Question No. 180--Mr. Jim Maloway
Has the government issued any press releases, statements or speeches, with regards to the recent review, chaired by Mount Allison University President, Robert Campbell, prepared for the government, suggesting that Canada Post should drop door-to-door mail delivery and switch to community mailboxes and, if so, where can they be accessed?Hon. Rob Merrifield (Minister of State (Transport), CPC)
Mr. Speaker, on April 30, 2009, the report of the advisory panel was tabled in the House of Commons and a news release was issued the same day announcing that the report is available to the public in both official languages. The press release is available at http://www.tc.gc.ca/mediaroom/releases/nat/2009/09-h064e.htm.
While door-to-door service delivery was discussed in the report, the advisory panel did not recommend a switch from door-to-door mail delivery to community mailboxes.
Canada Post is an important federal institution that provides a fundamental public service to Canadians and the government is committed to making sure that all Canadians, rural and urban, continue to have a universal, effective and economically viable postal service.Question No. 182--Hon. Dan McTeague
With regard to the financial literacy initiatives announced in Budget 2009: (a) what programs have been created; (b) how much funding has the government allocated for each of these programs; (c) how much funding has been spent, to date, on these programs; (d) what section of the Canadian population is each program targeting; (e) what area of the country is each program going to operate in; and (f) how will each program help make Canadians more financially literate?Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, a number of initiatives are currently underway to improve financial literacy for Canadians; however, our government believed it was time to better organize efforts. To that effect, budget 2009, presented to the House of Commons on January 27, 2009, committed $5 million over two years, 2009-10 and 2010-11, to establish an independent task force.
This task force will make recommendations to the Minister of Finance on a cohesive national strategy on financial literacy, and include representatives of the business and education sectors, volunteer organizations, and academics, and will be supported by a federal secretariat. The task force is expected to be launched in the spring of 2009.
With respect to how improving financial literacy will help Canadians, our government believes that financial literacy is an important life skill that empowers consumers to make the best financial decisions in their particular circumstances. Increased financial literacy allows consumers to act knowledgeably and with confidence to look after their own best interest and achieve their personal and financial goals.
Individuals like John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, Inc. and vice-chairman of the United States President Barack Obama's Advisory Committee on Financial Literacy and Peter Nares, founder and executive director of Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, SEDI, have publicly echoed that sentiment and applauded our government’s initiatives in that regard, declaring that: “Financial literacy entails developing skill sets people will use every day to make better decisions … (the Conservative) government has taken some important steps in this direction. In 2007, (the) government mandated that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada begin addressing financial literacy matters. Funding was provided in the subsequent federal budgets. However, in fiscal 2009, the Canadian government has the opportunity to grab hold of this issue as our major trading partners have done. The commitment to form an independent, multi-sector task force to develop a national strategy on financial literacy is the first step in a process that could help Canadians make better financial decisions. It could also help Canadians better weather the economic storms that will inevitably blow through the global economy from time to time”.
Question No. 186--Mr. Wayne Marston
With regards to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board: (a) what are the private market benchmarks used by the Board and in what way do they reflect the underlying credit risk, liquidity risk, leverage and beta of the underlying investments; (b) does the Board invest in hedge funds and, if so, (i) what are the Board’s benchmarks for these hedge funds, (ii) how do the benchmarks accurately reflect the underlying credit risk, liquidity risk, leverage and beta of the underlying investments; (c) who is the officer responsible for the policy portfolio; (d) what is the total active risk the board is allowed to take and how is this risk monitored; (e) what is the risk management policy to deal with portfolios that are losing money; (f) are there steps to cut losses in public markets when they reach a certain level, and how are they made clear; (g) what are the detailed policies for (i) mitigating the risks of private markets, (ii) whistleblower protection, (iii) compliance with diversity laws; (h) what has been the turnover in funds of the last four fiscal years; and (j) has the board been audited or evaluated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission?Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, CPPIB, was established by an act of Parliament in 1997. The mandate of the board is to invest the funds transferred by the CPP in the best interests of CPP plan members, maximizing the rate of return without undue risk of loss. All changes to the CPP require the approval of at least two-thirds of the provinces representing at least two-thirds of the population, plus the federal government.
It should be noted that the CPPIB is neither a department nor an agency of the Crown; rather it is governed by a board of directors of twelve experienced professionals who are appointed by the federal government in consultation with provinces, operating at arm's length from the government. The board is required to be accountable to Canadians, Parliament, and the provinces through regular reports of its activities and the results achieved.
To that effect, the CPPIB recently released its annual report on May 28, 2009 which responds to many questions. The report is available at http://www.cppib.ca/Publications/annual_report.html. Also, a copy of CPPIB code of conduct is available at http://www.cppib.ca/files/PDF/Code_Of_Conduct_Oct01_2008.pdf.
Question No. 190--Ms. Megan Leslie
With respect to federally regulated pension plans: (a) how many such plans are currently at risk of default and which plans are so affected; (b) what is the value of each affected plan, how many current and future pensioners does each pension have and what is the average annual amount each pensioner, current and future, would lose in the event of default; (c) what is the government’s position on protecting existing pension benefits in the event of bankruptcy; and (d) does the government support efforts to guarantee pension benefits in the event of bankruptcy and if, so, how?Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, according to the latest available pension plan financial statements, www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/app/DocRepository/1/eng/reports/osfi/ar0708_e.pdf, there were 1,350 private pension plans registered under the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, PBSA, and supervised by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). Of those plans, there were 351 defined benefit plans, 904 defined contribution plans and 95 combination plans. These plans covered over 594,000 members, of which 391,000 were in a defined benefit plan, 104,000 in a defined contribution plan and 99,000 in a combination plan. Total assets for these plans were $132 billion, with $109 billion in defined benefit plans, $4 billion in defined contribution plans and $19 billion in combination plans. OSFI regulates approximately 7 percent of pension plans in Canada. The other 93 percent are under provincial regulation, representing 5.2 million members with total assets of $961 billion. 53 percent of federally regulated pension plan assets were invested in equities, 39 percent in debt instruments and 8 percent in diversified and other assets.
In April 2009, OSFI reported, www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/app/DocRepository/1/eng/media/nr_esr_e.pdf, that the average estimated solvency ratio for federally regulated defined benefit plans was 0.85 in December 2008. Estimated solvency ratios are determined by dividing a plan’s estimated assets by the plan’s estimated liabilities, using assumptions consistent with the plan being terminated. OSFI continues to monitor the funding situation of plans carefully and is taking steps, where necessary, to protect the rights and interests of plan beneficiaries.
The government has taken action to better protect the pensions of working Canadians by making amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act that will grant super priority status to outstanding employer and employee pension contributions in both bankruptcy and corporate restructuring. This super-priority status became law in bankruptcy in July 2008.
Given the present extraordinary circumstances affecting private pension plans, the Government took action in Budget 2009, presented to the House of Commons on January 27, 2009, and the 2008 Economic and Fiscal Statement by providing temporary solvency funding relief that will facilitate an orderly return to full funding while protecting the security of benefits. The regulations implementing this temporary relief were pre-published in the Canada Gazette on April 4th.
The federal government also launched public consultations on pension issues in January with the release of a consultation paper (http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-005-eng.asp). As part of the consultation process, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance led public meetings across Canada in March and April. To become better familiarized with this consultation process, please visit http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-018-eng.asp
Question No. 212--Ms. Linda Duncan
Regarding regulations on mercury: (a) what progress has the government made on the development of new regulations to reduce mercury emissions from coal fired electric power generation; and (b) when, specifically, is the government going to issue new regulations on mercury emissions from coal fired electric power generation?Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of the Environment, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, in response to a) Canada has reduced its mercury emissions by 90% since the 1970s and now accounts for less than 1% of global emissions. Despite this progress, we need to continue taking action because mercury impacts are still evident across the country.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of addressing mercury emissions from coal-fired electricity generation as it is the largest contributor to mercury emissions in Canada at 36%.
Under “Turning the Corner”, the government announced its intention to regulate key sources of air pollutant emissions. We are working with industry, provinces and non-government organizations to refine the regulatory framework and specifically to develop national regulations of industrial emissions of key air pollutants. As part of that work, a Canadian regulation addressing mercury from the electricity sector under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 is under consideration.
The Government of Canada is committed to demonstrating leadership in ensuring health and environmental impacts of mercury emissions are reduced across Canada.
Canada has several existing international agreements to limit the transport of mercury as a heavy metal and has also committed under the Canada-wide standards for mercury emissions from coal-fired electric power generation plants to seek further international agreements to reduce the effect of mercury pollution in Canada from foreign countries.
At the UN Environment Programme’s Governing Council meeting earlier this year, I along with my counterparts in over 140 countries unanimously agreed to launch negotiations on an international mercury treaty, which some would like to see in place within three years. Given that 80% or more of the mercury deposited in Canada comes from other countries, this treaty is important to Canada.
In addition, the new U.S. administration is also moving forward with new regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power generation.
Canada is committed to working with the United States and the international community to further reduce global mercury emissions.
In response to b) A regulation on mercury emissions from coal-fired electric power is under consideration.
Question No. 281--Ms. Judy Foote
With respect to Veterans Affairs Canada Health Benefits: (a) what is the rationale behind the application of a deduction, in most cases of $5, from the repayment of taxi fares for veterans seeking treatment or diagnosis from doctors, hospitals, or health care facilities; (b) what is the total amount Veterans Affairs Canada deducted from all repayment of taxi fares in the 2007-2008 fiscal year; and (c) has a review of this policy been undertaken by Veterans Affairs Canada?Hon. Greg Thompson (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, in response to a) and c) Financial support for travel to receive treatment benefits is authorized in the Veterans Health Care Regulations, VHCRs. The VHCRs include a deduction of $5.00 for each trip from the cost of taxi travel. However, the VHCRs also allow for $5.00 deduction to be waived whenever there is any reasonable concern that this deduction may negatively impact the client's ability to access needed treatment benefits. The deduction may be waived if the client's mobility or cognition is severely impaired, or it would seriously impede the client's ability to access treatment benefits.
The relevant policy was reviewed in 2007 and as a result, a policy statement was sent to the field in 2007 to clarify the intent of the policy and ensure staff were applying section 34.2, the regulatory authority to waive the deductible for aging veterans dealing with multiple and complex health needs who require frequent visits to treatment centres. The relevant policy allows for the full benefit of doubt given to the veteran and recognize that a deductible for those in lower income situations has the effect of creating a potential barrier to seeking needed medical care.
In response to b) The department does not track information specific to deductions on the repayment of taxi fares. In 2007-2008, there were over 90,000 payments for taxi fares processed for a total of close to $1.9 million paid to veterans.
Question No. 172--Mr. Scott Andrews
With regard to the Extension of Employment Insurance Benefits, under the Pilot Project 10 and funding for skills and development and training, within the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC): (a) broken down by provincial and territorial jurisdictions, how many clients of HRSDC were receiving EI benefits on February 28, 2009 and out of that number, (i) how many were receiving the benefit of the additional five weeks under Project Pilot 10, in each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, (ii) what were the same statistics by provincial and territorial jurisdiction for March 31, 2009; and (b) broken down by provincial and territorial jurisdiction, (i) how many clients applied and how many clients were approved for training and skills development benefits while receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits from January 1, 2008 to April 30, 2008, (ii) how many clients applied and how many clients were approved for training and skills development benefits while receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits from January 1, 2009 to April 30, 2009?
(Return tabled)Question No. 174--Mr. Tony Martin
— With regard to funding applications submitted to FedNor, the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario, for each fiscal year from 2004-2005 to 2009-2010: (a) which projects were submitted under each agency program; (b) which project were approved; (c) what amount was allocated to each of these projects; and (d) which projects were not processed?
(Return tabled)Question No. 196--Mr. John Rafferty
With respect to Expert Panels created by the Minister of Finance since January 2006: (a) which Panels have been so struck, on what date, and which individuals are they composed of; (b) what was the length of duration of each Panel, when and in what locations did each Panel meet; (c) what were the final conclusions and recommendations made by each Panel and have these conclusions been made publicly accessible and, if so, what is the Internet address for each Panel conclusion; and (d) what compensation was paid to each member and what travel, hospitality and miscellaneous expenses were submitted by each panelist, according to each Panel?
(Return tabled)Question No. 204--Mr. Malcolm Allen
With respect to investing in retraining and apprenticeships: (a) what is the government's plan to ensure that apprenticeships are being taken up by the industry during this economic downturn; (b) what new programs will the government undertake to assist unemployed Canadians to retrain for new opportunities; (c) what will the government's response be to the issue of rising tuition and costs incurred to complete apprenticeships; (d) what specific agreements have been signed with the provinces for the transfer of funds for retraining and apprenticeships, to improve the lives of Canadians, and to partner to help Canadian industries grow in these difficult economic times; and (e) what future investments is the government planning for the technical colleges and institutes across Canada?
(Return tabled)Question No. 205--Mr. Malcolm Allen
With respect to investing in research and innovation, specifically regarding Brock University in St. Catharine's, Ontario: (a) what is the government's plan to ensure that Canadian research and development remain an example to the rest of the world; (b) what is the government prepared to do to ensure that the best and brightest remain in Canada; (c) what research grants will the government be making available this year, both at Brock University and across Canada; (d) what new programs will the government undertake to assist students; (e) what will the government's response be to the issue of rising tuition; (f) what specific steps will the government take to invest in research and development, to improve the lives of Canadians, and to partner to help Canadian industries grow in these difficult economic times; and (g) what future investments is the government planning for Brock University specifically as well as the colleges and universities across Canada?
(Return tabled)Question No. 210--Mr. Don Davies
With respect to applications to sponsor family members for permanent residency made by residents of the constituency of Vancouver Kingsway: (a) what is the average processing time for applications made to sponsor family members from (i) China, (ii) the Philippines, (iii) India, (iv) all countries aggregated; (b) what is the approval rate for applications made to sponsor family member from (i) China, (ii) the Philippines, (iii) India, (iv) all countries aggregated; and (c) what are the top five main grounds for denying claims and their rates of usage for applications made to sponsor family members from (i) China, (ii) the Philippines, (iii) India, (iv) all countries aggregated?
(Return tabled)Question No. 216--Ms. Niki Ashton
With regards to the Broadband for Rural and Northern Development Program Pilot Program: (a) how much did the program cost on an annual basis; (b) did the government achieve its stated goal of universal access by 2005 and, if not, what level of coverage did it achieve, overall and in each participating community and what factors prevented the program from attaining universal access; (c) for what reasons was the program not expanded beyond the pilot stage; (d) which communities participated in the pilot project, what funding did each community receive on an annual basis and what level of accessibility did each recipient community achieve; (e) what was the funding allocation, broken down by province; (f) what is the current level of broadband connectivity in each area that took part in the pilot program; (g) according to province, which communities are still without broadband access and how many of those are First Nations; (h) on a per capita basis for the last five years, how does access to broadband in rural and northern communities compare with Canada’s major urban centres; and (i) what strategies is the government currently undertaking to improve broadband access to rural and northern communities and what resources have been committed to such initiatives?
(Return tabled)Question No. 220--Ms. Irene Mathyssen
With regard to the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act: (a) when will an order of the Governor in Council be issued to bring this legislation into force; (b) how many pay equity complaints are currently before the Canadian Human Rights Commission; and (c) how many pay equity complaints will be transferred from the Canadian Human Rights Commission to the Public Service Labour Relations Board?
Madam Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
(Division No. 97)
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Total: -- 214
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Harris (St. John's East)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Total: -- 82
MacKay (Central Nova)
Total: -- 4
I declare the motion carried.
(Bill read the second time and the House went into committee of the whole thereon, Mr. Andrew Scheer in the chair)