Skip to main content Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication

39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 076

CONTENTS

Thursday, April 10, 2008





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 142 
l
NUMBER 076 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers


  (1005)  

[English]

    The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Privilege

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Barbara George 

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, on February 12 of this year, I, on behalf of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, tabled in the House the third report of that committee. In the report, the committee was of the unanimous opinion that then RCMP Deputy Commissioner Barbara George provided false and misleading testimony to the committee on February 21, 2007, and the committee further recommended that the House find her in contempt and that no further action be taken.
    Marleau and Montpetit, on page 862, state:
--the refusal to answer questions or failure to reply truthfully may give rise to a charge of contempt of the House, whether the witness has been sworn in or not.
    I rise today on a question of privilege. Based upon the unanimous report of the committee, I would ask that you find that a prima facie case of contempt has been established. Should you so rule, Mr. Speaker, I would then be prepared to make the appropriate motion.
    I have heard the hon. member for Charlottetown and his submissions. I understand that the report he has tabled on this matter from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was a unanimous report of the committee and accordingly I am prepared to find there is a prima facie case of privilege and will allow him to move a motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the member for Edmonton--St. Albert:
    That the House of Commons find Barbara George in contempt of Parliament for providing false and misleading testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts on February 21, 2007; and that the House of Commons take no further action as this finding of contempt is, in and of itself, a very serious sanction.
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    I have the honour to lay upon the table a report of an official visit for the 15th Canada-Mexico Inter-Parliamentary Meeting held at Mazatlan, Mexico, from February 17 to 19, 2008.

Committees of the House

Scrutiny of Regulations  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Minister of Justice to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the report of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.

International Trade  

    Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade on the Canada-EFTA free trade agreement. Pursuant to its mandate under Standing Order 108(2), the committee has studied the free trade agreement between Canada and the states of the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
    This is the first agreement to be tabled in the House of Commons under the federal government's new policy of allowing members of Parliament the opportunity to review and debate international treaties in the House of Commons for 21 days.

  (1010)  

Petitions

Income Trusts  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a very large number of Canadians, all from the province of Alberta, who remember the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.
    The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he 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 government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, as shown in the finance committee; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Industrial Hemp  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a very interesting petition to present on behalf of many Victoria residents. They are asking the government to recognize that industrial hemp is a valuable fibre and a large biomass source that could be used to replaced many commonly used problematic materials. Right now I am wearing a shirt made of that material.
    Industrial hemp could help farmers diversify their farm operations, so the petitioners are asking the government to invest in the construction of industrial hemp processing facilities to utilize the pulping of Canadian industrial hemp when making paper and other products and to utilize industrial hemp biomass in the making of biofuels, instead of food for fuel. I am very pleased to present this petition on behalf of my constituents.

Transport  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present three petitions from my people in my community.
    The first petition calls on the Government of Canada to stop the deregulation of the transportation sector that has put Canadian lives at risk. Deregulation, they say, has resulted in more accidents across all transport sectors, including rail accidents in British Columbia that have involved hazardous waste. There has been a real increase in rail accidents. They support strong regulation, not voluntary regulation, and they are very concerned that the government's preference for self-regulation is putting Canadian lives at risk.

Afghanistan  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition deals with the war in Afghanistan. I have presented many of these petitions in the past. The people who have signed them call on Canada to rebalance the mission and begin the safe withdrawal of Canadian Forces from the counter-insurgency part of the mission in southern Afghanistan.

Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, my third petition deals with the issue of unification of families under the immigration system in Canada.
    The petitioners say that unification, particularly of seniors with their families in Canada through immigration, is a core aspect of forming strong, healthy, vibrant families and communities in Canada. They believe that the current system calling for a 10 year residency requirement under Canada's income security program is wrong. They ask Parliament to amend the Old Age Security Act to eliminate the 10 year residency requirement and to work with provincial governments to waive the enforcement of sponsorship obligations in situations of genuine immigration sponsorship breakdown involving a senior.
    I am pleased to present these petitions on behalf of my constituents.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here from thousands of Canadians from right across the country who point out that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. In fact, more people die from asbestos poisoning than all other industrial reasons combined, yet Canada remains one of the world's largest producers and exporters of asbestos, dumping 220,000 tonnes per year into third world countries.
    The petitioners call on Canada to ban asbestos in all its forms and institute a just transition program for the asbestos workers and communities. They also call upon Canada to end all government subsidies of asbestos in Canada and abroad and also call upon the government to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

  (1015)  

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 208 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 208--
Mr. Paul Dewar:
     With respect to the procurement of temporary personnel services by the government over the last five years: (a) what are the total government expenditures for such services, on an annual basis as well as over the five year period; (b) on an annual basis, what amount is spent by department; (c) how much was spent annually, on a departmental or agency basis, in the National Capital Region alone; (d) what is the breakdown by province for such services; (e) which companies received contracts to provide temporary personnel services; (f) what is the annual combined total of all contracts awarded to each company; (g) on an annual basis as well as over the five year period, how many people were hired by temporary employment agencies to work for the federal government, nationally as well as in the National Capital Region; and (h) on an annual basis and by department or agency, how many employees were hired on a temporary basis, nationally as well as in the National Capital Region?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

[Translation]

    Agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: It seems the hon. member for Joliette wishes to raise a point of order.

Point of Order

Bill C-505 — Canadian Multiculturalism Act  

[Point of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about the point of order raised yesterday by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River concerning the constitutionality of Bill C-505.
    First, I would like to show that the constitutionality of a bill is not a procedural issue that comes within the purview of the Speaker of the House. Second, I would like to show that my colleague's arguments about the unconstitutionality of Bill C-505 are not supported by constitutional law.
    In the point of order he raised, my colleague mentioned that, unlike government bills, private members' bills do not receive the scrutiny or check of the Department of Justice. This is true. But he neglected to say that private members' bills are assessed for constitutionality by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, which declares that bills are non-votable if they do not comply with constitutional law.
    However, the subcommittee declared that Bill C-505 is votable. In fact, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River is asking you, Mr. Speaker, to take the subcommittee's place and, given that you cannot declare that this bill is non-votable, to ensure that it is not debated. Mr. Speaker, with all due respect—and you know I have the utmost respect for you—the role of the Speaker of the House is to rule on issues of parliamentary procedure, not legal issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote from a ruling you gave on May 3, 2007:
    The other issues raised in the point of order of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, while interesting and cogently argued, are related to the substance of the bill and to legal issues arising therefrom and not to procedural considerations. While they may well be of interest to members as they consider this legislative proposal, they are beyond the purview of the Chair.
    We think that this is exactly the same situation.
    Second, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River is alleging that Bill C-505 is unconstitutional under section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will now read section 27 of the charter:
    This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.
    Section 27 is very clear. It guides the interpretation of other sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In their treatise entitled Droit constitutionnel, “Constitutional law”, Henri Brun and Guy Tremblay explained this section as follows:
    Section 27 states that interpretation of the Charter must be consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.
    The Supreme Court of Canada, in Keegstra, 1990, the ruling my colleague quoted from, takes the same view:
    Section 27 has therefore been used in a number of judgments of this Court, both as an aid in interpreting the definition of Charter rights and freedoms...and as an element in the s. 1 analysis.
    Contrary to what my colleague stated, I would like to clarify that in the Keegstra case, the hate crimes provision in the Criminal Code was upheld because the limitation on freedom of expression that it sets out is justifiable under section 1 of the charter, a section that has been interpreted in light of section 27, which I cited earlier. However, it is false to suggest that the provision was upheld under section 27 itself. As I said, this section guides the interpretation of other sections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On its own, therefore, it is not enough.
    In conclusion, section 27 is an interpretive provision of the charter, and if not considered together with another section of the charter, it does not in itself create law. Consequently, Bill C-505 cannot be unconstitutional under section 27 of the charter.
    On a different note, my colleague claims that the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and section 27 of the charter are flip sides of the same constitutional coin and that my real intention in presenting Bill C-505 is to amend the Constitution. I do not intend to expand on this matter since the argument is so weak. If we accept his reasoning, then what about section 3 of the charter, which guarantees the right to vote. Can we claim that the Canada Elections Act is so entwined with the exercise of that right that it is inextricably linked to the Constitution and cannot be amended without amending the Constitution? As we know, a number of bills on this matter are currently being studied by Parliament.
    Section 16 of the charter states that English and French are the official languages of Canada. Does the Official Languages Act therefore have a quasi constitutional status?

  (1020)  

    I could go on, but I think I have made my point.
    Bill C-505 proposes to amend a single piece of legislation, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, not the Constitution Act, 1982, with the aim of exempting Quebec from the application of the multiculturalism policy.
    Over a year ago, this House recognized the Quebec nation. The Bloc Québécois now finds that the House must put its words into action and give concrete meaning to that recognition. In fact, Bill C-505 is the second opportunity the Bloc is giving this House to solidify that recognition. It is also the second time we have had to defend the constitutionality of the measures we are proposing.
    We can only conclude that although this House has recognized the Quebec nation, a number of parliamentarians sitting here have no problem using the procedural tools available to them to try to prevent votes on the concrete measures that we are proposing in that regard. They want, at all cost, to avoid showing that when it comes to implementing concrete measures, the recognition of the Quebec nation no longer means anything to them.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when the member for Scarborough—Rouge River laid out his case with regard to Bill C-505, I think he made all the appropriate references. I think the facts, as I heard them and read them again today, appear to provide a compelling argument.
    The other point, as the member for Scarborough—Rouge River pointed out, is that a government bill, prior to going to cabinet, would need to have the imprimatur of the justice department with regard to constitutionality.
    With regard to private members' bills, we have a subcommittee on procedure and House affairs and it is, as I understand it, part of its responsibility to opine on votability on a number of criteria, one being constitutionality.
     I find it very hard to believe that a subcommittee of procedure and House affairs would have at its beck and call the proper advice and guidance in regard to complex questions about constitutionality. It is a matter where I believe we have put the committee in a situation where it has a responsibility which it has no resources to effectively discharge. There are some complex arguments here with regard to this matter.
    If that subcommittee were to take a decision that a particular item was not votable, the mover of that bill would have the opportunity under the Standing Orders to appeal, whether it be through procedure and House affairs or, in fact, directly to the House.
    Should another member or the House itself decide that there is some problem with regard to votability or constitutionality and no appeal had been made by the mover, there is no opportunity, other than coming to the House now and suggesting that this issue of constitutionality is an important issue. Every private member's bill has an opportunity to bring forward matters which have the same full force and effect of any other bill that becomes law from a government or in any other fashion that it would come before the House.
    My submission to you, Mr. Speaker, would be that the question of constitutionality may, and I would suggest that may is the appropriate word, not have been appropriately assessed at the subcommittee. The matter is so important that other considerations should be taken to ensure that this matter is resolved with the same kind of scrutiny that a government bill would receive prior to being presented to this place.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there is a procedure already in place, a means of studying the constitutional aspect of bills. The matter has been debated. Furthermore, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, who, to my knowledge, attended the debate, could have put forward his arguments. The majority of members of the subcommittee decided that the motion was votable, and therefore that a substantive debate should be held. In my opinion, all members, including you, Mr. Speaker, should respect the subcommittee's decision and proceed this evening with the consideration of the substantive question.
    The Chair has heard the arguments advanced by the hon. members for Joliette, Scarborough—Rouge River and Mississauga South on the admissibility of Bill C-505, An Act to amend the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (non-application in Quebec).
    As I indicated yesterday, it does not fall to the Speaker to settle constitutional issues. However, given that it is also a question of the nature of the initiative, I intend, for now, to allow the debate to continue this evening and I will get back to the House as soon as possible with a more complete decision.
    In the meantime, I would like to remind hon. members that it is important to raise points of order as soon as possible in such situations, and not at the last minute.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Budget Implementation Act, 2008

    The House resumed from April 9 consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to Bill C-50, the budget implementation act, and outline some of the reasons that New Democrats will be opposing the legislation.
    On any number of fronts, the bill fails to provide for working and middle class families, but I want to address specifically first nations, Métis, and Inuit. On these fronts, it fails to provide adequate housing, safe drinking water systems, education and, unfortunately, the list does go on.
    I want to put this into some context. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in its alternative federal budget document, did a very good job analyzing some of the challenges facing first nations, Métis and Inuit. In its document, it talks about the fact that government figures confirm that first nations received approximately $6 billion from the federal government in 2006-07. This funding was for all services, services that other Canadians receive from all three levels of government, which would include the federal and the municipal governments.
     It goes on to say that the 2% annual increase in first nations' budgets is less than one-third of the average 6.6% increase that most Canadians will enjoy through Canada health and social transfers in each of the next five years. When adjusted for inflation and population growth, the total budget for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada decreased by 3.5% between 1999 and 2004. As a result of the 2% cap, it is estimated that the accumulated shortfall through 2007-08 is $774 million. This has an impact on all aspects of first nations, Métis and Inuit, whether it is their ability to join the labour force, to live in clean housing or to access clean drinking water.
    There are on reserve and off reserve Inuit in the north. When we talk about off reserve, I want to touch briefly on the plight of Indian friendship centres. The friendship centres have been chronically underfunded for any number of years and yet we know they deliver a vital and important service in urban communities where there are large numbers of first nations, Métis and Inuit.
    In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, we have two very good friendship centres, Hiiye'yu Lelum and Tillicum Haus. Both of those friendship centres have been forced into the kind of fundraising that we would not expect of any other organization delivering services. I would agree that it is important to look for partners but these organizations have such limited core funding that they are always lurching from funding crisis to funding crisis, despite the very good services they deliver in their communities.
    I want to talk briefly about the funding and the fact that the budget implementation act does include funding for child protection services. However, in the alternative federal budget it states that the current funding formula drastically underfunds services that support families and allow them to care for their children safely in their homes and communities. As a result, for first nations the removal of children from their homes and communities is often the only option considered, not the last option.
    I have spoken to this House before about least disruptive measures and how we actually pay for foster care off reserve at prices that, if we were to put that money into the on reserve community for least disruptive measures, we would actually close the gap around education, housing and the poverty that is a daily living condition in many first nations communities.
    The alternative federal budget estimates that rather than the $43 million over two years that this bill would put in place, $388 million should be allocated over three years. The sad reality is that the Assembly of First Nations and other partners have had to take this complaint about the chronic underfunding for child protection services in this country to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
    In December, this House stood and supported unanimously my private member's motion on Jordan's Principle. I do not want to repeat all of the stories but Jordan was a little boy from Norway House Cree Nation who died in the hospital. He had spent four years in a hospital and two of those years were because of a jurisdictional dispute between the federal and provincial governments.
     In a recently released report called “Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth”, a recommendation was made that when there is a jurisdictional dispute between the federal and provincial governments that the federal government step forward and demonstrate some leadership and pay first. It has mechanisms to recover those payments once those jurisdictional disputes are completed.

  (1030)  

    We simply should approach this from a child-centred approach and say that children come first in this country and we will put the resources where they are needed.
    The Norway House Cree Nation, where Jordan lived and where his parents gave him up to foster care in order to get him care, there are 37 children right now with complex medical needs. The parents of these children may also need to surrender their children to the provincial foster care system in order to get their children's needs met. This is happening because of a funding problem from the federal government perspective.
    I will now touch briefly on the issue of violence against women. British Columbia has a highway called the Highway of Tears that runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert. From 1989 to 2006, nine young women either disappeared or were murdered on that highway and all but one of them were first nations women.
    Working with community partners, the provincial government has stepped forward and funded some forums and a number of key recommendations came out of them.
    However, once again the federal government has failed to demonstrate leadership when it comes to aboriginal women and violence. There have been many pleas for the federal government to step forward and help with the funding of some coordinator positions in Prince Rupert and Prince George. People are calling for a highway transportation feasibility study that would look at community safety. They are also asking for funding for some of the important recommendations that came out of the community forums.
    We have wide documentation on violence against aboriginals and the federal government could step forward and support some of the initiatives that communities have put forward.
     I now want to turn to education. Article 15 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:
     Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.
    Sadly, the federal government has failed to support a number of articles in the UN declaration and, in fact, actively lobbied not to support the declaration. It is playing out right now in first nations education across Canada.
    Many people in this House will be familiar with the Attawapiskat situation where the community is resorting to tools like YouTube to get its message out across this country. Attawapiskat is not the only school in this country that is suffering. The parliamentary library did some research for us and found that 39 schools were currently on the list for construction or renovation projects, and those were only the ones that we could identify. The parliamentary library estimated that it would cost $350,833,000 to construct or renovate these 39 schools.
    We have seen surplus after surplus and yet we continue to have schools to which not one of us would send our children. Reports have shown many safety hazards with respect to these schools, such as doors not closing properly, mould, and roofs in danger of collapsing from heavy snow, and yet we still cannot get the kind of movement that is required from the federal government. A school in northern Saskatchewan burned down in 2004 and still has not been replaced.
    This is not just a problem in Attawapiskat. Unfortunately, because of the lack of transparency within the government, we have not been able to get a complete list of all the schools on the list so we could let Canadians from coast to coast to coast know how many first nations and Inuit children are unable to access the kind of education that we say is a fundamental human right in this country.
    We often try to present ourselves as champions of human rights and yet we have citizens in this country who do not have access to the things that we think are fundamental human rights.
    I would encourage members of the House to oppose this bill unless it can be amended to include some of these important measures that would ensure the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis is equal to that of other Canadians.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member started her speech by talking about the north. We are doing many great things in the north and we are determined to keep doing that. We have a very aggressive northern agenda.
    The newspaper in Yellowknife has urged the NDP to get off its high horse and support this budget because it is good for the north. I wonder if the member would comment on the fact that many northerners say that this is a good budget for the north.
    Mr. Speaker, like anything else there are always elements in any piece of legislation that have a positive effect. However, what we have to do is look at the piece of legislation as a whole. We have to look at the complete context.
    We had a housing report not long ago for north of 60 which talked about the failure of the federal government and previous federal governments to address the housing crisis in the north. We have women in the north who are in violent situations, who are at risk, and they simply have nowhere to go.
    I would argue that we need to take a comprehensive look at the north, work with the people in the north to make sure that we are covering that range of services, which includes education. Justice Berger's report still has not been responded to by the government. On the north of 60 report, where is the comprehensive response to that? There are many other issues being faced by the north that simply are not addressed in this budget.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. She mentioned that she did not think our government was doing anything to protect first nations women from violence.
    I think that first nations women in particular when they are in a matrimonial breakdown find themselves very vulnerable. Our government, and of course the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has brought forward legislation that will bring about matrimonial real property protections to first nations citizens, including women. Does the member think that is a good idea and would she support it?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not say that the government was doing nothing. I was actually calling on it to address a very specific situation on the “Highway of Tears” where the federal government simply has not stepped up to the plate.
    With regard to matrimonial real property, article 18 of the UN declaration talks about indigenous people having the right to participate in decision making, in matters which would affect the rights to representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures and so on.
    When it comes to matrimonial real property, we have had the Native Women's Association of Canada quite clearly say that it did not have a hand in the final drafting of this legislation and that it has some very serious concerns.
    Therefore, I would encourage the government to bring the MRP bill back to the House for debate. We could then send it to committee to call witnesses and make appropriate amendments that would actually reflect the needs of first nations women and children in this country.

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to support the member in more funding for friendship centres.
    I was the president and treasurer of our local friendship centre and I have mentioned this many times. Hopefully there will be more money for the headstart program, which is a very successful program.
    Also, we have had a review of land claims in Yukon and I am hoping that in the budget or in the supplementaries there will be sufficient funds to deal with that.
    I am hoping that the government will work quickly to settle more land claims. There is much to be done and I hope the government will come up with the money either in the budget or in supplementaries for that and hopefully Tsawwassen will come to the House soon.
    Finally, the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council had a great conference. I think the member is aware of that. It came up with all sorts of recommendations and I hope the government will look at those recommendations and implement some of them.
    Mr. Speaker, there was a lot in the member's question. I will just talk about the Yukon self-government agreement and land claims.
    What we have seen is delay and stall tactics on the part of the government. The Council of Yukon First Nations and the nations that have been involved in these agreements have done a tremendous amount of work in pushing forward its agenda on justice as well as many other matters.
    Yet, the government is very slow to respond and come to the table with the resources that are required for full implementation of these very important agreements.
    Again, the budget fails to address some of the important implementation issues that have been raised consistently over the last five to nine years.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the NDP and the Liberals have finally seen the light. They have seen the great initiatives this Conservative government is taking in relation to aboriginal Canadians and all Canadians.
    As a result of that, I move:
    That this question be now put.
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I think this motion is out of order. We are in the middle of a debate. Members in the House are ready to speak to Bill C-50. I do not know where this motion comes from, but debate on this bill is continuing. A number of members are here ready to debate this bill.
    Just on that point, the motion does not prevent the debate from continuing. All it does is prevent any further amendments from being moved, so that the members in the House who are lined up to speak on the matter will be able to do so.
     Of course, the parliamentary secretary concluded his speech as he rose by moving the motion. We will now move to questions and comments, on what I am not sure. Nevertheless, we are in a question and comment period with respect to the brief appearance of the parliamentary secretary.
    The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
    Mr. Speaker, from that very short speech, I want to be really clear that I was not in wholehearted support of this particular budget implementation act. I think the budget is sadly lacking with regard to issues facing first nations, Métis and Inuit.
    I would like to ask the member if he could tell me how this budget addresses the serious education gaps, gaps around housing, and violence against women, just to name a couple?
    Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. It did not take us two years, it did not take us one year. The very first budget this government ever implemented addressed the issue of northern housing. It provided $300 million for northern housing on reserve and $300 million for off reserve housing. We have already addressed that issue and we continue to address the issue.
    We continue to support vulnerable Canadians. We have provided $110 million to the Mental Health Commission of Canada to increase our knowledge of those who are homeless and suffering from mental illnesses. We have provided $282 million over this and the next two years to expand the veterans independence program. This government stands up for vulnerable Canadians. We get the job done for all Canadians.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member gave a one sentence speech, which basically said that the speeches made by the Liberal and NDP members showed that they supported the government's work on aboriginal people. That, of course, had absolutely no relation to reality. I even saw the Speaker raise his eyebrows.
    I want the member, if he wants to maintain his integrity, to defend the statement that the previous two speeches said even one thing in support of the government's support of aboriginal people.
    Mr. Speaker, that gives me an opportunity to talk a bit more about what we are doing for aboriginal Canadians in this particular budget.
    There will be $70 million over two years for measures to foster aboriginal economic development. Those are real steps to move forward for aboriginal Canadians. There will be $70 million over two years to improve first nations education outcomes. There will be $147 million over two years to improve first nations and Inuit health outcomes. We have listened to aboriginal Canadians. We have moved forward with safe drinking water and housing.
    We have moved forward because this Conservative government wants to get the job done for aboriginal Canadians and all Canadians, and we are doing that. We are glad that the Liberal Party is standing up or I should say sitting down because it is allowing us to move forward our agenda for Canadians. We want to thank the Liberal Party because we are getting the job done for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I too am puzzled by the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.
    But remember the quote that I read about you.
    Yes, and I am also puzzled by the comments that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development made.
    I guess he did not see the poll that was conducted in the Yellowknifer as well, which unanimously supported my position to stand up to the Conservative Party that only provided an increase of 10% in the northern residents tax deduction.
    I say this to the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. The New Democratic Party does not stand and say that the government has taken our money that it should be allotted to housing in Bill C-48. It applied it and that is great, but that money is going to be sunsetted.
    The minister of housing in the Northwest Territories is distressed by the fact that we are going to be running out of money for housing that can assist aboriginal and non-aboriginal people across the territory in getting affordable housing. This is the case. There is nothing new for housing in this budget. It is a disgrace.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there was a question there, but I know the NDP takes a position to the left, to the right, out of this world, and somewhere on the moon. It does not matter what position those members take, they are never going to form government. They are never going to be able to take any positive steps anywhere to help Canadians.
     I have talked to the people in northern Alberta because actually I am right next to him as far as our constituencies go. I respect the member. However, let us be clear. The increase of 10% in the northern living allowance was welcomed by all northerners. It had not been touched in 20 years before this government took positive steps. We recognize the needs in the north.
    However, let us talk about something else that is going to directly affect this member.
    We will just have to talk about it at another time because the time has expired.
    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak about an issue that has caused my constituents great concern and fear.
    In fact, in the time that I have served as the member of Parliament for Newton—North Delta, my office has never received this kind of reaction from the people in my riding. The issue that I am referring to are the changes the government is proposing to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
    Over the past few weeks, Canadians have been told that these amendments would make the system more efficient and improve the way that immigrants are welcomed into this country.
    The facts do not support these claims and the government is misleading Canadians. Since this government took power, the application backlog has grown by over 100,000.
    The simple fact of the matter is that Canada's immigration system is severely understaffed. We need more immigration officers, more consulate officials, and more branch offices across the globe. These are the simple adjustments that must be made if we have any hope of overcoming this backlog. I will tell members something else we need more of, and that is immigrants.
    Two-thirds of Canada's population growth between 2001 and 2006 was fuelled by immigrants. According to the 2006 census, Canada is on track to becoming 100% dependent on immigration for growth. By 2012 immigration is expected to account for all the net labour force growth. The Conference Board of Canada estimates a shortfall of three million skilled workers by the year 2020.
    These statistics are the reality of our country's future. Canada's growth, both in population and in the economy, will collapse without a steady flow of immigrants.
    The new powers that are being proposed for the minister would have the potential to allow great abuses of the system. The minister would have the ability to pick and choose which immigrants she decides are acceptable. The minister would also be able to cap the number of applicants by category. Family reunification and permanent resident applications could be slashed.
    The scariest proposal is to allow the minister to reject applicants who have already been approved by immigration officers. This minister is bringing politics into the immigration system. No one person should have the power to choose who gets into Canada and who does not.
    How can Canadians be sure that the government will not favour one class of immigrants over another? With these new ministerial powers, there are no guarantees that people and businesses would be treated objectively.
    Every day I speak to residents in my riding who are very fearful that if this bill passes their family members are going to be ignored and their business are going to suffer.
    There are thousands of my constituents who were once immigrants themselves and who have built a life that contributes to the betterment of Canadian society. These Canadian citizens are desperate to be reunited with their families, and they have gone through all the proper channels to make this happen. However, with these changes, the rules would not matter any more.
    At times, I wonder if this government understands what immigration really means, beyond a raw economic cost-benefit analysis. Does the government even understand the religious and cultural heritage that immigrants bring to our country?
    This Sunday is Vaisakhi, the celebration of the birth of Khalsa. It is one of the most important days in the Sikh nation heritage. I congratulate the Sikh nation on this most important day. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and their fellow Canadians will celebrate peacefully and inclusively for the well-being of everyone in the world.

  (1050)  

    I am proud to say that the largest celebration of Vaisakhi, the birth of Khalsa, in North America takes place in my riding of Newton—North Delta. I encourage my colleagues to take part in these ceremonies in their communities and celebrate Sikh heritage.
    I am an immigrant to this country. My family members have joined me in Canada since I arrived over two decades ago. There is one thing in which I always had faith. I never had a doubt about the fairness of our country and its immigration system.
    Canada represented new opportunity, a better life for my family and, most important, equality, meaning that everyone was assessed in the same way. If these amendments pass, that expectation of opportunity for all will disappear, so too will Canada's reputation as a welcoming country for immigrants.
    I want to conclude by asking a simple question. If the government feels these amendments will improve the system, why is it hiding them in a budget bill? The budget should be voted on by itself. These proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are too important to be hidden. If these changes will make a positive impact, then the House should be able to consider them on their own.
    I encourage the government to remove the proposals from the budget bill and allow all members to voice their opinions without the threat of an election. This is what I mean when I say that politics is being put ahead of good policy. This is a matter that should not rushed through in isolation. If the government believes in transparency and accountability, it will allow an open and honest debate. We all know the record of the government on transparency and accountability. Conservatives talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk.
    Once again, I want to repeat the desire of my constituents to allow the House to consider the immigration act on its own. Governing is about making choices. In an age where we have billions of dollars in surplus, there is no reason why immigrants should be turned away. We have the resources to speed up the immigration process. We have the ability to increase the numbers of immigrants we let into our country. We have an obligation to ensure that fairness continues to be a guiding principle in our decisions.
    Now is the time that we, as representatives of the people, must stand up for Canada's best interests. I will stand up to vote against Bill C-50. I am grateful for this time to speak and I am ready for any questions my colleagues might have for me.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the floor go on and on at great length about his opinions on the bill. I heard him say that he would stand in this place and vote against the bill.
    Will the hon. member opposite bring any of his colleagues in to vote against it, or will they stand in the House, make their speeches opposing the bill and then do what they have done in the past, which is sit on their hands? Is this another case in which the hon. member is making his leader look weak?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, when I look at the track record of my leader, whether it is on environment, or immigration or on social justice issues, there is no one who comes close to him. I am very proud of my leader and I am in full support of him.
     I appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety asking the question, but this is exactly what I mean. When it comes to the government, it is playing politics with immigrants. It has put this as part of the budget bill. I can say—
    How are you going to vote?
    If the member for Langley is in the House, he will find that out.
    However, every group in our country is avoiding the drastic changes the government is bringing to the immigration system because businesses and families in Canada will suffer.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from Newton—North Delta regarding immigration. I know it is an important issue for the hon. member, being an immigrant himself.
    In the budget, surprisingly, the Conservative government indicated that it intends to give more discretionary power to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. We all know about the hidden agenda. It seems a little paradoxical to say everyone knows about the hidden agenda, but we could say that everyone suspects that the Conservative government, which is reactionary, might have a hidden agenda.
    I would like to ask the hon. member for Newton—North Delta how the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will use her new discretionary power, that is, the power that will allow her to make decisions that go against all existing rules. Why does he think this government is granting itself this discretionary power? For what purpose and how will it be used?

  (1100)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the hon. member for her work on the very important files.
    When it comes to the transparency and accountability of the government, the member is well aware of the bad practices of the government, whether it be the Brian Mulroney-Schreiber affair or the Afghanistan issue. These are issues of which the member is aware.
    It worries me that the minister can pick and choose which immigrants she wants to bring into our country. When I look at the system, perhaps she will want to bring in skilled workers, depending on the demand, but the provinces already have that program in place. It is the PNP program. Under that program, provinces can bring in those immigrants.
     This is exactly what the government is all about. It is playing politics with every single issue.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased and honoured to have spoken last week about Bill C-50, Budget Implementation Act, 2008. I spoke about various aspects of this bill. Let me begin by putting things in context. This may seem like a good budget and it may work for some, but there is nothing in it for Quebec. Quebec's Conservative members were not able to meet a single condition that the Bloc Québécois set down on January 23 on behalf of the majority of Quebec ridings. At that time, the Bloc Québécois presented Quebec's immediate and urgent needs. I will list them for you, but first, I would like to remind you that these needs were identified by Bloc members during our prebudget consultations, not only in Bloc ridings, but in other ridings as well. You will note that one very important, very urgent need was not included in the budget, and that is direct and immediate assistance for the manufacturing and forestry industries.
    Nor did it include any assistance for workers in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Yet Quebec and Canada have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs because of this manufacturing crisis. As you know, Quebec and Ontario have been particularly hard hit. The Bloc Québécois members are here to defend the interests of Quebeckers, and we condemn the fact that the budget contains no measures to resolve the current crisis in Quebec's manufacturing and forestry industries.
    The dozen or so Conservative members elected in Quebec two years ago now have not followed through on their promises. These members were elected based on big promises: they asked to be put in power in return for millions. And I am not talking about the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who even had the courage to say something. Courage is not the right word, but I would not dare use the word that comes to my mind right now. It is certainly not courage, perhaps it would be gall, to use a slightly nicer word than the one I am thinking of. So, he had the gall to promise a Marshall plan, with billions of dollars and called it the “Blackburn plan”. I apologize for using his name, but he said it himself two days ago in the House of Commons. He then spoke about another plan called “his name II”.
    First of all, when I heard this, I had little hope that his second plan would be any better than the first, since his first plan was a bust. He spoke about the “his last name II” plan, which made me think about Star Wars—we started with the fourth episode, before seeing the first three. Second, we realized that it was not the [his name] II plan, but the “Blackout II plan”. In short, there was absolutely nothing in his first plan or in the second one.
    The Conservative government gives absolutely nothing to Quebec in this budget implementation bill. The Conservative MPs from Quebec were absolutely incapable of obtaining anything. I imagine that they have no power in caucus. Nothing has changed for Quebec and that is why the Bloc exists. Federalists have been elected and sent to Ottawa. Since 1993, that has happened less and less. A minority of Conservative or Liberal members are sent to Ottawa because Quebeckers understand what goes on. Conservative members who have promised to defend Quebec's interests and wield power get elected. Some will become ministers and will sit with the other Canadian ministers in cabinet or in their caucus. And there they do nothing, absolutely nothing. They very seldom are able to obtain anything for Quebec. The Conservative ministers scurry on all fours to collect the crumbs thrown by the cabinet.

  (1105)  

    The same thing happens with the caucus: it throws some crumbs to the starving Conservative members who keep quiet and ask for nothing in public. They do not speak up publicly because they are told to keep quiet in the name of party discipline, in the name of Alberta, which does not need money but receives it nevertheless, because that is where the stronghold of the Conservative Party is. These Conservative members are incapable of doing anything for Quebec. This budget before us is ample proof of that once again.
    I promised to list the Bloc Québécois's demands made public on January 23. We asked for direct and immediate assistance for the troubled manufacturing and forestry sectors, as I explained a little earlier. There was no help in this budget for the workers and communities affected by this crisis. We have been calling for an older worker assistance program for a long, long time. Again, there is absolutely nothing in the budget for that. And yet it is precisely that kind of program that could help the workers get through the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
     I want to take a few moments to explain POWA. It is a program that gives working people generally over 55 years of age an income roughly equivalent to employment insurance. It actually does fall under the employment insurance umbrella. This income helps them bridge the period between becoming unemployed, for example at 57 or 58 years old, and the moment they qualify for a government pension at 60 years of age. It covers a year or maybe two, or sometimes just a couple of months. In most cases, it helps these people avoid having to resort to welfare. POWA provides very parsimonious benefits to people who cannot easily change jobs and find themselves in what I would call desperate straits.
     Some of us were lucky enough, of course, to be born with the gift to learn things quickly and easily all our lives. Others find it more difficult. They get close to retirement and for them to learn about computers at that age is just too big a mountain to climb. We need a program like POWA for people who find themselves in a difficult situation and cannot easily learn new skills. That was one of the Bloc’s demands.
     We also wanted compensation for the seniors who were swindled out of the guaranteed income supplement. This program was a scandal under the Liberal government and the scandal continues under the Conservatives. I remind the House that it was the Bloc Québécois that exposed the GIS problem. Hundreds of thousands of seniors were entitled to benefit from it and receive annual payments of as much as $6,000 to add to the meagre government pensions they were already getting. It afforded them an almost decent income and raised them over the poverty line.
     For years, though, the Liberal government of the day did all it could to ensure that seniors did not find out they were entitled to this supplement. The Liberals did all they could. The call centres were real labyrinths where people could never actually reach anyone. We know how difficult it is for the average person to deal with an answering machine and can only imagine what it must be like for someone who is older. In addition, the people who qualify for the guaranteed income supplement are usually among the poorest and have the least education. Often they have difficulty speaking one of the two official languages, or even both, and are also ill and isolated.
     The guaranteed income supplement was one of the Bloc Québécois's demands. A few improvements were made to it, thanks to the Bloc. When we in the Bloc say we are helpful, there is no need for any more proof. Assistance for older people, thanks to the guaranteed income supplement program, is another specific accomplishment of the Bloc Québécois.
     My time is running out, unfortunately, because I still have a lot to say. The Bloc Québécois will vote against the budget implementation bill, therefore, because it fails to meet our minimum demands. I did not have enough time to mention the environment, culture or a single securities commission, but these issues were also included in the Bloc’s minimum demands, which the Conservative government failed to meet.

  (1110)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in addressing Bill C-50, it is important to see the context in which this budget bill has come forward and the economic policies of the government that underwrite it. In that regard, it is important for us to look at the policies the government has implemented since it has been in power, and in particular the Conservatives' absolute obsession with their ideology around the importance of tax cuts to move economic development forward in this country.
    We saw the process kick into high gear in the fall of 2007, when we saw the governing Conservative Party and in fact the Liberal Party bidding each other up as to how much in corporate tax breaks and corporate tax cuts should be given to the large corporate sector in this country. Those cuts went ahead fully supported by the Liberal Party to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.
    The cuts were to be concentrated in the oil and gas sector and the finance sector. In the finance sector the banks alone were earning an annual profit in the $20 billion range. Those corporate tax cuts gave that sector an additional $2 billion. The oil and gas sector received similar types of benefits from the government.
    We see the consequences in the budget. The budget is very close to being balanced. Depending on revenue this year, it is not beyond the pale that we would fall into deficit. It is very clear that at the very least a number of programs that are sorely in need of assistance from the government will not be funded because of those decisions.
    By hollowing out the ability of government to pursue valid social policy programming by this type of tax cut, we ensure that on an ongoing basis governments are not going to be able to protect their citizenry and develop all of their potential as individuals in our society. That is what is going on here. That is the context in which we see Bill C-50, the current budget bill.
    I want to address the consequences to the auto sector. I come from a community where the auto sector is the dominant industry. It is rather interesting to watch the conflicts that go on between the finance minister and the industry minister, but the finance minister and the Prime Minister say that they cannot pick winners or losers.
    That is not accurate. The government is quite prepared to intervene in the market. I am going to quote some statistics from a group that is not particularly friendly to the NDP, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. These statistics were printed in this morning's newspaper.
    During their first fiscal year in office, the Tories paid out $25 billion in grants, contributions and subsidies. Here is where we are into this inaccuracy on the part of the finance minister when he says they are not prepared to pick winners or losers. That included $350 million to Quebec based Pratt and Whitney Canada and $47.5 million to the Mont Tremblant ski resort, again in Quebec. In the spring of 2007, the government announced a $900 million fund for the aerospace sector.
    Where is the auto sector? The auto sector creates at the present time 140,000 jobs in this country. The aerospace sector creates 75,000 jobs currently. The number in the auto sector is dropping dramatically. The aerospace industry is stable at this point.

  (1115)  

    It is interesting that the industry minister at that time, now the foreign affairs minister, said we needed that $900 million fund “for the defence of the aerospace industry”. The auto industry is in much worse shape and in much greater need of defence than the aerospace sector is.
    My party repeatedly speaks about the need for assistance to the auto sector, and we heard the same this week from the Liberals, but what do we get? We get the platitude from the finance minister and to a lesser degree from the industry minister that they do not support winners or losers. That is simply not true.
    The government has made a very clear decision in its economic policies and it is reflected again in the budget, in Bill C-50. It has made very clear decisions that it is going to support certain sectors of the economy and give them preference and priority over other sectors. Oil and gas, finance and aerospace are all getting preferential treatment. There is direct assistance and subsidies in the form of tax cuts or direct dollars going to those sectors and nothing to the auto sector.
    In the auto sector in my community alone, in direct and indirect jobs over the last three to three and half years, 17,000 jobs have been lost. That is in a total population of less than 400,000. It has the second highest unemployment rate in the country and this budget does nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing to assist the auto sector.
    I want to make a point and perhaps it will be of particular concern to the finance minister since he comes from a riding that is immediately adjacent to Oshawa, a major auto sector dependent community. Windsor is at the very forefront of these losses and devastation in the auto sector, but his community is not far behind, nor is Oakville, St. Catharines or London. They will be facing the same kinds of problems that Windsor is facing.
    The problem is that, either because of its obsession with tax cuts based on that very warped ideology that has been proven not to work around the globe or because of its desire to support specific sectors like oil and gas, aerospace and finance, the government is unwilling to help the auto sector. This is reflected by the absolute absence of any assistance in this budget to the auto sector.
    There are a great number of programs and policies that could be put into place within the auto sector and then funded to some degree by the government. The NDP has been working on a green auto policy, for instance, for well over five years now, with very specific, detailed proposals as to how we would put that into place. We need to understand that this budget totally ignores any of that. This is not just the NDP speaking. It is the auto sector, the major corporations that produce and sell cars in this country and, of course, the labour unions that work in those plants.
    It is a cohesive policy. It is one that has very little disagreement within that sector of what needs to be done, the roles that all of the participants in the sector need to play and the need for a partnership from the federal government in order to be sure that policy can be put into place and the results of that work deployed into the economy generally so we create many more jobs while saving a great number of jobs as well.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague very intently. He touched on a number of issues.
     I would like to ask him why he voted against the environment when he voted against providing funding of $1.5 million to help the provinces improve their environmental positions by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Why did he vote against providing $30 million to the Great Bear Rainforest? Why has he voted against carbon capture and sequestration? It is a technology in which Canada is a world leader but he voted against that.
    On one hand, the NDP speaks as though it supports the environment, but when it actually comes down to voting for funding for the environment, the NDP votes against it. Why is that? Why do we see that inconsistency in the NDP?
    Mr. Speaker, I regularly get up and point out the hypocrisy of questions. That question has got to be near the epitome of it when we see what is going on in the environment committee right now. For the first time in Canadian history, a government is filibustering a committee.
     What is that about? It is about the environment. It is about dealing with global warming and climate change. It is a bill that the three opposition parties all support. It is a bill that all of the major environmental groups in this country support. However, what is going on? The government, for how many hours, how many days and how many weeks, has tied up that committee. It is just absolutely hypocritical that I would get that kind of question from the government.
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would expand on his last comment about committees. He is on the justice committee, where the chair has walked out four times in a row, leaving witnesses from across Canada stranded, witnesses for whose attendance Canadians have paid.
     I was glad the Conservative member mentioned the carbon sequestration project, which we started.
    However, my question is for another area of the hon. member's expertise, that of the justice agenda. He is a very thoughtful participant in that area. I think we can agree that the government had a large number of misguided bills in that area, many of which failed, and thank goodness for Canadians, considering the damage they would have done to Canada.
     Nevertheless, bills did get through and that agenda had financial consequences. I would like to ask the member if he thinks the government's budgets, estimates or anything even analysed and then reflected the financial costs of the agenda that was presented in legislation.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Yukon raises a very valid point. The government, and I will say this both about the justice ministers and the public safety minister, has consistently moved forward with programs and law that impose additional burdens on the provinces.
     For instance, when it comes to our police forces, we are still waiting for those 2,500 police officers the government was supposed to fund. There is money in the budget. I question whether that money is in fact going to flow, because up to this point in the previous two budgets it did not. We did not get any of those police officers whatsoever. We had been assured that we were going to get 1,500 more RCMP officers. We got hardly any of those.
    There is no question that the prosecution and judicial wings of our courts now are significantly overburdened. Again, first, the government has not done the assessment of how much it will cost the provinces and, second, has certainly given no indication of willingness to assist the provinces in those added costs. On those costs, by the way, both the prosecutors and our judges were already substantially overwhelmed before that new legislation came forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill, which contains many of the measures set out in the government's budget.
    After over two years of lavish spending, the government decided, wisely, to be a little more fiscally prudent with this budget. We have heard many times before in the debates that this is indeed the first Conservative government to have a balanced budget since Robert Borden's government in 1912.
     The only reason why the government has not plummeted into deficit is the sound fiscal inheritance of the previous Liberal government. When the Liberal government left office there were billions of dollars in surpluses. Also, the Liberals managed with eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canada had the best fiscal record in all of the G-7 economies.
    This year the title of the budget was “Responsible Leadership”. It is rather ironic, I would think. We have heard from many that we are indeed on the cusp of a deficit.
     The government went on a foolish spending spree when times were good. It made irresponsible tax cuts, taking $12 billion out of the fiscal framework with the two cuts to the GST, and now that the economy is beginning to slow, our financial situation becomes more precarious. Responsible leadership and sound economic management, I would say, are certainly questionable.
    When the government delivered its budget speech, it appeared like a straightforward document, only for the government to deceive Canadians with the bill before us, which contains what I would call a zinger clause. With the budget implementation bill, the government has imposed upon Canadians immigration measures that would give the minister unprecedented power: unprecedented power to pick and choose, unprecedented power to determine who gets in and who stays out, and unprecedented power to play favourites.
    What the government is saying yet again is “trust us, we know best, we will make the rules and you will be better off”, a pattern we have seen with the Wheat Board and the government's manipulation of processes and numbers. We have seen it with the censorship activities of Bill C-10 and with the lack of consultation on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the list goes on.
    In this case, the government wants to be trusted, trusted to decide behind closed doors if one's mother, father or children can come to Canada, again with no consultation, with no input from those most affected on any of the impending changes, whether they are families, settlement groups, employers or provincial governments.
    Just this morning in committee, the Auditor General was before the committee and spoke to the importance of consultation in the development of any policies of government. The government wants us to believe that it will meet its goal, as articulated, of reducing the backlog with an increase in the budget of approximately 1%, and it is asking for trust.
    Immigration needs to be taken out of the bill and properly studied in committee. A few years ago, I was part of the committee that revamped the immigration bill. The consultations were widespread. The chorus was not unanimous by a long shot, but everybody had an opportunity to put forward his or her position and the consequences of decisions taken and decisions not made, and I would say that we have to do that again this time.
    The government plays mind games with Canadians. It talks about being tough on crime, yet it stalls its own justice bills in the House and uses them to play petty partisan games when they get to the Senate.
    When I look at this budget, I have somewhat the same reaction that I did to last year's budget. A little money was spent, with a sprinkle here, a dash there, a pinch for this and a pittance for that. Once again the government tried to appeal to everyone, but has spread its funds too thinly. One of my constituents calls the Conservatives' style of government and budget making “fast-food government”.

  (1130)  

    We know that our cities and communities are in vital need of investment. We have all heard about the billions of dollars of deficit Canadian municipalities face with respect to their infrastructure. We have also heard from the finance minister that potholes are certainly not his responsibility.
    My own city of Winnipeg, like other cities in members' ridings, has significant financing challenges and yet there has been no recognition by the government of these challenges faced by cities. What the Conservatives did finally incorporate was the step the Liberals promised, and that was to make the gas tax permanent, and I commend them for that.
    Budget 2008 provided $500 million for public transit out of the 2007-08 surplus. However, within days of that, we learned that $108 million of it was going to restore a train service to run through the minister's riding. Nobody had asked for that and no advice had been given on it.
    The government has refused to answer questions about Manitoba's infrastructure program. We know that the floodway for Manitoba is non-negotiable. We know how important it is.
    It was over a year ago when funding for the floodway was announced under the Canada strategic infrastructure program. A month later, it was decided to allocate the funding under the building Canada fund, which, I might add, is full of moneys committed by the previous Liberal government. This would shortchange the province of Manitoba by $170 million in infrastructure funds that could well go to a host of other issues.
    I also want to talk about Lake Winnipeg. We heard grant announcements on what we in Manitoba call “our beloved Lake Winnipeg”. We heard that an additional $11 million would be headed toward the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg, bringing the total, with moneys committed previously, to $18 million.
    Examination of several websites, coupled with conversations with many researchers and scientific experts on the restoration of the health of the lake, show that few funds indeed have been forthcoming to date. Again we have heard empty words and hollow commitments.
    The Conservative government continues to treat the women and children of Manitoba and this country as an afterthought. Many of the issues of importance to women have largely been bypassed. The programs that most women talk about as important and transformative, such as housing, child care, education, health care, unemployment insurance, and legal aid, are of limited interest to the government.
    We hear members opposite espouse family values and talk about children as the future. We also hear members opposite talk about skill shortages and the need for skilled workers. However, social programs go hand in hand with economic programs.
    I have spoken many times here in this House about the need for quality child care. What about it? Nothing is forthcoming except that cheque through the mail. Where are the promised spaces? In my riding, there are huge waiting lists. Parents are forced to leave their employment. Parents, and particularly single mothers, do not have the necessary supports.
    In the last few months, the waiting list at one day care in my riding has grown from 300 to 400 children. It receives five to ten inquiries a day about spaces. The government has not made the connection on the availability of child care spaces to economic growth.
    Although I do not have time to read for members an email on this, I will take another opportunity to do so. I received an email that listed all the parents with respect to that child care facility, the jobs they do, and the contributions they make to the economic growth of the city of Winnipeg. Coupled with that is the desperate need for space in their day care.
    I wanted to talk about the government's shortcomings with respect to aboriginal people, whether it is in education or in how the government is ignoring them in the consultation process on the repeal of section 67. We heard in committee this morning from a group of aboriginal women who have very grave concerns about the matrimonial real property legislation, which I look forward to reviewing.
    However, we know that the government has not addressed the needs of aboriginal peoples except in this piecemeal, cherry-picking, fast-food manner of a little bit here or a little bit there. We will see what we can do.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as I would like to ask the member for Winnipeg South Centre a number of questions on a file we both share, I will leave that to the time I have in committee.
    The question I have for her is in relation to the statements she made with regard to the changes to the immigration policy as proposed in the budget.
     In a democracy I feel individuals who are elected to the House of Commons have the opportunity to put forward ideas and changes in policy and represent, in the House, the reasons why we feel they are right for the country. The member opposite also can stand in her place to advocate for a different position.
    Is she philosophically opposed to the position we have put forward to the point that she would vote against our government and force an election?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is taking lessons from members opposite in not answering questions.
    It is incumbent upon us, as duly elected legislators, to have the opportunity to hear from those who are most affected by the legislation. It is important that the legislation go to a separate committee, that it be dealt with in a comprehensive manner, that we hear from those who are involved in the immigration world, those who are most affected by the legislation, and then decisions will be made as to whether to support or not support the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I especially noted the member's comments about the lack of early learning and child care facilities and services in her city. We face the same issue in Victoria. I heard last night that there was a large meeting in Nelson held by the mayor, wherein it was expressed that the lack of child care really prevented economic development because people could not go to their city.
    The question I have for the hon. member is this. I introduced a bill that would enshrine principles of accessibility, universality and affordability into home care to create a program across Canada. I know the member supported the bill. Would she continue to support this, to have a law in Canada, instead of simply the kinds of agreements that her government negotiated, which, as she knows, were cancelled at the stroke of a pen.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, the House has heard me many times speak about the importance of child care. I would do whatever is required to ensure that a national child care and early learning system was built across the country, whether it is legislation, or negotiation with provinces and territories one on one, whatever it takes to enshrine and create a national program.
    I think it is a definition of who we are as a country. Some of the members may have heard me tell this story in the House before, but it always bears repeating. The first child care agreement was signed with the province of Manitoba. For the hundreds of people who were there that day, it was a very exciting. It was made into a remarkable moment when a group of people stood, as the two ministers signed the agreement, and sang O Canada. I want to be a part of that kind of Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this week I spoke about Bill C-50. Due to the amount of time that each of us is given, we cannot always delve into all the details of a bill, but we can be certain that Bill C-50 deals with the implementation of the budget.
    This week I spoke about the type of society we would like to live in, and I highlighted the very conservative philosophy that underlies this budget. I spoke about oil companies and banks that seem to be receiving numerous tax credits, while in the manufacturing and forestry industries companies cannot benefit from these tax cuts because they are not making any profit and are systematically closing down.
    Today I would like to focus on an aspect of the bill that falls under my responsibilities. I took a long look at the military contracts that are inherent in this budget. Since the Conservative government came to power, we have seen a clear trend towards militarization and an American-stye military philosophy. Some American and Canadian companies are really hitting the jackpot because of the Conservative government's major shift in direction.
    Defence contracts will be worth roughly $20 billion over the next few years. What is even worse is that there has been almost no discussion of this spending. It would practically take experts to investigate the ins and outs of all these contracts and how they came about. Normally, the government should follow a specific procedure when it purchases equipment worth more than $20 billion.
    First, it is very important to have a foreign policy that describes Canada's place within the international community and clearly establishes the responsibilities Canada intends to take. This forms the basis for a defence policy and possibly an international development policy under CIDA, as well as a number of other things. Certainly, nothing has been done since 2005, when the Liberals updated a policy or policy statement.
    As a result, today we are faced with announcements and the signing of contracts worth more than $20 billion, but we have no word on the foreign or defence policy. Normally, in such a case, discussions are then held to determine what military equipment we will purchase to meet the requirements of our defence and foreign policies.
    For the past year or two, the government has promised us a defence capabilities plan and a defence policy. Not only have these failed to materialize, but Canada is taking a piecemeal approach to military procurement, issuing more than $20 billion in contracts. The risk is that, once all these contracts have been signed and the goods purchased, Canada will tailor its foreign and defence policies to what it has purchased. The government is unlikely to create a policy that says Canada does not need C-17s or strategic or tactical aircraft when it has just purchased $20 billion worth of such aircraft. The government's approach is therefore somewhat dangerous. In my opinion, the government is going about things backwards, because it should have drawn up a plan, from which a policy and a defence capabilities plan would have followed. Then the government could have determined what equipment it would need.

  (1145)  

    What we are dealing with here is an inconsistency, and Canadian and Quebec taxpayers are the ones who are going to have to pay the price.
    I have the figures here. Those C-17 strategic aircraft cost $3.4 billion. The worst thing is that there are two parts to military contracts: the cost to acquire the equipment and the cost to maintain it over 20 years. That is the department's new approach.
    Many Canadian companies are saying that at least Industry Canada is responsible for the purchase cost and that companies will benefit from the economic spinoffs of all of this. Unfortunately, that is not what happens with many of these contracts, like the contract for the C-17 strategic aircraft. The government will be giving Boeing $3.4 billion, and there will be next to no economic spinoffs for Canada. All of the maintenance support for 20 years will be done in the United States. We can try telling Boeing to invest money in Canada and Quebec, but really, the company can do whatever it wants. We cannot be at all sure that there will be $3.4 billion in spinoffs.
    The same thing is happening with tactical aircraft. We just found out that the government signed a contract for a $1.4 billion portion of a $4.9 billion contract to buy tactical aircraft from Lockheed Martin. In this case, Canada will be getting only a portion of the $1.4 billion acquisition cost back in economic spinoffs from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin has decided to give back $843 million in reinvestment in Canada and Quebec.
    This is all very unfair to Quebec. Quebec accounts for 54% of the aerospace industry. In the Lockheed Martin contract, Quebec will have to be satisfied with only approximately 28% of the spinoffs. This is unfair, considering that the Atlantic provinces, which account for just 4.6% of the aerospace sector, will reap 28.7% of the economic spinoffs. The Atlantic provinces, with 4.6% of the industry, will get over 28% of the spinoffs, while Quebec, with 54% of the industry, will get 28.5% of the spinoffs. The Atlantic provinces will be getting more than Quebec in terms of spinoffs.
    That is a gross injustice. I could go on at length about this. The Chinook helicopters from Boeing represent an investment of $4.7 billion. That investment was just announced. The Canadian contract will take priority over others that were waiting to get Chinooks. An agreement was probably reached with the U.S. president in Bucharest. Once again, we do not know for sure if the maintenance will be done in Canada. Nor can we be sure of the potential spinoffs from this contract. Furthermore, the government renounced its prerogative as signatory of these contracts to tell them where to invest in order to ensure economic spinoffs for Canada. That is their laissez-faire policy and Quebec comes out the big loser.
    Supply vessels are another example. We are talking about $2.9 billion. Transport trucks represent $1.2 billion. Search and rescue aircraft represent $3 billion. As an aside, however, search and rescue aircraft are actually very useful to Quebeckers and Canadians. When there is a problem in isolated or mountainous areas, that is the kind of equipment used to help Quebeckers and Canadians. Yet it is at the very bottom of the list right now, as we speak. It is not a high priority. It is at the bottom. I met the air force commander this week and he said that things were going at a good pace. Yet we are far from where we should be in the contracts at this time because they have almost all been signed.
    Thus, this is a gross injustice. At a time when people in the manufacturing and forestry sectors need help with employment insurance and seniors need help with the guaranteed income supplement, it is unfortunate that over $20 billion is being invested in the military sector. This is completely unacceptable for the Bloc Québécois and one of the reasons why we will vote against the bill before us here today.

  (1150)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed serving on the defence committee with the member. We get very good input from him. As he knows, I always talk about the north and encourage more military there.
    Could he comment on the need for military in the north and the fact that we need it to be increased? I have been pushing for this. Also, could he comment on some of the failures related to sovereignty? The Prime Minister promised two icebreakers. We might finally get one, but it will not be new because it will not come until an old one has died.
    The government cut back the Aurora flights, which used to do the surveillance of the north. As I travel across the north, the Canadian rangers, whom the Conservatives said they would increase, have all kinds of technical problems in getting their pay. It is such a tiny expense. Why can they not at least make it good for those very important northern rangers?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for the excellent work he has done on the Standing Committee on National Defence and elsewhere. It is obvious that the member for Yukon regularly defends his region, and that is something I have always admired in him.
    It is true that there are currently some major concerns in the far north. As the passages open up, there will be more maritime traffic. It is also clear that more and more countries are starting to occupy the far north. This is probably because of maritime passages, and also because the far north has unbelievable natural resources. We must move into this region, and the way to do so is with the Rangers. This should be encouraged.
    Furthermore, the government should respect the commitments it has made concerning the far north. There needs to be a presence; airplanes need to fly over the area to ensure Canadian sovereignty. We also need ships. But the government is starting to back off a little. The only thing in the contracts I have here has to do with supply vessels. But I too heard the Prime Minister say that there would be three large, armed icebreakers for the far north.
    We should also think about whether this is the right way to proceed. Would it be better to hold meetings with the four or five countries making territorial claims in the north and to sign agreements with them, instead of arming ourselves to the teeth? I do not think that the Canadian navy would last very long against the American navy in the far north.
    Nevertheless, I congratulate the member for being so involved in his region, Yukon, and for being such a strong advocate for the far north.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's presentation and I appreciated his comments. I would like to ask him a question regarding the problem with sources of drinking water in Canada. We know there are problems throughout the country, not just in Ontario, but in Quebec and elsewhere. We recently learned that about 1,600 communities in Canada have serious problems and have had to issue boil water advisories, not to mention 93 other locations in Canada where aboriginal communities are experiencing these types of problems.
    I wonder if the hon. member could comment on this issue as well as on the government's inadequate attempt at dealing with the matter. We know that the United Nations is doing everything it can to ensure that drinking water remains a right for all human beings.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to relate this to the speech I just gave. The armed forces is one of the biggest polluters nowadays. I can attest to this because I have been to the far north and all over with the armed forces. We often see that their work on the ground leads to major pollution of groundwater.
    However, it is not just the Canadian armed forces that pollute, but also the oil companies. I am really quite concerned with what is happening with the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray. There is nowhere to put the water that is forming huge lakes. If they were to give way, we would have an incredible disaster in that part of Canada.
    Potable water is very important. I am also worried about the fact that many companies are stealing drinking water. They bottle it, sell it and often do not pay the country for it.
    We have to immediately put an end to this policy of paying the polluters, which is basically what the government is doing by lowering taxes for companies that are making a profit, because oil companies benefit the most from tax cuts. On the other hand, are they good corporate citizens in terms of drinking water? I do not think so. And that is where the government has a role to play. It must forget about its laissez-faire attitude and impose strict standards on these polluters so that we can keep our water. It is an important legacy for us to pass on to our children and our grandchildren.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-50, the budget implementation act. I would like to speak on two aspects of the bill. One is the significant changes to the immigration system that are included in this bill and the other is the priorities of the bill that we are debating today.
    I represent Vancouver East, a riding that certainly reflects the multiculturalism of Canada. It is a community that is built on immigration. Vancouver East would not exist in terms of its economic vitality and the people who live there, if it were not for many waves of immigration beginning in Strathcona and moving throughout all of Vancouver East and indeed Vancouver as a whole. Immigration is a very important part of our community. Immigrants and new Canadians are people we welcome into our community.
    It is very alarming to me to see that the budget bill we are debating these days in the House contains such dramatic and significant changes to our immigration system. It concerns me that those changes are in a budget bill. One would expect that changes to the immigration system would be contained in legislation pertaining to immigration and that the legislation would then go to the immigration committee.
    The Conservative government has brought in very significant changes to the system through the back door. The Conservatives are trying to hide them under the cover of the budget bill and hope that no one notices. Luckily, there is a growing debate in my community and across the country about the impact that these immigration changes would have if the budget bill is approved.
    The immigration changes that are contemplated would give major new powers to the minister to control the types of applications she accepts. It would impose quotas. It would dispose of current immigration applications and would even allow queue jumping. There would be new limits put on the humanitarian and compassionate grounds category which often is used by many families for the purpose of family reunification. It would even give the minister the power to deny visas to those who meet all of the immigration criteria. This would confer enormous, and I would say very dangerous, powers on an individual, a powerful minister and it is being done through the back door.
    The most significant change is that it is supporting what has already been a policy shift wherein our immigration system is increasingly being understood as a system that looks at immigrants as economic units. For example, these changes would allow applications to be disposed of and put aside, but it would allow a further dramatic increase in what is called the foreign worker program or the guest worker program, where people are treated as cheap labour from foreign countries. We have seen it in Alberta and in B.C. where there has been a massive influx of foreign workers who are often exploited and abused by employers. It is very hard to track what is going on and whether or not they are able to avail themselves of their rights as workers.
    This is something that is incredibly alarming in this budget bill. We are seeing this dramatic policy shift in our immigration system that would displace families. It would do nothing further in terms of reunification and would place a greater and greater emphasis on foreign workers who come to this country on a temporary basis. They have no adequate rights. They are not treated as permanent residents. They do not have an opportunity to become citizens.
    It is something that we have seen in Europe. We have seen the kind of instability, both politically and culturally that it fosters, where there are two tiers of people. There are citizens and workers who have no real status, who are never protected in the society to which they are major contributors. That is the kind of thing we absolutely should not be accepting in Canada. I am very afraid that is what would happen under these changes.
    There are other very concerning things in the bill.

  (1200)  

    A couple of days ago the homelessness count in metro Vancouver was released. This count is done every few years. It was conducted by over 700 volunteers who literally go block by block, alley by alley, shelter by shelter and endeavour to get, and indeed do get, a very accurate count of people who are homeless, whether they are in shelters or on the street.
    That count was done on March 11 and the results were released on April 8. It showed that overall there has been a 19% increase in the number of homeless individuals found in metro Vancouver. That is a 19% increase since 2005 when the last count was done. It is a 131% increase since the one previous to that was done, which was in 2002. This should cause enormous concern.
    In my community of Vancouver East, particularly in places like the downtown eastside, the visibility of homelessness, the number of people on the street, those who are destitute and those living so far below the poverty line with no resources or hope for the future, causes enormous distress. It causes illness and mental distress not only to the individuals who are in that predicament but also to the community at large.
    The latest figures from the homeless count should be setting off alarm bells. One would think that over the years there would have been a concerted effort to address this as a grave human tragedy. In a country as wealthy as Canada, nobody should be sleeping on the street. Nobody should be without shelter. Everybody is entitled to a living wage and decent, safe, appropriate and affordable housing.
    Yet, when we look at the budget, there was no new money for housing. A number of local advocacy groups in the downtown east side, including Pivot, United Native Nations, DERA, the Carnegie Community Action Project and Streams of Justice, recently released a report that showed there were 10 new low income housing facilities that have either closed or will be closing for a further loss of 448 units.
    My community is facing a very grave situation where people are either already homeless or are on the verge of becoming homeless. Yet there was nothing in this budget to address those issues.
    I read a quote from the minister allegedly responsible for housing, where he dismissed the idea that we needed a national housing program. I have heard the minister say that the government is spending more money on housing than any other government in the history of Canada. He is talking about mortgages. He is talking about existing projects, some of which were built 20 years ago. No new co-ops or social housing units have been built. Even the homelessness programs that exist are in jeopardy because it is not yet clear whether they will continue.
    All of this creates incredible anxiety both for the organizations that seek to assist those who are homeless and certainly the people on the street and in shelters who wonder whether they will ever have a roof over their heads or have a place they can call home.
    To me, this budget is about priorities. I find it shameful. When we look at the $50 billion in corporate income tax cuts that are contained in this budget and the former economic and fiscal update that was presented last October, when we look at the corporate tax cuts that are laid out from 2007 all the way to 2013, we are talking about $50 billion that has been lost from public revenue.
    Let us think about what could have been done with that amount of money. It could have provided 1.14 million child care spaces. It could have provided 74,000 hybrid transit buses. It could have provided 12 million units of non-profit affordable housing. It could have assisted 11 million students with their undergraduate tuition, or another two million graduates with their student loans. It could have put a much greater emphasis on dealing with climate change. None of these priorities were addressed in the budget.

  (1205)  

    To add insult to injury, when people in my community read that VANOC, the Olympic committee, received another $45 million yet housing receiving nothing, they knew that they were at the bottom of the list.
    This is a very bad budget and it is the reason—
    The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver East for raising a number of the issues associated with the budget, with which I too find fault. Her riding of Vancouver East has many of the same social problems and challenges with which my riding of Winnipeg Centre deals, not the least of which is a complete dearth of affordable social housing.
     This is not by accident, but by deliberate policy, first by the Mulroney Conservative government, which killed most of the social housing programs. I was the president of a housing co-op at the time. During that era, most of the access to federal funding disappeared. Then when the Liberals were elected, they killed off the last remaining streams of money for affordable social housing. In fact, we can trace this negligence toward affordable housing through three successive federal governments.
     I visited her in the riding of Vancouver East and the downtown east side recently, and a study was published at the very time of my visit. It made the business case for affordable housing, in that it cost more per person in social services for a person on the street and without housing than it did to provide social housing. Could she expand some on that study?
    Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure to have the member for Winnipeg Centre in Vancouver East. We visited a number of organizations and walked around the neighbourhood. We saw the devastation because of the loss of affordable housing units.
    The member is correct. The report has clearly pointed out that the cost of dealing with homelessness in the required social, help and emergency interventions far outweigh the costs of providing secure, appropriate and supported housing where needed. It is simply dollars and cents. The economics of that are common sense. To me, it is not rocket science. This is about the basics of where we invest money.
    When I walk around the downtown east side and I see vacant lots that are going to be condo developments, when I see people being evicted from their homes only because they are in low income housing sitting on land that is becoming very valuable on the east side of the downtown, it is a great tragedy. It is something that does not need to happen.
    Again, it is very alarming that there is no money in the federal budget to provide for such a basic human need as affordable housing and shelter.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for talking about housing. Housing across the country and in northern regions is a subject of great concern. The minister of housing in the Northwest Territories indicated that the only programs available from the federal government have a sunset clause after next year. Then there will be no money for housing for people in the north. Is that a similar situation in the south?
    Do we have this thing happening where the federal government, basically under the direction of the Conservative Party, is getting out of housing entirely?
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately that is the case. When I was the housing critic for the NDP, I visited the north. I found there were many common issues between the north and the south. Communities were feeling the impact of a depleting housing resource and a lack of support from the federal government.
    We can see it in the daily lives of people. People are sleeping on sofas and doubling up. Kids have to stay at home many years later than they normally would. In some communities people have to go to the local jail to sleep overnight because they are homeless and it is the only place to go.
    The federal government, under the Liberals and continued by the Conservatives, abandoned its responsibility. In fact, Canada is now the only western industrialized country that does not have a national housing strategy. Even the United States has far superior programs from the federal government that support state initiatives. We do not see that in Canada, and we see the consequences of this in our local communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, which also includes the amendment to the immigration act. I will focus my debate on the immigration act.
    I represent the riding of Richmond, an island city just next to the city of Vancouver where the Vancouver International Airport is situated. The riding is composed mostly of immigrants. It has a very booming economy. We have the privilege of having a farming community. We have a dike that is very close to the city. At the same time, we have the convenience of the metropolitan facilities.
     Richmond has a very low crime rate and a booming economy. The lifespan of our citizens is one of the longest in Canada. Therefore, we can demonstrate from our experience in Richmond that immigrants contribute a great deal to the lives of Canadians.
    The Conservatives have said that the new immigration policy is aimed at reducing the backlog of immigration applicants. They have said they want to expedite selected classes of immigrants and focus their resources on desirable immigrants, but their methods will not work and they are wrong.
    The amendment tabled would destroy a democratically based immigration system, which has been hailed as a model for other countries to follow, and replace it with dictatorial system, allowing the minister to cherry-pick who is allowed to come into our country.
    The amendment to section 87.3(4) states:
    If an application or request is not processed, it may be retained, returned or otherwise disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the Minister.
    Giving the minister the discretionary power to dispose of applications is an illogical way to reduce the backlog of applicants. The government is implying that if we have a huge backlog, we should give the power to the minister to hand-pick a few and then outright reject everyone else. To me, this is not only unfair, but illogical.
    The amendment allows the minister to unilaterally and arbitrarily dispose of applications without any recourse, so applicants would be unable to appeal their cases. This is very unfair. The proposed amendment to section 81.3(c) states, “The Minister may set the number of applications or requests by category or otherwise to be processed in any year”.
    Along with the fact that unprocessed applications can be disposed of, this amendment would allow the minister to set a cap on applications.
    Capping the number of applicants only superficially reduces the backlog by temporarily not allowing potential immigrants to make their application. How will forcing applicants to pay for re-applications year after year help reduce the backlog? These are situations which senior officials from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration agree would happen.
    Reducing the backlog is not about prioritizing some and ignoring others. The Conservatives' rhetoric seems illogical. They have said that they can set priorities, but does that not mean there will be lower priorities? Even so, how does this reduce the backlog? Just because we focus on cleaning up the kitchen first, it does not mean the rest of the house gets any cleaner any sooner.
    However, the worst and the most worrisome change that the Conservatives are pushing for is the change of a single word, from “shall” to “may”. As it stands right now, if an immigrant passes the bar, then it is clearly stated in section 11(1) that he or she “shall” be granted a visa. The amendment would change this so that someone who has already fulfilled the requirements only “may” be granted a visa.

  (1215)  

    Why is the Conservative government trying to subvert the immigration process? If a reason is found as to why a visa should not be granted, then make it a part of the evaluation. If immigration applicants cannot be certain, even after they have passed all requirements, why should the apply and how will this help reduce backlogs?
    Time and effort would need to be spent in the processing of their applications. I see this as yet another opportunity for the minister to cherry-pick again, even after the applicants have escaped the first round of cherry-picking by the minister.
    None of the proposed amendments are aimed at clearing up the backlog or reducing wait times for applicants. It is about letting the minister choose who is and who is not a desirable immigrant. Again, this is an unfair method.
    The Conservatives' cherry-picking in the darkroom, dictatorial approach will destroy our well hailed rules based democratic and transparent immigration system. This will lead us down a very dangerous path.
    A senior immigration official was quoted on Wednesday in the London Free Press saying, “There is no right in the law—and there never has been a right in the law—to come into Canada”.
    This is wrong. It is because of this kind of attitude that led our forefathers to create a racist immigration act, better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. After the Pacific Railway was built with Chinese labourers, they were no longer desirable. A head tax was exclusively applied to Chinese immigrants. When that did not stop Chinese immigrants from coming to Canada, they were totally excluded.
    Yes, being allowed to immigrant to Canada is a privilege. However, we must apply that privilege fairly, respecting the core values of democracy, rule of law and equality. The bill eliminates the rights to equal opportunity for every application to be given fair review and consideration, regardless of background, country of origin or skill set.
    Even after Paul Martin Sr. amended the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947 to allow ethnic Chinese to become Canadian citizens, in general, we Chinese still cannot have the privilege to come to Canada. It was not until the Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson changed the Canadian immigration system into a race free, transparent, point based system in 1967 that most Chinese could come to Canada.
    This continuing and worrisome trend by the Conservative government must be stopped. Canada's race free and transparent immigration point system is hailed as a model for other countries to follow. It should not be tossed aside so lightly.
    The Liberal government committed $700 million in 2005 to cleaning up the backlog, which the Conservatives cancelled after becoming the government in 2006. After ignoring the problem for more than two years, they now claim to have allocated $100 million to fix the problem. It is far from enough.
    We must not allow the Conservatives, under the excuse of solving the backlog problem in our immigration system, to lead us away from fundamental Canadian core values of democracy, the rule of law and equality. I will vote against it.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague from Richmond. I heard him talk about Richmond being a wonderful part of the world. I concur with him and I know he is very proud of it.
    I also listened very closely to all his comments. I am pretty proud that this side of the House has righted some of the wrongs on the Chinese head tax, of which he spoke. We have cut in half the immigrant landing fees.
    I thank the hon. member for being, in a way, a co-author of this new change. As we know, that side of the House, when in government, ran the waiting list from 50,000 to 800,000 immigrants. I cannot think the Liberal members are very proud of that. Now they are obviously going to help us in correcting that with this new legislation.
     I heard the hon. member say that he would vote against it. Is the member going to bring his colleagues to the House and vote against it or is it another case of making his own leader look weak?
    Mr. Speaker, the biggest problem with this amendment is that it would change a transparent, open, rules-based, democratic system into a dictatorial, undemocratic decision making process under the control of the minister.
    One of the biggest problems with our immigration system in the old days was that it was not transparent. It was not democratic. It was not fair and it was not equal for every ethnic group or even every area of the world. As a result, only a select few, primarily from the European countries, could come to Canada.
    It was not until 1967, when the right hon. Lester B. Pearson saw the problem with the system and corrected it with a new points system. It became transparent and equal for everyone. The system began allowing people from other ethnic groups to come to Canada. For the Conservative Party to now propose a system that would go back to the dark ages is not right and we must stand against it.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-50. I am not pleased to see Bill C-50, but I am pleased to be able to talk about it. In this Bill C-50, the government is establishing a crown corporation for employment insurance.
    For years the NDP has been calling for an independent employment insurance fund that is separate from the government's consolidated revenue fund. In 1986, the Auditor General suggested putting funds from employment insurance into the consolidated revenue fund. After a number of years, as the surplus in the consolidated revenue fund increased because of employment insurance, it became apparent that the EI fund was the government's cash cow.
    The government said that workers depended on the employment insurance fund. It soon became apparent that it was not workers who depended on the EI fund, but the government. The government started to run zero deficits and balanced budgets with the money it stole from the EI fund in the consolidated revenue fund. This was the biggest heist the country has ever seen. It was like an old movie where the protagonist robs a train full of money.
    The previous government stole $57 billion from the surplus in the EI fund. The fund generated some $57 billion. This afternoon, that theft will be legalized in Bill C-50. It is not unlike stopping at a bank to steal money and instead of going to jail, seeing a bill passed to legalize bank robbery. That is what is happening this afternoon: money that workers have worked so hard for is being stolen.
    The most surprising thing is that a crown corporation is being created and that is different than an independent fund. A clear explanation is needed. We asked for an independent fund. People might wonder what we are crying about today since we will get an independent fund. There is a difference between an independent fund and a crown corporation. An independent fund would be a fund separate from the government's consolidated revenue fund and would only be used to deposit employment insurance premiums into the employment insurance fund. A crown corporation is a separate, independent corporation, like Canada Post, Radio-Canada or the CBC.
    When we stand up in the House of Commons to ask questions about the employment insurance fund, the government will say that it is a crown corporation and that we should go ask it. We will not be able to ask any more questions in the House of Commons about it. The same thing will happen when we rise in the House of Commons to ask questions about Radio-Canada or the CBC. The government says it is at arm's length, that it is a crown corporation and that we should go see the president. The government will wash its hands of the whole thing.
    Moreover, the Auditor General has always said that there should always be a $15 billion balance. In this crown corporation fund, it will be just $2 billion. This afternoon at 3 p.m., during the vote in the House of Commons, $55 billion will be stolen with the help of the Liberals. Either they will vote for Bill C-50 and make the theft legal, or they will not vote and just let the theft happen. That is exactly what will happen this afternoon.
    What might we do instead to help workers? People often talk about POWA, for example. Manufacturing and forestry companies in Canada have closed their doors. I remember POWA and PWAP in New Brunswick. When the fish plants closed, people had PWAP, a retirement program for fish plant workers, for women, when the groundfish fishery collapsed. These programs helped working men and women at the time. Employment insurance was there to help people.

  (1230)  

    Today, employment insurance is there to help the government, not workers. Employment insurance is insurance that workers and employers pay for directly. I am concerned, because the only thing the Conservative government is worried about is reducing employment insurance premiums and making sure employers do not pay premiums. We do not often talk about the workers who pay premiums. According to the government, if employers did not have to pay premiums, they could create jobs.
    Once again, I have never seen a company hire more people because it is turning a profit. Companies do not hire people because they are making a profit; they hire people because they need them to produce. I therefore do not believe that Canadian companies have gone bankrupt because they were paying employment insurance premiums. On the contrary, a good employer is not afraid of paying employment insurance premiums, because the employer hates to have to tell an employee not to come in on Monday morning because there is no more work for him.
    Employment insurance existed so that these families would receive benefits to help them. In 1996, the Liberals decided to make a sweeping reform of employment insurance, following on the reform that began when Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. The first signs of reform were seen in Inkerman, New Brunswick, in my riding. The reform continued until 1996. A $57 billion surplus built up, and now the government is starting to want to wipe out that surplus. At 3 o'clock this afternoon, it will be wiped out, with the support of the Liberals who carried out the reform in 1996 and the Conservatives who are spearheading this reform in the House of Commons by introducing a bill to create an independent crown corporation to avoid any further questions about the surplus, because they get embarrassed when they are asked about it. They have even told us to stop asking questions in committee, because the money is not there anymore. They have asked us to stop pestering them with questions. Meanwhile, individuals and families are in need, and this government is completely ignoring them.
    What could be done with this money? First of all, the government could do away with the two-week waiting period. It is not people's fault if they lose their jobs. I have said this time and again in the House of Commons, and I will keep on saying it.
    Why do we penalize these people by imposing an unpaid two-week qualifying period when their employer announces that there will be no work for them next week? Who wants to lose two weeks' salary? Who ends up being penalized by this unpaid period? Why does the claimant lose two weeks' salary? This measure penalizes the family that needs to pay the electricity bill at the end of the month and to buy groceries for their children. It penalizes the family that needs to pay its mortgage. That is the end result. This afternoon, the government is preparing to carry out the largest theft in the history of Canada by legalizing the transfer of the $57 billion surplus from the employment insurance fund. That is what will happen this afternoon in this House.
    We could keep the 12 best weeks to give people a chance to receive a decent benefit. We should not forget that those on unemployment receive only 55% of their salary and that 55% of minimum wage is not very much. In fact, it is less than welfare. We could therefore make some changes to help these people and to ensure that benefits are based on their 12 best weeks. Furthermore, new claimants should be able to qualify after 360 hours rather than 910 hours. Next week, we will be tabling a bill in this House to make this change and we will debate it. Once again, the Liberals did not support this measure in committee but rather backed the Conservatives by agreeing to take money from workers who are losing their jobs.
    The government is hitting people when they are down. It is a terrible experience to lose one's job as I have been told by people who have called my office. People call me to tell me that they have just lost their jobs and that they need seven to eight weeks to qualify. There is no money in the system to pay the public servants to get the job done.

  (1235)  

    It is not that the public servants cannot do their job; there just are not enough of them. The money does not go to the right places.
    Having a program such as POWA to ensure that those 55 and older can live comfortably until they retire at age 65 is one of the good things that we could accomplish.
    Therefore, we will be voting against Bill C-50 even if the government falls, because it is a vote that should be—
    The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for questions and comments.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Acadie—Bathurst for the public service that he has done for Canadians today by sounding the alarm, as it were, and notifying Canadians that a crime is about to take place, if not literally then certainly figuratively and practically, that we are about to get robbed.
    It is now 12:35 in the afternoon and by 3 o'clock a crime will be about to take place. Somebody should call the cops and get them in here to witness this because hidden within the budget are two landmines that do not belong there. The first one is the immigration fiasco that the government has snuck into the budget bill. The second one is the manifestation of perhaps the greatest theft in Canadian history: $55 billion of surplus in the EI fund, paid in by employees and employers, not by the government, will be taken and used for whatever spending priorities it sees fit.
    The current government, and the previous government, seem to have a misunderstanding about whose money it is. Marcel Massé was the previous president of the Treasury Board. I will ask my colleague to compare these two things. The former Liberal president of the Treasury Board, when there was a $30 billion surplus in the public service employees pension plan, by legislation, by the power vested in them, they stole that money from those pension fund beneficiaries just the same as the current government will steal the EI money. Does he not see a parallel there, that those guys do not seem to understand that it is not their money?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the public service pension plan. When we go into negotiations, we negotiate the wages that we could get right away, but to protect our pensions, we negotiate a pension plan hoping the government will not rob from it later on. The government negotiated the pension plan and then later passed legislation to take it.
    As the member said, at 3 o'clock the train will go by and the robbers will jump on the train and take the money. At 3 o'clock this afternoon, $55 billion will be stolen from Canadians, money that belongs to the working people, men and women who get up in the morning, go to work and pay into a program that belongs to them. This money will be stolen this afternoon by the Conservative and Liberal Parties.
    I have been arguing about that for 11 years and I do not feel that I have wasted one minute of my time. I have been doing it for the working men and women who have built and are building this country. It is a real shame what will happen at 3 o'clock this afternoon.
    The government has done it in a way to make itself look better. It says that it is a good government because it will put the money into a corporate organization like Radio Canada, the CBC or crown corporations. It says that it is doing it because it is better than the Liberals, that it wants to save the money. However, it does not talk about the $55 billion that it will take. That is the shame this afternoon.
    A study done said that we should have a bank account for $15 billion but the government will only be putting in $2 billion. When that $2 billion goes down, the benefits will be lost again. The people will lose benefits again, which is sad, and it will happen at 3 o'clock Ottawa time.

  (1240)  

    As a new member of Parliament representing the constituency of Vancouver Quadra, I again thank the residents of Vancouver Quadra for their confidence in me. The people of Vancouver Quadra are educated, engaged and informed citizens whom it is an honour to represent. I intend to advocate tirelessly for their interests in Ottawa.
    The Conservative government included many Liberal programs in this budget bill, albeit in watered down versions, for example, post-secondary education. Many of the people who work and study at UBC live in my riding and the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education is an important priority for them as it is for me.
    Past Liberal governments were known for their many investments to benefit universities, students and research. Billions of dollars for these purposes in the Liberal budget update of fall 2005 were cut by the Conservative government. I note that due to the work of the Liberal leader and members, the government in this budget has sprinkled back some of those post-secondary investments.
    The previous Liberal government left this country's finances in a strong position but Bill C-50 underlines the mismanagement by the government that has drained the fiscal gas tank of our nation. This is entirely consistent with the abysmal record of past Conservative governments, including the Mulroney government and the Ontario provincial Conservatives, whose finance minister, now the federal Conservative finance minister, helped leave the incoming Liberals in Ontario a landmine: a whopping $5.6 billion deficit.
    Most unacceptable in this bill is part 6 and it is to that section to which I will address my remarks.
    Part 6 consists of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These amendments are substantive, are bad public policy and are of deep concern to new Canadians in my riding and across Canada and to their overseas family members. These amendments should never have been buried in this budget implementation bill.
    The Conservative government cannot be trusted, especially when one considers the past comments the Prime Minister has made about immigration. For example, in 2001 he stated:
...west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from Eastern Canada; people who live in ghettos and are not integrated into Western Canadian society.
    What did he mean by that? Was he referring to my riding of Vancouver Quadra? Is he someone who can be trusted to amend immigration laws?
    The Liberals, in stark contrast, have long been supportive of immigrants to Canada and their unique contribution to our multicultural landscape. I am proud to continue that tradition as the member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra. This is an issue of great importance to me as an immigrant myself.
    The Minister of Immigration cannot be trusted. She has already misspoken in the House by claiming that last year about 430,000 new Canadians were welcomed into Canada under the Conservative government, more than under the Liberals. That is not true. She later had to retract that claim and essentially confessed that it was inflated by including students and temporary workers.
    Actually, 36,000 fewer permanent residents have been accepted since the Conservative government came to power 27 months ago. Will the door continue to close arbitrarily to immigrants under the government's proposed amendments?
    The type of changes to the very foundation of Canada's immigration policy that the government is proposing must be considered in the open and not slipped into a budget bill through the back door. The government is seeking to make changes that would close the door to immigrants, but even more concerning is that the amendment would give the government the power to be prejudicial in their implementation.
    The Conservative government has already demonstrated its meanspiritedness over and over by cancelling the court challenges program that supported the most vulnerable Canadians, by weakening the infrastructure helping women advance our equality in Canadian society and by voting against a motion to lower the Peace Tower flag on the day a Canadian soldier is killed overseas. This is meanspirited.

  (1245)  

    In part 6, section 11(1), for example, by changing one word “shall” to “may” in the regulations, immigrants who meet all the requirements may find Canada slamming the door in their face. That is meanspirited.
    As well, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would have the power to make arbitrary and unaccountable decisions, which would enable her to pick some immigrants over others, send some to the back of the line to start all over again or slam the door shut altogether. We do not know whether applications will be denied due to an immigrant's country of origin or some other factor.
    According to Naeem Noorani, the publisher of The Canadian Immigrant, as quoted in the Toronto Star on Tuesday, “This sets a dangerous precedent for a healthy democratic system”.
    It is precisely because of past Conservative insensitivity toward Canada's immigrants that it is not appropriate for the government to have that power. The measures the government is seeking to introduce stand in contrast to the fairness, transparency and welcoming of new Canadians under past Liberal governments, a welcoming that has led to Vancouver becoming a thriving urban region underpinned by the contribution of new Canadians.
    My riding of Vancouver Quadra has welcomed more than 40,000 immigrants to Canada. Many are long-time residents now, which others have arrived more recently. Vancouver Quadra community members who have self-identified in the census as being a visible minority include Chinese, South Asian, Korean, Japanese, West Asian, Filipino, Black, Southeast Asian and Arab, among others. This diversity contributes to the richness of the community in so many ways.
    Of note, more than 23,000 residents of Vancouver Quadra are of Chinese origin, whether from Hong Kong, Mainland China or Taiwan. These new Canadians make important contributions to the social, cultural and economic life of Vancouver Quadra and Canada.
    Just 10 days after I was elected, I organized a round table discussion to hear from 20 leaders in the Chinese community, my very first public consultation as a member of Parliament. The changes the government proposes could prevent their family members from joining them here. The changes the government proposes could prevent those working in a particular field from becoming part of Canadian society. Through one stroke of the pen, the minister could place specific countries at the bottom of the list. In reality, we really do not know who will be acceptable to the Conservative government, a government that cannot be trusted to be fair.
    The government hopes to change Canada's immigration laws so that at a minister's whim people who aim to come to this great country to make a better life and a better Canada could be prevented from even being considered. These are substantive changes that should be discussed openly and accorded a full debate.
    I am against part 6, the section of this budget bill that deals with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Part 6 should be considered separately, not as a part of Bill C-50, and part 6 should be rejected.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome my colleague from Vancouver Quadra and compliment her on her thoughtful remarks in what I believe was her maiden speech in this House of Commons.
     I am sure her constituents benefited from the consultation that she did on some of the negative aspects of this bill and the subterfuge that is being foisted on Canadians by slipping these immigration amendments into the budget bill.
    We in the NDP have dwelt at some length on how we find fault with the immigration section of Bill C-50 and we came to the logical conclusion that what we intend to do is vote against the bill because we disagree with the bill. It follows logically that when we disagree with something and follow our principles, we vote against that.
    As my colleague is new to the House of Commons and since this will be perhaps the first challenge of its type that she will have the opportunity to vote with, I can give her perhaps some guidance and ask her a question.
    The way it works here is that if members believe in something they stand up for it, and if they disagree with something, they vote against it. Those are the basic tenets of being a public officer or a public servant. The member's constituents expect that she will come here and vote her conscience on what she really believes and, on those things she opposes, she will vote against.
    Therefore, will she or will she not stand up with those of us who oppose Bill C-50 and vote against it at 3 o'clock today, two hours from now?

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's welcoming comments. It is a great privilege to be here.
    Unlike NDP members of the legislature in my province of British Columbia, the member and his party will never form government, so it is easy and predictable to vote against and oppose everything while never having to put forward the needed constructive solutions were one to assume the reins of responsibilities of government.
    I appreciate that the member supports the criticisms that I and my colleagues are making on the immigration amendments. We do not trust the Prime Minister. He has been quoted as saying that “immigration should be essentially economic in nature” when he was chief policy officer of the Reform Party, so how can we trust that these amendments will be applied properly?
    Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member. The term “trust” is a big one. Trust and confidence go hand in hand. Throughout her address to the House, the member talked about trust.
     I know that if I have real concerns about someone whom I do not trust, I do everything I can to make sure that person does not perpetrate a dastardly deed upon someone. I can only think that if she has strong convictions and is really dedicated to her words, she will make sure that she acts accordingly so that she can plainly explain to her constituents how she was judicious not only in her opinions but also in her actions.
    Mr. Speaker, when the member opposite was talking about perpetrating dastardly deeds, I was awaiting the rest of the sentence, which would have been about the government's blatant broken promise to investors in income trusts. I heard that on doorsteps again and again in Vancouver Quadra.
    I can allow a very brief comment from the member for Kenora if he keeps it close to 30 seconds.
    Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that our colleague from Vancouver Quadra has learned very quickly in the House. One thing she pointed out very quickly is the meanspiritedness of the other side of the House.
    She has talked to a lot of people in the short time since she was elected and is a great asset to the House. She mentioned that she met with other Canadians. What are they saying about this legislation? Obviously she clearly has problems with the immigration aspects. Could she please comment?
    Mr. Speaker, people who attended my round table in the Chinese community had a lot to say and have a lot of concerns about this amendment, but other Canadians who are ringing alarm bells include: the Canadian Bar Association, Toronto mayor David Miller, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Ontario premier, the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, the Regina Leader-Post, the Vancouver Sun, the Victoria Times Colonist, La Presse, the Ottawa Citizen and many others. There is a growing consensus. This is a bad idea.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this matter. I want to welcome my colleague from Vancouver Quadra. Now that I know her better, I hope the 2010 Olympic Games will be held in her riding and that she will participate in the figure skating events because I think she has the required skills, having skated around the questions she was asked the way she did.
    When one is against something, one does not vote in favour of it. We may possibly never form the government, in fact we will certainly never form it. Our goal is not to form the government; it is to reform it. It is not true to say that we are going to compromise our principles. The Bloc Québécois is voting against Bill C-50. We could have said to my colleague from Vancouver Quadra that there are very many possible arguments for voting against this bill. I will give just a few, as I seem to have only 10 minutes.
    Take agriculture for example. As far as agriculture is concerned, this budget provides only $72 million over two years. A number of sectors in our country, in Canada, are currently dealing with an agriculture crisis. In the nation of Quebec, the agriculture crisis is present every day. Some $72 million over two years for all of Canada is certainly not enough. This government has not been listening to the demands of the farm workers.
    Then there is employment insurance. I do not want to repeat the arguments of my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, who gave many arguments on the employment insurance fund. The only thing I want to say to him is that he had better get back to his riding as soon as he can in the next few hours because his junior team from Acadie—Bathurst is going to have a hard time making it to the playoffs, let alone winning. Things are not going well right now, just like with employment insurance.
    This government decided to create the employment insurance financing board. The government can go ahead and create whatever board it wants, but we want to know whether it will return the $57 billion it stole from the employment insurance fund, and that it stole from workers. This started under the Liberals. I understand why the Liberals will vote in favour of Bill C-50; it is becoming clear. They will have to deal with the problem if, by some misfortune, they return to power in the next few decades. The Liberals could end up dealing with the problem of returning the money they stole from workers.
    I do not want to repeat what the member for Acadie—Bathurst said, but we could have done so many things with the $54 billion to address the terrible economic crisis going on in some regions in Canada, particularly in Quebec and Ontario, in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Obviously, this does not affect Calgary very much.
    The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec tells us that if there are not enough jobs in Quebec, all a person has to do is go work in Calgary, because there are jobs there. Try saying that to someone who is 55, 56, 57, 58, who has 12 years left on his mortgage, who works in Béarn in Témiscamingue or in Clairval in Abitibi. This person would say that he spent his life working in a sawmill, that he started at 18, and that he thought he was entitled to a decent retirement.
    The employment insurance fund could have helped create a program for older worker adjustment, or POWA, which the Bloc has been calling for for over four years. I have been here for four years, and I have been hearing about it for four years. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are able to, want to, or have the political will to create a POWA. It would not be expensive. The Conservatives could have included it in the budget. But they put nothing in the budget about employment insurance and nothing about assistance for older workers.

  (1255)  

    Older workers will remember this. And so will seniors, whose situation is even worse.
    The employment insurance fund has been stolen. I very much like the comment made by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst who said that at 3 p.m. today, thanks to the Conservatives with the support of the Liberals, the $54 billion theft will be legitimized. It is worse than the great train robbery. That is exactly what we will be doing by creating the new employment insurance financing board. That will be the end of the employment insurance fund. It will be gone, but will those who paid into it be reimbursed? No, no. That money was used to buy helicopters that barely fly, submarines that sink because they do not work very well, and rifles and guns. That money was used to invest $1 billion a year to go to Afghanistan, even though we have no business being there. I hope everyone will remember that.
    All things considered, the worst theft is still the election promise the Conservatives made to seniors. I remember it; I heard it. They promised that, if elected, they would give the guaranteed income supplement retroactively to seniors. As soon as they were elected, they reneged on that election promise.
    The Conservatives could have included that measure in the budget. They had the money to do so, with their $11 billion surplus. It would have cost less than $1 billion to help our seniors get by. I am saying this for the benefit of everyone aged 70 and older, particularly my mother, who lost $12,000 because of the Conservatives and their ridiculous promise. They would have been better off not to make a their stupid promise to give seniors full retroactivity on the guaranteed income supplement. Many seniors lost $4,000, $7,000 or even $12,000. They were entitled to seven years of retroactivity, but they are being given only one year's worth.
    On the other hand, when someone owes the government money, I guarantee it can go back as far as five years and demand retroactive payments. The Conservative Party in power, however, decided to grant retroactive payments for only up to 12 months. Yet the Conservatives owe seniors the money that was stolen from them. Will they pay it back? No. That is another reason why will vote against this bill.
    I am the Bloc Québécois aboriginal affairs critic. I have heard some good ones in my time. I do not want to bring up the Kelowna accord, like the Liberals, who turned it into their pet issue. I just want to say that the government could have helped and had the money to help aboriginal peoples deal with the terrible crises they are up against right now. Not far from here, just 165 kilometres north of Ottawa, in the community of Kitcisakik, people are living in 18th century conditions. They do not have running water, a water system or a sewer system, and they live in hunt camps.
    The government promised to fix the problem, but it did nothing for aboriginals. The government will argue that it is spending $660 million over two years—$330 million per year—but aboriginal communities in Quebec alone need 10,000 housing units. Nunavik and the whole far north shore have to be totally rebuilt because of the melting permafrost.
    Unfortunately, I have just a minute left. I have a lot more to say about this, but what I really want to say is that the government would not even have had to put more money into its social housing budget. The funds could have come from CMHC, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which has an astronomical surplus. The government could have invested $1 billion from that surplus— which would not even have made a dent—to help with social housing. Yet the government has shunted that file aside and refuses to talk about it.
    This government made so many promises that it did not keep.

  (1300)  

    At 3 p.m. this afternoon, the members of the Bloc Québécois will not be afraid. We will stand up and vote against this budget.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to Bill C-50. I have already spoken to the bill in general and now I am speaking to the amendment for which the debate will end this afternoon. This budget bill generally did not satisfy the Bloc Québécois or Quebeckers because it does not include any type of support for the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
    Over the past few days, we have seen that this crisis has nothing to do with the managers. In Quebec, Beauce, which is known as a region that is a major business supplier, is going through a very difficult time. Thousands of jobs have been lost, but we all know that Beauce is not to blame for this downturn. Beauce had a very strong manufacturing sector. I remember that the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology made 22 unanimous recommendations to the government over two years ago to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors. However, the government has decided not to carry out those recommendations.
    Today, this region of Quebec, which is a jewel of Quebec entrepreneurship, is losing jobs by the thousands. Young workers and young couples whose future was secure, are seeing it all collapse. It is not just a result of nature, it is the result of significant changes in the market, including the higher dollar, for example. We could see this coming for quite some time and we would have expected the federal government to come forward with an action plan and a strategy for industry. It is not as though the government had not been informed. The Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology made 22 unanimous recommendations, but the government only carried out one, or one and a half, of those 22 recommendations. The Standing Committee on Finance then sounded the same alarm and informed the government, which then had a motion adopted in this House on that matter. There is still no action plan in the budget. That is one of the reasons the Bloc Québécois cannot vote in favour of this budget.
    At a time when the regions need additional support, the budget cuts $107 million from the budget of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. This is terrible. After the election, the minister responsible said that there would be the equivalent of a Marshall plan, which he now refers to as the Blackburn plan. Today, as a result, thousands of jobs are disappearing across Quebec and also across Canada, because Ontario is also being affected by the manufacturing crisis. In addition to taking a laissez-faire approach and having no industrial strategy, the government is slashing the programs and funding that have been in place for several years in these regions that could have used more assistance. I believe that this is reason enough to vote against this budget.
    My colleague also spoke earlier about the whole issue of the program for older worker adjustment. This is an important social measure that provides people who have worked for a company for 25, 30 or 35 years with bridging income support until they receive their pensions, if they lose their jobs at age 57, 58 or 60. It is also a measure that should be part of an industrial strategy. This is what happens in a sector like forestry. Jobs are cut, the younger workers leave and the older workers sometimes manage to keep their jobs. Eventually, though, as the crisis continues, they also lose their jobs, but they have no income to tide them over until they receive their pensions. At the same time, the younger workers have gone elsewhere and will no longer be available when the forestry industry recovers.
    In my opinion, the federal government should come out of its shell. The government thinks that the market will take care of everything and that the government has no responsibility to act. In my opinion, Quebeckers and Canadians expect the government to create conditions to develop prosperity and enable everyone to create wealth and distribute it appropriately. There are dark clouds on the horizon. A major economic slowdown is on the way. This is just about the worst type of government we could have to deal with this sort of situation.
    Unfortunately, this is perilously reminiscent of what happened just before the Great Depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s in the United States. The Republicans in power said the government should intervene as little as possible. Fortunately, the government changed at that time, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats implemented good policies to stimulate the economy.

  (1310)  

    We would have expected a similar attitude on the part of the government, but that is not what we are seeing. A program to help older workers would not have cost billions of dollars. Implementing such a program would have cost less than $100 million and would have allowed hundreds and thousands of people who worked their entire lives, who supported their families, to have a sufficient, minimal income to get by until they receive their pension.
    Unfortunately, as soon as I was first elected in my current riding in 2004, I saw firsthand the consequences of a major closure, when the Whirlpool plant in Montmagny closed. We are still feeling the consequences today. This does not mean that it is not a dynamic, productive region or that it is not creating any jobs. What it means, however, is that when 500 workers are laid off, 150 or 200 of whom are older workers, a large number of them will definitely not be able to find other employment, for various reasons, no matter how hard they try. This government should have done something for those people, although we are seeing no such efforts on the government's part.
    For Quebec, this budget contains a very clear, distinct and unacceptable provocation: the desire, the obstinate insistence and the obsession of the current Minister of Financeto put in place a single securities commission in Canada. It seems that he is reliving his past as the Ontario Minister of Finance or perhaps he is aspiring to become the Premier of Ontario. We have demonstrated that Quebec has an efficient securities commission that has worked well and offered useful services. The Conservative minister's obsession is unacceptable.
    This budget does not have what Quebec wants, what Quebeckers told us they wanted in our pre-budget consultations. Beyond the words, beyond the fact that the government adopted a motion on the Quebec nation, now that the time has come to provide some substance and to indicate what that means for Quebeckers, the Conservative government has given us nothing. There is nothing in this federal budget to that effect.
    We would have liked to get some answers to these concerns from the federal government. For example, there is not the level of investment in the cultural sector that our society deserves. Yet this is a nation's form of expression. The Quebec nation needs federal support to continue to make itself known throughout North America, and to obtain and expand on the success it has achieved. We need tangible measures to develop this nation. They are not found in this budget.
    There is also a cultural difference, at least between the Conservatives and Quebec, when it comes to the distribution of wealth. In the past, Quebec has implemented programs such as the parental leave program and the child care program. Because of the values Quebec society deems important, these programs were implemented and money was set aside to do so. The Conservatives, however, do not take the same approach. One of the areas most affected is social housing. But they could have killed two birds with one stone. Money invested in social housing creates a need for construction, which in turn creates jobs. At the same time, it would help people get out of poverty. Often, when people are experiencing problems with poverty, it is because they are forced to spend 50%, 60% or even 70% of their income on housing. They are not left with enough money for other things.
    So we can see—and I will end on this note—that there are some people who are particularly outraged at the action of the Conservatives, in particular about the budget. These people are women. Quebec women and Canadian women were stripped of an important tool to win legal cases. The Conservatives have chosen an approach more appropriate to a private company than to a government.
    For all these reasons, I think that this budget is bad for Quebec and bad for Canada. We want the Conservative government to heed at least some of these messages. We shall see. Now, the Conservatives are taking advantage of the fact that the Liberals have problems within their party, but in practice, this is a bad budget. It is a bad situation, and it does not at all correspond to what Quebeckers and Canadians were expecting from a minority government. The government seems to be acting as if it were a majority government. It is making choices that would not have been made by Quebec.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank our colleague for his speech, which was excellent as usual.
    However, my colleague said that there are problems and that the Conservatives are profiting from the Liberals' internal problems. I would go even further and say that they are profiting from the Liberals, but that the Liberals do not actually have any principles. People must have principles in life, and they will have to have them this afternoon at 3 p.m.
    Our colleague has sat on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for a number of years. He has worked hard on the employment insurance file, since he hails from a region with seasonal workers. I believe that he has worked hard on that file, I will give him that. This afternoon, what will my colleague think of the fact that the Liberals will join with the Conservatives to legalize the theft of $55 billion from the employment insurance fund? That is exactly what will happen if Bill C-50 is passed.
    Does he really see a difference between these two parties that have been in power for years? Be it one or the other, the Liberals of yesterday or the Conservatives of today, does he see a difference between these two political parties with respect to workers, ordinary people and people who need the government's support? Does he see a difference between these two parties?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. As I was saying earlier, one of the problems with this budget is the fact that, because of internal leadership problems, the official opposition cannot get with the program and take a clear stance.
    However, my colleague is right, and this is not just about internal leadership. With respect to the employment insurance fund, it is clear that the $54 billion surplus was misappropriated and stolen from the workers and employers who paid the premiums. The government decided to use the surplus to cover other expenses and to pay down the deficit. These people got no return on the money they had invested.
    During the battle against the deficit, other people paid taxes and benefited from tax cuts later on. For example, the Conservatives have announced significant tax cuts for big corporations. But people who had paid into the employment insurance program never got any return on their investment. Instead the government tightened the screws, cut benefit weeks and increased the number of hours needed to qualify.
    The government could have done something about it in this budget, because there is going to be an agency that will be something like an independent fund—we hope. However, whatever it turns out to be, it will be short the $55 billion that was hijacked, which should be in the fund, available to be reinvested, because the existing program does not provide the benefits people need. I agree with my colleague on that point.
    Mr. Speaker, does my colleague realize, as I do, that a crown corporation and an independent fund are different things?
    An independent employment insurance fund still forms part of the government's general funds but it is independent and thus is not part of the consolidated revenue fund.
    With his experience, the member must know that in this House we can ask questions about funds for which the government is responsible. However, with regard to crown corporations, the government will cast off its responsibility and when we rise in the House to represent our citizens, it will answer that, because it is a crown corporation like Radio-Canada/CBC, we will have to ask the crown corporation. The government will no longer answer these questions.
    Is there not a danger that this will happen with a crown corporation, whereas it would not with an independent fund because the government would still be accountable?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. We will have to keep a close watch on this to see if the final form will be acceptable.
    In my opinion, the basic mistake is that the seasonal workers from my riding and my colleague's riding and across Quebec and Canada, who have paid into the fund for years and provided a surplus of $54 billion, will never see a cent of this money. If there is an economic downturn, if there is still someone to take responsibility and, in the end, if these workers are told that the program does not have enough funds to meet their needs, this year's Conservative budget will certainly leave a bitter taste.

[English]

     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): Call in the members.

  (1320)  

    And the bells having rung:
    Accordingly, the vote stands deferred until three o'clock today.

Canada Marine Act

     The House resumed from April 9 consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, as reported, with amendment, from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-23. It addresses some of the valid concerns of Canada port authorities with the current conditions of the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Pilotage Act.
    Port modernization is required as part of the government's new policy framework for strategic gateways and trade corridors. This is to bring Canada's ports more in line with what is happening around the world where ports are obtaining government funding for infrastructure, environmental and security initiatives. This includes long term access to federal funding for security considerations as well. This has been intended to satisfy our international trading partners' security concerns.
    These goals we support. Our ports are the face we show to the world. Their development and their management should be the best in the world.
    My criticism of the bill stems from my observations as a local councillor in a small city with a harbour authority. The bill is deficient as drafted and amended and does nothing to ensure more public accountability for the use or management of what we should remember is public property. It does nothing to ensure the sustainable development of Canadian ports and harbours.
    At committee, my colleague from Windsor West presented some amendments that would have gone a long way to ensure accountability. His amendments were deemed inadmissible by the chair because they supposedly went beyond the scope of the bill. It is clear that the bill was deficient as drafted initially and this is what I would like to speak to.
    Parliamentarians of this government and the former Liberal government gave the bill such a narrow scope and seemed clearly unwilling at committee or in the drafting of it to address some of the problems of accountability in dealing with the management of lands that belong to the public and that should be managed in the public interest.
    I would like to give an example of what our party's critic tried to do at committee. He presented an amendment. I quote what he said:
    This amendment here is intended to provide some balance, and also, hopefully, provide better relations between the port authorities in some areas where there are some difficulties. We all heard from testimony that even if you're appointed to the port authority through a municipality--it doesn't matter where, with the federal government, etc.--your loyalty is still, at the end of the day, to the port authority. What I'm hoping through this amendment is that you're going to see greater weight for people in that area.... But we heard testimony that--for anybody who is appointed there--the number one priority is to administrate the port.
    In support of the argument made by my colleague, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority includes a couple of elected representatives, a mix of groups from the tourism sector, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and the Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society, which is also largely industry representatives. Those are all fine organizations, but they do not necessarily represent public interest. Several private interests do not constitute public interest. Essentially in Victoria and across the country we have private clubs that control public properties with no accountability to the public.
    Although one would think the elected officials appointed to the board would be accountable to their electors, this is not the case either. Instead, as my colleague pointed out, they must commit their loyalty to the board, not to their electors, Certainly in Victoria the board has taken on an even more corporate model.
    There is an obvious problem of possible conflict of interest that might arise, but even more so, this is happening with the complicity of the federal government. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals seem to see any problems with that.

  (1325)  

    It was clear in reviewing the testimony at committee that agencies' interests were represented during the review of this bill, but I did not see how the interests of port communities were represented. I think it is fair to question whether the interests of port agencies always coincide with those of the community. I would say that is not the case judging from some of the examples that were identified.
    Rather than dwell on the problem, I would like to propose a measure to the government that could have been added in drafting Bill C-23 to really modernize the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Pilotage Act that would have ensured that the interests of the communities were served by port authorities and that would have ensured the accountability in the governance of what is public property, that is, what does belong to the public. The principle is what I would call a triple bottom line approach. This is a business principle that measures corporate or government performance along three lines: profit, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
    Triple bottom line considers people, planet and profit, the principle being that environmental quality and social equity are just as important as profit. In fact, the phrase “triple bottom line” was coined by John Elkington, co-founder of the business consultancy SustainAbility. He wrote Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of the 21st Century Business. Triple bottom line reporting has become increasingly popular among large companies worldwide. A KPMG survey shows 45% of 250 global companies publish a corporate report containing details of environmental and social performance.
    Adding a clause in the bill requiring that all presently held federal harbour or port properties be managed or divested to port authorities on a triple bottom line basis would begin to ensure public values--
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have had some patience, but the reality is, as you know, Mr. Speaker, this debate is supposed to be on the amendment. The amendment is simply an error in the difference between the French and the English and it is on the insertion of the letter “a”.
    I do not know that what the member is talking about has anything to do with the amendment. I would ask that she be relevant with respect to the amendment.
    We have already debated this. I know the NDP has quite a few more speakers. They want to delay this some more and waste more taxpayer money, but I would like the debate to at least be on point.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I was here yesterday when the parliamentary secretary raised the same point of order after a number of members had already spoken to the bill and had been succinct in their comments and had focused their comments on the bill. In fact the debate did go on in that manner. I think it is disingenuous to raise the same point of order today.
    In fact, the member for Victoria is speaking very concretely about this bill at report stage, as she has a right to do.
    I take great offence to the member's comments, saying that we are wasting taxpayers' dollars. I would ask the question, what are we here for? We are here to debate legislation, to look at it in a fulsome way, to give it the full weight of opinion. This is not about dragging something out. It is about actually looking at legislation and being allowed to debate it.
    I think it is very offensive for members to be told that doing our job is wasting taxpayers' money. We are here to actually represent the public interest and to represent those constituents.
    I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow the debate to continue and the member to make her comments. I think she was doing very well in explaining her concerns that she has at report stage with this bill.

  (1330)  

     Mr. Speaker, it is my clear understanding that it is within my right and in fact it is my responsibility to speak to what I think should be in a bill. That is what I was trying to address.
    Perhaps my Conservative colleague objects to members presenting where they think the government is not acting in the public interest. That is what I was trying to do in my comments.
    I will hear the hon. parliamentary secretary and then that should be sufficient.
    Mr. Speaker, I would agree. I do not make the rules in this place. All the parties make the rules. The reality is the rules are very clear. The rules are that in this particular debate we are supposed to be focusing on the proposed government amendment.
     If the NDP members have an issue with the amendment, and with the letter “a” being inserted to make the French the same as the English, then they should deal with that. If they have an issue with the bill, they have already debated that and I would ask for a ruling on the basis of relevance of this particular line.
    To all hon. members, I know that Marleau and Montpetit has some guidelines on relevance at each stage of a particular bill and we are debating a report stage motion. I will allow the hon. member for Victoria to continue. She has only about a minute left in her remarks.
    The Deputy Speaker, the chair occupant yesterday, did make a ruling on this. For the sake of consistency, I will be guided by those guidelines today. She has about a minute left. If she could stay as relevant to the motion as possible, I think all members would appreciate that.
    Mr. Speaker, I hope that was not my time that was being used up by these parliamentary diversion tactics.
    I felt it was very important to speak about a triple bottom line because it would ensure that public values are protected as opposed to only the interests of a specific group. The absence of this kind of accountability measure in this bill in dealing with public property makes it unsupportable. That is not surprising, as this bill is the twin of Bill C-61 tabled by the then Liberal government and we know how well the Liberals did at integrating environmental and social interests with economic ones, with a 35% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, increase in poverty, and so on.
    In the long run, integrating is just good public policy. When these components are integrated, in the long run it yields energy cost savings, better quality jobs, reduced infrastructure costs, and better environment and health.
     Such a provision should cover management of port and harbour properties. It would be felt in my riding where an unaccountable body will be given control of more public property. That is just unacceptable.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate hearing from the member for Victoria. As a former municipal councillor in Vancouver, it is interesting to hear from other former municipal councillors and we will probably hear from more, because we all have experiences with dealing with local ports and the interface between the port in our community and the municipality. I know that the member for Victoria had experiences similar to what I had in the city of Vancouver.
    I would just like to ask her what kinds of concerns she had to deal with in terms of representing local residents. In Vancouver East, for example, we have people who live immediately adjacent to the port. There are all kinds of issues about the interface between the port activity and a residential community. One of the problems with this bill is that those issues are not really addressed. In fact, it gives the ports greater authority to undertake unrelated port activities on port land. That is one of the concerns we have.
     I wonder if the member could give us some further information on that in terms of her experience as a municipal councillor in Victoria.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, indeed my criticisms of this bill stem from my experience at that time when there were conflicts that were beginning to emerge, and precisely on the issue of land use where requests for land use changes would have had impacts. The amendment my colleague was proposing would have helped to better integrate the interests of both the port authority and the community. There also was the noise pollution issue that was being passed on to the local council about activities in the port. The amendments that my colleague had proposed could have helped with this.
    That is the issue I was trying to raise by asking the ports to adopt a more comprehensive reporting process to be accountable to the community in which it is situated. We all want our port authorities and our ports to succeed, but it has to be in the context of environmental and social good for the whole community.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your ruling in relation to the relevance of this. As such, my question will certainly be on point. I am wondering if the member could comment on the issue of democracy and stakeholders' interests.
     In this particular case, I sat on the committee and I know she did not. I heard all of the witnesses and I know she did not. We did not have one port, one municipality, one city or one town say one negative word about this legislation. I am wondering how the member can stand here today and criticize something about which not one stakeholder said anything negative. How can she come forward with that?
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member raised the question, because in reading the committee report, everyone can see for themselves that there were only two representations by an association.
    The question I wanted to raise, if he had not interrupted me while I was speaking, was that the port authorities, themselves agencies, were represented, but how were the community interests represented during those hearings? I think the answer is that they were not.
    My colleague had asked for a study allowing the committee to go from city to city, which would have allowed the communities to speak out and express their concerns, not with the idea of stopping this, but simply to hear from them, and this did not happen during the review of the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the amendment that was tabled. Of course there have been some points raised about relevancy, and I want to start by talking about the fact that our duties as parliamentarians include paying very close attention to bills that come before the House.
    I wish I could say that errors and omissions in bills are a rarity, but unfortunately in the tenure of this House we have already seen a voter identification bill with such serious flaws that the government had to introduce another bill to try to correct one error. There should have been appropriate scrutiny of that bill by all members of the House instead of the New Democrats standing alone to oppose it because we were concerned about its very deep and serious flaws.
    People talk about the waste of taxpayers' money. If appropriate attention had been paid to the voter identification bill, the government would not have had to introduce a bill to fix it, which then took up House time and parliamentary time. Now there is another bill before the House for which a minor amendment has been produced.
    The member for Windsor West has done extremely good work in raising some very serious concerns about this bill. The question the NDP has is whether a simple amendment of the letter “a” is sufficient to correct all the flaws in the bill. Of course we would say no, it is not.
    I want to thank the member for Victoria for her very good words and I will be echoing some of them, because I too have been a municipal councillor. A number of us on the New Democrat side of the House have been municipal councillors and understand that the rubber truly does hit the road in our communities with municipal councils. I want to talk a bit about the importance of this bill to our local communities.
    There is a port authority in my community, the port of Nanaimo, and it is a very important part of downtown Nanaimo. The reason New Democrats have been speaking is that we are very concerned about the ongoing health and vitality of the ports. Certainly there were some positive things in the bill, but there were a number of things that we are concerned about in terms of maintaining the vitality of those ports.
    In my own city, the port of Nanaimo businesses generate 3,700 direct jobs and $115 million in direct wages. There are in excess of a total 10,000 jobs nationwide related to the port of Nanaimo after including a multiplier--these are the induced and indirect effects--and these jobs generate $335 million in total wages.
    In British Columbia, port of Nanaimo businesses generate over $160 million in direct gross domestic product and over $410 million in direct economic output. The total national economic impact of the port of Nanaimo, including indirect and induced impacts, is estimated at $500 million in GDP and over $1.1 billion in economic output.
    Direct employment is employment that can be attributed to the operation, management and tenancy at the port of Nanaimo, including firms on site at the port and port-dependent businesses off site. Indirect employment is employment in goods and services supplier industries that result from the presence of the port of Nanaimo's direct employers.
    An example of port of Nanaimo indirect employment would be the supply of machinery to value added manufacturing tenants at the port of Nanaimo. As such, indirect employment is generated in industries that supply or provide services to the port of Nanaimo businesses. This brochure I am reading from concludes by saying, “Port of Nanaimo produces jobs!”
    Anybody who has ever visited my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan and this my part of my community, Nanaimo, sees a vibrant port. The port has a commercial fishing fleet. During the summertime, people come from literally the whole Pacific northwest to enjoy the activities that take place. A walkway built around the port is heavily used. Any Sunday afternoon people will see families from all over the city enjoying the very beautiful walkway.

  (1340)  

    That leads me to one of the points that the member for Windsor West has raised around the importance of how the boards of directors are made up at these port authorities. Port authorities have a distinct local flavour. They have a direct impact on jobs, recreation, environment and businesses. One would hope that the board of directors would ensure a linkage between the local community and the port itself.
    The member for Windsor West has rightly identified some problems with the number of board members and the appointment procedure. One would hope that every effort would be made to ensure that local voices are adequately represented on these boards of directors, because that participation in the local economy and local livelihoods is important. Instead, Bill C-23 fails to address some of the concerns raised by the member for Windsor West.
    Other members have raised issues around land use planning at port authorities, connections with local municipal councils or regional districts, and the broader connection to community.
    The member for Victoria raised the fact that as former municipal councillors we are hoping that more municipal councils become greener. One way we are encouraging municipal councils to become greener is to look at this triple bottom line accountability that everybody is talking about: people, planet and profits, in the simplest way.
    We of course want to see port authorities planning integrated into municipal planning. The city of Nanaimo and most municipalities in British Columbia have something called official community plans, OCPs. These official community plans lay out a vision for the community and are regularly reviewed. If municipalities are going to deviate from the official community plan, they often must have hearings or pass special zoning amendments.
    When I was on the municipal council in North Cowichan, the development of the official community plan was a wide, community based consultation process. People from all over the community came together to talk about their vision for the community, whether it was with respect to recreational use, land use planning or community identification. There was a myriad of issues.
    As the port of Nanaimo and the city of Nanaimo go through their community planning process, it is very important that the port be integrated into that official community planning process. Again, it is important that these plans consider the triple bottom line.
     There are substantial land use planning issues around the port of Nanaimo. When the port makes a decision about land use planning, it must fall in line with how the residents of Nanaimo want their community to look. Unfortunately, when we look at appointments for boards of directors, it does not ensure that this very close linkage happens.
    We have examples in other areas. The member for Trinity—Spadina has raised some issues around the Toronto Port Authority. The member for Vancouver East has raised issues around the Vancouver Port Authority and how it often goes off willy-nilly without considering the important issues the community has outlined as its future vision for that liveable community for their children and their grandchildren. Local representation is essential in terms of making sure that ports fit in with a community's vision.
    In addition, the member also raised some issues around transparency. Among other things, the member for Windsor West called for the Auditor General to have the power to probe port authorities' financial practices. One would think the Conservatives would welcome this kind of oversight, because they often talk about transparency and accountability, yet when they have an opportunity to do that, they fail to follow through.
    That would have been an important amendment. If we are talking about adding the letter “a”, why not just stretch it to “Auditor General oversight and accountability”? Those are two very good uses for the letter “a”. They would have been welcomed by the New Democrats as an improvement to the bill.
    It is time for me to wrap up. Although we will be supporting the amendment on the letter “a”, once we get through the amendment stage I would encourage all members to vote against the bill itself.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I know that my friend who just spoke did not have an opportunity to review the bill or else she would have seen, of course, that there has been some consultation and that there is a requirement for consultations with communities. In fact, it goes beyond what the current bill has in place. That is indeed included within the bill, which actually goes on for some time about community involvement and how that has to be considered.
    I never received an answer to my last question, which I posed to the member's colleague. We heard from those ports. Not one spoke against this bill. Not one city council, not one town, not one city, not one municipality and not one province came forward to speak against this bill. I am wondering why today the member stands in the House with the New Democratic Party opposed to this bill when not one stakeholder came forward to speak against it at committee.
    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member said, I did have an opportunity to review the bill and of course, when we are talking about community input and consultation, it is not in line with municipal authorities. So, they can consult, but they still do not have to abide by things like official community plans.
    When we talk about consultation, my understanding is that there were representative groups that came before the committee, but often we need to dig much deeper than that to make sure that we have actually covered the issues that are represented in this bill. My understanding is that there are places like the city of Toronto which simply end up in court in terms of resolving issues that are before them. I would argue that the consultation at committee was not sufficient.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague for her speech. We are talking about the amendment on the letter “a” and the critical thing is what else has been missed in this bill. What is interesting is that one of the amendments the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan mentioned was the Auditor General amendment that we had put forth. One has to wonder what the government has about accountability and why it is against it.
    The bill reduces accountability by eliminating local advocates and people who are representatives on these boards. We are talking about public land. We are changing the bill to allow unfettered access to a series of different funds that municipalities will now be actually competing against, including the border gateway fund right away, and at the same time, we are removing more oversight.
    What could be the motivation for the government to reduce oversight and public accountability when an amendment like this regarding the Auditor General would be a simple thing to make sure it is not intrusive to the point where there are confidentiality problems, and at the same time there is accountability from a third party for both the House and also the port authorities, and also clears up some of the controversy that appointments can sometimes create?
    Mr. Speaker, it is beyond me to actually try to ascribe motives to Conservatives when they talk about accountability on one hand and yet their actions fly in the face of true accountability. This would be an example again of where if they truly were interested in being accountable to the Canadian public, they would allow the Auditor General to have oversight on the port authorities.
    There is a tremendous amount of money that goes into these port authorities. Canada has the longest coastline in the world and we have a number of port authorities. One would think with that kind of money involved, that Conservatives would be willing to encourage Auditor General oversight.
    We know that the Auditor General's reports are well respected. They are seen as independent and certainly removed from any monkeying around by any government, so this would be welcomed, I am sure, from the Canadian public's perspective in terms of transparency and accountability.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this bill and particularly to speak as someone who comes from the city of Surrey which is on the wonderful Fraser River with all of the complexities and challenges it brings, including having a port authority.
    When I look at the amendments that we are debating, I am very concerned about what I have seen historically and what is coming through the bill, which would be corrected by the amendment and I hope that it will be.
    The people who sit on a port authority need to be representative of the community in which they serve. That is often not the case. They are often, at least in my experience, appointments from wherever. They have been people who are known but they have not always been people who are representative of the needs, in our case Surrey. There is a much better way I think to comprise a board that will understand the unique and niche needs of a particular port and the responsibilities of a particular port authority.
    They may be municipal councillors, other elected people, other people in the community who come from different kinds of backgrounds, but there needs to be some kind of balance so that the cities or towns know that there is a public oversight going on. There are very few ports up and down the Pacific coast that are not under considerable construction, have considerable work going on and in our case, and considerable expansion going on. People are very interested and concerned about the direction the expansion will take.
    Those decisions should be made by people who are trusted and in a process that is accountable. I wish we could find another word for transparency, perhaps ways that can be seen and understood by the public. For instance, could we explain to the next door neighbourhood the rationale by which certain land is being acquired and certain construction is underway? The city of Surrey is probably one of the most exciting cities and one of the cities that is the most lacking in infrastructure dollars from both the federal and provincial governments.
    The infrastructure dollars did go in part to transportation, but the infrastructure dollars that are necessary for the work that will go on to the ports will be a competition now among port authorities and whoever else is applying for those infrastructure dollars. It will make it more difficult, I think, for cities with growing infrastructure needs to access those dollars.
    There is a great deal of discussion and consideration in Surrey, in Nanaimo, and in growing communities about municipal consultation for land use. We have seen land that is used very badly where there was no consultation, no thought about what it will look like in five years, what it will mean to industry, and what it will mean to residents.
    There must be that opportunity for municipal consultation. It does not mean only consulting the people on the board or saying no witnesses came to committee to put forward a statement. Many people would not have known this was going on. They had no opportunity to have input into this or to make some comments about how the land is going to be used around our ports, and in our case I am talking about Deltaport.
    I want to speak now to the compliance within port authorities and municipal planning processes.

  (1355)  

    We worked so hard, and every growing city would say that, to have a municipal planning process that worked in partnership with other planning processes that were going on that affected that city, whether it was transportation, regional planning, or whatever that might be.
    There must be a way to have real consultation between port authorities, that is, the federal government, and the municipalities. That is critical because municipalities will find themselves on the same path with their port authorities as they have with other authorities which they work with, both federally and provincially.
    I see your signal, Mr. Speaker. So, on behalf of the amendment, and also on behalf of Surrey and Deltaport, and our need for infrastructure and not to compete with everybody else for all the dollars that are there, I would very much encourage people to look at this amendment.
    The hon. member will have four minutes after question period to conclude her remarks, but as it is now 2 o'clock, we will move on to statements by members.
     The hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, from domestic organizations like the Canadian Islamic Congress to foreign tyrants like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, no nation has fully succeeded in escaping the awful spectre of anti-Semitism.
    Yesterday B'nai Brith reminded us that anti-Semitic incidents in Canada had increased more than fourfold since 1998. In its annual audit on anti-Semitic activities for 2007, there were 1,042 incidents, mostly vandalism and harassment, but 28 involving violence.
    Our government has taken a leadership position in standing up against anti-Semitism. Unlike the previous Liberal government, we withdrew from the racist Durban process and denied funding to Canadian organizations hoping to attend Durban at taxpayer expense. Our government is seeking full membership in the Holocaust Task Force.
    The Prime Minister's recent visit to Auschwitz reminds us that Canada must take a stand against anti-Semitism. As the Prime Minister wrote in the Book of Memory:
    We are witness here to the vestiges of unspeakable cruelty, horror and death. Let us never forget these things and work always to prevent their repetition.

  (1400)  

Government Flyers

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to those who are fed up with this government's disregard for the rules that we have all agreed to live by.
    As we all know, MPs are allowed to mail a given flyer at taxpayer expense to no more than 10% of their constituents. Yet the government is deliberately breaking this rule by forcing Canada Post to send their flyers out to 100% of constituents, increasing costs to taxpayers tenfold.
    I will not comment on the juvenile nature of the flyers because we cannot legislate against bad taste. However, I will pass along the feedback I have received from my constituents, primarily self-proclaimed Conservatives, I might add, who are disgusted with the sleazy, misleading nature of these attack ads. They become even more outraged when they are told these flyers have been sent illegally and at their expense.
    Government members may think they are above the law, but Canadians certainly know they are not.

[Translation]

Seniors' Residence

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, a seniors' residence in my riding burned to the ground. Some 30 residents had to be evacuated. Unfortunately, one resident died in the fire.
    Several people responded to the fire at Pavillon Campeau, including the brave owner, Alain Campeau, who rescued a number of residents from the flames, and who is currently recovering from his injuries at the Centre hospitalier de Mont-Laurier.
    I would like to acknowledge the courage and determination of the firefighting teams of Mont-Laurier and Lac-des-Écorces. They gave it everything they had.
    On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the Plante family as they mourn their loss.

[English]

Labour Volunteer Activists Awards

    Mr. Speaker, I want to send my congratulations to the Hamilton and District Labour Council for hosting the upcoming third annual Labour Volunteer Activists Awards. On April 19, the labour council will formally honour the contributions that union members make daily to the well-being of our city of Hamilton.
    Members of unions not only work for their local union on a volunteer basis, but often contribute many volunteer hours across the spectrum of services and agencies, such as the United Way, retiree clubs, senior centres and the list goes on.
    Labour activist volunteers make a huge difference in our community. They are involved with many issues and initiatives, the environment, health and safety related activities, cultural events, human rights and peace initiatives, women's issues and other social service based events. Union members commit their time, as all volunteers do, for the satisfaction of improving our community.
    I commend the officers and delegates of the Hamilton and District Labour Council for giving recognition to their members who are so deserving of our respect and appreciation.

Arthur Royal Brown

    Mr. Speaker, April 21 marks the 90th anniversary of the most famous aerial combat of all time, in which the Canadian pilot, Captain Arthur Royal Brown, shot down Manfred von Richthofen, Germany's illustrious Red Baron. By this act, Brown saved the lives of countless allied pilots and brought to an end the career of the deadliest flying ace of the war.
    In some ways, Brown and Richthofen were each other's mirrors, handsome, intelligent, athletic and natural leaders. So it was inevitable that this dogfight, which lasted only a moment, would become the stuff of legend, a metaphor for the nobility of aviators of all nations and of the tragedy of war.
    However, this legend crowded every other aspect of Roy Brown's remarkable life from the public eye. There is time today to mention only one of his accomplishments. Unlike virtually every other RAF flight commander, Brown never lost a pilot under his command. Indeed, his decisive combat with Richthofen took place because Brown was diving to the defence of another Canadian pilot.
    Brave, understated and thoughtful, Roy Brown was the very model of a Canadian hero.

Order of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Sister Margaret Smith on her upcoming induction into the Order of Canada.
    Through her dedication, compassion and superior skills, Sister Margaret forever changed and enhanced the delivery of health care and social services in northern Ontario. Serving as a nurse, as an executive director and a coordinator of hospitals, Sister Margaret led outstanding innovative nursing programs, hospital programs and health care organizations.
    One of her most outstanding accomplishments was the special medical unit, later renamed the Sister Margaret Smith Centre. This centre for mental health and addiction soon became a model for both the province and the nation, and has helped a multitude of men and women overcome great challenges.
    On behalf of the people of Nipissing—Timiskaming, I would like to congratulate Sister Margaret Smith on her induction into the Order of Canada and thank her for her outstanding work and contribution to health care in Canada.

  (1405)  

John MacGregor

    Mr. Speaker, this week we mark the anniversary of a pivotal event in Canadian history, the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the first world war.
    Today we remember a highly decorated hero from that war, Captain John MacGregor of Powell River, British Columbia. Captain MacGregor received the Commonwealth's highest honour for his bravery during the war, the Victoria Cross. From September 29 to October 3 in 1918 near Cambrai, France, he proved his courage and tenacity although wounded. Single-handed he put the enemy crews out of action. His heroism will be recalled at a simple but poignant ceremony in Cranberry Cemetery in Powell River, where a new grave marker will be dedicated at his final resting place.
    As we prepare to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the first world war, let us pledge to never forget those who served their country when we needed them most. Let us be forever grateful.

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, on February 27, 2007, the House passed Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill, for one, required airlines to provide details about pricing when tickets are sold.
    Amendments from the Senate, supported by the Conservatives and the Liberals, who gave in to pressure from airline industry lobbyists, removed this requirement. The Bloc Québécois was opposed to these amendments, believing that they went against the collective good. One year later, airline companies continue to hide fees from consumers. This is unacceptable.
    As it stands, there is no law or regulation requiring airline companies to publicly declare all of the fees included in ticket prices, unlike travel agents and wholesalers in Quebec and Ontario. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities must step in immediately and require that airlines publicize all of the fees included in tickets sold to passengers.

[English]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, no policies, no vision, no leadership: When future generations of Canadians look back and review the Liberal Party of Canada's new political manual, I wonder what they will think.
    The new manual is called “Inactivism 101”. It is available bound and flip-flopped, back to back with another new manual, “Smear 101”. Some of its key features include points on speaking loudly and carrying an imaginary stick, bringing a bag of dirt to every party and spreading it around liberally, and, of course, the now popularized “Backing Down and Loving It”.
    It begins with a preface that says, “At all costs hold on to your seat”. From environment, to the economy, to immigration, the manual goes on at great length about many topics, without including those hard to make priorities, and it does not mean any of what it says.
    Like some other foolish book published in Canada recently, I do not think it will be long before this new political manual is remaindered.

Darfur

    Mr. Speaker, this Sunday Canadians will come together in Toronto for the 5th Day for Darfur, an event that seeks to shine a light on the humanitarian crisis facing the people of the Sudan.
    It is impossible for us as members of Parliament to turn a blind eye to the horrors that have engulfed this region of the world. Women live in constant fear of rape and assault, refugees lack basic security and human necessities and civilians continue to be targeted and killed.
    Members of the Liberal caucus will stand in solidarity with those who gather this Sunday, and we will continue to push the government to act in Darfur.
    Our country must be a strong and persistent voice for those who continue to suffer this tragedy, and we will keep faith with the legacy of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson for a safe and peaceful world.

Film Industry

    Mr. Speaker, some wealthy elites are angry about Bill C-10, which the House passed unanimously. The bill respects freedom of expression and ensures that taxpayers are not forced to pay for purposeless pornographic or ultra-violent films. Such films will continue to be permitted under the law, just not paid for by the public purse.
    Today, Sarah Polley, who calls herself a socialist, indicates that she and others in her industry should have the right to spend taxpayer money on whatever they want. Ms. Polley has the right to her socialist views. In fact, she has the right to make any kind of film she wants.
     Working taxpaying families only ask that she remember that they are the ones paying her bills. After all, one person's freedom of expression does not entitle him or her to reach into the pocket of another.

  (1410)  

Vaisakhi

    Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vahiguru Ji Ki Fateh.
    Right across Canada today celebrations are under way for Vaisakhi, the most important day in the Sikh faith. It marks the founding of Khalsa and the birth of Sikhism, which holds the values of cooperation, justice, equality and freedom as central to human dignity.
    Today is also the second anniversary of the House giving unanimous support to my motion formally recognizing the importance of Vaisakhi and the five Ks of Sikhism. Through this motion we acknowledge the contribution of the almost half a million Sikhs in our country and express our gratitude for the vibrancy that the Sikh faith brings to our multicultural mosaic.
    The best way we can mark this special day is to stand up for an open and objective immigration system and to speak and vote against the Conservative plans for cherry-picking immigrants and limiting newcomers.
    For the Gurdwaras in my constituency, the Sikh Society of Manitoba, Gurdwara Kalgidhar Darbar and Singh Sabha and to Canadian Sikhs everywhere, Happy Vaisakhi and Lakh Lakh Vadhai, Sat Sri Akal.

Sealing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the seal hunt has been an important industry and part of the way of life for the people of the Arctic, Labrador, Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence for centuries. It sustains aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities, both economically and culturally, and provides income at a critical time of year for fishing families.
    The seal hunt is a legal and sustainable use of a natural resource, no different from any other legal and sustainable hunt or fishery.
    There are those who use the seal hunt for political gain. That includes radical fringe groups that exploit the issue to raise the money they need to sustain their globe-trotting lifestyles. Sadly, that includes the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who has played into the hands of the radicals by politicizing the hunt itself. He shows his supposed support for the seal hunt with press releases and media appearances, instead of rallying broad political and interest based support.
    I support the sealers in my riding and the sealing industry throughout Canada, by joining members of my family in heading to the ice and participating—
    The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs and International Development

    Mr. Speaker, at the April 8 meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, witnesses provided a long list of Canadian companies operating in Burma and making money for the military junta.
    These companies get a lot of support from the Canada Pension Plan. Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in these companies. The Bloc Québécois is against that. Unfortunately, even though the government has imposed sanctions against imports from and exports to Burma, it is encouraging the military junta through its investments.
    Once again, the Conservative government is showing that its actions are not in line with its own policies. Despite the fact that we have repeatedly spoken out about this, nothing has changed: the Burmese junta is still being financed by Canadian funds.

Michel Bastarache

    Mr. Speaker, we learned yesterday that Michel Bastarache, a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has decided to take a well-deserved retirement after a long and prolific career.
    In 1994, while a professor of law at the Université de Moncton, Mr. Bastarache was appointed to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal. In 1997, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he is well known for his hard work and productive contribution.
    An expert in administrative law, labour law and constitutional law, he is especially well known for his defence of linguistic minority rights. Justice Bastarache drafted the Beaulac decision, for instance, which confirmed the right to a trial before a judge or jury in the official language of one's choice
    With his retirement, Canada is losing an excellent judge and ardent defender of linguistic minorities. We wish Michel Bastarache a wonderful retirement in Acadie.

  (1415)  

[English]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the Liberals for their support of our immigration proposals. I know they said that they were adamantly against the bill, but that was before they voted for the bill. This is consistent with their pattern over the past couple of years where they criticize our government, but when it comes time to vote on the important issues that matter most to Canadians, they continue to support our government.
    The Liberals have helped us pass three budgets, two extensions to the Afghan mission, our crime package, our environment plans and just last night they supported our immigration reforms.
    The action, or rather inaction by the Liberals, makes it clear that they have no leadership, no policy and no vision for the future of our great country, and Canadians are not fooled by their desperate attempt to smear the government with imaginary scandals.
    On behalf of my constituents, I thank the Liberal Party for sitting down so we can stand up for Canada.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, now that the government has shown good sense and apparently adopted our party's position on RADARSAT-2, it must turn its attention to the next issue: cleaning up the mess it has created at Canada's space agency. The previous head of the CSA lasted only a few months. The agency has now gone without a permanent president since the beginning of the year.
    When will the government appoint a full time, permanent president of the CSA so that Canada's space industry can recover from the government's neglect of our space program?
    Mr. Speaker, I am amused to hear the Liberal Party's support for the actions the Minister of Industry has taken when the party opposite, in 13 years, never turned down a single foreign takeover in this country.
    The Minister of Industry is acting within his legal obligations. I do want to comment that, from the Alouette I, to the astronaut program, to Canadarm, this country has had a record of excellence in this sector. No one should doubt the determination of the minister or this government to protect this country's interests.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not enough to simply block the sale of RADARSAT-2. This government has to make a commitment to invest in Canada's space industry.
    Engineers and workers in this sector are unanimous in asking what the government's strategy is for Canadian leadership in space. Will the government leave Canadian companies to fend for themselves?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I should point out that the Liberal Party refused to turn down a single foreign takeover in 13 years in power.
    This country has a record of excellence in this sector. As I just said, no one should doubt the determination of the Minister of Industry to meet his obligations or the determination of this government to protect Canada's economy and sovereignty.
    Mr. Speaker, jobs in this sector will not be preserved if there is no investment strategy for the Canadian Space Agency. The Prime Minister did not give a clear answer to the question. This government needs to put aside its ideology and make the necessary investment in the industry.

[English]

    Will the government put aside its ideology and help protect our sovereignty with a strategy of increased investment in Canada's space industry?
    Mr. Speaker, this lost confidence in part of the country is in the Liberals. It has nothing to do with the Canadian Space Agency.
    Remarkable things are going on with Canadians in space: Canadarm1 and Canadarm2; Dextre, which was just launched on the space shuttle; RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2; the James Webb telescope; and a weather station on Mars will have Canadian lidar technology. All of this is going on, along with remarkable Canadians like Julie Payette and Bob Thirsk.
    I would ask my hon. friend to get behind the Canadian Space Agency and support what we are doing in this country.

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, MDA said that it was selling RADARSAT-2 and its space division because the only way it could get U.S. space agency business was to become a U.S. firm.
    Will this government finally stand up to the Americans and fight to gain U.S. ITAR and security law exemptions for Canada's space and defence industry?
    Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely remarkable that my friend is worried. We have only been dealing with this issue for some 30 days.
    The essential preoccupation, as the Prime Minister pointed out, should be the fact that the member is associated with a party that in the course of 13 years in government never once stood up for Canadian interests and turned down close to 1,500 foreign investment applications over the duration of the Investment Canada Act. That should be his worry.
    Mr. Speaker, that minister did not answer the question because his government has done nothing to stand up for Canadian interests against the Bush White House.
    Canada is a defence, security and trade partner with the U.S. We are a large purchaser of American military equipment. The U.K. and Australian governments have successfully negotiated U.S. ITAR and security law exemptions for their companies.
    When will the Canadian government do the same and stand up for Canada's space industry, or will it continue to sit back and leave Canadian jobs and Canadian companies in jeopardy?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is a Canadian in any doubt today about who is standing up for Canadian interests in space. For sure, it is not the Liberal Party when its members stand in the House and disparage what we have accomplished, whether it is with Canadarm, with Dextre, with RADARSAT-2 or with the accomplishments of our astronauts in space who will go up on the next space shuttle.

[Translation]

International Cooperation

    Mr. Speaker, a serious food crisis is currently ravaging parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti. Mostly because of the rising price of oil, the price of grains such as rice and corn is rising astronomically, which is causing violent protests in some areas. The situation is so alarming that the British Prime Minister is asking the members of the G-8 to focus on the issue at their next meeting.
    Following the example of his British counterpart, will the Prime Minister take concrete action and increase his contribution to the UN food aid program?
    Mr. Speaker, there are a number of reasons for the increase in the price of food products around the world. As the second largest contributor to the world food program, Canada is providing critical assistance to meet those needs.
    I know the Minister of International Cooperation is currently in discussion with her counterparts around the world to address these issues.
    Mr. Speaker, during the famine in Ethiopia in the late 1980s, the Conservative government of the day played a leading role. The current food crisis needs the same level of commitment.
    What is the Prime Minister waiting for to introduce a plan to allocate 0.7% of the GDP to international aid, given that the government currently allocates only 0.3%?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has indicated, we are responding to the crisis and, as he said, we are the second largest donor. Last year we were the third largest donor.
    Regarding this crisis, I brought this issue to the table at the recent G-8 meeting in Tokyo. There will be further discussions regarding Haiti specifically. I will be meeting with my counterpart, the minister from Haiti, this afternoon.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the past few days have served as an example of the threats to humanity if the world insists on developing biofuels to the detriment of basic food production. These food riots are a direct consequence of bad economic choices that have pushed food prices to record highs.
    Does the government realize that its approach, which focuses on the oil industry, is contributing to the imbalance we are currently witnessing?

  (1425)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a number of factors affect this type of situation. Our subsidization of a beginning biofuels industry in Canada has had very little effect on the foodstuffs here. We do have the innovation and the market capacity to feed both the food and the fuel line. It is absolutely in the best interests of Canadian producers and we will continue along those lines.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government must see in this catastrophe—because that is what it is—an opportunity to remedy the situation and devote 0.7% of its GDP to development aid, as the United Nations recommends. If we want to stop a disaster waiting to happen, then we have to have a comprehensive policy not only on the economy, but also on international aid.
    Can the government finally commit to achieving this objective?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has always stepped up to the plate when there has been a great need internationally regarding humanitarian issues. We have set impressive targets. We have committed to doubling our aid. We have committed to doubling our aid to Africa. In fact, we will be one of the first countries to meet that target this year.
    We will always not only make promises, but fulfill those promises and those commitments we have made. We are well on our way to doing that and we will respond as expeditiously as we have in the past regarding this crisis.

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, allow me, first, to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry for exercising the government's authority, as we and others have urged, and rejecting the takeover of RADARSAT by an American firm.
    Now the hard work starts because we must ensure that the highly paid and important jobs in this globally competitive industry are not only protected, but that we see serious development and investment. The federal government will need to end the years of underfunding, under-investment and lack of strategy that we have seen in our space sector.
    Will the Prime Minister commit to funding the next generation of space radar technologies that can put us and keep us on the leading edge?
    Mr. Speaker, let me assure the leader of the NDP and all members of the House that in this and all related matters, the government will carefully follow the legal prescriptions and the requirements of the Investment Canada Act in pursuing this and other decisions.
    I can also assure the hon. member that we have had a very successful space sector in this country and the government is committed to that sector being viable and successful in the future.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we hope the government will not change its mind, but we have to give it credit for listening to the NDP and others and for refusing to allow the Americans to take control of RADARSAT. However, that is not enough. The government has to go even further and stop repeating the negligence and laissez-faire that we saw in the previous government for so many years.
    When will we see a real industrial strategy for the aerospace sector in order to keep good jobs in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver?
    Mr. Speaker, the minister and the government are exercising their legal responsibilities under the Investment Canada Act.
    As far as the aerospace sector is concerned, Canadians are proud of it. This government is determined to do what it takes to ensure the success of this sector, which is so important to the economy and to Canadian sovereignty in the long term.

  (1430)  

[English]

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, when members of this House passed a motion that both changes and extends our mission in Afghanistan until 2011, Canadians benefited, especially the men and women serving on behalf of Canada in Afghanistan.
    However, the government seems to think that it received a blank cheque. Well, it simply has not.
    Could the Minister of National Defence tell this House exactly what changes are being made in our mission in Afghanistan to reflect, not the will of the Conservative government, but the will of Parliament?
    Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the shifting of sand under the feet of the Liberal member opposite again. Clearly, the mandate that was given from this Parliament speaks to the need to put focus on the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the humanitarian aid effort, all under the umbrella of security. That is what is taking place in Afghanistan.
    I could not agree more with her assessment that there is great credit due to the men and women in uniform, as well as the diplomats and the civilian workers who are there doing incredible work on behalf of our country. I thank her for her support in this regard.
    Mr. Speaker, fundamental in the motion that was passed by this House of Commons was greater accountability and greater transparency to this House and to Canadians about our mission in Afghanistan.
    Now that the minister has had a chance to talk to his NATO colleagues in Bucharest, could he tell us straight out what was discussed at those meetings? Could he tell us what changes are being made to refocus this mission on development and reconstruction? Explicitly, what will change in our mission after February 2009?
    Mr. Speaker, one of the things that will happen in keeping with the recommendations of the Manley report is that they will have more equipment. They will have greater ability to detect IEDs on the road so that they can continue to build more roads.
    I do want to thank the hon. member and her party for her support. I also want to quote Senator Kenny, who said that in his third visit he saw a huge improvement at this time. He said:
    We saw a great deal more cooperation in terms of the all-Canada effort. We saw people from CIDA work together with people from Foreign Affairs and with the military. We saw Canadian women who were visiting prisons to assist them. We saw a whole range of services, including the RCMP, providing assistance. And we were impressed with the level of cooperation and the Canadian effort there--
    The hon. member for St. Paul's.
    Mr. Speaker, for days the Minister of National Defence has evaded a simple question. Did he or did he not inform NATO of Parliament's decision that the nature of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan will change to one of development?
    I would appreciate if the minister could honour this House in a one word answer, did he tell them, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member followed the issue, she would know the answer to that question.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians cannot understand why he will not answer the question. I will give the minister one more chance.
    Can he tell the House and all Canadians whether he specifically informed NATO that in 2009 the mission in Afghanistan will change? We need a one word answer from the minister, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not how question period works. She does not get to tell me the answers that I give, but she would know, even before we went to Bucharest, our NATO allies were aware.

[Translation]

World Food Situation

    Mr. Speaker, Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has criticized the extensive use of corn and grains to produce biofuels, which is raising the price of these basic foods and exacerbating the international food crisis.
    Will the government remedy the situation and commit to taking a sustainable development approach by promoting biofuels made from things other than crops, such as cellulosic ethanol?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, Canada will respond to the food crisis and we will do it in an effective and focused manner.
    There are many causes for the crisis and the impacts it is particularly having on developing countries. Not only is it the biofuel usage, but it is lower crops because of changes in the weather, drought, extreme winters, et cetera. The weather is having an effect.
    The efforts we have been making in agriculture have not realized their full potential yet.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, one way to fight food insecurity is to reduce dependence on gas and to create substitutes using agricultural, plant and forestry waste. This would be a great opportunity for the Quebec forestry industry.
    Does the government understand that it is favouring gas at the expense of food, the environment and Quebec?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in our budget our commitment is very clear. With respect to biofuel we committed $2 billion, but $500 million of that is to develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol, from things like waste from the forest and the pine beetle wood that is out in British Columbia.
    We are investing heavily in this technology and we are moving forward.

[Translation]

Science and Technology

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, the media suggested that the Minister of Industry would prevent the sale of the space division of MDA, including the RADARSAT-2 satellite, to ATK. Yet according to the same media sources and ATK, discussions are continuing.
    Can the minister tell us which version of events is the correct one?
    Mr. Speaker, I made the decision on Tuesday to reject the proposed transaction. In my opinion, this transaction would not be of net benefit to Canada. I also noted that this letter was sent under subsection 23(1). It was a preliminary notice.
    Mr. Speaker, we are glad that the minister is backtracking.
    Can he tell us when he will send this decision in writing to the representatives of the companies concerned and what steps he will take to boost remote sensing here?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have done precisely what was required under the Investment Canada Act, which was to provide a notification to ATK.
    Looking beyond that, this government, as the Prime Minister has noted, is committed to our sovereignty, committed to a radar program, committed to what we have been able to achieve in this country in space.
    I would point out that whether one speaks about the accomplishments of our country with respect to Canadarm, the recent launching of Dextre, the Canadian technology incorporated in the Mars lander, or RADARSAT-2, we have done remarkable things in space that this country can be very proud of.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, in light of what is happening in the other place with regard to Bill C-10, it is understandable that the only allies of the blacklist minister are her friends from the religious right. The entire industry has rejected outright her plan to become the Canadian champion of censorship across the board.
    I have learned from various sources that the office of the blacklist minister is exerting undue pressure on the industry by making any significant funding through the Canadian Television Fund dependent on it showing the expected and desired support for Bill C-10. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, as we know and as we saw in the media, particularly yesterday's La Presse, the member for Bourassa certainly has an imagination. He has imagined comments and meetings that allegedly took place or even threats purported to have been made by my office. This must stem from seeing UFOs when he was younger.
    In 2001, a discussion paper was circulated by the former Liberal government for discussion with the cultural industry. More than thirty—
    The hon. member for Bourassa.
    Mr. Speaker, I think I hear an extraterrestrial.

[English]

    This is a very serious question that came from very serious sources. The question is simple. I want to know if the minister of censorship, through her office or department, is threatening the industry. Is the minister's staff privately telling arts groups that she will withhold funding from the Canadian television fund if they do not support her back door attempt to give herself the power to decide what is art?

  (1440)  

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Bourassa knows very well that it is impolite to refer to someone by a title other than the proper one.

[English]

    This can lead to all kinds of disorder in the House. The hon. member said “the minister of censorship”. I have never heard of this title and I do not see it on the list of the ministry which I have at my right hand.
    The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage has the floor, but we will, I hope, refrain from such conduct. This is the second time this week we have had this problem.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, naturally I appreciate your correction. I dare not, as a minister on this side of the House, point to the opposition critic with another finger, for example.
    That said, I will reiterate that I have a document here that was sent to more than thirty groups in 2001 and in which all the provisions contained in Bill C-10 appear with exactly the same wording.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, given the Cadman family's words and the Prime Minister's words, how can all this be explained credibly and plausibly?
    It may be that Mr. Cadman was in a bind. He had this big life insurance policy if he stayed on as an MP, but if there was an election and he did not run, or ran and lost, it was gone and he had his family to think about.
    It may be that the Prime Minister and his representatives came to persuade themselves the parliamentary insurance policy itself was the real inducement, that in their minds they were just fighting a wrong, to allow Mr. Cadman to vote any way he wanted.
    I ask the Prime Minister, is this what happened?
    Mr. Speaker, of course if the Liberals believed their own accusations, they would be voting to defeat the government.
    I have an email that I would like to read:
    My name is Scott and I live on Heritage Mountain [in Port Moody]. We have never met, but I wanted to contact you to let you know that this year, my accountant tells me, my wife and I are going to pay $1,890 less in taxes this year compared to last year due to pension splitting and some of the tax reductions that have come into effect in Ottawa. We will put the money to good use this summer when we visit our grandkids back East.
    I would like to thank the member for York Centre for helping my constituent with his financial considerations.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister talked of conversations he and his representatives had with Mr. Cadman. It may be that over time, in their minds, they decided they were not really talking about an offer, even though that is not what Mr. Cadman told his family, but more an understanding, something they put on the table for Mr. Cadman so no matter which way he voted, he would have what was rightfully his.
    The problem is, no matter how generous the explanation we come up with, it still adds up to an inducement to vote in a way that would bring down a government.
    I ask the Prime Minister to just stand, just explain why not.
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said time and again, the accusations by the Liberals on this file are completely false. If the member for York Centre really believes in his accusations, in about 15 or 20 minutes we will have the opportunity to vote in this House. The question will be whether the member for York Centre will walk his talk and vote in this House and defeat this government, or whether he will do what he has become accustomed to do, which is do what the Liberal coach has done, which is pull his goalie and sit him on the bench.

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, that the Liberals across the way now complain about a file and an industry they completely mismanaged is the epitome of hypocrisy.
    Today we have heard that based on the current information the Minister of Industry has decided that the sale of MDA is not in the best interests of Canadians. While the space cadets across the way worry only about getting back to power, the Minister of Industry is worried about the Canadian space industry.
     Could the minister tell us what he has done and is about to do for the industry in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker I could not comment on the specifics of the Investment Canada application, but let me say, as is known to everyone in this House, Canada has always been a leader in space. From Alouette I in 1962 to Anik I in 1972, to the accomplishments of our astronauts Steve MacLean, Julie Payette and Bob Thirsk, we have stood up in space and we have stood up in defence of Canadian sovereignty.
    Let me say that this government and the Prime Minister ran on a platform to stand up for Canada, and that is what they will do in every decision.

  (1445)  

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' so-called consumer protection law will legislate advertising loopholes and open the door to a flood of direct to consumer drug advertising. The specific provisions preventing big pharma from advertising directly to consumers have been deleted and replaced with a single, ineffective line handing the minister the power to allow drug costs and drug ads.
    Could the minister confirm that this legislation strips Parliament of the power to legislate drug ads and places the decision directly into the hands of cabinet?
    Mr. Speaker, I honestly do not know what the hon. member is referring to. There is no policy in this government to start allowing drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. That has never been the policy of the government. I understand the matter is before the courts, so I will end my comments at this point.
    Mr. Speaker, first we see the concentration of power with respect to immigration and now we see it with respect to prescription drugs. There are three specific sections that have been deleted from the legislation that would have prevented drug ads. In fact, it opens the door to direct to consumer advertising.
    We know from the experience in the United States that this measure will further drive up medication costs for patients, employers, and provincial drug plans. Instead of going in the wrong direction with direct to consumer advertising that forces drug costs up for working families, why will the government not bring in measures that will drive prices down?
    Mr. Speaker, the government, as I said, has never been in favour of direct to consumer advertising. It is a myth that is being perpetuated today by the NDP. This is its typical modus operandi. It is its system to create an unfounded allegation to scare Canadians and to scare patients.
    If it spent as much time voting for our budgets that help the health and welfare of Canadians, this country would be better, but thank goodness that we are in power rather than the NDP because we are protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, fairness demands that aboriginal children are funded at the same level as all Canadian children when it comes to education. Statistics show that aboriginal children receive less funding per capita than non-aboriginal children.
    The government has not taken any action. Are there two standards? Are there As and Bs here?
    Mr. Speaker, we are spending about $1.7 billion on aboriginal education this year and another $300 million on post-secondary education.
    Apparently there has been a sighting of the member for LaSalle—Émard. Apparently he came to the Hill to talk about aboriginal issues. However, the important thing is he could have been here to actually vote for aboriginal issues because we continue to put more money into housing, education, and fixing water systems, but one actually has to be here to vote for that stuff.
    Mr. Speaker, that kind of answer shows why there is going to be a day of action next month.
    The minister removed capital funding from the crumbling on reserve school system. He cancelled funding for the First Nations Technical Institute and he has indefinitely deferred the building of new schools.
    Why, again, are there two standards? Again, why are there As and why are there Bs?
    Mr. Speaker, there may well be a day of action, but I doubt it is going to be from the Liberals on the other side of the House.
    In my community there is a famous road paved with press releases. Many of them came from the member for LaSalle—Émard's office. Did the Kelowna accord deal with the specific claims mess? No. Did it deal with economic development? No. Did it have hundreds of millions of dollars for both on and off reserve housing? No. Did it contain the Indian residential schools settlement? No. Did it do anything for a treaty conference? No.
    Former minister Bob Nault said that the Kelowna deal just did not get it done for first nations. We are.

  (1450)  

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the immigration minister claimed that her government does not allow candidates to skirt testing requirements.
    How about Raminder Gill, the two-time Conservative candidate that the government allowed to circumvent the screening requirements in order to sit as a citizenship judge?
    Mr. Speaker, I hate to remind the hon. member but yesterday we were talking about the Immigration and Refugee Board. He needs to get his story straight, but he has a problem doing that. It is like yesterday when Liberals were so adamantly against our immigration reforms, but that was before he stood up last night and voted for it.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the immigration minister claimed that her government does not allow candidates to skirt testing requirements.
    How about Raminder Gill, the two-time Conservative candidate that the government allowed to circumvent the screening requirements in order to sit as a citizenship judge? We want an answer.
    Mr. Speaker, when we took over as government from the Liberals, we made the amazing discovery that 25% of the candidates that were put forward by the Liberals and appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board had not passed the entry test.
    That was not acceptable, so we overhauled the system. We brought in independent judges. We set up a new system that is transparent, that is accountable, and that requires the candidates to pass the test.

[Translation]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, a study came out showing that Canada is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to enforcing its child sex tourism law. According to the study, for lack of evidence, only 146 people were charged with assault against children in foreign countries between 1993 and 1997. Donald Bakker was the only person convicted since 1997 on 10 counts of sexual assault against young girls in Cambodia.
    Can the Minister of Justice tell us what he plans to do to rid the world of this scourge?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to sex tourism, I can tell the hon. member that there are laws in place and have been in place in this country for quite some time that apply to this.
    However, quite apart from that, we have taken a huge step forward with the Tackling Violent Crime Act. For the first time we have protected 14 and 15-year-old Canadian boys and girls from adult sexual predators, some of whom come from outside this country. We should all be thankful for that.

[Translation]

    That was not my question, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about sex tourism abroad.
    Given that Canada has to rely on foreign governments to assemble the evidence needed to support charges, can the Minister of Justice tell us what he plans to do to improve coordination with foreign institutions to clamp down on Canadian sex tourists?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know law enforcement authorities in this country take this issue very seriously.
    The hon. member wants more things done. Why did she not do more to get Bill C-2 passed, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, that was going to protect 14 and 15-year-olds for the first time in 130 years in this country? Why did we not get more help from the Bloc Québécois?

[Translation]

Drinking Water

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Medical Association Journal states that as of March 31, 1,800 communities could not count on the quality of their drinking water, because they were under boil water advisories.
    Since the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Environment were provincial ministers during the Walkerton tragedy, how can we count on these Conservatives to take the necessary measures to ensure that all Canadians have access to safe drinking water?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians can look at the record of this government where we are making major investments to help clean up our Great Lakes. We are banning phosphates in consumer cleaning products. We are helping to clean up Lake Simcoe and Lake Winnipeg.
    We are also doing something remarkable for the first time in Canadian history, we are banning the dumping of raw sewage into our lakes, rivers and oceans. Leading the charge against that is the Liberal MP who sits directly behind this member. Leading the charge against this is the Liberal MP for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    The government is taking aggressive action on clean water. We are going to continue to do that.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, after more than 10 years as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Michel Bastarache announced yesterday that he will step down from the high court. Throughout his career Justice Bastarache distinguished himself as a skilled lawyer, legal educator and appellate judge.
    Would the Minister of Justice comment on his plans to fill the vacancy created by this departure from the Supreme Court?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to personally thank Mr. Justice Bastarache for his contributions to the Supreme Court and his service to Canada.
    The government will now begin the process of filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court. We will consult broadly and the process will be open and transparent. The Supreme Court and Canadians deserve no less.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, family reunification is the most successful part of our immigration system. Immigrants who join family here integrate faster, are happier, and contribute more to society and the economy.
    Conservatives, with Liberal support, are downgrading family reunification to instead emphasize temporary foreign workers. Now the minister even wants the power to ignore legitimate applicants.
    Why are the Conservatives doing irreversible damage to the promise made to immigrants that they can reunite their families in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the whole objective of this exercise is to get more immigrants here and get them here sooner, whether that is getting families reunited faster or skilled workers that work sooner.
    What we are doing is trying to fix a very broken, messy system that the Liberals left by bringing in transparency and providing flexibility in the authority for the minister and the government to manage the backlog.
    I would like to read a brief quote, “The opposition Liberals’ and the NDP’s whisper campaigns...are just that — smear tactics aimed at frightening new Canadians”. They should be ashamed.
    Mr. Speaker, decades of demands by new Canadians have been ignored. Canada invites foreign doctors, nurses and teachers to come to Canada because of their skills. When new Canadians get here, they cannot use their education to benefit Canada or their families. The result is that Canada has some of the best educated taxi drivers in the world. Adding insult to injury, the Conservatives, with the support of the Liberals, want the power to prevent immigration applications.
    Why are the Conservatives doing irreversible damage to the promise made to immigrants that they can reunite their families in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the real question here is, why do NDP members think it is fair to let immigrants wait 10 years in line to get their applications looked at? That is not fair to them. It is not fair to the families they are trying to be reunited with, and it is not fair to the businesses that are trying to hire the skills and talents that these people have. We are going to get the job done in spite of the NDP.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, negotiations to end the aboriginal occupation in Caledonia are in their second year.
    Protests have spilled over into Brantford with disruptive effects on residents and on business. Simply put, a developer obtains a building permit, begins construction, protesters come and development stops. The government has to date adopted a hands-off policy and has stayed silent.
    Apart from hoping that other levels of government will resolve the issue, what exactly is the Conservative government proposing to do to deal with the matter?
    Mr. Speaker, we have done quite a lot and quite a bit more than the party opposite ever did in 13 years.
    We have put forward so far two separate offers to the first nations in the area. We have put a specific offer on the Welland Canal compensation: a $26 million offer that we have put forward and another offer on the larger claim of $125 million.
    We are engaging with first nations. We have had meetings between our special representatives and local community leaders as well as the mayor of Brantford and others to talk about the situation and to discuss options.
    However, the member might want to talk to his friend, Mr. McGuinty, about the law enforcement side.

  (1500)  

Public Opinion Research

    Mr. Speaker, for years the former Liberal government wasted huge amounts of money on public opinion research with little or no oversight. Liberal-friendly firms conducted hundreds of unnecessary surveys and polls at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
    Recently, the government made a strong commitment to bring the free spending Liberal ways of the past to an end and ensure that public opinion research is used in an effective way.
    Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works please update the House as to what progress has been made up to this date and what Canadians can expect moving forward?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer this question from my good friend from Peace River and I will answer this question very clearly.
    We recently announced reforms in order to change the public opinion research regime that is in place in different departments. I am pleased to report to the House and to taxpayers that we have reduced public opinion research and polling by departments by 20% over last years, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
    We are going to continue pushing in the right direction to ensure that Canadians have a government in place, a Conservative government, that knows that tax dollars are precious and should be spent appropriately. We will not go back to the ways of the Liberals of spending money on polling that is not necessary for the public good.

Government Contracts

    Mr. Speaker, at the government operations committee today the Minister of Public Works and his officials confirmed that only 4% of a $1.5 billion submarine maintenance contract will go through a competitive bid process. Approximately 96% of the contract will now be awarded as amendments with no further competitive tenders on the $1 billion balance of work.
    Will the minister now recall this tender and include 100% of the work in the tender and designate it as a major crown project?
    Mr. Speaker, I am afraid my colleague from Nova Scotia has his facts entirely wrong on this issue. The minister cleared up this matter and put it forward. In fact, no contract has yet been awarded on this file. This is still a matter of litigation.
    We have followed all the rules and will continue to do so to ensure that taxpayers get the best possible value for their dollars when it comes to these contracts.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Budget Implementation Act, 2008

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    It being 3 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the second reading stage of Bill C-50.
    Call in the members.

  (1510)  

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

(Division No. 88)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Alghabra
Allen
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Arthur
Bagnell
Bains
Baird
Batters
Bell (North Vancouver)
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brown (Oakville)
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Byrne
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casey
Casson
Chan
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Comuzzi
Cotler
Cummins
Cuzner
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dosanjh
Dryden
Dykstra
Easter
Emerson
Epp
Eyking
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Godfrey
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Guarnieri
Hall Findlay
Harper
Harris
Hawn
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Holland
Ignatieff
Jaffer
Jean
Jennings
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karetak-Lindell
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Lee
Lemieux
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKenzie
Malhi
Maloney
Manning
Marleau
Mayes
McCallum
McGuinty
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Menzies
Merrifield
Mills
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Pacetti
Patry
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rajotte
Redman
Regan
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Rodriguez
Russell
Savage
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Scott
Shipley
Silva
Skelton
Solberg
Sorenson
St. Amand
St. Denis
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Wilfert
Williams
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich

Total: -- 169

NAYS

Members

André
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bevington
Bigras
Black
Blaikie
Blais
Bouchard
Bourgeois
Brunelle
Cardin
Charlton
Christopherson
Comartin
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Dewar
Duceppe
Faille
Freeman
Godin
Gravel
Guimond
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Lussier
Malo
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
McDonough
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Nadeau
Nash
Ouellet
Paquette
Perron
Picard
Plamondon
Priddy
Savoie
Siksay
Stoffer
Thi Lac
Vincent
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 65

PAIRED

Members

Allison
Barbot
Bellavance
Bonsant
Carrier
Day
Doyle
Gagnon
Gaudet
Grewal
Guay
Guergis
Hinton
Khan
Komarnicki
Miller
Mourani
Pallister
St-Cyr
St-Hilaire

Total: -- 20

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

    The next question is on the main motion.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: Order. The House has to hear the question. I would remind hon. members of one of the Standing Orders, and I have forgotten the number, which says that when the Speaker is putting the question no member shall make any noise or disturbance. I will get the number if hon. members insist, but I would ask them to kindly show some restraint when the question is being put.

[Translation]

    The hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, in order to make things easier for the House, I ask that you seek the unanimous consent of this House to fully apply the result of the previous vote to the current vote.

[English]

    Is there unanimous consent to apply the vote just taken?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

[Translation]

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

  (1515)  

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

(Division No. 89)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Albrecht
Allen
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Arthur
Baird
Batters
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casey
Casson
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Comuzzi
Cummins
Davidson
Day
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dykstra
Emerson
Epp
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Goldring
Goodyear
Gourde
Harper
Harris
Hawn
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Jaffer
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Lemieux
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKenzie
Manning
Mayes
Menzies
Merrifield
Mills
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Scheer
Schellenberger
Shipley
Skelton
Solberg
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 113

NAYS

Members

André
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Bains
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bell (North Vancouver)
Bevilacqua
Bevington
Bigras
Black
Blaikie
Blais
Bouchard
Bourgeois
Brunelle
Cardin
Chan
Charlton
Christopherson
Comartin
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Dewar
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Duceppe
Faille
Freeman
Godin
Gravel
Guimond
Ignatieff
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Lussier
Malhi
Malo
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
McCallum
McDonough
McTeague
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Minna
Nadeau
Nash
Ouellet
Paquette
Perron
Picard
Plamondon
Priddy
Savoie
Siksay
Stoffer
Thi Lac
Vincent
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 76

PAIRED

Members

Allison
Barbot
Bellavance
Bonsant
Carrier
Day
Doyle
Gagnon
Gaudet
Grewal
Guay
Guergis
Hinton
Khan
Komarnicki
Miller
Mourani
Pallister
St-Cyr
St-Hilaire

Total: -- 20

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

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

[English]

    Order. It being Thursday, I believe the opposition House leader has a question.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader could indicate his proposed schedule for the rest of this week and next week, which will take us into the late April adjournment.
     At the same time, could I ask him again what his plans are with respect to Bill C-21? It was reported back to the House from the committee dealing with aboriginal human rights on January 30. There has been more than enough time to deal with that legislation. I wonder when the minister intends to call it.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the House of Commons has just now voted to approve the budget implementation bill at second reading. The bill will now proceed to the Standing Committee on Finance where it will be studied by members of that committee.
    I know that the Liberal Party originally said that it adamantly opposed the bill, so we welcome its change of heart yesterday with its help to defeat the NDP motion, which would have effectively killed the bill, and its kind cooperation today to make sure it passed at second reading.
    As I am sure the Liberal House leader is aware, the passage of the bill is important to the stability of the Canadian economy during a time of global economic uncertainty and to reduce the immigration application backlog that is causing Canada to lose much needed talent from potential immigrants. We hope it will be dealt with quickly at committee so that we can have it back to the House for third reading, where I am sure it will once again receive the same warm greeting.

[Translation]

    Today and tomorrow, we will continue to debate Bill C-23, which amends the Canada Marine Act; Bill C-33, which will regulate a renewable content of 5% in gasoline by 2010, and 2% in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012; and Bill C-5, which has to do with responsibility in the event of a nuclear incident, as part of Improving the Health and Safety of Canadians Week.

[English]

    Next week will be a stronger justice system week. We will start by debating, at report stage and third reading, Bill C-31, which amends the Judges Act to allow the application of additional resources to our judicial system.
    We will also consider Senate amendments to Bill C-13, which is our bill to amend the Criminal Code in relation to criminal procedure, language of the accused, and other matters.
    We will then continue by debating Bill S-3, our bill to reinstate modified versions of the anti-terrorism provisions--the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions provisions--in the Criminal Code. This important piece of legislation, which has already passed the Senate, will safeguard national security while at the same time protecting the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. I hope all members of the House will work with the government to ensure its quick and timely passage.

[Translation]

    We will debate Bill C-26, which imposes mandatory prison sentences for producers and traffickers of illegal drugs, particularly for those who sell drugs to children.
    Lastly, time permitting, we will start debating Bill C-45, which has to do with our military justice system.

[English]

    With regard to the bill dealing with aboriginal human rights, we understand, sadly, that the opposition parties gutted the relevant provisions and protections in it. Therefore, I am surprised by the enthusiasm of the opposition House leader for it. Perhaps if the members are, as they were on Bill C-50, prepared to reverse their position and support the restoration of those meaningful principles, we would be happy to bring it forward again.
    Mr. Speaker, I have two further questions.
    First, with respect to Bill C-21, as the minister will know, the amendments that happened in committee were indeed a reflection of the hopes and the aspirations of aboriginal organizations in this country, so I would hope the government would take a fresh look at that and be willing to respect the will of those aboriginal organizations, because that will is reflected in the amendments that were made.
    Further, with respect to Bill C-50, I would remind the government House leader that the vote at second reading is not passage of the legislation. It is simply reference of the legislation to the appropriate standing committee. In the standing committee, the defects in the legislation can be debated and exposed, and of course Canadians for the first time will have the opportunity to speak in a parliamentary forum to tell parliamentarians what Canadians think about this legislation, which is extremely important.
    I would ask the government House leader this question. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has indicated, I believe, a willingness to see not the bill itself but the immigration subject matter of Bill C-50, in addition to what may happen in the finance committee, also referred to the House Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I wonder if the minister would be willing to confirm the government's willingness to see that subject matter referred to the citizenship and immigration committee while the finance committee is dealing with Bill C-50.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a rather novel interpretation by the opposition House leader. I think every grade 5 student in this country could tell us that second reading approval of a bill is approval in principle and is passage of the bill in principle. For that reason, I make those observations.
    In terms of study, the bill of course will be studied at finance committee. As for the immigration committee, any committee of the House is free to study any subject matter within its jurisdiction.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

Privilege

Oral Questions—Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Thursday, March 13, by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst alleging that the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages misled the House with her response to an oral question the previous day.
    I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter and for his additional comments, as well as the hon. member for Gatineau, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, and the hon. Government House Leader for their interventions.

[English]

    I think it might be useful to remind hon. members of the events that led the member for Acadie—Bathurst to raise his question of privilege. On February 14, 2008, the Standing Committee on Official Languages adopted a motion calling upon the minister to appear immediately before the committee in relation to its study on the action plan for official languages.
    Subsequent to this, during oral questions on Wednesday, March 12, 2008, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier asked the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages a question concerning this invitation to appear before the committee, claiming that the minister had declined the invitation to appear.
    In her response to the House, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages stated that she had not refused to appear, noting that she had appeared before the committee on December 6, 2007. Furthermore, the minister added that, once work on the next phase of the action plan for official languages is completed, she would be pleased to appear before the committee again to discuss the matter.

[Translation]

    In addressing this matter, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst alleged that the minister had misled the House since her response in the House contradicted her letter of February 25, 2008, to the committee in which she declined the invitation to appear before the committee. However, on April 1 last, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages responded to this allegation, describing it as an unfortunate misunderstanding and stating that she would be pleased to appear before the committee in due course.

[English]

    The Chair is fortunate that the minister's letter of February 25, 2008, which lies at the centre of this dispute, has been tabled and is therefore available for review. In that letter, the minister, on the one hand, clearly declines the committee's invitation to appear immediately while, on the other hand, she clearly states that she would be “pleased to appear before the Committee to discuss the next phase of the action plan as soon as I have finished working on it”.
    At the very least, I find this to be an ambivalent response, with the result that a reader may choose to put the emphasis on the minister having declined or the minister offering to appear in due course and so arrive at very different conclusions about the nature of the minister's reply in the House on March 12.

[Translation]

    The House is often seized with disputes of this kind. As Mr. Speaker Fraser aptly stated on December 4, 1986, at page 1792 of the Debates: “Differences of opinion with respect to fact and details are not infrequent in the House and do not necessarily constitute a breach of privilege”. This lends further support to the extract I cited previously on this matter from 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]

    In that respect, the situation before us today is like many others the House has seen. There is obviously a disagreement between hon. members with respect to the completeness of the minister's responses in this matter.
    The House has noted that part of the minister's letter to the committee certainly declined the committee's invitation to appear immediately. However, hon. members will recognize with the Chair that the minister's response to the March 12 question selectively focused on another part of the same letter where she expressed willingness to appear before the committee at a future date.
    Similarly, in their subsequent interventions, both the minister and the government House leader persisted in quoting selectively from the letter rather than acknowledging the ambivalence in the letter that appears to lie at the heart of the complaints.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    In summary, then, I do not doubt that hon. members are vexed by the ambivalent letter and that they are disappointed by the evasiveness they encountered when they voiced their complaints. One might have wished that, in her intervention of April 1, 2008, the minister had put the matter to rest by simply explaining her decisions more thoroughly. Nevertheless, I can only conclude that this remains a dispute as to facts and I do not see here sufficient grounds for a prima facie finding of privilege.
    I thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canada Marine Act

     The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motion in Group No. 1.
    Before I call for resuming debate, I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by nine minutes.
    Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Speaker: The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion No. 1 agreed to)

Hon. Peter Van Loan (for the Minister of Transport)  
     moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried on division.

    (Motion agreed to)

Canadian Environmental Protection Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

[Translation]

Speaker's Ruling  

    There are two motions in amendment on the notice paper relating to the report stage of Bill C-33. Motion No. 1 will not be selected by the Chair, as it could have been presented in committee.

[English]

    The remaining motion has been examined and the Chair is satisfied that it meets the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76(1)(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage. Motion No. 2 will be debated and voted upon.

[Translation]

    I shall now put Motion No. 2 to the House.

  (1535)  

[English]

Motions in amendment  

Motion No. 2
    That Bill C-33, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 13 on page 3 with the following:
“Canada, including a review of the progress made in the preparation and implementation of the regulations referred to in subsection 140(1), should be undertaken by such commit-”
    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this amendment, although it is not the complete amendment that we were looking for in this bill and certainly not an amendment that would lead us to understand how this bill would impact on Canada.
    Bill C-33, as put forward by the agriculture minister and through the agriculture committee, is enabling legislation. It would give the government power to make regulations that would open up the ability for biofuels to be used in the Canadian transportation industry across the country. As such, it really does not have any of the characteristics outlined that may be the most important in dealing with this issue in the future.
    Concerns are mounting around the world about the nature of the directions that countries have taken with the development of biofuels and with the promotion of ethanol from corn, sugar cane and soybeans. This movement, albeit having good intent, the process has shown and is showing a very detrimental impact on the food supply across the world. In much of the scientific material, it is not showing much improvement in environmental characteristics regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the use of agricultural land. The deforestation of land for the production of these crops has also added to the environmental concerns that people around the world are starting to recognize and talk about.
    With the amendments that I proposed, which have now been reduced to the one amendment, we felt there was a need to have greater understanding of the direction that Canada was going to take with its biofuels policy from the House of Commons, not simply leaving it in the hands of the government to make regulations but to have a fulsome and complete understanding in the House of Commons as to the nature of the kind of businesses that we are entering into with biofuels.
    That is the nub of it in terms of the motion that we are putting forward here today. We are down to the single motion and I understand, through the process of Parliament, how this has happened, and I respect that. I trust that other members will respect that we are trying very hard to understand how we can ensure this bill will work for Canadians.
    This bill also represents the promise of a $2 billion expenditure by the government over a number of years toward subsidies to those who grow the product and develop the fuel that will be used in a 5% mix in gasoline across the country, as well with a significant percentage of biodiesel that will be produced.
    The evidence is coming in quite strong that the greenhouse gas emissions from the development of the industry so far across the world have been less than satisfactory. If one includes the deforestation that has taken place in many countries outside of Canada that have bought into the biofuel idea, we find that greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy consumed in a person's vehicle in this biofuel mix actually turn out to be higher, and that is unfortunate.

  (1540)  

    As well, there are potentially other ways in which this industry could go where we would see improvements in the greenhouse gas emissions. With the use of corn ethanol, we see about a 20% improvement in CO2 emissions over conventional gas coming from farm production. However, that creates the problem of using greater quantities of arable land in order to produce corn for ethanol production.
    In the United States, through its programs, 16% of its corn production is now turned into ethanol, and it is looking at increasing that to 30%. It has caused an increase in the price of corn around the world. It is not healthy for mankind to be moving in this direction at a time when considerable poverty and malnourishment still exists around the world.
    In Canada, the move toward a 5% ethanol content in our gasoline will not be accomplished on our own land. If that is the direction the government takes with regulation and with the investment of subsidies, we will find that much of the corn production will come from other countries, specifically the United States. We will be competing with the U. S. industry for the same product, as well as with people around the world who rely on it as a food stock and in many other ways.
    This is a problem that we need to address in Parliament. We need to talk about it, understand it and include it in the bill that is being put forward. Simply allowing this to move to regulation without considering the desirable characteristics and the direction the government will take when it does produce those regulations is not proper governing. It does not represent careful choice.
    We saw that in the agricultural committee when it reviewed the bill. My colleague, our agricultural critic, tried unsuccessfully to put forward amendments that would allow more careful consideration of this issue. Many witnesses came before the committee but most of their testimony was in vain. We have come to where this bill is now at report stage.
    Most of the political parties in this Parliament at one time or another have supported the concept of biofuels and yet, as we move along in the world, opinion is changing rapidly about the nature of what we are creating.
    I had the opportunity earlier this week to have lunch with the minister of energy from Great Britain where biofuels was a topic of discussion. When he was asked what the thinking was of the European Union and his own country with regard to biofuels, he said that we needed to change what we were doing. When asked if this could be done through regulation, he said that we needed to have some policy that outlines the direction that we need to take with biofuels.
    There is an emerging consensus around the world that, however well-intentioned the move to biofuels is, the end result is not practically looking to be the way that we wanted it to be. The best laid plans of men and mice sometimes go astray. In the case of biofuels, I think it is quite correct that we need to be very careful. Canada is at an advantage right now. We have not passed any laws. Since we have not entered into the large scale production of biofuels with any particular process, we can make sensible and correct choices that can lead this country in a direction that will work.

  (1545)  

    It is imperative that we deal with this issue in Parliament. It is imperative that we understand the direction we are going in. It is imperative that the people of Canada understand what we are doing, how we are working toward the future of our country, how we are making correct choices about our energy future.
    It is not good enough to simply say, “Here is enabling legislation. Let's just turn it over to the government”. The government has not won that kind of respect yet. The government has not demonstrated that kind of commitment to climate change. It has not demonstrated that kind of commitment to energy security. It is not demonstrated those commitments that would make this kind of choice to simply turn over enabling legislation in the fashion that we are prepared to do in order make the correct choice. We are really caught on the horns of a dilemma.
    I will leave my comments there. I am very happy to engage in this debate. It is a debate that needs the attention of Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, I understand the member's concern, which is out there. There is no question that over maybe even the next decades the linkages and the conflicts between food policy, energy policy and environmental policy will be quite evident. We have a responsibility, globally, to ensure that our environment is protected and that there is a good food supply for the public. I understand his concerns. I do, however, feel we are moving in the right direction with this bill.
    The question I have relates to the amendment itself. As I understand the bill, a review process is in place to review the economic environmental impact of developing production and the ethanol policy as we move ahead. The motion really refers to expanding the review into “preparation and implementation of the regulations referred to in subsection 140(1)”.
    Could the member explain to me what is specifically meant by that amendment? Does it go beyond ethanol? Does it go to other energy areas? Could he give us an explanation on that amendment so we know specifically what the intent of it really is?
    Mr. Speaker, subparagraph 140(1)(g)(iii) is the determining clause, “the adverse effects from the use of the fuel...on the environment, on human life or health, on combustion technology and on emission control equipment...”. We have a process that would expand the review to ensure it encompasses all the details within the bill and would help out with that.
    The amendment is taken in the absence of the other amendments that were declared out of order, and I recognize that. I will attempt in all ways to ensure that we proceed correctly with the amendment. The member can take it that the amendment will, in fulsome detail, help with the review process as outlined in the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I will talk a little about the legislation and put a question forward for the hon. member about his speech.
    There are different aspects of this legislation. It is very important that we recognize the diversity of this. We have to ensure we take steps forward on the environment and we have to ensure we concentrate on it. However, this is also about agriculture. This is also about ensuring that we can increase the farm gate prices for our farmers by giving them more options.
    I am really tired of seeing the NDP members consistently standing up for their cheap food policy in Canada. An amendment was put forward in committee. We worked with the NDP member of the committee to ensure a review process was put in place with which the NDP was happy and that everyone around the table could accept. Then we come to this place today and the NDP members are trying to put restrictions on it. They are trying to stand in the way of enhancing agriculture for our farmers once again.
    When is the member going to finally stand up and support our farmers and support putting good prices and rising commodity prices in place for them rather than a cheap food policy?

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, the situation in the world speaks for itself on food prices right now. That is probably what we are having trouble with in response to the legislation. The situation in the world is changing. What may have been appropriate two years ago is changing rapidly.
    We want to ensure that we make legislation that is good for the future, not good for yesterday or even today, but that works as we move along in the future. I am sure that is the ultimate goal of everyone in the House of Commons.
    I do not particularly think this is a partisan issue to deal with the changing situation in the world as we speak. It is incumbent on all members to view very carefully what we are attempting to accomplish with the bill and put it into a perspective that will work. When we say that—
    I think we will have to leave it at that.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to talk about the biofuels policy, one that we promised in the last election and are delivering upon now. I think all parties can support this issue. I think everybody believes that biofuels are not only good for our environment, but also good for our agricultural industry.
    As the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, we had a good discussion when we reviewed the bill. We heard from witnesses and we covered all aspects of this issue, from the ones who were pro-biofuel to those who were con. At the end of the day, the members around our committee table, from all parties, agreed that this policy needed to move forward.
    We made some minor amendments to the bill. The main purpose of doing that was to ensure a review process would be in place. This way, as we move forward, as manufacturing comes online in our country in the production of biofuel, we can look at all the downstream impacts and ensure that not only are our farmers benefiting, but our environment is benefiting as well. We also want to ensure that the industry can supply the domestic market, especially as we see more vehicles on the road that are ethanol based or flex-fuel based and can use both biodiesel and ethanol as well as traditional gasolines and diesels.
    We brought the policy recommendations to committee and they were agreed upon by all parties. I am disappointed this motion would come forward as an amendment to the bill today. Essentially it would obscure what we have already been able to accomplish.
    We have to remember that we are talking about the entire Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which regulates all aspects of fuel production. By going ahead with this review, it is opening this up beyond biofuels. Right now we are only reviewing biofuels under Bill C-33 with the amendments we brought forward.
    In the proposal, in clause 140(1), the whole review process will be opened up to all fuels and that is not the intent of Bill C-33. Bill C-33 is about the biofuel policy and how it will be implemented and carried forward.
    One of the concerns of my NDP friend, which was also brought forward by a number of people opposed to this policy, is that grain prices are getting out of control and that is affecting the price of food. They are blaming biofuels in the world for creating this price increase.
    The reason the price of grain is going up so fast is because we have the lowest carryover stock in the last 50 years. Coarse grain stocks around the world are at all time lows, but that is not because of biofuels. That is because we have a growing population. It is also because countries like India and China have a growing and blooming middle class who are buying up higher quality food products and are consuming not only Canadian grains, but grains around the world.
    We have also had some very difficult growing conditions. The prairie region last year only brought in a 78% crop. There was some drought in certain areas and difficult harvesting conditions in others. The same is true in Australia, a major grain producing area. It has had three successive droughts and last year brought in less than 50% of its normal production. The U.S. mid-west and western Europe have also had extremely difficult situations and came in with less than a bumper crop.
    As long as these major areas, which produce the bulk of the food grains in the world, are having difficulty, we are not going to have the carryover stocks that we need to feed our growing population, especially certain areas of the world that now find themselves with better wealth and ability to buy higher quality food stocks.
     We have to look at the whole gamut of t