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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 084

CONTENTS

Monday, May 12, 2014




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 084 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

  (1105)  

[English]

Promotion of Local Foods Act

    The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to talk about what I think is an important concept and idea. At the end of the day, Canadians would respond very positively to the concept of a pro-Canadian food strategy. I think it has a lot of appeal and is something we should be moving more towards.
    There is a role for the Government of Canada to play, even at some of the very basic levels. I always find it interesting how much money the Government of Canada will spend on advertising. We spend literally tens of millions of tax dollars on useless advertising. A good example, which I have used before, is the economic action plan that the government tends to promote at a phenomenal cost in tax dollars. I would suggest it is an absolute waste. We could use some of those tax dollars in a more productive fashion, and this is a good example of where I believe the government could be spending smarter in terms of those advertising dollars.
    Specifically, when we talk about developing a pro-Canadian food strategy, part of that no doubt has to incorporate advertising with respect to some basic information that would be wonderful to know. For example, how many Canadians know what types of vegetables are actually grown here in Canada? When is the season for strawberries? To what degree do we participate in promotion and educating our population about our agricultural communities, our farmers, and the incredible work they do in terms of providing food for our tables?
    Once all is said and done, I believe the government will be found lacking and wanting in terms of being able to educate people and provide a higher sense of public awareness. The Conservatives have really done very little on that front, and we have relied on initiatives from the private sector or other levels of government.
    For example, one of the huge success stories in my own province is the Peak of the Market, which is an organization that has done exceptionally well in the province of Manitoba. It has provided educational advertising and a much higher sense of public awareness because of its actions.
    Peak of the Market contributes immensely to non-profit organizations and educates the population as a whole in terms of the types of vegetables that they receive. Most importantly, not only does it promote good, quality product for the table, but it always provides a wonderful opportunity for farmers in Manitoba to participate in a program, and working as a collective we are able to see that much more in terms of market share. This is critically important, because it helps preserve the family farm and at the same time provides a world-class product. I am a little biased, but I would suggest we produce some of the best agricultural products in the world.
    I think of a product like Manitoba-grown potatoes. We have had recognition throughout North America as one of the better producers of potato. French fries are a big thing in our province, not to mention Old Dutch potato chips, which are manufactured in Winnipeg North. I think there would be a very healthy competition between the P.E.I. spud and the Manitoba spud.
    At the end of the day, whether it is Peak of the Market or our farmers' direct sales, they have done a phenomenal job in ensuring that we are able to produce a quality product.
    The Government of Canada could be playing a role in this area. I used the potato as just one example of where the Government of Canada could do more with respect to advertising. As opposed to advertising the economic action plan, why does the government not invest some of those dollars in promoting locally grown products, no matter what region the products come from?
    I remember driving down a highway a number of years back and seeing signs inviting people to pick their own strawberries. Ice cream buckets could be filled with strawberries. At certain times of the year, some grocery stores advertise discounted prices for blueberries and so forth. We need to understand and appreciate the importance of healthy food. People's diets can be influenced by the products they purchase in different seasons of the year and how they can store certain products during the winter months. So much more could be done to educate people.
    Canadians want to contribute in a more wholesome way toward what they are eating. They are trying to get a better understanding of the food industry. I myself have tried to get a better understanding of local industries beyond vegetables and fruits.
    The chicken and pork industries are two important industries. A good percentage of the chickens processed in Manitoba stay in my province. The agriculture critic for the Liberal Party came to my province and we had a wonderful opportunity to tour hatcheries and egg producers and visited a processor. Thousands of chickens are processed on a daily basis. Even though the bulk of them are used for local consumption, some of them are exported.
    The pork industry in Manitoba processes millions of pigs on an annual basis. The agriculture critic and I toured places like the Maple Leaf plant. We also had the opportunity to visit some pork farms. This is an incredible industry that provides a high-quality product. This industry could continue to grow if we did more in terms of diversification, education, and consumer awareness. Our high-quality product could continue to grow, and that growth would ultimately add more jobs and value to our economy. I would argue that the final product would be that much better as well.
    I also want to comment on our dairy industry. This industry has done exceptionally well through supply management, something we are committed to maintaining. This industry provides quality milk, cheese, eggs, and so forth, the essential foods that Canadians need.
    If we want to be fair, we need to recognize the importance of the role farmers play in our food industry. We should have a strategy in place that would not only recognize their important role but would also encourage and enhance the great potential for growth in that industry.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.
    Before I begin, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this bill. This bill introduces a pan-Canadian local foods strategy and a policy to encourage federal institutions to purchase those foods. It shows leadership by addressing an issue that is very important to the people in my riding.
    To illustrate how important local foods are to my region, I would like to read from an email sent to me by Nicolas Villeneuve, a municipal councillor in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. He is also an apple producer and president of the Deux-Montagnes UPA. When I contacted him to talk about my colleague's proposed strategy, this is what he told me:
    The bill you sent me is of critical importance to producers in our region. Government support for local foods is essential to ensure ongoing economic progress in the regions and to safeguard the progress our agricultural undertakings have achieved. Buying local foods will ensure Canadian food sovereignty, which is critical for both current and future generations.

    This also represents a long-term effort to protect the environment, if only by reducing our food miles.

    By buying locally, we can optimize people's access to the highest quality foods because quality control on imported products is not subject to reciprocity requirements with respect to production standards.

    These are the basic elements that I want to bring to your attention in connection with this bill.
    I would like to thank Mr. Villeneuve for providing such an excellent summary of why buying local foods is good for our regional economies, not to mention our agricultural sector, food sovereignty and the environment.
    Mr. Villeneuve supports this bill, just like many other organizations. I would like to list just a few such organizations that people in my region think are very important: the Association des marchés publics du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Union des producteurs agricoles, Solidarité rurale du Québec and Equiterre. The list goes on and on.
    These organizations represent the people in our communities who are out there, close to the land. They realize that this type of bill is necessary if we want to ensure that the buy local movement really takes root.
    I would like to talk about the research conducted by Equiterre in 2011, which is laid out in a document titled “Eating at home”.
    I would invite those interested in this topic to visit the organization's website, where the research is available in its entirety. This study highlights the fact that Canadians want to eat local. In fact, three out of four Canadians want to. It is also important to define what “eating local” means.
    The survey reveals that in situations of choice, Canadian consumers prefer to buy a domestic product, even from a faraway province, rather than an American product that was grown nearer by. Not just a question of kilometres, buying local is an act that is motivated by political rather than environmental concerns. When respondents were questioned on ideas associated with local foods, 94%...of them emphasized that they encouraged the local economy.
    I find that very interesting. When I see those statistics, I am proud that Canadians want to support our own producers so that our communities will be stronger and more successful. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what we want to do and what we actually do.
    That is why this study also looked at the barriers to buying local foods. One of the most common barriers is the fact that local products are not always clearly identified. The study demonstrates that:

  (1115)  

The results of the survey suggest the need for a basket of strategies for easier identification of local products, beyond just a logo or a brand. Strategies could be adapted to the consumer, depending on the environment (rural/urban, province of residence) and the place of purchase. For example, a neighbourhood greengrocer that has the complete confidence of its consumers could rely exclusively on identification at the display or a procurement policy, whereas bigger chains may need to use a label. Employees could also be provided with better training to help them guide clients towards local products.
    This is important. We really need to identify best practices in this area and look at the studies that civil society organizations are doing in order to develop a pan-Canadian strategy.
    The study indicates that, in addition to product identification problems, the incentives with the greatest impact on consumers are availability, accessibility, price and information. These incentives must be discussed and included in any plans for a pan-Canadian strategy.
    The conclusion of the report indicates that we cannot merely rely on the isolated efforts of individuals who are already convinced of the benefits of buying local. We need to do more. Consumers are willing to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables, but all of the necessary conditions for this to happen have yet to be fully realized.
    I would like to once again reiterate that this study is available on the Equiterre website, and I encourage anyone who is interested to read it. It is very interesting. However, I would really like to assure my colleagues opposite, who may not trust Equiterre, that buying local is not just a fad. It is a major policy decision that has a widely recognized positive economic impact, particularly for a region like mine.
    The study was even picked up by the Quebec magazine Les affaires, which once again pointed out how important it is to the Quebec economy to promote buying local. This shows how important it is for governments, like the Government of Quebec, to get involved. The Government of Quebec is very supportive of buying local. The federal government must also take some leadership with the provinces, while respecting their jurisdictions, of course.
    The business community, the agricultural industry and environmentalists all agree that a partnership between the federal and provincial governments will allow much more to be accomplished.
    For example, the Centre local de développement de Mirabel in my riding published a really interesting article about buying local in its economic newsletter, MIRADEV. It answered two important questions in this regard. First, why is it important to encourage our local farm producers? Second, what are the advantages of buying local products?
    The answer to the first question is very important and speaks to those who are community-minded. Throughout the entire Mirabel region we are lucky to have farmers who sell their products directly from their farms at a kiosk, a shop or a greenhouse. It is also possible to pick your own fruits and vegetables or have baskets of produce delivered to your home. If every consumer added $30 worth of Quebec-grown food to their grocery cart every year, sales would increase by $1 billion over five years and roughly 100,000 jobs would be created throughout Quebec. That is quite significant.
    The benefits are clear. In addition to creating jobs and helping our local economy, we are getting fresh food that is often harvested very nearby. We are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, again because there is less movement of goods. We are also directly supporting our farmers and promoting healthy eating. That is important because when we buy locally, farmers use as little pesticide as possible in order to protect the environment.
    I will close by saying that this is very important for my region, where the economy survives truly because of the local farm community. That is why I stand by my colleague who is proposing this pan-Canadian strategy. I invite all members of the House to support this bill.

  (1120)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak in strong support of Bill C-539, an act to promote local foods. I will begin by paying tribute to the energetic and thoughtful work undertaken by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.
    I will first set the stage with some local context. My riding, Victoria, sits at the tip of an island that is home to nearly 3,000 farms and has a strong tourism sector. Almost one in five service sector jobs on Vancouver Island is connected directly or indirectly to food. However, over the last half century, the balance between locally grown and imported food has tilted dramatically. Once we grew 90% of our food locally; now, we import 90%. Partly for that reason, Victoria is at the leading edge of a trend that we are seeing in communities across the country, and indeed across the world, a growing interest in buying foods that are produced locally.
    The majority of Canadians who choose to buy local do it to support farmers as well as their community economy, but they do it for other reasons too. Canadians know that by reducing the distance that our food travels means fresher produce in our kitchens, cleaner air in our communities, and fewer climate-changing emissions across Canada.
    Late last year, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Victoria public market. The market is the fruit of years of work by community activists like my friend Philippe Lucas, who wanted a downtown space to connect local farms with urban residents. It has been enormously successful.
    My riding is also home to an innovative community organization called LifeCycles, headed up by the indefatigable and imaginative Jeanette Sheehy. LifeCycles partners with municipal governments and public institutions to give residents the tools and skills they need to grow, prepare, and preserve local foods.
    In backyards across our city, hundreds of volunteers harvest up to 40,000 pounds of fruit each year, for example. That food is distributed through a network of some 40 agencies, such as food banks and community centres. They also have relationships with businesses supporting their work through social enterprise initiatives, such as selling apples to a local cidery, for example.
    LifeCycles also works with eight elementary schools to integrate schoolyard vegetable gardens into their curriculum. Through these programs, more than 750 elementary school students each year learn how to grow their own nutritious food, right in their backyard. LifeCycles is a perfect example of the diverse range of benefits we can see in our economy and our communities when we support local agriculture.
    Elsewhere in British Columbia, I would like to acknowledge the work of initiatives like Farm to Cafeteria, a not-for-profit agency, with a ten-year track record of creating and supporting local food projects in public and private institutions. A provincial program called “buy B.C.” works with industry to highlight local food products.
    This past weekend, I visited Moss Street Market, one of the remarkable urban neighbourhood markets in Victoria. Like the amazing James Bay market, it is thriving. These neighbourhood markets not only provide an important outlet for local farmers, they serve to create something perhaps even more important: community. They create community. They bring neighbours and families together in an outdoor space to mingle and enjoy each other's company.
    In Victoria, across British Columbia, and across Canada, the trend line is clear: the numbers of farmers markets have doubled over the past two decades. Even though we still buy the majority of our food from grocery chains, collaborative efforts by provinces and industries are promoting local foods that people want.
    In response, other levels of government have taken action. Municipalities have introduced local procurement programs, and just last year, Ontario and Quebec introduced policies and legislation on local food, yet the federal government has no policy to encourage this positive trend. That is why Bill C-539 is so essential.
    I am proud to support the bill, as a member of the only party in this House to demonstrate its commitment to supporting Canadian farmers by promoting local foods.

  (1125)  

    I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleagues, the member for London—Fanshawe and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who tabled bills in the last Parliament to give preference to Canadian products in government procurement and provincial transfers.
    Canadians are making their preference for local foods known in the marketplace. Businesses are adapting. Community organizations, like those I mentioned in Victoria, are spreading the social and economic benefits of local agriculture around our communities. Governments at the municipal and provincial levels are waking up and noticing. The federal government must, too, and show some leadership. This bill would provide a road map for doing so.
    What would the bill do exactly? First, very thoughtfully, it would enable federal and provincial ministers of agriculture to develop a pan-Canadian strategy to define “local food”, something that is not that easy to get our heads around.
    In some cases it is easy, such as on Vancouver Island, where we have set definitions by geography. In other cases it is not so easy, such as in Ottawa and Gatineau. How do we define “local” when products cross provincial borders? How far should the distance be from the marketplace? Those are the sorts of things that need to be addressed as job one, and the bill would do just that.
    Secondly, the bill would provide for the development of a local foods procurement policy for government institutions. It would task the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to develop such a policy and to implement it no later than one year after this legislation would come into force.
    I also want to emphasize that the bill has shown great sensitivity to the division of powers in the Canadian federation. It would ask the federal government to first consult the provinces and stakeholders, such as producers, before it introduced this pan-Canadian local food strategy, and to develop a policy to encourage government institutions to purchase this food. In other words, the primary goal is to promote locally grown food and support Canadian producers, but always looking out for the division of powers in the Canadian federation so that we can work together, not at cross purposes.
    Great care has been taken to confirm that such a local food procurement strategy would be consistent with both our internal trade and international trade obligations. That is very important.
    Farmers in Canada are often facing a crisis. In my part of the world, the price of land is absolutely enormous, and it is very difficult to encourage young people to go into farming as a result. Not only that, there is a government at the provincial level that has introduced Bill 24, which appears to be trying to take away the preservation of the agricultural land reserve that was introduced by a former NDP administration to preserve the space and land on which agriculture can take place. That is something which is so vital. I would like to salute the efforts of my colleague, MLA Lana Popham, in trying to address this apparently wrong-headed initiative.
    Creating a market for this product, even when agricultural land is so expensive, and when we have issues such as climate change that address what can be grown and where it can be grown, is very difficult. We need to provide as much support to our local farmers as we can. That is what this bill would be all about.
    The bill reflects the NDP commitment to sustainable development. When we buy local foods, we reduce transportation distances and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the climate crisis we are facing in Canada today.
    By way of conclusion, this bill is sensitive to federal and provincial concerns. It would take into account consultations with the producers, the provinces, and the territories. It would develop a local procurement strategy that would be consistent with our trade agreements. Most of all, it would help sustain something that is so vital, which is local agriculture creating community in our country and giving consumers and farmers what we need as we face the future together.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods. I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, the former deputy environment critic. She is well versed in the principles of sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gases. Her bill reflects that.
    First, I must explain that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, is split into two sections. The first requires the federal government to work with the provinces on developing a pan-Canadian strategy. Essentially, we want the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to sit down with his provincial and territorial counterparts, with farmers and distributors and with representatives of civil society in order to develop a common definition of what constitutes local food, which is not yet defined in Canada.
    The pan-Canadian strategy will also create a forum for sharing best practices, promoting buy local and co-ordinating the efforts of producers and distributors. II have talked to farmers in the Lower Laurentians over the past three years and realized that they are not necessarily aware of what they can do, what works and the tools that could be made available to them.
    Today, farmers are facing considerable challenges including the increase in production costs, international competition, fluctuating prices and natural catastrophes that are increasingly affecting their returns.
    By buying local, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of farmers. As my colleagues have already mentioned, the agricultural and agri-food sector is very important to the Canadian economy and generates thousands of jobs. Buying local means cultivating our own economy. That is why we have to sit down together and develop a concerted strategy.
    There is no federal policy to promote the purchase of local food. However, a number of provinces have already developed such policies. For example, Quebec developed the Proximité program to encourage buying local. The provinces have taken the lead in promoting local foods. A number of other provinces have worked with the industry to design programs that highlight local products, such as Foodland Ontario, the Buy Local BC program and, of course, Aliments du Québec.
    Bill C-539 also calls on the federal government to set an example by developing a local foods procurement policy for federal institutions. There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada, namely agencies, departments, prisons and hospitals. That is quite a few. The federal government can develop a local procurement strategy at these institutions.
    What does buy local mean? It means buying products nearby that were cultivated and grown by local people.
    During my term as an MP, I have met many farmers and participated in local events that promote local products, such as the Festival de la galette et des saveurs du terroir in Vieux-Saint-Eustache and the Fête Champêtre de la Société d'agriculture Mirabel—Deux-Montagnes to name just a couple.
    I support the work being done by the Groupe conseil agricole Outaouais-Laurentide. This group focuses primarily on co-operative activities and on pooling development tools to benefit the community. I have spoken with these farmers and learned that they often work behind the scenes. However, they are passionate and make considerable contributions to our community.
    What does buying local mean for consumers? Some Canadians will be surprised to learn that local food does not necessarily cost more than food from another province or food that is imported from elsewhere.

  (1135)  

    Seasonal food generally costs the same price or even less. A number of studies have proven this. In some cases, the food can cost more as a result of production or distribution costs, but even if the price of local food varies, 42% of consumers are prepared to pay a small supplement for local products if it benefits their region's economy.
    Do my colleagues know that if every consumer added $30 of products from Quebec to their grocery cart every year, we would see an increase in sales of over $1 billion over five years and the creation of about 100,000 jobs in all regions of Quebec? That is a big deal. It shows how important buying local is to Quebec's economy.
    I want to share some quotes from some people who support Bill C-539. This is from the Union des producteurs agricoles:
    We believe that if this bill passes, it will create some attractive opportunities for agri-food products from Quebec and Canada by focusing on their quality and the economic, social and environmental benefits they represent.
    I would also like to share a quote from Equiterre:
    This bill will help Canadian farmers, create jobs and reduce the pollution associated with transportation. We think this bill is commendable.
    I know that my colleague form Beauharnois—Salaberry did her homework in drafting this bill. She consulted farmers and other stakeholders. I am proud to support her bill.
    In my role as MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of working with farmers from the region on a number of federal files. For example, I intervened on behalf of Quebec's wine producers regarding the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's intention to develop an ice wine standard.
    For those who may not be familiar with my riding, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Rivière du chêne winery in Saint-Eustache is the second-largest winery in Quebec, the largest being the Orpailleur winery in the Eastern Townships. The winery has received many awards at prestigious international competitions, proving that our local products are high-quality products.
    I would also like to point out that a group of MPs from the Montreal area submitted a brief before the Montreal metropolitan area adopted its metropolitan land use and development plan. They wanted to stress the importance of maintaining a greenbelt around the Island of Montreal.
    I would also like to mention that the NDP has been working on the issue of buying local for some time now. Last year, the hon. member for Welland introduced a buy local bill, Bill C-449, An Act respecting a National Local Food Day. In the last Parliament, the members for Burnaby—New Westminster and London—Fanshawe introduced bills to give priority to Canadian products in the public sector procurement process and transfer payments to the provinces.
    It is obvious that this bill is consistent with the NDP's vision of promoting the local economy and sustainable development.
    While I was doing research for my speech, I was interested to learn that the number of farmers markets in Canada has doubled since 1990. Between 2004 and 2007, the number of producers who sell directly to consumers increased by 2%. In 2009, there were 2,314 buy local initiatives in Canada. Clearly, consumers want to buy local products. Municipalities and provinces have taken action to promote the idea of buying local.
    I believe that the federal government must take a leadership role and sit down with the provinces, stakeholders and experts to help our farmers and develop a buy local strategy.
    I invite all of my colleagues in the House to support this bill.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to support Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. This bill is very important to me.
    In my time today, I would like to inject some local flavour into the debate and talk about producers in our regions, who will be the main beneficiaries of this bill. I live in Laval, the suburb north of Montreal. When you talk about Laval, people picture a pretty typical suburb. However, one-third of the land in Laval is agricultural. It includes the very best Saint Lawrence River valley farmland in Quebec. That might come as a surprise to people who do not know my riding. Over 80% of the land in Alfred-Pellan is agricultural. That is a lot of farmland.
    People in Laval are extremely proud of our local producers. I am speaking on their behalf today. I have spoken to a number of producers in Alfred-Pellan about Bill C-539. People in Laval are very enthusiastic about the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.
    If we take a close look at this bill, we see that its main purpose is to promote local foods and support Canadian producers. Its primary goal is to support local producers all across the country. That is because producers are grappling with major challenges such as rising production costs, pressure due to global competition, which is being felt more and more keenly in our ridings, fluctuating prices and natural disasters, which are having an increasingly significant impact on agricultural yields.
    By buying locally, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of producers. That is the key element of this bill. Anyone familiar with the challenges facing farmers knows how important it is to find the next generation. Since I was raised in Laval, where I was surrounded by producers, I have a lot of friends who farm and acquaintances who are the next agricultural generation. I have observed that our young people cannot make a go of it in the existing agricultural system.
    I would like to give the House a few examples. I am thinking, for example, of my friend Pierre-Luc, of Cultures Chouinard, who does not live in Laval but is from Rivière-du-Loup. He grows squash and potatoes. It was very difficult for him to take over the farm. It is a very large farm that covers a huge area in the St. Lawrence Valley. He did not have the means to take over the family farm and so his family had to give him a large part of the farm.
    My neighbours in Auteuil, the Ouimet family, have been growing cabbage for three generations on the Rang des Perron. They have discouraged their three children from farming and have suggested that they study and do something else because agriculture is too difficult for today's youth. They wanted their children to have a better future.
    I am also thinking of a friend of my brother's who owns Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François and who has been raising goats for many years. His family has worked hard to raise goats in order to make good local goat cheese. He has always loved this work. The only problem is that there is no future in it because he cannot make a living from the trade that he loves so much. Unfortunately, he is thinking of selling Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François, which is a jewel in eastern Laval.
    These are very sad cases. The Conservative government has shown very little initiative when it comes to helping the next and the current generation of farmers. A pan-Canadian strategy that would have the federal government sit down with the provinces, discuss different solutions and establish a platform for best practices by region is a very smart choice.

  (1145)  

    This situation must not be taken lightly. Farmers from across Canada could tell us what is happening today. Land is being bought by multinationals and local farmers are struggling to survive. They have to keep restructuring and it takes a lot of money and resources to do that. Unfortunately, they are often saddled with debt.
    Supporting them with Bill C-539 would be a step in the right direction. It would send the message that the federal government is concerned about our farmers and buying locally and that it is going to invest in this and sit down with the provinces to see what could be done and to establish a pan-Canadian strategy. It would show that we are taking this problem seriously and addressing it as quickly as possible.
    Back home in eastern Laval, we are extremely proud to buy locally. We have a number of magnificent farms that are still locally owned and operated and passed down from generation to generation. There are a number of community initiatives organized every year to support these various farmers and provide the locals with easy access to this local food.
    There are the neighbourhood farmer's markets in eastern Laval, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-François. This way, a number of local producers can have a stand at these outlets. These pocket markets alternate between two neighbourhoods that, let's face it, are not as well served when it comes to food security.
    For example, we have the Aux vieux chênes farm, which is the only sugar shack in eastern Laval. There is also the Vaillancourt farm. Agathe makes delicious jams and has a number of local products to offer. These farms are often represented at the neighbourhood farmer's market in eastern Laval. This wonderful and popular initiative to support our local farmers is starting its third consecutive year this year. This would be a good practice to share with various other players. I am sure there are others across the country. It would be interesting for people to share their experiences.
    The Jeunes au Travail farm has undertaken a wonderful initiative. This organization helps troubled youth between the ages of 16 and 25 reintegrate into the labour market through activities such as Ecocert-certified organic farming. The young people grow organic fruits and vegetables on the farm and also cook meals with local products and the products they grow. The organization also provides training and job skills, as well as psychological and social support to these young people who really need it. The organization is training a new generation of people who are aware of local foods, food safety and high-quality products, which is amazing. When the stand is open, I often drop by to commend these young people who are doing an incredible job. I tip my hat to them, because without them, we would have to wonder about the future. This is a wonderful example of what Quebec's next generation can do.
    I must also point out that the big supermarket chains are getting increasingly involved in buying local, doing business with farmers and featuring them in their stores, especially in the summer. This is of course easier to do at this time of year. There are great examples from Laval to Mont-Laurier. We are seeing an interest from the public, community organizations, farmers who are trying to make a go of it, and even big chains at the local level.
    In conclusion I want to say that I support the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. I hope that my colleagues, regardless of where they sit in the House, will support this bill that is extremely important to all the people I mentioned.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise in the House today to defend my bill and to try to convince other members to vote in favour of it. Farmers deserve nothing less.
    We tend to forget that farmers do the work needed to meet a vital need, the need to eat. They allow human beings to feed themselves. We often consider farmers from a purely economic standpoint, but they also play a role when it comes to health and basic needs. It is therefore very important that we support all of our farmers, as my colleague from Alfred-Pellan said, as well as any members of the next generation who want to get involved in agriculture, in order to improve the image of our farmers, who work hard day and night to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Here in Canada, that is a rather uncertain undertaking. We have seen proof of this recently. Spring is dragging on and farmers are having to deal with unpredictable weather.
    What I am asking the government is very simple. It involves being innovative and showing leadership. It is quite feasible since there are already a number of pan-Canadian strategies out there. All of the stakeholders that I consulted over the past two years, whether it be farmers, people working on agri-food policies, consumers or distributors, want the federal government to sit down with them and with the provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture and agri-food in order to discuss a common definition of buying local. That is no easy task since every region of every province has a different definition and a consensus must be reached.
    We must also continue to raise the public's awareness of the importance of buying local and its benefits. As it has been mentioned, foods that are grown locally are fresher and taste better than those coming from other places; moreover, buying local reduces the need for transportation, thereby reducing our ecological footprint. Farming is a sustainable and profitable occupation.
    In terms of profits, we need to keep in mind that farmers create more than one in eight jobs in Canada. Each year, they account for 8% of Canada's GDP, contributing more than $100 billion to the Canadian economy. Farming is a vital part of our economy, and we need to support our farmers. To those who are concerned about international free trade agreements, I would simply say that every agreement Canada has signed includes procurement thresholds that allow Canada to buy locally. Many European Union countries and the United States do it. Why not Canada? Why not lead by example and ensure that we are supporting our own farmers?
    There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada. During the summer months, our farmers grow their vegetables and other crops, and it is much easier for us to support them. Why not do it? It is easy enough. Our land is full of riches. We need to put this policy into practice. There is plenty of support for it.
    I would like to thank all of those who participated in the consultations, including my colleagues and the people in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry. In particular, I would like to thank Sylvain Gascon from the Huntingdon farmers market, who welcomed me with open arms. He gave me plenty of advice and guidance and put me in contact with many people. Denys Van Winden helped me discover the rich land of Jardins-de-Napierville. He also talked to me about the difficulties that farmers are facing and the optimal level of funding from the federal government for research, young farmers and farming practices. I cannot mention everyone who helped, but a number of economic stakeholders supported me as well, including the local development centres in Haut-Saint-Laurent and Beauharnois-Salaberry, the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent conference of regional elected officials, and the Beauharnois–Valleyfield chamber of commerce and industry, which was the first chamber of commerce that decided to support this project. I would also like to say a special thanks to my team members who, for the past two years, have supported me and done everything they could to promote this bill.

  (1155)  

    I am so grateful to Isabelle Bourassa, Glen, Julie and Jean-Marc. I would also like to thank everyone, NDP and otherwise, who supported the bill. It is heartwarming.
    I hope that the federal government will finally step up and sit down with the provinces, municipalities, producers and distributors so that this sector of our economy, which feeds the planet, can succeed and so that our producers can be proud of the work they do.
    We need leadership and political will, and we also need common sense because this sector is struggling. Since 2006, 8,000 farm families have had to leave their farms because of the federal government's lack of support and vision. That has had an impact on all regions of Canada.
    It is important for everyone here and around the world to be able to eat healthy, local food. I hope that all members will vote in favour of my bill.

[English]

     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin) The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin) All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin) All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin) In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin) Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 14, 2014, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1200)  

[English]

Fair Elections Act

    The House resumed from May 7 consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had completed his remarks but had not yet begun his questions and comments, so we will do those five minutes of questions and comments now.
    The hon. member for Malpeque.
    Mr. Speaker, great remarks they were by the member for Winnipeg North outlining fairly strong criticism of Bill C-23, misnamed the fair elections act. It is the foundation, really, of how we elect people in our country. It is a bill that really should be opposed.
    I have two questions for the member. Would he explain the importance of having a free vote on Bill C-23? That has been talked about by quite a number of players, and I wonder if he could expand on that. Could he also expand on the government's decision not to compel witnesses? That will certainly impact the ability of Elections Canada to do its job.
    If he could answer those two questions, it would be helpful.
    Mr. Speaker, I like the way the member said that it is misnamed. It is not the fair elections act. Bill C-23 is far from that. One has only to look at the process by which the bill has come before us, whether it was the conception of the idea; no consultation with the many different stakeholders; the manner in which it was introduced in the House, where there was again no consultation; time allocation at second reading; or committee stage, where there were numerous amendments made that were never addressed in full because of time allocation or restrictions that saw many of the amendments voted on but never commented on. Here we are today, where again, time allocation has been brought forward.
    We change one of the pillars of our democracy when we change laws. The government did not work with opposition parties or with Elections Canada, a true independent organization. Rather, it has forced the bill through.
    We are calling for the Prime Minister, at the very least, to allow a free vote in the House on this issue, believing that parliamentarians will put democracy ahead of their own party's interests on this issue. It is an appeal to have a free vote.
    Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a significant moment in the House of Commons when the Conservative majority has accepted and proposed its own amendments in the face of massive opposition from quarters that usually support it, like serial editorials inThe Globe and Mail and Conservative senators. Even the former auditor general, Sheila Fraser, weighed in on bill at first reading, saying the bill was “attack on...democracy”.
    In the member's view, with the amendments the Conservatives have now put forward, does he agree with me that while it is a less awful bill, it is still not a good bill?
    Mr. Speaker, absolutely. That was well put. It is important we recognize that there was an incredible amount of opposition to the legislation and the manner in which the government brought it forward and attempted to pass it through the system. The way in which the government has treated our elections law is incredible.
     As has been pointed out, I would suggest that even with the changes that have made, the legislation still has fundamental flaws. The most significant one is that it has not brought forward the ability to allow Elections Canada or the Commissioner of Canada Elections to compel witnesses. That is a serious flaw. Without that change, how can we possibly support the legislation?
    The reason the public wanted to see the election law changed in the first place was to deal with issues that came from the last federal election. Without the ability to compel witnesses, even if we pass the bill as it is today, the election law will be weaker than what it was prior to its introduction. Elections Canada and the commissioner have recognized that point.
    Therefore, I would plead with the Prime Minister to have a free vote and then I ask all Conservative members to balance it and vote against the legislation.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in report stage to speak, initially, to my two amendments. I had hoped to have substantive amendments at report stage, but members will recall that the committee was allowed to violate its own rules by rejecting my right to speak to my amendments as they were all gavelled through, all being rejected.
    I want to express thanks to the minister for being willing to listen to the extraordinary course of denunciation for Bill C-23 at first reading. Unfortunately, even with the number of government amendments that were accepted at committee, the bill falls far short of being what is required to go by the name of a “fair elections act”.
    Briefly speaking to the amendments I put forward at committee, which were defeated, it is a shame that we missed the opportunity to open a discussion on getting rid of first past the post and moving to proportional representation. I think most Canadians would be shocked to find that the leaders' debates are not controlled by anybody, and that the opportunity to create a fair system, as presented at committee by Democracy Watch, was not supported by any party other than the Green Party.
    On the requirements for people to bring so many different kinds of ID, we still do not have the kind of system that is as reliable as the election system before the Conservatives' first round of amendments back in 2006. I wish we had ensured non-partisan poll workers.
     There were numerous amendments from the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Greens on many of these points, for fairer financing and to take steps to increase voter turnout. I also put forward an amendment in the committee to shift the day of advanced polling from a Sunday. I will try again with the amendments I have before you, Mr. Speaker.
    All the amendments from any opposition party were defeated at committee, with one exception, which was one when the Conservative leader on the committee pointed out that the Conservatives had been prepared to do that themselves had they had the chance.
    My two amendments would do one thing, which would be fantastic, and that would be to remove the name of the political party from the ballot next to the name of the candidate. This would do a lot to reduce the excessive control of political parties over the electoral process. We used to have elections with just the name of the candidate, right up until about 1970.
    I want to devote the rest of my time this morning to why we had the demand for a fair elections act, and how this bill falls far short. The initial attempt, and this was mentioned by other members in this place, the initial cry for reform of our electoral process, was in response to efforts at electoral fraud.
    The amendments I put forward at committee, among those of Liberals and the New Democrats as well, called for giving Elections Canada the investigative tools it needed, such as subpoena powers, the ability to look into efforts, or deliberate efforts or actually successful efforts, at voter fraud and electoral interference that changed the course of elections. These amendments were defeated.
    People have been very quick to assume that the so-called robocalls affair is now settled and nothing untoward took place there. Because the bill remains inadequate to the task of investigating electoral fraud, we can continue to have events like the 2011 robocall scandal without the tools of Elections Canada to respond.
    In the time I have remaining, I want to ensure that it is understood we have not once, not twice, but three times seen quite scandalous interference in our electoral process, that if we had heard of these stories from some third world country, with some kind of tinpot dictatorship that ran fake elections, we would just shake our heads and say, “I guess that is how it happens in other countries”.
    The first example was the 2005-06 election, when we had the deliberate interference in the election by our state police, the RCMP. We never got to the bottom of why Commissioner Zaccardelli broke all RCMP protocol and issued a press release during that election. According to a finding of fact by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, Paul Kennedy, the interference of the RCMP both violated its normal procedures and changed the course of the 2006 election. We had no investigation because there were no subpoena powers to call Mr. Zaccardelli to explain himself.
    Second, we had an event that took place in Saanich—Gulf Islands in the 2008 election. I was not personally involved, but it was very clear, and there were multiple complaints to Elections Canada and the RCMP, that a robocall effort targeting NDP voters changed the course of that election and allowed a Conservative to be re-elected when all evidence suggested that he would not have been.

  (1210)  

    The Liberal candidate was neck in neck with the Conservatives. There was no NDP candidate on the ballot as he had withdrawn. An election eve round of phone calls went out spoofed as though they were from the NDP. The spoofing term is one I have learned. It is the technical term for using the home fax number, as it turned out, of an NDP volunteer to make it appear the calls originated from the NDP, urging people to get out and vote for a candidate who was no longer capable of election because he had withdrawn from the race. That changed the course of the election. Elections Canada was asked to investigate, but basically threw its hands up and said that it could not find anything, that there was nothing to see, so we should move on.
    If members detect in my presentation that I am critical of the failure of Elections Canada and the RCMP to get to the bottom of that, everyone can bet I am critical. They utterly failed to defend the integrity of the election process in Saanich—Gulf Islands in 2008, and they did it again in 2011 with the robocall scandal. Thank goodness, The Council of Canadians took the matter to court. Other than Federal Court judge Mr. Justice Mosley, we would not have somebody as a finder of fact going over all the evidence and giving us clear foundational information of what occurred. Right now, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, Mr. Yves Côté, in his report of last month, once again told us that there was nothing to see, so we should move on.
    Let me review what Mr. Justice Mosley found, because it is important to put it on the record to understand why this bill is so inadequate and why it should have the powers of investigation to ensure that crimes like this are properly investigated. Mr. Justice Mosley found as fact that “...there was a deliberate attempt at voter suppression during the 2011 election”. That was at paragraph 177.
     At paragraph 224, he wrote:
    I am satisfied that it has been established that misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings, and that the purpose of those calls was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls.
    At paragraph 246, he stated, “I find that the threshold to establish that fraud occurred has been met...”.
    At paragraph 253, he said:
...I don’t doubt that the confidence rightfully held by Canadians has been shaken by the disclosures of widespread fraudulent activities that have resulted from the Commissioner’s investigations and the complaints to Elections Canada.
    As well, he stated at paragraph 256:
...[the...] calls appear to have been targeted towards voters who had previously expressed a preference for an opposition party (or anyone other than the government party)...
    On the matter of a smoking gun and who is responsible, essentially in this case we have a smoking gun. We know that thousands of calls were made, including in my own riding and across the country. I wrote Elections Canada with my concerns about these widespread attempts at voter suppression immediately following the May 2011 election. Who was responsible? I have made no accusations as to who I believe is responsible, but Mr. Justice Mosley found as fact the following, at paragraph 245:
    I am satisfied...that the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the Conservative Party of Canada, accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court....the evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made...
    What kind of democracy is this? We have the evidence of a Federal Court judge, thousands of complaints from Canadians across the country, a Commissioner of Canada Elections who says that there is nothing to look at here and everyone should move on, and we have a bill before us that would do absolutely nothing to prevent the illegitimate use of robocalls in future elections.
    I concede to the minister and support the part of the bill that sets up a robocalls registry within the CRTC, but it is not sufficient to deal with the illegitimate use of robocalls and to protect Canadians, Canadian democracy and the integrity of our electoral process. This bill falls far short. This is a dark day for democracy.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, would the member care to comment on the happenings in the committee that was reviewing the bill?
    The member proposed that we have a study on proportional representation, but the Liberals voted against it in committee in a recorded vote. We, of course, supported the motion that we should include a study of proportional representation in the bill. Would she comment on the Liberal rejection of this notion?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, I was disappointed. It was a very modest proposal that we open discussion toward proportional representation, which was not supported by the Liberals. I have to say that I was also very disappointed—although the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth did put forward an explanation that was somewhat persuasive as to why his party would not support my amendment—that no one supported my amendment to have some rules to ensure fairness in the leaders debate. I was not without my disappointments throughout the committee process.
    I think we need to continue to work to get rid of the perverse first past the post voting system. I commend the NDP for its strong position on that, but I think we need to persuade more Liberal and Conservative members. Within both of those parties, I know there are many members who find the current system quite perverse and would like to see real reform.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the leader of the Green Party. I think she hit the nail on the head with her last comment, “This is a dark day for democracy”, in terms of the possible passage of Bill C-23.
    The member outlined a number of examples in her remarks, and I would add to that with two areas that the Conservative government has undermined. Canada at one time was seen as a model to strive for in terms of how we held elections, Elections Canada, and so on. The same thing with Statistics Canada; we used to be seen as one of the best in the world, but under the current government, we are seen as one of the worst.
    I have two questions for the member. One, given how seriously Bill C-23 undermines our ability to police elections and investigate foul play, does it make it possible for a government to either buy or steal an election? Two, should we be calling for United Nations observers in Canada for the next election?
    Mr. Speaker, I am going to assume the last part of the question from hon. member for Malpeque was somewhat ironic and so I will address the first part, which is: should we be concerned?
    I believe based on everything I have studied, and I have really dug into what happened in Saanich—Gulf Islands in 2008, that it was a pilot project in seeing whether the use of robocalls could change the course of an election. Elections Canada and the RCMP failed to get to the bottom of it. Some of the complainants told me that the RCMP told them that it could not figure out who was responsible because the phone number originated from the United States.
     Had that been a child pornographer or a human trafficking ring, I would like to think that we would have investigated who originated those phone calls. The idea that because they originated from the U.S. we could not find out, or that it was really small potatoes whether it was Gary Lunn or Briony Penn who won that election, is not the case. It is very large indeed in Canadian democracy when a fraudulent robocall marketing attempt can change the course of an election.
    I believe that the failure to investigate Saanich—Gulf Islands in 2008 led directly to a more widespread use of robocalls in voter suppression in 2011. I shudder to think what the failure to properly investigate what happened in 2011 will mean for future Canadian elections.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today in support of the fair elections act, a bill that would keep democracy in the hands of everyday Canadians by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule breakers out of business. It would be easier to vote and harder to break election laws. It would close loopholes to big money in the political process. It would make the rules easier to follow for honest participants in democracy and more difficult to break for those who would undermine the system.
    Let us review the measures that are contained in the fair elections act. However, before we do, I am gratified by the great support this bill has received from the beginning from across the country. Polling data indicated that even before our government announced its willingness to amend some of its measures, Canadian people overwhelmingly supported the contents of this legislation.
    Let me start with the section that has garnered the most public support, and that is the government's decision to protect our system against voter fraud by ensuring that every single voter who casts a ballot uses ID to do so.
    Previously, it was possible for people to walk in to vote at their local polling station and, without presenting a single piece of ID, identify themselves through a process called “vouching” and cast their ballot. Under the fair elections act, that would not longer be possible. All voters, regardless of whether they have someone vouching for them, would be required to produce identification demonstrating who they are. If that identification does not have an address on it, as increasingly ID lacks, the voters would be able to co-sign an oath with another elector as to where they live. That being said, after the election is done, Elections Canada would be required to compile a list of all oath-takers to check for duplicates in order to find out if somebody voted more than once through this process. There would be a mandatory external audit that would be required by law to ensure that Elections Canada follows all of these steps as they are laid out in the legislation.
    The unreliable and often inaccurate voter information card would no longer be acceptable as a form of ID. In the last election, the cards had errors in about one in six cases. That meant that millions of Canadians either got the wrong card, no card, more than one card, or a card with false information contained on it. Allowing people to use false cards of this kind for identification presents obvious risks of abuse. The information card would be returned to its original purpose, which is to provide people with information on where to cast their ballot rather than as a means to identify the person and his or her residence.
    Elections Canada would have an opportunity with this bill to focus its attention on its core mandate; that is to say, running free and fair elections. The bill would remove from the scope of the agency's mandate those things that are not really core functions of an election agency. For example, investigations of alleged breaches of the act would no longer be within the scope of Elections Canada's mandate. The investigator would become independent, and would serve in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That might bring back memories because prior to 2005 the investigator and the prosecutor were not only in the same office, they were the same person. That process worked reasonably well, but the missing ingredient all along has been independence. The fair elections act would ensure that the investigator is completely independent; that is, independent from the elected government, independent from political parties, and independent from Elections Canada.

  (1225)  

    In other words, all the actors who could potentially be investigated for allegations of wrongdoing under the act would be explicitly removed from any involvement in the office of the investigator.
    Not only would the investigator have the power to choose his or her own staff, direct his or her own investigations, and serve for a fixed term without being fired without cause, he or she would also be guaranteed that the office would not be occupied by former employees of parties or Elections Canada. This independence would help ensure a high standard of integrity in the enforcement of the legislation.
    Another step toward greater consistency with Elections Canada is the requirement for the agency to issue legal interpretations and advanced rulings. Under the existing situation the agency is not required to provide written interpretations of law or to give parties clear answers to questions about what is allowed and what is not. The fair elections act would require the agency to issue advanced rulings to political parties seeking to understand how the rules apply.
    As one can imagine, the Canada Elections Act is an extremely complex statute. At times, political parties are not sure exactly what the rules mean or how they will be interpreted, more importantly, by the agency. The fair elections act would require the agency to write down advanced rulings within a confined time period. Those rulings would act as a precedent for all parties. This would allow for a new standard of consistency across party lines for the application of rules. In other words, if one party asks if a practice is allowed and Elections Canada says yes, then that decision will set a precedent and all parties will be able to follow that precedent and comply with the law in the same way as the original party. This is a major improvement over the status quo.
    For the CEO to seek the removal of a member of Parliament over a financial dispute about an election filing, he or she would first have to allow that member of Parliament to exhaust all legal challenges. This is another improvement. In other words, judges must be empowered to rule on these financial disputes between elected MPs and the agency before the head of the agency overturns an election result. This would protect the sanctity of the vote, remembering that it is not agency heads who pick members of Parliament but voters. The fair elections act would ensure that voters remain in charge of that process.
    Elections Canada would also be required to focus all of its advertising on the basics of voting: where, when, and what ID to bring. It would also be required to advertise specifically to people with disabilities about the special tools available to help them cast their ballots. For example, it would be important for a paraplegic to know that there is a wheelchair ramp located at the voting location. It would be important for someone who is visually impaired to know that Braille services are available. Many of these Canadians are not aware of these services. This law would require the agency to inform them, so that not only would they have the services that they need, but they would know about them before they cast their ballot.
    Finally, the fair elections act would add an additional day for voting. Many Canadians are too busy to cast their ballot on election day itself, so the fair elections act would give them an extra day in the lead-up to that voting day in order to cast their ballot and participate in democracy.
    The bill in essence would make it easier to vote and harder to break the law. The rules would be clear, consistent, and easy to follow. Once and for all, Canadians would be required to bring identification to prove who they are before they cast their ballot.
    These steps move in the right direction and the Canadian people overwhelmingly support them.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the minister for bringing back vouching for address. The pressure that Canadians mounted over the total gutting of vouching under Bill C-23 eventually caused someone in the government, for reasons to be seen, to return vouching for address.
     I would also like to indicate that for all of the times that the minister tried to convince people that voter information cards can be a source of fraud, he has never once been able to show one example, and all his general examples never worked. The fact is that people need a second piece of ID and if they have received a voter information card that is not their own, in order to vote they have to forge a second piece to do so. How many Canadians would even think about it, let alone do that?
    Why did the government not agree to the amendments from the official opposition to require that calling service providers send audio recordings and scripts to the CRTC and that calling service providers have to keep phone numbers? At the moment, they do not even have to keep them, let alone send them. Finally, why did he not agree to require the CRTC to keep all data received for at least seven years?
    Mr. Speaker, on the first point, the NDP members have suggested that we should allow people to vote with no ID whatsoever when they arrive at the voting location. They put forward amendments to that effect, and we have eliminated that. We have ended the process of identity vouching and replaced it with a mandatory ID requirement. If people do not have an address on their ID, they can co-sign an oath as to their residency, but they cannot have their identity vouched for. They will require proof of who they are in writing by choosing from 39 different forms of ID that will help them do that.
    As for the issue of recordings of automated calls and scripts, calling companies and those who use automated calls will be required to retain those recordings and those scripts for three years, and those companies will be asked to turn that information over if there is an investigation into those calls.
    Mr. Speaker, there was quite a bit of evidence about how the CEO and Elections Canada can promote voting and encourage people to vote. One of the programs singled out would be the civics programs, which I think is an ideal program. I think every member here agrees it is a great little program, but the amendments went to a narrowly focused solution as to how Elections Canada can communicate with the public.
    Where is the new flexibility for Elections Canada to be able to engage with the public in a way that encourages voting?
    Mr. Speaker, it is not the job of Elections Canada to run campaigns. The job of Elections Canada is to inform people where, when, and how to vote. That is what the fair elections act will require all of the agency's advertising to focus on.
    We supported an amendment to permit programs in high schools because basically that is consistent with the where, when, and how to vote objective of the agency. Students in pre-adulthood are not really aware of how voting happens; these programs, which basically allow mock elections at schools, would give them that basic information so that when they graduate, they know what elections are about, how they work, and what one does to cast a ballot. However, there is no question that the fair elections act would narrow the focus of the agency so that its advertising focuses on the basics of voting and on no other area.

  (1235)  

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, during the debate pursuant to Standing Order 52 later today, no quorum call, dilatory motion or request for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair; and that any member rising to speak during debate may indicate to the Chair that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another member.
    Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Members have heard the terms of the motion. Does the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook have the unanimous consent for the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Fair Elections Act

    The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today to speak in favour of the fair elections act, Bill C-23.
    We have heard an awful lot of debate, many hours of debate, on this very important bill. We have heard from an almost unprecedented number of witnesses at committee. Over 70 witnesses have appeared before the committee examining this piece of legislation. We have also heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    Without question, Canadians have voiced their pleasure with Bill C-23, the fair elections act, because it deals with a number of very important changes to how we conduct elections in our country.
    I should also point out, particularly to my colleagues on opposition benches, that although they have raised their voices in protest against the bill, many eminent Canadians who are incredibly knowledgeable about elections have stated that they believe the bill is certainly be a positive step.
    I point out to my colleagues opposite that former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, after seeing the bill and examining it for the first time, said he rated it as an A-. Once that happened, of course, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform said that perhaps through examination at committee we could bring forward some improvements to the bill and turn an A- into an A+.
    That is exactly what we have done. We have listened, and listened carefully, to witnesses. We listened to testimony at committee and we have brought forward 45 amendments to the bill that would strengthen and improve the bill itself.
    I think that proves quite convincingly to all that we have listened to much of the testimony throughout this proceeding and we have acted to bring improvements to those elements of the bill that needed to be improved.
    However, it seems that all of the elements of the bill have been overshadowed by one single area, the area of vouching.
    I want to spend the remainder of the limited time I have before me today talking about the changes we have made to the bill that would, in effect, eliminate vouching.
    As the Minister of State for Democratic Reform stated just a few moments ago, up until this bill, it had been possible for any Canadian without a shred of identification to come forward to cast a ballot in a general election.
    Quite frankly, we just think that is not what Canadians expect in conducting fair and open elections. We believe, at a bare minimum, that individuals should be able to, and must be required to, prove their identity.
    Let me state that the overwhelming majority of Canadians agree with our position on this very fundamental aspect of elections. In fact, not only have we heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, but there has also been a recent poll that showed with empirical evidence that over 85% of Canadians felt it appropriate that individuals planning to cast a ballot produce identification as to who they are, and over 70% of Canadians agreed with our position that vouching should be eliminated.
    For those who are not aware of the term, vouching allows someone to go to a polling station without one shred of identification and ask someone who has proper identification to vouch for them—in other words, to state, “I know this person. This person is a Canadian citizen. I know where they live. They are 18 years of age or older. I know the person's name. Let them have a ballot”.

  (1240)  

     Canadians just did not feel that was proper. Canadians felt, quite properly, that all those who wanted to cast a ballot and exercise their franchise should, at a minimum, be required to show who they were and show proper identification. The fair elections act would require that. Vouching would be eliminated. If someone does not have the proper piece of identification showing their address, as the minister stated earlier, they will now be allowed to sign an oath that is co-signed by someone who does have proof of identity and address, and then they will be able to exercise their franchise and cast a vote.
    When we had debate on this very important question throughout the committee hearings and throughout the debate in the House, if we listened to the opposition, it seemed as though this would be the end of democracy. If people could not vouch for someone without identification, all hell would break loose.
    Excuse my language, but I am using a colloquial expression.
    That is the farthest thing from Canadians' minds. As I said, over 77% of Canadians felt that vouching should be eliminated.
    I would also point out that in that same poll, which I believe was conducted by Ipsos Reid, the pollsters asked those people responding not only where they lived, their age, and other demographic information, but who they would support in a general election. What did they find? They found that 66% of people who said that they would support the NDP also believed that vouching should be eliminated.
    We have the unbelievable situation of the NDP, which is in favour of vouching, finding that the majority of Canadians do not agree with its position, and, more interestingly, the majority of people who vote for the NDP do not agree with the NDP's position. It just goes to show once again that the changes we have made in the fair elections act are what Canadians wanted to see.
    There is one final point that I should make on vouching and the contradictory nature of the position taken by the members opposite on both the NDP and Liberal benches.
    When they conduct their own elections in leadership campaigns, do they allow vouching? Do the Liberals and the NDP, when they turn to their members to elect a new leader, which both parties have done in the very recent past, allow vouching? No, they do not. They require their own members, before they are able to cast a ballot on who they would like to see as the leader of their party, to show proper identification as to who they are and where they reside.
    On the one hand, we have this bizarre situation of the members opposite wanting to allow Canadians the ability to vote without identification in a general election, yet when electing their own leaders, they cannot do that. They say no; when we are electing a leader, we want to protect against voter fraud, so we demand that everyone produce identification showing who they are and where they live. However, in a general election, they take the opposite view.
    Frankly, it is not only contradictory; it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Canadians have spoken, and we have listened. We have made changes to make elections in this country fairer, more transparent, and more open. It is a good day when Parliament passes Bill C-23.

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. He participated in the committee discussions about this process, which was botched from start to finish.
    There was no prior consultation, and the Conservatives refused to do consultations across the country during the process. They also limited debate in the House. The Conservatives botched this reform. Never has an electoral reform bill been so screwed up.
    In his speech, my colleague said that many experts were in favour of the reforms, but I did not hear him name a single one except for Mr. Kingsley, who ended up changing his mind when he appeared before the committee.
    Can my colleague name a single elections expert, other than the Conservatives, who supports his bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first I would make comment on one of the earlier points in the intervention by my colleague opposite, where he said this process was bungled, and that we did not listen to Canadians because we did not engage in a cross-country tour.
    I would point out to the member opposite that over 70 witnesses appeared at committee, and not one witnesses who was recommended to appear was turned down. Let me reiterate that. Of all the witnesses proposed by members of the opposition benches, not one of them was rejected by our government, and we had a majority on that committee. We allowed every single witness who was suggested by members opposite to come to committee. We did not hold back. We allowed every single person they brought.
     Some of the witnesses they brought forward were incredibly partisan in their views. I would point out that the members opposite on the NDP benches suggested that the organization Leadnow.ca would be a credible witness. For those who are not aware of the organization Leadnow, this is a very far left activist group, which is frankly supported by the NDP. During the recent robocall inquisition, they put a position online and gathered 40,000 signatures. However, none of them had any credible information about robocalls. They were just saying that they would like someone to investigate. That is the type of witnesses that the NDP brought forward.
    Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to the number of witnesses who came before the committee. I had the opportunity to sit through a number of those witnesses, including the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, and other independent organizations who have been fantastic representatives of Canada's democracy.
    I want to focus on Elections Canada and the commissioner. Both of them recommended that Elections Canada or the commissioner have the ability to compel a witness. Other provincial jurisdictions of the same nature, independent election authorities, already have that ability.
    The issue is, why does the government not recognize and allow for Elections Canada or the Commissioner of Canada Elections to have the ability to compel a witness? What does the government have to hide that would prevent it from allowing them to do the things they should be able to do?
    Mr. Speaker, I would point out that certainly during the course of an investigation, officials now investigating any perceived or alleged elections wrongdoing have the same ability as police officers do when conducting their own investigations. There is nothing untoward or unusual, whatsoever.
    However, I want to point out to members opposite, on both the Liberal and the NDP benches, a couple of other points that relate to an earlier question from my NDP colleague, who asked for the names of some other officials who supported the bill. I would point out that the former auditor general Sheila Fraser came to committee. She said that she had a concern with moving the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada over to the DPP offices, only because she felt there would not be adequate communication between Elections Canada and the commissioner of elections.
    We listened, and we made changes in the form of an amendment, to allow full communication between Elections Canada and the commissioner of elections. Sheila Fraser would applaud those changes, and I think she is considered by all Canadians to be eminent in her position.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I consider myself lucky to be able to speak to Bill C-23, especially because time allocation has been imposed at every step of the way. This bill has elicited a lot of debate. Thus, we have not been able to talk about Bill C-23 freely or as much as it warrants.
    First, I would like to say something about the Conservative amendments adopted at committee stage. I believe that they would not have been adopted without the work of the NDP, especially my colleagues from Louis-Saint-Laurent and Toronto—Danforth.
    As soon as the NDP received this bill, we realized that there were major problems and we decided to take action. Unlike the government, we consulted Canadians, we travelled across the country to hear their opinions and we listened carefully to the experts. As a result of our efforts, the Conservative government agreed to back down on some aspects of this bill. Unfortunately, it still contains many flaws.
    The NDP, in good faith, suggested almost 100 amendments to improve this very controversial bill. Unfortunately, the Conservatives put their ideology ahead of the country's interests. The only amendments accepted were those to correct some wording or vocabulary errors. No substantive NDP amendment was adopted by the Conservative Party, which naturally had a majority on the committee.
    The worst thing about all this is that the Conservative government, by means of its majority in committee, ended debate even before half of the amendments proposed by the NDP were debated. This is indicative of the government's scorn for the democratic process, even though the bill is actually about democratic reform.
    I would like to put things in context. During an opposition day in March 2012, following the robocalls scandal, the NDP moved a motion to strengthen the election process. The motion called on the government to introduce a bill within six months of the motion being adopted. We waited much longer than six months.
    I would like to point out that the motion was adopted unanimously. Among other things, it sought to strengthen Elections Canada's authority over investigations and presented measures to prevent more fraudulent calls from happening in the future. One would have reasonably expected the government to want to put things right, but it did not take those measures into account and even made things worse in its bill.
    We asked that the Chief Electoral Officer be given more power to conduct investigations and to compel witnesses to appear, for example. Right now, when the Chief Electoral Officer tries to investigate a scandal, such as the robocalls, he does not even have the authority to compel potential witnesses to appear. How can he investigate when the people involved merely have to say that they do not wish to appear? That approach is not working very well. It seems to me that anybody can understand that the Chief Electoral Officer should be able to compel witnesses to appear. The Chief Electoral Officer should have been given more investigative powers to ensure that, in the future, he never finds that his hands are tied and he is unable to make sufficient progress and get the proof he needs, which unfortunately is the case right now.
    Not only is the government refusing to give the Chief Electoral Officer the power to investigate, but it is also going to prevent him from educating the public and encouraging people to vote. The only person who can do this sort of work in a non-partisan way is the Chief Electoral Officer.

  (1255)  

    This work includes encouraging people to vote and finding innovative ways to get young people to vote. The government is now preventing the only person who could have done this in a non-partisan way from doing the job.
    These amendments give him back a little bit of power. He will be able to participate in youth engagement programs in elementary and secondary schools. However, unfortunately, he does not have the right to encourage young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to vote. He is therefore only allowed to encourage people who are not yet old enough to vote to exercise the right to vote.
    I am very pleased that young people in elementary and secondary schools are being encouraged to learn about the election process and eventually play their role as citizens, but it does not make sense that the only people the Chief Electoral Officer is allowed to approach are those who are not yet able to vote. He does not have the right to talk to students in colleges, universities or aboriginal groups. It does not make sense.
    Let us talk about another problem they refused to address. We wanted to keep vouching from the start. They wanted to get rid of it, but in the end they went back on their decision. However, the voter card does not provide proof of address. People like students, seniors and first nations members will have a hard time establishing proof of address.
    What is more, the NDP proposed an amendment to include a notice on the voter card that the voter could no longer use that card to vote with or as identification. This amendment seems logical to me, but the Conservatives did not even accept it. This speaks to their illogical thinking.
    I know we are not allowed to use props, but I conducted a little experiment. The hon. member for Manicouagan can attest to this because he counted along with me. I emptied my wallet to see what I had on me. If I had to prove my identification today, in my purse I have 21 pieces of ID with my name on them. However, I have only three cards that prove where I live. In fact, I have to exclude my list of drugs from the pharmacy because it is not an acceptable proof of address. The only things left are my hospital card and my driver's licence. They are the only two ID cards I have in my wallet with my address on them.
    Needless to say, not everyone has a driver's licence. As far as the hospital card is concerned, what happens when people have not been to the hospital in 10 years? If they moved, the address on their card might be the one they had 5 or 10 years ago, when they last went to the hospital.
    If I did not have a driver's licence and had recently changed my address, I would not be able to prove who I am. However, I am not a member of one of the most vulnerable groups. Imagine more vulnerable groups such as seniors, aboriginal people and students, who already have a hard time proving their identity. What will they do?
    I encourage everyone to do a test at home by emptying out their wallet. They will see that their address is not shown on many of their cards. A lot of cards will have their name, but not many will have their address.
    I do not walk around with my hydro and phone bills in my purse. Not to mention, I cannot even get these bills mailed to me for free. I get them online, like everyone else. Online bills are not considered original documents under the law. They are just copies printed out from a computer.
    The bill still has some flaws that have not been fixed. Since more than 70 people testified in committee and only one of them supported Bill C-23, I think the Conservative government could have shown a lot more openness.
    Whether we like it or not, the minister is new to his job. It is understandable that he might not draft a perfect bill. I look forward to my colleagues' questions.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech. She did a very good job of explaining how hard it will be for people to prove their identity under the new rules. However, my question has more to do with the process of drafting, studying and passing the bill.
    Does she think it is okay for a government—any government—to use its majority not only to change elections legislation, but also to limit speaking time during debates and committee meetings?
    Does she think it is okay for the Conservative government to use its majority to change elections legislation without consulting anyone and without seeking any degree of consensus whatsoever with the other parties that participate in the electoral process and that will have to work with this bill once it is amended?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is okay at all. When it comes to reforming our democratic institutions, it is not okay for a government to act this way.
    For example, the Government of Quebec held an open discussion among the various political parties about reforming the financing rules. They achieved a degree of consensus. Even though there were disagreements about the exact amount, it was about financing, and the discussion was open. What we are dealing with here is a major reform of our elections legislation, and over and over, the Conservative government limits time for debate.
    This attitude demonstrates the Conservative government's complete disregard for our democracy, and I think it is a real shame that this is the message it is sending to the next generation.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her answer.
    I have another question about proof of identity, which she spoke about during her speech. The Conservatives often compare means of identification during an election to those used during other processes, such as a leadership race and so on. They seem to forget that, during an election, the right to vote is a constitutional right.
    Could she talk about the constitutional right to vote that Canadians are entitled to? Why is it important to protect that right by allowing those who cannot identify themselves to have access to a mechanism that allows them to exercise their constitutional right to vote even if they cannot always provide ID?
    Mr. Speaker, in order to legitimize a democratic institution, those who contributed to its creation must be able to participate in it.
    The Constitution protects the right to vote. The government cannot refuse to allow numerous people to vote under the pretext that they are unable to prove their identity. The government cannot introduce legislation that prevents people from proving their identity when they are able to do so.
    I have some concrete examples. Take, for instance, a person in my home town who shows up and does not have any identification. The Elections Canada employee has known that individual for 60 years and has no doubt about who it is because they are from the same town. The Elections Canada employee would be forced to prevent that individual from voting. While there is no question about who the person is, and the employee knows that the individual is not trying to vote fraudulently, the employee would still have to prevent that individual from voting. That makes no sense.
    To protect the legitimacy of a government, we need to protect the integrity of the right to vote. Those two elements go hand in hand.

  (1305)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me just say, first, how pleased I am to speak to the fair elections act today. I have been looking forward to it, because I wanted to tell members about a meeting I held in my riding with Port Credit seniors, who were very concerned about the fair elections act. They had been reading a lot about it, specifically in The Globe and Mail, and they wanted to know from their member of Parliament what this was all about and how it would actually affect them. The reason I am delighted to speak about it today is that I wanted to tell members what the concerns of those seniors were, and specifically how the amendments introduced on April 24 address the concerns of those seniors in the riding of Mississauga South. Most Canadians, I believe, think those amendments are fair and reasonable and common sense.
    Let me begin by saying that the fair elections act was very important for this government to bring forward. Elections must be free and fair, but there were some issues with the Elections Act as it was, and some loopholes needed to be closed. We are fulfilling a promise made in the throne speech with regard to dealing with some of these issues.
     First, let me say that I was able to assuage some of the concerns of those seniors. Let me tell you what they were. There were three or four main concerns.
    One of my constituents mentioned hearing that there was not enough consultation on the bill. That person had the impression that the bill was somehow introduced and then never discussed again. I was able to say that we had 15 meetings of the parliamentary procedures and House affairs committee, that there were 31 hours of debate on the bill at committee, and that 72 witnesses appeared. That says a great deal about the commitment we have to making sure that we talk this through. Those witnesses, as members know, were high profile and very well informed and were able to give the committee some very good and sage advice.
    The 45 amendments that came out of that consultation, 14 of them substantial, I think go a long way to alleviating some of the concerns people have.
    One of the concerns that was not specifically brought up at the meeting I am talking about but that was of concern to me was with regard to disagreements about MPs' election expense returns and the rulings the CEO makes. That concerns me as a member of Parliament, because I have heard and read about and seen here in this 41st Parliament situations when the MP and the CEO, the Chief Electoral Officer, sometimes have disagreed about an MP's election expense return. When that happens, the Canada Elections Act provides that the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons until that election return is amended to satisfy the CEO.
     I do not believe that the election of a democratically elected member of Parliament can be reversed. It is the decision of tens of thousands of voters, and no one should have the power to reverse that democratic election without first convincing a judge. The fair elections act would allow the MP to present that disputed case in a court and to have judges rule on it before the CEO sought the MP's suspension.

  (1310)  

    This brings in the idea of the registry. It is very important that these rulings be presented in writing. That would allow members of Parliament or candidates in the future to reference those rulings. They would be precedent setting. We could look them up. The rulings would provide further clarification. These are the kinds of things that would make our process less opaque. It would become easier for us to follow the myriad rules we must follow with regard to election expenses.
    With regard to the CEO and the commissioner, some of my constituents had become concerned that from what they had read, the commissioner would be reporting to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I assured my constituents that this would not in any way impede the independence of the commissioner. In fact, it would give the commissioner the ability to investigate, but completely independently, without giving any specifics of a case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We would extend the time from 45 to 60 days for the CEO to publish that ruling once those investigations were complete. To me, that is an important piece that was missing from the Canada Elections Act.
    The biggest concern of the seniors in my riding was with respect to vouching and identification. We had a long conversation about how this would work and what, if anything, had changed. Part of the impression they were left with was that somehow we had changed the number of acceptable pieces of ID. That is not the case. It was 39 pieces before and it remains 39 pieces of acceptable identification. When I told them that for the two pieces of identification, their neighbour or friend or son or daughter would be able to vouch for their address or place of residence, that went a long way to addressing their concerns. All of them have identification that proves that they are who they are, but they were concerned that if, let us say, someone had just moved in with his or her son or daughter, and the election was happening right away, he or she would not have any bills going to that address. It is a legitimate concern, which is why I was relieved when our government decided to amend the bill to allow an attestation, which I think it is officially called, of someone's address.
    I also mentioned to the constituents in my riding that in Ontario, there is a provincial identification card. I know this, because I am the mother of two teenagers, and sometimes, other than a student card, which in many cases does not have a home address on it, students do not have identification if they do not yet have a driver's licence. Many of the seniors I spoke to did not realize that one can get a provincial ID card like this one. I know that we are not allowed props, but I have one. It is important for some people to get. I would imagine that other provinces have something similar. The provincial ID card is something folks can apply for and receive. It acts in the same way as a driver's licence. It has a photo, and it would be considered proof of identification as well as proof of address. I wanted to put that out there.
     I also want to say that highlighting the deficiencies and addressing them with the amendments has not only improved the Elections Act but has made it fairer and freer. Therefore, I am pleased to support this bill.

  (1315)  

    Before I go to questions and comments, I want to remind all hon. members of this. The last two speakers have held pieces of identification in their hands. If they are doing that in order to refer to information, that is not problematic. If they use them as visual aids, that crosses the line and becomes a problem.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments and I have to add that the people in my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam and Port Moody were very opposed to the proposed changes. In fact, they were offended by some of the changes. I would add that not only are people very concerned but experts right across the country, including the Chief Electoral Officer, are extremely alarmed at the content of this bill. Even the media is overwhelmingly opposed. The Globe and Mail did a five-part op-ed explaining just how bad this bill was. Many people have told me outright that they are extremely concerned and that what the government is doing, essentially, is taking a page right out of the U.S. Republicans' playbook in terms of marginalizing voters in our country.
    Why is the government making it harder for seniors, students and aboriginal Canadians on reserve by not allowing the VIC as proof of address?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the member referred to the VIC, because it is commonly misunderstood. It does not stand for “voter identification card”; it stands for “voter information card”. It is a way for Elections Canada to inform voters about where they vote, what time they vote and what pieces of identification they can bring to be allowed to vote. However, it is not a piece of identification.
    The voters lists kept by Elections Canada are not always perfect. In fact, there are many mistakes on them, and the cards are produced from those lists. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that those cards are not accepted as valid pieces of identification.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member met with her constituents to try to get a better understanding of why so many Canadians were upset with the way government was changing our election laws. It is somewhat interesting that we need to emphasize this point. The legislation, from its creation to where it is today, is in front of the House for one reason, and that is a majority Conservative Party happens to be government.
    There were no consultations outside of the Conservative Party. When the bill went to committee, even when there were independent agencies such as Elections Canada that said the Commissioner of Canada Elections should stay within Elections Canada and even when the Commissioner of Canada Elections appeared in committee and said that his office should stay within Elections Canada, the Conservative majority, time and time again, ignored many recommendations that would have improved the legislation. The legislation, as it is today, is a one-party piece of legislation from its origin.
    Given the fact that there are multiple political parties in Canada, does the member not believe in passing an election law that should have at least some form of support that goes beyond the Conservative Party, that would include other political parties or Elections Canada, some sort of consensus?

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think the consensus is clear in terms of what Canadians want to see, and that is fair elections.
     From the Ipsos poll that was released last week, 87% of Canadians thought a person should have a piece of identification to vote. To me, this means Canadians wanted legislation on this, and we have provided that as a government.
    Absolutely, there will be disagreement. That is where the consultation came in, and I talked about that at the beginning of my speech. Changes and amendments were made based on the feedback that came from those consultations.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Mother's Day, was a very happy day in my riding. I had the opportunity to visit a seniors' residence, which hosted a number of wonderful activities. Everyone was happy and was having a good time. The weather was nice as well. People were happy and content.
    I could not help but think that this was a break for those who had told me they were worried about the election reform introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. Just a few minutes ago, my hon. colleague from Mississauga South mentioned seniors. Yesterday, older mothers were celebrating, but they also told me that they were wondering where the government was going with this election reform.
    They are very worried because they have been voting with their voter information cards for quite some time and there has never been a problem. Furthermore, most seniors' residences have a polling station in the lobby. Everyone knows each other and knows who lives there. These people do not need all kinds of other ID cards.
    These people are very worried, and they shared their concerns with me. Furthermore, they are discouraged by this government's attitude, especially in committee, where it imposed time allocation to limit debate. They listened to the testimony from the witnesses who were called at third reading.
    The amendments proposed by the Conservatives—we will see later today—do not reflect the amendments our caucus proposed. This leaves much to be desired, since our caucus's slogan is “Working together”.
    Unfortunately, members on the other side of the House do not share this perspective. They are stubborn and, since they have a majority on all the committees and even here in the House of Commons, this arrogant attitude leaves much to be desired. My constituents tell me this on a regular basis when they respond to my mail-outs or call me directly. Voters took advantage of my presence in my riding two weeks ago to come and see me. They told me that changes need to be made in the House of Commons.
    Because of the way these people shared their concerns, I do not believe that they intend to wait until October 2015 to see such changes. They are concerned because this electoral reform is going to cause major upheaval. The arrogant and negative attitude of our colleagues opposite bothers people. They think it shows a blatant lack of respect for Canadians.

  (1325)  

    The Conservatives have demonstrated that lack of respect on more than one occasion, when they have attacked the Chief Electoral Officer, the former auditor general and many politically savvy people with strong opinions. These individuals have told the Conservatives directly not to take this reform any further because it is unconstitutional and undemocratic. However, the Conservatives are not listening.
    I would also like to talk about the terrible provisions set out in this bill. I am very concerned about the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer is having some of his authority taken away. Historically, the Chief Electoral Officer has had the mandate to coordinate any action required to elect a government in Canada. If that person has to deal with a lot of statutory or regulatory obstacles, democracy will be dealt a severe blow. Many people are concerned about this.
    In previous years, Canada had a very good international reputation. Our country was an almost perfect example of democracy. Human rights were recognized here. Everyone was free. People could work and live comfortably.
    In my opinion, this will definitely be the last Conservative government. As we have seen in the past, the Conservatives do not seem to want to let go. The government is being stubborn and wants to cling to power. Since they have a majority, the Conservatives are making all sorts of changes so that they might have the chance to stay in power longer.
    A prime example is the Conservatives' current reform of the Elections Act. Their plans will give them every advantage. They are increasing the amount that an individual can donate from $1,200 to $1,500. Additionally, candidates can inject $5,000 of their own money into their own election campaign. This will obviously benefit the wealthy in our society. They will be able to run for office and will have a better chance of winning, no matter the riding.
    There is something else bothering many people in Laval and across Canada. I frequently receive letters from people in Ontario, especially members of the Latin American community who know me. They tell me about their concerns, which I forward to their MP. They are concerned that the Commissioner of Canada Elections will lose some of his rights. That is unacceptable.
    We are opposed to these election reforms.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Laval for his speech.
    I would like to ask him a very specific question about the process that took place while this bill was studied. We know that a bill to amend an electoral law usually entails extensive consultation from the very beginning. The opposition parties and electoral agencies should have an opportunity to explain what is required in our Canada Elections Act. In fact, this bill concerns everyone and strikes at the very heart of our democracy.
    I would like the member to comment on that. Does he believe that the Conservatives' efforts with respect to changes to the Canada Elections Act were sufficient given the magnitude of the bill?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent.
    What happened in committee is troubling. I am not sure if you watch the news on television very often, Mr. Speaker, but nearly all the political commentators have said they are shocked by the attitude of the committee's Conservative majority. The Conservatives did not listen to anyone. They practically muzzled everyone. They said we could bring forward some witnesses, who would each have their turn to speak, but the Conservatives did not listen to them and adjourned the meeting. We put a lot of work into this. We must thank our honourable colleague from Hamilton Centre for standing up to them. That is what happened.
    The Conservatives showed a rather arrogant attitude by imposing this reform and making it appear as though they were giving people the opportunity to express themselves. That was not true.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to continue on with the member's reference to committees.
    The Liberal Party critic had the opportunity to introduce dozens of amendments, some of which were fairly substantial in their very nature, such as allowing Elections Canada and the commissioner to compel witnesses. The New Democratic Party also brought forward amendments.
    As a result of time allocation, many of those amendments were never even discussed. At 5 p.m. on May 1, using its majority, the government passed or did not pass all of the amendments without any due process. That speaks volumes. The same thing applied for second reading and the same thing applies at report stage and will apply at third reading. The government continually uses time allocation.
    Bill C-23 is a one-party piece of legislation. It is a Conservative Party bill and that is it.
    I am wondering what the member has to say with regard to the way in which the Conservative government has been pushing this legislation through with a lack of respect for the opposition, which in essence, demonstrates a lack of respect for all Canadians.

  (1335)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North for his comment and question.
    He is absolutely right. He reiterated what we have been seeing in most of the committees with a Conservative majority. What is more, the Conservatives are pushing through their bills and anything else they want.
    The member is right about our caucus, and our representation on such a committee. If memory serves me correctly, a hundred or so amendments were proposed. I think that fewer than half were read, consulted, verified or anything. The Conservatives made it clear from the outset that they did not want to listen. They keep moving time allocation motions and limiting the speaking time of our representatives but never make any mention of that.
    My colleague from Winnipeg North is absolutely right. That is their strategy. That is what they want to do.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to speak to Bill C-23. There has been a lot of misinformation on the subject, and I am happy to have the opportunity to clarify at least some of it, and clarify why our Conservative government is putting forward the fair elections act.
    A system can never be perfect, but we can always work toward improving it one step at a time. This is the very reason why the government put forward the fair elections act. This bill is designed to protect the fairness of federal elections and to ensure that all citizens are in charge of our democracy. Democracy becomes susceptible to threat when the rules are not given the proper respect. Therefore, it is our duty as citizens, and as members of the House, to protect its integrity as that in itself protects our freedom to live in a democracy.
    The fair elections act would strengthen democracy by making it harder for people to break the law. The act would implement 38 of the Chief Electoral Officer's past recommendations. The first of many changes would be the process in which the commissioner of Canada Elections is appointed. It would establish that the commissioner is to be appointed by the director of public prosecutions for a seven-year term and could not be dismissed without cause. The commissioner would have full independence, with control of his or her staff and investigations. The act would permit the commissioner to publicly disclose information about the investigations when it is in the public interest, which would improve transparency.
    The act would add a section that deals with voter contact calling services. Among other things, this section would require that calling service providers and other interested parties file registration notices with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, provide identifying information to the commission, and keep copies of scripts and recordings used to make calls. It would become a requirement for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to establish and maintain a registry, to be known as the voter contact registry, in which the documents it receives in relation to voter contact calling services are to be filed.
    The fair elections act would give law enforcement more tools to protect the integrity of our elections by allowing the commissioner to seek tougher penalties for existing offences. It is our full intention to not allow a fast and loose approach with the rules of democracy. For more serious offences, the bill would raise the maximum fine from $2,000 to $20,000 on summary convictions, and from $5,000 to $50,000 on indictment. For registered parties, it would raise the maximum fine from $25,000 to $50,000 on summary convictions for strict liability political financing offences, and from $25,000 to $100,000 on summary convictions for political financing offences that are committed intentionally. For third parties that are groups or corporations that failed to register as third parties, the bill would raise the maximum fine to $50,000 for strict liability offences, and to $100,000 for offences that are committed intentionally.
    By establishing tougher penalties, our Conservative government would deter the occurrences of offences, intentional or unintentional.

  (1340)  

     To encourage voter turnout, the bill would make it easier for voters to participate in the democratic process. The fair elections act would provide an extra day of advance polling. The additional day of voting would take place on the eighth day before polling day, creating a block of four consecutive advance polling days. This amendment would surely make it easier for Canadians across the country to vote.
    It would also improve transparency by allowing the establishment of an advisory committee of political parties to provide advice to the chief electoral officers on matters relating to elections and political financing. It would amend the act to provide for the appointment of field liaison officers based on merit, to provide support for the returning officers, and to provide a link between returning officers and the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
    The fair elections act aims to respect democratic election results. There are occasions, and my colleague spoke to this before, when the Chief Electoral Officer disagreed with the elected MPs' election expense returns. When this occurs, the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons until the expense return is changed to the CEO's satisfaction. This prevents the democratically elected member of Parliament from representing his or her constituency. The fair election act would allow the MP to present the disputed case to the courts and to have a judge quickly rule on it before the CEO makes the suspension.
    In Canada, we are seeing a trend where money from special interest can drown out the voices of everyday citizens. The fair elections act would let small donors contribute more to democracy and prevent illegal, big money from sneaking in the back door.
    Although the fair elections act would allow small increases in spending limits, it would be done to ensure that parties have enough resources to increase their outreach efforts and help encourage voter turnout. At the same time, this bill would impose tougher audits and penalties to enforce those limits.
    This bill would help ensure that voter fraud does not occur by strengthening the rules around voter identification. With respect to voter ID, the act would be amended to require the same voter identification for voting at the Office of the Return Officer in an elector's own riding as it requires for voting at ordinary polls. It would also prohibit the use of voter information cards as a proof of identity.
    It would eliminate the ability of an elector to prove their identity through vouching, and require an elector whose name was crossed off electors' lists in error to take a written oath before receiving a ballot. I want to explain why this is important. With a democracy comes responsibility. As a voter, I am responsible for providing proper identification so that I can participate in the democratic process.
    Voting is one of the most important privileges and duties that we get to enjoy, so it is extremely important that we do not treat it lightly, that we take it seriously and meet all of the requirements.
    Members of all parties have noted that the rules can be unclear. It is our intention that the fair elections act would fix that identified problem by making rules for elections clear, predictable, and easy to follow. These are a few changes that are proposed in our bill. I believe that the fair elections act would protect the integrity of fair elections by improving transparency and enacting tougher penalities for rule breakers.
    What our government understands is that Canadians overwhelmingly support this bill. As was mentioned before, 87% of people polled believe it is reasonable to require someone to prove their identity and address before they vote.

  (1345)  

    In conclusion, I would like to ask all members of this House to support the bill in order to bring democracy in this country to a higher level.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the remarks made by my colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which studied this bill. I would like him to comment on the fact that most of the hundreds of amendments the opposition presented could not even be debated in committee, and that even the amendments we were able to debate were systematically rejected, without exception.
    However, some of the amendments were absolutely reasonable and would really have improved the bill.
    I asked several direct questions because I wanted answers about how some parts of the bill would affect our democracy. The Conservatives provided no justification whatsoever for some of their changes.
    I would like him to justify that kind of attitude with respect to such a significant act, the Canada Elections Act, and with respect to changes that will affect our democracy in general.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a process that every bill goes through. We have debate in the House at second reading, then third reading, final reading. The bill goes to the committee and is discussed. There are some amendments that will be voted on, I believe, today. Some amendments are accepted in the process and some are not. This is a democratic process.
    We, as members of Parliament, represent our constituents, and I suppose every member has had some kind of contact with constituents on this bill. I did. I received responses. There are some people who are against it. However, in my riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville, most of the responders strongly support the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, it is important that we are very clear that this is not a normal piece of legislation. This is a law that would change the rules of the game in terms of democracy.
    In the member's concluding remarks, he appeals to members to vote in favour of the bill. He is asking individual members to vote for the bill. I respect that. In fact, the leader of the Liberal Party has challenged the Prime Minister to a free vote on this very important piece of legislation.
    The member made reference to bringing democracy to a higher level. Let us talk about the bill and how important it is because it would change our election laws. Let us talk about how it is that the Prime Minister should allow for a free vote on this issue.
    Does the member recognize, given the very nature of the legislation from the moment it was introduced to the House to where we are today, that it is important that the Prime Minister allow for members of this House to have a free vote? It would change our election laws, something which would have a very significant impact going forward.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do truly believe that the bill would bring democracy in our country to a higher level.
     As I mentioned in my speech, the fair elections act would reflect on the recommendations that were given by the chief electoral officers. It reflects on the fact that there were irregularities in the past elections: reference the Supreme Court case.
    This was all taken into consideration and addressed to improve the democratic process at our federal elections.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to you today about Bill C-23 at report stage. We are studying the report that the committee produced about this bill to change our elections legislation.
    To begin, I would like to talk about the process because there are some major problems with the process that Bill C-23 has gone through so far. I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for three years now, so I have heard from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Canada Elections and various Elections Canada employees on the subject of our elections legislation many times.
    Three years ago, we studied the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, who recommended changes to our elections legislation. He said that parts of the bill should be amended to improve democracy in Canada. We worked on that for months, and the committee produced a report that included an analysis of each of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.
    After the robocall scandal broke, the NDP moved a motion in the House calling on the Conservatives to amend the Canada Elections Act, in particular to give Elections Canada the investigative powers it needed to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure their compliance with the Elections Act.
    Under the existing legislation, all candidates from each riding and political party must produce the documents requested by Elections Canada, such as invoices or other documentation, to verify their election spending. However, although $33 million was given to political parties during the last election, these parties did not have to submit any documentation. Elections Canada must simply assume that everything is fine and that the parties are complying with the Canada Elections Act.
    I think this is one of the major flaws of Bill C-23. The Chief Electoral Officer has been calling for this very important power for a very long time. This power would help him investigate cases of fraud. However, when Bill C-23 was introduced, the bill did not provide for this power.
    The motion I mentioned was unanimously passed by the House nearly two years ago and it contained that provision. However, when the bill was introduced, that provision was not there. I do not know when the government decided to change its mind. Perhaps it was when the court found that it was the Conservatives' database that was used in the robocall scandal. I do not know. The Conservatives tend to be rather unhappy when Elections Canada investigates cases of fraud, since they are generally the guilty ones.
    Several months after we moved our motion, the minister of state for democratic reform at the time announced that he would introduce an election reform bill the following Thursday. However, on the Wednesday afternoon, right after the parties' caucus meetings, the bill mysteriously disappeared. Poof, no more bill. It was as though it never existed and it was never mentioned again.
    Everyone wondered what had happened and where the electoral reform bill went. We will never know. We do not know what exactly was in the bill. We did not hear of it again until this past winter, when the new Minister of State for Democratic Reform introduced Bill C-23.
    Not only does this bill not contain the powers requested by the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Chief Electoral Officer or any of the requested measures that should be part of electoral reform, but it also includes changes that are both unjustified and downright harmful to our democracy. The government is trying to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes so that they do not realize that it is failing to do what needs to be done to improve democracy in Canada.
    For example, how does it make sense to move the Commissioner of Canada Elections into the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions? We have no idea. The Conservatives say that it will make him more independent.
    However, both the current and the former commissioners came to tell us that this move would not make the commissioner more independent and that it would instead interfere with his work. The Conservatives are telling us that it will help the commissioner, but the Commissioner himself is saying that he does not need to be more independent and that he does not understand the need for the changes.

  (1355)  

    This is all a show to hide the fact that the Commissioner made specific requests. He said that he is the one who investigates electoral fraud, and he told us specifically what would be really helpful to him during investigations. Nothing came of that. Instead, they are playing chess. The pieces are being moved around but nothing at all has changed in terms of the Commissioner's ability to properly investigate fraud.
    There have been major problems throughout the process. When the Conservatives introduced the bill, we suggested that it be sent to committee before second reading. Basically, that would have given witnesses the opportunity to talk about what is in the bill. We would have had far greater flexibility to change various elements and produce the best electoral reform possible. That is the goal, really. I am certain that everyone wants that. The witnesses who would have appeared could have told us what needed to be changed.
    Then we would have had a meaningful debate at second reading. The Conservative majority would not have imposed its will. The Conservatives decided to change everything just because they felt like it and because it would be to their advantage. This bill amends one of the most fundamental statutes in Canada. It affects 34 million Canadians. It affects every Canadian's right to vote. There was no pre-consultation with the Chief Electoral Officer, the commissioner or the political parties: no one. The Conservatives show up with this bill and force it down our throats, telling us it is good enough.
    Now, because we fought quite hard and told the Conservatives that they could not just change the Canada Elections Act like this, they ended up backing down on some of the points that I thought were the most damaging. The only amendments proposed and adopted in committee—obviously those proposed by the government—mitigated some of the most troubling aspects of the bill. However, this does not change the fact that the bill fundamentally poses a lot of problems. Given the choice between the Canada Elections Act in its current form and Bill C-23, even amended, I would choose the Canada Elections Act because this bill includes too many changes and has too many flaws and problems to be acceptable.
    In short, when the Conservatives introduced Bill C-23, it was a very bad bill. Currently, with the amendments, it is a very bad bill. The amendments do not go far enough for me to support this bill.
    Now, how did things go in committee? Dozens of witnesses came to tell us that there were major problems with the bill that absolutely needed to be addressed and that the bill did not make sense. Finally, they managed to push hard enough that the government backed down a little on some things. However, overall, did the government representatives in committee listen to the witnesses? Did they really listen to the proceedings and take witnesses' opinions into consideration? I do not think so. The witnesses, who are experts on the subject, raised many points that did not find their way into Bill C-23 or the amendments. I guess we will have to wait for a new government in 2015 before the changes that really need to be made to the Canada Elections Act are finally made.
    In the end, in a 21st century democracy and in a country like Canada, which is internationally respected for its democracy, it is a real problem for such a fundamental bill to be changed, introduced and imposed by a majority government that does not hold consultations and does not listen. It does not want to listen to anyone and does not want to hear about any problems with the bill. The government thinks its bill is terrific, and that is that.
    The Conservatives really need to do better. They need to hold real consultations. A real reform of the Canada Elections Act is needed.

  (1400)  

    The time provided for government orders has now expired. The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent will have time for questions and comments after question period.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Philanthropy

    Mr. Speaker, today I stand in the House to pay tribute to a very generous and philanthropic Canadian, Mr. Ken Lepin of Kamloops. Earlier this year, Mr. Lepin announced that he would be donating $2.25 million to Thompson Rivers University, on top of the $250,000 he had contributed in the past.
    This enormous donation will go toward helping a new generation of students passing through TRU in a variety of fields. Bursary prizes are being created or increased for students in trades, science, nursing, business, law, arts, culinary, tourism, education, and veterinary health. That is just to name a few of the areas that will be supported.
    Mr. Lepin is a self-made man who has given back to Kamloops in an extraordinary fashion. In addition to this substantial donation to TRU, he has put thousands of dollars into the Royal Inland Hospital, the B.C. Wildlife Park, and the Salvation Army.
     Through his generosity and his life's work, Ken Lepin has left his mark on Kamloops, and it is a better place for it. Thanks to the most recent donation, his mark will be left on generations to come.
     We thank Mr. Lepin.

[Translation]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday we celebrated Mother's Day. I marked the occasion with a number of mothers who live in one of the many seniors' homes in my riding.
    Although we were all celebrating the day, a number of the mothers were worried about their future. They told me they were worried about what the government has in store for them. With regard to pensions, more than 30% of these retired mothers are in debt and 40% of them will soon go into debt. Their access to health care and medications is increasingly in jeopardy.
    On top of that, as I just mentioned, there is the bill introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
    The mothers were happy, and I hope that they will be for a long time. Happy Mother's Day.

[English]

Panagiota Bissas

    Mr. Speaker, as the Queen Frederica docked on the shores of Halifax in late spring 1956, anxiety engulfed a young woman named Panagiota Bissas as she prepared to disembark the ship.
     A poor girl, she left her poor village in southern Greece to embark on a journey that brought her to Canada. This, she was told, was a welcoming country, with warm people, full of promise, a place where dreams could become a reality.
     She was the first in her family to travel abroad. She came with no money, having responded to a Canadian immigration initiative to immigrate as a domestic maid. She did not speak English or French and had no knowledge of Canadian culture. Like most immigrants, she worked hard and was always appreciative of the opportunities our great nation offered, as she fulfilled her dreams centred around our family.
    Sadly, I lost my mother exactly six months before I was elected to Parliament, but I feel her presence here today like all other days.
     Today, I pay tribute to all of the moms in this chamber, in my riding of Richmond Hill, and across our great country.

  (1405)  

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Arnold Chan has been nominated as the Liberal candidate in Scarborough—Agincourt for the by-election to be held on June 30.
     Arnold has deep roots in the riding, having grown up and gone to school in one of the most diverse communities, which is also home to one of the largest Chinese-Canadian populations in the country. Arnold has had a distinguished career as a lawyer and a community volunteer. He will be a strong voice on issues such as jobs, the economy, immigration, and trade, and will ensure that the people of Scarborough—Agincourt are well represented in Ottawa.
     Arnold will be supported by his family and three children, and he understands the need to help the middle class through hope and hard work.
    We look forward, with the support of the people of Scarborough—Agincourt, to welcoming Arnold Chan to the Liberal caucus.

Glacier Skywalk

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will officially open a brand new Glacier Skywalk in our beautiful riding of Yellowhead. I had the opportunity to walk on the wild side to preview this skywalk, and it is truly a breathtaking experience.
     This cliff-edge walkway soars almost 1,000 feet above the ground and will give visitors to Jasper National Park an opportunity to explore our spectacular landscape in a completely new way. Located off the Icefields Parkway, the Glacier Skywalk is an interpretive experience that will enable our visitors to learn more about the glaciology, geology, and ecosystem of the world-famous Columbia Icefield.
     Jasper Park is a national treasure, and I am very impressed with the efforts that have been taken to provide this new experience to visitors who respect both the environment and the integrity of our landscape.
     I invite all hon. colleagues in the House, and people all across Canada, to visit Jasper this coming summer for their very own walk on the wild side.

[Translation]

Public Service of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have been in power for almost a decade, and one thing has become clear: they are waging a malicious war against federal public servants to score political points and hide the failures of their poor economic management.

[English]

    They unilaterally announced their intention to go after federal public servants' sick days, and are forcing new staff to increase their pension contributions, thereby creating a two-tier system. Conservatives have also gone after retired public servants by limiting future retirees' access to health care. As usual, they consulted no one and silenced debate in Parliament.

[Translation]

    A number of my constituents are public servants. They come to see me because they are overwhelmed as a result of being asked to do more with less. The stress level in the public service attests to that. Enough is enough. Federal public servants must not bear the brunt of this government's deficit reduction plan. These constant attacks on those who provide our public services must stop immediately.

[English]

Thomas James Mitchell

    Mr. Speaker, in light of the recent National Day of Honour to commemorate those who served in Afghanistan, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to Corporal Robert Thomas James Mitchell of Owen Sound and to recognize his parents, Bob and Carol.
     While serving our country in Afghanistan, Corporal Mitchell was unfortunately killed by an insurgent attack on October 3, 2006, at the age of 32. Corporal Mitchell was a beloved husband and father of three children.
     I had the honour of meeting with Bob and Carol as they came to attend the National Day of Honour in Ottawa. The support that Bob and Carol give to other military families is immense. Carol still attends the graduation ceremonies at Land Force Central Area Training Centre Meaford to speak to graduating soldiers, while also providing support to other families that have lost loved ones in Afghanistan.
     I give my condolences to the friends and family of Corporal Mitchell and commend Bob and Carol on their great contribution to our country. Bob, Carol and the rest of the Mitchell family truly remind us that “Those who wait also serve”.

Scientific Director, National Microbiology Laboratory

    Mr. Speaker, Dr. Frank Plummer recently completed a 14-year tenure as the scientific director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
    Dr. Plummer's authoritative, calm and intelligent voice is one of the most highly respected of our generation. Under his leadership, the Winnipeg lab blossomed into a global scientific force. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, it was Dr. Plummer who Mexico called first seeking help.
     Dr. Plummer is a giant among his scientific peers, discovering women in Kenya with natural immunity to the HIV infection. He has made many life-saving contributions to the fight against infectious diseases, for which he has received numerous prestigious national and international awards, far too many to mention.
     Interestingly, my kindergarten teacher was Dr. Plummer's mother, my favourite teacher, and I feel honoured to ask that the House thank Dr. Plummer for his service and wish him well in the future.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Pharmaceutical Industry

    Mr. Speaker, today is Canada Health Day. What an excellent opportunity to say that the health of Canadians is not a free commodity and that public interest takes precedence over free enterprise in the drug industry.
    The NDP wants to ensure that health care professionals have access to the information they need to care for their patients properly and do their work more effectively. To that end, we need to require that pharmaceutical companies report drug shortages. We cannot rely on their goodwill. I honestly wonder how many more drug shortages Canadians will have to endure before this government finally listens to reason.

[English]

Women Entrepreneurs

    Mr. Speaker, women entrepreneurs make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the Canadian economy but are still a huge untapped engine of economic growth. That is why our government spearheaded an initiative in budget 2014 to encourage leadership and entrepreneurship in young women.
    Last week we heard what works with fantastic clarity from two great women leaders: Christine Day, CEO of Luvo, formerly of lululemon; and Heather Kennedy, vice-president of Suncor. It is thanks to champions who got them off the sidelines and encouraged them to run with the ball and take on big challenges like starting their own business.
    Our Minister of Status of Women is a huge champion of women. Her champion was Jim Flaherty. My champions were my mom; one of my first editors, Bill Peterson; and Ken King, now of the Calgary Flames.
    I challenge everyone listening to champion a young woman so that she can go and be the best that she can be and reach her dreams. It will also be one of the best things we can do for our country.

[Translation]

International Nurses Day

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to celebrate International Nurses Day. I have the honour of practising this profession along with more than 300,000 other Canadians.
    Some of my parliamentary colleagues would do well to take inspiration from these exceptional and dedicated women and men who dedicate their lives to serving society.
    If each member here looked after the well-being of his or her community in the same way that nurses look after their patients, we would, by far, already be the best country in the world in every way.
    Furthermore, a nurse's ability to set aside personal convictions, listen to others, and understand that it is up to the person in front of them to choose and act is something that some parliamentarians should be taught.
    Nurses are more than professionals. They are guardian angels who support their patients during the most difficult times of their lives. At one time or another in their lives, every Canadian has needed a nurse, and I think they all experienced the professionalism and generosity of these unique people with huge hearts.
    I want to wish a happy International Nurses Day to all the women and men who keep our health care system running.

[English]

Anaphylaxis

    Mr. Speaker, May is National Food Allergy Awareness Month, an important reminder that millions of Canadians have food allergies and anaphylaxis and that much more can be done to raise awareness and to support those with this condition.
     Last May, the House of Commons unanimously passed Motion No. 230, which states:
    That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.
     I want to thank the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative and Mississauga resident Debbie Bruce for championing this issue. There is no reason someone should become critically ill or die as a result of anaphylaxis. We can do more to make places like airplanes more food allergy safe and to ensure that EpiPens are available.
    These groups call on Health Canada and Transport Canada to work with them to improve the lives of those living with food allergies.

  (1415)  

Afghanistan Veterans

    Mr. Speaker, I was honoured to join branch president Ken Heagle, members of the Cornwall Legion branch 297, and members of the public to honour the brave men and women who served in Afghanistan during Canada's 13-year mission.
    Sergeant Marc Léger, one of the first casualties of the war, was a proud resident of Stormont—Dundas and South Glengarry until his unfortunate death in 2002. His loss and his contribution to our country will be forever remembered.
     It was also a very moving experience to witness Libby Pelkey, a mother of two Afghanistan veterans, lay a wreath at the Cornwall cenotaph to honour her son Cody's four tours of duty and her other son Kyle's two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
     May 9, 2014, certainly was a day of honour in Stormont—Dundas and South Glengarry. We will remember them.

Violence Against Women

    Mr. Speaker, since last night the 24-hour sacred gathering of drums organized by the women's committee of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation has been raising awareness about the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Mother's Day was selected to begin the 24-hour tribute in recognition of the missing or murdered mothers and grandmothers, as well as those grieving for their lost family members. Today the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples added his voice to theirs and echoed the overwhelming calls for a public inquiry.

[Translation]

    When the Native Women's Association of Canada identified nearly 600 cases in 2009, this horrible situation was already a crisis.

[English]

    Recent statistics compiled by the RCMP have doubled this estimate, identifying approximately 1,200 cases.
    The Prime Minister needs to listen to the drumbeat and call a national public inquiry now.

Supreme Court of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the law societies and deans of law departments across the country have all condemned the Prime Minister's unprecedented attack on the Chief Justice, and this weekend retired Justice John Gomery added his voice to those condemning the Prime Minister. He said, “I think it's appalling that the judiciary should be used for political purposes in this way and I'm puzzled as to the motivation of the Prime Minister and his office....”
    Justice Gomery is best known as the person who got to the root of Liberal corruption in the sponsorship scandal and now, no doubt, he will be attacked by the Conservatives, just as they attacked Sheila Fraser and so many others. In 2006, they included clips of Justice Gomery in their TV ads. This year, he is just another name on the Conservative government's ever-growing enemies list.
    Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that respects Canadians and respects Canadian heroes like Justice Gomery and Sheila Fraser, and next year that is what they will get with an NDP government.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is working to make sure that our correctional system actually corrects criminal behaviour. Recent regulations brought forward by our Conservative government will give our front-line correctional officers better tools to stop prisoners from being able to bring drugs into prisons. It is shocking, but not surprising, that the opposition has rejected these common sense measures and has come down fully on the side of convicted criminals. The NDP public safety critic actually said that rather than cracking down on drug-dealing prisoners, we should give them new addiction treatment, and the Liberal public safety critic worried that these new tools are blatantly restrictive and will create too much tension.
    I want to assure all Canadians that our Conservative government will take no lessons from those who always put the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Speaking about victims, Mr. Speaker, the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, did not mince words today when he reported that conditions for indigenous peoples in Canada have reached “crisis proportions”.
    This is a crisis that has festered under the stubborn, confrontational approach of the Conservative government. Will Conservatives finally take a first step toward building a true nation-to-nation relationship with first nations and launch a public inquiry into the 1,200 murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we are taking action into this very serious issue, and have been since forming office.
     In fact, we have taken a number of very important initiatives, not the least of which is renewing the funding for the aboriginal justice strategy. We have ensured that this program, which is specifically designed to reduce victimization and crime overall in aboriginal regional communities, is coupled with numerous efforts, including introducing a number of criminal justice initiatives and giving police more tools to do their important work. Yes, action is very important.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has rejected requests by the Commissioner of Canada Elections to give him the power to compel witnesses to testify in investigations of electoral fraud, a power that exists, for example, at the Competition Tribunal.
    We now learn that Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton was caught giving false information to Elections Canada investigators in the robocall scandal. Is this why Conservatives will not give election fraud investigators the power to compel testimony—because it will be used to prosecute Conservatives who are lying?
    Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner of Canada Elections conducted an extremely extensive and lengthy investigation into the allegations that the member across the way found, and we came to the conclusion that there was nothing to get to the bottom of.
    As for the powers of that commissioner, he has the same powers of investigation as any police force would have.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, here is the truth.
    After hearing all of the evidence, the Federal Court delivered a clear ruling that the Conservative Party's database had been used to make thousands of fraudulent robocalls. Only the Conservatives' systematic obstruction has prevented the guilty party from being identified.
    Does the Prime Minister think it is okay for his lawyer to provide false information to Elections Canada investigators?
    Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner of Canada Elections conducted an exhaustive investigation into this matter. He found that nothing happened. The investigation proves that the allegations by the New Democrats and other partisan individuals were false. It is time for the NDP leader to stand up in the House and apologize for those false allegations.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, under the Conservatives' watch, there was a net loss of 30,000 jobs in Canada, making this one of their worst months when it comes to the economy. Today there are almost 300,000 more Canadians unemployed than before the 2008 recession.
    Under the circumstances, will the minister reconsider and maintain the $1,000 tax credit to help small businesses create jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians, namely jobs and economic growth. The employment rate might be unstable from one month to the next, and we sympathize with the Canadians who lost their jobs in April. Nevertheless, overall, Canada has one of the best records in the G7 for creating jobs, namely one million net jobs since the height of the recession. Some 90% of those jobs are full time and over 80% are in the private sector.

[English]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, in Toronto, our largest city, unemployment is higher than the national average, and the Conservatives are doing nothing.
    In 2002, Liberals expanded the temporary foreign worker program to include low-skilled jobs such as fast food. Since then, the number of temporary foreign workers has grown at a staggering rate of 13% a year under both Liberals and Conservatives.
    There are nearly 200,000 more temporary foreign workers a year under that minister. With 30,000 Canadians losing their jobs just last month, will the minister finally agree to a full audit of abuse in the temporary foreign worker program?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, we did give Service Canada officers the power to do independent audits of employers, both those who are at a higher risk of potential abuse and on a random basis as well. Additional powers to crack down on abusive employers were implemented last December, including the new blacklist. We now have administrative monetary penalties that are proposed in the budget implementation act.
    I am now referring any cases of misrepresentation under the Immigration Act by employers applying for LMOs to the CBSA for potential criminal enforcement.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have learned that the federal government's job bank site, a key component of the temporary foreign worker program, is not operating properly. Job ads are still posted months after the positions have been filled. Unemployed Canadians are unable to get a response from employers. That is the fault of the government, not the employers.
    Will the Conservatives fix this disaster that they themselves created?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is wrong. The role of the job bank is to better connect the unemployed with available jobs in Canada. Thousands of employers use the job bank. The maximum period for posting a job is 30 days. Some provinces also link their own job banks to this site. The maximum period for posting a job is six months. We will soon make changes in order to better connect unemployed workers with employers.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it does not matter how many Canadians go on the site if the site does not work.
    It was a few years ago that the Conservative government said employers had to advertise only on this site, so it is absolutely critical to its program. We know the site is so poorly maintained, so outdated, that job-seekers across the country are facing huge frustration.
    What is the government doing to enforce the rules? What is it doing to make sure that employers actually follow up with Canadian job seekers?
    Mr. Speaker, like most of what that member says on this issue, he is wrong again. The government has never required employers to only advertise on that site. That would be ridiculous.
    The truth is that the site is a useful platform to connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs. The job alert service is now sending, collectively, hundreds of thousands of email alerts to unemployed Canadians, making them aware of available job postings. The typical maximum period for postings is 30 days. The absolute maximum is 60 days. Many of the provinces are participating in the Canada job bank site as well.
    Mr. Speaker, dissension in the Conservative caucus continues to reign, and this time it is no less than the President of the Treasury Board, who two years ago wrote—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Markham—Unionville has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, two years ago, the President of the Treasury Board wrote to the then minister and complained that the job bank was not doing the job. The new minister says that he leaps into action whenever one of his colleagues complains. Why did he not leap into action two years ago, and if the answer is that he was not the minister then, will he leap twice as high today to fix this problem that—
    Order. The hon. Minister of Employment.
    I do not know what the question was, Mr. Speaker. All I know is that the member is becoming a bit of an embarrassment to himself with his inaccurate questions.
    We have rules around the temporary foreign worker program. If employers cannot demonstrate that they have made a position available to a Canadian at the prevailing regional wage rate, they cannot invite someone in from abroad. That is what happened to a restaurant in the member for Markham—Unionville's riding. However, guess what? The restauranteur constituent called up the member and said “This is not fair”. He wants to be able to bring someone in from abroad. The member is advocating that we lift the moratorium for his preferred restaurant, just like the leader of the Liberal Party did.
    We will not—

  (1430)  

    The hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
    Mr. Speaker, time and again the minister points to job vacancy numbers from the Canada job bank, data that is used to determine labour market opinions. However, that data is often old and postings are not removed when filled. In other words, decisions to permit temporary foreign workers are based on false information. Will the minister fix Canadian labour market data collection to ensure Canadians have first access to Canadian jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, the job bank is a useful platform to connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs. The typical maximum posting period is 30 days. We only extend it beyond that if employers ask for an extension, for up to six months maximum, after which the postings expire.
    We are making improvements to the Canada job bank. We actually have several provinces for which provincial job banks are automatically posted on the Canada job bank. In those provinces that are not co-operating, we work with private sector web platforms as well. We will be using new technological developments in the near future to ensure an even better matching of unemployed Canadians with available jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives took a broken program and made it even worse. The data used to determine whether a company can employ temporary foreign workers is unreliable. Some post ads in the job bank just to qualify for the program. The program needs to be fixed.
    Will the minister agree to an independent review so we can stop using bad data, stop allowing abuses, and start giving Canadians confidence that this program will do what it was meant to do?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, we have already made very substantial changes, which have reduced the demand for the use of this program. We are on the cusp of another series of reforms. There are independent audits, conducted by Service Canada, under the new statutory authorities that we have given that agency.
    However, I have letters from New Democratic MPs asking for us to streamline, simplify, and speed up the LMO process, asking us to lower the prevailing regional wage rate, asking us to make it easier for employers they prefer in their constituencies to use the program. With all due respect to those MPs, we are not going to listen to them.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, while the labour market situation is deteriorating, the Conservatives are flying blind. They have to deal with employment challenges without any reliable statistics. They are sending temporary foreign workers to regions where unemployment is high. They do not even know which industries or occupations are in demand.
    Do the Conservatives realize that, by making cuts to labour market research, gutting Statistics Canada, and doing away with the mandatory long form census, they no longer have any benchmarks to indicate when it is reasonable for them to intervene in the labour market?
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the member is mistaken. My department implemented approximately 60% of the recommendations set out in the report published by Mr. Drummond a few years ago on labour market information. We will continue to improve the availability of that information. We always want to ensure that Canadians are the first in line for jobs available in the Canadian economy. That is the goal of our program reforms.
    Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General warned the government that Statistics Canada was unable to identify the labour needs within the provinces. Dominique Gross from Simon Fraser University also said that, with the existing data, it is impossible to know where labour shortages exist and which employers can legitimately hire temporary foreign workers. In short: bad data, bad decisions, bad government.
    When will the Conservatives meaningfully tackle unemployment, starting with reliable labour market data?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, national labour market information is not relevant to the specific decisions made on the labour market opinions submitted by employers. We have made the analysis of these labour market opinions more stringent. We will make the process even more stringent with the reforms we will soon be announcing, to ensure that Canadians have the first crack at jobs available in the Canadian economy.

  (1435)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, stopping themselves from understanding a problem in order to find real solutions to it is what the Conservatives do best, especially on the issue of the missing and murdered aboriginal women.
     Nothing in their policies allows us to understand why these women are missing or have been murdered. In fact, the list of victims is getting longer. This is why the UN special rapporteur has recommended that a public inquiry be held.
     Can the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tell us the reasons for these disappearances and murders?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I note that the report very much acknowledges that while many challenges do remain, undoubtedly, the government has taken positive steps to improve the overall well-being and prosperity of aboriginal people in Canada.
    With particular reference to the steps that the government has taken to support police action on these important files, we have created the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, created a national persons website, improved law enforcement databases, made enhancements to the victims fund, and adopted the development of aboriginal community-based awareness initiatives and safety plans. The time for talk is over.
    Mr. Speaker, for 24 hours, a ceremony has been taking place on Parliament Hill, honouring the families of missing and murdered indigenous women. Today, UN rapporteur James Anaya issued a new report. He said the government should “...undertake a comprehensive, nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls...”
    Mr. Anaya joins a growing list of experts, at home, abroad, provinces and territories, indigenous organizations, and the victims' families. They all agree that an inquiry is necessary. Why is the government failing to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?
    Mr. Speaker, not everyone agrees. In fact, I have looked at some of the recent reporting on this. Advocate Audrey Huntley, who is the co-founder of No More Silence, an organization that raises awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women, has been advocating on the issue since the 1990s. She very much believes that what is needed, again, is more support for police to investigate these matters, more direct action and intervention, more programming, more efforts to actually be on the ground, ensuring that the law enforcement measures being taken are getting desired results. That is exactly what our government is doing.
    Mr. Speaker, what the government should be doing is calling an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
    The UN report released today casts light on the failure of the government. In fact, the report says that indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse. The world is watching, and it is long past overdue. When will the Conservatives stop denying families and communities the truth and justice that they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years, there have been some 40 different reports, inquiries, and measures taken to identify issues. The reality is that more work needs to be done directly to get to the problem.
    Let us look at the actual report, which says:
...Canada has taken determined action to address ongoing aspects of the history of misdealing and harm inflicted on aboriginal peoples in the country, a necessary step towards helping to remedy their current disadvantage.
    The report goes on to talk about how Canada has in place numerous laws, policies, and programs. That is what we are continuing to do. That is real action.

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, with these types of answers, we will not be surprised with the next stats.
    In April, the Department of Justice cut $1.2 million, or 20%, from its research budget. Its internal report now shows that its research did not line up with the government's priorities. Then, eight researchers were fired.
    It did the same as it has done with science; it cut the funding because it does not like the facts. What exactly were the facts that the government objected to so strongly?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, I know that the member, and seemingly her party, are very much opposed to any steps that bring about greater accountability and financial responsibility within the public service.
    What we are doing and continuing to do at the Department of Justice, and throughout government, is to ensure that we bring value to hard-earned taxpayers' dollars for Canadians, to ensure we are getting the maximum efficiencies out of departments like mine and others.
    Research is of course undertaken to obtain information to support priorities of government, measures of government that are actually getting results. That is what has happened in this case. That has happened across all government departments.
    Mr. Speaker, he said greater accountability.

[Translation]

    They have made cuts to Statistics Canada and Environment Canada. They have made cuts to the National Research Council and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They have made cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada. Now, they are making cuts to the Department of Justice. The upshot of all these cuts is a reduction in the quality of information available, which has the effect of reducing the quality of the bills introduced by the government. The choices made by the Conservatives are ideological. There is a pattern of cuts to everything that involves facts and science.
     Which research projects in the area of justice did not line up with the government’s vision and priorities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what seems to be ideological is this member's and her party's ideological disdain for anything that brings about savings for taxpayers and anything that brings about more accountability and efficiency in government departments, whether it is justice or across government.
    We have made a determined decision to bring about greater accountability, greater value for dollars, greater respect for taxpayers' dollars. That is what we are doing in justice. That is what they are doing in defence. That is what they are doing in public safety. That is what Canadians want and demand and expect of government in the 21st century.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, there are 156,000 Canadians who have been out of work for a year or longer. That number has more than doubled since 2008, when the number was 65,000. To make matters worse, the Conservatives are now giving four-year work permits for temporary foreign workers. Four years is not temporary. Unemployment for those 156,000 Canadians is not temporary.
    Why did the Conservatives ramp up the TFW program, when so many Canadians face long-term unemployment?
    Mr. Speaker, yet again the Liberal Party is embarrassingly misinformed about this. In fact, the typical work permit in that program is issued for one or at most two years, but until we put in place the four-year maximum renewable period, temporary foreign workers could have their status to work in Canada renewed for as many years as possible. Under the Liberal management of the program, TFWs could be renewed for five, seven, or ten years.
    We said if this is a temporary program, it must be temporary, so we put an absolute four-year maximum on the period of residency in Canada for these workers. It tightened the program over the Liberal rules.
    Mr. Speaker, to fix long-term unemployment, we need more jobs, not more temporary foreign workers.
    In 2013, Canada's job growth stalled. To quote The Economist magazine, Canada's “post-crisis glow is fading” . The workforce participation rate in Canada has hit a 13-year low, and our growth rate has fallen behind that of the U.S., the U.K., and Australia.
    How far must our economy slide before the Conservatives realize, before the finance minister realizes, that his status quo is not working for Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on what matters most: jobs and economic growth. It is rather rich for the Liberals to be criticizing our government's record on job creation. They voted against every job creation measure our government has put forward, including freezing EI rates, which would provide certainty and flexibility for workers and employers; tax cuts for manufacturers; and $70 billion in predictable and stable job-creating infrastructure.
    The Liberal Party does not even have a plan for the economy and job growth.

  (1445)  

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, it is sad how Conservative indignation erupts whenever someone suggests that working-class Ontarians should get a little extra jingle in their pockets. Almost immediately, the Prime Minister attacked the Premier of Ontario for offering middle-class Ontarians real help to achieve retirement security.
    Why does the Prime Minister believe that payroll deductions for artificial EI premiums are okay, when contributions for greater retirement security are not?
    Mr. Speaker, it is fairly obvious that the Ontario government, the Ontario Liberals, are attacking the federal government to divert attention from their economic record.
    Here is what our government has done: lowered taxes, provided opportunities for savings, created over one million jobs, and generated economic growth. In contrast, the Ontario government is going heavily into debt and raising taxes. Its misguided provincial pension plan would cost employees and employers $3.5 billion a year.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister promised to raise the ethical standards in Ottawa. Instead, he set up this Nixonian-style enemies list that has grown to include the independent officers of Parliament, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and even Sheila Fraser. Now Justice John Gomery, who helped ferret out Liberal corruption, says he is appalled by the Prime Minister's behaviour toward the Supreme Court.
    When will the Prime Minister stop with the vindictive attacks and start paying some respect to eminent Canadians like John Gomery?
    Mr. Speaker, it was not only because of our respect for eminent Canadians but also because of respect for the integrity of the process that we went out and got opinions from former Supreme Court justices, like Mr. Justice Binnie and Madam Justice Charron, and also constitutional expert Peter Hogg. We reached out to Canadians, got that learned advice.
    Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, that somehow everybody knew that the process was established, somebody forgot to tell all those Federal Court judges who applied to be Supreme Court justices.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister continues to disappoint Canadians and alienate those who went after the Liberals with their sponsorship scandal. This time, it is Justice Gomery who feels that the Prime Minister’s attack on the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice is both bewildering and distasteful. In Justice Gomery’s opinion, the Prime Minister’s stubborn commitment to appointing Justice Nadon can be explained by the Conservatives’ bias against judges from Quebec, who are seen as being too progressive.
     When will the Prime Minister end his partisan and underhanded attacks on the Supreme Court and the institutions that oppose his kind of ideological governance?

[English]

    News flash, Mr. Speaker, this just in: Mr. Justice Nadon is from Quebec. Mr. Justice Nadon was even described by a colleague of my hon. friend, the justice critic for the NDP, as a great judge, as a brilliant legal mind.
     I think there is agreement that Mr. Justice Nadon was a very eminent jurist. He was being considered for appointment. We acted on advice from a parliamentary committee and advice we received from many sources, including in Quebec, and we moved forward on that advice.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, seven months ago, the NDP applauded progress toward a trade agreement with Europe. At the time, the Minister of International Trade said that all of the major issues had been resolved. Seven months later, it is clear that that was not true, because seven months have passed and we still do not have the text of the agreement.
    Can the minister tell us what is really going on with the Canada-EU agreement? In other words, what is the problem?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member: patience. When we compare the current government's record on trade to the appalling record of the NDP, Canadians know who gets it right, who focuses on the priorities of Canadians.
    Last October, the Prime Minister and President Barroso initialled and signed an agreement in principle for this trade agreement. We are finalizing the technical negotiations. They are almost complete.
    This agreement is a great deal for Canada. It is going to increase bilateral trade by over 20%. It is also going to add $12 billion to our national GDP. This is a great deal for Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, it would be a welcome change if the minister stopped hiding behind a smokescreen to hide his lack of explanation.
    The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the government has been slow to diversify and has failed to properly increase exports. It is no wonder our export numbers are bad and getting worse.
    European governments are consulting with the public, because that is the right thing to do in a democracy. The Conservatives are refusing to say what is on the negotiating table.
    Why is the government scared of transparency? Why are Conservatives keeping Canadians in the dark?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have news for that member. Canada actually has a trade surplus.
    These negotiations with the European Union have been the most transparent and collaborative Canada has ever undertaken. They have included the provinces and territories at the table with us negotiating when it comes to areas under their jurisdiction. Municipalities across Canada have participated and have informed the process.
    This is a great deal for Canada. It is a great deal for every sector of our economy and every region of our country.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, Kashechewan First Nation has declared a state of emergency due to flooding on the Albany River. As of last night, there is an imminent risk of overbank flooding because of ice jams located upstream.
    While dealing with local emergencies is primarily a matter of provincial responsibility, our government has always stood ready to help those in need. Would the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness please update this House on what our government is doing to help those in northern Ontario?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when major natural disasters strike, Canadians can count on our government to help them.

[English]

    That is why we have committed three C-130 Hercules aircraft to evacuation efforts today. Should airfield conditions deteriorate as a result of weather, Chinook helicopters will be made available.
    I would like to thank our Canadian Armed Forces, who are on the ground working to keep our hundreds of fellow Canadians safe and dry.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, last week frank conversations were held across the country as part of mental health week, but here in Ottawa, the Conservative government is failing to do its part. It has even refused to adopt the Mental Health Commission's national standard.
     Anxiety, stress, and depression are on the rise in the public service, and Conservative mismanagement and attacks are making things worse, not better. As one of the nation's largest employers, why is the government failing to take concrete action on mental health in the workplace?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we have been working with public sector leaders to tackle this issue.
    Currently 49% of all sick leave is attributable to mental health issues. The main issue, though, is that we have a sick leave system that is 50 years out of date and does not allow us to have the tools necessary to tackle these issues in a modern, effective manner.
    That is the type of thing I want to see changed, and that is why I put in the shop window for our negotiations with the unions the sick leave system.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to mental health, the Conservatives cannot seem to walk the talk. When they encourage the private sector to comply with the Mental Health Commission of Canada's national standard, yet fail to apply that standard to the federal public service, that is pure hypocrisy.
    Measures to prevent the kind of stress that can result in professional burnout or depression in the public service are absolutely inadequate. Mental health is essential. Why are the Conservatives not applying the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace to the federal public service?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government has invested significantly in mental health research and promotion. We have invested $431 million in mental health research since 2006. We invest over $112 million annually to support community-based health activities for families and invest in projects in over 230 communities across Canada.
    It was this government that created the Mental Health Commission to develop a national strategy and to share best practices from coast to coast to coast.

[Translation]

Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, in a dozen or so cities across the country, thousands of people took to the streets to say no to the cuts to Canada Post.
    So far, 58 municipalities have already adopted a resolution or sent a letter in support of home mail delivery. The Conservatives are not thinking about the consequences of their decision for seniors or people with a disability. They are not thinking about what impact this will have on urban design or land use in an urban area. It has to be said that those big community mailboxes are not pretty; they are truly awful.
    People like their letter carriers, and this public service is important to them. Will the Conservatives prevent us from having the sorry distinction of being the only OECD country that is incapable of providing home mail delivery?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in 2012, Canada Post delivered one billion fewer individually addressed lettermail pieces than it did in 2006. Only the NDP would stand in this House and say that there is no crisis at Canada Post, but Canadians are not buying that. In fact, two-thirds of Canadians currently do not receive door-to-door mail delivery.
    We are concerned about Canada Post taking on its losses. If the member wants to talk about the design of where these community boxes go, I refer him to Canada Post, which is an independent crown corporation and makes those decisions on its own.
    Mr. Speaker, independent? Conservatives have short arms and even shorter memories, or can they not recall their back-to-work law in 2011?
    The minister is simply pretending that there are no options, as if because times are changing, Canada Post cannot adapt and its services must be slashed.
    There are so many examples around the world of governments that took the right decision regarding their public postal service: Italy, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand. They all adapted their postal service and can be proud of it.
    Do Conservatives not have the ambition or creativity to lead by example and modernize Canada Post without crippling it?
    Mr. Speaker, to be clear, Canada Post has a five-point plan to modernize the postal service. Obviously, we support that Canada Post do something about the bleeding on its balance sheet. It is posted, according to a Conference Board report, to lose up to $1 billion a year by 2020, which is not that far away. This is because Canadians are choosing to communicate in very different ways than they did even a few years ago.
    We certainly hope that Canada Post can get its balance sheet back under control and ensure that Canadians continue to have mail service.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today UN special rapporteur James Anaya reinforced the overwhelming consensus on the need for a national public inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The RCMP has now identified almost 1,200 cases. This is not an aboriginal issue, it is not a women's issue, it is an ongoing Canadian tragedy.
    Will the Prime Minister, who claims to be tough on crime, claims to stand up for victims, do the right thing and call a national public inquiry now?
    Mr. Speaker, the short answer is that, without calling a national inquiry, we are acting on recommendations that came from very learned, in-depth reports that we are already in possession of. We have taken substantial steps toward improving the ability of the police to investigate, arrest, and put in play the criminal justice process that will hold individuals accountable for these heinous crimes.
    Those are the concrete actions and steps that we continue to make, along with the programs designed to help aboriginal women on reserve, including giving them matrimonial property, which the member and her party voted against. These are real concrete steps that make a difference in the lives of aboriginal women.

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, this spring, four officials from the ministry of the interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo travelled to Canada at taxpayers’ expense to interview approximately thirty Congolese nationals threatened with deportation by the government. Ironically, one of these nationals was himself an official from Kinshasa and as such, is suspected of being involved in human rights abuses.
     The Congolese Canadian community is concerned about this state of affairs and is asking to meet with the minister responsible.
     My question is simple: Will the community get that meeting?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
     As the hon. member knows, the Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for upholding the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and for ensuring the integrity of our borders. As he also knows, each year approximately 250,000 newcomers arrive in Canada. In cases where these individuals, once they are here, fail to respect our laws and have exhausted every possible recourse, the CBSA then has a duty to remove them to their country of origin.

[English]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, Toronto is a world-class city. It is a major engine that drives our national economy. However, two decades now of downloading and cuts by Liberals and Conservatives have left the city of Toronto with crumbling infrastructure and crippling gridlock. Now Conservative mismanagement is putting thousands of infrastructure projects at risk right across the country. Cities are still not clear even how to apply.
    Why is the minister putting our construction season at risk with all these needless delays?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, this information is completely false. With the new Building Canada plan, just as the previous one, the provinces prioritize the projects. All of the information required to apply is available online already. The process does not deviate from the previous program that municipalities across Canada know and have used over the past seven years. It is exactly the same.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that the Building Canada fund has been plagued by long delays, and now he is changing the rules again.
    Conservative mismanagement and shifting goal posts are putting thousands of infrastructure projects at risk. Since 1993, federal government inaction has created a $170-billion infrastructure deficit, and the people of Toronto are tired of this. It is at best neglect, but looks like the hostility of successive federal governments towards our urban centres.
    Why can the minister not get badly needed funds out the door and help build our cities?
    Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. We have specifically allocated nearly $11 billion under the new Building Canada plan for job-creating infrastructure in Ontario. We will continue to support the provinces and municipalities. However, the provinces make their own priorities.
    If it is so serious for the member, I invite him to support this and to vote for it for once.

Multiculturalism

    Mr. Speaker, on Thursday parliamentarians will join with Holocaust survivors and their families in Ottawa for the annual National Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies presented by the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.
    On this occasion, we remember, of course, and commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust, the six million Jews who were so brutally murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. In 2009, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity proposed an act to establish a national Holocaust monument, which passed unanimously in the House.
    Would the Minister of State for Multiculturalism please provide the House with an update on the progress of a national Holocaust monument?
    Mr. Speaker, today I was honoured to join with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages to help announce the winning design for the national Holocaust monument, which will be unveiled in the fall of 2015. Congratulations to the design-winning team led by Gail Dexter-Lord, creators of Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival.
    The national Holocaust monument will serve as a constant reminder to reflect on the millions of lives lost due to hate and intolerance, and to educate our children so that such atrocities should never happen again.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, again I rise to talk about a grave situation that is becoming worse off the northeast coast of Newfoundland for crab fishermen. Already the Conservatives have cut the inshore shrimp fishery, favouring big business in the offshore. Also, they are affecting seasonal workers with changes to employment insurance. Now, heavy ice is preventing fishermen from doing their job. Harvesters, crew members, and hundreds of plant workers have not seen a paycheque since the middle of last month.
    Will the minister today commit to an ice compensation package?
    Mr. Speaker, it is true that in some areas of Atlantic Canada, some fisheries have been delayed, although only minimally in most cases due to weather and heavy ice conditions. DFO is working closely with industry to monitor the ice and weather conditions, which, as the member knows, are unpredictable at this time of year and can change quickly.
    With respect to compensation in the past, several years ago it was only offered when, with very extreme conditions, a fishery was delayed into in late spring or even into the summer. The minister and her officials will continue to monitor the situation.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, Laval city council has unanimously adopted a motion calling for sporting, cultural, and recreational infrastructure projects to be eligible for funding under the Building Canada fund. Infrastructure projects of this nature are important to youth sport development and the cultural growth of our municipalities.
    The Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs displayed some creativity when it came time to finance the ice oval in Quebec City. Will he also heed the request of the City of Laval and provide funding for these infrastructure projects under the Building Canada fund?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, we do not invest in professional sport infrastructure of any kind. That is clear.
     There was some money left over from the old program. The former Government of Quebec had identified the ice oval as a priority in a budget. Priorities are always set by the province. We merely followed the province’s lead. Under the new Building Canada plan, sporting, recreational, and cultural infrastructure projects continue to be eligible for funding, but financial support will now be provided under the gas tax fund. It is up to the City of Laval to make choices and do the work.

[English]

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on May 9, Canadians in communities across our country attended ceremonies and parades to mark the National Day of Honour. I was honoured to attend the event at Edmonton Garrison, with 2,200 members of 3rd Canadian Division on parade. This was an occasion for all Canadians to remember our brave men and women who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
    Will the Minister of Veterans Affairs please update the House on how Canadians shared this important date in our history?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to the House that the National Day of Honour events took place in community centres, schools, municipal offices, provincial legislatures, and Legion branches right across our country. On Friday, Canadians from coast to coast to coast stood united with their neighbours, families, and friends to pay respect to those who served in Afghanistan and to the families who have sacrificed so much.
    We honour and remember the deeds and sacrifices of Canadian veterans. Lest we forget.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, recently first nations in Ontario learned that the national child benefit reinvestment program has been slashed by 50%. Yes, that is 50%. This benefit helps support child care initiatives and food banks and was used to combat poverty. Now communities are scrambling to make up the shortfall, programs are at risk, and the job prospects of first nations parents across Ontario are looking worse.
    Why are Conservatives cutting this crucial funding, and what is their plan to help first nations communities with the shortfall?
    Mr. Speaker, I will take a look at the file and get back to the member. I am unaware of those details at this time, but I will get back to her as soon as possible.

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the government imposed a moratorium on foreign workers at the start of the summer season, and this moratorium will hurt the tourism industry in Quebec's national capital and many other regions of Quebec.
    It is unfair that restaurant and business owners in Quebec are being punished for abuse committed in Ontario and British Columbia. Quebec's new immigration minister is concerned about the situation and has formally requested that Quebec be exempted from the moratorium.
    Will the employment and immigration ministers do their homework? Will they see that Quebec has already strictly controlled requests for foreign workers? Will they exempt Quebec from the moratorium?
    Mr. Speaker, we imposed a moratorium on the food and restaurant industries until our reforms are finalized in a few weeks.
    I want to point out to the member that Quebec has a youth unemployment rate of 14%. The unemployment rate for new immigrants to Quebec is over 20%. Employers should be able to find young unemployed Quebeckers and new Quebeckers to work. These people should be hired first.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, I may not be the Amazing Kreskin, but it is getting all too predictable what we are going to hear in Conservative talking points on climate.
     I want to be really clear about this. I have been asking repeatedly whether the current administration remains committed to the target it picked and the Prime Minister signed on to in 2009 in Copenhagen. Environment Canada data make it clear we will not hit that target. According to Maclean's magazine on April 9, this minister and the Prime Minister remain committed to the target.
    Are they committed? Is there going to be a plan? When will we see it?
    Mr. Speaker, since 2006, our government has invested significant funds in more efficient technology, better infrastructure and adaptation, and clean energy. We have taken actions on two of the largest sources of emissions in this country, including the transportation and electricity sectors. In fact, in the first 21 years of coal regulations, we expect to see accumulative reductions in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 2.6 million vehicles from the road.

  (1510)  

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the temporary foreign workers program is being abused left, centre, and mostly right, meaning lower wages and less work for Canadian—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has the floor. I will ask members to come to order.
    The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister has even been recruiting young people abroad for the International Experience Canada work program, although our own young people, including in Thunder Bay—Superior North, have double the national unemployment rate. Can the minister assure the people of northern Ontario that temporary foreign workers will not take away their jobs in the Ring of Fire?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, that is precisely why we are undertaking yet another reform of the program to ensure that Canadians always get the first crack at available jobs, particularly young Canadians.
    However, I have to point out that I get all these letters from opposition MPs asking for special exceptions and favours and to liberalize the program. I have one question from a Bloc MP saying to end the moratorium. I have the NDP asking for us to expand it. What we need is a balanced approach, one that ensures legitimate labour mobility and that this country will remain open to the talents of newcomers, but that as much as is reasonably possible, Canadians come first in the labour market.

Points of Order

Oral Questions 

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I think the employment minister might have inadvertently misled the House in questioning my contention about employers only required to advertise on the government website.
     Therefore, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to table a government press release of 2006, in both official languages, which makes the point extremely clearly. It states, “Employers will only need to advertise on the—
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table—
    Some hon. members: Yes.
    Some hon. members: No.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 44 petitions.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law)

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

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas respecting its participation in the 33rd annual meeting of the board of directors in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from March 19 to 21.
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly respecting its participation at the fall meeting of the OSC Parliamentary Assembly held in Budva, Montenegro, from October 13 to 15, 2013.

Committees of the House

Industry, Science and Technology  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, entitled “The Entertainment Software Industry in Canada”.

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
     The committee advises that pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2) the subcommittee on private members' business met to consider the items added to the order of precedence as a result of the replenishment of Wednesday, April 9, 2014, and recommended that the items listed herein, which it has determined should not be designated non-votable, be considered by the House.

  (1515)  

    Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2), the report is deemed adopted.

Public Safety and National Security  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Economics of Policing”. I might add that municipalities across this country have been eagerly waiting for this report, so I am pleased today to do that. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive report in response to this report.
    I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to a study on the main estimates 2014-15.

Petitions

Democratic Reform  

    Mr. Speaker, across Canada more and more Canadians are calling for a change to our broken first-past-the-post electoral system, and Guelph is no exception.
    I rise to present the signatures of a great many of my constituents who call upon the House of Commons to immediately undertake pan-Canadian consultations that would amend the Canada Elections Act and introduce a suitable form of proportional representation, one that would ensure that votes cast would be an effective means to ensure fair representation in Parliament, where the share of seats held by each party would better reflect the popular vote and would prevent 25% majority governments.
    We eagerly await the government's response.

Gasoline Prices  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition today in support of my Bill C-336.
    With the long weekend just around the corner, motorists, small business owners, and industry are again worried about the very high gas prices that are causing real hardship. The federal government is doing nothing to help ordinary working families that are getting hosed at the pumps.
    As a result, the petitioners encourage the government to pass my Bill C-336, an act to establish the office of the oil and gas ombudsman to investigate complaints relating to the business practices of suppliers of oil or gas, which would provide strong and effective consumer protection to ensure no big business could swindle, cheat, or rip off hard-working Canadians.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I rise today to table a petition regarding the devastating cuts to service and the huge price increases at Canada Post. I am pleased to table this petition on behalf of hundreds of Canadians.
    I look forward to the government's response.

Seafood Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by thousands of Canadians.
    The petitioners draw to the attention of the government that Canadian consumers want to support sustainable seafood options and that Canadian seafood industries are providing increased opportunities for consumers to make sustainable seafood purchases.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to designate March 18 as national sustainable seafood day.

Blood and Organ Donation  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to table a petition calling upon the Government of Canada to change its policy on blood and organ donation. More specifically, the signatories are requesting that sexual orientation be removed as a screening criteria.
    Therefore, the signatories request that the Government of Canada return the rights of any healthy Canadian to give the gift of blood, bone marrow and organs to those in need no matter the race, religion or sexual preference of a person. The right to give blood or donate organs is universal to any healthy man or woman.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions to present today.
    The first petition calls upon the Government of Canada to take the necessary legislative and regulatory steps to immediately reverse the devastating increase in postal rates and the cancellation of door-to-door delivery.
    The petitioners call upon Canada Post to ensure that it continues with five-day delivery.

  (1520)  

Home Children  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon Parliament to offer an unequivocal, sincere and public apology to the home children child migrants who died while being ashamed of their history and deprived of their families, to the living and elderly home children migrants who continue to bear the weight of the past, and to the descendants of home children.
    The petitioners call upon the government for an unequivocal apology.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition I wish to present calls upon the government to change the Criminal Code to redefine the offence of impaired driving causing death as vehicular manslaughter.
    Having read and agreed with the accompanying information sheet, I present these petitions to the Government of Canada.

Democratic Reform  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present to the House, signed by Albertans.
    The first petition calls upon parliamentarians to stand up for Canadian democracy, reject Bill C-23, and bring forward genuine electoral reform that would stop fraud and would ensure every Canadian could exercise the right to vote.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the government to stop the cuts to postal service, stop the high price for stamps, and restore the 8,000 jobs it intends to cut.

Dementia  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions that I would like to present today.
    The first petition supports Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia, put forward by my colleague from Nickel Belt, with the ultimate goal of the government being able to make recommendations on ways to support and strengthen Canada's capacity to care for persons with dementia.
    Most of the signatories are from the greater Toronto area.

Democratic Reform  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is a series of petitions, all together, from Canadians across the country, most on the west coast and the prairies.
    The petitioners object to Bill C-23, the so-called fair elections act. They ask that this Parliament not pass the bill and that we start over again with a bill that ultimately would be fair.

[Translation]

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, on May 1, the Council of Canadian Academies tabled a report on shale gas and hydraulic fracturing. The study showed that nothing is known about this practice. We are putting the cart before the horse. We do not know what effect fracking could have on our health or the environment.
    Several hundred people have signed petitions urging the Government of Canada to take on the important role of publicly disclosing all of the chemicals used during the fracking process. In addition, they are calling on Health Canada and Environment Canada to do their job and ensure that the protection of human health and biodiversity is taken into account.

Genetically Modified Organisms   

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to table two petitions. The first petition is signed by Quebeckers who are calling on the House of Commons to pass a bill requiring that all genetically modified products and ingredients be labelled as GMOs. It is a reasonable measure, one that is supported by the Green Party.

[English]

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls for a tanker ban. We have had a moratorium, a complete ban, on oil tankers on the British Columbia coast since 1972. It has been observed and honoured by every provincial and federal government since 1982.
    The petitioners from Delta and from a number of locations in Ontario and Vancouver are calling on Parliament to make sure that the tanker ban remains in place.

Rail Transportation  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two petitions today. The first one is with respect to the Algoma Central Railway line and the fact that the government had removed the subsidy to this very important line without consultation with the stakeholders on the impact that this would have on businesses, homes, tourism, and communities.
    The petitioners are asking for the federal government to reinstate the funding. I must say that the government did come through and put temporary funding back for one more year, but the petitioners remain concerned. These petitioners are from Wawa, Chapleau, and Sault Ste. Marie.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with respect to the cuts to Canada Post services. The petitioners are concerned about the loss of jobs, the loss of services, the increase in fees, and the decrease in services. They are calling upon the Government of Canada to reverse the cuts.
    The petitioners are from Kapuskasing, Val Rita, Moonbeam, and Petawawa.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, residents in my riding continue to sign petitions protesting the loss of home mail delivery by Canada Post. They are calling upon the Government of Canada to reject Canada Post's plan for reduced services and to explore other options to update Canada Post's business plan.

Dementia  

    Mr. Speaker, I have another petition from petitioners drawing to the attention of the Minister of Health and the House of Commons the fact that the federal government needs a national strategy for dementia and health care for persons afflicted with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia-related diseases.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, this is a petition from the newly amalgamated community of Fogo Island and the former community of Seldom. They are talking about Canada Post's service, and they are calling for the Canada Post Corporation's proposed downgrade of services to be reversed.
    The petitioners want a full service from Canada Post, and they are calling on the government to help maintain this service to this smaller community.

Experimental Lakes Area  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from dozens of people from Thunder Bay who remain concerned that the Experimental Lakes Area, while it has its temporary reprieve, still needs support for the scientists and the staff and the important work that they do and should continue to do in whole ecosystem research on lakes and rivers.

[Translation]

Mining Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition from people in Quebec City who are concerned about the practices of mining companies. They feel that the checks and balances currently in place are insufficient. They are calling for the creation of a legal ombudsman mechanism for responsible mining.

[English]

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 347 to 351, 354, 358 to 360, 365, 370, 373, 376, 377, 379, 384, 386, 387, 394, 401, 408, and 417.

[Text]

Question No. 347--
Hon. John McKay:
     With regard to the Prime Minister’s “24 Seven” videos: (a) what are the total costs of creating, producing, and hosting these videos, broken down by (i) individual video, (ii) department, (iii) program activity, (iv) sub-program activity, (v) labour cost; and (b) who is responsible for creating, producing, and hosting these videos?
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to part (a), no costing breakdown is available. The Privy Council Office, PCO, manages the Prime Minister’s website, the content of which is owned by the Prime Minister’s Office. All aspects of video production are the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office. PCO Communications and Consultations provide web publishing and maintenance support for the PM’s website as well as advice on content, using existing resources.
     These activities fall under:
     “1.1 Program: Advice and support to the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers” and “1.1.5 Sub-Program: Offices of the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers”.
     With regard to part (b), all aspects of video production are the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office. PCO Communications and Consultations provide web publishing and maintenance support for the PM’s website as well as advice on content. The information and technical services division is responsible for the servers that host www.pm.gc.ca.
Question No. 348--
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc:
    With regard to termination of employment agreements of exempt staff in ministers' offices since December 13, 2011: (a) how many employees in each minister's office have been terminated for misconduct or incompetence; (b) in aggregate, what was the total sum of severance paid out to these employees; (c) what was the average, median and highest amount of severance paid to a single terminated employee; (d) how many employees resigned but still received severance pay; and (e) out of the subset of employees who resigned but still received severance pay, what was the average, median and maximum termination settlement?
Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, between December 13, 2011, and March 2014, fewer than five individuals working as ministers’ exempt staff were terminated for misconduct or incompetence. Providing the amounts requested in (b) and (c) would result in a disclosure of personal information not authorized under the Privacy Act. Therefore, these figures are not being provided.
    Between December 2011 and March 2014, 140 individuals working as ministers’ exempt staff resigned and received severance pay. The average severance payment for this group was $22,510 and the median severance payment was $13,680. The maximum severance payment cannot be provided as it would result in the disclosure of personal information. The member will note that severance payments are not discretionary. They are governed by the Treasury Board policies for ministers’ offices.
Question No. 349--
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc:
     With regard to advertising by the government during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014: (a) what was the total cost for advertising; and (b) what was the cost of each advertisement shown?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada purchased airtime during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014, for Public Safety Canada’s cyberbullying Campaign.
    Public Safety Canada purchased two 30-second spots on the CTV national network and one 30-second spot on the RDS network.
    The Government of Canada does not disclose information about the specific amounts paid for individual ad placements or the amounts paid to specific media outlets. In processing Parliamentary returns, the Government applies the Privacy Act and the principles set out in the Access to Information Act, and some information has been withheld on the grounds that the information is considered third party business sensitive.
Question No. 350--
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc:
     With regard to the Prime Minister’s “24 Seven” videos: (a) when was the “24 Seven” project conceived; (b) is any of the content of the videos licensed from external providers, and if so, what are the costs of such licensing; (c) what are the file or reference numbers of all files and contracts associated with the conception and production of the videos; and (d) what are the job titles of all government employees involved in the conception and production of the videos?
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Prime Minister’s “24 Seven” videos, with regard to (a), the PCO was first advised of the project in November 2013, and the first video was published on January 6, 2014.
     With regard to (b), the PCO manages the Prime Minister’s website, the content of which is owned by the Prime Minister’s Office. All aspects of video production are the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office.
    With regard to (c), the PCO does not have any contracts associated with the conception and production of the videos.
    With regard to (d), PCO Communications and Consultations manages the Prime Minister’s website, the content of which is owned by the Prime Minister’s Office. All aspects of video production, including conception, are the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Question No. 351--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents in the family class category: (a) on what date did the government receive the 5,000th application of 2014; and (b) how many applications has the government returned to applicants since that date?
Hon. Chris Alexander (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the 5000th application for sponsorship of parents and grandparents was received January 21, 2014. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CIC, website has been updated to advise applicants that the cap has been reached. Members may go to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/sponsor-parents.asp for details.
    With regard to (b), CIC is preparing to return the applications received after the cap was reached. As of March 28, 2014, it is estimated that 2,579 applications will be returned.
Question No. 354--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to the Canada Job Grant agreements-in-principle reached with several provinces and territories, what is the file number for each agreement?
Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Canada job fund agreements, which include the Canada job grant, there are no file numbers associated with the agreement in principle reached with provinces and territories.
Question No. 358--
Hon. John McCallum:
    With regard to the use of the government aircrafts operated by departments and agencies under the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness since April 1, 2011, and for each use of the aircraft: (a) what are the names and titles of the passengers present on the flight manifest; (b) what were all the departure and arrival points of the aircraft; (c) who requested access to the fleet; and (d) who authorized the flight?
Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness does not own any government aircraft. The CBSA does not own any government aircraft.
    For reasons of national security, CSIS does not disclose details related to its capital assets. It should be noted that CSIS, like other government departments and agencies, is subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor General. Correctional Service of Canada does not own any government aircraft.
    The Parole Board of Canada does not own any government aircraft.
    The RCMP’s electronic filing system does not capture these specific details, and as a result, the information requested cannot be obtained without a manual review of related files. Therefore, given the current time constraints, the RCMP is unable to provide the requested information, as it would take an excessive amount of resources and time.
Question No. 359--
Hon. John McCallum:
     With regard to processing times for visa and immigration applications, broken down by year and using 80% of applications completed as a benchmark, what is the average wait time and success rate, including the total number of applications received and approved for each processing centre in calendar years 2005-2013, for: (a) Family Class, specifically (i) spouses and partners, (ii) children and dependents, (iii) parents and grandparents; (b) Permanent Economic Residents, specifically, (i) federal skilled workers, (ii) Quebec skilled workers, (iii) the provincial nominee program, broken down by province, (iv) live-in caregivers, (v) Canadian experience class, (vi) federal business immigrants, (vii) Quebec business immigrants; (c) Temporary Economic Residents, specifically (i) International Students, (ii) Temporary Foreign Workers; and (d) Temporary Resident Visas, specifically (i) Temporary Resident Visa, (ii) Work Visa, (iii) ten-year Super Visa?
Hon. Chris Alexander (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, producing the voluminous information requested in the question and sub-questions would require an extensive manual search of Citizenship and Immigration Canada records and an excessive number of taxpayer-funded man-hours. After a lengthy data extraction process involving millions of files, the report would have to be reviewed in its entirety to ensure that the data were accurate and valid. Providing the full and accurate information requested in the question and sub-questions is therefore not feasible within the prescribed timeline for the reasons outlined above.
Question No. 360--
Hon. John McCallum:
    With regard to the use of government-owned aircrafts operated by Transport Canada since April 1, 2011, and for each use of the aircraft: (a) what are the names and titles of the passengers present on the flight manifest; (b) what were all the departure and arrival points of the aircraft; (c) who requested access to the fleet; and (d) who authorized the flight?
Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Transport, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, the information requested cannot be compiled within the allotted time. Paper copies of flight manifests are retained for six months after a flight. Information from each manifest would need to be transcribed individually at each of the six bases across the country. Information more than six months old is not available.
Question No. 365--
Hon. Geoff Regan:
     With regard to government appointments: what is the name of each person receiving an Order-in-Council Appointment since January 1, 2006, and for each such appointment, what is (i) the position to which they were appointed, (ii) the location or region of the appointment, if applicable, (iii) the term of the appointment, (iv) the remuneration or compensation of the appointment?
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the response from the Privy Council Office is publicly available on the Privy Council Office’s orders in council website at http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/oic-ddc.asp.
Question No. 370--
Mr. Scott Andrews:
     With regard to projects approved for funding in Atlantic Canada by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA): for fiscal years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, and 2013-2014, broken down by province of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, for each project, what is (i) the name of the proponent, (ii) the title, (iii) the total cost, (iv) the amount of funding approved by ACOA, (v) the name of the ACOA program through which funding was approved?
Hon. Rob Moore (Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, insofar as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is concerned, with regard to projects approved for funding in Atlantic Canada for fiscal years 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013 14, broken down by each of the four Atlantic provinces, the information can be found on the agency’s website at http://www.acoa-apeca.gc.ca/eng/Accountability/AccessToInformation/Pages/home.aspx.
Question No. 373--
Hon. Judy Sgro:
     With regard to Corporations Canada: (a) when did Corporations Canada begin charging a fee for a full corporate profile of a federal corporation; (b) what is the schedule of fees; (c) under what authority is the schedule of fees set forth; (d) what is the anticipated revenue for fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 from the payment of these fees; (e) has any analysis been undertaken in respect of the consistency of Corporations Canada’s search and fee policies with Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government; (f) if the answer to (e) is negative, will such an analysis be undertaken; and (g) if the answer to (e) is affirmative, what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of any reports, memoranda, files or any other documents related to this analysis?
Hon. James Moore (Minister of Industry, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), Corporations Canada is continuously looking to improve the availability of products and services and of its online offerings. While the online corporations database is still available for free, the corporate profile is a new product that was introduced on January 30, 2014. It provides online and 24/7 access to the director addresses. Fees for the corporate profile comply with regulations under the Corporate Acts that are administered by Corporations Canada.
    With regard to (b), the Corporations Canada database is still available for free for those who sign up to become secure users. For those who are not secure users, Corporations Canada operates on a cost-recovery basis, meaning its activities are funded by those who use its services.
    With regard to (c), the fees are set under the authority of the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Canada Cooperatives Act. The fee was established in 1975 by schedule 5 of the Canada Business Corporations Regulations, in 2011 by the schedule of the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Regulations in 2011, and in 1999 by schedule 3 of the Canada Cooperative Regulations in 1999.
    With regard to (d), for 2013-14, the revenue is approximately $24,000. For 2014-15, the anticipated revenue is $144,000, based on the 2013-14 figures.
    With regard to (e), with regard to the Action Plan on Open Government, Corporations Canada recognized the interest of having its dataset of federal corporations on the open data portal. The secure log-in approach used by Corporations Canada leverages industry investment to provide a client-centric and secure online authentication in a manner that respects privacy.
    With regard to (f), no analysis is necessary because the search and fee policy is a separate issue from Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government.
     Part (g) is not applicable.
Question No. 376--
Hon. Judy Sgro:
     With regard to the Royal Canadian Mint: (a) has any assessment been carried out on the fiscal impact, on an annual basis, of eliminating the five-cent coin from circulation in Canada; and (b) if the answer to (a) is affirmative, (i) what is the file or reference number of any document containing or bearing on this assessment, (ii) what was the estimated fiscal impact?
Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, no assessments have been carried out on the fiscal impact, on an annual basis, of eliminating the five-cent coin from circulation in Canada.
Question No. 377--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to Budget 2014: what is the total number of hours paid for by the government, in employee or contracted services, in the preparation of the Budget and what is the cost associated with those hours of work?
Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the preparation of the budget is at the core of the Department of Finance’s mandate and is a year-long process. As such, the department does not track the hours of work nor the cost associated with this work.
    The costs of contracted services, not itemized by hours of work, first for the printing and then for the editing and translation of economic action plan 2014 were $232,862.63 and $98,911.85 respectively.
    Other departments are involved in the preparation of the budget, but neither the hours nor the cost is reported in this response.
Question No. 379--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to the closure of Kingston Penitentiary: (a) on what date was the decision made to close the penitentiary; (b) what capital upgrades or repairs, if any, were underway at the time the decision to close the facility was made; (c) what capital upgrades or repairs, if any, began after the decision to close the facility was made; and (d) what were the costs of any initiatives identified in either (b) or (c)?
Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the decision to close Kingston Penitentiary was made on March 29, 2012.
    With regard to (b), in fiscal year 2011-2012, the following capital upgrade projects were under way at the time of the decision: work to provide separations within the existing recreation yard: $1,609,344; new central heating plant in Building C4, preliminary assessment, $105,984; work to modernize door control, fixed-point alarms, and emergency cell call systems, $93,311; and installation of a drug detection cell, $90,045. There were no capital repair projects under way at the time of the decision.
    With regard to (c), no capital upgrade projects were begun after the decision to close the facility was made. One capital repair project for boiler and steam generator work began after the decision. Given that CSC did not proceed with the new central heating plant project mentioned in part (b) and that no further work than the assessment was completed after the decision to close, minor work was required to replace key components in the existing heating plant to ensure minimal heat is provided in the facility.
     With regard to (d), the total cost of capital upgrade projects under way at the time of the decision was $1,898,684. It should be noted that this amount includes total project costs, incurred in fiscal years 2011-12 and 2012-13. The total cost for capital repair work for the boiler and steam generator that commenced after the decision was $21,514.
Question No. 384--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
     With regard to the backgrounder on upgrades to the CP-140 Aurora posted on the Department of National Defense website on March 19, 2014: (a) what studies or other documents support the claim made in the backgrounder that “The modernized Aurora aircraft will offer superior capabilities to alternative aircraft, making it one of the best Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircrafts available through until 2030”; and (b) what are the (i) dates, (ii) file numbers, (iii) conclusions of these reports or other documents?
Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force confirms that recent performance within military maritime air exercises has indicated that the modernized Aurora is today capable of outperforming alternative aircraft, making it one of the best intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft available through until 2030.
Question No. 386--
Mr. Ted Hsu:
     With regard to the recent sale of crown land owned by Correctional Service of Canada, in the amount of 1,554.48 square meters, located on Frontenac Institute in Kingston, Ontario: (a) who is the purchaser; (b) what is the purchase price; (c) what is the closing date of the transaction; (d) what were all of the measures taken to respect the Commissioner’s Directive for Real Property for Correctional Service Canada, in particular the statement, under Principles, that “acquisition and disposal of real property assets will be done in a fair and open manner, which shall include public consultation”; (e) what was the first date of any communications regarding the sale of this land between the government and the purchaser; (f) what was the first date of any communications regarding the sale of this land between the government and parties who expressed interest but ultimately did not purchase the land; and (g) what was the first date of any communications regarding the sale of this land between the government and parties other than those in (e) and (f)?
Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the purchaser is the Royal Kingston Curling Club.
    With regard to (b), the purchase price was $18,500.00.
    With regard to (c), the closing date of the transaction was October 31, 2013.
    With regard to (d), CSC’s Commissioner Directive 300--Real Property was adhered to and a public notice of intent of sale of a portion of crown land was issued on February 9, 2013. Furthermore, CSC officials worked with the Treasury Board Secretariat, TBS, to ensure accuracy in its interpretation of TBS policy and the Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act.
    With regard to (e), the first date of communication was November 22, 2009.
    With regard to (f), the first date of communication was February 9, 2013.
    With regard to (g), no other communications transpired.
Question No. 387--
Ms. Megan Leslie:
    With regard to the comments made March 7, 2014 by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at the Canadian Club of Toronto concerning the right to vote of Canadians living abroad: what is the government’s position on the voting rights in Canadian elections of Canadians who have lived abroad for longer than 5 years?
Mr. Paul Calandra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the government’s position on the voting rights in Canadian elections of Canadians who have lived abroad for longer than five years can be found in the Canada Elections Act, Part 11, Special Voting Rules, which states:
    222. (1) The Chief Electoral Officer shall maintain a register of electors who are temporarily resident outside Canada in which is entered the name, date of birth, civic and mailing addresses, sex and electoral district of each elector who has filed an application for registration and special ballot and who: a) at any time before making the application, resided in Canada; (b) has been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years immediately before making the application; and (c) intends to return to Canada to resume residence in the future.
    222. (2) Paragraph (1)(b) does not apply to an elector who is (a) employed outside Canada in the federal public administration or the public service of a province; (b) employed outside Canada by an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which Canada contributes; (c) a person who lives with an elector referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or (d) a person who lives with a member of the Canadian Forces or with a person referred to in paragraph 191(d).
Question No. 394--
Ms. Libby Davies:
     With regard to the February 2014 Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Management Response to the recommendations of the Final Report of the Task Force on Ethics Reform, approved by the Governing Council of the CIHR: (a) precisely what information was gathered through the “international environmental scan”; and (b) what specific recommendations, in support of the recent appointment of Dr. Jane Aubin as the “Ethics Champion,” and Dr. Paul Garfinkel as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics, were given to CIHR Management and CIHR Governing Council by each of (i) the CIHR Science Council, (ii) the CIHR Standing Committee on Ethics, (iii) the CIHR Institute Advisory Board Ethics Designates?
Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Health, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, an international scan of selected health research funders was conducted to identify ethics-related governance structures and other features that would inform a renewed approach to delivering on CIHR’s ethics mandate. A small number of international health research funders were selected for their comparability with CIHR as a research funding arm of government. The selected funders were: the Medical Research Council, United Kingdom; the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia; the National Institutes of Health, United States of America; and the European Commission, European Union. The organizations were contacted by email to confirm that the information gathered was up to date. This scan was provided in briefing materials for the February 28-29, 2014, meeting of the CIHR’s governing council.
    The scan indicated that in terms of overall mandate and structures, the selected health research funders and CIHR share similarities and differences. With respect to ethics-related features, the scan indicated that a commitment to ethics is evident in these health research funders through a range of governance structures and other features. The main conclusions drawn from this international scan are that: several models are used for incorporating ethics at the core of research funding organizations; ethics leadership is found at the highest levels of organizations, but executives do not tend to be ethics experts; and committees and chairs of committees have ethics expertise to provide high quality advice.
    It is important to note that the federal research agencies, namely CIHR, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, have joined their efforts over the last ten years to promote high ethical standards of conduct in research in Canada. These efforts have resulted in the development of the tri-council policy on ethical conduct of research involving humans and in the creation of a panel of research ethics responsible for addressing the evolving needs of the three agencies in promoting the ethics of research involving humans. This panel is composed of experts and is supported by a permanent secretariat of eight staff. In addition, in 2011, CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC jointly created the panel on responsible conduct of research as part of a collaborative objective to ensure a coherent and uniform approach for promoting responsible conduct in research.
    With regard to the recommendations, in 2013-14, CIHR’s governing council discussed on several occasions the advice and recommendations of the task force on ethics. In 2013, the council directed CIHR management, including CIHR’s science council, to develop an ethics action plan for addressing the issues raised by the task force through an approach that would address both leadership issues and issues of integration of ethics at the core of CIHR’s business.
    All CIHR’s institute advisory board ethics designates had the opportunity to comment on the ethics action plan and to address ethics issues at the IAB’s meetings. The CIHR scientific directors, who receive advice from their IAB, as heads of institutes, reported to CIHR’s science council, as the accountable body, on IAB’s recommendations. In October 2013, the science council ethics action plan developed by CIHR’s management was unanimously endorsed by the science council for recommendation to the governing council for approval. This action plan identified the chief scientific officer/vice president research, knowledge translation as CIHR's champion of the CIHR ethics function.
    The CIHR standing committee on ethics, a committee created and mandated by CIHR’s governing council to identify ethical issues of strategic relevance with respect to health and health research, has been consulted on the ethics action plan and the co-chair of the CIHR standing committee on ethics actively participated in the discussion that took place at a governing council meeting on this matter. CIHR’s governing council is the accountable structure, as determined by the CIHR Act, for developing CIHR's strategic directions, goals, and policies, including as they relate to ethics issues.
    Considering that ethics is inherent to health research excellence, CIHR is fully committed to strengthening the culture of ethics in research, including scientific integrity, in all of its programs. This is why CIHR is expanding the membership of the governing council standing committee on ethics and appointed its chief scientific officer/vice president as champion of ethics at CIHR. More information regarding CIHR’s ethics action plan is available at: http://www.cihr.ca/e/48037.html.
Question No. 401--
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay:
     With regard to the Canadian seal hunt and sealing industry: (a) is the government involved in any programs or initiatives to combat the international misinformation campaigns against the hunt and, if so, (i) what are the details of any such programs or initiatives, (ii) what government departments are involved, (iii) what was the start date of each such involvement, (iv) what was the reason for termination and the end date of any such program or initiative that is not ongoing, (v) how much did the government spend on each such program or initiative, broken down by year and total amount spent to date; and (b) does the government have plans for any further involvement in such programs or initiatives?
Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is not currently involved in any programs specifically aimed at countering misinformation based on the Treasury Board Secretariat definition of program, which is “a group of related resource inputs and activities that are managed to meet specific needs and to achieve intended results, and that are treated as a budgetary unit”. However, the department is engaged in ongoing communications and advocacy activities aimed at promoting Canada’s strong management regime, which ensure the humaneness and sustainability of Canada’s seal hunt. These initiatives also contribute to the effort of combatting international misinformation campaigns.
    DFO monitors traditional and social media as part of its regular business to address concerns, needs, and requirements of the general public. Anti-seal harvest messages covered in the national media or heavily shared over social media are countered with factual and balanced information, via our media relations offices or through our own social media accounts.
    DFO has developed a number of printed documents, videos, and other web materials to inform and more factually represent the seal harvest. The material produced by the department also responds to letters from animal rights groups with factual and consistent messaging. Department officials meet with animal rights groups and individuals on occasion to address concerns. We keep our website information up to date and point to it as often as possible so that anyone interested in this harvest has easy access to the information.
    The department is able to produce these materials based on the strong management regime that is in place for Canada’s seal hunt, which is guided by long-term conservation and sustainability principles and takes into consideration the department’s integrated seal management plan, scientific advice, and consultation with the industry. The department has also made training in the three-step process among other items mandatory for all licensed seal harvesters, which further enhances the humaneness of the seal hunt in Canada.
    All relevant departments, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada; and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, have access to key messages about the harvest to quickly and effectively respond to media reports or information in the public sphere that is inaccurate or false. Letters to the editor are also used to respond to inaccurate information and show support for the seal harvest.
    DFO works with industry partners, the Inuit community, provinces and territories, and like-minded countries to convey these messages. The department also works with Canadian embassies and consular offices around the world to ensure that accurate and balanced information is conveyed about the harvest at every opportunity.
    These activities are ongoing, however, intensity of requests from external sources such as animal rights groups often increase during the hunting season of April-May. There is also an increased focus brought on by key international events such as the World Trade Organization hearings regarding the challenge of the European Union seal products ban, and the international day of protest against Canada’s seal hunt, held annually on March 15.
    There has been no termination of these activities as these are of an ongoing nature.
    There is no program that can be down by year and total amount spent to date. However, all of the aforementioned communications activities are conducted routinely by DFO. Materials such as printed documents, videos, and web materials are prepared by DFO employees, therefore the cost associated with these materials include mainly salary dollars and dedicated staff time.
    The Government of Canada will continue to defend the Canadian seal hunt as noted in the Speech from the Throne, as a sustainable, well-regulated, and humane industry that provides income for northern and coastal communities where other income opportunities are somewhat limited. DFO will continue ongoing communications activities to combat the misinformation and misrepresentation of Canada’s seal hunt.
Question No. 408--
Ms. Lise St-Denis:
     With regard to contracts under $10,000 granted by the Canadian Tourism Commission since January 1, 2013: what are the (a) vendors' names; (b) contracts' reference numbers; (c) dates of the contracts; (d) descriptions of the services provided; (e) delivery dates; (f) original contracts' values; and (g) final contracts' values if different from the original contracts' values?
Hon. James Moore (Minister of Industry, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to contracts under $10,000 granted by the Canadian Tourism Commission since January 1, 2013, Industry Canada, in consultation with the CTC, does not hold any information relevant to this question as CTC policy and procedures do not require contracts for purchases under $10,000.
Question No. 417--
Mr. Scott Simms:
    With regard to contracts under $10,000 granted by Marine Atlantic since January 1, 2013: what are the (a) vendors' names; (b) contracts' reference numbers; (c) dates of the contracts; (d) descriptions of the services provided; (e) delivery dates; (f) original contracts' values; and (g) final contracts' values if different from the original contracts' values?
Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Transport, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, Marine Atlantic does not issue contracts for planned expenditures under $10,000.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, furthermore, if Questions Nos. 338 to 346, 352, 353, 355 to 357, 361 to 364, 366 to 369, 371, 372, 374, 375, 378, 380 to 383, 385, 388 to 392, 396, 400, 411, and 418 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 338--
Mr. Sean Casey:
    With regard to the administration of electoral events, what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of all documents, reports or memoranda prepared by or for any department or agency since January 1, 2011, concerning (i) the Canada Elections Act, (ii) the Referendum Act, (iii) the operation or administration of either of those acts, or of regulations made under those acts, (iv) any proposed or contemplated amendments to either of those acts or to regulations made under those acts?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 339--
Mr. Sean Casey:
     With regard to government travel, since June 19, 2012: (a) which ministers of the Crown have used rented limousines while on official business, within Canada or elsewhere; and (b) for each such use, what was (i) the date of the rental, (ii) the location of the rental, (iii) the nature of the official business, (iv) the cost of the rental?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 340--
Mr. Sean Casey:
    With regard to the purchase of cosmetics by Ministers' offices, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, since December 13, 2011: (a) how much money has each Minister's office, Minister of State and Parliamentary Secretary spent on (i) cosmetics, (ii) hair products, (iii) beauty supplies; (b) what were the dates of each purchase; and (c) what were the brands and names of the individual products purchased?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 341--
Hon. Stéphane Dion:
    With regard to commemorations surrounding the 150th anniversary of Confederation, beginning with celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and ending with the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Leliefontein (in 2020): (a) with whom, including government departments, did the government consult regarding the organization and government spending for the events, (i) on what dates, (ii) what responses were received by the government; (b) how much was spent and authorized to date on each event and program, broken down by department and by program activity, during the fiscal years (i) 2006-2007, (ii) 2007-2008, (iii) 2008-2009, (iv) 2009-2010, (v) 2010-2011, (vi) 2011-2012, (vii) 2012-2013, (viii) 2013-2014, (ix) 2014-2015, (x) 2015-2016, (xi) 2016-2017, (xii) 2017-2018, (xiii) 2018-2019, (xiv) 2019-2020; and (c) how much has been spent and authorized to date for public affairs campaigns, public relations campaigns and information campaigns, as it relates to these commemoration activities for fiscal years (i) 2006-2007, (ii) 2007-2008, (iii) 2008-2009, (iv) 2009-2010, (v) 2010-2011, (vi) 2011-2012, (vii) 2012-2013, (viii) 2013-2014, (ix) 2014-2015, (x) 2015-2016, (xi) 2016-2017, (xii) 2017-2018, (xiii) 2018-2019, (xiv) 2019-2020?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 342--
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims:
    With regard to the Social Security Tribunal: (a) what is the recruitment and hiring budget for fiscal year (i) 2014-15, (ii) 2013-14, (iii) 2012-13; (b) when is the Tribunal expected to be fully staffed; (c) have any appointees left their positions and if so, how many; (d) who is responsible for deciding whether to hire part-time members, what criteria will that decision be based on, and what steps must be taken for that decision to be made; (e) how many Appeal Division members are (i) English speakers, (ii) French speakers, (iii) bilingual; (f) how many Income Security Section members are (i) English speakers, (ii) French speakers, (iii) bilingual; (g) how many Employment Insurance Section members are (i) English speakers, (ii) French speakers, (iii) bilingual; (h) how is workload allocated among members; (i) is region taken into account in assigning cases to members; (j) what kind of performance standards are members expected to meet; (k) when will the Tribunal finalize its policies and procedures and will it make them public immediately; (l) when will the Tribunal finalize its timelines and standards and will it make them public immediately; (m) what is the Tribunal doing to integrate feedback from stakeholders and appellants in its policies, procedures and standards; (n) what kind of office budget is available for members who are not located in Ottawa; (o) what kind of appeal process is available to appellants who would like to have a hearing conducted in person but are told their hearing will take place in writing or over the phone; (p) what kind of medical expertise is required of members who will be assigned Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit cases; (q) what kind of training in medical issues is being provided to members who will be assigned Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit cases; (r) what kind of training is being provided to members on local labour market conditions around the country; (s) what kind of sensitivity training is being provided to members to assist them in dealing with members of the public in difficult financial circumstances; (t) what is the Tribunal’s policy and standard practice regarding Third Party representatives; (u) will the selected decisions posted on the Tribunal’s website be searchable by keywords; (v) how frequently will the selected decisions posted on the Tribunal’s website be updated; (w) how many people are employed as administrative support staff for the Tribunal, how many people does the Tribunal intend to employ as administrative support staff when the Tribunal is fully staffed, and what is the budget for administrative support; (x) how many Tribunal members are receiving a salary (i) between $90,000 and $105,000, (ii) between $105,000 and $125,000; and (y) how are funds from the Employment Insurance Fund and Canada Pension Plan Fund being allocated to cover the costs of employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan appeals?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 343--
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims:
    With regard to federal grants and contribution programs: (a) how many programs expired at the end of fiscal year 2013-2014; (b) what are the names of the programs that expired for fiscal year 2013-2014, their total spending authorities and total amount spent for fiscal year 2013-2014; (c) how many programs were renewed for fiscal year 2014-2015; (d) what are the names of the programs that were renewed for fiscal year 2014-2015 and total spending authorities; (e) how many programs will expire at the end of fiscal year 2014-2015; and (f) what are the names of the programs that will expire at the end of fiscal year 2014-2015 and total spending authorities for the current fiscal year?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 344--
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
     With regard to the government’s taxation policy: for fiscal years 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013, what were the tax expenditures associated with the Employee Stock Option Deduction, broken down by individual total income, by household total income, and by province or territory of residence, for incomes of (i) $0-$10,000, (ii) $10,000-$20,000, (iii) $20,000-$30,000, (iv) $30,000-$40,000, (v) $40,000-$50,000, (vi) $50,000-$60,000, (vii) $60,000-$70,000, (viii) $70,000-$80,000, (ix) $80,000-$90,000, (x) $90,000-$100,000, (xi) $100,000-$110,000, (xii) $110,000-$120,000, (xiii) $120,000-$130,000, (xiv) $130,000-$140,000, (xv) $140,000-$150,000, (xvi) $150,000-$160,000, (xvii) $160,000-$170,000, (xviii) $170,000-$180,000, (xix) $180,000-$190,000, (xx) $190,000-$200,000, (xxi) $200,000-$250,000, (xxii) $250,000-$500,000, (xxiii) $500,000 and over?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 345--
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
     With regard to the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (the corporation): (a) what are the file numbers of all briefing notes prepared for any Minister, Deputy Minister, or Assistant Deputy Minister pertaining to the public-private partnership for replacement of the Champlain Bridge; (b) has the corporation prepared or received any assessments of anticipated traffic loads during the bridge replacement for each of the following St. Lawrence River crossings, (i) the Mercier Bridge, (ii) the Victoria Bridge, (iii) the Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine tunnel, (iv) the Champlain Bridge, (v) the Jacques-Cartier Bridge; (c) if the answer to any part of (b) is affirmative, (i) what are the anticipated traffic loads, (ii) what is the file number of the assessment; (d) has the corporation prepared or received any assessments of current traffic loads for each of the following St. Lawrence River crossings, (i) the Mercier Bridge, (ii) the Victoria Bridge, (iii) the Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine tunnel, (iv) the Champlain Bridge, (v) the Jacques-Cartier Bridge; (e) if the answer to any part of (d) is affirmative, (i) what are the traffic loads, (ii) what is the file number of the assessment; (f) has the corporation conducted an assessment of the costs of replacing the Champlain Bridge other than through a public-private partnership and if so, (i) what is the file number of any such assessment, (ii) what were the projected costs; and (g) has the corporation conducted an assessment of the costs of maintaining the future Champlain Bridge replacement and if so, (i) what is the file number of any such assessment, (ii) what are the projected costs?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 346--
Hon. John McKay:
     With regard to government communications since December 9, 2013: (a) for each press release containing the phrase “Harper government” issued by any government department, agency, office, Crown corporation, or other government body, what is the (i) headline or subject line, (ii) date, (iii) file or code-number, (iv) subject-matter; (b) for each such press release, was it distributed (i) on the web site of the issuing department, agency, office, Crown corporation, or other government body, (ii) on Marketwire, (iii) on Canada Newswire, (iv) on any other commercial wire or distribution service, specifying which service; and (c) for each press release distributed by a commercial wire or distribution service mentioned in (b)(ii) through (b)(iv), what was the cost of using the service?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 352--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
    With regard to internal trade barriers within Canada: (a) does the government maintain a list of all existing internal trade barriers; and (b) if so, what are the internal trade barriers related to (i) procurement, (ii) investment, (iii) labour mobility for workers in regulated occupations, (iv) consumer-related measures and standards, (v) agricultural and food goods, (vi) alcoholic beverages, (vii) natural resource processing, (viii) energy, (ix) communications, (x) transportation, (xi) environmental protection?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 353--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to each one of Canada’s CF-18 Hornets: (a) what is its aircraft number; (b) at which Canadian Forces Base is it currently based; (c) what is its current age; (d) what is the total number of airframe hours it has logged; (e) what is its approximate expected airframe hours at retirement; and (f) in what year is it expected to be retired?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 355--
Hon. Scott Brison:
     With regard to the government’s statutory expenditures: (a) for fiscal year 2012-2013, (i) what is the total amount of statutory expenditures made by the government, (ii) what is the breakdown of all statutory expenditures between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000 and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity funded each expenditure, (iii) what is the breakdown of all statutory expenditures between $10,000,000 and $100,000,000 and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity funded each expenditure, (iv) what is the breakdown of all statutory expenditures that are $100,000,000 or greater, and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity funded each expenditure; and (b) for each fiscal year 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019, (i) what is the projected total amount of statutory expenditures, (ii) what is the projected breakdown of all statutory expenditures between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000 and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity is projected to fund each expenditure, (iii) what is the breakdown of all statutory expenditures between $10,000,000 and $100,000,000 and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity is projected to fund each expenditure, (iv) what is the breakdown of all statutory expenditures that are $100,000,000 or greater and which department, agency, crown corporation, or other reporting entity is projected to fund each expenditure?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 356--
Hon. Scott Brison:
     With regard to the government’s projected expenditures: (a) what is the projected level of total expenditures for each department, agency, crown corporation, and other reporting entity for each fiscal year 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019, (i) under the accrual method used in the government’s consolidated financial statements, (ii) under the near-cash basis method used in the government’s estimates documents; and (b) what is the projected level of expenditures, under the accrual method used in the government’s consolidated financial statements, for each department, agency, crown corporation, and other reporting entity for each of the fiscal year 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017, (i) at the program level, (ii) at the sub-program level?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 357--
Hon. Scott Brison:
    With regard to the disability tax credit: (a) for each fiscal year 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, (i) how many applications did the government receive, (ii) how many applications involved an authorized representative, either by use of a Form T1013, a signed letter authorizing the representative, or any other recognized means of authorizing a representative, (iii) how many applications did the government approve, (iv) how many of the approved applications involved an authorized representative, (v) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the approved claims, (vi) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the approved claims that involved an authorized representative, (vii) how many determinations were appealed, (viii) how many of the appeals involved an authorized representative, (ix) how many determinations were successfully appealed, (x) how many of the successful appeals involved an authorized representative, (xi) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the claims that were successfully appealed, (xii) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the claims that were successfully appealed and involved an authorized representative; and (b) for each fiscal year 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, (i) how many applications did the government receive, (ii) how many applications involved an authorized representative, (iii) how many applications did the government approve, (iv) how many of the approved applications involved an authorized representative, (v) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the approved claims, (vi) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the approved claims that involved an authorized representative, (vii) how many determinations were appealed, (viii) how many of the appeals involved an authorized representative, (ix) how many determinations were successfully appealed, and (x) how many of the successful appeals involved an authorized representative, (xi) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the claims that were successfully appealed, and (xii) what was the fiscal impact to the government of the claims that were successfully appealed and involved an authorized representative?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 361--
Ms. Kirsty Duncan:
    With regard to the three most significant level-three emergencies facing children, namely, the situations in Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and Syria: (a) what funding increases is the government considering to address the fact that the 2014 UN appeal for CAR is only 21 percent funded ($114 million of $547 million); (b) what funding increases is the government considering to address the fact that the 2014 UNICEF appeal for CAR is only 25 percent funded ($15 million of $62 million), ; (c) what diplomatic efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support the protection of civilians in CAR, broken down by efforts aimed specifically at the protection of (i) children, (ii) minorities, (iii) those at high risk of violence; (d) what financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support the protection of civilians in CAR, broken down by efforts aimed specifically at the protection of (i) children, (ii) minorities, (iii) those at high risk of violence; (e) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering to support the immediate relocation of groups at high risk of violence in CAR; (f) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering to support a robust response capacity to disease outbreaks in CAR; (g) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support the return of CAR citizens to their villages in those areas that are now safe; (h) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support peace and reconciliation processes in CAR such as those initiated by leaders of the main religious communities; (i) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering to provide mediation and secure peace in those communities in CAR where social co-existence has not yet broken down; (j) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to leverage its links to the Francophonie to support humanitarian aid and peace in CAR; (k) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums to support fair and free elections in CAR in 2015; (l) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in what forums, to support an increased security presence, with an appropriate mandate for the protection of civilians, in CAR; (m) if a call comes for broad-based participation in an international peacekeeping operation in CAR, what criteria will the government apply to formulate its response; (n) what funding increase is the government considering to address the fact that the 2014 UN appeal for protection needs for CAR is 7 percent funded; (o) what funding increase is the government considering to address the fact that the 2014 UN appeal for education needs for CAR is 0 percent funded; (p) what efforts and commitments has the government made or is it considering to support children’s access to education and the rebuilding of the education system in CAR; (q) what diplomatic efforts has the government made or is it considering, and in which forums, to call and push for increased humanitarian access as per UN Security Council resolution 2139, particularly so that aid can reach the hardest-to-reach children in Syria; (r) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to support aid agencies to reach the one million vulnerable children in Syria who are largely inaccessible as they live in areas under siege or in hard to reach places; (s) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to support (i) the immediate end of the recruitment of child soldiers, (ii) the targeting of schools in Syria; (t) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to encourage donations, broken down by initiatives intended specifically to encourage donations for (i) protection of children, (ii) education of children in Syria; (u) is the government considering an increase in the number of Syrian refugees who will be allowed to come to Canada; (v) what additional funding beyond its annual chronic emergency programming is the government consideringto address the fact that the UN six-month response plan for South Sudan for the period of January to June 2014 is only 23 percent funded ($286 million of $1.27 billion); (w) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering to secure the safety of children in South Sudan; (x) what (i) diplomatic efforts, (ii) financial efforts has the government made or is it considering to secure children’s health in South Sudan; (y) what diplomatic efforts has the government made or is it considering to support the peace negotiations between the opposing sides in South Sudan; (z) what adaptations to its South Sudan strategy has the government made or is it considering in light of the current crisis; (aa) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to prevent and respond to the threats of outbreaks of malaria and water borne diseases, and increased rates of malnutrition in South Sudan, now that the rainy season is occurring; (bb) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to protect (i) civilians in general, (ii) children in particular, from violence in South Sudan; and (cc) what efforts has the government made or is it considering to protect humanitarian workers and their operations in South Sudan?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 362--
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia:
     With regard to National Parole Board appointments made since December 6, 2011: (a) what are the names of the appointees; (b) what is the professional background of each appointee; (c) what is the appointment length for each appointee; and (d) what is the remuneration for each appointee?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 363--
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia:
    With regard to government publishing after the transition to exclusively electronic publications: (a) what are the government’s plans or procedures to ensure the preservation, for posterity, of (i) publications published by the Publishing Program, (ii) publications provided by departments to the Depository Services Program; and (b) concerning such preservation, what are the dates, titles, and file numbers of any reports, studies, or dossiers prepared since October 2012 by, for, or on behalf of (i) Publishing and Depository Services, (ii) Public Works and Government Services Canada, (iii) Canadian Heritage, (iv) Library and Archives Canada?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 364--
Hon. Geoff Regan:
     With regard to the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Korea: what were the costs incurred in relation to government travel to the Republic of Korea for the announcement of the agreement on March 11, 2014, broken down by (i) department, (ii) individual, (iii) itemized expense?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 366--
Hon. Geoff Regan:
     With regard to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union: what were the costs to the government incurred in relation to government travel to Brussels for the announcement of the agreement on October 18, 2013, broken down by (i) department, (ii) individual, (iii) itemized expense?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 367--
Hon. Geoff Regan:
     With regard to government advertising: how much has each department, agency, or crown corporation spent to purchase promoted tweets on Twitter in each fiscal year since 2011-2012 inclusive?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 368--
Ms. Joyce Murray:
     With regard to briefing documents prepared for senior associate deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers from January 28, 2014 to the present: for each document, what is (i) the date, (ii) the title or subject-matter, (iii) the department's internal tracking number?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 369--
Mr. Robert Chisholm:
     With regard to Employment Insurance appeals: (a) how many appeals were made to the Board of Referees in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) region, (iv) appeals resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (v) appeals not resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (vi) appeals granted by the Commission before a hearing was held, (vii) appeals withdrawn before a hearing was held, (viii) appeals withdrawn at hearing, (ix) appeals which were heard within 30 days of receipt of appeal notice, (x) appeals which were heard within 60 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xi) appeals which were heard within 90 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xii) appeals which took more than 90 days to be heard; (b) how many hearings were held by the Board of Referees each year from 2004 to 2013, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province; (c) how many appeals were made to umpires in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) region, (iv) appeals made by clients, (v) appeals made by the EI Commission, (vi) appeals resulting in an overturn of the Board of Referee’s decision, (vii) appeals not resulting in an overturn of the Board of Referee’s decision, (viii) appeals withdrawn before a hearing was held, (ix) appeals withdrawn at hearing, (x) appeals which were heard within 120 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xi) appeals which were heard within 180 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xii) appeals which were held within 240 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xiii) appeals which took more than 240 days to be heard; (d) how many hearings were held by umpires in each year from 2004 to 2013, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province; (e) how many requests for reconsideration were made to the EI Commission in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province, (iii) region, (iv) requests resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (v) requests not resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (vi) reviews which took place within 30 days of receipt of the request, (vii) reviews which took place within 60 days of receipt of the request, (viii) reviews which took more than 60 days to complete; (f) how many people requesting a reconsideration from the EI Commission and requesting their case file from the EI Commission received their case file (i) within 30 days of making the request, (ii) within 60 days of making the request, (iii) within 90 days of making the request, (iv) more than 90 days after making the request; (g) how many people requesting a reconsideration from the EI Commission and requesting their case file from the EI Commission were refused their case file, broken down by province; (h) how many applicants requesting a reconsideration by the EI Commission were notified by phone of the outcome of their request, and how many were notified by letter; (i) how many appeals were made to the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal in 2013-2014, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province, (iii) region, (iv) appeals resulting in a summary dismissal, (v) appeals resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (vi) appeals not resulting in an overturn of the Commission’s original decision, (vii) appeals withdrawn before a hearing was held, (viii) appeals withdrawn at hearing, (ix) appeals which were heard in writing, (x) appeals which were heard over the phone, (xi) appeals which were heard in person, (xii) appeals for which travel costs were granted to the appellant, (xiii) appeals which were heard within 30 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xiv) appeals which were heard within 60 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xv) appeals which were heard within 90 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xvi) appeals which took more than 90 days to be heard; (j) in how many cases was the EI Commission informed by the Social Security Tribunal of a notice of appeal (i) within 7 days of receiving the notice, (ii) within 14 days of receiving the notice, (iii) within 21 days of receiving the notice, (iv) within 30 days of receiving the notice, (v) more than 30 days after receiving the notice; (k) how many hearings were held by the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal in 2013-2014, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province; (l) how many cases are currently waiting to be heard by the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal; (m) how many people appealing to the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal received their case file from the EI Commission (i) within 30 days of making the request, (ii) within 60 days of making the request, (iii) within 90 days of making the request, (iv) more than 90 days after making the request; (n) how many people appealing to the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal were refused their case file by the EI Commission, broken down by province; (o) how many people appealing to the EI Section of the Social Security Tribunal were sent an acknowledgement of receipt of their notice of appeal (i) within 30 days of making the request, (ii) within 60 days of making the request, (iii) within 90 days of making the request, (iv) more than 90 days after notice was sent; (p) how many appeals were made to the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal regarding Employment Insurance in 2013-2014, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province, (iii) region, (iv) cases where leave is not granted to appeal, (v) appeals filed by the EI Commission, (vi) appeals resulting in an overturn of the EI Section’s decision, (vii) cases not resulting in an overturn of the EI Section’s decision, (viii) appeals withdrawn before a hearing is held, (ix) appeals withdrawn at hearing, (x) appeals which were heard over the phone, (xi) appeals which were heard in person, (xii) appeals for which travel costs were granted to the appellant, (xiii) appeals which were heard within 30 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xiv) appeals which were heard within 60 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xv) appeals which were heard within 90 days of receipt of appeal notice, (xvi) appeals which took more than 90 days to be heard; (q) how many hearings were held by the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal regarding Employment Insurance in 2013-2014, broken down by (i) month, (ii) province; (r) how many cases are currently waiting to be heard by the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal; (s) how many complaints has the Social Security Tribunal received about communications sent to an appellant rather than to a third-party where requested; and (t) how many complaints has the Social Security Tribunal received about logistical problems with hearings held by teleconference?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 371--
Ms. Yvonne Jones:
     With regard to environmental protection: (a) what are the details of any measures which have been taken since 2000 to monitor or remediate pollution or environmental hazards at Port Burwell on Killiniq Island, Nunavut; and (b) what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of all reports, memoranda, or other documents pertaining to contamination, or to the monitoring or remediation of contamination, at Port Burwell, held by (i) Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (ii) Environment Canada, (iii) Transport Canada, (iv) the Canadian Coast Guard, (v) Public Works and Government Services Canada, (vi) Aboriginal Afairs and Northern Development Canada, (vii) the Privy Council Office?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 372--
Ms. Yvonne Jones:
    With regard to the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG): what is the location and activity of each ice-breaking vessel in the CCG Fleet on each day since January 2, 2014?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 374--
Hon. Judy Sgro:
    With regard to the government's wireless policy: how much was spend on advertising and promotion of the policy, broken down by (i) expenditure, (ii) year, (iii) department, (iv) program activity, (v) sub-program activity?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 375--
Hon. Judy Sgro:
     With regard to the government’s taxation policy: for fiscal years 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013, what were the tax expenditures associated with Tax Free Savings Accounts, broken down by individual total income, by household total income, and by province or territory of residence, for incomes of (i) $0-$10,000, (ii) $10,000-$20,000, (iii) $20,000-$30,000, (iv) $30,000-$40,000, (v) $40,000-$50,000, (vi) $50,000-$60,000, (vii) $60,000-$70,000, (viii) $70,000-$80,000, (ix) $80,000-$90,000, (x) $90,000-$100,000, (xi) $100,000-$110,000, (xii) $110,000-$120,000, (xiii) $120,000-$130,000, (xiv) $130,000-$140,000, (xv) $140,000-$150,000, (xvi) $150,000-$160,000, (xvii) $160,000-$170,000, (xviii) $170,000-$180,000, (xix) $180,000-$190,000, (xx) $190,000-$200,000, (xxi) $200,000-$250,000, (xxii) $250,000-$500,000, (xxiii) $500,000 and over?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 378--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to Ministers' office budgets since December 13, 2011: (a) how many expense claims were submitted by the Minister or his or her exempt staff, but rejected by the relevant financial officer; (b) what was each rejected claim for and for what amount; and (c) what was the reason for each expense claim rejection?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 380--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
    With regard to National Defence: what is the detailed breakdown of all costs incurred by the Department of National Defence, or any other department, agency, or crown corporation, associated with the filming of an episode of the television program “Masterchef Canada” at 8 Wing / CFB Trenton?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 381--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
     With regard to employment with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: how many involuntary job reductions have been implemented in the Department each year from 2006 to 2013, broken down by each of the eleven Program Activities referenced in part (ii) of the answer made by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to written question Q-221 on March 6, 2014?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 382--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
     With regard to services for veterans, what are the details, broken down by (i) nature, (ii) purpose, (iii) fiscal year, of the “over $5 billion [which] has gone into veterans’ services”, referenced by the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during CTV's “Power Play” on January 28, 2014?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 383--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
    With regard to the consolidation of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' library system: (a) what are the file or reference numbers for all contracts related to the digitization of library materials since January 1, 2006; and (b) under each such contract, how many books, periodicals, manuscripts, reports, documents, or other items were digitized?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 385--
Mr. Ted Hsu:
     With regard to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program: for each of the following time periods: (a) May 4, 2013 to the present; (b) July 1, 2012 to May 4, 2013; (c) November 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012, broken down by academic program and academic institution, (i) how many applications in the PhD stream were received, (ii) how many of these applications were accepted, (iii) how many of these applications were rejected; (d) what were the criteria for determining the success of these applications; (e) how were these criteria determined; (f) which departments, agencies or offices were consulted or gave input in developing evaluation tools for applications to the PhD Stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program; (g) which groups and organizations were consulted or gave input in developing evaluation tools for applications to the PhD Stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program; (h) which individuals were consulted or gave input in developing evaluation tools for applications to the PhD Stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program; and (i) who is responsible for evaluating applications to the PhD Stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and under what authority?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 388--
Hon. Carolyn Bennett:
     With regard to Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government: for each department, agency, crown corporation, or other government body or entity, (a) what is the title or description, nature, and internal reference or file number (if applicable) of each (i) data-set, (ii) Geographical Information System (GIS) file, which that department, agency, crown corporation, or other government body or entity possesses or maintains, but elected not to publish to the open data portal data.gc.ca since the data portal was created; and (b) in each case, what are the reasons for electing to not publish the data-set or GIS file?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 389--
Hon. Carolyn Bennett:
     With regard to the operation of the Access to Information Act: for each government institution, (a) how many requests are currently under consideration; (b) how many requests have been under consideration for (i) 30 days or fewer, (ii) 31 to 60 days, (iii) 61 to 90 days, (iv) 91 to 120 days, (v) more than 120 days; (c) how many of those requests have been the subject of an extension of time limits under each paragraph of s. 9(1) of the Act; (d) how many of those requests have been the subject of an extension of time limit for more than 30 days; (e) how many of those requests have been the subject of an extension of time limit for more than 180 days; (f) since January 1, 2013, how many requests have been the subject of a complaint to the Information Commissioner pursuant to s. 30 of the Act; and (g) what specific measures is the government institution taking to expedite the processing of Access to Information requests?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 390--
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay:
     With respect to the use of the government owned aircraft operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: since April 1, 2011, and for each use of the aircraft, (a) what are the names and titles of the passengers present on the flight manifest; (b) what were all the departure and arrival points of the aircraft; (c) who requested access to the fleet; and (d) who authorized the flight?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 391--
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
     With regard to the Department of Justice: how much has the government spent in the case of Daniel Christopher Scott, Mark Douglas Campbell, Gavin Michael David Flett, Kevin Albert Matthew Berry, Bradley Darren Quast, and Aaron Michael Bedard v. the Attorney General of Canada, broken down by (i) year, (ii) department?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 392--
Hon. Scott Brison:
     With regard to research centres in the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: (a) for each fiscal year 2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, (i) what was the government’s total expenditure on the research centres, (ii) what was the breakdown of funding to each research centre, (iii) what was the total number of full-time equivalents at the research centres, (iv) what was the breakdown of full-time equivalents at each research station; and (b) for each fiscal year 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017, (i) what is the government’s total projected expenditure on the research centres, (ii) what is the projected breakdown of funding to each research centre, (iii) what is the total projected number of full-time equivalents at the research centres, (iv) what is the projected breakdown of full-time equivalents at each research station?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 396--
Ms. Joyce Murray:
     With regard to HMCS Windsor: (a) what is the cost to the government for the repair of the submarine, including transport from the water to the repair facility, broken down by specific costs; (b) when does the government anticipate that HMCS Windsor will return to service; and (c) what caused HMCS Windsor to need these repairs?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 400--
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay:
     With regard to recommendations made by Justice Cohen (“the recommendations”) in the Cohen Commission Report of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River , tabled by the government on October 31, 2012: (a) which of the recommendations included in the report has the government taken action on to date; (b) what are the details of all actions the government has taken with regard to each recommendation, including any policies or programs put in place or changed in order to better address issues brought forth by Justice Cohen, and any financial resources allocated to implementing the recommendations; (c) what recommendations has the government identified for action to be taken, but not yet addressed, and why has the government not yet taken action; (d) on which of the recommendations has the government not yet made a decision; (e) on which recommendations has the government decided to take no action, and what are the reasons in detail for these decisions; and (f) what are the details of all briefing documents prepared for all departmental officials at the associate deputy minister level and above in relation to the recommendations, including (i) the date, (ii) the title or subject-matter, (iii) the department's internal tracking number?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 411--
Mr. David McGuinty:
     With regard to contracts under $10,000 granted by the Prime Minister's Office since January 1, 2013: what are the (a) vendors' names; (b) contracts' reference numbers; (c) dates of the contracts; (d) descriptions of the services provided; (e) delivery dates; (f) original contracts' values; and (g) final contracts' values if different from the original contracts' values?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 418--
Mr. Ted Hsu:
     With regard to contracts under $10,000 granted by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario since January 1, 2013: what are the (a) vendors' names; (b) contracts' reference numbers; (c) dates of the contracts; (d) descriptions of the services provided; (e) delivery dates; (f) original contracts' values; and (g) final contracts' values if different from the original contracts' values?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining question be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
[Speaker's Ruling]

[English]

Points of Order

Tabling of Treaty—Speaker's Ruling  

    I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on April 28, 2014, by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie regarding the procedural acceptability of Bill C-31, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures.
    I thank the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie for having raised the question, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the House leader for the official opposition for their comments.

[Translation]

    In raising the point of order, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie contended that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House nor the Standing Committee on Finance since, prior to its introduction in the House, the government failed to table a copy of a treaty included in the bill, namely:
    The Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada to improve international tax compliance through enhanced exchange of information under the convention between the United States of America and Canada with respect to taxes on income and on capital.
    In his view, the government’s routine tabling of treaties at least 21 days prior to introducing implementing legislation, pursuant to its Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament, has evolved into a parliamentary custom and is therefore a prerequisite to debate.

[English]

    While recognizing that the policy allows for exceptions, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie argued that in this instance the government had violated its own policy, thereby infringing upon a custom of the House and creating what he described as a legislative defect.
    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons replied that the process governing the tabling of treaties is in fact a government policy and thus is not found in the rules or practices of the House, nor is it under the purview of the Speaker. He cited numerous Speakers' rulings in support of this position. In addition, he noted that the policy does provide for exceptions, and thus that what is being done in the case of Bill C-31 is in fact consistent with the provisions of the policy.
    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons added that since the treaty was being implemented through legislation, opportunity existed for the House to debate it and vote upon it before it is ratified.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    In raising this matter, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie made reference to what he considered to have been procedural irregularities. It is important to understand in this case what type of procedure, departmental or House, is being referenced. As well, the member asked the Chair for clarity on whether the use of this policy on treaties has become regular enough to deem it a parliamentary custom such that any deviation from it has a procedural impact. In other words, is this a matter of parliamentary procedure, one over which the Chair has any authority?

[English]

    It is clear to me that the policy in question belongs to the government and not the House. It is equally clear that it is not within the Speaker's authority to adjudicate on government policies or processes, and this includes determining whether the government is in compliance with its own policies.

[Translation]

    In a recent ruling, on February 7, 2013, I reminded the House of this at page 13869 of Debates:
    It is beyond the purview of the Chair to intervene in departmental matters or to get involved in government processes, no matter how frustrating they may appear to be to the member.

[English]

    The Chair has nevertheless reviewed the sequence of events described by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie to ascertain whether there are procedural grounds, as opposed to departmental directives, to support the idea that treaties must be tabled in the House, let alone debated here.
    Not surprisingly, the review revealed that many standing orders and statutes deal with the tabling of documents, and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, on pages 430 and 609 actually enumerates the types of documents that must be tabled in the House. These include certain returns, reports, and other papers that are required to be tabled by statute, by order of the House, or by standing order. Treaties are not mentioned. In fact, the rules and practices of the House are silent with regard to the tabling of treaties.
    This leads the Chair to conclude that the manner in which the government has usually chosen to interpret its own policy on treaties cannot be construed as the House having adopted that policy as its own. As always, the rules and practices of the House must emanate explicitly from the House itself. That is not to gain the merits of receiving essential information before considering legislation. However, the distinction between governmental procedures and House procedures remains and must be acknowledged.
    Therefore, the Chair cannot find evidence to support the member's contention that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House because of what he has characterized as a deviation from what he contends is the usual practice.

[Translation]

    Therefore the Chair cannot find evidence to support the member’s contention that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House because of what he has characterized as a deviation from what he contends is the usual practice.

[English]

    I thank all hon. members for their attention.
    I understand there is a point of order from the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Grouping of Amendments to Bill C-23  

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today on a point of order arising out of the impending report stage votes on Bill C-23, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to certain acts.
    In particular, I want to address the groupings of motions for debate at this stage. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the NDP has already raised points of order on this topic in the House, for example with respect to the report stage of Bill C-45 in November 2012.
    In light of the Chair's decision then to group many amendments together for single votes, I feel obligated to rise today to speak on this subject once again. In part what I want to affirm today is the Chair's role to protect members' rights to exercise their duties as members of Parliament, including the right to vote freely on questions that are put to the House.
    I would like to quote House of Commons Procedure and Practice, the second edition, O'Brien and Bosc, which states on page 307 that:
    It is the responsibility of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.
    On the same page it reads that:
    Freedom of speech may be the most important of the privileges accorded to Members of Parliament....
    O'Brien and Bosc, a bit later in the same chapter on page 316, note that voting in the House according to a member's conscience is a freedom that all members enjoy in this House, including the Speaker on rare occasions, as you know, Mr. Speaker.

  (1535)  

[Translation]

    I hope that when I finish speaking, you will agree to let members vote separately on all the motions in amendment at report stage of Bill C-23.
     The principle of a free vote is a simple one, Mr. Speaker, one with which everyone in our democracy should be familiar. I am sure that the majority of Canadians who are watching us right now are surprised to see that I must rise today in the House to ask you to ensure that this right is respected when we vote on the motions in amendment at report stage of Bill C-23.

[English]

    Because this particular bill is of foundational importance to our democracy, this question becomes all the more crucial. Bill C-23 would make significant changes to our electoral laws, and as they currently stand, in many cases these changes damage the letter and spirit of the Elections Act. As well, as we learned after weeks of scrutiny, a majority of Canadians and virtually all electoral experts are opposed to the bill.
    With this much on the line, I believe that it is more important than ever to safeguard members' rights to vote separately on all of the motions in amendment that will affect the bill.

[Translation]

    As you know, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 76.1(5) states that:
    The Speaker shall have the power to select or combine amendments or clauses to be proposed at the report stage...
     The note following the Standing Order adds that:
...the Speaker will not select for debate a motion or series of motions of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature or of a nature that would serve merely to prolong unnecessarily proceedings at the report stage...
     It is therefore clear that when you select a motion for debate at report stage, this means that it is not of a repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature, contrary to what the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons likes to say again and again.

[English]

    However, nothing in the Standing Orders provides that the Speaker must group the motions at report stage for votes on very different issues. There is nothing about the Chair grouping amendments in an effort to spare the government from lengthy votes.
    In the annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons on page 264, the commentary on Standing Order 76(5) does note that the Speaker has a role in limiting duplication when it states:
    When the Speaker selects and groups report stage motions for debate, he or she also decides on how they will be grouped for voting.
    A further comment is made that this avoids the House having to vote twice on the same issue. The same explanation is given in House of Commons Procedure and Practice on page 784:
    When the Speaker selects and groups motions in amendment, he or she also decides on how they will be grouped for voting....
    I underscore that it is to avoid the House having to vote twice on the same issue.
    It seems to me that these explanations are very clear. The selected scheme must ensure that the House does not vote twice on the same issue.
     However, I would submit that the voting scheme that has been selected for report stage motions on Bill C-23 goes much further than this very clear instruction. While it is critical that the Speaker not allow the House's time to be wasted, the Speaker must also fulfill his duty to ensure that the right of members to free speech is protected and exercised to the fullest possible extent.
    Specifically, when it comes to the report stage motions for Bill C-23, NDP MPs put 110 motions on the notice paper to delete the worst clauses of the bill, in our consideration, and to also delete the clauses that the committee did not have a chance to debate before the government's motion cut off committee proceedings during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
    Of those 110 motions, the Liberal Party submitted motions to delete 46 of the same clauses of the bill as our MPs. However, with regard to 54 of the clauses that we moved to delete, Liberals did not. I think it is reasonable to assume that the Liberal MPs would want to vote in favour of the motions that they also submitted, but would likely want to vote against the motions that they chose not to submit. It is the groupings for voting that puts them in this dilemma of choosing a single vote for all 110 motions; those that they submitted and those that they may not be in favour of.
    The same problem exists for the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. She put 13 motions on notice, which were identical to our motions, but 97 of our motions that are grouped along with them were not submitted by the member. It seems logical to me that she too will be put in conflict by having to choose one vote for both parts of this enormous equation; those that she submitted and those that she did not.
    What is essentially happening is that the Chair is taking clear, valid, individual questions, and putting them to the House as double-barrelled questions, or, in some cases, questions with many more barrels than two. Looking online, a quick Google search reminds us of what a double-barrelled question is, why it is a breach of the rules of logic, and what kind of absurd results it can yield.
    The opening line of the Wikipedia entry for “double-barreled question”, and we could go to any other dictionary as well, tells us that, “A double-barreled question is an informal fallacy. It is committed when someone asks a question that touches upon more than one issue, yet allows only for one answer”. One asks two separate questions, but only allows for one answer. That sounds a lot like the situation we are facing here.
    The next line tells us, “This may result in inaccuracies in the attitudes being measured for the question, as the respondent can answer only one of the two questions, and cannot indicate which one is being answered”. Again, for report stage on Bill C-23, this sounds very familiar.
    These are very basic rules of logical reasoning that are being breached, rules that are necessary to avoid inaccuracies.

  (1540)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, on December 12, 2012, in your ruling on the point of order regarding the report stage of Bill C-45, you said that your decisions were not based exclusively on written rules, but also on the evolutionary nature of procedure and precedents.
    At that point, you cited a ruling by Speaker Milliken, delivered on April 27, 2010:
...the Chair is always mindful of the established precedents, usages, traditions and practices of the House and of the role of the Chair in their ongoing evolution.
     To this, you added:
     This not only confirms that it is not just written rules from which the Speaker’s authority is legitimately derived, as suggested by the opposition House leader, but that the evolutionary nature of procedure must be taken into account. It was on this basis of the House’s longstanding acceptance, and in fact expectations, of the practices at report stage, in conjunction with the need for adaptation to the current context, that the amendments for Bill C-45 were grouped for debate and voting purposes in the manner that they were.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I believe that this matter and your decision on it are of fundamental importance to our democracy and its cornerstone, this House of Commons. I look forward to your ruling.
    Mr. Speaker, you have obviously undertaken your responsibilities under the Standing Orders to select grouping for the purposes of debate and voting and applied the usual rules. The usual rule is that the purpose of the voting scheme is to obviate any requirement for two or more votes on the same issue.
    I have a lot of sympathy for you, Mr. Speaker, in trying to respond to the complaint made by my friend opposite, in that he actually did not point to a single example in your grouping of where that had not been done properly. The member did not go to a single item or a single vote. He did not make any individual suggestion on where a grouping of yours should be split into two separate votes.
    As such, Mr. Speaker, that leaves you with nothing more than what I could call a bit of complaining or whinging, but no real prescription. It also leaves me in the very difficult position of having nothing really to respond to, other than to say that you, Mr. Speaker, have done your duty as required and followed the general practice.
     Following in previous decisions, Mr. Speaker, you have indicated that report stage motions are not and have never been selected for debate or grouped for voting on the basis of who the Chair thinks might vote on them and that you had in the past been asked to consider. This is another decision, a ruling from November 29, 2012, at page 12611. In that ruling, the Speaker said:
    The Chair is being asked to consider the suggestion that every motion to delete a clause should be voted on separately. This would diverge from our practice where, for voting purposes where appropriate, a long series of motions to delete are grouped for a vote. Since the effect of deleting a clause at report stage is, for all practical purposes, the same as negativing a clause in committee, to change our practice to a one deletion, one vote approach could be seen as a repetition of the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in committee, something which the House is specifically enjoined against in the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5), which state that the report stage is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage.

     That said, though, it has been a long-standing practice for the Chair to select motions to delete clauses at report stage. I reminded the House of our practices in that regard in my ruling in relation to Bill C-38 when I stated, “motions to delete clauses have always been found to be in order and it must also be noted have been selected at report stage”.
    You have done that here again, Mr. Speaker. It is difficult for me to see in the arguments made by my friend where the flaw is in your grouping for votes.

  (1545)  

    I thank the opposition House leader for raising this point, and the government House leader. I will come back to the House in very short order with a decision on this.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Fair Elections Act

    The House resumed consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and of motions in Group No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for her excellent speech before oral question period. She gave a good description of all the flaws in the bill. At the beginning of her speech, she also touched a little on the process surrounding the drafting, consideration and amendment of the bill we are considering today at report stage.
    Does my colleague think it is reasonable for the government to use its majority to unilaterally change the Canada Elections Act, an act that all parties in the House must be familiar with and comply with during elections? Does the member think it is reasonable for the Conservative government to have done this? Even the Liberals would not have done such a thing. Does she think it is reasonable for the government to use this kind of tactic, and to use its majority to dictate a new elections act?
    Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his question. It deals with one of the main problems with Bill C-23.
     No, it is not reasonable for a government to use its majority to dictate changes to the Canada Elections Act. In fact, this practice is something that is never done in several Commonwealth countries. In Great Britain, for example, they are required to consult their electoral commission, the equivalent of Elections Canada, before amending the elections act. I believe the law in Australia also imposes an obligation to consult the opposition parties before amending the elections act.
    These are changes that should not be made without broad consultation and a public consensus, because we are talking about the fundamental rules of our democracy. If people no longer have confidence in those rules, we have a serious problem.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member wanted me to get up and ask a question after her impassioned speech earlier, so I will certainly oblige. I enjoyed my time on the procedure and House affairs committee with her, and everyone who spent a lot of time on Bill C-23.
    My question stems from public opinion research that came to light, ironically the day before our government and the minister accepted substantial amendments to the bill based on commentary in this place and based on people who appeared before committee.
    My question relates to vouching. It appears that the vast majority of Canadians, 86%, I believe, including the vast majority of NDP supporters, I might add, agreed with our government that it is reasonable to require someone to show identification when they are voting.
    My question is for the hon. member. After all the hyperbole we heard with respect to the decline of democracy with the elimination of vouching, are the NDP keeping that strong position, does it feel that Canadians got it right, or does it agree with the majority of Canadians?

  (1550)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I have greatly enjoyed sitting with him on the committee. He always asks very interesting questions.
     In terms of his question, and in relation to the 87% of people polled, I would like to remind him that the question respondents were asked was whether they agreed that people should have to identify themselves before voting. I entirely agree with that. I am among the 87% of Canadians who believe people should have to identify themselves before voting. The difference is that I think that having someone vouch for a person, and having that person sign a declaration confirming the identity of the person, is a sufficient form of identification.
     When people were asked more specifically whether they were for or against abolishing vouching, a majority of Canadians were against. I therefore believe that I am still on the side of the majority of Canadians in opposing Bill C-23.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to offer my voice in this House of Commons on Bill C-23.
    I did have the privilege of spending a lot of time, as I said, with colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee. I also had the ability, particularly as a by-election winner, to follow this issue as it evolved to the present state that is before this House of Commons, which is Bill C-23.
    In my brief time that I have, I am going to try to dispel a few myths that still linger out there on Bill C-23.
    I have been having great conversations with people in my riding of Durham, and I know people in my riding have been patiently waiting for me to speak on this today. I have also heard from passionate Canadians on all sides of this issue, from people in coffee shops, some passionate University of Toronto professors talking about modernizing our elections law, critiques, positive comments, and that sort of thing. However, the echo chamber and politics around Bill C-23 led to some myths that in many cases still remain out there. Therefore, in my remarks today, I am going to try and dispel some of the myths.
    The biggest myth that we still hear in debate in this place is that Bill C-23 came from out of nowhere, with no consultation, no contribution from expert opinion, and that sort of thing, that this was foisted upon Canada, and that it was done with strategic brilliance to favour Conservatives.
    The reality is that Bill C-23 comes from the need to fix our antiquated system of administering elections. The “antique” comes from the Elections Canada expert charged with making recommendations on the forum. In fact, Harry Neufeld, at page 24 of his report, said: “...an overhaul is urgently required”.
    Why did Elections Canada ask Mr. Neufeld, who served as the B.C. Chief Electoral Officer with distinction for many years, for this report?
    Well, Elections Canada asked for it after the calamity of the election in Etobicoke Centre in 2011. We have a fine member for Etobicoke Centre in this place who won a narrow win by 26 votes. However, a lower court in Ontario overturned that result. All election observers recognize that if small margin elections can be overturned so easily, it could lead to a margin of litigation and in fact further lack of confidence in our election results.
    Fortunately, in that case, the overturning of the result was reversed and the Supreme Court of Canada held that the member for Etobicoke Centre won. The Supreme Court decision also demonstrated that the system of running elections in Canada was profoundly broken, which led to Mr. Neufeld. In fact, that decision led to a national audit of elections with thousands of polls examined to see where there were errors in the system, including some polls in my 2012 by-election in Durham. That audit allowed Mr. Neufeld to examine the cases of errors in registration, in vouching, and make an urgent plea to modernize our elections law.
    Mr. Neufeld was also prescient. We warned that there would be radical resistance because we live in a great parliamentary democracy. Our system seems to run quite well and so a lot of people do not feel there is really a need to reform. However, the Supreme Court of Canada case showed that fraud and irregularities can be considered on par if they result in an election result being overturned. Serious irregularities can lead to that result. We saw that in Etobicoke Centre.
    What did Mr. Neufeld's report say about irregularities? On average, there are 500 irregularities per riding. Historically, there are a lot of politicians at the provincial and federal levels with the nickname “landslide”, and they usually get that nickname by winning their first election with a very narrow result.

  (1555)  

    In fact, most general elections have between 5 and 15 seats decided by 500 or fewer votes. Well, the audit showed that there are at least 500 irregularities or errors per riding. There was a real risk to the margin of litigation and no end to an election result in a community. It is unfair if that community has to wait months for litigation to the Supreme Court of Canada to determine who it is sending to the House of Commons.
    Another myth I would like to address is vouching. I asked my hon. colleague a question on that because it was portrayed by some voices in the media that the elimination of vouching was the decline of our democracy as we know it. People were going to be disenfranchised and their constitutional right to vote was going to be struck from them. That is not the case. In fact, there were numbers quoted by some learned people, even before committee, suggesting that hundreds of thousands of people would lose their right to vote because of the elimination of vouching.
    The fatal error with that logic is the fact that they did not ask the question to determine whether the person who vouched had any ID. I would note that only a few provinces allow vouching and no municipalities in the province of Ontario allow vouching. To suggest that everyone who used a vouching approach to voting would not have any ID to satisfy the basic registration requirements is simply erroneous. That number was thrown out and repeated many times, even by good members of this place, without any basis in reality.
    What was the reality from the audit? Mr. Neufeld looked and 120,000 people in Canada vouched in the 2011 general election. There were 120,000 vouching transactions and he found 95,500 errors. It is hardly something that inspires confidence in a G7 country. They were serious errors. Often there were multiple mistakes made in the vouching process. Someone vouching several times for one person is not allowed, and that sort of thing, but Mr. Neufeld found that 42% of all vouching transactions, almost half, were serious errors. When we connect that with the Supreme Court that showed that serious errors and irregularities are as bad for our system as fraud, clearly something needed to be done. Mr. Neufeld, at page 28 of his report, said that it would be very difficult to fix vouching.
    Therefore, we think it is reasonable to ask Canadians to show identification when they vote. Our amendments have also recognized that some people may have difficulty with the address component at registration, so there will be some flexibility built in for those people. However, I sincerely hope that in the future that ambiguity is eliminated so that we can have absolute certainty.
    I would also refer people on this subject to the 2007 “Electoral Participation of Electors with Disabilities” report commissioned by Elections Canada. Dr. Prince ran that study that looked at specific groups that were under-represented on voting day. That report from Elections Canada, as well as people who appear before committee, confirmed that voter participation, low turnout rates of students, members of first nations, or the homeless, are not related to identification or registration issues. Their participation challenges are totally distinct and something we should address, but when it was being connected with vouching, it was done in a way to cause unnecessary concern among Canadians.
    Finally, we have heard a lot in this place about the 39 forms of identification that Elections Canada provides. I found many people, even media commentators, thinking that those 39 pieces were in Bill C-23. Those forms of identification are outlined by Elections Canada after specific consideration for groups with low participation rates. I have suggested that attestation letters used by first nations, schools, and shelters could actually improve turnout. Those are there now. They were there in the last election.

  (1600)  

     Bill C-23 is an approach that we feel would modernize a system that has demanded modernization for a generation. Our modest amendments are as a result of having listened to the concerns and would strengthen the bill. I think we are going to have better results, in the future, in our elections.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as I was listening to the statements by my distinguished colleague, I noticed that he has demonstrated the truth of Einstein’s words. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Once again, we have an ill-advised bill that will immediately be challenged if it is passed. It will be challenged by the first nations, who will be asking by what right the act is being amended to give them less access to the vote. Student associations will be saying the same thing.
     The Chief Electoral Officer must have the power and the resources to promote voting among young people and to tell them not only to go out and vote, but where to go to vote. Why is the government stubbornly insisting on enacting a law that has been rejected by all the experts, including the ones it appointed?
     I would therefore like to know why we are going to vote on a bill that will immediately be challenged in the courts.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member clearly did not listen to the final moments of my remarks where I showed that Elections Canada's move to the 39 forms of identification, with specific attestation letters for those on first nations reserves, would actually allow a template that could be used now to raise turnout and participation by that community. It is interesting to note that turnouts are higher at some band council elections. There is the ability to run localized and provincial elections. We would now have a better way to do that federally.
    I would invite the member to look at the Supreme Court decision that I think sets the stage to show that Bill C-23 would improve our system. The majority opinion there said it would be better to keep the inherent confidence in our system to ask someone to return to the polls with the proper registration materials than it would be to allow somebody to vote who may not be entitled to vote.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the issue of vouching. At committee, I understand that there were concerns regarding people who might have some issues with showing their address. I know there were some amendments made.
     I wish the hon. member would talk a bit about vouching and tell us again what the issues are, in terms of people needing to present basic ID, the ID that is available, and a bit about the changes that we made. I think they are important changes and, more important, Canadians believe that most people should be able to produce a piece of identification showing who they are.
    Mr. Speaker, the Neufeld report showed that vouching is extremely difficult to administer. That is what led to the 42%, or higher, error rate. In fact, if we look at multiple errors, 80% of vouching transactions had errors. Why is that? Mainly because Elections Canada officials are well-meaning, on the ground in the ridings, but they tend to work one or two days every few years. Vouching is very complicated and, really, comes from an era when people did not have as many forms of ID on them as they do on any given day.
    What our amendments to Bill C-23 would do, to answer the second part of my friend's question, is address the fact that, yes, not enough of the 39 forms have ID. Even though there is the ability for attestation letters to satisfy certain groups, like students or those living in shelters, that sort of thing, we feel that the added safeguard would maximize voting by allowing someone to take an oath as per their residence that would be verified at the polls. They would still need to show identification as to who they are, so that no irregularity or fraud could result, but if they were not able to satisfy the residency requirement, an oath could be administered and they could proceed to mark their ballot. I think it is a good balance.
    Mr. Speaker, once again, I rise to talk about Bill C-23, the unfair elections act.
    We have sat through committee. We have gone through several amendments, the vast majority proposed by the government. I would love to say that I take satisfaction in knowing that two of my amendments were accepted by the Conservatives, but they were just minor fixes, inconsequential stuff. There was nothing major.
     My friend is trying to egg me on. I want to thank my hon. colleague from Burlington for his encouragement in getting those amendments passed, albeit diminutive in nature.
    Mr. Mike Wallace: The amendments or the member?
    Mr. Scott Simms: Mr. Speaker, I opened it up for a joke, and I got one.
    I want to say that the whole process was a little disappointing.
    By way of explanation, it seems to me that the public pressure had been so high and so heated that changes had to be made on their part, especially on vouching. Rather than go through what one would consider the regular process of making changes and amendments at committee stage, the government did it through a pre-study, asked for by the minister and given to the Senate and the Conservat