The House resumed from October 23 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to participate in this debate on the Speech from the Throne, not because of what was in the speech—in our opinion it is so acceptable that later this afternoon, the Bloc Québécois will vote against this Speech from the Throne—but because it gives me the opportunity, along with my Bloc Québécois colleagues, to give a voice to Quebeckers in this House. Their voice was not heard before the creation of the Bloc Québécois.
For example, five conditions were known and were the result of the work the Bloc Québécois has been doing for years, in some cases, or at the very least, months or weeks. These conditions were not pulled out of a hat. It is not a shopping list, unlike what I heard from the government.
The Bloc believes that these are responses to some of Quebec's issues and concerns. Furthermore, these issues and concerns correspond to the concerns of Quebeckers.
The first condition was federal spending power. I will delve into that later. The second was assistance and support for the embattled forestry industry. I will also discuss that in greater detail later. Our third very important condition related to the withdrawal of Canadian troops from combat zones, specifically Kandahar. I will not discuss this condition now because I will be sharing my 20 minutes with my colleague from , who will do a much better job of talking about it than I could. This condition was not fulfilled in the Speech from the Throne. On the contrary, the government has announced that it plans to extend the mission until 2011, which flies in the face of what we and Quebeckers want. I would even venture to suggest that most Canadians agree with us on this issue.
As to fulfilling the Kyoto commitments, my colleague from clearly explained our position, which a majority of Quebeckers also support. My colleague from did the same with respect to Quebec's need to reduce its dependency on oil in order to escape the Conservative federal government's decision to promote oil-based development, which is making Quebec poorer. Quebec produces neither oil nor natural gas. It is in our best interest to escape the oil economy and move toward new energy sources, as demonstrated by my colleague from . Canada's plan, however, is to develop the oil sector by exploiting the oil sands. The Kyoto accord is not in the best interest of the oil industry, nor is it in the best interest of the Conservatives' economic development strategy, which is not even remotely sustainable.
Lastly, the issue of supply management was also raised. The Bloc is pleased to see this in the throne speech. However, since this condition is the only one met by this government, we cannot vote in favour of the Speech from the Throne. We were not surprised to see the Conservatives defend supply management, given that, since December 2005, the Bloc Québécois has had this government cornered, just like the previous government, with a unanimous vote in this House to pass a motion stating that Canadian negotiators at the World Trade Organization can never agree to any compromise that would undermine or prevent the development of the supply management system.
In summary, there is very little in the Speech from the Throne to satisfy Quebec and Quebeckers.
I would like to come back to the issue of the federal spending power and its elimination, which is the traditional position not only of the Bloc Québécois, but of all successive governments in Quebec. It is interesting to note that we are the only party to be clear on this matter. The Liberals and the leader of the Liberal Party immediately warned the about his very vague proposal to limit use of the federal spending power. As for the NDP, that party is always keen on principles and is very much in favour of coast-to-coast programs, that is, standardized, Canada-wide programs that ultimately make the provinces into branches of the federal government. This is something that Quebec, Quebeckers and all successive governments in Quebec have always rejected.
I want to come back to what the Conservative government and the are proposing with regard to spending power. I will read what the throne speech says:
To this end, guided by our federalism of openness, our Government will introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This legislation will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.
As we can see, this in no way meets Quebec's demands. What is more, it is practically a virtual proposal. First, the government is saying it will limit spending power, not eliminate it, but place limits on it. The was very clear on this: this government does not intend to reduce or even limit federal spending power to the point of eliminating it in Quebec's areas of exclusive jurisdiction. He said so last Friday.
The worst part of this whole thing is that the government is saying that it will limit federal spending power for new shared-cost programs. This means that it does not intend to do anything about existing shared-cost programs. There are not many of them, but there are some. The government is announcing that in future, it will limit federal spending power in Quebec's areas of exclusive jurisdiction. Alain Noël, a professor in the political science department of Université de Montréal, said the following in the October 20, 2007 issue of La Presse:
By agreeing to such a reform, the Government of Quebec would be recognizing the legitimacy of federal spending power only to obtain virtual restrictions applicable to programs that have ceased to exist.
As I mentioned, only two such programs remain, to our knowledge: the infrastructure program and the agricultural policy framework program. These sorts of programs have ceased to exist. Mr. Noël goes on to say:
It is a little as though Ottawa were offering to give the provinces full control over producing black and white TVs.
This professor, who is a shrewd observer, has seen through the Conservative government's proposal. This is pseudo-open federalism, a facade, window dressing, a veneer, a purely symbolic gesture. We can see that here, during oral question period, nearly every day the House sits.
This even shocked André Pratte, editorial writer for La Presse, who merely skimmed through the Speech from the Throne. We know he always tends to side with the party in power. I sometimes says that if he had been a journalist or editorial writer for Pravda under the Soviets, he would have been a communist. But we live in a capitalist system in North America.
I was saying that Mr. Pratte always takes the side of the party in power. He read the Speech from the Throne quickly and was immediately delighted, saying that after 40 years of debate on the federal spending power we finally had an answer. However, after reading the piece by Mr. Noël, he was forced, in the same issue of La Presse, to take another hard look and admit that, indeed, there was nothing substantive in the federal Conservatives' proposal.
If even an observer as biased as André Pratte is forced to acknowledge that Alain Noël's analysis is right, then it is maybe high time this government woke up and truly met the expectations of Quebeckers. It has to stop putting on a show and suggesting that it is different from the previous governments. The Conservatives are just as centralist, the only difference being that they speak from both sides of their mouths. The Speech from the Throne is indisputable proof that they are not open to limiting or restricting the federal spending power.
For that reason alone, the Speech from the Throne is totally unacceptable. Once again, by refusing to eliminate the federal spending power, the government and the are not keeping their promise to get rid of the fiscal imbalance, which is essential according to the Séguin commission. We are looking at yet another broken promise.
Unfortunately I do not have enough time to come back to the crisis in the forestry. I would like to close by talking about the urgent need for support measures for that industry.
In my riding, in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, two plants have closed. The entire community is in crisis. Not only should the employment insurance rules be changed, but the government should stop falling for the ideology of laissez-faire. It should intervene together with the Government of Quebec and support this community in crisis. The community will remember this in the next election and it will re-elect the Bloc member for .
Mr. Speaker, my comments follow up on the speech delivered by our parliamentary leader. I will talk about the fact that, in our opinion, Canada has an obligation to leave the region of Kandahar and to focus on international assistance and reconstruction, so as to truly help Afghanistan achieve its objectives.
In a speech that was very well received at CERIUM, in 2004, our leader said:
What the international community is doing in Afghanistan is a test for the United Nations, for NATO and for the future of multilateral interventions in the world. The deployment of armed forces there is enshrined in international law, in multilateralism.
Until the decision was made by Canada to go to Kandahar, support for the mission in Afghanistan had been really strong, both in Quebec and in Canada. Why are we on a mission in Afghanistan? Why are we on a mission in Kandahar? We thought we were in Kandahar because General Hillier had convinced Bill Graham, then Minister of National Defence, and the member for , who was then the Prime Minister, to go there. However, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien recently said that it was probably because the then Prime Minister and current member for LaSalle—Émard had not made a decision soon enough and could not get another region.
The fact is that since Canada has been on a mission in Kandahar, we have had a trumped up vision of events in Afghanistan. Why? Because the Kandahar region is where Pashtuns come from. This is where the Taliban, with Mullah Omar, gained power all over Afghanistan, after the forced withdrawal of the Russians, for which Saudi Arabia and the mujahedeen worked so hard. Some of them stayed in Afghanistan, while others settled everywhere.
This whole region is the former Pashtun breeding ground, except for the City of Kandahar and the perimeter enlarged by Canadians, who had to do it all over again, because that ground was lost in the past year. In light of this situation, that whole region is not favourable to the democratic project and to the future that Afghanistan hopes to have. In fact, voter participation in the election was very low. This is a tribal region that provides very good support to the Taliban, and that region itself was prepared by the Pakistanis and the infamous ISI. Therefore, we must leave Kandahar.
A motion brought before the House by the Liberals, supported by the Bloc Québécois, nearly passed. Unfortunately, the NDP did not support it. If it had supported it, the entire international community would already know that the Parliament of Canada decided that Canada should leave Kandahar in February 2009. Unfortunately, the NDP did not support us in this measure, otherwise, it would be a done deal.
This would have allowed all members of this House, as I myself did at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in July, to indicate to their counterparts from those European countries that are participating in the mission in Afghanistan that this mission's success will be achieved through a more equitable sharing of political weight, casualties and cost. There have been debates in Germany, others are being held in Denmark, and NATO is having a meeting today. When I took part in the debate at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I said that Afghanistan must not be abandoned, but that the weight and sacrifice must be shared more equitably.
Newspapers often give the impression that Canada is responsible for what is happening in Afghanistan. No, it is NATO that shared the responsibility. It is a first for NATO and it is important that it be successful.
This is why the government should have said that we would pull out of Afghanistan in February 2009 and that, until then, we would try to convince the international community to replace us, so that we could turn our attention to those interventions we excel at.
Why are we on a mission in Kandahar? As I said, I thought it was General Hillier who wanted to go there, but it was for other reasons that had nothing to do with Afghanistan.
It has something to do with the transformation of the Canadian army—to which General Hillier has dedicated a great deal of effort—and the militarization, or remilitarization, of the Canadian Forces. Hence, the many purchases of very expensive equipment that will be used for what afterwards? We do not know. Before changing our foreign policy we changed our defence policy. We have always been critical of this move.
We are not saying that we can just leave. This has been accepted. We are saying that we must give notice in order to leave in 2009. We cannot just leave because we do not want to give the impression of having been defeated. We must not do this. We have an international responsibility, even though Parliament adopted the motion to go to Kandahar with a majority of only five votes. By five votes, I told the international parliamentary assembly.
We nevertheless wanted to fulfill our international obligations, but we cannot do more than that. It would be ill-advised because we are not providing a sense of Afghanistan's true state of development, of what is happening elsewhere.
I met an Afghan parliamentarian who came to Montreal. He said that one of the population's serious problems is that it sees a lot of money in the military and also in international aid. They believe major projects will materialize and then, as they are tendered, they turn out to be small projects. The money does not reach the people. They feel that the money comes from the outside world but it does not reach their little world. That is a very significant problem.
Coordinating international aid for the reconstruction plan is an extremely difficult problem. We are familiar with torture by Afghan police—no one is denying it. There is the problem of corruption and the enormous problem of drugs, which provide a living to small farmers.
Often, the main difficulty for these farmers is that they have no credit. If they did, they could plant other crops rather than borrowing from the war lords or other racketeers who buy the drugs they grow in their fields.
There are many problems that need to be dealt with, and the war is not the way to solve them. Security is necessary, but responsibility for security must be shared. As much money as possible and as many resources as possible have to be invested in improving Afghans' living conditions and enabling them to plan for the future. Only then can the important role NATO has taken on in this region succeed.
We must not forget that when it comes to foreign affairs, we cannot think only about Afghanistan. What are the neighbouring countries? To the west is Iran, which borders Iraq. This is a little Middle East. To the north are the countries of central Asia, which have huge deposits of oil. There is also Turkey, China to the east and Russia to the west. This is the area where the future will be played out. It is important that NATO succeed, but for that to happen, the countries have to share responsibility for security more equitably. They have to learn to work together, coordinate international aid and make sure all the money they seem to have can reach the people in other ways.
The Taliban are very present in the Kandahar region. Farmers cannot support Canadian soldiers, even though they may be better than the rest, because they will be caught in the crossfire.
We therefore must give up our nearly exclusively military role. Observers have said that the effects of Canada's international aid are not visible. The various NATO countries must really work to reconstruct this country, and each must shoulder its fair share of the work.
Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to rise and have the opportunity to address the House today on a motion in response to the Speech from the Throne.
I should indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hard-working member for .
The government's second Speech from the Throne is about two things: strong leadership and a better Canada.
The environment continues to be a great priority for our federal government. It continues to be a great priority for my constituents in and for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
First and foremost, I am proud that our government has a realistic and achievable plan to help combat climate change, one of the greatest threats to our planet.
This past February, the International Panel on Climate Change released its report. The panel consists of a group of scientists, men and women, and was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. I had the chance to be at the release of its report and was pleased to be briefed by two Canadian scientists who are among the winners of the peace prize.
The first report was a report to policy makers, basically giving the facts and saying that it is up to them to act. It was not values laden. It just presented the science.
I asked both of those Canadian scientists, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” I also asked them, “What will it take for us to combat climate change in a meaningful fashion?” They said it would take two things: one, technology, and, two, cultural change. Indeed, these are what our plan is all about.
Back in 1992 when Canada had a Conservative government, the prime minister of the day, Brian Mulroney, went to the Rio earth summit, and 1992 was the first opportunity for a major international forum to recognize that global warming and climate change was a key issue and a big problem. In December of 1992 we signed on to the Kyoto accord, which was a worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gases or a worldwide effort for 30% of the world's emitters to reduce greenhouse gases. Some five years later, Canada had not done anything to address this problem.
After pen was put to paper, nothing happened. For many years no efforts were made to even ratify this accord, let alone get to work and get the job done. Members do not have to believe me. They can ask Sheila Copps, the Liberal environment minister. They can read quotes from Christine Stewart, another Liberal environment minister. They can read the quotes and talk to David Anderson, yet another Liberal environment minister who said that it was hard to get anything done.
Most importantly, though, we can look to the man who was at the top. The other day in the House I read out a quote from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's new book. I will read it out again. He stated that “my successors”, and of course his immediate successor was the member for , whose environment minister is the leader of the Liberal Party, “...did serious damage to Canada's progress and our reputation in the process”. Those are not my words. That is not a Conservative statement. That was said by the former leader of the Liberal Party.
Sadly, the Kyoto reporting period begins in some 70-odd days. Kyoto was all about a 10 year marathon to fight global warming here in Canada and around the world. When the starter's pistol went off in December of 1997, Canada, instead of stepping up to the plate and providing real action, began to run in the opposite direction.
An hon. member: That's terrible.
Hon. John Baird: It is terrible and it is sad.
One cannot run a 10 year marathon in 70-odd days, especially when one has been running in the wrong direction for 10 years, as the previous Liberal government did.
The science out there is very strong. It gets stronger each and every day. The report put out by the international panel in February is to a great extent almost out of date, because the science is even stronger than it was just 10 months ago. The fortunate part, the good news, is that we now have a realistic, achievable plan to accomplish real reductions in greenhouse gases.
We can look at the devastation caused by the pine beetle. We can look at schools coming off their foundations up in the Northwest Territories. There is one diamond mine up in the Northwest Territories that had to fly in diesel fuel by Hercules, at an extra expense of $25 million, because the snow roads just do not operate. The weather just does not support them for as many weeks as it used to. We do not have to look any farther than our own country to see some of the devastation of global warming and the beginning of the real challenges.
The goal of our plan is an absolute reduction of 20% of GHGs by 2020. It is not an intensity based reduction, and it also is not just an ambition but an absolute reduction of 20%. The centrepiece of that is a plan to require the big polluters to begin to reduce their emissions by 6% a year in the first three years and then by a constant 2% improvement in the years to come.
That is not the whole program, but it is one of the centrepieces of the program and we are going to work tremendously hard to get this apparatus in place. A good number of the folks in the industry, academia and the environmental movement have been very free with their advice and suggestions as we put the details into the framework. Thus, we began this year by serving notice that the big polluters would have to clean up their act.
We also have come forward with a plan to combat smog and pollution. It is absolutely essential that we begin to tackle this. There is a great quote from the member for that I have used before in the House. She talked about there being only one smog day in Toronto in 1993, whereas in recent years we have seen upwards of 45 to 48 smog days.
An hon. member: It's awful.
Hon. John Baird: This is awful for all Canadians, but it is particularly bad if one is a parent of a young child with asthma. It is particularly bad for elderly seniors who may not be able to go out of their own homes or apartments during the day. It is particularly bad when one can stand, as I have, on the higher floors of apartment buildings and see the haze over our large cities. We can do better and Canadians are demanding it.
Our plan also includes incentives for cleaner cars in order to get Canadians into hybrids, into E85 fuel cars and into energy efficient cars. This is good news. My colleague, the , has a whole series of ecoenergy and energy efficiency initiatives.
At the Carlingwood mall the other day, I spoke to a father from my constituency who has taken advantage of the program, coupled with the benefits put in by the provincial government. He has geothermal heating in his own home and thinks he can make his investment back in nine years. As well, that has great benefits for the environment. I am sure his property values will go up.
We are actually for the first time working with the provinces constructively on fighting global warming by putting our money where our mouth is, with $1.5 billion of support that has been delivered to provinces, not just promised but delivered. It is for things like British Columbia's hydrogen highway. The province is working on a hydrogen highway in time for the Olympics. It will run all the way from Baja, California, to Whistler in time for the Olympics. When we made this announcement, Premier Campbell pointed out that when the first gas station in British Columbia opened there were only 250 cars in the province. So these are seeds. These are investments that I think promise great hope.
In Alberta, we are working on a major effort, led by the , for a carbon capture and storage initiative. It is a major initiative to trap carbon and sequester it deep within the earth. We can take this technology around the world.
In Manitoba and Ontario, we are looking building a national electricity grid to try to take advantage of and harness the great power at Conawapa, which Premier Doer has been advocating. He has had to advocate this for far too long, but now it finally has some federal support to help Premier McGuinty close those dirty coal-fired plants.
Quebec was demanding $350 million in support. That call fell on deaf ears, but now the money is in the bank and there is a whole series of initiatives in Quebec's plan.
In the Maritimes, we are seeing tidal power. I was with the in his constituency earlier this year and saw the great work being done on tidal power.
In Newfoundland, there is a massive hydro expansion.
For 2012, we are seeking a global consensus, which means that Canada must go first. Leadership means going firs. We must be judged by our actions, not by our talk. We must get countries like the United States on board. We must get countries such as China and India on board.
I will end my comments with good news. We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Montreal protocol just last month in Montreal. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney spoke and said we should remind ourselves that good should not be the enemy of perfection.
We were able to advance by 10 years that timetable to phase out ozone depleting substances under the great leadership provided by Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. As well, China stepped up to the plate and provided major leadership.
These comments are coupled with the great work we have done in conservation, in the Great Bear Rainforest and the Nahanni, and the work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the $220 million it will match, as well as our efforts to clean up Lake Winnipeg, which I know is dear to Mr. Speaker's heart, and our efforts to clean up the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe. They are all part of an integrated strategy to move the environmental agenda forward.
My constituents in want to see more action and less talk when it comes to the environment. They want the government to continue to work to clean up the environment and they want this throne speech passed. The people of do not want an election.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the questions from the member , a member of whom I have a very high opinion.
With respect to clean power, when I was the minister of energy in the province of Ontario, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Doer government in Manitoba to look at a national grid that could bring more clean electricity into Ontario and help Ontario clean up its act. Regrettably, after that agreement was signed there was an election and not much has happened on that.
Therefore, when I took on this role, we fought for funds to support the provinces, with some $500 million dollars going to Ontario and some $50 million or $60 million going to Manitoba. That money has actually flowed; it is not just a promise or a commitment. That money is in Manitoba's and Ontario's pockets right now. They are working on a government by government basis to do that. It is probably going to require a power of purchase agreement and it is going to require a major investment in the transmission, which I think the bulk of the funds would be used for. I continue to be very optimistic about that. The member for is the Manitoba member in particular who has fought hard for that.
With respect to Lake Winnipeg and Devils Lake, this is a significant concern. Our primary problem is with the state government, but this House unanimously, and certainly with the government's support, passed a resolution presented by one of the member's NDP colleagues on this issue.
To follow up, I was in direct communication with representatives of the American government and others. In September, just last month, I had a specific meeting on this issue with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. There was only one issue on the agenda. We agreed that the scientific reports should be coming out this fall and that we should take a limited period of time to review them and try to get a high level group of political leaders together to seek to resolve this.
I believe it is essential that we continue to put on the pressure to get an agreement that will protect Lake Winnipeg. I appreciate the fact that this issue has been a non-partisan issue. We worked quite well with members of all parties when it came before the House of Commons. We will continue to work hard with Premier Doer and his government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of the people of to address some of the priorities that our government has in this session of Parliament.
I am especially pleased to join the who just outlined the action plan for the environment.
The environment is an important issue to the people of and all of the people of Manitoba, including yourself, Mr. Speaker, and other members of the House.
The state of Lake Winnipeg is a serious concern in my area, where we rely on the lake for our livelihood and our health. Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba fall within my riding, but I know that all members of the House love the lakes and love everything that they contribute to our economy, to tourism, to recreation and, of course, as a major recharge area for our aquifers.
Lake Winnipeg serves commercial fisheries as a main source of the province's annual commercial catch. Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba combined have 1,100 commercial fishermen and women on those lakes. It is also a vital transportation route to the north and there is a popular summer resort area for cottagers and tourists.
We all know that water is central to the health and well-being of all Canadians, our environment and our economy. That is why the Speech from the Throne reiterated our commitment to a safe and secure water supply. Through our national water strategy, we now have an action plan for clean water. The government will be working with provincial governments and stakeholders, as well as taking action on its own to address and make real and continuous progress on water related issues.
The government has backed up its words with action. We have dedicated over $400 million to our action plan on clean water, and the key word here is “action”. This year's budget committed $35 million on freshwater initiatives to clean up the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe and to study the water levels of the Great Lakes.
Most important, for the good people of and Manitoba, our budget measure provides $7 million over the next two years for the clean up of Lake Winnipeg.
As the House knows, recently the , the and our government House leader were in Jackson's Point on Lake Simcoe in Ontario where they met with community stakeholders and experts who are leading the work to clean up that lake. They also established a mechanism and a fund to deliver the goods.
With regard to Lake Winnipeg, I am pleased to say that we will be establishing a new water stewardship fund for the Lake Winnipeg basin. Like the other lakes being cleaned up by the government, we will deliver the goods on Lake Winnipeg. Most important, we will ensure that these resources are spent wisely and are spent on actually cleaning up the lake and on projects that will actually improve the water quality.
It is a matter of accountability and responsibility. Working with the Manitoba provincial government, we will be taking action that will allow us to better understand how pollutants and nutrients can be controlled in the entire watershed, which covers two states and three western provinces, plus part of Ontario. We will understand how that whole watershed affects Lake Winnipeg.
The goal is to reduce the blue-green algae in Lake Winnipeg, decrease the number of beach closings that we hear about on the news all the time, promote a more sustainable fishery and enhance the recreation.
My fishery generates over $20 million a year in freshwater sales of pickerel, whitefish and other species, and the blue-green algae problem that we are facing is becoming a great concern to most of the fishermen. Even though the catch today is good, we know that the blue-green algae is toxic, is causing oxygen depleted zones in the lake, in both the north basin and the south basin, and it is an issue that we must fix if we are to have a long term and sustainable fishery. The work on Lake Winnipeg will help to serve as a model for larger trans-border watersheds throughout Canada.
Budget 2007 also supports healthy oceans. The government is investing $382 million for conservation and protection of fisheries and ocean habitats with initiatives such as $39 million over two years to increase fishery science research programs, $19 million over two years for water pollution prevention, surveillance and enforcement along Canada's coast, and $324 million to enable the Canadian Coast Guard to acquire two new fishery research vessels and four patrol vessels for coastal surveillance and enforcement.
The federal government has direct responsibility for the provision of safe drinking water on federal and first nation lands. Through the first nations water management strategy, the government takes a source-to-tap approach to water safety, providing assistance for activities on protecting source water and for monitoring everything at the tap that people are drinking.
In March 2006, the previous minister of Indian and northern affairs, along with the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, announced a plan of action for drinking water in first nation communities. Last year's budget invested $60 million over two years to help reach the objective set out in the plan of action.
In budget 2007, the government again committed to working with first nations to ensure that all first nations' residents have access to safe, potable drinking water.
Our government has further committed to the development of a regulatory regime to oversee water quality on reserves based on the options presented by the expert panel of safe drinking water for first nations.
In addition to making new investments, the government is prepared to use its regulatory authorities to address water pollution more generally.
In September, the government announced its intention to take action to cut water pollution by setting hard and tough new national standards for sewage treatment. Municipal raw sewage is the single, most significant contributor to water pollution and we will be taking action.
The government has also assured Canadians that the unprecedented $33 billion in the building Canada infrastructure plan will provide long term, stable and predictable funding that will help support infrastructure projects, such as sewage treatment plants. We know that throughout Manitoba, including the city of Winnipeg, we need to spend more money on infrastructure to ensure good, clean water is being delivered to all those communities but, more important, that we are collecting all the sewage and properly treating all that waste water.
The importance of water and the challenges we face means that action must be taken by all levels of government. I am pleased to note that there is a strong foundation in Canada on which we can build. There is a strong base for cooperation and action on Canada's water. Many provinces and territories already have in place water policies and strategies that establish watershed based governance and take concrete action to protect drinking water.
For example, the province of Alberta's water for life strategy is transitioning from traditional planning for water allocation to an integrated watershed management, supported by a shared governance model.
On the other side of this great country, Quebec's water policy is founded on full integration of water management by adopting an integrated watershed management approach. The Quebec water policy is based on citizen involvement, integrated management of the St. Lawrence River and recognition of water as an integral part of the collective heritage of the citizens of Quebec.
Ontario has also enacted measures to protect drinking water supplies in its clean water act, which requires each municipality to have watershed management and source water protection plans in place.
The federal government takes an important role in providing scientific leadership on water quality issues and invests in research and development to protect surface water and groundwater supplies. The government also works collaboratively with the provinces and territories in areas of joint interest. The primary forum for working with provinces and territories on water priorities is the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
Because water quality is a priority issue for all Canadian jurisdictions, enhanced collaboration in water quality research, monitoring and guidelines is a key objective. This has been a key component of the approach taken by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
Working through the council, the federal government plays a leadership role in the collaborative development of the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality and provides advice on source water quality.
The council is working on developing a Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal waste water. It is establishing environmental quality guidelines for water. It is analyzing water conservation measures and performance indicators and it is developing national tools for water management, like the water quality index.
Important regional cooperation in water management is achieved through such bodies as the Prairie Provinces Water Board, the Mackenzie River Basin Board and the Red River Basin Board. The Red River Basin Board includes the province of Manitoba, as well as the states of North Dakota and Minnesota.
Canadians can have confidence that their government will continue to work on the plan to achieve real results and tangible improvements in Canada's water.
However, at the end of the day, when we want to talk about protecting our oceans, our lakes and our rivers, Canadians want to look for solutions to fix their problems, to stop the nutrient loading of our precious resource, Canadians only need to look in the mirror. We all have a role to play. There are things that we can be doing in our homes and in our own yards to ensure that what is being put into the watershed will better protect our lakes and oceans.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the .
I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the Speech from the Throne.
My constituents of Newton—North Delta and Canadians in general anticipated a more detailed action plan from the government, but all they got were some vague statements in the Speech from the Throne.
Unlike the Conservatives' election platform, I noticed health care failed to become a priority on its own. Perhaps the government is admitting its failure to put a comprehensive plan in place up to now, more than 18 months into the Conservatives' mandate. The government has disappointed Canadians by not delivering on the goals of reducing wait times. I doubt we will ever see a federal commitment from the minority Conservative government which this very important issue requires. If anything, the Conservatives' goal to reduce the federal government's role in cost-sharing programs leads me to believe that this will be just another broken promise as they have broken many other promises that they made in their last election platform.
Another vague reference in the throne speech is to taxation and the government's plan to reduce the GST by yet another penny, but where did the last penny go? All Canadians know where it has gone. It has gone to increase the taxes for the lowest income tax bracket.
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal: Mr. Speaker, it is true. That is exactly what the said in his speech when he tried to mislead Canadians. The hon. sitting on the other side is trying to give the same impression.
In fact, we all know it is true that the Conservative government has raised the taxes for the most vulnerable in our society. With a $13 billion surplus, the government could do more to reduce taxes for the most vulnerable in our society, for seniors, working single parents, youth, the disabled and the other disadvantaged people.
When I speak to businesses and the chamber of commerce and when I go to the Scott Road market in my riding, all they talk about is competitiveness and how we can be competitive on the world stage. The only way we can stay competitive is by decreasing taxes for the corporations.
When the Liberals took power from the Conservatives in 1993, there was a $41 billion deficit left by the Brian Mulroney Conservative government. The Liberals balanced budgets one after the other to put the finances of this country on a strong financial footing. That is not where it stopped. In fact, we also reduced income taxes from 28% all the way down to 19%.
The Conservative government has to follow the Liberal lead to attract businesses here for the long term. To retain those businesses, we have to make a commitment to lower corporate taxes even further to protect the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs now and in the future.
Yesterday I noticed when the was speaking that she did not have a clue. She was speaking to Bill on old age security and giving seniors the benefits they deserve, but in fact, she was talking about income taxes or the pension plan. And when it comes to pension plans, the Liberals are the ones who put the Canada pension plan on a strong financial footing.
In the throne speech we listened to the mantra of the Conservative government to get tough on crime. If the Conservatives were truly tough on crime, they would not have prorogued Parliament, but they would have dealt with all those crime bills, all of which I voted in favour of at every stage. That is exactly what my constituents of Newton—North Delta were looking for.
Canadians are even more disappointed with the Conservatives now because all they are doing is playing politics with this issue, instead of respecting the work that has been done and passing these laws to protect Canadians. The would rather take the stand that only his party is tough on crime, but how can that be when legislation is delayed for months and perhaps a year? The last time that I heard in this House that we wanted to fast-track those crime bills was in October 2006. It has been a year. If we had acted on those bills, they would have been law by now and we would have protection for the most vulnerable victims in our society.
When it comes to the environment, the government has also failed. When we talk about the environment the people of Newton—North Delta think first of one thing, the Lungs of the Lower Mainland, also known as Burns Bog. This is a huge carbon sink in an ecologically sensitive area right in the heart of metro Vancouver. The bog is home to many species of plants and wildlife, many species that are rare and endangered and exist nowhere else in Canada. It is a very special place to me, my family and my constituents of Newton—North Delta.
The Burns Bog Conservation Society and its director, Eliza Olson, whom I recognized in this House last year as Earth Day Canada's hometown hero, tell me that the current design for the Pacific Gateway project and especially the South Fraser Perimeter Road will pose a danger to Burns Bog and its ability to absorb tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is something we cannot allow.
There are alternatives. People have asked me why the government is not listening to them. There was not a single mention in the throne speech when it comes to the Pacific Gateway and this environmentally sensitive site and the routing that I am talking about. The alternatives offered by different people, groups and experts will create a greater vision than the Conservative minority government is willing to commit to so far.
I have written to ministers, I have stood in the House, I have presented petitions from my constituents asking the government to treat the Pacific Gateway project like the St. Lawrence Seaway project of the last century so that we can protect the children who go to school in my riding. Do not get me wrong; when it comes to the Pacific Gateway project I want make sure that I clarify that it is very important for our economy to move on this, but at the same time we have to make sure that we do not sacrifice people's quality of life and their health. We have to protect the people who are impacted by that project in my riding of Newton—North Delta.
If the minority Conservative government truly has an interest in enhancing trade with the Pacific Rim as well as protecting our environment, then it should address the concerns of my constituents by exploring the alternatives to the proposed designs and providing the funding to do it right the first time.
The people of Newton—North Delta should not have to shoulder far more of the burden in terms of harm to their health, their environment and their lifestyle in order to benefit trade throughout Canada. We need leadership on this essential international trade route. Unfortunately, I do not see it coming from the government because it has not acted on this in the last few months that I have been raising this issue with the appropriate ministers.
When it comes to child--
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in my place in reply to Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne.
I am pleased that the good people of Sydney—Victoria, from New Waterford to Iona to Pleasant Bay and all the communities in between, continue to provide me with support.
I have to echo the words of my colleagues and others. We just cannot trust the and the Conservative government. There is no better example than the Atlantic accord.
Prior to this sitting of Parliament, the summoned the Nova Scotia premier to Ottawa for a press conference to announce that a new deal had been reached. This was a new side deal that his said would never happen. Where is the finance minister these days? He is cross-border shopping.
Now we find there is no agreement after all. There is no memorandum of understanding, no signed deal. An editorial cartoon in the Cape Breton Post indicated that the so-called deal was written on the back of a napkin at Burger King.
The promised to honour the Atlantic accord, but instead he broke his word. Just like Brian Mulroney with the Canada pension plan, the Prime Minister broke a trust.
Another thing that most of my colleagues do not realize is my riding of has the largest aboriginal population in Atlantic Canada. The Conservative government broke Canada's trust when it reneged on the Kelowna accord. I believe the government has an opportunity to regain that trust by implementing the Kelowna accord.
Today I will be given an opportunity to show the Conservative government that it can redeem itself. There are several commitments in the throne speech that could result in some significant progress being made on issues facing our country and my constituency.
Recently our leader charged me with the task of holding the government accountable on issues relating to small business and the tourist industry. Despite the fact that we have large oil projects and mineral deposits and large manufacturing companies, the reality is small businesses are the backbone of our nation's economy.
I will quote from page 11 of the throne speech, which states:
Key sectors including forestry, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism are facing challenges. Our Government has taken action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions and will continue to do so in the next session
Those are fine words. The Conservative government has a funny way of supporting tourism businesses in adjusting to the global economy. As our dollar went up, the government eliminated the GST visitor rebate program. This was a program that allowed visitors to receive a rebate when they paid the Canadian GST tax. This was not new. All G-8 countries do this, but the Conservative government has taken it away. When the dollar is going up and the tourist industry is facing a crisis, the Conservative government gives the industry another disadvantage. If the government truly wants to help our tourist sector adjust to global conditions, it should reinstate the GST visitor rebate program in this session.
Page 10 of the throne speech indicates:
By investing in our transport and trade hubs, including the Windsor–Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways, our Government will help rebuild our fundamentals for continued growth.
The government has another opportunity to redeem some of the trust it has lost.
The port of Sydney in my riding is an important east coast port with enormous potential. During World War II, Sydney was second only to Halifax as an important convoy hub. Once again there is an opportunity for this port to regain its rightful place.
Recently our local businesses, the port authority and the government sponsored a port master plan. The private sector and the government are working together, but they need infrastructure commitments. Twenty-five million dollars would be enough to dredge part of Sydney Harbour and make it one of the best deepwater ports on the Atlantic coast. It would also open the harbour to a lucrative container trade.
It is very easy to dredge and the materials that they dredge could be used for supplying another ship berth for the cruise industry.
I would like to state in the House that this season alone Sydney received 45,000 visitors on cruise ships, exploring the many treasures on our island. Next year, the port of Sydney will see 80,000 passengers. The industry is growing, but it requires infrastructure support.
The bottom line is this. For a small investment from the government, Sydney will create thousands of jobs and provide a strategic gateway for goods shipped to Canada, which will go to the rest of North America.
I continue on through the throne speech. There are opportunities for those guys. On page 15 of the throne speech, it indicates that the “new infrastructure plan” of the government “will promote a cleaner environment by investing in public transport and water treatment”. However, very important, its says “that it will also clean up contaminated sites.”
Once again, there is an opportunity for the government to regain trust, an opportunity to act. Is this saying that it will act?
New Dawn Enterprises is in my riding. It is a non-profit grassroots operation. It has a serious problem with a contaminated site. It was formerly a DND site. It is called the radar base. New Dawn is providing affordable housing in this park. It has taken the site, which the government did not need, and turned it into affordable housing, a very good initiative. However, it has run into a brick wall because the Department of National Defence continues to drag its feet in cleaning up the site.
I strongly urge the , who is also the minister for the province of Nova Scotia, and we would think that would kind of click in, to instruct his department to clean up the site so New Dawn can continue with its good work in the community.
In combing through the throne speech, I have seen tourism only mentioned once. The government has no idea how important tourism is to our economy, both nationally and regionally. The government has done little to help the free flow of people coming across our borders from the U.S. It has done nothing. The least it could do is invest in some of these tourist projects and signature events.
I will allude to one event that is coming up. It is the 100th anniversary of the first flight in the British Commonwealth, and that happened in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1909. We will be celebrating that in 2009.
The Aerial Experimental Association was headed by Alexander Graham Bell. It was founded in Baddeck the year before. It has many innovative designs that we see today on a lot of our planes.
What I am getting at is this. For some reason, our governments, not only provincial but federal, have not committed to this number one signature event. This event has national significance and it could take place right in Cape Breton.
Local organizers are doing a great job, but there is no assistance from either levels of government. I therefore urge the to take an active role in making this great even into one of the best things that could happen in Canada in 2009, an event that should be celebrated not only in Cape Breton, but right across the country.
What we have is a government that talks a good game. For two years the government has harped about the need for infrastructure, for getting tough on crime, lowering taxes and making us more competitive. It has announced programs, but no one knows how to get an application. In short, the government has done nothing but spin stories. When it comes to actually doing something, it falls short.
Minority governments should be working for Canadians. However, the government has chosen not to work with the opposition parties. We know what happened in 1963 and 1965 with Lester Pearson's minority government. Health care, a pension plan and our flag came about. Unfortunately, the government does not see this.
I have one last example. I introduced a bill to help sick people on EI benefits. It was passed in the House, but it was blocked by the government. There is not an MP in the House who does not witness these cases in his or her riding. I urge the government to restore the compassion and implement the changes for the vulnerable and sick.
This, along with the previous initiatives I stated, should be acted on. The Conservatives have a great opportunity to show some leadership with the financial situation that the Liberals gave them. They should show some leadership and act now.
Mr. Speaker, I will split my time with the .
It is always a pleasure to share a forum with him. Just this morning, we were together to announce the implementation of the Healthy Canadians website, which seeks to inform Canadians on food and product safety. This is good news, because it means that, at last, a government is taking action in this area.
I am also pleased to rise to stress the importance of protecting our environmental heritage in the Canadian North.
Canadians see the North as a reflection of our deepest aspirations, including our will to explore and discover the beauty and the wealth of our land, as well as the incredible potential of our country. At the same time, the environment is the single most important issue for Canadians. To protect the environment is to protect the identity of Canadians. This is why protecting our environmental northern heritage will be one of the main focus of the government's northern strategy, which was announced last week in the Speech from the Throne. Concrete measures were proposed to protect the Canadian Arctic.
The Liberals, who were in office for 13 years, did not develop any plan to protect our sovereignty in the Canadian North. Their inaction is one of the reasons why the North needs our attention and actions more than ever.
The time for talk is over. As the said regarding our defending the North, we must use it or else accept losing it. It is as simple as that. Of course, this government intends to use it.
Our government's intention to replace Canada's largest icebreaker and to conduct a comprehensive mapping of Canada’s Arctic seabed are obvious signs of its commitment to the North. Good governance in the Arctic also requires that we increase Canada's scientific knowledge on the North's unique environment. Scientific research and development are critical to the defence of the Canadian North, in that they allow us to increase our knowledge of that region and also our presence.
Because of the great expanse of the Arctic, the complexity of the science involved and the monitoring necessary to understand this diversified region, we will build a world-class arctic research station that will be on the cutting edge of arctic issues. This station will be there to serve Canadians and the entire world.
Major investments in the north include $150 million to promote research and science as part of International Polar Year. With these initiatives, we are currently looking at the impact of climate change on the hydrological cycle and the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems in the Arctic and on the relationship between climate change and contaminants.
The importance of protecting the fragile ecosystems of the north was stressed in our government's budget 2007, which announced funding for a massive expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada. An additional parcel of land covering an area of 5,400 square kilometres within the ecosystem of the greater Nahanni area, where species such as the grizzly and woodland caribou are found, will be protected.
As part of budget 2007, our government also earmarked $10 million in funding for the establishment of protected areas in support of the Northwest Territories protected areas strategy.
This government is also looking toward the future. Canada's north is a resource-rich area. There was a time when the existence of many mineral deposits was known, but these were inaccessible due to limitations in terms of technological capacities, transportation and infrastructure. Today, the possibilities are endless. Northern economic development could contribute significantly to Canada's overall economic growth as well as create jobs.
The far north issue is a source of concern for a majority of Canadians. In our ridings, people often stop and ask us what action will be done to deal with threats coming from outside the country. As government members, we are then proud to be able to tell them that action has finally been taken after so many years of inaction and that it is in blank and white in the Speech from the Throne. We have reason to be proud.
Mr. Speaker, at this time I will be participating in the debate on the Speech from the Throne as a member of Parliament for Parry Sound—Muskoka of course, and as the Minister of Health and Minister responsible for FedNor.
Certainly, my constituents believe that the Speech from the Throne is a testament to the strong leadership that our government is providing to deliver the better Canada that Parry Sounders and Muskokans, and indeed all Canadians want. They want a government that puts them and their families first.
Clearly, the government has taken positive action and has kept its word: lower taxes, new crime-fighting laws, choices when it comes to child care, measures to improve access to health care, and solid, decisive leadership at home and abroad.
When it comes to health care, over the past 19 months we have launched many important initiatives, including: the start of Canada's very first national cancer and cardiovascular strategies: a revised Canada's food guide to healthy eating, updated for the first time since 1992; bringing mental illness “out of the shadows at last”, to use Senator Kirby's memorable phrase, by creating a Mental Health Commission; the Canadian HIV vaccine initiative and partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; support to provinces and territories to protect women and girls from HPV; and, I believe last but not least, we have made good on our commitment and supported the provinces and territories to develop Canada's first patient wait time guarantees.
Those are the results that we have worked to achieve with the throne speech of October 16. We are certainly striving for more.
I first want to address our commitments to a clean environment before I speak to the actions we are taking on food and product safety.
For far too many years, too many Canadians have come to rightfully think of rhetoric when they think about the federal government's work on the environment. However, our work is about earning Canadians' respect so that they can rightfully think that they can get results and, instead of lagging behind other countries, we want to bring Canada to where Canadians want us to be: the world leader.
This is what guided our resolve in taking immediate action in the last session of Parliament to protect Canadians from potentially harmful chemical substances.
For instance, through our chemicals management plan, we have earned recognition as the world leader in dealing with the global challenge of assessing chemicals that were introduced before modern and rigorous screening criteria were put in place.
Today we are taking action, obligating industry to demonstrate that it is safely using chemicals of greatest concern.
When it comes to air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, the need for urgent action is also clear. My colleague, the , spoke about this earlier today.
Indeed, when we look at everything that has been done, we can say that our regulatory processes are among the best in the world but, of course, there is always room for improvement.
Since 1990, medical equipment imports, for instance, have nearly tripled, food imports have more than tripled, while toys and sports equipment imports have nearly quadrupled.
To keep pace with globalization and the emergence of new technologies, we need to do a number of things, including modernizing the Hazardous Products Act.
We also need to consider changes to the Food and Drugs Act. Right now, the maximum fines under this act are minuscule compared to other industrialized countries and, therefore, hardly a useful deterrent. As a result, it is fair to consider strengthening this act's provisions to make it more effective.
Our government is also determined to improve our services for providing consumers the information we all need to make safe choices. For example, we are working to provide better information to consumers suffering from food allergies. Toward this goal, we are reviewing the policy on the use of precautionary statements for food allergens and working on options for strengthening allergen labelling regulations.
For the good of Canadians, we are moving to replace ambiguity with clarity for the sake of safety.
On the same note, as the throne speech referenced, in recent months there have been numerous situations in which Canadians were exposed to products that were substandard at best and dangerous at worst. For parents, and I say this as a father myself, most alarmingly, many of these had to do with children's toys. When it comes to our children, as parents we can say this, nothing is more precious than their health and safety, which is why we are acting immediately.
On Thursday, in Toronto, for instance, officials from my department will join the Canada Standards Association and the RCMP who will be launching their campaign to increase consumer awareness at the start of the holiday shopping season.
This summer I directed my staff to review, among other things, our existing powers and authorities on product safety so that we can work to close the gaps wherever necessary.
Today, with my colleague, the , I had the pleasure of announcing a new website that will put at the fingertips of Canadians the latest information on toys and children's products recalls as they happen.
What is the address?
Hon. Tony Clement: My colleague would like to know what that site is. It is healthycanadians.gc.ca. This gives Canadians a one stop option to get information on toy and children's products and food recalls.
With this new web tool, Canadians can now search for information on recalled toys and children's products dating back to 1995 by either the product name, the company name or the date of the recall. Going forward, this database will also include recall information on many other types of product recalls, including cosmetics, household items and sports and leisure products.
What is more, this particular site is linked to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's information on food recalls, putting vital information for Canadians in just one place.
I should also say that I am working with the and our partners in customs and law enforcement to determine how we best can work together to keep counterfeit products out of Canada's supply chain.
I know very well that the vast majority of industry takes consumer safety very seriously and it is only a notorious few that behave irresponsibly. Make no mistake, this is where we will focus our efforts.
In conclusion, I would like to address one of the points the government emphasized in the Speech from the Throne. Throughout history, Canadians have worked together tirelessly to build the united Canada we have today: a prosperous, safe country that is respected at home and abroad.
It is our plan to work from the legacy left to us to build a safer and a better Canada today and for our future and that, above all, is what the Speech from the Throne is all about. That is why I call upon all members of this august chamber to vote in favour.