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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.



[Private Members' Business]



Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for seconding this motion.
    I am honoured to stand here and speak on my new Bill C-489, which is also called the “safe at home bill”. I do so on behalf of my constituents in Langley and other young victims who have lived in fear of their offenders. I am in awe of their bravery and courage to fight for the rights of future victims.
    In my riding of Langley, two brave families lived in constant turmoil when the sex offenders of their children were permitted to serve house arrest in their neighbourhoods. In one case, the sex offender served a sentence right across the street from the victim, and in the other case, right next door. That is outrageous.
    Neither child felt safe in their home or their neighbourhood, which is the very place where they should feel the safest. Their doors were locked and the blinds were kept closed. Every time they saw the sex offender the entire family was re-victimized. The families lived in continual turmoil as they watched the offenders possibly looking for an opportunity to reoffend or hurt somebody else. Their homes in the neighbourhoods that they had loved were now places they dreaded because their attackers were there. One family could not take the stress any more, which forced them to move out of the neighbourhood they had spent so many years loving.
    One mother came to my office and asked me, “Why should we have to move from our home when we are the victims?” That is a good question. Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their home, and victims of sexual assault should be no exception.
    This is why I brought forward Bill C-489, which I believe meets these important concerns head-on. If passed, the bill would help to ensure the safety of victims and witnesses from convicted offenders. It would enhance the level of confidence that victims have in the justice system as well as help them feel that the justice system is hearing and responding to their concerns. The bill would achieve these objectives by proposing a number of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
    Bill C-489 would prevent offenders, when released from prison, from contacting victims or witnesses. Specifically, the bill proposes that when an offender is convicted of a child sexual offence, the sentencing court would be required to consider imposing a specific geographic restriction of two kilometres from any dwelling in which the offender knows or ought to know that a victim may be present as well as a condition prohibiting the offender from being alone in any private vehicle with a child under the age of 16. Efforts to prevent contact between offenders and their victims should serve to increase public safety and victims' confidence in the sentencing process.
    The bill would also require courts to impose conditions in all probation orders and conditional sentencing orders prohibiting an offender from communicating with any victim or witness, or from going to any place identified in the order. Although these conditions would be mandatory, the court could decide not to impose them if the victim or witness consented or if the court found exceptional circumstances, in which case written reasons would be required to explain the findings. I believe this would enhance public safety and confidence in the justice system by helping to ensure that victims and witnesses would not be contacted by offenders upon their release into the community except in exceptional circumstances or where the individual consents.
    The bill also proposes to amend recognizance or peace bonds against individuals when there is a reasonable fear that they may commit a future child sex offence.
    Specifically, the bill proposes to amend Section 810.1, peace bonds, to require a court to consider imposing conditions prohibiting the defendant from contacting any individual or going to any place named in the recognizance. As with the proposed probation and conditional sentence order amendments, the court could choose not to impose the conditions in the peace bond where there is consent of the individual or where the court finds exceptional circumstances. This amendment would also lead to enhanced public safety for victims and witnesses.
    Lastly, Bill C-489 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or the CCRA, to require decision-makers under that act to consider similar conditions. I would like to consider this amendment a bit more fully.
    Currently under the CCRA, Parole Board of Canada tribunals and correctional officials are authorized to impose conditions on an offender when the individual is being released into the community under parole, stat release or temporary absence orders. This type of gradual and supervised conditional release into the community prior to the expiration of sentence is intended to help ensure public safety and successful reintegration of the offender into society. This is especially true where the offender has been imprisoned for many years and will have difficulty re-entering society without a carefully planned and monitored release strategy that includes tailored conditions and specialized programs that the offender must abide by at all times.
    According to the 2012 Conditional Services of Canada annual report, there are currently about 22,000 offenders under the authority of the federal corrections system. About two-thirds of these offenders were convicted of a violent or sexual offence. About 38%, almost 9,000 offenders, are at any given time under active supervision in the community by corrections officers. All 9,000 of those offenders are required to abide by a mix of mandatory and discretionary conditions imposed by the authority of the CCRA. If offenders breach their conditions, they are subject to disciplinary measures, including having their conditional release revoked and being required to serve out the remainder of their sentence in prison. As the CCRA is currently structured, Section 133 provides the authority of the Parole Board of Canada, for example, to impose at its discretion any type of condition that meets the two objectives of conditional release. The first and primary consideration is public safety.
    The second consideration is the successful reintegration of the offender into the community. Section 133 also references the regulations of the CCRA regarding mandatory conditions of release. Under this legislative authority, Section 161 of the regulations prescribes a number of specific conditions that must be imposed for all offenders in the community under conditional release, such as reporting as required to their parole officer, not possessing any weapons and reporting any changes in their address or employment, among other things.
    While it is not uncommon for the Parole Board of Canada under the current regime to exercise its discretion to impose conditions prohibiting contact between offenders and victims when released, the point is that these are not mandatory conditions nor are these conditions that the Parole Board of Canada is required to consider under the current Section 133. I spoke earlier about the two cases in my riding of Langley where the victims and their families felt that their welfare had not been taken into account when these decisions were made by the Parole Board of Canada.
    One of the objectives of Bill C-489 is to respond to these types of concerns. It proposes new mandatory conditions prohibiting the offender from communicating with any identified victims or witnesses and from going to a place identified in the condition. This objective is entirely consistent with the government's initiatives that have provided a greater emphasis on safer communities in general and victims in particular.


    As with the bill's other proposed amendments, the releasing authority would not have to impose the condition if there were exceptional circumstances or if the identified individual consented. These two exceptions would ensure that the provision is flexible enough to accommodate the types of circumstances that would undoubtedly occur in practice.
    Where the releasing authority does find that exceptional circumstances do exist, reasons for making that finding must be provided in writing explaining how it came to that conclusion. I believe this requirement would ensure that victims and witnesses better understand the Parole Board's decisions.
    I expect that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will want to fully consider this bill and its operational impacts to ensure that it operates as intended and that its objectives are fully achieved.
    Public confidence in our justice system is important. It pains me to hear from victims of crime that they have to speak out to say that they have been forgotten and that the justice system does not consider how sentencing affects them. This is a gap that Bill C-489 seeks to address and I believe it hits the mark.
    I hope by tabling this bill that this House and this government will act to enhance public safety by holding criminals accountable, by enhancing the voice of the victims and by making victims feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods. I ask for support from the hon. members in the House in helping to get the bill passed into law so that young victims and their families can feel safe at home and in their neighbourhoods.



    Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his Bill C-489.
    I would just like to ask him a quick question. I understand that the Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business studied the bill and deemed it votable, which is why we are now considering it in the House. However, the clerk stated that clause 1 of the bill, amending subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code, could pose problems. He pointed out that although this clause was not clearly unconstitutional, it could still face a constitutional challenge.
    I would therefore ask my hon. colleague whether he consulted with constitutional experts—other than the law clerks who help us draft bills—to ensure that the bill was indeed constitutional.


    Mr. Speaker, I have consulted. I started working on this bill about two years ago. It was initiated by a Langley resident who came to my office and asked the important question, “If we are the victims, why should we have to leave our home?”
    The experts have indicated that the bill is sound. It would provide the courts the discretion they need. Therefore, I believe it would withstand the challenge. The experts have told me so.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Langley for this very important bill. There are many victims in this country who have never felt as if they have been heard.
    Our government has done much. It is a government for the victims. As the member has described the bill today, I would like to ask him this. It seems unconscionable that a family would have to close their blinds or run away from the perpetrator after it has been proven that he or she has committed a violent or sexual act against a minor. Could the member expand on what it is like for the constituents in his riding to have to endure this because often as parliamentarians we forget how difficult it is for victims?
    Mr. Speaker, if your child were sexually assaulted, can you imagine how you would feel toward the offender?
    The reintegration of the person who has committed that offence is important. We need to make sure those persons deal with what has caused them to commit that offence. However we also need to consider the victims.
    In one case the offender lived right next door to the victim's family. In another case, the victim's family lived right across the street from the offender. Every time they saw the offender cutting the lawn, being out and living life quite normally, it created a huge turmoil in the victim's family. The stress it created on the family was intolerable and eventually they had to move out. The neighbourhood used to have barbecues. It was a very tight, close neighbourhood. It all ended when the offender was permitted to serve the sentence at home.
    We need to consider the rights of the victim.



    Mr. Speaker, some towns in my community do not even cover two kilometres. These are really small towns.
    I would like to know how this standard would apply to such places.


    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. In the initial draft of my bill, it was a five-kilometre separation. We quickly found that would not be practical and changed it to two.
    That may not be practical in certain circumstances. That is why the bill provides discretion to the courts. They do not necessarily have to do this, but they would have to provide a reason why not.
    Two kilometres sets the standard. If two kilometres does not work in certain circumstances, it would be adjusted to what is practical.
    The principle is, though, that a victim should not have to see, on a daily basis, the offender serving the sentence right across the street from them. The courts will determine what is reasonable.


    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-489, introduced by the hon. member for Langley. This important bill certainly addresses a number of problems that many people have raised, including the ombudsman for victims.
    The New Democratic Party does not play political games with bills amending the Criminal Code. We feel it is better to address serious issues and solve serious problems in a logical way that is consistent with the Criminal Code.
    Since I like to get straight to the point, I will say to the member opposite that we are going to support his bill at second reading. We believe that everyone in the House should be concerned about victims, not for a political purpose, but because we really want to help them on the path to recovery—if there is such a path, because it is not always clear. Some horrible crimes cause such terrible harm that, regardless of what we can do to mitigate things, regardless of anything we can do, it will never go away.
    To follow up on the question I asked my colleague about Bill C-489, I think the study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will help us see if the bill can pass the charter compatibility test. When the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business was studying the bill, the clerk said that it was not clearly unconstitutional, but that it could be susceptible to a constitutional challenge. That sends a message. The committee will determine if this passes the compatibility test.
    When she asked her excellent question, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue clearly said that, for a number of reasons, it might be difficult to apply Bill C-489 in some cases. For one thing, it would prevent someone from moving to an area near the victim. That implies that the criminal serving a sentence would know where the victim lives, which seems problematic to me. Something about that bothers me.
    However, as I told my colleagues when we were studying Bill C-489 before recommending that it be supported at second reading, I appreciate that some discretion was left to the courts. The committee will also have to verify whether the courts will be able to fully exercise their discretion.
    This discretion should not be seen as some undefined power. The public sometimes sees it as being soft on criminals, to the detriment of victims. Here, it simply means that judges will look at the facts of each individual case.
    In some circumstances, it may be difficult to set certain conditions. For example, it may be more difficult in a town than in a city, where the offender could live 5, 6 or 7 kilometres away.
    I appreciate how my colleague from Langley crafted his bill. He did not strip the courts of all discretionary power, as the government opposite so often does. That approach jeopardizes bills, even those that the Conservative government passes, because there is a large black cloud hovering over their heads, and it leads defence lawyers to challenge certain provisions.
    We cannot allow this legal game to even get started. We need to make it clear that the facts will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, the best sentence will be applied in each situation, once the person is found guilty. The judge is in the best position to do that, or the jury in certain circumstances.
    That is why this bill is so important. We have been saying that all along, despite what is being said at press conferences. I am tired of hearing it, particularly from the Minister of Justice. In my opinion, he should rise above the fray. The justice minister and Attorney General of Canada is not simply a political partisan, he is the keeper of Canadian laws. In that context, I feel that always bringing the debate back to “we're tough on crime, they're soft on crime” demeans his public office. It is a question of respect for the law.


    All the NDP justice critics have taken this position. I would have liked to name them, but since I am not allowed to do so, I will just say that I am talking about the hon. member for St. John's East and his predecessor. I can never remember the riding names. What matters is that I remember the name of my own riding.
    An hon. member: Windsor—Tecumseh.
    Ms. Françoise Boivin: Yes. It was the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. That is teamwork.
    We have always had this view of the law. We are making sure that the government respects justice. We never look at it from the perspective of what we want to accomplish. The government is there. It is in power until 2015. We may not be happy about it, particularly in light of the events that we followed with great interest during the week that we spent in our ridings, events that people were asking us about. Even though we did not want to get involved, we did not have a choice. I am talking about the magnificent chamber across the hall. Regardless, we believe that the law is sacred in Canada. Our country and our democracy are built on the rule of law.
    When we ask questions about the legality or constitutionality of a bill, it is not just to get in the government's way or because we are soft on crime. We do so because we abide by the rule of law.
    In closing, I would like to reiterate that the NDP will vote in favour of this bill at second reading. That is not a guarantee that we will support the bill at all stages. I will not go that far, because I have my doubts. Sometimes, we do not have any doubts about a bill and we support it right from the start. Sometimes, we are completely convinced that a bill does not work and so we vote against it. At the very least, this bill seems to be worthwhile and it shows respect for victims. What is more, we know what the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime said in his report.
    The Minister of Justice is going from one press conference to another explaining that he is holding consultations to determine victims' needs. That sometimes makes me smile.
    We know what victims need. Victims have been telling us loud and clear for years.
    The Crown prosecutors' offices sometimes have difficulties consulting victims about criminal trials because they have an enormous number of files. This is not a criticism of the Crown prosecutors; they just are overwhelmed by the number of cases. There is a shortage of Crown prosecutors and judges, which means that trials go on endlessly. This increases the victims' suffering. It is a fact that the longer the trial, the more times the victim must return to court. The problems caused by the fact that they are victims of a crime are not considered. They get peanuts. The government may not like it, but even though its Bill C-37 was passed, victims get peanuts.
    Moreover, victims are not always given an explanation of the sentences, even though they have many questions about them. People do not always have the time to explain them, and that is unfortunate.
    In that context, we support any measure that respects victims' rights and takes them into account in order to help victims. We want the sentencing system to be punitive and also to focus on rehabilitation. The NDP will always insist on this because these people will return to society. I would prefer them to be good citizens and not bad citizens who take to crime again. We must look at the whole picture. The government has to stop compartmentalizing.
    I would like to once again thank the member for Langley for introducing a very important bill that has our support at this stage.



    Mr. Speaker, I would like to enumerate some of the goals of the justice system, because it is important that we place legislation dealing with criminal offences and so on within the context of the principles that guide the justice system. We could say that the point of the justice system is, first, to reinforce acceptable norms of behaviour; second, to protect society from those who have proven that their actions can cause harm; and third, to ensure that only the guilty pay for their crimes and that the innocent are not convicted. These seem to be, in general, the overriding goals of our justice system, a system that has evolved slowly but surely over centuries.
     It turns out that because the justice system is focusing on these three principles, often the interests of victims are ignored, albeit unintentionally. Bill C-489 would attempt to provide some assistance to victims.
     Bill C-489 would deal mostly with sexual offences, though not exclusively, as I understand it. Sexual offences create a unique kind of vulnerability among the victims. They are a unique kind of violation compared to, for example, car theft or house break-ins when individuals are not at home. Both of those crimes create a terrible sense of vulnerability as well, but we are talking here of sexual offences and the particular sense of vulnerability they create.
     I agree with the hon. member that the interests of victims of sexual crimes have often been overlooked in our criminal justice system. Liberals support the intent of Bill C-489. We are not certain that the bill would bring about meaningful progress in all cases for victims or prospective victims of sexual crimes. I say “prospective” victims, because the bill would also deal with recognizance orders, where an individual has not committed a criminal act but poses a threat to another person.
    We support sending the bill to committee to ascertain its merits in attaining a goal that, obviously, we all share in this House.
    I understand that the bill is motivated by the MP for Langley's particular experience with some victims in his riding. In fact, the member stated:
[A] sex offender...was permitted to serve House arrest right next door to his young victim. In another case, the sex offender served House arrest across the street from the victim. In both cases, the young victims lived in fear and were re-victimized every time they saw their attacker.
    Obviously, that situation, which the hon. member for Langley described, leaves all members in disbelief and with a view that something should be done.
    Bill C-489 would introduce two prohibitions through amendments to two laws. Number one, it would amend the Criminal Code, and number two, it would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
    In terms of Criminal Code changes, as I understand it, the bill would deal with subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code, which allows conditions to be placed on offenders who receive conditional discharges for sexual offences. This discharge is sometimes granted in cases where the offence carries no minimum sentence and a maximum possible sentence of less than 14 years. In this case, as I understand it, the accused would not have a criminal record if all of the conditions imposed as part of the conditional discharge were respected.


    Bill C-489 seeks to add to the list of conditions that may be imposed by a judge. This is a very specific list, and as I understand it, the judge cannot impose conditions beyond this list. It is important that a specific point be made in adding this condition, because it is not something the judge could impose if he or she saw fit. We are talking about the condition that an offender must be no closer than two kilometres from the house where he or she knows or ought to know that the victim is alone. Similarly, another condition would be that the offender would not be allowed to be in a private vehicle with any person under the age of 16 without his or her guardians' consent.
    It is important to note that the list of possible conditions in this instance is finite. There is no flexibility here for the judge to impose other conditions beyond those listed. Therefore, this is the only place where adding conditions might make sense, since it gives the sentencing judge the ability to prohibit the offender from living near the victim. As I said, it is important to specify the condition, because there is no latitude for the judge to impose it.
    In the bill there is also a restriction on contacting victims. I am not sure if it pertains to those who have committed sexual offences. The bill extends the list of conditions the court must, or shall, prescribe for offenders on probation.
     At the moment, section 732.1 of the code has two sets of conditions. One set is conditions the judge shall impose. The second set is conditions the judge may impose.
    In this case, the bill would add a new “shall” condition. The court would have to impose this condition on an offender, for example, who is on probation or is under a conditional sentence. If it chose not to impose the condition, the court would have to explain, in writing, why it was not choosing to add this condition.
    We understand the intent of this part of the bill. What I would say is that, at the moment, the list of possible conditions for probation orders and conditional sentences both include “such other reasonable conditions as the court considers desirable.” In other words, in this case, the judge has the latitude to impose conditions that are not specifically prescribed on a list. Presumably, the court could already order offenders not to have contact with their victims or not to visit certain places, if it saw fit to do so.
    The point I am trying to make is that unlike the first amendment, about staying within two kilometres of where the victim would be residing, in this case, we have to ask ourselves if this particular amendment to the Criminal Code is necessary, given that the court already has the latitude to impose this condition.
    I congratulate the hon. member for bringing this bill forward. I know that he is attempting to address a very serious flaw in our criminal justice system. I look forward to discussing and studying the bill at committee so that we can see and understand the extent to which the bill achieves its stated goals.


    Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today to speak in support of private member's Bill C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), introduced by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Langley.
    I want to begin by congratulating the bill's sponsor for the work he has put into this very important piece of legislation. I believe it is entirely consistent with our government's commitment to making our streets and communities safer for Canadians and to better meeting the needs and concerns of victims.
    The bill's objective is clear. It proposes to enhance the protection of victims and witnesses and to prevent their re-victimization when an offender is released into the community. It addresses concerns expressed by victims and witnesses across Canada that they should not have to feel threatened by the prospect of an offender watching them, following them, phoning them, or attempting to contact them in any way once they are released into the community. The bill meets this objective by targeting existing provisions that currently provide authority for conditions to be placed on offenders after they have been convicted of a criminal offence, or in some cases, if there is reason to believe that they will commit a child sexual offence.
    Generally speaking, the purpose of these types of existing conditions is to ensure public safety and the successful reintegration of the offender into the community. They are imposed at various stages of the process, such as at sentencing; for child sexual offender prohibition orders, probation orders and conditional sentence orders; just prior to release from prison on parole or conditional release orders; and before someone is charged, but there is a reasonable belief that he or she may commit a child sexual offence while under a peace bond.
    Statistics Canada data indicates that about 105,000 or more orders per year may be affected if Bill C-489 becomes law. Our government will be supporting the bill while proposing amendments to ensure clarity and consistency and to take into account recent Criminal Code amendments.
    I would like to take a few moments to consider the first order Bill C-489 proposes to amend, section 161 of the Criminal Code prohibition order. Under this section, at the time of sentencing an individual convicted of a listed sexual offence against a child under the age of 16, the court must consider imposing listed prohibitions, such as not attending public parks, school yards and other places where children are often present. While the current provision makes it mandatory for the court to consider these conditions, the court retains the discretion not to impose the order. The prohibition order takes effect upon the offender's release into the community and can last up to the lifetime of the offender.
     First, the bill would require the court to consider imposing a geographical condition restricting the offender from being within two kilometres of any dwelling house in which a victim could reasonably be expected to be present without a parent or guardian. Second, it would require a court to also consider prohibiting the offender from being in a private vehicle with any child under the age of 16 without a parent or guardian.
    It is possible, however, that this two-kilometre limit may be challenging to implement, something I believe the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights should consider when it studies the bill.
    I also agree that a child sexual offender should not have unsupervised access to a child. In fact, members will recall that the Safe Streets and Communities Act amended section 161 of the Criminal Code by adding two new conditions: prohibiting the offender from having any unsupervised contact with a child under age 16 and prohibiting the offender from having unsupervised use of the Internet.
    The bill before us would also amend both the probation and conditional sentence provisions of the Criminal Code by prohibiting the offender from communicating with the victim, witnesses or any other person identified in the order or from going to any place specified in the order.
    These proposed new conditions would be mandatory whenever a sentence included a probation or conditions sentence order, with two exceptions. First, the court could choose not to impose the condition if the identified person in the order consented. Second, the court could decide not to impose the condition where it found that exceptional circumstances existed. In the latter case, the court would be required to provide written reasons explaining this decision.
    This proposed approach would provide the court with some flexibility, which I believe is needed. It is possible, however, that requiring written reasons for declining to make the order in exceptional circumstances may have some impact on the day-to-day operations of the courts. I am also aware that similar provisions exist elsewhere in the Criminal Code and instead require reasons to be stated on the record. This, too, is something I believe the justice committee will no doubt take into consideration and look at when it is studying the bill.


    The bill also proposes to include similar conditions for section 810.1 of the Criminal Code, recognizing orders often referred to as peace bonds. These are imposed where it is reasonably feared that the defendant will commit one of the enumerated sexual offences against a child under the age of 16. The bill proposes to amend this provision to require the court to consider imposing a condition prohibiting any form of communication between the defendant and any individual named by the court, or prohibiting going to any specified place, unless the named individual consents or unless the court finds, as I mentioned, exceptional circumstances exist to permit such contact.
    I agree that the court must consider these types of conditions, and I look forward to this proposal being reviewed in more detail at the committee to ensure that the provision will function as the sponsor of the bill has intended.
    Finally, the bill would also provide the authority for imposing specific types of non-contact conditions under conditional release orders pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which includes parole orders, statutory release orders and orders for temporary absence from federal penitentiaries. Specifically, the bill proposes to amend section 133 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require the Parole Board of Canada or other releasing authority to impose conditions that prohibit contact with a witness, victim or other specified person, or from going to specific places unless there is consent or there are exceptional circumstances for not doing so. For the same reasons I have already mentioned, I do support the proposal in Bill C-489.
    The sponsor of the bill, the member for Langley, has explained why he introduced the bill, namely because the safety and well-being of victims in his riding were not being taken into consideration. Indeed, if it is happening in his riding, we know it is happening in other parts of the country.
    The victims were not being taken into consideration when decisions were being made regarding the release of offenders into his community. I agree that Bill C-489 responds to these concerns and would help to enable victims, their families, witnesses and other individuals to feel safe in their homes and in their communities when these offenders are released back into the community.
    Moreover, the bill is consistent with our government's commitment to make Canada's streets and communities safer by holding violent criminals accountable and by increasing the efficiency of our justice system. It is also very consistent with our government's commitment to giving victims of crime a stronger voice, one that can be heard, listened to and given consideration in our criminal justice system.
    We support Bill C-489. I look forward to other members of the House supporting it. We can study it further in committee.


    Mr. Speaker, I speak today about Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders). It is a privilege to speak on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North about this important bill. As my hon. colleague, the member for Gatineau, has pointed out in a previous speech, it is rare that we as MPs have the opportunity to discuss something that has a tangible outcome for our constituents. It is a privilege to be able to bring a Surrey North perspective to this debate.
    The NDP has a solid history of advocating for survivors of violent crimes, particularly in reference to gendered violence and violence against children.
    In my own riding, offenders who are released from detention have moved into neighbourhoods where constituents are worried for their safety and the safety of their families.
    My predecessor NDP MP, Penny Priddy, along with other MPs from British Columbia, previously proposed measures to assist municipalities in the management of violent offenders. They have called for federal funding for communities that must pay extraordinary costs to monitor these offenders, to support mental health facilities and addiction services, and to provide appropriate housing for the reintegration process. Lack of funding has not prevented hard-working professionals from addressing this concern. We have seen from the federal side, over the last number of years, a downloading of a number of services to the provinces and, eventually, to the municipalities.
    However, Surrey's crime reduction strategy has been heralded as the most comprehensive community-based initiative intended to reduce delinquency and re-offence. It builds community capacity to address crime while providing rehabilitation and reintegration assistance to the offenders.
    Surrey's program has been particularly successful because of the extensive collaboration between law enforcement and correction services, non-profit organizations, the Surrey school board, the Surrey Board of Trade and other community organizations. I am also grateful for the professionals who work in rehabilitation and half-way house services, and I encourage a perspective of rehabilitation and social integration in our justice system.
    The bill proposes restricting certain offenders from being within two kilometres of a house where a victim is present without a parent or a guardian, or from being in a vehicle with a person who is under the age of 16 years old without the presence of a parent or a guardian. It also would potentially prevent certain offenders from communicating with any victim, witness or any other person identified in a probation order, or from going anyplace specified in the order, except in accordance with specified conditions.
    This is an important bill for violent crime survivors' rights, and it must be examined with the needs of survivors in mind. Along with my NDP colleagues, I am in favour of Bill C-489, as we are in favour of any proposal that would protect vulnerable members of our society.
    Although well intentioned, the structure of the justice system often retraumatizes the very people it is trying to protect. It is well documented that witnesses and survivors, particularly of gendered crimes and cases involving children, are revictimized throughout the justice process, particularly when the victim must confront the alleged offender at trial.
    Once the ordeal is over, survivors can begin their healing journey. However, imagine a survivor's shock when the offender returns to the neighbourhood. The retraumatization of having to see this person every day could undoubtedly lead to increased mental health issues and challenges to the healing of the survivor.
    Although victims understand that offenders will eventually be released, it is imperative that they be informed of the release and the relocation.
    Research has proven that knowledge about the offender and the rehabilitation of such can be incorporated into the psychological healing journey of the survivor. The knowledge that the offender is taking steps to address the reasons for his or her crime could be relieving to some survivors.
    Furthermore, information on the offender's relocation is essential to the development of a safety plan and a general feeling of security.
    However, as with any proposal that would affect Canadian lives, we need to ensure that the bill would offer suitable solutions.


    The NDP proposes that there be extensive consultations with victim rights groups to ensure that Bill C-489 offers adequate and appropriate protection for survivors of violence. I am particularly interested in gaining the perspective of organizations in my community, such as the Surrey Women's Centre, The Centre for Child Development and Options Community Services. By talking to these front-line service providers, families and local enforcement agencies, we can gauge whether the bill, in its current form, would address the needs of the most vulnerable.
    Throughout our discussions today, we need to be conscious of the fact that most crimes are unreported, particularly sexual assaults, and if they are reported, often survivor stories are not believed. Contrary to the “stranger danger” myth, the University of Toronto reports that in as many as 85% of sexual assault cases, the survivors know their attackers. As found by Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, if children are the target of violence, in 75% of the cases they know the offender, who is usually a relative or family member.
    Power imbalance between the victim and offender and even the victim and justice services, as well as societal reception of certain crimes, often averts survivors from reporting. This means that many survivors are forced to relive their trauma without closure, justice and adequate support services. If the offender is a close relative, friend or community member, the survivor may be forced to continue to see the offender on a regular basis, reliving the trauma first experienced and making him or her increasingly vulnerable to further violence.
    Today we may not be able to change the lives of survivors of unreported crimes. However, through a debate in the House, we have the power to make a real change in the lives of those people who we can help. We need to do what we can here in the House to say that the retraumatization and revictimization of survivors of violence, particularly women, youth and children, is not okay. We need to protect survivors and empower them to continue their journey of healing.
    I encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to reflect on these ideas while remaining conscious of the power we have in our positions as members of Parliament. We need to use this power to support survivors of violent crimes and continue to support tangible solutions for prevention, the justice system and protection of victims rights.
    I encourage members of the justice committee to examine this bill further, to look at ways we can protect victims and provide services to victims of crime.
    Before I recognize the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, I will let him know that there remains approximately six minutes in the time allotted for private members' business. Of course, he will have the remaining time available when the House returns to debate on this question.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.


    I would first like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Langley, on his initiative. We in the NDP understand that steps have been taken for both victims and witnesses. We understand where he is coming from on this. We know he met with people in his riding who went to see him to explain what a real problem this is.
    As long as I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, along with my hon. colleague from Gatineau, we have seen a great deal of discussion and many bills on this matter. Quite frankly, having moved over to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights from the Standing Committee on Finance, we can understand much better and see the concrete impact this could have on victims.
    The NDP has always been in favour of victim protection and we still are, which is why we are supporting the bill. We want to study it at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
    Why do we want to study it? We are seeing more and more private members' bills being used to advance the government's agenda. We are not the only ones to say so. It is being widely reported in the media. Why is the government doing that? That is what we want to know and we think it is worth looking into the process. Again, this is not about taking away from or attacking the member for Langley's bill, but about how the process is being used.
    This bill addresses something rather important in that it would amend the Criminal Code and related legislation. In this case, we know that the Conservative government is being sued by Edgar Schmidt, who used to work at Justice Canada. He claims that the government was not obeying the law and not fulfilling its obligations to ensure that government bills are consistent with the charter.
    What is more, with the Conservatives, the cost of justice is at a record high because the government has to defend its bills in court. We are talking about $5 billion. That is quite a bit of money just to get the government to fulfill its legal obligations.
    Again, we want to know why a private members' bill is being used to introduce something that is already part of the government's law and order agenda.
    The Minister of Justice has really pushed this agenda. It is not necessarily the government doing this. It is backbenchers who are introducing these bills.
    To come back to Bill C-489, I want to say that it has good intentions in that it seeks to protect victims. The bill would ensure that a judge hearing a case is required to impose certain obligations. The judge would have to make an order prohibiting certain offenders from being within two kilometres of a dwelling house where the victim is present without a parent, say, the father. This is very important, as it was something that was raised by the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.



    In his report it was mentioned that “ might help a victim to feel more at ease if they were informed of a local instruction placed on the offender that prohibited him or her from going within a certain distance of the victim's residence.”
    One thing that we will need to look at is how the two kilometres would apply. I heard the member of Parliament for Langley mention that he went from five kilometres to two kilometres. When we look at what happens specifically in certain regions, two kilometres basically means that the person would have to be evacuated from where he or she lived. This is something we need to look at in the justice committee.
    Again, I applaud and commend the member for thinking of victims. On this side, we also understand that we need to protect victims and we will look at the bill in more detail in the justice committee.


    The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie will have four minutes remaining when the members resume debate on the motion now before the House.


    Is the hon. government whip rising on a point?

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, I offer the following motion:
    That, during the debate pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) in relation to the consideration of Votes in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and, within each 15-minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its Members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the Minister's answer approximately reflect the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the case of speeches, Members of the party to which the period is allotted may speak one after the other.


    Does the Chief Government Whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.


[Government Orders]


Extension of Sitting Hours

    That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House, commencing upon the adoption of this Order and concluding on Friday, June 21, 2013:
(a) the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 midnight, except on Fridays;
(b) when a recorded division is demanded, in relation to a proceeding which has been interrupted pursuant to the provisions of an order made under Standing Order 78(3) or pursuant to Standing Orders 61(2) or 66(2), (i) before 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at that day's sitting, or (ii) after 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, or at any time on a Friday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at the next sitting day that is not a Friday;
(c) when a recorded division, which would have ordinarily been deemed deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business on a Wednesday, is demanded, the said division is deemed to have been deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;
(d) when a recorded division is to be held, except recorded divisions deferred to the conclusion of oral questions or to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, the bells to call in the Members shall be sounded for not more than thirty minutes; and
(e) when a motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing, standing joint or special committee is moved, the debate shall be deemed to have been adjourned upon the conclusion of the period for questions and comments following the speech of the mover of the motion, provided that the debate shall be resumed in the manner ordinarily prescribed by Standing Order 66(2).
    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the government's motion proposing that we work a bit of overtime in the coming weeks here in the House.
    Government Motion No. 17 proposes to do three things: first, provide that we can sit to as late as midnight each night to do our job; second, to manage the votes so that they take place in an orderly fashion that is not too disruptive to the lives of parliamentarians; third, ensure that concurrence motions can be dealt with and considered without disrupting the work of the committees and of this House itself.
    It has been an honour for me to serve as government House leader for the past two years, and indeed, for 18 months during a previous Parliament. Throughout that time I have always worked to have the House operating in what I call a productive, orderly and hard-working fashion.
    Canadians expect their members of Parliament to get things done, to work hard—
    The hon. opposition House leader is rising on a point.

Points of Order

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion.
    Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:
    Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.
    This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.



    This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.
    I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.
    The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.


    There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.
    The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.
    I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.
    One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?
    Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.
    That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.
    The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.
    Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.
    I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.
    I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.
    Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.
    Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.
    The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.
    The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.
    Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.
    Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.
    As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.
    The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservatives' so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.


    As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.
    We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.
    We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.
    I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.
     I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.
     There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.
    We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.
    We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.
    Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.
    Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.
    Also, there are Bill C-6, Bill C-33 and others, and there are those that are being crafted and debated right now that are going to have serious problems.
    The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.
    As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.
     This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?
     We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.
    Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.
    Let us look at the current government's record.
     Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved time allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.


    Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.
    Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.
    This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.
    We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.
    It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.


    Order, please. I remind the hon. member that the question before the House right now and the arguments that the member has put forward are in respect to the point of order respecting, essentially, section 13 of the Standing Orders.
    While members have much liberty to present these arguments in respect of the point of order, there is also a question before the House that members will no doubt have the opportunity to speak to. Therefore, I wonder if the member could perhaps wrap up his arguments specifically relating to his point of order, then perhaps we could get on to debate some of these other questions as the debate may continue.
    Mr. Speaker, your role as Speaker and all the Speakers that hold your office is, as has been stated many times in our references and standing orders, to protect the role of members of Parliament and certainly to protect the minority that is in this place to allow for some fairness, to prevent cheating and bending the rules to the point of breaking.
    My point is that the government has so many times abused this place and its fundamental democratic values, which are to engage in debate for the betterment of the country and to hold the government's legislation and spending to account. We have seen the Conservatives too often defer to that weak place of hiding, of using closure, of shutting down the conversation rather than opening it up to Canadians.
    It will be the role of the official opposition, and I contend it is the role of the Speaker's office as well, to ensure, regardless of any political agenda or political scandals going on or any panic happening within the government's chamber, that this place, in which we seek to represent Canadians each and every day, must remain a place that is above that. It should hold the government to account each and every day with the authenticity and sincerity that are Canadians values. We, as New Democrats, will do that each and every day, regardless of the bully tactics that they use.
    Mr. Speaker, I was surprised by this point of order, but I suppose I should not have been surprised that the NDP would pull out all the stops to try to avoid having to work hard in this House of Commons, to try to use every device it can think of and every procedure and every tactic it can think of to avoid having to work a little bit of overtime and stay here until midnight.
    I suppose if we were unionized around here, maybe we would not have to work extra hard or we would demand overtime for it. I suppose that is the attitude of the NDP, as it consistently represents those kinds of views around here.
    In terms of a point of order, what I heard was very thin and very lacking. First of all, on the substance of it, the entire complaint seemed to be an argument that there is insufficient debate and scrutiny of bills around here, and yet the argument is “let us not have more debate; let us have not as much opportunity for scrutiny; let us not work quite as hard up here; let us do a little bit less”. I fail to see how that is somehow a point of order.
    In fact what we are trying to do is exactly the opposite, to ensure we have adequate debate, to ensure we have an opportunity to consider bills, and to ensure we do the work Canadians sent us here to do.
    On the actual merits of the point of order—and I noticed there was nothing there—let us go through what the rules actually say. The green book, O'Brien and Bosc, is quite clear. It says, at page 257:
    Besides the permanent Standing Orders, the House may adopt other types of written rules for limited periods of time.
    That is what we are doing here. The House can do that. The House can do that on a government motion. The House can do that by a majority vote. That is fully within the rules of this place. That is how it has been practised for many years, decades—centuries one would say—in the Westminster parliamentary system. We are masters of our rules. We make them. That is what the green book says. That is the practice and procedure of this House.
     That is what government motion no. 17 says. There is absolutely nothing that I heard from my friend opposite to the contrary.
    Further, at page 258, it says:
    In addition to the Standing Orders and provisional and sessional orders which form the collected body of written rules, the House may also adopt special orders.
    That is what we are doing right now under this motion. It goes on to say:
    A frequently used instrument for the conduct of House business, special orders temporarily suspend the “written” Standing Orders.
    It goes on to say:
    They may apply to a single occasion or to such period of time as may be specified.
    This is the normal practice of the House, something that is done quite often. It is codified to the extent of the last 10 days in the Standing Orders right now, but none of that takes away the ability of this House to set its own rules by a majority vote anytime on a motion.
    That is exactly what we are seeking to do here under the rules for presenting motions in this House, and that is what government order no. 17 proposes to do.
    Again, I heard absolutely nothing, not one scintilla of contrary argument or evidence. What I heard was a long speech on the NDP's messages of the day. I will get to that in a minute.
    I would also go to another one of our authorities, Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms at page 5, very early on, under the heading “Written Rules”, it says:
    Standing, Sessional and Special Orders are the rules and regulations which the House has agreed on for the governance of its own proceedings.
    That includes special orders, special orders that are reflected in government motion no. 17, that are reflected in what O'Brien and Bosc refer to.
    Further on, in paragraph 8 on that page, it says:
    A Special Order may have effect for only a single occasion or such longer term as may be specified.
    Again, that is what this motion seeks to do.
    It has become the custom in modern times to apply the term Special Order to all rules which have only temporary effect.
    Again, that is what we are seeking to do to the end of this parliamentary sitting when we rise before the summer.
    It further goes on in Beauchesne's to say:
    All rules are passed by the House by a simple majority and are altered, added to, or removed in the same way.
    Again, this is what we are seeking to do, fully contemplated by the rules, 100%, and as I said, generations of experience, and yet you, Mr. Speaker, are being asked, for some reason, to toss out all that history and simply say “Nah, we do not want to work late.” That is what the NDP is asking.


    Furthermore, in that paragraph, it goes on to say:
    There is no procedural reason why any Member cannot introduce a motion to alter the rules...
    In the next paragraph, paragraph 10, it says:
    Sessional and Special Orders are normally moved by the Government...
    Anybody can move it if they can gain favour with the House, but it is normally done by the government.
    Clearly, what we are engaging in here is a point of order over whether something that has been accepted forever exists and is allowed and contemplated by the rules. I have gone through citation after citation of where they are specifically contemplated by the rules. Everything within government motion no. 17 complies fully with that.
    What I found troubling about my friend's comments is that he did not have any citations to the contrary, rulings to the contrary or evidence to the contrary. In fact, he did not even have any arguments to the contrary other than arguments on the merits on the motion itself, which we are debating.
    Basically, what he got up and did, under the guise of pretending it was a point of order, was make a speech on the motion itself and its merits. It is his place to do so—after the government finishes presenting its arguments for it. The rules contemplate that.
    In fact, if there is a point of order to be raised or a privilege that has been offended, through this device, he has actually offended the privileges of other members of the House, the government and myself. I am the one who has a point to complain about. He has reversed the order, contemplated by our Standing Orders, in which a debate should proceed here.
    Mr. Speaker, you picked up the exact same thing and alluded to it in your remarks. I would not be the least bit surprised if you were to say to him, after I have my finished my comments on the main motion itself, that he has already discharged his right of reply and has in fact done so in a fashion that has offended my privileges, has prevented me from presenting my arguments, and presented his arguments himself, first, on the merits of the motion. That is highly improper. I find this an unusual and ironic situation.
    The fact remains that he raised not a single citation, historical example or reason in the rules why this motion is not in order. However, every single thing we see in historical practice, in the citations I quoted and in the footnotes that point to earlier examples is that the House has the full right to consider a motion of this type, governing its rules and processes. It is decided by a majority vote. There shall be a debate on it in this fashion if the House wishes to have such a debate and people wish to speak to it. It even outlines the fashion in which that will happen.
    I am not personally hurt that he wanted to trump me and go first. I suppose it was a clever way of trying to do that and getting his message out. I am not offended that he did not speak to the merits of the motion, but rather wished to speak to the communications messaging of his party for the day. That is his right as well.
     However, the fact is that, on a point of order, one has to look at the evidence and the rules that are in place, and decide it that way. It is quite clear that this motion is entirely in order and properly put. There really is very little to respond to out of his arguments to the contrary.


    Does the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition have something additional to add to the debate on this point of order?
    Mr. Speaker, it is in response to something my colleague said.
    Mr. Speaker, the member raised it, not I.
    I realize that my friend perhaps has short-term or near-term memory loss. However, if you recall, Mr. Speaker, in the times that the House sat all night as the NDP opposed, through vote after vote, the government's draconian omnibus legislation or its anti-worker legislation with respect to Canada Post, hard work has never been a problem for New Democrats, and sitting long has never been a problem for New Democrats when the cause has been right.
    My only point is this. He suggested, Mr. Speaker, and I put it through you to him, that he is into long hours and hard work. I may have heard a commitment from him in his comments that the government is expecting to use the full calendar, all the way through to the end of June.
    As he will well know, New Democrats throughout Parliament's history have always pursued the calendar to its end, even as other parties have sought to get out of town and hit the barbecue circuit, if that is the commitment my hon. friend is making in reply to my point of order,
    I would also suggest to him that perhaps it works that way on his side, but I did not actually check with my communications office or any central command today before I made my point of order. I checked with myself, and I checked with the record as to what the government has done. There is no trumping of his particular message. There is no message of the day on this. This is a message today, and this is a message tomorrow, and this is the message for weeks to come that when they are being anti-democratic and abusing Parliament, we will stand here and resist it.
    If he would like to sit until the end of June and use his privilege, which he has demarcated today about midnight sittings, and that is the commitment he is making to Canadians—to work hard, as he said—we will take him at that commitment and we will see him at the end of June.
    I thank the hon. government House leader and the hon. opposition House leader for their interventions in this matter. I will take those comments and arguments under advisement and get back to the House if necessary.
    Resuming debate, the hon. government House leader.

Extention of Sitting Hours

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off. Obviously my hon. friend did not hear this and has not read the motion. I will respond to his macho riposte at the end of his comments by pointing out that the motion would do three things: first, it would provide for us to sit until midnight; second, it would provide a manageable way in which to hold votes in a fashion that works for members of the House; and third, it would provide for concurrence debates to happen and motions to be voted on in a fashion that would not disrupt the work of all the committees of the House and force them to come back here for votes and shut down the work of committees.
    Those are the three things the motion would do. In all other respects the Standing Orders remain in place, including the Standing Orders for how long the House sits. Had my friend actually read the motion, he would recognize that the only way in which that Standing Order could then be changed would be by unanimous consent of the House.
    The member needs no commitment from me as to how long we will sit. Any member of the House can determine that question, if he or she wishes to adjourn other than the rules contemplate, but the rules are quite clear in what they do contemplate.
    As I was saying, the reason for the motion is that Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.



    Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.


    We agree and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons.
    However, do not take my word for it; look at the facts. In this Parliament the government has introduced 76 pieces of legislation. Of those 76, 44 of them are law in one form or another. That makes for a total of 58% of the bills introduced into Parliament. Another 15 of these bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate, bringing the total to 77% of the bills that have been passed by one of the two Houses of Parliament. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly and productive Parliament.
    More than just passing bills, the work we are doing here is delivering real results for Canadians. However, there is still yet more work to be done before we return to our constituencies for the summer.
    During this time our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Through two years and three budgets, we have passed initiatives that have helped to create more than 900,000 net new jobs since the global economic recession. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7. We are taking real action to make sure the budget will be balanced by 2015. We have also followed through on numerous longstanding commitments to keep our streets and communities safe, to improve democratic representation in the House of Commons, to provide marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers and to eliminate once and for all the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.
    Let me make clear what the motion would and would not do. There has been speculation recently, including from my friend opposite, about the government's objectives and motivations with respect to motion no. 17. As the joke goes: Mr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So it is with today's motion. There is only one intention motivating the government in proposing the motion: to work hard and deliver real results for Canadians.
    The motion would extend the hours the House sits from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 or 7 p.m., the House would sit instead until midnight.


    This would amount to an additional 20 hours each week. Extended sitting hours is something that happens most years in June. Our government just wants to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, earlier this year. The motion would allow certain votes to be deferred automatically until the end of question period, to allow for all honourable members' schedules to be a little more orderly.


    As I said, all other rules would remain. For example, concurrence motions could be moved, debated and voted upon. Today's motion would simply allow committees to continue doing their work instead of returning to the House for motions to return to government business and the like. This process we are putting forward would ensure those committees could do their good work and be productive, while at the same time the House could proceed with its business. Concurrence motions could ultimately be dealt with, debated and voted upon.
    We are interested in working hard and being productive and doing so in an orderly fashion, and that is the extent of what the motion would do. I hope that the opposition parties would be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come forward to a vote. I am sure members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer, but the first indication from my friend opposite is that perhaps he is reluctant to do that. Members on this side of the House are willing to work extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians.
    Some of those accomplishments we intend to pass are: reforming the temporary foreign workers program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity; enhancing the tax credit for parents who adopt; and extending the tax credit for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their home.



    We also want to support veterans and their families by improving the determination of veterans' benefits.


    Of course, these are some of the important measures from this year's budget and are included in Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We are also working toward results for aboriginals by moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water and finally giving women on reserves the same rights and protections other Canadian women have had for decades. Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, and Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act would deliver on those very important objectives.
    We will also work to keep our streets and communities safe by making real improvements to the witness protection program through Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. I think that delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week.


    We will work to bring the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, into law. Bill C-48 would provide certainty to the tax code. It has been over a decade since a bill like this has passed, so it is about time this bill passed. In fact, after question period today, I hope to start third reading of this bill, so perhaps we can get it passed today.


    We will also work to bring Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, into law. The bill would support economic growth by ensuring that all shippers, including farmers, are treated fairly. Over the next few weeks we will also work, hopefully with the co-operation of the opposition parties, to make progress on other important initiatives.


    Bill C-54 will ensure that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This is an issue that unfortunately has affected every region of this country. The very least we can do is let the bill come to a vote and send it to committee where witnesses can testify about the importance of these changes.


    Bill C-49 would create the Canadian museum of history, a museum for Canadians that would tell our stories and present our country's treasures to the world.


    Bill S-14, the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act, will do just that by further deterring and preventing Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials. These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.


    Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, would implement that 2009 treaty by amending the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to add prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish.


    Tonight we will be voting on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which will allow Canada to honour its commitments under international agreements to tackle nuclear terrorism. Another important treaty—the Convention on Cluster Munitions—can be given effect if we adopt Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.
    We will seek to update and modernize Canada’s network of income tax treaties through Bill S-17, the Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, by giving the force of law to recently signed agreements between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland.


    Among other economic bills is Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act. The bill would protect Canadians from becoming victims of trademark counterfeiting and goods made using inferior or dangerous materials that lead to injury or even death. Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods may be used to support organized crime groups. Clearly, this bill is another important one to enact.
    Important agreements with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would be satisfied through Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which would, among other things, create the Sable Island national park reserve, and Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, which would provide clear rules for occupational health and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.
    Earlier I referred to the important work of committees. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations inspired Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act. We should see that committee's ideas through by passing this bill. Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are yet still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. All of these measures are important and will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part.
    In my weekly business statement prior to the constituency week, I extended an offer to the House leaders opposite to work with me to schedule and pass some of the other pieces of legislation currently before the House. I hope that they will respond to my request and put forward at our next weekly meeting productive suggestions for getting things done. Passing today's motion would be a major step toward accomplishing that. As I said in my opening comments, Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, vote on bills and get things done.
    In closing, I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for this motion, add a few hours to our day, continue the work of our productive, orderly and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.


    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend in particular for the final offer he made. I hesitate to negotiate in public what we often try to spend our time at House leaders' meetings doing, as brief as that time sometimes is.
    Opposition members have consistently gone to the government with bills that we were interested in supporting, even in an effort to, as my friend says, work hard for Canadians, limit the amount of debate. A bill I mentioned earlier talks about the allowance of civil marriages, so-called gay marriages, a law that was passed by Parliament and opposed by the member's party, allowing for the closure of a loophole in the law to permit those who are married to also seek divorce, which seems a reasonable thing to do.
    All we have asked for, in the expediency of the passage of Bill C-32, is one vote, which takes about seven minutes, on average, in this place. We allowed the government to introduce a motion, if it saw fit, to allow one speaker per party. Doing the quick math on that, that would be about an hour and a half. We could see a bill that has been sitting for about 18 months, give or take, to pass completely in this place in an hour and a half, two hours at the outside if we did something slowly. The government has refused it every single time.
    The government then claims it has great urgency in the world and that there are other bills to pass that opposition parties have offered to the government. We just passed a technical amendments bill recently and there is an instruments bill that we are looking to pass as well. There has been progress, but what we have seen time and again is an attitude in breaking the historical—and he cannot answer this one, by the way, Mr. Speaker. A majority government, within two years, used time allocation to shut down debate, something Conservatives used to rile against when Liberals did it. The Conservatives have used that same tactic more than any other government in any four or five-year mandate in Canadian history. The Conservatives did it in two and are now turning the bully into the victim and saying that they are somehow victimized by the will of the minority.
    I would remind the hon. member we are in questions and comments.
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, on the question of Bill C-32, as I said, we are willing to go even further. We have said in the House in public many times that we are prepared to pass that bill if it is supported by the opposition at all three stages by unanimous consent. It could happen by unanimous consent in the House. Apparently, that is not good enough for the opposition members. As a result, that bill has not yet been passed because they simply have not accepted that offer.
    In terms of our overall legislative agenda, there is, as I indicated, a lot of work that needs to be done in the House that we are very pleased to do. One thing we have tried to do in the House is change the approach where time allocation is brought in as a form of shutting down debate, which used to be done in the past, to using it as a fashion to ensure a productive, hard-working approach. For example, on the second-last budget implementation bill, we provided for the longest debate ever in Canadian history on any budget implementation bill in that time allocation motion. This was to allow for full debate but also to allow for certainty that the measures would come into place.
    That has been our approach throughout: to give the members the fullest opportunity to participate, to allow a full opportunity for debate, but also to do it in a businesslike fashion where people know that we are going to debate it for a period of time, for a number of days, five, six, seven, whatever the case may be, on a particular bill, and then allow a matter to be voted on. That is why time allocation, of course, has been moved usually at the start of our debates and not toward the end, not after days and days, but, rather, in order to have certainty of scheduling. This is has been the approach of our government, one that is aimed at working hard and delivering results, being productive, hard-working, orderly, and doing the job that Canadians sent us to do by giving people a chance in the House to actually vote on measures before the House.



    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully just now to the bills that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons enumerated in his speech. I noted that he did not include Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which was introduced at first reading on October 17, 2011, and which we have heard nothing about since.
    I was wondering why it was not part of his list.


    Mr. Speaker, I have been encouraged to be reasonable in what I request. In order to identify our priorities, we have focused on the priorities that we believe are the priorities of Canadians.
    First and foremost is the priority of the economy. We will see economic bills come front and centre because Canadians want to see that there is a government and a Parliament that is seriously engaged in doing what is important to encourage job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Bills that match what is clearly at the top of our agenda have been the focus of our activity.
    Another priority, of course, has been bills to ensure we build a safer and stronger Canada, safer communities. That issue of tackling crime, of making our communities safer, is again one reflected in the bills that we wish to see brought forward, debated and passed by this Parliament.
    Then, of course, there are important questions of our national identity.
    Unfortunately we cannot pass everything. We heard the opposition House leader complaining that we want to get too much done, that he does not want to work that hard, and that we are pushing too many things through. Unfortunately, we have to be reasonable. We have to find the appropriate balance and choose the priorities that reflect those priorities of Canadians, first and foremost, delivering on the economy.


    Mr. Speaker, all these debates are rather interesting.
    With respect to the point of order raised by my colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and Motion No. 17, I would like to reiterate that we work from morning until night, and even into the wee hours. It is the government's bizarre and twisted rhetoric, not the fact that the sitting hours of the House will be extended, that is cause for concern.
    The government is proposing to act on bills that, all of a sudden, are absolutely essential. Time is of the essence. Yet for two years the bills have languished, nothing has been done and the Senate has been on the agenda. Now, with a majority, the government is puffing itself up and proposing to introduce amendments and change things.
    My colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, asked a question and I did not hear a specific answer from our colleague opposite. Can the government assure us that the motion moved, Motion No. 17, is not an exercise designed to have the House adjourn earlier because the government is starting to get embarrassed and does not know what else to say to the media outside the House and its members are eager to go and hide in their ridings? Will we be here to work and to do even more, between now and the date set for the House to adjourn for the summer?


    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member need only read the motion that is in front of her before she gets up to ask a question about it. Before she gets up to participate in the debate, I encourage her to read it. She will see on its face it would do nothing to change the Standing Orders with regard to the question of the calendar, in terms of when we are sitting here in Ottawa. If she understands that, she understands the answer to that question.
    There is nothing in the motion that would provide for a different adjournment date from the Standing Orders. Oddly, I find it very strange that she would get up and ask a question not having actually read the motion right in front of her.
     However, that is not surprising, again, from a party that is standing here, saying, “We don't want to work hard. Please don't make us stay late. Please, God forbid, we actually have to read the motion in front of us, because that's too much work. So, I'll just ask you what it says.”
    What it says is very simple, “Let's get things done for Canadians. Let's do the work they sent us here to do. Let's focus on the economy. Let's create jobs for Canadians. Let's deliver economic prosperity for Canadians. Let's do our jobs here in the House of Commons that Canadians want us to do.” They want hard-working parliamentarians. We are trying to deliver that. If the opposition members agree with us, I suppose they will vote for that. If they do not agree that Canadians want hard-working parliamentarians, I suppose they will oppose the motion.


    Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to be very clear. It is interesting. The government House leader talks about getting to work and putting in the time. The Liberal Party is not shy of putting in the time. We are prepared to work as hard, if not harder, than this particular government House leader. In fact, I would challenge the government House leader to be here half the amount of time that I am here, addressing legislation and so forth. That would surprise me.
    The government needs to recognize that it is also the responsibility of a majority government to be somewhat—I would argue a whole lot—more democratic in terms of dealing with legislation that comes before the House.
    My question for the government House leader is, is he prepared to work hard for Canadians and allow for appropriate debate on the remaining legislation that is on the legislative agenda; in other words, not continue bringing in time allocation and preventing us hard-working members of Parliament from being able to contribute to the debate?
    Mr. Speaker, I have never heard a legitimate complaint from that member that he has not had ample opportunity to participate in debates. I will respond to his challenge by saying that I will speak when needed in the House, and I will allow other people an opportunity to speak from time to time as well. I will use that to guide my approach.
    In terms of our approach, the member heard my answer. Our approach is to provide time for debates to occur to allow for the full participation of members, but also, importantly, to allow votes to happen and to let decisions be made. Debate is important. However, this should not be a talk shop where all we do is debate. It should also be a place where decisions are made. Canadians sent us here to do work, and that includes the work of actually making decisions. That is what the votes are when we vote in the House of Commons. We will continue to ensure that those votes take place so that bills can be decided upon and progress can be made, for the benefit of Canadians, on the economy and on having safer streets and communities.


    Mr. Speaker, I am not very happy about being here. However, I am here because we need to stand up to this government, which believes that Parliament exists only for its benefit and that it is just a place concerned with the government's problems and accountability.


    It is almost as if a new party came into the House today, as we listen to the Conservative House leader speak. It certainly is not the party that moved prorogation and killed legislation time and again. This new Conservative Party is suddenly interested in not defeating legislation. It could not be the same Conservative Party that has shut down debate in the House of Commons more than any party in Canadian history. It could not be a member of the same party who was speaking here today, talking about opening up debate. The Conservatives have invented a new world for themselves that is fascinating.
    I am reflecting on my friend from Langley, who sought to speak in this House on what they call an S. O. 31 statement, which happens just before question period. It is a statement that lasts for about a minute. Usually members of Parliament get up and make a statement about their ridings about some issue that is important to them. My friend from Langley, who sits in the Conservative Party, was a parliamentary secretary, I remember, for the Minister of the Environment, a chair, a well-respected member of Parliament, and a friend. He sought to stand up and speak to something he thought was important to his constituents.
     It was the old Conservative Party that shut down that member of Parliament and every other one who tried to get up and speak, because this new Conservative Party talks about wanting people to speak in the House and wanting to have debate.
    While it is refreshing to hear it, I do not believe it, and I do not think Canadians are going to believe that suddenly accountability and democracy have broken out within the Prime Minister's Office. It is the office of this particular Prime Minister who, rather than face any uncomfortable questions from the media or the official opposition members today, or for the rest of this week, has decided that going to South America to sit with other trading partners from other countries we already have established trade deals with to talk about trade deals that already exist is much more important than asking questions about the Senate.
    It must be a new Conservative Party that suddenly has on its agenda a legislative directive that the members need to sit longer hours and work hard on something that might be quite topical today, something such as the reform of Canada's Senate, which has been long overdue and long called for by Canadians and New Democrats who said that the place was fundamentally broken. There is no accountability. Unelected and under investigation is the new Senate.
     I remember the old Reform Party. You probably do as well, Mr. Speaker. It came in riding from the west, from my part of the world.
     I see a member across the way, who was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, calling it a beautiful thing. While I disagreed fundamentally with many of its positions, certainly its social positions, there was something on which I could see some common ground. That was to make Parliament more accountable and to reform the Senate.
    The current government has now been in power almost seven long years. Is that right? The time goes slowly. In those six or seven years, the Prime Minister made a promise as one of his fundamental commitments to Canadians. Commitments should be treated sacredly, I believe.
    We all get up at elections. We have party platforms and promises we make to Canadians. If we win, that platform and those promises become our agenda. That is what we would seek to do in office. It is simple. One of his promises, one of his agendas, one of his reforms was on the Senate. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they would see those Liberal senators down there taking their money, not really representing anybody, going on trips and maybe even defrauding taxpayers. Who knows? The Reform movement came in and said it was wrong and anti-democratic.
     For a party that decided to put “democratic” right in the middle of our name, we take these questions seriously. We feel that it is accountability to the people we on the orange team represent. In a sense, we are watching this Prime Minister now play victim to what is going on in the Senate with senators he appointed exclusively and explicitly to raise money for the Conservative Party of Canada. Now this same Prime Minister claims victimhood and wonders how this happened. How did his chief of staff, who sits to his immediate left every day and knows his deepest, darkest secrets, whom he put in charge of major trade files and negotiations with other countries, cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator he appointed? However, obviously, the Prime Minister's hands are clean, and he has nothing to say about this. He believes that his hands are so clean that he is not going to answer any questions about it. He is going to go to South America to be in trade talks with countries we already have trade deals with. That is the new Conservative Party, which is the old one, the same one that has forgotten its roots.
     Dear Mr. Manning is still with us, so he is not spinning in his grave, but he is definitely spinning. He was asked recently whether the Conservatives have lost their principles. He said, no, they have maintained their priorities. It is an interesting dodge of a question. Mr. Speaker, you have been around politics a bit. You know when a question is put directly and someone answers it indirectly.



    I find it incredible that we have before us a motion that continues to abuse Parliament. This motion is designed simply to restrict debate and demonstrate to members of the House of Commons that the only reason Parliament exists is so that the government can do what it wants.
    I remember a comment made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. When we were debating a time allocation motion, he said that their intention was not to put an end to debate or to censure it, but just to control Parliament.
    It is incredible that a minister is admitting that the Conservatives just want to control the Parliament of Canada. It also reflects the Conservatives' esprit de corps. They want to control everything, not just the opposition and Parliament, but their members, as well as the media and the public.
    The current vision of the Prime Minister and the government leaves the public with no choice and no voice. It is all about the kind of country that the Prime Minister wants to build.


    We see a government moving this extraordinary thing, which will see, big deal, members of Parliament sitting until midnight.
    New Democrats have been known, sometimes to our detriment, to be willing to force the calendar to the very last minute and sit all night, such as when the government moved anti-worker legislation against a very profitable Canada Post, which, I might add, in a parenthetical way, then lost money.
    After the lockout by Canada Post, the government imposed wage contracts on those workers that were less than what the company was willing to offer. Then it said that it needed to shut down Canada Post offices around the country, as Canada Post was losing money because of the lockout it allowed them to do. The logic is inherently twisted on that side.
    Remember the omnibus debates and the voting we had. I remember my friend from the Green Party moving a certain number of amendments to the bill, which forced the House to sit all night and vote, hour after hour. I remember some of my friends from Surrey who stayed in their seats for 22 hours.
    No one has ever accused New Democrats of not being willing to come to work and work on behalf of our constituents. We may do some things wrong. We may sometimes fall short in some areas, but hard work has not ever been one of those things.
    There is such irony in hearing a Conservative House leader who, with his Prime Minister, has prorogued Parliament, shut it down, and killed their government's own legislation time and time again, say to the Speaker that the problem is that they cannot get their legislation through.
    It had been there for 12 months. After eight months, they killed it themselves and prorogued the House.
    One prorogation was quite notable. The government looked to be in a bit of trouble. It was in a minority position. The world was entering into a very deep recession. The Minister of Finance, who claims to be the best in the world, ignored the recession and introduced what the Conservatives called an austerity budget at the very moment when the rest of the world, realizing that the economy was coming to a virtual standstill, was introducing budgets that did the opposite.
     The finance genius we have sitting in the chair said, “Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about what is going on in the global economy; we know that Canada is not going into recession”, even as we were in the midst of a recession. He introduced an austerity budget to cut back billions in job creation, in grants and in all the things the Conservatives take credit for, such as unemployment insurance for a bunch of Canadians who were just being thrown out of work.
    The opposition said that it was not a very good budget and suggested that we vote against that budget. The government panicked and prorogued. Canadians got a civil lesson in how Parliament works. They had never heard the word “prorogation” before. Then we got to learn.
    The Prime Minister had to go to the Governor General. He sat there for a number of hours, perhaps being lectured about how undemocratic it was, when facing a non-confidence vote, to head down the road to the Queen's representative to ask for permission to shut it all down before he was thrown out of office. He was more worried about his job that day than about Canadians. That is for sure.


    That is a government that killed its legislation in order to save itself, and did it time and time again.
    Here is the trend that we worry about with today's motion. For a government that has broken the record by shutting down debate more times than any government in Canadian history, it has refused 99.3% of all the amendments that the opposition has brought to its legislation.
    Let us look at that for a moment. The way a bill is supposed to work is it comes into the House and gets debated. There is a pro and con and the real coming together or clash of ideas to improve the legislation because no one is perfect. The drafters of legislation do not get it right. They are sometimes hundreds of pages long and very complicated. The House is meant to debate that. Then we send it to committee and hear from experts, not just members of Parliament who are not often experts in these areas, but people who work in the field. They are the social workers, the financial experts, the crime experts and the police. We hear those suggestions and write amendments based on those ideas. That is the way this place is supposed to work.
     However, the government is saying that in 99.3% of those cases those experts are wrong and the government is right. It will not change a period, a comma, not a word in any of the legislation. Then lo and behold, time and time again, the legislation is challenged in the courts successfully. The legislation does not fix the problems identified and costs Canada and Canadians billions.
    We all remember well Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that would allow the state to look in on the Internet searches and emails of Canadians without any warrant. The government decided in its vigour for its tough on crime agenda that it would pass a law that said that at any point, at any time, Canadians anywhere could have their BlackBerrys and iPhones tapped by the government, that web searches on home computers could be looked at by the government and the police. There is no country in the world, outside of Iran and North Korea, that would even consider doing this. The Conservative government thought it was a fantastic idea. In trying to argue the case, it said that if we were not into exposing our Internet searches and our emails then we must be in support of child pornography.
    Has any more offensive or stupid an argument ever been made on the floor of the House of Commons? It is offensive to basic civil liberties and decency, to the role of members of Parliament trying to do our jobs and to the Canadians who said that they were not sure they wanted the government looking at their email?
    I look at the member for Yukon right now. I do not know what he is searching and I do not want to know. It is his privacy to look on his computer and do as he sees fit. That is a civil liberty I am sure he defends as well, but not his government.
    Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, was the flagship. The government rammed it all into one bill and said that it was such important legislation it would shut down debate on it too. Then whole sections of the bill were taken out. Why? It was because they were unconstitutional.
    Now we know where that all comes from. Canadians actually pay for a service. Many members of Parliament may not know this, but when a government introduces a bill it goes to constitutional legal experts to determine if the new legislation goes against our constitution, our foundation as a country? If it does, it is a good idea to modify the law to ensure it does not get challenged in the courts, which costs upwards of $3 million to $5 million to taxpayers every time there is one of those challenges. The government did not check on Bill C-10. We know that because the people who work for the Government of Canada, who do this work, are no longer receiving references from the government.
    The government is not even asking anymore. It is choosing ignorance. This is incredible. It is saying that it does not want to know whether the laws it writes are constitutional, whether the laws it writes as a government are for or against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is incredible. This is not a mistake. It is by intention. Therefore, we have these lawyers sitting in their offices, being paid every day, waiting for the government to refer the bills it introduces here to ensure they can survive a constitutional challenge. The government does not ask anymore.
    Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill and Bill C-45, the second omnibus bill, were both challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. First nations are challenging it. I need to address this because the government House leader mentioned two bills that are being moved, so-called, on behalf of first nations. They are Bill S-2 and Bill S-8. One is matrimonial property rights. It sounds pretty innocuous. Most Canadians would say that matrimonial property rights for first nations women on reserve maybe protects their rights. Who is opposed to it? It is not just us in the opposition, but aboriginal women, every first nation women's group in the country. My friend across the way shakes his head, but I can show him the testimony that says the bill is no good for aboriginal women.


    However, the Conservatives know better. With their shameful record on aboriginal rights and title in the country, suddenly they know better than aboriginal women, than first nations women. Bill S-8 is a bill to help first nations have clean drinking water because the record has been shameful.
    Government after government has failed first nations communities. Thirty-five per cent of the people I represent in northern British Columbia are in first nations communities. The water conditions there are incredibly bad. We have to do something about it. There are fixes and there are ideas coming from those communities.
    Instead the government moves the bill, handing all responsibility down to first nations in terms of cleaning up their own water mess, but none of the resources to do it. Are first nations supportive of it? No. Nor would any municipality or any province in Canada be supportive of legislation that rams down responsibility without any of the support, money or help to get that done.
     Most of these first nations communities are living in abject poverty. Where does the government think they are going to get the money from? The government will not settle treaty with them in the west. First nations are having mining, oil and gas exploration and pipelines put everywhere and are receiving none of the royalties, none of the compensation and the government will not move treaty forward.
    I was just in Gitxsan territory, speaking with the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, talking about basic child services, kids who are being abused in their homes and setting up a program that the federal government said that we should enact 20 years ago to allow first nations more rights and responsibilities to rescue those kids and help them kids integrate back into their communities.
    Who is not coming to the table? The Conservative government. This is the government that on Bill S-2 and Bill S-8 suddenly said that it had first nations rights and title and priorities at heart, when it did not.
    The place can work. Members can sense a certain amount of frustration in my voice, because Parliament can work. It is actually designed to work. I love our system. It is so superior to many other systems I have studied around the world, that have consistent congressional gridlock on legislation and on budgets. We can make things happen here.
    However, with the power that is afforded a majority government, which is a lot, comes a certain amount of responsibility to use the power wisely and not abuse it. Yet time and again we have seen the government House leader and other ministers get up and say that they are not looking to limit the debate; they just want to control it. They reject virtually 100% of all the amendments and all the changes and suggestions they hear at committee because they know better and they have the votes to push it forward.
    It is at such a point that the control has extended deeply into the government's caucus. Some of the more socially conservative members of the Conservative caucus are no longer free to speak, or are only free to speak on certain things, in certain ways, if the Prime Minister's Office allows for it.
    In a small program that we run in northern B.C., initiated a number of years ago, I hold a conference call with all the detachment commanders from all the RCMP outposts that exist in my riding. It is a very large riding facing a lot of tough, difficult situations with policing. Once every two or three months I get on the phone with 12 detachment commanders and we talk about what is going on. We talk about what is happening in crime, what the drug use is like, what legislation is moving through the House that will help or hinder these hard-working, hard-serving officers.
    I am not allowed to have that conversation with these RCMP officers anymore. I am not supposed to talk to them. As a sitting member of Parliament, I am not supposed to go to them. A number of them have come to me because they are friends and we have known each other for years. They offer good, on-the-ground advice about what is happening.
    They say that they are sorry, that they cannot talk to me. They tell me that I have to phone the Prime Minister's Office in order for them to talk to me about what is going on in Prince Rupert, or what is going on in Dease Lake or Bella Coola.
     It is insane. This is wrong. Government officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who I have known for years and who I phone just for an update to see what is going on with our fish on the west coast, tell me that I am a member of Parliament from the opposition and that I need to phone the people in the Prime Minister's Office and that they will give me permission as to whether they can tell me what is going on in Canada's fishery.
    This is not their government. This is not a Conservative government. This is Canada's government. We pay for these civil servants. We pay their salaries to do work on behalf of Canadians. Whether it is silencing scientists, shutting down access for members of Parliament to basic conversations, or shutting down debate in Parliament, the consistent voice from the government is that it will not be held to account.



    This is bad. This is not just about the privilege all members of the House need to do their job. The government says there is some urgency, but there is not. There is no urgency when it comes to the government's mandate or agenda.
    It is very strange for the government to say it is very open, when we see what is going on in the Senate.
    We have senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. All current senators have potentially stolen money from Canadians. These are the same senators that the Prime Minister says are very good people. These are the same senators using money from the Canadian people to travel during an election and raise money for the Conservative Party. That is the new Conservative Party. I do not understand.
    I remember the Reform Party of Canada and some reforms that Mr. Manning wanted to make. With the current party, it is the same story as with the Liberal Party and the Gomery commission and all the rest. I am both angry and sad.
    The majority of Canadians did not vote for this government, which has a majority, but does not have the majority support of Canadians. Close to 60% of Canadians voted against this agenda, against this sort of arrogance. They voted not to have the kind of government that now uses brutal tactics, not against the New Democratic Party, but against Parliament.
    Lastly, I think we need to have a referendum, which may not happen until the next election.


    It bears some comment, not only with respect to the Senate scandal but even the motion today.
     I watched the government House leader and the Prime Minister on television earlier. He actually allowed the media into his caucus room for a second, which was bizarre. The bully turns into the victim, that somehow this is put upon them, that they are somehow being victimized here.
    What frustrates me is not just the work that we have to do as parliamentarians that is constantly thwarted by the government at committee stage, and my friend laughs, but how can it be possible that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected? The evidence is clear.
    My friend can shake his head and laugh and treat this with disdain or heckle out what seems to be a favourite tactic of some of my friends who cannot win the debate, but can simply sit in their seats and heckle, yell and try to put down a comment that hurts a little too much, that being that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected, that the witnesses were all wrong, that the government was always right and that the courts must be wrong too. Soon the Conservatives will call them activist courts like the Republicans do in the states. Members should watch for it because it is coming.
    We believe this motion is fundamentally flawed in its abuse of this place and of all members. I do not speak just for the New Democrats or the folks down the way. I speak for the backbenchers who have been rubbing up against some of the limitations. What is sad about most of it and is most concerning is those who are not agitating against the Conservative government's control over its backbench and accepting it. I lament the most for those who are so comfortable reading the script from the Prime Minister's Office and repeating it like robots, feeling that is their work and whose expectations of what it is to be a member of Parliament are so diminished that they simply accept it, not those the media have called rebels who have stood up and stated that they want to have their own statement but the Prime Minister's Office has shut them down. They run under the blue banner, which is their choice.
     I lament for those who seem so happy to get up and repeat the mindless dribble that is put to them by the Prime Minister's Office day after day. When they first ran for office, I wonder if they said that they wanted to be a member of Parliament to represent people and get to Parliament to speak with a strong voice of conviction on behalf of the people they represent and that in order to do they would read whatever was put in front of them by the Prime Minister's Office, written by a 24-year-old intern who types out some sort of nonsense and makes up policies that the NDP does not have, making personal attacks on a regular basis as a substitute for honest and sincere debate? Was that really their expectation?
    I wish I had some video evidence from some of those early debates because I know that is not what those members ran on. I know their nomination meetings did not look like that, nor did any of the debates they attended during the campaign. That is not what they said. They said that they would speak on behalf of their constituents, fight for them and still raise their voice, even if that meant it was contrary to what their government suggested.


    I am sure that is what my friends across the way said. They are very nice people. I know a lot of these folks, as we have spent some time together. I know some of their inner thoughts about the way Parliament ought to be, and some of them lament it. However, it is the ones who do not who worry me. They are the ones who so comfortably slip into that straitjacket day after day. Maybe they just get used to it, but they are able to rationalize that there is some larger agenda that is more important than their having an independent and free voice.
    They can keep yelling and you can allow them to if you wish, Mr. Speaker, but the truth often hurts, and the truth of the matter is that with a majority government, this member and his colleagues have chosen to vote for closure more than any government in Canadian history. With a majority, the Conservative government has refused the evidence, has refused the science time and time again, and that government is bad government.
    The Conservative government appointed senators, and I am sure some fundraising went on for some of my friends. Maybe Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy or Mr. Brazeau came by and raised a few dollars, shook a few hands and got a few votes for my friends. Maybe there is a little bit of a tarnish on my colleagues, which is why they are calling out and why they are worried. It is because their base hates this. They hate the idea of entitlement and of an insider's game that goes on in Ottawa all the time, and that friends of the Prime Minister's Office get some sort of special treatment.
    Talking about special treatment, how about a $90,000 personal cheque just cut off the back and handed over to somebody who may have defrauded taxpayers? Where is the Reform Party now? Where are the original Conservative intentions now? They are gone, bit by bit, eroded piece by piece. That is where it has gone, and it has all been subjugated to some idea that there is a better and bigger cause, that this grand scheme they are involved in somehow makes all of it justifiable.
    Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what these guys would sound like if the roles were reversed? If it were a Liberal government with senators getting cheques from the Prime Minister's chief of staff or a New Democratic government acting the way the Conservatives act, could you imagine the hue and cry and the calls for resignations every second minute? They would be losing their minds.
    Now the Conservatives play the victim, saying that these senators were put upon them, that they didn't know what they were doing, that it is terrible. They only have a majority, both here and there. The Prime Minister has appointed more senators than any Prime Minister in Canadian history. How many did he say he would appoint? None, but he had to appoint some, and then it had to be justified. These are small and slow slippages, and this motion is a continuation of that.
    This motion says that Parliament matters less and that those Canadians who have grown cynical about the role of MPs are justified in their cynicism. We say that is wrong. How do we turn to the young voters coming up? How do we turn to people who come to us and say that they might want to run for office one day? How can we say that their voices will matter when the government moves motions like this time and time again, shutting down debate?
    As my friend the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said, the Conservatives do not want to shut down debate; they just want to control it. Is this is how one entices people into a life of politics? Is this how one encourages young people to vote? Do we say, “Welcome to Parliament, where we are going to control debate and shut it down time and time again”? This is the Conservatives' call to action.
    It is not a call to action, but a call to inaction. It is a call to cynicism. It is calling to people, “Do not look over here; nothing is happening here in government. Go on with your lives and other things that are more important and distracting.” The government is counting on people to have an attention deficit rather than realize that the decisions we make here in Parliament every day affect Canadians in every way.
    If members of Parliament cannot do their work, as this motion suggests, and hold the government to account, it is bad government. It is bad government when it cannot find $3 billion that may be under a mattress or in a banana stand or wherever it happens to be, and when senators rip off taxpayers with no consequence whatsoever. We think the RCMP might have a role to play here.
    What would happen if any of the Canadians in our gallery today or watching on TV defrauded the Canadian government of $500? They would get charged. However, if it is a Conservative senator, what happens? Oh, they just recuse themselves from caucus. Wow. They still get paid, they still have all of their privileges, but they cannot go to caucus meetings on Wednesday mornings.
    Mr. Speaker, do you think that maybe that punishment is a little severe? I mean, having to recuse oneself from a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning for defrauding taxpayers—boy, that seems pretty harsh.
    Why the double standard? We used to call that the culture of entitlement. I remember a colleague of mine in this place, Ed Broadbent, asking a former Liberal minister who became head of the mint and was claiming packets of gum and coffee on his receipts, “Are you entitled to your entitlements, sir?” This person took a moment of authenticity and said, “Yes, I am entitled to my entitlements.”


    The Conservatives railed at the Liberal entitlement, the culture of entitlement, the Gomery inquiry and all those terrible things that went down.
    History repeats itself if one is not a student of history, and it seems that the Conservative Party has not looked at the history of this place or of other parliaments.
    The fact of the matter is that debate in and of itself is not a bad thing. The exchange of ideas is not in and of itself a bad thing. Being wrong from time to time is not of itself a bad thing; learning happens in those moments, and the government needs to learn, because I can read off the list of the bills it had so fundamentally wrong that it had to withdraw them. The Conservatives had to say that they got it so badly wrong because they listened to none of the amendments that they have to fix it now, at the very last minute, or wait until it gets to the Senate and let the unaccountable, unelected and under investigation senators deal with it. That is no form of democracy worth defending, and the Conservatives know it. They know it better than most.
    I will move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “Fridays” and replacing them with the following: “(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant”—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Nathan Cullen: Mr. Speaker, my friends have not heard the motion. Maybe they do not understand it yet. How could they? They have not heard it yet.
    Allow me to finish—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. opposition House leader is moving an amendment. He does not need unanimous consent to move an amendment at this point.
    There will be an opportunity for members to express their opinion on the amendment, but let us allow the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley to move the amendment before we do so.
    The hon. member.
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps I will preface it a bit to contain the catcalls.
    The government is eventually going to shut the House down early, as many suspect, due to the context and the scandals going on right now. We are going to move an amendment that would allow question period to be one and a half hour, 90 minutes, to allow the government to be held to account.
    It is a simple amendment. I will read it, and then we can debate it. I know the Prime Minister has seen an urgency to suddenly go to South America, but we believe that a 90-minute question period would be a good idea.
    I move:
    That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after “Fridays;” and replacing them with the following:
(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), they shall last for a period of 90 minutes.


Points of Order

Scope of Private Members' Bills--Speaker's Ruling 

[Speaker's Ruling]
    Before moving on to questions and comments, I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on April 25 by the hon. member for Toronto Centre regarding the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, recommending that the scope of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), be expanded.



    In raising this matter, the hon. member for Toronto Centre explained that during its consideration of Bill C-425, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion recommending that the House grant the committee the power to expand the scope of the bill in order to allow for the consideration of what he called “amendments that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has asked be added to the list”.
    This led to the presentation on April 23, 2013, of the committee's eighth report. He found this approach to be problematic in two respects. First, he argued that pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees examining private members' bills are restricted as to the types of reports they can present to the House. He argued essentially that since the eighth report falls outside these parameters, it is out of order.
    His second argument centred on the impact such a manner of proceeding could have. Specifically, he expressed concern that if committees examining private members' bills were to be allowed latitude to proceed in this fashion, the effect of this practice “will be that the government could, by extrapolation, even add an omnibus feature to a private member’s bill and say it is using its majority to add everything, the whole kitchen sink, into the measure.”


    The Government House Leader explained that, in view of the differences of opinion expressed in the committee as to whether the amendments proposed were within the scope of the bill, the committee was seeking guidance from the House on the matter. In making this observation, he pointed out that this process would result in a number of hours of debate in the House on the committee report before a decision was taken.


    In his presentation the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that Standing Order 97.1 does not preclude a committee from seeking an instruction from the House in relation to a private member's bill. He further explained that the committee remains seized of Bill C-425 and that its eighth report in no way supersedes the 60-sitting-day deadline to report the bill back to the House.
    At the outset the Chair wishes to clarify what appear to be certain misconceptions about the nature of private members' bills.
    The first of these has to do with the arguments made by the House leader for the official opposition and the member for Saint-Lambert in reference to the constitutional compliance of legislation sponsored by private members.
    As pointed out by the member for Saint-Lambert, constitutional compliance is among the criteria used by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business to determine non-votability of private members' bills. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, describes these criteria at page 1130, including one requirement that “bills and motions must not clearly violate the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
    The Chair is not aware of further constitutional compliance tests that are applied to any kind of legislation, whether sponsored by the government or by private members, once bills are before the House or its committees. In addition, hon. members will recall that in a recent ruling delivered on March 27, I reminded the House that as Speaker I have no role in interpreting matters of a constitutional or legal nature.



    Another apparent source of confusion has to do with the difference between private bills and public bills. Virtually all the bills that come before the House are public bills, whether they are sponsored by private members or by the government.


    As O'Brien and Bosc explains at page 1178:
    Private bills must not be confused with private Members' bills. Although private bills are sponsored by private Members, the term “private Member's bill” refers only to public bills dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by Members who are not Ministers.


    Thus both government and private members’ bills are subject to the same basic legislative process, namely introduction and first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage and, finally, third reading. At the same time, the House has seen fit to devise specific procedures for dealing with public bills sponsored by the government and private members alike.


    For example, Standing Order 73 allows the government to propose that a government bill be referred to committee before second reading after a five-hour debate. The purpose of this rule is to allow greater flexibility to members in committee by enabling them to propose amendments to alter the scope of the measure.


    The procedures in place for dealing with private members’ bills are likewise many layered, and have evolved in response to particular situations faced by the House in the past. This is the case with the provision for a maximum of two hours of debate at second reading, which came about to allow the House to consider more items and thus to allow more private members to have their measures considered. Similarly, Standing Order 97.1 was originally brought in to ensure that private members’ bills referred to committee would be returned to the House and to the order of precedence in a timely fashion.


    In the present case, it appears to the Chair that the essence of the procedural question before me is to determine whether the House has the power to grant permission to a committee to expand the scope of a private member's bill after that scope has been agreed to by the House at second reading and, if so, whether this can be achieved by way of a committee report.
    House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, is helpful in this regard. It states at page 752:
    Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example, examining a portion of a bill and reporting it separately, examining certain items in particular, dividing a bill into more than one bill, consolidating two or more bills into a single bill, or expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill.
    Clearly then, by way of a motion of instruction, the House can grant a committee the power to expand the scope of a bill, be it a government bill or a private member's bill. An example can be found at page 289 of the Journals for April 27, 2010, where an opposition member moved a motion of instruction related to a government bill.


    Having established that the House does have the authority to grant permission to a committee to expand the scope of a bill through a motion of instruction, the question becomes whether a committee report is also a procedurally valid way to achieve the same result.


    The member for Toronto Centre is correct in saying that the explicit authority to present this type of report is not found in Standing Order No. 97.1, which exists to oblige committees to respect deadlines for reporting back to the House on private members' bills. In that respect, Standing Order No. 97.1 continues to apply.
    However, Standing Order No. 108(1)(a) does grant committees this power under their more general mandate to:
examine and enquire into all such matters as may be referred to them by the House [and] to report from time to time
    In describing the three broad categories of reports that standing committees normally present, O’Brien and Bosc, at page 985, describe administrative and procedural reports as those:
in which standing committees ask the House for special permission or additional powers, or those that deal with a matter of privilege or procedure arising from committee proceedings.



    An example of a committee reporting on a matter related to a bill may be found in the Journals of April 29, 2008, where, in its sixth report, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development felt compelled to provide reasons why it did not complete the study of a particular private member’s bill.


    Finally, O'Brien and Bosc, at page 752, further state:
    A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.
    This undoubtedly could be done only through the presentation of a committee report to the House.
    What this confirms is that the authority of the House to grant permission to a committee to expand the scope of a bill can be sought and secured, either through a motion of instruction or through concurrence in a committee report.
    O’Brien and Bosc summarizes this well at page 992:


    If a standing, legislative or special committee requires additional powers, they may be conferred on the committee by an order of the House—by far the most common approach—or by concurrence in a committee report requesting the conferring of those powers.


    Later, O’Brien and Bosc explain, at page 1075:
    Recommendations in committee reports are normally drafted in the form of motions so that, if the reports are concurred in, the recommendations become clear orders or resolutions of the House.


    Just as the adoption of a motion of instruction to a committee would become an order of the House, so too would the adoption of a committee report requesting the permission of the House to expand the scope of a bill.
    Of course, it has always been the case that instructions to a committee must be in proper form. According to O’Brien and Bosc, at page 754, such instructions must be “worded in such a way that the committee will clearly understand what the House wants”.


    It is nevertheless clear to the Chair that there is genuine disquiet about the impact of this attempted procedural course of action. The Chair is not deaf to those concerns and, in that light, wishes to reassure the House that this manner of proceedings does not obviate the need for committees to observe all the usual rules governing the admissibility of amendments to the clauses of a bill, which are described in detail at pages 766 to 761 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition.
    In particular, granting a committee permission to expand the scope of a bill does not, ipso facto, grant it permission to adopt amendments that run counter to its principle. Were a committee to report a bill to the House containing inadmissible amendments, O’Brien and Bosc at page 775 states:
    The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then determined by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.
    For all of the reasons outlined, I must conclude that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is in order. I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Extension of Sitting Hours

[Governement Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting process we have witnessed over the last couple of years. We have gone from having a minority Conservative government to a totally different attitude on how to govern proceedings inside the House now that the Conservatives have a majority. Democracy has really fallen to the side. It is not as important as it used to be when the Conservative/Reformers had a minority government.
    I want to raise a specific issue. It was during the 39th Parliament that the previous clerk of the House of Commons told the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that the budget for Parliament can handle two weeks of extended sitting hours in June. However, if the extended hours were to continue for additional weeks, the government would likely have to seek Parliament's approval for more money.
    I notice that the supplementary estimates (A) do not include a request to make any of the payments that will be generated by things such as overtime for House of Commons staff. I would argue that the government House leader seems to be responding to a Conservative crisis from last week and is getting anxious to leave a little early as opposed to going through the normal process. If the government had a plan to sit extra hours, there should have been a budget request going into the estimates to increase the budget, which would allow us to sit the extra weeks.
    My question to the opposition House leader is whether he would concur that this might have been done in a very hasty fashion, possibly as a way to deal with the crisis that is looming with respect to the Senate.


    Mr. Speaker, it seems to the Conservatives that something so unimportant as taxpayer dollars would never get in the way of their avoiding a crisis. The fact that they have not actually accounted for the money required to run Parliament for these extra hours for an extended time—a month, in this case—shows two things. One is that they do not really care all that much if they have to blow more money. I remind my hon. colleague of the scandal around the F-35 purchase. It does not really matter what kind of evidence comes forward or how expensive it is, whether the evidence is from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the U.S. Congress or the Auditor General of Canada. The political expediency of buying those particular jets, which they seem obsessed with, always overrides the responsibility they have to taxpayers.
    With respect to this new bullying tactic and ramming bills through Parliament and the fact that it is going to cost more money to do what the Conservatives say they are going to do, I am going to take the House leader at his word today. When he was asked by my friend from Gatineau if we were sitting all the way to the end of June, as the calendar now states, at these extended hours, he said yes, because they are such hard-working Conservatives.
    They do not have the money to pay for it. We will find out where they claw it back from. I have an idea. There is $90 million being spent on the Senate, where we do not really get good value for money. Why do we not cut that budget down a few hundred million dollars over the years and pay for some things Canadians want?
    Mr. Speaker, I am curious about the procedural and traditional question he raised on extended hours until the very end of the current sitting, with no justification. Another place we could find the money would be the completely unaccountable budget of the Prime Minister's office, currently at $10 million. We cannot even get a list of who works there or what they earn. Perhaps we could attach that as a condition precedent to meeting until midnight. I also do not mind late hours, but I would like to see taxpayers get the accountability they deserve.
    Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting and maybe fruitful exercise. We could start to look at the way the Conservative government spends its money, which is badly, on gazebos and F-35s. There is $3 billion it cannot actually account for, which I believe was meant for anti-terrorism measures, and $100-plus million for ads Canadians are annoyed by. Those all seem like good places to start to look for the money we need to allow Parliament to function. I think Canadians could actually get behind the idea of allowing democracy to go ahead of all of these wasteful, ridiculous expenditures of the Conservatives, who were supposed to be conservative with taxpayer dollars and have turned out to be anything but. Those would all be great sources.
    I would like to suggest to my friend down the way that the Senate would be the New Democrats' preferred place to start. Not only are we losing money in the proposition and getting nothing for it, we are probably being defrauded right now. I do not want to pay for Conservative senators to run around raising money for Conservative MPs and the party itself. That is one of the worst uses of taxpayer money I have ever seen.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague pointed out, actually, a really interesting aspect. When one is in trouble, what does one do? One runs for the border and goes south, just like the Prime Minister has done.
     I want to go to a specific element he pointed out that is important, which is that legislation that is tied up in the budget bill does not go to committee. We are dealing with the Investment Canada Act. This is the third time it has been in a budget bill, because it has been done wrong every single time. There is legislation related to CIDA. There is all kinds of legislation in this budget bill. It not only locks out the committee process, it locks out the public, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, researchers and the experts. All those that have provided value-added input are now disappearing. That is why we are losing in the courts.
    I would like my hon. colleague to expand on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Windsor West not only for his question but for the work he has done with respect to the border. Every time the current government increases the hardship for the border guards who work at all the border crossings, but particularly at Windsor, he has recognized not only the harm and the risk to our border agents but the harm to our Canadian economy when we do not have the free flow and exchange of goods, particularly with our largest trading partner.
    With respect to how legislation comes through now, it has become a fundamental and categorical mess. Not only is there the expense to Canadians from all these charter challenges that go to the Supreme Court, while the government uses Canadians' money to defend bad legislation it knows is wrong, it also hurts the business community, which is looking for certainty of the rules, whether it is the foreign investment act, et cetera. It would be incredible if one of these ministers would get up one day and actually define “net benefit” when talking about the acquisition of Canadian companies from, in some cases, Chinese state-owned enterprises. It hurts the business community and it hurts our economy when the government keeps writing such bad laws and keeps getting it wrong, simply out of hubris and arrogance.
    Let us do it right. Let us use Parliament for what it is for, which is to conduct debate, hold these guys to account, and make sure that they stop blowing so many billions of dollars on such wasteful and dumb ideas.


    Mr. Speaker, there was some talk of overtime from the other side of the House. I think the idea of having question period for an extra 45 minutes may be a bit of overtime for ministers on the other side. However, is it possible that with an extra 45 minutes, we might actually get some answers at question period?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a novel concept. The opposition would put forward the questions we put each and every day and then the government would seek to actually answer those questions.
    How many constituents have we all heard from who have said, “I watched question period the other day. You know what frustrates me the most? You guys ask a simple, direct question, such as, 'When is the government going to do X?' or 'When is decision Y?' and all you get back is this bafflegab time and again.” Maybe an extra 45 minutes a day would do the trick.
    What we will see in question period today is that each of the ministers has a little binder. They flip open these little cheat sheets to answer questions they do not know the answers to. Perhaps after another 45 minutes, they would run out of those little cheat sheets, and then, lo and behold, they might actually answer a question. They might actually give us their thoughts on the affairs of the state and tell Canadians, for once, what is actually going on. Rather than finding out about it from access to information and through scandal-plagued Senate debacles, we could find out what the government is actually planning to do with the money it spends on behalf of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, when we hear that we have this legislative agenda and we are going to sit until midnight every night until June 21, this is really legislation through exhaustion.
    We have so much stuff being done by the current government outside of Parliament. We watched as major changes to family reunification were announced on Friday, the Friday before the break week, that would basically put families under stress, yet here we are now saying that we will be meeting until midnight. If we have so much stuff to debate, why does the government keep shutting down debate constantly?
    I have to say to my esteemed colleague that if we were to have a longer question period, my fear is that the government would keep reading the same answers over and over again.
    Mr. Speaker, hope springs eternal to my friend from Surrey.
    One wonders if we actually ever saw the legislation that allowed for half of all so-called immigration into Canada to be now under the foreign temporary worker program. I do not recall seeing legislation from the government that said that one out of every three new jobs created since 2008 would go to a foreign temporary worker. I do not remember that bill.
    I do not remember the bill before Parliament in which it said that Chinese state-owned enterprises can buy up Canadian enterprises with little to no oversight. I do not remember that legislation. If the government had actually moved some legislation and new law, we would have debated it. The government would not have had the courage of its convictions, and we would actually have seen something that is quite unique under a Conservative government: Parliament doing its job and members of Parliament speaking on behalf of the people they represent and holding these guys to account. Lord knows, they need it.


[Statements by Members]


Etobicoke Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I meet with constituents frequently. Their insights are invaluable, and I am grateful for their confidence and the opportunity to serve Etobicoke Centre these past two years.
    This past week, I updated my constituents of Somali heritage on our government's support of Somalia, and I announced new humanitarian funding for the region.
     I discussed the super visa with the Serbian community.
     I met with the Ukrainian community in my capacity as chair of the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group.
    I toured an adult learning and training centre for developing skills and finding jobs for Canadians.
    I attended the Toronto Catholic District School Board's mini-Olympics.
    I was interviewed on a Hungarian TV program, Magyar Képek.
    I participated in the Rotary Club reception for Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients.
    I welcomed the International Development and Relief Foundation to Etobicoke Centre.
    I presented Florence Thiffault greetings on her 95th birthday at the season opening of the Etobicoke Lawn Bowling Club.
     I visited a photo exhibition chronicling the Katyn massacre, and I addressed Polish veterans who valiantly fought for and won the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1943, a battle my own father fought in.
    It was yet another productive week in Etobicoke Centre.


Elijah Harper

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents and all New Democrats, I stand in this House and pay tribute to Elijah Harper. I would like to share our condolences with Elijah Harper's family and his community on this great loss.
     From a young age, I had the honour of knowing Elijah as he was first elected MLA in Manitoba in 1981, along with my father.
    Elijah made history as the first first nations person to be elected as MLA and then as cabinet minister in Manitoba. He changed the course of history by speaking for aboriginal people on the Meech Lake accord. He spoke with courage on first nations issues and was a champion for first nations sovereignty, for justice, for building a better future.
    I have the honour to represent the same constituency Elijah Harper represented, including Red Sucker Lake, Elijah's first nation, a nation that is so proud of him. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Elijah on a number of occasions to share perspectives on northern and aboriginal issues.
     Elijah Harper was a visionary and a trailblazer. He was a role model. History will record him as being a great leader for first nations, for Manitobans and for Canadians.
    We thank Elijah. Chii-Miigwetch.

Memorial Cup

    Mr. Speaker, it will be an incredible week in Saskatoon as the city and the province of Saskatchewan host the Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup will be an outstanding event, thanks to the true Saskatchewan volunteer spirit.
    Military representatives, alumni from the host Saskatoon Blades and Canadian Hockey League officials were on hand as the Memorial Cup arrived in Saskatoon. The flyover by two members of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Canada's famed aerobatics team, made the opening ceremony special. It was an opportunity to acknowledge the role of the Canadian military in our country today. Its members' sacrifices are extraordinary, and the opening ceremony was an opportunity for the people of Saskatoon to express the gratitude they feel to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.
    Special thanks to the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this Memorial Cup, led by Tim Gitzel and Jack Brodsky. They are to be commended for going above and beyond the call of duty. It is the effort they are demonstrating this week that has made Saskatoon the volunteer capital of Canada. We salute each and every unsung volunteer and thank them for making the Memorial Cup an event of which to be proud.


Haitian Community in the National Capital Region

    Mr. Speaker, in recent years, there has been a notable resurgence of pride and energy from the Haitian diaspora in the national capital region.
    I would especially like to congratulate His Excellency, Mr. Frantz Liautaud, Haiti's ambassador to Canada, on the occasion of the 210th anniversary of the creation of the Haitian flag. The anniversary celebrations were held on May 15 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, where hundreds of guests had the pleasure of listening to Chantale Laville's beautiful voice and David Bontemps's piano performance.
    I am taking this opportunity to highlight the creation of excellence scholarships for the Haitian community in the Outaouais. Last year, together with Gatineau city councillor Mireille Apollon and a remarkable committee of volunteers, I launched this initiative at the University of Ottawa, and funds were collected to create an excellence scholarship for the Haitian community at that university. This year, we are holding an event on Thursday, May 23, with all profits going to create a matching scholarship fund at the Université du Québec en Outaouais.
    Congratulations and all the best to our friends from the Haitian diaspora and, of course, heartfelt congratulations to all Haitians.


Canadian Forces

    Mr. Speaker, today I would like to stand and honour the men and women who have served in the Canadian Forces and who continue to serve our great country. Our Conservative government supports our troops while in combat, and we continue to support them when they return home safely.
    This is why our government is getting things done for Canadian veterans, cutting red tape, creating new career opportunities and partnering with non-profit organizations and corporate Canada to ensure a seamless transition to civilian life.
    In addition to what our government is doing, a Canadian charity, To the Stan and Back, supports post-combat wellness programs for returning troops from Afghanistan, or “the Stan” for short. Tonight, To the Stan and Back is hosting the fourth annual Party Under the Stars in Ottawa to raise money for the Canadian men and women who have returned recently from the Stan. This event is always a great time and raises money for a worthwhile cause.
    I would like to invite my fellow parliamentarians to show their support for tonight's great event and support the men and women who have risked their lives for the safety of all Canadians.



Granby Region

    Mr. Speaker, the Granby region is a very popular summer destination, and it is easy to see why. Our major tourist attraction is without a doubt the well-known Granby Zoo and its aquatic park Amazoo. Every year, 600,000 visitors come to admire the zoo's 1,000 animals.
    Yamaska National Park and its beach are also very popular with visitors who enjoy canoeing, camping and much more. The Granby area is also home to a fantastic bike path network. Granby also hosts a number of events, such as Granby International, one of the largest classic car shows in Canada, the Granby Challenger tennis championship, festivals in downtown Granby, and I could go on.
    Campgrounds, hotels and bed and breakfasts offer a wide range of lodging options. This summer, you will need more than a week in Granby.


North Shore Rescue

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the incredible work of North Shore Rescue.
    Originally established as a civil defence unit in 1965, North Shore Rescue quickly evolved into a specialized, well-trained and highly effective search and rescue team comprising entirely volunteers.
    Their focus on mountain, helicopter and urban search and rescue and public education provides life-saving services all year round.
    Last year I was pleased to present founding member Karl Winter with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of more than 50 years of contributions to this service.
    Recently the combined efforts of rescue team leader Tim Jones and our government also helped to speedily resolve a regulatory problem with helicopter long line equipment. This quick action saved lives and is a testament to the importance of teamwork.
    On behalf of the outdoor sports enthusiasts who enjoy North Vancouver's gorgeous terrain, I want to thank the North Shore Rescue team for its ongoing commitment to our safety and security, and send big congratulations on its new state-of-the-art command centre.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

    Mr. Speaker, last Friday it was my pleasure to announce the grand re-opening of Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
    In 1883, Canadian Pacific Railway workers explored the site's warm mineral springs at Sulphur Mountain. They set off a chain of events that echoed eastward across the great plains, all the way to the ears of our country's founding prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
    Just two years later, his government reserved a wide swath of territory surrounding the cave and basin. This was the genesis of Canada's national parks system, which today includes 44 national parks and 167 national historic sites.
    Since 2006, our Conservative government has expanded the total area of our national parks by more than 50%, an area larger than Greece. These are Canada's gift to future generations and form the very fabric of our great nation.
    I invite all Canadians and the world to visit the revitalized Cave and Basin National Historic Site in beautiful Banff National Park to see where this dream truly began.


Shipwreck in Tabusintac

    Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I rise today to pay my respects to the three lobster fishers who died in the early hours of Saturday, May 18. Samuel-René Boutin of Rivière-du-Portage, age 23; Alfred Rousselle of Brantville, age 32; and Ian Benoit of Grattan Road, age 35, left the Tabusintac wharf in New Brunswick, never to return. Their boat hit a sandbar and capsized.
    Fishing was Samuel-René, Alfred and Ian's livelihood, but they also loved being at sea. Every morning, hundreds of fishers leave their families and go out to sea. Fishers and their families are all too familiar with the dangers involved, but they go out despite the risks.
    On behalf of the NDP, I would like to take this opportunity to offer our sincere condolences to these men's families and to all the fishers who have lost friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with you.


Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, for 17 years, the NDP leader has known about corruption in Quebec, but kept it all to himself.
    In 1994, the NDP leader met with the former mayor of Laval, who offered him help in the form of an envelope stuffed with cash.
    Today, media are reporting that after the former mayor of Laval tried to bribe the NDP leader, the NDP leader had the gall to thank him and shake his hand. That does not sound like someone outraged by being witness to criminal activity.
     Let us recap what we know. The NDP leader was silent about the criminal activity of the former mayor of Laval for 17 years. Then he was untruthful about it when he said he was never offered any money. Then he did not seem that upset about it.
    The NDP leader has some explaining to do.



Peace and Friendship Awareness

    Mr. Speaker, today, the Peace and Friendship Awareness Walk arrived in Ottawa.


    Adam Barnaby, Christianne Bernard, Tina Caplin, Doris Martin, Richard Martin and Ryan Papineau all walked from Listuguj First Nation in the Gaspé all the way to Ottawa, starting 21 days ago, meeting many first nations along the way. They are calling for the respect of treaty rights and better environmental protection.
    Their initiative is just the latest example of the leadership the Mi’kmaq Nations have taken in the Gaspé and across Atlantic Canada. From employment insurance to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, from wind energy production to salmon river protection, the Mi’kmaq are leaders in the many issues that impact Eastern Canada.


    Their leadership is a perfect example of the benefits of working together.
    I thank all of the walkers for reaching out to us. Now it is up to us to reciprocate.

Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP has been aware of the political corruption in Quebec since 1994, when the mayor of Laval allegedly offered him an envelope—the Liberals' preferred method of assistance. He kept this sordid affair a secret for 17 years.
    In 2010, he even denied that he had ever been offered a bribe. After remaining silent for 17 years, he decided to speak out after an investigation was launched into these issues in 2011.
    The leader of the NDP could be called to appear before the Charbonneau commission to explain his actions. The leader of the NDP hid his knowledge of corruption from the public for two years before deciding to break his silence last week.
    The leader of the NDP must explain why he kept this a secret for 17 years.


Elijah Harper

    Mr. Speaker, today marks the beginning of Aboriginal Awareness Week, a time to recognize and celebrate the history and ongoing achievements of aboriginal peoples across Canada.
    The late Elijah Harper is an example of leadership and inspiration. Last Friday Canada lost a great leader in Elijah Harper, a man who stood strong for aboriginal peoples and worked tirelessly throughout his life to ensure that the voice of indigenous peoples was, and continues to be, respected.
    A memory of mine, which I will never forget, took place inside the Manitoba legislature. I was able to witness first-hand when Mr. Harper, in 1990, voted no on several consecutive days. By voting no, he single-handedly prevented the Meech Lake accord from passing the Manitoba legislature.
    His actions then continue to be an enduring reminder of the need to respect the voice of aboriginal peoples. Mr. Harper was also a chief, a member of Parliament, a husband, a father and so much more.
    On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and the residents of my home province, we offer our condolences to his family.

Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP has known about corruption in Quebec politics since 1994, yet he chose to keep it secret for 17 years. In 2010, he even denied to the media and to Canadians ever having been offered a bribe by the mayor of Laval. The leader of the NDP kept his first-hand knowledge of corruption from the public and was only forced to speak up and backtrack on his denial after corruption investigations began in Quebec.
    The leader of the NDP should be investigated by the RCMP for concealing his knowledge of corruption. As parliamentarians we must uphold a culture of accountability. The NDP owes Canadians an explanation for its leader's 17-year cover-up on corruption in Quebec.

Conservative Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had a difficult time following the Conservatives' twisted train of logic on their latest scandal. From the start of the great Senate cover-up, Conservatives have flip-flopped with great conviction. There is the parliamentary secretary for transport who boldly defended this unethical behaviour declaring, “Nigel Wright did an exceptionally honourable thing. He reached into his own resources, wrote a personal cheque...”.
    The member for Calgary Centre claimed the resignation of the Prime Minister's chief of staff and others is proof of “...the highest ethical standards”. Then there was this morning's Oscar-worthy performance of a Prime Minister trying to sweep it all under the rug before he heads out the back door and jets off to Peru.
    My constituents want the corruption to end. They want the guilty parties to be punished and they want some genuine accountability here in Ottawa. It is too bad Canadians have to wait until 2015 to move beyond the old line parties and get the honest change that they deserve.


Doug Finley

    Mr. Speaker, a great Canadian has passed.
     Doug Finley was born overseas and never lost his magnificent Scottish accent, but he loved this country from the top of his head to the tips of his gillie brogues. He was a gifted political organizer. He was discreet, loyal, a wise counsellor to the mighty and a wise guide to the young and idealistic. He was an idealist himself who believed profoundly in democracy and who devoted the last decade of his life to pursuing this ideal. He was my friend and I miss him deeply.
     Above all, Doug Finley was a family man. His love for his wife Diane was legendary. His daughter and his grandchildren were his life's joy.
    His accomplishments took place in the theatre of partisan and electoral politics, but Doug had the respect of members on both sides of both Houses of the Parliament of Canada. I ask everyone here today to join me in paying tribute to a great Canadian patriot, Doug Finley.


[Oral Questions]



    Mr. Speaker, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, to Peru apparently.
    The Prime Minister's chief of staff gave Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque. In exchange Duffy paid--
    Some hon. members: Oh! Oh!
    Order. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's chief of staff gave Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque. In exchange, Duffy paid off illegal expenses, stopped co-operating with auditors, and the PMO said in writing that they would go easy on him. In his own words, Senator Duffy “stayed silent on the orders of the Prime Minister's Office”. A secret cash payment from the Prime Minister's chief of staff was negotiated by the Prime Minister's own lawyer.
    Will the Prime Minister call in the RCMP and release all documents related to this secret backroom deal?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear that he was not aware of the payment until last week, after it had been reported publicly in the media. The Prime Minister spoke very loudly and very clearly this morning. Furthermore, this matter has been referred to two independent bodies for review. We look forward to the results of these reviews.


    Mr. Speaker, many questions remain unanswered about the secret deal made by the Prime Minister's Office, the report that was doctored to clear a senator and the so-called gift of $90,000.
    When did the Prime Minister find out about the negotiations between his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Duffy? Was the new chief of staff, Ray Novak, aware of this scheme?


    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was not aware of the payment until last week after it was reported in the media, and neither was his current chief of staff.
    Mr. Speaker, Mike Duffy agreed to “stay silent on the orders of the PMO”. In exchange, the Prime Minister's Office agreed to cover the cost of the senator's fraudulent expenses.
    Why were taxpayer-funded lawyers used to negotiate this secret backroom deal between the Prime Minister's chief of staff and Senator Duffy? Was taxpayers' money used to bankroll Senate-gate, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to the Leader of the Opposition that I reject much of the premise of his question. I have been very clear and the government has been very clear that the Prime Minister was not aware of this payment until media reports surfaced last week. Let me be very clear on that point.


    Mr. Speaker, this morning's press conference left us with many unanswered questions. We still do not know if the Prime Minister knew about his chief of staff's sudden generosity or if he had anything to do with the whitewashing of the Senate audit. His role has yet to become clear.
    I have a very simple question. What did the Prime Minister know and when did he know it?
    Mr. Speaker, one has to be able to roll during question period.
    The government has provided a very clear answer. I cannot be more clear. I cannot be more specific. I did indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister was not aware of this payment until after it surfaced in the media last week. I cannot be any more clear to the House and I cannot be any more clear to the member opposite.


    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are always going to have a problem with credibility. They have no credibility whatsoever. They always wait until the last second to act. Then, they take us for fools.
    The Conservatives have still not provided a shred of evidence to support their claims on this issue.
    The Prime Minister is known for micromanaging his government, yet, the Conservatives now expect us to believe that he knew nothing about the schemes concocted by his chief of staff and his lawyer, Benjamin Perrin. Come on.
    Are the Conservatives really saying that this complex scheme was carried out without the Prime Minister knowing anything about it?


    Mr. Speaker, I have stood in this place and I have answered the question categorically as to when the Prime Minister was made aware of this issue. I could not be any clearer.
    Mr. Speaker, it is clear now that the Conservative government under the Prime Minister has lost its moral compass. The Prime Minister's right-hand man secretly paid a parliamentarian $90,000 to obstruct an audit. Canadians deserve better. They deserve actual transparency and accountability.
    What precisely was the secret deal that the Prime Minister's Office made with Senator Duffy? Show us the documents.
    Mr. Speaker, I have said it before and I will say it again. The Prime Minister was not aware of the payment until last week when reports surfaced in the media.
    Our understanding is there is no document. Again, I am very happy to have responded to both questions the member asked.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is in it up to his neck, and the members opposite know it.


    It is now clear that the government has lost its moral compass under this Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's right-hand man made a secret $90,000 deal with a parliamentarian in order to obstruct an audit. Canadians are demanding real transparency.
    I am going to repeat my question: what precisely was the secret deal that the Prime Minister's Office made with Senator Duffy?


    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister obviously not having known of the payment could not know about any alleged agreement to which the leader of the third party refers.
    This matter has been referred to two independent bodies that will review it. We look forward to hearing their comments following.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians work hard and play by the rules. They pay their own debts. Apparently, when the Conservatives break the rules, they get their debts secretly paid off by their friends in high places. It boggles the mind. Nobody over there even thinks anybody did anything wrong except get caught.
    When will the Conservatives release this secret document, allow for a full investigation and, while they are at it, apologize to Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to a legal agreement to which the member opposite refers, our understanding is there is no such agreement.
    This issue has been referred to two independent authorities that will look into the matter. We look forward to them reporting back to Parliament and to Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, we now learn that the Prime Minister's key legal adviser, Benjamin Perrin, helped Nigel Wright with this secret deal that included a $90,000 payout and a promise to have Conservative senators “go easy” on Mike Duffy's rip-off of the taxpayer.
    The Prime Minister has praised Mike Duffy for leadership, he has praised Wright for being honourable, but he has not come clean with the Canadian people.
    Who else was involved in this plan to obstruct the audit? Does the Prime Minister think that it is okay for taxpayer-funded lawyers to obstruct investigations into taxpayer rip-offs? Does the Prime Minister have a problem with that?


    Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. No taxpayer money was involved with respect to this reimbursement.
    It is clear from the committee's report over in the other place that these expenses should not have been claimed. The government and no one in this caucus is disputing that fundamental fact.
    On Sunday, Mr. Wright took the responsible decision and tendered his resignation, and that resignation was immediately accepted.
    Mr. Speaker, with answers like that, it is like the Conservatives are taking their crisis management courses from Rob Ford. We are talking about abuse of the public trust here.
    Today, the Prime Minister blew off the Nigel Wright scandal as a mere distraction, but he failed to tell Canadians whether he thought it was wrong or illegal, wrong to make secret payouts, wrong to obstruct an investigation.
    The Prime Minister called in the cops on Helena Guergis and Bruce Carson. Given the seriousness of these allegations, will he call in the cops against Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, let me once again be very clear. This issue has already been referred to two independent authorities that will appropriately look into this matter and report back to Parliament and to Canadians. This government looks forward to the findings of those two independent reports.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice may be aware that section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act states that every person who gives, offers or promises to any member of the Senate any compensation for services relating to a proceeding, contract, claim or controversy before the Senate is guilty of an indictable offence.
    Does the Minister of Justice believe the PM's former chief of staff may have committed this crime when he gave Senator Duffy $90,000 as part of a cover-up deal?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, it will come as no surprise to my colleague, the member opposite, that I reject much of the premise of his preamble.
    Let me just say this. The Prime Minister was not aware of this reimbursement until after it became public through media reports. The chief of staff has tendered his resignation. There are two independent authorities looking into this matter. We will allow them the time to do their work and we will await their findings.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to try again with the Minister of Justice.
    Let us remind ourselves that the PMO handed out $90,000 to keep a senator quiet. We have another provision that is relevant. Section 119 of the Criminal Code states that any person who offers an office holder any money, valuable consideration or employment in respect of anything done or omitted by that person in their official capacity is guilty of an offence.
    Does the minister agree that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff may have committed this crime?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I reject much of the premise of the question from the member opposite.
    Let me say a number of things. One, the Prime Minister became aware of this issue last week after media reports surfaced. Right now, there are two independent authorities looking into this matter. Let us give them the opportunity to do that.


    Mr. Speaker, either the Prime Minister knew that a report on his caucus members was coming and that his chief of staff had arranged a secret $90,000 deal to let Senator Duffy off the hook, or the Prime Minister knowingly chose to ignore the information.
    It is either a cover-up or incompetence. We all know that the Prime Minister is a control freak. This story reeks of cover-up.
    Could we at least know when the Prime Minister was informed of the content of the report? At that point, what directives were given?


    Mr. Speaker, the other place had auditors come in. A committee of that place looked into this matter. It came to the conclusion that these expenses should not have been claimed. No one in this government believes these expenses should have been claimed, and that undoubtedly reflects the conclusion of the report at the end of the day.
    I understand the report did reflect that a reimbursement had been made, which was obviously factual.


    Mr. Speaker, in a one-year period, the Prime Minister has lost three ministers, two senators and one chief of staff to scandals.
    The Conservatives promised to clean house in Ottawa, but it turns out that they are just as crooked as the Liberals before them. The only way for the Conservatives to get out of this is to start telling the truth instead of claiming in unison that they are upset.
    Nigel Wright must explain his actions. Senator Duffy must disclose what was in that secret deal. Canadians deserve to know the whole truth.
    Will the government help us shed light on this scandal or will it keep pressing on without answering any questions?



    Mr. Speaker, in this place, I have answered the questions that the members opposite have put forward.
    There are two independent authorities that are looking into this matter. Let us give them the time to do that work. We look forward to their findings.


Government Advertising

    Mr. Speaker, first there was the RCMP visit to Conservative offices and the in and out scandal, and now things keep getting worse for the Conservative government.
    Here is another one of their schemes: the airwaves are now inundated with ads touting a jobs program that does not even exist yet. Negotiations with the provinces are ongoing. Parliament has not approved it. It is as though the government were advertising Senate reform.
    Why are the Conservatives spending taxpayers' money on promoting a program that may never see the light of day?


    Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that, moving forward, the provinces have an opportunity to negotiate with us and to put in the hands of employers and employees the opportunity to train.
    We know we have skills mismatches across the country. We know Canadians need opportunities to be trained. Our initiative is to help employers be matched with employees. I was in B.C. just this last week. They were talking about how people were walking in asking for this opportunity, because we want to link Canadians with jobs.
     That is what we are about. We are focused on the economy and creating jobs for Canadians, unlike the opposition.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, here is another example of how the Conservative government works. An investigation has revealed that at ACOA, folks decided to rig the deal so that Kevin MacAdam, a failed Conservative candidate and former political aid to the Minister of National Defence, would get the job.
    ACOA is all about advancing economic development for Atlantic Canada; it is not a job bank for Conservatives.
    Will the Conservatives finally come clean about their role in this job-rigging scandal and subsequent cover-up of the four senior ACOA executives?
    Mr. Speaker, the independent investigation by the Public Service Commission did not find evidence of any wrongdoing or influence on the part of the ministers or political staff in this matter. The Public Service Commission report clearly states, “No evidence was found to support allegations of political influence in the ACOA investigations”.
    ACOA has taken action on the recommendations of the Public Service Commission.


    Mr. Speaker, it was in 2005 that the Prime Minister puffed up his chest and said “If anybody violates the public trust under my watch, they are going to prison”. Now his tune has changed. “All governments make mistakes” is what he says today.
    Was it a mistake to continue to hand out plum patronage appointments to their pork-barrelling friends? Was it just a mistake to run a bunch of self-serving ads for programs that do not even exist? Was it a mistake to have the Prime Minister's Office cut a $90,000 cheque to buy the silence of a Conservative senator?
    The public trust has been violated. It has been abused. In fact, Conservatives have stomped all over it. What happened to the promise they made in 2005? Who is going to jail?


    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was not aware of this reimbursement until after it became public through media reports. I cannot make it any clearer.


    This morning the Prime Minister spoke to Canadians and to some parliamentarians and was very clear. People who come to government should have the public interest first and foremost as their priority, and those who want to advance their private interests will be shown the door, as they properly should.


    Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians do not have any special, secret deals to clear their debt. The question is simple: did the Prime Minister ask if the arrangement complied with Senate rules, the Conflict of Interest Act, the Criminal Code and the Parliament of Canada Act, which state that prohibited monetary compensation cannot be offered to a senator and that anyone who makes such an offer can be imprisoned?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was not aware of this reimbursement until after it became public through media reports.



    This issue is already before two independent officers to review the situation. Let us give them the time to do that. We look forward to the outcome of those reviews.
    Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians cannot get their debts wiped out and their records whitewashed by the Prime Minister's Office.
    What mechanisms did the government use to “go easy” on Senator Duffy as laid out in the agreement between the two lawyers? What authority did the Prime Minister have to supposedly promise a sanitized audit report, allegedly an independent evaluation, of inappropriate expenses?
    Mr. Speaker, how could the Prime Minister have expectations on a reimbursement that he was not aware of until it became public? It is just that simple.
    The Prime Minister was not aware of the payment, as I have said. The member opposite talks of some legal document I am not aware of. My understanding is that no such document exists.
    Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians do not have wealthy Conservative friends who can pay their debts and then whitewash official reports.
    When was the Prime Minister made aware that Conservative senators on the audit committee had been asked to delete certain sections of the report pertaining to Senator Duffy's wrongdoing?
    Could he tell us who gave that order to the Conservative senators? Was it the Prime Minister, his chief of staff or the government leader in the Senate?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very clear from the committee's report that the committee concludes that these expenses should not have been claimed. No one on the committee disputes that. No one in the government disputes that. That, in our judgment, is a fact.
    The reality is, and I understand this report did reflect, that a reimbursement was made. This issue has been referred to two independent bodies. Let us await their findings.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, it is bad enough that the Conservatives stack EI boards with patronage appointments, but it also turns out they are making money off them.
    Many of their appointees contribute money to the Conservative Party. Treasury Board guidelines and the PCO are clear. These appointees must avoid all political activities, including making donations.
    What action has the government taken to investigate what appears to be a clear violation of the rules? Will the government ensure that the Conservative Party returns these donations?
    Mr. Speaker, the boards in question no longer exist, and they were recently replaced by our government with the Social Security Tribunal. Members of the new Social Security Tribunal are appointed by merit. They undergo a rigorous selection process, and they have to meet significant experience and competency criteria that are required to do that job.


    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives claim that they want to avoid political donations that contravene the rules, but their solution is to appoint their defeated candidates to positions that they are in no way qualified to hold. Those who are appointed simply say that the appointments are rewards.
    Just like the former Conservative organizer in Quebec, another defeated Conservative candidate, Dominique Bellemare, was recently given a spot on the Social Security Tribunal as a consolation prize.
    Since they are unable to stop handing out partisan appointments, will the Conservatives apply the ethics rules and force those they put in place to stop these political donations?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, the boards in question no longer exist. Our government replaced them with the Social Security Tribunal.
    Members of the Social Security Tribunal are appointed by merit and must undergo a rigorous selection process to ensure that they have the required experience and skills needed for the job.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, the Social Security Tribunal is exactly where party friends are appointed.
    Employment insurance is supposed to protect regional seasonal economies across Canada, but for the Conservatives, it is just a big bureaucracy where they put party friends.
    The employment insurance reform could have a serious impact on employees who depend on job sharing to make a living. There is much confusion even in New Brunswick about who can be employed in the public service and who cannot.
    Instead of focusing on partisan appointments, will the Conservatives work with the provinces to come up with solutions to their fiasco?


    Mr. Speaker, we have put forward reforms to employment insurance to better connect Canadians with available jobs, and this is something we have been focused on like a laser, as a certain minister has said in the past, to make sure Canadians have opportunities. Let us be very clear. The reforms to employment insurance, making sure we move forward with the Canada jobs grant, the 5,000 new internships that are available to young Canadians, making sure we increase the enabling accessibility fund so that individuals with disabilities have opportunities to be employed; these are all things we are doing to better connect Canadians with jobs so they can be prosperous in the future, unlike the opposition.


    Mr. Speaker, thousands of seasonal workers are wondering how their industries are going to survive the Conservative attack. However, while they are worrying about the future, the Conservatives are advertising a job training program that does not even exist. Based on the Conservatives' inability to work respectfully with the provinces, it probably never will.
    Why would the Conservatives rather waste tax dollars on false advertising than actually fix the mess they have made out of the EI system? How much are they throwing away on this misleading self-promotion?
    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member opposite is: Why will they not get on top of promoting opportunities for individuals to have jobs? That is exactly what this is doing. We have put forward opportunities for Canadians to have jobs or gain the skills so they can be employed in what is available. The opposition members continue to vote against these things, whether it was the budget, economic action plan 2012, or in their case, already stating that they will be voting against economic action plan 2013.
    Bad on you. We want to support Canadians getting jobs. I wonder why the opposition will not get on board.
    I will just remind the parliamentary secretary to address her comments through the Chair, not directly to her colleagues.
    The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, for more than a quarter century, aboriginal women living on reserve have been without access to the legal rights they deserve.
    Could the Minister for Status of Women update the House on the actions this government has taken to address this inequality that has stood for far too long?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the House that last week I announced a project in northern Alberta that will support 200 aboriginal girls between the ages of 8 and 14 in addressing violence and abuse. We are working in partnership with representatives from the Bigstone Cree Nation Women's Emergency Shelter, the Bigstone Community School, the Bigstone Cree Nation family and children services and also the RCMP.
    Today we have gone even further. Today the Standing Committee on the Status of Women finished its clause-by-clause review of Bill S-2, and we all know that in situations of family violence it would allow judges to enforce protection orders to remove a violent partner from the home. This is an incredible day for aboriginal women and girls, and I want to thank the Conservative members from the status of women committee for getting the job done.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister could do something to support aboriginal businesses.
    These Conservatives came to power promising transparency and accountability, saying rigged contracts were a thing of the past. It is obvious in the wake of mounting court cases that not much has changed. Just last year Veritaaq pleaded guilty to bid rigging. Public Works and Government Services then awarded it new contracts worth millions of dollars. Under the Conservatives' new alleged tough rules, the company would still not be blacklisted. The government is favouring bid riggers over honest Canadian businesses.
    Is this the fairness to business and fiscal accountability Canadians were promised?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. The member knows we have implemented and developed a tough integrity framework to ensure companies that are convicted of crimes cannot do business with public works and are being banned from bidding on contracts. Other departments have also begun to implement these same tough integrity measures, including Defence Construction Canada. In the case of CRG, which received a contract from Defence Construction Canada, I contacted DCC myself, and I understand it is applying the same integrity framework that public works has applied to its own contracting and it will be banning this company from bidding on any contracts with it as well.


    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have left the door open so that companies found guilty of collusion can bid on public contracts. Two companies received 500 contracts from the Conservative government after being found guilty of collusion for bid rigging. Unbelievable.
    How is it that companies found guilty can still bid on public contracts? When will the Conservatives close the door once and for all on companies that cheat and misuse taxpayers' money?



    Mr. Speaker, we have shut the door on this particular company, CRG, which has been convicted of a crime. We have developed a tough integrity framework to ensure that any company that has been convicted of a crime or any illegal activity cannot bid on contracts with public works and will be banned from bidding.
    Other departments have also begun to implement these same measures, including Defence Construction Canada. It has assured me that it is implementing the same tough measures and that this company in question will, from now on, be banned from bidding on any contracts with Defence Construction Canada.

Government Advertising

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have pushed the bar even lower by advertising a job program that does not even exist. Legislation is still months away, and the provinces have not even agreed to it yet. Advertising experts are saying this is downright misleading.
    Why are they spending $190,000 a minute on Hockey Night in Canada ads for a program that does not even exist?
    Mr. Speaker, I think I have been relatively clear already today. We are about creating jobs and making sure Canadians have the skills they need to fill those jobs that are available. We are providing an opportunity for employers to be linked to those employees, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are making sure Canadians know about the skills opportunities that are available to them. We are making sure employers know this grant is available to them as well.
    I encourage the opposition to get on board and make sure Canadians receive the skills they need so they can fill those jobs and we can grow our economy, because if they do not get on board, I guess we will just have to do it ourselves.


Library and Archives Canada

    Mr. Speaker, anyone appointed by the Conservatives clearly enjoys playing with taxpayers' money. After what happened with Senator Duffy, Senator Wallin and Senator Brazeau, now we learn that el señor Daniel Caron also treated himself, spending $170,000 of taxpayers' money at the Rideau Club and on trips to Puerto Rico and Australia in 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, at Library and Archives Canada, he was gutting important programs and muzzling archivists with a code of conduct that was controversial, to say the least.
    Will the Conservatives finally do the right thing and appoint a serious and dedicated chief librarian at Library and Archives Canada?


    Mr. Speaker, I made it very clear both in the House and privately to Mr. Daniel Caron when he was president of Library and Archives Canada that his spending was irresponsible and out of line with what taxpayers expect from the president of Library and Archives Canada. I communicated that to him directly. The next day he offered his resignation, and I was not sad when he did that.


    Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians do not have access to rich Conservative friends to pay their debts. A week ago the government was calling Mike Duffy an “honourable man”, showing “leadership” and doing “the right thing”. The Prime Minister knows that a secret payment of $90,000 was made by his most senior official to shut down a forensic audit of Duffy's illegal expenses, to pervert the Senate's official report on those expenses and to block any further investigation.
    With whom and when did this corruption begin, and will the government table all emails pertaining to this insidious scheme?
    Mr. Speaker, it will not come as any surprise that I reject much of the preamble of the question the member opposite raises.
    Let me say this. A committee in the other place that was looking into this brought in some outside auditors. The conclusion of that report was that these claims never should have been made.
    No one in the government, certainly no one in this place, rejects that conclusion. I understand that in the report it was mentioned that these expenses had been reimbursed, as is what had happened.
    Mr. Speaker, this is about unethical, possibly illegal, behaviour in the Prime Minister's inner circle.
    All of last week and again today the Prime Minister showed nothing but contempt for ordinary Canadians: no answers, no accountability, no apology.
    Ordinary Canadians do not have a sugar daddy in the Prime Minister's office. Ordinary Canadians pay their debts. Ordinary Canadians do not get to blockade an audit, whitewash a Senate report and pocket $90,000.
    Who gave the orders for this Conservative corruption? Table the emails.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a bunch of wild accusations and conclusions from the member for Wascana. I am not surprised. This is not the first time.
    Let me say this. There are two independent bodies reviewing this matter. Let them conduct that review. We look forward to hearing the findings of that review.
    Mr. Speaker, we have asked the government to come clean on Senategate. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear the truth from the Conservatives.
    Canadians deserve answers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is repeatedly saying, “two independent authorities” are looking into the matter. Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us who these authorities are, and is one of them the RCMP? If not, why not?


    Mr. Speaker, the caucus of the House leader of the official opposition has made two referrals to two independent bodies. That is the answer.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will not even answer such a simple, straightforward question calls in the idea that the Conservatives will not be accountable.
    The fact is that the Prime Minister called the cops on Helena Guergis and Bruce Carson.
    Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve the truth. Given the seriousness of these allegations, will he call the police on Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear. It is a tremendous honour to serve as a parliamentarian, and each and every person who is given that privilege, that responsibility, should be standing up for the public interest and not their own private interests. If they want to do that, they should be out the door.
    That is the view of this party, that is the view of this government and that is the view of this Prime Minister.


    Mr. Speaker, last week Vince Li, the man found not criminally responsible for beheading and cannibalizing Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus, was granted escorted leave by the independent Manitoba Criminal Code review board into the communities of Selkirk, Winnipeg and Lockport.
    In my view, this is an insult to the family of Tim McLean. The review board did not take into consideration the rights of the victim in its decision, nor did it put public safety first.
    Canadians expect their government to keep them safe from such high-risk individuals. Could the Minister of Justice please inform this House what action the government is taking to address the concerns of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank this member for his advocacy on this issue on behalf of his constituents.
    Our government has responded to the concerns of victims and provincial Attorneys General by introducing the not criminally responsible reform act.
    The legislation would ensure public safety and that the rights of victims come first. It would also create a new high-risk designation to protect the public from certain individuals found not criminally responsible.
    This government has always put victims first, and we always will.


    Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians cannot get a special Conservative deal to wipe out their expenses.
    The Prime Minister previously said he personally looked at Senator Wallin's expenses and they were fine.
    Did the government learn any new details of Senator Wallin's expenses last week that it was not aware of months ago?
    Let me see what time it is, Mr. Speaker.
    The Prime Minister did say in this House with respect to Senator Wallin that the Senator's expenses were in line with other parliamentarians from Saskatchewan.
    The Senate has referred her expenses for review, and we look forward to receiving the results of that review.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, it is time to get rid of the Senate, that is what time it is.


    The more time passes, the more the residents of northern Ontario feel betrayed by the Conservatives, who, in addition to moving services to Toronto and Ottawa, are also cutting funding to crucial organizations that help francophone permanent residents and refugees settle in francophone communities in northern Ontario.
    This translates into fewer workers, fewer jobs and less assistance to francophone refugees.
    Why are the Conservatives once again going after francophones in northern Ontario?
    Mr. Speaker, I just met with the president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada specifically regarding our strategy to increase francophone immigration outside Quebec. Our target is 4%.
    In fact, francophone employers are exempt from having to get a labour market opinion, and this will help them find workers in regions outside Quebec. This is meant to strengthen Canada's linguistic duality.


Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, Canadian consumers are our first priority when it comes to food safety. Our government is committed to strengthening food safety for Canadian families. In addition to the $150 million in past budgets to enhance food safety, our government also passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act, which increases penalties for those who risk food safety and gives inspectors more tools to do their jobs.
    Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture please update this House on further measures being taken by our government to boost Canada's food safety system?


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his hard work regarding food safety.
    I am pleased to announce that last week the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food unveiled the safe food for Canadians action plan. This plan puts into place mandatory requirements that will strengthen E. coli testing in federally registered beef plants, including increased testing and mandatory labelling for tenderized beef.
    These initiatives have been very well received by industry and in fact the Canadian Cattlemen's Association said that, “the new rules and requirements for beef outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan will further strengthen Canada’s food safety system.”


Science and Technology

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made a ridiculous comment that only makes sense to the Conservatives.
    He said that instead of funding researchers who never find anything, he would rather fund finders.
    With an attitude like that, it is no wonder that the latest report on the state of Canada's science, technology and innovation system is so damning for the Conservative government.
    Instead of making industry pay for research, why do the Conservatives not invest more in research?


    Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite had done her own research, she would know that is not what the gentleman said.
    I want to thank STIC for its report. In fact, the report concludes, “Canada's success in the 21st century will be determined by our ability to harness science, technology and innovation to drive economic prosperity and societal well-being.”
    I would like to tell my friends opposite that there are hundreds of millions of dollars for basic research in this budget, just like all the others. Will they finally stop pretending and vote for science?


Government Advertising

    Mr. Speaker, the federal government has launched a costly ad campaign to promote a job training program, even though the Quebec government has categorically refused to participate in it. This program does not exist.
    The government is making cuts to public safety, employment insurance and public services, yet it is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on propaganda. An ad can cost $95,000, which is almost the same amount as the cheque the Prime Minister's former right-hand man gave to Senator Duffy. That is a big chunk of change.
    Will the minister put an end to these misleading ads, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has a responsibility to inform Canadians about the programs and benefits available to them.
    For example, this year, the government is implementing new measures to help Canadians, including the new Canada job grant, in order to help Canadians get training so they can find a job or find a better job.
    The government is promoting these measures because it wants Canadians to take advantage of them.


    That concludes question period for today.
    The hon. member for Papineau on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, it is not three o'clock yet.
    It looks like three o'clock to me on that clock.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: It is certainly three o'clock now.
    The hon. member for Papineau on a point of order.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned a couple of times two investigative processes to look into the Senate allegations. I am just curious if the minister would like to explain or inform the House which two independent bodies are looking into this already.


    That did sound more like a question than a point of order, so perhaps the member for Papineau would take that up at a future question period.


[Routine Proceedings]


Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 18 petitions.


Committees of the House

Official Languages  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.


    In accordance with its order of reference of Monday, February 25, 2013, the committee has considered vote 20 under Privy Council in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, and reports the same.

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

     Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to move concurrence in the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities presented on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, with respect to labour and skills shortages in Canada. The subtitle of the report is “Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.
    There is no doubt that a vital competitive economy in the global era requires the development of a skilled workforce that provides Canadian employers with the workers they need and that provides Canadian workers with the opportunities they deserve. In order to achieve that goal Canada needs to find the right match between skills and employment opportunities so that we do not suffer from skills shortages and high unemployment at the same time.
    My NDP colleagues and I supported the standing committee's report on labour shortages in Canada, and we were particularly pleased to see recommendations on incentives for training and labour mobility. However, we also think there are some important areas in which the recommendations did not go far enough in addressing the crucial challenges that Canada faces.
    Let me begin with some general areas of concern that were raised in testimony by a number of witnesses who appeared before our committee.
    It is true that labour shortages were already being felt prior to the 2008-2009 recession, especially in the western provinces. The recession eased this pressure, but already shortages are reappearing in certain regions and sectors.
    Given the aging population, it is likely that labour and skills shortages will increase, but this will not be true for all regions nor for all occupational groups. While shortages may be less severe in occupations requiring fewer qualifications, low-skilled occupations are also experiencing shortages, especially in regions with strong and rapid economic growth.
    The first finding of the study, which was reiterated by many witnesses, is that no single solution will magically solve the challenges caused by labour and skills shortages. Various complementary solutions must be identified.
    One solution that was mentioned often by the witnesses who appeared as part of the study was to make all the essential information on future labour needs available so that educational programs can be created and modified accordingly, and so that consequently young people can choose occupations that will be in high demand.
    Obviously that will not be possible without high-quality labour market information. The holders of these data must work together to avoid duplication and find ways to improve both the quality of the information as well as the distribution of all LMI products to the people who can benefit the most from its use.
    Another solution the committee heard throughout the study was to maximize the untapped potential of individuals and certain groups of the Canadian population that have a lower participation rate or a higher unemployment rate than average, such as mature workers, people with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and recent immigrants. These groups represent a huge pool of untapped talents and could help address a significant part of the skills shortages.
    Other suggestions made by witnesses include increasing labour force mobility, increasing awareness of trades and professions in demand that are not popular with young people, providing workers with adequate on-the-job training, increasing the level of basic skills, improving worker productivity and increasing reliance on partnerships between various levels of government, companies, educational institutions, students and workers.
    Of course, special mention was made of the temporary foreign worker program, around which there was a significant consensus that there had to be reform. Given the recent media spotlight on the temporary foreign worker program, I do not think that will surprise any member in the House.
    The recommendations in the report address many of these concerns. In fact, there were 38 recommendations made by the committee, most of which my NDP colleagues and I agreed with. Let me re-emphasize the word “most”, because as one can imagine, on a Conservative-dominated committee, much of the language in this report is both self-congratulatory and slanted to the needs of employers only. Nonetheless, we did find some significant common ground.
    There were, however, also areas of significant disagreement, and I want to spend the better part of my remaining time on those areas. These areas represent a huge missed opportunity, and I would hope that moving forward, the government will take a second look at our minority report and use it to shape additional measures that were lacking in the original recommendations.
    Let me begin with comments about labour market information.
    Time and time again the committee heard from witnesses that labour market information in Canada is not good enough. We heard that the data are not granular enough and do not allow for sufficient breakdown by occupation or region. The data are also not published frequently enough and do not allow for high-quality projections of shortages in the future. In fact, the committee's final report offers numerous instances in which the testimony from industries and the data available from current surveys disagree on whether or not there is or will be a skills or labour shortage in a given industry.


    The Certified General Accountants Association recently published an examination of available sources of data that concluded that our current LMI is not good enough to enable policy-makers to effectively deal with labour shortages. It recommends “...closing the statistical information gap and improving the relevance and reliability of labour market statistics at the regional and occupational levels”.
    Given that good LMI is the linchpin to good skills training and labour force development policy as well as crucial to good immigration policy and management of the temporary foreign worker program, we find the report's recommendation on LMI to be very weak indeed. We need more than better publicity for the data that are already being produced.
    The experts on the advisory panel on labour market information established by the Forum of Labour Market Ministers have already provided an excellent blueprint of the steps that could be taken to improve the collection, analysis and use of LMI in Canada. For that reason, my NDP colleagues and I recommended that the government take steps to implement the recommendations made in the final report of the advisory panel on labour market information.
    We also noted in our report that the weakness of our labour market information has been exacerbated by cuts to Statistics Canada and its surveys and by the elimination of core funding for sector councils, which play a crucial role in bringing together industry partners and provide very useful sector-specific LMI. Therefore, we also recommended that Statistics Canada be provided with the funding it needs to improve labour force-related surveys and that core funding be restored to sector councils.
    Moving on to a second area that merited additional attention, I want to focus next on the need to develop the Canadian labour force.
    While employers are experiencing shortages of both skilled and low-skilled labour, unemployment in Canada remains high, with six unemployed Canadians for every job vacancy. The Conservatives' response has been to blame the unemployed for their unemployment, to reduce access to employment insurance while trying to force Canadians to move to other parts of the country and to use the temporary foreign worker program to drive down wages.
    By contrast, New Democrats believe that Canadian workers and employers benefit when Canadians are given the tools they need to be able to take available jobs. That is why we believe that investments in skills training are so important. We laud the report's recommendation that the government consider incentives to employers to invest in on-the-job training. However, we also recommend that the government review its bilateral agreements with the provinces to ensure that they provide maximum benefit to Canadians in need of training. For instance, the fact that the largest part of funding for skills training provided through labour market development agreements is limited to those who qualify for employment insurance benefits makes no sense when more than 6 in 10 unemployed Canadians are not qualifying for EI.
    Similarly, we believe that Canadians need support for labour mobility rather than to be threatened with the loss of their EI benefits if they do not move for the jobs. We are pleased that the report recommends support for a tax credit for travel and lodging for those working more than 80 kilometres away from their residence. This is a proposal I have been pushing for years by introducing Bill C-201, an act to amend the Income Tax Act for travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons. The building and construction trades have been lobbying for this bill for over 30 years, and it continues to be one of the key priorities at each and every one of their legislative conferences.
    In every Parliament the government has made vague promises of progress to come; then each Parliament ends without concrete action. The time to rectify that situation is now, and I appreciate the committee's support in this regard. The ask is simple: allow tradespersons and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so that they can secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres away from their home.
    At a time when some regions of the country suffer from high unemployment while others suffer from temporary skilled labour shortages, the bill offers a solution to both. Best of all, it is revenue neutral for the government because the cost associated with the income tax cut is more than made up by the savings in employment insurance.
    Now that the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, there are no more excuses. The government can and must support the bill and act unequivocally to support Canada's building and construction trades. I am hoping to be able to test the government's resolve on this issue in the very near future.
    Let me just give a quick shout out to some of the people from my hometown of Hamilton who have been instrumental in putting this issue on Parliament's agenda. In particular, I am thinking of Joe Beattie, Tim Penfold, Geoff Roman, Gary Elleker, Dave MacMaster, Paul Leger and all the members of the Hamilton-Brantford Ontario Building and Construction Trades Council, whose support for the bill has been unwavering and who, frankly, were the first to bring the issue to my attention.


    I could talk about my bill and the need for its speedy adoption all day. Nonetheless, I recognize that my time here is limited and I also want to get some other issues on the record with respect to the current skills shortage.
    One of the other barriers to labour mobility that was raised over and over again was the lack of affordable housing. Regions that are experiencing an economic boom cannot develop housing fast enough to offer workers reasonable accommodation at prices they can afford. Therefore, in our minority report we recommended that the government support NDP Bill C-400, which called on the government to create a national affordable housing strategy in co-operation with the provinces and territories.
    Members will know that in the time since we tabled our report, the Conservatives defeated that bill in this House. To New Democrats and housing activists from coast to coast to coast, that was a devastating rejection of a desperately needed program. Canada remains the only G8 country without a housing strategy, while 1.5 million families and individuals are unable to access adequate, affordable housing. It is a national disgrace. Certainly the evidence we heard at committee confirmed that the lack of affordable housing should have been a priority for our federal government.
    Similarly, testimony confirmed that the Conservatives also mismanaged the temporary foreign worker program, allowing employers to bring in temporary foreign workers with little to no monitoring for compliance with the rules of the program. The result has been that Canadian workers have lost out on jobs that should have been available to them, while temporary foreign workers face exploitation and rights violations.
    If managed properly, the temporary foreign worker program should provide a temporary solution to a serious problem while emphasizing a longer-term response that promotes the best interests of Canadian workers and employers and our economy. The government has announced a review of the temporary foreign worker program, and New Democrats recommend that this review be conducted in a thorough and transparent manner, with a report tabled in the House of Commons as soon as the review is concluded.
    Although this is another topic about which I could talk for hours, I will keep moving along.
    Let us look next at the need for effective partnerships. In its skills strategy, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggests that all relevant stakeholders must be involved in order to ensure an effective, comprehensive approach to skills policies. Designing effective skills policies requires more than coordinating different sectors of public administration and aligning different levels of government: a broad range of non-governmental actors, including employers, professional and industry associations, chambers of commerce, sector councils, trade unions, education and training institutions and individuals must all be involved.
    New Democrats agree that policies are stronger when all relevant stakeholders are involved and consulted, and that is why we recommend that the development of policy options to improve labour market information to ensure a better match between the skills of graduates and the needs of employers and to develop strong curricula must always include all relevant stakeholders: federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments, businesses and industry, employee representatives and labour unions, educational institutions and student associations as well as not-for-profit groups.
    Speaking of students, my NDP colleagues and I respect that one of the major goals of post-secondary education is skills training. However, we also recognize that this is not the only goal for Canada's colleges and universities and that there is a role for pure research.
    We also respect academic freedoms and the rights of scholars to freely choose their subject areas and research projects. Therefore, we recommend that consultations on curricula always be undertaken with appropriate respect for the multiple roles of post-secondary educational institutions.
    Finally, I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about the participation of aboriginal peoples in the labour market. Our committee heard some very compelling testimony in that regard. As the report notes, aboriginal peoples' labour market outcomes must be improved to ensure that aboriginal peoples benefit from resource development to reduce aboriginal poverty and to provide the skilled labour force that Canada will need in the future.
    A key element of aboriginal labour market outcomes is education, yet the report offers no recommendations on aboriginal education at all. If educational outcomes are to improve for aboriginal students, they need adequately funded education that respects their unique culture and history in safe and healthy school facilities.
    First nations education is the jurisdiction of the federal government, which does not provide equitable funding for first nations children.


    While budget 2012 provided some new funds for first nations education, only eight new schools were built out of 170 needed, and so far, no money has been committed directly to first nations schools for front-line education services.
    According to the Assembly of First Nations, $500 million is needed to bring funding for first nations K-12 education to parity with non-aboriginal Canadians. The AFN has also noted that a gap in funding for post-secondary education has prevented more than 13,000 first nations students from pursuing higher education. Those realities are completely unacceptable. That is why my NDP colleagues and I recommended that the government provide sufficient and equitable funding for first nations K-12 education as well as post-secondary education, including vocational training and apprenticeships, and that the government remove the punitive 2% cap on funding increases to first nations.
    The Conservatives' failure to take consultations seriously has already derailed this process once, with the chiefs withdrawing from the process due to inadequate consultation. That is why we further recommended that the government recognize first nations' jurisdiction over education and abide by the federal government's duty to consult by holding extensive and meaningful consultations leading to the creation of a first nations education act that respects first nations' rights, culture and history.
    The federal government also provides funding for Inuit education through territorial transfers and land claims agreements. The education system is seriously failing Inuit youth, with only 25% graduating from high school. Those who do manage to graduate are still not at the same skill level as non-aboriginal students.
    The report of Thomas Berger, a conciliator appointed to resolve differences in the negotiations for the implementation of the land claims agreement, found that education was a key factor in impeding progress on Inuit representation in the public service. It called for an increase of $20 million annually to education funding beyond what is provided through territorial financing.
    The same holds true for other jobs. Inuit youth need culturally and linguistically appropriate education that enables them to stay in school and graduate with the skills they need to join the workforce. New Democrats therefore recommended that the government increase funding for Inuit education beyond the funding provided through territorial financing and land claims agreements.
    Finally, the committee heard from multiple witnesses that the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, ASETS, has been very successful in providing the training aboriginal Canadians need and the links with employers that help them find jobs after their training. However, the committee also heard that funding has been frozen since 1996, despite the fact that the need is greater than ever as the aboriginal population grows.
    ASETS holders have also noted the heavy reporting burden that comes with their funding. A review of the program is beginning, and New Democrats recommend that the federal government include ASETS holders in the ongoing program review in a meaningful way and work with them to establish a process for stable, predictable and adequate funding to maintain and improve this highly successful program.
    Let me try to sum up. To meet our labour force goals, we need more and better labour market data; incentives and/or requirements for employers to offer training programs; more support for workers seeking training; better EI programs; more affordable education programs; enhanced support for labour mobility; the ability of immigrants here to have their credentials recognized and a much faster and more efficient process; and better support for an immigration program that does more than simply provide cheap foreign labour with no path to citizenship.
    Overall, we need to see the skills shortage as one important issue among a series of important labour market issues, the most important of which remains the still very high unemployment rate. With 1.4 million Canadians out of work, it is hard to make the argument that we have a national labour shortage. What we have are regional shortages that cannot overshadow the fact that the Conservative government's most lasting failure is to develop and implement a strategy to create Canadian jobs. Until that happens, at best we will be tinkering at the margins.


    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this concurrence motion on the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.
    This report is—
    Is the hon. member getting up on a question?
    Sorry, it was not clear. I wanted to make sure, because someone had started her speech.
    Mr. Speaker, I know I do not usually have a podium like the Leader of the Opposition, but today I just felt I needed to have one. However, I greatly appreciate your looking out for me, sir. I guess I should be just a little more direct.
    I appreciate the comment from the member opposite with respect to the recent report put forward by our committee. We heard throughout the committee's deliberations on the issue about skills mismatches and about absolute shortages in certain fields and certain sectors.
     Maybe the member could comment on where she believes those absolute shortages are in the country and where we need to be focused with respect to those absolute shortages, which I could comment on. Maybe the member opposite could comment on where she sees those absolute shortages in the country and where we should be focusing our efforts.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said in my comments, there were many areas in the study on skills shortages that we actually agreed upon, on all sides of the House. What the member wants is that I suggest that in some areas of the country there are skills shortages of such a nature that we absolutely have to bring in temporary foreign workers and that we have to be able to get access to cheap labour. Frankly, that is a recommendation with which I cannot agree, because until we actually provide decent wages for jobs and provide Canadians with the kind of skills training that enables them to fill the jobs in the areas where there are shortages, and until we provide incentives for labour mobility, temporary foreign workers should be the very last resort.
    As members know, from following the debates in this House, is that whether at HD Mining or at RBC, what is happening now is that temporary foreign workers are coming into this country and are displacing Canadians and Canadian jobs. That is completely unacceptable, so we are calling on the government to help Canadians access those jobs. Again, it would do that by offering decent wages, by investing in a comprehensive skills training program and by supporting labour mobility initiatives, such as my Bill C-201, which I am very hopeful will come to the House soon. I look forward to the support of my colleagues on the government side of this House.


    Mr. Speaker, in Quebec, the manpower vocational training commissions or CFPs became the SQDM, which became Emploi-Québec. In the 1990s, there was talk of a labour shortage. This is nothing new. It is a problem that the government should have dealt with a long time ago.
    Now that they have recognized that there is a labour shortage, the Conservatives' reaction has been to lay responsibility for this situation on unemployed workers, reduce access to employment insurance, force Canadians to move to other parts of the country, and use the temporary foreign worker program to drive down wages.
    What does the NDP propose we do to deal with this labour shortage?



    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague not only for the question but for her incredible advocacy with respect to the employment insurance file. I do not think there is a more eloquent spokesperson in this country for the need to not only protect the existing EI system but to actually expand it so that those people who have paid into EI all of their working lives can access the benefits when they need them most.
    As members know, EI is supposed to be a rainy day fund. People are paying into it as an insurance system, and on the day they lose their jobs, they are supposed to have access to those benefits to tide them over and give them the ability to look for their next job. This member, more than anybody else in this House, has fought on behalf of seasonal workers, particularly in Quebec and in the eastern parts of Canada, and on behalf of all working Canadians who need the EI system to be there for them when they need it most.
    The member is absolutely right that we need to do much more to support Canadians to access work. We have a youth unemployment rate at twice the national average. Today's young Canadians belong to one of the most educated generations we have ever had in this country, yet they graduate and are unable to find employment. Why is that? It is because we are not providing them with the opportunities they need to access skills training and access the jobs that are available right across Canada. They need our support. We are able to fill labour shortages without resorting to the temporary foreign worker program.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to provide a brief comment about the temporary foreign worker program, which for the most part is an excellent program. However, because of the way the government has allowed that program to explode, at a great cost to many residents of Canada, it is generally felt that the government has gone overboard. We are not allowing residents of Canada to fill those job vacancies, which is critically important.
    The temporary foreign worker program can be given a great deal of credit for a lot of success in certain industries from coast to coast to coast. We need to recognize that.
     My question is related to the leadership role Ottawa should be playing in the different regions of our country. High school students who are graduating need to be in a better position to fill the many jobs that are, in fact, there. There needs to be more graduation of post-secondary students and the courses to meet labour demands into the future. There needs to be stronger federal leadership in working with the many different provincial training bodies, departments of education and so forth to ensure that our future labour force is better equipped to meet the demands of the economy.
    Does the member want to provide comment as to what the federal government's role should be in that regard?
    Mr. Speaker, first let me comment on the little bit of revisionist history in the preamble to the question on the Conservative record on temporary foreign workers. I agree that the record has not been a stellar record. Again, I would reference RBC hiring temporary foreign workers and displacing Canadian jobs, HD Mining and others.
    The reality is that the floodgates to temporary foreign workers were actually opened under the previous Liberal government. If we look at the record, since 2002, the record has been absolutely abysmal.
    I think there is a role for the temporary foreign worker program, particularly with respect to some of the skilled professions, where we currently have a shortage. However, the reality is that we need to do our very best to make sure that young people have an opportunity to get those jobs, as the member suggested. That requires investments in post-secondary education, in apprenticeship programs and in skills training. We have to make sure that young Canadians have access to those programs in an affordable way.
    Mr. Speaker, first I want to acknowledge the work done by my colleague from Hamilton Mountain. She is stellar in the way she does her research. She comes prepared. She is stellar in her advocacy for her file and her constituents.
    We are in a state in which we have more temporary foreign workers being brought into the country than skilled workers. We have all kinds of concerns about the very high unemployment among our youth, yet the government still appears to be tinkering with the idea of investing in skills development in our youth today. In her research and at committee, what kind of suggestions were put forward to—


    Order, please. I would just remind the hon. member that this is a question. Could she, first of all, address the Chair and, second, take the signal that her time is rapidly expiring? Could she quickly put the question?
    Mr. Speaker, my question to my hon. colleague is this. What does she think the government needs to do to address the serious issue of Canadians not being able to work for a living wage?
    Mr. Speaker, let me say to the member that our committee has also conducted a comprehensive study of apprenticeship programs and the need for serious investments in apprenticeships. It is something Canada has not taken very seriously in the past. We should follow the path of countries like Germany, which have invested in youth, in that country in particular, and have made sure that they have the skills their labour force needs, not just now but into the future. That is the kind of progressive planning Canada needs to do. It is a positive investment in our youth and is also a positive investment in our economy and in our future.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this concurrence motion, the report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.
    The report is in perfect harmony with our government's policies on skill shortages. This is something that I have heard a significant amount about in doing cross-country consultations with regard to the Canada jobs grant. We also even heard about some of that this morning in committee.
    Since 2006, the government's top priority has been jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. We have good reason to be proud of our performance in this area. The numbers speak for themselves.
    Since the worst downturn of the recession, over 900,000 net new jobs have been created, mostly private sector and full time. In fact 90% of them have been in the private sector and full time, with over two-thirds in high-wage industries.
    Canada's economy has done well, but it still can do better. There are currently thousands of jobs available across the country that continue to go unfilled and too many Canadians are still looking for work. This has serious consequences for our country's economy and for Canadians' standard of living.
    For example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in its top 10 barriers to competitiveness has once again identified skill shortages. As opposed to what the opposition likes to say, skill shortages is one of the number one obstacles to success of its members. Meanwhile we have segments of the population that are unemployed or underemployed and that would be available to fill those jobs.
    Something is wrong when we have so many Canadians sitting on the sidelines, looking for ways to enter the job market at a time when employers say that they have unfilled positions. Demand is particularly great for career fields, like science, technology, engineering, mathematics and many of the skilled trades, which require exactly those same skills in math and sciences. These shortages will only become more acute over the coming years as we see more and more baby boomers retire.
     Canada's economic action plan 2013 has a three-point plan to ensure that skills training is aligned with the needs of the job market, something that the opposition members state they are voting against.
    First, we are introducing the Canada jobs grant to get employers directly involved in skills training decisions so they know exactly where there is a job so we can skill someone for that job, something I heard about from employers and employees all across the country last week when I was running round table consultations.
    Second, the plan will create more opportunities for apprentices, something we have heard about at our committee.
    Finally, it will provide support to groups that are under-represented in the job market.
    Let me focus a little more on the range of measures we have announced in economic action plan 2013.
     Given Canada's demographic trends and especially our aging population, skills and labour shortages will only get worse until we find a way to use the country's untapped talent. I am talking about capitalizing on the potential of groups that tend to have the highest rates of unemployment, such as Canada's young people and individuals with disabilities.
    Many young people are graduating into unemployment or underemployment and that is because of a lack of skills that employers are actually seeking. There is a mismatch. Young people start to make career and education decisions as early as grade seven. By the time they finish high school, they have already formed their ideas of what is or is not actually the career for themselves. We need to help them get better information at an earlier age.
    We need to help them understand where the jobs really are in Canada and where they are not, something we spoke about during the course of this committee's discussion on this exact report. These echo what the committee heard from those who were interviewed.
    We know on-the-job experience is just as important as training and our apprenticeship programs are working well.
    However, there is room for improvement, particularly when it comes to better credential recognition. That is why we are working to put forward, with our province and territorial partners, an ability to harmonize requirements for apprentices.
    We are also going to examine the use of practical tests for methods of assessment. We will promote the use of apprentices in federal contract work, for things such as construction and maintenance of affordable housing and infrastructure projects, something that was specifically asked of us at committee.
    Economic action plan 2013 will invest significant funds over two years to give Canadians access to better labour market information, exactly what I was mentioning before, providing young people in particular the opportunity to know what is available and where and where it is not and develop new outreach efforts to promote careers in high-demand fields, where jobs are available for them to fill.
    For example, our young people need to become better informed about career opportunities in the skilled trades and how good wages actually exist. Having grown up in Fort McMurray, Alberta, I know that many of the individuals there, who are skilled trades individuals, have an acute idea of exactly what a good wage is and they are doing particularly well, whether that is working for a large firm or a small firm or moving on to create their own firm as an entrepreneur.


    Skilled trades are an excellent opportunity for young people and it is not just apprentices who would benefit from this budget. There is another 5,000 paid internships that will be made available over three years for recent post-secondary graduates, ensuring they have on-the-job training that not only employers but employees have talked to us about so they can make the transition into the workplace.
    Our economy needs the skills, talents and amazing spirit of our young people, but we also need the skills, talents and amazing spirit of Canadians with disabilities. Any vision of future growth and prosperity in Canada would be incomplete without considering the contribution that people with disabilities can make.
    I would like to remind the House that economic action plan 2012 announced the creation of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Its mandate was to identify private-sector successes and best practices and increasing the labour market participation of persons with disabilities. In its January 2013 report entitled, “Rethinking Disabilities in the Private Sector”, the panel estimates roughly 800,000 working-age Canadians who have a disability are unemployed. Imagine how they could help address the skills shortages that employers have across the country.
    The panel argues that there is a good business case for hiring individuals with disabilities and the report sets out practical steps that can be taken to recruit individuals with disabilities and support them in the workplace. The panel found that many workplace accommodations required for employees with disabilities cost little to nothing and organizations that already employed persons with disabilities reported they have significant benefits, both in terms of company culture and their bottom line. From personal experience, working in clinics and talking to the parents of young adolescents who have cerebral palsy or talking with patients who have disabilities, these are exactly the things we need to be doing moving forward.
    Our government is doing its part to get more people with disabilities into the workforce. Budget 2013 announced significant investments for a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. The reformed agreements to be introduced in 2014 would better meet the needs of Canadian businesses and improve the employment prospects for individuals with disabilities.
     Budget 2013 also proposes ongoing funding for the opportunities fund to provide more demand-driven training solutions for persons with disabilities. Budget 2013 would make permanent the annual funding for the enabling accessibility fund to support capital costs of construction and renovations to improve physical accessibility.
    Economic action plan 2013 also proposed the creation of a Canadian employers disability forum to be managed by employers for employers. This forum will facilitate education training, the sharing of resources and best practices with regard to the employment of individuals with disabilities, something that I would encourage all members of the House to inform their businesses about and to become active in.
     When I was British Columbia last Friday, a number of employers stated they had not necessarily heard what the great results were of this report. I encourage as many business leaders as possible across the country to look up this report and read the recommendations. If they have questions, they should approach individuals who can give them some direction on education and what we can do in order to aid individuals with disabilities entering into the workforce.
     The budget provides enhanced funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, some of which will support research on labour market participation of Canadians with disabilities entering into the workforce.
    Lastly, I will comment on the cross-country consultations that the Government of Canada is doing with respect to the Canada jobs grant and temporary foreign workers. Having been in Regina, Calgary and Vancouver last week and later this week in St. John's and Halifax and other places in the country in the near future, we are listening to Canadians because we need their input and are asking for their input on how to ensure these are the most effective programs and skills training programs for Canadian businesses, employers and employees. We want to ensure we are linking Canadians to available jobs, those that are in demand, and that they have the information available to them so they can make great decisions with respect to their future career opportunities.
    I appreciate the time to speak to this concurrence motion. The skills and training initiatives in economic action plan 2013 will enable more Canadians to contribute to the economy and share in our growth and prosperity across the country. Therefore, we are happy to concur with the report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.


    Mr. Speaker, I welcome this report, but I have to admit that I am extremely puzzled. I look forward to the hon. member informing me on whether this incredible program, the Environment Sector Council, now called ECO Canada, which may no longer be funded by the federal government, will be remaining.
     I had the honour of sitting on that board for seven years. It does labour market work on environmental employment. For more than a decade, it has shown that environmental employment is the highest growing rate of employment in the country. In this report, we see recommendations for informing Canadians about these potential jobs, with a section specifically on getting aboriginals into environmental employment and another for immigrants. It also provides for apprenticeships and matching up students with jobs for the summer.
    Could the hon. member inform the House whether the Conservatives intend to continue financing the labour market reviews by ECO Canada and if they in fact intend to use that as a model for all the other agencies and government.
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, we are providing significant funding in economic action plan 2013 with regard to labour market information, in fact $19 million over two years to ensure that Canadians are best informed of where there are in-demand jobs.
     I think the member opposite knows that there has been a sunsetting of the sector councils. We do have an opportunity for them to apply for funding. If this organization is as excellent as the member states, and I am sure it is, then I encourage it to participate actively in that process.
    We have been very clear. There are a number of in-demand jobs available and we want to best link young Canadians, individuals with disabilities and individuals looking for jobs with those opportunities. We have provided substantive funding in the budget to do just that.
    The opposition, though, has already stated it is voting against that.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting listening to the parliamentary secretary trying to give the impression to Canadians that this is a progressive government trying to get our young people and others the skill sets in order to meet the jobs of tomorrow. In fact, there has probably been more effort by the Conservative government than any other government prior in promoting itself.
    In the local ridings, we spend roughly $300,000 on the summer employment program. These summer employment programs go a long way in not only filling jobs while students attend university, but also in developing the skill sets they have so they can actually get into full-time jobs after they graduate.
    Would the member try to justify to Canadians how her government feels it necessary to limit the amount of real summer employment for youth, while at the same time spending literally tens of thousands, $90,000 plus, on one ad during the NHL playoffs.


    Mr. Speaker, this government has actually been very focused on ensuring young Canadians have opportunities for jobs. That is why we put forward the youth employment strategy, a $300 million program, which was augmented in last year's budget, as well as another 5,000 paid internships, as I mentioned in my speech. The member opposite may not have heard that. There are also a number of other items that employers and employees have spoken to me about, whether that be the Canada jobs grants, for which any Canadian will be able to apply. These are great opportunities for Canadians.
     If the member opposite would like to talk about government spending, the Liberals cornered the market on that before 2006 when we were elected. I encourage him to think again about those numbers. I do not think he wants to get into that debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on my previous question for the hon. member.
    She mentioned there was great respect for the sector councils, and I am looking quickly through the list of witnesses. Did it not occur to the government that they would be very good witnesses to come in since they used to do labour market analyses, particularly ECO Canada?
     I am absolutely stunned that the Conservatives would kill the sector council. It was an organization that brought together people working in the sector, non-profit people, students and so forth. Could she speak to why on earth, at a time when the very recommendations they are making to initiate labour market studies, they have killed the very entity that did them so effectively for a decade?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, this is actually a committee of the House of Commons, not of the government. At our committee we have a very fair and open process. Any individuals whose names are put forward to come to committee, we actually accommodate everyone.
    I would encourage the member in the future, if she would like to have someone come forward, to please speak to the members who are on our committee because we would be delighted to hear from them. Their names were never put forward, but I can say that we listened to people from all over the country. They gave great testimony and we were able to put forward this great report that all members invested a significant amount of time in.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech. It caught my attention and raised some questions for me.
    I received a letter from Joyce Reynolds of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. It indicates that the 15 to 24 age group has reached a demographic peak, which is contributing to the labour shortage. She says that the restaurant and food service sectors will need 1,225,200 employees between now and 2015 and that 35,000 of these positions will not be filled.
    The parliamentary secretary has said that the Conservatives are going to encourage the hiring of young people to fill those positions, yet this age group has clearly already reached its demographic peak. Where will they get the workers to fill these positions?


    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we have an untapped wealth of 800,000 Canadians with disabilities who can fill a number of different roles, let alone a number of young people across the country seeking their first opportunity for employment. We want to provide hands-on, on-the-job training experience to as many young Canadians as is absolutely possible. That is why we have moved forward with the youth employment strategy.
     I appreciate the question from the member opposite. I encourage her, just as I have all members in the House, to actually make sure that employers in her riding are well educated about the report from the panel on labour market issues regarding persons with disabilities, because she can better integrate those Canadians into her workplace.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the House that I will be splitting my time with my good friend and colleague from Winnipeg North. I want to thank my colleague from Hamilton Mountain for bringing this forward at this time this afternoon to speak to this very important issue.
     Before we get into the meat of the issue, I will just take two minutes up front here and maybe vent a little frustration that is on the minds of many Canadians currently, especially those who follow the NHL playoffs. It sort of ties in with the whole thing about job creation and what the government is doing, but also what it is not doing with regard to job creation and opportunities to fill some of the skills shortages that are in this country. It is neglecting some of the areas where we are seeing mass out-migration and hurting rural and remote communities.
     The one that really has Canadians rankled is that the Conservatives continue to waste money. They did it every night of the NHL playoffs, and of course during the Juno Awards and the Super Bowl, with the action plan advertisements. We know that it costs $32,000 a minute for these particular ads. We know the number of summer students that could support, that every time we see an ad that is 32 summer students who could probably be supported through this money. Often, these are young people's first opportunities to get into the workforce, to garner and develop those work skills and those good work habits. Then they could go further and continue their education and become strong and productive citizens. That is what we all want here. However, there is this perverse attempt by the Conservatives to paint themselves as a caring party when we know that they are squandering important, precious money on these particular advertising programs.
     The latest one is the job grants. If it was not bad enough before with the action plan ads, in the job grants ads the Conservatives are actually advertising for a program that is not even set up yet. They have not spoken to the provinces yet. It is supposed to be coming in 2015 and they have not even had consultations with the provinces and they are advertising this program. It is unbelievable. It would be like me going to my wife and saying, “Honey, if you want to congratulate me now I just finished the Cabot Trail relay road race. I haven't bought my pair of runners yet, I haven't gone for a jog in six years but I'm going to finish it next year and this is my advertisement here.” It is unbelievable.
    That money that the Conservatives are wasting is on a program that might or might not happen, and they have bailed out of training. Let us pick a number, say $200 million, that would have gone to the Province of New Brunswick to help with training in the labour market development agreement. Now the Conservatives are saying that they will come in with a third of the dollars if New Brunswick will come in with a third, and then the private sector will come in with a third. So if the Province of New Brunswick, which is running a significant deficit under its Conservative provincial government, cannot afford to match that $200 million, we know those federal dollars will not be going into those training opportunities for the young people in New Brunswick for them to pursue an education or apprenticeship and develop some kind of skill to be productive citizens. However, now they have the advertising. Therefore, I am with the lion's share of Canadians who are really upset with this thing.


    There is a proviso at the bottom that this is subject to parliamentary approval. It has more disclaimers than a Viagra commercial. My suggestion is that they pull out of this program.
    That is enough ranting about the waste we are seeing. I want to talk about support for apprentices and where the Conservatives have fallen short. Regarding the inaction, suggestions have come forward. Testimony has been presented by very credible witnesses, people who are impacted by the changes the government has made over the last number of months. For example, on the apprenticeship program we had testimony just recently from Polytechnics Canada. Witnesses pointed out during committee meetings that the level of financial support provided through the system is just simply inadequate.
    We asked a number of apprentices about their level of support because if people take a trade, when they go to school they are supported by employment insurance. They talked about the attrition rate for young apprentices. People are older when they start apprenticeship programs. Maybe they take a job and get some life experience and then move to the trades when they are about 27 or 28 years old, on average. By that time, some may have a family. Certainly they have bills, if they are coming out of the workforce and are trying to upgrade into a trade. That is a reality.
    When they go to school, typically they make application for employment insurance and there is a two-week waiting period. Because the Conservative government has gutted EI processing centres, cut 600 jobs in the EI processing centres, the backlog of EI claims now just goes on and on. In 2004, 80% of the time first-time claims were being turned around in 21 days. At that time we thought that was a long time for a person to go without any household income. Now, and what we heard from witnesses, that is taking 28 days. That is the new target. Conservatives have extended the target, so they have a better chance of hitting the target if they make the target a little broader, but they are only hitting that 30% of the time.
    We are seeing young apprentices having to go five, six or seven weeks without any income. If they do not have family support, if they do not have someone helping them out by putting food in the fridge and paying their bills, then they are dropping out of the courses and are letting the apprenticeships go. We have testimony to that effect. There is no sign of that in the report. We are not seeing the testimony line up with the recommendations as presented.
     The government heralds how well it is doing with apprenticeship grants. Through the department's own findings in 2009, it published in the apprenticeship grant review that almost all apprentices who completed their apprenticeship would have done so without the grants. I question what impact this is having on skills development and addressing the problem of skills shortages. There are many other initiatives. Certainly we have put those initiatives forward in the minority report. I would hope that the government would seriously consider and try to move on these.


    Mr. Speaker, I loved the member's presentation. It did not make any sense, but I loved it.
    This concurrence motion is a discussion of a report on skills shortages in Canada. This government, through the economic action plan, has put forward a number of opportunities, through skills development for aboriginals, for those with disabilities, for students who need employment. I heard that the opposition has some other ideas in the minority report.
    Are there things we are doing that members of the Liberal Party approve of that they would like to see happen and are they going to support us in moving forward on the area of work in terms of skills development, or are they opposed because they did not come up with the idea?


    Mr. Speaker, the member said he did not understand most of it. I was talking about actual situations that have taken place in households across Canada. The Conservatives are that far removed from the reality that it would be so foreign to them. They just do not understand it. They cannot relate.
    There is a firewall between reality and the current government, and the Conservatives just cannot relate.
    This is something that would never happen from the PMO talking points, but as a matter of fact, the labour market information aspect of the recommendations is not all that bad, so I will give the member that.
    The fact is that it has been four years since the federal government received the working together to build a better labour market information system, which is all about labour market information, put together by Donald Drummond, and the Conservatives have done nothing with it. They have not moved on one of the recommendations.
    The chance of the Conservatives moving on some of the recommendations we put forward in the minority report are probably about as good as the Leafs—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.


    Mr. Speaker, the committee repeatedly heard evidence and was provided information about the job market. We heard that there will be a labour shortage—something we have known since the 1990s—and that we do not have sufficient data about businesses, employers or the population. Furthermore, the data is not released often enough, nor are high-quality forecasts.
    My question is about future shortages. We need more workers in the labour market. Does the member know whether this government has made plans to fill that labour shortage? What does his party suggest?


    Mr. Speaker, what the member shared with the House about the lack of information is absolutely true. Certainly reducing the funding to the sector councils would have an adverse effect going forward, in recognizing opportunities within the workforce, what industries would require and what types of work they would need. The defunding of the sector councils was a huge step back for workforce development.
    Does the government have a plan? We saw the plan the Conservatives had for temporary foreign workers. A year ago they introduced the 15% decrease, the accelerated labour market opinions. They introduced that last year and now, 12 months later, they flip on that and pull that stuff away.
    The Conservatives have managed to have everybody wondering what the heck is next. Business and the workforce are guessing about what will happen next, because there is no plan and no strategy. In the absence of that, we have chaos.
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could pick up on my colleague's comments about the lack of a plan. There is a significant difference between this particular government and the Liberal Party. The government has demonstrated a willingness to act, to a certain degree, but in a very piecemeal way. It will take on a little section and then talk about how much it is investing and how it will be to the betterment of Canadians. What we really need to do is take a holistic approach dealing with our skills and the types of employment opportunities out there.
    What we have witnessed with the government are serious cutbacks and neglect in dealing with the skills shortages Canada has, not only for today, but also for tomorrow. We need a government—ideally a Liberal government, I would suggest—that is going to take a more holistic approach to dealing with what is a very serious issue that all Canadians are trying to better appreciate. They want to see a government being more aggressive in dealing with the skills shortage and labour needs going forward.
    Canadians are concerned about unemployment. It is very real. Look at our youth unemployment numbers. They are some of the highest we have ever seen. The government is actually seeing net decreases in youth employment opportunities going forward. Of course we are going to be concerned about that.
    What about the middle class, the individual who is 45 to 55 years of age, who now finds himself unemployed? Maybe he was working in the manufacturing industry in Ontario or Manitoba or any other place in Canada. He was receiving a relatively decent wage and now finds himself unemployed because of the structuring that is taking place worldwide and the impact, in part, it has had on Canada. Where is that caring, compassionate government that is going to stand up for the middle class, the working class, someone who has been deemed unemployed because of a factory having been shut down? The government has not ponied up. It has not been at the table. We do not see a government working with the many different stakeholders in our community.
    My colleague made reference to the jobs grant. The government is spending taxpayers' dollars on promoting the jobs grant, yet it has not done its homework on it. It has not had the necessary meetings with the many different stakeholders to try to develop a program that will be effective. This is something in which the government has been very much lacking.
    It was not that long ago that I was standing up and using the example of youth and summer employment job opportunities. We are seeing fewer youth being employed today than we have seen under previous administrations. Quite often it is those summer jobs that provide the skills and opportunities that assist young people upon completion of their post-secondary education in landing their first job. Instead, we have seen the government cut back on that.
    At the same time, the Minister of Finance and the government have spent astronomical amounts of tax dollars. They are using tax dollars to promote things like the action plan, which many, including me, would argue is a dud. Tax dollars are being spent on commercials. As my colleague mentioned, it costs $90,000 for a 30-second ad during NHL playoffs, and it is getting to be more of an expense.
    These are Canadian tax dollars being used for something that is just not necessary, while on the other hand, every community across Canada could benefit from the tax dollars being spent on youth summer jobs. Those jobs will go much further in terms of advancing skills for young people.


    However, I believe we need to do a lot more. We need to take a holistic approach. This is where, I would argue, Liberals differ from New Democrats. The previous member who spoke got a little upset with the temporary foreign worker program. There is some reason to be upset with the temporary foreign worker program. Let us recognize that the program has done wonders for our country. It has improved the standard of living for every Canadian and resident in Canada. If it is done properly and managed in the way it was intended to be managed, it is not going to displace one resident or Canadian in this country from a job. It should be building our economy. There are certain industries in Canada today that would not be here if it were not for the temporary foreign worker program.
    Unlike the NDP, Liberals see the merits of the program and believe the program has great value, but we also understand that abuse has been taking place and the government has allowed it to take place. The government has failed to recognize how important it is to have the skill set training programs in place to ensure that we are better able to fill the labour market, whether it is today or into the future. The government has not been successful in doing that and, in good part, has been relying on the temporary foreign worker program to fill that gap.
    There are many different ways in which the Government of Canada could be demonstrating leadership in ensuring that valued jobs, which are important jobs and could potentially continue to grow our economy, are being filled by Canadians and residents of Canada. One of the most important things it can do is work with different stakeholders. The government has not been known to sit down with stakeholders in provinces and cities to come up with good, sound public policy, but if it genuinely cares about creating jobs and wants Canadians to be employed, it needs to give more attention to this file. That means picking up the telephone and, beyond that, meeting with ministers and trying to line up different types of programs that are being made available, recognizing it has a role to play in that.
    Far too often I meet with high school students who say they hear about jobs and then ask to what degree they are actually being provided the opportunity to acquire those jobs or to what degree community colleges or universities are working with the private sector and different levels of government to ensure that future jobs are in fact being taken into consideration when the curriculum is being developed. Many would argue that is long term and, yes, it is long term, but there are also short-term things the government can be doing, such as working with stakeholders and providing incentives through the use of tax dollars to ensure there are first-class training opportunities for people who call Canada home, whether they are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.
    We have people who are prepared to do the work. They are looking for strong leadership from the government and other sectors to come to the table to make sure those jobs are in fact going to people who call Canada home.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments of the hon. member opposite, and I must say I agree with him entirely that infrastructure in Canada needs more support, that the municipalities need more support on infrastructure, that we need a much more effective jobs training program and that our manufacturers need assistance.
    Since we are doing all of these things, and in fact they are major points of the economic action plan 2013, I ask the member opposite whether will he vote his conscience in support of the budget bill.


    Mr. Speaker, first, I compliment the Minister of Finance for listening to what I have to say.
    I think it is important that he recognize that there needs to be leadership from the Prime Minister's Office in dealing with the important issues facing our country today.
    If the Prime Minister truly believes in doing things for our working class and our middle class and wants to create more jobs, why has he never met once with the premiers as a collective group? Why does he not look at how we can start working together? Canadians expect the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to be working in co-operation.
    I recognize, as the Liberal Party of Canada recognizes, how critically important it is that we keep our economy moving forward and put emphasis on job creation, on infrastructure and so forth, but we also believe it is critically important that we work in co-operation with the many different stakeholders, including the different levels of government, because if we are successful at doing that, we will create more jobs and more skill sets for Canadians.
    To date the government has been doing it in a very piecemeal fashion. It means that some will be created, but nowhere to the degree that Canada has the potential to create if in fact we were prepared to show—
    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.


    Mr. Speaker, the member just spoke about the lack of co-operation between the federal government and provincial governments, especially the Government of Quebec, and the famous 30-second $95,000 ads about a job training program that does not even exist, which are being run during the current playoffs.
    There is a disconnect between reality and the government's line that it is willing to work with the provinces and Quebec in order to put programs in place. We have come to the conclusion that the federal government is interfering once again in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, because labour training is the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces.
    How is it logical for the government to claim that it is putting in place a program even though Quebec does not want it? Quebec wants support and it wants the funding that goes with the program, which is paid for by our taxes, but it does not want the federal government to impose conditions on job training, which is a provincial area of jurisdiction.


    Mr. Speaker, whether it is the Province of Quebec or the Province of Manitoba or any province in Canada, we have to respect and work with provincial entities if we want to achieve maximum employment and maximum skill set development.
    There is a strong role for the federal government to demonstrate leadership on that file. It is equally important that we also recognize the many different institutions that develop those skill sets and the stakeholders that use those skill sets.
    What we really need to do is recognize that we have to put Canadians first and foremost as the highest priority. If we do that and acknowledge it as the highest priority, then it behooves all levels of government to start working more closely together.
     In terms of the reference to the jobs grant, much like the action plan, I think the amount of money that we spend to promote the action plan or the jobs bank is insulting. In this case it does not even exist yet. It is just so the government can pat itself on the back.
    Let us deal with real—


    Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in favour of the motion and the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”.
    The report acknowledges that the issue of labour and skills shortages is very complex and requires coordinated action on a number of fronts.
    I would like to take this opportunity to highlight what the Government of Canada is doing to close the skills gap. I would also like to address some of the opportunities our partners in the private sector have to be part of the solution.
    Now is a critical time for Canada's economic recovery. While markets are fragile because of global uncertainty, Canada is still on the path toward economic growth and prosperity, but this growth can only be sustained if we have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, which means that our workers must be equipped with the basic skills required to drive the economy. These skills are building blocks recognized in our government's budget, economic action plan 2013.
    The economic action plan proposes new measures to connect Canadians with available jobs and to provide them with the skills and training they need to strive in today's economy. These measures include introducing the new Canada job grant, creating more opportunities for apprentices and providing employment support to underrepresented groups, such as people with disabilities, youth, aboriginal people and newcomers.
    While significant money is spent on training, it is clear we can do better. There are still too many unemployed Canadians looking for jobs and too many businesses looking for workers.
    I would like to focus on the Canada job grant, which seeks to connect Canadians looking to increase their skills with job creators who need skilled workers.
    Mr. Speaker, I forgot to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague.
    For example, a small dental practice in London, Ontario, might be seeking a new dental assistant. The current receptionist is interested in the position but is not qualified. The dentist is keen to retain this worker in her practice and contributes $2,500 toward a $7,500 Canada job grant. That also results in equal contributions of $2,500 from the federal and provincial governments to allow the receptionist to complete the dental assistant course at the local community college. The original receptionist works with the dentist to hire and train a new receptionist. Now working as a new dental assistant, the employee's wage has increased 25%. That dentist has managed to retain a committed and loyal employee and also has the additional flexibility to manage periodic employee absences by having an employee trained in several areas of the practice.
    As members can see from the example, for the first time the Canada job grant is taking skills training choices out of the hands of the government and putting them where they belong: in the hands of job creators and Canadians looking for work.
    Given the magnitude of the problem, we must ask all players, including employers and post-secondary institutions, to step up to the plate to address this very serious issue. This is especially true for Canadian companies that want their businesses to grow.
    According to a survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, the average amount companies spent for employees on training and development in 2011 was $747. Companies allocated 1.5% of their payroll budget to training, down from 2% in the 1990s. As well, 51% of organizations plan to cut spending on training, and 33% of Canadian employees said they wanted to further their skills but did not.


    Now that the recovery is starting to get a foothold, we believe companies should invest more aggressively in their employees' skills and in their future.
    What we are saying is that our future balance sheets could be much better if we invested in the skills needed to propel our economy, and this is the central point in the report: that a concerted effort is required by everyone to tackle this important issue.
    Ensuring that Canadians have the skills required for the jobs of today and tomorrow is critical to achieving our top priorities of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. A shortage of workers with the right skills can mean forgone business opportunities for Canadian enterprises, lost productivity for Canada, and lower living standards and fewer employment opportunities for Canadians.
    Let me quote a few experts on the skills shortage facing Canadians.
    In August 2012, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that a shortage of skilled labour is the main operating challenge facing business owners in Newfoundland.
    Susan Holt, the New Brunswick Business Council CEO, said on February 24, 2012:
    There are more shortages in the higher-skilled positions but we still have 30 per cent of respondents highlighting challenges in filling low-skilled positions.
    Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said on February 8, 2012:
...what I'm hearing from businesses is they cannot get their hands on the people they need to allow them to expand and be more competitive.
    As committee members heard as they travelled to all regions in Canada, the skills gap is real and it is holding back our economy from fully developing. We want to ensure every Canadian can find a place in the job market, because Canadian employers need every last one of them.
    Highlighting youth, economic action plan 2013 proposes several strategic investments to help them at different stages of their education and careers.
    For example, to make maximum use of education and talent of recent graduates, we will invest through the career focus program to support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates and we will also improve labour market information for young people considering careers in high-demand fields such as the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    These youth-focused initiatives are accompanied by supports for persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers that will help meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve individuals' job prospects.
    With initiatives such as the Canada job grant, we are addressing the real needs of workers and employers.
    By working collaboratively, employers, industry, educational institutions and governments can ensure that our workforce can keep Canada competitive and prosperous for the long term.
    This is why we are pleased to provide our support to concur in this report.
    Mr. Speaker, I followed the member's speech with great interest. We serve on the committee together, so I know his perspective on many of these issues quite well.
    I want to ask him specifically, though, about the part of his speech in which he talked at length about the Canada job grant. He talked about it in much the same way that the TV ads do. He lauded it as a great program, as the next best thing for Canadians who are looking to upgrade their skills, yet the program does not actually exist.
    What we know about the job grant is that there is an ad campaign running in the middle of NHL hockey games, I think to the tune of $90,000 per ad, about a program that advertises the Canada job grant, which does not exist.
     I wonder if the member, because he talked about it in his speech, knows more about it than the rest of us in this House do. If he does, I wonder whether he would share those details with the rest of us.
     I would ask him quite directly here, since he raised it, to give members of this House the details of the Canada job grant and how it would help people in my community of Hamilton Mountain and, indeed, people right across this country.


    Mr. Speaker, I honestly love this question. I do not know where the member lives, but I can tell her one thing: this program is introduced in the budget. I myself have already started consultations.
     I will quote what I heard from the United Way president and CEO, Dr. Lucy Miller, and its vice-president and chief operating officer, Heather MacDonald. They said that the government's focus on skills training is in line with the United Way's project called All In. At Bishop McNally High School they started to invite high school dropouts back to school and were encouraging students in higher learning such as skilled trades and colleges.
    I would encourage the member opposite to start consulting her constituents.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the Canada jobs grant as well. I wonder if the member could explain to the House why this is so important. Could he explain why we should be dealing not only government to government but also government to business? We all know how important the economy is and how much value we place on a skilled, trained workforce. I am wondering if the hon. member could talk a bit about why it is so important that businesses be incorporated into this model as well.
    Mr. Speaker, too many jobs go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. As I mentioned, there are always good results when it is a partnership and also when all stakeholders are involved. It is important to work with employers with a vested interest in keeping their employees for the long term and having their skills updated. It is important for all stakeholders to get involved and invest in the skills they require.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat the question raised by my colleague in the House. I wonder if the member could tell us the details about what exactly the skills program is doing rather than just giving us accolades from some people about a program they might know about but the House does not yet know about.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I have to repeat my answer because the hon. member seems to have missed the point. This program was introduced in Canada's action plan 2013. Consultation is going on and stakeholders are taking note of it. I can assure the member opposite that the stakeholders I have been consulting with are encouraged to see this kind of program and they do appreciate it.
    It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Airport Security.
    Resuming debate. The hon. Minister of Labour.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by commending the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for examining the issue of skills and labour shortages in Canada. We cannot speak of skills and labour shortages in Canada without mentioning how strongly the future is linked to the economic development of the resources in our country, especially since these resources are so abundant in so many regions.
    I have consulted widely with employers and unions across the country with respect to challenges being faced in the workplace. What has come back very clearly to me from both sides is that labour and skills shortages are a major concern of both management and unions. That is why the key focus of our economic action plan 2013 is on skills training and development. It is not just on skills development in general, but on skills and development training that are going to meet specific labour market demands for all Canadians.
    Our Conservative government recognizes that we have more to do to maximize participation by Canadians in the market, with initiatives that connect more people to the jobs that are available now and in the future. That is where we have been focusing in recent years.
    We know that to improve Canada's long-term economic outlook, we need to get more of Canada's underutilized workers and their skills to work. We have been improving the employment insurance program so we can ensure that Canadians have a better connection with the jobs available. We are also working to better connect the EI system to the temporary foreign worker program to ensure that we always put Canadian workers first. That is why economic action plan 2013 would invest significantly in skills and training; to ensure that all Canadian workers have the skills they need to play an active part in the labour market and, ultimately, contribute to our country's economic growth.
    Economic action plan 2013 puts forward a three-point plan to connect Canadians with jobs available. Most notably, and this is what we have been speaking about in the House today, is the new Canada jobs grant. It is a very exciting program, because it will potentially provide hundreds of thousands of Canadians each year with $15,000 or more to retrain; $5,000 of this will come from the federal government. The provinces and territories and employers will be expected to match that contribution.
    At the time of introducing the economic action plan, the Minister of Finance said:
    The Canada Job Grant will take skills-training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong: in the hands of employers [...] and Canadians who want to work.
    More importantly, the new grant should lead to one essential thing for unemployed or underemployed Canadians: a job.
    That is not all. The economic action plan committed to creating more opportunities for apprentices as well. To help reduce barriers to accreditation, we are going to invest $4 million over three years to work with the provinces and the territories to harmonize requirements and examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment.
    We are also going to reform procurement practices. This is very important, because we are going to encourage contractors to hire apprentices on federal construction and maintenance projects. We are going to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that they, too, support the employment of apprentices.
    Our third focus in economic action plan 2013 would improve support to groups that are currently under-represented in the job market. These are youth, Canadians with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada. We want to ensure that every Canadian can find a place in the job market because, quite frankly, Canadian employers need every last one of them.
    To highlight youth, economic action plan 2013 proposes several strategic investments to help the youth at different stages of their education and, of course, their careers.


    To give an example, to make maximum use of the education and talents of graduates, we are going to invest significant funding through the career focus program to support more than 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates. We will also reallocate money over two years to improve labour market information for young people considering careers in those high demand fields, such as the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These youth-focused initiatives would be accompanied by supports for persons with disabilities, aboriginal people, and of course, for newcomers to help meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve individuals' job prospects along the way.
    As anyone with young people knows, young workers entering the workforce face an uncertain job market, while at the same time, some industries in certain sectors face labour shortages that young Canadians could fill. The youth employment strategy, whose budget has been significantly increased over the past few years, is helping youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to get jobs now and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow. Since 2006, our efforts have helped over 2.1 million young people get skills, training and jobs in the Canadian labour market.
    We are also helping young people, and especially students from low-income and middle-income families, by making post-secondary education and training more accessible.
    A mix of supports is available to help Canadians save for, finance and repay their post-secondary education. Measures include the Canada learning bond, Canada education savings grant, Canada student grants, Canada student loans and the repayment assistance plan.
    The best programs to develop young people's skills and ensure they are adapted to the needs of employers are those that are offered in workplaces. That is especially true in the case of the skilled trades. That is why our government created the apprenticeship grants, which match skills with the jobs available. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides up to $2,000 in grants for an apprentice in a red seal trade who completes the first or second level of their apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship completion grant is a $2,000 cash grant for apprentices who successfully complete their training. In other words, apprentices could be eligible to receive up to $4,000 in grants. I am very happy to say that to date, nearly 400,000 apprenticeship grants have been issued across the country.
    In addition, employers are encouraged to support apprenticeships through the apprenticeship job creation tax credit. This initiative provides employers with a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to apprentices in designated red seal trades in the first two years of their apprenticeship.
    There is also a well of talent in rural and remote communities that we believe has not been fully tapped: our aboriginal people. Through our aboriginal labour market programs, our government works with partners to ensure that aboriginal people are able to take full advantage of the economic opportunities around them.
    The federal government's primary programs to support the development of aboriginals' skills are the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy and the skills and partnership fund. Through ASETS, significantly funding has been committed from 2010 to 2015 to increase aboriginal participation in the Canadian labour force. With an investment of significant funds, the skills and partnership fund emphasizes our government's commitment to working with partners to develop projects based on economic opportunities.
    One thing is certain: we need to think about our labour market differently. We need to use our imagination and creativity in ways we never have before. We have to think outside the box because we have to match workers and jobs. We need to find solutions to situations where we have double-digit unemployment, yet local companies are searching desperately for skilled labour.
    I do believe that this is a great step. I am confident that the actions in the economic action plan 2013 will help address the labour and skills shortages.


    Mr. Speaker, maybe the Prime Minister should not have left the country. I think this may be the first time that two Conservatives are not on the same page with respect to their talking points. I asked the member for Calgary Northeast about the details of the Canada jobs grant and he said that he was still out there consulting, yet the Minister of Labour just said that she was really excited about this program. She must know some details that the member for Calgary Northeast does not. However, I want to ask her about something more specific today.
    She will know that one of the ways to fill a skills shortage in the country is by assisting people with labour mobility. We have people in some parts of the country who are unable to access employment whereas we have skills shortages in other parts of the country and there is an opportunity for us to do the right thing and bring people together.
    The minister knows, because she has been lobbied by people in my riding, including Joe Beattie from the Hamilton-Brantford Building Trades Council, about my Bill C-201, which would facilitate such labour mobility for people who are working more than 80 kilometres away from home to be eligible for a tax credit for accommodation and travel expenses. The bill was actually supported in the HUMA committee recommendations. Could the Minister of Labour tell the House today whether she also supports the bill?


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out the fact that I have actually had over three years of discussion with unions and management on issues of skills shortages, so I do possess a greater knowledge of detail of what the issue is. The problem will be addressed in what we are putting forward in Canada's job grant.
    With respect to her bill, as the member knows, the lead minister on this is the Minister of Finance. I look forward to discussing the matter with him in due course.
    Mr. Speaker, on that last point, while the Minister of Labour is discussing the issue with the Minister of Finance, due to some of the changes that the government has made, we have more and more people commuting to Alberta and Saskatchewan for work. One guy told me the other day that his cost of transportation was $18,000 for the year, but that was not deductible as an expense in going to work. Therefore, I would encourage her to talk strenuously to the Minister of Finance.
    I enjoyed the minister's remarks and she made some goods points on some of the things she was doing under her portfolio. However, the problem is with the other changes that the government has made, which are really affecting labour in my province. Those are the employment insurance changes. These changes are affecting labour in the seasonal industries negatively.
    Does she have any solutions to propose that would stop this disincentive to work in much of rural Canada, which is happening as a result of the EI changes in those seasonal industries?
    Mr. Speaker, being from Cape Breton Island, I spend a significant amount of time visiting businesses and relatives in the area. I have had the opportunity to discuss the employment insurance changes and clarifications that we have brought in to better connect unemployed Canadians with the jobs that are available in the area. I disagree with what the member is saying.
    Fundamentally, employment insurance will be there for those who need it at the time they need it. That is a truism. It will be available, and that is exactly what will happen. However, our ability to connect Canadians who do not have a job, who are searching for a job, with all of the jobs available in their area is extremely important. Information is power.
     I know the member agrees with me that people out there who are on unemployment definitely want to find jobs because there is dignity in going to work every day. That is what they are searching for and that is what we are providing when we give them the information to find where the jobs are.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to something that is very important to Canadians today, and that is the skills and labour shortages. Canadians did not really need a lot of media focus on this. They live this every day and they live this because skilled Canadians apply for jobs and are told they do not have skills. Instead, workers are being brought in under the temporary foreign worker program.
    Before I get started, I want to talk about the federal Canada jobs grant for workers and all the advertising that has been done. I have heard today in the House that there is some consultation going on. I have also heard from another member that this program is well researched, there is a lot of data and a lot of plans are being made. The fact is that it does not exist. What it does is creates false hope and gives people misinformation because the government is advertising something that does not exist yet. I would ask us all to take a look at that.
    There is another thing I want to focus on today. I have heard a lot about apprenticeships and skills training. I want to talk a bit about my experiences as a high school counsellor and classroom teacher in a high school for a great number of years. Over the last 25 years, I have personally witnessed the decimation of the apprenticeship program and the dismantling of the skills training that used to exist. I will reference British Columbia specifically because that is the province I am very familiar with.
    Just over a decade ago, British Columbia stopped funding in the same way for apprenticeship programs, the grants and things that were available, but something else happened over a decade ago. The tuition costs for the courses that apprentices took tripled and quadrupled overnight. There used to be a different fee level for apprenticeship academic courses compared to university degree courses. The government of the day in British Columbia made the fees the same. It did not lower the fees, by the way, it raised the other fees.
    In the high school in Nanaimo that I taught in, there was a huge ricochet effect because suddenly many young students from struggling working-class and middle-class families found they could not afford it. Not only were the grants cut at that time in huge amounts, but also, with the costs going up and the student loan program being changed, it shut the door to a whole generation that would have gone into the skills area.
    The other thing that happened was a modular program was brought in, which really put the Red Seal in jeopardy across Canada. It had a huge impact in British Columbia. When we talk about the existing skills shortage, I do not think we should talk about it as if it is something that has just been discovered in the last year or two. I believe this has been systematically created over the last few decades.
    It is only recently that the CBC covered a story where well-qualified IT people in a bank, and it happened in many banks after that, were laid off. When they were laid off, they were asked, “Before you leave, could you please train these people we are bringing in from other countries? We are going to be paying them a lot less, they can't do your jobs, train them and move on”.


    That is not creating and nurturing skill development or utilization of the skills we have in Canada. Now we are hearing not one but hundreds of stories of people who say they came to our country to do these so-called high-tech IT jobs. When they came here they did not find it was all that it was made out to be. Many of them ended up doing other jobs.
     There is a pathway to citizenship in there somewhere, but this is what it looks like. If a person is one of those temporary foreign workers who gets a pathway to citizenship and actually gets to apply for permanent residency, guess what happens. Many are coming into MPs' offices and saying that as soon as they get permanent residency, they are laid off because employers would rather bring in another group of temporary foreign workers because they can pay them less.
    Therefore, it is very hard for us to believe how serious the Conservatives are about meaningful employment for Canadians where Canadians get to earn a living wage. Instead what we have seen are policies that suppress wages and policies that, from the reports we hear in the agricultural and other sectors, are very abusive relationships in the payment, the recruitment and also in the working lives of some of the workers who come here.
    I want to take this opportunity to clarify something that I have said 1,000 times. It appears my colleague from Winnipeg North has not heard it and is deliberately failing to understand it and thus he misrepresents the NDP position on temporary foreign workers. I have said this 1,000 times, so let me say it again, and I hope my colleague is listening this time and that it will actually sink in.
     The NDP supports a temporary foreign worker program where no Canadian is available to do the work. We support a program that addresses a specific skill shortage, where the needs are identified and temporary foreign workers come in for a temporary time while Canadian skill sets are grown. In the agricultural sector, where there is an acute shortage in many areas, we support a living wage for all and fair working conditions. With all of that in place, if there still are no Canadians available and able to do the work, that is when we look at a temporary foreign worker program.
     It is under the Liberal government, by the way, that the floodgates to temporary foreign workers were opened. I know the huge tsunami of over 400,000 people hit us under the Conservative government, but it could not have taken place without the Liberals, while they were in government, opening up that floodgate. It is important that this be put on the record.
    Once again, Canada is a country that has been built through immigration. Almost every one of us, except for a small handful, were either our parents, grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from another country. We came here for a variety of reasons. We came here when there was a labour shortage. I am one of those. I came to Canada when there was a shortage of English teachers in Quebec. I did not come in as a temporary foreign worker. I and my husband came in as permanent residents. That is how we built our country.


    If we have a legitimate skills shortage that we cannot fill, and it is only temporary, then I can see why we would use a temporary foreign worker program. However, what we are seeing is that while people in the same part of the country, in the same environment, are on employment insurance and are looking for work, the government has allowed a huge number of temporary foreign workers to come into this country and thus suppress wages. It has also created problems for many who have come into this country.
    Only yesterday I read an article about a very highly trained IT worker who applied to a huge number of companies. They were all hiring. He thought that being a Canadian and having the skill set he had a crack at the jobs. However, he only heard back from two companies. The rest of them did not even acknowledge the fact that he sent his resumé in. Guess what they did? Guess what has happened to him? He did not get the jobs. Many of the jobs went to what some people call intra-company transfers.
    I am going to hear the rhetoric that Conservatives fixed the program, but there is a fundamental flaw, which is that LMOs are given without due diligence and without proper oversight. When they are given that way, Canadians are not aware of the jobs, nor is there an onus on the employer to advertise those jobs in a meaningful way to make sure that it is communicated.
    With high unemployment and youth unemployment sitting at double digits, the youth I talk to find it very difficult to talk about the government's economic action plan. They find it very hard to talk about all the jobs being created. All they know is that after getting into huge debt and developing skill sets they thought were going to be in demand, labour is being brought in from other countries, and they are without work. This is where the federal government has to play a role. This is where employers have to play a role as well.
    Industry has an absolute obligation to develop the skill sets it needs, not on its own—I am not saying that—but in partnership. This is where the government has a critical role to play. Instead of passing the buck, it has to work with partners and industry. It has to work with community organizations. It has to work with post-secondary institutions and provide scholarships and affordability so that our youth, and those of us who are not so young but are in need of a change in career, can actually go out and get that training.
    I talk to many people in their forties and fifties who are still ready and willing to work for the next 15 or 20 years, but they are being laid off. They are looking to transition into other jobs or just to do their own jobs, which are now being filled through so-called intra-company transfers.
    The recent changes to the temporary foreign worker program actually failed to address the administration and enforcement. Of course we have rules that say that an LMO can only be given “if”, but who is making sure the “if” is fulfilled? It seems recently that the way the LMOs were handed out was faster than a McDonald's fast food outlet. People could just walk in and say they wanted one and they were given some.


    Even those that were meant only for highly skilled workers, such as the ALMOs, were handed out. No wonder the public has very little faith and very little trust that the government is there to protect their interests and to look after jobs for Canadians. B.C. is a prime example. There was the mining fiasco, where Mandarin was required while highly qualified and experienced miners were sitting right there, not being hired.
    I was just talking to a young man last week as I was going door to door in my beautiful British Columbia, where the sun was shining. What he said to me was that he had heard all the hype about all the jobs that were going to be available in high tech. He spent lots of money, by the way. It was kind of astounding me when he told me the debt load he had. That debt load was much higher than the total price of the first house I bought after I graduated. That is the kind of debt load our youth are going into the future with.
     What he said was that except for working in a bar and occasionally in a restaurant, he has not been able to find any work in his field. This is the field we were encouraging young people to go into, IT.
    I do not have to tell members this. They have watched it on television, not that everything we watch on television is true. We have sound evidence in front of us that the IT jobs are being given away. We can call it outsourcing, in-sourcing, intra-company transfers, or the temporary foreign worker program. Whatever we call it, I call it taking jobs out of the hands of Canadians and giving them to people who do not live in Canada.
    By the way, I just want to make it clear that when I am talking about taking jobs away from Canadians, it includes everybody who lives right here in Canada and has legal status in Canada as a permanent resident. It includes the people who just arrived a few weeks ago.
    On Saturday, I was talking to an engineer who is now working as a taxi driver. He is highly skilled, has built bridges and did all kinds of amazing things in his home country. He came here with his skill set in hand. He got permission to come to Canada because of his skill set. However, when he got here, it was not recognized. That is the kind of tension we are creating.
    I am hearing this over and over again. Being an English teacher, data is not really my forte, but all kinds of people are telling us, and I agree with them, that to plan for the future and to address the present needs, we need hard data. It seems that the government has an allergy to data. Having data might actually lead to making informed policy decisions.
    Over the last number of years, what the government has done is collect less data, data that is less reliable and is not as thorough. We are hearing from industry, as well, that the data available is really not anything we can base future labour market planning on. That should cause us all some serious concern.
    When we make policy statements based on ideology rather than on the needs and the reality on the ground, it can only lead to mishaps.
    One last thing I have to say is that we have to pay special attention to the needs of our aboriginal communities and the youth. Having worked very closely with the youth in those communities and having watched the high stress levels and high suicide rates, it is time we engaged them in a meaningful way to take an active part in the workforce.



    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech, which was excellent and very clear, as always.
    In this time of globalization, a strong and competitive economy requires well-trained workers who have jobs that match their skills. Businesses want well-trained workers too. It is not really acceptable to have doctors and lawyers working as taxi drivers in downtown Montreal. This leads to other problems.
    The government, in its wisdom, wants to send EI recipients to where the jobs are, yet it does not take skills into account. It also wants persons with disabilities who are available for work to take a job to the extent their disability allows. It wants to do the same for temporary foreign workers and aboriginal people too.
     Obviously the Conservatives have completely ignored the fact that workers need to have the skills to do the job. No one can learn a trade overnight. The government needs to come up with a comprehensive worker training plan.
    I think the hon. member is well aware of this and I would like to know a bit more about her thoughts on the issue.


    Mr. Speaker, for a number of decades, we have had a huge focus on academic education. I love that focus, but we also have to focus now in post-secondary education on skills development and training. We cannot leave that to just happen. That is where the governments, provincial and federal, have to work in partnership with employers to make sure we are developing the skill sets for the next decade.
    To do that in a meaningful way, we need data, which the government is allergic to. If it is allergic to data and yet needs data to make good, informed decisions, what it will do is keep making decisions that will not get it anywhere. Therefore, I believe we have to invest in a very serious way, not just with a few dollars here or there.


    Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member if she could comment on the ridiculousness of some of her statements. First, she is now asking that we force Canadians to move anywhere in Canada to get a job. This is after months of beating up on the Minister of Human Resources for having an employment program that required folks to move within an hour.
    Second, we put $2 billion into post-secondary education to rebuild research infrastructure but also to lower the pressure on rising tuition fees. One of those projects was at Conestoga College, in my riding. It will now produce about a thousand skilled trades students in the food industry, which is the second largest manufacturing sector in Ontario.
    The member and her party vote against it every single time. That is data. How do you respond to that hypocrisy?
    I would remind the minister and all hon. members to orient their questions to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.
    The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
    Mr. Speaker, there are Canadians with skills, in the areas where they live, where temporary foreign workers are doing the jobs they were doing and could be doing today. No one can deny that. That is firm data. The Alberta Federation of Labour has produced a report that does that matching. The CBC has focused on what is happening in the banking industry, and it is not just RBC.
    Is it not coincidental that this huge program the minister talked about happens to be in his riding? We are very happy for him. However, right across Canada, there are Canadians ready and willing to work. At no time did I say pick people up and move them from one province forceably to another. There are people who are willing to be mobile and who are willing to work where jobs are available. The same jobs they were removed from are being done by someone else. What is the minister's answer to that?
    Mr. Speaker, my question is related to the importance of communication between the premiers and the Prime Minister's Office. We have never seen a first ministers conference under the present Prime Minister, where the premiers come to Ottawa or the Prime Minister has a conference in another jurisdiction. It is important for us to develop the skill sets. There has to be communication between the different levels of government, and I would ultimately argue even beyond that. However, it does not appear to be a priority for the Conservative government.
    I would ask my colleague to respond to the need for the different stakeholders—and when I talk about stakeholders, I am referring to students, employers, government agencies, and post-secondary facilities such as universities, colleagues and so forth—to meet the demand for the skills for today and tomorrow. Would the member agree that there needs to be better communication, at all levels, and strong leadership from the Prime Minister's Office?
    Mr. Speaker, every time I hear the word “stakeholder” I quiver. I have watched too many movies involving a stake and a hammer. It makes me shiver.
    I absolutely believe that there is a need for partnerships. The federal government, as well as provincial and municipal governments, industry and post-secondary institutions, need to work together to come up with programs that will lead to greater skills development for today and tomorrow. For that we need data, and the government is allergic to data.



    Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague across the way behaved very rudely. He blabbered on while my colleague was responding. This kind of behaviour and lack of respect is typical of the Conservatives.
    I would like to know whether she thinks this government's biggest challenge is basically to agree, to come to a consensus and to talk with other levels of government, particularly when we know there are horror stories in her region. In fact, some owners are exaggerating about the living conditions of temporary workers employed by fast food chains.


    Mr. Speaker, we have heard stories from some temporary foreign workers, who have been brought into the country to work in restaurants, about incredibly difficult working conditions. We cannot imagine the kinds of pressure and abuse that these people have to face.
    Only three weeks ago I dealt with a cook who came here from Spain. He told me that his first day at work was beautiful. He really liked the first two days. Once he finished his second day, his employer told him that his wife had to start coming in the following week. The cook said he was the only one who had applied for the job, so his wife would not be coming in. He was actually told not to bother coming back to work unless he and his wife came together.
    We have also heard stories about workers who are not being paid their full wages, or workers who have to pay money to consultants.
    Not every employer is like that. Not every person who comes into this country receives that kind of abuse. We live in Canada, which is a democratic country. We have to enforce our labour rules in each of the provinces. We have to make sure that the people who come here when we need them get a living wage and are treated fairly, in the same way that Canadians are treated.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this debate on the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The report is titled, “Labour and Skills Shortages in Canada: Addressing Current and Future Challenges”. Our government supports concurrence in this report because it highlights a very real skills gap facing Canada. I am a member of the human resources committee and I listened to the evidence of the witnesses. My comments will reflect the facts that the witnesses presented.
    There are employers who cannot grow their businesses because they cannot find workers with the skills they need. At the same time, there are Canadians looking to fill these jobs but they do not have the skills needed to qualify. This is why our government took further action in budget 2013 to more directly connect skills training to jobs that are currently available. We will do this through the Canada jobs grant. The grant moves training decisions out of the hands of government and into those most qualified to determine in-demand skills, those being employers with unfilled jobs.
    Most notably, a new Canada jobs grant will provide up to 130,000 Canadians a year with $15,000 or more to retrain. The amount of $5,000 from that will come from the federal government, with the provinces and territories expected to match that contribution. As our Minister of Finance said at the time, “For the first time, the Canada Job Grant will take skills-training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong in the hands of employers and Canadians who want to work”.
    There are currently thousands of jobs available across Canada going unfilled, at great cost to the economy and all Canadians. With baby boomers starting to retire in large numbers, we are experiencing real skills shortages. This is undermining our country's competitiveness and ongoing economic growth. We are also working to improve the training of apprentices to fill needs in the skills trades. To reduce barriers to accreditation, we will invest over three years to work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements and examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment.
    We are also reforming procurement practices to encourage contractors to hire apprentices on federal construction and maintenance projects, and we will work with the provinces and territories to ensure that they too support employment of apprentices. Our economic action plan also improves supports to groups who are currently under-represented in the job market, such as youth, Canadians with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers to Canada. We want to ensure every Canadian can find a place in the job market because Canadian employers need every last one of them.
    With regard to youth, economic action plan 2013 proposes several strategic investments to help them at different stages of their education and careers. For example, to make maximum use of the education and talents of recent graduates, we will, through the career focus program, support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates. We will also invest over two years to improve labour market information for young people considering careers in high-demand fields, such as the skills trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    Under our government's action plan, Canada will continue to have one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the G7. Since 2006, our government has helped 2.1 million youth obtain skills training and jobs. This year alone our measures have created 60,000 jobs for youth. Approximately 400,000 Canadian apprenticeship grants have been handed out to youth since 2007, helping thousands of youth fill skilled trades jobs. These youth-focused initiatives are accompanied by supports for persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and newcomers.


    We will continue to work with provinces and territories and stakeholders to enhance the foreign credential recognition processes to increase the successful integration of internationally trained professionals into the job market.
    Our ultimate goal is to nurture and enable economic growth by creating more opportunities for all Canadians.
    There have been several references today to the temporary foreign worker program. Let me be clear. This program was never intended to allow for the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. When concerns were raised about the program, we acted quickly to ensure the interests of Canadian workers came first. Last month we announced several changes to the program. Before issuing a labour market opinion, we will make sure, through beefed-up questions, that the temporary foreign worker program is not used to enable the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.
    Through legislative and regulatory amendments currently before the House, we would increase the government's authority to suspend or revoke work permits and labour market opinions if the program is being misused. We would now require employers who rely on temporary foreign workers to have a firm plan in place to transition to a Canadian workforce. Effective immediately, we would also temporarily suspend the accelerated labour market opinion process in order to determine whether it is the best approach. Our goal continues to be to process applications as efficiently as possible, while ensuring that Canadian workers always come first.
    In addition, fees for processing LMOs and work permits would be introduced so that taxpayers are no longer obliged to subsidize the cost of processing these applications. We would require that employers who use the program pay temporary foreign workers at or above the average wage for a job.
    The opposition voted against providing funding to skills training for Canadians to qualify for jobs that might otherwise have been filled by temporary foreign workers. It has continued to vote against the legislative changes we are attempting to introduce to ensure the government has the tools to discover and crack down on businesses that are abusing the temporary foreign worker program.
    I would like to point out that we have put forward measures to help unemployed Canadians access labour market information to transition back into the labour force more quickly. For example, through enhanced job alerts, registered claimants can receive information up to twice daily on jobs available in their area.
    We need everyone's skills and talents at work to meet labour market demands and support the economy. We need action on all fronts, which our government is already taking, to create jobs and economic growth that will ensure continued prosperity for all Canadians. Canada is experiencing significant skills shortages in many regions and sectors of the economy, but we must always keep Canadians first whenever there are job openings.
    We have heard from a lot of the opposition MPs when it comes to a plan. Well, we have a plan. It is a plan that the opposition has voted against every step of the way. Our economic action plan has delivered on our commitment to Canadians to focus our efforts on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
    Canadians understood that the economic leadership of our Prime Minister was a key to navigating the difficult economic times we have faced in the recent past. That trust paid off, by electing a strong and stable national Conservative government.
    We have seen the creation of over 900,000 net new jobs. Most are full-time jobs in the private sector, with over two-thirds being in high-wage industries. This reflects the strength of Canada's economy amidst global economic uncertainty.


    As good as these results are, however, our focus is still on getting Canadians back to work. While there are currently thousands of jobs across Canada going unfilled, there are still too many Canadians looking for work. We are confronted with mismatches between the existing skills of the local labour force in some regions and the skills required by employers for new jobs. This is leading to shortages in some occupations that are key to our competitiveness and continued economic growth.
     Therefore, the Conservatives are pleased to support concurrence on this report and to call on all members of this House to work with us to address the skills gap. This can be most directly demonstrated by supporting our economic action plan and the budget implementation act that is now working its way through the House of Commons.


    Mr. Speaker, once again, I listened to the speech given by my colleague opposite.
    I would like to ask him a question. How can he ask us to support this kind of initiative when the government is making political hay by broadcasting ads about a program that the provinces have not yet been able to weigh in on?


    Mr. Speaker, one thing the committee found during our discussions with the witnesses who came forward was that a lot of the needs, the skills gaps and opportunities for jobs of today were not communicated well enough to the general public and to educational institutions across the country. What came out over and over again is that we need to better communicate those opportunities and what the government is doing to help come alongside people who want to get this skills training. This is just part of the program. Sure, it is going to be coming in the near future, but it is making Canadians aware so they can prepare themselves to get into the workforce.


    Mr. Speaker, I have a relatively simple question for the member. Canada is at an all-time high of approximately 338,000 temporary foreign workers, more than we have ever had in Canada.
    Why has the government done such a poor job at equipping Canadians with the skills necessary to fill those thousands of jobs that could not be filled? Apparently, according to the Conservatives, employers had to look outside Canada in order to find workers to fill those jobs. In the member's opinion, what did the Conservative government do wrong so that employers were unable to fill thousands of jobs with people who live in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the member, as I understand, was part of a provincial government and knows that skills training is the responsibility of the provincial government. The problem has been the communication between the provinces and the skills training to meet the needs of the employers of today. That is why we determined with our Canada jobs grant that there would be funding for the in-demand jobs so we could ensure those job needs are met.
    It is obvious that the program has not worked in the past because there was such a skills gap. Our government is willing to take action and move with the provinces and with employers to make this happen, to ensure we get not only the people trained but people who are trained in the right skills so they can meet the needs of today.
    I understand the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has an intervention.

Extension of Sitting Hours

Notice of Closure Motion  

[S. O. 57]
    Mr. Speaker, I want to give notice that with respect to consideration of Government Business No. 17, at the next sitting a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

Committees of the House

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

[Routine Proceedings]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, certainly in the area I represent, in the province of Alberta, the biggest threat to our economy is a lack of labour, and skilled labour is in great shortage. I know many companies in the oil business and many other types of businesses that cannot find people. There are too many jobs that go unfilled in Canada because the right type of people cannot be found. However, part of our budget, part of this last economic action plan, is the Canada job grant and part of this program would allow business to pay a portion.
     The member spoke about youth. Does he believe that part of recruitment will now be carried out by the business community?
    Businesses will move into the high schools and explain why they want to hire youth and give incentives. In the past, governments and others tried to perhaps find unemplo