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42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 198

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 20, 2017




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 148
NUMBER 198
1st SESSION
42nd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer


    [Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1005)  

[English]

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month

     moved that Bill S-232, An Act respecting Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
     He said: Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to be here today as we consider Bill S-232, an act respecting Canadian Jewish heritage month, and I am honoured to be the sponsor of this bill in the House.
    I want to acknowledge Senator Linda Frum, who has partnered with me in introducing this bill, which received unanimous support in the other place. I hope today to convince members of the chamber to give it the same enthusiastic support.
    I want to particularly thank the hon. members for Thornhill and Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for their strong multipartisan support of this bill. I also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of my friend and mentor, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, whose tireless work as a defender of human rights is a badge of honour for the Canadian Jewish community. Professor Cotler originally introduced the substance of this bill as a motion in 2015. As I stand here today, I want to dedicate my efforts in bringing this bill before the House to Irwin Cotler's honour.
    Aaron Hart, widely regarded as the first Jewish Canadian, settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. In the more than 250 years since then, Jewish Canadians have been deeply involved in building this wonderful country that we are also privileged to call home. Whether coming to Canada in search of economic opportunity, freedom from persecution, or in service to the crown, Jewish Canadians from St. John's to Victoria to Yellowknife have played an active role in the unfolding Canadian story.
    The early Jewish immigrants came predominantly from western and central Europe, followed in the late 19th century by increasing numbers of eastern Europeans. Approximately 20,000 Holocaust survivors made it to Canada, followed by Jewish refugees fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jewish immigration from North Africa, particularly Morocco, brought many francophone Sephardic Jews to Quebec. This group is now a large portion of Montreal's Jewish population and a small but vibrant part of Toronto's Jewish community, including la Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto in my own riding.
    Beginning in 1990, there was a significant Jewish migration to Canada from the Soviet Union, including the Russian Jewish community. Canada is home to nearly 60,000 Russian-speaking Jews, a thriving community represented by institutions like Toronto's Jewish Russian Community Centre. In 1983, my mother Edna and I left our home in Scotland to embark on, as she explained at the time, a great adventure. She brought me to Canada to build a better life and future for us both. Knowing barely a soul, we settled in Toronto because she knew there was a thriving Jewish community that would welcome us and provide us with the support we needed.
    I am a proud Canadian, I am honoured to represent the people of York Centre in this House, and I am a proud Scottish Jew, a member of a small but mighty clan whose tartan I proudly wear here today. In many ways, the diversity of Jewish Canadians mirrors the mosaic of our broader Canadian society, each of us bringing with us our own customs and traditions and making Canada even better because of it.
    Today I stand in this house as the member of Parliament for York Centre. I stand on the shoulders of the dedicated, brave, and committed Jewish men and women who paved the way before me. It is in their merit that I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.
    One of the most inspirational Jewish Canadians for me was the Hon. David Croll, who served as the Liberal member of Parliament representing the riding of Toronto—Spadina for a decade following World War II before being appointed Canada's first Jewish senator. Mr. Croll came to Canada when he was six years old, his family fleeing the pogroms of czarist Russia. Through hard work selling newspapers and polishing shoes, he was able to put himself through law school. In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, Croll was elected mayor of Windsor, the first Jewish mayor in Ontario, where he instituted welfare programs for the jobless and the poor. Croll became a member of the provincial Parliament in 1934, where he served as Minister of Labour and Minister of Public Welfare, the first Jewish Canadian to be a minister of the crown.

  (1735)  

    In the first days of the Second World War, Mr. Croll enlisted with the Essex Scottish, one of more than 17,000 Jewish Canadians who answered the call to serve.
    As a federal parliamentarian, Croll championed a range of social issues, from health care to pensions, from tax credits for the poor to prohibiting discrimination.
    One of his greatest achievements, in my view, was in pushing for the opening of Canada's immigration regime. Between 1933 and 1948, under Canada's notorious “none is too many” policy, only 5,000 Holocaust refugees were admitted to Canada—the fewest of any western country. The most egregious example of this misguided policy happened in 1939 when Canada turned away the MS St. Louis. There were more than 900 Jewish refugees on board, seeking sanctuary here in Canada. They were turned away and forced to return to Europe, where 254 died in the Holocaust. We cannot turn away from this uncomfortable truth and Canada's part in it.
    In 1949, however, Canada admitted 11,000 Jews—more than any other country, other than Israel.
     Nate Leipciger is one of the survivors who came to Canada. Seventy-three years after having survived the lowest point of his life, Nate returned to Auschwitz, this time as the highest point in his life. He came back by invitation to guide and teach his Prime Minister, the head of government of his adopted country, about the horrors he endured and the lessons we must never forget. He described his return to Auschwitz last year with the Prime Minister as “triumphant”. He said, “They gave me a one-way ticket, but I returned with my wife, daughter and granddaughter and the prime minister.” He came full circle, from dehumanized to sharing some of the most poignant human moments, shedding tears with the Prime Minister.
    We as Canadians must remember the lessons taught by history from this awful period. Monuments like the national Holocaust memorial, soon to be opened in Ottawa, and local ones like the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial at Earl Bales Park in Toronto form part of the legacy of survivors and their families. They came to Canada and became Canadians in their own right. Their stories are our stories as Canadians.
    I am proud that my riding became home to so many Holocaust survivors, emerging from the ashes of Europe to begin building new, vibrant lives here in Canada.
     Pola and Zalman Pila were two of them. They both survived the death camps and death marches and were reunited after liberation, the sole survivors of their families. They arrived in Toronto soon after, penniless, not speaking English, a married couple with an infant son. With little formal education, they worked day and night to make a life for their children and later their grandchildren. They took the shattered remnants of their lives and with faith, love, and determination built an inspiring future. Pola delivered food right to the doorsteps of those in need, visited the sick, and provided financial assistance to all who asked. Her contributions and the contributions of Jewish women to Canada have been tremendous.
    Let us consider Bobbie Rosenfeld. She was known throughout the 1920s as the superwoman of ladies' hockey. In 1924 she helped form the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association, serving as its president until 1939. Rosenfeld won gold and silver medals at the 1928 Summer Olympics after setting multiple Canadian track and field records. She was also a trailblazer off the field, a strong advocate for women in sports. In 1950, Rosenfeld was voted Canada's female athlete of the half-century by The Canadian Press, which awards the Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy to Canada's top female athlete every year.
    I could go on listing the myriad contributions of Jewish-Canadian women like Tillie Taylor, the first woman to be appointed as a provincial magistrate in Saskatchewan, or Constance Glube, appointed the first female chief justice in Canada on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in 1980, or Justice Rosalie Abella, who was born in a German IDP camp and became the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

  (1740)  

    However, it is not just the individual achievements that should be celebrated. Indeed, the Jewish contribution to Canada has often been greatest when it has come as the product of communal action and furtherance of a shared purpose.
     In 1868, just one year after Confederation, the Toronto Hebrew Ladies Sick and Benevolent Society was established. With no paid staff and a budget of only a few hundred dollars, these visionary women built the foundation of what would become one of the leading family service agencies in North America, Jewish Family and Child. Based in York Centre, I have had the privilege of seeing first-hand how JF&C continues to have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable Canadians from every background. JF&C upholds the Jewish value of tikkun olam, the idea that individuals are responsible not only for their own welfare but for the welfare of society at large.
    It is one of several inspiring Jewish organizations in my riding that champion this ideal including B'nai Brith Canada, which can trace its roots to 1875; the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, the first Jewish women's organization in Canada founded in 1897; and Canadian Hadassah-WIZO and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which are both celebrating 100 years of life-changing contributions to Canadian society.
    These stories have played out in communities big and small across Canada. I am certain that every member of the House from every province and territory can point to the role that Jewish Canadians play in their communities. As celebrated as these stories are, a darker undercurrent of Canadian Jewish heritage must also be acknowledged. Canada has sadly not been immune to anti-Semitism, a scourge that remains stubbornly in our midst.
    On June 13, Statistics Canada released hate crimes data for 2015. Jewish Canadians were once again the most targeted religious minority in the country. As a Jewish Canadian, I find this data to be doubly concerning. Throughout history, the level of anti-Semitism has been a fairly accurate barometer of the overall condition and health of a society. An attack against Jews or any minority is an attack on everyone.
    In the face of this persistent problem, we must join together, and state unequivocally that when it comes to incidents of hate and discrimination in Canada, we cannot abide hate and prejudice being targeted against any group. Jewish Canadians have always been at the forefront of standing up and fighting against hate and discrimination.
     Consider Canada's first Jewish parliamentarian, Ezekiel Hart, who in 1832 was instrumental in Quebec becoming the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to accord full political rights to Jews, 26 years before Great Britain. This commitment to universal equality, and the fight against hate and discrimination remains a core priority for Jewish Canadians and for me personally, standing here today as a result of Ezekiel Hart's activism.
    It being pride month, I want to recognize the efforts of Kulanu Toronto, the voice of the Jewish LGBTQ community in Toronto. I had the honour of attending its pride shabbat dinner last week, a celebration of the Jewish LGBTQ community. This pride month, we can also celebrate Bill C-16, yesterday receiving royal assent affirming and protecting gender identity and expression under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and under hate crime sections of the Criminal Code. I am proud of the active role the Jewish community played in advancing this important legislation. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs served on the steering committee of Trans Equality Canada, a coalition that has worked tirelessly to see this initiative succeed.
    The stories I have shared here today are Canadian stories. The values they reflect are Canadian values. The enactment of Canadian Jewish heritage month will ensure that the historic and ongoing contributions of Jewish Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, cementing their legacy and inspiring future generations to build a better Canada. I encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to support this bill.

  (1745)  

    Mr. Speaker, Jewish heritage month is important for Windsor and Essex County. The Right Hon. Herb Gray served in my seat in this place. He was in fact the longest-serving member of Parliament. Designating someone as Right Honourable has only been done a few times and Herb Gray did receive that distinguished designation. He also served as a deputy prime minister of Canada.
    Education is one of the most important elements of this Canadian Jewish heritage month. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are still seized in this country with some issues with respect to anti-Semitism.
    I would like the member to highlight some of the things that could be done during Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would be a good opportunity to focus on anti-Semitism. I used to work on behalf of youth at risk and multicultural youth. In a diverse community like Windsor, we still sadly experience some anti-Semitism. Sadly enough, there are still elements of our society who are anti-Semitic.
    I thank the member for his contributions. The bill could be very successful in providing knowledge to people about anti-Semitism in our communities all across Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his reflection on these issues. It is true, education is one of the most important elements of this proposed Canadian Jewish heritage month. It would provide an opportunity for communities across this country to reflect on the importance of and to reflect on the lessons from the Jewish community.
    As I said in my speech, we cannot hide from anti-Semitism. It is there. Sadly, many of those who survived the worst, the Holocaust survivors that came to Canada, are dwindling in numbers, which makes it ever more important that we continue to teach, and that we continue to pass on the lessons of those survivors to our young Canadians to make sure they understand that hate and prejudice against Jews and against any minority is completely unacceptable. This month will certainly be a platform to make sure that happens across the country.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to let my friend know that I am pleased to see this piece of legislation come forward. I hope it will have, and I believe it will have, unanimous support in this place.
    I was trying to search my archives to see if I could find proof of this, but I know that the synagogue at Whitney Pier near Sydney, Nova Scotia, is one of the oldest in Canada, if not the oldest. We have rich traditions, and a societal contribution that is absolutely disproportionate to the number of people within the Jewish community. It is experienced right across Canada.
    I want to add that to my colleague's list of communities where the roots go deep, to around 1890. It is well over 100 years that there has been a synagogue and an active community in industrial Cape Breton where I used to live, and certainly on southern Vancouver Island where I live now.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for highlighting yet another small community in Canada that has a rich Jewish tradition and legacy. That speaks to the heart of this legislation.
    This legislation, which is proposing a Jewish heritage month across Canada, would give voice to all of the small communities that have rich traditions of Jewish activism, Jewish community leaders or businesses, or restaurants. It will give them a platform on which to be heard. We hear the stories from the major centres of Jewish life in Canada, but there are so many more that are untold. This legislation will provide an opportunity for communities across the country to be heard, and to add to the importance of Jewish heritage in Canada.

  (1750)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House today regarding Bill S-232. I would like to commend my colleague from the other place, Senator Linda Frum, for her work on this, as well as my colleague across the way, the hon. member for York Centre.
    In 1939, the MS St. Louis departed from Hamburg, Germany, with 937 passengers on board, most of whom were Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime. The St. Louis set sail for Cuba, but upon arrival in Havana, these refugees were denied entry. Not to be deterred, Captain Gustav Schröder changed course for Florida, hoping to find refuge for his passengers in the United States, but it was not to be found.
    The inaction of the Americans prompted a courageous group of Canadian clergy and academics to urge the Canadian government to offer safe passage to the St. Louis. After all, Canada was just a two-day journey from the Florida coast. However, William Lyon Mackenzie King allowed himself to be persuaded by one high-level, anti-Semitic bureaucrat, rather than the voices of the Canadian people. To our great shame, the ship was turned away, fanning the flames of the insanity of Adolf Hitler, who rationalized that if the rest of the world did not want to help the Jews, then it was up to him to solve his so-called insane Jewish problem.
    In the end, some of those refugees were granted permission to board vessels travelling to the United Kingdom. The remaining 620 refugees remained aboard the St. Louis and were carried to mainland Europe. Researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum did a historical trace on the fate of each passenger. In a summary of its findings, it stated:
    Of the 620 St. Louis passengers who returned to continental Europe, we determined that ...254 passengers in Belgium, France and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobibor; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding, or attempting to evade the Nazis.
    I remind the House of this blemish in our history to highlight how far we have come as a nation in our relationship with the Jewish people. Canada has long abandoned its anti-Semitic immigration policies of the Second World War. Today, Canada is home to some 400,000 Jewish people, the fourth largest Jewish population in the world. Only Israel, the United States, and France have larger populations. Canada has indeed come a long way.
    Tonight, we are deliberating on Bill S-232, a bill that enjoys multi-party support, whereby the month of May, in each and every year, would be designated Canadian Jewish heritage month. When this legislation reaches royal assent, Canadians will have much to celebrate in May 2018.
    The contribution Jewish people have made to Canadian culture is profoundly broad. The fingerprints of the Jewish community can be found in nearly every aspect of Canadian life. I could not possibly articulate in the time provided the innumerable accomplishments and contributions the Jewish community has made to the fabric of Canadian culture, but consider this as a sampling.
    In business, Jewish Canadians have proven to be more than capable job creators. Shoppers Drug Mart, Reitmans clothing, Calgary's Smithbilt Hats, ALDO shoe company, Sony stores, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and the First City Financial Corporation were all founded by Canadians of Jewish heritage.
    In arts and entertainment, Canada has been fortunate to have so many talented artists and performers of Jewish heritage. To name a few: actor William Shatner, most famous for his role in Star Trek; Lorne Greene of Bonanza; the game show host Howie Mandel, of Deal or No Deal; Monty Hall of Let's Make A Deal; Lorne Michaels, who created Saturday Night Live; and the Mirvish family and John Hirsch, giants in live theatre production. I wish I could name Henry Winkler, but unfortunately, he is not Canadian, but I just love the Fonz so much.
    In literature, we have been blessed by the words of novelist Mordecai Richler, playwright Ted Allan, and poets Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, and A.M. Klein.
    Musical talents include composers Louis Applebaum and Srul Glick; opera singer Pauline DonaIda; singer-songwriter Corey Hart; Steven Page, former lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies; and Geddy Lee, lead vocalist of the rock band Rush. Of course, we cannot forget about world-renowned rapper Drake.

  (1755)  

    In medicine and science, the late Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Éric A. Cohen have been regarded as pre-eminent HIV-AIDS researchers. Victoria Kaspi is a well-known physicist in the field of astrophysics, and Rudolph Arthur Marcus received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems.
     In law, five justices of Jewish heritage have served on the bench of the Supreme Court.
    In politics, my friend and former colleague on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, the hon. Irwin Cotler, who my colleague mentioned earlier, served as a federal justice minister and has risen to the defence of prisoners of conscience around the world, including Nelson Mandela. Today, at the age of 77, he continues to raise concerns about the fivefold threat presented by Iran and provides legal defence to Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition political leader in Venezuela. The last federal finance minister to table a balanced budget was yet another Jewish Canadian, the hon. Joe Oliver.
     The Jewish community in Canada and all Canadians can be proud of all these accomplishments, and a whole lot more. On a personal note, since first being elected to this House more than 11 years ago, I have had the distinct privilege of having a front row seat in a vibrant and active Jewish community in Hamilton. For instance, Madeleine Levy has been a fierce advocate in our community and schools, educating students on the Holocaust and teaching tolerance and acceptance.
     Rabbi Baskin is a thoughtful and accomplished author and a key donor to McMaster University library, having donated 1,000 books and manuscripts and 200 pieces of art, as well.
     Rabbi Daniel Green oversees Adas Israel and the Hamilton Hebrew Academy and acts as the wise father figure to the broader Jewish community. Dr. Larry Levin is the president of the Canadian Dental Association, having previously served in the same role at the provincial level. Dr. Lorne Finkelstein has made extraordinary efforts to fight racism in Hamilton, to advocate for patients, and to save young lives internationally.
     Arthur Weisz, a holocaust survivor, founded the successful property management company Effort Trust. Though Arthur passed away in 2013, his legacy of successful business is being carried on by his son, Tom, who generously donates his own money while raising funds for many worthy causes at home and in Israel, including the Jewish National Fund.
     Knowing first-hand the contributions of the Jewish community in Hamilton and across the country, it was easy to support a proposed project driven by Tova and Jim Lynch called the Canadian Jewish Experience. This project has officially become part of the Canada 150 celebrations. It highlights many of the accomplishments I mentioned, and many more. I encourage members of this House and Canadians visiting Ottawa for the sesquicentennial celebrations to stop by the exhibit.
    With a view of history, all Canadians should be proud that Jewish people have been able to come to our nation and thrive, yet we have a long way to go. Bill S-232 is before Parliament against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism, both in Canada and abroad. B'nai Brith has issued a report that shows that anti-Semitic events in Canada last year were the highest on record. As my colleague has said, this is unacceptable.
     The adoption of this legislation will send the message to all Canadians that we are committed to a diverse, multicultural, and tolerant society, where Canadians, regardless of ethnicity or religion, are able to thrive. As I have said many times, Canada is a place where members of one faith can live peaceably beside members of other faiths and where members of one race can live peaceably beside members of other races.
     With that in mind, I would like to return to the story of the MS St. Louis. In 2011, the Conservative government supported the efforts of the Canadian Jewish Congress to create a memorial called the Wheel of Conscience. This monument was installed at Pier 21 in Halifax to remind Canadians of the underlying attitudes that led to the St. Louis being turned away.
    The memorial is a polished stainless steel wheel that incorporates four intermeshing gears, each showing a word to represent factors of exclusion: anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, and hatred. Inscribed on the back of the wheel is the passenger list, including the names of those who died at the hands of the Nazis.
     Let that monument be a reminder of how far we have come. Truly, as a country, we have gone from darkness to light. Let us continue to build on that success and support Bill S-232. May God bless you, Mr. Speaker, may God bless our Jewish community, and may God bless Canada.

  (1800)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure and the honour to rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-232. If it passes, as I think it will, it will declare the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. This is a very important bill.
     New Democrats strongly support multiculturalism and Canada’s unparalleled celebration of heritage, as well as the contributions of all the various ethnic and religious groups. Today, many cities and towns across the country have significant Jewish-Canadian communities that celebrate their culture and history. Consequently, the NDP supports granting this heritage and the events taking place every May all the national recognition they deserve. Canada’s rich cultural mosaic is one of the assets that make Canada what it is today, constituting a great strength that it should be very proud of.
    According to the 2011 census, nearly 310,000 Canadians from coast to coast have identified themselves as having full or partial Jewish ancestry. The largest groups live in and around Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. Jewish people have lived in Canada for over 250 years. The first recorded Jewish newcomer settled in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, in 1760. Many Jewish immigrants came to Canada between 1880 and 1920, arriving mostly from eastern European countries such as Romania, Poland, and Lithuania.
     Immigration restrictions imposed after 1924 made it difficult for Jewish people to come to Canada, unfortunately. This situation persisted until after the Second World War. Tragically, few Jewish people were admitted to Canada during the Holocaust because of the immigration policies in place at that time. Since then, Jewish immigration to Canada has been largely tied to political conditions in their home countries.
     For example, there was the arrival of Hungarian Jews and Jewish refugees from Egypt and Iraq in the 1950s, Romanian Jews in the 1960s, Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and North African Jews in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the Jewish-Canadian community and the culture itself are incredibly diverse across communities.
    In 2006, the United States proclaimed the month of May as a designated time to celebrate the contributions of the American Jewish community. In 2012, Ontario declared May as Jewish heritage month. May is also the month that Israel celebrates Israeli Independence Day.
    Since we are celebrating Jewish heritage, I would like to mark the occasion by recognizing the contributions of three important Jewish Canadians. Let us begin with the artistic, musical, and poetic spheres. Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Quebec, on September 21, 1934, into a family of Russian and Polish heritage that was part of Montreal's Jewish community.
    In adolescence, Leonard Cohen developed a keen interest in writing, especially poetry. It was also during this critical time that the young emerging artist first learned the basics of guitar. While he was studying at McGill University, Leonard Cohen met the poet and English professor Louis Dudek, who in 1956 helped him publish his very first collection of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies.

  (1805)  

    Leonard Cohen found tremendous success in the 1970s. In 1977, he released Death of a Ladies’ Man, an album produced by Phil Spector with contributions from Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg. Musically, his 1984 album Various Positions was a major turning point in this Montreal icon’s career. It includes several of his best-known songs, such as Hallelujah and Dance Me to the End of Love.
     Leonard Cohen received numerous awards and honours throughout his prolific career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 before being named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003.
     Léa Roback is another important figure in Canada’s heritage. She was born in Montreal on November 3, 1903. She grew up in Beauport, near Quebec City, where her parents owned a general store. She spoke Yiddish at home and English and French outside. Being trilingual meant that she could switch freely between languages.
    Léa Roback’s family returned to Montreal when she was 14. Two years later, Ms. Roback began working in a factory, where she became aware of the inequality between Montreal’s wealthy anglophone families and the mostly francophone and Jewish working class.
     In 1936, Thérèse Casgrain, another great Canadian feminist legendary for her work fighting for women’s suffrage and for founding the Voice of Women movement, asked Léa Roback to join in her fight. At that time, Ms. Roback was active in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which led the struggle to improve working conditions in that industry.
     Ms. Roback was a social justice and human rights advocate for much of her life. Ahead of her time, she was renowned for her progressive work firmly rooted in solidarity. She was involved in numerous Montreal organizations, including Quebec Aid for the Partially Sighted and other humanitarian and feminist groups.
     In 1991, Ms. Roback’s eventful life was featured in a documentary by Sophie Bissonnette entitled Des lumières dans la grande noirceur A vision in the darkness in English—with Les Productions Contre-Jour. Her interviews with Madeleine Parent were published by Nicole Lacelle with Les Éditions du remue-ménage in 1988.
     She is another great Jewish Canadian who has shaped our heritage.
    In closing, I would like to mention a major Jewish figure who has made his mark on Canadian economic history. Sam Steinberg was a Hungarian-born Canadian businessman and philanthropist. His determination and vision turned his mother's tiny grocery store into Steinberg's supermarkets, at one time the largest grocery chain in Quebec. Sam Steinberg not only became a giant in his field, he was also the head of Ivanhoe and Pharmaprix. In 1974, the National Film Board even made a documentary about him entitled After Mr. Sam.
    At one time, the chain was so popular that when Quebeckers went grocery shopping they would say that they were going to do their “steinberg”. Even though they may not necessarily have been going to a Steinberg store, the expression was rooted into Quebec consciousness.
    Sam Steinberg and his wife Helen Roth were great philanthropists. They contributed to a host of charitable causes, including the construction of the Judaism Pavilion at Expo 67, the Helen and Sam Steinberg Foundation's Geriatric Day Hospital, and the Sam Steinberg Award for Young Jewish Entrepreneur of the Year, given by the Jewish Chamber of Commerce of Montreal.
    This shows how many great Canadians have made their mark on the history of Jewish heritage. That is why I am happy to support this bill that seeks to have the month of May henceforth known as Jewish Heritage Month across Canada.

  (1810)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to Bill S-232, recognizing the month of May each year as Canadian Jewish heritage month.
    I will be very brief in my remarks as I know that many of my colleagues wish to speak on this bill, and my role here today is to simply put the government's position on the record.

[Translation]

     I would first like to thank the member for York Centre for sponsoring this bill in the House of Commons. I also thank him for his hard work on behalf of his constituents.
     Our government supports this bill since it gives Canadians the opportunity to reflect on and to recognize the many contributions of Canada’s Jewish community and the important role it plays across Canada.

[English]

    Canadian Jewish heritage month will provide an important opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the many and varied contributions of Jewish Canadians to the fabric of our country, and it will allow for people to share in and learn about their culture.
    In conclusion, I would like to reiterate our government's support of this bill, and I hope that all members of this House will offer their support to this important piece of legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak in support of Bill S-232, a bill that would establish Jewish heritage month here in Canada.
    As is always the case with these heritage month proposals, there is far more to be said than can be covered in 10 minutes, but that is especially true, given the length and breadth of Jewish history. Jews are one of the oldest people groups with a relatively continuous identity.
    The impact of Jews on the world is, I think, most evident in what we call the Abrahamic faiths. The world's major Abrahamic faiths, which all come from a Jewish root, claim a majority of the world's population as adherents, and in many of these cases seeking a deeper understanding of faith leads individual adherents to actually seek a deeper understanding of that faith's Jewish roots.
    Sometimes we speak of faith or religion as if it were a distinct and separate domain of activity, but the reality is that religion is often very much intertwined with other aspects of life. Through the spread of all of the Abrahamic faiths, Jewish cultural, social, and political ideas have also been spread throughout the world. Jewish ideas are at the root of many if not most modern polities and cultures.
    Jewish religious theologizing puts its particular emphasis on reason, logic, and debate. The Jewish intellectual tradition, through Jewish religion but also quite directly, clearly infuses all aspects of western religious and intellectual life.
    Of course, much can be said about the contributions that Jews have made to the full range of domains of life, natural and social sciences and the arts, as well as the other domains mentioned.
    Recognizing the breadth of Jewish history and the impact across cultures and domains, I would like to focus the lion's share of my remarks today on 20th-century Jewish history and the history of my own family.
    When I was in Israel last year, as we approached the Holocaust museum, our tour guide told us that Jews are a post-traumatic people. The Jewish community as a whole and individual communities and families in particular live in the shadow of a terrible genocide, the Shoah, in which six million European Jews were killed. That overall number is important, but it is not just a number, it is a collection of individual stories and experiences, experiences of horrors that are unimaginable to many of us.
    As most members here know, my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. She grew up in the Munster area of Germany. She had a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. She was never caught by the Nazis. She hid out on farms, away from her family. After the war, she caught up with her father in South America.
    My grandmother rarely spoke directly about the horrors she experienced. This is likely typical of many victims of this sort of trauma, but I think it also reflected the mentality of her generation, a generation that was every bit as hopeful and idealistic as my own, but also that did not put a major emphasis on sharing their own experiences. In some ways they were too busy building the future to tell stories about their past. My grandparents would tell us certain things about their lives that they thought would be useful or helpful, and they would not tell us things that they thought were not useful or helpful. They did not feel a need to be known or understood.
    Still, some stories came out in different ways. After my grandmother died, my uncle shared a story about a time when, as a child, he and a number of other boys in the neighbourhood were wrestling. He said to the other boy in the offhanded and unserious way that children sometimes do, “I'm going to bash your face in.” My grandmother apparently froze and grabbed him. “Don't ever say that again”, she said, “I saw a man bash another man's face in.”
    Last week I spoke at a film screening here on the Hill about the use of rape as a weapon of war. The Nazis created forced brothels during the war, 10 at concentration camps between 1942 and 1945. There was a concern that because of my grandmother's age and complexion, if she were picked up, she would be sent to one of these brothels. Her mother prepared her for that possibility by laying out how she could maximize her chances of survival. Can members think of something so terrible, a mother trying to prepare her young teenage daughter for how to survive the possibility of sexual slavery?
    Many Holocaust survivors were reluctant to share their stories, but remembering them and telling their stories is important for a proper understanding of the past and for all of us as we think about how we build a better future. I salute all of those, including my grandmother, who had the courage to share their stories, even in limited or private ways.
    What does it mean to say that European Jews and perhaps in some sense all Jews are a post-traumatic people? Living in the shadow of such a terrible event has psychological impacts on victims and on their descendants. It also leaves people with a deeper appreciation of the reality of evil and the need for a strong and consistent response to it.

  (1815)  

    The descendants of Holocaust survivors are often called second-, third-, or fourth-generation Holocaust survivors themselves, and more is starting to be written and studied about the impacts of these events generations later. In this vein, I would like to quote from a 2015 article in The Guardian, which states:
     Trauma research about the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations varies; some studies conclude there is no effect of trauma two generations on, while others claim that breast milk of survivors was affected by stress hormones that impacted on the physiology of the next generation. Some in the field of epigenetics say the intergenerational effects of the Holocaust are very pronounced and that the atrocities altered the DNA of victims' descendants, so that they have different stress hormone profiles to their peers.
     Psychologist Ruth Barnett, whose Jewish father fled Germany for Shanghai, narrowly escaping the Holocaust, says she has witnessed inherited trauma in some of her clients.
     “Constantly talking about events like the gas chambers to grandchildren is a way that traumatized people try to get rid of it... But unless it is processed properly, they make even more anxiety for themselves and other generations.”
    My grandmother died of cancer about 10 years ago. As Holocaust survivors die, it is important to remember that the impact of the Holocaust remains, and we must remember these events and ensure that they never happen again.
    As I said, these events have left many in the Jewish community with a deeper appreciation of the reality of evil and the need for a strong and consistent response to it. While fighting for the rights of Jews throughout the world, Jewish people and organizations have been and continue to be at the forefront of the fight for the rights and dignity of all people. One prominent example of this is Canada's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, which actively encourages its members to be involved in the fight for international human rights and which assists other ethnocultural communities involved in human rights advocacy.
    As a Christian myself, I would like to particularly note the advocacy of CIJA for Christians facing persecution around the world. Its website notes, “Experts say Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. CIJA and Rabbis across the country are calling on Canada to take decisive action to help Christians in the Middle East and Africa.” This is notable, in part, because many past acts of anti-Semitism were committed by those claiming, falsely, in my judgment, but claiming nonetheless, to be motivated by their Christian faith. The present eagerness of the Jewish community here and elsewhere to advocate for the Christian community in spite of that history is a great testament to the commitment of this community to standing up for universal human rights.
    I would add, parenthetically, that it is high time we heed CIJA's call and finally take action on these issues. Today, many countries in the Middle East, which had long-standing Christian and Jewish communities, have lost their Jewish communities and are now rapidly losing their Christian communities. A strong presence in Asia and Africa are also part of Jewish heritage, but many of those communities have now disappeared.
    Of course, a key part of the Jewish story in the 20th and 21st centuries was the creation and continuing vibrancy of the Jewish state of Israel. In the state of Israel as well, we see the impact of the Holocaust. Because of the experience of the Holocaust, Israelis will wisely never give up the means to protect themselves. Israel will always choose survival over popularity, and it would be mad to do otherwise, but Israel has not just survived, it has thrived. It has prospered, inspired the world, and has provided safe harbour for Jews, but also for Bahá’is and other persecuted communities who cannot safely live anywhere else. It has protected the fundamental rights and dignity of all its people.
    Resilience shines brightly through Jewish heritage. There have been successive attempts at extermination, and yet these people now survive and thrive, and continue to give their rich gifts to the world. May God continue to bless Israel and the Jewish people.

  (1820)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to rise today to speak in favour of Bill S-232.
    Do hon. members know who invented the telephone? I am sure that most of them do. It was Alexander Graham Bell. However, do they know who made the telephone a workable invention? I am not sure that they do. It was a Jewish Canadian named Emile Berliner, who not only made the telephone workable, but also the microphone and created the first gramophone.
    How many members know who the first Canadian world figure skating champion was? In 1891, a Montrealer named Louis Rubenstein travelled to St. Petersburg to compete in the first unofficial world figure skating championship. Instead of welcoming him, Mr. Rubenstein was put in prison by the Russians because he was a Jew, but because he carried a letter from his friend, Governor General Lord Stanley, demanding his safe conduct, the British ambassador intervened, he was allowed to compete, and he won the world championship. He returned to Montreal and created the Amateur Skating Association of Canada. He served out the rest of his life as a city councillor in the city of Montreal. These are but two examples of Jewish Canadians who, for the last 280 years, have contributed to the vibrancy of this country and this continent.
    Before talking about what Jews have given Canada, I want to talk about what Canada has given Jews.

[Translation]

     As a Jewish Canadian, I cannot begin to express how proud I am that Canada is my country, that Quebec is my province, and that I am a Montrealer.

[English]

    All three of these identities are interchangeable. All three of these identities have led me and generations of my family before me to prosper.
    Jews come from a history of persecution across the world, whether in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. Country after country has expelled Jews, has caused them to be ghettoized, and has made them wear symbols to show that they are different. However, our experience in North America, in Canada and the United States, where we arrived as equals, where we arrived and were welcomed, where we arrived and there was freedom of religion, has made Canada what my ancestors called the goldene medina, which means the golden state. That was the United States and Canada. That is why generation after generation of Jews fleeing persecution in the 19th century and 20th century came here, to create our community of more than 400,000 Jewish Canadians who call Canada home today.
    I thank Canada for what it has done for me and my community. The reason we love this country and are so patriotic is that it gave us opportunities no other country ever did. Therefore, Jewish Canadian heritage month would not only celebrate the contributions of Jewish Canadians, but for Jewish Canadians it would also celebrate the country that gave us such enormous opportunity.
    Contrary to what many people believe, Jewish Canadians were among the earliest immigrants to this country after our indigenous peoples. Even in the history of New France, there were Jews who came here. There was a story of Esther Brandeau who came here dressed as a man and eventually was expelled back to France because she refused to convert to Catholicism, and New France was closed to people who were not Catholic.
     Jews were always part of the landscape. In 1740, a gentleman named George Hart settled in Montreal, coming from New England. He was the first Jew to settle in Quebec, not Aaron Hart, who arrived in 1760 with the British army. Quebec, Lower Canada, was the first jurisdiction in the world to grant Jews full political and civil rights in 1832, under the stewardship of Louis-Joseph Papineau.
     The Jewish community contributed a great deal to the early days in my city of Montreal. David David was one of the first governors of the Bank of Montreal and sat on the first board. A gentleman named Jesse Joseph was the president of the first Montreal Gas Company, which later became known as the Montreal Light, Heat and Power Company, and he created the Montreal Telegraph Company. Moses Hayes was the chief of police in Montreal in the 1850s and 1860s.
     In 1871, Henry Nathan of Victoria became the first Jewish Canadian elected to the House of Commons. Jewish Canadians have served with honour in all three political parties over that time. David Barrett was a Jewish New Democrat and premier of British Columbia. Mr. Marshall was a Jewish premier of Newfoundland from the Conservative Party. There has been generation after generation of Jews in all three political parties in this country, including the Liberal Party, people like David Croll and Irwin Cotler. Even today, in my native area of Montreal, we have produced senators Judith Seidman and Marc Gold. We have produced Irwin Cotler, Lawrence Bergman, and David Birnbaum, who served in the House of Commons and the national assembly. Mitchell Brownstein, Bill Steinberg, Russell Copeman have been mayors. Marvin Rotrand was a city councillor. The list goes on. We have been part of the discussion and of the lexicon in this country.
    Jews have served honourably in our armed forces since the War of 1812.

  (1825)  

[Translation]

     The Jewish people served during the Patriotes’ Rebellion in 1837. During the First World War, more than 4,000 Jews served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and during the Second World War, more than 20,000 proudly served their country.

[English]

    During that period of time we have created institutions that have served not only our community but all Canadians well.
    It is interesting that people see Jewish Canadians as having only been from the big cities. They see us in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. However, the first Jewish Canadian wave of immigration was the Sephardic wave in the 1760s, and after that waves of Jews came from Europe and settled small town Canada, creating farming settlements in Saskatchewan and Alberta, like Edenbridge and Wapella, creating corner stores and peddling operations in places like Glace Bay and Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia.
    Throughout this country, Jewish Canadians have integrated into their communities and worked alongside their Christian brothers and sisters and later arrivals from other religions to build this country.
    In Montreal, many of our institutions, not only Jewish institutions but wider institutions, were created by families like the Bronfmans, the Kolbers, the Reitmans, the Vinebergs, the Segals, the Adams, the Azrielies, the Goodmans, the Bissells, the Martzes, the Goldblooms, the Pascals, the Gewurtzes, the Weiners, the Steinbergs, the Garbers, the Cummings, the Papermans, and the Blacks.

[Translation]

     We were joined by a vibrant community that arrived from the Arab countries, a community that endured anti-Semitism after the Second World War. This community settled in Canada, particularly in Quebec and in Montreal. Not only did this community find peace, but it also gave rise to very strong community leaders. They built institutions, not only for the Jewish community, but for all Quebeckers and all Canadians. These are people such as Emile and Aline Malka, Moise Ohana, Sylvain Abitbol, Geneviève Busbib, Marc Kakon, Laurent Amram, Henri and Edmond Elbaz, Betty Elkaim, Jo and Dolly Gabay, Jacques Golbert, Haim Abenhaim, Sidney Elhadad, and many more. There are so many.

[English]

    This is the 100th anniversary of Federation CJA, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Federation CJA in Montreal. Federation is our prime organization that gathers all the other Jewish organizations.
    I would be remiss if I did not also recognize those community leaders who built our national and Montreal-based organizations, people like Dorothy Reitman, Sheila Kussner, Barbara Seal, Lillian Vineberg, Nancy Rosenfeld, David Cape, Goldie and Shelly Hershon, Susan Laxer, Evan Feldman, David Amiel, Jack and Pascale Hasen, Deborah Corber, Reuben Poupko, Dean Mendel, Gail and Heather Adelson, Karen Laxer, Joel Shalit, Stanley Plotnick, Mark Merson, Sidney Margles, Eta Yudin, Eddy Wiltzer, Gary Shapiro, Monica Bensoussan, and of course the great rabi of Shaar Hashomayim who still serves at age 96, Wilfred Shuchat. In calling all these individual Jews, I want to remind everyone that each of them have made contributions, but the community has made contributions.
    I hope in Canadian Jewish heritage month, all Canadians will take the time to learn about their local Jewish communities. In that way, we will be able to fight and eradicate the anti-Semitism that exists. Once we know our neighbours, we are much less prejudiced against them.

  (1830)  

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

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Indian Act

     The House resumed consideration of Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I will try to be as thorough as possible in my remaining three minutes.
    To me, Bill S-3 is the best example of a bill indigenous people should have been part of when drafting. If the government had spent some time consulting Stéphane Descheneaux and others, while spending less time repeating talking points, it could have fixed this mess months and months ago. Instead, the government waited until it received an extension to its court mandate deadline to get to work.
    The department did much better this time around. It spent less time talking about what it was going to do and more time listening. Many indigenous groups were happy to show all the problems with Bill S-3 and how it can be fixed.
    While Bill S-3 can no longer claim to fix all gender-based discrimination when amended, it is a good starting point for phase two.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up a theme that was advanced by one of the Conservative colleagues, noting the very same amendment the Senate inserted into this bill and then the Liberal members of committee withdrew,“6(1)(a) all the way”, as the women's indigenous organizations are saying.
    This is how it is described in a press release from the Abenaki Nation on June 18:
     The clause added to Bill S-3 by the Senate was identical to a clause that the Liberal opposition had added to the Harper government’s Bill C-3 in 2010, but that then-House Speaker [Conservative Speaker]...ruled was out of order for going beyond the scope of the bill.
    Now that the House Committee has changed the name of Bill S-3 on June 16th, the [Liberal]...government and Justice Minister...have followed the Harper government’s example and effectively announced they will not address sex discrimination in the Indian Act that goes beyond the specific circumstances of...Descheneaux and co-plaintiffs....
    I am interested in my colleague's observations on why what the Liberals proposed during the Harper government could not now be embraced by the Liberals now that they are in power.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously we have to move forward. Unfortunately, the court decision had a mandated time period in which we had to address the issues.
    Human rights should not be a topic where we have to extend debate. It should be automatic. Unfortunately, we cannot change yesterday, but we can change tomorrow. Moving forward, we understand that phase two is supposed address all sexual discrimination for indigenous people.
    I am looking forward to phase two. It is important that there be continued progress with Bill S-3 and phase two.
    Mr. Speaker, since its inception, the Indian Act has accorded privilege to male Indians and their descendants and disregarded female Indians as second class. While piecemeal changes to this discriminatory act have been made over time, there is still a sex-based hierarchy of the status categories.
    To sum up where we are right now, despite unprecedented government promises of indigenous reconciliation and respect, Liberals are trading off human rights based on budget lines. Indigenous women, who have been fighting 40 years in court for equality, watched in dismay last week as Liberals gutted reforms that would have made the Indian Act less vile. Canada's laws still say that indigenous people with a university degree, with military service, or with a white husband lose their Indian status. Would one not think that a government pledged to a new nation-to-nation relationship built on respect would want to fix this?
    Indigenous women who lost their legal status after marrying white men convinced the Senate this month to adopt Indian Act changes to overturn these long-standing injustices. However, last week Liberal MPs stripped those changes out after the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs threatened “dire unintended consequences” from what looks to me like a fundamental human right. Is there any other group in Canada the government would discriminate against in this way?
     “[I]ndigenous women deserve the equality the charter is intended to ensure and protect”, so said litigant Lynn Gehl in Ottawa this month at a press conference.
    Courts ordered that the government end discrimination in the Indian Act once and for all. This bill, gutted by Liberal MPs last week, could have done that.
     To honour National Aboriginal Day tomorrow and to validate the Prime Minister's feminist rhetoric, the Prime Minister should do the right thing in this week's vote, maybe even in tonight's vote, and that would be to adopt the amendments proposed by my colleague in the New Democrat caucus and by the Green Party leader to restore the elements of the Senate bill that were cut by Liberal MPs at committee last week. Let us end this session of Parliament on a just note and send Canada on a good path for its 150th.
    There is much support for the government ending sex discrimination in the Indian Act. Canada has endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which clarifies state obligations to respect self-determination, including the right to determine membership. Canada must get out of the business of deciding who is and is not an Indian under Canadian law.
    The United Nations commission to end discrimination against women, just in November, called out the government for the need to act on this file. It said:
...the Committee remains concerned about continued discrimination against indigenous women, in particular regarding the transmission of Indian status, preventing them and their descendants from enjoying all the benefits relating to such status.
     The Committee recommends that the State party remove all remaining discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act that affect indigenous women and their descendants, and ensure that indigenous women enjoy the same rights as men to transmit their status to their children and grandchildren.
    The government has failed. It has given this House a flawed bill, uninformed by any indigenous woman's input. After 40 years of litigation by indigenous women, many of whom are still alive, and indigenous lawyers who have been fighting alongside them, the government failed to ask them what they thought and have them inform this vital legislation before us.
    The government has stalled for 18 months, knowing that it had a court-ordered requirement to do this work. It is scrambling at the end of this session to meet that court deadline. Having been given 18 months by the court to make this right, they had testimony from witnesses that could have made it right. The Liberals are now asking Parliament to pass a bill that is being heavily criticized by the majority of indigenous people.

  (1835)  

    I will quote from the Ontario Native Women's Association. It said,
    By rejecting the “6(1)(a) All The Way” amendment to Bill S-3 the federal government has betrayed its promise to Indigenous women. The amendment would have reinstated our sisters and removed all sex based discrimination from the Indian Act.
    The Senate did repair that flaw. The Senate amendment, which came to this House, has support from indigenous women. That repaired bill, given to the government, was really a gift to a government that is struggling to deliver on its first nations promises.
    On the eve of National Aboriginal Day and the celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation, this would have been a real gift to the country to actually move forward and end gender discrimination under the Indian Act. Instead, the Liberal members of the committee gutted the bill, bringing us back to what we are debating today. It could be repaired by accepting the amendments that are on the floor right now.
    This has left indigenous women out again. There is strong criticism, repeated again and again, by almost every indigenous women's organization we have heard from.
    This has left us, then, scrambling in the final days of Parliament, disrespecting the advice of indigenous women and disrespecting Canada's deep need for reconciliation. This is breaking trust. It is a dangerous game. We have cynicism from the women most affected, and their children, when we have the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs saying that there will be “dire unanticipated consequences” of this bill. Indigenous women say repeatedly that this is a human right, that gender equality is a human right already and that we do not need to consult on it.
    This is a government that consults on everything, endlessly, things we did not think needed to be consulted on, such as restoring habitat protection to the Fisheries Act. In that case, we are consulted in the absence of action.
    In this case, we have the government's failure to consult with the indigenous women most deeply affected. It brought a bill twice to the Senate on which there was no consultation, and now it is saying that we can only bring a half-measure bill, because we have to consult with indigenous people on the unintended and dire consequences the minister cites.
    The government cannot have it both ways, not without breaking a great deal of goodwill and breaking a great deal of faith with indigenous women in this country.
    As Sharon McIvor, litigant and now defence lawyer, asked at a press conference last week, why would they consult on whether they can continue to be discriminated against? Lynn Gehl, also a long-time challenger of this discrimination in court, said that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs is using consultation as a weapon. That is no way to move forward.
    We have strong indigenous women leading in this country already. I want to pay my respects to Shania Pruden, from the Pinaymootang First Nation in Manitoba, and Teanna Ducharme, whose Nisga'a name is Aygadim Majagalee. Both of these young women, in association with the Daughters of the Vote program, came to this House and testified at the status of women committee. They are articulate, strong, brilliant leaders.
    I also want to honour the late Shannen Koostachin, who initiated Shannen's dream and was at the root of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal challenge on equality of treatment in child welfare. There are three rulings now the Canadian government has not honoured.
    There is also Helen Knott, Treaty 8 leader, who is advocating and saying strongly that violence against the land is the same as violence against women. We need to move forward in a good way.
     I ask the government to please either adopt the Senate amendments or ask the court for an extension so that it can really do this right. We cannot afford half measures in this country. Gender equality and first nations respect is a solemn promise of the government that I am going to keep working to have it keep.

  (1840)  

    Mr. Speaker, this afternoon the judge rejected the plaintiff's application for a further extension. The member is aware of that. More than 35,000 people have been waiting two years since this court decision was exercised to exercise their rights. She understands that we need to pass this legislation immediately to address the discriminatory gender-based gaps that exist in the Indian Act. We have also committed to stage two.
    Will the member support those people who have been waiting for the past two years and support the second stage so we can do the consultations properly and get the real changes that are necessary in the bill?

  (1845)  

    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government was in opposition, it proposed the very same amendment to the Conservative government that, now that it is the government, it rejects. This has been on the Liberal Party's agenda and radar for a very long time. When they formed government, they would have been briefed on this. They have had 18 months to ask indigenous women whether the new legislation proposed in S-3 was adequate. Twice, the Senate told the government it was, because the Senate actually talked to indigenous women when the government failed to.
    The message we are getting loud and clear from every native women's organization is that they want the Senate version of the bill passed. It is the perfect undertaking. That is what we are urging this government to do now. If the Liberals really are so surprised about the same amendment they proposed in 2010, and that the Minister of Justice advanced when she was an elected chief at the highest levels in British Columbia, imploring this Parliament to take the very same action she now opposes, which is stunning to me, then the government should ask for an extension, because it did not. In fact, the court ruling this morning said that the judge was unwilling to get in a battle between the Senate and Parliament unless the government itself was going to invite it in and leave the door open. The government has failed to ask for that extension. It has no credibility.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith for her passionate advocacy on behalf of indigenous women in this context.
    I was disappointed to hear her say that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has claimed “dire unintended consequences”. I would like her to advise the House just what those consequences would be, because gender equality is a human right, as she said. One would hope that would be the number one priority. What are these dire unintended consequences? Are they real, or are they simply a smokescreen for a failure to do the right thing?
    Mr. Speaker, I share the member's frustration. We cannot think of another group within Canada that is discriminated against more than indigenous women. It is a double whammy in our system, which we really hoped this government was going to try to change.
    No one should have to have consultation on their human rights. This is not unlike the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The government has now been issued three non-compliance orders. The courts have said that indigenous kids should get the same funding and treatment as non-indigenous kids. The government in that case said it could not afford the $155-million tab to do that. The government is very willing to spend on all kinds of other areas, but that it is not willing to spend on human rights is inexplicable, and it has some explaining to do.
    Mr. Speaker, I have talked to representatives of the government. I very forcefully won amendments. I put forward amendments to restore the provisions that eliminate all gender discrimination. I do think, in fairness to the hon. minister, that there are issues. My view is that we can solve the issues.
    There is one I will mention to the hon. member. If a whole flood of new members were accepted as legitimate members of a first nation community, they would then have voting rights. Some first nations communities have a quorum that requires 25% of all those people in the nation to vote before the election is valid.
     There are ways to handle unintended consequences. Deciding to continue gender discrimination is not a way to handle an unintended consequence.

  (1850)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. The government has had years to examine these “unintended consequences”. The amendments proposed today are identical to those that the Liberals proposed while in opposition in 2010. They certainly should be aware of what the implications of their amendments were. They should stop their hypocrisy and move ahead to end gender discrimination against indigenous women.
    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The recorded division on Motion No. 2 stands deferred.
    The next question is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The recorded division on Motion No. 4 stands deferred.
    Normally at this time the House would proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill. However, pursuant to orders made on Tuesday, May 30, the divisions stand deferred until June 21, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Canada Business Corporations Act

     The House resumed from April 6 consideration of Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the debate on the previous bill. It was encouraging to hear many comments recognizing the importance of June 21, which is National Aboriginal Day. This day has been celebrated for many years. It is a celebration of Canada's indigenous culture, a very unique heritage. I look forward to celebrating tomorrow. The debate we had is a step forward. National Aboriginal Day needs to be recognized.
    Let me get to Bill C-25, an act that would amend the Canada Business Corporations Act. It is important we move forward with the bill. I would encourage all members of the House to support it.
    When we think of the corporations, over one-quarter of a million corporations in every region of our country fall under the Canada Business Corporations Act, or the CBCA,. Under that is a general framework for operations that in essence provides guidance.
    Canada carries a tremendous amount of influence well beyond our borders. When we talk about that framework for businesses or corporations in general, whether they be non-profit, for profit, co-operatives, or whatever they might be, it is important we have an opportunity to not only demonstrate strong leadership in Canada but outside of Canada as well.
    One of the things we really should spend time talking about, with respect to Bill C-25, is the opportunity for diversity, which is one of the biggest selling points for me. The bill recognizes the importance of annual general meetings, among other things, involving corporations. For me, the highlight is that we are demonstrating the benefits of Canada's diversity. When we talk about diversity, we talk not only about minorities but also of gender.
    Over the last number of decades, virtually since the creation of legislation to provide guidance, to provide that general framework, it really has not been overly successful in ensuring diversity within those thousands of corporate boards. The legislation before us would send a strong message.
     I believe that message will be well-received by all those who are responsible corporate citizens, directors on boards, and who understand the true value of diversity. We recognize that excluding individuals hurts us all. Opening doors and at the very least being aware of diversity will enhance the quality of life of all Canadians.
    When I reflect on what we have accomplished over the last number of months, one of the things I am proud of is the fact that we have a Prime Minister who has demonstrated from day one how important it is to recognize diversity. All one needs to do is to take a look at the individuals who sit around the cabinet table. I would challenge anyone to mention any previous government that has seen such great diversity in cabinet, which is gender balanced.

  (1855)  

    The Prime Minister has been fairly well recognized as a feminist Prime Minister, not only by individuals from every region of the country but other countries abroad. When I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on the bill, the aspect that really came to mind was diversity.
    In the future, the backbone of our economy will be our small businesses? The best way to advance Canada's middle class is to ensure there is a better sense of productivity, of diversity, that we all move forward together. If we are successful in doing that, we will have a healthier middle class and those aspiring to be part of it.
    Today, we find more male-dominated boards, even in ethnicity and the lack of diversification. Many corporations, and do not want to use one brush with which to paint all corporations, have recognized the value of diversity and have taken it upon themselves to act on that. Those more progressive corporations that have recognize the value of this will reap the benefits in the future.
    Let us bring it to this legislation. This issue of diversity is now being promoted in a very tangible way, and it has been done in several ways. That is why I wanted to share with members very important aspect of the legislation.
    I want to highlight some of the summaries. It is important to recognize that we are reforming some aspects of the process for electing directors of certain corporations and co-operatives. That is one of the greatest appeals of diversity. We are looking at modernizing communications between corporations and/or co-operatives and their shareholders or their members. It is important to recognize that we are clarifying that corporations and co-operatives are prohibited from issuing share certificates and warrants in bearer form. It is also important to recognize that we are requiring certain corporations to place before their shareholders, at every annual meeting, information about the diversity among directors and members of senior management.
    These are all very important aspects, changes that affect more than just the Canada marketplace framework or assist in that framework. They go beyond the Canada Business Corporations Act.
     It is important to recognize that these amendments will help increase shareholder democracy and participation. They will also increase women's participation on corporate boards and in senior management in recognition of these changes, also allowing Canada's framework laws to better reflect modern ways of doing business.
    We have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate leadership on this file, a file that touches literally well over a quarter million corporation in every region of our country. I would encourage members opposite to get behind Bill C-25. Jointly we can send a very powerful message. That message has been sent in the past, but it will be reinforced by supporting this legislation. I encourage members to vote yes.

  (1900)  

    Mr. Speaker, listening to the member opposite on this interjection, it is very hard to determine whether he meant to encourage us to support the bill based on what he called diversity. I was lost in the process on diversity whether it is a diversity of corporations or the diversity of business opportunities. He linked productivity to diversity. I would be very interested to know if the member opposite can advise us on the productivity level in Canada in comparison to other G7 countries, and whether he is satisfied with our productivity level or not. I would be very much interested in knowing where we stand in terms of productivity among similar countries.
    Mr. Speaker, maybe I could answer the question by indicating that when we think of the number of corporations and the many different boards out there, one could argue that the more there is diversity from within the board, the more we would be able to apply widgets, products, or expertise, the many different skills we have to offer not only here in Canada but also to the world.
    That is demonstrated through the fact that we are a trading nation, and the better we will all be. When the member makes reference to productivity, there is always room for improvement, but I believe Canada and Canadians do exceptionally well. We have seen that in many different industries in Canada. For now, by supporting this legislation, we are saying we believe in more transparency and accountability at the corporate board level. We believe in diversity at the corporate board level, along with our co-operatives and non-profits.

  (1905)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for giving such an interesting speech
     I think that our government’s leitmotif is evidence-based decision-making.
     My colleague raised the matter of diversity. I had the privilege of reading the study by a professor with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He fully demonstrated how important diversity is to the resilience and profitability of Canadian businesses. The more diversity there is, in terms of either a gender balance or having individuals from cultural communities, the more these businesses are profitable and resilient in the face of change.
     I wonder if my hon. colleague could expand on this.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to the minister responsible for the legislation when he brought it forward. He talked about the importance of innovation, and Canada's role with respect to that, and then tied in, as the member has done, the importance of diversity.
    I have given many speeches not only inside the House but beyond the House, and in particular, in my home province. I talk about one of the natural assets Canada has which is its connections around the world. We are a multicultural society, second to no other. If we recognize just how enriched we are with our diversity, that enables us to break down many international barriers.
    We have a strategic advantage over many other countries around the world. If we take advantage of that diversity, and see that incorporated in both private and public sectors, Canada and our middle class will do exceptionally well. When I say the middle class, it goes far beyond that. That is why I encourage members to look at the legislation, and see the bigger picture. Canada can develop strong leadership on this file.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at report stage of Bill C-25, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.
    I will tell members that we will be supporting the bill. It is a bill that essentially came from the Conservative Party in the last Parliament.
    Bill C-25 would aim to make changes to the corporate governance regime for reporting issuers incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. The CBCA is the incorporating statute for nearly 270,000 corporations. Although most of these are small or medium-sized and privately held, a large number of Canada's reporting issuers are also governed by the CBCA.
    The proposed amendments in Bill C-25 cover several key corporate governance matters: majority voting, individual voting, annual elections, notice and access, diversity-related disclosures, and shareholder proposal filing deadlines. If enacted, these changes will affect about 600 of the approximate 1,500 companies on the TSX.
    Bill C-25 is also the minister's second piece of legislation that has come straight from our previous Conservative government's 2015 budget. For those in the House not aware, I will read an excerpt from page 140 of our previous Conservative government's economic action plan 2015:
    The Government will propose amendments to the CBCA to promote gender diversity among public companies, using the widely recognized “comply or explain” model...Amendments will also be proposed to modernize director election processes and communications...strengthen corporate transparency through an explicit ban on bearer instruments...amendments to related statutes governing cooperatives and not-for-profit corporations will also be introduced.
    When it comes to modernizing corporate governance and reducing red tape, the previous Conservative government made massive strides. We believe in fostering an environment in which businesses could grow and contribute to Canada's long-term prosperity. I am pleased to see that the Liberals have moved forward with the comply or explain model. It has been proven that more diverse boards lead to better overall decision-making, better boards, better organization, and better economics.
    However, with all the hard work our previous Conservative government did on the bill, which is still being continued by the Liberals, the Liberals want to use our past legislation and call it their own. I suppose this does free up some time, which the Prime Minister has made clear is a priority for him. Hopefully, this will allow the Liberal Party to focus on what it feels is more important to Canadians, photo ops and selfies.
    Back in 2015, the Conservative Party knew that this bill needed a couple of amendments. The motion put forward by the NDP and the proposed amendments to Bill C-25 are similar to the amendments we proposed in committee, and we the Conservative Party are in support of that motion.
    In 2010, a House of Commons committee led a statutory review of Canada's federal corporate governance framework, which led to further consultation in 2014 by Industry Canada. After hearing from witnesses, the Conservative Party put forward two amendments to make the bill stronger, and like the motion put forward by the NDP, these amendments included defining the term diversity, and requested a review to take place on the diversity section after three years. Even back in 2015, these amendments were voted down by the Liberal Party. We, the official opposition, will stand with the NDP and many witnesses to the committee on the importance to define diversity in the bill.
    The NDP amendment defines diversity as:
information respecting gender representation and diversity—including in regard to colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability— among the directors and among members of senior management as defined by regulation as well as any prescribed information respecting diversity.
    For a party that claims to fight for diversity, the Liberals are not even willing to tell Canadians what they mean by the word diversity. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Well, it should.
    The second amendment, suggested by almost all witnesses, was to ensure that a review of the diversity policy would happen. The timelines varied from one to five years. As a result, the opposition agrees that a three-year review would be best. We chose this time frame, because it would allow for results to come in, and if changes were necessary, they could be made promptly. Furthermore, we took into consideration the federal election, which could cut into the review if a two-year timeline was suggested. A three-year review would occur after any upcoming election.

  (1910)  

     We recognize that businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and generating economic growth, and that strong business strategies are central to a company's success in creating and sustaining a competitive edge. Changes proposed to the Competition Act would do just that. They would reduce business uncertainty and create a competitive marketplace, and prevent anti-competitive practices. The amendments would also reduce the administrative burden on businesses.
    Modernizing the acts addressed in Bill C-25 is a welcome improvement to the federal corporate statute, and a reflection of the need to enhance the corporate governance practices in companies. With these amendments, suggested by the NDP, Bill C-25 will be Canada's next step in modernizing corporate governance.
    The official opposition will stand with the NDP and the committee witnesses to have these amendments made to Bill C-25.
    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. David de Burgh Graham): The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. David de Burgh Graham): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. David de Burgh Graham): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. David de Burgh Graham): In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. David de Burgh Graham): Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

  (1915)  

Statistics Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Statistics Act, as reported without amendment from the committee.
    There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.
Hon. Maryam Monsef (for the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development)  
     moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.
     The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.

    (Motion agreed to)

    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Maryam Monsef (for the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development)  
     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act and whose purpose is to strengthen Statistics Canada's independence.
    First, I want to speak about the census. In 2010, the government's decision to replace the mandatory long form census with the voluntary national household survey gave rise to public criticism. Concerns were raised about the quality of the national household survey data and about Statistics Canada's independence.
    In reaction to this decision, a number of private members' bills were introduced in the House that would require the collection of a mandatory long form census questionnaire of equal length and scope as the 1971 census. We gave this option serious consideration, but rather than focus on protecting only the census, we chose to amend the Statistics Act to give Statistics Canada greater independence on the full range of statistical activity. We have done this by assigning to the chief statistician authority over decisions on statistical methods and operations.
    The bill also adds transparency provisions to ensure greater accountability for decisions. This approach is aligned with the United Nations fundamental principles of official statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's recommendation on good practices. Some may still ask, why not entrench the content of the census in legislation to fully prevent future governments from replacing the mandatory long form census with a voluntary survey as was the case with the 2011 program? The simple answer is that no legal provision can prevent a government from changing census content.
    Governments have the power to make and change laws, but more importantly, we must remember that official statistics are a public good and Statistics Canada is a publicly funded institution. It is ultimately the government's responsibility to determine the scope of the statistical system, specifically, the country's data priorities, that is to say, what is collected. This responsibility ensures that the statistical information collected is sensitive to the burdens placed on citizens as respondents, that it is sensitive to the costs they bear as taxpayers, and that the information that is produced is responsive to their needs as data users.
    It must also be responsive to the government's need to make evidence-based decisions about the programs and services that affect the daily lives of Canadians such as affordable housing, public transportation, and skills training for employment. Rather than entrench the content of the long form census questionnaire in the Statistics Act, Bill C-36 addresses the fundamental issues of Statistics Canada's independence. Let me explain why.
    First, the previous government's decision about the 2011 census was not about the questions to be asked, it was about removing the mandatory requirement to respond. The voluntary national household survey, as it was called, asked the same questions as would have been asked in the planned mandatory long form questionnaire that it replaced.
    Consistent with our government's commitment to evidence-based decision-making, one of our first acts as a government was to reinstate the mandatory long form census in time for the 2016 census of population to ensure that the census produces high quality data. We committed to strengthen Statistics Canada's independence to ensure decisions about statistical methods and operations are based on professional principles. Bill C-36 meets this commitment.
    Second, entrenching census contents in law could reduce the government's flexibility to ensure that the data collected continuously meets the needs of an ever-evolving Canadian society and economy. We just have to look at the history of the content of census. It has changed numerous times to reflect emerging issues, evolving data needs, and the development of alternative ways of collecting the information.

  (1920)  

    The first national census of Canada was taken in 1871 and contained 211 questions, including age, sex, religion, education, race, occupation, and ancestral origins. Subject matters and questions have been added and dropped ever since.
    In 1931, questions on unemployment were added. In 1941, questions on fertility and housing were introduced. In 1986, questions were introduced on activity limitations. In 1991, questions about common-law relationships were introduced, and questions on same-sex couples were added in 2006. In 1996, questions on unpaid work were introduced. These were removed in 2011.
    These examples signal the need for flexibility and prioritization in determining the content of a census. Entrenching census content in legislation would limit this flexibility. Amending the act every time the census needs to change would be highly impractical. Our current approach to determining census content works. It is based on extensive user consultations and the testing of potential questions to reflect the changing needs of society and to ensure the census is the appropriate vehicle to respond to them. Then Statistics Canada makes a recommendation to the government on the content that should be included in the upcoming census. General questions are then prescribed by order by the Governor in Council and published in the Canada Gazette for transparency purposes.
    Defining the long form census content in law could potentially reduce the incentives to find alternative means to gathering census information at a lower cost and respondent burden. Statistical agencies must also think about the burden they impose on citizens and businesses to provide information, and they must do so within the fiscal resources allocated by the government.
    The data world is evolving rapidly. We read and hear the words “big data”, “open data”, and “administrative data” every day. Increasingly, statistical offices around the world are integrating these alternative and complementary sources of information into their statistical programs. They offer the potential to collect and publish high quality statistical information more frequently, at lower cost, and at lower response burden.
    For example, for the 2016 census, Statistics Canada obtained detailed income information for all census respondents from administrative records provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. This approach will ensure that higher quality income data will be produced at a lower cost and with reduced burden on Canadians.
    Entrenching the scope and content of the census in the Statistics Act may not serve Canadians well moving forward. It would tie us to one way of doing business that may not be the way of the future. The act should remain flexible to the evolving data needs of Canadians and their governments. It should retain the flexibility to encourage innovation to take advantage of the evolving means of collecting statistical information.
    Some have suggested that the census content should be the same as it was over 40 years ago and that the sample size for the long form should be entrenched in law. The rapidly evolving world of data suggests that we should retain the flexibility to build the foundation of a statistical system of the future, rather than restricting ourselves to continue to do what has been done in the past. We think our approach to Bill C-36 strikes the right balance and will stand the test of time.
    In the time that remains, let me talk about the basic structure of Bill C-36 in terms of the independence of the chief statistical officer.

  (1925)  

    What we hope to do first of all is subject the appointment of the chief statistician to the Governor in Council process, which is open and transparent, in order to ensure that the best candidate for the office of chief statistician is found and selected according to that process.
    Second, the underlying philosophy of the act is that questions of methodology in terms of statistical gathering, finding the best means, or using the best statistical techniques to gather information will be left to Statistics Canada, to the chief statistician and his or her team as it is described in the act.
    Because we do have a Westminster parliamentary system in which ministerial accountability is one of the foundational or bedrock principles of the act, any political decisions that need to be made for political reasons, perhaps under exceptional circumstances where a governing party feels it needs a certain kind of information, will have to be made transparently in front of this House.
    We are creating a great deal of independence and giving it to the office of chief statistician precisely so that person can go on and gather data in the best possible method, as he or she sees fit for professional reasons, yet we are still working in harmony with a Westminster political system, one that has worked well so far, indeed, one that, up until 2011, allowed for Statistics Canada to have a very good reputation internationally among other statistical agencies around the world.
    That is the basic underlying philosophy of the act. I would be happy to answers questions if there were any.

  (1930)  

    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-25 and Bill C-36 were both studied at the INDU committee. We had extensive conversations about the composition of boards, in both cases, trying to reflect diversity of background, thought, and gender. Having an independent board for Bill C-36 following the regulations that we are lining out on C-25 could really help us with our working with statistics in Canada.
    Can the member expand on that if he agrees with me?
    Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that the chief statistician will have access to a number of different consultative boards across the country, totalling well over 100 people, ensuring a great deal of consultative potential from across the country, fulfilling a variety of different needs. There will also be an advisory committee, envisaged as part of the act, that will allow for the professional expertise of other statistical experts in the community. That will allow the chief statistician to make the best possible statistical decisions.
    Mr. Speaker, my question is simple. We had two chief statisticians resign their positions. Why was it that the government was unable to find any amendments to this legislation despite the fact that we had testimony for amendments? Why is there no amended legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his work on the committee, in particular his ability to ask difficult, valid questions that force the process to go forward.
    Both of those former chief statisticians were consulted in the gestation period of this legislation. They both appeared before the committee. Some of the things they had originally suggested found their way into the legislation. Some of the things they had suggested did not find their way into the legislation. At the end of the day, we feel we have found the appropriate balance moving forward with the appropriate piece of legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the advantages of the new legislation is the defined term of office for the chief statistician.
    Would the Parliamentary Secretary be kind enough to inform the House as to what the changes were, and the process? I know he explained a little about the process of how the appointment of the chief statistician will be subject to the Governor in Council process, which allows it to be open and transparent, but could he talk about the terms of the new five- to seven-year terms that the chief statistician will be allowed to have?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his work on this committee. He was my predecessor as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. I know he did a great deal of work on this file.
    To answer the question, the underlying philosophy is that we have given the chief statistician a fixed term in order to protect his or her independence. Effectively, that person will not be able to be removed except for cause. It is a way of saying to the chief statistician that he cannot be removed for doing his job and cannot be removed for making the kinds of professional decisions we ask him to make, even if we disagree with him. We think that is an important measure, particularly in contrast to past procedures, such as the experience in the run-up to the 2011 census, in which the chief statistician was very much at odds with the government.

  (1935)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the comments that my hon. colleague made with regard to that unassailability, that protection of independence, we had a recommendation from the National Statistics Council that we frame the importance of the independence of StatsCan and its unassailability and put that into a preamble.
    Given the previous words by my hon. colleague, why would we not put that into a preamble to ensure that Canadians understand its importance and how essential it is to guarantee the independence of the organization?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed there were a variety of different opinions expressed, but particularly that opinion was expressed in committee hearings during the course of deliberations on the bill.
    Ultimately the answer boils down to trying to balance a Westminster political system—which we have, and which is ultimately based on the principle of ministerial responsibility, with Statistics Canada falling under the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development—with the principle of trying to maintain the independence of the chief statistical officer and Statistics Canada.
    We felt that a preamble might alter that balance. We will work it through. Generally, we have had in Canada a good experience, with a few major and relatively recent exceptions, of statistical independence in Canada. We want to get back to that, and enshrine it and protect it with the legislation we have.
    Mr. Speaker, within the legislation, we are taking a look at getting rid of the idea that people could go to jail for not filling out forms, even though, I believe, in history it has happened maybe once, on one occasion.
    We talk a lot about the chief statistician and the important changes that have been made there. It is also important to emphasize that there are other relatively minor changes, some that most people would be surprised about, such as getting rid of the clause that allows for someone to go to jail for not filling out the form.
    Could my colleague share his thoughts with me in regard to that clause being deleted?
    Mr. Speaker, that provision of potentially sending people to go to jail for not filling out the form was a major bone of contention. I think we have moved to a new understanding of the importance of statistical information and the importance of the data that gets gathered in the census.
    In the 2016 census we were not threatening any kind of jail time for not participating, and the participation rate was phenomenally high. I think society generally understands the importance of statistical data. We do not need that kind of provision in order to get the buy-in for people to participate in the census. We have moved to a different point.
    Mr. Speaker, why is there a need to replace one advisory body with another? What was wrong? It is not clear at all in the government's talking points or rationale what was wrong with the advisory body that existed before.

  (1940)  

    Mr. Speaker, the reports we had about that advisory body were that it was quite uneven. Participation rates varied. Some members took it very seriously and some members did not take it very seriously.
    There are two things to note. First of all, we have made the committee smaller, but we have focused on expertise with respect to that committee. As well, there are a number of other committees, as I mentioned during the course of my remarks. There are a number of other committees, and the chief statistician has access to many other consultative bodies across Canada in order to get the diversity of opinion necessary to have a good statistical background.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to a piece of legislation on an issue for which I have been flooded with correspondence from constituents. This is something that resonates for Canadians.
    I want to pick up on something my colleague just said. He said the best thing about the bill is that it has helped him learn how to pronounce the word “statistician”. I agree that this might be the only good thing about the bill. There are many things about the bill that are much worse, and it may be that the parliamentary secretary is finally coming around to the opposition's perspective on this bill. Hopefully, by the end of my remarks we will have sealed the deal in getting the government to realize the problems and, having benefited from the pronunciation exercise associated with the debate, agreeing with us in voting down this legislation.
    Before I get into more detail, I want to pick up on the parliamentary secretary's response to my question. One of the provisions of the bill is that it would establish the Canadian statistics advisory council, which would replace the National Statistics Council. One might infer from the names that they are not that different from each other, and one would be correct. One has 13 members and the other 10 members, but when we do away with one council and replace it with another, that is a great opportunity to appoint 10 entirely new people, as if we would not notice in the opposition what is going on in that respect.
    To get some clarification, I have to ask my friend across the way what could possibly motivate this legislative change, which effectively allows the government to do away with the existing council and then appoint 10 new good Liberals—I mean, good, qualified appointees—to this panel.
    His response is quite revealing in its lack of detail. He tells us participation rates were uneven. Essentially, they did not think people on the council were as good as they could have been, so they have to completely change things so they can appoint a new council. Of course, we will be watching to see the extent to which the government uses this tactic. I really hope that none of the people on this new statistics advisory council were involved in developing the instrument for the government's electoral reform consultation.
    There are some real problems with the government's approach to appointments in general and, I would argue, more broadly with its approach to statistics and how it considers science and information on a variety of issues, so I am going to take this opportunity to talk a bit about that as well as to talk about some of the specific provisions in this legislation.
    The bill is partly seen by the government as an opportunity to try to push an important political message, which is that it really wants to associate its brand with evidence-based policy. We hear this rhetoric out of the government a lot. I think I speak for the entire official opposition in saying that we believe in evidence-based policy. We believe in data-driven decision making. For us, it is not just a slogan.
    The member for Spadina—Fort York is heckling me again. I am sure he is preparing a great question about Ayn Rand again, which he is able to relate to all subjects in this place. I look forward to those comments, based on the member's extensive reading of that author.
    If I could get back to my comments, for us as Conservatives, evidence-based decision-making is not just a slogan. It is not just something we want to put in the window. We actually look at the evidence and the details and we apply that information across a range of issues. If we look at the approach the government has taken across a range of files, we will see its total lack of regard for the evidence.
    I will cite a few examples, because we have seen and debated examples in the House of the government not being interested in looking at science. The most obvious example of its complete disregard for evidence when it comes to policy-making is its approach to pipeline approval.

  (1945)  

    On this side of the House we believe that there is an independent process for pipeline review. There is an independent body, the National Energy Board, that collects data, conducts hearings in a reasonable time frame, and provides a report back. By and large, when the government gets a report from an independent consultative body like that, it should be listening. This actually accords with the rhetorical approach of the government.
    An independent body is providing advice based on science. What is not to like? However, members of the government actually do not like that very much because, when it comes to pipeline approvals, they want to preserve the ability for the government or the cabinet—and they have clearly shown an intention to use that ability—to reject approvals that are made by independent, impartial, science-based decision-makers at the National Energy Board.
    We have seen this anti-science approach when it comes to the northern gateway pipeline, an important pipeline project that would have provided market access for our energy resources, which was approved by the NEB with conditions. It was then approved by the previous government with conditions, and now we have a new government not only rejecting that but bringing in legislation to not allow tanker traffic out of northern B.C.
    We know in that context that there is a great deal of tanker traffic off the coast of B.C. coming from Alaska. We have every reason to believe it is going to increase, and yet we have this unscientific—anti-science, in fact—decision by the government members. They are motivated by a political calculus that ignores the actual reality.
    When we have the government coming forward with legislation, when the Liberals talk about the importance of science-based decision-making and of statistics, it is important to pose this question. Why are they not listening to the clear evidence when it comes to pipeline approval? Why are they not listening to that evidence?
    I can give another example, and this is probably the clearest example of the government's disregard for good statistical methods. That was the Liberals' approach on the issue of changes to the electoral system. There was a process in place whereby a parliamentary committee representing all members of Parliament came back with some good recommendations about how the government could proceed with the implementation of something that was actually an election commitment. That reflected the fact that many Canadians had input into the committee process. Generally speaking, parliamentary committees only hear from experts. I do not think the committee did any sort of explicitly quantitative work, but it did a great deal of qualitative work gathering opinions of Canadians and hearing those perspectives. It came back with a recommendation that a referendum be done with respect to possible different electoral systems.
    After that, because the government members did not like the result of what was a good process for engaging and consulting Canadians, they decided to come up with their own process, which was obviously from a statistical perspective highly suspect. It was to have an online consultation that gets people's feelings about things that might have some kind of approximate relationship to questions around electoral systems, but not actually ask the direct obvious questions. We could not ask people if they favour a system that is more proportionate or less proportionate, has certain kinds of possible outcomes, etc. It was generally about feelings and sentiment-based calculations, and through that process, the government decided it would not proceed with it.
    This was an attempt, given that the first analysis of public perspectives did not seem to produce the results the Liberals wanted, to reorganize and contort and manipulate the mechanism of consultation to not ask explicit questions but instead to contort the process to try to ensure they had the result they wanted and in the end to justify a political decision, which at that point had probably already been made, which was to back away. This is another case where we see a real disregard for the process of science, of gathering evidence, of consulting with Canadians.
    I should also mention that we have the government's disregard for the science when it comes to the risks associated with marijuana use, and we have the Liberals' decision to bring forward legislation to legalize marijuana in spite of the clear risks to young people, as I said, choosing an age that does not at all reflect the science.

  (1950)  

    The Liberals have been criticized by all kinds of experts for setting the age at 18, for example. There is a great deal of evidence that, even if we were going to legalize it, we should recognize that there are substantial risks and scientifically demonstrated associations between early use of marijuana, even relatively occasional use, and mental health challenges later in life.
    That evidence exists, yet in spite of good advice from experts on this issue, the government again has shown that it does not take evidence-based policy-making seriously when it comes to pipelines, electoral reform, and now in this case, the issue of marijuana. We have a government that does not look at or listen to the evidence. Instead, it wants to try to twist and contort how it presents statistical information in a way that is based on a predetermined, preset political agenda. This might satisfy the Liberals' political calculus, but it does not accord with the kinds of principles, the kind of lofty objectives they frequently talk about.
    By the way, every time we have a debate about science in the House, it is interesting to see the way the Liberals try to politicize the issues. I remember a case during question period where we had a member who has spent decades working as a scientist asking the Minister of Science a question. The minister said that it was good to see the member finally taking an interest in science. In fact, it was the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who has a long history of working and being involved in scientific development. It shows the very political lens through which the government views this.
    Therefore, it is with that in mind, with the level of concern about the way the government uses these words and about its actual record when it comes to evidence-based decision-making, that we approach this legislation. It is legislation that contains a number of elements that raise big questions about what is actually going on and what the government is trying to do.
    I spoke earlier, and I want to develop this point a little more, about a specific provision in the bill, which is this new council that the Liberals want to set up. The bill would establish a Canadian statistics advisory council, which would replace the National Statistics Council. I am sure what we are going to hear, and maybe members have already said this, is that there will be an open process for applications, anybody can apply, they will be evaluated dispassionately based on fair and neutral criteria, and they will come to the conclusion that in fact reveals that, well, the best people were former Liberal Party donors, cabinet ministers, or something like that.
    The government's record with respect to appointments all the way along is very spotty. There are major questions out there about how the government actually comes to its appointment decisions. I think there are a number of examples that we could talk about that are fairly obvious. For instance, we had the government promising an independent process with respect to senators, and yet, strikingly, the senators that the government appointed are very much voting with government. How could that be? It is almost as if there was a political lens applied to those appointments. Just because the Liberals say something does not make it true. If we look at the evidence, the voting records of those appointed suggests certainly that this is not a dispassionate calculus based on some politically neutral criteria at all. They are trying to send that message even though it does not accord with the reality.
    Of course, there is the fiasco in this place around the appointment of a new Commissioner of Official Languages. We had different messages given by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and by a witness at committee—I think the Commissioner of Official Languages appointee herself—saying essentially different things about the conversations that took place in the lead-up to the decision around that appointment. We had repeated questions for the Minister of Canadian Heritage about what conversations were had and how those decisions were made. In the end, it was always a deflection rather than a direct response to the question about that appointment.
     However, the reality is that we had a provincial Liberal cabinet minister who the government intended to put in the position, which is a very important office and supposed to be an independent officer of Parliament. Obviously, that person took a step back when it was clear this was not something that was going to be accepted. However, it was not inevitable that would happen, and the government's consistent defence of that appointment decision obviously raises real red flags when we look at the fact that the Liberals are bringing forward legislation that would allow them to entirely reappoint this statistics advisory body.

  (1955)  

    With all these different appointment issues in the mix, this leads up to what is one critical position, the Ethics Commissioner. The Prime Minister has recused himself, supposedly, from being involved in the appointment of the Ethics Commissioner. However, he has given that power over to the government House leader, someone who clearly serves at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. It is hard to imagine that there would not be some kind of a conversation that would take place, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, especially given that there may have been conversations that took place around the Commissioner of Official Languages, and yet we had different things said in different places, by different people who were supposed to be part of that conversation, about what conversations actually did and did not take place.
    There is a huge credibility problem with the government when it comes down to who it is putting in place for these appointments. When we look at a bill like this, it is worth asking who is actually going to be involved in the appointments. How can the opposition, as we look at this legislation, have any kind of certainty that, as the government gets rid of one body on the basis of what the parliamentary secretary called “participation rates” being uneven, we will see something quite different, and that we will see a body that will actually, in effect, increase the government's control of it.
    The government can talk about independent bodies, groups, and agencies and oversight mechanisms all it wants, but then we have to look at how those are formed, who is putting them in place, and who is appointing those people to those positions. If we do not have confidence that the government is actually looking at merit, if it is clear, based on the past track record of the government, and I think it is, that it is only making these appointments or predominantly making these appointments on the basis of partisan criteria, then we cannot, at all, have confidence in the way in which that decision is going to unfold.
    I do want to make an additional point with respect to this legislation, and that is that this legislation does not directly affect whether we have a mandatory long form census. We currently have a mandatory long form census, and that will not be changed either way with respect to this legislation. It is not necessary to pass it in order to achieve what clearly is a stated objective of the government, which is to have that mandatory long form census in place.
    Other provisions of this bill are evident but are not really the ones I have chosen to dwell on in my speech, but I do want to draw the attention of members to them nonetheless. The bill involves the appointment of a chief statistician during “good behaviour” for a fixed renewable term of five years. It does mean that once a chief statistician is in place, it is at least much more difficult for the government to remove that individual. It also, of course, brings us back to this question of how we can actually trust the government to make credible appointments, if we consider the track record of the government when it comes to those appointments.
    The legislation also says that the minister will no longer be able to issue directives on methods, procedures, and operations. The minister will still be able to issue directives on sort of a broad scope of statistical programs, but it will no longer be up to him or her to dictate methods, procedures, and operations.
    I have to say I do think the government has a very poor track record when it comes to determining statistical methods, if we judge from the way it organized consultations on the issue of changes to the electoral system. I certainly would not want to see the government manipulating those dynamics around statistical methods and operations. Again, we have observed what the likely problems would be if it were trying to essentially do the same thing that it has already done with regard to other statistical issues, and that is shape the way in which those consultations took place in order to achieve a particular outcome. The broad problem is still there, given the remaining authority and given the issue of appointments.

  (2000)  

    To summarize very quickly, the main problems that I brought attention to in the legislation are this.
     First, we have seen the government's clear lack of willingness to take evidence-based decision-making beyond a slogan. It is clearly a slogan it repeats over and over. However, from the way in which it makes decisions, there is no evidence it is something it considers.
    There is also the issue of the lack of credibility the government has with respect to appointments and the way in which those always seem to reflect a partisan criteria.
    On that basis, we will be opposing the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks of the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. The lack of real understanding of what happened in the appointments process was almost dizzying. I really cannot imagine anybody from the Conservative Party of Canada talking about appointments and credibility in the same sentence. It is amazing.
    Being from Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, you would understand that if we were to do some research with respect to Peter MacKay's wedding party, we would find not one person in that wedding party who had not been appointed to a position by the previous government. They were all Conservatives and all lacked credibility in those positions.
    Does the member not think that the process set up by the current Prime Minister was to make it open and transparent and to ensure there was credibility and understanding with respect to the issues with which the Liberals would deal in regard to the Prime Minister's appointments? This is all about making good appointments. That party over there has absolutely no credibility when it comes to talking about appointments and credibility in the same sentence. Would he not agree?
    Before the member agrees or otherwise, I just want to remind members of this. I appreciate and realize that some of the commentary is in good humour. However, I would ask members to try to keep it down to a reasonable level.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with you. There was some good humour from the member across the way. I was expecting a question from my friend from Spadina—Fort York. However, the member for Malpeque certainly gave him a run for his money in the nature of that question.
    Usually, this type of question shows the way in which the government is always trying to apply a very partisan filter when it comes to the way it does things. It thinks that the only people who should be appointed to these bodies are Liberals. That is clear from its record of appointments to a range of different bodies.
     There is something the current government is doing that the previous government did not do. It will tear up a body and create, effectively, an identical body, with a smaller number of members. We know the government will then be able to make its appointments without the proper continuity in place, which we would have if we preserved the existing body.
     Therefore, I encourage the member to take off his rose-coloured glasses when he looks at the actions of the government. We have already seen his leadership criticizing the House leader on her approach to the Standing Orders. If the member for Malpeque digs a little deeper into this, he will be able to show similar leadership and challenge the government on this issue.

  (2005)  

    Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan's effort to present the Conservatives as the true defenders of evidence-based policy.
     It is possible that the legislation we are debating this evening was motivated by the recent resignation of the chief statistician. However, the last time a chief statistician resigned was under the former Conservative government in response to its decision to eliminate the mandatory long form census.
     Therefore, could the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan educate us as to how eliminating the mandatory long form census supported the commitment of the Conservatives to evidence-based policy?
    Mr. Speaker, I know my friends from the NDP have a great interest in trying to convince the public that there is no real difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. If we ever had an NDP government in place, there would be a lot more than the chief statistician resigning.
    It is fairly clear, looking at the track record and going back to my comments, that the government does not have respect for evidence-based decision-making. It has done a very poor job in applying the evidence that exists across a range of policy areas. It is trying to use the power that it has through legislation to control the appointment process and to reappoint people. That is what it is doing and that is what Conservatives are objecting to in our opposition of the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, as a former member of city council who had to endure the Ford brothers and listen to probably two of the smartest Conservatives who have ever had to speak about any issue, talk about facts and evidence, we often said in Toronto that when those two very proud members of the Conservative Party spoke, that—
    Just call it the centre of the universe.
    The centre of intellectual Toryism, Mr. Speaker.
    They never wanted the facts. What they wanted was the anecdotal evidence. What we just had was a long presentation of anecdotal evidence, which has no bearing in reality whatsoever.
    I did not hear the member opposite even talk about what was in the bill. He talked about virtually every other thing under the sun, except for the bill with any great sort of specific analysis.
     One reason we need the long form census and we need to start gathering statistics and evidence so governments can make decisions is precisely because the previous government's editing and destruction of the census process left major cities in a very difficult situation. The City of Toronto was suing the federal government because there was no process to count people who lived in high-rise buildings. In fact, it left high-rise buildings out of the equation.
    In the riding I represent, three-quarters of which is high-rise and condominiums in the downtown core of Toronto, people were not even asked to be counted, let alone enrolled in the census process. As a result of that, federal programs, largely dispensed on a per capita basis, left huge swaths of our country unaccounted for in the calculations and therefore unfunded with respect to the acquisition of infrastructure money and social service dollars that would be delivered to a major city. The short-form census had a devastating impact on equality in the country.
    Do you support a long form census, do you support accurate gathering of information, and if you do, why are you not supporting this bill?
    I hope the hon. parliamentary secretary is not asking if the Speaker does any of those things. I think he knows that when one uses the word “you” around here, one is referring to the Speaker. I would invite the member to remember to direct his comments to the Chair.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the centre for intellectual liberalism for his question. He mentioned he cut his teeth in politics in Toronto with the Ford brothers. Their pedagogic influence is very clear.
    The member said that I did not speak to the bill and then proceeded to ask a question that showed he did not really know the detail of the bill himself. We currently have a mandatory long form census. Of course, the Conservative government never proposed to do away with the long form census. While encouraging people to fill it out, we did not make it mandatory. However, the Liberals made the census mandatory again. The bill would not in any way change that reality.
    I have spoken specifically about the provisions of the bill, changing the way in which the chief statistician is appointed, changing the powers the minister has with respect to statistical programs and procedures, and, yes, the abolition of the Canadian Statistics Advisory Council, replacing it with the national statistics council. The member's “the sky is falling” act is a little rich, but beyond that, it does not speak even to the details of the bill.

  (2010)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and friend, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, for his excellent understanding of the bill and the facts and stats before us today.
    The rhetoric from the Liberal Party is often its commitment to statistics and evidence. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan referenced Bill C-45, which is the marijuana legislation. We know there is a lot of evidence and statistics that surround that legislation, which seems to have been completely disregarded when we look at the evidence from the medical community and its recommendations for proper age limits.
    We also know other jurisdictions that have legalized the use of marijuana have experienced up to a 100% increase in traffic fatalities. Every year, 1,000 Canadians die due to traffic fatalities in Canada. It seems to me that will double with the proposed legislation. Why would the Liberal government—
    Unfortunately, the question was a little longer than we had time for.
    A very short answer from the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, there are two clear ways in which the marijuana legislation ignores the science.
     First, it ignores the science around detection while driving. There is the presumption in the legislation that testing for impairment due to marijuana is, from a scientific perspective, as easy as testing for impairment due to alcohol. There is a fundamental difference in substances. One is fat soluble and one is water soluble, which means the mechanism for testing is much more complex and not yet established in the case of marijuana compared to alcohol.
    The other thing, with respect to the science of marijuana, is the impact to young people, the risks, and where the age should be. I spoke about that again. Hopefully we will see improvements when it comes to committee.
     Again, the initial drafting of legislation is another case where the government does not respect the science.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-36 with regard to the census. One thing we can be clear about in the debate on this legislation is it is critically important how we spend taxpayers' money. That is central to the census itself. It is no laughing matter, especially when we look at some of the people involved.
    Shame on both the Liberals and Conservatives for their actions in regard to former chief statisticians. It needs to be identified as quite a serious situation. Munir Sheikh resigned under the Conservatives and Wayne Smith resigned under the Liberals. These are key resignations. These are chief statisticians who are respected across the planet. They were seen to have had their integrity compromised by being senior bureaucrats in an administration. They ended up being whistle-blowers. We know not just domestically but across the globe, whistle-blowers often become martyrs. They often become targets. They and their families are often affected for going public with something where they compromised their own personal well-being versus that of the state or the job they do. That is what took place with our chief statisticians.
    It is important to remember who they are. Munir Sheikh, for example, was a Canadian immigrant from Pakistan who later on became a doctor of economics and worked in the Department of Finance for many years as a deputy minister, later becoming a chief statistician, and resigning from his position at Stats Canada. That was the first time I had seen a resignation like that in the 15 plus years I have been here. I had never witnessed someone take on the administration like that. That came about because of a number of things related to Stats Canada and how it was treated and valued.
    Therefore, it is important to review what is so important about the Statistics Act and why it is so important for Canadians. A chief statistician is responsible for the overall act and the administration of it. The issues they monitor across the country are where, at the end of the day, taxpayers' money is spent. It is about income. It is about the labour market. It is education, housing, transportation, languages, persons with disabilities, citizenship, immigration, aboriginal peoples, and ethnicity. They even determine where to place a fire hall for municipalities. There was discussion today about high-rise buildings. We have seen tragedies with high-rise buildings, most recently in London. However, we have the necessary data accumulation on municipalities to do the proper planning for allocating resources, because Statistics Canada knows where the populations are. If we do not have that information, we not only could knowingly set ourselves up for failure but we could unwittingly do so, because we do not have that information.
     It is similar with economic growth. The latest census of 2016 shows 35% of Canada's population now resides in the Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal areas. That is a significant concentration of human population for such a geographic mass as Canada. That also makes it very important for us to attract investment and innovation for other areas. The more vulnerable communities, related to not having proper statistical information, are smaller communities and smaller pockets of population. It is how housing is decided. I mentioned fire halls for municipal service. There is all of that, and even affordable housing and the cost of housing, which actually translates into economic development, where businesses decide where and what type of business they should grow here in Canada.

  (2015)  

    When I came here, I had previously worked as an employment counsellor for persons with disabilities and youth at risk and I was a city councillor in Windsor West where I represented one of the great parliamentarians for 39 years, the deputy prime minister at the time, the right hon. Herb Gray. As a city councillor, my area that he represented was pegged to be part of what is called the complete count. In Windsor West there were many new immigrants and we had a lot of issues related to language and culture, so our statistical returns related to the census were lower.
    That meant that we were missing out on valuable data necessary for Mr. Gray to advocate for housing, language services, a series of things that were necessary for the production, value, and contribution of the citizens of that area because of the challenges. Because we had English as a second language growing as a concern, at around a 50% return rate for our census, we were missing out on those opportunities. We also had people who wanted to participate, wanted to do better things, but they could not.
     We were one of four areas across the country, at that time, of the 301 ridings federally that did a door-to-door campaign to help people get enumerated for the census. There is a litany of reasons why that is important, but it affects the funding and the contributions. If we are coming from a community that does not have those things, as identified, it is hard to advocate for that.
    It is not just about government services, it is also about businesses. Businesses use this information from labour market surveys not only to identify customer populations, but also to identify concerns about shortages of workers with certain skill sets. The information in the census is used to identify that for investment. One of the number one things we hear to this day is the fact that we are going to be short certain types of workers, whether it be engineers or mechanical workers, and not having the people to staff in those regions and not preparing other populations to either get that skill set, or having to import that labour versus educating Canadians and invest in education to do so. That affects a multitude of things and diminishes our middle class.
     We did that in Windsor West. Later on as a representative of Windsor West in this chamber, I understood quite clearly the value of a clean statistical database for advocating for my community and also for this country. I became very intimate with how it works. About 50% of persons with disabilities are not working in Canada. Many have given up and are not in the system. l was part of a group that was able to include more persons with disabilities. I want to note that the good work of the public servants in helping access jobs for persons with disabilities during that time was critical. I am still grateful today because I know some people are still working and can use the job to get something else.
    Ivan Fellegi, a chief statistician at that time, was under pressure to privatize our census. England, for example, had outsourced the collection of data to different third parties and Canada was outsourcing its census to Lockheed Martin. A campaign I was part of looked to protect Canadians' data from Lockheed Martin because many people had ethical concerns about Lockheed Martin collecting our data. It was an arms manufacturer predominantly based in the United States that produced weapons which were banned under Canadian law like cluster munitions and so on. It was collecting our data and not only that, it would store and implement the data. At that time, the U.S. went through the implementation of the Patriot Act. We discovered it was going to assemble this data outsourced from Canada in the United States.

  (2020)  

    Why that is important is because once the Patriot Act was implemented, the hard reality was that all our census data, personal and private information we thought was protected, was now susceptible to the United States. Under the Patriot Act, the way it worked at that time, and most of which still exists in this format today, is that if a court order was issued for information, the company could not tell the actual proprietor of that information that the information was actually being usurped and used by the American government.
    It would have been against the law for Lockheed Martin to disclose to Canada that the information it gathered in Canada would be used. Credit card companies and others have faced some scrutiny since then. The Privacy Commissioner has piped in. From British Columbia, and other areas, there is quite a record on this. We fought quite hard to get that information to stay in Canada, which we were able to do.
    Getting past that, we continued to have a fairly stable census, until the Conservatives came into power and created the voluntary national household survey. It was put out there as a cost-cutting measure, in many respects, and also as privacy protection for Canadians. Not having the bully of government telling people they have to disclose information or they were going to kick in doors, make people fill in the census form, or send them off to jail.
    I remember the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka getting up a number of times in the chamber, talking about people being intimidated. The jail aspect was certainly the heightened element that received media attention from many facets for many months, more than a year. To this day, it is still one of the more laughable things ever pronounced by a minister in the history of Canada: that people were going to be locked up and have the key thrown away for not completing their census. The essence of it was really a side distraction, which worked.
    The national household survey came back with around a 26% response rate. That 26% response rate meant that our statistics, which had been the envy of many industrialized worlds, were now a diminished response. We lost a significant portion of the reliability of that data to make decisions on income, labour market, education, housing, transportation, languages, disabilities, citizenship, immigration, aboriginal people, and ethnicity. All the intel on those things went down to 26%.
    The other interesting thing about that is that it cost us an additional $22 million. We received a quarter of the results, paid an additional $22 million, and then it became very worthless in many respects. This is more the technical aspect of it that some people may not care for, but it is important. Think of the centrepiece of our census as a backstop for other labour market surveys, whether it be polling, labour market agriculture, labour market related to industrial development, or labour market for investment. All those different things would be targeted in smaller surveys, but the overall sample of the statistical census would provide some of the best statistical information. Poof, that was gone. All that continuum we had was basically disrupted by that introduction.
    That is when Munir Sheikh, and I discussed some of his qualifications as an economist and a deputy at the Department of Finance for many years, resigned. He resigned because he could no longer do his job.
    We pressed for changes and then the Liberals and opposition agreed with changes as well. I tabled a member's bill, as did a couple of other members, to restore the independence. This bill would do some of that. It would provide some of those elements, but it would not go far enough.

  (2025)  

    Wayne Smith, the latest chief statistician in terms of Service Canada, resigned because of that. He resigned because Service Canada has become a large, encompassing agency for intelligence and support services. The problem it has is that much of our census information that is used now has to flow into this information of shared services, creating an independence issue about the data falling in there, then getting data back and the use of it. This created quite a problem, and Wayne Smith has now resigned.
    We now have the bill which will make Statistics Canada somewhat independent. I say somewhat independent, because overall it does fulfill the things I described in the first part of my speech relating to information gathering, creating the lineal information necessary for statistical information use, the gathering, and how it restores those elements. That is critically important.
    We are very grateful we will have that, but it does not actually go the full nine yards, so right now we still have a situation where the minister can still make political decisions about the questions that are asked in the census. It still takes away from the scientific approach we would like to have, and the independence, because we do pay, and we do actually ask someone to come into this position. It is very much a sought after career position to have. If it is independent, we get some of the best in the world. We will still have the minister's control over that, so I worry about the fact we could have some politicization of it.
    It has been mentioned, and there has been banter back and forth between the Conservatives and Liberals about patronage and the appointment process, but it is a serious thing to consider. We are just dealing in my neck of the woods right now, a patronage appointment, the Gordie Howe Bridge, and Dwight Duncan becoming quite controversial, because there is a partisanship past appointment and there are partisanship attacks, including Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the American administration, and so forth. I get the seriousness of that, and what is at stake there, but what I am worried about is, what happens next time? Now that this is enshrined in law, it becomes very difficult for us to get that independence.
    The Statistics Canada Department is one of 42 agencies that are supposed to be at arm's length from the government, but unfortunately, with this legislation, it is still within choking distance. Yes, it is at arm's length, but a choking distance away. I am concerned about the fact we will not see that happening. Wayne Smith identified some of those issues and concerns.
    We will eliminate the jail time. It will be completely eliminated, so it can no longer be a distraction, and in the future there will be no ability for the minister to say something that would make people run, or think about something different from what the real serious issue is, which is actually the increased cost, or the change of the census, which is important. There will also still be 92 years of census information before it goes public.
     In his testimony, Wayne Smith said that Bill C-36 moves the Statistics Act substantially in the right direction, creates no new problems, but fails to fully address independence, the need for full quinquennials, mandatory census of population, or the modernization of the legislation to build a statistical system adapted to the rapidly evolving needs and challenges of the 21st century. He concluded that there is still work to be done. We proposed some amendments given to us in committee by Mr. Smith and others, but they were not taken into consideration.
    We will be supporting this. It is a good step forward, but it is a missed opportunity. We get to hit a double instead of a home run out of this one, so we will take it. We advance the case, and most important, Canadians and the use of our money will be better off served with data that is reliable than not.

  (2030)  

     Mr. Speaker, the member's intervention tonight brings me back to many discussions we had at the industry committee. I always value what he brings, in terms of passion and anecdotes. It is better than the humour and irony we were hearing earlier. The Conservative member could not have been serious with most of what he was saying about the previous Conservative government being good at statistics.
    Statistics were being used as policy-based evidence, and we are moving toward evidence-based policy, I hope, with this legislation. We looked at how to determine the process to have statistics independent. We talked about the United Nations at our committee, and how it was writing principles that the OECD had adopted, so that we could do report cards nation to nation and know that we are operating under some similar principles of independence.
    Professional independence in Canada was always a matter of convention instead of a matter of law. We are trying to move toward having independence as a matter of law, and we had some great conversations at the INDU committee about how we could that. Munir Sheikh was a great witness we heard from. He had resigned seven years ago over political interference in statistics. He was trying to be independent, but he found a lot of political interference.
    When we are looking at the Westminster system, ministerial control has to go through the House of Commons. Major changes to census questions, or other critical questions have to go through the House. Would the member comment on where we stand with the Westminster system in this policy?
     Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Guelph for his contribution at committee. We actually have a well functioning committee, in many respects. When we look at this legislation, there were several meetings, and members agreed to it. His question is quite important, actually, because he does mention something I never did. He brought it up several times at committee, and it is the issue of the OECD and its level of standards.
     Where we differentiate between New Democrats and Liberals is that the OECD's statement, that the former chief statistician said we should have as part of our preamble, creates a bit of a standardization or improvement to the Westminster system for accountability. He is correct, though. It is reportable to Parliament, via the minister, and the committee does have oversight. It is not that it has no control, but we have to make the political movement to get it here versus that of the chief statistician having the written element and expression in the actual legislation, so that it gives it a bit more teeth.
    That is where we distinguish a difference. However, it is a good example of where we can achieve improvements. The committee had seven meetings on this topic, and despite our differences, at least we were getting this far. Perhaps, when we are done in this chamber, we can get some amendments in the future, if necessary.

  (2035)  

     Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the many efforts that my colleague, the member for Windsor West, has made advancing his own legislation to protect the professionalism, and the independence of the public service in relation to the census and Statistics Canada. I would like to hear more about how the member's efforts were received in this House and in the public service.
     Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the ability to go back to this as I really believe that Wayne Smith and Munir Sheikh are public heroes, whistle-blowers. I know that Pat Martin, a former New Democrat in this chamber, as members will probably recall, often had legislation to push whistle-blowing, allowing public servants to come forward without feeling reprise, intimidation, and attacks on them or their families. We have seen, in this case, two resignations by individuals who tried to improve a public service and a public agency, one of 42 that Canada has.
    My colleague is quite right with regard to the muzzling issue of scientists being the precursor of the previous Harper administration. It was quite well felt. When we talk to public servants right now, there is still an aversion, and we still have not seen a comfort zone returned, but I am hoping that culture has not. I guess it is how we want to manage things. I still see it with the Liberal Party administration that is currently here. It was different with Chrétien and his group at that time; however, there is still massive micromanagement taking place. It might have a happy face on it, but it is still taking place.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Windsor West spoke about shared services. In this modern age, technology advancements are pushing increasingly more businesses and governments to pool certain services together. Under this approach, costs are lowered, but more importantly, experts can focus on what they are really good at, and leave others to be the experts in their own field. Would the member opposite agree with that?
    Mr. Speaker, I would disagree. It is a fallacy to assume that just because services are pooled that efficiencies are created. I would point to the Phoenix debacle, the payment system for public servants being a classic fail. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars, about $400 million, has gone to just clean that up.
    Shared services is becoming such an issue. Again, what we get out of Statistics Canada is a money maker in many respects. When we look at it, we sell the data that has actually been accumulated. Personal data and privacy is protected, but businesses and third parties, universities and others, purchase products from that. They are purchasers of those products, paying millions of dollars to buy them. What they have said is they like the independence of Statistics Canada as a preferred product, and they would pay for that service. We saw statistics erode, in terms of the usefulness, in terms of selling it to the business sector, and our profits went down.
    For this issue, the gold star of statistic management and maintenance is the independence, away from shared services. It is well identified by all research and other capacities. It is also less adverse to risk, because it is not exposed to the greater population of contamination possibilities, versus that of it being more secure and safety-sealed in its own usage. Again, the customers who are purchasing the data do so because of its reliability.
     Giving up that income stream for an ideological stance of just throwing it all together is not always the most efficient way of doing things. If that was always the case, just putting everything together, assuming that costs are going to be lowered, then we would not even have a small business.

  (2040)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague from across the way could give us some sort of clear indication as to how the NDP will be voting on this piece of legislation. I have always thought, in looking at the actions that are going to be following the passage of this bill, this as a positive thing for Statistics Canada. Even though I appreciate the member across the way might have a number of concerns, would he not agree this is, in fact, a step forward for Statistics Canada, and therefore the NDP would vote in favour of it?
    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry the parliamentary secretary missed it. If he checks the blues, I said three times that the NDP would be supporting the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the areas that we were not able to agree on was the number of people who should be on the advisory board. I know the member for Windsor West had some definite ideas about that. Could he share them for the record tonight?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what would work better. We went from a larger number, in the 40s, down to a smaller group. One of the concerns I had, with this and similar legislation, is diversity. What I appreciated hearing from not only the minister but also the parliamentary secretaries and others along the way is that this new model proposes a smaller group. It might be open in the future if it does not perform for greater diversity, for regional elements, persons with disabilities, gender, and also to be more reflective of making sure that smaller and other regions are not left out. The government understands there is a sensitivity around that, and hopefully if the group does not perform, it will be forced into action sooner than later.
    Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that Statistics Canada is recognized throughout the world as a first-class example of how important it is to draw in information to make good, solid policy decisions. That applies whether it is the government or the private sector. That is what StatsCan is all about. This is not new for us in the Liberal Party. We have consistently argued that Statistics Canada is absolutely critical from a policy point of view.
    If I may, I will start off my comments by complimenting all those individuals who work at Statistics Canada. The work they do is second to no other. That is one of the reasons many other countries around the world look to Canada and Statistics Canada and want to know how Statistics Canada has been so effective in collecting the information needed to make decisions.
    I found it most interesting when the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was talking about science-based decisions. He used a number of examples. I could not help but reflect on one of the moves of the former prime minister in 2010. The government of the day, under Stephen Harper, decided to get rid of the mandatory long form census. The immediate response was amazing. It was immediate and severe, but the Conservative Party was determined, whether it made sense or not, no matter what the different stakeholders had to say, to move forward on getting rid of the mandatory long form census. It was at a huge cost.
    I was quite disappointed, along with members of the Liberal Party, the many different stakeholders, scientists, and individuals working at Statistics Canada. In fact, the chief statistician resigned over that issue, from what I understand. It was surprising, given how important those numbers are.
    Let me cite a couple of examples. The member who spoke earlier talked about the private sector. The private sector very much relies on information it receives from Statistics Canada to make decisions on the direction a business might be going. It is very dependant on getting the correct numbers.
     The type of information that can be drawn out through Statistics Canada is amazing. I would encourage members, and the public, to look at some of the things that come out of Statistics Canada. The most obvious are things like employment rates and population. I often will turn to Statistics Canada to talk about Canada's population. It is just over 36 million. In the province of Manitoba, it is 1.3 million. In the metropolitan Winnipeg area it is just over 700,000. Using Statistics Canada, we can see where the growth is actually taking place. I like to be able to talk to my constituents about that.

  (2045)  

    Housing statistics from Statistics Canada are often debated, whether among individuals within our own caucus making representation or by representatives lobbying the government.
    The province of Manitoba has been a have-not province for many years, unfortunately. I would like to see that turn around. It cannot be quick enough. One of the equalizing factors in Canada is the equalization transfer payment for health care and social services. We are talking about billions of dollars transferred from Ottawa to the provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Those transfers are based on statistical information that is often provided by Statistics Canada.
    For example, Manitoba spends well over $12 billion on health care alone. A good portion of that money comes from Ottawa to support the provincial department of health in the decisions it makes to administer the Canada Health Act and ensure that Canadians get the services they expect, whether they be emergency services, palliative care, or mental health services. We have talked in this place a great deal about hospice care. There are so many needs within the health care system. It is absolutely critical that the federal government continue to contribute health care dollars to our province.
    To get the numbers right, we need to have a good understanding of the demographics in our communities. Without that level of accuracy, some provinces might not be given as much as they should to provide the same relative health care delivery as neighbouring provinces.
    There are some provinces that have more wealth than other provinces because they have exports of oil or manufactured products. For many years, Ontario and Alberta contributed to the equalization fund. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Manitoba have depended on receiving money. If they do not get the dollars they need, they cannot provide the health care Canadians expect.
    In transferring billions of dollars to the provinces in one form or another, we need to understand the demographics, the social conditions, and the economic conditions of each province and territory.
    To make decisions, we need to have good numbers, and that is what this legislation is really all about. Bill C-36 is about providing a stronger sense of independence to Statistics Canada.
    There are four areas on which I would like to provide some comment with respect to Bill C-36. One is that we would reinforce that Statistics Canada needs to be more independent.

  (2050)  

    There are several things being incorporated in the legislation that would allow Statistics Canada to have that independence. One is statistical procedures, methods, and professional standards employed for the production of statistics. Currently, a lot of that is done directly through the ministry. It is not necessarily the chief statistician who is ultimately responsible. In essence, we would provide the chief statistician greater responsibility, thereby giving more independence. We see that as a very strong benefit, and long overdue.
    One thing I love about the Internet is that there is so much information at our fingertips, but I would suggest that there are very few websites as reliable as Statistics Canada's. Releasing published information by downloading it onto the Internet at the appropriate time helps facilitate basic information. It also indicates to others who might have an interest in getting more detailed information that they can do so through Stats Canada.
     The chief statistician and Stats Canada would have greater independence in the timing and method of the dissemination of compiled statistics. It is also important that we give more responsibility, through the legislation, to the operations and staff of Statistics Canada. If we look at the legislation from that perspective, Statistics Canada would have more independence.
    I asked a member of the New Democratic Party what position the party was taking. I am pleased to hear that it is supporting the legislation. As for the criticisms the member made of the legislation, there is always room to improve the system. We can always make things better, and Liberals take that very seriously. Many of the ideas that have been raised will continue to be discussed. Hopefully, at some point in the future, there may be an opportunity to revisit the issue. The current suggestions, I believe, as the member opposite indicated, are worthy of support.
    We are trying to increase transparency around decisions and directives, and not only for Statistics Canada. Minister after minister and individual members on the Liberal benches have talked about the importance of transparency and accountability, because we understand that it is what Canadians want of government. We want to pass this legislation to assure Canadians that we will provide more transparency and better decisions.
    We would appoint the chief statistician for fixed renewable terms of five years, with removal only for cause by the Governor in Council.

  (2055)  

    We believe that this approach will provide greater confidence and comfort around the position of chief statistician. We will know that the work is being done as Canadians expect, and the opportunity to be appointed and to retain the position will be improved.
    Along the same lines of creating independence for Statistics Canada, we are creating the Canadian statistics advisory council. I believe that is a wonderful move by the government. I understand the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was very critical of that aspect and made reference to Liberals being appointed to this council, but one of the things that differentiates the Harper government from this government is the manner in which appointments are being made.
    The system that we have put in place represents real change from the way the Harper government made appointments. There the prime minister and the government decided who they wanted to appoint, and it had very little to do with merit and ability. People found out about it well after the fact. There was no genuine attempt to advertise or to open up the process.
     In contrast, today one can do a Google search on the appointment process. There is a website for appointments, and Canadians should know that the appointments that are made today are advertised. All Canadians are welcome to apply. We believe this is extremely important. We have seen an overwhelmingly positive response to the invitation for all Canadians to get involved and get engaged in the many appointments that the federal government makes.
    It has been encouraging to see not dozens or hundreds but thousands of Canadians in all regions not only understanding the difference between this government and the former government on appointments, but going beyond that by expressing their interest in becoming a part of the appointments process by applying for many of the positions that are being put forward.
    The opposition will say it is Liberals. People are not excluded because they happen to be a Liberal, but Kim Campbell, who received an appointment, was not a Liberal. She was the Conservative prime minister of Canada. The appointments that have been taking place have been made in a fashion that clearly demonstrates that they are based on merit.
    Diversity is also important. Earlier today I talked about the importance of diversity in our 200,000-plus corporations and the important role government plays to encourage that diversity. We have a Prime Minister who has initiated a new process to ensure that we get that diversification, and it has been working.
    One statistic I recall is that of around 160 government appointments, 60% were female. The number of visible minorities who have been appointed has dramatically increased, so I have no problem in doing a comparison of our process of appointments with others.
    However, at the core is the importance of having Statistics Canada being more independent, more at arm's length.
    There are three other points in the legislation that I wanted to highlight, but my time has already expired. I hope to be able to expand on those other points in questions and comments.

  (2100)  

    Madam Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North is correct that the NDP will support this legislation because it makes some minor improvements. However, it does not address the most recent threat to the independence of Statistics Canada. What motivated Wayne Smith, the former chief statistician, to resign was the lack of IT support provided to Statistics Canada by Shared Services Canada. This legislation does not solve that problem.
    I note that there was a provision in the budget bill allowing the minister responsible for Shared Services Canada to exempt certain organizations from the requirement to use Shared Services Canada. However, at the government operations committee we were told that this provision would not be used to exempt Statistics Canada and allow it to acquire the IT support it requires for its needs.
    Therefore, I am wondering if the member for Winnipeg North could explain to us how, whether through this bill or some other means, the government intends to ensure that Statistics Canada has the IT services it needs to conduct its research and fulfill its independent mandate.
    Madam Speaker, the member makes reference to an initiative that was in the last budget. However, there are more budgets to come, and there are also other ways for the different issues that Statistics Canada will be dealing with over a number of years to come to the floor of the House, such as a legislative or budgetary mechanism, or whatever else might be available for the ministers responsible.
     The real strength of Bill C-36 is the support we are providing for Statistics Canada to become more independent. Although that is at its core, there are also other measures, such as removing the requirement to seek consent for the transfer of census-related data to Library and Archives Canada 92 years after the taking of a census and removing the penalty of imprisonment while retaining financial penalties for refusing to complete a mandatory survey or refusing to grant, or impeding access to, information under the Statistics Act. There are also some technical changes taking place.
     All in all, this is good legislation. I am glad that the NDP is supporting it. Hopefully, that will shed some light on the member's question.

  (2105)  

    Madam Speaker, I understand that the member mentioned me in his speech. I am sorry that I missed the reference and cannot respond to it directly. However, I wonder if he will acknowledge the significant failure of the government and its lack of credibility with respect to appointments and the problem with the Liberals asking us to pass a piece of legislation that effectively allows them to reappoint the people responsible for giving statistical advice.
    I know this member often attests to the good intentions of the government, but good intentions are not enough when they do not square at all with the government's record on appointments. Will the member not acknowledge the failure of the government in this respect and realize there is a need for a better explanation of how it will behave with regard to the statistics council, given the way it has behaved in the past?
    Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech earlier and picked up on a couple of his points. One was with respect to his misinformed interpretation of how appointments are made by this government. I indicated that I would welcome the opportunity to contrast our appointments with the Stephen Harper way of making appointments. I can assure the member that the appointments process today is very much an open one, whereby Canadians are invited to become engaged. They can go to the website and submit their application. It is important for us to recognize that literally thousands of Canadians have done just that, recognized that things have changed, and that this Prime Minister is committed to basing appointments on merit and diversity.
    We have seen tangible results. I made reference to the 160-plus individuals who were appointed for a period of time, of whom 60% were female. With respect to the issue of minorities, we are seeing appointments that are much more diverse and we are seeing appointments that are based on merit, and that is a good thing.
    Madam Speaker, I learn something every time I watch and listen to the hon. member for Winnipeg North in the House of Commons.
    When we are looking at the strategy that we are working on versus the operational details, I think of our function as a governing body versus the operational body. Mr. Ian McKinnon, who is the chair of the National Statistics Council, testified to the INDU committee that it was essential for the Canadian statistics advisory council to be set up in the way that it has been, giving it independent operational control but at the same time allowing accountability.
    Paul Thomas from the University of Manitoba, who served on the National Statistics Council since 1996, said that we have to look at the policy and operations split in order to have true independence, so that we can be assured that our data is not being influenced by government policy directives.
    The role of the chief statistician is to work with the advisory council and also to listen to the directions coming from the minister, but knowing that he is ultimately reporting through an advisory council as an independent body.
    Could the member for Winnipeg North talk to us a little about the strategic role that the government plays versus the operational role that agencies like Statistics Canada play?

  (2110)  

    Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. It is important to recognize the difference between that policy role and the operations.
    We all recognize the importance of Statistics Canada and the fine work that it does. In fact, I started off my comments by complimenting Statistics Canada, which is an organization that is recognized around the world for the fine work that it does. Anything we can do to make it that much more arm's length in its operations, enabling that high level of expertise that it brings to the table, the healthier and more reliable the information it gathers will be.
    I have trust and confidence, as I know our government does, in the fine work that it does. By allowing the distinction, by listening to what individuals like Professor Paul Thomas, and others, have to say, and making that difference, we will have a better collection of data, that is ultimately more reliable than what we currently have.
    Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on my friend's comments about the Liberal approach to appointments.
    It is quite evident that merely accepting applications from the public is not an open process if the results are baked in. In fact, all it is doing at that point is just leading people on and inviting them to use their time unproductively, if in fact all the government is doing is receiving these applications but then proceeding in a direction that is predetermined.
    What we have seen in the way the Liberals have approached appointments, with respect to the Senate, is they have accepted applications, but then if we look at the voting record of those senators, we see less independence from their new appointees than we see from the people who were appointed as partisan Liberals.
    Strikingly, on the one hand the government is defending this application process that it has for various appointments, but on the other hand there are people like Madeleine Meilleur put in place who clearly are there with a partisan background and reflecting that partisanship.
    I wonder if the parliamentary secretary is willing to come clean on this point, and acknowledge that what we really have is a smokescreen. There is an application process that is designed to—
    In order to allow the parliamentary secretary to answer, I do have to cut the member off. I am sorry.
    Madam Speaker, there is no smokescreen here. It is very real. We invite Canadians to participate. I made reference to Kim Campbell as one example. There are other examples. Let us think about Malcolm Rowe, appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the comments that were put on the record by the Conservative Party.
     The Conservatives will try to spin it in whatever way they want, but at the end of the day there is a substantial difference between the way in which we make our appointments, which is open to all Canadians, and the old system under Stephen Harper and the way the Conservatives used to do it.
    Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Bill C-36 regarding Statistics Canada and some of the changes that are being proposed.
    As a member of the industry committee, now known as innovation, science, and economic development, I have had a large opportunity to study the bill and ask questions of witnesses. We received testimony in person and in written form.
    If the bill is proceeding, Conservatives certainly have some concerns. Those concerns stem from the activity of the Liberal government to date. The government has essentially said one thing and done another. It has to do with appointments and the narrative that was proposed in terms of an objective government. We have not seen that coming from the government benches to date. I would like to go through that over the next few minutes and outline where some of these concerns lie and what we need to do to ensure they are dealt with in the future.
    I try to start every speech regarding a government bill with a reading of the government's throne speech because I believe it is a good measurement to determine whether the government is reaching its mandate or following the belief system it put in front of Canadians some 18 months ago. It states:
    Let us not forget, however, that Canadians have been clear and unambiguous in their desire for real change. Canadians want their government to do different things, and to do things differently.
    They want to be able to trust their government.
     And they want leadership that is focused on the things that matter most to them.
    Things like growing the economy; creating jobs; strengthening the middle class, and helping those working hard to join it.
    The problem is that what we have seen, whether out of the government as a whole or out of Industry Canada, and the innovation minister specifically, when it comes to appointments, they are not non-partisan. They are in fact some of the most partisan appointments we have seen to date. We can look at whether we are changing the 30 individuals currently on the advisory committee and reducing that down to 10, or we can even look at the actual members who have been appointed to the innovation council by the innovation minister to date.
    I looked at who was appointed to the innovation council, and it is quite striking. When we look at the 10 individuals who were appointed to the innovation council we might think one is a Liberal donor, or maybe two. However, we would be wrong. Maybe it is three. No, five of the 10 individuals appointed to the innovation council are Liberal donors, and many of them have donated time after time.
    At committee, we tried to take this on, to understand what the criteria were to appoint members to this council, or any other advisory board, by the industry minister. Unfortunately, these were shot down and we were unable to truly look into them.
    As we look forward to this new committee of 10 individuals, we must also take into consideration the regional distribution. Currently, there are up to 30 members. They represent the 10 provinces and the territories. Unfortunately, there are going to be three of those 13 that will not have representation anymore. Obviously, this is a major issue.
    Regional distribution on these advisory committees is essential. It is essential because the questions we may be asking, or the information we may be looking for, is different. We have a very diverse, broad, and large country. The questions we may want answered in Newfoundland could be different from those in British Columbia, they could be different from those in Ontario, and certainly the territories probably strike their own set of questions they would like to see answered and data they would like to see brought together.

  (2115)  

    The innovation council was not the only council that was cooked with Liberal donors. We also had the Advisory Council on Economic Growth from the Minister of Finance, and obviously, we had the official languages commissioner, Madeleine Meilleur, which we saw play out in the media over the last few weeks. Certainly what we have seen to date is a government that is not afraid to put Liberals into the mechanics of government to cook the pie. The reality is, if the Liberal government bakes the StatsCan pie, it can then just feed it to the Canadian people.
    There is a concern that we do not have enough separation between the Liberal government and the StatsCan job, which is going to be based on the change to the advisory council and the changes that would be brought through in this piece of legislation.
    The question is what possible damage could be done based on partisanship and partisan appointments. The answer is clear. In the framing of questions, if the questions themselves and the data being requested were of a partisan nature, they could be used to influence the debates within this House and influence legislation coming forward from the government. They could be used to influence the public. The reality is that we need a complete and utter separation between the two. Unfortunately, what we have seen from this government to date is that it is not willing to hold a non-partisan tone when it comes to these types of appointments.
    I will give a couple of examples. The most glaring is electoral reform. There were the questions asked by the government and the way they did it, this partisan approach to gathering data. If that type of mentality is taken into this new advisory council, I think it spells a lot of trouble for our Parliament, for StatsCan, and certainly for Canadians.
    On pipelines, what questions and data could be requested and used in certain ways to influence the debate in this House? The opportunities to influence the outcome of debates using StatsCan are endless.
    Certainly, when we go to tax policy and economic reform, we can see the opportunity for a partisan advisory council to influence the outcome of what is happening in this place, which would inevitably influence Canadians across the country, and not in a way we would be hoping for.
    Innovation and StatsCan have had a couple of run-ins since the government took office. To be fair, one of them started prior to the government taking office. That was with the resignation of the chief statistician, Wayne Smith. Mr. Smith did not believe that StatsCan should be rolled into Shared Services Canada. He believed it so strongly that he in fact offered his resignation, which was eventually accepted by the Prime Minister.
    I was reading a story a while ago. I remembered it and thought I should bring it to the House today. It is from the CBC, quoting Mr. Smith:
    “I made clear that if I did resign it would be with the intention of making public my concerns. So that was my last desperate bid, I guess, to persuade the government to sit down and talk about this. Didn't work,” Smith said with a smile.
     I really like that quote.

  (2120)  

    The reality is that we have an objective chief statistician saying to the government—both the previous government and the current government, so I do not want to be seen as partisan—that this is not going to work for Stats Canada. Unfortunately, that was not listened to.
    It is interesting because Australia and the United Kingdom both had changes to IT services, and the goal in all three countries was to save money by bringing all of the IT needs within the different government departments to a single place and obviously find savings, efficiencies, and a better and more effective way to deliver services. Those two jurisdictions, however, opted out. They determined it was not the right way to do business for their statistics agencies, for two reasons. Number one was objectivity. They wanted to maintain the separation between Stats Canada, which provides the data to those governments, almost the same type of objectivity we are asking with the appointments process. Second, they wanted to ensure that there was a quality of service for Stats Canada because at any point a failure of the IT support services can result in lost data, and lost data obviously results in bad decision-making or the potential for bad decision-making.
    On that note, there is another quote that Mr. Smith made on this exact subject in the same story:
     If you can't process the data, if we're constantly being interrupted by failures of equipment, then it's going to take us more time to get the labour force survey out, more time to get the consumer price index out.
    Mr. Smith saw that there was a huge potential issue with the changing of the IT services and the potential for it to hurt Stats Canada. I am a big believer that good data leads to good decision-making. The more data we have on the important pieces and the priority pieces of any piece of legislation, any pieces of decision-making that a government is making, the better. If we have the right data, we will make the right decisions, unless partisanship comes into the equation, which is what we have seen happening a lot to date.
    I also wanted to talk about privacy because there are some changes to privacy in terms of the census and information, the release of that information, when that release takes place, and how it takes place. We need to recognize that privacy is a freedom. It is a very integral freedom to our democracy, to us as individuals, as citizens. These changes are interpreted by some Canadians as an attack on their privacy, even if it is after they pass away. They do not want that information being disclosed or used for governmental purpose.
    Privacy is an interesting item because it is the protection of ourselves from others in society and it is certainly the protection of ourselves from an overbearing government. I can understand that mentality because we have seen in the last 18 months the government that is willing to go from the cradle to the grave, that is willing to step into almost any area of a person's life and legislate. I can certainly understand and identify with those who are concerned about the changes to privacy within the bill.
    When we were going through testimony at the innovation committee, we had the opportunity to ask many individuals and the newly appointed chief statistician to testify. There was a constant narrative that the objectivity and the freedom of Stats Canada was integral. It spoke directly to the integrity not only of the individuals who worked in this department but the integrity of the data being received by government departments.

  (2125)  

    As we are continuing to look forward and we are approaching the time when we will vote on the bill, it is important we call on the minister to appoint individuals to this advisory council who do not have any political leanings, who have not stepped into the political process. If that means those individuals are not Liberal donors, great. At the end of the day, Canadians need to believe in the processes the government puts in place to appoint its councils.
    We can look back at the words I use from the throne speech up front, “They want to be able to trust their government.” We have seen the way the government operate across the board, whether it is commissioners, or it is the advisory council by the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and these have not been objective, non-partisan appointments. They have been incredibly partisan.
    I am open to any questions that come my way, but I will call on the minister to proceed with objective, non-partisan approaches to appointing members of the new advisory council.

  (2130)  

    Madam Speaker, the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte and I sit on the INDU committee. We have had many heated discussions and not so heated discussions, but he always comes from a point of passion.
    When we were looking at establishing the need for shared services to manage the IT infrastructure behind the Statistics Canada, we had a presentation from Ron Parker from Shared Services Canada. He talked about cybersecurity and the need for a collaborative approach around it in order to take swift action when it was needed.
    In March the department had a problem with an attack called “Apache”. No data was lost or altered. It was able to get back online quickly. The government IT is managed as an enterprise rather than a silo.
    I had an independent business in Winnipeg. I joined business with a company in Saskatoon that had a larger enterprise management, larger server management. It was a benefit to my business to let it manage the software and hardware so I could manage my business.
    Could the member across the aisle comment on the possible benefits to having a centralized system?
    Madam Speaker, I get the member's point, but the reality is that some facets of government need to be maintained for democracy's sake, and this is one of those. The institution that gathers the data, that interprets the data, that delivers the data to the House of Commons, to Canadians, to the government, needs to be seen as completely separate from that government. Certainly this is my point of view.
     The question was about the benefits of bringing those services together, IT services across the board. What the member has heard in my speech is this. Other governments with very similar democracies to our own, in fact ours is based on one of them, did not proceed for this specific reason. We need to maintain the objectivity. We need to maintain the separation between church and state, between those who gather the data and those who use the data.
    That message needs to be heard by the Government of Canada. This is not a situation where it is just about savings. The reality is that data, if it is done properly, can provide far more savings in the end than just this shared service.
    Madam Speaker, before I ask my question, I want to bring to the attention of members, and I just found out myself, that our lobby coordinator, Sean Murphy, will be getting married on Saturday. I hope all members will join me in wishing him eternal happiness.
    I would like to ask my colleague about the issue of the appointment process.
     Members of the government have assured us it is fine because it is an application process. We do not even know where those applications are going or the people who apply for government appointments. Maybe they go straight into the shredder. It seems the overwhelming majority of appointments by the government have been very partisan in nature.
    Could my colleague tell us whether he is in any way comforted by the assurances from the government that people can at least put in applications?
     Madam Speaker, I would certainly like to echo the member's congratulations to our lobby coordinator.
    The proof is in the pudding. I feel like I am on a food thing today; I might be hungry. If we look at the innovation minister's appointments to the advisory council on innovation, one of the individuals heads up MaRS in Toronto. From what the Liberals have talked about, this place will receive funding for the new supercluster innovation fund the federal government has brought forward.
     The government appointed an advisory council and that advisory council was full of Liberals who also sat on a place that was hoping to receive funding. Then the fund was created for $950 million, of which they would take advantage. That is the type of thing we have seen from the government so far. It is a complete conflict.
    Do I believe that will continue? Probably. That is one of the reasons we need to ensure the minister commits that this new advisory council will not go down the road of Statistics Canada, where it has gone through with the advisory council on innovation.

  (2135)  

     Madam Speaker, I thought the points my colleague made were great. I wonder if he would develop a bit the broader questions around the government's lack of willingness to apply a genuinely scientific lens to the policy decisions it makes?
     We repeatedly hear this rhetoric around science-based policy. However, we can look at the way it has set out the process around pipelines. The northern gateway pipeline went through a review process and then the government threw it out even though that did not accord with the science and the information. We have talked about its approach to marijuana. Even its approach to fiscal policy does not reflect any kind of economic science to say we can run budget deficits in perpetuity.
    Would the member agree that there is a real dissidence between the government using this kind of bumper sticker about evidence-based policy when in reality it is making all kinds of decisions that are so obviously at odds with the evidence?
    Madam Speaker, the Liberals are using a form of scientific method. It is political science. They are really not basing it on any evidence they gather with respect to data, except polling data. This is a serious concern. If we look at the material we are speaking about today, this is where the data is collected. This is where all the information is brought together, delivered to the government, delivered to Canadians, and, through that, decisions should be made. Unfortunately that has not been happening.
    I would not want to see the government then cook up the advisory committee to determine what evidence it will see down the road.
    I certainly agree with the member. I would call on the government to actually do what it has said with respect to following the science.
    Madam Speaker, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan raised the issue of pipelines on a few occasions and talked about science. One only needs to understand and appreciate basic math. Basic math says that the Conservatives did nothing with regard to science in 10 years. In fact, when it came down to the pipeline issue, they got zero inches built to tidewaters. That is just basic math. Forget about the science.
    Could the member opposite provide some sort of an explanation as to why the Conservative Party ignored the issue of science for many years? That was best illustrated when Harper got rid of the mandatory census form?
    Mr. John. Barlow: You should change you talking points. You should try and actually do some homework.
    Order, please. I want to bring member for Foothills to order. If he happens to have something to contribute, I would expect him to stand to ask questions or to comment.
    The hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
    Madam Speaker, I would not want to put words in the mouth of the member for Foothills, but I think he would say that the last government did ensure pipelines were constructed, did get through rigorous processing, did ensure we followed all the evidence, did ensure we were environmentally aware, did ensure the economy was paramount, did ensure jobs were at the forefront, and did ensure the interests of Canadians were followed day in and day out, not some political bent we have heard on the other side of the House.
    I again want to remind members that they should not be having discussions back and forth. Therefore, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. member for Foothills should restrain themselves from having those debates. If they wish to do so, they can attempt to get on the list to make speeches.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

  (2140)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it would be good to have a bit more French in the House. Therefore I will be giving my speech on Bill C-36, an act to amend the Statistics Act, in French.
     The main purpose of this bill is to strengthen the independence of Statistics Canada. At the same time, it proposes to modernize certain key provisions of the Statistics Act, in accordance with the expectations of Canadians. One of these provisions is the part of the act that deals with imprisonment.
     The government recognizes the importance of high-quality statistical data and the need to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to encourage Canadians to provide information to Statistics Canada. However, the government also recognizes that Canadians should not be threatened with jail time if they fail to complete a mandatory survey, including the census.
    We are not alone in thinking that this is excessive in the current context. Generally, Canadians agree that prison time for refusing to complete a mandatory survey or grant access to information is a penalty disproportionate to the offence. This is excessively heavy handed and inappropriate. That is why Bill C-36 would abolish imprisonment as a penalty for those who refuse or fail to provide the information requested as part of a mandatory survey.
     The bill also abolishes imprisonment as a penalty for those who wilfully obstruct the collection of this information. In other words, once this legislation is passed, no Canadian citizen will be threatened with jail under the Statistics Act for failing to complete a mandatory survey. As a general rule, people complete the census questionnaire and all other mandatory survey questionnaires well before legal action is taken.
     Statistics Canada has a thorough process that it follows before sending cases to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. First, Statistics Canada sends a letter to the individual and has someone visit their home. Statistics Canada does everything in its power to remind people of their civic duty before referring their case to the justice system.
     Typically, with each census, approximately 50 cases are referred to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the Department of Justice. Of those cases that proceed to court, the majority are resolved with the person agreeing to complete their census form when ordered by the judge. Among those cases that go to trial and where the accused is found guilty, the vast majority result in a fine.
    Only once has a person ever been sentenced to jail; this occurred in 2013, after one individual refused to complete the 2011 census of population and refused other offered penalties such as community service.
    The only household survey that Statistics Canada conducts on a mandatory basis is the monthly labour force survey. Statistics Canada has never referred a case to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada for this survey.
    All of Statistics Canada's core business surveys are conducted on a mandatory basis. Since the 1970s, Statistics Canada has not referred a single case to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada for a business that has refused to comply with the act. The only time a census of agriculture case was referred to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada was in conjunction with failure to comply on the census of population.
     Since 2010, a number of bills have been introduced in Parliament to remove imprisonment for such offences. Some may argue that removing the threat of imprisonment would increase the risk that more Canadians would choose not to respond to an information request from Statistics Canada, thereby affecting the quality of the data. However, it is important to note that the current fines will remain. The fines are fully consistent with the provisions of the Act. Also, Canadians are aware of the importance of the data produced by Statistics Canada.
    We are of the view that the threat of imprisonment is not required to convince Canadians of the importance of providing information for mandatory surveys. Canadians also know and understand that Statistics Canada is a highly regarded institution, one of the best in the world, and that it values and protects the confidentiality of all data collected. With the changes we are proposing to the legislation to strengthen the agency’s independence, Canadians can be further reassured that their data will continue to be treated with the highest levels of professionalism, integrity, and confidentiality.

  (2145)  

    That brings me to another point. In the past, some people have said that, since we rarely use the provisions regarding imprisonment, it does not matter if they are removed from the act or not. We disagree. It is important that the penalties set out in the Statistics Act are in keeping with the collective vision of Canadians. Prison sentences should be reserved for more serious crimes. I think the House will agree with me on that. Let us be responsible, fair, and reasonable and eliminate that threat. That is what Bill C-36 seeks to do.
    I would also like to talk a little about the rest of the bill. In 2010, the government's decision to replace the mandatory long form census with the voluntary national household survey gave rise to public criticism. Concerns were raised about the quality of the national household survey data and about Statistics Canada's independence.
    In reaction to this decision, a number of private members' bills were introduced in the House that would require the collection of information by means of a mandatory long form census questionnaire that was equal in length and scope to the 1971 census.
    We seriously considered that option. Instead of focusing only on protecting the census, we chose to amend the Statistics Act in order to give Statistics Canada more independence over its statistical activities. To that end, we gave the chief statistician decision-making power over statistical operations and methods. The bill also seeks to add provisions on transparency to ensure greater accountability on decisions.
    This approach aligns with the United Nations’ Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on best practices. Some might still be wondering why we would not enshrine the content of the census in law to prevent future governments from replacing the mandatory long form census with a voluntary questionnaire, as was the case during the 2011 campaign. The answer is simple: no legal provision can prevent a government from changing the content of the census.
     Governments have the power to make and change laws, but more importantly, we must remember that official statistics are a public good and that Statistics Canada is a publicly funded institution. It is ultimately the government's responsibility to determine the scope of the statistical system, specifically, the country's data priorities, or in other words, the data that is collected. This responsibility ensures that the statistical information collected is sensitive to the burdens placed on citizens as respondents, that it is sensitive to the costs they bear as taxpayers, and that the information that is produced is responsive to their needs as data users.
    Stastitical data must also be responsive to the government's need to make evidence-based decisions about the programs and services that affect the daily lives of Canadians, such as affordable housing, public transportation, and skills training for employment. Rather than entrench the content of the long form census questionnaire in the Statistics Act, Bill C-36 addresses the fundamental issues of Statistics Canada's independence. Let me explain why.
    First, the previous government's decision about the 2011 census was not about the questions to be asked, but rather about removing the mandatory requirement to respond. The voluntary national household survey, as it was called, asked the same questions that would have been asked in the planned mandatory long form questionnaire that it replaced.
    Consistent with our government's commitment to evidence-based decision-making, one of our first acts as a government was to reinstate the mandatory long form census in time for the 2016 census of population to ensure that the census produces high-quality data. We also committed to strengthening Statistics Canada's independence and ensuring that the methods of operations are based on professional principles. Bill C-36 meets this commitment.
     Second, entrenching the content of the census in law could reduce the government's flexibility to ensure that the data collected continuously meets the needs of an ever-evolving Canadian society and economy. We just have to look at the history of census content.

  (2150)  

     It has changed numerous times to reflect emerging issues, evolving data needs, and the development of alternative ways of collecting the information.
     The first national census of Canada was taken in 1871 and contained 211 questions, including those regarding age, sex, religion, education, race, occupation, and ancestral origins.
    Subject matter and questions have been added and dropped ever since. In 1931, questions on unemployment were added. In 1941, questions on fertility and housing were introduced. In 1986, questions were introduced on functional limitations. In 1991, questions about common-law relationships were introduced, and questions on same-sex couples were added in 2006. In 1996, questions on unpaid work were introduced. These were removed in 2011.
    These examples signal the need for flexibility and prioritization in determining the content of a census. Entrenching census content in legislation would limit this flexibility. Amending the act every time the census needs to change would be highly impractical.
     Our current approach to determining census content works. It is based on extensive user consultations and the testing of potential questions to reflect the changing needs of society and to ensure the census is the appropriate vehicle to respond to them.
    Then Statistics Canada makes a recommendation to the government on the content that should be included in the upcoming census. General questions are then prescribed by order by the Governor in Council and published in the Canada Gazette for transparency purposes.
    Lastly, defining the long form census content in law could potentially reduce the incentives to find alternative means to gathering census information at a lower cost and with less respondent burden.
    Statistical agencies must also think about the burden that they impose on citizens and businesses to provide information, and they must do so within the fiscal resources allocated by the government.
     The data world is evolving rapidly. We read and hear the words “big data”, “open data”, and “administrative data” every day.
     More and more statistical offices around the world are integrating these alternative and complementary sources of information into their statistical programs.
    They offer the potential to collect and publish high quality statistical information more frequently, at lower cost, and at lower response burden.
     For example, for the 2016 census, Statistics Canada obtained detailed income information for all census respondents from administrative records provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. This approach will ensure that higher quality income data will be produced at a lower cost and with reduced burden on Canadians.
    Entrenching the scope and content of the census in the Statistics Act may not serve Canadians well moving forward. It would tie us to one way of doing business that may not be the way of the future.
    The act should remain flexible to meet the evolving data needs of Canadians and their governments. It should retain the flexibility to encourage innovation so as to take advantage of the evolving means of collecting statistical information.
     Some have suggested that the census content should be the same as it was over 40 years ago and that the sample size for the long form should be entrenched in law.
    The rapidly evolving world of data suggests that we should retain the flexibility to build the foundation of a statistical system of the future rather than restricting ourselves to continue to do what has been done in the past.
    We think our approach to Bill C-36 strikes the right balance and will stand the test of time.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I asked the members of the government a question that I do not feel received a clear answer, so I will see if the member can answer in a little more direct way.
    There is a pre-existing advisory mechanism associated with the statistical decisions that the government makes. That would be eliminated and replaced with another advisory mechanism with almost the same name. The only obvious difference is that the number of members would be reduced, which Conservatives have some concerns about, but beyond that, a mechanism would be created by which the government could now reappoint the members of that body.
    We have heard all kinds of attestations from government members about how committed they are to making good appointments, but it is rather fishy that this change would effectively allow the government, without making many other substantial changes, to reappoint the entire membership of this body.
    Does the member really think that if he were in opposition, he would not have objections to a government that proceeded in that way, doing away with one body to replace it with almost identical one, thus allowing itself to reappoint members? Would he really accept that if he were not a member of the government?

  (2155)  

    Madam Speaker, I do not see a problem. When a system is modernized or upgraded and there is continuity of people, it seems perfectly reasonable to continue using them. If the processes need to be modernized, which was a good part of the speeches, how do we make sure the whole system is flexible enough to keep up with the times? It seems perfectly appropriate. I do not see the issue that the member is bringing forward.
    Madam Speaker, the bill we are discussing is about Statistics Canada's independence. The main threat that we have seen to Statistics Canada's independence recently was the lack of IT support from Shared Services. That is what prompted former chief statistician Wayne Smith to resign.
    It seems to me that this bill does not address that problem. As I noted in a previous question for the member for Winnipeg North, the budget implementation bill does contain some provisions for the minister responsible for Shared Services to provide exemptions so that certain government entities could get IT services from other places. However, the government operations committee has been told that this exception will not be provided to Statistics Canada. It will still have to go through Shared Services.
    I am wondering if the member could let us know what the government plans to do to ensure that Statistics Canada receives the IT support that it needs in order to fulfill its independent mandate to conduct research and provide the evidence and data that we need to make good public policy.
    Madam Speaker, Shared Services Canada, as the member knows, is of particular interest to me, as I served briefly with him on the government operations and estimates committee. The idea of consolidating our databases and systems and so forth was, in principle, a good one. I do not think it was particularly well implemented by the previous government, and it had quite a few problems, as we have seen, going forward.
    Personally, I think it should be using a whole lot more open source offers. That is my personal opinion. I think this issue needs to be addressed.
    While Shared Services Canada got off to a bad start, it will improve with time. It has no choice but to improve with time to properly address the issues of Statistics Canada and every other department that depends on it. There is always room for improvement. As the Prime Minister always says, better is always possible.
    Madam Speaker, it is a late hour, and I thought some Stephen Leacock would be appropriate. Stephen Leacock once wrote, “In ancient times they didn't have statistics, so they had to fall back on lies.” However, that applies to nobody in this place, obviously.
    I want to ask the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle if he does not believe, as I do believe, that it is a mistake. I realize that Shared Services can be improved, but the most knowledgeable people we have talked to in the process of looking at Bill C-36 believe that Statistics Canada should have its own information system and should not have to overlap with Shared Services Canada. There is only mischief that will come from that.
    Madam Speaker, I am not entirely sure how to respond. I do not know the details of how the networks are set up, but a properly run IT system will provide the appropriate firewalls within their systems to prevent data from going where it is not supposed to go. That is the whole purpose of having a high-security system. If security is the issue, then we need to address that issue properly, but Shared Services has an obligation to provide every department with the properly protected systems they need.

  (2200)  

    Madam Speaker, the member for Laurentides—Labelle and I are both fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and we know that any statistical answer is 42.
    We had a presentation at the industry committee from Mel Cappe, from the University of Toronto, on April 6. He talked about statistics being a public good. This is a gentleman who served in the public service for over 30 years, under seven prime ministers. He said that statistics are a public good, that they should minimize coercion, and that the intrusiveness of questions should not come from partisan politicians.
    He looked at the changes of governance, and he said they looked appropriate. He said that it was a much-needed cleanup on the governance of Statistics Canada.
    Could the hon. member either comment on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or on Professor Cappe?
    Madam Speaker, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is always appropriate at this hour in this place.
    The member will know that I recently learned that the reason Douglas Adams picked 42 as the answer to life, the universe, and everything is that 42 is the ASCII code for an asterisk, which is a wild card, which means it can represent anything one wants it to. However, if that is used in statistics, the end result is a whole lot of bad data.
    Making sure that we are using good data for everything we do is critically important lest we end up in the improbability drive and have no idea where we land.
    Madam Speaker, the member said that better is always possible. I think that would apply to his answers as well. I am going to try one more time here.
    The member referenced The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps the improbability drive is the best explanation for the way in which the Prime Minister responds during question period. He kind of plugs whatever in, and gets whatever out.
    Can the member come back to the question that I asked previously? If one body is replaced with another, there is effectively no meaningful change, but simply a matter of being able to reappoint all the members of that body. The member sort of obliquely referred to progress and flexibility, conveniently ignoring the fact that the new oversight body is meaningfully the same as the previous one. There is no new flexibility associated with that, surely.
    Better is always possible. Perhaps the member will have a better response this time.
    Madam Speaker, perhaps if the member does not want to see it as an improvement, he could just follow the trend line to see where it is going.
    It does help move things forward. When we make changes and put the same people back and continue with the work, progress is important.
    Madam Speaker, in response to my question about the relationship between Statistics Canada and Shared Services Canada, the member suggested that Shared Services will get better over time.
    In the meantime, does the member think it is reasonable to allow Statistics Canada to procure IT services from other sources that are currently able to provide them?
    Madam Speaker, I think it defeats the purpose of Shared Services Canada if we start getting all the departments back in their own systems.
    We went from 460-odd data centres to seven for a reason. If we start undoing that work, we will not be making progress. It will make things more complicated, take longer to fix, cost more money, and make no meaningful progress. As I said before, if we really want to fix the issues that are being brought up, proper firewalling and proper administration of the systems will address the problems.
    Madam Speaker, what a nice crowd tonight, to say the least.

[Translation]

     It is with great pleasure that I rise tonight, at 10 p.m., to speak to Bill C-36 before such a large and prestigious audience. I know that I am not allowed to say it, but I am pleased to acknowledge the presence of the member for Papineau on this Tuesday evening at 10:05 p.m. It is hard for me to believe, but he is actually here. I am pleased to welcome him just like all other members of the House of Commons who are present and listening carefully to what we are saying.
     Bill C-36 concerns the Statistics Act, in other words our approach to statistics, and the changes that the Liberal government wishes to make to it. I will quickly point out the circumstances surrounding the Statistics Act, which has been amended in recent years, the changes made to it, what the various political parties have said, and lastly, the fact that the Liberal government has introduced this bill that, in our opinion, includes provisions that are not favourable to Canada’s future.
    I would like to point out that in 2010-11, the Conservative government made major changes to statistics, specifically the Canadian census. Our government decided to change the approach. We decided to change, in a fairly major way, the mandatory long form census and replace it with the national household survey. Everyone who witnessed this debate will remember the public outcry. Everyone said that it was the end of the world, that it made no sense, that from then on we would never be able to come up with proper statistics, that it was a direct attack on Canadian science, and that we would be paying for the Conservative government’s mistake for a long time, for decades, if not centuries.
     However, what was the outcome? Let the experts speak for themselves. Wayne Smith, then chief statistician, said that the “National Household Survey produced a rich and robust database of information.”
    All those who said that what the Conservative government had done made no sense were confused. It was Mr. Smith himself who said in The Globe and Mail on June 24, 2013 that “It’s irresponsible to try and dissuade Canadians from using what is an extraordinary rich and powerful database. To make them nervous about that is I think irresponsible.”
     I will have a lot to say about so-called fake news shortly. Some people seem to think fake news is a pretty new thing, but that is not true. As a former journalist, I know what I am talking about when it comes to the spread of false information. I have seen it happen as a journalist and as a politician, especially during the 2015 election campaign, when Canada was a victim of one of the worst smear campaigns against its international reputation. One particular bit of fake news tarnished its reputation for 24 hours. I will have more to say about that later.
    Anyway, there were allegations that the Conservative government's infamous survey was a disaster and that people would stop filling out their census forms. The numbers speak for themselves, however: in 2011, 2,657,000 households with a total of exactly 6.7 million people participated voluntarily. That was 9% higher than for the 2006 census, which captured 2.4 million households representing 6.1 million people.
    Everyone who said that the Conservative government's changes spelled disaster for science and education and that the impact would be felt for decades was wrong. As it turned out, more people participated, we had more data, and we ended up with a robust corpus of relevant information. What the previous government did was the right thing to do.
    Now this government has introduced Bill C-36 to make major changes to the Statistics Act. I want to highlight two elements of Bill C-36, which would establish a Canadian statistics advisory council and no longer require the consent of respondents to transfer their census information to Library and Archives Canada. The second element is the one that concerns us most.

  (2205)  

    Let us start by talking about the Canadian statistics advisory council. As Bill C-36 proposes, this council will be made up of just a few people who will have sweeping powers and who will not reflect the Canadian reality. That is our concern.
    We would like to see at least 20 or so people be included on this advisory council. Such a council should be all about consulting. Yes, that is a lot people, but when it is about listening to people, in order to understand Canadian diversity and ensure that every region of Canada can have its say, of course it takes a lot of people. That is why our party proposed an amendment at committee that this government unfortunately rejected.
    Did this government plan to appoint a small number of people to this advisory council for the same reason that it seems to be doing everything else for nearly two years now? Is this another new cushy job for friends of the party, depending on how much they donated to the party?
    Need I remind the House that this government is a disgrace to the appointments process? We saw the sorry episode regarding the official languages commissioner, a noble, important, and rigorous position that must be respected and above all, that must have the moral authority to be brutally honest about the government's reality, without ever jeopardizing the credibility of that very strong institution, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
    Sadly, the current Liberal government has sullied this approach by giving a consolation prize to a lifelong Liberal who donated to the Liberal Party's coffers and the current Prime Minister's leadership coffers. She wanted a job in the Senate. The Prime Minister's chief adviser said, “Sorry, we no longer give partisan appointments to the Senate, but we have something else.” He could appoint her to a totally neutral and objective role and make her official languages commissioner.
    That was just wrong and as a result of the immense pressure from the official opposition and others as well, after three weeks of the government's sorry figure skating display, Madame Meilleur finally realized that she might not be the best Liberal around to fill the role of commissioner of official languages.
    Let us come back to Bill C-36. As I was saying earlier, this bill seeks to remove the requirement to gain the consent of respondents to transfer their census information to Library and Archives Canada.
    We believe that is a direct attack on what is most precious to our fellow citizens: their freedom of expression, especially in relation to who they are, what they represent, and their personal data.
    In its new obsession to want to know everything and disclose everything, the government is suggesting, through Bill C-36, that now people will no longer have the privilege of saying yes or no. They will be required to hand over information. To us that is not at all the way to go about conducting a statistical survey. This needs to be voluntary, especially when it comes to disclosing personal information. We cannot just pretend that this is nothing and that we can just hand over this information like it were no big deal.
    This calls for extreme care and vigilance. The bill also repeals imprisonment as a penalty for any offence committed by a respondent. That makes no sense to us. We urge the government to be more careful.
    We believe in the importance of statistical data, but people must be able to participate voluntarily, proactively, and openly. It should not be mandatory, and people certainly should not be forced to do it or face sanctions. We can learn from the past here. In 2011, people said the statistical sky would come falling down, but the fact is that more Canadians, 9% more, participated than in the previous census. The evidence tells us that was a good way to go.
    That is why we fundamentally disagree with Bill C-36 as written and urge people, especially the government, to be extremely careful
    Earlier, I mentioned fake news. I mention this in the context of statistics because, during the debate in 2010-11, lots of people said this would be the end of the world and everything would break down.

  (2210)  

    Finally, the Chief Statistician of Canada acknowledged that no problems had been reported. On the contrary, response rates increased.
    Must I remind the House that Canada's international reputation was terribly tarnished in August and September 2015, in the middle of the election campaign? Members will sadly recall that, when a three-year-old child was found dead on a beach in Syria in the midst of the refugee crisis, some malicious and particularly dishonest people spread the information that the child ought to have been in Canada because his name was on the list of refugees but the government had dragged its feet. In the end, none of it was true. Unfortunately, the child's name was never added to any list. His father did not do it.
    Unfortunately, for 24 hours, dishonest and malicious people viciously spread the information that the Government of Canada forgot this boy in Syria. That was completely false. For 24 hours, our country's international name was dragged through the mud. This was one of the worst cases of fake news that I have ever seen. It was unbecoming of journalists and politicians to stoop so low as to use this terrible tragedy in their political games.
    Regardless of who was the head of state at that moment, the child unfortunately lost his life and his name was never on any list because his father decided otherwise. That is why we have to be careful. It is important to keep statistics because it is a matter of numbers, and if anyone has trouble with numbers, it is our friends opposite. Must I remind the House that they completely lost control of the public purse over the past 18 months? They got elected by saying that they would stimulate the economy by running small deficits for three years and then magically balancing the budget in 2019. That is another number that is set out in black and white in the Liberals' election platform on which they won a majority.
    I hear applause. Do I need to remind those applauding that they have forgotten their promises? What are the facts? Do we have a modest $10-billion deficit? No. Canadians have been saddled with an astounding three times more debt than that. The Liberals were elected on a solemn pledge to run modest deficits, but the fact is, their deficit is three times bigger than they promised. They also said Canada would balance the books in 2019, which is an election year. They said they would right the ship and that Canada's budget would be balanced in 2019.
    Just two days ago, who did we hear on Global saying that he had no idea when Canada would balance the books? Who said that on Global on Sunday? The member for Papineau, the current Prime Minister of Canada. How sad.
    Honestly, this is the first time in the history of this great land that a Prime Minister has admitted to having no idea whatsoever when the federal budget would be balanced. If I should happen to be misleading the House, please, somebody stand up and give me a date. Canadians want a date. They want to know when the government will balance the budget. Nobody knows. The member for Papineau, an honourable man if ever there was one, got himself elected on a promise to balance the books in 2019. Look at that. I see him nodding. Does he need a reminder about the document that got him elected? The Prime Minister seems to have some doubts about ever having mentioned modest deficits and a balanced budget. I would like to remind him that, on page 73 of the Liberal Party platform, it says, “the federal government will have a modest short-term deficit of less than $10 billion”.
    However, he is doing precisely the opposite. We do have a number and date for returning to a balanced budget. It will be in 2055. These numbers did not come from the Conservatives, foreign observers, the Prime Minister, or Liberal MPs. They came the very people who do this kind of thing day in, day out, the senior officials at the Department of Finance.

  (2215)  

    If there is anyone that knows how the government's finances are doing, it would be officials at the Department of Finance. What does it say in the Department of Finance document released last December? It says that if nothing changes, and it looks as though nothing will change with the current Prime Minister, we will return to a balanced budget in 2055.
    There is a nice story that goes with that. The Minister of Finance received this very report from his officials as early as October 5. The Minister of Finance, an honourable man whom I respect, left the report on his desk and did not release it until December 23. While Canadians were preparing their turkey dinner for Christmas, the Minister of Finance released an incriminating document confirming that the government had lost complete control of public spending. They thought it was no big deal and that no one would notice. Thanks to a vigilant opposition and an alert press, the truth came out and we proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people have completely lost control over public finances, which is totally unacceptable.
    Need I remind the House that when we run up deficits, we are leaving our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to foot the bill, to pay the price for the current government's mismanagement? I keep hearing the Prime Minister and all the cabinet ministers say over and over during question period that the government is investing to create wealth for our children. The problem is that our children will pay the price. The government says it is family friendly. Well, it must feel close enough to the family to send the bill to our children and grandchildren, because it does not know how to manage the country's finances. It is absurd.
    I heard the Prime Minister on Global television say with a straight face that he had no idea when we would return to a balanced budget. That is completely irresponsible. I asked the Minister of Finance a completely frank and straightforward question based on his extensive and impressive experience as a seasoned executive. I want to reiterate that I have the utmost respect for the Minister of Finance. He served in his family business admirably and grew the business that his father started himself. Well done. I am very proud to have a man of that calibre as our Minister of Finance. Still, it would be nice if he made some good decisions.
     Earlier, during question period, I bluntly asked him, when he was in the business world, in the private sector, whether he would have tolerated an associate laughingly telling him that he did not have any idea when the budget would be balanced and that it was no big deal. When the Minister of Finance was a Bay Street baron, would he have allowed one of his associates to behave in such a way? He would have shown him the door. It is unacceptable.
    Unfortunately, it was the Prime Minister who made those disrespectful comments. I say disrespectful because it is disrespectful to our children and grandchildren who, sooner or later, will have to pay for this government's mismanagement. Over the past year, our party held its leadership race. We had serious, rigorous, positive, and constructive debates, and we came out of that leadership race even stronger than before.
    Our current Leader of the Opposition, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, said that he got into politics to become the leader of this party because he did not want his children to have to pay, like his generation is paying for the Prime Minister's father's mismanagement. What happened in the 1970s when the government completely lost control of public spending is unfortunately happening again. We have seen this before. Canadians deserve better than that.
    All that to say that Bill C-36 is a bad bill. This bill to amend the Statistics Act reminds us of the sad fact that this government has no idea how to carefully control public spending.

  (2220)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise at this late hour. However, I am having trouble talking with the shouting going on.
    Order, please. It is nice to see everyone having a good time. Order.
    I will defer back to the hon. member for Guelph.
    Mr. Speaker, I have trouble getting a question out of that speech, but I thank the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for giving us a tour around some very disturbing thoughts.
    We had started the evening talking about Bill C-36. One of the things about the bill is it shows a legitimate role for politics, but not for partisanship. We have to look at what is best for the country.
    When we look at partisanship we get things like we had in the member's speech, which really do not apply to statistics. When we are looking at the governance of Statistics Canada, we need to separate this House from that House, otherwise that is what we get.
    Could the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent tell us what the role of Statistics Canada would be, in his mind, in terms of an independent organization.

  (2225)  

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to apologize, because I am a bit tired. I just slept three hours last night, and I have been on duty since 10 o'clock this morning. I am very tired, and I am sorry if I am not very enthusiastic tonight.
    Let me talk about Bill C-36. When we change a Canadian government institution, it is quite important, and it is based on facts and based on problems. That is why 10 years ago, our government decided to fix the situation with a new way of getting information from people, and we had strong and robust results. More than 90% of Canadians participated in that survey. Everything was good at that time.
    Why does the Liberal government want to change that? The Liberals want Canadians to provide their personal information to the bibliothèque du Canada. We have to be very careful when we ask people to give personal information. That is why we are concerned about those two issues in Bill C-36. That is why we hope the government will fix it with new policies, good policies, that are good for Canada and good for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent covered quite a bit of ground in that speech. I would like to pick up on the beginning of his speech and the last answer.
    I am wondering if he could clarify for the House whether it is currently the position of the Conservative Party that the long form census should not be mandatory.
    Mr. Speaker, I just want to emphasize the fact that this hon. gentleman is a great-grandson of the former opponent of the Right Hon. John G. Diefenbaker when he was elected in Saskatchewan. I study history, and that is why I pay so much attention to that kind of situation. We all know that the Right Hon. John George Diefenbaker was the first guy from Saskatchewan to become prime minister. The next one is right here on our side of the House.
    Let us talk about the question. Why change something that is running well? We have proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that contrary to what all those so-called experts said about it killing the statistics and killing the science and all that stupid stuff, the reality is that more people participated in the survey.
    Why change something that is working? Why fix something when everything is working well?
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could speak to the lack of answers we are getting from the government about the change in the form of its statistical consultation body. I refer to the comments of the Treasury Board president. It is clear that this is not in its proper form in terms of the transition that is happening. The previous body was providing a role similar to the new body, but the new body would essentially allow the government to reappoint these people. It would give the government much more direct control over appointments and weaken its independence.
    I wonder if the member thinks we should have confidence in the government when it comes to its appointment processes.
    Unfortunately no, Mr. Speaker. I have no confidence in the government, because it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt in the last 18 months that when it tries to fix something, it creates more trouble. We have seen that with the government when it is time to administer public money. The Liberals said they would have a small deficit, but they have a huge deficit. The Liberals have lost all control over the spending of Canadians' money, and this is very dangerous for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren, who will have to pay for the bad judgment of the government. Based on that and based on so many other issues, we are afraid when the government tries to fix something that it will not be good.
    Let me also point out that tonight really is a Saskatchewan evening, because not only is the NDP member from Saskatchewan but the member who asked the question is from Alberta.
    An hon. member: He is from Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Gérard Deltell: I said that I was tired, Mr. Speaker. Tonight I am tired. He was born in Saskatchewan. I knew I was not wrong.

  (2230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the hon. member's interventions in the House, especially when he is particularly tired, as he is tonight. It is even more entertaining than usual.
    Perhaps if he wants to look back at former prime ministers, he needs look no further than where his riding gets its name: Louis St. Laurent, one of the greatest prime ministers ever. I commend anyone to take a look at the statue in front of the Supreme Court when they have time to kill between now and when we go home for the summer.
    Why does my hon. friend keep saying it was a success after 2011? Statistics Canada deemed it an absolute failure. It had to give warnings on the results: use the results at one's own peril because it could not guarantee their validity. How does he think that is a successful database for Statistics Canada to use? It did not work, it was a failure, and that is why we are here today. That is why one of the first things we did was reinstate the long form census. We are improving it even more with Bill C-36.
    I know when the member is not so tired, he will come around to his senses and support Bill C-36.
    Mr. Speaker, now it is becoming quite interesting to see my friend from Newmarket—Aurora , who speaks so well and so much, and who I do appreciate.
    If he cannot believe what the Conservative MPs have to say, I hope he will respect the fact that the one person who was in office at that time said:

[Translation]

    Wayne Smith, the chief statistician at the time, said that the national household survey “produced a rich and robust database of information.”
    Then, in an interview published in the June 24, 2013, edition of The Globe and Mail, Mr. Smith said that it was irresponsible to try to dissuade Canadians from using an extraordinarily rich and powerful database. That is not a Conservative talking. He added that he believed that it was irresponsible to make them nervous about using it, and yet that is exactly what the member for Newmarket—Aurora just did. It is not a Conservative who said those things. It is the former head of Statistics Canada, who, I might add, resigned because of the pressure being exerted on him by the current government.

[English]

    The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora talked about the name of my riding and the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent. One of the items of great importance that the Louis St. Laurent government did was cancel the deficit. I hope the current government will get inspiration from the Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent.
    Mr. Speaker, this may be too sober a question for this hour. One of the critiques I brought to committee, as I tried to get amendments on this bill, was to improve the independence of the chief statistician, particularly around the way in which that person is appointed. I do not know if any of those concerns resonated in the Conservative caucus.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to pay all my respect to the member, the leader of the Green Party, which plays an important role in our democracy, and especially in the House of Commons. I had the privilege to work with her on the electoral reform committee, another deception from the government.
    Based on that, yes, we strongly think that the head person of Statistics Canada should be independent from the government.
     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

    Mr. Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as midnight.
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

ADJOURNMENT PROCEEDINGS

[Adjournment Proceedings]
    A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

  (2235)  

[English]

Indigenous Affairs 

     Mr. Speaker, the families of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls want justice, but they also want to be heard. Shockingly, the inquiry commission only lists 90 names, as opposed to the 4,000 that the Native Women's Association had identified as murdered and missing indigenous—
    Some hon. member: Oh, oh!
    Ms. Sheila Malcolmson: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, can we get some respect here? We are talking about lost sisters.
    One moment, please.
    Quieting down the House works very well. We will let the hon. member continue.
     Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
    The families of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls want to be heard. The government has made solemn commitments, as we all have. We want the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls to go well. We want the families to be heard. We want to get resolution to the reason so many were lost, to the reason that so many families have not been willing to put their trust in police.
    The inquiry commission's last count only listed a couple of hundred names of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. The RCMP thinks there are 2,000. The Native Women's Association of Canada has counted more like 4,000.
    On National Aboriginal Day, which is starting tomorrow, we honour the families left behind and the women and girls lost, but we have a long way to go to achieve closure for the families who have suffered through the loss or disappearance of a loved one.
    Indigenous women are disproportionately the victims of violence, including murder. Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women. Indigenous women make up 4% of the female population, but they make up the majority of missing and murdered women.
    The suspicion around the reason there are so few names in the inquiry website is that there are privacy and process concerns. We have talked with the minister about whether the government is in fact doing everything it can to get those files transferred over, but it has not been totally clear.
    Over the past few weeks, the minister has said, “We are confident that the commission has the tools, the resources, and the networks to ensure that voices of families are heard and that they have the support they need.” However, that is not what we are hearing the families and survivors saying.
    During the pre-inquiry process, there were 17 face-to-face meetings with more than 2,000 survivors and their families, as well as the front-line service providers. The RCMP says there are 1,200 women and girls, but the inquiry has really just a handful in comparison.
     Dawn Lavell-Harvard, when she was the president of the Native Women's Association, said that the names of the missing women were in fact shared with the Liberal cabinet ministers during the pre-inquiry phase, so my question tonight is this: why is there such a discrepancy between the data that we know the government has and what has been given to the commissioners?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith for the opportunity to reaffirm the government's commitment to ending the ongoing national tragedy, recognizing that I do so on traditional territory of the Algonquin nation on the eve of National Aboriginal Day in Canada.
    Our government is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We are the first government to recognize that this is indeed a tragedy. We have launched a truly independent inquiry that is completely national in scope. We are confident that the commissioners have the background, the experience, and the mandate to lead this inquiry properly.
    After decades of loss, discrimination, and mistreatment, families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are speaking, and they feel they are being heard.
    The minister was very pleased to see the positive feedback from the first sessions that were held in Whitehorse. An independent national inquiry operating free from direction or interference of the government, and I want to make that clear, we know was essential to keeping our commitment and a vital step toward reconciliation with indigenous people.
    In the context of the member's question, I would remind the House that the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls was established under part I of the Inquiries Act. It is independent from the federal government. This commission has the authority to determine how best to accomplish its mandate. The commissioners decide how, when, and where to hear from witnesses, including survivors, families, and loved ones.
    The purpose of the pre-inquiry engagement, which included 17 face-to-face meetings with one or more federal ministers, was to hear primarily from families, loved ones, and survivors about the design of the inquiry. The pre-inquiry gathered recommendations and feedback on issues such as who would lead the inquiry, who would participate in the inquiry, and how it should be conducted to help inform the design of the commission. All of the 5,272 submissions received from academia, government groups, indigenous organizations, individuals, members of Parliament or legislatures, and organizations were all shared with the commission so it could read what families, loved ones, and survivors really wanted, and to be able to inform the inquiry and to accomplish the goals that it has been tasked with.
    In sharing the information with the commission, we have been equally aware of the importance of respecting the wishes of the many individuals who participated in the pre-inquiry phase on the condition that their participation would remain anonymous. In these instances, no personal information was shared. During the pre-inquiry, the department also assisted in areas such as making travel arrangements and keeping registration lists.
    I want to assure the member that progress is being made. We are committed to ensure that this is done, and it is done properly and in an independent way. I ask for her support in this ongoing inquiry.

  (2240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I share the member's hope for the inquiry and hope that also maybe she would be able to get me clarification that she did not have tonight on the exact number discrepancy. Because this is a nation-to-nation commitment that the government has made, it is ultimately the government that is responsible for ensuring that it go well, for all of us, our shared responsibility in this House that it go well.
    I want to quote from a very critical piece in Maclean's magazine. It says:
     In their reports on the Canadian human rights crisis of murders and disappearances of indigenous women and girls, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that Indian Act sex discrimination is one of the root causes of the murders and disappearances. It is a matter of life and death.
    I also note Sharon MacIvor having said that the consequences of keeping women unequal are known and they should be unacceptable to all Canadians: stigma, exclusion, second-class citizen status, and the risk of violence.
    Can the member describe to me the government's position around how sex-based discrimination—
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Mr. Speaker, as the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith already knows, today we debated Bill S-3 in the House, which would make changes to the Indian Act with respect to sex-based discrimination. We are encouraging members to support those amendments, and we are hopeful that they will, as Bill S-3 goes through the House.
     As well, the government, under the direction of the minister, has said it will enter into a phase-two process to review other gender imbalances and discriminatory clauses that exist within the Indian Act and to make those changes.
    I also want to ensure the member this evening that the Government of Canada continues to support the commission on missing and murdered indigenous women to the extent possible within the law. We are committed to bringing an end to the cycle of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada. We are not waiting for the recommendations of the inquiry to act; we are already—

  (2245)  

    The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise with a follow-up to my question earlier about the 911 communications system in Nova Scotia.
    Currently, as members know, there are two main facilities in Nova Scotia that deal with 93% of all ambulance, fire, and police emergency calls, dispatching the RCMP and so on. One of these facilities is in Truro and the other is in Dartmouth. They are an hour apart, which provides for redundancy. In the event that something happens in Dartmouth, then the Truro office can pick up the load, and if something happens in Truro, the Dartmouth office can pick up the load, which is providing that necessary redundancy.
    Recently, the RCMP has suggested it may close the Truro office and move it to Dartmouth where the other police communications centre is located. I was concerned at first because of the jobs, but lately I have become aware that it is a safety issue as well.
    Through access to information, I was able to access a report that the RCMP did, which states, “It is not recommended that the two largest police communications operations in Nova Scotia be placed within the same metropolitan area.” That is exactly what the RCMP is proposing to do.
    The RCMP report goes on to say, in recommendation number three, that the RCMP “not locate their primary OCC within the Halifax Regional Municipality.” Again, that is exactly what it is proposing to do.
    The same report goes on to say that the primary service delivery site should “be outside of HRM due to risks of placing two largest police communications centres in proximity tp each other.”
    This is about redundancy. Therefore, there should be a separation between the two centres so that, in the event something happens in Dartmouth, Truro could pick up the load and vice versa.
    I went a little further because I needed to know more about this. I did not want to say anything that was not accurate. Therefore, I contacted one of the major police forces in Canada and I asked what it used as a manual for emergency measures. It referred me to the Homeland Security manual that it uses. This police force serves seven million people. This is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. It confirms exactly what the RCMP report said. It states, “Organizations should have adequate, separate locations to ensure execution of their functions.”
    That same police force also provided me with another report from the National Emergency Number Association. These are reports that this police force and most police forces in Canada use to set up their emergency measures program. The report says that the document is prepared solely for the use of 911 system service providers. It states, “It is desirable to have at least two layers of redundancy for each major component of...[an emergency services office].”
    Here we have three reports saying that to consolidate these emergency measures communications centres into one municipality puts Nova Scotians at risk. In fact, in this case, they would both be located in Dartmouth if the RCMP goes ahead with this. The decision has not been made yet. Hopefully, it will not make that decision, because this is the opposite of what everybody else is doing. It is reverse redundancy. Most places are going for redundancy and trying to make sure they have separate locations for their communications. If the RCMP does this it would be reverse redundancy and will put Nova Scotians at risk. The word “risk” is in the RCMP report.
    Therefore, my question is this. If the RCMP decides to contravene and contradict its own recommendations, who would be held responsible in the event of a disaster when life and limb are lost?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his incredible advocacy on behalf of his community, and for raising this issue at this hour.
    The RCMP contract relationship has a long history in our country, dating back as early as 1906. Nova Scotia became the first contract jurisdiction in 1932, and for the past 85 years has received exemplary service from the RCMP through what is known as H Division.
    The contract relationship sees participating provinces and territories pay 70% of RCMP costs and the federal government pays 30%. Municipalities with populations of less than 15,000 pay 70% of the costs, while the federal government pays 30%. For larger municipalities, the city pays 90% of costs. Finally, since 1991, municipalities that have never before been policed by the RCMP must pay 100% of the contract policing costs. Under the contracts, it is the provinces and municipalities that establish the level of policing, budget, and policing priorities in consultation with the RCMP.
    That brings me to the issue raised by my hon. colleague. In terms of the consideration to consolidate the Nova Scotia emergency communications centre, the force is currently conducting a review to examine service delivery as well as facility and human resource requirements across Nova Scotia, not only in the location we are speaking of tonight. Before any decisions are made, the RCMP is committed to reviewing all aspects of the proposed consolidation to ensure the safety and security of Nova Scotians, and the brave women and men of the RCMP.
    The current RCMP H Division study will determine what is required to sustain or upgrade the operational communications facility over the next one to five years. It will primarily focus upon operational needs, employee health and safety concerns, and the anticipated costs for the next five to 10 years.
    The Treasury Board Secretariat sets out requirements for custodial departments to manage real property, and deputy heads are accountable to their respective ministers and Treasury Board for the management of their assets. Departments are now being audited on their footprint, the amount of space they occupy, and are required to make repayment for excess space in their buildings.
     The goal of this study is to engage employees in contributing to decisions relative to their work site, while being operationally minded and fiscally responsible for the assets the RCMP manages moving forward. At the end of that review, the recommendations will be presented to the Nova Scotia divisional executive for a decision of how to best proceed given the overall priorities of H Division.
    I understand the member has been in frequent contact with the executive at H Division. I commend the member for his dedication, and for raising this issue of importance to his constituents. I assure the member that no final decisions have been made prior to the review's completion, and I look forward to working with the member on the issue.
     In closing, I would like to take the opportunity to commend the brave men and women of the RCMP who continue to put their lives on the line every single day to keep our communities safe.

  (2250)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is no question about the quality of the policing service we get, but there would be a question about the quality of the police service we get if there were no way for them to communicate with each other, which would be the case if both of these communication centres were shut down.
    When I brought this up last week in the House, I asked about it, and was told that our own police force here, that provides us with protection, is arranging for an offsite location away from this location, so they would ensure redundancy in the event of a disaster after what happened with the armed gunman. Communications actually failed in that case, because there was no way to communicate.
    Again, we have three reports all saying that redundancy is so critical. Our own House is saying redundancy is critical. Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that redundancy is a critical part of this decision, not just money?
    Mr. Speaker, absolutely, this is clearly a decision that is beyond money, and it is one that is incredibly important. In fact, it cannot be overstated that in policing, effective operational communication is vital to our safety and security. The systems and infrastructure public safety officers use, without question, have to be top-notch, and those investments are absolutely critical.
    I look forward to working with him. No decisions have been made on this, but it is an incredibly important issue. The safety of his community, the safety of Nova Scotians, is a top priority for this government.

National Defence 

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to revisit a question I raised on May 4. I asked the Minister of National Defence why the Liberals were taking away the danger pay from our troops that were currently deployed in the fight against ISIS and were stationed in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan. We had already established that the Minister of National Defence had a very casual relationship with the troops.
     We heard from veterans not only on the minister's embellishment of his service record, but also the feeling of service members and their families on the impact it had on their moral state of mind, as they served in the Canadian Armed Forces, knowing the government was trying to undermine their danger pay.
    A 27-year veteran stated, “The Defence Minister cannot continue to lead the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, having lost the and respect and trust in this way.”
    I acknowledge that the danger pay issue was resolved. After opposition members and Canadians put so much pressure on the government, it had to backtrack. The government was forced to accept a motion I brought forward in the House to restore the danger pay for all troops that were in the fight against ISIS, including those that were stationed in Kuwait, particularly at Camp Arifjan. We know the embarrassment was so much that the Liberals had to insert it into the defence policy review.
     Today I want to deal with the track record of the Minister of National Defence over the past year. We have heard from members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as veterans, who took great offence with the minister's comments that he was the architect of Operation Medusa. This was not a slip of the tongue. This was something he said from prepared notes in a speech he delivered in India on April 18. He said that on his first appointment to Kandahar in 2006, he was the architect of Operation Medusa. He said it in 2015 as a Liberal candidate.
    To show how it impacted upon our veterans and our troops, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Shane Schreiber said that the minister, as a soldier, probably would not have said that, however, the minister the politician thought he could get away with it. He said, “When you are careless with your words as a politician, that can haunt you.” He went on to say, “Any good soldier would not try to steal another soldier's honour.” This is often referred to as stolen valour.
     The minister has apologized for that statement, but he has undermined his own credibility because of this statement, which was deliberately misleading not only the House but Canadians and the people he spoke to in India.
    We also know he has misled the House on a number of other occasions.
     He also said that the pulling our CF-18s from Operation Impact in the war against ISIS was accepted by our allies. He said in December, 2015 that he had not had one discussion about the CF-18s. However, emails sent by officials, which we acquired through an access to information request, showed that the Iraqi minister of defence was clearly focused on Canada's decision to withdraw its CF-18s from the coalition air strikes, asking the minister to reconsider this decision on numerous occasions.
    We also know that on numerous occasions, Kurdish officials stated that they wanted to have our CF-18s left in the fight against ISIS, but the Liberal Minister of National Defence brought them home.
    We also know that over the past year, the minister has also dealt with this whole issue of—

  (2255)  

    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, my colleague's original question had to do with pay for our troops who are deployed to Kuwait to fight against Daesh as part of Operation Impact. The member opposite also mentioned the Minister of National Defence in his speech.
    I am pleased that he has given me an opportunity to reiterate that the minister is a former reservist who has an excellent understanding of the needs of soldiers and their families and who believes that our troops are by far our greatest asset. He is a minister who puts his experience on the ground, his expertise, and his energy into serving our men and women in uniform every day. He is a minister who ensures that our soldiers have the resources, training, equipment, and support they need to successfully carry out the missions and operations assigned to them.
    Like the minister, our entire government is determined to ensure that the members of the Canadian Armed Forces get all the benefits they need to take care of their families here in Canada, particularly when they are sent on missions abroad.
    That is why we supported the motion moved by the member opposite last March regarding tax relief for military personnel sent to Kuwait. That motion was debated on March 9, 2017, and was adopted unanimously in the House.
    The Minister of National Defence became personally engaged in this file in February 2016. On May 18, the Minister of National Defence announced that we would be offering tax relief to all Canadian Armed Forces members who take part in international chief of the defence staff named operations, up to the highest rank of lieutenant-colonel. This change is retroactive to January 2017. In addition, this measure does not affect the hardship allowance, risk allowance, or deployment allowance set out in the National Defence military foreign service instructions. Those payments will continue.
    Our women and men in uniform who take part in overseas operations are doing a tremendous job. They are highly skilled and very well trained, and are the pride of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. They represent Canada with professionalism and courage, and we are very grateful to them.
    Our new policy includes several measures to ensure that our troops get the support they need whether they are transitioning from civilian to military life or back to civilian life at the end of their career.
    We put our troops and their families at the heart of this policy by making sure they get the care, support, training, and resources they need to accomplish what we ask of them. The government's new defence policy includes a new vision and a new approach to defence. We provided a clear direction on defence priorities over a 20-year horizon and provided matching long-term investments to fully fund the implementation of our new policy.
    The government set out an ambitious but realistic plan to ensure that Canada can respond to current and future defence challenges. Over the next 10 years, annual military spending will rise from $18.9 billion to $32.7 billion. The size of the regular force will grow by 3,500, and the reserve force will be increased by 1,500. We will also invest to grow, maintain, and upgrade Canadian Armed Forces capabilities.
    The Minister of National Defence is deeply committed to our troops, and the new defence policy reflects that commitment.

  (2300)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are not questioning the minister's record. We are questioning his trustworthiness. Case in point, the sole-sourcing for 18 Super Hornets where the capability gap is imaginary. We already know that 88% of defence experts and 13 former Royal Canadian Air Force commanders have said there is no capability gap.
    We have already seen $12 billion worth of cuts in two budgets under this minister. The government has done a defence policy review, but there is no money to actually resource it. If there is no money to resource it, then it is a book of empty promises.
    The minister has been out there doing his tour. Canadians and members of the Canadian Armed Forces are hoping it is his farewell tour, because this is a minister who has gone out, and tried to sell something when we know the money is not in the budget. The Minister of Finance has said that currently the Canadian Armed Forces are properly provisioned. I can tell the House the money is not there to do the things the government says it is going to do.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in a context of complex and unpredictable international security, Canada has to anticipate new threats and new challenges, adapt to the changing context, and act with decisive military capability.
    I want to point out that the minister chaired the most important consultation in years in order to develop Canada's new defence policy. His unwavering passion contributed to the plan for Canada's protection, North America's security, and the commitment related to maintaining stability in a constantly changing world for the next 20 years.
    As the Chief of the Defence Staff said when the new defence policy was unveiled, this is a good day for people in uniform. Canadian Armed Forces members are happy with the Minister of National Defence and they respect him. That is abundantly clear on the ground. I have seen it many times.
    The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
    (The House adjourned at 11:04 p.m.)
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