this recommendation was rejected by the Prime Minister, who announced on February 1 that he was unwilling to move forward on a promise that had, until that moment, been presented by him as a sacred trust. An anonymous Liberal source, speaking to CBC on February 2, explained the Prime Minister's change of heart this way. He was “was open to having his mind changed... But the more he thought about proportional representation, the more he thought it was exactly the wrong system for a big, regionally and culturally diverse country.”

  (1110)  

    He had been open to the idea of proportionality, but had been dissuaded by the facts. I am left wondering which facts would have come to light during the course of the hearings that would have made him feel this way. Perhaps he will share those with us at some future point. There is one explanation of the Prime Minister shutting the whole thing down.
    Here is an explanation that I think is more robust.
     I think the Prime Minister was always serious about changing the electoral system, but never serious about allowing it to change to anything other than his preferred system of ranked ballots. He said as much in question period on February 1, when he declared:
    As people in this House know, I have long preferred a preferential ballot. The [NDP] wanted a proportional representation. The official opposition wanted a referendum. There is no consensus.
    There is no clear path forward.
     Of course, there was a consensus in favour of a referendum on proportional representation. The only thing off the table, because Canadians emphatically did not want it, was the preferential ballot. Therefore, the Prime Minister picked up his marbles and went home.
    Let us now imagine an alternative universe in which the Prime Minister's remarks about an impasse actually reflected reality. What if, for the sake of argument, the committee had produced a deadlock, with the NDP and the Green producing one dissenting report, advocating a proportional system that, all things being equal, caused these two parties to win additional seats? What if the Conservative advocacy of a referendum had been successfully portrayed by the Liberals, who made no small effort to portray it this way, as simply being a way of retaining the status quo, which is, ostensibly, the electoral system that maximizes the number of seats won by Conservatives?
    Under this scenario where every party is advocating its own self-interest, the Prime Minister could have posited a position of moral equivalency. He could have said that he was no worse than the other parties in advocating for an electoral system that would benefit his own party in the coming election. For the record, a study that was cited by the committee showed that preferential ballots would have generated an average of 19 additional Liberal seats based on the same voter preferences had it been applied in the elections over the past 20 years, but there would be more equivalency. The New Democrats want a system that will give them more seats. The Conservatives wanted a system that will give them more seats. The Liberals are doing the same thing.
    Moving forward with the preferential ballot in time for the 2019 election under this scenario would not have seemed so morally indefensible in a world where, first, no consensus exists among Canadians as to how to move forward on electoral reform and therefore the government cannot take guidance from Canadians; second, every other political party is simply advocating its own electoral best interests; and, third, the clearest promise from the 2015 election had been that, come hell or high water, the 2019 election would be fought under some system other than first past the post. I think it was based on trying to make this scenario come to fruition that the Prime Minister so emphatically repeated over and over again over the course of the year that he made a commitment, he stood by it, and he was the kind of guy who did not abandon his commitments no matter what.
    Finally, under this alternative scenario, if it were to turn out that by the time the national consultations on electoral reform were completed there was no longer enough time for the Chief Electoral Officer to implement any system that involved riding redistribution, this would have made it well-nigh impossible for any form of proportionality to be introduced as the shift to a proportional system involved riding redistribution, a process that would take about two years. Thus, the government could have announced, right about this time of year, in new legislation, that there just was not enough time to move forward with any other system than ranked ballots. The government made a sacred promise, which it said it would not break. It said that the people gave it a mandate. In 2019, it would have had a system in place that would have ensured the Liberals would be able to win a majority government with as little as 35% of the popular vote and to form a minority government with as little as 30% of the vote.
    The establishment of just such a mandate to implement preferential balloting in time for the 2019 election was pretty clearly what the Prime Minister was aiming for. In anticipation that this was how things were going to work out, the Prime Minister started to lay the groundwork for arguing that. In a country like Canada, ranked ballots are superior to proportionality.

  (1115)  

    For example, this is what the Prime Minister said to students at New York University on April 21 of last year. He stated, “We want our government, our parliament, to reflect a broad range of views of Canadians. Right? Absolutely. We can all agree on that. Well, there's multiple different ways of doing that. You can have 50 different parties in the House of Commons,”—this is a nightmare scenario under a runaway form of PR, I guess—“each representing a different perspective and view and voice and make sure that that’s the way we highlight the diversity, or you can have a fewer number of political parties that do a better job of reaching out to include a broad range of voices and perspectives within their political parties. Do you want to reward difference or do you want to reward accommodation and inclusion? Now, I‘m not going to tell an answer on that, although I have my own reflections as a leader of a big-tent liberal party that values diversity....”
    In fact, viewed in this light, the promise made by the Prime Minister back when he first introduced his electoral reform proposals in June 2015 start to sound very artfully worded, artfully worded so as to allow people to think he means he is open to proportionality when in fact he was completely shut to proportionality and was going to engage later on in a bait and switch.
    He said, in June 2015, that Canadians “need to know that when we cast a ballot, it counts, that when we vote, it matters, so I'm proposing that we make every vote count. We are committed to ensuring that the 2015 election be the last federal election using first past the post. As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral reform measures such as ranked ballots and proportional representation...are fully and fairly studied and considered.”
    This promise was about making every vote count. Those are the words: “making every vote count”. It is a phrase that would be repeated in the Speech from the Throne.
     The phrase has one meaning in the context of proportional representation, where our vote will elect an MP from the party we prefer, which will then carry on negotiations in the House of Commons. That is something entirely different from preferential voting, where our second and third choices are ultimately what will count in building a large-tent party.
    Back in June 2015, only a few observers noticed that something was amiss in this messaging. One was John Geddes, who said, following an interview with the then leader of the third party, the present Prime Minister:
    The items on that short list of reform ideas can’t be assigned equal weight. ... Experts point out that those two models don’t really have much in common. Far from being variations on a single reform theme, they are entirely separate propositions, each designed to remedy a different perceived problem.
    To be clear, preferential and proportionality are the two different remedies to two different problems that ought not to be presented as alternative solutions to the same problem.
    He then went on to quote Jonathan Rose, a political science professor at Queen's University who was the expert at the Ontario Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform about a decade ago. Professor Rose states, “Trudeau has picked two very different models. I think it’s a bit confusing; they are not equivalents.”
    Geddes then paraphrases Professor Rose, when he states:
    [Professor Rose says] PR is meant mainly to solve the problem of small parties failing to gain seats that reflect their share of the overall vote. Ranked balloting, also called preferential or alternative voting, is designed, he says, to “convey legitimacy” on the ultimate winner in any constituency.
    That point was caught by those two individuals, but not by most people back before the election.
    The rhetorical point, which means two different things to two different audiences, was the bait. The switch was to have come after a lack of consensus had been demonstrated, the self-interest of the other parties had been revealed in the course of the special committee hearings, and the clock had run out on proportionality, allowing the Prime Minister to move forward reluctantly but determinedly to show that he would always honour his promises, even if it meant adopting a preferential system, which coincidentally would ensure his party an average of 19 extra seats in the average election.
    A closer look reveals that the Prime Minister has always been deeply committed to ranked ballots, for reasons that I have already explained, and was never sincere about considering proportionality. For example, listen to this response from Kiel Dixon, in the Prime Minister's correspondence department, or what would have been the Liberal Party's correspondence department, dated December 19, 2014. There had just been a vote in the House on electoral reform, and the Prime Minister had voted against it.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Dixon writes:
     [Our leader, the present prime minister] believes that it is important to take an evidence-based approach to electoral reform rather than an ideological one, and that all available options are considered. Further, he does not support proportional representation, as he very deeply believes that every Member of Parliament must represent actual Canadians and Canadian communities, not just the political party that appointed them to the House of Commons.
    Further on, Mr. Dixon continues to make a comparison to the Liberal leadership race:
     This leadership race was unique and one of the most open contests in Canadian history...as...the traditional “first-past-the-post” system was replaced with a preferential ballot to give Canadians a greater amount of choice. In that system, voters rank the candidates in their order of preference, and the eventual winner must receive over 50% of the votes. If used during the general election, this would ensure that MPs secured support from a majority of the constituents, and beyond his or her traditional voting base, leading to a more representative government. Options such as a Preferential Ballot system are important to also consider, so as ensuring that a variety of reforms are presented.
    There it is: away back in 2014, the Prime Minister was already indicating that he had no interest in proportionality and was never willing to consider it. That was his position until he was able to muddy the waters a bit, give the impression that he might be open without ever actually stating that he was, and set up a series of markers that would allow him to move forward to a system that would give the Liberals more seats under the same preferences expressed by Canadian voters. He would change the way we express our preferences in order to ensure that the Liberals would do better in every election.
    The Liberals would have done better than they did in 2011, a disastrous election for them, had it been preferential, and would have done better in a phenomenally good election like the last one in 2015. They would do better in every election, and every other party would do worse, of course. Every Canadian would see the same preferences rejigged in a way that they clearly are not willing to consider, because Canadians indicated in poll after poll in our consultations that the one system they do not want to look at is the preferential ballot.
    I want to be clear in the remaining time I have that I am not actually opposed to preferential balloting in its place. I was the person who designed the system of preferential balloting that elects the Speaker of the House of Commons. I was involved in designing the system of preferential balloting that elects the leader of the Conservative Party. I designed the system of preferential balloting that elects national councillors to the Conservative Party's national council. When there is a referendum a year from now in the city of Kingston on preferential balloting for city councillors, I am inclined at this point to think that I will be supportive of it. Part of Kingston is in my riding.
    That is because in all these cases, there is no party system to cause a kind of tragedy of the commons, but here is what happens when we do have a party system: certain parties, typically in the centre, will benefit and will win more seats. We will see a replication over and over again, riding after riding, of the same phenomenon. As a result, one party will come to predominate.
    That is what happened in Australia when this system was adopted. It was a system that was locked in and has benefited the Liberal Party in Australia consistently for a century now, at the expense primarily of the Labour Party. It has had a marked and meaningful impact on the political fortunes of that country.
    Do not misunderstand me: I love Australia. I love almost everything about that country, but this system ought not to have been adopted in 1918, as it was, by a government that saw itself being able to perpetuate itself. That is the final point.
    The whole purpose of having a referendum, the whole purpose of trying to move these things outside the hands of the politicians, is that we all have a conflict of interest. We all can figure out who will benefit under this system or that system. The only solution is to move forward and have a referendum on a system that has a realistic chance of actually winning because it has a base of support that might be stronger. Anything else is a waste of time.
    This is a logical way forward. It is what was proposed by the committee. I support it. I hope that all members of the House of Commons will support the committee's report when this matter comes to a vote later today.

  (1125)  

    Madam Speaker, thanks to the member opposite for his thoughtful and studied devotion to this topic over a long period of time.
    The member asserted in his interpretation that there was in fact consensus around the idea of a referendum in the special committee's report. I am not sure how that squares with the minority dissenting report from the NDP, which is against having a referendum. That does not sound like consensus to me.
     Canada is a vast country spanning over 6,000 kilometres, and constituents value the direct connection they have with their members of Parliament. They put them into office and are able to communicate with them. I wonder if the member could help me to understand why he believes it is a good idea to replace that in part with a system whereby political parties would pick members for certain geographic regions.
    Madam Speaker, let me answer the second question first. I am not actually advocating in favour of proportional representation. I am advocating that if one is looking at alternatives to the status quo, one ought to move toward something that actually has a base of support, that actually stands a chance of winning the support of the Canadian people. What our hearings clearly showed was that only proportional representation has a realistic prospect of doing that.
    Also, I might take an opportunity to correct an error the member made earlier. He said that if we have a referendum, the status quo will always win, the alternatives will always lose, and it is a good way of defeating a proposal on electoral reform. However, in the recent referendum in Prince Edward Island that was held just last November, an alternative to the status quo was in fact chosen: multi-member proportional. The British Columbia referendum on electoral reform in 2005 resulted in 57% voting in favour of that option. That is two majorities in favour of electoral reform. In three other referenda, the options in favour of electoral reform were defeated, but that is a 40% result. That is not so bad.
    With regard to the other question about the NDP and the Green Party's concurring report wherein they indicated they had reservations about a referendum, the thing I would say is that first of all, they signed onto the majority report. They then expressed some reservations, saying, “We could live without a referendum.” That is fine. That is what they were expressing.
    I should also add that they submitted that report late, and the Conservatives had to assist in allowing it to get in. We understood when it went in that they were expressing an opinion, and we thought that in the interests of consensus, it made sense. Consensus really was achieved at all levels in this committee.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his hard work on electoral reform. Unfortunately, the Liberals broke their promise to implement a new voting system. What message does this send to the young voters we want to attract? People say that young people are disconnected from politics, but that is because of the cynicism fuelled by politicians who do not keep their promises.
    We also have a Prime Minister who says he is very attuned to youth, established a youth council, and appointed himself minister of youth, but is thumbing his nose at them. The Prime Minister repeatedly promised that there would be electoral reform to make every vote count, to restore the public's confidence in politics, to attract youth to this place, and to make the process as democratic as possible. However, in the end, at the last minute, after the committee widely consulted Canadians, including youth, the Prime Minister says that it does not suit him and that he prefers the first-past-the-post system, and he ignores all the recommendations made by the experts and the public.
    What message is the Prime Minister sending to youth who might be interested in politics and those who say that change is possible, when he laughs in their faces by not keeping his promises?

  (1130)  

    Madam Speaker, there are two kinds of young people: those who voted in the last election and those for whom the next election will be their first opportunity to vote. Among those in the first category, some voted for the Liberals and for the current Prime Minister. Indeed, during the election campaign, he said that politics would be different under the Liberals and that it would be less confrontational, more consensual, more generous, more open, more focused on the mission and the importance of truth, and always genuine. Those young people are realizing that they can no longer believe many of the things this Prime Minister says on major issues.
    For those who are younger, it is another question altogether. They may not be personally invested, but I hope they will reflect on this carefully and thoughtfully. Young people have a unique ability to hear and analyze arguments from all sides because of their capacity to engage on social media. They will vote more thoughtfully than the same age group in previous elections.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his thoughtful speech and also for his work on the committee. I am hoping he can help me understand the inconsistent flip-flopping of the government.
    I heard the Prime Minister clearly say in his throne speech, and multiple times in the House, that Canadians have elected the Liberals to ensure that this election will be the last election under first past the post. He said it repeatedly. Then, when our party challenged him that he really did not have a mandate, that the Liberals only had 39% of Canadians vote for them, and that they needed a referendum to get that mandate, they clearly rejected that.
    Now, the Liberals have come and flip-flopped again on the whole issue, and are saying that there is just no consensus to move forward with it and that they are going to drop it. If that were the case, then on the infrastructure bank that the Liberals promised and can now see that Canadians do not want, why have they flip-flopped back? Could the member help me understand these inconsistencies?
    Madam Speaker, I suspect they are best explained by self-interest. That goes further than anything else.
    I have outlined a scenario that I sincerely believe is what was afoot. I think that at some point the Prime Minister realized things were not going to go the way he wanted them to, and he then tried to find an exit ramp. He chose it somewhat clumsily and prolonged his own suffering more than he had to.
    Ultimately, the real point I have been trying to make is that the Prime Minister was only ever willing to act in his own interest. The first-past-the-post system is not a bad system from the point of view of the Liberal Party of Canada. It has caused that party to win a greater share of the seats than its vote share would warrant in most of the elections since Confederation, and has caused it to be in power more than half the time, a good deal more than half the time. It is not a bad system for them; it is just not the best system.
     The very best of all is preferential or ranked ballots. He was therefore willing to consider that. He was actually remarkably consistent in this point, and only veered away for rhetorical purposes. Even then, he only got away with it because we were not looking very closely. People wanted to believe in him.
    There will be no expectation of consensus on anything the government genuinely wants. I see no effort to seek out consensus in favour of support for endless subsidies to Bombardier, for example.

  (1135)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this issue.
    I want to thank the government for letting us know that this debate was taking place. It would have been nice, however, if the party that actually initiated the debate, the NDP, had given us the information. I suppose they can try to do better next time.
    That being said, the current system poses a significant problem in that it gives rise to a major discrepancy between the votes that are cast during the election and the degree of power obtained by the parties and the proportion of members from each party who are then elected. That is why it should go without saying that the electoral system should be reformed to make it more proportional.
    The current system worked very well when we were a two-party system and alternated between the two parties represented in the House. That is why the House is set up the way it is. We do not sit in a semi-circle, which would promote greater collegiality. Rather, there are rows of benches on both sides and people face off against each other. This was designed around a two-party system.
    However, that is no longer the reality we are seeing today. There are five parties in this House alone. The current system is outdated, which is why, when I read the Liberal Party's election promise to reform the voting system, I assumed right away that the reason for that was to deal with the situation, because it had to be done. That goes without saying.
    That is also why the Special Committee on Electoral Reform was established. Thanks to the NDP's initiative, the member of the Green Party and one member from the Bloc Québécois were able to sit on the special committee. The House agreed, and I applaud that initiative. I had the opportunity to be on the committee during the tours, and I can tell you that we worked hard. We did not sleep much, because we had a very full schedule and it was very intense. There were a lot of trips and meetings. We learned a lot from that experience. The consensus that emerged from the consultations was the desire to reform the voting system in order to reduce the gap between the percentage of votes cast and the percentage of seats obtained. That must be done, because there truly is a consensus on that.
     The committee worked hard on this matter and was thus able present a very interesting brief. What really surprises me, however, is that the Liberal Party members on the committee were opposed to it. It is rare for there to be such co-operation, but it is still a fundamental question. We received approval from the Conservative Party, NDP, Green Party and even Bloc Québécois members. In fact, there was such agreement regarding the committee’s report, that we did not even prepare a dissenting report. Throughout the consultations, the Liberal members seemed to support the direction we were taking, which is why I was so disappointed to see them reverse their position.
     During consultations, the Minister of Democratic Institutions stated that she trusted the committee, that she was confident that it would produce a good report, and that we would move ahead. Every time we asked her a question in the House about her desire to reform the voting method to add an element of proportionality, she sang the same old tune, that is, until she saw the direction the committee was taking with its report. She then began speaking harshly of the committee’s work. She apologized later on, but by that time the cat was out of the bag: things were not going the way the Liberal Party wanted. They were in line with its election promise, and that would not do.
    That is when the government disavowed the report. The Prime Minister shuffled his cabinet and appointed a new minister, who disavowed everything—the promise as well as the report's findings. This great deception can only fuel the public’s cynicism.
     In the House, voters who vote for small parties are discriminated against, because the proportion of elected members from the small parties is smaller than the proportion of votes that they received. I would like to note another discrimination against people who vote for small parties.

  (1140)  

     The discrimination is two-fold. Voters who vote for those small parties are not as well represented in the House. They often make strategic choices to not vote for the small parties because they tell themselves that, although the small party represents them better, the voting system means that their candidate is less likely to be elected.
     The other type of discrimination concerns the fact that there are two types of members in the House. Indeed, parties with fewer than 12 elected members in the House, like my colleague from Saanich–Gulf Islands's Green Party and my own, fall into a second category, one that is truly discriminated against and in which members have fewer means to do their work than those from a recognized party. Discriminating against us in this way amounts to a breach of the rights of the voters who voted for us. In my opinion, that should be changed as soon as possible. Our current system goes against the very principles of democracy. I would therefore qualify it as undemocratic.
    Allow me to give some examples. First, as members who are not part of a recognized group, we are excluded from committees. However, that is where the real work of improving legislation takes place. We can only take part at the very end of the process, to propose amendments that are quickly debated before being rejected or not. If the chair finds our amendments to be out of order, we cannot respectfully tell him that we disagree with him, as we do not have a right to speak. We thus have fewer means of presenting the concerns of our fellow citizens. For example, the Bloc Québécois addresses matters and interests of Quebec, and we would like to be able to promote them in the House, as we find that they are not properly addressed by the other parties in the House. That is our specific task, and yet we cannot perform it.
     The committee is currently finishing up with Bill C-44, a mammoth 308-page bill that affects several departments. We cannot be heard in the way other parties can. The committee analysts stated that it was a very complex bill, and they undertook a major, clause-by-clause analysis. We requested access to their report, but it was refused because we are not on the committee.
    We are not on the committee and we do not have access to documents prepared by the analysts, which further pushes us aside. As well, since we are not a recognized party, we are not given the funds to hire researchers. Clearly, the government has access to civil servants in all departments, which gives it quite an advantage. The official opposition has more than $10 million a year to hire researchers to conduct analyses. Ten million dollars is a good amount of money. The second opposition party, I believe, is entitled to $4 million. We are not entitled to anything. We do not even have access to committee reports. Our evenings, nights and weekends are spent poring through documents.
     When it tables mammoth reports and bills, the government breaks another of its election promises. That gives us more work. It is quite hard to get through all that and find all the hidden elements. One element of Bill C-44 aims to eliminate private members’ access to the parliamentary budget officer. As tabled in the House, Bill C-44 would no longer allow us to submit requests to the parliamentary budget officer regarding subjects of general interest. Once again, we are facing further discrimination, which discriminates against voters who voted for a third party.
    Fortunately, I presented an amendment to that effect this morning in committee. The process is nearing its end. We found a complete aberration in Bill C-44, one that would make the Infrastructure Bank and, even worse, all private projects that go through it, agents of the government. What an extremely regressive measure. Until now, the government had to use the notwithstanding clause, as in the case of the Champlain Bridge, to exempt infrastructure from Quebec laws, such as the Act respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities and the Environment Quality Act, among others. Now, projects will get green lighted on the government's say-so. That is serious.

  (1145)  

    We were handed this 308-page bill but were not given the documents made available to the recognized parties or any funding for research. Even so, by dint of hard work, we came up with something pretty good, and we are not through talking about this yet.
    As second-class MPs, we are always the last to speak to bills before the House. We are 34th in line. In many cases, when the government uses closure, we get no speaking time at all. This is an extreme prejudice because we bring a perspective that nobody else here does. We represent the interests of Quebeckers. Every now and then, we get a chance to speak just before closure. This time, my Green Party colleague and friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands is the one being left out. This is a discriminatory measure.
    During question period, we are always last. After 45 minutes, students and other people attending question period have heard enough, and since there is often a lot of commotion in the House, they leave before we even ask our questions. The same goes for journalists. We are yet again victims of discrimination.
    Again, I want to point out that because of the current voting system, the percentage of seats that went to small parties is much lower than the percentage of votes cast for those parties. That is one way we are discriminated against. The 12-member rule is another way we are discriminated against. We are second-class MPs.
    I sincerely hope that these rules will be rewritten, especially because this convention is based on a House rule that says if a parliamentary group has at least 12 members, party officers, which means the leader, the House leader, the caucus chair, and the whip, get a bonus.
    We do not care about bonuses. That is not what we are after. We agree that parties of fewer than 12 members should not get them. What we do want is to have the same opportunities as other members to properly defend the interests of our constituents.
    This is especially shocking when you look at what they do in the rest of the world. This kind of thing does not happen anywhere else. For instance, at Westminster, only two members are needed to be recognized as a party and to have access to all the tools we are asking for. In Quebec, for example, Quebec Solidaire is given research tools. Actually, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois on his win yesterday. To my knowledge, Canada is the only democracy in the world where such discrimination exists against the elected members of minority parties and therefore their constituents. That really needs to change.
    As I was saying, what we want is respect for people who vote for smaller parties. I think the Liberal Party really cares about this principle, too. If we look back at the written works of John Stuart Mill, for example, the ideology of liberalism is very British and Anglo-Saxon. Ultimately, maybe the smaller groups are right and we should let them speak. This was a value that was held dear by the Liberal Party, and I hope it makes changes to reflect that.
    As a final point, another absurdity in the Parliament of Canada is the fact that the other place is made up of individuals who are not elected, but rather appointed by the government, which only reinforces its power. While the upper chamber could serve to better represent the regions, instead it only reinforces the government's power. When I talk about the other place, of course I mean the Senate. As of a few years ago, we can now say the name of that chamber. I will end on that note.
    Madam Speaker, the Liberal members and ministers, as well as the Prime Minister, are saying there was no consensus, in committee or elsewhere.
    However, from what I understood from my colleague's speech and other speeches, that did not seem to be the case in committee at first. There was no lack of consensus when the committee began its work, but there was in the end.
    Does my colleague think that the Liberal members of the committee received instructions from the party or from another Liberal MP?

  (1150)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hochelaga for her question. That is indeed what I believe.
    We had a good time and worked hard on that committee. All the members were on the same page and I remain convinced that we made a fair bit of progress. I forgot to mention that our colleague from the Green Party also worked very hard on that committee.
    This is all it takes to fuel cynicism. I am not surprised, but I am extremely disappointed in the Liberal Party. The Liberals called for electoral reform when they were the second opposition party because things were not going their way, but once they took office, they said that the existing system was working just fine and that they did not want to change it.
    What I take from that is that the Liberal Party is working for itself and its re-election, not to uphold principles and values. That is extremely unfortunate. I completely agree with my colleague's hypothesis, because it happens to be mine, as well.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. I have had the opportunity to discuss various issues with him.
    In response to his speech, it truly was an all-party committee. We were able to work together very well to make decisions, but we still did not feel there was unanimous consensus.
    Has my colleague been prevented from meeting with one of our colleagues to talk about various issues, whether to move issues forward or even for his riding? Have the Liberals ever refused to collaborate with my colleague?
    Madam Speaker, the answer is yes. As I said earlier, we wanted access to the analysis report of the Standing Committee on Finance, but we were refused simply because we are not part of the committee.
    However, I would like to stress the great openness of the members, ministers and parliamentary secretaries opposite. In our riding, 175 cases have been settled. We often call on the ministers for some help with that. Every time, there is great openness and things move forward. We applaud that. That is not what we are criticizing. Working together helps cases in ridings move forward. Although we argue in the House, including during question period, we are able to work together.
    That said, we still face extreme discrimination, as we are second-class members because we are not members of a recognized parliamentary group. As I was saying, unlike other members, we receive no funding for research. This creates more work for us. We do not have de facto access to committees and we do not have the right to vote at committees. Furthermore, we have the 34th speaking slot, which is often after closure. It is more difficult for us to represent the people who voted for us, and yet, the Liberals should be ideologically inclined to give under-represented views greater power in the House. These views are inherently under-represented because of the discrimination stemming from the current voting system.
    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech and the comments he received.
    I agree with what he said about discrimination against members who are not recognized and that they are treated like second-class members of little importance. When we first arrived in the House, we had to eat standing up in the cloakroom. We were told that we could not speak in committee, that we could not speak in the House, except in response to another MP's speech, and that we would occasionally be given 10 minutes to speak, with consent.
    That is discriminatory and does not happen in any democratic parliament in the world. We do not see such discrimination and members are not treated as second-class members in any Canadian province or European country.
    My dear colleague, I do not understand this because in rereading the Standing Orders, it is clear that the Speaker of the House has the duty to protect my rights and my privileges.
    How can the Speaker act in the interest of the three whips in committee? How is it that he receives instructions from these three whips rather than rising, holding the Standing Orders in his hands, and saying that we have the same rights as other members?

  (1155)  

    Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague, the member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, on this.
     It is the duty of the Chair to ensure that the rights of each member, and indirectly of each voter, can be exercised. We are elected by voters. We must represent them and we must have equivalent means.
     On that point, I would note that my colleague from Montcalm has called on the Chair to do more to defend us in this regard and to have amendments made to the rules of procedure. Each party that wanted to speak on this subject has done so. We are impatiently awaiting the Chair’s response. Let us hope that, for once, the Chair will truly do his job, which is to stand up for our rights here, rather than serving the interests of three whips.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague again. I completely agree with his comment about two classes of members. That only exists in Canada. It does not exist in any other country or any other parliament.
     I would just like to ask my colleague a question. If the Bloc Québécois agrees with this motion, and I believe it does, what is the key issue to get the Liberals to vote on this motion?
    Madam Speaker, I thank my Green Party colleague for her excellent comment.
     As I said earlier, we worked together on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. We worked very hard; we believed in it. No one can imagine the disappointment I felt when the government went back on its campaign promise, on the broad public consensus and the agreement of all the opposition parties.
     Unfortunately, I am a cynic when it comes to this issue. I believe that the party currently in government is working for itself first and to be re-elected rather than for democratic principles. What can we do, then, to persuade it to come up with electoral reform that includes more proportionality? I think we are wasting our time. It will not work. The Liberal Party has understood that the present system serves it well and what it wants, first, is to serve its own interests, and then its friends’ interests—as history has shown us, and as seems to still be the case in the legalization of marijuana—rather than serving democratic ideals and thus the public interest and the public.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the Bloc party was the official opposition during the nineties. I am wondering if there is any regret on the member's part that the Bloc, at that time, did not advocate for the types of changes they are advocating for today.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I was not a member at that time.
     I speak for myself, and only for myself. I am in favour of democracy; I believe in it. I think there was an arm wrestling match among the parties that were in opposition but were not recognized. The Bloc got a taste of something that then went back to someone else.
     Obviously, all the parliamentarians here have to rise above this partisan jousting and put democratic ideals and the interests of the voters first.
    Madam Speaker, I am so proud to participate in today's very important debate. I am also very proud of our report, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform's report entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Processes and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform”.
    We worked very hard on this report. There were 12 of us, and our approach and the spirit our our discussions throughout was very collegial.

  (1200)  

[English]

    We worked really well together, as I have just said, as a committee of 12 members of Parliament from five parties, a uniquely comprised committee. I commend the former minister of democratic institutions, current Minister of Status of Women and hon. member for Peterborough—Kawartha, who made the decision that it would be fair to ensure that the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party each participated as full members of the committee. She went further—and this was a step that I never thought the Liberals would take—and conceded to an NDP request that the Liberals give one seat of theirs on the committee to allow the NDP to have two full members, so that we were a committee of five Liberals, one of whom served as chair. I have to say our chair, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, did an extraordinary job. There were then four voting Liberals, three voting Conservatives, two New Democrats, one Bloc member, and one Green member.
    We heard from witnesses across Canada. We fulfilled our mandate, and I think we fulfilled our mandate admirably. We had, between late June and December 1 when our report was due, more than 60 meetings. We heard from experts. We heard from the leading experts on electoral reform, not only in Canada but from around the world. Many world-leading experts participated by video conference with us. We also heard from hundreds, in fact thousands, and tens of thousands of Canadians. That process led to an overwhelming consensus, which was that it was time for Canada to move away from first past the post.
     I want to touch briefly on the substance of the issue before moving to the politics, but the politics are clearly important.
    I have worked on electoral reform for a very long time. For much longer than I have been a member of the Green Party, I have been committed to seeing the end of the first-past-the-post voting system because of its perverse results. On the substance of the issue, we learned in this committee process that it is clear it is a voting system that allows the popular vote to diverge from the seat count. That is the easiest way to understand what is wrong with first past the post. The popular vote can say there is a minority Parliament, but the seat count can say there is a majority. Democracy is not well served when the popular vote is not reflected in the seat count.
    As I said, I have worked on this issue for years, but there is always a lot to learn and I learned a lot as a member of the parliamentary Special Committee on Electoral Reform. For instance, I never knew how it was that Ireland had single transferrable vote. Ireland got their voting because in 1921 when the British Parliament of Westminster decided that Ireland should be allowed its own parliament, the British were concerned for the minority rights of Protestants so they did not want Ireland to have first past the post. They did not want Ireland to have the same system Westminster had so they gave Ireland single transferrable vote, a system of proportional representation that works well in Ireland to this day.
    It had something to do with that decision in Ireland in 1921 that 1921 was the first year in which this Parliament, the Parliament of Canada, struck a committee to study our voting system. That committee in 1921 concluded that first past the post does not work for Canada. That is right. Since 1921, we have known this. That was when a committee said that as long as we have a democracy with more than two parties—and since the 1920s Canada has always historically in this place been a multi-party system—first past the post did not serve Canadian democracy.
     We worked hard to then decide what would serve Canadian democracy, and that is why this report is so historic. We worked to deliver on the promise of the Speech from the Throne and of our Prime Minister that 2015 would be the last election held under first past the post. We wanted to provide, as we were mandated to do, the answer of what is next.
    We concluded that a system of proportional representation was appropriate for Canada, that it could be tailored specifically to Canada's needs, and we specifically precluded the kind of PR used in Israel or Italy. We said that we did not recommend a system where we have only lists by party and voters only vote for a party list. We want to maintain that crucial link with the local MP as well as proportionality. At the end of the day, we want the popular vote to be reflected in the seat count and we want to make sure that members of Parliament are elected to represent their constituents and have a local connection. It is important that voters know that. We can have both. That is what our committee recommended. Our committee also recommended that this be tested by a referendum.
    Now we are going to have for the first time, and we are having today for the first time, a debate. I wish more MPs were participating in this debate. This is the first chance we have had as a Parliament to really discuss what kind of voting system would work best for Canada. We know that every single Liberal MP in this place was elected on a platform that said we would be moving away from first past the past. My plea to them is, do not let the promise fade away. Too much rides on it.
    For a very long time now, Canadians have known that first past the post has this perverse result of separating the seat count from the popular vote. It is possible to have, and in fact two times in Canada we have had, what political scientists call the “wrong winner problem”. The wrong winner problem is when the party that got the most votes loses the election. It has happened twice in Canada. It has not happened recently. However, it can and does happen under first-past-the-post voting systems.
    How do we ensure that the way the popular vote is cast is reflected in the Parliament we get and we still have the advantage of MPs being elected after going door to door in their own community where people know them?
    There are a number of solutions, and there are a number of compromises. This is the only place where I regret how our committee worked together. It comes to this. We ran out of time. We had a hard deadline of getting the report in by December 1. I believe, and I am firmly committed to this belief because I know every single one of those individual 12 MPs, all of them, are excellent people, if we had more time, if we had been allowed to work to consensus, we would have had that discussion of, “What if we give a little here? Is the problem that by 2019 we have full PR? What if we did it incrementally, a bit more fairness in our voting system by 2019, a bit more the election after that? Would that work for you?” We never got to have that discussion of what could work if we compromised.
    However, it is not too late to compromise. In voting for this concurrence motion, I certainly hope that the Liberal benches will be given a free vote so Liberal MPs can go back to their constituents and tell them they actually voted for what their constituents wanted. We know that the four MPs from P.E.I. just had a plebiscite that called for electoral reform in P.E.I. We know that in British Columbia 40% of the voters just voted NDP and 17% just voted Green, and that 57% of voters voted for parties, once again, that called very clearly for getting rid of first past the post.
    MPs know what their constituents would want them to do on the motion. What I want to urge people to consider is that in voting for concurrence, we will not be forcing a referendum to happen and we will not be forcing the government to move to PR. We will be keeping the debate alive and creating that opportunity to find the middle ground. There is middle ground here to be found. Whether it is having a referendum in 2019 concurrent with the voting day that we have next, whether it is saying we move to a single transferable vote system as our former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, recommended, that we cluster those ridings in the vast areas of Canada where that works and exclude those areas that are remote or where the ridings are too large, or if we move to the Fair Vote Canada approach of one set of voting rules that work for rural Canadians and another set that work for where we are more concentrated in our ridings, there are compromises here that can be found.

  (1205)  

    What is unacceptable is to break the promise and leave it broken. That will break people's faith with democracy itself, those young people who voted for the first time and who believed the Prime Minister's promise. I frankly believe he fully intended to keep it when he made it, and it will be better for the health of democracy if we work to allow that promise to be kept.

[Translation]

    It is time to keep that promise. I urge the members to vote in favour of this motion.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    As she said, she travelled across Canada with the other committee members. I think she made a very positive contribution.
    The member mentioned a referendum, and I would like to hear more about that. We are talking about modernizing how we do business here in the House. I did not quite understand the member's comments about a referendum.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    We know that some referenda work well, and others are total disasters. It depends entirely on how much people know about the issue and how well they understand it prior to the referendum.

[English]

    We have had very few referenda in Canadian history. Federally, we had one on conscription during the war. We had one on prohibition. We had one on Charlottetown. If we were to hold a referendum we would need to rewrite our Referendum Act. Our current Referendum Act does not allow for the question of electoral reform to be put to a referendum.
    It is clear from the British North America Act, as it was written in 1867, 150 years ago, that the question of our voting system is squarely one for Parliament to decide. However, there is a strong view among public opinion and strong views from some of the parties in this place that if we are changing our voting system it should be put to a referendum.
    I mentioned that P.E.I. just had one, and the people of P.E.I. voted overwhelmingly for mixed-member proportional voting systems and for getting rid of first past the post. We had a referendum in British Columbia on single transferable vote and 57% of British Columbians voted for that, but they had set the threshold at 60%. A lot depends on the level of public information available before the vote.
    Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that the House agreed to the New Democrat motion to formulate the committee on electoral reform so that it would include Bloc and Green members for the first time. I am very grateful also for the continued iteration of what happens when we have many parties represented and have co-operation. The electoral reform committee report is an expression of that, along with yesterday's news about the agreement in British Columbia around potential co-operation of two parties to work together and hold government in British Columbia.
     Looking at all the examples around the world of what happens when many parties co-operate together, we see their parliaments and legislatures develop policies that are more lasting and do not have extreme swings of ideology from one election to the next.
    I would like to know about the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' degree of optimism. I understand we only need 20 members of Parliament from the Liberal Party to agree to this concurrence motion to keep the discussion around electoral reform alive. It is an opportunity for these MPs to keep their promise, which was broken by their Prime Minister. I would like to hear whether my fellow member of Parliament is hopeful that tomorrow's vote might result in a keeping of the promise by at least some of the Liberal members of Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, as ever, my optimism on any issue of fundamental democratic reform increases in direct proportion to the non-partisan nature of the debate. If we use this as an excuse to beat up on the Prime Minister for breaking a promise, we will not succeed. If we use this as an opportunity to focus the Prime Minister's attention on the possibilities, they are still there for him to keep his promise. If we urge Liberals to vote for what we think is in the best interests of democracy, I am quite optimistic, particularly if it is not a whipped vote and Liberal MPs are allowed to vote how they believe their constituents would like them to vote. I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for giving me this chance to reframe my main point, which is that we can still salvage this promise in a way that meets the needs of government and opposition parties. We can do it together if we check our partisanship at the door and think about what is best for Canada.
    I would ask members to please consider this. Let us say that 10 or 15 years from now, we do not know when it might be, somebody who represents a Canadian version of Trump—and do not think it cannot happen—seizes 100% of the power over our country with a minority of popular support. There is always the risk of someone extreme seizing power with majority support, which is a democracy, but our system of government is extraordinarily vulnerable because the Prime Minister of Canada has more power, relative to our government, than the president of the United States or the prime minister of the U.K. We must check that exercise of power by assuring it is never vested in any party or individual that does not have the support of the majority of Canadians before getting 100% of the power. It is a matter of protecting our democracy in the future by voting yes tomorrow.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception to one thing my hon. colleague just said. I personally do not believe that any electoral system has the effect of privileging or diminishing extremism. It has been an unfortunate aspect of this debate that the Prime Minister has asserted that proportionality would lead to greater power being exercised by extremists who would hold the balance of power, potentially, in some future government and be able to get disproportionate influence. My colleague from the Green Party is now making the opposite assertion, that first past the post does this.
    The fact is that we have seen pure proportionality used to terrible effect in Germany, in the system under which Hitler was elected, and yet it has not discredited proportionality in other countries, including Israel, the Netherlands, and so on. The same thing is true for first past the post and, I suggest, any system. We need to discuss these things with the goal of trying to improve our system as much as we can, but I actually do not think it is helpful to suggest that any system that is going to be seriously considered in this country, including the status quo, actually privileges extremism. We are an inherently moderate country, we have more than a century of inherent moderatism, and I suggest that our future will be moderate and intelligent as well, as long as we are moderate in our rhetoric.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to respond to my friend from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, and I want to thank him once again for his superb contribution to our work on the committee.
    He has misunderstood my point. I did not say that first past the post privileged extremism. I am saying that Canada is uniquely vulnerable to an extremist or unpopular leader, so to speak, of a party gaining 100% of the power with a minority of the votes. It is only under first past the post that a party with 25% of the popular vote can potentially get all of the power, because our executive and legislative are not separated, as they are in the U.S., and because, as we know, the Prime Minister of Canada is not subject to caucus confidence, which can remove the leader of the party and thus change the prime minister.
    We have numerous authorities on this from academics, whether it is Peter Russell or Donald Savoie. A lot of experts have pointed out that the Prime Minister of Canada, relatively speaking, has more power than other leaders of other governments, and the reality is that no one should hold that office with a majority unless the person is supported by the majority of the voters. That is why we have to get rid of first past the post.
    Mr. Speaker, fundamental to this issue is really the issue of trust in our democratic system.
    A lot of young people went into the election believing this was going to materialize: the election would be the last one held under first past the post, and going forward we would have something different.
     I am worried that this motion might not pass. I hope it will, as this is an opportunity for all members of the House to reflect on that and to pass this motion, to change course so that we can restore faith and ensure that the young people and Canadians who voted for change will actually have that change.
    I wonder if the member could comment on the democratic system and the faith the electorate placed on us, and on restoring the work we need to do to demonstrate that democracy is in fact fundamental to the promises we make.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, clearly, no one would debate or dispute that our democracy is threatened by cynicism and that those who give up on voting are a tremendous loss to the health of our democracy. In fact, when there is low voter turnout, we increasingly lose the legitimacy of government and we lose the empowerment of a society to actually choose its own course.
    We are a democracy, and we should be getting 90%-plus voter turnout. We were pleased to see it go to 68% last time. I believe the reason we saw it go to 68% in 2015 was largely based on young people voting for the first time, young people who believed this promise, young people who will become increasingly cynical and angry, and who may not vote again if we do not work hard in this place to find some common political ground to deliver on that promise, either partially or fully, and with a promise for before the next election. One way or another, this promise for fair democracy and fair voting must be kept alive.
    Resuming debate.

[Translation]

    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: No.
     The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
     The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
     The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
     The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the recorded division on the third report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, “Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform” be deferred until the expiry of the time provided for oral questions on Wednesday, May 31.
    Accordingly, the recorded division is deferred until May 31, at the conclusion of oral questions.
    The House will now resume with the remaining business under Routine Proceedings.

[Translation]

Petitions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased, but also quite sad, to table a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents, not to mention the similar electronic petition--which is still open, by the way--concerning Sophie Thewys, a resident of Mont-Saint-Hilaire who tragically lost her spouse on Christmas eve. He was sponsoring her application for permanent residency.
    The people who have signed the petition are asking the Minister of Immigration to review the extraordinary circumstances of her file, given that the application had been approved. With the death of her spouse, Nicolas Faubert, her application was dropped. This is an obvious lack of compassion, and the people in Sophie's community have shown great support for her.
    With this petition, we hope that the government will take note of the situation and finally allow this family to grieve and to continue to live in Canada.

[English]

Genetically Modified Foods  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition from my constituents with regard to genetically modified foods.
    The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to establish mandatory labelling of all genetically modified foods.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions from my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
    The first petition calls on the federal government to act on the long-standing and unresolved issue of abandoned vessels. Repeated promises for at least 14 months in this chamber have not yet been met by a legislative solution. Despite goodwill expressed on the other side of the House, there is still no change for coastal communities threatened by the economic and environmental risk of oil spills and the blight of abandoned vessels.
    I recommend again that the government act quickly and legislate an end to this problem.

  (1225)  

    My second petition is directed to the Minister of Transport in response to the threat posed by five new commercial bulk anchorages proposed for the beautiful and pristine shore of Gabriola Island. These are to facilitate coal exports from Wyoming to China to burn in power plants.
    The petitioners decry the environmental impact and the threat to the commercial and sport fishery in the region, and they urge the Minister of Transport to have the commercial bulk anchorage application withdrawn.

HIV/AIDS  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House today to present two petitions.
    The first petition is from residents within Saanich—Gulf Islands calling for the government to pursue a strategy that has been proven effective. The threat of HIV/AIDS is not completely history. We have made progress, but we need to stay vigilant.
    The petitioners are calling for a national program, a national AIDS strategy based on the proven principle of treatment as prevention.

41st General Election   

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is about an issue that some may also think is history, but it is still an issue where our democracy has failed to come to grips with what occurred in the 2011 election.
    The petitioners call on the government to empower and put in place a royal commission into electoral fraud that took place. Of the so-called robocalls, some were personal calls, but every single call was a violation of the Elections Act, and we still have not had an independent inquiry. The petitioners ask us to address this.

Physician-Assisted Dying  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present two petitions.
    The first petition is relating to conscience protection for physicians and health care institutions. It highlights that at the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, the witnesses repeatedly asked for conscience protection; that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the freedom of conscience and freedom of religion; that presently in Canada physicians' freedoms are under attack, particularly in Ontario where the College of Physicians and Surgeons is.
    The petitioners are calling on this Parliament to enshrine in the Criminal Code the protection of conscience for physicians and health care institutions, to protect them from coercion and intimidation.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I am shocked that this is happening in Canada, and I pause.
    The second petition is about vehicular homicide. It highlights, sadly, that 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius was tragically killed by an impaired driver who chose to drive while drunk. Kassandra's family members are devastated, and they are part of an association called Families for Justice.
    The petitioners are calling for the crime of driving impaired and killing someone to be called vehicular homicide, and they are calling for mandatory minimum sentences to give guidance to the courts to make sure there is an appearance of justice upon conviction.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition that was initiated by Scott Fenwick, the executive director of STAND Canada, a youth-led, anti-genocide organization. In four short months, this petition gathered 2,300 signatures.
    The petitioners recognize that starting only 30 days after their arrival, refugee families are required to pay back, with interest, the costs of their transportation loan to Canada, which severely hurts their ability to adapt and to thrive in Canadian society. Some 40% of all loan recipients have left school and language training programs in order to work and repay their loans. Faced with such limited resources, 76% of the government-sponsored refugees have used social assistance to repay their loans.
    The petitioners call on the government to waive the travel loans for all refugees admitted into Canada and to view all refugees of any nationality fleeing conflict as equal refugees so they all will be able to get the loan waived. They also call on the government to increase funding for mental health, language training, child care, and other integration supports for all refugees who arrive in Canada.

  (1230)  

Firearms Registry  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and pleased today to stand with the petition I am presenting on behalf of law-abiding target shooters, hunters, trappers, farmers, and collectors.
    The petitioners call on the Minister of Public Safety to increase their representation on the Canadian firearms advisory committee. At the moment, out of the 10 who are on the minister's committee, only two actually have a firearms background. The vast majority support stricter gun control and are members of the Coalition for Gun Control.

Questions on the Order Paper

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

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Cannabis Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak today to Bill C-45. The bill proposes a framework to restrict and strictly regulate access to cannabis in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, and to keep the profits out of the hands of criminals.
    I introduced Bill C-45 on April 13, alongside another important piece of legislation, Bill C-46, which proposes new and stronger laws to more seriously tackle drug and alcohol impaired driving.
    In the 2015 Speech from the Throne, our government committed to legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis. This commitment is motivated by a recognition that Canada's existing approach to cannabis, one of criminal prohibition, is not working. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of young Canadians. In many cases, it is easier for kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes or a bottle of beer.
    Statistics tell us that the current system of criminal prohibition is failing. Youth in Canada use cannabis at some of the highest rates in the world. A 2013 UNICEF report found that teenagers in Canada used cannabis more than teenagers in any other developed country. The 2015 Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey found that 21% of Canadian youth aged 15 to 19 and 30% of young adults from age 20 to 24 reported using cannabis.
    The current approach to cannabis has created an environment where organized crime reaps billions of dollars in profits from the sale of illicit cannabis, and thousands of Canadians end up with criminal records for non-violent minor cannabis offences each year.
    A majority of Canadians no longer believe that simple possession of small amounts of cannabis should be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, which can have lifelong impacts for individuals and take up precious resources in our criminal justice system. Our government agrees that there is a better approach.
    Bill C-45 would pave the way for Canada to become the first G20 country to enact legislation to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis at the national level. The overall goal would be to protect the health and safety of Canadians, with a particular focus on protecting young people. Our government understands the complexity of this initiative. That is why we have taken a cautious evidence-based approach.
    To ensure that our legislation would be informed by evidence, my colleagues, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health, and I announced the creation of a task force on cannabis legalization and regulation on June 30, 2016. Its mandate was to advise our government on the design of a regulatory system.
    The task force conducted extensive consultations across the country, visited the states of Washington and Colorado, both of which have legal access to cannabis for non-medical purposes, and considered nearly 30,000 online submissions sent in by Canadians. It also sought the views of a diverse community of experts, professionals, advocates, front-line workers, youth, indigenous communities and organizations, government officials, law enforcement, citizens, and employers, as set out in its mandate.
     All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the chair of the task force, the Hon. Anne McLellan, and the eight other distinguished members, all experts in their own right and all of whom volunteered significant amounts of their time throughout the second half of 2016.
    The task force delivered its final report on December 13, 2016, entitled, “A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada.” The chair described this final report as the result of a truly national collaboration, featuring a diversity of opinions and expertise expressed by those who gave their time and reflections.
     I would invite members who may wish to inform themselves of the complex and cross-cutting issues and challenges associated with cannabis legalization to have a look at this substantive piece of work. The report has been very well received, is comprehensive, and provides important background information on the issues this bill seeks to address.

  (1235)  

    The task force is comprised of over 80 recommendations for the development of the cannabis framework in Canada. It reflects a public health approach aimed at reducing harm and promoting the health and safety of Canadians.
    The recommendations fall under five themes:
    First, in taking a public health approach to the regulation of cannabis, the task force proposed measures that would maintain and improve the health of Canadians by minimizing the potential harms associated with cannabis use.
    Second, the task force called for the creation of a safe and responsible supply chain and recommended the design of an appropriate distribution system. The task force noted that the government's principal interest should be to establish an efficient, accountable, and transparent system for regulatory oversight of the supply chain, emphasizing the protection of health and safety and reducing diversion to the illicit market. It recommended that wholesale distribution of cannabis be regulated by the provinces and territories.
    Third, the task force highlighted the need for clear enforceable rules to ensure that all Canadians and law enforcement agencies understood what was permitted and what continued to be prohibited under the new legal regime. The task force also heard that penalties for contravening the new rules would need to be proportional to the contravention and that the criminal justice system should only be employed where truly necessary.
    Fourth, the task force recommendations for a regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis were informed by the existing rules governing the medical system. These rules establish safeguards to ensure product quality and security, as well as safety provisions to prevent diversion.
    Fifth, the task force report underscores that the regulation of cannabis is a complex public policy issue. As with other such issues, the depth and scale of the complexity increases as we turn to the practicalities of implementation. Our government recognizes that it will be necessary for all levels of government to coordinate efforts in order to implement an effective regime. We remain committed to working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as with municipalities, to develop a framework that strictly regulates access to cannabis in a way that works for everyone involved.
    Building on the recommendations of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, our government has proposed legislation that pursues a new approach to the regulation of cannabis. The approach sets national standards and will be more effective at protecting public health and safety, keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and reducing the role of the illegal market and organized crime.
     Our government's commitment to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis marks a major change for Canada. However, I am convinced that what is proposed in Bill C-45 is the best approach for Canadians.
    I would like to speak to a few components of Bill C-45.
     I will begin by highlighting the overarching purpose of the bill. Simply put, its purpose is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Specifically, it aims to protect the health of young people by restricting their access to cannabis; to protect young people and others from advertising and other promotional activities that are likely to encourage them to use cannabis; to provide for the lawful protection of cannabis to reduce illegal activities in relation to cannabis; to deter illegal activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures; to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis; to provide Canadians with access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and to enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
    I want to emphasize that while our government is legalizing cannabis, we are also strictly regulating and restricting access to it.

  (1240)  

    Bill C-45 would create a new legal framework that would allow adults to access legal cannabis through an appropriate retail framework, sourced from a well-regulated industry or grown in limited amounts at home. Adults 18 years or older would be permitted to legally possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis in public, or its equivalent in other forms. Adults could also legally share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, with other adults. Selling, or possessing cannabis to sell it, would only be lawful if authorized under the act. Under no circumstances could cannabis be sold or given to a young person. Production of cannabis would also have to be authorized under the act.
     Possession, production, distribution, importation, exportation, and sale outside the legal framework would be illegal and subject to criminal penalties. These penalties would be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, ranging from ticketing up to a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. This reflects a measured approach to meet our legislative objectives.
    Bill C-45 would exempt young persons who possess up to five grams of cannabis from criminal prosecution. Our government has proposed this approach because we do not want to expose young people to the criminal justice system for possessing what amounts to very small amounts of cannabis.
     For possession or distribution of more than five grams, young people would be subject to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which emphasizes community-based responses that promote rehabilitation and reintegration. For less serious offences, alternatives to charging would be encouraged, such as taking no further action, warning the young person, or referring the young person to a community program or agency to help address the circumstances underlying the offending behaviour.
    Moreover, our government would be engaging with the provinces and territories to encourage them to create provincial offences that would apply to youth possession under five grams of cannabis. This would provide police with the authority to seize cannabis from a young person while not subjecting the person to the consequences of criminal liability for these small amounts. This would be similar to the approach that has been taken in the context of alcohol.
     Such a measured approach for youth is consistent with the task force report, which stated that simple possession for youth should not be a criminal offence but that sanctions should focus on adults who provide cannabis to youth. It is also consistent with the substantive body of evidence concerning the heightened risks of cannabis use for young persons, including the effects on brain development. This approach would also address our objective of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth while ensuring that they do not enter the criminal justice system for minor possession offences.
    Bill C-45 would allow cannabis producers to promote their brands and provide information about their products, but only where young persons would not be exposed to it. These limits are reasonable. They would allow adult consumers to make informed decisions, but they respond to the greater risks cannabis poses for young people.
    Under the proposed legislation, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments would all share responsibility for overseeing the new system. The federal government would oversee the production and manufacturing components of the cannabis framework and would set industry-wide rules and standards.
    Provinces and territories would generally be responsible for the distribution and sale components of the framework. They would also be able to create further restrictions as they saw fit, including increasing the minimum age in their jurisdictions to, for example, align with the drinking age, and lowering possession limits for cannabis, which could be pursued to further protect youth. Further, the provinces and territories, along with the municipalities, could create additional rules for growing cannabis at home, including the possibility of lowering the number of plants allowed for residents and restricting the places in which cannabis could be consumed.
    In addition to working with the provinces and territories to establish a secure supply chain, jurisdictions would be key partners in our government's efforts to raise public awareness about the potential risks associated with cannabis use.

  (1245)  

    Our government believes in evidence-based policy. We would monitor patterns of and perceptions around cannabis use among Canadians, especially youth, through an annual Canadian cannabis survey. The data gathered would inform and refine public education and awareness activities to mitigate the risks and harms of use. In this regard, as spelled out in budget 2017, existing funding of $9.6 million would be directed to public education and awareness and monitoring and surveillance activities.
    Our government intends to offset the broader costs associated with implementing this new system by collecting licensing and other fees and through revenues generated through taxation. This is currently what we do with the tobacco and alcohol industries.
    Subject to approval by Parliament, our government intends to bring the proposed legislation into force no later than July 2018. At that time, adults across Canada would be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, when in public. They could share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, with other adults. They would be able to purchase dried or fresh cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer, or, in jurisdictions that have not put a regulated retail framework in place, online from a federally licensed producer. Adults could choose to grow up to four cannabis plants per residence, subject to a height restriction of one metre. They could also make legal cannabis-containing products, provided that dangerous solvents were not used.
    Upon the legislation coming into force, adults would be able to legally purchase fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and seeds or plants for cultivation. Other products, such as edibles, would become available at a later date, once federal regulations for their production and sale were developed.
    I would note as well that the current program for access to cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the new act. This is in keeping with the task force recommendation to initially maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients.
    Our government has been clear that to meet its objectives of keeping cannabis out of the hands of kids and the profits out of the hands of criminals, there needs to be a legal means by which adult Canadians can purchase cannabis. Our government's objective is to provide room for the provinces and territories to establish distribution and retail systems that align with their unique circumstances.
    Recognizing that some provinces and territories may not have systems set up and running upon royal assent, our government is proposing to facilitate access for Canadians to a regulated, quality-controlled supply of cannabis through a secure mail system via existing licensed producers.
    I would like to conclude by encouraging all members to support Bill C-45. I know that the status quo is not working. All members of this House understand that we must do better, especially for our youth. The proposed legislation represents a balanced approach designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians. It would provide adults with regulated access to legal cannabis while restricting access by youth. It would put in place strict safeguards to protect youth from being encouraged to use cannabis and would create new offences for those adults who either provide cannabis to youth or use youth to commit cannabis-related offences.
    By reducing demand in the illicit market, the proposed regime would also cut the profits of criminal organizations that are benefiting greatly from the current regime.
    Bill C-45 would also help reduce the burden on police and the criminal justice system with respect to non-violent minor offences. In addition, the bill proposes to strengthen laws and enforcement measures to deter and punish more serious cannabis offences, particularly selling and distributing to youth and selling outside the regulatory framework.
    Following the debate at second reading, I urge all members of the House to support BillC-45 at second reading and refer it to committee.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two quick questions for the Minister of Justice. She indicated that this whole bill is based on evidence-based policies. She said that is the policy of her government. She must be aware of the fact that the Canadian Medical Association has already come out with its stand on this, which is that the use of cannabis has significant psychological impacts on brain development until the age of 25. In addition, the Canadian Pediatric Society considers that young people using marijuana, up to age 25, are jeopardizing their brain health. If it is evidence-based policy, would she not agree that this is completely inconsistent with that?
    She mentioned on at least six occasions during her speech that the Liberals were very interested in protecting youth. Is there any easier way for young people to get marijuana than if their parents have four plants in the kitchen? Is there any easier way for them to have access than that?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have introduced Bill C-45. It is an evidence-based piece of legislation that seeks to put in a complex regime to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis in this country. It is based on a substantive task force report. The task force travelled across the country and received over 30,000 submissions with respect to how we can put in place a complex regime for legalization.
     In terms of evidence on the legal age for being able to access a legal supply of cannabis, this was something the task force weighed in on with respect to the necessity of protecting the health and safety of young people and recognition of the impacts there may be on brain development. We had to balance that reality with another reality, which is that the greatest number of individuals who are currently smoking or using cannabis are young people. We had to balance the two realities in terms of our position with respect to legalization and regulation.
    With respect to homegrown cannabis and having four plants one metre high, this legislation would provide the ability to grow cannabis in one's home, recognizing that people would, as they do with prescription drugs or alcohol, provide security and safety measures so that young people, who may or may not live in that home or access that home, would be protected against having access to those—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear in the minister's speech on Bill C-45 that she noted that criminal prohibition is not working and is indeed failing. She also noted that the majority of Canadians support the end of criminal prohibition and punishment. Indeed, going back to the Liberal platform of 2015, it noted that, “arresting and prosecuting these offences is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.”
    The Liberals have repeatedly said that they want to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to keep cannabis out of the hands of kids and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals. I accept that. I do not think the minister will find any argument in this House against that.
    In the minister's preamble, she seems to have made a very strong case for decriminalization. She has acknowledged the harms criminal prohibition and punishment do to our society, particularly to youth and racialized Canadians.
    The government has now been in power for almost 20 months. Many regimes around the world have instituted decriminalization quite well. I still have not heard a good argument from the Liberal government as to why it will not institute this as a good interim measure on the road to legalization.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for reiterating why we are introducing this legislation. We are committed to legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis. The reason, as the member clearly articulated, is to keep it out of the hands of children and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals. By simply decriminalizing right now, we would not be able to achieve those objectives. That is why we are working very diligently, benefiting from the substantive input we received from the task force and Canadians right across the country, to ensure that we put in place, working with the provinces, territories, and municipalities, this complex regime for the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis. That is what we are focused on. We are very hopeful that this legislation will move through the parliamentary process and that we will have a legal regime in this country to achieve the objectives I stated in my remarks: keeping cannabis out of the hands of kids; keeping the proceeds out of the hands of criminals; and ensuring that for minor possession offences, we are not criminalizing young people and adults.
    Mr. Speaker, what the hon. justice minister says is very nice, but it does not accurately reflect what is in the bill, specifically with respect to keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth. With respect to the four plants in the household, if the minister would refer to poisoning data, she would see that kids eat plants all the time, because their parents do not put them up in the cupboard. In addition, we also have a provision in this bill to allow 12- to 17-year-olds to have up to five grams of cannabis, which I understand is about 10 joints. Does the minister not agree that this would put cannabis in the hands of youth? In fact, they would probably become the drug mules at the school.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear. There is nothing in Bill C-45 that would provide the legal ability for young people under the age of 18 to access cannabis.
    In terms of the four plants that the member referenced, as I noted in the previous question, it is certainly necessary and the responsibility of adults in the home to take precautionary measures to prevent young people from gaining access to plants, as they do for alcohol or prescription drugs.
    In terms of the five-gram limit that the hon. member mentioned, this is so as not to criminalize young people for possibly having less than five grams of cannabis in their possession. We are working very closely with the provinces and territories, encouraging them to put in place offences in terms of possession of less than five grams for young people, along the same lines as what happens with alcohol.
    We are going to continue to have these conversations with the provinces and territories to ensure that we are covering all of our bases and that this complex regime is put in place and recognizes the differences between and among the different provinces and territories potentially using the permissive nature of the legislation to adapt to their respective jurisdictions, whether it be around age or around home grow.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her speech on Bill C-45. My concern all along, since news of this bill first broke, is that the Liberals have not announced any new funds for prevention.
    We are told that the bill is meant to protect young people and their health and to restrict their access to marijuana, but what I am hearing on the ground from youth workers, including the ones working in youth shelters, and those who work with young offenders or in the field of mental health and addictions, as well as teachers, is that more money is needed for prevention.
    The government announced less than $2 million a year, and this bill does not even target just marijuana, but all drugs and everything that happens in the area of health. The state of Colorado invested $45 million in 2015 alone for its bill to legalize marijuana.
    This bill lacks vision. It trivializes the impact this could have on mental health, social behaviours, and the lives of young people. The minister mentioned that there could be effects on brain development. Scientists are still studying the effects associated with the consumption of various quantities of THC. We need to have the means to match our ambitions. I am hoping to see the government invest more money. The last budget provided nothing for prevention, even though that is crucial—

  (1300)  

    Order. I regret that the hon. member's time has expired.
    The hon. Minister of Justice.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question from my hon. colleague across the way in terms of prevention. I could not agree more that our government needs to continue the work we are doing, building on the work of the task force that raised awareness around the legalization and regulation of cannabis. We are ensuring that we are taking a public health and safety approach and that we use the $9.6 million that was mentioned in budget 2017, while also recognizing that we are going to have to continue, and are committed to continuing, to have a broad-based public education campaign that speaks to the detrimental impacts of cannabis on brain development and speaks to the impacts on and relationship to mental illness.
    I know my colleague, the Minister of Health, is committed to continuing this discussion. She will be presenting to this hon. House in a couple of days, and I would invite my colleague to ask her about the specific measures. However, this is a firm commitment by our government that, when putting in place a complex regime for the legalization of cannabis and strict regulation, we will do the necessary work to ensure that we are communicating effectively and providing the education measures that are required for Canadians to understand the regime we are putting in place.
    Essentially the bill proposes to regulate and legalize the production, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana across Canada. The government is on record saying it wants to implement this by July of next year. The government's decision to move hastily on such an important piece of legislation concerns me.
     Let me be clear, this marijuana bill will have far-reaching impacts on every part of our society. It is imperative that before proceeding with the significant changes to the Criminal Code, a thorough debate takes place in the House for all members who wish to speak.
    I would like to take a minute to outline some of the areas of concern that I have with the legislation. One of the major issues I have with the legislation is the fact that it will be putting children at risk of having much greater access to marijuana. I am sure this concern resonates with parents of young children and teenagers. While the government has consistently touted that one of its objectives is to prevent young people from accessing cannabis, in reality the bill does just the opposite.
    Clauses 8 and 9 of the legislation are a perfect example. These provisions state that it is prohibited for an individual to possess or distribute more than four cannabis plants that are not budding or flowering. This means that it will be legal for people to grow at least four marijuana plants inside their homes. I do not know of any easier way, and I said that in my question, for children to access marijuana than in that way.
    Unlike prescription pills, which people can put away, marijuana plants, by definition, have to be out in the open. I cannot imagine any easier way for children to get hold of marijuana than when their parents are starting to grow it in the kitchen.
    My concerns for children and teenagers do not end there. Let us consider the dangers for young people who may come in contact with marijuana edibles. This is an issue that is not properly addressed in Bill C-45. I have seen photographs, as I am sure other members have, of these edibles. They are indistinguishable from candy treats or baked goods that are often found on the kitchen counter, in the kitchen cupboard, or even in a cookie jar, enticing prizes for young children. They are so convincing that an adult could mistake a pot edible for the real thing.
    The possible health risks for children ingesting these kinds of edibles cannot be underestimated. According to health care professionals, such as Dr. Robert Glatter, the consumption of multiple servings of edibles at one time, for any age group, results in various potential psychological effects, not to mention the possibility of over-sedation, anxiety, or psychosis. Ingesting multiple servings in a short time span can also produce intense anxiety, paranoia, and even psychosis. These adverse side effects are more frequent among first-time users.
    If these are the health risks that affect adults ingesting edibles, one can only imagine the danger they pose to children who are almost certainly going to be first-time users. In fact, experts from the Department of Justice have attested that edibles pose significant risks to the health of children. Clearly, the entirely plausible chance that children may accidentally ingest these edibles deserves a more careful examination by the members of the House.
    Another illogical aspect of the legislation that the government must address is the ambiguous rules regarding the quantity of marijuana that children may legally possess. As we have heard, according to Bill C-45, paragraph 8(1)(c), children under the age of 18 are prohibited from possessing the equivalent of five grams of marijuana or more.
    What happens when a 12-year-old uses or distributes cannabis to his peers on the playgrounds, every day, with no questions asked? This is a lax approach. How can the government ensure that children and teenagers will not be recruited by organized crime? I can see that is what is going to happen. On a simpler front, is it safer to be in possession of four grams of cannabis or five, or is the safest quantity the possession and distribution of zero grams? That is what our party would support.

  (1305)  

    The Liberals will tell Canadians that four grams is okay but the Conservatives, on the other hand, are firm in our conviction that zero grams is the only safe amount for our children.
    The cannabis act is replete with arbitrary cut-offs that do nothing to protect our children from the dangers of marijuana. In fact, we believe they expose them to greater risk. Canadians deserve clarity when it comes to legislation that will significantly affect so many aspects of our justice, health, and public safety systems, and more important, their daily lives and families. It is not enough, I would like to point out, to say we are going to shove all these things over to the province and let them figure it out. There is a responsibility for the federal government to get it right.
    If all these problems with accessibility alone were not sufficient to highlight the shortcomings of Bill C-45, please note that the Prime Minister and his government proposed that the legal age to purchase marijuana be 18 years of age. For a government that claims to espouse and produce evidence-based policy, this provision is clearly off the mark. All we have to do is ask any doctor, health organization, or health expert. For one, the scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that the human brain does not fully develop until individuals reach their mid-twenties.
    The Canadian Medical Association, as I have pointed out, has already warned the government that the use of cannabis may have significant psychological impacts on brain development up to the age of 25, and recommends that 21 be the youngest acceptable age to legalize the purchase of marijuana. Indeed, the position of the Canadian Paediatric Society likewise urges the government to consider the dangers of so young an age to purchase marijuana. Again, the government keeps talking about protecting children but it completely ignores the evidence. Indeed, the co-author of that position paper, Dr. Christina Grant, has stated, at the very least, the levels of THC must be limited until after the age of 25 to be considered safe for brain health.
    Once again, Bill C-45 lacks crucial information. Why are the Liberals ignoring this crucial scientific information, information that has a tangible impact on the health and best interests of Canadians? It is not enough to say we are ignoring all the evidence and let the provinces figure this out. That is not good enough.
    Further, while drafting the legislation, the Liberal government had plenty of time to study the impact of marijuana legalization in several jurisdictions in the United States. Instead of learning from the mistakes and challenges that have befallen these states, the government decided to ram the legislation through. Again, this will be a complete detriment to Canadians.
    I will give members a couple of examples of what we are talking about.
    First is the fact that our American counterparts have found an increase in impaired driving following the legalization of marijuana in certain jurisdictions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice found that on Colorado roads, during the year following legalization of marijuana, there has been a 32% increase in deaths related to marijuana-impaired driving. That is completely unacceptable.
    There is little doubt that Canadians will see a similar increase of drug-impaired driving if marijuana is legalized. In fact, statistics have already shown that this is a serious problem. According to the Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey, nearly one in five Canadian high school students have been a passenger in a car whose driver had recently smoked marijuana.
    Canadians of all ages are very confused about the many existing myths regarding smoking and driving. For example, in a 2014 poll, 32% of Canadian teens believed that driving high is less dangerous than driving drunk. The perpetuation of this kind of thinking will have serious consequences. A report prepared by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse states that Canadians 16 to 19 years of age are more likely to drive two hours after ingesting marijuana than they would be two hours after drinking.
    The World Health Organization, on the other hand, has been clear in debunking this myth. It has stated:
    Evidence suggests that recent cannabis smoking is associated with substantial driving impairment, particularly in occasional smokers, with implications for work in safety-sensitive positions or when operating a means of transportation, including aircraft.... Complex human/machine performance can be impaired as long as 24 hours after smoking a moderate dose of cannabis and the user may be unaware of the drug's influence....

  (1310)  

    In light of this information, Bill C-45 does not provide sufficient avenues to educate young people about the undeniable danger of driving high. Should the government insist on ramming this legislation through, it should seriously take into account the importance of public awareness campaigns in protecting young people.
    Ultimately, actions speak louder than words, and legalizing marijuana sends the wrong message to young Canadians that pot is a benign drug, that it is not a cause for concern. In reality, the government cannot guarantee that more children and teenagers will not be injured in motor vehicle accidents, if not worse, as a result of increased access to marijuana. This, beyond doubt, is something the government should have considered seriously before trying to ram this bill through Parliament in an attempt to live up to a campaign promise.
    Another important and threatening problem facing jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana is the increase in cannabis-related hospitalizations. We have already established the research that proves marijuana can have dangerous effects on children's brain development and overall health.
     In Colorado, these studies have had far-reaching and tangible consequences. According to a recent report by the Colorado Department of Health, hospitalization involving patients with marijuana exposure and diagnosis tripled from around 803 per 100,000 between 2001 and 2009 to 2,413 per 100,000 after marijuana was legalized. That is about three times as many people who were hospitalized. This serves as a cautionary guideline for how children will be impacted by easy access and exposure to pot.
    A report by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA states, “the number of Colorado children who’ve been reported to a poison control center or examined at a hospital for unintentional marijuana exposure annually has spiked since the state legalized recreational cannabis...”
    These statistics are not inconsequential. Once again, why has the government ignored the lessons our peers have faced after legalizing marijuana? Answers to these challenges are certainly not found in Bill C-45.
    The gaping holes in the legislation are indisputable. If homegrown marijuana plants are permitted, coupled with alarming and unanswered questions related to marijuana edibles, children will clearly have easier access to the substance. Given the bill's ambiguity on how much cannabis constitutes an offence, children and teenagers may possess and distribute up to four grams of marijuana with no clear recourse to protect them. Setting the age of majority for marijuana use at 18 promotes a lax approach to brain development and public safety.
    Finally, the government's unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that comparable jurisdictions have faced critical health and safety challenges as a result of their similar legalization processes is not only reckless but unfair to Canadians who put their trust in their members of Parliament.
    While the risks to children constitute my greatest concern with Bill C-45, there are numerous other problems that go unaddressed in the legislation. One of these is the fact that the bill provides little to no clarity on the degree of flexibility that the government will allocate to provincial governments and municipal law enforcement to implement this. Additionally, the bill does not sufficiently address the costs for retraining officers given the changes to the Criminal Code.
    Moreover, the questions surrounding Canada-U.S. border crossings should legalization take place is particularly worrisome to me, as my constituents in Niagara Falls live right across from our American neighbours and often have the occasion to travel to the United States. Taking note of the fact that most American border states have not legalized recreational marijuana, the discrepancy in policy could greatly impact, among other things, the waiting time to cross the border.

  (1315)  

     The former U.S. ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, has expressed his doubts regarding efficiency at the border and the legalization of marijuana. His primary concern is the fact that border patrol dogs are not trained to distinguish marijuana scents from other prohibited items.
     He stated:
    The dogs are trained to have reactions to certain scents. Some of those scents start with marijuana. Others are something that are significantly more challenging for the border. But the dog doesn't tell you this is marijuana and this is an explosive...
    The dog reacts, and these border guards are going to have to appropriately do an investigation. That could slow the border down.
    My constituents, and all of the 400,000 Canadians who travel to the United States every day, are deeply concerned about the waiting times and they want them to be as expeditious as possible. How can the government ensure that these delays will not affect Canadian business people, families visiting loved ones or even Canada-U.S. relations writ large? Bill C-45 is silent on yet another consideration for Canadians.
    It is evident that the government has been too hasty in its attempt to push through this legislation without consideration of all the risks to children, confusion surrounding implementation, and delays in border crossings. This complex issue could result in insurmountable health and safety burdens in the years to come.
     As such, I urge my fellow members to take the significant problems with the legislation into consideration.
    To conclude, I move that the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, since the bill makes homegrown marijuana more accessible to children.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have much respect for my colleague, but I would like to highlight a number of flawed assumptions with his interpretation of Bill C-45.
    The first is that somehow children will have lawful access to cannabis. I want to assure the hon. colleague that Bill C-45 would in no way allow any lawful access to cannabis to youth.
    The second is that children will somehow be allowed to traffic cannabis. Of course, Bill C-45 would not permit that and it would certainly not permit adults to use youth to traffic cannabis. In fact, we are proposing a higher maximum sentence, a 14-year sentence, which is an improvement from the current regime.
    The most important flawed assumption he made was that somehow the status quo was working with respect to cannabis, when all of the evidence and all of the efforts put in by the independent task force demonstrated it was not.
    Is that not the trouble with the Conservatives' approach to law and order? They ignore evidence, they somehow continue to introduce unconstitutional laws, which have been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, like mandatory minimums, and they show no faith in our courts, which are situated best to provide justice and safety to all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I put a question to the Minister of Justice at the justice committee just a couple of weeks ago, and the hon. member will probably remember this. I asked her what would happen to the child who had four grams of marijuana. We made the point that the bill specifically said that a person could not have more than five grams. What if someone has two or three grams? Will this not be very helpful to people who love to sell drugs around schools? They will tell the young people to be careful, that they should not take more than five grams with them. They will give them four grams, ask them to sell that, and come back to see them.
    Again, the hon. member said that we did not respect the justice system for everything else. That is the point. Does he want to ignore the evidence with respect to impaired driving? He should check it out in Colorado and in all of the different jurisdictions. Once they legalized marijuana, the impaired driving as a result of smoking marijuana went up. There has been a 32% increase in deaths in Colorado since it has done that.
    Therefore, yes, we are worried about the Criminal Code, the justice system, and the people who are victims of crime. This is one of the things that distinguishes us.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the parliamentary secretary's line of questioning.
     When I read Bill C-45 and I look at the provisions involved with youth, I read it as the five grams acts as a benchmark. I think all hon. members would agree that we want to do everything possible to keep our youth out of the criminal justice system. This is not in any way accepting the fact that they can have marijuana. It is just so it is a ticketable offence so they are not stuck for the rest of their lives with a criminal record. I would like to hear the member's comments in response to that.
     I respect the Conservatives. They represent a segment of society that has problems with the bill, but I would agree with the parliamentary secretary and the Liberals. The status quo is not working and the statistics are there to back it up. A criminal law and order approach to this problem has not worked. What do the Conservatives propose as an alternative?
    Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member says that the Conservatives are not worried enough about criminalizing this activity, we are worried about children having access to any marijuana. We are very concerned about that. The health studies, as I pointed out in my speech, point out very clearly the harmful effects that smoking marijuana can have on brain development. One of the things we have pointed out as well is that there is no safe level on this.
    I have indicated that we cannot do what the Liberal government has done, which is to dump it all on the provinces. We know what happened to the Liberals. It is like their promise on electoral reform. They did not think it out. They probably thought the NDP would win the election, so they could promise anything, such as new electoral reform, legalized marijuana. These are wonderful things, but then it turned out they ended up in government. Now we can see that the government has not thought this out at all. To say that it will push it through and then the provinces can figure it out is completely unacceptable.
     Yes, we are very concerned about that and we are proud of the position we have taken.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not believe there is anyone in the House who does not care about the safety and the health of our kids and about their outcomes. I believe we all can agree on that. We can also agree that the current system is failing our kids.
     The overwhelming evidence is the fact that our kids are using cannabis at a higher rate than any other country in the world and they are getting it from organized crime, from criminals. I do not think it is appropriate, and I do not believe any member of the House believes it is appropriate, that we should leave the health and safety of our children up to criminals. A government has the responsibility to take action.
    As the former minister of justice, the member for Niagara Falls is well aware that in every province and territory across the country, issues such as of the purchase and consumption of alcohol are most appropriately under provincial governance and provincial regulations. Every province and territory has a liquor licence act that makes it a provincial offence for minors to possess, purchase, and consume alcohol. That enables law enforcement to enforce an absolute prohibition for young people under the age of adulthood, however it is defined in a province.
     Similar measures for cannabis would enable law enforcement to enforce a prohibition in all amounts of cannabis for young people, without subjecting them to a criminal record. I am sure the member opposite would agree that we want to protect the health of our kids. However, as I talk to parents across the country, they are concerned about the health of their kids, about their outcome and that they will get a criminal record. We have a responsibility to address the legitimate concerns all parents have. This legislation is about that.
    Mr. Speaker, on one part, I am not going to challenge the hon. member who said that if the government legalizes it, that the quality of marijuana that our children would be smoking would be increased. Again, I am not happy with any marijuana being smoked by children.
    I have to go back to one section of this, and I put this to the hon. member. We are very concerned about the protection of our children from having access. Again, I ask the Minister of Justice this, and I would love to hear from the parliamentary secretary. Is there any easier way to get marijuana than if one's parents and everybody have plants in the kitchen? I cannot imagine. It is not enough just to say that prescription drugs are up in the medicine cabinet and children have access to them. Children can be protected against medical prescriptions, and my colleagues are pointing out ways we can do that. Of course we can.
    However, by definition, one has to have plants out there, I guess, in the kitchen by the window to get lots of sun, with lots of exposure to the kids. I cannot understand how the Liberals can be making this point that somehow we are protecting our children here. Guess what: one is only going to get four plants and cannot have 40 plants. One can only have four plants because we are so worried about the health of our children. I say to skip it.
    I ask the members of the Liberal Party why not bring a subamendment and get rid of that whole thing about the four plants. Get the plants out of people's houses. Nobody wants that.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for pointing out many of the dangers that all of us are aware of in this House. Certainly, the safety and welfare of our kids is paramount, but also the safety of those who operate heavy equipment or are driving on our roads. These are all concerns that we have.
    My colleague clearly pointed out the evidence from the Canadian Medical Association that calls for a minimum age of 21. It would like it to be 25, but in light of the desire to move ahead, it said 21. Just yesterday, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, an editorial by Dr. Diane Kelsall had some great points, but the very last sentence stated, “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”
    I wonder what my colleague would say to that.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, what I first want to do is thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his support of the amendments that we have brought forward here today, and thank him for his support throughout this issue, on behalf of our party. He is absolutely correct.
    I say to the Liberals to raise the age to 21. If they are so concerned about children, go ahead. Do not take my word for it, but check out all the medical reports and organizations. It is not the Conservatives who are saying that one should not be smoking marijuana under the age of 21 or 25. No, check with all the medical people and then make an amendment to bring it up to 21. Start with that, then get rid of the four plants in the kitchen, and I promise that will better protect children in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great pleasure to be rising to speak to Bill C-45. I think this is the first important step to recognize the failed approach that we have had in this country for far too long. The war on drugs has plagued Canada for far too long. We have had marijuana criminalized in this country since 1923, and I believe, based on the statistics, it is time for a change. It is time for a new approach, and this is an important first step.
    The plans for this legalization were announced in the Liberals' plans. It has been in government now for almost 20 months, and of course we have probably until July of next year before we finally see it implemented. It will be a long time for Canadians to finally see some actions on this file.
    The NDP will support the government's plans on this in principle, but we want to ensure that it is done effectively, that marijuana has the safeguards in place for our children, and that we have a reliable, long-term revenue stream that is specifically earmarked for public health initiatives, prevention, and all-important research, because those areas are very much lacking in our country today.
    We do have some key differences with the government, as we do believe that the Liberals should put into action their concern about the unjust laws. The crime that still exists in this country for simple possession is profoundly unjust, for a substance that the government is going to legalize. That has always been our strong position, and we will continue to hound the government on that point whenever we get a chance.
    Our justice system is clogged up. We have serious criminal charges that are either being stayed or withdrawn. This is all in light of the Jordan decision, yet the government refuses to act on an initiative that would free up so many police resources and so many justice resources, which are so sadly needed in our country right now.
    As we debate this legislation, and the government is giving itself a pat on the back for meeting one of its promises, this is all being done in the light of the fact that many Canadians are still getting criminal records for possession, and it very disproportionately affects our youth and racialized Canadians. We will continue to push the government, whenever possible, on those points. We will be preparing constructive proposals for the government, especially in light of bringing pardons. We feel that those who have received previous convictions for marijuana possession should have some form of amnesty offered. I have heard some encouraging words from Public Safety Canada lately, but the government should be following through on that, and we would certainly like to see a firm commitment spoken by a minister in this House at some point in the future.
    The government must also be clear and upfront regarding provincial responsibilities. We certainly want to see how this structure will be shared, and indeed, the provinces will have a lot of responsibilities, so it is up to the federal government to clearly lay those out.
    There are a lot of items in the bill. It is about 131 pages. It is a lot to read through. This is quite a revolutionary step for Canada after so much prohibition. I will briefly go over some of the main points.
    It will allow an adult who is over 18 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana or equivalent in a public place, and it does not preclude provinces from harmonizing the age according to their liquor laws, if they so wish.
    The Canadian Medical Association, as has been mentioned by my Conservative colleagues, has expressed concern with the age limit, and I think we do need to take those concerns into question, but the thing to remember is that age 18 is an age when we trust Canadians to vote, and age 18 is when we trust they have the ability to freely join our armed forces and fight abroad for us. It is a bit of a struggle finding that right age. We need to invest those dollars in research and prevention campaigns so that our youth understand the risks that come with heavy and sustained use of cannabis.
    The other point that is causing a lot of consternation is the possession of up to four cannabis plants per household. This is probably something that will have to be looked at. I do not think there is anything in this legislation that precludes a municipality or a strata corporation from setting its own rules, so this is simply about removing prohibition and punishment for those four plants. However again, I think this is something with which Canadian society has already expressed a little bit of discomfort. It is something that we certainly do want to be looking at.

  (1335)  

    With respect to the punishments, it would allow for a punishment of up to 14 years for anyone over the age of 18 who sells marijuana to a young person. This is a fairly harsh punishment. It is actually in line with the punishments for producing child pornography and attempting to leave Canada to commit terrorism. I know it would give judicial discretion, but it is a pretty harsh punishment for this, and we need to look at whether it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With respect to young people, the legislation would allow young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to possess up to five grams of cannabis. I mentioned this in questions and comments earlier. This is about trying to save our youth. It is not about promoting the use of the drug; it is about trying to save our youth from going through the criminal justice system. If they possessed over that amount, they would be subject to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but that is an important distinction to make. Nothing precludes the ability of provinces to institute civil, ticketable offences for this, and that is an important point to bring in.
    There would be minor ticketing options available in this legislation, so it would give police officers some leeway. Individuals possessing over 30 grams and under 50 grams could be subject to a $200 fine. If they went over four plants and had five or six plants, the legislation would allow for a ticketable scheme. Again, this is about saving our overburdened criminal justice system, which is currently feeling the strain of the Jordan decision, and allowing those civil offences so that our criminal justice system can look at the serious charges that are currently being withdrawn and stayed in our courts today.
    There would also be restrictions on the type of packaging and promotions. There would be a lot of freedom given to the Minister of Health in developing regulations that deal with these particular laws, so we want to make sure that there is no false, misleading, or deceptive promotion of the products and nothing that appeals to young people. We certainly want to see some clarity on child-resistant packaging; the labelling of amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; and of course the health warning, similar to what we already see on tobacco packaging. There would also be a cannabis tracking system that sets up a national seed-to-sale tracking system in order that, for all the licensed producers, we could track the marijuana that has been produced, basically from the farm to a person's household at the point of sale.
    Here are some of the outstanding issues. As I identified in my introduction, there are a lot of key issues that are left up to the provinces. I know some provincial governments have expressed some consternation about that, but the government has rightly pointed out that this is a shared jurisdiction. The federal government has clear jurisdiction in the federal criminal law power, but when it comes to sales and distribution, that is very clearly a provincial power under our Constitution. Again, it would require some harmonization between the federal government and our various provincial governments.
    As I mentioned in my introduction, we would like to see more information from the Minister of Finance, from the current government, on what the tax and revenue structure would be. We do not want this simply to be a cash cow for the government. We want to make sure that the funds would be generated for a reliable stream of revenue for research and prevention. I was sad to see that, on the day this legislation was rolled out, the Minister of National Revenue was present with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, but she had nothing to say about her portfolio, which is the Canada Revenue Agency. That was a missed opportunity, in my opinion. When it comes to the long-term revenue stream, we are certainly looking for more details.
    The other thing that has been brought up, which I have heard from my caucus colleagues and I know from the member for Windsor West, is the issues that we would have to deal with at the border with our American cousins. We know that the Trump government is taking a decidedly wrong turn on this approach, but the U.S. is our neighbour and we have to deal with the laws that it puts in place. A lot of our trade and a lot of Canadians are reliant on crossing the border with the United States freely and without hindrance. My friend from Windsor West sees so much trade go across from Windsor to Detroit every single day, and he has already expressed concern about whether truck drivers would see increased delays. This is an area where the government still has a lot of homework to do. The public safety minister has been asked this question repeatedly and his answers have been lacking so far. He owes it to all members in this House to clearly explain how the negotiations are going with our American counterparts and exactly what progress is being made in that particular area.

  (1340)  

    It is not just trade. When ordinary Canadians are going down for a visit, if we have legal cannabis in Canada and people are asked by a border guard if they have ever ingested or smoked marijuana, the answer can have serious consequences. While we support the overall goal of this legislation, we still have to confront the reality that exists with our closest neighbour and ally. The Trump administration is anything but consistent these days. It seems that if we are to follow the president's policy directions, we have to read his tweets. It is something that we will have to stay on top of.
    The other item concerns the international treaties of 1961, 1971, and 1988, to which Canada is a party. I have asked the government this question a few times, and it still has not given us an answer as to what its plans are for Canada's obligations under these treaties. It is not a trick question. I would simply like to know what the government's plans are. Is it going to make an announcement that we are withdrawing? The deadline is July 1. I would hope that in the next 30 days or so, the government will come up with a plan that we can have confidence in.
    Those international treaties represent a 20th century way of thinking on the drug policy problem. Canada has an opportunity to assume some international leadership in this regard, especially if we become the first G20 nation to legalize it. We could probably stand firm in the world and promote an alternative way of dealing with drug issues, rather than the old failed law-and-order approach.
    I made reference to the crisis that exists in our justice system, and particularly the fact that we have seen some serious criminal charges, such as murder and assault, stayed or withdrawn. We have repeatedly pointed out to the government that it could have instituted decriminalization as an interim measure to make sure that our police and crown prosecutors do not have to deal with minor marijuana possession charges. As the law is currently written, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, these are still crimes.
    We do not have enough crown prosecutors, we do not have enough courtrooms, and we do not have enough administrative staff to run an effective justice system today. The minister has repeatedly identified these problems and has acknowledged that the criminal approach is ineffective, yet the government refuses to do anything as an interim measure. It is falling back on the same tired arguments, which I do not think Canadians are very convinced of. Perhaps the Liberals are, but I think Canadians, when they hear those arguments, do not buy into the Liberal argument. Aside from appointing the proper number of judges and resourcing the system properly, enacting decriminalization could be very effective.
    Let us go to the Liberal platform of 2015, and I am going to paraphrase it here. The Liberals acknowledged in 2015 that arresting and prosecuting in cannabis offences is expensive for our criminal justice system and traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offences. They will find no disagreement from the NDP on that claim.
    As for decriminalization, historically opposition to decriminalization usually came from those who favoured continued prohibition. There have been fears expressed that decriminalization would send counterproductive messages that would increase the use of cannabis and related problems, and that it would sustain and possibly strengthen criminally controlled contraband trade in cannabis.
    Despite these largely unsubstantiated fears, many nations and subnational states have opted for the decriminalization model. Researchers have found that under prohibition, cannabis users, for the most part, even in times of easy access, moderate their cannabis use, such that it does not interfere with their lives or lead to adverse health consequences. These patterns appear to persist under decriminalization.
    For decades, research on the impact of cannabis decriminalization has shown that in a variety of jurisdictions, including Australia, Europe, and the United States, decriminalization does not cause an increase in consumer demand or in the ease of access.

  (1345)  

    What decriminalization does do is decrease the related social problems, the criminal records that people have tied around their necks for the rest of their lives, and the impact on employment and people's ability to rent or to travel. It also reduces the costs in our judicial system. On this side of the House, the NDP feels that this is a solution that is backed by science, and it would immediately relieve some of the pressure on our overburdened justice system.
    There is a fair amount of commentary in Canadian cannabis literature that contains concerns that cannabis trade in Canada is under the control of violent and exploitative criminal elements, causing harm to users and children. The Liberals really love to say that they want to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis in order to keep it out of the hands of children and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals. New Democrats agree with that approach, but it is more of a fear-based objective in that Liberals do not want to decriminalize because of those reasons.
    It should be noted that only a particular share of the illegal cannabis trade occurs within international crime syndicates. There is good cause to doubt that most cannabis users in Canada would ever have contact with violent exploitative criminal organizations or people. Most people buy small amounts from friends, family members, or close acquaintances, yet the Liberals have continued with this fearmongering. They say that every day our kids turn to dealers, gangs, and criminals to buy marijuana, putting them in harm's way. That is simply not true. That is fearmongering at its worst.
    Studies have shown that the illegal cannabis trade, as it stands today, resembles more of a disconnected cottage industry in which independent and otherwise law-abiding people attempt to support themselves and their families. They are meeting demands in their communities. Basically, it is something that most Canadians do not believe should be illegal in the first place. Many people in small towns, when the economy gets tough, have turned to growing and selling cannabis. They are not violent criminals, but the Liberal approach treats them as being in that category, even the people who purchase and possess marijuana. It is a failed approach, the politics of fear.
    A study by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition found that links between the cannabis trade and violent organized crime groups have been greatly exaggerated. It describes cannabis operations as independent, small in size, local, non-violent, and modest in realized revenues.
    When the Prime Minister first announced that he favoured the legalization of marijuana, it sparked a lot of questions from society, and one of the questions was about pardons. He said the following: “There has been many situations over history when laws come in that overturn previous convictions and there will be a process for that that we will set up in a responsible way.” We will certainly be holding the Prime Minister to his word. However, he has been contradicted by the Minister of Public Safety, so I would appreciate a clear and concise statement from the government at some point on what precisely it is going to do with respect to pardons.
    I want to turn to how legalization would affect youth and racialized Canadians.
    Thirty per cent of Canadian youth have tried cannabis at least once by the age of 15, which is the highest use among many different countries, and it would disproportionally affect those people. The Prime Minister acknowledged the wrongs of this in the past when he related the story of how his late brother was able to get off because of his father's connections in the legal community. It is one type of justice for the wealthy and well-connected and another type of justice for the poor and marginalized groups. The cost of a pardon is $631. When people are living on the margins of society, how are they supposed to afford pardons in order to clear their names and get ahead in life? That question has not yet been answered adequately by the government.
    I will conclude by restating that the status quo approach has been a complete failure. The war on drugs has cost billions of dollars but has not produced the results that we as a society had hoped for and demand. A new approach needs to be taken. I will therefore support this bill in principle at second reading. It deserves very close scrutiny in the Standing Committee on Health. I and my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway, the NDP health critic, will be working together to make sure it gets the scrutiny it deserves.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was very grateful for the comments made in support of Bill C-45 by the member opposite. I just want to clarify a point.
    He spoke quite effectively on the important regulatory measures the bill contains in order to control, for example, the quality, potency, and circumstances of production and sale of cannabis. At the same time, he advocates for a system that would maintain a prohibition with civil penalties.
    I would like to quote for him remarks made by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in its document on a public health approach to the legalization and regulation of marijuana. It acknowledges that decriminalization can address a single but important social harm, but it also says that this model fails to address certain very important things. For example, it states, “Under decriminalization cannabis remains unregulated, meaning that users know little or nothing about its potency or quality. As long as cannabis use is illegal”—and prohibited, as advocated under the decriminalization model of my friend—“it is difficult [if not impossible] for health care or educational professionals to effectively address and help prevent problematic use.”
    It goes on to say that decriminalization may encourage commercialization of cannabis production and distribution.
    Quite frankly, I have never heard of street gangs and Hell's Angels being referred to as a disconnected cottage industry, but I can assure him, from decades of experience, that there are serious criminal enterprises involved in the production and illegal distribution of cannabis in our country.
    Finally, CAMH points out that in other models of decriminalization, it inevitably results in an increase in the number of people who are being penalized.
    Could the member share with us what he believes would be involved in passing new legislation that would decriminalize it and in establishing an enforcement and regulatory framework? As well, might he agree with me that it would be expensive and time-consuming to do it wrong, as compared to what overwhelming expert opinion suggests is the right way to do it?
    Mr. Speaker, I respectfully disagree with the parliamentary secretary. As a point of clarification, I was not in any way stating that Hell's Angels and organized crime have no part to play. They do. What I wanted to illuminate for my Liberal colleagues was the fact that the criminal organizations represent more of a stratified industry. Yes, large-scale criminal organizations do play a part. They are involved. The evidence is there, and I know he spent a long time during his career fighting those very organizations, but there are also many other elements to the illicit market, which are in no way connected to violent organized crime groups.
    With respect to decriminalization, it is important to note that we have been emphasizing this as an interim measure. It does not have to be complicated or expensive. It does not even need a legislative change to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The government could simply give direction to the director of public prosecutions to ask provinces and the various administrations not to enforce the current law as an interim measure while we wait to decriminalize.
    I think most Canadians would be on side with that particular measure, and I am certainly happy to continue debating that with him into the future.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting that the member was saying he intends to support the legislation and then he went on and on giving examples of why we should oppose the legislation. Many of those things I happen to agree with, but it was just very strange. He said very little positive as to why we should support the legislation.
    There is one area I would like him to comment on. One of the problems we have had in the past is dealers are selling cannabis to children in the schools, even the elementary schools. Their answer is that the provinces are going to regulate this and it would be sold in certain places. I have heard the criticism that because of those high regulations and what the provinces are going to have to do, the cost of selling drugs is going to be extremely high and the dealers will still be able to make a deal to these young children buying drugs illegally. I would like him to comment on that, because that was the one area he seemed to leave out of his myriad of opposition to the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I will leave the defence of Bill C-45 to the Liberal government. What I was indicating in my speech is that there are areas in the bill that are of concern to our caucus, but we do not think that the baby needs to be thrown out with the bathwater. The bill in principle needs to be passed at this stage so the committee can do its due diligence.
    With respect to the selling of marijuana to children, I, of course, am concerned. I am the father of twin girls who are about to turn five years old. Everyone in the House has concerns about the effects of marijuana on children. We want to make sure there are prevention programs for that case.
    This is the status quo today. In the approach that exists today, even though we have criminal prohibitions, we still find that Canadian youth are among the highest users of any developed country in the world. The current form is a complete failure. A new approach is needed and I still have yet to hear from my Conservative colleagues as to what they suggest as an alternative. The stats show us the current method is a failure, so the very least we can do is to try something different, to try a public health approach, and that is why I support the bill being sent to committee so that it can get the due diligence it needs. Experts can comment on it and so can the Canadian public.
    Mr. Speaker, it is really important for us to realize that on the issue of cannabis, Canada and our young people have the highest usage in the developed world. As the member points out, it is important that we recognize the status quo is damaging to our young people in every region of our country. It is not good enough to do what the Conservative Party is doing, which is putting their heads in the sand. We need to recognize the need for change. Would the member at the very least acknowledge that fact?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North illustrated the issue quite concretely. The status quo is not working. A new approach is needed. It is 2017, and we have dealt with cannabis prohibition and punishment since 1923.
    With respect to the international treaties that Canada is a party to, I hope the government will one day inform the House what it is going to do because there is a real opportunity for Canada to stand up as an international leader to show the rest of the world there is a different way and maybe assume that leadership position. We are waiting. Again, I look forward to getting the bill to committee so it can have the close scrutiny that it deserves.
    The hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford will have two minutes remaining in his time for questions and comments when the House next resumes debate on the question.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Marijuana

    Mr. Speaker, there may be a, shall we say, pink elephant in the room when it comes to the legalization of marijuana.
    First let us talk about the risks. Quebeckers are aware of them. Some of those risks include normalization of marijuana use, public health impacts, and increased use by our young people, just to name a few. Then there is production. The opening of this new market should benefit more than just the Liberals' friends. As we have seen, almost every cannabis company has a former minister or well-known Liberal on its board of directors.
    If we vote to legalize marijuana, it must be done right. It must not have a negative impact on our young people or the general public, and it must certainly not be done just to benefit the Liberals' friends. The government has not yet done anything to address Quebeckers' concerns or to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Things are off to a bad start.

[English]

Yarmouth Sports Hall of Fame

     Mr. Speaker, West Nova has a rich sporting heritage, with five sports halls of fame throughout the riding that actively work to showcase our local sports heroes and history.
    Earlier this month, I was honoured to attend the induction dinner of the Yarmouth Sports Hall of Fame where the following achievements were recognized: David Sisco, a two-time national special Olympic gold medalist in powerlifting; Imrich Kiraly, who has won numerous medals in international and national track and field events; the 1972 bantam B hockey team, which brought home Yarmouth's first provincial hockey title; and Yarmouth's 1977 beaver B baseball team, which went undefeated in their season and clinched the provincial title.

[Translation]

    What is more, in 2015, the hockey team from École secondaire de Par-en-Bas won the division 3 high school provincial championship for the first time.

[English]

    I invite my colleagues to join with me in congratulating these exceptional athletes and all those like them in communities large and small, right across Canada.

2017 RBC Cup Championship

    Mr. Speaker, in August 2016, 130 Junior A hockey teams started the journey to the national championship, the RBC Cup. It was hosted during the third week of this past May by the welcoming community of Cobourg, Ontario, in the riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South.
    After many provincial and regional finals and a week of round-robin play in Cobourg, two great teams representing tremendous organizations from very supportive communities qualified for the championship game: the Brooks Bandits of Brooks, Alberta, and the hometown Cobourg Cougars of Cobourg, Ontario.
    With a thrilling, close, overtime game win, congratulations to the 2017 RBC Cup champions: the Cobourg Cougars.

[Translation]

Ski Saint-Bruno

    Mr. Speaker, since this week is Tourism Week in Canada, I would like to talk about Ski Saint-Bruno, Canada's largest snow school.
    With 565 instructors and 33,000 students each year, Ski Saint-Bruno is Canada's premier ski and snowboard school, boasting more than half a million graduates over the past 50 years. On June 17, 10,000 people are expected to participate in the fifth edition of Montreal Mud Hero. They will need agility, speed, and endurance to climb, crawl, and slide their way through more than 16 muddy obstacles on the six-kilometre course.
    On June 17, I will be in Mont-Saint-Bruno. I invite all my colleagues to come to Montarville to breathe some fresh mountain air, play in the mud, and cheer on these intrepid participants.

[English]

Reconciliation Saskatoon

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the launch of a month of events, culminating in the Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation on June 21, National Aboriginal Day.
     Reconciliation Saskatoon is a collective of 58 organizations, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Shift Development, the City of Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre, and other non-profit, business, faith, and community partners, all working to encourage education, conversations, and a change in response to the TRC's calls to action.
    I urge all Saskatoon residents to embrace this opportunity to learn more about the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools and the unshakable resilience and strength of Saskatchewan's indigenous peoples.
    I implore all members of the House to follow the lead of Reconciliation Saskatoon. We must not only mouth the words of reconciliation but also follow through with real, substantive, and lasting change.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

Insurance Brokers Association of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Insurance Brokers Association of Canada members are here with us today, and I would like to welcome them to Ottawa. Seventy delegates from the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, or IBAC, have come from all over the country to gather on Parliament Hill for their annual advocacy day.

[English]

    The Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, or IBAC, is a national federation representing over 36,000 property and casualty insurance brokers across Canada. Insurance brokers across the country are small business owners and community builders.
    Brokers from coast to coast to coast are here today to speak about the need to protect consumers from the ongoing pressures at the hands of Canada's banks to push insurance products when credit is granted.

[Translation]

    Brokers serve consumers, not insurance companies. They use their expertise to help consumers make informed decisions about their insurance needs. We thank them for their work and for being here today.

[English]

HPV Prevention Week

    Mr Speaker, as a survivor of HPV cancer, a strain of cancer preventable through vaccination, I am delighted to support an initiative announced today by the Federation of Medical Women of Canada.
    Since our Conservative government first funded girls' HPV vaccinations 10 years ago, addressing the sharp rise in HPV cancers in women and men, most provinces now fund boys and girls. The same vaccine has now also been found to be effective in preventing cervical cancer in mature women. More than 1,500 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year and some 400 will die. Beyond our borders, a quarter of a million mothers and grandmothers die of cervical cancer every year in developing countries.
    We know HPV cancers can be beaten with vaccines. At home and abroad, Canada can make a difference.
    I salute the Federation of Medical Women of Canada for HPV Prevention Week announced today here on the Hill.

[Translation]

HPV Prevention Week

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the excellent work being done to prevent the transmission of human papilloma virus infections, many of which can cause different types of cancer.
    The Federation of Medical Women of Canada has organized events on Parliament Hill to promote the first-ever HPV Prevention Week, which will take place the first week of October. This is a first step toward raising awareness about this extremely contagious virus.
    I am proud to say that Canada has been a world leader on this issue for over 10 years now. I call on our government to maintain its support for prevention strategies as we strive to eradicate HPV. Imagine a Canada without HPV and the cancers it causes.

[English]

Antonio Sousa

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate Antonio Sousa, who would have turned 92 this Saturday, June 3.
    A pivotal figure in the Portuguese Canadian community, Antonio touched so many lives with his integrity, compassion, sense of humour, and dedication to helping others. He came from Portugal in 1953, and was joined a year later by his wife Maria Antonia and son Julio. In 1958, their younger son Charles, now Ontario Minister of Finance and my local MPP, was born.
    In addition to being a successful small business owner, Antonio Sousa co-founded the First Portuguese Canadian Club of Canada and supported many other Luso Canadian organizations. He worked tirelessly to make it easier for Portuguese immigrants and other newcomers to succeed and prosper.
    Antonio Sousa was always kind and gracious to me, and I know that today all those who knew him are better people for it.
    [Member spoke in Portuguese as follows:]
     Foi uma honra reconhecer este canadiano notável.

Canada 150 Commemorative Medals

    Mr. Speaker, this year marks Canada's 150th anniversary since Confederation, but Canada's history stretches back further than those 150 years.
    One remarkable figure who sticks out to me is John Graves Simcoe, who was Upper Canada's first Lieutenant Governor. During his tenure, Mr. Simcoe created numerous institutions and reforms such as the abolition of slavery, English common law, and trial by jury. We still celebrate these institutions today.
    Unfortunately, the government has decided not to celebrate our 150th anniversary with a commemorative medal, so we in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte have taken matters into our own hands and will be commissioning 150 medals named after Mr. Simcoe, which will be given out to exceptional Canadians in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
    I would like to wish every Canadian a very happy Canadian 150th birthday.
    In Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte we will be celebrating the true, the north, the strong, and the free.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

First Nations

    Mr. Speaker, our government believes that Canada's most important relationship is the one we have with our first nations.

[English]

    Today I would like to pay tribute to three communities that play an important role in the development of northern New Brunswick. In my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, a name with Mi'kmaq language origins, I have the privilege of working closely with three dynamic first nation communities. The Eel River Bar First Nation is located on the north shore of Chaleur Bay.

[Translation]

    Further west we have the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.

[English]

    Finally, the Listuguj First Nation, located just across the Restigouche River on the Gaspé Peninsula, is nevertheless a very important economic presence in the Restigouche region.
    These communities are thriving hubs of activity, and their potential for economic, cultural, and social development is enormous.

[Translation]

    This year we are celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. What a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with our first nations about the country we want to live in for the next 150 years.
    Happy birthday, Canada.

[English]

Komagata Maru

    Mr. Speaker, last week Canada once again paid tribute to the victims of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, a black mark in Canadian history. Last week also marked the one-year anniversary of the Prime Minister's historic apology in this very House for the incident, something I had fought for long before I was elected in 2006. This apology has had a significant impact in healing the country and in celebrating a modern Canada, where diversity and cultural exchange is one of our greatest strengths.
    Today I once again want to thank the Prime Minister for his bold leadership in turning the page toward a better future for all Canadians.

Communication and Leadership Award

    Mr. Speaker, today I rise to congratulate my good friend and constituent Frank Austin. Frank recently received the Toastmasters District 86 Communication and Leadership Award.
    Through my work as a member of Parliament, I have had the privilege of meeting with Frank on many occasions, and I have been impressed each time with the way he has overcome personal challenges, having experienced a stroke that resulted in severe aphasia. Today he inspires others to surmount personal challenges and overcome disabilities.
     Frank saw a need in his community and met it head on by launching The Expressive Café. With his own experience as his guide, he has developed a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment and provided a place where all levels of communication ability are welcome: those with aphasia, their family, friends, and community volunteers.
    Frank's ability to overcome his own challenge has established him as a hope-filled role model for others who find themselves in a similar situation. I am proud to call Frank a friend. Please join me in recognizing his incredible leadership.

Rankin Cancer Run

    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, St. Catharines came together during the 12th annual Rankin Cancer Run. More than 13,000 people participated. Starting at the Grantham Lions Park, cancer survivors, family, friends, and Niagara residents ventured on a one- or five-kilometre run or walk. I am pleased to say that Niagara residents gave generously. One million dollars was raised this year for cancer centres and charities in Niagara. Every dollar raised during the run goes right back into the community. Throughout the 12 years the event has taken place, $7.5 million has been raised for important community projects.
    This was my first time participating as a member of Parliament. However, I am no stranger to this event. As a cancer survivor myself, I was very happy that day, and that one day, to wear orange, along with other survivors. I was lucky. However, far too many others have been taken far too early.
    I am honoured to congratulate Mary Ann Edwards and her team for another successful year. What better way for an entire community to get together than to stand side by side in the fight against cancer.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

HPV Prevention Week

    Mr. Speaker, today we announced that Canada has become the first country in the world to establish HPV Prevention Week, which will be held from October 1 to 7, 2017. HPV stands for human papilloma virus.
    Led by the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, this new public awareness initiative is possible thanks to a collective effort made by an alliance of health care professionals. Why? Because HPV infections affect everyone, not just women, and cervical cancer is not the only risk. HPV also affects men. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause several types of cancer.
     October's HPV Prevention Week is a great initiative, and I call on the government to increase funding to researchers in Canada who are working to eradicate this disease once and for all.

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, a storm is brewing on Parliament Hill. The strong winds of change are making the Liberal Party, the NDP, the Bloc members, and the Leader of the Green Party shudder. Why? A man of the people has just been elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
    The member for Regina—Qu'Appelle is an authentic, dynamic, sincere person who brings people together and does not need cardboard cutouts to give the impression that he is passionate about what he does. The man with the smile that no one saw coming represents the millions of Canadians who love their family and their work, and who work hard to get ahead.
    Unlike the Prime Minister who gets his advice from the elite and those who pay dearly for access, the new leader finds his inspiration on the farm, at the corner store, in the factory, in the office, and at home.
    I am proud of my new leader, and if people really want to know what is behind that smile, wait and see what the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle has in store for those who wrongly make the middle class pay for their deficit. He will not hesitate to soon send them back to the opposition benches.

Tourism Week

    Mr. Speaker, happy Tourism Week to everyone.
    Tourism accounts for over 2% of Canada's GDP and more than 1.7 million jobs right across the country.
    I am proud of Canada's new tourism vision. Our plan will help grow the tourism industry and create good jobs for the middle class across the country.

[English]

    This vision is our pan-Canadian approach to improving tourism marketing, making it easier to get here by land and air and developing urban, rural, indigenous, LGBTQ2, francophone, and culinary tours and experiences. Over the next five years, our plan will help bring six million more visitors to Canada, and many of them to the Long Range Mountains.
     To celebrate this week, I invite all members to join the Tourism Industry Association of Canada for a reception at the Château Laurier this evening.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the Trans Mountain expansion project is in jeopardy because of backroom deals in British Columbia. Forces are uniting to kill this project and the thousands of jobs and opportunities for young people that come with it.
    The Prime Minister personally approved this pipeline. He said that it was a fundamental responsibility to get Canadian energy to market. Will the Prime Minister finally stand up to the forces that are seeking to kill these jobs, or will he fold like a cardboard cut-out?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said just this morning, the decision we took on the Trans Mountain pipeline was based on facts and evidence and on what is in the best interests of Canadians.
    Regardless of a change in government in British Columbia, or anywhere, the facts and evidence do not change. We understand that growing a strong economy for the future requires taking leadership on the environment, and we have to do those two things together. That is what drives us in the choices we make, and we stand by those choices.
    Mr. Speaker, northern gateway was approved because of evidence and science, and he killed that because of political opposition.
    The Prime Minister claims that the approval of Trans Mountain's expansion was based on science. We know it will be good for the country. It will be good for British Columbia and Alberta workers, but he has already killed the thousands of jobs that came with northern gateway because he caved to political opposition.
    Will the Prime Minister stand up to the “forces of no” and get shovels in the ground and people working, or is this project doomed to the same fate as his political rejection of the northern gateway project?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the review around the Trans Mountain expansion was the most exhaustive in the history of pipelines in Canada. There are 157 recommendations from the National Energy Board. We set up our own ministerial panel, and it went up and down the line.
    The consensus, after all of that conversation with Canadians, was that it is in the national interest to build that pipeline. Therefore, we gave it approval, and that approval stands.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wants us to trust him to spend $35 billion on an infrastructure bank no one asked for when experts are saying that the bank will be susceptible to political influence and will subsidize profits while letting taxpayers absorb the losses. Experts also doubt that the bank will attract the promised private investments.
    Knowing all that, why is the Prime Minister trying to get Parliament to pass this disastrous bill before the summer recess?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, after a decade of inconsistency and ad hoc planning by the previous government, municipalities told us that they want long-term, sustainable, and predictable funding to build the infrastructure they need. We put forward a historic plan to support our municipalities and provinces. We want to mobilize our pension funds and institutional investors to build more infrastructure that our Canadian communities need, to create jobs for the middle class, and to help those who want to be part of the middle class.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very worried that this $35-billion infrastructure bank is just a way for the Prime Minister to line the pockets of his friends. It would not be the first time Liberals have tried this. François Beaudoin says that this scheme is ripe for political interference, and he would know. The Liberals pressured him to dole out special favours to their friends when he ran another government bank, under the Chrétien government.
    Will the Prime Minister admit that Canadians are catching on to his scheme and quit putting their tax dollars at risk to benefit Liberal friends?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member and this House that the bank will be accountable to Parliament. The bank will table its corporate plan in Parliament as well as the annual reports. It will report to the Auditor General. It will be open to audit by the Auditor General.
    We want to make sure that we are creating the right balance to mobilize private capital but still make sure that we are protecting the public interest and building infrastructure that is needed by the Canadian community, infrastructure the previous government failed to build.

[Translation]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, our two official languages should never be the object of partisan political games. The Commissioner of Official Languages holds a non-partisan position and should be completely independent. Using this position to reward a Liberal who was deemed too partisan to even hold a seat in the Senate is an insult to Canadians' intelligence. It is shameful.
    When will the Prime Minister finally see reason, implement a credible, non-partisan process, and rescind Ms. Meilleur's appointment?
    Mr. Speaker, we were determined to find the best candidate for the job of Commissioner of Official Languages, and that is exactly what we did. Madeleine Meilleur's expertise and experience were recognized by many members of the House on many different occasions.
    For over 30 years, Ms. Meilleur has fought for francophones' rights and French language services, for example to protect the Montfort Hospital. She was key in creating the position of French Language Services Commissioner in Ontario. I am confident that her expertise, skills, and experience will allow her to carry out her duties in a non-partisan way.

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, Madeleine Meilleur is being appointed because she is a Liberal, period.
    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said, and I quote, “Our government welcomes suggestions on ways to improve the bill, and we are open to amendments to ensure we accomplish the objective of an effective and independent parliamentary budget officer.”
    Is the leader able to rise today and explain how this statement can be true after the Liberals refused and rejected each opposition amendment to make the parliamentary budget officer truly independent?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, it has always been our intention to have an effective and productive House of Commons, where the members of all parties are able to work in the best interests of all Canadians.
    Our government was able to bring forward numerous pieces of legislation to strengthen the middle class and those working hard to join it. The committee did very important work. We listened and accepted a number of amendments that improved the bill.

[English]

    It is the wrong card, Mr. Speaker. We are not on the middle class; we are talking about the parliamentary budget officer.
    In fact, the Liberals are so close to listening to reason that they passed a Liberal amendment that would do the exact opposite of what they thought it did. Get this, Mr. Speaker; you are going to like this one. The Liberals claimed that they removed “explicit limitations” on the PBO's disclosure of information, but what they actually did was remove exceptions to the limitation, thus, in fact, creating even greater restrictions on the PBO.
     Therefore, either the Liberals do not understand their own bill or they are intentionally misleading Canadians. Which is it?
    Mr. Speaker, our intention has always been to have a well-functioning House of Commons. When we have a well-functioning House of Commons, we know the middle class will succeed. We know that when there is a strong middle class, we have a strong economy. It is important the member understands that.
    When it comes to the parliamentary budget officer, we received much constructive criticism. We listened and the committee did the important work, which we know its members are more than capable of doing. They heard from experts. They listened to past parliamentary budget officers. We have delivered on advancing those amendments, and that is why the legislation has improved.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the only suggestions the Liberals are open to are Liberal suggestions, even if they make no sense. I got it.
    When it comes to the infrastructure bank, the Liberals are no longer even pretending they are open to improving or changing it. This is a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle made by corporations for corporations.
     In terms of the Liberal decision to not make any changes, did that directive also come from BlackRock?
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian communities and municipalities are very pleased with our infrastructure plan because they understand. That leader and his party had no plan for infrastructure. That party neglected infrastructure for a decade.
     Therefore, our goal is to ensure we put forward an ambitious plan to invest to build more affordable housing, to build more shelters for women leaving domestic violence, to build more transit so people can reduce commuter times, and to build more resilient communities. That is exactly what we are doing, and we will continue—
    The hon. member for Outremont.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the minister. He just told us that the municipalities and the provinces want his bill, which is essentially a steamroller. The infrastructure bank is going to steamroll over the municipalities and the provinces.
    Does he have the nerve to tell us, today, that the province of Quebec agreed to this encroachment by the infrastructure bank on Quebec’s jurisdiction, yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know to which interference the hon. member is referring. We consulted with provinces and municipalities. The infrastructure bank is one additional tool to help them build the infrastructure that communities need.
     We are putting forward $186 billion, tripling the amount of investment of the previous government, to ensure we add this additional tool to mobilize private capital. Our own institutional investors invest in foreign countries, but why would they not invest here? We want to create the right conditions for them to invest to build the infrastructure, which all Canadian communities need.
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals continue to plow ahead with Gomery 2.0. The Liberal infrastructure bank boondoggle has the potential to be the biggest scandal yet for the Liberal Party, and that is saying something.
     Smaller municipalities are scared they will be left behind. The bank has no focus, no clear mandate and, most importantly, as has already been said, is wide open to political interference.
    Why is the government so focused on making sure its Liberal elite friends get a giant slush fund as opposed to taking care of Canadians?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is the first time in the history of our country that we have put forward $2 billion in dedicated funding for rural northern communities so we can focus on building infrastructure that those communities need. This is on top of the other funding available to our communities.
     We want to ensure we build the necessary infrastructure for everyone to enjoy the quality of life they deserve, regardless in which city or community they live. Our plan will help build infrastructure from coast to coast to coast for every community of all sizes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the former president of the BDC fears that there is political interference in the infrastructure bank.
    The proposed structure gives the minister and the Prime Minister full authority to select the CEO, as well as full authority to fire him if he does not respect the wishes of this Liberal government; so we take $35 billion from taxpayers, create a new bank to please the Prime Minister, and then give him full authority. We are headed straight for a new sponsorship scandal.
     Is there anyone on the other side of this room who understands that?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I assured members earlier, the bank will be accountable to Parliament in a number of ways. It will be required to submit an annual corporate plan and annual report. Further to that, it will have the highest standard of having its books audited by the Auditor General of Canada, as well as private sector auditors.
     We want to build infrastructure. Our focus is to go grow the economy and create jobs. The Conservatives may have something against the private sector; we do not. We believe we can mobilize private capital to build more infrastructure.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, unemployed Canadians want to get back to work and support their families. The natural resources of Alberta have to get to the international market. Canadians are very concerned that British Columbia politics may hinder the Trans Mountain project. We know the Prime Minister has said the facts and evidence are there, but facts and evidence are also there that the Liberal government has broken so many promises.
    Will this be another promise the Liberal government will break? Can we trust the Prime Minister on this?
    Mr. Speaker, the government approved the pipeline because it determined that moving crude from Alberta to British Columbia and then to export markets was in the national interest. As members know, 99% of the export of Canadian oil and gas goes to the United States.
     Therefore, we concluded that it was in the interests of Alberta, British Columbia, and all of Canada to approve this pipeline. It employs thousands of people not only in British Columbia and Alberta but all across the country. We stand by that approval.
    Mr. Speaker, we have been in this Parliament, hearing from the Liberals about helping the national economy. We know they give good words, but on jobs and taxes it remains that you have broken so many promises. Our concern and the concern of Canadians is whether you will keep this promise and ensure that oil gets to tidewater so people can be employed in Canada.
    I would remind hon. members to direct their questions through the Chair.
    The hon. Minister of Natural Resources.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for giving our answer for us. It is important to create jobs in the oil and gas sector. In fact, just last week, the $30 million that we had granted to Alberta is resulting in $250 million of investment to reclaim oil wells. This will create 1,650 jobs in Alberta because of an investment from the Government of Canada.
     We have confidence in the people of Alberta. We wish the Conservatives had as much.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, in B.C., the forces of no are uniting to try to scuttle the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project the Prime Minister has personally approved.
     While the Prime Minister has no trouble bragging about approving the pipeline when he is in Calgary or Houston, he hides from his decision in B.C. because his Liberal MPs there continue to oppose it.
     Will the Prime Minister finally tell his Liberal MPs from B.C. to stop opposing this job-creating pipeline, go back to B.C., and sell this project that he has personally approved, so it actually gets built?
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend's question gives me another opportunity to say that this government believes that pipeline should be built and it should be built because we want to take the crude from Alberta and move it to an export market. We want to create the 15,000 jobs for Albertans and British Columbians, just as we have created jobs in the approval of other pipelines, just as we continue to have confidence in the innovation and the entrepreneurship of Albertans.
     We on this side of the House have confidence in Alberta.
    Mr. Speaker, we have no confidence that the Prime Minister will actually stand up to his Liberal MPs and push for this project.
     He claims that he approved the pipeline based on science and would not be swayed by political arguments, yet there is a big political argument coming his way because the forces of no uniting in B.C. They are trying to derail the project. Even his own Liberal MPs hope it fails.
     If the Prime Minister cannot even get the social licence in his own party for this project, how will he get it in British Columbia? Will he finally put the jobs of energy workers ahead of the jobs of Liberal MPs, stand up for this project, and fight for it in British Columbia?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said this morning, the decision we took on the Trans Mountain pipeline was based on fact and evidence and what was in the best interests of Canadians.
     Regardless of the change in government in British Columbia, or anywhere, the facts and the evidence do not change. Neither does the approval. Neither does the commitment of this government to support the pipeline so we can move Alberta oil not only to the United States but to export markets as well.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, after promising more times than we can count to get rid of our unfair voting system, the Prime Minister abandoned that promise. He would not let members of the House decide whether to move forward. Instead he said it was his choice alone. Well, he is wrong, and tomorrow every MP will get to make that choice for themselves.
    Will the Prime Minister get out of the way and promise not to punish Liberals who, unlike him, choose to keep their promise?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to thank the members of the committee on electoral reform for their excellent work and for the excellent recommendations they put forward.
     I was pleased to table the response of the government, which was in agreement with the majority of those responses. However, I am also looking forward to working with members in this place to move forward on political financing, on cybersecurity, and on the many ways we can improve, strengthen, and protect our democracy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised in 2015 that would be the last election under the current voting system. Once elected, the Prime Minister said it again. He put it in the throne speech. He put it in the minister’s first mandate letter, and he made it part of the committee’s mandate.
     Then something incredible happened: people actually believed him. They thought that change was coming. Never in our history had so many people taken part in a public consultation. A huge consensus was reached.
     Will the Prime Minister, who does not want to live up to his word or his promise, let his Liberal members vote for the committee report?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of the members of the House who worked on the report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. I would also like to thank the thousands of Canadians who took part in the discussions.
     We listened to them, and I am proud of the government’s decision to improve, protect, and strengthen our democracy here in Canada.

  (1440)  

Government Appointments

    “Always scheming,” Mr. Speaker. That is the new slogan of the Liberal Party across the way.
    Schemes are what led to the appointment of the new Commissioner of Official Languages. We do not even have to dig anymore. The Liberals went way beyond decency in a process that is supposed to be non-partisan. There is no transparency. Even the Minister of Canadian Heritage decided she would take a seat at this partisan table. She clearly should have kept walking.
     In these circumstances, will the minister take responsibility and rescind Madeleine Meilleur’s appointment?
    Mr. Speaker, I have risen several times in the House to point out that we were committed to finding the best candidate for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages.
     This is exactly what we were able to do. How were we able to do it? We were able to do it through a merit-based process. In these circumstances, 72 applications were received, and a selection committee conducted several rounds of interviews and tests. In short, Madeleine Meilleur was the best candidate.
     As well, her experience and expertise have been recognized on both sides of the House. This is why, as a government, we are extremely proud of Ms. Meilleur’s candidacy.
    She was certainly the best, Mr. Speaker, as she gave $5,000 to the Liberal Party. Madeleine Meilleur’s appointment as Commissioner of Official Languages is a disgrace when it comes to ethics in the selection process.
     The Minister of Canadian Heritage keeps defending the indefensible, when she knows full well that it was unethical of her to interfere in the process.
    When will she finally take her job seriously, reconsider her unacceptable decision to appoint Madeleine Meilleur and finally acknowledge the non-partisan nature of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages?
    Mr. Speaker, I am surprised by my colleague’s reaction, because she herself acknowledged Madeleine Meilleur’s experience and expertise. Why? Because Ms. Meilleur is a language rights pioneer.
    I would like to go over her career. For 30 years she has fought for francophone rights and services. She was involved in protecting the Montfort Hospital, Ottawa’s francophone hospital, and in establishing the position of French-language services commissioner, which until then did not exist in the Ontario government.
     That is why we were satisfied that she is an excellent candidate and will be able to serve impartially as Commissioner of Official Languages.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is nonsense. We learned last week that a well-respected Acadian lawyer specializing in linguistic rights, Michel Doucet, applied to become the official languages commissioner, yet despite the promise of an open nomination process, a Liberal member of Parliament told Mr. Doucet that if he was serious, he had to talk to leaders of the Liberal Party or Liberal insiders. Gee, I wonder who that might be.
    It is clear that if an individual is not a connected Liberal, they should not bother applying. Did the minister approve the appointment of this Liberal insider even before the appointment process began?
    Mr. Speaker, we have committed ourselves to find the best candidates to make sure that there would be a strong official languages commissioner, and that is exactly what we have done. How did we find that person? We found that person through a round of interviews, 70 candidates—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. There is too much noise in the chamber. Members and ministers take 35 seconds to pose their questions and respond. It is important that members have the opportunity to hear the response.
    The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    Mr. Speaker, the expertise and experience of Mrs. Meilleur is recognized by many and by both sides of the chamber, and actually many of them have remembered how much she has been involved in the protection and the promotion of linguistic rights in this country.
    We are comfortable that she is the right candidate, following a thorough, open, and merit-based process, and I hope that many people in this House will be able to support her candidacy.

  (1445)  

    It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, because the Liberals promised in their election platform that government watchdogs would be accountable only to Parliament, not to the government of the day.
    The excuse given by the heritage minister for the Prime Minister hand-picking Madam Meilleur was that she was the best candidate out of 72. I do not think we need a psychometric test to understand that this does not pass the smell test. Who were the other 71, and what exactly made Meilleur the best? Was it her donations or was it the English translation of her last name?
    Mr. Speaker, as an agent of the government, of course the official languages commissioner will be accountable to Parliament. We never questioned that. What we were in charge of was making sure that we would find the right candidate with the right expertise and the right competence to make sure, ultimately, that she would be an important watchdog of the government. That is why we wanted to make sure that the person had a history of supporting the protection and promotion of linguistic rights in the country.
    That is what Mrs. Meilleur has done over the past 30 years, and I am glad to see that she will be, I hope, the next official languages commissioner.

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, there is not much use for LinkedIn when one can just get on the Liberal donor list, because that clearly seems to be the way in.

[Translation]

     A letter from the Privacy Commissioner outlines his concerns about the powers granted to the Americans under Bill C-23. Despite the minister’s assurances, Canadians who will be intimidated or subjected to invasive searches by American border guards will not be able to pursue civil action. This grants American officers immunity on Canadian soil.

[English]

    With Trump flirting with the idea of searching cellphones at the border, when will the Liberals finally reconsider this legislation and once and for all stand up for Canadians' rights?
    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-23 does not provide U.S. preclearance officers with any electronic search authority that does not already exist. What Bill C-23 does provide is the umbrella of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is not available when customs procedures take place only after one arrives at a destination point in the United States. Obviously, Canadians are better off with Bill C-23.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals claim that closing down the Vegreville CPC was supposed to save money and improve service. Instead, we have learned that it will cost more and that the workers there are among the best in the country. If the centre is closed, 2,000 years of valuable experience could be lost, 280 lives will be disrupted, and a town will be devastated. There is no good reason to close down Vegreville, other than moving jobs to a Liberal riding. Why will the minister not reverse his decision?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to making responsible decisions based on government spending of hard-earned tax dollars. With about 20% of available positions currently vacant, the move will address long-standing staffing challenges, allow for an expansion of immigration operations, and actually create additional jobs in Alberta. In fact, the new location will accommodate 312 employees and allow us to expand our workforce by at least 40%.

[Translation]

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, last June, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women released its report on gender-based analysis plus and made 21 recommendations related to improvement, performance, training, and supervision.
    Seeing as this is Gender-Based Analysis Plus awareness week, will the Minister of Status of Women tell the House what the government is doing to step up the implementation of GBA+ within federal departments?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nickel Belt for his question.

[English]

    Our government has made conducting GBA+ mandatory. This work laid the foundation for the first gender statement in a federal budget in 2017. This is important because in order for Canada to reach its full potential, we need to ensure that all Canadians across genders and intersecting identities are included in our discussions and in our decisions. I encourage all my colleagues to follow the lead of the status of women committee, earn their certificates online, and use the work of GBA+ in their committee work.

  (1450)  

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, NATO has recommitted its efforts to stop radical terrorism and is sending more resources to the fight against ISIS. Everyone is doing their part except Canada. The Liberal government recently pulled out one of our Aurora surveillance aircraft, and this is on top of withdrawing our CF-18s.
    Canada's contribution to the fight against ISIS expires in exactly one month, and the Liberal government is stepping back. Is the defence minister the architect of Canada's retreat from the fight against ISIS?
    Mr. Speaker, I was proud to announce yesterday that we have actually increased and expanded our counterterrorism mission with Operation Artemis. We have actually increased our efforts in the fight against terrorism. When it comes to Operation Impact, we tripled our special forces trainers and we doubled our intelligence.
    We are taking our time to make sure that we remain a credible and responsible partner with the coalition. I look forward to explaining to Canadians and the House our continued effort in the fight against Daesh.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister's remarks did not answer my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman's question. Canada's capacity has been reduced. An Aurora surveillance aircraft has been pulled out of the theatre of operations. This indicates that Canada is disengaging from the fight against ISIS and terrorists.
    Can the minister explain why the Aurora aircraft was pulled out?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have increased the fight against terrorism with the recent announcement yesterday about Operation Artemis. We are bringing back one of the two surveillance aircraft as part of routine. We are taking the time right now to make sure we have the right discussions with our coalition partners so we can fill the appropriate gaps in the coalition and continue the fight. That is exactly what we did last year, and it is one of the reasons we have had tremendous success with the coalition in the fight against Daesh.

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has managed to mess up yet another an important file, that is, the replacement of Canada's search and rescue aircraft.
    That is not surprising, however, since the department has been without leadership since 2015, and even more so for the past two months, considering the very partisan parliamentary secretary who is responsible for the department's policy issues.
     When will the Prime Minister understand how important and how urgent procurement is and finally intervene before this completely falls apart?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is committed to building a more agile, better equipped military as well as guaranteeing the best value for Canadian taxpayers.
    Our government announced the awarding of a contract to acquire a new fleet of 16 modern, high-tech search and rescue aircraft. We know that Leonardo has filed an application for judicial review, so it would not be appropriate to comment on matters currently before the courts.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, apparently the budget to purchase the new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft jumped magically by more than $1 billion. The only problem, though, is no one thought to tell all the companies bidding on the contract about this change. Once again, because of the Liberal government's mismanagement of the project, taxpayers may now be liable for millions in damages and legal costs.
    Why did the Liberals not disclose a massive budget change to all the bidders on this contract?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very surprising to hear the pyromaniacs on the other side complain when the fire department turns up. Our government is committed to building a more agile, better-equipped military while ensuring the best value for Canadians.
    Our government announced the award of a contract to acquire a new fleet of 16 modern and technologically advanced search and rescue aircraft. These aircraft will save Canadians' lives every day. While we are aware of an application before the court, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.
    I would remind hon. members that these kinds of characterizations are usually not helpful.
    We will go now to the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, UNESCO issued a stern warning that without immediate action, Canada could lose world heritage site status for Wood Buffalo. It directed that the government immediately take 17 direct actions, including conducting an assessment of the impacts of the Site C dam on the Peace-Athabasca Delta, and engage directly with affected indigenous peoples.
    Indigenous leaders are saying the government's approach to Site C has violated treaty and constitutional rights. Does the government have any intention of acting on these directives and concerns?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to the ongoing protection of Wood Buffalo National Park. A comprehensive review of legislation, regulations, and management practices is in place to ensure the protection of Wood Buffalo National Park, including the outstanding universal value enshrined in its inscription as a UNESCO world heritage site.
    Parks Canada is working with the 11 indigenous communities to create a co-operative management framework for the national park that respects the cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples.

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the UN Security Council's resolutions are binding on all member countries. I have already asked the minister twice whether Canada would abide by the Security Council's resolution regarding illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, and she twice refused to answer.
    How can Canada expect to win a seat on the Security Council if it refuses to follow the rules of the organization and to abide by Security Council resolutions?
    Mr. Speaker, speaking of the Middle East, we firmly believe that the only way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution negotiated by the parties.
    Canada has a long-standing commitment to a comprehensive, lasting, and just peace, and a two-state solution. That includes the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders and without terrorism, and the creation of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.
    Canada recognizes the right of Palestinians to self-determination and it supports the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state.

[English]

Indigenous Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, families need the murdered and missing women inquiry to be successful. We recognize that the hearings are happening this week in Whitehorse, but after that they are shutting down for the summer.
    Does the minister not recognize what so many others recognize, including the justice minister's father: that there are serious problems with this process? What is she going to do to fix it?
    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to ending this ongoing national tragedy. As family member Bernie Williams stated, families have fought too long and hard for this much-needed inquiry to abandon it and them now.
    The commission has publicly acknowledged the need for increased communication and that families must be at the centre of the inquiry. The commission is committed to culturally sensitive and trauma-informed ways to ensure this—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Speaker, we do acknowledge and we have supported this inquiry. It is important, but the minister has to see what is going on. It has been 10 months, they are having a few meetings, and they are closing down for the summer. At this rate, the inquiry is going to be done at the same time finance figures are going to balance the budget, 2055. The government has to get something done. It has to improve, and the minister is responsible.
    Will the minister stand up and tell us what she is going to do to ensure that this inquiry is done on time and on budget?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a bit much coming from a party that opposed this commission during the whole of its mandate.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Order. The hon. Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
    Mr. Speaker, we have appointed—
    It is members' time here. We do not want to lose opportunities for members to participate in question period. The hon. Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
    Mr. Speaker, we have appointed an independent commission of truly talented people. The family members are now speaking that they are feeling heard in Whitehorse and they want this commission to continue. The commission will continue to work throughout the summer, and I have every confidence it will be able to fulfill its mandate.

  (1500)  

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have racked up massive deficits and hiked taxes, but the reality is that many Canadians are struggling. Meanwhile, they watch the Liberals spent their tax dollars on things like limo rides, Broadway tickets for wealthy bankers, cardboard cut-outs of the Prime Minister, and lavish Caribbean dream vacations. Now, the Ottawa Citizen has reported that federal tax dollars were spent on something else that is a little odd. How much are Canadians paying to rent a giant plastic duck?
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The hon. member posed a question. The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage will respond now. Let us give her a chance and we will hear what she has to say.
    The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure my colleague that my department did not fund this duck.
    I would like to tell her what we have funded, because of course, in the context of our reconciliation efforts with indigenous people, we supported the Redpath Waterfront Festival in funding the Rhythm of the Nation performance component of the Ontario 150 Tour. This funding will allow communities across Ontario to discover indigenous music and dance—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    We have reached a level of noise in here that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for members to hear questions that are posed and answers from ministers.
    The hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, having served in the Canadian Armed Forces, I know how important it is to find a new purpose after leaving the military. While most military members transition well, some struggle to find their new normal and to build their new life. Access to educational opportunities and training can greatly increase the probability of veterans successfully navigating this critical transition. Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs update this House on the measures he is taking to give better access to education and training for veterans at the end of their military service?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for his 20 years of service as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
    Our government recognizes that a post-military career is key to the financial security and mental and physical well-being of many veterans and their families. We are proudly fulfilling our commitment to deliver an education benefit for veterans. This benefit will provide up to $40,000 for those with six years of service and $80,000 for those with 12 years of service or more. The new benefit provides flexibility and financial support so that veterans can make the choice that best suits their needs and those of their family.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, three Liberal ministers, a parliamentary secretary, and an Edmonton Liberal MP have all claimed that closing the Vegreville case processing centre to put the jobs in a Liberal riding will save taxpayers money, but Canadians now know the truth. It will not. It is not responsible.
    Just two weeks ago, the current parliamentary secretary claimed the Liberals have been honest all along, but they have not. Government documents prove that this unjustified closure will cost Canadians tens of millions more. Will the minister stop covering up the facts, finally admit this is a costly mistake, and reverse it now?
    Mr. Speaker, let me clarify the costs, as the member is using outdated estimates and a system comparing apples to oranges.
    The most recent analysis shows that the cost of relocating to Edmonton is $40 million, but this includes an expansion to 312 employees from the current 220 employees and the opportunity to increase the workforce in Alberta even further. The cost of staying at the current location is estimated at $35 million, but it is based on the current employee level, which is much lower than the expanded opportunity for 312 employees. The move is more cost effective and will address the staffing challenges that we have with respect to Vegreville.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the answer to my question on the Order Paper clearly shows that no funding has been allocated and no employee or external consultant assigned to review the quality standard for aggregates used in concrete. Contrary to what the Minister of International Trade led us to believe, the Canadian Standards Association, or the CSA, will not have anything it needs to develop a new scientific standard. In my region, there are thousands of pyrrhotite victims, and compensation for many of them hinges on this standard.
    What does the Liberal government plan on doing and when will it take action?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are always interested in expanding markets for Canadian businesses, and we will continue to do so in the most effective and progressive way possible. Trade means growth, and growth means jobs for Canadian workers and their families and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, during the last election, many constituents in New Brunswick Southwest expressed to me a growing concern regarding Lyme disease. As co-chair of two parliamentary round tables on Lyme disease, I hear these concerns often from colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
    Would the Minister of Health inform this House on what steps she is taking with the new federal framework on Lyme disease to address the concerns of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer this question, and I thank the member for New Brunswick Southwest for raising the issue of Lyme disease.
    I was very pleased this morning to table here in the House a new federal framework for Lyme disease. This will address the federal role in responding to Lyme disease.
    I was additionally very pleased to announce that we are investing $4 million to develop, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a Lyme disease research network. This will help to build the evidence to grow the data to be able to respond to, prevent, treat, and diagnose Lyme disease.
     Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberal cabinet indicated that it will not support the Canadian autism partnership in today's vote.
    Canadians who have indicated support include the vast majority of Canada's autism community, plus the Canadian Association for Community Living, UNICEF Canada, Plan International Canada, Save the Children Canada, World Vision Canada, Global Citizen, Hayley Wickenheiser, Elliotte Friedman, and many others.
    My question for the minister is this. In just a few minutes, can Canadians living with autism count on the fact that Liberal MPs will have the freedom to stand up for them?
    Mr. Speaker, in my role as Minister of Health, I make sure that all Canadians have access to the health and health care that they need. This includes responding to the needs of Canadians affected by autism spectrum disorder. We do that through working with our provincial and territorial partners, who will be given $200 billion of federal money over the next five years; we do that through research and have invested $40 million in research into autism spectrum disorder; we do that through working in a cross-government mechanism, including working with my partner, who is the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, including working with my partner who allows the Canada child benefit and Canada disability benefit. We will do everything to make sure we address these needs.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, hiding small sentences that weaken Quebec in mammoth bills is becoming the Liberal government's specialty.
    Paragraph 5(4)(d) of the part of Bill C-44 on the infrastructure bank says that the government can order that the bank be an agent of the crown.
    Why give a private investment fund the power to circumvent provincial and municipal laws? Are wealthy Bay Street investors more important to this government than Quebeckers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, for the creation of the Canada infrastructure bank, we consulted very extensively with provinces, territories, municipalities, the private sector, institutional investors, and labour organizations. Our goal is to support municipalities and provinces to build more infrastructure that communities need. We work very closely with all of the provinces as we move forward with the design of it, as we move forward on the selection of the leadership of the infrastructure bank, as we move forward on the selection of the projects that are needed by our communities.

  (1510)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is primarily a gift for investors, and that is the problem. The government is basically giving the infrastructure privatization bank the power to expropriate people's land, like Ottawa did in Mirabel and Forillon. It is giving this bank the power to ignore agencies of public hearings on the environment and to disregard agricultural zoning. That is no joke. Why? It is to attract foreign investors who might be turned off by our way of doing things. That does not make any sense.
    Will the government remove the part about the infrastructure bank that will allow companies to circumvent Quebec laws? We are tired of being walked all over.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the legislation related to the bank is very clear. This is an optional tool for municipalities and provinces to use.
    It is part of our overall extensive, ambitious infrastructure plan to invest more than $186 billion, and out of that less than 10% will be invested through the bank. Again, it is optional. If they wish to do so, they can explore that option. If they wish not to do so, we will continue to support our provinces and municipalities through our traditional grant funding that is available to them.

Presence in Gallery

     I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Gordon Wyant, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the Province of Saskatchewan; and the Honourable Scott Moe, Minister of the Environment for the Province of Saskatchewan.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    The Chair has received notice of several points of order.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, given the strange answer that I received, I thought there must be a problem with the interpretation. I would therefore like the opportunity to ask the parliamentary secretary my question again so that she can give an answer that is worthy of all the members for the Mauricie region.
    I do not think that is a point of order. It is a matter of debate.
    The hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly.
    Mr. Speaker, given the partisan and troubling nature of the appointment of the new Commissioner of Official Languages, the main tool parliamentarians have is obviously committee testimony, particularly by the main person involved. I should point out that there is a contradiction between the answer given to the member for Outremont’s question about membership in the Liberal Party and what was stated in a written document provided to committee members.
     I would like the committee to report, in light of the work by the member for Drummond
    Once again, I believe this to be a point of debate. The hon. member should perhaps find other means, such as debates, to ask these questions.
     The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a point of order that relates to our Standing Orders, particularly Standing Orders 16 and 18, which taken together mean we should not be interrupting each other in this place, nor speaking disrespectfully of each other. I noted today that we did have a duck question, and I know that sometimes ministers do duck questions. I also know that there are many canards on all sides of this place and sometimes, as today, the atmosphere becomes foul.
    I just wanted to suggest that when it is not our—
    I appreciate that the hon. member began by citing one of the articles in the Standing Orders, but in fact I think we are getting into a continuation of question period.

[Translation]

     I would now like to go back to the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly. I believe he is seeking unanimous consent to table a document.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, I simply wanted to inform you that once the committee has tabled its report, we will be raising a question of privilege on this issue and the fact that, in light of the information provided, it would seem we were misled in committee by the new commissioner. I wanted to give you advance notice.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in response to my question on the Liberal mismanagement of the search and rescue aircraft, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement implied that perhaps I was involved in pyromanic criminal activity.
    I would like to give the opportunity to the member to perhaps apologize and retract his comments.
    Mr. Speaker, I was speaking metaphorically. I did not mean the hon. member actually started a fire.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order.
    As I commented, these kinds of characterizations are usually unhelpful, and I think we will leave it at that.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Autism Spectrum Disorder  

    The House resumed from May 18 consideration of the motion.
    It being 3:16 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Thursday, May 18, 2017, the House will now proceed with the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin relating to the business of supply. Call in the members.
    And the bells having rung:
    The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. Shall I dispense?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    [Chair read text of motion to House]

  (1525)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 286)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Allison
Ambrose
Anderson
Aubin
Barlow
Benson
Benzen
Bergen
Bernier
Berthold
Bezan
Blaikie
Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)
Block
Boucher
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brassard
Brosseau
Brown
Cannings
Caron
Carrie
Chong
Choquette
Christopherson
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Davies
Deltell
Diotte
Doherty
Dreeshen
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Eglinski
Falk
Finley
Garrison
Généreux
Genuis
Gladu
Godin
Gourde
Hardcastle
Harder
Hoback
Hughes
Jeneroux
Johns
Kelly
Kent
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kusie
Kwan
Lake
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Laverdière
Lebel
Leitch
Liepert
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacGregor
MacKenzie
Maguire
Malcolmson
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McKay
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Moore
Motz
Mulcair
Nantel
Nater
Nicholson
Nuttall
Obhrai
Paul-Hus
Poilievre
Quach
Raitt
Rankin
Rayes
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Ritz
Saganash
Sansoucy
Saroya
Scheer
Schmale
Shields
Shipley
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stetski
Stewart
Strahl
Stubbs
Sweet
Tilson
Trost
Trudel
Van Loan
Vecchio
Viersen
Wagantall
Warawa
Warkentin
Watts
Waugh
Webber
Weir
Wong
Yurdiga
Zimmer

Total: -- 130

NAYS

Members

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

Total: -- 167

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion lost.
[S. O. 57]

[English]

Extension of Sitting Hours

Motion that debate be not further adjourned  

    That in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 14, the debate be not further adjourned.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.
     I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guess it is not a surprise to see the government, yet again, and I think we are starting to lose count, stop members of Parliament from speaking about important issues. We have really come to expect that.
     I would say on this motion that we on this side have no problem working later hours. We represent Conservatives across the country, people across the country who work hard and who many times work late hours.
    We have some issues with this motion. Does the House leader think it is right to extend the day so that the government can continue with its business, but not on the days the opposition has one day to bring forward an opposition day motion? That day cannot be extended. That day is only a half day. We are not asking for anything extra. We are just asking that there be a proportional amount of time given to the opposition parties on our opposition day as the government is asking for to conduct its business. It is not unreasonable. It is not the wrong thing to ask, just like when we were are asking for collaboration on changing the Standing Orders. These are very reasonable things, but the government is being heavy-handed.
    Can the House leader please tell me why the government will not support and cannot support that change to this motion?

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to that question. It is a member I work closely with.
     I agree that collaboration is the best approach to take when we are representing Canadians, something the members opposite continue to do as they represent Conservatives. When they were in the government benches, that is exactly what they did. They represented Conservatives.
    On this side, we represent Canadians, and that is the approach we are taking. That is why we want the constructive conversations to ensure that we are representing the best interests of all Canadians. That is why we are talking about inclusive growth.
    When it comes to this specific motion, what we are talking about is extending the hours so we can advance the mandate Canadians have given us, so we can have the important debate, and so members of Parliament can represent their constituents.
    When it comes to the opposition days, they will have the exact same hours they have always had. What we have done on this side is ensure that the opposition parties have full days. The previous government used to give us the shorter days. That is not the best approach. We know we can work better—
    Questions, the hon. member for Victoria.
    Mr. Speaker, I just heard something I never thought I would hear the House leader say, which was that they alone on that side represent Canadians, as if somehow to minimize those on this side who also represent Canadians. Maybe I should remind her that her side got 39.5% of the popular vote. That means that 61% did not vote for them. Where is the mandate they claim to have to work unilaterally to change the rules of this place? In what way is this motion congruous with the family-friendly agenda I thought the government claimed to have?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not mean any offence to the member or any of our colleagues. I can assure him that I was responding to the House leader of the official opposition and was referring to the previous Conservative government. It is a comment I made, and if I did offend the member, that was not my intention, and I have no problem retracting that comment.
    When it comes to the motion before us, it is about extending the hours so we can advance and do the important work Canadians elected us to do. All members represent their constituencies. It is important that we hear their voices. It is important that we debate the legislation. It is important that we have the time to have a fruitful and meaningful debate. That is why we are suggesting a few more hours four days a week so we can advance the important work Canadians elected us to do. It is important legislation we will be discussing. I have no doubt that members would like to share the views of their constituents, and we would like to hear them.
    I will just add, for the benefit of all hon. members, that usually in this 30-minute time period, most of the questions are accorded to opposition parties. It does not exclude time for questions from the government side as well, so we will try to make sure that balance is well kept.
    Given the amount of interest in participating in this question period, I would ask members to keep their interventions to no more than a minute, both for the questions put and for the responses.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister says that the Liberals need extra time to keep their promises. They have already broken so many. I think they could follow their promises if they actually proposed legislation that accorded with them. One of the bills the Liberals want to rush through is actually a bill to increase the pay of cabinet ministers, and they are doing it under the guise of gender equality.
    I asked the minister a question earlier this week, and she did not answer. I want to ask it again. Under Bill C-24, are junior ministers, who that minister says are equal, empowered to bring memorandums to cabinet, yes or no.
    Mr. Speaker, there are many pieces of legislation that we know are important and that we would like to debate.
    In response to the member's question, this is important legislation we would like to have sent to committee so that the committee can study it. They can scrutinize it. They can do clause by clause.
     For me, a minister is a minister. That is exactly what the Prime Minister has said. We know that the Minister of Democratic Institutions, the Minister of Science, and the Minister of Status of Women are equal ministers. We know how important that work is to Canadians. We will continue working hard for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the point has already been made that we are very willing to work as late as we need to, but I have a question for the government House leader on the pathetic record of passing legislation, 19 bills in 18 months, compared to the previous government's record of 52 bills. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. What is the government going to do differently?
     Will the government House leader recognize that she has destroyed trust with the other opposition House leaders and step down?

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is important that we get to work. What this government has done differently is that we have meaningful debate to really encourage members of Parliament to share the views of their constituents and to be okay with having a diversity of opinions.
    When we talk about diversity being our strength in Canada, we are not just talking about diversity of the selves we occupy. We are talking about diversity of opinion, experience, and knowledge. That is why debate is so important. That is why the work committees do is so important. They can hear from witnesses. They can hear from stakeholders. They can study and scrutinize legislation clause by clause.
     These are all important steps in the process we undergo, something the previous government did not understand. We recognize the important work committees do. That is why we will continue to let them do the good work they do. That is why we have increased resources for them as well.
    Mr. Speaker, now that the hon. government House leader has retracted her comments about the important work the government is doing and that the opposition is doing, I will ask a simple question.
    In the spirit of truth and transparent ways and real change, will the Liberals not recognize the importance of opposition supply days and extend the hours on those opposition supply days so that they are similar to the hours on the normal days of business the government wishes to extend?
    Why not see the opposition supply days as having the same level of importance Canadians already see and the opposition parties already see? Will the government House leader see the same level of importance placed on the supply days for opposition members?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the member's question.
    What we are saying is that sitting a few extra hours for four days a week, for the last few weeks of this session, will allow us to debate more legislation.
    When it comes to the opposition supply days the member is referring to, they will have the exact same hours they have always had. Something that is different from the previous government, and that the member might not know, is that with this government, what I have tried to do consciously is ensure that the opposition has full days, the long days. There are days we sit in this House that are half days, shorter days, and there are days that are longer days.
    When we choose supply days for the opposition parties, we always provide for a long day, something Mr. Harper and the previous government never did. They often provided for a half day, because they did not think the opposition's work was that important. We recognize the important points the opposition brings. We appreciate the constructive feedback. We want to hear from all constituents. We want to represent all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps the government House leader should talk to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard about when he allocated Friday as an opposition day during the previous session.
    On this side of the House, we are happy, eager, and willing to debate the important issues Canadians elected us to debate. However, time after time, when we debate the issues in the House, the members on that side simply do not debate. The member for Winnipeg North is the only one standing up, the only one standing up to debate and the only one standing up to ask questions and make comments.
    My question is simple. If we extend the hours of the House, will other Liberal backbenchers be unmuzzled so they can actually speak in debate in this House?
    Mr. Speaker, when we ran in the last election we made a commitment to Canadians for an open and transparent government. We encourage members of Parliament to represent the voices of their constituents, to ensure that when we are advancing legislation, all of those opinions have been heard. We know that when we work better together we can improve legislation so it is good legislation for Canadians. That is who we are all here to serve.
    When it comes to respecting the time in this place, we know there are many members on the opposition often saying they do not have enough—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I am having a hard time hearing the answer with the shouting going back and forth. I know it started during question period. I am just hoping that it does not continue for at least the next two hours while I am sitting in the chair.
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, we on this side try really hard to ensure that we respect this place. I am sure members on both sides do the same.
    When it comes to making sure that all members have an opportunity to share the views of their constituents, we will always ensure that the members opposite have their time. If that means that we need to share our time, we always do that. That is why I believe we can work better together. We can collaborate to ensure that all voices are heard.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, every single opposition member is willing to work overtime. We are willing to come in for whatever time frame the government House leader wants to put us in, whatever hours. That is what Canadians expect. Canadians from all across Canada expect us to work whatever hours it takes to make sure we are standing up for Canadians, being the voice of our electors.
    Let me remind my hon. colleague that this is not the Liberals' House. It is Canadians' House, and we will work as long as we have to. We are all agreeing on this side of the House that we will work as long as it takes. We have all of the opposition members in agreement. I will ask again. Will the House leader agree to extend the opposition supply days?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member confirming for the record that all members work hard in this place and that this place belongs to Canadians. That is exactly who we are here to represent. That is exactly the commitment we made to Canadians. That is why we encourage meaningful debate, and that is why we encourage all members to share the views of their constituents so that we can ensure it is good legislation that is advancing.
    In the previous Parliament, when the government decided to extend sittings in June 2014, Liberal members supported that motion. None of us are strangers to hard work. We know that Canadians work hard, and we need to work hard for them.
    Let us talk really quickly about some of the important pieces of legislation that we will be advancing by extending hours. We are talking about Bill C-44, which implements our budget 2017. The bill is about creating good middle-class jobs today while preparing Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow. I am sure the member will agree that is important work we all need to do together.
    There is Bill C-25, which encourages federally regulated companies to promote gender parity on boards of directors and to publicly report on the gender balance on boards, and Bill C-24, which was referred to earlier and seeks to formalize equal status among the ministerial team and level the playing field to ensure a one-tier ministry, that a minister is a minister, recognizing the important work they do.
    The list goes on, but I will respect that other members have questions to which I look forward to responding.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the House leader's availability here. She mentioned Bill C-44, the budget implementation act. That just came off the finance committee. Liberal members did not even defend their own legislation as amendments were put up by opposition members.
    She said that we are all here to represent our communities. We are actually all here to hold the government to account, and if we are not members of the executive of the government, then it is our job to come in and talk about the issues of the day. By not allowing opposition days, the ability for us to hear from their backbench on what they think the issue is, she is actually not just demoting the opposition's ability to raise issues; she is actually diminishing the ability of her own members. Does she not recognize that by giving us less time than government business she is actually hurting her own members' ability to stand up and talk about a record that she may or may not have?
    Does she agree that by not allowing an equal amount of debate, she is not allowing her own members of Parliament to stand up in this place and enter debate?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly positive what the member is trying to say. Of course, we want all members of Parliament to share the views of their constituents. We recognize that the government has an important job to do, which is to advance the mandate that Canadians have given us. We recognize that the members in the opposition hold the government to account, but we are brought to this place by Canadians. They elect us. We represent our constituents.
    Oftentimes we wear many different hats and it is important to do so. Oftentimes we hear opinions that we might not appreciate or might not share, but it is important that we listen to them because that diversity of thought is important so that we can advance legislation that works for all Canadians in the best interests of Canadians.
    That is part of the commitment I made to my constituents of Waterloo. I will continue working hard for them. As the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I represent stakeholders that are small businesses, I recognize the importance of the tourism industry, and I recognize their importance as economic drivers. With my hat of the government House leader I recognize the importance of advancing legislation through this place as well as ensuring that there is meaningful debate.
    There are many hats that we wear. Outside of this place we are sisters and mothers and aunts and friends. We have to balance all of those, and it is important work that we do in the commitments that we make to Canadians. We will ensure we provide the opportunities for those opinions and those thoughts to be shared, and I look forward to hearing them. This is not about less or more. This is about all members doing the good work that they do, and that is why we will continue to work together and to encourage the opposition to work closely with the government to ensure that all views are heard.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange to hear the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons talk about the fine principles that she does not apply.
     When the leader of the government says we are here to represent all Canadians, I agree, of course. However, we do, precisely, represent all Canadians, those who voted for the government and those who voted for the official opposition, for the second parliamentary opposition group, for my good friends in the Bloc Québécois, and for the Green Party. We represent all the textures of the Canadian fabric.
    Why, then, when it comes time to debate questions raised by the opposition on opposition days, do the exceptional rules become blunted with time?
     We want to allow the government to extend speaking time and sitting days; we are not in disagreement on that, since we know the legislative agenda is a full one. However, the matters that are raised by the official opposition, duly elected by Canadians, are pushed aside.

[English]

    This is the House of Commons, and the House of Commons represents every Canadian. Those who voted for the Liberals, those who voted for the opposition parties, this is a place for everybody. This is the House of Commons of Canada. Shall the government respect it for once?