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42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 421

CONTENTS

Tuesday, May 28, 2019




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 148
NUMBER 421
1st SESSION
42nd PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[Translation]

House of Commons

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the House of Commons administration's strategic plan 2019-22.

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

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

Citizenship Act

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

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in relation to the mental health challenges that Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers face.
    I would also like to note that this non-partisan study is probably one of the most important studies we have ever done. We hope the government will accept our recommendations.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.
    Mr. Speaker, the official opposition members of the committee wrote a supplementary report.
    We agree with the report as a whole. We supported the production of the report, which we fully agree with. However, we produced supplementary opinions because we believe the report should go further, particularly to reflect a lot of testimony with regard to the urgency of the problem, as well as the need for action on several fronts, such as public education, social media attacks, and the harmful impact that government decisions can have on farmers' mental health and stress levels.
    Furthermore, the committee had an opportunity to take a stand on a measure that has been a direct cause of significant stress for Canada's farmers. I am referring to the carbon tax. One of the recommendations in the report is to scrap it immediately to remove a stress factor for farmers across the country.
    Again, I will reiterate that the official opposition supports the report produced by the entire committee. We simply wanted to suggest some additional ideas.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 17th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled “Support for Indigenous Peoples in the Agriculture and Agri-Food Industry.”
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 30th report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, entitled “Main Estimates 2019-20”.

[Translation]

Public Safety and National Security  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 34th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

[English]

Petitions

International Development  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from dozens of residents in Calgary. It was presented to me by Charlotte Woo from the University of Calgary.
    The petitioners are asking that the government address the fact that there are approximately 766 million people living in poverty around the world. They also point out that approximately 7,000 will die every day from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Therefore, they are asking that the government increase Canada's international assistance funding by 15% per year until we achieve a contribution equal to 0.7% of our gross national income.

Children's Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a honour to present a petition from hundreds of Canadians on behalf of thousands of vulnerable children.
     The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada, having agreed to the standards in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to recognize the barriers within its own direct payments to families and remedy them. They are requesting that the funded services like the homelessness partnering initiative provide funding for client supports for children; that the government provide the Canada child benefit and the children's special allowances for all children; that it set standards within the Canada social transfer to ensure that all children, without discrimination in any form, benefit from the special protection measures and assistance; that it recognize children of parents with addictions and homeless children in need of special support to enable them to achieve improved life outcomes and receive equal benefit to their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; that it reduce the level of material deprivation for children who move a lot for reasons related to homelessness, parental addiction or incarceration, or government care experiences; that it reduce the interprovincial and territorial disparities that exclude children living in circumstances not considered under the current eligibility rules; and, finally, that it increase supports for children living with the highest level of exclusion.

  (1010)  

Canada Summer Jobs Initiative  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here signed by dozens of Canadians.
     They are concerned that the government has forgotten about section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which identifies, among other things, the freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of belief as fundamental freedoms. They are concerned that the attestation requirement for the Canada summer jobs program is a violation of section 2 of the charter. They are calling on the Prime Minister and the government to defend freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of belief and to withdraw the attestation requirement on the Canada summer jobs program.
    I have two other signed petitions that identify the same concern. I would be prepared not to speak to those individually but to lump them all together, with your permission, Mr. Speaker.
    Absolutely.
    The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

[Translation]

Children's Rights  

     Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by dozens of citizens. I know that a number of similar petitions have been signed by thousands of citizens from coast to coast to coast.
    The signatories note that Canada has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but that many of the government's policies do not uphold those rights for everyone equally.
    I would like to share just two examples. The housing first benefit takes only adults into account. It does not take children, who are often those in the greatest need, into account. The child benefit is not distributed equally either.
    There are other examples, but, essentially, what the petitioners want the government to do is fix programs that do not uphold the the principle of equal rights for all children. They want the government to ensure that no child is excluded and that all children can achieve their full potential.

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Langley—Aldergrove, I hereby present 30 petitions calling on the Government of Canada to make changes to the current drinking and driving laws in Canada and to make a change to the Criminal Code.
    The charge of impaired driving causing death should be charged to the offence of vehicular manslaughter. If a person is arrested and convicted of impaired driving, there should be an automatic one-year driving prohibition. If a person is convicted of causing bodily harm while impaired by being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, there should be a minimum mandatory sentence of two years' imprisonment.
    I also ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to sign only two of these and lump them together in the same presentation.
    Again, absolutely.
    The hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.

Housing  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of constituents from Port Alberni, Parksville and Courtenay, which are in my riding, to end homelessness and recognize housing as a human right. They cite that an estimated 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness. They also cite that the government is committed to reducing homelessness by 50% over 10 years, which would still leave 117,500 Canadians homeless each year.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to take immediate action by officially recognizing that housing is a human right and adopting Motion No. 147 to develop a plan to end and prevent homelessness in Canada.

  (1015)  

Human Organ Trafficking  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today in support of Bill S-240. If members are not aware, it is a bill dealing with the issue of forced organ harvesting. The bill has been through this place and through the Senate once, but it is back in the Senate for consideration of amendments. Petitioners hope that the Senate will pass this quickly so that it gets done before the next election.

Children's Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of Canadians who are concerned about the consequences for children when their parents end up in jail, particularly as they relate to the structure of government programs, which make it very hard, if not impossible, for those children to access benefits once their parents are jailed. Often these children end up in informal caregiving situations, so the caregiver cannot access benefits, such as the Canada child benefit. In addition, as rent supplements are often paid to an individual adult, once the adult is in prison, the child cannot benefit from that supplement. Canadians believe, as I do, that we do not want to make it harder for children to have good support in life and to succeed, whatever their parents may have done.
    That is why the petitioners are calling on the government to change the structure of its programs to ensure that children continue to be supported, whatever the situation of their parents may be.

Taxation  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of dozens of citizens of Toronto, Etobicoke, Scarborough and Guelph, Ontario, I am pleased to present a petition asking the government to reverse its decision to apply an excise tax to cannabis sold for medical purposes and to recognize that medical cannabis should be exempt from the federal goods and services tax.
    As members may know, the government has responded to previous petitions; however, those responses have not been satisfactory. These petitioners are asking the government to reconsider its decision and remove the excise tax so that Canadians have access to the medication that their doctors prescribe.
    Before I move to the hon. parliamentary secretary, I note that I saw the member for Avalon rise when I was asking for the presentation of reports from committees. I had not been informed that he had a report to deliver, but I gather he does. I think what he wants is to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to return to presenting reports from committees in order to allow him to do so.
    Is there unanimous consent?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The hon. member for Avalon.

Committees of the House

Fisheries and Oceans  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for granting me leave to do this.
    I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 23rd report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled “Striped Bass in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Miramichi River: Striking a Delicate Balance”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Accessible Canada Act

     moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.
    She said: Mr. Speaker, as a person with a disability and as the Minister of Accessibility, it is truly an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-81.
    Over three years ago, our government embarked on a journey aimed to make things better for a significant percentage of the population that has a history of being ill-treated or ignored. The time to act is now.
    The time to propose a new system that would help address the barriers to inclusion faced every single day by Canadians with disabilities has come. The time to do things differently as a government, to ensure that all Canadians have an equal chance at success, has come.

[Translation]

     I am extremely proud of the work we have done in creating this transformative piece of legislation that will improve the lives of millions of persons with disabilities.

  (1020)  

[English]

    This bill reflects the voices of thousands of persons with a disability, their family members and their friends, and it spans decades of advocacy. We could not have come this far without the strong collaboration of the disability community and its strategic and thoughtful work, which has been incredibly impactful.
    I would like to recognize the excellent work done in the other chamber and by our Senate sponsor, Senator Munson, on the bill. Bill C-81 was carefully studied over the course of many meetings, and both chambers made amendments to strengthen this historic legislation.
    Members of the disability community shared their views and experiences, many of them very personal. I am grateful for their engagement and dedication to the advancement of accessibility in Canada.

[Translation]

    We took to heart the messages heard from these witnesses and proposed amendments to echo those voices and concerns. Our government supports all the amendments made to Bill C-81 brought forward in the Senate as we recognize that they reflect key priorities voiced by the community.

[English]

    Let me provide members with a breakdown of some key amendments made in the Senate.
    A significant change responds to the specific requests of witnesses that Bill C-81 set a deadline for the realization of a Canada without barriers. Accordingly, the purpose of the legislation, as well as the mandates of the minister and the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, would now reflect the objective of realizing a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040. By adding a specific deadline, the disability community has stated that it would be able to hold government accountable on progress and ensure that accessibility remained a priority for future governments. To mitigate concern that this deadline could provide a reason for people to delay action on accessibility until the deadline neared, amendments have been made to add the words “without delay” to the preamble of the bill. These words would clarify that nothing in the act would permit any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers to accessibility.
    I have also heard the community's strong call to recognize the importance of sign language to the deaf community in Canada. Therefore, I am pleased that Bill C-81 was amended to recognize American sign languages, langue des signes québécoise and indigenous sign language as a primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada.
    I would also like to acknowledge that we have interpreters on the Hill in Parliament today.
    This legislation is intended to complement the existing human rights framework in Canada. Nothing in this bill or the regulations made under it would limit or replace the duty to accommodate, which is an established principle of human rights. That is why I support the amendment to clarify that nothing in the accessible Canada act or its regulations would limit a regulated entity's duty to accommodate under any other act of Parliament in any way.

[Translation]

    We know that transportation services should be accessible for everyone. In response to stakeholders’ concerns, an amendment was made to allow the Canadian Transportation Agency to identify an undue barrier, even if a transportation service provider is not in contravention of an accessibility regulation.

[English]

    This would ensure that the CTA could fully address barriers that persons with disabilities may face in the federal transportation system.
    Further, adding stronger language on intersectionality in the principles of the bill responds to the disability community's desire to see greater recognition of the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination that influence how barriers impact diverse groups of persons with disabilities.

[Translation]

    As we work together to build a Canada that is more inclusive and accessible, we have an incredible opportunity to reshape the way we think about disability.

[English]

    This legislation would send a clear signal to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought. It is our systems, policies and laws that need to be fixed, not our people.
    We can see the finish line. By concurring with all amendments made and swiftly passing Bill C-81, we can continue on this journey that will lead us to a society that treats all people with the dignity they deserve, a society in which everyone has equal opportunities to contribute and a society that is truly inclusive.

  (1025)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her comments and for her personal passion for this legislation.
    From what I understand, when the Senate replied to the bill, it made two additional notes, and I would appreciate the minister's comment on them. One was a concern that funding could still go to projects that did not have complete accessibility as part of them. It encouraged us and the government to be vigilant on this point. I wonder if the minister could comment on that. Is it something that should have been addressed in the legislation, or does it maybe require separate action? The other issue was the importance of training in preparation for the full implementation of and engagement with this framework.
    I wonder if the minister could offer some comments on those points and on how the government can ensure that the concerns of the Senate in this respect are incorporated in our practices going forward.
    Mr. Speaker, through Bill C-81, we would put in place mechanisms to ensure, as much as possible, that the funding we allocated would reflect the principles of accessibility. Where that was not possible, say for jurisdictional regions, such as provincial jurisdiction, we would build it into our policy and programs. I think of our national housing strategy and the Canada child benefit. The notion is that we have to recognize that disability is in and of itself a unique characteristic, and we would not be put in a position of putting funding into programs, policies or allocations that did not take accessibility into account. I will use the example of our national housing strategy. Built into that project is a carve-out for ensuring not just that the building code is met but that there are actually accessible units built, as a matter of course, in using this money.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a red-letter day for us and for people in the disability community because we are coming back to the House of Commons today with some amendments so that we can strengthen Bill C-81, which is a milestone. However, I would ask the minister to take this opportunity to assure Canadians that some of the most egregious concerns we had that were not met in the bill, even with amendments, are going to be addressed.
    Mainly, people living with different abilities need to have a one-stop place they can go with their concerns. Right now, Bill C-81 would separate enforcement and implementation among four organizations. I would ask the minister to help us envision how we can move this forward. We know that it is a federal election year, and people in the disability community are diligently watching how we can move this forward in a campaign year.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and, of course, her partnership on Bill C-81. This bill belongs to all of us.
    The elements in Bill C-81 are additional elements in an existing system. We have things in place. We have structures in place through the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which means that we are not starting from scratch. However, we are very aware that the sectoral approach taken in Bill C-81 has raised a concern that people will not know where to go first. Therefore, the leadership of both our government and these organizations has created, and we have built into Bill C-81, what we call a no-wrong-door approach, which means that wherever people go, it will be the responsibility of the system to point them in the right direction.
    For example, if an individual had a complaint and went to the accessibility commissioner with it, and that complaint should have gone to the Canadian Transportation Agency, it would be the accessibility commissioner's responsibility to get it in front of the right people and not the responsibility of the individual filing the complaint. This would be required. We already have a memorandum of understanding with these organizations as they work to design this system in a way that would create that seamless service approach.
    We are aware of that concern. Disability advocates have raised it with us. We are doing everything we can to make sure that it is at the back end and that we do not deal with these concerns at the front end through the experience of the person who wants some help.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the minister and her government for approving or supporting these amendments. However, I would point out that the vast majority of the amendments were brought up at committee by opposition members, Conservative, NDP and Green, who all agreed that these amendments were important to the bill. Unfortunately, the Liberals on that committee refused these amendments. Therefore, I want to give the minister credit for standing up here today and voicing her support for these critical amendments.
    The one question I would like to ask the minister, which came up frequently during the discussion at committee, certainly for our stakeholders, is on the issue of exemptions for federal departments. Federal departments would be able to ask for and be granted an exemption from the legislative regulations as part of Bill C-81. I would like to ask the minister if she is going to be diligent to ensure that any requests for exemptions through Bill C-81 would be strictly restricted or followed through to ensure that there was a good, valid reason for those exemptions to be approved.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, the short answer is yes, we will be very diligent. Thanks to the amendments put forth through the House committee, there would now be more robust accounting for an exemption when it was granted. The rationale for granting an exemption would have to be published. It would be a time-limited exemption. They would have to apply. It would not be something that would go on in perpetuity.
    The positive aspect of exemptions is that they would acknowledge the innovation and the forward-looking nature of some of the organizations that fall within federal jurisdiction. Some of them are already doing a lot on accessibility, so we wanted to have flexibility in the legislation to allow us to basically accept that what they are doing is equal to or better than what would be required under the law. Those who were not doing anything or enough, at least under my watch, would have a very tough time getting an exemption.
    Mr. Speaker, as the minister would be aware, a number of different interest groups have come to MPs across the country during this period. Certainly I have heard a lot from people who are advocates for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. I wonder if the minister can confirm that she believes that the Senate amendments would adequately address those who have been calling for additional protections for American sign language, langue des signes québécoise and international sign language, and, if not, if she has identified any gaps and how those might be addressed in the regulations.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very exciting that we have managed to get into Bill C-81 the recognition of American sign language, langue des signes québécoise and indigenous sign language as the primary language for Canadians who are deaf. This is something I heard loud and clear and that I was very pleased to have supported. It was a bit of a journey as we worked through the process of official-language designation versus primary language. I think we got to the right place.
    We have to understand that to Canadians who are deaf, sign language is an aspect of self-identity and culture, and we owe it to all of them to make sure that we recognize that as we move forward toward an accessible Canada.
    [Member spoke in sign language]
    [English]
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to say hello to members of the deaf community who are here today.
    There is much that needs to be improved in this bill. My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh spoke earlier about enforcement. It is key that this become something far more than symbolic and that it allows for full accessibility.
    I do not believe the minister adequately responded to the question from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. How is the government going to guarantee enforcement and make sure that rights enabled through this legislation would actually be put in place?
    Mr. Speaker, this legislation would fundamentally create a system in which we focused on a human rights approach to disability rights, and that would be a game changer for the disability community in our country. We know, and we heard very loudly, that as much as we needed to acknowledge the importance of accessibility and inclusion, we also had to put some teeth in this law. That is why we would have, in my opinion, very robust enforcement mechanisms that could result, for example, in a $250,000 fine per day for a non-compliant entity.
    Proactively, however, we would be requiring federally regulated entities, including the government, to create accessibility plans. People with disabilities would have to be part of the creation of these plans.
    As much as we need to have an enforcement side to this, what we really want is to build a Canada that is accessible so that we do not to have to enforce the regulations, so we are doing a lot of work on the front end. We do not want to build a compliance system that does not look at the proactive change we are trying to address and build systemically into the way we work with Canadians who have disabilities in our country.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today to address Bill C-81, an important piece of legislation that recognizes and affirms the inherent dignity of all people regardless of disability. It seeks to create the kind of policy environment and framework that facilitate full participation in every aspect of Canadian life for Canadians who have disabilities.
    Those watching can be assured of the support of all parties in this House for this legislation. Today we will discuss some missed opportunities and some related issues on which we have not agreed with the government's actions. Specifically, for instance, we will discuss some of the issues around employment. We had a private member's bill from my friend, the member for Carleton, that dealt with facilitating the full involvement of Canadians with disabilities in terms of employment. There are areas of disagreement among the parties in terms of the best way to move forward and the best way to affirm these principles.
     Nonetheless, those watching should know that we in the opposition, and all parties, are supportive of moving forward with this legislation. Whether the bill passes today or tomorrow, I am not sure of the exact timeline. However, I think we will certainly see this bill pass into law before the election. It will be good news and a positive step.
    Before getting into some of the substance of the legislation, I want to pick up on something said by my colleague, the member for Foothills. He has done a lot of great work on this bill on our side, as have the member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin and other members who have been part of the process. The member for Foothills pointed out that amendments for this bill that were put forward at the committee level by Conservatives, as well as by other opposition parties, were not supported by government MPs at the time of the initial study by the House of Commons committee. That is an important point, that they were not supported at that stage.
    Notwithstanding disagreements about some of the particulars around amendments, we have supported this bill at every stage. After the bill passed third reading, it went to the Senate. The Senate made a number of amendments that reflected the same concerns that Conservative members of the House had been hearing from the stakeholder community, those representing Canadians with disabilities. Those same concerns that we heard were also heard by the Senate, and they were part of the discussion that happened in the context of that Senate committee.
    The bill was amended somewhat at the Senate, and then it was brought back to the House. Now we are debating whether to agree to and support those Senate amendments. I think members will find, generally speaking, support across the parties for the Senate amendments, which make improvements on the text of the bill as it was.
    Those who are watching should note how this legislative process works through the details, and how senators were able to be more influential over the legislative outcome than members of the House were. The government would not accept amendments that came from members of the House, but then accepted those same amendments that came from members of the Senate.
    We have seen this in a number of cases. I recall Bill C-14, to which an amendment around palliative care was proposed. Actually it was not even just proposed at committee; it was voted on by all members in the chamber at that time. It was voted down. Then, in similar form, it was proposed by Senator Plett, and it passed in the Senate. It was then accepted as part of a subsequent message from the House of Commons.
    We see this process happening, in general, in this Parliament, because of the relative lack of independence that we sometimes see in committees and the way committees are unfortunately quite controlled, and the relative independence of the Senate, certainly relative to the House of Commons. It is not as independent as maybe some like to claim, but it is relatively independent compared to the actions of members, especially government members, in the House of Commons. Senate action actually has a greater practical impact on the legislative process.
    Again, although I am happy to see the incorporation of these amendments, I think we should be concerned about that, just as a matter of legislative process. We want this House and its elected members of Parliament to be strong in the exercise of their responsibilities.

  (1040)  

    Nonetheless, although we raise questions and highlight some of the means by which some of these issues have come forward, we are pleased to see these amendments. They reflect issues that have been raised by the stakeholder community and by members of Parliament from our party and, I believe, other parties as well.
    With that said about matters of process, let me turn now to the particulars of the legislation, Bill C-81, that is before us. To summarize the content of the bill, in a nutshell, it is essentially about requiring regulated entities, that is, the public service and federally regulated workplaces, to develop accessibility plans. It also requires that the content of those plans be regulated and enforced.
    As the minister and others have pointed out in some of the remarks they have made during this process, very often our human rights processes are complaints based. That is, complaints issues are considered when there is a violation or a potential violation of somebody's rights. A complaint is then made, and an adjudication happens around that complaint.
    A point that the minister has made, and she is quite right in making it, is that this approach is not the full realization. It is important that people have those avenues available to them, but it is not the full extent of what we would like to see in this context. Rather, we would prefer to see a proactive approach, where we are ensuring the protection of rights from the beginning and not merely putting in place a system that allows complaints to be adjudicated after people's rights have been violated.
    Seeking to have regulated entities develop plans, prepare and publish those plans, implement them and facilitate their enforcement creates the conditions for a more proactive approach to these issues, rather than simply a reactive approach. That is wise, worthwhile and something that all parties support. It would establish proactive compliance and enforcement mechanisms. These plans must be multi-year and involve the setting of goals, reporting requirements, mechanisms for investigation and a variety of processes that seek to ensure the realization of those plans to the fullest possible extent.
    This legislation would also create an organization called CASDO, the Canadian accessibility standards development organization, and allocate $290 million over the next six years for its creation. This organization would work within the government to create regulations related to various aspects of the legislation around the built environment, employment, service delivery, information and communications technology, transportation and procurement, and always with the goal of the full integration of people with disabilities, facilitating their full participation within society, without barriers.
    Failure to meet standards set by CASDO would lead to fines. It should be noted that the action of CASDO would be within federally regulated entities and directly within the federal government only. Nonetheless, the hope is that this legislation would involve the setting of standards that would then be adopted and become useful across all facets of Canadian society, including those outside the federally regulated workforce. There would also be 5,000 Canadians with disabilities hired for the public service, which is also encouraging to see. Our party, as people have seen, has been vocal on the issue of ensuring that those who have disabilities are not arbitrarily excluded from the public service.

  (1045)  

    This is the broad framework of the bill. It puts in place some mechanisms and processes to ensure there are no barriers to participation in society for people with disabilities.
    Today we are in the process of debating issues related to proposed Senate amendments. The minister has spoken, and I would like to highlight the various Senate amendments that we are considering. Although the Senate did not incorporate all the changes that had been proposed at committee, in the House or that had been suggested by the broader disability community, all the changes that were made were reflective of those particular concerns.
    First is the issue of including in this legislation a timeline for the realization of a barrier-free Canada; that timeline is 2040. The goal is that this work would be completed, taken fully to fruition, by 2040. The amendments also seek to clarify, though, that the setting of that deadline is not an excuse to wait until the proverbial night before to get the homework done. Rather, the amendments are to ensure the work is done by that point. They create that timeline or deadline but do not seek to permit any kind of delay or preservation of barriers in the name of it not being 2040 yet. That is an important element as well.
    Growing up, I was always taught that deadlines are the mother of invention and that more gets done when there is the focusing effect of an upcoming deadline, so the work of the community and the Senate to ensure that there is a timeline in place for the implementation of these measures is quite commendable and important.
    Another area of amendment from the Senate was that it asked that intersectionality be taken into consideration in this account. Amendments were put forward to recognize the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, the fact that people with disabilities may face discrimination as a result of an intersectional reality. Therefore, the planned response to barriers needs to be a response that takes that circumstance into consideration. We recognize that reality. We recognize the importance of the various plans that are put forward by regulated entities to recognize that intersectionality is part of the dynamic.
    Further, the amendments put forward by the Senate seek to address the issue of preserving the existing human rights of people with disabilities. This was really more of a clarification, but the testimony heard in the House, as well as by the Senate committee, emphasized the importance of this clarification, recognizing that there are already obligations under various human rights codes, in particular in the case of federal entities under the Canadian Human Rights Act and other federal laws. Various groups highlighted the importance of clarifying that the new framework put forward with this bill does not in any way derogate from the existing recognized rights and obligations that are enumerated as part of those existing human rights codes. We recognize that aspect as important as well.
     Through other amendments, the Senate sought to protect existing rights in the context of passengers with disabilities through the Canadian Transportation Agency.

  (1050)  

    The expectation is that many of the complaints would come through the Canadian Transportation Agency. This was put forward by people in the disability community. It is therefore important for the legislation to create enforceable standards around the action that this body must take in the removal of barriers. This is an important piece as well.
    On the specific issue of transportation, I want to read briefly from a briefing from ARCH Disability Law Centre. It said the following:
    However, subsection 172(2), a provision that is currently in the Canada Transportation Act, effectively means that once the CTA make these regulations and transportation providers, like airlines, comply with these regulations, they do not need to do anything more.
    This is problematic because the regulations that the CTA sets may not meet the duty to accommodate protections that people with disabilities have under human rights law.
    Under subsection 172(2), if a passenger with a disability complains to the CTA that an airline or other transportation provider should have accommodated his or her disability, the case would fail if the airline complied with CTA regulations. A more detailed analysis of this is available in the final legal report.
    The committee did not repeal subsection 172(2), but adopted an amendment which would change it. The proposed amendment allows the CTA to find that there is a barrier to accessibility even if the transportation provider has complied with the CTA regulations. For passengers with disabilities, this means they can file a complaint with the CTA that they face an undue barrier in the federal transportation system and insist the transportation provider do more than what the CTA regulation requires.
    The passenger with a disability could win his or her case even if the transportation provider complied with all CTA regulations. However, the CTA could only order the transportation provider to take corrective measures. The CTA could not order the transportation provider to pay the person damages or money compensation. This is different from other complaints to the CTA about inaccessibility of the federal transportation system. Generally, for these other complaints, the CTA can order the transportation provider to take corrective measures and to pay damages to the person.
    Essentially, the argument that is being made is that although the amendment would improve the section, there still would be a gap. People in the community expect transportation companies, airlines, rail lines etc. to accommodate those with disabilities. The concern is that these entities might be able to say that they have met the standards of the regulations so they do not have to do anything more if in fact the case may be that they could and should do more to accommodate the full participation of a person with a disability.
    The Senate amendment says that the CTA could well find that the transportation provider should have done more even if it attained the minimum standards set by the regulation, but it could not award damages in this case. That is an improvement made through the work of the Senate, but as the discussion around this illustrates, there is still a gap in what was asked for and what was expected.
    The next amendment is around the issue of sign language. The legislation recognizes specific forms of sign language: American sign language, Quebec sign language and indigenous sign languages. It recognizes these as primary languages used by deaf persons in Canada. This has been an issue that the deaf community in particular has been long advocating on, and it has the support of all other stakeholders as well.
    We have had many discussions in the House about the importance of language. We recently had a debate on indigenous languages, a legislative framework around indigenous languages, the importance of our two official languages and the experience and culture that are tied to the use of language in that context.

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    As well, I think we all recognize that the recognition of sign language is part of that picture as well as part of a broader, deeper appreciation of the way in which language is tied to culture and experience. Of course, for people who are limited in their ability to communicate in other ways, it is particularly necessary. It does have significance and meaning beyond the necessity of communicating in that form.
    These are some of the amendments the Senate has adopted to the bill. They do not address all the issues that people in the stakeholder community and the wider community have been looking for, but they are steps forward and are things that are well supported by all members of Parliament. We are hopeful this will go forward and we will be able to see movement to get these amendments through.
    In my remarks today I want to frame a little of the discussion around who the bill is for. In other words, why are the technical elements I have explained important and who do they matter to specifically.
     In that context, I want to make a few remarks about Jean Vanier, about his vision of inclusion, but of something much bigger and greater than inclusion. As we talk about these issues, he is a figure on whom all of us should reflect. He is certainly the greatest known champion of people with disabilities.
    He passed away earlier this month. His death was met with recognition and tributes from all aspects of our politics and many different aspects of Canadian society. He was a revolutionary figure practically in how he sought to facilitate the inclusion in society of people with disabilities. However, he was also a revolutionary figure intellectually. His experience as a philosopher and his way of thinking informed and contributed to his work. He was described in biographies as a philosopher and a humanitarian, which is an optimal and necessary combination. It is dangerous to be a philosopher without being a humanitarian and it is dangerous to think of oneself as a humanitarian without some attention to the philosophical roots of humanitarian work. We see that intimate connection between the ideas Jean Vanier sought to advance and the practices he championed.
     Jean Vanier came from a privileged family. His parents were well known as well. He was born when his father was part of a diplomatic mission. He had a military career as well, but then he pursued a doctorate in philosophy. His dissertation would position much of the work he would do later. His dissertation was on happiness as principle and the end of Aristotelian ethics.
     I feel a connection to that because I did my Masters dissertation on happiness measurement, which was also significantly influenced by Aristotle. The question of happiness is under-discussed in politics. It is important for a lot of the legislation. He was someone who brought in a philosophical framework to the work he did that was rooted in Aristotelian concepts of happiness. In the meantime, he drew on Aristotle's conception of happiness, which is different from a contemporary concept of happiness. This influenced his work with Canadians with disabilities.

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    Jean Vanier's desire for disabled people was not merely that they experience formal, structural inclusion or be able to get into the same spaces as everyone else. Rather, his desire was for them to experience love and happiness through community and friendship. Therefore, he sought to build communities of disabled and non-disabled people living together in meaningful friendship.
    Vanier wrote this:
    The cry of people with disabilities was a very simple cry: Do you love me? That's what they were asking. And that awoke something deep within me because that was also my fundamental cry.
    He noted that the pursuit of recognition of their humanity, happiness and love was what people with disabilities were seeking, which was often denied to them by a structure that did not affirm their dignity. The thing they were seeking was the same thing that all people were seeking and that in fact they could and they would seek that together. That was Vanier's wisdom and vision.
    He developed into his work, and would write subsequently about them, concepts of happiness informed by his work with people with disabilities. He drew very much on Aristotle's concept of happiness. Aristotle, writing in Greek, obviously uses the word “eudemonia”, which more directly is translated “the life well lived”. He argued in that context against notions of happiness that were more pleasure-based, more rooted in happenstance, the random benefit of good fortune generally in material terms. He had a richer understanding and appreciation of what happiness was.
     Aristotle argues, and Vanier follows him in this sense, for the connection between virtue and happiness, that virtues are the qualities of character that allow life to be lived well.
     We know as members of Parliament and as human beings that so much of human striving is in pursuit of happiness. We do not always agree on what that is or on how we strive for it, but so much of life is about striving for happiness.
    More recently, our side has been very much influenced by the utilitarian school of thought, which argues that happiness is about pleasure over pain. This was the core of Bentham's concept of utilitarianism. Mill formerly follows it, but he reinserts aspects of Aristotle's definition of happiness with arguments that the cultivation of higher levels of happiness requires the development of a certain nobleness of character.
    Vanier's passion for philosophy and the idea of happiness continued throughout his life. In 2001, he wrote “Made for Happiness: Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle”. In it he talks about three utilitarian virtues: love, wisdom and justice. I want to read a quote from the book in which he talks about the importance of friendship and love as part of friendship.
     He states:
    Through friendship I communicated in the consciousness that my friend has of his own existence. For in the same way that we feel that we are alive and exist through activity and derive pleasure from it, so, through friendship, we feel our friend live and exist. And the union is so profound that the goodness of the life of our friend extends to us and gives us pleasure. In friendship there is almost a communion, a merging of two beings and their rightful good. The friend is an other self. Everything that I experience, he experiences.... In this friendship we continue to be two, but we are one in a great and noble activity that we accomplish together. Consciousness of the goodness of my friend fills me with just as much joy as if it were my own. My friend's happiness becomes my happiness.
    This was his philosophical concept of friendship that was essential for happiness, facilitated by the virtue of love. It informed his practical vision for building communities that would include disabled and non-disabled people. We could call that inclusion, but it is a much richer and deeper concept of inclusion than a formal one. It is that we live in communities of love, good will and solidarity for each other with real friendship. We see others as another self and we identify with that kind of love for others. It is part of his concept of happiness, which entails friendship and living together while in community.

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     Jean Vanier, as I said, brought a rich concept of happiness, love and friendship into his work with disabled people. He saw people in institutions when he was living in Paris at the time of the founding of the L'Arche movement, who were being maintained poorly in the worst instance. He saw that very often the attitude towards the disabled resulted, in the worst instance, in people being maintained poorly, and in the best instance people being treated a little bit better in terms of their material condition. However, the real need was for the humanity of all people to be affirmed through communities of meaningful friendship and love, through which people were pursuing happiness together. That was his vision.
    The radical practical idea started with Vanier personally getting a house and moving in with people who had disabilities. He saw that this was not merely an act of service done by him for other people; rather, it was about the development of shared community. He saw how through this reality of shared community he could learn from those people he was living with. He wanted other people who did not have disabilities to be able to learn and grow through these communities and friendships, which were meaningful and pursuing happiness together.
    Jean Vanier said that “L'Arche and Faith and Light have been part of a real revolution.” So often in the past, people with intellectual disabilities were seen as a source of shame for their parents, or even in some situations as a punishment from God. Their parents and carers have often been seen as wonderful people, even holy, for looking after people “like them”. Today, it is becoming clear that it is people with intellectual disabilities who humanize us and heal us if we enter into real friendship with them. They are in no way a punishment from God, but rather a path toward God.
    He understood that people with disabilities are in their fullest and most complete sense people. They are human beings with the same dignity and value as anyone else. They have both needs and things to contribute, which is obviously the situation of us all. Those needs and contributions are realized through meaningful community. He also understood that the value of social structures replicating insights and benefits of family-like structures.
     I was recently in Bogotá, where I had a chance to visit SOS Children's Village to see some of the work they were doing. They made a very interesting point to me about the way we care for children who cannot be cared for by their families. I think it is a similar insight to Jean Vanier, which is that institutions' formal structures do not work nearly as well as, let us say, family-like structures. The way SOS works, at least in Columbia where I was, is that children are put into environments designed to be family-like. They are in homes. They have parents looking after them. Although they are not able to be with their own families, they experience a support structure that is meaningfully similar to that of a family and that leverages the kind of love, connection and friendship that is important in family structures. That was understood by Jean Vanier when he sought to do the same thing in how he structured the L'Arche movement with meaningful family-like communities where people would live together in communities of love and friendship.

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    Very shortly before he died, Jean Vanier received the Templeton Prize, which is a great international honour. He spoke about the work he did and the ideas and vision behind it. It showed us the kinds of sensibilities that should animate our work in this area. I want to read from part of his acceptance speech for the Templeton prize. He said:
    L’Arche and Faith and Light have been part of a real revolution; so often in the past people with intellectual disabilities were seen as a source of shame for their parents, or even in some situations, as a punishment from God. Their parents and carers have often been seen as wonderful people, even holy, for looking after people “like them”. Today it is becoming clear that it is people with intellectual disabilities who can humanise us, and heal us, if we enter into a real friendship with them. They are in no way a punishment of God but rather a path towards God....
    To be with is to live side by side, it is enter into mutual relationships of friendship and concern. It is to laugh and to cry together, it is to mutually transform each other. Each person becomes a gift for the other, revealing to each other that we are all part of a huge and wonderful family, the family of God. We are all profoundly the same as human beings, but also profoundly different, we all have our special gifts and unique mission in our lives.
    This wonderful family, from its earliest origins and since then with all those who have been spread over this planet from generation to generation, is composed of people of different cultures and abilities, each of whom have their strength and their weakness, and each of whom is precious.
    The evolution of this family from the earliest days until today certainly has entailed wars, violence, and the endless seeking of domination and more possessions. It is also an evolution wherein prophets of peace have continued to cry out for “peace, peace”, calling people together to meet each other as beautiful and precious.
    Many of us in our world continue to yearn for peace, and for unity. However so many of us remain stuck in our cultures where we are caught up fighting to win and to have more. How can we become free of the culture that incites people, not to responsibilities to the human family and to the common good, but to individual success and to domination over others? How can we get rid of the tentacles and the shackles of this culture, to become free to be ourselves, free of our oversized egos and compulsions, free to love others as they are, different yet the same?
    To be with is also to eat together, as Jesus invited us: “When you give a meal don’t invite your family, friends or rich neighbour, but invite the poor and the lame, the disabled and the blind, and you shall be blessed.” To become blessed, says Jesus, is to invite the poor to our table (Luke 14).
    Let us be very clear that it is not the guests who are blessed because they enjoy good food at a party, but rather the host is blessed by his encounter with the poor. Why is the host called blessed? Isn’t it because his heart will be transformed as he is touched by the wonderful gifts of the spirit hidden in the hearts of the poor? This has been the gift of my own personal journey and those of many others. We have been led by those who are weak onto the road of the blessedness of love, of humility and of peacemaking.
    To be transformed, first we must meet people who are different, not our family, friends and neighbours who are like us. Let us meet across differences—intellectual, cultural, national, racial, religious and other differences. Then from this initial meeting we can begin to build community and places of belonging together.
    Community is never called to be a closed group, where people are hiding behind barriers of group identity, interested only in their own welfare or their own vision, as if it is the only one or the best. It cannot be a prison or a fortress. Unfortunately, for a long time this was the rather closed vision of different churches and religions. Each one thought itself the best, with all knowledge and truth. Hence, there was no communication or dialogue between them.
    Isn’t there a danger that we close ourselves up in our own professional, religious or family groups where we never meet those who are different?
    Community, on the other hand, is a place of togetherness in spite of differences, of people united in love and open to all other people. A community then is like a fountain or a shining light, where a way of life is being lived and revealed, open to others and attractive to them. It is a place of peace, revealing a way to peace and to unity for the human family.

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    Community is a place of belonging where each person can grow to become fully him or herself. It is belonging for becoming.
    We belong to each other so that each member can become more human, more loving, more free, more open to others, particularly to those who are different. When each member can develop their unique gifts and help others to develop theirs, members are no longer in competition but in collaboration, in cooperation and in mutual support.
    To become is not to prove I am better than you, but rather supporting together each other in opening up our hearts. Thus community is a place of transformation. Community is a place of belonging where each one may be transformed and find human fulfilment.
    What alternatives do we have for human growth? Belonging which is too rigid stifles becoming; on the other hand too much individual growth or becoming without belonging can become fighting to get to the top, or else it can become loneliness and anguish. To win is always to be lonely, and of course nobody wins for long.
    Community then is not a closed group but a way of life that helps each person to grow to human fulfillment. The two key elements of community are mission and mutual caring for each one. We come together for a purpose that is the mission, and also to be a sign of love or rather to grow in love for each another. It is a mission that defines why we are together, and being together we learn to love one another.
    At L’Arche and Faith and Light our mission is to provide community where the most fragile person is the heart of the community, and can grow in their humanity and in their capacity to love.
    Community then becomes a place where we learn how to love each other. To grow in love is a long and difficult journey, and it takes time. L’Arche and Faith and Light are not just places where we do good to people with intellectual disabilities. They are places of relationship, where we grow in love together.
    But what is love? This word has been flung around for all sorts of emotional experiences as well as acts of bravery of solders, fighting out of love for their country. For me, love is to recognize that the other person is a person, is precious, is important and has value. Each one has a gift to bring to others. Each one has his or her mission in the larger family of humanity. Each one reveals the secret face of God.
    We need each other, to grow in this sacred love, which implies love of those who are different, of those who get my goat and drive me up the wall, because of difference of ideas, temperament, culture, approach and so on. Community is a place where we rub up against each other’s sore spots.
    Hopefully we can in this way rub off some of the tiresome and sour traits of our characters, so that we can become our real selves. To love then is to see in the other, the heart of the person hidden under all that annoys us. That is why to love, in the words of St Paul, is to be patient, which is to wait, and to hold on. It is to believe and to trust that under all the mess in the other person is their secret being, their heart.
    In L’Arche some of the people we welcome have deep anguish and even violence. They are difficult to live with in community. We have to be patient and to believe that their true self will gradually emerge. We also have to be patient with ourselves as well, and believe that if we try to love and become open to a spirituality of love, our own true selves will also gradually emerge. If we love, if we truly love other people and believe in them, then they are transformed, and we also will be transformed.
    Community then is a place of healing, of transformation, and of humanising people. It’s a place where we are commissioned to grow in love, and in forgiveness, and this is real work. If you don’t want to be transformed and to grow in love, then don’t partake in community! When we find the strength to accept people as they are and to meet them in their secret being, they open us up to love.
    These remarks by Jean Vanier are so profound and so critical, not just to this particular debate but to all of the debates we have in this place, because they talk about the way in which we can and do live in community with each other. That is, we understand the balance, if you will, or the necessary combination for belonging and becoming and the importance of having open-ended communities where we invite other people in and seek to learn from them.

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    The relationship we have with people who come from different backgrounds, people who are disabled or people who may have been historically disadvantaged for a variety of reasons is not to feel that they are in need of somebody else's charity, but, rather, to include each other in full community and recognize the way in which we become in community, we belong in community and we learn from each other.
    This is something I have observed in my own interactions with members of my family. I have a beautiful cousin who has Down's syndrome. She was one of the flower girls at my wedding. I will always remember a story that my uncle told. It was a story about how he had learned from her, and sharing the story was a way in which we all learned from her. It was about a time when he and his children were at a hospital, where there was a lady, whatever her circumstances were or whatever bad news she had just heard, standing outside a hospital room crying. My uncle told his children that they should mind their own business, make sure they do not stare, walk past and move on. While he was giving these instructions, it was too late. His daughter Anastasia had already wrapped her arms around the woman who was crying, hugging her and crying with her.
    This is an example of the kind of response by somebody who may not have the same socially programmed inhibitions that tell us not to interfere in each other's lives, but, rather, had an unbridled openness and empathy that led her to immediately show love in this way for this total stranger. It was her capacity for unlimited love and pursuit of community that opened my uncle's eyes and my eyes through that story to things that maybe I needed to learn, things that maybe we all need to learn, through greater community with people who have developmental differences and different kinds of experiences, but have so much to contribute.
    That is the idea and philosophy of Jean Vanier. That is what the objectives of this bill are all about.
    We need to remember that putting in place a framework that seeks to create a country that is free from barriers—
    Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order having to do with relevance. I see there are a number of advocates in the gallery. We have organized interpretation for them, and it is wonderful to see them here. They have come to hear all parties speak on this very important piece of legislation, and it is a shame that the member is speaking at length. That is his prerogative, but out of respect for those who are here to hear all parties, I wonder if the member might give us some indication of how long he plans to speak this morning.
    I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for her intervention. As she alluded to, the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has unlimited time. I have been listening to his remarks with a view to ensuring that his remarks stay within the boundaries, which, as the parliamentary secretary knows, are usually fairly broad, as long as it is relevant to the topic that is before the House. The hon. member who currently has the floor has the ability to make those decisions. Points are taken, I am sure, but it is not really incumbent on the hon. member, when he has unlimited time, to indicate when his remarks will come to an end. If he wishes to do so, of course, that is his prerogative.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to my colleague across the way, if she had been listening to the remarks I was making, they were all very clearly on the issue, which is why I was making them. These are important points to make.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Garnett Genuis: If the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader wants to heckle, that is also his prerogative, but we are having an important discussion.
     I appreciate the opportunity to make the points that I am going to make. I understand that the government intends to bring forward a motion today on extended hours. To be clear, there is absolutely no reason why the bill before us would not move forward. I am making arguments that I think are important and worthwhile, and I am sharing personal stories about members of my own family. If members do not take that seriously or want to cast aspersions or imagine other things, that is their prerogative, but it is not really in the spirit of what the discussion could be. These are things I have wanted to share, and I appreciate that the Standing Orders provide me with the opportunity to share them.
    The parliamentary secretary asked about details. I do not have a specific length of time in mind, but I would tell the parliamentary secretary if I did. I want to discuss these points. Of course, interventions like the one we just saw make it harder for me to do that, but I will resume where I was in terms of making the point that I was making. When I finish making my remarks, others will speak, and I am sure we will get the bill passed in due course.
    As well, there are issues in terms of the bill not reaching the standard that many people wanted and the government rejecting amendments, which are things I have spoken about. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that there are further steps that can be taken after this.
    I will go back to the point I was making before I was interrupted. I was speaking about the experience of my cousin who has Down's syndrome and the things I have been able to learn from her. The principal point that I think we need to absorb from the life and legacy of Jean Vanier is that the relationship between people who are not disabled and those who are should not be seen as one of charity, but, rather, one of people who have different experiences living together in communities of love and friendship and being able to learn from each other.
    I want to make the point, in the context of my beautiful cousin who has Down's syndrome, that very often when parents who are expecting a child receive a diagnosis and find out that their child has some genetic condition, that is associated with a lot of surprise and maybe fear and lack of awareness about what this is going to mean for their family. We know as well that there is a high level of selecting out children who have that condition. I wish that every family that was not sure what to do in that situation would have an opportunity to speak to my uncle and aunt, or have an opportunity to speak with somebody like my cousin to see the love, joy and teaching that come through the community with that person. It can be a surprise to find out that what one had expected is not what is going to happen. Sometimes the unexpected is filled with such opportunity for love, joy and learning.
    What are the key takeaways that we should have as members of the House from the points I have made and from the work of Jean Vanier?
    First of all, we need to go beyond a formal, legalistic notion of inclusion. The legal standard of inclusion is, let us say, the minimum standard. Our goal, rather, should be to build meaningful community among all people to recognize the contributions that all of us make together in the way we treat each other, and to put our emphasis on the pursuit of a concept of true happiness: that is, living well together, not merely thinking in terms of material well-being.

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    I started this point in my discussion by asking whom this bill is for, whom the work is being done for. The answer is that it is for all of us. People with disabilities benefit from a society in which there are no barriers to their participation. However, everyone, whether with a disability or not, benefits from being part of a society in which we can live together in a community where the contributions and experiences of those with disabilities are heard and where we pursue happiness, community, love and meaning together.
    Part of how we do this better, and this is a subject I referenced earlier and something I wrote about in my master's dissertation, is the measurement of happiness. Part of creating a society in which all of us can pursue and attain happiness is, I would argue, measuring happiness as well. There are questions and controversies around the best way to do that statistically, but efforts made to engage in the meaningful measurement of happiness are important and are part of the picture. It is something we should consider as part of subsequent statistical instruments.
    Having made that point, having outlined whom I think the bill is for, I now want to discuss some of the amendments that were proposed at the committee in the House and were not accepted. As we move this legislation forward, it is important to note what has been done and what is positive, but also to acknowledge that there are some areas of missed opportunities. There are some areas where we could have done better. In fact, amendments were proposed by other parties that were unfortunately not adopted by government members at the committee.
    First of all, there were amendments put forward on the House side that introduced proposals around dates and timelines. This is an issue now being incorporated at the level of the Senate, but it was proposed in the form of amendments to clauses 5, 11, 18, 23, 111 and 148. Amendments were proposed that would have established timelines, and we made the argument that timelines were absolutely essential.
    We argued as well that the bill had to require positive action by the minister. We argued that the bill ought to require the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada by the minister and should therefore remove permissive language. A lot of the language in this legislation in effect does not actually require the minister to do anything. It uses a lot of language around the word “may”, such as that regulations may be established or proposals may be put in. That exists in the context of exceptions.
    While we have a legislative framework in place that may allow the minister to do certain things around the realization of a barrier-free Canada, the framework is very open in terms of allowing the minister to do certain things or not do certain things. There was an interesting comment made by the minister today in the context of questions and comments, where the issue of exceptions was raised by my colleague from Foothills. The minister said that they would certainly be very careful in their use of those exceptions under her watch.
    That is the rub, the exercise of these powers by the minister. I take the minister at her word in terms of her sincerity about this bill, but it is our job in the opposition to ask questions about whether the framework relies merely on the goodwill and the word of one person, or whether it puts in place the structures that provide certainty and indeed a protection for the kinds of circumstances that we would like to see. The minister says that they will be very careful in their use of exceptions, at least under her watch, and that under her watch they will certainly do the things that are laid out in this legislation. Of course, under the current government, we do not know how long a particular minister will remain with the responsibility of a portfolio. I think all parties want to see the legislation be meaningful in ensuring impacts.

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    We sought to address this issue in the form of amendments, but unfortunately we did not see progress on it. These amendments dealt with the issue of permissive language in clauses 15, 16, 75, 93, 94 and subclause 146.1. We need to try to do better in this respect. Although we tried to get things done, unfortunately that did not happen.
    We proposed amendments to subclause 17(2) and clause 21 to ensure the independence of CASDO, the accessibility commissioner and other key positions. Certainly, we are very concerned about the track record of the government in not always respecting the independence of things that we would expect to be independent. We raised concerns at committee about the issue of the legislation ensuring the sufficient independence of these bodies. Without independence, there is a concern about whether the accountability functions we expect will be followed. Our amendments in this respect were also not adopted by the government and the changes we proposed have unfortunately not shown up subsequently.
    We proposed an amendment to clause 18, that the bill must designated CASDO as the only body to develop accessibility standards. The framework put in place by the legislation seeks to deal with a number of different parts and aspects of government. Certainly, we recognize the importance of ensuring that all of those are included and that the regulatory structure is there to cover them in all cases.
    Our amendment proposed that the government have a standard set centrally by CASDO, which presumably is the goal of establishing that entity. The legislation, as it stands, creates a more complex scheme than is necessary by having some of these standards set external to CASDO. We raised this issue as well. In the follow-up implementation of the legislation, people will want to see it so they can explore the effectiveness of those provisions.
    We also proposed an amendment for a new clause 33.1 to ensure there would be accountability regarding public information during CASDO's work on developing an accessibility standard. Again, there is a need for accountability as part of these frameworks. We are not keen on provisions in legislation which the government tells us “just trust us”. When the issue is important, “just trust us” is not enough. We want to see a framework that requires government action, that is accountable and that provides a reasoned and effective framework to ensure that accountability is in place.
    We then proposed amendments about strengthening accessibility plans. Unfortunately they were rejected. They related to clauses 42, 47, 51, 56, 60, 65 and 69. Then we proposed specific amendments to remove exemptions.
    Let us reflect on the actions we have seen from the government and the concerns that might arise when well-connected companies are lobbying for exceptions regarding their obligations. Frankly, we know this is going to happen. Our legislative framework may say that federally regulated companies have to comply with certain standards, but it is possible to make exceptions. Some companies are going to calculate that it is actually easier for them, less expensive perhaps, to spend resources lobbying politicians and ministers to give them an exception. They would rather do that than invest in the required changes to make themselves more accessible. Unfortunately it is relatively likely that some people will make this calculation and will use the tools and resources available to them.

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    We have seen in recent months a government that when the pressure is on, when the well-connected lobbyists are brought to bear, rather than follow through on the intention of legislation, the government may allow that exception. Let us say the argument is around jobs, that if companies are required to conform to such a standard, then they will not be able to continue to operate and they will have to move their headquarters, whatever the arguments are made in those cases.
    That is why those who are following us today, those who are concerned about the effectiveness and the impact of this legislation should be concerned about the power the legislation gives around the granting of exceptions.
     We have permissive language and the refusal of the government to move forward with amendments around the removal of exceptions, amendments which were supported by the Conservatives. Although there are high aspirations associated with the bill and although I do not doubt the sincerity of some people on the government side around the legislation, this creates circumstances in which it does not compel the government to act and it gives the government a great deal of space to say to a company that it does not have to follow its obligations. An area of regulation that it maybe had the power to put forward action on, it will not do that anymore.
    It is precisely our job as members of Parliament to ensure the legislation we put forward is directed to and binding on government. So often, unfortunately, and what I have seen in my time here in the last three and a half years as an MP, is legislation that leaves the door open for the minister to exercise a great deal of discretion.
     There is some latitude for ministerial discretion in the specific working out of details around regulations in the plants. However, when we have so much flexibility that the minister can say an exception will be put in place, that is a totally different case. This goes beyond the normal expectation that there is some degree of ministerial discretion involved in this case. This goes much further than the norm and that is why we proposed those changes. We are concerned about what the government's real intentions are and what the real actions will be.
    I do not want to cast aspersions on everyone's intentions, but somebody made the decision somewhere, whether it was in the Prime Minister's Office or somebody else around the cabinet table, to leave the door open to the possibility that someone could be let off the hook in a particular case.
    We proposed an amendment as well to designate the accessibility commissioner as the one body to handle compliance for accessibility standards and the adjudication of complaints. This was another amendment that dealt with streamlining the effectiveness of the bill.
    The bill does not designate a central agency to oversee compliance with accessible ability requirements. Enforcement as envisioned under the framework right now is done by multiple agents: the accessibility commissioner, the CRTC, the CTA and the Federal Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board. Again, just as with setting a standard, through a complex patchwork of different organizations, this will create far more than is necessary with respect to confusion and barriers to those who wish to access the process.

  (1140)  

    If somebody is looking for standards to hold an agency or an entity up against, if he or she is looking to make complaints, the legislation does not have this sort of single window that would provide clarity around standards as well as enforcement. This is again a missed opportunity. Members of the committee and the House had tried to put forward amendments to address and strengthen this, but unfortunately we did not see action in that respect.
    We felt, and we still feel, that multiple bodies looking at accessibility complaints from different angles will create a potential patchwork unfair administration of the act, and we should be concerned about that.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is important legislation. I would ask you to see if there is a proper quorum.
    It would appear that we do have quorum. I thank the hon. member.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Mr. Speaker, I find the reaction and heckles by some members of the government very surprising. We know they do not like listening to opposition perspectives. We have seen multiple efforts by them to shut down debate on different issues. Yes, I am criticizing their failure to respond properly to proposals put forward by Conservative members and agreed to by members of other parties to strengthen the legislation.
    Government members do not want to hear that perspective. They want this to be a day when we all agree on every detail. I said right at the beginning, very clearly, that we agree on the principle and that moving this legislation forward would be an improvement on the status quo. However, part of the purpose of the parliamentary conversation is to identify aspects of legislation that need to be improved.
    The members across the way may not want to hear these criticisms. They may not want to hear about the fact that this legislation provides a possible exception, whereby a company like SNC-Lavalin might lobby the government for an exception. However, we need to talk about those things. We need to talk about how we strengthen this legislation and about some of the missed opportunities.
    Members can be assured that this legislation will pass this session. However, these are criticisms that the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader would benefit from listening to rather than heckling. In any event, it is an important part of the argument we are making. The fact that this legislation does not “require” the minister, but only “invites” the minister to take certain action, and the fact of the exceptions that exist are issues that need to be identified and discussed.
    There is also the issue of the administrative complexity that I was talking about before the point of order was raised, and the rejection of an amendment that would have designated CASDO as the only body to develop accessibility standards, and the rejection of another amendment that would have designated the accessibility commissioner as the one body to handle compliance with accessibility standards and the adjudication of complaints. The fact that these amendments were rejected increases the relative complexity that people will face when they are engaging with these issues in the legislation.
    Part of our job as the opposition is to reflect the feedback we have heard from stakeholders and to say, yes, the government needs to do better. It can do better. It should have done better. We support this legislation going forward, but we are asking for more for Canadians with disabilities, to facilitate the realization of a full vision of shared community, one in which we go beyond the minimum and do as much as possible together.
    We proposed amendments, as well, to ensure that the process for making complaints and reviews by the accessibility commissioner would be fair. We proposed amendments specifically to clauses 117 and 142 to say that this would not allow organizations to be exempted from producing and publishing accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports. We proposed amendments to include stronger provisions for reviewing the accessible Canada act and monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As well, one amendment that was adopted and showed up in the Senate version eventually concerned sign language. It is important to note that we are glad to see this adopted through a Senate amendment, but it had been proposed at the House level as well.
    One particular concern we raised about the coming into force of this legislation is that if clause 207 were left in, it would lead, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, to the act being automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent. That was perhaps a technicality, but one with important consequences that we sought to address.

  (1150)  

    In the course of proposing 60 amendments at committee, the government only adopted three, and they were not of the substantive variety we had hoped for. They supported two amendments to make reviews fair and accessible, which were improvements, and one amendment to the preamble that changed “Canadians” to “persons in Canada”. Essentially, it was a fairly technical linguistic change in the preamble, which was an important change in language, but the substantive concerns about the legislation we had highlighted were not fully addressed.
    The Senate committee study provided some important perspective, and on the issue of the structure of this legislation, I want to read from testimony at the standing committee that studied this bill, in particular the testimony of David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. He is a real champion on these issues. He has done extensive work representing and reflecting the concerns of the community. I want to identify what he said about this bill. He stated:
Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. It's called an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed.
    I will read that again as it is fundamental to the criticisms that I and others have made. He stated:
    It's called an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.
    Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn't require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.
    Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.
    This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the minister's defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isn't necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.
    Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? You're going to pass this bill, so let's take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. That's the starting point.
    That was the starting point for my remarks as well. I said that the Conservatives are supporting this bill, but that there are issues. There are issues the community has raised, and in terms of how we see the issue, and with the substantive aspects of the provisions of this legislation. Our support and the community's support to pass this legislation is clear, but there are big gaps.
    I will go back to the testimony, which states:
    The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect, that's a red herring, but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.
    In the House, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them, which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes.

  (1155)  

     I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. You are going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed if they are that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.
    Again, we will see this legislation pass, but there are issues that we need to address.
    The testimony continues:
    So what should you do?
    Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Lets just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. Thats not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.
     Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, We cant do that. We dont have constitutional authority to do that. Respectfully, the minister is wrong. Its called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.
    If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings. You might look at me and say, Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldnt use public money to build inaccessible public transit. Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last springs provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.
    This isnt about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?
    I will note, just as an aside, that this specific issue that he spoke about here, the issue of federal money funding infrastructure that may not meet a certain accessible standard, is one that the Senate flagged for our consideration, but it is not reflected in the amended provisions of this legislation. This is an area that requires, I think, more discussion and exploration by government on how we should ensure that the accessibility standards we expect are met, especially in new construction and infrastructure, so that we have taken the basic steps required to ensure that it is accessible to people. That is something that should be fairly obvious. However, if we do not put in place processes and mechanisms to ensure that the obvious happens, sometimes it does not.
    According to Mr. Lepofsky, in fact, there was a claim made that it would somehow be unconstitutional to put these conditions in place. It is interesting, because we see a federal government that, in general, in so many different areas, is very heavy handed with what it tries to impose on the provinces, even trying to use federal spending to compel them to implement particular policies in provincial areas of jurisdiction. It is interesting how that separation is selectively invoked in some cases but not in others, which seems to be an excuse for inaction in this case.
    The testimony continues:
    Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I dont hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesnt interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

  (1200)  

    Clause 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking anymore under the legislation's guarantee against undue barriers.
    With that provision in the act, our position is: Please don't ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.
    I will note that, in this case, this testimony led to an amendment. Of course, we are pleased to see that the amendment was made on that provision. That was one issue from this testimony that was, in fact, addressed, which is why we were pleased to see that change in the Senate amendments. The version of this bill that was originally proposed, and that the government appeared, initially at committee in the House, not to see any problem with, was, in fact, a version whereby the CTA could enact regulations that would be below the human rights standards and that would have the potential impact of lowering the standards that are in place for the protection of the rights of Canadians with disabilities. This indicates the importance of the Senate amendment process and the benefit of the fact that in this case, the government, although not responsive as much to House amendments, did come around in response to proposals on the Senate side.
    The testimony from Mr. Lepofsky states:
    Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that we've raised. I'm telling you that we are not just about saying what's wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for what's right, and the amendments we've placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.
    I conclude by saying this: I'm speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual—my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video—to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.
    I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.
    The government members who do not like hearing arguments against their bill may be encouraged by the fact that I am now coming to the conclusion of my remarks.
    These were all important points to make. Here is a brief summary of the key elements I have highlighted in this bill.
    The bill is about requiring regulated entities to make accessibility plans. It is a positive step, but it would not have the force and the pressure on the government in terms of compelling government action that many people within the disability community want to see. We tried to reflect those concerns in the context of a debate that happened here in the House the first time around and at committee. Unfortunately, all the more substantive changes were rejected in the House. The Senate put forward a number of amendments that were positive, but they would not fix the bill in every respect, certainly from the perspective of our caucus and those in the community.
    Therefore, while we are pleased to support these amendments and this legislation, we will continue to call on the government to do better and to give reality to the promise that “better is possible”. That is what we are asking in the context of this legislation. The Senate amendments make improvements, but they do not go all the way in terms of the improvements people are asking for.

  (1205)  

    I talked a bit about who this legislation is for. It is important to recognize that the steps we take to facilitate an accessible, barrier-free society benefit people with disabilities, but they benefit all of us, because they give all of us an opportunity to live together in meaningful community and to learn from each other.
    There are things that are not in the bill. In some cases, they are things that could not be addressed by a bill, and in some cases, they are things the government should have addressed but did not.
    Legislation can ultimately only go so far toward addressing people's attitudes and culture. Building a barrier-free Canada is not just a political decision; it has to be a social commitment. It has to be something we all commit to leading on and acting on together as parliamentarians and as citizens. We call on business leaders and people from all walks of life to see what they can do to build and facilitate meaningful commitment, goodwill, friendship and love among people, regardless of ability or disability.
    Those kinds of social and cultural changes are important. Legislation without that kind of social commitment is not enough to create a truly barrier-free Canada.
    I want to again say that the work done by my colleague, the member for Carleton, on trying to ensure that disabled Canadians are able to access paid work, was very important. It was disappointing to see that bill voted down by the government. I hope that in a subsequent Parliament, we will be able to see progress on the initiative he put forward.
    Not everyone is able to work, but there are many people who have a disability who are ready, willing and able to participate in paid work. They benefit our economy by doing so, but they also benefit from the community associated with work. They benefit from a sense of purpose and meaning that comes to many people from being able to go to work every day.
    More needs to be done to support the kinds of initiatives we saw in that private member's bill. Maybe it will come back in a future Parliament. Maybe we will see other kinds of action that will seek to specifically address the issue of barriers that exist for disabled Canadians seeking employment.
    With that, I will conclude my remarks. I am supportive of the bill. I am supportive of the amendments. I am hopeful that we will be able to see more action, and in the future, that we will be able to challenge the government. Rather than rejecting amendments in the House and sending them to the Senate and then accepting them at that point, maybe a novel idea would be to have some of these amendments adopted in the House in the first instance, which would skip the step of bringing the bill back to the House afterward.
    There are some areas that could be better, but there are positive steps here. People can be assured that we will support the bill and support these actions. Going forward, we will continue to hold the government's feet to the fire. In the areas where it says it may regulate, we will apply the pressure necessary. We were not able to get from “may” to “must” in the legislation, but we will work to create a political imperative so that the government does not fail to act.
    Those in the community who are following us today can be assured of our commitment to always hold the government accountable on these issues and to ensure, with the high-minded discussion around Bill C-81, that the objectives that were laid out are fully realized.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, when the minister introduced the bill, not only at third reading but also at report stage and second reading, it became clear that we were debating historical legislation. This is legislation that is going to have a real impact in all regions of our country. The minister has been very inspiring within our caucus not only for me personally but for many of my colleagues. She has ultimately led us to the point we are at today.
    I know full well that the constituents I represent appreciate this legislation, even in its amended form. The minister has been very gracious in recognizing that this legislation is in good part because of the many advocates across Canada.
    I am really impressed by the fact that we have an interpreter in our gallery who is providing sign language, and I indicate “hello” to the people who are visiting us in the gallery. I thank them for witnessing what we believe is historical legislation.
    Members of the Conservative Party have said that they would like to see the bill passed. I believe that it will be passed, because it crosses political partisanship. We want this historical piece of legislation passed.
    How long does my friend believe it will take to get this legislation through the House? Does he see it taking many more hours or many more speakers from the Conservative Party?
    Mr. Speaker, in terms of the member's initial comment that this is historic, or as he said, “historical”, legislation, let us be clear that the bill may have an impact, because the bill says that the minister “may” put in place certain regulations and “may” also make exceptions. As is so often the case, the devil is in the details. We will see which direction things turn in terms of that “may” or may not. We sought to remove open-ended power to make exceptions and the ability of a minister to essentially do nothing under the legislation. High-minded rhetoric is important, but high-minded rhetoric is not a replacement for action. This legislation would provide a framework for action; it would not oblige action. There are other issues in terms of concerns raised by people in the community that are not addressed.
    The member asked about the prospective timeline. The timeline for passing the legislation really depends on the government in terms of when it wants to see it brought forward. Obviously, the government has the power to prioritize certain bills. This is a bill from the government, like some other legislation, that we support. There are things on the government's legislative agenda that we do not support. If the government prioritizes this bill over other items on the legislative agenda, I am sure that we will be able to get it passed very soon, but that is a question of prioritization for the government in terms of how it uses the House calendar.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his exhaustive efforts in describing the position of the official opposition on Bill C-81.
     It was very interesting to hear about the history of legislation and, of course, about someone in our history like Jean Vanier, who created watershed moments. However, to be be quite frank, when the official opposition was in government, for 10 years there was inaction. What I am hearing now is a keen understanding of how legislation has to evolve and progress. However, I would like to hear from the member a little more about his insights into how government policies and laws should be viewed through a disability lens.
    As the member knows, there was testimony with regard to the legislation being designed to stipulate a disability lens. Perhaps the member can talk a little more about using a disability lens, which is not actually articulated, and what he would envision it would look like.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I disagree a little with the member's comments about the record of the previous government. I think it is clear that the previous Conservative government did take substantive action that had an impact in terms of improving accessibility and making life better for Canadians living with disabilities. One of those provisions, championed by the former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, was the disability savings account. Some of these policies did make a difference. I do not dispute that there is always more work to do. We never have a government that at the end of four years, or even 10 years, says that it fixed every problem and that everything is great. There is always going to be more work to do, and we commit to continuing that work going forward.
    The member spoke about having a disability lens, which is looking at the policies and actions of government through this lens and asking what the impact is. How are people from this community with these kinds of experiences seeing the impact on them of a policy? I agree that having that lens is important. An idea that I am sure Jean Vanier, as a devout Catholic, would share with me is the idea of a preferential option for the most vulnerable informing all aspects of policies we bring forward, looking in particular at the impact those policy decisions would have on those who are most vulnerable. Therefore, we would need to particularly concern ourselves with protections in their situations, the realization of their rights and the affirmation of their dignity.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, the person in charge of the legislative agenda for the government, talk about the urgency of passing this legislation. Certainly we all share that sense of urgency. We have heard from stakeholders who almost unanimously want to see this legislation passed. All members in this House are committed to that, so stakeholders can rest assured that it will happen.
     However, the current government has been in government for almost 30,000 hours. We are down to the last month that the House is sitting before the next election campaign, and finally we are getting around to debating this important piece of legislation.
    I would ask my hon. colleague to reinforce, for stakeholders who are watching this debate today, his commitment and our official opposition's commitment to seeing this important legislation passed before the House rises for the election.
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are very keen to see this move forward. Again, there are questions I should have been posing to the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, not the other way around: How much of a priority is this legislation? Based on that, when does the government plan to schedule it?
    We saw the Liberals, for instance yesterday, choosing to schedule a debate on a non-binding motion that was not impacting legislative changes. They could have scheduled this debate yesterday. They chose not to do that, and it is their prerogative to schedule a debate when they want to. We will see how much of a priority this is for the government.
    When the Liberals schedule the debate, contrary to some of the heckles I received, the opposition will speak. We are not going to let them schedule a debate on this legislation and then be the only ones speaking to it. There will be opposition speeches made as part of a debate on this legislation. If the government is committed to moving this forward, we are committed to moving it forward as well. The scheduling is up to the government.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take this time in the House to speak on the rights of people living with disabilities and Canada's responsibility as a signatory to the UN convention on those rights. The NDP supports Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended by the Senate.
    I am proud to have been part of a larger movement of stakeholder groups and civil activists who put a great deal of effort into attempting to make this bill the best it can be. We have supported it from the beginning and offered numerous amendments that would have helped the bill realize its ambitions to create a barrier-free Canada.
    New Democrats have long believed that any accessibility bill tabled by the government should essentially be enabling legislation for Canada's obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Canada ratified this convention in 2010 but until now has done nothing to bring our laws into conformity with it.
    I congratulate the minister and her team for their work on this bill and for her willingness to accede to the Senate's amendments. There are still numerous provisions within the bill that remain in need of fixing, and I would be remiss if I did not discuss them now in order to further our understanding on what is yet to be accomplished. This being a federal election year, I know our citizen activists are listening and gaining a better understanding of how they can effectively use a campaign season.
    In its current form, Bill C-81 is inadequate to the expectation of fostering a society in which all our citizens can participate fully and equally. This cannot even begin to happen until all our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. This is truly what fostering a barrier-free Canada will look like. Unfortunately, Bill C-81 makes minimal movement in that direction.
    We are not alone with our concerns. During Bill C-81's time in the House Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, or HUMA, the federal government received extensive feedback on the bill's many shortcomings from people living with disabilities across Canada, as well as from their organized networks of advocacy. For example, last October an open letter was sent to the federal government, signed by no less than 95 disability organizations. Many of these same organizations also testified before HUMA. Disability organizations repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.
    Our esteemed friend, David Lepofsky, is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. He is an esteemed and respected mind, with legal expertise on accessibility rights. At the Senate committee, he stated:
    Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn't require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.
    Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.
    The issues that Mr. Lepofsky cites in this quote remain unaddressed in the amended version of Bill C-81.

  (1225)  

    For New Democrats, this is a very serious issue. To understand why, let us look at the headlines. Last month, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. That is not unusual. However, before it spends our money on a project like that, we need the federal government to be required to say that as a ground rule for getting federal money, certain federal accessibility requirements must be met. If money is requested from the federal government, here is what is required for accessibility. It seems very simple.
    The minister has claimed she does not have the constitutional authority to impose accessibility requirements on provinces, but she does. She has what is known as federal spending power, and it is a power that is very substantial. We are all familiar with the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements: not disability accessibility, but financial accessibility. If the federal government truly lacks this power, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades. If the federal government can attach strings to the CHA, then it can attach strings when it gives out money to local projects and not just federal buildings.
    I commend the hard work that many stakeholder groups did during the Senate phase of Bill C-81. Our friends at the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, or AODA Alliance, along with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, among several others, lobbied senators with a shortened list of amendments covering the most important changes that need to happen to Bill C-81 if the bill is to become the kind of law that our people living with disabilities need.
    In fact, we would like to thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter sent earlier this month to the House of Commons. They called on the House of Commons to ratify the Senate's amendments to Bill C-81. This open letter, which the Council of Canadians with Disabilities delivered to all MPs on behalf of its 28 signatories, all listed below, explains that these amendments improve the bill. The Senate formulated these amendments after holding public hearings at which disability organizations and advocates pointed out the need to strengthen a bill that the House of Commons originally passed last fall. The Senate got the message and formulated a short package of 11 amendments, which together fit on two pages.
     I would also like to commend everyone who participated in the massive letter-writing campaign to the minister, the Prime Minister and all members of Parliament. It is always exciting to see concerned public action on any issue. It was not at all clear from the minister's Senate committee testimony that she would accept some of the amendments put forward, but I believe the campaign was a crucial component to making this happen.
    Going into the Senate, prior to committee, major stakeholders proposed a distilled version of the changes they wanted to see in the bill before it became law. The amendments proposed for Bill C-81 before the Senate began debating it were a distilled version of the amendments they presented during the hearings before the House of Commons committee.
    I would like to run through these very quickly, as they are absolutely essential if Bill C-81 is to be effective.
    First, impose clear duties and deadlines on the federal government when implementing this law.
     Second, set a deadline for Canada to become accessible.

  (1230)  

     Third, enforcement should be solely in the hands of the accessibility commissioner, not splintered across various organizations, such as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Canadian Transportation Agency, which, as has been pointed out numerous times, have a sorry record of implementing the few accessibility obligations they already have, never mind new ones.
    Fourth, we should ensure federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
    Fifth, we should ensure that the federal government will not be able to exempt itself from any of its accessibility obligations under the bill.
    The Senate eventually accepted the following amendments to Bill C-81: first, setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; second, ensuring that this 2040 timeline would not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; third, recognizing American sign language, Quebec sign language and indigenous sign languages as the primary languages for communication used by deaf people; fourth, making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; fifth, ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it could not cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; sixth, ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency could not reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the agency handled complaints about barriers in transportation; and, seventh, fixing problems the federal government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.
    As members can garner from comparing the proposed amendments with the ones the Senate approved, several crucial amendments did not make it into the bill. One of the more important of these dealt with the issue that Bill C-81 splintered enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies, rather than providing people with disabilities with the single-window service they needed.
    As part of this, it leaves two public agencies, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Canadian Transportation Agency, to continue overseeing accessibility, despite their inadequate track record on this issue over many years and in the very recent past. The NDP understands that this is an urgent issue which needs to be addressed urgently.
    When the bill was in committee, I tabled amendments that would have closed the many exemptions and powers allowing public officials to exempt any organization from key parts of Bill C-81. The NDP feels the bill fails to effectively ensure that the federal government will use all its levers of power to promote accessibility across Canada. For example, it does not require the federal government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers, such as when federal money contributes to new or renovated infrastructure.
    This is a significant point because the federal government can easily require all projects utilizing federal dollars to meet accessibility standards. Experience tells us that without this requirement, federal agencies will contract out important work to third parties to save money, thus bypassing federal accessibility specifications. Our NDP amendments would have addressed this issue directly.
    For example, inaccessible public housing could potentially be built and there would be little anyone could do about it, despite the government's repeatedly stated commitment to accessibility and disability issues.
    While we commend the government for accepting the timeline of 2040 as the time when Canada is to become accessible to five million people, Bill C-81 nevertheless lacks mandatory timelines for implementation. It allows, but does not require, the government to adopt accessibility standards, yet does not impose a time frame within which this is to happen. Without these, the implementation process, even the start-up process, could drag on for years.

  (1235)  

    An egregious provision the bill lacks is the requirement that all federal government laws, policies and programs be studied through a disability law lens. This seems a strange omission indeed, as this is the proverbial low-hanging fruit.
    It is crucial that societies eliminate these forms of discrimination, not just because doing it is the right thing to do but because it enables a previously ignored and sizable section of our population that contributes its talents and abilities to the betterment of us all. Everyone wins when everyone can contribute.
    When it comes to ensuring accessibility for five million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the United States, which passed a landmark Americans with disabilities act 29 years ago. Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government.
    Now that Bill C-81 is back in the House, it only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or standing committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its journey through Canada's Parliament. It will be law. It will come into force when the federal government gives Bill C-81 royal assent.
    Major stakeholders have recently written to leaders of the major parties asking that they commit to bringing a stronger national accessibility bill before Parliament after this fall's federal election. That is why, while we support the passage of Bill C-81 as amended today, the NDP also commits that when we become government in 2020, we will bring forward a much stronger version of the bill, one that will correct some of its more glaring shortcomings.
    As others have noted, yes, the bill is an important first step. However, people living with disabilities have waited so long, too long, to live in a country that allows their flourishing as citizens with full human rights realized. For instance, our neighbours and family members should not be told that they must wait until 2040 until they can, say, use functioning, accessible subway elevators, or use their own wheelchairs on international flights or attend an accessible all-candidates debate and so on.
    Unfortunately, the present government has left the task of making Canada fully accessible to future governments. I confidently say that New Democrats are up to this task and genuinely committed to it.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her advocacy on this issue. I know she has been a very vocal advocate for people living with disabilities. I want her to know how much I personally appreciate all the work she has done. I know advocates across the country appreciate her work as well.
    This is landmark legislation. It has been a long time coming. I am really proud that our government is bringing it forward. The national housing strategy had a stream in it that included inclusive housing. I firmly believe it is not only the government's role to make our country an inclusive Canada; it is incumbent on all of us.
    My question has to do with the member's comment on how we only need one vote. We have brought the bill back to the House. It is really important to the government, and I believe it is important to the New Democratic Party as well, that we get the bill done and done quickly. We have one vote. If we could get all parties to agree to move quickly on this, we could see this voted on and become law right away.
     Could the member comment on the importance of getting the bill done in a very timely manner and having all parties supporting that timely passage of the legislation?

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her personal dedication to this and for recognizing the work that so many of us do on a personal level.
    Right now we are talking about a legislative process that many Canadians have been watching for a long time. Therefore, to see it being rushed through right now is a bitter pill we have to swallow. However, we also know there were many missed opportunities, and that is frustrating.
    I sat at the committee that saw these amendments go through in the House of Commons. We had testimony. We had expertise. We had former cabinet ministers from provincial governments that had enacted disability acts. They told us what we needed to do. We had the Commissioner for Human Rights. We had the Public Service Alliance representatives talk about employment equities. Countless people with the expertise presented precise amendments that we could have put in place long ago.
    It is a bitter pill that we have to swallow. We are being rushed to go through legislation, but we do not have much choice. We are coming to the end of June. I know it is a milestone, but a lot of Canadians look at this and see that it falls short of the mark. We have to think positively or we will not continue to advocate and that momentum will be gone. Of course we will continue to advocate for this, but we recognize that it is very frustrating that we missed these significant opportunities. It would be pretty disingenuous for me to say I am not really disappointed in that.
    Mr. Speaker, we are at an interesting point today. I think we would find common ground among all parties that this is a step forward and that the legislation absolutely needs to pass before the House rises prior to the election. That is critically important. Where there may not be common ground is whether we have one day of debate or two days of debate. The government has shown a propensity to limit debate and choose questionable priorities over time.
    We are sitting here in the last month of this Parliament, finally getting around to this bill. We have seen four different ministerial appointments on this file and three different ministers and we are finally debating this in the last month of this Parliament.
     As my hon. colleague from the New Democrats pointed out, the bill was at committee several months ago. Committee members on all sides listened to the testimony of expert witnesses and made very valuable contributions and suggestions for amendments that would have made the legislation even stronger. There is no reason for us to be sitting here in the last month of this Parliament having this conversation today. This could have been passed a long time ago. Had those amendments been made at the House committee, then the Senate would not have needed to move amendments and we would not be debating this now. It would already be done.
    Therefore, I want to give my hon. colleague from the New Democrats an opportunity to comment a bit on the process and what we may have learned as parliamentarians from this process.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, a lot of us come into this place as individuals who are championing people in our communities, and now we are part of a collective in Parliament and are all honoured to be here. This is some of the passion that I think was also behind electoral reform. It is this idea of partisan politics and political expediency that comes with the nature of this. I have seen the strategizing. I have seen how people count on coming legislation and it falls short of the mark. That is what happened here in this process.
    However, I truly believe that just as many of the people who are advocates and are closer to the ground and are living with disabilities can never give up hope, neither can I. We have to frame the momentum as we move forward. We have to be critical because we have to maximize the energy and time we have moving forward to hone in on the changes that we need. That is what we have to do in Parliament. Personally, what I have observed in my time here is that we all need to continue talking about this in a candid way to reach all members of our communities, no matter where they are politically.
    When an issue reaches the mainstream and becomes the expectation of all Canadians, then it will be moved forward quickly. We can use a narrative together that we understand that legislation is not the only answer. However, we cannot have legislation that allows for voluntary interpretation. We cannot have legislation that says it is going to be enforced with exemptions and without a hearing, rationale or appeal process for those exemptions either. There is a host of areas that we need to work together on. Those to me are the no-brainers. Those are the things that we can work together on. We need to mainstream these issues so that no government can ignore them or fall short again.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh for her extraordinarily hard work in speaking to the concerns of Canadians with disabilities and in strengthening this legislation. I worked at committee with her on Bill C-81, trying to strengthen it. I welcome the amendments from the other place.
     I also want to thank and laud the work of disability rights advocates like David Lepofsky, whose office was so helpful as we were trying to draft the most effective amendments we could. I share some of my friend's sense of this being bittersweet. I think we have to get this legislation passed. Disability rights advocates across Canada are calling on us to do it.
    I also want to thank the minister. It is a rare thing when a minister in this place accepts previously rejected amendments in order to strengthen legislation. Many of my amendments and those of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh were rejected in clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, but now the minister has accepted some strengthening of the bill. We welcome that.
    We hope that this legislation passes and gets royal assent. How can we be most useful in making sure that the promise of a barrier-free Canada is delivered?
    Mr. Speaker, I have alluded to this before. I think that all of us, when talking about this legislation with advocates in the community of people living with disabilities, need to be honest and candid about where its shortcomings are. We have to identify and target the areas that need improvement. If we are serious about this, each of us needs to commit, in our ridings, to ensuring that every election we participate in is accessible. We need to prioritize and make sure that people coming to a microphone have access to sign language interpretation and all kinds of access.
     That is what we can do. We can make this a federal election issue, which then becomes a very strong social signal.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Centre.
    It is truly an honour to speak this morning on this historic piece of legislation, Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. When I was elected, one of my priorities was to see us recognize the challenges faced by those living with disabilities, to raise awareness in my riding and across the country on how we can improve the lives of these friends and neighbours, and to enact legislation to ensure that we are moving forward on a barrier-free Canada. With Bill C-81, the federal government is leading by example, as this legislation would ensure more consistent accessibility in areas of federal jurisdiction.
    Why is this important? It is because of people like Steven Muir, who works in my office. Steven lives with a developmental disability. I met him in Oakville and we became friends. Steven fell in love with Maggie, who lived in Ottawa. That presented some logistical challenges to their being together, and while it took a few years to work out the details, Steven left his job and his support network to move to Ottawa to follow his heart. Today, he is happily married to Maggie and I have had him working in my office since 2016. Steven deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and that has not always been the case, in particular when it comes to employment and housing.
    Karina Scali is another friend of mine who lives in Oakville. Karina has worked harder than most people I know to get a post-secondary education. She has faced barriers most of us would find insurmountable, including bullying at school, but she has persevered through all of it and is working toward her degree in early childhood education. She has struggled to find paid employment, not because she is not capable but because of her disability, and that is just wrong.
    My friend Joe Dowdall was injured in a workplace accident, which put him in a wheelchair. Joe works at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 and has been an incredible advocate at all levels of government. When I was elected, he told me that I need to work on improving the lives of those with disabilities and I promised him that I would.
    I do not have time to share all the stories of my friends at Community Living Oakville and In The Loop Media, but they too have faced challenges in our community and deserve more from all levels of government and Canadian society. They are just a few examples of individuals who will be impacted by the bill before us today. There are thousands more, actually five million more, across the country with stories that are similar.
    Bill C-81 would benefit Canadians by removing and preventing barriers to accessibility in areas under federal jurisdiction, including in built environments, employment, information and communication technologies, procurement of goods and services, the delivery of programs and services and transportation.
    An important part of this bill is the appointment of an independent chief accessibility officer, who will be responsible for monitoring and reporting to the minister on the implementation of the act.
    The bill outlines three duties for all regulated entities. They would have to create accessibility plans in consultation with people living with disabilities, they would have to set up ways to receive and respond to feedback from their employees and customers, and they would have to prepare and publish progress reports in consultation with those living with disabilities that outline how they fulfill their accessibility plans. The bill proposes to create the Canadian accessibility standards development organization to develop and model accessibility standards. In general, these standards would outline how organizations can identify, remove and prevent barriers.
    An accessibility commissioner within the Canadian Human Rights Commission will be appointed and report to the Minister of Accessibility. The commissioner will be responsible for compliance and enforcement activities, as well as handling complaints for most federal activities sectors. The bill proposes a mix of proactive compliance activities, including, but not limited to, inspections, compliance audits and orders, notice of violations, penalties and more. The legislation provides individuals with the right to complain and receive compensation if they have experienced physical, psychological or monetary harm because an organization has not met its new obligations under the act and regulations.
    It is especially meaningful to be speaking today during National AccessAbility Week, which has been held each year since 2016. Bill C-81 would see National AccessAbility Week officially start on the last Sunday in May.
    The legislation also gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission responsibility for monitoring Canada's implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In that regard, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel on an inclusion mission organized by Reena Foundation, March of Dimes and Holland Bloorview. I know some of them are watching right now. What an incredible opportunity this is to see some of the groundbreaking work being done in that country to make it more accessible and inclusive.

  (1255)  

    I also got time to spend with some of the leading advocates of accessibility and inclusion in Canada. I got to know Yahya, who is living in supportive housing run by the Reena Foundation, a terrific organization that allows Yahya to live independently and with dignity.
    David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, joined us on the trip, and I had the chance to talk to him at length about the bill before us today. I am pleased to read that Mr. Lepofsky has stated that the Senate amendments reflect an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much time and energy to strengthening Bill C-81.
    This trip allowed me to explore what is possible alongside those living with a disability. What a unique and blessed opportunity it has been. It has has helped guide my perspective as I work in Parliament.
    The Senate has made several important amendments to Bill C-81, and I applaud the government and the minister for accepting these amendments. These amendments include one that adds a deadline for realizing a barrier-free Canada. Adding a deadline was something that many disability advocates said was needed, and I am pleased to see its addition. The Senate amendments also recognize American sign language, Quebec sign language and indigenous sign language as the primary languages for communication for deaf persons in Canada. I know this amendment was extremely important to the deaf community, and it is great to see a sign language interpreter here with us today. These amendments and others made by the Senate have strengthened what is already groundbreaking legislation, and it is my sincere hope that all parties can work together to pass Bill C-81 as quickly as possible.
     While the bill is historic, it is not enough to truly change the lives of Canadians with disabilities. We need a culture change in our country. Everyone needs to think differently about inclusion. We need to stop accepting the view that those living with a disability do not deserve a minimum wage. We need to build more inclusive housing so that people like Steven and Karina have a safe, affordable, inclusive place to live. Government alone cannot build an inclusive and accessible Canada. Every single Canadian needs to change their attitude.
     Employers cannot only change a life, but can improve their business's bottom line by hiring staff living with a disability. Make no mistake that passing Bill C-81 will make a difference, and it will send the message that the federal government believes in the abilities of all Canadians.
    I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to the Minister for Accessibility for her leadership in building an accessible Canada with this legislation and in so many ways, both big and small. The minister is a role model for many Canadians, and I thank her for all of her hard work on this bill.
    I also want to thank my friend Senator Jim Munson who was the sponsor of this bill in the Senate. I can think of few parliamentarians who have been so passionate about inclusion for so many years. Senator Munson became emotional when Bill C-81 passed third reading in the Senate, posting on Twitter, “This has been a good day for Inclusion—good day for Canada”.
    To the minister and Senator Munson, to all the disability advocates and organizations who have been played a part in guiding and supporting us to where we are today, and to every person across Canada who has played a role in seeing this bill before us come to fruition, I thank them for their passion and commitment to creating an inclusive and accessible country.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech. I have had the opportunity to work with her over the course of this Parliament on issues that we share a common passion and concern for, namely, helping the most vulnerable.
    As we get to the stretch run on this, I think all parties are supportive of moving the proposed legislation as is at this point. We are dealing with the legislation as is, and we want to see it passed before the end of this Parliament. However, stakeholders have raised some concerns about how much further the bill could have gone in terms of the use of “musts” versus “mays” in the bill and in really putting some teeth behind the legislation. For all of us who advocate for the most vulnerable, I think the biggest concern we have when looking at legislation or initiatives moving forward is that our intentions actually translate into meaningful action to improve the lives of the people we are trying to help.
    Perhaps the member could speak to those concerns of stakeholders about whether the bill would actually translate into meaningful action, and to the government's commitment to ensuring that it happens.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the member for his personal commitment to advancing inclusivity and accessibility. He is one of the most passionate people on this issue I have ever met. I had the privilege of speaking and meeting with him, and I truly wish his party shared that same passion.
    The Conservatives were in power for 10 years and never brought forward legislation on building an accessible Canada. It was an opportunity that was missed for 10 years. I am incredibly proud of the government and the minister, not only for bringing the legislation forward, but for listening to stakeholders, to the testimony and to the changes that were made in the Senate and accepting the Senate amendments.
    Absolutely, there is always more we can do to make Canada accessible, and we always need to be listening. It is something that, as legislators but more importantly as Canadians, we all need to take seriously and keep moving forward. I look forward to working with the member and all members of the House, as well as any Canadian who wants to advance this legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.
    Given that the bill includes standards that the government is not required to implement, it could take several years before anything is done.
    Does the member agree that we should add, as the NDP proposed, deadlines for implementing the standards and regulations in order to bring about real change and enable people with disabilities in every federal institution and federally regulated entity across the country to benefit from this accessibility act?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly one of the things that were added by the Senate was a timeline, which was being called for. We have seen challenges with the implementation of the legislation that was brought forward in Ontario. I have personally seen instances where organizations have met the standards but have not made the building inclusive when it comes to viewing areas for sports, for example, or leaving a lip or a gap that might as well be the Grand Canyon for anyone in a wheelchair. Therefore, some of it goes beyond just legislation. By the federal government adopting this bill, we will be sending a message to Canadians, to employers, organizations, architects, designers and planners, to start thinking about these things and implementing them right away.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of the passing of Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act.
    It is so symbolic to speak during National AccessAbility Week, when we celebrate the contributions of persons with disabilities and promote accessibility and inclusion across our communities and workplaces.
    I would like to acknowledge all the energy invested in the proposed accessible Canada act by all those who have worked so hard to get us where we are today: persons with disabilities, stakeholders, industry and all who play a crucial role in improving accessibility in Canada.
    In 1991, I was the victim of a random act of violence that left me a C5 quadriplegic. My life changed forever, and I saw first-hand the everyday issues Canadians with disabilities face, including tasks as ordinary as getting out of bed, going to the bank or getting on a plane. These became real challenges that were significant hurdles. Things became significantly harder due to the inaccessibility of the terrain. The problem was not my disability; it was the barriers put in my way. For instance, stairs can be a heck of an impediment to my progress.
    Since entering politics 12 years ago, one of my goals has been to help Canada become a community where people with disabilities reach their individual potential and are recognized and valued as citizens. That is why I am so proud of our federal Liberal government's new accessible Canada act, the most significant piece of legislation for the rights of persons with disabilities in over 30 years.
    Before I talk about the merits of the bill, it is important to note that this is not some stand-alone legislation meant to be the only thing our government is doing with respect to moving forward the lives of persons with disabilities in this country.
    Our national housing strategy contains a significant focus on accessible housing. This includes the five new housing projects funded so far in Calgary, in partnership with organizations like Horizon Housing, YWCA Calgary, HomeSpace and many more. In addition, our infrastructure investments are being implemented with accessibility in mind. We are helping to provide more university and training opportunities to assist people with disabilities in becoming more involved in our labour force.
    The accessible Canada act truly belongs to the disability community and reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. To get here, we heard from over 6,000 individuals and organizations through the most accessible consultations ever held by government. All people who contributed to the legislation did so because they understood the importance of using their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow, where everyone is included and no one is left behind.
    Over three years ago, our government worked to develop legislation aimed at removing barriers to inclusion, to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance at finding success.
    One of the things my disability taught me was the critical role that government plays in people's lives. I have always looked at it this way: Whether a person is born of a rich family or one that struggles, whether a person is born with a disability or acquires one along the way, that person deserves an equal and fair chance at success. This act would help level the playing field and promote equality of opportunity.
     This bill pursues a very important goal: to make Canada barrier-free. Everyone is ready and eager to see the bill passed, and the organizations with responsibilities under Bill C-81 are ready to act in accordance. The CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board have all testified that they are ready to implement their respective roles.

  (1305)  

    Of course, the road to inclusion has been fought for a long time by individuals and organizations across this country, organizations I was lucky enough to work with and within, such as the National Educational Association of Disabled Students and the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Alberta, which have been pushing these rights forward for many years.
    Federal accessibility legislation and leadership at the national level have been long overdue. Canadians expect the Government of Canada to lead when it comes to accessibility. That is a responsibility that our government is taking very seriously. It is important to underscore that this historic bill reflects the work and commitment of the disabled community, whose priorities and concerns have been addressed and are reflected throughout the bill.
    This includes recognizing sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada, clarifying that nothing in the act or its regulations limits the duty to accommodate of regulated entities, ensuring the timely implementation of this legislation toward the realization of a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and recognizing intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination that persons with disabilities may experience.
    The bill, built on the principle of “Nothing for us without us”, belongs to the disability community. Moving forward, the community's continued participation will be absolutely essential for the bill to be effective.
    In many ways, the bill puts into legislation the best practices that top organizations follow. Looking back, I was very lucky to have institutions like the University of Calgary, with instructors who recognized the support I needed, or organizations like the one I practised law with, Dentons Canada, where I was very lucky to have the company provide the voice-activated computer and the assistance I needed to make it through my daily work.
     I have been likewise very lucky in the accommodations I received when I was at the Alberta legislature and here, at the House of Commons. I have had incredible support from my wife, my family and my long-term caregiver, Liza Tega, who have always stepped in and done all the things that were simply very difficult for me to do.
    However, people with disabilities should not have to rely on this kind of luck. That is why we need legislation. With this legislation, we are creating a system whereby barriers are identified and removed proactively, and we are establishing enforcement mechanisms to ensure that regulations are respected and followed by businesses and areas under federal jurisdiction. It would create avenues for accessibility complaints through a “no wrong door” approach, and it would provide for oversight and monitoring of these issues and emerging accessibility issues.
    By legislating National AccessAbility Week and bringing Canadians together to recognize the valuable contributions of persons with disabilities, this law would send a clear message that systems will be designed inclusively from the start. With the accessible Canada act, we are strengthening the collaborative approach for a country that is fully accessible and inclusive, where everyone has an equal and fair chance at success.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that it is a good sign that the government and the minister have decided to support the amendments from the Senate. When the bill was at the committee stage, Conservatives, New Democrats and Green Party members put forward dozens of amendments, and all of them, except three, were voted down by the Liberals, including many of the amendments that were brought forward by the Senate.
    I want to highlight the fact that a lot of this could have been expedited if the Liberals had supported the amendments that came from stakeholders at the committee stage. One amendment that was not supported, and we have heard about this from stakeholders over and over again, was about the inconsistency that will come from having four different departments looking after complaints, advocacy and removing those barriers, including CTA, CASDO and the other boards.
    I understand from the minister that it is a “no wrong door” policy, but what the stakeholders are looking for is the right door. By having four different administrations and four different departments trying to organize the barriers and regulations, there is going to be a lot of confusion. We have heard from stakeholders about consistency in how the complaints are going to be handled and how the restrictions and the new regulations are going to be rolled out.
    Does my colleague not agree with stakeholders that having one consistent group, such as CASDO, oversee Bill C-81 would be a better option than establishing four different departments to do the job of one?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his passion and advocacy for the betterment of the bill. Through his work, we can see that he is truly committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for people with disabilities in this country.
    The process by which we arrived at this point on the bill reminds me of sausage making: We do not really want to watch it or smell it, but at the end of the day, we have to go through all the processes. Not only have we heard from the House floor and accepted and rejected amendments at committee, but there has been further due diligence from the Senate. I think we have arrived at a pretty good place, as we see all-party support here for this legislation.
    In terms of the member's direct question, in my view, the no wrong door approach is better. By putting four different heads on this issue, after a time, people will know where to go. These bodies will have the relative expertise in their given area to be able to deal with the matter, hopefully on an expedited basis, and with this expertise they will be able to move the teeth of the legislation through their organizations.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to echo some of the comments we have heard, both from my colleagues and from colleagues in the official opposition.
    As a general comment with respect to the no wrong door policy, I note advocates have asked that a one-stop or one-door entry be put into the disability provisions to be implemented and enforced by the government.
    It has been my experience and the experience of many Canadians that governments in general do not do a very good job of working together across departments and agencies. They are very siloed. I am very concerned that we will say there is no wrong door, but the actual mechanisms that are needed will not be in place for this to be a reality for citizens on the ground. I would welcome the member's comments about how that will not be the reality for Canadians.
    My final comment is about the House of Commons and our offices as members of Parliament. It is my understanding that the legislation would not be applicable to Parliament, to the House of Commons and to our offices as members of Parliament. If this is the case, I would welcome the member's words of advocacy in making sure there is legislation or there are regulations at some point that include the offices of members of Parliament, both here in Ottawa and within our constituencies.
    Mr. Speaker, knowing the minister responsible for this file and the passionate advocate she is for accessibility in the bill, I can assure the member that there will be no wrong door. People who work in these departments and head these organizations will know how to take accommodation requests. They will know how this legislation works and that moving forward on bettering the lives of people with disabilities in this country is foremost at every turn.
    I believe the way the bill is crafted will lead to more success for people with disabilities rather than less, although there will always be an opportunity for us to learn, grow and continue to move forward in the spirit we intended.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-81, an act to enable a barrier-free Canada. I would like to reiterate the Conservative pledge to work with all parliamentarians towards its swift passage.
    On that note I thank the minister, the government, other members of the opposition, people with disabilities, businesses and public servants who have come together through this process to put forward a positive if imperfect bill.
    Regardless of these imperfections, this late in a parliamentary cycle it is important that we move swiftly to get it passed. There are important improvements that will help remove the barriers faced daily by Canadians with disabilities. This bill, with all of its imperfections, deserves to be passed, and the House can count on full Conservative co-operation to ensure that it does so as quickly as possible.
    Now that we acknowledge the foregone conclusion that the bill will pass, and we have commitments from members of all parties to make it happen quickly, I want to use my brief time to highlight the next steps that we must all take in order to ensure a truly barrier-free Canada, one where Canadians with disabilities can fulfill their full potential. I will focus my remarks on the issue of jobs.
    We know that a job is the best anti-poverty plan that exists. That is important to this discussion, because fully 27% of people with disabilities lived in poverty as of the Canadian Survey on Disability in 2012. That number falls from 27% to 8% for people with disabilities who have jobs.
    Amazingly, that same Statistics Canada survey demonstrated that the poverty rate among people with disabilities who had jobs was actually lower than the poverty rate for the general population. In fact, if we put two people side by side, one who has a disability and a job and the other who has neither a job nor a disability, we would find that the working person with a disability was significantly less likely to be living in poverty.
    I use this statistic to demonstrate that it should not be considered a foregone conclusion that people with disabilities must live in want. To the contrary, their natural God-given skills, industry and perseverance allow them not only to support themselves but also to prosper. Unfortunately, there are numerous physical and governmental barriers that stand in the way.
    An Employment and Social Development Canada report from some years ago said that of approximately 795,000 working-aged Canadians who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so, almost half, 340,000 of these people, have post-secondary education. Let me reiterate that. There are 800,000 people with disabilities who are not working even though their disability does not prevent them from working, and almost half of those people have university educations.
    The evidence suggests that they desperately want to work and will seek out opportunities to work, but that numerous barriers stand in the way. Many of the physical barriers are addressed in this bill, but there are other governmental barriers that remain in place.
    Income and other social support programs often punish people with disabilities for working. Allow me to quote an organization called Return on Disability. It is an organization that specifically invests in businesses that do a good job of hiring people with disabilities and serving customers with disabilities. I quote:

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     Anecdotal evidence suggests that these programs represent a barrier to employment, as individuals who risk building a career must at some point forfeit their benefits.
    Let me give an example. Once a minimum wage-earning person with a disability in Alberta earns $1,150 a month, that person faces a clawback of disability support assistance of almost 100%. It takes 12 full working days for someone on minimum wage to earn that amount. On the 13th day, the government starts reducing the benefit by $1 for each dollar earned. On top of that clawback, the worker pays income and payroll taxes, not to mention gas and carbon taxes to drive to the job in the first place. The combined effect of all these taxes and clawbacks leads to the outcome that someone can lose $1.25 for each extra $1 they earn. That is a negative wage. Every extra hour the person works actually makes them poorer. Ironically, the same government that was in place in Alberta, which was hiking the minimum wage, was punishing the same workers for receiving that increased wage. As the wage went up, the clawback sharpened, and the person was actually worse off.
    These disincentives for work are not only discouraging but can also be scary. In Alberta, a single disabled person loses the Alberta adult health benefit program once he or she earns over $16,580. Ontario is almost as bad. People with disabilities who receive the Ontario disability support plan income support payments are penalized if they work. Simply put, for every $2 they make above $200 a month, their ODSP benefits are reduced by $1. This is on top of other clawbacks to housing, child care benefits, bus pass support and drug benefits that could support mobility devices, hearing and visual aids, medical supplies, respiratory devices, transportation allowances and so on.
    These penalties have the effect of making it next to impossible for many people who are disabled and desperately want to work to do so. We call this the marginal effective tax rate, a fancy way to describe what people lose for every dollar they earn. We know from the data that it has an effect on the ability of people in these circumstances to work. According to Stats Canada, 94,000 people with disabilities say the reason they do not work is that they would “lose additional support”. Also, 84,000 do not work because they expect their income would drop if they did. These numbers come from Stats Canada surveys and include only people who used to work or who indicated that they are physically capable of doing so.
    Let us unpack those numbers. Almost 100,000 Canadians who have a disability and who are physically capable of working have told Stats Canada that the reason they do not is that government programs would punish them if they did.
    The solution to this, of course, is to adjust our tax and benefits system across levels of government to ensure that people always gain more from their wages than they lose to clawbacks and taxes. There are a number of ways to do this.
     First, we could adopt the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, a bill I introduced early in this Parliament, which received support from members of the NDP, the Green Party and some Liberals. That bill would make it a condition of the Canada social transfer that provinces adjust their tax and benefits systems to ensure that people always keep more in wages than they lose in taxes and clawbacks.
    Second, we could look at adjusting the workers benefit disability supplement and the disability tax credit, both of which have the potential to make work more financially rewarding. Jim Flaherty originally designed that benefit. It was then called the working income tax benefit. He specifically had in mind people with disabilities, because of course this was a long-standing passion of his.

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    The idea was to basically give the working poor, and particularly the working poor who are disabled, a pay raise on their earned income, allowing them to springboard over the welfare wall, which holds so many hard-working and promising workers back.
    For the people who still cling to old stereotypes about people with disabilities, there are countless examples of those who have incredible workplace achievements and potential. There are real life stories that support this statement.
    As one father of an autistic child wrote, “Charity is a good start, but it isn't a game changer.... Charity wasn't what people like my son really needed; they needed jobs. Only a job could give them a place in the world.” Randy Lewis, that father, created jobs for people like his son.
     As senior vice-president of Walgreens, he launched a massive hiring drive to employ about 1,000 people with disabilities at the retail giant's distribution centre. He writes in his amazing book No Greatness without Goodness, “With a paying job...they would be part of our world—not relegated to the shadows and reliant on the charity of strangers. Work would fill their days, offer healthy challenges, and provide relationships. Work would mean independence.” That 1,000-person hiring spree turned into a massive financial success for Walgreens.
     The company reported that the distribution centres, which are incredibly competitive and competing on the basis of fractions of pennies, requiring 100% accuracy on where products go through the system, were successful and profitable even through the transition period as a result of, not in spite of, the decision to hire 1,000 people with disabilities to do the important work. They earned full wages and did the same jobs as everyone else had done, in many cases doing them better.
    In Canada, we have similar anecdotes.
     Tim Hortons franchise owner Mark Wafer hired a young man with Down's syndrome, named Clint. He turned out to be his best and most loyal worker. He did all the same tasks as his co-workers and made the same money, with no government wage subsidy or workplace tokenism. He arrived early, left late and never stopped all day long.
     This impressed his boss, who had overcome a disability himself. “I grew up 80% deaf, having to fight for my rights”, said Wafer, who owns five Tim Horton's franchises, “but I always believed that the only way to live a full life is to have a paycheque and that paycheque has to come from the private sector.”
     Wafer has put his money where his mouth is, having now employed over 100 workers with disabilities, people like Clint. Furthermore, he has made it clear this was a business decision. His five franchises were among the best franchises in the entire Tim Hortons chain, beating other peer group averages on the measurements of success, including the speed to serve customers and the outright profitability of those franchises.
     In fact, he often has a chuckle comparing the performance of his workers to the performance of so-called VIPs who show up on Camp Day, people like politicians and sports celebrities who work in Tim Horton's one day a year to raise money for the Tim Hortons camp. He has compared the statistics on how long it takes for customers to get served on that day to the speed with which his workers, who have disabilities, are able to serve those same customer and shows that the so-called VIPs are blown out of the water.
     He has demonstrated the enormous success and potential of reaching out to people who have disabilities and hiring them in the workplace. In fact, they are not just anecdotes. Of the million Canadians with disabilities who work, 328,000 of them have severe or very severe disabilities.

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    We know this kind of success can be replicated. As I said earlier, at Mark Wafer's Tim Hortons branch, his turnover was only 40% a year, while the industry average was 100%. He reduced turnover by hiring people with disabilities. This was important because one staff turnover cost him $4,000. Based on 16 metrics used to measure the operations of the stores, Wafer said his business outperformed the others. He said, “I don't run a better business. I have a better workforce.”
    Similarly, the two Walgreens distribution centres, where 40% of the workforce have disabilities, became the most efficient in the company's history. He said, “Once they fastened onto the work, most have laser-like focus. Not only did they work hard, they didn't want to quit.” They sorted, packaged and sent off thousands of different products worth millions of dollars to dozens of stores every week. This required speed, frugality and flawlessness. The slightest error would send products to the wrong place and empty shelves would send unsatisfied customers to the competitor.
    Speaking of the management at Walgreens, he said, “We all agreed that spending extra money” was not what was needed. “No one had to say so—it just was.” He went on to say, “In a business that plots the difference between success and failure by one-eighth of a penny, loss show up quickly and can be disastrous.”
    He points out that his hard-nosed business-driven approach was perfectly compatible with having a workforce that included people with disabilities. In fact, many of them outperformed those who had no apparent disability at all.
    In Canada, we have some great examples of new innovations. A company called Meticulon in Calgary helps people with autism become information technology consultants. They have the opportunity to earn $24 an hour doing IT work, mostly in Calgary's energy sector, but now broadening out to other fields.
    Then there is the opportunity in reaching a bigger market. According to Return on Disability, over a billion people around the world have disabilities, representing a combined market of customers equal to a country nearly the size of China. There are major business opportunities for business owners who are smart enough to hire people with disabilities and serve customers with disabilities.
    We need to remove some of the government obstacles that have stood in the way. Right now the biggest among them is the high levels of marginal effective tax rates that punish people, not just those with disabilities but all those who are on social assistance, for making the courageous decision of entering the workplace. In doing so, we sell people short, we deny them their opportunities and we fail to recognize their desire, which is similar to our own, to contribute to their fellow humanity.
    Work is a basic human need, not just for a livelihood but for a life. There is dignity in labour, as Martin Luther King famously said. There is dignity in all labour, no matter what kind of work a person does. King famously said that if someone was a street sweeper, to then go out and sweep streets like Beethoven made music, sweep streets like Michelangelo made art, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry, sweep streets so well that when the person entered through the gates of heaven, people would cry out that there stood the great street sweeper who did his job well.
    Let us take this occasion, where all of us are united in this common goal, to recognize the inherent dignity of every person, including and especially those who have overcome disabilities and difficulties, and clear the way for them to fulfill their full potentials.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Carleton for advocating for people who want to work meaningfully in society regardless of their background or their ability to do so. Whether it is working with the CNIB or on his private member's legislation, the member has done much in this Parliament to advocate for those with challenges.
    We have heard criticisms by stakeholders and elected officials that the legislation before us, when it comes to designing regulations, has multiple departments that would be responsible for it. Some in the stakeholder community have said that it is confusing as to who they give feedback to so these regulations can be rolled out in a timely way, in plain language and in a format that can be easily understood and so everyone who falls under the legislation knows the responsibility under law. Does the member agree with that assessment?
    Mr. Speaker, simplicity is a virtue. Oftentimes in politics, bureaucracy and government generally there is too much complexity and unnecessarily so.
    The provisions of the bill should be executed in the most seamless and simple fashion possible. People, regardless of whether they have disabilities, ought not to have to spend time weeding through government paperwork and bureaucracy. They should go straight to the result, and the result is an accessible Canada for every Canadian. I hope the government, as it administers the bill into the future, and future governments after it, will ensure that happens.

  (1340)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this morning I heard the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan talk about the importance of caring for the most vulnerable members of our society as well. Unfortunately, disabilities often contribute to this very economic vulnerability.
    My colleague was a member of the previous government, which created a disability savings plan. I wonder if he could tell us a little more about that program.
    Did that program produce the desired results?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.
    Yes, the previous government did create a disability savings plan that helps people with disabilities and their families save money for the future. We want children with disabilities to be able to use that money to support themselves after their parents are gone.
    Now the system needs to be improved, given how complex it is. Plus, for people to access it, they must be eligible for the disability tax credit. The department is currently coming up with interpretations that prevent some individuals, including diabetics, from accessing the credit. Without that credit, one cannot opt in to the disability savings plan.
    I therefore think we need to work together to simplify the system and allow more people to access it. People need to save up some money, not fill out paperwork.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague.
    Bill C-81 would improve accessibility in all areas under federal jurisdiction so that all Canadians, regardless of their abilities and disabilities, can participate fully and inclusively in Canadian society.
    This bill, which we introduced last June, was improved at every stage of the process. Our government welcomes the Senate's proposed amendments. I would like to know what my colleague thinks of the Senate's proposed amendments.
    Mr. Speaker, I generally agree with the direction the government is taking. I think the Senate's amendments are similar to the ones the NDP and the Conservatives proposed in committee.
    Obviously I do not have time to go over all the amendments in 30 seconds, but I have already congratulated the government on introducing this bill. I think some of the amendments further improved the bill and that the final product, despite its imperfections, is an improvement over the status quo.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I applaud the efforts of everyone in making a very helpful bill become reality. I also applaud my colleague for mentioning the contributions of employers who are willing to create jobs and hire people with challenges. Statistics have shown that they have proven to be very loyal employees who perform well.
    When I was the minister for seniors, I had a special employers panel for family caregivers looking after people and children with disabilities. We modelled the employer panel for people with disabilities, and this is a model we should follow.
    I lived through that challenge as well, because my husband was legally blind when we were married, and he aged into disability as well. There is a connection between the needs of seniors and aging into disability. I would like my colleague to comment on that.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the former minister responsible for seniors for sharing her personal experience with this issue. I know that she has been a great supporter of her husband, who has a vision impairment. They have lived a very rich life, and it is a good example of the great life all people can have, even when they encounter the difficulties disability brings.
    Today we can celebrate that this bill would help knock down some of the unnecessary physical and other barriers that are in the way. We need to begin the conversation on how to take yet further steps in the future to remove governmental barriers that remain so that all people can fulfill their full potential.
    Mr. Speaker, I find it very interesting that it took the Senate to do what the Liberals were unwilling to do in this House and at committee to fix this bill, or at least to make an attempt to fix it.
    The member for Carleton talked about the advantages work provides, both psychologically and socially, but he also talked about the benefits there should be from working, from an economic perspective, and how disabled people are often disadvantaged in retaining work. I am not sure that all viewers, and maybe even those across the aisle, fully understand the issues surrounding the marginal tax rate. I wonder if the member could extrapolate on that a little further.
    Mr. Speaker, when people say the term “marginal effective tax rate”, eyes begin to glaze over right across the land, but it is a very important concept, because that is the amount of money one loses for every extra dollar one earns. This loss happens in two ways. First, social benefits are often clawed back as someone earns an additional dollar. Second, income and payroll taxes apply to what is left. The combined effect can mean real marginal tax rates of over 100%.
    For example, in Saskatchewan, until recently, minimum-wage workers on disability assistance who went from part-time to full-time work would actually have a pay cut. In other words, they would make less money working 40 hours a week than they would working 20 hours a week. These are people trying to escape from poverty, improve their situation and climb the ladder, and the government punishes them for doing so. Surely we can adjust our social benefits and tax system to ensure that people keep more of their wages than they lose to clawbacks and taxes.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin. He will have approximately 12 minutes, and when we resume debate, he will have another eight minutes, with 10 minutes for questions and comments.
    Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to be here just before question period, when members from all parties will certainly be in complete opposite positions on issues and when it tends to be a fairly feisty time. Instead, at this moment in time, we are talking about something that, in many ways, we agree on. It is that rare opportunity to be discussing an issue on which we may have different approaches, but the result we are shooting for is the same.
    First, it is really important to make clear that this legislation will pass. It has the support of members on all sides of this House. We may have ideas on how we want the legislation to be constructed or on ways it can be improved to have more impact for the people who need it, but we all agree that it is a step forward. Certainly the stakeholders from across the country agree that this legislation is a step forward.
    As my colleague previously noted, it is a foregone conclusion that this legislation will pass, so today we are having a conversation about it. We are able to use the opportunity we have, as members of Parliament elected by the people of Canada to debate issues in this House, to talk about how the process could be improved or about our vision of where this legislation would have an impact.
    To that end, I want to start with what has worked in this process. I want to commend, first of all, the parties that have been involved in this process, the stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities, for their ability to come together to find common ground. So often the enemy of progress in this country is our inability to come together. We wind up with a cacophony of ideas and a lot of noise from different people advocating for perhaps the same end but through different means. It is very confusing for policy-makers, regardless of political stripe, making decisions in that environment.
    We have seen alliances formed in this process. Alliances of organizations with varying interests have come together and advocated strongly on their common ground. These include organizations like FALA and the AODA. David Lepofsky, who has been a tireless champion, Bill Adair, who I know is here today listening to the debate, and so many others their alliances represent have been part of this process. In finding that common ground, we find ourselves here today in a conversation, with all parties in agreement.
    I want to talk a bit about why this is important to me personally. By now I think everyone in this House knows that I have a son with autism. Jaden is now 23 years old, and in many ways, he is like a three-year-old or four-year-old in a 23-year-old's body. He is non-verbal, but he has incredible skills. If given the opportunity, he has something incredibly meaningful to offer to our society and our country.
    As I am telling this story, the best example I can give in terms of perception is from an interview we did six years ago with Steve Paikin, on The Agenda. We did this interview with Jaden and his sister Jenae, who was 13 at the time. Jenae, as a 13-year-old, was asked by Steve, who knows both Jaden and Jenae and has a real interest in helping them tell their story, if she ever wished that Jaden was “normal”, like every other kid. Jenae, as a 13-year-old, without hesitation, responded, “Well, honestly, since Jaden was diagnosed with autism before I was born, I don't exactly know what a normal brother is like, so Jaden kind of is my normal.”
    Steve pressed her a little bit and asked if she liked him just the way he was. It was kind of a softball question. We do not see too many of those in this House. Without skipping a beat, her answer was that if Jaden did not have autism or was cured or something, we would miss the Jaden we have now. This is coming from a 13-year-old. I tell this story in a lot of my presentations across the country to university students and basically anyone who will listen.

  (1350)  

    What I learned from that interview, as I reflected on it over the years of telling the story multiple times, is the fact that it made me think about my own normal and maybe a little about Jenae's normal, in the sense that Jenae never really had a choice. She was born into the family. She is three and a half years younger than Jaden.
    However, the school they went to, which is a kindergarten to grade 12 school, had a choice. That school's choice was to include Jaden in a regular classroom with a full-time aide.
    When we made the choice to put Jaden in that school, and when we made the choice to push for him to have a full-time aide, we were advocating for Jaden. We thought that it would be better for Jaden. We did not know Jaden the 23-year-old. We knew Jaden the five-year-old at the time. We thought that was the best route for him in his schooling.
    Over the years, we started hearing from students who were in Jaden's classroom. They would tell us that their lives were immeasurably better because they got to know Jaden. It made them think differently about the world.
    I am about to turn 50 next week. My normal for 50 years, when I think about it, if people can imagine a video game, is a circle that surrounds me as far as I can see. My normal is basically that circle following me around for 50 years. In this building, it would be all the people I can see. Sometimes we have a TV screen come into that circle. Sometimes we have a computer monitor that exposes us to something from outside the circle, but our normal really is what we are surrounded by.
    If we are not including people like Jaden in that circle, in our normal as we go through life, our lives are going to be impacted in very negative ways. As we think about this legislation, we should think about the importance of creating an environment in which all Canadians can be included in every aspect of our society. I encourage us all to think about our lives in terms of that circle and to think about the strengths we have. If our circle only includes people who are exactly the same as us, who have the same strengths we have, then our strengths are not really even strengths, because everyone has the same strength. If our circle includes only people who have the same weaknesses we have, our weaknesses are going to be more profound, because there is nobody in that circle with skills and abilities to counter those weaknesses.
    What Jaden brings to the table is a different way of thinking. So many Canadians have been excluded from our workplaces, our schools and all the environments in which we live. What we have missed are people who have incredible skills and abilities, because we have not gone down the road of creating the circumstances and opportunities to include them. Our society is less because of those decisions we have made.
    Today, as we have this conversation, we have the opportunity to right that wrong. We see and hear from members across this House who recognize that opportunity.
     I know that my time is running short, so I will wrap up for now with this. I have been part of this House for 13 years. Rare is the opportunity to come together with colleagues from all parties on something as important as this. I cannot wait to stand in this House with my colleagues from all parties to support this legislation and take this meaningful step forward.

  (1355)  

    The hon. member for Edmonton—Wetaskiwin will have 11 minutes and six seconds coming to him when we return to debate this topic.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government's $100-billion shipbuilding strategy is a fiasco. By excluding the largest shipyard, Davie, and dividing the contracts between two shipyards outside Quebec, Ottawa has shot itself in the foot. Almost 10 years later, not one of the ships ordered has been commissioned, all so that Quebec would be excluded from getting contracts.
    The Prime Minister himself acknowledged that two shipyards do not have the capacity to meet the needs of the Coast Guard and our armed forces.
    What has the government done to fix the Conservatives' $100-billion mistake? It has awarded $16 billion in contracts to the same two shipyards that already have too much work, once again excluding Davie and Quebec.
    This scheme is funded by our own taxes. With 50% of production capacity in Canada, Davie deserves its fair share of the contracts, and Quebec will accept nothing less.

[English]

Community Service

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the incredible work of a Cloverdale—Langley City resident, Dollie Greensides. In 1960, Dollie joined the Cloverdale Ladies Auxiliary, which was part of the Cloverdale Legion, two organizations with a rich history since 1927.
    Since joining the ladies auxiliary, Dollie has served as treasurer, secretary, sergeant-at-arms and president. She has been instrumental in selling 50-50 tickets for many years and speaking to school children during the annual poppy campaign. For her outstanding service to the community, Dollie was awarded a life membership in 1985 and a meritorious service award in 1995. This is the highest medal in the ladies auxiliary.
     Today, we can still find Dollie carrying colours to the branch general meeting, volunteering at the annual Christmas bazaar and serving beans at the Cloverdale Rodeo. Recently, Dollie was recognized for her 60 years of service to the Cloverdale Ladies Auxiliary at a special ceremony, surrounded by ladies auxiliary members, friends, and family. Past presidents and members spoke about Dollie's numerous accomplishments and awarded her with a 60-year service pin and bar.
    My thanks to Dollie for all of her great service.

  (1400)  

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry

    Mr. Speaker, for the past 15 years I have had the honour and privilege of representing the residents of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry in the House. I can truly say that sitting in this chamber among my honourable colleagues, both past and present, has been the greatest time of my life.
    To the residents of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, I would like to use this opportunity to thank them for their confidence in me and electing me as their member of Parliament for five consecutive terms; for placing their trust in me; for allowing me to be their voice in the greatest democracy in the world; and for sharing their thoughts, opinions and concerns with me. I did my best to make sure they were addressed.
     During my 15 years as a member of Parliament, I did all I could to promote my riding and to try to bring investment dollars back home in order to see our community grow and prosper. I will continue to give back in whatever capacity I can to the people who so faithfully put their trust in me for the past 15 years.

[Translation]

Robert Benoit

    Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of admiration for my constituents and the outstanding work they do.
    Today I would like to talk about Robert Benoit, a proud representative of Brome—Misssisquoi and former MNA in Quebec City. He is the president of the board of directors of Memphremagog Conservation.
    His commitment to protecting the environment is unparalleled. Robert Benoit is a pioneer in protecting the water quality of our beautiful Lake Memphremagog. His commitment benefits the entire community.
    I would like to acknowledge his dedication to protecting our natural resources. He is an exemplary volunteer to all those around him, which is why I awarded him the MP's medal on Friday, May 17, in honour of his work.
    Thank you, Robert, for your dedication to protecting our region.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

    Mr. Speaker, in the summer of 2018 the die was cast. Without victory, winter would prove eternal.
    Two armies prepared for battle in Abitibi-Témiscamingue: the Pirates in the south and the Huskies in the north. When the army from Témiscamingue, the Pirates, won a decisive victory over the Ravens and won the Russell Cup, the battle began in the north.
    Led by champion Pouliot, the Huskies racked up a historic 59 wins, successively took on the Cataractes, the Tigers and the Océanic and then vanquished the formidable Mooseheads to bring home the President's Cup.
    Nevertheless, the “pack” knew from experience that the battle was not yet won. During the final assault, they were almost wiped out by Suzuki's storm, but they rallied and claimed victory over the Raiders and the Mooseheads. The Huskies made it through the final storm with ease and then won the final battle against the Moosehead warriors.
    The invincible Teasdale, the tireless Dobson and the impenetrable Harvey brought home the coveted Memorial Cup.
    After they won three regional cups, the courageous Huskies' victory parade will surely be the highlight of the summer.

Danielle Miron

     Mr. Speaker, a long service awards ceremony will be held today.
    The event will highlight House of Commons employees' years of service. I would like to thank all House of Commons employees for the outstanding work they do day after day.
    My riding, Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation, is honoured to be home to one of the amazing people who will be receiving this award. Danielle Miron has been working at the House of Commons for over 20 years, and for all those years, she has been working for her community. She works in my riding office in Lachute. We are fortunate to have her in Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation, where she uses her experience to help the people of my magnificent riding.
    I congratulate Danielle on her award and thank her for her many years of service to Canadians.

  (1405)  

[English]

Government Policies

    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister reflects upon his own record, he sees nothing but years of scandal, ethical breaches and failure. He knows that the clock is ticking, so he has decided to stack the deck for the October election.
    He has already put spending caps on opposition parties while the government has a blank cheque. He left a massive loophole in election laws that allow Liberal-friendly foreign interest groups to interfere in campaigns. He has taken over planning for the leaders debates without any input from the opposition. Now he has put his friends at Unifor, who claim to be the opposition leader's worst nightmare, in charge of doling out Canadian tax dollars to the media in an effort to politically influence the campaign in his favour. That is a classic from the Prime Minister.
    The Prime Minister might be stacking the deck in his favour, but come October he is going bust.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, today I recognize the made-in-Canada mineral program that has reached global attention as countries around the world have been adopting sustainable practices set forth by the Canadian mineral sector.
    The Towards Sustainable Mining 2019 Excellence Awards recognize the work of Canadian companies who advance social, environmental and economic practices. These practices include indigenous relations, health and safety, biodiversity and water management.
    I would like to congratulate the winners of the 2019 TSM Excellence Awards. Glencore's Raglan Mine increased local Inuit employment by 110%. IAMGold's solar energy initiative reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 18,500 tonnes annually.
    Canadian mineral companies are operating in over 100 countries across the world. Let us all be proud of our innovative practices that Canada's mineral sector has set here at home and around the world.

[Translation]

Climate Change

     Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to welcome students from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, who are vising Parliament today.
    These young people from Laval, Lanaudière and the Laurentians are Canada's future. They are deeply concerned about the environment and climate change. For many, those concerns are the reason they are interested in politics.
    I am proud to rise in the House today as a member of a government that cares about the future of our young people, our country and our planet. I am proud to be a member of the government that has a plan for the future, the government that negotiated the first national climate plan with the provinces, the government that put a price on carbon. Climate change is real, and so is our plan.

[English]

Grande Prairie—Mackenzie

    Mr. Speaker, we all know that tough times can bring out the very best in people. This past week, we witnessed this in my northern Alberta riding.
     As firefighters battled flames near High Level and Paddle Prairie, we witnessed an outpouring of support from the surrounding communities for evacuees and others affected by the fires.
    I am incredibly proud of the caring spirit of our region and the folks who have reached out to those who have been impacted during these hard times. We are blessed to call home communities with people who believe that this attitude should be the norm and not the exception.
    We have seen thousands of volunteers welcome evacuees into their homes and community centres and provide food, water and other necessities. Their support and care has been invaluable and has not gone unnoticed.
    I hope those in the House will join me in thanking the volunteers and all of those who have raised a helping hand in the evacuation, including the RCMP, the Canadian Rangers and local municipal officials, as we pray for the continued safety of the crews battling the flames.

[Translation]

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

     Mr. Speaker, I know you are a Mooseheads fan, but Sunday, May 26, was a great day. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won their first Memorial Cup with a 4-2 win over the Halifax Mooseheads.
    After shattering a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record with 59 wins in the regular season, including 25 consecutive wins, and taking the President's Cup by beating the Mooseheads in six games, the Huskies won their first national title. The Huskies are extraordinary ambassadors for the town of Rouyn-Noranda and the Abitibi Témiscamingue region. The team is without a doubt the biggest source of pride for the community.
    I would like to highlight the contribution of head coach Mario Pouliot, tournament MVP and Montreal Canadiens prospect Joël Teasdale, the parents, players, host families and all staff who worked hard to make our major junior hockey league a national success story.

  (1410)  

[English]

Acromegaly

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to raise awareness about a rare disease called acromegaly. I was made aware of this rare disease by a constituent of mine, Mme. Dianne Sauvé, who was diagnosed with acromegaly in 2012.

[Translation]

    Today, I want to make the House and all Ontarians aware of this rare disease called acromegaly.

[English]

    Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood. I am pleased to say that Dianne has formed a support group in Ottawa and has a Facebook group, Acromegaly Ottawa Awareness and Support Network, to help raise support for and awareness of this disease.

[Translation]

     I therefore wish to thank Ms. Sauvé for her courage and perseverance, and for sharing her experience with all of us.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the environment minister recently shared some sage advice with some patrons at a pub that “in the House of Commons, if you repeat it, if you say it louder, if that is your talking point, people will totally believe it.”
    Clearly, the environment minister does not believe that the Liberals have an environment plan. In fact, no matter how many times the Liberals repeat it, the budget did not balance itself, the carbon tax does not reduce emissions and they will not meet their Paris accord targets.
    In fact, recent reports by the government show that under the Liberal government, emissions have increased each and every year and will continue to increase and that Canada will miss its targets by 150 megatonnes. All of this despite their job-killing carbon tax, which just goes to prove that the Liberals do not have an environment plan. What they do have is a plan to raise taxes.
    The Liberals are a broken record of broken promises and will not meet their Paris accord targets. A Conservative environment plan will not raise taxes, will embrace our natural resource development and will be a clear road map to reaching our destination for the benefit of all Canadians.

Equal Opportunities West

    Mr. Speaker, Equal Opportunities West is an amazing organization in Winnipeg that promotes an inclusive community where people with disabilities are treated with respect and dignity. It does incredible work in our community and I am proud to support it.
    I am also pleased to share that I will hosting my third annual Community BBQ and e-waste drive in support of Equal Opportunities West. Last year, we beat our previous record and helped divert almost 20,000 kilograms of e-waste from landfills, and we are looking forward to topping that this year.
     I encourage everyone in Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley to stop by on June 8, drop off their e-waste, pick up a hot dog and say hello to the amazing staff, volunteers and participants of Equal Opportunities West.

Persons with Disabilities

    Mr. Speaker, last Friday in my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, at a pleasant local restaurant called River's Edge, I met with conscientious community members for a quiet lunch. The first rule was no talking, which is what I want to talk about today.
     I want to thank members of our culturally deaf community, Gary Vassallo, Erika Thibert, Deborah Martinez, Christopher Newman, and our sign language interpreters, Christie Reaume and Lana Hildebrandt, for helping us with this experiential learning opportunity.
     The quiet lunch allowed us to deepen our understanding of being deaf. We had business improvement association members and business leaders from car dealers to front-line bank workers, all working to improve their customer service and do their part to remove barriers.
     I thank those in Windsor—Tecumseh for always looking for ways to make progress and to be an inclusive community. It is because of them that we can celebrate the accessibility—
    The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister pretends he has a plan for addressing climate change, but he has a tax plan; that is the carbon tax plan, and we know this will not do anything to lower emissions. How do we know this?
     Well, B.C. and Quebec have both had a carbon tax for a decade and their emissions have not gone down; they have gone up. Australia had a carbon tax, which drove up the cost of everything but did not reduce emissions or help the planet, so it got rid of it.
    The Liberals also know they are not going to achieve their Paris targets. The Auditor General has said so. The Liberals are giving large industrial emitters a special deal that exempts them from the tax, making Canadian families and small businesses pay more to drive to work, heat their homes and put food on the table.
    This spring, the Conservatives will present Canadians with a real environmental plan that will lower emissions without making Canadians pay more. We know the Prime Minister has a tax plan, but where is his climate plan?

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia

    Mr. Speaker, I entered politics in 2015 to help rebuild my region's trust in Ottawa after the decade of darkness under a Conservative government.
    We have completely changed course since our election and now my region is booming. It has tremendous economic momentum thanks to our government's investments in such things as upgrading the Carleton-sur-Mer wharf, building lookouts in Matapédia and Saint-André, modernizing SEREX in Amqui, building a new arena in Mont-Joli, allocating $27 million to the Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, decontaminating sites and extending the Mont-Joli airport runway, as well as repairing and rebuilding the port of Matane and creating more than 220 federal jobs back home.
    Since 2015, my riding has seen investments totalling $160 million, thanks to the Prime Minister's leadership, an extraordinary team and a comprehensive program. People back home were right to put their trust in us. Let's imagine another four wonderful years.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

News Media Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's decision to appoint Unifor to his panel to determine eligibility for a half-billion-dollar media package has destroyed the government's credibility.
     Unifor is a highly partisan group and it has very aggressive and partisan goals. It has made clear that its objective is to elect Liberals and defeat Conservatives, and yet the Prime Minister has chosen to appoint it to this very important panel.
    Why does the Prime Minister not openly admit he is stacking the deck for himself?
    Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we know that a strong, independent media is a cornerstone of Canadian democracy. We are therefore acting to ensure that media continue to hold elected officials to account. We are ensuring that both employees and employers are represented on the independent panel.
    When it comes to the media, the Conservatives' only plan is to eliminate CBC/Radio-Canada, which would mean no local coverage in smaller communities and the end of an institution valued by Canadians for generations.
     Unlike what the Leader of the Opposition put in his leadership platform, we will not let that happen.
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue. The government has indicated that it is setting up a panel that will have on it an entity that is clearly biased in the government's favour. The entity will be in charge of determining criteria for a half-billion-dollar media bailout package.
    The Prime Minister can tell us the former positions of the opposition, but the reality is that his position right now is this. He is undermining the independence of journalists, who are very concerned.
    Will the Prime Minister remove Unifor from this panel?
    Mr. Speaker, we know that any strong democracy relies on an independent, strong media that is there to do its job of holding politicians to account. We need to make sure that both employers and employees are part of the panel that will oversee the independent media fund. This is something we understand.
    The Conservatives, however, continue to attack organized labour, including attacking the largest private sector union in the country, because their hate for labour does not know limits. Well, we are—
    The hon. member for Milton.
    Mr. Speaker, for the Prime Minister to stand there and tell someone who grew up in Cape Breton and is a product of a coal-mining family that she hates labour is absolutely disgusting. I am not afraid to have dirt under my fingernails.
    I am going to quote one journalist who seeks to have independence: “Now the government that benefited from Unifor’s partisan largesse has asked it for help deciding who’s a proper journalist and what’s a proper news outlet.”
    You could have done better, Prime Minister. Why did you not?

  (1420)  

    The hon. member for Milton is an experienced member, but I remind her to direct her comments to the Chair.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: The hon. member for Carleton will come to order, now.
    The right hon. Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder where the member opposite's high dungeon was when her government was bringing in anti-union legislation, Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, which were the very first things we eliminated when Canadians voted the Conservatives out and voted Liberals back in.
    We will always respect organized labour in the country. We will work with it and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians it represents.
    We are going to continue to stand up for an independent media. That means supporting employers and employees.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals want to ruin the credibility of journalists with the election just five months away.
    The Prime Minister decided to include Unifor, a union that has openly admitted to being a Liberal Party supporter and has said it would be the Conservatives' and our leader's worst nightmare.
    Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and take Unifor off the panel tasked to decide how to distribute $600 million amongst the media across Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, as we all know, strong, independent media are vital to Canadian democracy. We are taking action to ensure that the media can continue to hold governments to account. We are ensuring that employees and employers are represented on this independent panel.
    The only plan the Conservative opposition leader has for the media is to get rid of CBC/Radio-Canada. That was in his campaign platform during the leadership race. It would mean no more local coverage in small communities, and it would spell the end of a cherished and respected Canadian institution.
    Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the media.
    This is what some in the media have had to say. Mario Dumont, Caroline St-Hilaire and Daniel Lessard have said they are uncomfortable with the Liberal Prime Minister's decision. Don Martin from CTV said that this is a most serious threat to journalistic independence.
    I will repeat my question for the Prime Minister: when will he remove Unifor from the panel he set up to distribute millions of dollars to the media across Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are well aware that Conservatives have a history of bashing unions.
    In fact, under the previous government they introduced an anti-union bill that we had to repeal in order to work with the unions. We respect the responsibility of unions to represent workers, the employees. That is why we wanted employers and employees from the media to be represented on the panel to make it truly independent. We will always protect our independent media.

[English]

Government Priorities

    Mr. Speaker, investing in strong public services is a Canadian value, but the OECD reports that Canada now ranks 25th out of 37 countries on social spending. At the same time, the Liberals gave $29 billion a year to rich companies with no strings attached.
    The Conservatives and the Liberals have starved our public services, while using our money to help the richest companies. When will the Liberals stop helping their wealthy corporate buddies over the public services on which families count?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about services that families count on, he might want to ask his colleagues in the NDP why they voted against the Canada child benefit, which gives more money to nine out of 10 Canadian families and has lifted 300,000 kids out of poverty over these past years.
    On top of that, our investments in community, in workers and in families have lifted over 825,000 Canadians out of poverty. We know that investing in support for the middle class and those working hard to join it is how to create growth for the entire economy.

  (1425)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are having a hard time making ends meet and they are disappointed in the Liberal government.
    They cannot go back to the same old Conservative approach. Governments that eliminate the services families rely on are responsible for these difficulties. No more spending to help wealthy corporations. We must make better choices if we want better results.
    When will the Liberals stop giving more to large corporations instead of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does not seem to realize that the first thing we did was to increase taxes on the wealthy and lower taxes on the middle class. We then introduced the Canada child benefit, which helped lift 300,000 children out of poverty.
    The NDP voted against these two measures, but we stood strong. Canadians created one million new jobs, and we also managed to lift 825,000 Canadians out of poverty. We are creating growth and helping people.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, we need to help our families and protect our workers.
    The Liberals want to pander to President Trump and rush ahead with the new NAFTA, but there is no reason to do that.
    The government can and must apply pressure to fix the agreement. The U.S. Democrats are working to secure a better NAFTA that protects our jobs and lowers drug prices. By refusing to support the Democrats, the Liberals are not advancing progressive trade.
     If the priority is to protect jobs, why the rush?
    Mr. Speaker, we negotiated a good deal for Canadians, for workers and for families from coast to coast to coast. We are not the only ones saying so.
    Just ask Jerry Dias of Unifor, who called the agreement much better than the agreement signed 25 years ago.
    Hassan Yussuff, from the Canadian Labour Congress, said that the renewed NAFTA gets it right on labour provisions, including provisions to protect workers from discrimination.
    Lino LoMedico, a team leader at Chrysler's Windsor assembly plant, is very proud of the job we did negotiating NAFTA.
    The unions support—

[English]

    Order. The hon. member for Burnaby South
    Mr. Speaker, there is no Canadian worker who wants to rush through this deal if there is a chance to work with Americans to better protect their jobs. Not only does this deal risk jobs, it could also drive up the costs of medication for families. Clearly, it could be better.
    Democrats in Congress are fighting for improvements on jobs and protecting the environment. Will the Liberals stop rushing to help Donald Trump and instead work with progressives to fix this flawed deal?
    Mr. Speaker, we worked hard to negotiate the best possible deal for Canadians, and that is exactly what we got. They do not have to take our word for it. Union leaders from Unifor and the Canadian Labour Congress and even Lino LoMedico, team leader at Chrysler's Windsor assembly plant, said, “We're actually very proud of the job that our Canadian government did and kudos to the negotiator.”
    The reality is that if the New Democrats do not want to listen to union leaders, let them listen to their own MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who said that this is the best deal possible and it protects workers all around this country.
    I know it is near the end of the term, but I ask members to remember that it is rude to interrupt, and we should allow people to speak when they have the floor and not when they do not have the floor.
    The hon. opposition House leader.

News Media Industry

    Mr. Speaker, many, including those in the media, have expressed concerns about the Liberals' $600- million press bailout. Andrew Coyne wrote about the bailout that “it intrudes the government into areas it has no business being in”, and “It is a disaster...now unfolding”.
    That is because the Liberals have put overtly anti-Conservative Unifor on the committee that will oversee which media get funding. Will the Prime Minister finally admit that this is all part of the Liberals' plan to rig the next election?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, the Conservatives are playing a very dangerous game. They are attacking the media. They are saying that our journalists can be bought. Yesterday, they said that our journalists were for sale. Instead of supporting professional journalism, they are attacking it.
    We say quite the opposite. We have to support professional journalism and take into account the principles of the independence and freedom of the press.
    Mr. Speaker, we trust the media. It is the Prime Minister Canadians do not trust, because we have all seen how vindictive he gets when anyone dares to stand up to him.
    Even the CBC said, “The government just made its toxic media bailout plan even worse”. We agree with the CBC.
     In federal and provincial campaigns across the country, Unifor has been campaigning against Conservatives and pledges to do the same in the upcoming election. Therefore, will the Prime Minister admit he has made another terrible error in judgment and reverse the decision and get Unifor off this committee, for—
    Order. The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    Mr. Speaker, if they want to talk about the CBC, let us talk about the CBC. The Leader of the Opposition just said that he would like to dictate to the CBC how it covers its stories, how it tells its stories. That is totally unacceptable. When he was asked if he would cut the CBC, once again he did not answer.
    We are saying that we need more professional journalism, not less. That is why we are moving forward with this, respecting one fundamental principle: the independence of the press.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage claims that an independent press is exactly what a democracy needs to function, and then he appoints Unifor to sit on his panel—a union that describes itself as our leader's worst nightmare. So much for independence. Even Andrew Coyne says that any chance this process would not be politicized has now vanished.
    When will the Liberals stop attacking the credibility of journalists with their gimmicks?
    Mr. Speaker, it is quite something to hear that from a Conservative who wants to get rid of the CBC and control how it covers the news.
    Once again, the Conservatives are playing a dangerous game by attacking professional journalists and calling them fossils. We, on the other hand, are introducing a program that respects fundamental principles such as the independence and freedom of the press.
    Mr. Speaker, the worst cuts to the CBC were made by the Liberals, and now the Minister of Canadian Heritage is attacking the credibility of journalists. In fact, a National Post journalist said that the minister was putting foxes in charge of the chickens. The minister's panel of independent experts is made up of a highly partisan union.
    Will the minister take off his rose-coloured glasses, remove Unifor from the panel and hold a real election, unless he prefers a rigged election?
    Mr. Speaker, what we need is a panel that is both independent and representative of the entire industry. Yes, it takes employers and people from newsrooms, but it also takes people who represent workers, people who represent journalists, people who represent minority communities and people who represent ethnic media.
    We need a variety of opinions while respecting one fundamental thing: freedom of the press. Rather than attacking the media, the Conservatives should follow our lead and support it. Our media is one of the pillars of democracy.

[English]

    Order. I have heard the dulcet tones of the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George many times today. As much as I enjoy hearing those tones, I would prefer to hear them only when he has the floor.
    The hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope.
    Mr. Speaker, Engage Canada is an anti-Conservative organization that tries to influence elections. Unifor boss Jerry Dias has boasted that Unifor was a major financial supporter of Engage Canada in the last election. The Prime Minister has appointed Unifor to his panel to determine eligibility for a half a billion dollar media bailout package. At the same time, Unifor is bankrolling anti-Conservative special interest groups.
    Will the Prime Minister finally kick Unifor off this panel, or is this just part of his plan to try to rig the next election?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, let us look at the facts. What our government did is bring in Bill C-76, which actually strengthens the rules around advertising and activities for third parties in the lead-up to the election. We brought in a pre-writ spending period, which will begin on June 30. This is the first time in Canadian history that this is being done to make sure that there is a fair and level playing field when it comes to our elections.
    Mr. Speaker, Unifor is spending union dues collected from its members to fund anti-Conservative special interest groups like Engage Canada, who are trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming election. Knowing its anti-Conservative bias, these Liberals have still appointed Unifor to a supposedly independent panel that will decide which media will get access to half a billion dollars in government subsidies.
     Will the Prime Minister finally kick Unifor off this panel, or is this all just part of his plan to try to rig the next election?
    Mr. Speaker, as we said yesterday, the Conservatives are going down a dangerous path. This is just another line in their story trying to undermine our democratic institutions. They have gone after the CEO of Elections Canada, they have gone after the commissioner of Canada Elections, they have gone after the commissioner of the debates commission and now they are going after a free and independent press. Canadians deserve better and democracy deserves better.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, even though the new NAFTA has many shortcomings, the Liberal government wants to rush to ratify it. U.S. milk and poultry producers are about to flood our market.
    Workers' jobs and rights are not adequately protected. The cost of certain medications could rise, and environmental protection is not guaranteed. In short, there are many parts of this agreement that are not progressive and that could hurt us.
    Why will the Liberals not address these shortcomings rather than rushing to ratify the agreement?
     Mr. Speaker, what the NDP needs to understand is that reopening this agreement would be like opening Pandora's box. Why is the NDP prepared to risk our economic stability?
    It would be naive for the NDP to believe that Canadians would benefit from reopening this agreement. The NDP is playing a very dangerous game.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is simple. We want a better deal for working people.
    While Liberals are ramming through the ratification of the new NAFTA, Democrats in the U.S. are fighting for a more progressive deal. Canadians want to know why the Liberals are not. Once again the Liberals are putting their interests ahead of priority number one, protecting Canadian jobs. If the Liberals push this through before the Democrats fix the deal, they are throwing away a once in a lifetime opportunity to make trade fair for Canadian workers. Under NAFTA, we lost over 400,000 manufacturing jobs alone.
    I have a simple question. Why are the Liberals doing Donald Trump's bidding at the expense of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, what the NDP needs to understand is that re-opening this deal would be like opening Pandora's box.
    We have an agreement that safeguards more than $2 billion a day in cross-border trade. The NDP are naive at best and playing political games at worst to suggest that Canada would benefit from re-opening the deal.
    If the NDP wants to take a page out of Donald Trump's playbook and withdraw from NAFTA, it should have the courage to say so.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, the Minister of Environment was caught saying something that was insulting, to say the least. She said, and I quote, “we've learned in the House of Commons, if you repeat it, if you say it louder, if that is your talking point, people will totally believe it.” Basically, repeating and shouting works. That is utterly insulting to Canadians and to the members of the House of Commons.
    In light of that situation, how can the Minister of Environment have any credibility when it comes time to talk about our Paris targets?
    Mr. Speaker, how ironic to hear the Conservatives talking about credibility on environmental matters. We on this side of the House will take no lessons from the Conservatives. As people watching at home can see, only Conservatives like those across the aisle could oppose the polluter-pay principle.
    We are proud to be taking action on climate change, protecting Canadians and their families and protecting the planet. We will invest in environmental protections for Canadians.

  (1440)  

    I would ask the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier to refrain from shouting when someone else is speaking.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the environment, the Liberals are all talk and no action. However, they have done two things. They imposed the Liberal carbon tax and they sent $4.5 billion in taxpayers' money to Houston. That is the Liberal record.
    We are not the only ones who have noticed that the Liberals say one thing and do the opposite. The Liberal government's own “Clean Canada” report, which was released a few days ago, shows that the government is falling short of the Paris targets by 79 megatonnes.
    What credibility does the Liberal government have when it comes to recognizing the Paris Agreement, when it did not even respect that agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians watching at home, particularly those in my colleague's riding, see the Conservatives' true colours. The Conservatives have the nerve to criticize our plan for the environment when they have no plan of their own. The fact that they have no plan tells Canadians that the Conservatives are against reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They do not want to do anything to lessen the impact of natural disasters. They have no regard for future generations.
    We have a plan and we will take action. We will protect the environment for Canadians.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, why is he always screaming over there?
    The answer came from the environment minister, who said:
if you actually say it louder, we’ve learned in the House of Commons, if you repeat it, if you say it louder, if that is your talking point, people will totally believe it.
    That is the Liberal strategy to convince Canadians they will be better off by paying higher gas prices while missing the Paris accord by 80 million tonnes of carbon. Is that not really the Liberal strategy, to say it louder even when it is wrong?
     We will take no lessons from the Conservatives. Only Conservatives can be against putting a price on pollution. We are proud to act on climate change. We are proud to protect this generation and future generations. We are proud to protect our planet. We will continue to invest in disaster mitigation and resilience so that future generations do not have to spend year after year for damages caused by climate change.
    A little calm is so nice.
    The hon. member for Carleton.
    Mr. Speaker, that calmed him down a little bit. Unfortunately, Liberal members in the House do not realize that while they raise the volume and raise taxes at the same time, they make both our ears and our wallets worse off.
    The member across the way, now that he has calmed down, is sitting behind a leader who has advocated $1.60 a litre gas prices. Will he stand today and tell us exactly how high gas prices will go, once the full and final Liberal carbon tax is in place?
    Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Conservatives is that either we shout and they do not listen, or we speak quietly and they do not listen. One thing is clear: Canadians who are watching us at home are listening, and they know one thing for sure. They know that the Conservatives have no plan for the environment, and they know that there will be no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with the Conservatives. They will take no action to protect communities against natural disasters. They will take no action to protect this generation and future generations.
    We made a different choice. We are going to invest to protect the planet, to protect Canadians and to protect our environment.

  (1445)  

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, supply-managed sectors are always the first to be sacrificed in trade agreements. Between concessions granted through CETA, CPTPP and now NAFTA 2.0, the dairy sector is seeing close to a 10% loss to our domestic market for milk production. Democrats in the U.S. are working to improve some of the shortcomings of NAFTA 2.0, but here in Canada, Liberals are ready to accept that what they have given up is the best Canada can get.
    If the trade deal can be improved upon, why is the government trying to rush through ratification now, when a better deal for Canadian farmers is attainable?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to reassure him and all supply-managed dairy farmers across Canada.
    I would like them to know that we are making progress. We already announced the amount of funding earmarked for them in the last budget. I am sure that in the coming weeks, we will have more details to announce about the mechanisms that will help provide their compensation.
    Mr. Speaker, Quebec's cheese market is slumping as European cheeses flood in. CETA is not benefiting major players, and it is certainly not benefiting small producers in Quebec.
    Domaine féodal, a cheese factory in Berthierville, is not even operating at 50% of its capacity. Guy and Lise are doing everything they can to protect their company and employees in the wake of the trade deals signed by the Liberals.
     I am making a heartfelt plea today. Does the government have a plan for protecting Quebec's artisanal cheese producers?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure my colleague, as well as dairy processors. Again, we made a strong commitment to all supply-managed industries. We have created working groups, and we take these discussions very seriously. They will soon see how well we have listened.

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Official Languages criss-crossed the country meeting with minority francophone communities. She soon realized that the Conservatives' cuts threatened the survival of organizations that promote our linguistic rights.
    After presenting the most ambitious official languages action plan ever, the minister recently began the process of modernizing the Official Languages Act.
    Can she tell us about the latest developments?
     Mr. Speaker, today in Ottawa, 500 people gathered to celebrate 50 years of official languages and to strengthen our act. It was an opportunity for me to make a big announcement about a new online tool for learning French and English. Developed by CBC/Radio-Canada, this new tool is free for everyone. It will be called “The Mauril” in honour of Mauril Bélanger, our official languages champion and dearly departed colleague.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, the media is reporting that hundreds of criminals, including drug dealers and contract killers from Latin America, have entered Canada on fake Mexican passports. Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety attempted to reassure us, saying that the numbers reported by the media cannot be verified. Canadians are not reassured if the public safety minister does not immediately know what is happening at our border.
    Has the minister managed to verify the numbers today?
    Mr. Speaker, again, the premise of the question is entirely bogus. Since January 2018, lifting the visas with Mexico has resulted in Canada gaining nearly 500,000 legitimate travellers, generating millions of dollars in economic benefits. At the border, since January 2018, the CBSA has prepared inadmissibility reports for approximately 190 Mexican nationals on criminality grounds. That accounts for 0.04% of all Mexican travellers seeking—
    The hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.
    Mr. Speaker, it is the Minister of Public Safety who is charged with keeping Canadians safe, but he does not know what is happening at our border and cannot tell us how many drug lords and contract killers are flooding into the country on fake Mexican passports. Every day the minister does not have control of our border is a day that Canadians are at risk.
    Can the minister tell us when he might be able to verify the number of criminals entering Canada unchecked, or even how these criminals are able to enter Canada with fake passports?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member simply refuses to hear. Let me repeat the point. At the border, since January 2018, CBSA has prepared inadmissibility reports for approximately 190 Mexican nationals on criminality grounds. That accounts for 0.04% of all Mexican travellers seeking entry into Canada. Canadian laws are being effectively enforced by the CBSA and by the RCMP.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is all well and good for the minister to say that officers sent back 190 Mexican nationals, but what we want to know is whether the minister thinks that Félix Séguin's report for TVA is true and that around 400 Mexican gang members are trafficking drugs in Canada. Yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, simply repeating unverified information does nothing for the security and the safety of Canadian borders. The facts are that when persons cross the border or arrive at a port of entry and present a problem, with either identification or perhaps not turning up for appropriate proceedings, or presenting any kind of public danger, they can and are detained until Canadian officials are satisfied of their status and their safety.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, and this falls under the responsibility of this government and the Prime Minister, who does not really believe in the safety and security of Canada, I am talking about an hour-long report from a journalist who travelled to Mexico and received information that cartel members are operating in Canada, including 200 in Montreal.
    Can the minister tell us whether the government is taking action to find these dangerous cartel members?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when anyone is suspected of criminal activity in Canada, whether a Canadian citizen or a foreigner attempting to enter the country, the appropriate authorities, either CBSA at the border or the RCMP, pursue every measure under Canadian law to investigate these people, to charge them and, if they are inadmissible in Canada, to remove them and send them home.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, are experiencing a devastating sea lice emergency for the second year in a row. Again this year, juvenile wild salmon are being exposed to lethal loads of sea lice, with infection rates of up to 100%. British Columbia has never seen levels like this before, and wild chinook salmon are on the brink of extinction. When will the minister enforce the law and protect wild salmon?
    Mr. Speaker, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans works to manage risk with provincial authorities and stakeholders in the industry.
     With respect to sea lice, every single licensee has, as a condition of the licence, a requirement to monitor outbreaks of sea lice. Funding is in place and has been provided. All policy with regard to sea lice and aquaculture will be based on science and consultation with all appropriate stakeholders.

Pharmacare

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised to lower Canada's sky-high drug prices by improving the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board but backed down after opposition from Donald Trump and the drug lobby. Then they signed a new NAFTA, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer said would cost Canadians billions more for medicine. Now the government is gutting a crucial World Health Assembly resolution aimed at reducing global drug prices. Why are the Liberals doing big pharma's bidding and failing to lower the cost of medications for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear. If we want to move forward with the national pharmacare program, the first thing we have to do is lower drug prices. The first thing we did is that we are in the process of modernizing the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. We have also joined the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance, and so far we have saved billions of dollars because we are able to bulk-purchase drugs with other provinces and territories. Finally, we have launched the advisory council on the implementation of a national pharmacare program. I look forward to receiving its final report next month.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Veterans

    Mr. Speaker, it is inconceivable that the Liberal government, the Canadian government, did not invite the families of fallen soldiers to a memorial here in Canada.
    This is highly disrespectful, not only to our fallen soldiers, but also to their families and loved ones.
    The minister was there and he was aware of the event details. When did he learn that the families would not be there? He is the minister. He is the boss. He is a veteran.
    Why did did he approve this completely disrespectful decision?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, yes, there was a mistake made. I can assure my colleague that I talked to the veteran today. The veteran will be in Normandy.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence knew in advance that the families of the fallen would be excluded from the Afghanistan memorial dedication. He was there, after making this cruel and heartless decision. Canadians have witnessed his government's shameful contempt for those who gave their lives. Why would he dishonour his position and approve such a ceremony?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said in the House yesterday, and outside to the media, I offer my heartfelt apologies to the families of the fallen for this ceremony. The families of our fallen will always have access to this memorial and an appropriate ceremony will be organized for them.
    I would ask the member opposite to stop playing politics and trying to make it seem like the Conservatives have a better monopoly.
    We went to the Party Under the Stars. We publicly stand together and we ask the member to stand together and—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. Let us not have any interruptions of the question or the answer.
    The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.
    Mr. Speaker, trying to use wiggle words instead of making a decision is not leadership.
    Our Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans want a defence minister, not a spectator. The defence minister sat idly by during a secret ceremony for the Afghanistan memorial, instead of standing up for the families of the fallen. As someone who served in Afghanistan, it is shocking that the minister could be so thoughtless when it comes to honouring our fallen soldiers. Why did the defence minister take part in the secret ceremony when he knew it excluded the families of the fallen?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not going to politicize or dignify the member's insinuations in this regard.
    As I stated, I want to offer my heartfelt apologies to the families of our fallen. This memorial will always be accessible to the families. An appropriate ceremony will be organized for them.
    I ask the member to stop playing politics in this regard and work together. He knows exactly what I am talking about.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. Members need to remember that this is the House of Commons and it is a place where we have to allow others to speak. Even if we do not like what we hear, it is still important that we do that.
    The hon. member for Montarville.

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, this week the international grand committee on big data, privacy and democracy is meeting in Ottawa to understand how governments around the world can tackle challenges to our democracies.

[Translation]

    We know that Canada enjoys a strong democracy that is an example to the world. However, a lot of work remains to be done to develop our model of open government.

[English]

    Could the President of the Treasury Board tell the House about the leadership role Canada is playing on this important topic?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from Montarville for his question and his work on this topic.

[English]

    As a government, we have led by signing onto the Christchurch Call to Action and by announcing Canada's very first data charter.

[Translation]

    This week, Canada is co-chairing the Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2019.

[English]

    We are welcoming governments, civil society and thought leaders from around the world to come together and help us tackle threats to democracy and help chart a pathway forward together.
    I invite all members of the House to join us as we work with governments to make government more—

  (1500)  

Health

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Prime Minister's out-of-control spending includes a plan to run deficits for decades, and he has to raise taxes on Canadians to pay for it. His carbon tax is not enough to pay for his big spending, so he has to find a new way to take money from hard-working Canadians.
    Will the Prime Minister confirm that he supports the Liberal plan to introduce a new tax on drinks?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to making the healthy choice the easier choice for Canadians. That is why we have moved forward proudly with our healthy eating strategy.
    Last year, we banned industrial trans fats. We have also launched a wonderful revision of Canada's food guide, which has been extremely well received by Canadians. We are moving forward with respect to restricting unhealthy food to kids.
    Let me make it clear. We have no plans on moving forward with the policy about which the member opposite is speaking.

[Translation]

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, the passengers' bill of rights has so many exemptions that it looks more like a list of official excuses than an actual travellers' bill of rights. For more than four years travellers have been promised that their rights will be respected, but instead they get over-bookings, unreasonable delays, and cancelled flights. Last Friday, the minister told them that they could wait another six months, something about satisfying the airline industry lobbyists yet again.
    When the minister is done with his industry's bill of rights, does he plan to come up with one for passengers as well?
    Mr. Speaker, we are extremely proud of the passengers' bill of rights.
    Our government believes that when someone buys a ticket, they have certain rights. I encourage my colleague, who is clearly unfamiliar with the content of the bill of rights, to go to the official Canadian Transportation Agency site and get the facts before saying such ridiculous things.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, for decades, Canadians have had to endure long delays at the airport, hence the interest today. They have also had to endure cancelled flights and lost baggage, with no clear, consistent rules to support them when such cases occur. My constituents are well aware of these issues and are looking to our government to make positive change.
    Could the Minister of Transport please update my constituents and all Canadians on the progress that is being made by this great Liberal government?
     Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Humber River—Black Creek for her tireless work as chair of transport committee.
    We in the Liberal government believe that when an airline sells a ticket to a passenger, that passenger has certain rights. That is why we implemented the air passenger protection regulations, which we announced last Friday and which will come into effect this summer.
    Air passengers are entitled to certain rights and this Liberal government will be there to protect them.

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, a Canadian citizen, André Gauthier, has been detained for over three years now, first in Dubai and now in Oman. The authorities in Oman are now in the process of deporting him to Dubai, where he could face life in prison, at his age, in a country with a poor human rights record.
    Canadian authorities promised his family they would intervene. When will the Liberal government finally take concrete action in this case? The life of a Canadian is at stake.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in Oman. Our officials are closely monitoring the case and consular services are certainly being provided.
     I, personally, have been actively engaged on this case, including with representatives of the Government of Oman. Beyond that, I am unable to disclose any further details.

[Translation]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, here is how the government responded to my question yesterday:
    With regard to pipelines, especially pipelines that cross provincial borders, it is up to the federal government to do the work.
    For Ottawa, doing the work means always saying “yes” to pipelines, every time, no exceptions. In light of the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling, we are worried about the energy east project resurfacing in Quebec.
    Will the government promise to never revive the energy east project in Quebec?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, that question is hardly appropriate, since there is no energy east project currently before us. Until there is a project proposed to us, we cannot give our opinion or take a position.
    What I can say is that we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously. We are making sure that good projects move forward, while safeguarding good jobs in Canada. That is our priority. We are moving forward in the right way with all projects in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, it is funny how their good projects are always in the industries that pollute the most. Since 1956, Ottawa has always said yes to the oil industry's pipeline requests. The government always says yes and only yes.
    Quebec does not want any more pipelines full of dirty oil. Quebec is saying no to energy east, and if Quebec does not want it, then neither does the Bloc.
    It is great that the project is not on the table, but the government needs to commit to keeping it that way. Will the Prime Minister commit to never reviving energy east? Will he make that solemn promise today?
    Mr. Speaker, we are honouring our economic and environmental commitments. We are investing in clean technologies and renewable energy. We are supporting our traditional resource industries as they become more sustainable, and we are encouraging innovation. We are helping more Canadians get into zero-emission vehicles, and we are reducing the dependence on diesel in our rural, remote and indigenous communities.
    We are the only party that has a credible plan to fight climate change and reduce pollution while growing the economy. That is exactly what we will continue to offer.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, last month, the Minister of Natural Resources said that a final decision would be made by June 18 regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline. Now we see the project in peril yet again, thanks to the provincial government of British Columbia.
     We have already spent billions of dollars to buy this pipeline and we cannot wait for another year in court. We need action now. Let us stop this charade and get the results that Albertans and Canadians need, which is of course the immediate approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
    Could the minister confirm that we are still on track for June 18?
    Mr. Speaker, to meet our duty to consult and to respond to what we have heard from indigenous groups, with advice from the federal representative Justice Iacobucci, we communicated to indigenous communities that a decision on TMX could be made by June 18. Our goal is to make a decision toward the end of this period.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Her Excellency Elizabeth Cabezas, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Ecuador; the Honourable Andy Daniel, Speaker of the House of Assembly of Saint Lucia; and Mr. Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Health of the Government of Singapore. They are here, along with other parliamentarians, as members of the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Ways and Means

Motion No. 32  

     moved that a ways and means motion to introduce an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States be concurred in.
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:

  (1515)  

    Before the Clerk announced the results of the vote:
    Mr. Speaker, I want to check to see if my vote was registered in favour.
    The clerks did not see the hon. member stand during the yeas or nays. Would she like to indicate what she intended to vote?
    Mr. Speaker, I did stand, and if it was not registered, I am registering yea.

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 1319)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Aldag
Alghabra
Alleslev
Allison
Amos
Anandasangaree
Anderson
Arnold
Arseneault
Arya
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Bains
Barlow
Barrett
Baylis
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Benzen
Bergen
Bernier
Berthold
Bezan
Bibeau
Bittle
Blair
Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)
Boissonnault
Bossio
Boucher
Brassard
Bratina
Caesar-Chavannes
Calkins
Carr
Carrie
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Clarke
Clement
Cooper
Cormier
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
Davidson
Deltell
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Diotte
Doherty
Dreeshen
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Easter
Eglinski
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Erskine-Smith
Eyking
Eyolfson
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Fergus
Fillmore
Finley
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Freeland
Fuhr
Gallant
Garneau
Généreux
Genuis
Gerretsen
Gladu
Godin
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Gourde
Graham
Grewal
Hajdu
Harder
Hardie
Hébert
Hehr
Hoback
Hogg
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Joly
Jordan
Jowhari
Kang
Kelly
Kent
Khalid
Khera
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kusie
Lake
Lambropoulos
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Leslie
Levitt
Liepert
Lightbound
Lloyd
Lobb
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
Lukiwski
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacKenzie
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Maguire
Martel
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
May (Cambridge)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mendicino
Mihychuk
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Morrissey
Motz
Murray
Nassif
Nater
Nault
Ng
Nicholson
Obhrai
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
O'Toole
Ouellette
Paradis
Paul-Hus
Peschisolido
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Philpott
Picard
Poilievre
Poissant
Qualtrough
Raitt
Ratansi
Rayes
Reid
Richards
Rioux
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Rota
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sarai
Saroya
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Schmale
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Shipley
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sopuck
Sorbara
Sorenson
Spengemann
Stanton
Strahl
Stubbs
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Tilson
Trost
Trudeau
Van Kesteren
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Vecchio
Viersen
Virani
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Weir
Whalen
Wilson-Raybould
Wong
Wrzesnewskyj
Yip
Young
Yurdiga
Zahid
Zimmer

Total: -- 255


NAYS

Members

Aubin
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Benson
Blaikie
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Cannings
Caron
Choquette
Christopherson
Davies
Donnelly
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Fortin
Garrison
Gill
Hardcastle
Hughes
Johns
Jolibois
Julian
Kwan
Laverdière
MacGregor
Manly
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
Moore
Nantel
Pauzé
Plamondon
Quach
Ramsey
Rankin
Sansoucy
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Thériault
Trudel

Total: -- 47


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

Extension of Sitting Hours

Motion that debate be not further adjourned  

[S. O. 57]
    Mr. Speaker, in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 30, I move:
    That the debate not be further adjourned.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair will have some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.
    The hon. opposition House leader.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am really disappointed. We have had such a short amount of time to debate this motion, and it is very disappointing to see a motion like this to extend the hours. Even though we have already indicated that we have some understanding of it, some of the other parts of the motion are disturbing. We have not had solid answers to some of our questions. It is disappointing to see this debate being shut down.
    I would therefore like to ask the hon. government House leader if she could please assure us that she will adopt our amendments and, as we only have two supply days left as Conservatives, that she would allow those supply days to continue into the evening sitting. I think that would be fair and reasonable, and it would show that there would be some co-operation, as opposed to just giving us a very short day and not allowing the opposition to do our job, which is to hold the government to account.
    I understand that the hon. government House leader is ramming this through, but could she give us assurances that she will not shorten our ability to hold the Liberals to account?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opposition House leader's acknowledging the importance of extending hours so that we can discuss important legislation that actually benefits the lives of Canadians. Most of the motion is exactly, word for word, the motion that has been submitted in previous parliaments. Within the extension of hours motion, members who will not be running again will be provided time to make a speech, because it is important that they do so.
    When it comes to the opposition days the member is referring to, within the Standing Orders, a portion of those days can be allotted to Wednesdays and Fridays. My intention will always be to provide them on longer days. As long as we can advance government legislation, I will ensure that we are able to find a collaborative way forward. If that is not the desire of the opposition, then I am restricted to limited tools and limited days to provide those days. I encourage the opposition House leader, as well as her colleagues, to let us know how much time is needed so that bills such as Bill C-81 can be returned to the Senate. There is no reason we cannot have that finished today so that it can receive royal assent.
    Mr. Speaker, I am saddened by this. As I mentioned in the speech I was not even able to complete on this motion that strips the opposition of any of the rights and tools we use to hold the government to account, previous times this had been raised four weeks prior to our adjourning, the Liberals and Conservatives, combined, skipped over 200 opportunities to speak on behalf of their constituents.
    In other words, there was a speaking order. When it came to the Liberals, they simply had nobody standing up at all to speak on behalf of their constituents, on behalf of Canadians. We have always been in favour of working hard, but the NDP historically has been the only party that actually shows up to work during these midnight sessions.
    Last time, there were 200 times the Conservatives or Liberals did not show up for their speaking spots. The New Democrats did not miss a single speaking spot. Every single time we were assigned the ability to speak, we spoke out on behalf of our constituents.
    Given the precedent, can the government House leader assure us that the Liberals will actually show up to work this time?
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will not be debating this motion after today, but I have good news for the NDP House leader. He actually gets to continue his speech, so he will receive 20 minutes like any other member would. He will also be entitled to his 10-minute question and answer period. I know that my parliamentary secretary is looking forward to asking him at least one or two great questions. I do not want him to be misled in believing that he would not have that opportunity. That opportunity will be provided to him.
    What I do know is that we have debated this motion. It is a motion that has been seen in this chamber before. It is important that we get to government legislation that would benefit and impact, for the better, the lives of Canadians.
    When it comes to the member's reference to members speaking up for their constituents, of course all members of Parliament want to speak on behalf of their constituents. That is what we were elected to do. We will always be part of the debate, but sometimes what happens, especially when it comes to the NDP on legislation such as the CUSMA, which we will see coming forward at some point, is that the New Democrats will not want to see it advance, so they will want to keep talking about it. For the government to see it advance, we share our time with members of the NDP so that every single one of its members is able to speak.
    The New Democrats could choose to allow legislation to be called to a vote so that we could advance to the next stage and see more legislation advance so that we are benefiting more Canadians. Unfortunately, the New Democrats have taken a page from the Conservatives' handbook. Rather than actually serve Canadians, they would rather play partisan politics.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, the current government has shown a great deal of disrespect for the opposition. In particular, we see the regular scheduling of opposition days on Wednesdays, when, because we have caucus meetings in the morning, we have very little time to actually debate the proposals coming from the opposition. A simple, reasonable aspect of this motion would have been to allow those opposition day debates to continue into evening sittings so that even if they tried to schedule an opposition day for us to have something like two hours of debate, at least we would be able to take advantage of the evenings as well, given that the evenings would be available for government orders. The Liberals do not have the minimal respect for the opposition to allow that to happen either.
    It is clear, and has been clear for the last three and a half years, that the current government does not believe in the role of the opposition. It simply wants an audience. Will the government House leader see some reason here, recognize the important role the opposition plays in our democracy, and allow the extension of hours to be available for opposition days as well as for government orders?
    Mr. Speaker, I have had to say this to a Conservative member in the past. The Conservatives do not speak for me as an individual. I am on the record, not only in this House but outside this chamber, talking about the importance of our democracy and the role the official opposition plays, as well as the third party and independent members within the chamber, including the members of the Green Party. I recognize that all members are elected to represent their constituents, and I have said that in this chamber as well as outside the chamber. The member, frankly, should apologize for putting words in my mouth, because that is totally untrue and is not a fair representation of my position.
    The Conservatives have never let the facts get in the way, so let me share some facts. In the last Parliament, 11 opposition days were provided on Wednesdays, and five were provided on Fridays, out of 88 opposition days. In this Parliament, there have so far been 79 opposition days. To prove that the member has totally misled Canadians, none of them have been on Wednesdays, and two have been on Fridays. Those are the numbers, and the member should check them out.
    Mr. Speaker, we just had a vote in this place, which is the first step on the road to ratifying the new NAFTA. The NDP has rightly expressed some real concerns about the nature of that deal, as we have expressed concerns about a number of other trade deals the Liberals and Conservatives together have negotiated over the span of a number of governments. The reason that is relevant to this debate about extending the sitting hours is that the government, once again, seems to be in a major rush to make a big mistake, which is to ratify this agreement prior to the issues with the agreement being resolved in neighbouring countries.
    We do not actually know what the final agreement is going to look like, yet simply because the Vice-President of the United States is coming on Thursday, the government is in a hurry to ratify, just as it was in a hurry to ratify CETA, even though we know that Britain is still working out whether it is going to be part of the European Union. Canada was ratifying CETA long before Europe and long before it resolved whether one of our major trading partners was even going to be part of that block. This insane rush to get ink on deals, without any regard for the real content, has been a problem for Canadians, who have lost employment to these kinds of deals over the last decades. I am not prepared to support a motion that is going to help the Liberals ram through ratification of a deal we do not even know the details of.
    While the reasons the New Democrats have opposed some of these measures in the past stand, we have a particular reason this time to be opposed to longer sitting hours, and that is because the government is trying to create an opportunity, with the Conservatives being complicit in ramming this through Parliament, invoking a special kind of closure that only works when two parties agree to it, to make a big mistake faster, and that is something I simply do not support.
    I want to know why the government is concerned about extending sitting hours to accomplish something that would rush a deal, the details of which we do not even know. I would like to hear what the House leader has to say about that, frankly.

  (1530)  

    First, Mr. Speaker, our question and answer session right now is with regard to the extension of hours so that we can sit longer and have more time for debate.
    What the member has just confirmed is that there is no trade deal the NDP will ever support. New Democrats do not seem to understand that Canada is a trading nation. Canada has 36 million people. We have a huge land mass, but we are very small when it comes to the number of people. Our companies have not only great solutions for Canadians, they have great solutions for the whole world.
    When it comes to the CETA legislation, that legislation has actually helped small businesses expand into international markets and has created jobs in my riding of Waterloo, has—
    I would ask the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona, along with his hon. friend from Avalon, not to speak when someone else has the floor.
    The hon. government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Avalon was getting excited, because companies in his riding have also benefited from this trade deal. Members from different parts of the country, especially from the east coast, have had challenging times when it comes to the economy. When we sign deals that allow those businesses to grow through innovation and trade, and they create jobs at home, members get excited, as they should. I would hope that the member for Elmwood—Transcona would take some time to learn about the companies in his riding that are benefiting from that trade deal. If they are not, we should definitely connect them with the Trade Commissioner Service so that they can continue to create more jobs, as Canadians have been doing from coast to coast to coast. Over a million jobs have been created by Canadians for Canadians since our government took office. These trade deals are working.
    Mr. Speaker, the government House leader obviously has a lot on her plate. I can see why the minister got quite angry at one of the previous Conservative speakers, because the government has not been in control of its own agenda. It has constantly found ways to stall legislation. It constantly has mismanaged the House's schedule. Unfortunately, we are at a point where, before we even hit June, the government is seeking to extend the sitting hours.
    The Conservative House leader has made a very reasonable request of the government, because the House leader for the Liberal government has asked to extend sitting hours early, before we are even in June. It is very important for the government to show respect not just for this House but for Parliament, and when a reasonable request is made, we would hope that the government would be reasonable and allow our voices to be heard on our own opposition motions.
    Will the House leader offer extended sitting hours for opposition days?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. I will say that we have endeavoured to manage the House's time by working collaboratively with opposition parties. There are examples of where we were able to succeed, and there were opportunities which, unfortunately, the opposition did not want to take us up on, but that is the opposition's prerogative.
     I have the utmost respect for this chamber. I have the utmost respect for all members of Parliament and all responsibilities within the chamber. Any good government should have a strong opposition. It is important that a government be held to account, but it is also important that we debate legislation and be able to call legislation to a vote.
    I agree that we do need a lot more regard and respect in this chamber. I know there have been many times and many occasions where it was not felt that such regard and respect were in this chamber. I recall budget day not too long ago. Canadians from coast to coast to coast sent emails to my office about the fact that because the opposition members were so busy banging on their desks, they could not hear the Minister of Finance deliver a budget that was going to benefit them. Mr. Speaker, you were not able to get any order in this chamber because of the lack of regard and respect, which is unfortunate.
    When it comes to regard and respect, it is a two-way street. I will do my best to respect all roles. I will do my best to find better ways forward. The extension of sitting hours is another way to ensure that members can speak to legislation to advance the concerns of their constituents.
    Mr. Speaker, in dealing with this process, I would like to ask the hon. government House leader this. This is the eighth year in which I have had the honour to serve the constituents of Saanich—Gulf Islands. We had only one June in that period when we did not sit until midnight. It was June 2016. Oh, that glorious month of June 2016.
    In any case, I do not recall a single other time when the motion to extend the sitting hours has been put through with time allocation on the debate to go to extended sitting hours. I do not have any recollection of any other time when we have had this process that we are experiencing today. We have never actually started extended sitting hours before the month of June, to my recollection.
     I wonder if the government House leader can explain what has gone wrong in the process. What we know to expect from government at the point when we are about to rise for the summer is that things get jammed up and we sit until midnight. I am wondering how it happened this time that we have time allocation on the motion to sit until midnight.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the leader of the Green Party actually has a seat that is now closer to you so that she can hear a lot of what is taking place here. I know she stood up on numerous occasions referencing Standing Orders because it gets so loud in this chamber.
    I am not going to speculate as to what is taking place but it has definitely been a challenge advancing important legislation. I know it has been a challenge on multiple occasions but I will endeavour to keep an open door policy so that we can find a way forward.
    I do appreciate the member rising and sharing some of her history within this chamber. I am not sure that I remember it the same way. I was not a sitting member, but as an observer of the House, I know that the former Conservative House leader, Peter Van Loan, was notorious for using these tools. I recognize that sometimes there are challenging times. I have tried to take a different approach, but when that approach does not work, I seem to mimic some of his actions. It seems that the Conservatives are quite appreciative of that. That is why it is important that we extend these hours.
    I will just say really quickly that the leader of the Green Party on occasion has not been able to speak to legislation but she shares a really important perspective and represents many Canadians. I have always tried to extend some time to ensure that she can get her comments on the record. She was the only member of her caucus but now it has doubled, which is amazing. We hope to still keep hearing from her because she does excellent work and represents really important concerns and comments on behalf of Canadians. We need to hear more of that.
    Mr. Speaker, the member just referenced the record, if we want to call it that, of Peter Van Loan with regard to time allocation or closure. The Liberals campaigned against it. Their platform stated how differently they were going to govern and how they would never use time allocation or closure. This is the sixth time they have used closure, which means that nothing else happens and the debate is over. It is the most draconian method of time allocation.
    The Liberals have invoked time allocation and limited debate 59 times. The member can talk about how she wants to hear from the leader of the Green Party or how she wants a better House of Commons for all of us, but for most of this Parliament, she is the one who has been cutting off debate. With 18 days left, now she is going to keep an open mind about the future and how she will operate in the future.
    I want to correct the record. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan made some excellent points about cutting short the supply days, and the government House leader very indignantly told us that she had never scheduled an opposition day on a Wednesday in the entire time of this Parliament. In the last six opposition days alone, three of them were on a Wednesday and one on a Friday: Wednesday, March 20; Wednesday, May 1; Wednesday, May 15 and Friday, April 5. That is just in the last period.
    Maybe the member will get up and apologize for breaking her campaign promise to Canadians and for misleading the House on the last number of opposition days.
    Mr. Speaker, when our Prime Minister says that in Canada diversity is our strength, he is not only talking about the shells we occupy but he is also talking about the diversity of opinions, regions and experiences, and the list goes in. There is definitely a diversity of interpretations right here, because what we said in the campaign was that we were against the improper use of omnibus legislation and the improper use of time allocation.
    Under the previous government there was no desire to consult and ask. We were told how many days would be given, and that was it. If we did not comply with the hon. Peter Van Loan, then he would use his tools. I have tried to ask how much time is needed for debate. Sometimes I have received answers and sometimes I have not. Members can see clearly that there are times we receive answers and there are times we do not.
    When it comes to Bill C-81, I publicly state that we have received amendments from the Senate. The minister has now stated that we will be accepting all those amendments. There is no reason we should have to use time allocation, yet we are not getting commitment from the official opposition that it will let that legislation go.
    The legislation has been scrutinized. It has been to committee, returned to this chamber and been through all stages in the Senate. It has come with amendments, which we have accepted, yet the Conservatives will not let that legislation go. Therefore, there is no way for us to get that legislation to a vote if I do not use those tools.
    The members opposite need to take partial responsibility and understand why those tools are being used. We could advance, and if they do not want to, it is their prerogative and the choice they are making. However, I will ensure that the government advances the mandate that Canadians gave us. When it comes to Bill C-81, we are talking about a more accessible Canada. Who could be against that?

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the government House leader likes to talk about her government's mandate, but I would like to remind her that her government was elected by a plurality. In fact, she would do well to remember that 61% of Canadians voted for MPs who sit on this side of the House. We have rights, as opposition members, to hold the government to account and to identify legislation when it has problems. This motion is in effect going to strip away our rights to hold the government to account, so I have big problems with that.
    It is quite obvious that these extended sitting hours are because the government is rushing headlong into trying to get the ratification agreement for the new NAFTA put through before we recess for the summer. What is the government going to do if Democrats in the United States delay ratification in Congress or stop it all together? What is the government's position going to be in that eventuality? I do not think it has thought that eventuality through, and I would like an explanation from the government House leader of what the government is going to do if that scenario plays out.
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, it is important to note that the NDP House leader stated that we are giving too much of our time to NDP members and that they have had to speak so much to represent their constituents. Now another NDP member is reminding me that the NDP received a plurality of votes and should be able to represent its constituents.
    I have said from day one that all members of Parliament should be able to represent their constituents. It is important that we are able to have meaningful debate so that we can listen to what Canadians are saying.
    When it comes to improving legislation, the government, under the Prime Minister, has accepted more amendments than any government before it, because we want to ensure that we advance good legislation that works. In addition, not only have we accepted amendments through the committee process within the House of Commons, but we have accepted amendments from the Senate. We recognize that when the Senate scrutinizes legislation, it can benefit more Canadians.
    We are seeing results because parliamentarians are being empowered to do the work they are here to do. We have increased resources to committees because we know it is important that they be able to scrutinize legislation and bring in witnesses.
    When it comes to the NAFTA or CUSMA legislation the member is referring to, this question and answer period is not necessarily for that legislation. I encourage him to talk to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on this.
    I can also let him know that we have considered all eventualities. The minister has been quite clear that since the steel tariffs have now been lifted, we will be introducing legislation. Today's ways and means motion has provided a way for us to do that.
    We have already said that we will be closely watching what the United States and Mexico are doing, because this is a deal that impacts all three countries and we are looking for a win-win-win. However, it is really important that the NDP understands that Canada is a trading nation and it is okay to support trade deals.
    Mr. Speaker, my question relates to the number of sitting days. We have 19 days left, and it is really important to recognize that Canadians have an expectation that governments work consistently from the day they are elected up until the next election. There is an expectation that when the House is sitting, we continue to move forward on positive public policy.
    Could the member provide her thoughts with respect to how important it is that we work hard right to the very end? If that means we have to sit additional hours that last into the evening, as previous governments have also done, members on the government side of the House are prepared to do so.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Winnipeg North for his excellent work within the chamber and in his riding. He works really hard to ensure that the voices of his constituents are heard, and he has spoken to many pieces of legislation. He is quite informed, as he spends time reading legislation; he recognizes the history of a lot of the bills we are putting forward and how Canadians can benefit from them.
    I believe we need to work really hard all the way to the end. I know Canadians work really hard day in, day out, and there is no reason we cannot do the same.
    I recognize that extended hours are quite straining, not only for members of Parliament but also for our teams, as well as for the pages and the administration that helps the House of Commons function. I thank them for their great work.
    At the end of the month, we will be returning to our ridings to speak directly with Canadians so that we can ensure they are being represented. There are really important pieces of legislation that need to be advanced, and if we can find a better way to advance them and in less time, then it would be great for us to do so.
    I can promise members that my door is open, and I look forward to hearing from the opposition. If its members have better ideas regarding how to get out of here earlier, I welcome any constructive feedback.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up where the hon. government House leader left off with respect to the resources used when we extend the hours in this place. I note the pages, the staff and others have to be here for that particular period of time.
    There are a couple of pieces of legislation that I know concern constituents in Whitby. I have received emails about them. One is Bill C-81. During debate earlier today, we heard an assurance that this piece of legislation will be passed.
    If we are going to be extending House hours and using more resources, I would like reassurance from the government House leader that the pieces of legislation that are important to Canadians, which we have been sent here to debate and discuss, are going to be passed in a timely manner before the House rises.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member for Whitby is hearing from constituents when it comes to Bill C-81 and other pieces of legislation. We will be debating that legislation tonight and we will have extended hours. If the member has not had an opportunity to speak to that legislation, I look forward to working with her to ensure that she is provided the opportunity to represent the voices of her constituents.
    I want to see Bill C-81 receive royal assent. This is an important week when it comes to persons with disabilities. It is the third year that we have celebrated National AccessAbility Week, and I know there are good people on the Hill who came to see the Minister of Accessibility speak to this legislation.
    I want to see it advance, and when it comes to other pieces of legislation, if I cannot find a way forward through working with the opposition parties to be able to advance that legislation, I will use the limited tools I have available. Every time I use those tools, I can assure members that I use them with regret. I do hope we are able to find a better way forward.
    Mr. Speaker, what we really are seeing is a scandal-ridden government that is in its final days and has mismanaged the House entirely. Bill C-81 is another example: The government's response to the Senate amendments only came to us on a Thursday before we rose for the one-week break. We came back after the constituency break, and we have not had a chance as caucus to look at the government's response. What did the government members do at the last minute? They brought the legislation here today.
    This is an important piece of legislation, and the government has done virtually nothing to help persons with disabilities. In fact, it has done everything it can to hurt them. We all remember what the government has done to people with diabetes, and we know what it has done to individuals who were working at Library and Archives. This is the problem with mismanagement.
    I know that my hon. colleague, the government House leader, is well staffed, and maybe this is why we are getting short opposition days. She is maybe experiencing Wednesdays differently from the way we experience Wednesdays. However, of the last six opposition days, three were on a Wednesday and one was on a Friday: Wednesday, March 20 was an opposition day; Wednesday, May 1 was an opposition day; Wednesday, May 15 was an opposition day, as was Friday, April 5.
    I would like the member to correct the record and admit that she has consistently given the opposition short days so that we cannot do the job we need to do, which is holding the Liberals to account.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, the opposition House leader definitely experiences things very differently. When it comes to Bill C-81, I encourage her to talk to people from the communities that are going to benefit from that legislation. I know there are people on Parliament Hill right now who just heard her comments. She seems to be a little confused as to what she is referring to. This is historic legislation, and the amendments that came from the Senate were probably given. It is true that the Conservatives never would have accepted amendments from the Senate. The difference is that we accept them quite often, because we know they improve legislation.
    Where the Conservatives would have said no really quickly, we actually pondered the legislation. When it comes to Bill C-81, people seem to know that the Conservatives support the legislation but will not let it come to a vote, because the Conservatives will put partisan politics ahead of Canadians every single time.

[Translation]

    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith the question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

[English]

     The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The 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 yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota): Call in the members.

  (1630)  

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

(Division No. 1320)

YEAS

Members

Aldag
Alghabra
Amos
Anandasangaree
Arseneault
Arya
Ayoub
Badawey
Bagnell
Baylis
Beech
Bendayan
Bennett
Bibeau
Bittle
Blair
Boissonnault
Bossio
Bratina
Caesar-Chavannes
Carr
Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)
Casey (Charlottetown)
Chagger
Champagne
Cormier
Cuzner
Dabrusin
Damoff
Dhaliwal
Dhillon
Drouin
Dubourg
Duclos
Duguid
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dzerowicz
Easter
Ehsassi
El-Khoury
Ellis
Eyking
Eyolfson
Fergus
Fillmore
Finnigan
Fisher
Fonseca
Fortier
Fragiskatos
Fraser (West Nova)
Freeland
Fuhr
Garneau
Gerretsen
Goldsmith-Jones
Goodale
Gould
Graham
Grewal
Hardie
Harvey
Hébert
Hehr
Hogg
Holland
Housefather
Hussen
Hutchings
Iacono
Jordan
Jowhari
Kang
Khalid
Khera
Lametti
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)
Lebouthillier
Lefebvre
Leslie
Levitt
Lightbound
Lockhart
Long
Longfield
Ludwig
MacAulay (Cardigan)
MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)
May (Cambridge)
McCrimmon
McDonald
McGuinty
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
McLeod (Northwest Territories)
Mendès
Mihychuk
Miller (Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs)
Monsef
Morrissey
Murray
Nassif
Ng
O'Connell
Oliphant
Oliver
O'Regan
Ouellette
Paradis
Peschisolido
Peterson
Petitpas Taylor
Picard
Poissant
Qualtrough
Ratansi
Rioux
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rogers
Romanado
Rota
Ruimy
Rusnak
Sahota
Saini
Sajjan
Samson
Sangha
Sarai
Scarpaleggia
Schiefke
Serré
Sgro
Shanahan
Sheehan
Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Sikand
Simms
Sorbara
Spengemann
Tabbara
Tan
Tassi
Vandal
Vandenbeld
Vaughan
Virani
Whalen
Wrzesnewskyj
Yip
Young
Zahid

Total: -- 156


NAYS

Members

Aboultaif
Albas
Albrecht
Alleslev
Allison
Anderson
Arnold
Aubin
Barlow
Barrett
Barsalou-Duval
Beaulieu
Benson
Benzen
Bergen
Berthold
Bezan
Blaikie
Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)
Boucher
Boudrias
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brassard
Brosseau
Cannings
Caron
Carrie
Choquette
Clarke
Cooper
Davidson
Davies
Deltell
Diotte
Doherty
Donnelly
Dreeshen
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)
Dusseault
Duvall
Eglinski
Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)
Falk (Provencher)
Fast
Finley
Fortin
Gallant
Garrison
Généreux
Genuis
Gill
Gladu
Godin
Gourde
Hardcastle
Harder
Hoback
Hughes
Johns
Julian
Kelly
Kent
Kitchen
Kmiec
Kwan
Lake
Laverdière
Liepert
Lloyd
Lobb
Lukiwski
MacGregor
MacKenzie
Maguire
Manly
Martel
Masse (Windsor West)
Mathyssen
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
McColeman
McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)
Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound)
Moore
Motz
Nantel
Nater
Nicholson
Obhrai
O'Toole
Paul-Hus
Pauzé
Plamondon
Poilievre
Quach
Raitt
Ramsey
Rankin
Rayes
Reid
Richards
Sansoucy
Saroya
Schmale
Shipley
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Ste-Marie
Stetski
Strahl
Stubbs
Thériault
Tilson
Trost
Trudel
Van Kesteren
Vecchio
Viersen
Wagantall
Warkentin
Waugh
Webber
Weir
Wong
Yurdiga

Total: -- 129


PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

Resuming debate  

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.
    The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby has 10 minutes remaining.
    Mr. Speaker, I would again like to say hello to the deaf community, the people who have been here all day listening to the debates. We welcome them.
    I would love to be able to say that we will be sitting to midnight until the third week of June because the Liberals have suddenly realized that they actually have to put into action the democratic reforms they promised back in 2015, that they actually have to have proportional representation, as the Prime Minister said in 2015 when indicating that that election would be last one under first past the post. If the government were saying, “Gosh, we forgot that promise and want to come back to sit until midnight” we would be overjoyed. We would be saying it was great.
    If the Liberals said that we have to sit to midnight until June 21 because they suddenly realized there is an affordable-housing crisis in this country and that there are literally hundreds of thousands of families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, tens of thousands of families out on the streets, and the government wants to resolve it and build housing now and put a roof over everybody's heads, the New Democrats would be overjoyed to sit until midnight. That would the case if the government said so, but it has not.
    If the Liberals said about pharmacare, “Gosh, there are millions of Canadians who cannot afford their medication and are struggling to take the medication their doctors have prescribed to them, so we are going to keep a promise and bring pharmacare in now,” we in the NDP would say, “Yes, absolutely, we are prepared to sit to midnight until June 21 to bring in pharmacare.”
    None of those things are on the docket. There is some important legislation, all of which could have been improved if the Liberals actually listened. All of it could have been improved if the Liberals accepted amendments from the opposition.
    We were just talking about the accessibility act earlier today. The disability community put forward very strong recommendations for changes and amendments, as did the NDP, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh in particular, all of which were ignored and left on the table. The government has simply refused to improve any of the legislation before the House and is refusing to take any of the actions it committed to back in 2015.
    I mentioned democratic reform just a few moments ago. We remember the solemn promise at the time that it would be the last election under first past the post. If so, we would now be dealing with an election in which every vote would count, and coming out of that election we would have a parliament that was actually representative of Canadians' views. My colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford mentioned earlier today in the House that 62% of Canadians did not even vote for the current government, and yet the government has 100% of the power. That is why the government can impose its closure motion, and now this motion that strips the opposition of all of its rights.
    For what reason is the government doing that when it has failed on so many counts?
    I cannot even begin to talk about the whole issue of the climate emergency. The NDP offered a very substantive motion just two weeks ago. In offering that motion, the member for Burnaby South was very eloquent. There was a whole series of measures that needed to be taken. It was a climate emergency. It needed to be done and accomplished immediately, and those measures were set out very carefully by the NDP. The government voted against it. Then the Liberals brought forward a climate emergency motion that is basically a narrative of what Canadians know to be true, but does not in any way address the fundamental problems that Canada will be facing if we do not contend with climate change.
    I mentioned in the House a couple of weeks ago what we have seen in just our lifetime in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The month of August used to be a time of sunny skies and blue skies, but for the last few years has been choked with smoke from the hundreds of wildfires that erupt on Vancouver Island and in the interior of British Columbia.

  (1635)  

    In the last three years, elderly people have had to stay indoors. I was with a youth group just two weeks ago. Its members talked about how some people in their 18, 19, 20-year age group were forced to wear gas masks because of the intensity of the smoke. They talked about the inability of people to even go outside. That is happening in our lifetime.
     This is why we offered the climate emergency motion, which was substantive and would have changed the way the government acts. It stated that instead of building pipelines, the government needed to invest immediately in renewable energy, yet the Liberal government voted against it. It voted against all those aspects. It wants to go ahead full bore on a pipeline that British Columbians do not want and that will accelerate climate change. The government postures and says that it will and put a price on carbon, but all the large emitters are exempt.
    Coming back to the motion, it is the posturing that is the most disturbing about all of this. The government is saying that we need to sit until midnight right through until June 21. There are some valid pieces of legislation that we are happy to facilitate through. However, for the most part, the government wants to work hard on making the government look good as opposed to doing the right thing. That is the fundamental problem.
     I guess that is the difference between the NDP caucus and the direction the Liberal government has taken. We offered a substantive motion on climate emergency that would force the government to act and seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the government voted that down and offered something that was simply a statement of the situation as all Canadians know it to be.
     Canadians know we are in a climate emergency, because they have seen first-hand the record level of floods. They have seen first-hand the forest fires that have choked various parts of the country, including my region of New Westminster—Burnaby in the Lower Mainland. People now have to stay indoors for much of the best part of the year. The summer months, which used to be glorious in my region, are now fraught with almost killer air quality. It is not an easy situation at all for people with health problems to go out and deal with that smoke.
    Last August, we saw the killer heatwave that killed dozens of people in Montreal and southern Quebec. The Toronto Star did what I thought was an important article on the number of heat-related deaths that would have occurred in southern Ontario. Because statistics are kept differently, it is quite possible the death toll was very high in southern Ontario as well. The reality is very clear. There is a need to act on the climate emergency.
     I spoke earlier about the housing crisis we were living through. The government needs to act. The housing crisis is striking many regions of the country.
     I have spoken before about Heather, who is struggling to find affordable housing for her family. Hers is just one of the many families that are finding it almost impossible to keep a roof over their heads. We are in a crisis when it comes to affordable housing and the government should be acting.
    When we talk about pharmacare, it is indeed a crisis. I have spoken many times about Jim, who is right outside the Chateau Laurier, begging for money so he can get the $580 a month he needs for the medication that keeps him alive for his family. The government does not see that as an emergency either.
    That is the fundamental difference. The government is rushing through a motion that binds the opposition. It takes away the opposition's rights and the ability to hold the government to account. The government has offered a couple of substantive pieces of legislation, which would have been supported by all members of the House anyway. However, for the most part, the emergency of ensuring we have medication for all in the country, the emergency of ensuring people have a roof over their head, the emergency that comes with climate change and the emergency that comes from the appalling state of indigenous communities not being supported by the government are all left aside.
     The government is saying that we are going to sit until midnight for the government's sake, not for the sake of Canadians. Canadians will be able to judge the Liberals on October 21.

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, there are many aspects of the member's speech both now and prior to question period to which I take exception. One is with respect to responsibility even for opposition members. I am going to get the opportunity to expand on that.
    Could my colleague across the way give the NDP's perspective as to what it believes its responsibility is in supporting legislation and getting it through in a timely fashion?. Is there any responsibility from his or his party's perspective to assist in the passing of government legislation? Does he feel there is any obligation there at all?
    Mr. Speaker, our role in the House has always been to take our responsibility seriously and to make legislation better. That has been our role historically since the very foundation of our movement.
    As the member well knows, the NDP has made a difference in a whole range of areas. The NDP was the first party in the House to raise the issues of pensions and unemployment insurance. Tommy Douglas, our founding leader, brought medicare to Canadians.
    Our role is to push the government to be better. What I have found frustrating over the last four years is the government's refusal to be better when we offer amendments to legislation. Many amendments to improve legislation have been thoughtfully provided by the NDP, most often because we have listened carefully to witnesses who have come to committee at report stage. We incorporate their ideas into making legislation better. Each time over the last four years, the Liberal government, acting like the Conservative government before it, has refused to entertain amendments from the opposition.
    That does not make government better. That does not make legislation better. That puts us right back in the realm of dark partisan politics, which is unfortunate. Canadians do not want to see that. Canadians want to see better legislation, legislation that is improved, and parties working together. We have not seen that from the Liberal government and that is a direct contradiction to what the Prime Minister promised.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has been here quite some time. We were both elected in 2004.
    He quite rightly pointed out some important pieces of legislation. I have a feeling of frustration on this side of the House because the role of opposition is to work to make legislation better, but also to have time to debate it. This is all about that. We can go back and forth.
    During our mandate, 97 bills received royal assent. With the present Liberal government, something like 60 bills have received royal assent. It has been the worst functioning government since the 1930s.
    There is some really important legislation and we are now stuck with only a few days left in the House to get them put forward and debated properly.
     Even with the increased time for sitting, does my colleague think we have enough time left to properly debate these bills? Does he think Canadians are starting to pay attention? The Liberal government is obsessed with selfies and its image, but it is not doing the work that Canadians expect it to do? Could my colleague please comment on that?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish my colleague a happy anniversary. June 28 will be his 15th year in the House. I have often enjoyed our differences and sometimes our similarities when speaking to issues.
    However, he is right on the account that the government is such a pale imitation of what it purported to be back in 2015. I remember, as all Canadians do, the government and the Prime Minister talking about a new era in Canadian politics. They said that there would be collaboration on the floor of the House of Commons, that there would be democratic reform, that there would be housing for people dealing with housing issues, that there would be pharmacare and that the government would attack climate change. Instead it is giving all the big emitters a get out of jail free card when it comes to climate change emissions. The government made all kinds of commitments that it has sadly failed to meet.
    The most egregious is the refusal to work with the opposition. Every member of the NDP caucus takes his or her work seriously. In every case, when a bill has come before the House, the NDP has offered very thoughtful amendments to improve legislation. I could give a 14-hour filibuster on all the improvements suggested by NDP members. We did the work, gave it to the government and recommended it be incorporated in legislation. Witnesses agreed. The said to take the NDP amendments to make the legislation better so it would do what it purported to do. After four years, it has been a complete and abject failure. The government refuses opposition amendments; it is just what it does.
    The Conservative government before it did the same thing. A dozen times legislation was rejected by the courts because the Conservatives refused the NDP amendments. Now we have bad legislation pushed through like a bulldozer by the Liberals again, without taking the amendments that would have made that legislation more sound, better and actually do what it purported it would do. It is sad.
    It is a sad commentary on the government. However, as I mentioned before, on October 21, Canadians will judge it on that record.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, I also find it a bit rich when we hear the Liberals talking about the opposition delaying bills. I will provide a concrete example.
     When the House was debating Bill C-69, our colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, who worked so diligently at committee on that bill, proposed many amendments seeking to bring that environmental review legislation in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These amendments were moved at committee only days after the Liberals had voted in favour of Bill C-262.
    It is wrong for us to be accused of holding up the legislation. We were doing the hard work of listening to witnesses at committee and bringing forward amendments to make the bill more in line with indigenous rights, for which the government had already signalled its support.
    For my friend from New Westminster—Burnaby, that is just another example of where we have tried our best. We listened to those witnesses at committee. Time and again we tried to insert those amendments that were directly attributable to concrete evidence heard at committee only to see it fail both at the committee stage and when the bill was reported to the House.
    Could my colleague comment a bit further on our efforts through this 42nd Parliament to improve those bills that have been backed up by solid witness testimony every step of the way?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for his terrific work in the House of Commons. This is his first term, but we would not know it from the depth of the work he has done and the substance he has offered on the floor of the House of Commons. One would think he is a member of Parliament who has been re-elected numerous times. I thank him for his terrific work.
    He is absolutely right when he says that with respect to any area in any bill, the NDP members have offered honest and thoughtful suggestions to improve a bill and make it do what the title purports it would do. Often, the government puts forward legislation and when we look at the title, we think it is going to make a big difference, but when we read the bill, it is, sadly, a real letdown because the legislation does not back up the intent of the title. Over this particular four-year period, the job of New Democrats has been to improve legislation through the hundreds, if not thousands, of amendments we have brought forward for each bill, each one of them thoughtfully considered and carefully drafted, always with the support of witnesses, experts and Canadians who believe that the legislation should be better as well. However, these amendments have been systematically rejected over four years.
    The member for Burnaby South understands and if he is elected prime minister on October 21, we will see a different approach in the House of Commons. We are going to encourage amendments from opposition members and actually consider their merits. That is going to be a sea change in Canadian politics, I think a welcome one, because it will make for better legislation and better government in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, before I get under way with my comments, I want to reflect on the previous speaker's comments and address many aspects of them during my speech.
    If we look at what has transpired over the last number of years, we have seen a great deal of change in committees. I sat in opposition when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, and I understand very clearly that when he was the prime minister, opposition members' amendments were never passed at committee. It just did not happen, unless one were a government member. Opposition members did not have their amendments passed during the time I was here under a majority Stephen Harper government.
     However, to try to give the impression that this government has behaved in the same fashion is just wrong, because it is just not true. This government, on multiple pieces of legislation, has not only approached standing committees in a different fashion from the previous Stephen Harper government, but also, members will find that the current government has accepted numerous amendments to our legislation, whether they be from New Democrats, Conservatives or even the Green Party. That is something we did not witness under Stephen Harper, but something that we have seen here.
    Also, in response to the opposition's effort to claim there has been no change, we can just look at the parliamentary secretaries. When I had sat on the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservative parliamentary secretary was there and led the committee. As the parliamentary secretary related in regard to that particular committee today, I do not even attend that committee.
    There is a substantial difference between this Prime Minister and Stephen Harper. There is a lot more transparency and accountability with this Prime Minister than the former prime minister on a number of different fronts.
    However, for those who might be following, we are having this debate because the government has decided, as previous governments have done in the past, including Stephen Harper's, that as we get into June, there will at times be a need to have extended sitting hours. There is nothing new in that. As I said, Stephen Harper did so, and prime ministers before him have also done so. We have extended hours because, like Canadians, we believe that we should continue to work every day that we sit, and if we have to put in extra hours to pass more legislation, why not?
    It is interesting listening to the Conservatives talk about last-minute legislation. What do they expect? We are now at the end of May. Do they just want the government to shut the doors and stop debate on all legislation? Maybe the NDP and Conservatives would like to operate that way, but we as a government are committed to working hard for Canadians every day, and members will see that with the different types of initiatives we have taken, whether it be legislative action, budget actions or just trying to build consensus.
    Today is an excellent example, because we saw a lot of games being played by the opposition parties. They ask why we bring in time allocation or closure, and they challenge us, especially me when I stand to talk about the benefits of using time allocation. However, so that those listening can understand what is actually taking place, they need to recognize that there is legislation the government has introduced that the NDP will never, ever support, unless we delete the entire bill by way of an amendment. That is an absolute guarantee: there is legislation the NDP will never, ever support.

  (1655)  

    The trade agreement is a good example. We have had a number of trade agreements from this government, and every time, the NDP members vote against them. If it were up to them, agreements would never be allowed to go to a vote. Equally, there is legislation here that we have introduced that the Conservatives would never, ever support and have voted against. They will go out of their way to prevent the legislation from passing.
    We could have the Conservatives saying no to legislation, with the NDP, the Greens and the government saying yes, but if the Conservatives wanted to, they could prevent the legislation from passing. All they have to do is to speak to the legislation, propose an amendment and speak endlessly. We had a good exa