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39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 100

CONTENTS

Wednesday, May 28, 2008





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 142 
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NUMBER 100 
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2nd SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 2 p.m.

Prayers


[Statements by Members]

  (1405)  

[English]

    It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.
    [Members sang the national anthem]

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Khilafat Jubilee

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my best wishes to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Canada on the occasion of its Centenary Khilafat Jubilee celebrations this week.
    As Ahmadis celebrate 100 years of Khilafat, or religious succession, we should take pride in the important contributions they have made and continue to make to our society.
    Numbering almost 10,000 in Canada, people will find these Canadians making positive contributions in every sphere, from volunteerism to broadcasting.
    I am pleased to be part of the opening of the new Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary on July 5.
    Our government considers cultural diversity to be one of this country's greatest strengths. May all Canadians take this opportunity to learn more about the diversity of religious communities in Canada.

Rae Austin

    Mr. Speaker, my community lost a special man this past week. Rae Austin died on May 22 after a short illness.
     Rae was born in Tuft's Cove in 1936, was a graduate of Dartmouth High and StFX and began working for CMHC, which took him and his family to Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.
    He returned to Nova Scotia and continued his career as a public servant serving under the dynamic and progressive minister of housing, Scott McNutt, in the reforming government of Gerald Regan. He became a very successful businessman and a well-known developer.
    He enjoyed politics and ran for federal political office in 1980 when he came very close to wresting the federal seat from long-time MP and senator, Mike Forestall.
    Most important, was Rae's dedication to his family. He leaves behind his wife of 47 years, Joan, as well as his daughters, Raeanne, Catherine, Corrine and Sarah.
    Last night in Dartmouth we remembered a dedicated citizen, a reforming public servant, a man with a big smile and a bigger heart. Nova Scotia lost one of the best in Rae Austin.

[Translation]

Parliament Hill Workers

    Mr. Speaker, as members know, Parliament is the ultimate forum for democracy, the place where the representatives of the people assemble to make decisions about our collective destiny.
    Our demanding work would be even more difficult if not for the invaluable contribution of the House of Commons employees. We rarely have an opportunity to thank these people who support us day after day. They work behind the scenes to help ensure our democracy runs smoothly.
    The Bloc Québécois and I would like to pay tribute to those Hill workers who are celebrating 25 years of service. I would particularly like to honour and thank Marguerite Charlebois, a hostess at the Parliamentary Restaurant, who has always had a warm smile and kind words for us all.

[English]

National Day of Action

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, May 29, Canadians will once again stand in solidarity with first nations people on the National Day of Action. My NDP colleagues and I are proud to express our support.
     Together, we are calling for action that will guarantee fairness in funding for first nations education, action that will put an end to the shameful living conditions that exist in first nations communities across Canada, conditions like overcrowded and unsafe housing and dangerous drinking water, and action for a fully funded child welfare system and full implementation of Jordan's principle, which passed unanimously in the House last December.
    The Minister of Health and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development both speak of their support for a child first principle and yet the needs of first nations children, like Jacob Trout, are not being met.
    The National Day of Action is a united call for the government to put an end to the suffering of aboriginal families in this country. It is an opportunity for the government to do the right thing and act now.

Wedding Jubilees

    Mr. Speaker, an old proverb states that he who finds a wife finds a good thing. Last week, Lakeshore, Ontario, in my riding celebrated many good things.
    Conceived of by former mayor Bob Croft and organized by a dedicated team of community volunteers, the town of Lakeshore, with its partners, the Woodslee Credit Union and the Belle River Knights of Columbus, paid honour to local couples who have been married for at least 50 years.
    This was no one night spectacular, though. It took four nights to celebrate 141 couples married from 50 to 70 years, with a heritage of over 650 children, nearly 1,400 grandchildren and almost 400 great grandchildren, and still counting.
    In a culture of shifting relationships and poor role models, these living examples bear witness to my generation that one man and one woman can indeed stay committed in true love for life. It has been said a good man gives an inheritance to his children's children. To all, from my grandparents' generation, I receive their gift with thanks and wish them many more years of wedded bliss together.

Ron Wallace

    Mr. Speaker, Haligonians bid a fond farewell last weekend to a remarkable man known for his tolerance, compassion and a deep love of his port city. Ron Wallace, former optometrist and member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia passed away in his 91st year.
    He will be fondly remembered as Halifax's longest serving mayor, a job he loved, and as a dedicated family man.

[Translation]

    There are many who will never forget his quirky comments and entertaining remarks.
    The Halifax Herald described the former mayor as a lean, pipe-smoking guy with a good sense of humour and penchant for gardening. It also mentioned that he was a champion boxer as a young man.

[English]

    I ask the House to join me in offering our condolences to Ron Wallace's family and our thanks to a man who made a great city even better.

  (1410)  

Heroism

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a local Regina hero, Tina Trombley.
    Tina was out with her sisters on July 17, 2005, when she twice stepped in to help a stranger who was being seriously beaten outside a Regina bar. Tina was cradling the unconscious stranger in her lap when a drunken woman inexplicably drove a vehicle into the crowd. Tina was run over and dragged down the street, caught underneath the vehicle. She spent six weeks in the hospital and had to undergo extensive physical therapy.
    Because of her selfless bravery, Tina will be awarded the prestigious decoration for bravery this year by our Governor General, an award that she truly deserves.
    It is also worth mentioning that she will be the first person from Saskatchewan to receive the award. The example that she has set in her display of bravery and selflessness and the willingness to step in when a fellow human being was in danger should inspire us all.
    I ask all members to join me in congratulating Tina for her courageous actions and for the community of Regina and especially the workers at Sasktel who provided support for Tina as she recovered from her injuries.

[Translation]

Michel Sleiman

    Mr. Speaker, last Sunday Lebanon elected a new president of the republic. When he was sworn in, Michel Sleiman made a remarkable appeal for national unity. The President of Lebanon is right to say that his people have paid dearly for national unity and that the Lebanese must protect it hand-in-hand.
    A new era where “the interests of the country will have priority over partisan and religious interests” will only unfold if Lebanese people of all persuasions focus on the national interest and guard against the influence peddling of foreign countries.
    Michel Sleiman is recognized for his great tenacity in resolving conflicts. His success will be a victory for the cause of peace in Lebanon and the entire Middle East.
    On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois and myself, I hope that the new President of Lebanon will go down in history as a peace builder. I would also like to acknowledge the members of my Lebanese support committee in the gallery.

[English]

Women's Institutes

     Mr. Speaker, Emily Carr once said, “I believe that never was a country better adapted to produce a great race of women than this great Canada of ours”.
    The Women's Institutes was created in 1919 with the objective of providing leadership within all Canadian communities and to develop responsible citizens by studying issues of national and international importance.
    With over 18,000 members, 1,257 branches in 10 provinces, this invaluable institution contains committees on various factions of Canadian life: agriculture, industry, citizenship, education, health and international affairs.
    Among the many chapters in my riding this year, three will be celebrating their 100th anniversary: Wellington, Mountain View and Prince Edward county.
    With their motto, “For Home and Country”, these ladies have served not only the communities of Prince Edward--Hastings but also around this country with their emphasis on education and resourcefulness.
    I thank the ladies very much. They are the bedrock of our society and I wish them another 100 productive years.

Taste of Asia Street Festival

    Mr. Speaker, this year, the sixth annual Taste of Asia Street Festival will take place in Markham, Ontario on June 28 and 29 on my riding boundary.
    This annual event is co-hosted by the Federation of Chinese Canadians in Markham, the town of Markham, the Association of Progressive Muslims of Ontario and with the cooperation of the Canadian Federation of Intercultural Friendship.
    Last year, the event was attended by over 50,000 persons over two days and this year they are expecting an even bigger crowd. Activities during the festival will include cultural performances, food offerings, sports, community displays and outreach.
    Right here on Parliament Hill, all members of the House are cordially invited to attend the Ottawa launch of the sixth annual Taste of Asia this afternoon in room 237-C in the Centre Block. This large and growing South Asia Week event is honoured to share its pride and vitality with Ottawa and Canadians on Parliament Hill.
    We look forward to seeing everyone there as we help kick off this remarkable event.

Carbon Tax Proposal

    Mr. Speaker, over the past number of weeks, our suspicions have confirmed that rather than fulfilling their responsibilities here in the House, the Liberals have mistakenly understood their role as one of being in opposition to Canadian taxpayers.
    In their most vigorous attack against Canadians so far, the Liberals have launched their carbon tax plan, effectively discriminating against Canadians, the most vulnerable industries and citizens in Canada.
    If the Liberals ever get to implement their plan, we may as well say goodbye to our lumber industry and so long to our farmers. Manufacturers may not survive, truckers may as well park their trucks, and shopkeepers should just turn off the heat.
    No matter what weasel words the Liberals use to sell their plan, their hidden agenda is to make Canadians pay like they never have before. Unfortunately the people who can least afford to pay for this will be hurt the most. Our seniors will pay. Low income families will pay. Our young families will pay.
    This regressive tax proposal is one that will hurt the hard-working residents in far northern communities the most. The people in the Peace country should know that I will never support such a regressive and discriminatory carbon tax.

  (1415)  

Cluster Munitions

    Mr. Speaker, delegates from over 100 countries are meeting in Dublin to finalize a treaty to ban cluster bombs.
    Tiny bomblets left behind from cluster bombs pose a mortal threat to innocent civilians, especially children, long after conflicts end.
    The cluster munitions ban treaty builds on the Ottawa treaty banning land mines on which Canadian peace organizations, concerned citizens, civil society and progressive politicians worked together across party lines.
    Regrettably, the Conservative government today is threatening the integrity of the cluster munitions treaty. Shamefully, the U.S. is boycotting the negotiations. And to our shame, Canada is playing hardball on a provision to allow cluster munitions in joint operations with non-signatory states. That means the U.S. What a dereliction of moral duty.
    It is time for Canada to show independent leadership, stop serving as a U.S. lapdog and support a total ban on those inhumane, cowardly, immoral weapons.

Cluster Munitions

    Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today to recognize the important events currently taking place at the Dublin diplomatic conference on cluster munitions.
    Canada took the lead with the land mine ban treaty, also known as the Ottawa convention, in 1997. This week there are new negotiations taking place. The cluster munitions treaty being discussed hopes to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and place obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles.
    Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the greatest danger to civilians since anti-personnel land mines, yet there currently is no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by them.
    Please join me today in continuing Canada's support against land mines and cluster munitions by supporting the new international treaty on cluster bombs.

[Translation]

Member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin

    Mr. Speaker, during the Quebec bar association's convention, which begins on Thursday, our colleague and member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who is also the Bloc Québécois public safety critic, will not only be speaking at the “Droit et politique” workshop, but will also be receiving the distinction “advocatus emeritus” for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of law and of Quebec society as a whole. This prestigious distinction was created by the bar to honour its most exemplary members.
    Since obtaining his degree in 1965, our colleague has distinguished himself as president of the bar, as well as holding important positions within the Quebec government, including that of Minister of Public Security from 1994 to 1996 and from 1998 to 2003.
    My colleagues and I would like to extend our sincere congratulations to the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin on being selected to receive the Quebec bar's “advocatus emeritus” award.

[English]

International Aid

    Mr. Speaker, during question period on Monday, the hon. member for Sudbury raised a question on the government's announcement to match Canadian contributions to the victims of the May 2 cyclone in Burma.
    The government's initial announcement only covered donations made between May 15 and June 6, just three weeks, and would not be retroactive to the date of the cyclone, yet the Minister of International Cooperation had said that the program would cover six weeks. When asked when this became policy, the minister could not respond. In a point of order following Monday's question period, the hon. member for Wascana pointed out, with proof in hand as usual, that the government's own website stated that the period covered was in fact three weeks and was not retroactive to the date of the cyclone.
    If people look at the website today, they will see that the date has been changed in an attempt to hide the incompetence of the government.
    Thanks to a Liberal opposition, matching contributions that reflect the generosity of Canadians will now be retroactive to May 2.

  (1420)  

Leadership Campaign Financing

    Mr. Speaker, the countdown is on. Millions of dollars in loans from wealthy and powerful elites were given to the Liberal leader and other Liberal candidates during the most recent Liberal leadership race to be used for their campaigns.
    According to the Canada Elections Act, if a candidate receives a loan during a leadership race, the loan must be paid back within 18 months. If the loan is not paid back by the deadline, it becomes an illegal donation.
    We are only six days away until the June 3 deadline. The former Liberal leadership candidates have six days to pay back their loans worth up to millions of dollars. There are six days left for Elections Canada to decide if it will give the Liberal Party special treatment by extending the repayment deadline.
    Will the Liberal leadership candidates disregard the loan payback deadline, thereby ignoring contribution limits and breaking the law? Will Elections Canada give special treatment to the Liberal Party?

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the forced resignation of the foreign affairs minister has become an international black eye. It was covered by 370 news organizations in 28 countries around the world. The Prime Minister's refusal to take matters of security seriously has become an international embarrassment.
    Will the Prime Minister persist in his appalling lack of judgment, competence and leadership, or will he finally admit that this is a matter of security that requires a full and independent inquiry?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, the Prime Minister showed strong leadership on this issue. As soon as he became aware of the breach that occurred, he took action and the resignation of the foreign affairs minister was forthcoming. He paid a price. Action was taken immediately on the grounds of national security.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to show the extent to which the Prime Minister’s position lacks judgment and how ridiculous it is. Yesterday he said, “We have no evidence the documents have been circulated.”
     I ask the government a simple question: how could the Conservatives have evidence of anything at all if they do not conduct a serious investigation? How could they have evidence that these documents did not circulate, that other documents have not circulated, that various kinds of information have not circulated, and that national security has not been compromised if they refuse to conduct a full and independent inquiry?
    Mr. Speaker, we know a number of things. For example, we know that the documents were returned to the Government of Canada.
     In regard to the other questions, the Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked to study the situation and the appropriate agencies may be asked for help in doing that.
    Mr. Speaker, this is what they did with NAFTA-gate but that does not put an end to it at all. In the current case, secret documents were forgotten, there were possible ties—
     Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Stéphane Dion: Secret documents were forgotten and there were possible ties to organized crime, allegations of electronic surveillance, an incompetent lightweight as foreign affairs minister, and a government that still fails to see a national security issue in all this.
     How long will the Conservatives continue to make themselves a laughingstock and destroy their own credibility in the eyes of Canadians and our allies? Are they doing it out of incompetence, or because they have something to hide, or both?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party raises as issues of national security people's private lives. The breach here was one related to the security of the documents, not the questions in people's private lives. Action was taken as soon as that became apparent and it was decisive action.
    The difference when we talk about embarrassment on the international stage is a Liberal Party leader who advocates invading Pakistan as a way of success in Afghanistan.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, today is a day to think about lost opportunities for Canadian leadership overseas.
    We could be campaigning for a seat on the Security Council. We could be leading the fight to ban cluster munitions. We could be helping out in China and Burma. But instead, what are we doing? The Conservative government has been interfering in American elections. It has been losing classified documents for weeks on end and betraying the confidence of our allies. The government's actions have made us a laughing stock in every newspaper in the world.
    Is this what they mean--
    Order. The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's leadership on the world stage is impressive. We are leading in Afghanistan. We are leading in NATO. We are the second largest contributor to the peacekeeping force in Darfur. We are the second largest donor in the world to the World Food Programme. These are impressive contrasts with the previous government.
    The Liberal leader wants to go into Pakistan. That is his way of solving the Afghanistan issue. That is his idea of leadership. The Liberal idea of how to get on the United Nations Security Council was to spend millions on a campaign to try and buy that seat with free tickets to Cirque du Soleil and God knows what other entertainment events.
    Mr. Speaker, I will trade our reputation on the international stage for theirs any day.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. We have to be able to hear the question. The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore has the floor to ask a question.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is what the government has accomplished: embarrassment in Bali, retreat at the Security Council, and complete disappearance during the crises in Burma and China. The Prime Minister chose a foreign affairs minister who was not up to the job. The government is making us an international laughingstock.
     What is he going to do now to restore Canada’s reputation on the international scene?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative record on foreign affairs is one of the proudest in the world. It is that way because of Conservative governments and people like John Diefenbaker and like Brian Mulroney, who led the fight against apartheid.
    We have had here this week the President of the Ukraine. We have had a delegation from Latvia. We have today the President of Estonia.
     Those are all countries that were recognized and supported in their fight for freedom by Conservative governments, while Liberals were cozying up to communists, saying that there really was no difference between the United States and the Soviet Union and the west and the Soviet Union, but guess what? There is a difference between freedom and cozying up to authoritarians. We stand for freedom because--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, after the minister of foreign affairs resigned, the Prime Minister said, in Europe, that there was no problem, no security risk, and the famous secret documents had not been circulated. In other words, to hear the Prime Minister, we wonder why the minister resigned.
     On a more serious note, in addition to showing a lack of judgment, why is the Prime Minister stubbornly denying the obvious security problem?
    Mr. Speaker, cabinet rules are clear. The member realized he had made a serious mistake, and his resignation was accepted. The issue of the documents is very important and security is very important. That is the reason why the minister of foreign affairs resigned.
    Mr. Speaker, for two days the Prime Minister has been telling us that leaving secret documents lying around is a serious mistake. And yet the Globe and Mail reports that the first reaction by the Prime Minister and his office was to keep the minister in his position, to continue as if nothing had happened and to wait and see what TVA would disclose.
     How can the Prime Minister claim to have acted responsibly when on Monday he was still hoping to save his minister’s skin, even knowing that secret documents had been mislaid?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is not correct. The Prime Minister acted as soon as he learned that cabinet rules had been broken. The member for Beauce realized he had made a serious mistake, and his resignation was accepted.
    Mr. Speaker, we are told that the Prime Minister’s Office only learned on Monday about the loss of sensitive documents. So for five weeks no one was concerned about where they were. It was only when a lawyer told them about it that someone got worried. Everybody knows that the Department of Foreign Affairs has the most rigorous system for tracking sensitive or confidential files.
     Is the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons going to deny that such a system exists?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there are various systems in the departments and with cabinet for ensuring security of documents. Those must be adhered to rigorously.
     It was the failure to adhere to those requirements that resulted in the resignation of the member for Beauce as foreign affairs minister.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government is certainly responsible for much of the five weeks it took to realize they had been lost.
     Not only should the former minister of foreign affairs have been aware himself that he had mislaid documents, but the Prime Minister’s Office should have been too. Is the truth not rather that it was when they knew that Julie Couillard would be disclosing it that very evening on television that they decided to act?
     Is the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons going to admit that the Prime Minister knew about the document being lost and admit that the government tried to conceal it to serve partisan interests?
    Mr. Speaker, it is right to realize his responsibilities in relation to documents. That is something very important. The mistake made by the member for Beauce was a serious one and that is the reason for his resignation.
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP called for the minister to resign a long time ago. Clearly, he repeatedly demonstrated poor judgment.
    Now that we know the member was in the habit of leaving confidential documents lying around and forgetting about them for five weeks, can the government tell us if other documents have gone missing? Will the government hold an inquiry to make sure that national secrets were not forgotten at a Starbucks or the gym?
    Mr. Speaker, the minister of foreign affairs was asked to examine the situation. He may ask appropriate agencies for help in doing that. We are waiting for the report.

[English]

Canada-U.S. Relations

    Mr. Speaker, the former minister was in charge when the NAFTA-gate leak happened. Despite protests from his officials, but under pressure from the Minister of Public Safety and the PMO, he got a young Republican fundraiser appointed to a job at the Canadian embassy, Frank Sensenbrenner, now apparently the epicentre of that leak.
    In light of that new information, will the government make sure, as promised by the Prime Minister in this House on March 5, “that every legal and investigative technique necessary” will be “undertaken to find out who exactly is behind” the NAFTA leak?
    Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the NDP is fully aware, the Clerk of the Privy Council undertook an extensive examination into this matter, retaining the best available consultants. In their findings clearing the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff and our ambassador in Washington as not having released any classified information, the difficulty, of course, was that the memo in question was circulated to over 200 people, some of whom were outside the foreign affairs department.
    There is no evidence of the type that he suggests and as we have seen in the newspaper articles, but simply mere assertions. The facts and the findings of the report state quite differently.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, it is now clear that our questions about the conduct of the former foreign affairs minister have been absolutely legitimate, but circumstances still demand some clarification from the government.
    When did the government learn about the missing cabinet documents? When were the documents retrieved from Madam Couillard? Who retrieved them? Was it the RCMP? Was it CSIS? Was it PCO security? When and by whom?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think there has been a fair bit of media attention on this question. There is not a lot of mystery. Documents were left. They were left in an unsecured place. Madam Couillard undertook with her lawyer to return those, and they were returned. We do know that they were returned and she has indicated that publicly.
    With regard to whether there are any other security issues related to that, Foreign Affairs is conducting a review of that matter and can draw on whatever resources it wants. There is no mystery there. The event is a pretty simple one and has nothing to do with people's personal lives.
    Mr. Speaker, since the government House leader would not answer the question, I have a question for the public safety minister.
    We have been led to believe that more was happening behind the scenes than has been admitted by the government. Can the public safety minister confirm that between May 1 and May 8 of this year there was a meeting of CSIS and the Prime Minister's Office to discuss the conduct of his foreign affairs minister?
    Mr. Speaker, all these questions have been thoroughly answered.
     I hope the member opposite is not so naive as to think that meetings between CSIS members and the Prime Minister on any subject would be a matter of total public record. How naive is he being?
    Mr. Speaker, that does not sound like a “no” to me.
    I would like to ask the chosen representative of the government a simple question. It would appear that the Prime Minister, at noon on Monday, said that he did not take these issues seriously at all. It also would appear, from the press reports that the government House leader has referred to, that the documents were returned well before that. There is even one report that the Prime Minister received a resignation letter from the former foreign affairs minister on Monday morning.
    Can he account for the Prime Minister's statement at lunchtime?
    Mr. Speaker, I can account for it quite simply. Sometimes journalists get things wrong.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is true that everyone makes mistakes. Nevertheless, I would like to ask the government a simple question.
    After problems with the minister first surfaced, it took a good five weeks for him to resign. Why did government members sit on their collective duff for five weeks?

[English]

    On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, that did not happen. As soon as the Prime Minister became aware of this issue, action was taken and the resignation of the foreign affairs minister resulted.
    There was no delay. Action was immediate. As the Prime Minister has indicated quite clearly, what took place was that as soon as he discovered the information the foreign affairs minister offered his resignation and the resignation was accepted.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in 2005, the D.R.P. security company, owned by Robert Pépin and Julie Couillard, bid on an air transport security contract. The Minister of Public Safety confirmed that systematic checks were done on bidders. The Minister of Public Safety and the security services therefore knew about the shady past of the member for Beauce's ex-girlfriend.
    How could the minister be so negligent in his responsibilities as to not forward that information to the Prime Minister?
    Mr. Speaker, this matter is not about the private lives of individuals. In the matter involving the minister of foreign affairs, the issue is the documents that were left in an unsecured location. That is the issue.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, an investigation was done in 2005 into the ex-girlfriend of the hon. member for Beauce, the swearing-in incident, trips to the UN and Afghanistan, and his meeting with President Bush. They would have us believe that the RCMP and CSIS did not inform the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister's Office.
    Why did the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister, who were in the know, not take the necessary measures to ensure public safety, unless they were trying to hide the facts?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, the minister of foreign affairs' mistake had to do with documents, not with his private life. Private lives remain private.
    Mr. Speaker, many things do not add up in the Couillard affair. The Minister of Public Safety has a report that dates back to 2005 on Julie Couillard's shady past, because she had bid on a contract. Yet on March 31, 2008, I saw the Minister of Public Safety in a restaurant in Ottawa with the member for Beauce and his former companion, Julie Couillard.
    Is this not proof of the negligence and carelessness shown by the minister responsible for public safety?
    Mr. Speaker, the only thing being proven here is that the hon. member from Quebec City is very engrossed in members' private lives.
    Mr. Speaker, the minster's duties do not end at 5 p.m. It is a 24-hour-a-day job. The Minister of Public Safety covered up the facts for partisan purposes. The Conservatives are using the argument of “no evil seen, no evil done”. They are hiding behind a privacy defence, even though the member for Beauce, the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister were all fully aware of Julie Couillard's shady past.
    Is this not sufficient proof that this government lacks transparency and failed in its responsibilities?
    Mr. Speaker, it is not this government's objective to make the private lives of the members of this House transparent.
    Mr. Speaker, I know that the Prime Minister would rather collect Air Miles in Europe than answer our questions. He is letting his puppets do the covering up. But he did say something in Paris. He said that he was sure there was no problem for five weeks, that the only thing that happened to the documents was that the former minister forgot them, but that it was nothing serious. If it was nothing serious, he must have known something was going on and had some information.
    Could the naive Minister of Public Safety tell us whether the RCMP and CSIS conducted any checks for the Prime Minister?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, we do not believe that the private lives of individual members are matters for public debate. We will not inquire into them, monitor them or control them no matter how many times the Liberal Party encourages us to do that.
    It is our view the Prime Minister's trip in Europe is very different. We believe that Canada should stand tall on the world stage and we make no apologies for being there representing Canada's interests and advancing the interests of helping our environment and reducing greenhouse gases.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, he did not understand. This is Earth calling. My question was not complicated. For five weeks, the Prime Minister said that there was no problem and not to worry, because there was no problem. If he thought there was no problem, it must have been because he had information. And if there is information, it is because a minister had done some checking.
    My question is simple. Have the RCMP or CSIS investigated what the Prime Minister said? That way we will know that there is no problem with these documents.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just learned about this on Monday—on Monday—and not five weeks ago—just on Monday. The Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked to look into the situation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the absolutely arrogant and dismissive response from the Minister of Public Safety is absolutely unacceptable.
    Will he state publicly whether or not there was a meeting between CSIS and the Prime Minister's Office to discuss the conduct of the former foreign affairs minister. This is an absolutely legitimate question?
    I ask again, was there a meeting between May 1 and May 8 of this year between the Prime Minister's Office and CSIS to discuss the former foreign affairs minister?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite is the one who is doing the shouting and the screaming. Apparently, he is absolutely ignorant of items related to the security of this nation.
    It would not be, nor should it be, nor will it be the policy of any prime minister to be publicly talking about meetings he or she may or may not have had with members of CSIS. Those types of meetings are items of national security and the member opposite is being quite naive in trying to abandon an approach like this.
    Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely nonsense. As a former attorney general and a former premier of the province of British Columbia, what this minister is now saying is absolute hogwash.
    The fact is that the Prime Minister's Office met with CSIS to discuss the former foreign affairs minister. Why would he not say whether or not a meeting took place? Did a meeting take place or not?
    Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear that when we have lost a point in debate the only way we can possibly recover is to try to get enough froth going so that it makes it look like we still have a point.
    Once the hon. member has calmed down and eased off the caffeine a little bit, he will recognize that as attorney general in the province which I come from, there is no way in the world he would be publicizing any kinds of meetings when it comes to items of security and with agencies of security. He knew that then, he knows that now, and he is just playing a silly game right now.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader repeatedly said he was against a federal carbon tax, but in true Liberal fashion he flip-flopped. He now thinks it is a good idea to punish Canadians through higher prices at the pumps, on their home heating bills, and even at the grocery store.
    My constituents have told me they are very worried about a carbon tax. Environmentalists are raising concerns, the manufacturing sector is worried about the devastating impact this could have on the price of exports and even some of the Liberal leader's colleagues do not support his flawed idea.
    Can the Minister of Finance tell us what he has been hearing about the Liberal carbon tax and whether the government has plans to implement it?
    Mr. Speaker, we are sure hearing a lot from Canadians about the Liberals' proposed new regressive tax on carbon, along with their plan to hike the GST. We hear a lot about that as well.
    Carbon tax and GST go after people who are poor, go after people on fixed incomes, go after seniors in Canada, go after the manufacturing sector, and make it more difficult for the manufacturing sector in Canada by driving up its costs. They target poor seniors and threaten manufacturing jobs. No wonder even Premier McGuinty disagrees with his little brother's plan.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday B.C.'s Supreme Court decision makes it abundantly clear that Insite, the supervised injection facility in east Vancouver, is a health facility. The ruling also makes it clear that closing Insite would be “inconsistent with the state’s interest in fostering individual and community health, and preventing death and disease”.
    Can the Minister of Health assure the House today that his Conservative government will abide by the court's decision and not appeal this important case?
    But I can say to the House that on this side of the House at least we are disappointed with the judgment. We disagree with the judgment. We are, of course, examining our options and I would say to the House that we on this side of the House care about treating drug addicts who need our help.
    We care about preventing people, especially our young people, from becoming drug addicts in the first place. That is our way to reduce harm in our society and we are proud of taking that message to the people of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Health claims that he cares about people who use drugs and the issues they face, then he will respect the decision of the court. The medical, scientific and now legal conclusions just could not be any clearer. Insite is a life-saving facility and harm reduction is an essential component of Canada's drug strategy.
    When will the minister put aside his personal ideological position, respect the court's decision, and get to work on changing Canada's drug laws to allow access to health facilities such as Insite? When is he going to do that? He is taking too long.

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a bit rich for the member from the New Democratic Party to start lecturing us on ideological positions. That is its bread and butter over there, but we on this side of the House are here for public policy.
    We are here to help our kids and prevent them from getting on drugs in the first place. We are here to help addicts. We think the best public health is when we get addicts off the drugs, to treat them, to treat them as human beings, and to be there with the passion. That is what we believe on this side of the House.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: Order. I urge all hon. members to exercise a little more self control. We are wasting time and no one wants to waste time in question period.
    The hon. member for Mississauga--Brampton South.

Canada-U.S. Relations

    Mr. Speaker, the NAFTA-gate report indicated that there were Americans who had access to the Obama memo, yet they were never interviewed. These interviews were said to be “beyond the scope of the investigation”. This is especially troubling with recent reports alleging that the son of a Republican congressman with strong links to the PMO had the memo before it was leaked.
    Why did private investigators feel that talking to these Americans was not worth their time? Who are they covering for?
    Mr. Speaker, as the report that was undertaken by the Clerk of the Privy Council indicated, there were media sources that did not cooperate and there were others where there was no point in approaching. The real issue is the question: “If he had evidence? If he had anything to raise?”
    Liberals were the ones talking about this issue in the House. If they thought this was in question, they should have brought it to the attention of the investigation. In fact, I seem to recall they were concerned that the investigation was too thorough and taking too long. We make no apologies for a thorough investigation and one, I might add, that cleared the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
    Mr. Speaker, the report was a whitewash, no matter what the government claims. The NAFTA-gate report leaves the leak of the Obama memo strangely unresolved.
    According to the report, investigators thought about calling the Associated Press but decided not to, claiming lack of jurisdiction. They used the same excuse to avoid talking to Americans who had access to the memo.
    How can we accept the findings of this report if private investigators could not be bothered to pick up the phone and make these calls?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member belongs to a party that claims to stand up for public servants, yet he stands in the House, under the privilege provided to members of the House, and smears the reputation of the top civil servant in this country, the Clerk of the Privy Council, by describing his work as a “whitewash”. I believe it is now time for that member to apologize, the same way that his leader has had to apologize already on a number of occasions for his comments.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, we do not hear much from the President of the Treasury Board these days. He keeps a low profile in Manitoba. He does not answer questions in the House. His parliamentary stand-in takes the heat on Conservative election financing.
    Is the President of the Treasury Board, and wannabe future judge, avoiding questions on election financing because he was convicted of violating the election laws in the province of Manitoba?
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome that member to the justice file. I think this is the only issue that she has raised.
    If she wants to get involved in justice issues, instead of worrying about no appointment, maybe she could go back and talk to law enforcement agencies in Winnipeg who are quite concerned about auto theft and youth crime. Maybe those members could begin by explaining why they helped gut the private member's bill sponsored by the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle that had mandatory sentencing for people who steal cars.
    Why does she not go back to Winnipeg and explain that?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, I suggest the minister read the bill I sent over to his office yesterday that I tabled some weeks ago.
    The Prime Minister is seriously lacking in judgment if he thinks Manitobans will roll over and accept this hypocritical appointment. The Treasury Board President named the panel that will decide on his own judicial appointment. The Conservative government is planning to appoint a man to the bench who pleaded guilty to breaking the law.
    Why is it that behaviour the Prime Minister finds unacceptable for a cabinet minister qualifies him to be a judge in Manitoba?
    Mr. Speaker, that member has discovered the justice issue and is now drafting a private member's bill. I hope those members have decided to help support cracking down on auto theft, tackling identity theft, and mandatory sentences for drug crimes.
    The government has a slightly different agenda. We are doing something that has not been done in this country for a long time. We are standing up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. That is our agenda.

[Translation]

Shipbuilding Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on International Trade's report on the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association is clear. It says: “—the Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the [shipbuilding] industry—”. In fact, that is the only recommendation in the report.
    How will the Minister of Industry act on that recommendation, and when will he do so?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the free trade agreement with the EFTA countries has the longest phase-out in Canadian history built into it in terms of a 10 to 15 year phase-out for the shipbuilding industry.
    My hon. colleague, the Minister of Industry, has replenished the structured financing facility that supports the shipbuilding industry. There is something in the order of $8 billion of publicly procured ships in the order books that will be coming down to our shipyards over the next 10 years.

[Translation]

Regional Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec asked for a review of the Pôle Québec Chaudière-Appalaches file to ensure that the organization was not treated unfairly. The minister's decision to stop providing financial support to non-profit organizations with an economic development mandate has raised a number of concerns throughout Quebec.
    Will the minister step back from his Conservative ideology, tell the people of Quebec what they want to hear, and restore funding for all such organizations to previous levels?
    Mr. Speaker, Economic Development Canada's mandate is to support economic development in Canada, and that is what we are working to achieve.

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the government today smacks of cover-up and now it needs to reconcile its stories. Up to now the story has been that this is a matter of private life, but the Minister of Public Safety has said that if it were a matter of security, he would not say so to Canadians. Therefore, which one is true?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the Liberal leader was here so he should surely know that no such thing was said by the Minister of Public Safety. He simply said that people who were concerned about national security did not talk about these kinds of meetings in a public forum. That is all he said, nothing more than that, and nothing else has changed.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago the House was dealing with a number of key pieces of legislation that would directly affect the lives of aboriginal people in Canada.
    The bill on matrimonial real property on reserve is about correcting an obvious inequality and protecting the vulnerable in the event of a marriage breakdown. We are also dealing with the bill on our government's commitment to extend the same human rights protections to first nations on reserve, which all other Canadians enjoy.
    Would the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development update the House on the progress of these and other legislative initiatives that would improve the lives of aboriginal people in Canada?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are making good progress on many pieces of legislation, but I particularly like to highlight the progress on Bill C-30, a historic bill on specific claims. The bill is now in the Senate. It will have hearings again tonight on that. It is going through because the government and the Assembly of First Nations are working closely together on that bill. We co-drafted the bill. It addresses wrongs that go back decades and decades.
    We are extremely proud to have all party support to once again look after the needs of first nations. It is time to get the job done for first nations in our country.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister continues his summer spinning tour of Europe, meeting with the Conservative Chancellor of Germany who has committed her country to spending $800 million to protect the world's forests, to establish a national home retrofit program and to meet Germany's climate change targets.
    Could the government summon the courage to commit to putting a real price on carbon? When will the government stop damaging the environment here at home and ruining our reputation when abroad?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely wrong. He knows Canada now is a world leader in the fight against climate change.
    The Prime Minister is in Bonn, Germany. In fact, the United Nations today awarded the Prime Minister an award on Canada's contribution to biodiversity, again a world leader.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, instead of being a leader on environmental and climate change issues, the Prime Minister is embarrassing us in Europe, just as the Minister of the Environment did in Bali before the holidays. The Conservatives are always quick to look for an excuse, so they are blaming their own mismanagement on 13 years of Liberal inaction and incompetence.
    The problem is that their plan does not have a fixed, absolute cap. Without that, we cannot reduce greenhouse gases. When can we expect to have a real plan?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP record on the environment is unbelievable. In the budget the government wanted to end the subsidies for big oil sands, the big oil producers. The NDP is supporting the Liberals to have that continue. This government stands against it.
    With regard to the Great Bear Rainforest, there are $30 million for biodiversity. What did the NDP do? It voted against that. It supports the big oil companies.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, there will be a second day of action, which comes as no surprise. Aboriginal people are frustrated by the government's refusal to address our concerns. It has been more than two years since it cancelled the Kelowna accord and all we get in its place is window dressing.
    More aboriginal people are in care now than there were students at the height of the residential schools era, and the education of aboriginal children is sorely lacking.
    When will the government stop ignoring aboriginal people and deliver a real plan? Will the minister stop his swagger and give us some substance?
    Mr. Speaker, we are interested in substance. That is why we are not following through on the Kelowna press release. When we came into office, we found out that there was nothing in the budget allocated for the Kelowna accord. There were no details as to how it was going to work. There was nothing in there that said how we were going to change the system to make it work. That is why Bob Nault, the former minister from the Liberal times, in case he forgets this, said that the Kelowna accord would not get the job done.
    That is why we are moving on specific things such as action plans on clean water, action plans on housing, including the first ever market housing fund, action plans on specific claims, action plans on human rights. We are getting it done.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, members of Parliament, premiers, coastal Canadians, Inuit and many more have been calling on the Government of Canada to take a stand against a ban on humanely harvested Canadian seal products. They are tired of unethical fundraisers undermining a difficult but honest living.
    Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans update the House on the action the government is taking in the European Union and on the world stage to stand up for our sealers?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his support on this issue.
    The Prime Minister, who has raised this issue previously in Europe and at the United Nations, has been in two countries these past two days, France and Germany, and has raised the issue with both leaders.
     At the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Conference this past week, I arranged to ensure it went on the agenda. We have the open public support of Norway, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Russia. We are doing our job. It is up to them to support us.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

     The House resumed from May 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    It being 3 p.m. or so, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the third reading stage of the Bill C-33.
    Call in the members.

  (1515)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 114)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Alghabra
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Bains
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Blaney
Boshcoff
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Oakville)
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Casey
Chan
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Doyle
Dryden
Dykstra
Easter
Emerson
Epp
Eyking
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Fry
Galipeau
Godfrey
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guarnieri
Hall Findlay
Hanger
Harris
Harvey
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Holland
Hubbard
Ignatieff
Jaffer
Jean
Jennings
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Keeper
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lee
Lukiwski
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Maloney
Mark
Mayes
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Paradis
Pearson
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Proulx
Rae
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Russell
Savage
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Scott
Sgro
Shipley
Silva
Skelton
Solberg
Sorenson
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Turner
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Volpe
Wallace
Wappel
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Wilson
Yelich
Zed

Total: -- 173

NAYS

Members

André
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Barbot
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bigras
Black
Blaikie
Bonsant
Bourgeois
Cardin
Carrier
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Duceppe
Faille
Freeman
Gagnon
Gaudet
Gravel
Guimond
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Lessard
Lussier
Malo
Marston
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
McDonough
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Mourani
Mulcair
Nadeau
Ouellet
Paquette
Perron
Picard
Plamondon
Roy
Savoie
Siksay
St-Cyr
Thi Lac
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 64

PAIRED

Members

Blais
Bouchard
Brunelle
Carrie
Guay
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Lemieux
Lévesque
Lunney
Manning
Rajotte
St-Hilaire
Stanton
Vincent

Total: -- 14

     I declare the motion carried.

[English]

     Accordingly, the next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the motion currently before the House.
    Is there agreement to proceed in this fashion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 115)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Alghabra
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Bains
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Blaney
Boshcoff
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Oakville)
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Casey
Chan
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Doyle
Dryden
Dykstra
Easter
Emerson
Epp
Eyking
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Fry
Galipeau
Godfrey
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guarnieri
Hall Findlay
Hanger
Harris
Harvey
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Holland
Hubbard
Ignatieff
Jaffer
Jean
Jennings
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Keeper
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lee
Lukiwski
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Maloney
Mark
Mayes
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Paradis
Pearson
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Proulx
Rae
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Russell
Savage
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Scott
Sgro
Shipley
Silva
Skelton
Solberg
Sorenson
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Turner
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Volpe
Wallace
Wappel
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Wilson
Yelich
Zed

Total: -- 173

NAYS

Members

André
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Barbot
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bigras
Black
Blaikie
Bonsant
Bourgeois
Cardin
Carrier
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Duceppe
Faille
Freeman
Gagnon
Gaudet
Gravel
Guimond
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Lessard
Lussier
Malo
Marston
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
McDonough
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Mourani
Mulcair
Nadeau
Ouellet
Paquette
Perron
Picard
Plamondon
Roy
Savoie
Siksay
St-Cyr
Thi Lac
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 64

PAIRED

Members

Blais
Bouchard
Brunelle
Carrie
Guay
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Lemieux
Lévesque
Lunney
Manning
Rajotte
St-Hilaire
Stanton
Vincent

Total: -- 14

    I declare the motion carried.

    (Bill read the third time and passed)


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

    I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008.

[Translation]

    This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

[English]

Points of Order

Tabling of Documents 

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, during question period, I was speaking of the national campaign for the students of Attawapiskat and when I referred to the 2,000 letters that had been delivered by the students of St. Edmund Campion, 5,000 from Aurora and 1,500 from Clarke Road Secondary School, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga at that time challenged me to table the documents in the House.
    The students from St. Edmund Campion drove from Brampton this morning to deliver the 2,000 letters. Since the Conservative Party asked me to table those, I would ask the Conservatives to second this so I can table, with the unanimous consent in the House, as per their request, the 2,000 letters from the students in Brampton fighting for a grade school in Attawapiskat.
    I would like my hon. colleagues in the Conservative Party to know that I did follow up. I believe next Monday or Tuesday they are coming from Aurora with 5,000 letters and I will be more than willing to table those then.
     I look for the unanimous consent of all parties.
    Is there unanimous consent to permit the hon. member to table these documents?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Alleged Comments by Member for Hamilton Centre  

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade raised a point of order regarding unparliamentary language in the House the day before.
    I want to say that the discussion that is in question here was not even a matter on the floor between two members. It was a non-partisan discussion. We were not talking about anything that has to do with a bill or politics.
    Where the member gets off feeling that his rudeness under the guise that my words “very aggressively and deliberately attacked” a member, I have no idea.
    However, there is no question that in my response I went beyond his rudeness, which is where I should have kept it and responded in kind, but I did cross the line. I did use unparliamentary language, language that is unacceptable. Therefore, I apologize to the member and to anyone else who may have heard that.

  (1520)  

    I thank the hon. member.

Government Response to Petitions

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

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the meeting of the second part of the 2008 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held in Strasbourg, France, April 14-18, 2008.
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 47th Canadian-American Days, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, United States of America, March 25-30, 2008.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie respecting its participation at the meeting of the executive committee of the network of women parliamentarians of the APF, held in Brussels on February 19 and 20, 2008.

[English]

Committees of the House

Finance  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, without amendment.
    I am very proud of the committee and its work and very pleased to present this to the House at this time.

Veterans Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to resetting the bar for veterans health care, veterans independence program and veterans health care review.
    The committee is requesting a government response.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in relation to the main estimates, 2008-09, in relation to vote 20 under Parliament and votes 40 and 45 under Justice.
    Your committee has reviewed the estimates of the Ethics Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and the Access to Information Commissioner and we report their estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009 without amendment.

  (1525)  

Telecommunications Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in the House, along with my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas, to present the first bill to deal with the issue of Internet neutrality in Canada.
    The bill would ensure fairness for consumers, protect educators and consumers against anti-competitive practices from large telecoms and protect the innovation agenda in Canada.
    The Internet has become a critical piece of the social, business and cultural infrastructure of not just Canada, but of the entire world. It has allowed grassroots, democratic organizations to flourish. It has allowed new forms of communication. It has allowed us to start developing a sense of culture through telecommunications.
    Of course, with the recent throttling practices by the large telecoms, questions of telecoms setting up speed bumps and electronic toll booths on the Internet, there is certainly a great deal of concern.
    The New Democratic Party is very wary about attempts to start using government to intervene in the development of the digital world and new media. However, this is not a question of whether there will be regulation of the Internet. That is going on right now with the giant telecoms. The question is whether or not there will be a scrutiny of such practices.
    It is very important that we give CRTC the toolbox it needs to ensure we maintain a fair, open and neutral Internet and one that protects the innovation agenda of Canada.

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

Bill C-21--Canadian Human Rights Act

    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, a member from the Liberal Party and a member from the New Democratic Party may speak for not more than 10 minutes on report stage Motions Nos. 1 and 2 of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, after which Motions Nos. 1 and 2 shall be deemed adopted, Bill C-21 shall then be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Petitions

The Quebec Nation and the Charter of the French Language  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition with 69 signatures. These Quebeckers are calling on the Government of Canada to actively respect the Quebec nation and Bill 101.

[English]

Bill C-420  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by thousands of folks in my community in support of an amazing woman named Natalie Thomas.
    After undergoing a double mastectomy and follow-up treatment for breast cancer, Natalie had exhausted her EI sick benefits. As hon. members know, EI sick benefits only last 15 weeks. Natalie was still too sick to go back to work but, for economic reasons, she had no choice but to return to work early, before she had fully recovered.
    Our community has rallied around Natalie, who worked hard collecting hundreds of names on this petition. The petition supports my private member's bill, Bill C-420 to extend EI sick benefits to 30 weeks.
    I urge members of the House to listen to Natalie's story and the story of thousands of other Canadians who find themselves in this unfortunate circumstance when they do not have extended health benefits and support my bill when it comes to a vote in the House.

[Translation]

Mining Companies Working Abroad  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of Development and Peace, a non-governmental organization that is very concerned about the social responsibility of Canadian companies and extractive industries in developing countries. This petition has been signed by citizens from Haute-Côte-Nord, Charlevoix, Île d'Orléans and Côte-de-Beaupré. These petitioners recommend adopting standards to assess the social and environmental performance of mining companies operating abroad.

  (1530)  

[English]

Unborn Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by 158 constituents from my riding who urge the House of Commons to support Bill C-484, which is a private member's bill introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

Iran  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petitions from my riding collected by student volunteers at the Bialik High School together with volunteers from the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region.
    The petitioners wish to bring to the attention of the House of Commons the great threat to international peace and security of a nuclear Iran underpinned by the denial of the Holocaust and by Ahmadinejad's state sanctioned incitement to genocide and his repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map.
    Accordingly, the petitioners call upon the Canadian government to redouble its efforts to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear arms; to bring Iranian President Ahmadinejad before an appropriate international agency for violation of the genocide convention's prohibition against “direct and public” incitement to genocide; to propose in light of Iran's continued defiance of the international community that the United Nations Security Council adopt additional sanctions against Iran; and to work with our international partners to combat the genocidal incitement of the leaders of Iran, its quest to achieve nuclear arms and its massive domestic human rights violations of its own people.
    In that context, the petitioners acknowledge the friendship between the people of Iran and the Canadian people, regret these recent developments, and hold the Iranian people, their culture and their ancient civilization in the highest regard.

Citizenship and Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, six months ago the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion calling on the Government of Canada to immediately implement a program to allow war resisters and their families to stay in Canada and to halt all deportation proceedings against them. That has not happened, so today I am pleased to table a petition that calls upon the Government of Canada once again to respect not only international law and international treaties to which it is a signatory, but also the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and the wishes of the people of Canada by immediately making provision for U.S. war resisters to have sanctuary in Canada and halt all deportation proceedings against them.
     The petitioners are from the Halifax regional municipality. Among them is peace icon Muriel Duckworth who has just entered her 100th year. We are going to be celebrating that for her contribution to the peace movement in Canada and globally. It is one more reason that I hope the government will pay serious attention.

Cluster Munitions  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand today and present petitions on behalf of hundreds of Canadians who recognize the grave inhumanitarian consequences of cluster munitions and their effects on innocent civilian populations.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to continue its leadership role in the Oslo process in the international ban on cluster munitions which pose unacceptable inhumanitarian consequences.

Income Trusts  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present yet again another income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a number of residents of Victoria, B.C., who remember the Prime Minister boasting about his commitment to accountability when he wrote, “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”.
    The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.
    The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Arts and Culture  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition from ordinary Canadians. They note that the Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees freedom of expression and that the exercise of freedom of expression is essential to democracy, the creative process and to Canadian arts and culture. They also note that the Criminal Code of Canada already contains provisions regarding pornography, child pornography, hate propaganda and violent crime. They point out that the role of the Minister of Canadian Heritage should be to promote and defend Canadian cultural and artistic freedom.
    Whereas, the guidelines for government funding and support for the cultural sector, including film and video production, should be objective, transparent and must respect freedom of expression, there should not be any ability for the government, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, or any office of the government or government officials to make subjective judgments concerning artistic content that limits the freedom of expression. This type of censorship and denial of tax credits or production support may significantly hinder the making of Canadian films and the telling of Canadian stories.
    That is why the petitioners are calling on Parliament to defend Canadian artistic and cultural expression, to rescind any provisions of Bill C-10 that allow the government to censor film and video production in Canada and to ensure that the government has in place objective and transparent guidelines that respect freedom of expression when delivering any program intended to support film and video production in Canada.

  (1535)  

Unborn Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present another 550 names of petitioners who urge Parliament to pass Bill C-484, the unborn victims of crime act. These petitioners recognize that the bill specifically does not apply to elective abortion. They also recognize that when a pregnant woman has a child that she wants, there ought to be second offence when that choice and child are taken away from her against her will and with violence.

Age of Consent  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table three petitions today. The first is requesting that the age of consent be raised to 18 years of age in order to better protect youth from sexual exploitation.

Animal Cruelty  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon Parliament to amend the current provisions in the Criminal Code regarding animal cruelty.

Unborn Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition is requesting that Parliament enact legislation which would recognize unborn children as separate victims in criminal law.

Questions on the Order Paper

[English]

Question No. 244--
Mrs. Irene Mathyssen:
     With respect to the development of an action plan to increase the equality of women across Canada, announced in the Budget 2008: (a) what is the time frame for the development of the action plan; (b) what department will be responsible for developing the action plan; (c) what monetary resources will be allocated to develop the action plan; (d) how many full-time equivalents will be allocated to develop the action plan; (e) will there be any public consultation on the development of the action plan; (f) what organizations have been consulted; (g) what organizations will be consulted; (h) will Canada's commitment under the 1995 Beijing Declaration serve as base for the action plan; (i) what mechanisms of accountability will be built into the action plan; and (j) will eliminating systemic discrimination against women be the main objective of the plan?
Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, in response to a) Over the next year, the government will work on the development of an action plan.
    In response to b) Status of Women Canada will lead the development of the action plan, with other federal government departments and agencies.
    In response to c) and d) The development of the action plan will be done within existing resources.
    In response to e), f) and g) Work is underway on the action plan, and it is yet too early to be specific on this level of detail.
    In response to h) The Beijing declaration and platform for action will inform the work and content of the action plan.
    In response to i) Status of Women Canada recognizes the crucial role that accountability plays in insuring equality for women. As such, accountability will be a key consideration as the action plan is developed.
    In response to j) The main objective of the plan is to advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

[English]

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 202, 241 and 242 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

[English]

Question No. 202--
Mr. Glen Pearson:
     With regard to the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund within Infrastructure Canada and the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program within the Department of Transport: (a) what has been the total spending in the program since 2002; (b) how much of this total has been spent in each of the provinces in each year of the programs from 2002 to 2007, inclusive; and (c) what is the per capita amount of spending of these programs per province in each year of the programs from 2002 to 2007, inclusive?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 241--
Ms. Catherine Bell:
    With regard to oil spills off the West Coast of Canada: (a) what systems, plans or procedures are in place in case of an oil spill off of Vancouver Island, Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte area, or the North Coast of British Columbia; (b) who would be the first to respond to an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia and who would be in charge of clean up; (c) what are the response times to contain an oil spill in (i) the North Coast of British Columbia, (ii) the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte area, (iii) the North Coast of Vancouver Island, (iv) the West Coast of Vancouver Island; (d) have there been any studies, reports, estimations on the risk or possibility of oil spills due to oil tanker traffic coming from Kitimat or Prince Rupert, British Columbia and, if so, what are their conclusions; (e) have there been any studies, reports or estimations on the possible cost of an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia and, if so, what are their conclusions; and (f) in terms of the gas spill in Robson’s Bight on Vancouver Island (i) has there been any evaluation of the potential damage this spill has caused, (ii) has there been any evaluation of the response and clean up, (iii) are there any further plans for clean-up operations such as removing the truck from the area, (iv) are their plans to ensure that similar accidents do not reoccur in ecologically sensitive areas?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 242--
Mr. Peter Stoffer:
    With regard to the anthrax vaccine administered to Canadian Forces personnel serving in the Gulf War: (a) has the government completed independent testing on the safety of the vaccine; (b) has the government completed a study on the health of Canadian Forces personnel who received the vaccine; and (c) has the government continued to monitor or has it undertaken any follow up studies on the health of Canadian Forces personnel who have received the vaccine?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

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

Motions for Papers

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

Privilege

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling   

[Speaker's Ruling ]
    I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier concerning comments made by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during question period on Monday, April 28, 2008.
    I would like to thank the hon. Member for Ottawa—Vanier for raising this matter and the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Beauséjour, and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions.

[English]

    Following question period on April 28 last, the member for Ottawa—Vanier rose on a question of privilege to take issue with comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during oral questions in response to a question from the member for Beauséjour concerning election expenses. In that response, the parliamentary secretary said, as can be read in the Debates on page 5164:
    Not to mention the fact that the Liberal Party transferred money directly to the Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre to fund this Liberal in-and-out scam. I wonder if the member will stand up now and demand that the member for Ottawa—Vanier, who got involved, step aside until his name is cleared.

  (1540)  

[Translation]

    The member for Ottawa—Vanier expressed concern that these remarks suggested that he had been involved in improper election expenses—a suggestion to which he took strong exception—and he requested that the hon. Parliamentary Secretary withdraw the remarks and apologize.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary defended his response to the question by quoting from an affidavit, a copy of which he tabled the following day. I undertook to review the transcript of both Members’ statements, to look at the affidavit in question and to return to the House with a ruling on the matter.
    As I have explained in previous rulings on similar matters, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie case of privilege when dealing with these sorts of disagreements.
    As stated on page 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
    In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue.

[English]

    I have examined closely the documentation cited and the comments made during question period on that day. The affidavit is a lengthy description by a party official of alleged election advertising transactions and arrangements. Contrary to the impression left by the parliamentary secretary, the affidavit in no way supports the pointed insinuation of wrongdoing he made regarding the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier. Similarly, the Chair cannot find anything in the affidavit that contradicts the very clear assertions made by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier on the matter at issue and in particular his statement found at page 5168 of the Debates for April 28, 2008.
    As Speaker, I can fully appreciate that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier believes the parliamentary secretary attacked his reputation on the basis of the remarks he made. However, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie question of privilege. Members may clearly disagree on the propriety of certain events that are alleged to have taken place; they may even dispute their legality, but I do not believe it is the role of the Speaker to settle that argument. My only role is to determine whether the remarks were unparliamentary and whether they constitute such a grave attack as to impede the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier in the performance of his duties.
    Given the differing views of both hon. members, and the actual words used by the parliamentary secretary, it is difficult for the Chair to regard the matter as anything other than a matter of debate. On the same ground that I ruled on similar questions for which I gave rulings on October 5, 2006, and again recently on April 10, 2008, I am, therefore, unable to find a basis for a prima facie breach of privilege.

[Translation]

    That said, I must take this opportunity once again to remind honourable Members to be more judicious in their choice of words. As is stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 522: “Remarks directed specifically at another member questioning that member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order”.
    The political climate in the House may be very heated at the moment but that is no reason to dispense with all civility or natural courtesy.
    In the case at hand, although the Chair has not found a breach of privilege, the comments complained of have been addressed and I consider the matter closed.
    I thank the House for its attention.

[English]

    I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 10 minutes.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I listened to you closely, just as I did yesterday when you presided over a part of the ceremony unveiling the portrait of Canada's 16th prime minister, the Right Honourable Joe Clark. I would like to quote something Mr. Clark said at the end in English:

[English]

    “A little respect can go a long way”.

[Translation]

    I am disappointed in your ruling, Mr. Speaker. This episode in the House is an attempt to go beyond what is permitted. The fact that a parliamentary secretary is trying to attack the reputation of a colleague directly, without any documentation—because he cannot produce any—demeans debate in the Canadian Parliament and the House of Commons.
    I am very disappointed that your ruling basically allows this type of behaviour to continue.

  (1545)  

    The hon. member has certainly made his opinion on this subject clear, but I did not say that allegations of this nature should continue. In addition, I would encourage all of the hon. members to review the Standing Orders, obey them and not repeat the type of attacks I have mentioned.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I point out that one of the rules of the House is to show respect for the Speaker when he rules. Obviously from time to time, you are called upon to make rulings with which all of us might differ with, but clearly we need to show the Chair the respect that the position deserves at all times. It is rather ironic that the hon. member questions your decision on an issue on which he has asked for respect.
    I think we will consider the matter closed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canadian Human Rights Act

     The House resumed from May 16 consideration of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak in support of the amended Bill C-21.
    Members will recall that the bill was first introduced into the House in the 39th session of Parliament as Bill C-44. It has been re-introduced into the House as Bill C-21 and has gone through a very lengthy committee process. It has now come back to the House in its amended form for final conclusion.
    To recap, members will remember that the act would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which excludes Indians who live or work on reserve from filing human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in respect of any alleged human rights violations that relate to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act.
    I want to make it very clear from the outset that this party, this official opposition, has supported the intent of the bill. The repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act has been a long time in coming and it is something that we support very much.
    What we did not support was the manner in which the bill was brought forward, both in its initial introduction and in its subsequent introduction as Bill C-21. It was brought forward without any consultation with first nations communities. We heard that there were significant concerns about the legislation, but there seemed to be absolutely no will, commitment, effort or respect on the part of the government to address some of those concerns.
    I am repeating myself, but I want to make it very clear. I said, at least 18 times, in the House or in committee, as did my colleagues, that we supported the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We did not support the process in which the government chose, as one of the chiefs from Alberta said, to ram it down their throats.
    We are proud to support the amended legislation. We are proud of the process that went on in committee. We heard from a host of witnesses who came before the committee. I emphasize that this is not a substitute for consultation; it was about hearing witnesses and their concerns. Out of the 21 or 22 witnesses we heard, only 1 witness supported the legislation in its original form. We heard learned presentations from academics. We heard from leaders in the aboriginal community. We heard from individuals in the aboriginal community. We heard concerns from the men and women who the bill would affect.
    We were concerned that there was no interpretive clause. We were concerned that there was no non-derogation clause. We were concerned that there was no attention given to the fiscal capacity. We were most concerned that the transition period was very short. We were also concerned that no study or analysis had been done on the impact the legislation would have on first nations communities. We know an analysis was done on what the impact would be on INAC, but no study was done to determine what the impact would be on first nations communities.
    The amended legislation was a model of cooperation by the opposition parties, listening to the representations we heard from individuals, working together to amend the bill to make it a stronger, fairer bill for aboriginal people in our country.

  (1550)  

    Many times we heard in the House that we had gutted the bill. Far from it. Misrepresentations were mailed out to every household in my riding, misrepresenting my position and the position of my party as it related to the bill.
    We proposed a number of important amendments to the bill. We proposed and passed through committee, a non-derogation clause, an interpretative clause, an extension of the time for implementation for three years. This is important. The government originally proposed six months. It was willing to extend it to 18 months, but not beyond that. I am pleased to see the government has allowed it to go in at three years now.
    The implementation period of three years will allow first nations to determine their capacity and to look at the implications. It will allow them to prepare their communities for the actual final implementation of the bill.
    As the House may recall, the government tried at one point, through a point of order, to remove the non-derogation clause and the interpretative clause. We are pleased that it has come back with amendments. Although they are not what we would have preferred, we will accept the amended non-derogation and interpretative clauses in the bill. They deal with the intent and the protection of the collective rights of first nations communities. We do, however, prefer the amendments put forward in committee, but as an expression of good faith and a desire to get the bill passed, we will support the amendments put forward by the government.
    With the amendments, we would be able to grant human rights to first nations people in a way that balances their collective rights with individual rights as well as maintaining all existing aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
    With respect to the transition period, first nations will now have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the legislation. In doing so, the government will have a chance to properly consult with all affected first nations peoples. I sincerely hope the government will take advantage of the opportunity to do this. I hope it will not just tell them but engage them in a meaningful consultation process whereby it will listen to them and work with them to implement the bill.
    Once the bill comes into effect, first nations will work with the government to undertake the extensive preparation, the capacity, fiscal and human resources required.
    The important part of this is the amended legislation, and it was amended not without acrimony or without challenge, is an example of parliamentarians working together to fix flawed legislation and amend it to reflect the best interests of first nations people.
    As I said at the beginning, the Liberals have always maintained our support for the repeal of this section. It was not done in a way which we supported. Since the bill is now in front of us, we are proud to say that we improved flawed legislation to reflect the views of first nations communities throughout the country. They will be able to work with this legislation, and we are proud to support it.

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is an important day in the House as we bring back the amended Bill C-21. Specifically, we are dealing with a couple of amendments.
     Unfortunately, this bill has been decades in coming. I will share just a bit of history around this bill. Originally in 1977 an exception was provided that first nations living on reserve could not file complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act against anything in the Indian Act. Part of the history around that so-called temporary exemption from 1977 being put in place was of course that there were discriminatory provisions in existence in the Indian Act.
    One of those discriminatory provisions was around the fact that first nations women who married non-aboriginal men were actually excluded from living on reserve or maintaining their status. The report that came out in 2005 from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “A Matter of Rights”, talked about the impacts on the community. I have a quote from that report about what happens to families:
    The effect of this discriminatory provision was the effective banishment of over one hundred thousand women, their spouses, and their children from their communities and traditional homelands. This caused great psychological, emotional and economic suffering. This was especially true in cases where marriages broke down and First Nation women were not allowed to return home.
    What we had in place was a system that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of women and their families. Because the department of the day knew this discriminatory provision was in place and was not at that time prepared to deal with that discriminatory provision, it asked for this exemption and it was put in place.
    Subsequent to that, this particular part of the Indian Act was repealed and women were granted their status. I am going to come back to that in a minute, because that was Bill C-31 from 1985, which was one of the reasons that so many people who came before committee were so vocal about wanting some of the amendments that were put in place.
    I am not going to read all the recommendations from “A Matter of Rights”, but there were five key recommendations. Part of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended in 2005, before legislation was developed, was that consultation take place with first nations and that “an interpretive provision”, which would take into consideration the rights and interests of first nations, be put in place, and that there would be a transitional period of at least 18 to 30 months, and so on. There were a number of other recommendations.
    However, part of the challenge that this House and the committee faced was that when the piece of legislation came before the committee, it was of course a very simple piece of legislation and did not include any of those elements. The bill was developed without consultation with first nations communities.
    Therefore, to the Conservative government's surprise, there were a number of concerns raised by witness after witness who came before the committee. People were saying that in the past governments have passed bills in the House that have had some unintended consequences, and they did not want to see that happen.
    The committee listened quite respectfully to the witnesses and subsequently proposed a number of amendments, which included an extended transitional period for 36 months. They included an interpretive clause and a non-derogation clause. The amendments we are dealing with today have done some refinement on the non-derogation clause and on some additional wording around gender principles.
    I want to come back for a moment to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and why the committee faced some challenges around needing to hear so much more information, because the report of the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, “Promoting Equality: A New Vision”, made a number of specific recommendations with regard to the repeal of section 67.
    The panel said specifically,“Any effort to deal with the section 67 issue must ensure adequate input from Aboriginal people themselves”. We saw what happened when that did not happen: it took months for us to get to the place where there was some agreement in getting the bill back in the House.
    The panel talked about resources. To go back to Bill C-31, one thing was very clear in Bill C-31, and in a minute I will quote the Native Women's Association of Canada. What was very clear under Bill C-31 was that there were inadequate resources once women regained their status in their communities. There was not enough housing. There were not enough other support services for women who could have returned to their community.

  (1600)  

    Therefore, one of the things that the Human Rights Commission recommended was that these resources be put in place. It said that resources must be put in place so that people actually have access to any redress mechanisms that might be deemed suitable once a complaint was filed.
     It talked about the fact that there should be cultural recognition and said:
    At the same time, the Act should permit a balancing of the values of the Aboriginal people and the need to preserve Aboriginal culture...These points raise huge questions about the social and economic structure of Aboriginal life and its legal underpinnings. Such matters deserve far more study than we have been able to give them. So again, there is a need for adequate consultations.
     It talked about the balancing provision and stated:
    The Panel believes it is highly important to balance the interests of Aboriginal individuals seeking equality without discrimination with important Aboriginal community interests. A balancing provision means that a Tribunal would actually hear evidence and representations on the issue of whether the interests of the individual and the community are properly balanced.
    It talked about self-government and said:
    The Panel believes something more should be done in order to ensure greater say in the human rights roles that apply to Aboriginal governments. This would be consistent with the principle of self-government.
    Thus, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself acknowledged the fact that there needed to be a number of other mechanisms put in place in order to make sure that this piece of legislation did not have the same kind of impact that Bill C-31 has had. Bill C-31 has had some difficulties in terms of the fact that when women were reinstated there were not the resources that I referred to, but there is also a second generation cut-off.
     The second generation cut-off means that people whose parents were not both first nations could end up losing their status by the time the second generation is born. That is an unintended consequence. A report did some analysis on key reserves across the country and did some estimates on when the last status person would be born on those reserves. Some would say that quite cynically the government is not dealing with that provision because then first nations people would come under the guidance of the provinces rather than the federal government.
    Bev Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a press release:
    Twenty-five years after having the Charter, NWAC is well aware that having rights on paper does not guarantee the ability of all individuals to exercise those rights. NWAC believes that consultation with Aboriginal peoples and specifically, Aboriginal women, is necessary to ensuring the rights are meaningful and exercisable. We are also well aware that membership provisions under Bill C-31, off-reserve rights, health, housing and education policies as well as the continuing lack of a matrimonial real property law regime that applies on reserve are issues that the federal crown will most likely see complaints filed about.
    She goes on further in that press release to say:
--It is important for both the CHRC and First Nations communities to have the resources to build a relationship that acknowledges and respects human rights.” This is the only way equal rights for all can be promised.
    We know that this very important piece of legislation, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which does provide the right for first nations people on reserve to file complaints under discriminatory provisions under the Indian Act, in itself will not guarantee human rights unless there are resources in place.
    The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about resources around education and housing. We know, of course, that the children from Attawapiskat are here on the Hill today, talking about how their human rights are being violated by the fact that they do not have access to a school. They do not have access to the education that every other Canadian child off reserve expects as a fundamental human right. When Ms. Jacobs from the Native Women's Association of Canada talks about this, she knows full well that many communities simply do not have those resources that would make sure that their human rights were not violated.
    In a brief that the Native Women's Association put forward to the committee on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it talked about the fact that governments, both the current Conservative government and previous Liberal government, should not have waited so long, and again quotes the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which said:
    However, the Commission would prefer that the Government take a proactive approach to preventing potential discrimination and not wait for complaints to be filed and potentially lengthy proceedings to take place. The Commission, therefore, urges the Government, in consultation with First Nations, the Commission and other relevant bodies, to review provisions of the Indian Act and relevant policies and programs to ensure that they do not conflict with the Canadian Human Rights Act and other relevant provisions of domestic and international human rights law. Such a review should focus in particular on the impact of Bill C-31....

  (1605)  

    In conclusion, I am very pleased that the House has decided that it would support Bill C-21, the repeal of section 67, and I urge the government to ensure that the resources are put in place to deal with potential human rights complaints and also to ensure that the resources are available to the Canadian Human Rights Commission so it can go out and work with first nations governments to ensure this understanding is in place.
    Pursuant to order made earlier today, Motions Nos. 1 and 2 are deemed adopted, Bill C-21, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments, and deemed read a third time and passed.

    (Motions Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to, bill as amended concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill dealing with the European free trade agreement with Canada.
    The bill is one that started its progression internationally in 1998 when the then government of Mr. Chrétien moved forward on deliberations with our partners and began dealing with this particular issue. The agreement was signed on January 26, 2008, in Switzerland and it was tabled in our Parliament on February 14, 2008.
    The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. Many Canadians would find it interesting that the particular destination is a group of northern European countries, including Liechtenstein and Norway.
    This particular free trade agreement is one that has broad support. The Liberal Party supports this particular bill. There are some concerns in a few sectors, including shipbuilding, but I think we have worked together quite well to put forth some solutions that would enable our shipbuilders in Canada to find some recourse because the phase-out of tariffs will be over quite a prolonged period of time.
    We want to ensure that in Canada we capitalize on our areas of expertise, and one of those is, quite frankly, in the shipbuilding area. On the east coast and west coast of Canada and in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, we have outstanding individuals, fine craftsmen and craftswomen, who work in the shipbuilding industry and provide exceptional products.
    Some of those have been built for our Canadian Forces. When Liberals were in government, we commissioned a number of projects, including the Orca class of boats that have been built in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca by the shipbuilders there. Quite frankly, the product they have is superb.
    My hope is that the government will work with our private sector to ensure that our capabilities will be exported and that those capabilities will find markets in other countries. It would certainly be a fine testament to the exceptional workers that we have in our country, in both eastern and western Canada, who have that ability.
    There is one area in shipbuilding in particular that the government may wish to pick up on. We have a tariff on importing ships. A company in Canada that wishes to import a large vessel would pay an import duty. That duty goes into general revenue.
    The government would be wise to consider, rather than putting those import duties into general revenue, to put them into a fund that would have to be matched by the private sector, which would double the size of the fund, so that those moneys could be directed toward infrastructure for the shipbuilding industry. The funds spent by the companies could then be recirculated within the shipbuilding industry. The private sector would then know that its import tariffs were going back into the shipbuilding industry.
    Third, it would also increase the bang for the buck because the government would be putting those moneys in to match. The matching funds would share the responsibility between the private sector and the government, so there would be dual responsibility and a dual opportunity for both the private sector and the government to enable the private sector to compete with other shipbuilders, particularly those in northern Europe, who quite frankly have done a pretty good job of developing a fine product and are competing internationally.
    However, those countries subsidize their domestic shipbuilding capabilities, and while they do it in certain ways, it is important that our shipbuilders not be under the gun or behind the eight-ball when they are competing with other shipbuilding companies in other parts of the world.
    The scope of the bill is very interesting. As I said before, the EFTA countries are the world's fourteenth largest merchandising traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination.

  (1610)  

    The two way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade is, in total, $12.6 billion. Our exports to the EFTA were $5.1 billion last year and our imports were $7.4 billion. Our exports included areas such as the aerospace products industry and I want to take a moment to talk about the MacDonald-Detweiler issue when the government, I think wisely, made the decision to prevent that sale from occurring.
    There is a challenge, though. While the MDA sale was quite rightly blocked because Canada and Canadian taxpayers had put more than $500 million into enabling MDA to be a world leader in the aerospace industry and paid for satellites that are some of the best in terms of earth monitoring capabilities, there is another side to this. There are over 1,200 scientists at MDA and unless they have products to sell and be competitive internationally, we will lose those scientists.
    It took some 20 years to bring those scientists to Canada and to build and create the capabilities. It is of the utmost urgency that the Minister of Industry work with and listen to MDA to find ways to ensure that those scientific capabilities stay within Canada. If we do not, the very real danger is that we will lose that world class capability we have within MDA with the pool of 1,200 scientists to other parts of the world. In particular, we will lose them south of the border to the United States.
    This is not something we can wait on for a long period of time. This is something that has to be done quite quickly. I would again urge the Minister of Industry or industry officials to meet with MDA officials to determine what we can do to ensure we do not have this loss of very highly skilled, extraordinary individuals.
    The other issue I want to talk about is international trade, as this is a trade issue, dealing with the WTO and the Doha round of talks. This is very appropriate given the fact that we have a world food crisis on our hands. It has caused governments to collapse and food riots, and it particularly affects those citizens of our planet who are the poorest and most impoverished in the world. One billion people live on less than $1 a day and 1.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Two and a half billion people on our planet live on less than $2 a day.
    What happens if our foodstuffs increase 140% in a matter of less than a few months? That is what happened with rice. This year, rice prices have increased 141%. Wheat, sorghum, corn, the staples of life, have increased significantly over the last two years. Some have even increased 25% in a day.
    Most of us in our country have been somewhat insulated from the effects of that for various reasons, but for the poorest people in the world, that is not the case. People living on less than $2 a day have a choice between food and sending their children to school, food and having a roof over their heads, or food and health care. Those are the stark choices people would have if they lived in those countries in the world, more than 58, where there is endemic poverty.
    The food crisis has not hit us yet in terms of prices but it will. When it hits, it is those Canadians who are least able to afford it who are going to be hurt, people who are single parents with very little money, people making minimum wage or a bit above it, and seniors on fixed incomes who live hand to mouth. The implications of this are quite significant.
    What if people have to make choices within food groups? That is how it happens. As prices increase dramatically, people actually have to jettison vital food groups that are important not only for the health of adults but are critical for the development of children.
    We know that the deprivation of micronutrients and malnutrition on a developing child is catastrophic. If children are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished, the developing brain in particular is affected. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies create long term cognitive, intellectual and physical disabilities that are permanent.

  (1615)  

    Children would grow up to be adults who are less than what they could be. The downstream effects of this are what? The downstream effects are that children who are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished have long term physical, cognitive and intellectual disabilities that affect them when they are adults.
    When they are trying to be employed; go to school; acquire training; live and work; act, behave and interact; all of those are negatively impeded by virtue of the fact of what happened when those individuals were children. Early deprivation has long term, profound implications not only for the individual but for society as a whole. The tragedy of it is that it is entirely preventable.
    When we know that, it behooves us to start to tackle this issue in a pragmatic way. Let us talk about some of the antecedents as to why the food crisis is taking place. Demand, to be sure, is going up in countries such as India and China, pushing prices up.
    Second, there is the issue of higher energy costs. Energy is required to produce fertilizers. Seeds are becoming more expensive. Availability is down. Biofuel, the conversion of foodstuffs such as corn into ethanol, which is put in our gas tanks, is also a driver to move prices up.
    The last and the most pernicious area is the area of trade barriers. There is something we could do that would dramatically ameliorate the effects of food prices and that is the tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade that are dramatically impeding our ability to be able to produce the food that we require.
    Imagine that the Doha round and WTO has ground to a halt. It started in 2001, I believe, and it has been sitting there moribund or endlessly going around in one big circle. The countries that are most responsible for this are those that are the richest. The countries that pay the price are those that are the poorest.
    Imagine that. We have a world food crisis where some of the poorest people in the world are unable to put food on the table and we, as developed countries that are the richest countries in the world, are actually doing things to prevent people who need food, who live on less than $2 a day to feed their children and themselves.
    Why has the government not demanded an emergency series of debates at the WTO to move the Doha round forward and to implement the Doha round of agreements? This is something that our new Conservative government has fallen flat on, among many other things on the international stage. Why has the government not done this, instead of sitting back? Why has the government not taken a leadership role to address this international challenge?
    Canada can do this. We can take a role in mobilizing the more than 27 agencies such as the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, WFP, and WTO. All of those organizations, 27 in total, are tasked with a responsibility to deal with food issues.
    Canada can make a profound impact at the WTO. Canada needs to get our diplomats behind this. There has to be a sense of urgency that has to come from the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister has to tell our highly competent diplomats to move this forward and get the job done. They have to get the Doha round of agreements completed and mobilize this with our international colleagues.
    On the development stage, we have heard very little. In fact, we have heard nothing on this. Moneys were given. A good thing the government did was to not tie the aid and I compliment it for that.
    The amount of money given by the government was $50 million more than last year, but prices have increased by 40% plus for the demands that the World Food Programme is trying to meet.
    We have an increased demand but we also have increased costs. As a result, the amount of money that we are actually putting forward on this is not even able to keep up with the increases in prices. This is something that is unconscionable.

  (1620)  

    What else can happen? As I said before, some 500 million small landholders live on less than a hectare. About a tonne of foodstuffs, grain and basic products can be derived from a hectare. We know what we could do. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University has made some very eloquent interventions. We could double or even triple the output from these small landholders, who are some of the poorest people in the world.
    Imagine if Canada were to tap into some of the extraordinary research available in the International Development Research Centre and other areas in Canada to deal with the issues of better seed quality, better access to fertilizer and markets and better agricultural practices, water security and irrigation techniques. That combination could be used quite significantly to triple the output of foodstuffs from small landholders. What a remarkable thing we could do if Canada were to take up that leadership role.
    I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to two areas of excellence within CIDA. One is the micronutrient initiative in which Canada plays a leadership role. I urge the government to work with the Minister of International Cooperation and other partners to support this initiative because micronutrient deficiencies have a profound impact on developing children.
    CIDA has discovered high protein, high caloric, high energy bars. The government could work in this area as well because these bars would be effective during a food crisis.
    I also want to talk about food security and, in particular, the fisheries issue.
    A good chunk of the world relies on fish for food because it is an important source of protein. Ninety per cent of world fish species have been removed from the oceans, particularly large fish species like tuna and shark. This is a catastrophe. Our oceans are dying. Dr. Sylvia Earle from Woods Hole in Massachusetts has done an excellent job of articulating this. She calls it the dying oceans. Why is the government not dealing with this catastrophe?
    I will give the House an example. As draggers fish, they destroy the beds upon which fish reproduce. Draggers are horrible, destructive elements in fishing and they are creating an environmental catastrophe. If Canada were to work with our partners to ban dragging, that would go some way toward addressing the problem of our dying oceans. The reason I mention this is because this is part of international trade agreements and trade negotiations.
    We have heard nothing from the government on all these issues. We have given the government a number of constructive solutions on which it could act. It could act on the food crisis. It could act through international development and trade. The government could ensure that Canadians are not going to be affected by the storms that are wafting over the world right now. So far we have been somewhat protected, but that is not going to exist much longer.
    These are big international issues that demand international action. Our country can act with authority and knowledge. I implore the government to demonstrate some leadership and do this for our citizens and for the world.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member has spoken to the European Free Trade Association agreement with Canada. As he is well aware, it is an agreement between the Government of Canada and EFTA, which is a bloc of four countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to implement a bilateral trade agreement between us and those four countries. It is a bloc of countries that is made up of about 12 million citizens. It is a good trade deal because it is a free trade deal with countries that have similar or even higher labour and environmental standards as compared to Canada's. It is a step in the right direction.
     I note that this is in Europe. The big trading bloc in Europe is the European Union, an area of about 27 countries and close to 500 million citizens.
    What does the member think the Government of Canada needs to do in order to conduct a trade agreement with the European Union? The real future opportunity for Canadian trade, for Canadian business and for Canadian society is under a free trade agreement with the wider European Union, as I mentioned before, a trading bloc. It is one of the largest trading blocs in the world, made up of close to half a billion citizens and 27 member states. What does the member think we need to do as a country, as a government, to move that sort of trade deal along now that we have the first building block of a free trade agreement with the EFTA?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has hit on a very intriguing challenge for the reasons he has mentioned, in terms of the size of the existing population. He also knows there are enormous barriers within that bloc, particularly in terms of the trade subsidies, the tariff and non-tariff barriers, that exist within the European Union and between the European Union and us.
     I submit that there are two channels we could take.
     One is to pursue it through negotiations, but be very certain that our domestic producers will not be harmed. Critical to that and incumbent upon the European Union is to remove the tariff and non-tariff barriers that so far have created tremendous price distorting issues, not only in the agricultural sector but also the non-agricultural merchandise sector too.
    The second channel is we move to the WTO. The member knows I have a particular passion, and I know he does too, in dealing with the Doha round of talks. It is unfathomable I think to most of us to see the intransigence on the part of the Europeans in trying to move forward with something that will help the most impoverished in our world. The failure to complete the Doha round is self-defeating. In the absence of moving through Doha and in the absence of completing these talks, we affect negatively the very security that we are trying to deal with not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world. The failure to complete Doha creates insecurity in some of the most impoverished parts of the world, which ultimately will come to address us in terms of insecurity.
    I will close by one point. Maybe the area in which we can attract our European friend on this is the issue of immigration to Europe from other parts of the world that are quite poor and the effect that has in its own countries. They are deeply concerned by the immigration issue. If they were able to go and complete Doha, then a lot of the people who would go to their countries, seeking simply a better and more secure life, as any of us would do, would not happen.
    Therefore, the carrot for the European countries would be diminished immigration. A lot of the immigration challenges and racial issues within Europe would be defused. They would also be providing security in areas that have been a source of terrorist activity and insecurity for Europe.

  (1630)  

    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): Accordingly the division on the motion stands deferred until the end of government orders today.
    It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Don Valley East, Federal-provincial Relations; the hon. member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton, Citizenship and Immigration; the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, World Food Crisis.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act

Hon. Peter MacKay (for the Minister of Natural Resources)  
     moved that Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, it is good to get up on Bill C-5, because it is such a good bill. I think that all members are going to be interested in it. I would encourage all of them, as I said, to support it.
    I want to mention that the Standing Committee on Natural Resources did a great job in dealing with this bill. There was a very positive study of the bill by the committee and the bill was reported back to this House without amendment. We certainly appreciate the work the members of the committee put into their study of Bill C-5.
    Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. We have a robust technology, we have a well-trained workforce, and we have stringent regulatory requirements.
    There are two pieces of legislation that provide a solid framework for regulating the industry in Canada. Those are the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.
    Responsibility for providing an insurance framework, that is, a framework to protect Canadians and to provide stability in this important industry, falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has the duty to assume its responsibilities in this area, and through this bill it is doing just that.
    Canada, like virtually all other nuclear countries, addresses this responsibility with the enactment of special legislation. In Canada, we have put in place the Nuclear Liability Act. That act was passed years ago. Bill C-5 modernizes the Nuclear Liability Act. It does so by doing a number of different things. It brings the compensation levels into line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It expands the categories of compensable damage. It improves the compensation procedures and the way people make claims. It increases the financial liability of nuclear operators.
    Up to date rules are needed to provide certainty regarding insurance and legal liability for suppliers, operators and the general public. Without this certainty, Canada would not be able to attract leading international firms and suppliers of technology in the nuclear industry. Of course, it could be argued that Canada's current legislation more or less accomplishes these objectives. Therefore, the question needs to be asked, why do we need new legislation when we already have a serviceable act in place? The simple answer is, as I mentioned, that the current act is outdated.
    The Nuclear Liability Act was passed in 1970. In terms of today's nuclear technology, that is the middle ages. Several lifetimes of nuclear and related technologies have come and gone since then. In short, Canada's existing Nuclear Liability Act reflects the technology, the science and the thinking of an earlier period.
    In the interim, it is not only the technology of nuclear energy that has advanced considerably, but the evolution of jurisprudence has contributed to substantial increases in potential liability. Therefore, the government has made the decision, and Canadians are supporting it, that our legislation must be upgraded.
    There are, of course, certain fundamental principles of the 1970 act that must be retained. These include absolute liability, exclusive liability and mandatory insurance. I would like to take a couple of minutes to explain what those terms mean, because I know everyone in the House is very interested in them and fascinated by them.
    Absolute liability means that the operator of a nuclear facility will be held liable for compensating victims in the rare case of a nuclear incident. This means that victims would not have to negotiate with a highly complex industry in order to determine who is at fault. There would be no question of where to take a claim for compensation.
    A second and related principle, exclusive liability, means that no other party other than the operator, for example, no supplier or subcontractor, would be held liable. This removes the risk that would deter secondary enterprises from becoming involved in nuclear projects.
    To modernize our liability scheme, we must have legislation that goes farther, although retaining certain fundamental principles. That is what Bill C-5 does.
    The proposed legislation increases the limit of liability for nuclear operators. The current liability act sets the maximum at $75 million. That amount was substantial when it was set, but now stands as one of the lowest limits among the G-8 group of nations.
    The proposed legislation reflects the conditions of today by raising that limit to $650 million. This balances the need for operators to provide adequate compensation without burdening them with huge costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, or impossible insurance amounts, for events that are highly unlikely to occur in this country. Moreover, this increase puts Canada on a par with most western nuclear countries.

  (1635)  

    Bill C-5 also increases the mandatory insurance that operators must carry by almost ninefold. It permits operators to cover half of their liability with forms of financial security other than insurance. This has been an important provision for the industry. These could, for example, be things like letters of credit, self-insurance, and provincial, or in the case of Atomic Energy of Canada, federal guarantees. All operators would be required to conform to strict guidelines in this area.
    Bill C-5 makes Canada's legislation consistent with international conventions. It does so not only with respect to financial matters, but it also does so with clearer definitions of nuclear damage reflecting today's legal and international nuclear civil liability conventions. These definitions include crucial matters as to what constitutes a nuclear accident, what damages do or do not qualify for compensation, and so on.
    These enhancements will place Canadian nuclear firms on a level playing field with competitors in other countries.
    Bill C-5 also makes changes to the time period for making claims. Under the act that was passed in 1970, claims had to be brought forward within 10 years of the incident. However, the proposed legislation raises the time limit on compensation for claims to 30 years. Both the earlier Nuclear Liability Act and Bill C-5 provide for an administrative process that will operate faster than the courts in the adjudication. However, the proposed legislation clarifies what the arrangements for the quasi-judicial tribunal must be in order to hear those claims. This new process will ensure that claims are handled both equitably and efficiently.
    There has been a lot of debate about some of these proposed measures. For example, there has been discussion about how and why the government arrived at the $650 million amount. Questions have been raised as to other international practices and what goes on in other countries. We believe the $650 million liability limit will adequately address any foreseeable incident in a Canadian nuclear power plant.
    Although the U.S. operator liability is cited as $10 billion Canadian, in practice, individual U.S. operators effectively carry $300 million Canadian in primary insurance coverage. A few countries, namely Germany, Switzerland and Japan, do incorporate unlimited liability to the operator under the provisions of their nuclear civil liability legislation. However, in practice, that liability is always limited to the amount of coverage provided by existing insurance plus the net worth of the operator that is liable.
    Questions have been raised as to how the $650 million liability limit will stay modern. It is important to note that the $650 million limit set out in Bill C-5 can be increased by regulation, and that limit needs to be reviewed at least every five years. This review will examine changes in the consumer price index and international trends, but will have the flexibility to take into consideration any other criteria that is deemed appropriate.
    We have made the argument, and Canadians have accepted it, that this is a proper limit in order to ensure that we have the nuclear liability amounts that we need.
    The challenge for the government in developing this legislation was how to be fair to all stakeholders and to strike an effective balance in the public interest. In developing Bill C-5, we consulted with nuclear operators, suppliers, insurers, the provinces with nuclear installations, as well as the public. They generally support the changes that I have described.
    I know that some nuclear operators may be concerned about cost implications for higher insurance premiums, but they also recognize that the current levels have been outdated. Suppliers welcome the changes as they provide more certainty for the industry. Nuclear insurers appreciate the clarity provided in the new legislation and the resolution of some long-standing issues.
    Provinces with nuclear facilities have been supportive of the proposed revisions to the current legislation. Municipalities that host nuclear facilities have been advocating revisions to the Nuclear Liability Act for some time. They are supportive of the increased levels of operator liability and improved approaches to victim compensation.
    In short, Bill C-5 was not developed in isolation. The evolution of policy was guided by consultations with key stakeholders and by experiences gained in other countries. The reality is that we have general support of the industry at large for Bill C-5. I would urge the members of the House to join in that consensus.
    To conclude, Bill C-5 establishes the compensation and civil liability regime to address damages resulting from radiation in the unlikely event of a radioactive release from a Canadian nuclear installation. It ensures that a proper compensation program is in place and channels civil liability to operators.

  (1640)  

    The introduction of Bill C-5 adds to this government's track record of making responsible decisions on the safe, long term future of nuclear power in Canada. It adds to the government's record of promoting a safer, more secure and cleaner world through the responsible development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, based on the debacle of what occurred last year with respect to the current Minister of Natural Resources and what took place at Atomic Energy, I want to ask a simple question. What assurances can the member give Canadians that there is an open and transparent process by which Canadians can be confident that the oversight mechanism at Atomic Energy is actually competent and transparent, and that Canadians will be aware of the process and the findings of what occurs when we are examining our atomic energy facilities?
    While the chances of something happening are small, if something did happen, it would be catastrophic. Canadians have a right to know what safeguards the government is putting into place to make sure those catastrophes will not happen.
    Mr. Speaker, I need to point out that the Canadian technology being used is extremely safe and the likelihood of any sort of a nuclear incident is very, very small. I think we will hear that from other members who will speak to this bill, who were at committee and understand that issue.
    I should explain the oversight mechanism as it is at present. Clearly, AECL has been the provider of the nuclear technology in this country for a number of years. We have initiated a review of AECL to determine what its role should be in the future. Apart from that, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission provides the oversight of the safety of nuclear installations in this country. We have confidence that the commission can do that and it has been tasked with that job.
    Overall, the Canadian nuclear industry is healthy. It is a safe industry and we look forward to the future.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question about the liability the Government of Canada may have with respect to its involvement in the nuclear industry. I am not sure if the member can answer the question, but I will ask it anyway. There are two incidents that I will point out on which I think we have had liabilities or currently have liabilities.
    I wonder to what extent this piece of legislation restricts the federal government's liability with respect to the nuclear industry. In the summer of 2005, the government of the day transferred $2.3 billion from the Government of Canada to its crown corporation, AECL, in order to recapitalize the corporation with respect to its liabilities for waste management.
    Another liability that comes to mind is the liability associated with the medical isotope reactors that were to be built at Chalk River. That project was recently cancelled. My understanding is that the Government of Canada is partly responsible for the cost overruns and liabilities associated with that.
    Could the member indicate whether or not this piece of legislation in front of us limits the Government of Canada's liabilities, either with respect to these sorts of incidents or in any other way?
    Mr. Speaker, there are a number of areas there which I could talk about for some time. I will try to make it short so other people have an opportunity to ask questions.
    Clearly, in the development of the bill and the changes to the Nuclear Liability Act, there was an examination of what would happen in the unlikely event there was any sort of an incident in this country. There was a study of what level of compensation needed to be put in place in order to deal with whatever situation might arise. The former amount was $75 million. It was felt that $650 million was a good requirement in order to cover any incident that may occur in this country. That is why that number was picked. It is a practical number which, after studies, debate and discussion about what liability would exist, it was felt would cover more than adequately any event that would take place in this country.

  (1650)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary’s remarks. We are now at third reading and he knows that the Bloc Québécois will support the bill.
     My question is closely related to Bill C-5. Today, in La Presse, we see a front page article by François Cardinal with the headline, “Nuclear: Safety is less than maximum” due to a lack of resources.
     Today we are discussing a bill that offers guarantees, that assigns responsibilities to operators and that provides for compensation to people who suffer the consequences of a nuclear accident.
     Can my colleague tell me whether, in his opinion, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has all the necessary means and all the human and financial resources to properly play its role of monitoring and ensuring the safety of all the nuclear installations under its responsibility?
     After reading the article published this morning, we have doubts about that. Since we are discussing responsibilities related to nuclear energy, I hope the parliamentary secretary will take this opportunity to reassure us by telling us that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has all the human and financial resources it needs to carry out its entire mandate.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that Bill C-5 deals with a number of these issues in terms of providing the environment we need to ensure the nuclear environment in this country is safe.
    The bill would bring compensation into line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It would expand the categories of things that are compensatory. It would improve the compensation procedures. It puts in a number of procedures that would make it much easier for people to make claims in the event of an incident. It would increase the financial liability of financial operators. On that side, Bill C-5 would put a very strong framework in place for Canadians.
    On the other side, in terms of AECL, this government has provided extra resources to AECL. We have also undertaken a review of AECL and its role in Canada. As was mentioned by my colleague earlier, we have provided extra resources for cleanups and those kinds of things.
    The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been given the resources that it needs to do its job, which is to supervise the safety of our nuclear installations in Canada. We believe it now has adequate resources to do that job.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to my original question for the hon. member because he did not answer it. It is a very fundamental question for most Canadians because most Canadians want to know if the nuclear industry is safe.
    The member is right when he says that it has been safe in our country but that does not mean that it will always be safe. Let us look at the situation in Chernobyl in Ukraine. If we had asked representatives of the Russian nuclear energy agency at the time whether Chernobyl was safe, they would have said that there was never going to be a problem. Therefore, saying something is safe does not mean that it will be safe.
    My question for the member is a very fundamental one, a non-political one and one which I hope he answers. What assurances can he give Canadians that the mechanism of observing and ensuring that the atomic energy industry in Canada and our atomic energy facilities are safe? What can he tell us about the process the government has implemented to ensure those safety mechanisms are transparent, open and available to the public?
    Mr. Speaker, those structures, for the most part, are already in place. The public has access. It is an open process in terms of understanding what is going on.
    As I have mentioned a couple of times, the CNSC has been given the responsibility for overseeing the safety of nuclear installations in Canada. It has clear guidelines and directions as to what needs to happen in these facilities. I think we saw some of that previously this year in terms of the things that it demands from the installations themselves.
    I do not think it is fair for the member to even consider that we can compare with Chernobyl because our technology is completely different. We have decades of safety and safe operation behind us. It is not the same technology at all. For him to be even comparing the two is not realistic.
    AECL is developing new technologies and, obviously, the technologies are becoming safer as the procedures are becoming more demanding. We are willing to work with that.

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River.
    As this is the first round of speaking, I will need to ask the House if there is unanimous consent to allow the member for Mississauga—Erindale to split his time. Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the bill again. Bill C-5, the nuclear liability bill, is an important bill. It is a culmination of years of examination and review of the old bill and is a concise overhaul of the old bill.
    I want to take this opportunity to echo what the parliamentary secretary said earlier. I want to thank members of the natural resources committee for their diligent work in reviewing the bill, for listening to various stakeholders and for offering constructive discussion throughout our hearings. I also want to thank the officials at Natural Resources Canada for their diligent work and for offering an insightful presentation of the bill.
    This is an administrative bill that overhauls the 1970 act . It offers new and tighter definitions, clearer objectives, a new liability limit and defines financial security. It also proposes a new tribunal for claims.
    We heard throughout our study that Bill C-5 was very much needed for the industry and for Canadians. Nuclear suppliers, host communities, independent professors and stakeholders offered our committee very comprehensive thoughts on the bill.
    While there were many legitimate questions about what the limit should be, what type of financial security there should be and how the tribunal should be structured, the overall consensus was that the bill was needed. Host communities, industry and many Canadians are waiting for it. We will be supporting the bill as presented to the House.
    However, I cannot miss the opportunity to speak about the nuclear energy situation in our country.
    Earlier this year we witnessed a lot of issues with respect to Atomic Energy and the government's management of AECL. We had a national health crisis when the NRU reactor at Chalk River was shut down because of a licensing issue. As a result, we had a severe shortage of nuclear isotopes. Many Canadians, in fact many citizens around the world who depend on the supply of isotopes, were left scrambling for alternative medicine. Some people had their appointments or examinations delayed. I remember the minister at the time saying that many lives were at stake, and I agreed with his comments. Many lives were at stake.
    That problem resulted from the Conservative government's mismanagement of the situation. The fiasco was blamed on the Canadian nuclear safety regulator who was doing her job. The government accused her of partisanship. It claimed to consult independent experts, who, by the way, happened to either be a Conservative or a former AECL employee. Rather than address the root cause of the problem, which was the shortage of isotopes, the government placed the blame exclusively on someone else and, in fact, ended up firing her without any justification.
    It is important to raise this issue today because we were just reminded of this a week ago when the government again showed its incompetence by announcing that it would stop the MAPLE reactors, which were supposed to replace the old NRU reactor that produces isotopes, without providing Canadians with a plan on how the supply of isotopes will be supplemented.

  (1700)  

    In December of last year, Canadians witnessed what could happen if the NRU reactor were to go out of production: severe shortages that could potentially cost Canadian lives.
    The minister, after hiding for a month and getting training from a media consultant, told Canadians that he had to fire the nuclear regulator because Canadian lives were at stake. Now he has the gall to say that the government will end the project of replacing the NRU reactor and that we should not worry about it because everything is under control. By the way, we do have a 30 year contract to supply isotopes but we will keep the 50-year-old reactor to produce those isotopes.
    Any reasonable observer can be forgiven for not trusting the government's word on having any sense of reliability or competent management of the situation. If the government had presented a plan at the time of its announcement of shutting down the MAPLE project, it would have been excused for its decision. However, the fact that it has announced that it will no longer pursue the MAPLE reactor but has offered no real plan to supplement the production of isotopes, leaves those questions in the minds of many Canadians.
    I would not be doing my job here today if I did not ask those questions and raise those points. My Conservative colleagues cannot disagree with me. At the time, supposedly they justified the firing because lives were at stake. Now they cannot claim that there is no risk involved here.
    There is another issue here. The Conservatives are secretly considering the privatization of AECL but they are not sharing their plans with Canadians. They are not telling us what they are working on. Instead, they want to do the write-off of the MAPLE reactors on the backs of taxpayers so that if they want to privatize it, taxpayers will pay for that write-off.
    It is important that the government, the Minister of Natural Resources and his parliamentary secretary tell us here today what their plans are for AECL. It is not just important for me. It is important for Canadians. It is important for the Ontario government, which is looking to hire AECL to build a nuclear reactor, but right now the Ontario government is skeptical about the future of AECL because the federal government has said nothing about it. There are jobs at stake and talent at risk. We need to know what the Conservative government plans to do with AECL.
    I do not think anybody can attack me for asking these questions. This is my job. This is what Canadians are asking for and the Conservatives are failing Canadians. They are not explaining what they are doing. They are not assuring us that they are worried about nuclear safety. They are not telling us that they concerned about the supply of isotopes. In fact, they are not even telling us what their plan is for the future of nuclear energy.
    We know that nuclear energy has a bright future, not just in Canada but around the world. We know that AECL has a wealth of talent, people with high degrees of experience and education that have been inventing and creating products unparalleled around the world and they deserve an honest answer from the government. They need to know what the future holds for them. They need to know what the government plans to do. The Conservatives need to do it transparently, apolitically and publicly. They cannot do it in secret.
    I want to take this opportunity here today to urge the government to consult publicly and share with us its plans for AECL. Again, future projects depend on it, jobs depend on it and our nuclear energy future depends on it.

  (1705)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to respond. It is good that the member used his time to ask us questions, but I do want to talk about AECL because we have been, as he said, transparent. We have been apolitical and we have been very public about what we are doing. I think he knows that. I think he is perhaps just trying to confuse people a bit.
    Clearly, in budget 2008 we recognized that nuclear energy and specifically the Candu technology is an important component of the programs that we are developing internationally and domestically. The minister has been more than clear about the fact that he is committed to restoring prudent management of the nuclear energy file after years of neglect by the previous government. Everyone knows that.
    He announced a full review of AECL last fall as part of that changeover to responsible management of the crown corporation. The review of AECL is ongoing and all options are on the table. No decision has been made on that yet. I think everyone is aware of that as well. His department is working closely with the other departments, the Department of Finance and with the full collaboration of AECL.
    I should point out that everyone who has been following this file also understands that National Bank Financial has been hired as financial adviser to the government and is currently preparing its first report on the financial position of AECL. Therefore, there is a review ongoing. There has been a financial report that has been developed about AECL. Management has been updated. In the coming months the government is going to have the results of those reviews and will gladly release them. The member knows these things, but the Canadian public needs to understand that he has been well aware of them as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I must have touched a nerve with this member, but rightly so. He did not answer any of the questions. We know that the government fired the nuclear safety regulator but to this day we still do not know why. It has not been able to provide any reasonable justification for that decision.
    We know that the government suspended the MAPLE project, but it did not tell us how it is going to secure the supply of isotopes for the next 30 years. We know that the National Bank Financial report is done because the minister told us that in committee, but the government has not shared that with Canadians. We know that the government is planning on some form of privatization, but it is not telling Canadians.
    This hon. member, especially given the performance of the minister last December, needs to understand that we will continue to ask these questions. We have every right to doubt the government's ability, skill and competence in managing that file because it has proven that it is incompetent and incapable of managing nuclear safety.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Erindale on his remarks. I share his concerns about nuclear safety.
     Today, we are discussing a bill on nuclear responsibility and, in my view, nuclear responsibility cannot be isolated and treated separately from safety. I am concerned, and I share his fears, as do many Quebeckers when we know that the reactor that produces isotopes at the Chalk River laboratory is now 50 years old and that we were counting on MAPLE reactors to produce a new generation.
     The initial requirement for the MAPLE reactor project was $140 million. We still do not know how much Quebec and Canadian taxpayers have invested in this project, nor what results it produced because the project was cancelled
     Now that the project has been cancelled, after swallowing millions of dollars, what steps will be taken to protect and produce medical isotopes?
     Would the member tell us more about the concerns that his fellow citizens have been sharing with him on this subject?

  (1710)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for her question and also thank her for the excellent work that she does at committee.
    This is a question that I have been focusing on and I would like to focus on more. Let us for the sake of argument assume that it was the right decision to suspend or cancel the MAPLE project. Let us for the sake of argument say that it was the right decision. However, what is of concern is that the government did not take the time to devise a plan B, to tell us how it is going to maintain the supply of isotopes for the next 30 years.
    AECL has a contract for the next 30 years to supply isotopes. If the government plans to get out of that business, it should be honest and tell Canadians so they know not to expect isotopes from AECL. However, it is not telling us. All it is doing is cancelling the project.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Erindale. As a member of the committee and as the lead on this issue, his work has been quite stellar and inspirational to all members from all parties in terms of the depth of his knowledge and his ability to get to the point, and make those points objectively and incisively.
     I was also very proud to be a member of the natural resources committee. When we worked through this process, it actually was quite positive. I believe our common goal to protect Canadians and enhance protection on this issue was really foremost in our minds and indeed the world. There is no doubt that when legislation is proposed on nuclear viability, many people are watching to see what our nation is going to do and how effective it will be. When there is a chance to make better legislation, we always hope that it is.
    What happened during the course of this debate is probably quite strange to many of us because it seems that the government has been reluctant to provide the confidence needed to satisfy Canadians that our reactors are completely safe. I am hoping the reactor isotope scandal has not forced the government to cocoon or muzzle its members.
     When the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca asked if the Canadian public can have the confidence that there is public safety oversight, so that plain and simply we know that our reactors are safe, I believe the response from the government should have been unequivocal, prompt and clear. I certainly believe that the mechanisms, structures and processes for safety are in place, and that the Canadian nuclear industry provides the highest standard of safety. Indeed, it is a selling point for us internationally.
    I am hoping, as the viewing public watches this debate, that the isotope shortage scandal does not confuse the public in terms of the goals and objectives of this bill. Clearly, the industry needs and wants this. We went through a very long and comprehensive list of witnesses, scientific groups, citizen representatives, environmental organizations, people who understand the industry from many components, and communities which are affected directly. When we make legislation such as this, we want to make sure that people are consulted.
     Indeed, on the question of the adequacy of limits, as someone who has a background in commercial insurance, it is always an interesting question about how much insurance could one really have. From a sales standpoint, many people would think that we are always encouraging people to buy more just for its own sake, but eventually we have to get to a point where we can set a limit and feel confident that in the very remotest possibility of an accident that the compensation level would be adequate and that people would be in the situation they were before the accident.
    It was a fascinating debate when other components were added: offshore, water transportation, airborne contaminants, and transportation disruptions. My impression from those witnesses observing the legislation, as they compared our proposed legislation to other countries, was that this bill would come out very good compared to much of the rest of the planet where others have actually gone to the stage of providing such liability. After all the intensive questioning it seemed that as we tried to address this, it was to a large extent overshadowed by the isotope shortage issue.

  (1715)  

    We on the committee realized that it could have been averted. With proper planning and arrangements internationally with other countries, there would not have been the need for a knee-jerk reaction, which of course disturbs the entire country and everyone feels it was the industry that was at fault as opposed to the government. Was it handled incompetently? It is now pretty obvious. The vast majority of Canadians would agree with that.
    Were there people making presentations who had a partisan bias? That of course clouded the issue to some extent. As it continues, we know that the isotope issue has to be addressed in a much more open and consultative process. Here we are close to June. We had the hearings in January and the report to Parliament has been delayed through some other work but also because of an extremely long process for a forestry report.
    Parliament should have had the report on the isotope issue already. Hopefully there will be enough time to address that and table it in Parliament before the summer adjournment. Otherwise, it appears that the committee may be meeting during the humidity days of July. Can we get to that report in common cause for the common good? I truly hope that all members of the committee are on the same wavelength for that. I am speaking in good faith.
    Rainy River, of course, is part of Thunder Bay—Rainy River. For those who may not be aware, my riding is seven and a half hours long over two time zones. Imagine driving to a community such as that over the Victoria Day weekend and hearing an announcement that there is going to be a shutdown of the program. I ask, as many people do who are tuned in to this, why would the government do it on the Victoria Day weekend? What confidence should I get from this? Is this not strange?
    The media reaction, of course, was that it was very shocked. It undermines public faith. When we tell them we are striving to have the highest possible standards for an industry, it certainly gives fuel to critics who may have their own biases about the nuclear industry, so that we actually undermine confidence as opposed to some form of open media or press release at a time when people can respond to it. It is hard to imagine that something would happen at that time of day over that kind of weekend and people would not suspect a hidden agenda.
    When Canadians want to know what lies in the future for the nuclear industry, we should be able to overcome unfair reaction. We should be able to debate the entire future of energy, energy supply, energy demand, and how Canadians will meet their needs in the future.
    Where does nuclear fit in all of this? In my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, there are two coal plants. I want to let people know that we want clean coal as an alternative energy. We want to be part of the program for energy where nuclear fits. This is where this bill helps. Do we need a national plan? I believe we do. It is only fair. Canadians need the reassurance. It is needed internationally for our sales of Candu products and it means that not only Canadians but the entire world has to feel confident in us.

  (1720)  

    Mr. Speaker, since we are on the topic of the nuclear industry, I want to ask my colleague across the aisle about the proposed build-out of new reactors in the province of Ontario.
    A couple of months ago Ontario energy minister Gerry Phillips announced a request for proposal that would go to four firms, two American, one French and one Canadian, the Canadian one being AECL, to build-out the new reactors in Ontario.
    My question to him is this. Does he feel it is essential that those contracts be awarded to AECL to ensure the vitality of the nuclear industry in Ontario or does he feel that they should be awarded to the best bidder? If he feels they should be awarded to AECL, what measures does he feel that the government or the provincial government should take to ensure that happens?
    Mr. Speaker, as someone who was fortunate to have a private member's motion pass for buy Canada content for public transit, my bias to supporting national industries is pretty much a public concern here. I understand that the provincial government has included a 25% buy Canada component but I do not know if it extends to the nuclear industry.
    The question is an interesting one because even here in our nation's capital, its bid for light rail transit had no Canadian content requirements at all. I am not privy to the way the provincial government awarded those things, especially with my bias to clean coal, as I mentioned earlier in my speech, and my hope that the two coal plants would be--
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Brant.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech by the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, as I did the speech of his colleague, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, both of whom contribute magnificently to the natural resources committee, of which I am a member as well.
    I am sure the Speaker will recall that a very professional woman, Linda Keen, had her reputation sullied and damaged. The background, very briefly, is that Ms. Keen had ordered AECL to effect certain repairs, so to speak, or certain measures to the reactor at Chalk River in August 2006. By November 2007, some 15 months later, it became apparent that the reactor had not yet been rectified in the fashion ordered by the regulator. In any event, the day before Ms. Keen was to appear at committee, she was fired.
    I would like to ask the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River if he shares my concern and the concern of the distinguished member for Mississauga—Erindale that the government has not been as forthcoming about its plan--
    I will have to allow the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River a chance to respond.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe the policy of shooting the messenger as opposed to addressing the solution is probably not the right course. It undermines again the confidence in the nuclear industry, in particular, and in government processes in general.
    As a member of the committee, when we see that first-hand, where a thoroughly professional person is meant to carry the burden and has to take the fall when clearly the leadership has to come from the government, it has to be the minister's responsibility.

  (1725)  

[Translation]

    The member for Beauharnois—Salaberry for a very quick question.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that in the last government budget, $100 million was set aside to continue with the development of the ACR reactor. We hope that this $100 million from taxpayers' pockets will finally do the trick because each time a budget is presented we have been told that this is the last time money will be invested in this project.
    Does he truly believe, as a member from Ontario, that Atomic Energy Canada Limited will be able to provide a marketable reactor that will respond to the needs of this province in a timely fashion?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I can only hope that such will happen. If not, there are always the two clean coal plants in Thunder Bay and Atikokan that we could probably use to carry us through.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the debate at third reading of Bill C-5.
    I want to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the committee for their excellent work. Knock wood, all the members in the Standing Committee on Natural Resources work earnestly, professionally and even passionately. We have just concluded a study on forestry during which we discovered the talents, passions and especially the skills of the members of our committee, which enriched our debates.
    Unfortunately, in the debate on Bill C-5, we did not have any specialists in insurance or nuclear liability. We truly had to listen very carefully together to all the witnesses and all the legislative staff who advised us and explained certain things.
    We also heard from mayors. Those were the testimonies that touched me the most. There is an association that consists of the mayors of all cities that have nuclear power plants, who have joined together to be represented. We heard from one mayor who told us she was truly pleased with the bill, but that she was surprised and even disappointed that the bill allowed for just $650 million in compensation.
    Perhaps we should remind those watching us on television that the purpose of Bill C-5 is to modernize an existing law that has been obsolete and neglected for over 30 years. The bill is intended to meet international standards on nuclear liability. This bill explains the responsibility of operators regarding nuclear liability, sets compensation at a maximum of $650 million, and creates a tribunal to hear claims in the event of a nuclear incident.
    After much debate, everyone agrees that $650 million is a clear improvement over the current provisions. With the resurgence of nuclear power, we all agree that $75 million was not enough. Nonetheless, some concerns remain. We are reassured by the fact that the minister or the government will be able, every five years, to increase the amount of compensation.
     It was pure negligence. For 30 years and from government to government, whether Liberal or Conservative, this legislation and the compensation should have been updated but were completely neglected. It was only recently that they started paying attention on the heels of a recommendation from the Environmental Commissioner who told us in his 2005 report that we had a real problem in Canada because our nuclear liability was not up to the international standards and that it was really starting to be problematic. It was certainly a problem for our citizens and communities, as well as our companies and operators.
     We will support Bill C-5 in order to ensure that our communities have better coverage and better tools to defend themselves in case of nuclear incidents.
     We heard some pretty impressive witnesses and got sound advice from all the partners and expert stakeholders. A bill dealing with insurance is necessarily very technical and legalistic and we needed to hear some especially good witnesses.
     The only nuclear power plant in Quebec is located near the town of Gentilly and there was an incident here recently that could have been serious, but fortunately was not. That leads me once again to say that if this incident had actually had repercussions, we would have had to rely on this old legislation providing the citizens of Gentilly with only $75 million in compensation.

  (1730)  

     We must understand that if there had been a very serious incident, there would have been consequences not just for Gentilly but the entire area, the cities and suburbs all around.
     I want to emphasize that we in the Bloc Québécois are not satisfied with the $650 million amount, especially as the bill provides that the amounts will rise from $75 million to $650 million over four years. This will not happen at once and will take four years. To us and our citizens and communities, this may seem a long time, and quite rightly so. The operators also have some fears about the increase in their premiums over such a short time.
     We worked very hard on this bill in committee and discussed the issues using all the procedures that the House provides us to really get a handle on it. We can be proud of what we accomplished. We worked in an atmosphere in which we all focused on the task at hand and the positive effects rather than partisan politics. There is still no doubt, though, that there are problems with the entire nuclear issue in Canada.
    I made a short list of nuclear-related events that occurred in the past year and were of concern not only to the government but to all parliamentarians in this House. You may be surprised by this list.
    First, as you know—and I believe the opposition members pointed it out—the isotope shortage and the mismanagement of this crisis by Atomic Energy Canada caused many problems and raised many questions. Although the government may not have said so outright, by initiating a study on what happened between Atomic Energy Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission it has, in fact, acknowledged that there were serious management and communication problems at play in this crisis.
    What we learn from bad experiences helps us to avoid the next crisis. However, when looking at the chronology, it is surprising to note the extent to which Atomic Energy Canada was disorganized. There are questions to be asked.
    During this crisis, Ms. Keen, the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, was fired. There was also the matter of the current study of Atomic Energy Canada. When he appeared before our committee, the Minister of Natural Resources did not hesitate to say that the partial or full privatization of Atomic Energy Canada is among the solutions and recommendations that will very likely be retained. We had our suspicions. He was quite forthcoming, if I remember correctly, when he last appeared.
    Furthermore, costs always increase by millions of dollars. As members and party critics for a given file, when analyzing the budgets of each department, we talk in terms of millions of dollars. I have been a member of Parliament for two and a half years. What I have seen, every time, is that millions of dollars are added to the nuclear file, for security, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or Atomic Energy Canada.
    This year, we are talking about $300 million: $80 million to make Chalk River safer and $100 million to further develop the ACR-1000 reactor. We can certainly ask questions, because that is a lot of money. Furthermore, they say nuclear energy is clean energy—I do not agree—but very costly energy.
    The Minister of Natural Resources often tells me that nuclear energy is a provincial option. He knows that I am an MP who keeps a close eye on federal and provincial areas of jurisdiction. There we agree. But nuclear safety and waste management are federal responsibilities. For a year, there has been a lot of spending and a lot of studies, but it is not very clear where the government is headed.

  (1735)  

    I am not a strong proponent of nuclear energy, and as a taxpayer, I find it very disturbing to see these millions of dollars going to institutions such as Atomic Energy Canada, even though we do not really know what direction the government wants to take, nor how much money will be needed to achieve the objectives of making Chalk River safer and developing the ACR-1000 reactor. It would be especially important to find out how much we need to invest to upgrade the reactor that produces medical isotopes in Chalk River. As an aside, this reactor is 50 years old and is at the end of its life span. We can modernize it and make all the upgrades we want, but it still has a finite life span.
    What solution and plan does the government propose? We recently learned that the government was terminating the MAPLE reactor project. That in itself is not actually news, since it had already been announced on May 16.
    We know that taxpayers provided an initial investment of $146 million in this project. Apart from that initial amount, no one really knows how much taxpayers have invested since 1996 in the MAPLE reactor research and development project. We do not know how much it all cost, in the end. We do know, however, that the project was abandoned because it was considered a money pit and it was believed that it could never be completed. We learned this officially on May 16, 2008.
    I am personally involved in activities that often bring together major players in nuclear energy. Behind the scenes, everyone knew that MAPLE was doomed to fail and that, clearly, the government failed to realize this fact quickly and in a transparent manner. We are especially concerned about what will replace the reactor that has now reached the end of its existence.
    To top it off, we learned from the front page of today's La Presse that, through access to information, a journalist was able to get a document produced by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. That document reveals that the commission is worried that it does not have sufficient financial and human resources to fulfill its role and ensure the security of Quebeckers and Canadians, in short, to carry out the mission that is its raison d'être.
    This is somewhat surprising, while the current government touts nuclear energy as the solution to environmental problems and greenhouse gas emissions across Canada. In any case, we have a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that admits that it does not have sufficient financial and human resources to carry out its mission and guarantee Quebeckers and Canadians that all operators and facilities comply with and meet international safety standards.
    The document reveals one quite impressive fact, namely, that the commission has had to quadruple its security budget. Indeed, since the events of September 2001, security measures intended to protect the facilities against terrorist attacks—

  (1740)  

    I apologize for interrupting the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, but the House must continue with the items on the order paper.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

     It being 5:40 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-55.
    Call in the members.

  (1805)  

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

(Division No. 116)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Alghabra
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
André
Asselin
Bachand
Bains
Barbot
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Bigras
Blaney
Bonsant
Boshcoff
Boucher
Bourgeois
Breitkreuz
Brown (Oakville)
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cardin
Carrier
Chan
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Crête
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Davidson
Day
DeBellefeuille
Del Mastro
Demers
Deschamps
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Dryden
Duceppe
Dykstra
Easter
Emerson
Epp
Faille
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Freeman
Fry
Gagnon
Galipeau
Gaudet
Godfrey
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Gravel
Grewal
Guarnieri
Guimond
Hall Findlay
Hanger
Harris
Harvey
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Holland
Ignatieff
Jaffer
Jean
Jennings
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Keeper
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laforest
Laframboise
Lake
Lalonde
Lauzon
Lavallée
Lebel
Lee
Lemay
Lessard
Lukiwski
Lussier
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Malo
Maloney
Mark
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Mayes
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Mourani
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Nadeau
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Ouellet
Paquette
Patry
Perron
Petit
Picard
Plamondon
Poilievre
Prentice
Rae
Ratansi
Redman
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Roy
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Sgro
Shipley
Silva
Skelton
Smith
Solberg
Sorenson
St-Cyr
St. Amand
Steckle
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thi Lac
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Turner
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Volpe
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Wilfert
Williams
Wilson
Yelich

Total: -- 200

NAYS

Members

Atamanenko
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Black
Casey
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Davies
Julian
Layton
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
McDonough
Mulcair
Savoie
Siksay
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 21

PAIRED

Members

Blais
Bouchard
Brunelle
Carrie
Guay
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Lemieux
Lévesque
Lunney
Manning
Rajotte
St-Hilaire
Stanton
Vincent

Total: -- 14

    I declare the motion carried. Consequently, this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

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


Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

[English]

Income Tax Act

    The House resumed from May 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-445 under private members' business.

  (1815)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 117)

YEAS

Members

Alghabra
André
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Bains
Barbot
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bellavance
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Bigras
Black
Bonsant
Boshcoff
Bourgeois
Brown (Oakville)
Cardin
Carrier
Casey
Chan
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Coderre
Comartin
Cotler
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dosanjh
Dryden
Duceppe
Easter
Eyking
Faille
Folco
Freeman
Fry
Gagnon
Gaudet
Godfrey
Goodale
Gravel
Guarnieri
Guimond
Hall Findlay
Holland
Hubbard
Ignatieff
Jennings
Julian
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Karygiannis
Keeper
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lee
Lemay
Lessard
Lussier
Malhi
Malo
Maloney
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
McCallum
McDonough
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Minna
Mourani
Mulcair
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Nadeau
Neville
Ouellet
Paquette
Patry
Pearson
Perron
Picard
Plamondon
Proulx
Rae
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Roy
Russell
Savage
Savoie
Scarpaleggia
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
St-Cyr
St. Amand
Steckle
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thi Lac
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thibault (West Nova)
Tonks
Turner
Volpe
Wasylycia-Leis
Wilfert
Wilson
Zed

Total: -- 133

NAYS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Bezan
Blaney
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dykstra
Emerson
Epp
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Goldring
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Hanger
Harris
Harvey
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Jaffer
Jean
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Lukiwski
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mark
Mayes
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Scheer
Schellenberger
Shipley
Skelton
Smith
Solberg
Sorenson
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 98

PAIRED

Members

Blais
Bouchard
Brunelle
Carrie
Guay
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Lemieux
Lévesque
Lunney
Manning
Rajotte
St-Hilaire
Stanton
Vincent

Total: -- 14

    I declare the motion carried. Consequently, this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

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

[English]

    It being 6:18 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private member's business as listed on today's order paper.

[Translation]

Criminal Code

[Private Members' Business]
    The House resumed from April 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today at second reading of Bill C-393, introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville.
    As with all private members' bills, the basic goal is always the same—to improve the laws in order to improve the environments in which our constituents live.
    In this case, we are talking about Bill C-393, which would amend the Criminal Code to increase the punishment and impose a minimum punishment for the commission of an offence with a concealed weapon, be it a knife or a firearm.
    At the same time, the bill would amend the Criminal Code so that only the actual time spent in pre-trial custody is credited toward a term of imprisonment when the judge hands down the sentence. I will come back to this amendment later.
    Finally, the bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so that victims’ interests are taken into account during the conditional release process.
    The bill introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville deserves to be studied further because it contains both positive and negative aspects. I will start by presenting the negative aspects of this bill.
    First, the bill proposes tougher mandatory minimum sentences for offenders. Here again, we see the Conservative Party's mantra: impose mandatory minimum sentences. The Bloc Québécois does not necessarily support that. That way of thinking is harmful in the sense that there are no identical crimes, just as there are no identical offenders or identical circumstances. As such, minimum sentences can often be detrimental.
    This would also have a negative impact on the freedom of the judge who must assess circumstances that differ from case to case. It is important to understand that the context of each crime must be considered in order to hand down an appropriate sentence. Imposing mandatory minimum sentences would needlessly tie judges' hands. When judges sentence an offender to prison, they take into account the offender's degree of responsibility, the seriousness of the offence, and the best way to serve justice while increasing the likelihood of rehabilitation.
    A closer look reveals that section 90 of the Criminal Code already sets out a maximum 10-year sentence for individuals who commit crimes involving concealed weapons, whether knives or guns. A maximum sentence has been established. Of course, the judge is free to consider the circumstances and the individual's record. In some cases, a minimum sentence may not necessarily be appropriate.
    Furthermore, heavier minimum sentences do not necessarily dissuade people from committing crimes. Recently, I was saying that would-be offenders decide against committing crimes because of the likelihood of being caught and charged, not because of the sentence they might receive. Also, it is hard to believe that an individual would read the Criminal Code before committing a crime in order to choose a crime that carries a lighter sentence.
    Once again, prevention is the only proven way to proceed. Quebec is a good example that proves that prevention and rehabilitation produce results: we have a lower crime rate than anywhere else in North America.
     Nonetheless, Bill C-393 includes aspects that merit much more thought in terms of their effects. Incidentally, when we are talking about considering the question of eligibility for parole, the idea that the interests of victims have to be taken into account and forums provided for doing that is not bad in itself. Of course, the principle should be examined together with a number of other factors. Nonetheless, the principle does merit, if not adoption, a thorough examination as part of a more comprehensive study.
     Regarding parole, on June 15 my party made a number of reasonable suggestions about parole to respond to all of the members of the public who would like to have a more balanced system, one that is better suited to the new social reality, that has a real influence on crime, but without the ideological hard line taken by the Conservatives.
     One of our proposals was to eliminate what is now virtually automatic parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence, to remedy some of the bizarre and most often criticized situations, such as sentences for economic crimes, for example, that result in imprisonment for only a few months.

  (1820)  

     Similarly, we proposed that we end the virtually automatic statutory release that occurs after an inmate has served two-thirds of his or her sentence, by instituting a formal assessment of inmates by a professional to determine the overall risk of recidivism that they present for the community.
     These are only a few examples among many where the Bloc Québécois has eloquently demonstrated that it is actively responsive to the needs of Quebeckers in relation to the justice system. And this brings me to the second point in Bill C-393 that deserves consideration.
     The bill proposes that only time “spent in pre-trial custody is credited toward a term of imprisonment”. To be clear on this, section 719 of the Criminal Code provides that before determining sentence, a judge may deduct two days for each day spent in custody before trial from the final sentence imposed on the offender. It therefore creates a double time phenomenon which, in my view, brings the administration of justice into disrepute. It is also very exasperating for the victims and their families, who sometimes see offenders released within a short time after committing their crimes. At the least, days spent in custody before sentence should still count, but as straight time only.
    Thus, Bill C-393 would establish that in all cases, the credit granted would be calculated on the basis of one day of imprisonment for each day spent in pre-trial custody. Furthermore, the credit would not be granted to individuals who are being held by reason of previous convictions or as a result of the review or revocation of an order to release the person.
    This is an interesting proposal and one the Bloc Québécois supports. I remind members that this idea was in our constructive approach to justice matters unveiled last year. The people of Quebec know this: we are not a silent opposition. We, the Bloc Québécois, are pragmatic and can keep things in perspective when it comes to introducing good practices in order to fight crime more effectively and ensuring that the public has confidence in their justice system.
    In conclusion, in light of the arguments I have presented in this House, Bill C-393 in its current form has some positive aspects and some negative ones. However, minimum penalties and their negative effects that have been discussed many times in connection with previous bills are not the solution to help Bill C-393 meet its objectives. Consequently, like my Bloc colleagues, I will not support the bill of the member for Leeds—Grenville.
    Let us be clear. I never once doubted the member's desire to better protect the public. We have all directly or indirectly been witnesses to incidents involving concealed weapons. But as I was saying, there are already provisions in the Criminal Code, and I think we should make more use of them.

  (1825)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer my comments today in support of Bill C-393, introduced by the member for Leeds—Grenville.
    Like him and many members of this House on both sides, I have serious concerns about the way our criminal justice system is functioning. Like other members, dissatisfaction or perception of general dissatisfaction with the justice system in Canada is a sentiment I hear expressed regularly by my constituents of Westlock—St. Paul.
    As we have heard, Bill C-393 contains three general issues.
     The first deals with sentencing for crimes involving carrying deliberately concealed weapons and homicides committed with a knife in defined circumstances.
    The second deals with increasing the discretion of the National Parole Board to provide relevant information to victims and to prevent abuse through offender adjournment of parole hearings.
    The third area, which I wish to address today in greater detail, deals with clarifying the discretion available to sentencing judges in calculating what credit, and indeed what extra credit, should be given to persons who have been denied bail prior to their sentencing. While these are clearly distinct areas of criminal procedure, they have a common feature of dealing with systematic discretion in one fashion or another.
    In the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, the bill clearly is replacing the lower end of the discretionary sentencing range with a minimum sentence. Quite literally, this bill says to sentencing courts that at least a specified custodial sentence must be imposed, and that, of course, is a partial elimination of an existing judicial discretion.
    There are dozens of like provisions throughout the Criminal Code, so its use is nothing new. However, its application to these offences is new. I should add that the choice of mandatory minimum sentences by Parliament has recently been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Ferguson case.
    In the area of enhancing victim rights, Bill C-393 actually increases the discretionary power of justice system officials responsible for decision making at the National Parole Board. This is an important point to make, as rather than issue a blanket entitlement to any and all offender information, Bill C-393 carefully weaves that outcome into defined relevance and discretion through the parole board.
    The third area of the bill deals with what has come to be known as pretrial custody credits. Before analyzing this further, I should point out that this term comes about not as a result of a law passed by Parliament, but instead as a result of the way a discretion bestowed by Parliament has been misused, in my view, by some sentencing judges.
    In this area, Bill C-393 clarifies how that discretion can be used by providing specific disqualifications based, it is important to note, on existing provisions within the Criminal Code.
    Bill C-393 clarifies how a vested sentencing discretion is to be used and how it is not. In assessing the impact of this bill, it is wise to start with the specific section it modifies, namely subsection 719(3) of the Criminal Code, which states:
    In determining the sentence to be imposed on a person convicted of an offence, a court may take into account any time spent in custody by the person as a result of the offence.
    Four things stand out in this wording. The first is that the court “may”, not must, take pretrial custody into account. I am advised that on some seemingly rare occasions judges have refused to give such credit precisely because of past criminality and breach of existing bail orders.
    The second is that the time considered is that spent in custody, not on bail under restrictive conditions but in custody.
    If there were any doubt about that, judges need only look above subsection 719(3) to subsection 719(2), which expressly says that time spent:
--at large on interim release granted pursuant to any provision of this Act does not count as part of any term of imprisonment imposed on the person.
    In other words, what the sentencing judge did in the Moffitt case was contrary to the express provisions of the Criminal Code. Members will be interested to know that this view has been accepted by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
    The third item that stands out is that the section does not specify any mathematical formula such as the two for one or even three for one calculation currently in vogue.
    Fourth, and I think most important, is that the section specifies that the time to be considered is time spent “because of the offence”, not “because of breaching previous bail” or “because of a lengthy record” but “because of the offence”.
    This is consistent with the way our system handles life sentences for persons convicted of murder. Pursuant to section 746 of the Criminal Code, the clock on parole ineligibility starts running from when the person is arrested and held in custody, as used to be almost always the case on murder charges in years gone by.

  (1830)  

    In other words, if a person is denied bail not because of the offence, but because of the offence and his or her lengthy criminal record or violation of bail, then that person should not qualify for this consideration.
    In enacting subsection 719(3), Parliament has deliberately expressed the qualification for this benefit, and it is not up to the courts to add to it, especially when the grounds for the denial of bail are themselves expressly stated in the Criminal Code directions to courts about when to deny bail. In plain English, it is called common sense.
    Not only have courts abused this discretion by applying it to the wrong people, they have taken it upon themselves to artificially create “extra” credit based on their view of the nature of the remand facilities. This is where the two for one or three for one calculation comes from.
    The irony of the no doubt well-intentioned judicial inmate advocacy has apparently escaped judges who follow this practice. By giving extra credit for remand, they are providing an incentive for people denied bail for past criminality to stay in remand to take advantage of the extra credit. Then they have their lawyers complain about the overcrowding as justification for extra credit. If there was ever an artificial absurdity in dire need of correction by Parliament, this is it.
    It used to be that in the old days when the career criminals got caught and were denied bail because of their past records, they quit the delaying tactics and pled guilty to what they knew they were going to be convicted of. They did it to avoid what was known as “dead time”. Today, thanks to misguided judicial misuse of a legitimate discretion, that dead time has been converted into the gift that keeps on giving.
    Canadians following the debate will be shocked to learn that this abuse of discretion has literally caused their justice system to reward past misbehaviour and violation of bail by giving it extra credit when it comes to sentencing. I know this will come as a shock to those who think complexity is always better, but we need a system that rewards non-offending and compliance with court orders. We need a system that punishes continuing criminality and breach of bail.
     Put simply, we need to restore to our justice system the capacity and willingness to tell the difference between right and wrong.
    Bill C-393 does exactly that and it will also restore public confidence in our judicial system. Canadians are rightly wary of a justice system that says one thing but does another, and where we have to read the fine print to see what the truth is. Quite frankly, Canadians deserve better than this. It is up to us to make sure they get it.
    I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague for Leeds—Grenville for the hard work and dedication he has put into the creation of the bill.
    As with all legislation, there are some changes we need to look at. If the bill is sent to committee, the committee will study it and will even make the bill better in some cases, but I think it is important to remind all colleagues in the House that we all ran on the idea of fixing our judicial system to make it stronger and better for all Canadians and for future generations.

  (1835)  

    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-393 purports to amend the Criminal Code in several ways and to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, more commonly referred to as the parole act.
    It has at its base with regard to the Criminal Code amendment the introduction of mandatory minimums, basically when the crime that has been committed involves a concealed weapon. We heard from the member for Leeds—Grenville about the horrendous experience that he and members of his family experienced as a result of the use of a concealed weapon.
    It is generally the position of the NDP, policy-wise, that we are not supportive of mandatory minimums. We strongly believe in the use within the judiciary of judicial discretion so that the crime and punishment fit the individual facts, as opposed to applying across the board mandatory minimum sentences and taking away from the judiciary the right to apply appropriate sentences based on the facts that are before them, and as opposed to being compelled to impose a penalty no matter what the facts are.
    As a political party, we certainly in the past have made exceptions to the rules. We are quite supportive of the use of mandatory minimums in a variety of ways with regard to impaired driving, where in fact their use has been successful. More recently, we have been supportive of the use of mandatory minimums with regard to the use of firearms in the commission of crimes, because in both of those cases we are faced with an epidemic of crime of crisis proportions.
    We are able to show, perhaps not as fully as we would like, that the use of mandatory minimums, a more severe form of punishment and penalties, is successful when it is targeted and when we are dealing with a crime that is at a particular crisis level. It is effective there.
    We are able to show, particularly by looking to the experience in the United States, where the use of mandatory minimums grew out of all proportion, that it did not have any particular impact on the reduction in crime in those states where it was used extensively. In fact, we are seeing a number of state governments in the United States now repealing mandatory minimum sentences because they have been shown not to be at all effective and in fact have been shown to be useless when they are used broadly.
    To come back to Bill C-393, I think we all can appreciate and be concerned about the process that the member for Leeds—Grenville went through and understand his motivation in moving this bill before the House. Unfortunately, that is not the way law should be drafted. In particular, criminal law should not be drafted from that perspective. I do not want that to sound in any way critical of him, but it is simply an observation of the methodology that one should apply when one is creating criminal law.
    I do want to be critical of the government and maybe the Conservative Party and its members. The government cannot continue to try to amend the Criminal Code piecemeal. This is another example of it.
     If the government is really serious about widespread reform as the government sees it, or as changes to the Criminal Code and maybe to the ideology behind the Criminal Code, to the philosophy of sentencing and the philosophy of punishment as the government would see it, then it has to be government policy. We cannot be doing this ad hoc and piecemeal, one section of the code at a time. It is just simply not the way to have a criminal justice system that makes any sense.

  (1840)  

     The government is not doing that. I have stood in the House repeatedly over the last couple of years, since the Conservative government has been in place, and criticized it for not doing that. I have implored it, if it is serious about amending the Criminal Code, to do it in an omnibus way and bring in massive legislation.
    The code is in terrible shape in many respects. It has contradictions in it. Penalties are too severe in some cases and not severe enough in others, when the crimes are juxtaposed with the resulting range of penalties that can be imposed. It needs to be updated in a number of ways because of the advance of technology. Rather than do this in a way that would be systematic and effective, the government has not done that. It has brought in a series of bills. In addition to that, private members have brought in a series of bills.
    I do not have the number, but Parliament, since January of 2006, has to have been faced with at least 50 bills on crime, between the 10 to 20 that the government has brought forward and then at least the 30 to 40 more in the form of private members' bills. It is confusing. It is an erratic way to proceed with reform of our criminal justice system. It is just not the right way to do it, but the government continues.
    I want to be clear. As individuals, there is always a free vote. However, members of the NDP always discuss it and we have not collectively come to a decision as to whether we will support the bill at second reading and send it to committee or vote against it second reading.
    I want to express another concern about the bill. The very first major criminal law bill, an amendment to the Criminal Code, which the government introduced shortly after it was elected, was Bill C-9. That was back in the first session of the 39th Parliament. The bill went to the justice committee and was significantly altered in the committee. It dealt with conditional sentences. When it came back to the chamber and was finally passed, it expressed the will of Parliament, the significant majority of parliamentarians who were elected in the last election.
    We made it very clear to the government that the use of conditional sentences was not to be cut way back as Bill C-9 originally proposed to do, again leaving to our judiciary the discretion as to when a conditional sentence was appropriate. That message was very clear. My estimation was that perhaps as many as 90% of the crimes that the government wanted to exclude from the purview of conditional sentences were in fact put back in by the justice committee in the amendments and then adopted by Parliament, by the expression of the will of a significant majority of parliamentarians.
    This bill, and it is just a small part, would preclude the use of conditional sentences by introducing a mandatory minimum in these circumstances. It seems to me the bill is contrary to the intent of the spirit of the vote that we took under Bill C-9. I almost question whether the bill should have been allowed to proceed because we had a vote in the House. It was a government bill altered by the opposition parties quite significantly and I believe that vote would have precluded this bill from coming forward.
    I believe it should never should have come forward to the House, given the rules. However, it has and it is before us, but it causes me great concern as to whether we should support the bill, given the vote that has already taken place in the House.

  (1845)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to say a few words on Bill C-393.
    The bill has three points. It would invoke a mandatory minimum for the commission of a criminal offence with a concealed weapon. It would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide victims and their families more information on release applications. It also seeks to codify the remission for time served. I do not think it is in the Criminal Code now, but a lot of the judges use the two for one formula and this would go one for one.
    At the outset, although I respect the member for Leeds—Grenville and I appreciate the work he has put into this and I appreciate his motivations, I cannot support the bill, mainly because of the implementation of the mandatory minimum sentence for this offence. It appeals to certain individuals, but the bottom line is it takes away or it fetters any use of judicial discretion.
    In any case, coming before a judge, the judge is required to apply the fundamental accepted principles of sentencing, the established ones being retribution, deterrence, possible rehabilitation of the offender, protection of the public, circumstances surrounding the offence, circumstances surrounding the offender and others.
    No two cases are alike. A judge could practise for 40 years and he or she would never see two cases that are the same. I had the privilege of practising law for 25 years. I acted both as a part time prosecutor on these cases and as defence counsel. I have looked into the eyes of these individuals. There are no two cases alike.
    It has been done in certain cases, but the imposition of a mandatory minimum in offences such as this would, in my opinion, be a step backwards.
    We are dealing with a first offender, and this again goes back to the fact that no two cases alike. It is perhaps the person's first real run-in with the law. I have seen situations of younger people getting in with the crowd or they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The judge has to take into account deterrence, retribution, circumstances of the offender and protection of the public. However, in that case, as in a lot of the cases, rehabilitation of the offender has to be a primary consideration.
    The circumstances change fundamentally if we are dealing with a person with a record of three or four criminal offences. Then those other principles give way to protection of the public.
    I do not suggest that sentences be lenient or that there be no sentences. What I am saying is no two cases are the same and we cannot throw out of the back of the truck the fundamental principle of judicial discretion. I am like everyone else in Canada. I see situations. Sometimes I up the paper and read that somebody convicted of an offence, which sounds terrible, and probably is, gets what I consider to be a light sentence. Now that could be one of two situations. The first is that in actual fact the sentence was quite a bit lighter than it should have been, maybe there was an appeal or maybe the judge screwed up. The second, and more likely, is that the media got the facts screwed up totally. It does not describe the offence or the offender, and we are left with an erroneous impression that this has come about.
    The bill does not take into consideration regional differences. We have the northern communities. We have east and west. Everyone has different crime rates, different causes of crime. This would be an amendment to the Criminal Code and would be binding on all regions in Canada.

  (1850)  

    The bill does not take into account differences in cultures. We have a situation where people who come from the western province, where you come from, Mr. Speaker, where the first nations population has a certain percentage, but the percentage in prisons is five or six times that. Why is that? Why do we have five or six times the percentage of first nations in our prisons? Is there a reason? Will imposing the mandatory minimum sentence improve that? Everyone knows it will not. What is the cause of this? It is early in the game, but I believe some things such as healing circles and restorative justice are working. Once we pass this legislation, a lot of that may be go out the back door.
    I have concern about the whole administration of justice. A lot of these cases are bargained. Literally the system cannot handle the cases before it, but if there is a mandatory minimum, no defence counsel will agree to anything and we will go to trial.
    Those are some of the considerations. In principle, it sounds great, but there is fundamentally one problem: it does not work.
    The previous speaker talked about the situation in the United States. This was a movement, which started in the United States about 20 years ago, where once it invoked the mandatory minimums, the crime rate would go down and everything would be great. It did not happen. The previous speaker said that some states had repealed their mandatory minimums. I actually know the number of states. Since 2003, 25 states have repealed the legislation dealing with mandatory minimum sentences. That probably represents half of the people living in the United States. The research indicates that it generally does not work. Our southern neighbours are realizing this now and that is why they are repealing it.
    I make these comments with the greatest respect to the member for Leeds—Grenville and the motivations behind this draft bill, but I cannot support it.
     On the principle of the so-called two for one formula, as far as I am aware, that is not in the Criminal Code now. It is a practice that has developed over the years. It is generally widely accepted. I am not saying I agree or disagree with it because every case should be dealt with on its merits. We had the high profile case of Brenda Martin back from Mexico and there was speculation a judge would be hearing the case in Canada and would give her the so-called two for one credit. Again, it comes back to the judicial discretion in a particular case.
    The two for one is not codified now. It is just a rule of thumb. If we had the one for one codified, that would go forward with the actual sentence the judge gave. Every circumstance is different. If people were in jail for protection of the public, that is one situation. However, if they were in jail for two years because they could raise the $20,000 bail, that is an entirely different situation. I would argue in that case probably they should get more credit than one day for one day. Do not forget in that two year period they were in jail because they could not raise the bail, they would not be eligible for parole. If it worked the way it often does, people might be eligible for parole after serving half the sentence, but the two years they were in jail would not apply.

  (1855)  

    The point is that we will never have two cases that are the same. Each case has to be dealt with on its merits and on the circumstances surrounding the case. In a situation like this where we are trying to invoke mandatory minimums, I suggest it is a step backward.
    I am sorry, but I have to end the hon. member's remarks there. His time has expired. The hon. member for Cambridge.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-393 introduced by my colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville.
    Like the member for Leeds—Grenville and others who speak in support of the bill, working to improve the operation of the criminal justice system in Canada is a priority for me as well, not just on behalf of the country, but in particular on behalf of my constituents in Cambridge and North Dumfries. I know that this is also the case for many members of this government, apparently not all members of the House, but perhaps we can discuss this as parliamentarians do and convince the Liberal members who are opposing the bill of their wrongful ways.
    I want also to echo remarks that have been made in debating these matters. What I seek is to genuinely improve the justice system. Even though we may have disagreements on how to do that, I am encouraged that perhaps if members opposite listened and paid attention they may actually agree that we need to change some of the things that we have done in the past.
    I think all of us will agree, however, that in considering changes, we are well served by ensuring that we know the facts of what we intend to do, the facts behind the issue and the consequences of any changes that we might wish to make.
    This is second reading debate of this bill. I am encouraged that the committee, which will seek information from witnesses and experts, potentially offering some amendments is exactly the right thing to do and exactly why the bill needs to be supported. Further, it seems to me that the best legislation is usually as a result of having a clear understanding of why we seek to do what it is that we are seeking to do.
    Finally, I am sure members will agree that the justice system is one that inherently relies on public confidence, and that is a key word these days, and that it and the Canadians it is designed to serve are entitled to a system, not entitled as parliamentarians to their entitlements, but as Canadian citizens they are entitled to a system that avoids artificiality, speaks the truth in what it does and recognizes the difference between right and wrong in how it makes those decisions.
    These observations may seem self-evident, but as many of us are familiar with a justice system or who have listened to the descriptions of the proceedings in the Moffitt case, the terrible case that caused my colleague to present this bill to the House, it is true that it is not always the case that these observations are in fact self-evident.
    Bill C-393 deals with three areas of criminal procedures. These include the exercise of discretion in determining pretrial custody credits and enhancing victim interaction in the parole process. There cannot be anything wrong with those two. The third is in the area of establishing mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving weapons and specifically those involving knives. Other members may wish to speak to the first two subject areas I mentioned, but I just wanted to indicate that I support those areas and what I would like to do in my time allocated is focus my remarks on the mandatory minimum sentencing.
    As members have heard, there is a regrettable but undeniable growth in the number and seriousness of violent crimes committed with knives in Canada. Today I looked up statistics for my own region of Waterloo. I do know the member for Kitchener--Waterloo has suggested there is no problem with crime in that region, but if he checked the statistics he would see that other violent crimes are up 28%. Offensive weapons have gone from 427 cases in 2005 to 535 cases in the next year. That is about a 20% increase. We cannot stand back and do nothing.
    As it frequently is the case in dealing with criminal justice reform, there is not necessarily a single answer, but instead a response that covers the spectrum of principles that underlie our justice system.

  (1900)  

    Certainly measures that attempt to prevent people from engaging in criminally carrying knives or in stopping such behaviour is part of that solution. The bad guys have to know that if they are going to do serious crimes, they will do serious time. At this stage of the bill we can leave the balance to the experts at committee.
    The point of Bill C-393 which I completely support is that for some people the knowledge of a certain and unpleasant consequence does work as a deterrent. This is the root of mandatory minimum sentencing. It is, as members know, a long-standing part of our justice system. This kind of stuff already exists. I might point out that the Supreme Court has just upheld that it is in fact constitutionally valid.
    In fact, let me quote from that case where Chief Justice McLachlin, speaking for a unanimous court, rejected the idea that there could be an exemption to what Parliament enacted as a four year mandatory minimum sentence for causing death with a firearm, which is the same one as proposed in Bill C-393. She said:
    In granting a constitutional exemption, a judge would be undermining Parliament’s purpose in passing the legislation: to remove judicial discretion and to send a clear and unequivocal message to potential offenders that if they commit a certain offence, or commit it in a certain way, they will receive a sentence equal to or exceeding the mandatory minimum specified by Parliament. The discretion that a constitutional exemption would confer on judges would violate the letter of the law and undermine the message that animates it.
    If any of my colleagues want to look that up, that is from R. v. Ferguson , paragraph 55. I selected this quote simply to remind members of two things: one, this type of thing already exists in the Criminal Code; and two, it is constitutionally valid.
    The point behind mandatory minimums is not simply to cause courts to sentence more severely but, as the member opposite just said, to actually contribute to there being less need in the long term for courts to sentence because at least some people would be getting the message. It is not a total solution, but it is part of the solution.
    One of the mandatory minimum sentences proposed simply adds homicides committed with a knife to section 236, which already requires such sentencing, as I have stated, for homicides committed with a firearm.
    Given the disturbing reality of knife homicides actually now outnumbering firearm homicides, I trust that members will come to their senses and all members will support this bill at second reading.
    Bill C-393 creates a new mandatory minimum sentence with escalating time for repeat offenders for persons convicted of criminally possessing a concealed weapon, which includes a knife. This does not create any new kind of criminal liability for someone in lawful possession of a knife. It does, however, do several important things. It creates a mandatory minimum custodial sentence of 90 days' incarceration with a minimum one year sentence for subsequent offences. This is a clear and unequivocal expression of Parliament that a dangerous behaviour that too frequently and increasingly frequently leads to deaths like that of Andy Moffitt is unacceptable and Canadians deserve better care.
    I want to conclude by saying that anyone who practises criminal law will attest that such actions as increasing maximum sentences that we have seen from the previous government are literally useless. It does not mean anything simply because the courts virtually cannot ever hand out maximums.
    I have to salute my colleague, the member for Leeds—Grenville, for introducing a bill with practical, specific, targeted measures which I do believe will produce tangible results.

  (1905)  

    I am supportive of the bill being referred to a committee for study. I hope that all aspects are fully assessed.
    I am sorry, but the hon. member's time has expired.
    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Brandon—Souris.
    Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-393.
    I also want to acknowledge and commend the member for Leeds—Grenville. He has had a very active role in developing this legislation.
    There are reasons for legislation to come forward. This is an example where a member of Parliament, through a cause in his community or a cause on behalf of people he knows, has developed legislation that would actually work for victims and the victims' families. That is an important part of our job as members of Parliament and as makers of the laws of Canada. People's experiences, and not always good experiences, give them the ability to communicate and work with members of Parliament on these types of bills and allows these types of discussions.
    I support the bill at second reading and support the idea of moving the bill to committee so we can have more discussion. People in other organizations have lots of concerns about some parts of the bill. That is why it should go to committee. It can be worked on there and people can bring their own experiences to committee and offer changes that may or may not be needed. I will certainly be following this very closely.
    As many people have said, the bill proposes to create new mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for carrying a concealed weapon, as well as for manslaughter committed with a concealed knife against an unarmed victim.
    When people are awaiting their trial and sentencing there is sometimes a trade-off in days spent and three days may be traded for one. That is not what Canadians want. People have told me time and time again that this is not what they want, and the member has addressed this issue in his bill. Canadians want people to be accountable for their actions and to be responsible to the public. It is our job as legislators to develop laws that protect the victims and their families. Often friends in my community tell me that they have a real problem with people being kicked back into the community, barely having served any time, and not accepting full responsibility for, or understanding the implications of, their actions.
    I am certainly supportive of the bill. I have spent a lot of time speaking to the member for Leeds—Grenville. He has been a tremendous advocate for this type of protection for victims and their families. I look forward to the bill going to committee. We are going to come up with a substantive bill that will protect Canadians. I see that as our main job as legislators.
    I will end my debate there as I know the hon. member wants to wrap up and I am certainly prepared to let him do that.

  (1910)  

    Resuming debate. I recognize the hon. member for Leeds--Grenville for his five minute right of reply.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members for participating in the debate and for their consideration of the important issues contained in Bill C-393. Its goals are straightforward and they deserve our support.
    The bill will break the escalation of violent knife crimes by applying deterrent measures, including for the act of criminally carrying a concealed weapon. It will end the abuse of judicial discretion that results in career criminals and bail violators being rewarded at sentencing and ensure crime victims are kept properly informed and not subjected to procedural abuse in their interaction with the National Parole Board.
    These measures are intended to deal with systematic issues that are not theoretical or ideological. Their origin comes from the current realities of crime and the justice system in Canada.
    When the bill was debated on April 11, I was surprised to hear some members opposite suggest that it was the response to a single case. In fairness, the member for Burnaby—Douglas did ask if there were other examples, and while I mentioned some in general terms during my original remarks, let me now provide greater details.
    Members no doubt took note of the recent release of the youth crime stats which reported that youth homicide rates have risen 41% since 1997. About 44% of homicides committed by youth involved a knife, while 17% involved a firearm. Violent crime has risen 30% since 1991.
    In preparation for this debate, my office did by no means a complete media scan. We started back on October 24, 2007, and ended just the other day on May 25. I have assembled clippings, and I stress that they are not complete, but we have recorded 170 stabbings or robberies with a knife and 44 separate homicides with a knife.
    To be more precise, since our last debate on the bill on April 11, we have noted 45 stabbings and 14 knife homicides in just six weeks. These incidents involved swarmings, home invasions, robberies and assaults, and fights tragically escalated through the use of a previously concealed knife.
    There are other systematic factors involved in at least some of the cases, but having the House send a deterrent message, a preventive message such as recognized recently by the Supreme Court of Canada, is a positive step to make this country a safer place.
    The same clipping survey details cases of violent offenders, who were denied bail because of their past criminal records, being rewarded with not only credit for the time they earned in precustody but with double and in one case even triple credit for their ongoing criminality.
    In one case extra credit was awarded for a vicious knife attack, even though the offender had his bail revoked when he was charged with being an accessory to murder while on bail for the stabbing.
    The law does not require such credit, but I would suggest that the law needs to be changed to prohibit in these narrowly defined circumstances.
    My background is not in criminal law, but working on the bill has shown me that we need more than just a legal system with rules to be followed without question. We need a justice system where those rules actually support the principles of justice, like past misconduct not being rewarded when it is followed by continuing criminality or consequences for breaching court orders.
    Bill C-393 is limited in scope and in purpose. I welcome suggestions about how it could be improved to achieve its goals. I have already received several constructive wording suggestions which I think will do exactly that.
    This is the rationale and mandate of our committee system. I urge members to vote to send the bill to committee so we can do the work that we do best.
    The bill has received public support from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and from Commissioner Julian Fantino of the Ontario Provincial Police. Let me quote from his remarks, “It is a regrettable but undeniable reality that the carrying of criminally concealed knives and violent knife crime itself has increased dramatically in Canada recently, with all too often deadly consequences. I am confident that your bill will prove to be a deterrent to such actions for some offenders”. He also said, “I am very pleased to see that Bill C-393 also addresses a development of sentence calculation which has crept into our justice system”. He has offered to appear at committee.

  (1915)  

    Finally, I recently spoke with the Moffitt family who are visiting Ottawa again today to let them know what was going on with the bill and to update them about the bill. I was again overwhelmed with the quiet dignity of this family who wanted to know how they could help make these improvements a reality. Mrs. Moffitt summed up all the deficiencies that her family had to encounter over the years when she said, “tell them we can do better than this”. She is right. We can do better and now is our chance to do so in these specific areas.
    The time provided for debate has expired.
     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: Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 4, 2008, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Adjournment Proceedings

[Adjournment Proceedings]
    A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

[English]

Federal-Provincial Relations  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to follow up on a question I asked the finance minister last March regarding the loss of jobs in the manufacturing and auto sectors, and why he continues to attack the province of Ontario.
    Canadians and historians were baffled when the federal finance minister held an unprecedented press conference and attacked the Ontario provincial budget the night before it was delivered at Queen's Park.
    Nowhere before in Canadian history has a federal finance minister deliberately attempted to sabotage a provincial budget and in doing so, cost the people of Ontario precious jobs at a time when our manufacturing and auto sectors are suffering dearly.
    As a matter of fact, the finance minister was quoted as saying that Ontario was the “last place” to do business in North America. How can a federal Minister of Finance be so irresponsible? The minister should be aware that business leaders and financial sectors take his word very seriously. His comments are damaging to Ontarians and Ontarians are perturbed, especially as the minister is from Ontario, and was responsible for decimating Ontario's financial health and leaving Ontario with a $5.6 billion deficit.
    The province of Ontario has done a great deal after that to attract investment. The premier of Ontario has cut corporate taxes by $3 billion and last December eliminated its capital tax on resource-based industries, including manufacturers. The province of Ontario continues to phase out capital tax altogether and is reducing property taxes to help small and medium sized businesses.
    I am aware that the member opposite already has a prepared speech that will no doubt heap considerable praise on the Conservatives for cutting taxes. The fact of the matter is that virtually every leading economist in the country has warned the Conservatives that cuts to the GST are the wrong way to go.
    In fact, an access to information request revealed that the government's own Department of Industry told the Conservatives that a 1% cut to the GST will only generate a 10% return in economic improvement compared to a 30% return by just a $1 reduction in personal income taxes.
    Previous Liberal governments delivered substantial personal income tax cuts precisely because they put money back in the pockets of taxpayers. Cuts to consumption taxes such as the GST do little for those who have little or no income. The Conservatives should know this and that their message is not appealing to the average taxpayer.
    Recent polls reveal that 80% of Canadians have not noticed any improvement in their family budget, a stunning revelation considering that the poll was taken just weeks after people received their much vaunted Conservative tax refunds. In fact, 28% of those surveyed say their personal finances are in worse shape now than at any time over the past year. That is a 75% increase since last fall.
    The reason for this attitude is because all of the puny tax cuts from the Conservatives have been swallowed up by skyrocketing fuel prices. How has the government responded? By doing nothing. In fact, the Prime Minister has told Canadians that he will do nothing to ease the price of fuel even for seniors on a limited income.
    I would like to know from the hon. member why the Conservative government has taken upon itself to attack the people of Ontario at a time--

  (1920)  

    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, Ontario's manufacturing sector is clearly facing challenges due to shifts in the global economy, along with the rise of new emerging markets, like China and India, as well as a stronger dollar, challenges that have been made worse by what can be best described as lacklustre manufacturing support by the former government.
    It is not just us saying that. It is organizations like the United Steelworkers that recently stated the following:
     The [manufacturing] crisis didn't just start when the Conservatives took office. The Liberals had 12 years to deal with this stuff and they did nothing.
    They did nothing and yet have the audacity to criticize our considerable efforts to assist manufacturers, efforts like over $9 billion in tax relief specifically for manufacturers and processors, efforts like the $1 billion community development trust to help provinces like Ontario to assist communities plagued by chronic high unemployment or layoffs, efforts like a temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in machinery and equipment, or efforts like a $250 million automotive innovation fund to fuel the development of greener and more fuel efficient vehicles while helping preserve and create high quality jobs.
Indeed, on the auto sector, General Motors of Canada said that the finance minister has been an “outstanding, supportive advocate for GM and our industry“. It went on to say, “There is no better evidence than the federal budget's creation of an Automotive Innovation Fund”.
    That is just a small sample of what we have done to assist the manufacturing sector.
    Now let us look at what the official opposition is proposing to help the manufacturing sector: a new carbon tax. The Liberal leader has been a strong advocate of this plan, despite the fact that it would clearly harm manufacturers, hiking production and shipping costs tied to energy inputs. It would be a punishing new tax that would make our exports more expensive, creating a huge disadvantage our manufacturers simply cannot afford now, especially in Ontario.
    This is not just political rhetoric coming from this side of the House. One just needs to read today's major Windsor Star editorial, which states:
    A carbon tax will penalize low-income earners, rural Canadians and suburban commuters far more than urbanites who can afford downtown lifestyles and it will negatively affect the ability of Canadian businesses, already struggling under the weight of a rising loonie, to compete internationally.
    The Liberal carbon tax plan is leaving a lot of people worried. Indeed, just the other day the Liberal Premier of Ontario formally rejected a regressive plan like his federal cousins.
     I ask the Liberal member from Ontario if she has had a chance to consult with the businesses, seniors and those on fixed incomes in her riding and answered the questions we are all asking: How much would the Liberal carbon tax increase gas prices? How much would it increase electricity and heating bills?

  (1925)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the 12 years that the Liberal government was in power, we cleaned up the absolute mess that the previous Conservative government left: a $42 billion deficit and $500 billion in debt. The Conservatives are the most incompetent fiscal managers that Canada has ever seen.
    The Conservative government has no vision, no leadership and is totally incompetent. The events of the past five weeks have shown us how incompetent the Conservatives are. If they have no vision, they cannot help the manufacturing sector. In fact, their election promise was that they there would be better cooperation between the feds, Ontario and the other provinces.
    How can the government, which promised that type of cooperation, that promised accountability and transparency but has failed in every sector, get up and ask questions when it does not even know what a carbon tax is, what neutrality is, what income is, what--
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, if we are going to talk about manufacturing, then we need to question what could be one of the most devastating, punitive taxes that could ravage the sector. The carbon tax would create a huge disadvantage for Ontario's manufacturing sector when it is least able to cope with it.
    I think Ontario's environment minister, John Gerretsen, put it best when he recently declared, “I am not sure whether a carbon tax would work in Ontario”.
    Even a prominent Ontario federal Liberal, Gerard Kennedy, stated,“I think a carbon tax is the clumsiest of the options that we've got so far”.
    It is not just clumsy. It is punitive and regressive, with the potential of devastating Ontario's manufacturing.

Citizenship and Immigration