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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 265

CONTENTS

Monday, December 11, 2023




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 265
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, December 11, 2023

Speaker: The Honourable Greg Fergus

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayer



Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1100)  

[English]

Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act

    The House resumed from November 23 consideration of the motion that Bill S-210, An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the many different types of issues on the floor of the House, and today we do that through Bill S-210.
    The title of the legislation, protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act, sends a fairly powerful message. There is absolutely no doubt about that. When I think about the community I represent and the experiences I have had as a parliamentarian over the years with regard to this very sensitive issue, I suggest that it goes beyond pornography. What we are really talking about is the safety of our children.
    We all have serious concerns with how the Internet has evolved, with access to the Internet and with what our young people are seeing on the Internet. I believe there is an onus and responsibility on all of us in that respect, not only at the national level but also at the provincial level. Even in our school system, we all have a sense of responsibility, not to mention the parents and guardians of children. We all have a very important role in recognizing that which quite often causes harm to the minds of our children, either directly or indirectly, and the impact it has, putting a child on a specific course in life.
    I do not say that lightly. When I look at the legislation and think of the intimate images on the Internet, all I need to do is look at some of the streaming services, whether it is Netflix, Crave or the many others out there. I suspect that if we were to apply what is being suggested in this legislation, it could prove to be somewhat problematic. I do not know to what degree the sponsor of the bill has thought through the legislation itself. The title is great. The concern is serious. We are all concerned about it. However, when I think of the impact that this has on our children, I believe it is not just through pornography. Cyber-bullying is very real. We often hear of very tragic stories where a young person is bullied through the Internet.
    We need a holistic approach to what we can do as legislators to protect the best interests of children. In looking at the legislation, there seems to be a mix of criminal and administrative law. On the one hand we are saying it is illegal, giving the impression that criminal law needs to deal with it, yet there is an administrative penalty being applied if someone has fallen offside. I see that as a bit of an issue that needs to be resolved.
    However, the biggest issue we need to look at is why the bill is fairly narrow in its application with respect to harms to children. I used the example of cyber-bullying. It seems to me that the department has been very proactive and busy on a number of fronts, whether it is with the online news legislation or other legislation. I know departments are currently in the process of looking at legislation to bring forward in the new year that would have a more holistic approach to dealing with things that impact or harm young people. I suspect that through the departments, with the amount of consultation that has been done and continues to be done on the issue, we will see more solid legislation being provided.

  (1105)  

    In the legislation being proposed, issues arise, such as concerns dealing with the Privacy Commissioner. It is easy for us to say we want to ensure that young people watching these programs are at the age of majority. It is a difficult thing to ultimately administer. I am not aware of a country that has been successful at doing so. I am not convinced that the legislation being proposed would be successful at doing that.
    In terms of the age of majority, I was citing earlier today how things can be very easily manipulated, such as by using VPN technology, which I must say I am not familiar with. Someone could be at their house and could somehow change their location to give the perception that instead of being in one community or neighbourhood, they are someplace thousands of miles away. There is also the whole idea of using identification that is not necessarily theirs. I will cite the example of teenagers being among friends when it comes time to get alcohol. False identification is often used or encouraged in certain areas by teenagers to acquire alcohol. To believe that there would not be any manipulation of the system would be wrong. Imagine a person getting information that then gets submitted as data points for a company and how harmful misinformation would be to the individual who has that identification.
    To what degree has this legislation been worked on with the Privacy Commissioner? I suspect that the Privacy Commissioner might have something to say about the legislation. The difficulty that I have is in the name, Bill S-210, protecting young persons from exposure to pornography act. I believe that each and every one of us here today would understand that pornography for minors is not a good thing. It does have an impact.
    I remember taking a course in sociology many years ago at university, and a test group was put to the side. One part of the test group had to watch hours and hours of pornography, and in the other group it did not occur. The groups were then brought together and the consequence was striking. The group that watched pornography was more open, to the degree that they did not think certain offences and the inappropriate treatment between sexual partners were all that bad.

  (1110)  

    This has an impact in a very real way. I understand the concern, but we should be broadening the concern to include things like cyber-bullying. We need to leave it to the department to bring forward more comprehensive and substantive legislation that would take out some of the conflicts and deal with issues from the Privacy Commissioner. It would ultimately be better for all of us.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be here this morning to discuss a very important subject.
    The law that limits young people's online access to sexually explicit material, more commonly known as pornography, is something we should be concerned about.
    When we look at certain aspects of the bill, we see that things changed with the advent of information technology. Things are not like they used to be. It is no longer the same. We must have a slightly different concern for that reason.
    We want—

[English]

    I know this subject matter is very important and very passionate. However, I would remind members that if they want to have side conversations, they should take them outside.
    The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, Bill S‑210 would create an offence for organizations that make such content accessible. Obviously, we are motivated by the desire to better regulate sexually explicit material. Basically, what we want to do here is protect young people from a certain type of danger. When we seek to protect, we want to act proactively to prevent a certain event from happening, and the danger is being at the mercy of someone or something. We need to be very careful.
    It is much easier then it used to be to gain access to pornography. I remember, when I was young, that people really had to be quite clever to find anything at all, and then it had to be hidden under the bed. I am not talking about myself, obviously, I am referring to others. Today, it is easy to get the material online. The web means everywhere and forever. It is very difficult to regulate online content.
    In philosophy, it is said that in order to exist, an event must have two characteristics, space and time. Something takes place at a given time. We are used to thinking this way. Where and when? But the Internet is everywhere and forever. This makes it hard to control certain types of content or the businesses that provide it. Without space and time, nothing would exist. I used to ask the following question in discussions: What would happen to a bird in flight if there were neither space nor time? Most people answered that the bird would fall, but it would not, because there would be no time. These are basic building blocks of where we are.
    When we talk about young people, we are talking about individuals who have not yet necessarily had an opportunity to develop judgment. They are very susceptible to various influences. They can easily form a false idea of the nature of sexuality, love and relationships, a distorted idea that could significantly shape their behaviour. This is a danger. As parliamentarians, no one here can be against preventing such a danger.
    At the age when the concepts of love, sexuality, relationships and dating are still fluid, we have to be able to act preventively. There is a Creole saying I really like. It says, “the sun sleeps, but danger never does”.
    That is why we must act. I will reiterate that all action is time sensitive. If we must act, we must do so now. Of course, as we send the bill on to the next step, there will be discussions about what form it might take, but we must never lose sight of its intent. The intent must remain, because it reflects the values underlying it. Values are elements that embody a certain vision of goodness, justice and injustice. They are values like respect. We all demand respect, but sometimes we do not bother to learn what it is. Respect is a second look we take at something or someone so as not to offend needlessly. There is then something here we have to think about now.
    This said, I have a bit of a problem with the idea of “now”, because, if it is urgent, we have to act. Last Friday, we lost a parliamentary day to useless procedural tactics that delayed the hearing and potentially the implementation of such a bill. We were confronted with a shameful partisan stunt that twisted procedure for purposes other than those intended. This is called manipulation. Manipulation is to use something for other purposes, for one's own ends.

  (1115)  

    While we were voting, the people who forced the vote were forgetting that there was a danger. There was a danger, yet I am told that the party that forced the vote was okay with the danger.
    In the bill, although it is not referred to explicitly, we can read between the lines and understand that self-regulation will not be an option. Of course, as far as the Internet is concerned, self-regulation is a fiction. In general, online companies, especially the ones that distribute pornography, are not at all trustworthy, and trust is a condition for self-regulation. Trust is the ability to rely on others without having to control everything. Self-regulation is therefore neither credible nor acceptable.
    In conclusion, I will ask my colleagues to stop wasting time, something we are seeing a lot of, and bear in mind that every hour of time lost is an opportunity for something to go wrong. As I said, there is danger, there is a threat, there are young people involved whose minds are not yet fully formed. We have to act now.

  (1120)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the Internet is an amazing tool. It is fast, powerful, readily accessible to all and inexpensive. Economically, socially and culturally, it has levelled the playing field so anybody and everybody can be their own publisher, their own printer and their own marketing agent. They can even be aspiring musicians or artists without the need for an intermediary like a publishing company, a printing house, a record label or an agent. The Internet is the great democratizing tool of our generation, not unlike the Gutenberg printing press was 500 years ago in Europe, which changed the face of Europe, broke apart medieval culture and presented the Europe we recognize today.
    Just like the printing press was used for good like printing the Bible in mass quantities in many languages, it was also used for evil like spreading lies about people and defaming their reputations. In that way, the Internet too is used for good. I have given some examples of that already, but it is also used for ill like spreading lies about people and defaming their reputation, so maybe things have not really changed all that much. Indeed human nature has not changed, but our tools have become more powerful so the ill we can do with our tools is just so much more pervasive.
    One of these evils I am talking about is the danger of pornography and how the Internet has made it readily available to the whole world. Today we are thinking about children who also have access to pornography on the Internet.
    Today we are talking about Bill S-210, an act that would restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material. This is a private member's bill that originated at the other place by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne. In this House, in a rare show of non-partisanship, it has seconders from members of all parties in the House. At least I think that is correct. I know it has strong support in my caucus.
    I want to thank the senator for sponsoring this important initiative, and I congratulate her on her determination and for bringing it to this point despite numerous delays and resistance from vested interests.
    What would Bill S-210 do?
    The summary of the bill reads as follows:
    This enactment makes it an offence for organizations to make sexually explicit material available to young persons on the Internet.
    Why is that necessary? What is the problem trying to be resolved here? I did my own research, on the Internet, free of charge, and found an article published by Psychology Today, which is a recognized and respected publication. This is what the article had to say about pornography and children:
    A far cry from looking at a sensual magazine centerfold, today’s adolescents are viewing online pornographic videos with motions and sounds, depicting every potential sexual act that can be imagined. The internet, which has been called the “Triple-A Engine” due to its affordability, accessibility, and anonymity...has dramatically changed the pornography industry; yet its effects on adolescents’ development is still unfolding.
    Senator Miville-Dechêne did a lot of research on this topic, as evidenced by her very thoughtful speech in the Senate a few years ago. It has been a long and winding road for her to get it to this point. On an earlier version of this bill, she gave a very compelling case that, first, we have a significant societal problem and, second, the government has a significant role to play. We can accept her research and her conclusions that we have a problem and there is something we can do about it.
    The following is from her very thoughtful speech, which I found very compelling.
    She stated:
    Scientific research is making more and more worrisome connections between the consumption of pornography and the health or behaviour of young people. When adolescents frequently view pornography, it can lead to compulsive consumption, create unrealistic expectations..., generate fear and anxiety, damage their self-esteem...[and] cause symptoms of depression and impair social functioning.
    I accept the evidence that we have a problem. What is the role for the government? What would Bill S-210 do? It is always helpful to first look at a bill would not do, just to narrow the parameters.

  (1125)  

    It would not do these things: It would not make pornography illegal, at least not more illegal than it already is, because we do have some rules around that. It would not affect people 18 and over, because the target audience here is our children. Finally, it would not prevent people from sharing pornography privately online, because the focus of this legislation is organizations, companies, enterprises and firms that are in the business of hosting porn platforms.
    What would it do? Bill S-210 would create a new offence, that of making sexually explicit material available to a young person on the Internet. That is the new crime. It would be punishable with a $250,000 fine for a first offence and $500,000 fines for subsequent events. This is serious business.
    There is a due diligence defence for porn platforms. If an organization is under investigation, it has a good defence if it can demonstrate that it implemented a prescribed age verification method to limit access by children.
    The preamble to the bill says, “online age-verification technology is increasingly sophisticated and can now effectively ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights”. I think it is a good quote:
    There is probably some argument about that, and I am interested to learn more about it. What is at the heart of the bill is that we tell the porn platforms to do their best to verify a person's age using age verification tools prescribed and approved by the government before one grants them access. If one does that, one is within the law.
    What are those prescribed tools, and who would administer the program? Would it be the CRTC, the RCMP or a new bureaucracy?
    The answer is that we are going to have to wait and see, stay tuned. All that needs to be worked out.
    This is a private member's bill, so the bill cannot include any new expenditures. A way to get around that is to allow the government to set up the regulatory framework, the regulatory scheme that is going to implement the framework set up by this bill. There would be a one-year coming-into-force delay to give the government time to do that, to figure out the next steps.
    For now, the bill is not perfect, but it is a good first step in the right direction; as we often hear from the government's side of the House, much more work still needs to be done. I agree with that.
    The process for getting the bill here has been a long and winding road. It has faced resistance from many corners, including from those who say it infringes on our constitutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of other forms of media and communication.
    Others mention the age verification technology and methodology through face recognition technology, because that would probably be what we are talking about. We do not know for sure, because the regulations have not been drafted. Privacy experts say that this infringes on our privacy rights under federal and provincial legislation.
    They may be right. This is a real concern. I am looking forward to hearing from our constitutional law, privacy and technology experts at committee to have them help us steer around these challenges. Then, we can implement a law that is lawful and effective in keeping our children safe.
    I will be voting yes to this bill at second reading, so we can start that very important work.
    I want to end on a personal note. I am concerned about my grandchildren. I think about the dangers of the Internet, and I am not thinking only about porn but also other matters that the member for Winnipeg North raised as well: misinformation, disinformation, cyber-bullying and hatred, which is so easily spread around the world. We must all learn to discern such things, which is what we taught our kids and what they are teaching their children.
    Bill S-210 is just another tool to get us there. I compare this to other laws that we have in place for keeping people safe. A good example is that we have laws against speeding in playground zones; yet, we tell our children to look both ways before they cross the street. We have laws against assault, but we tell our children not to walk down dark alleyways at night alone. This is just common sense. The law can only do so much.
    This bill is a good framework for moving forward. It is the least we can do. We are on the home stretch. Let us bring it home.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois believes that Bill S-210 is an important bill that reflects our role here in the House rather well. Sometimes we go through disgraceful sittings where we have vote after vote on things that we know will not advance our constituents' interests or values. It often disappoints me for various reasons when people play partisan politics. What goes on in the House is not always inspiring.
    However, this morning we are presented with something that is inspiring. We have a chance to fix a problem. It is always a pleasure to hear this kind of proposal, and I would be happy to help advance this bill.
    Shockingly, there is currently no mechanism whatsoever in Quebec or in Canada to prevent a young person from accessing pornographic content on the Internet. From infancy to adulthood, our young people grow up in a system or an environment where they have access to all sorts of images and videos that probably none of us wants them to be able to access. We must fix that. That is our duty. We must make sure that the children who will make up tomorrow's society grow up in an environment that is conducive to a decent education and to good mental and physical health. Bill S-210 will contribute to that, so I am proud to be a part of this process.
    What will Bill S-210 do? Essentially, it will do three things. First of all, it will create a method for verifying the age of the individuals visiting these sites. I admit that this is quite a challenge. I am not a geek or Internet expert, so I have a little trouble imagining how it will get done, but I have faith in the people who know a lot more about these things than me. I look forward to seeing how this age verification method is going to be implemented. Once again, it is a big challenge, but it is a big challenge for our society, and I agree wholeheartedly that we should move forward with it. Work will be done in committee. I suspect that we will probably hear a little, maybe even a lot, about existing or potential methods of verifying age. The matter deserves serious attention to ensure that we come up with a good, reliable method.
    The bill requires the method to meet five criteria.
    First of all, it must be “reliable”. I think that goes without saying.
    Second, it must maintain “user privacy”. We live in a society where every individual is entitled to privacy, and we wish to preserve that right. As a result, the mechanism will have to be sufficiently intrusive to work, while also maintaining the individual's privacy.
    Third, it must collect and use personal information “solely for age-verification purposes”. We do not want the method to be used for purposes other than enforcing the law, which I think is a legitimate and prudent concern.
    Fourth, speaking of prudence, we need to make sure that “any personal information collected for age-verification purposes” is destroyed once the verification is completed. We do not want personal information to stay on the web. The information must therefore be destroyed once the verification is completed.
    Fifth, the method must generally comply “with best practices in the fields of age verification and privacy protection”. That is obviously a positive thing. We cannot stand against something as obviously positive as compliance with best practices.

  (1135)  

    The age verification method will have to respect all those criteria. I am eager to hear more about it in committee, and I suspect the discussions will be very interesting. I hope that we will be able to pass the bill quickly and that it will take effect before our young people are further contaminated.
    I said that there were three things the bill would do. First, it will create the method, and second, it will designate an enforcement authority. That is also important. We do not want to entrust the responsibility to the owners of the pornographic sites or other sites to which we wish to control access. I think it is prudent to have an independent authority that has the necessary skills, experience and objectivity to enforce the law.
    Lastly, the bill provides for an annual report to confirm the number of applications made, the number of verifications done, and the final outcome. This will allow us to see how the system is working over time, year by year. Will it need minor adjustments? If so, we will make them. If not, we will have implemented a useful and effective system that respects the values and interests of all Quebeckers and Canadians.
    For all of these reasons, we will gladly support this bill. As I said earlier, I believe we were elected to introduce these types of bills. I will be happy to work with my Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party colleagues to ensure that the bill satisfies everyone and is true to its underlying principles.

[English]

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has the floor for her right of reply.
    Madam Speaker, as I was listening to this debate, I found myself getting a little hot under the collar. I think that is because we are seeing violence against women becoming rampant in this country. Municipalities are declaring an epidemic. People at the provincial and federal levels are talking about the need for shelters, the need for police officers to be trained and all these things.
    Why is this important for today's debate? In my initial speech a few weeks ago, I stated, “I am talking about children and the fact is that what children would see is 87% of these acts are ones of violence against women.” That is why I am bringing this up.
    Yes, we can talk about all the different elephants in this room, because this chamber is a zoo full of jungle animals. However, we can deal with more than one at a time. What I am saying is this: If we have 10 elephants in the room, we can take one bite out of one elephant, which is the violence against women elephant. There is something we can do; yes, I am speaking to members. We can take a small bite out of an enormous elephant here, and one thing we are asking for is that children under the age of 18 do not have access to pornography.
    We can talk about all the horrific things that are going on in this world. I can tell members, when we talk about abusive language, that as politicians and women, we receive it every day. I do not think there is one member of Parliament in this place who has not received something that is absolutely horrifying and probably as a daily piece. If we want to hear from the Privacy Commissioner or from people who may be against this bill, then we should invite them to committee so it can hear that, not because Liberal members suggest their government is going to come up with legislation. I have watched the government come up with legislation that has sat there, stalled and done nothing. At the end of the day, 79% of women are facing violence. We know that one in two women are now experiencing domestic violence issues; it used to be one in three, under eight years ago. If we want to make a change, we need to do that, not suggest that the government will do something in the future. The Liberals have to get off that.
    One woman is killed every two days. In Ontario alone, 62 women have been killed this year. If we allow those stats to continue, then members should just say that they are too partisan to vote for my bill, because that is exactly what I am seeing in this place. It is shameful.
    This is about women. This is about ensuring that our children know how to play safely in the sandbox and understand what consent is. The things we know that children see when they are watching pornography blanks them and paralyzes their common sense. This bill is about common sense. It is about ensuring that our women are safe and that our children are not shown pornography at an early age. I do not care what they do when they are 18, but we should be protecting our children who are under the age of 18, women and vulnerable people. I do not see any support from the government, and I am devastated that it cannot see through that.

  (1140)  

[Translation]

    The question is on the motion.

[English]

    If a member participating in person wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division, or if a member of a recognized party participating in person wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
    Madam Speaker, may I please have a recorded division?

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 13, 2023, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

[English]

Sitting Suspended 

    It being 11:42 a.m., the House will suspend until noon.

    (The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:42 a.m.)

Sitting Resumed  

    (The House resumed at 12 p.m.)


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1200)  

[English]

Affordable Housing and Groceries Act

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (for the Minister of Finance)  
     moved that Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act, be read the third time and passed.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to present updates to Bill C-56, as they are timely and are required to better tackle the increasing cost of living by strengthening Canada's competition law. Two months ago, the government introduced Bill C-56, the affordable housing and groceries act. As members may recall, it was presented as a down payment of sorts on broader reform efforts with respect to Canada's competition law, with more comprehensive amendments to follow pursuant to the fall economic statement.
    There has already been considerable debate in the chamber on this important piece of legislation, so let us talk about market studies, which are a key part of the legislation. Bill C-56 would provide the Competition Bureau with much-needed market study powers. It is important to ensure that the bureau would retain its independence while it does this. This is why we have supported an update that expressly confirms that the commissioner would be able to initiate a market study. This would remove any possible ambiguity over the market study process and would ensure that the bureau retains its discretion as an independent law enforcement agency. The update would ensure that the bureau would be able to look into specific market issues that it identifies as warranting scrutiny. The modification reflects the existing inquiry structure under the act, where it is already the case that either the commissioner or the minister may initiate an inquiry into potential anti-competitive activity, at which point the commissioner assumes full control of the investigation.
    The government's proposal has taken these concerns into account by creating a framework that would balance the need for independence, the benefit of collecting information and the safeguards required to protect businesses and public funds. This is why both the commissioner and the minister would be required to consult before any study is undertaken. Requiring consultation would ensure that Canadians would benefit from a market study that has been thoroughly considered and appropriately tailored. The proposal made by the government to update Bill C-56's market study provisions would also keep the framework aligned with international precedents, with countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia all offering various forms of oversight to ensure appropriate use of market study power. Central to this is a test of the abuse of dominance.
    In order to effectively address increasing prices, we need to enhance more than just the bureau's ability to conduct market studies. It is also important that the law be able to hold today's well-resourced and sophisticated businesses to account. In particular, we need to better address large players who, many believe, abuse their market power to shut out competition, especially given the clear concerns raised throughout our consultation about protecting competition in and contestability of these markets.
    There are all different kinds of competition. We could talk about the fact that the big grocery chains have been recording record profits. One would think that if companies are posting record profits, they would be in a position to lower prices in order to attract more market share, but we did not see that, which suggests that something in the free market system is not working as we would normally expect it to work. There are other forms of potential anti-competitive behaviour. The ability to get shelf space in a major grocery store is a real competition, and the grocery stores have the hammer, to use a curling term, to find out who gets the market space. More and more, in my own personal observations when I go into grocery stores, I see the in-store brands taking more and more shelf space, with the other brands effectively being crowded out.
    We believe there has been an unnecessarily high burden to prove behaviours clearly damaging to the public interest. This is out of line with our international partners, by the way, including the United States, the European Union and Australia. These jurisdictions better allocate the burden of proof and allow the agencies to act more easily where harm is apparent. This can include by requiring proof of intent or effects, but not necessarily both. The government's update to Bill C-56 would allow abuse of dominance to be established on the basis of either intent or effects, following the actions of a dominant firm. This would allow for more effective enforcement of the act where there is harmful conduct by large players. It would accomplish what the act is meant to do: stop big businesses from abusing their position to the detriment of competition. The detriment of competition is a detriment to the citizens of Canada.

  (1205)  

    As I noted before, the purpose of remedial orders is to protect competition in the market, not to punish its actors. Recognizing the lower burden involved in securing a remedial order that this change would bring about, the law would limit the remedy in these cases to a prohibition order. More serious remedies, such as monetary penalties and divestiture orders, would continue to require that both anti-competitive intent and effect be proven. This two-tiered approach would help guard against chilling, aggressive competition on the merits.
    The government already took an important first step to address this concern by positioning penalties to serve as more effective compliance measures against abuse of dominance. We did this through the 2022 amendments to the Competition Act that removed an ineffective and outdated cap on monetary penalties. We introduced a more principled approach that could better accommodate larger volumes of commerce. Firms engaged in anti-competitive conduct can now face a penalty set at up to three times the benefit obtained for their anti-competitive conduct, to ensure that it is not profitable to them. While this was an important update to move away from the outdated and ineffective fixed penalty system, the old fixed amounts of $10 million, or $15 million for a second order, still remain in the law. This is in the event that they are still higher than the new proportionate maximum. However, it is possible that these fallback numbers could still be too low to act as a deterrent in certain cases where abuse by a big business is significant but caught early, and thus benefit derived from it is still modest.
    As everyone here knows, competition is a driving force behind innovation and efficiency in our economy. It ensures a healthy, fair and vibrant marketplace. This is what the free market system is supposed to nurture and protect. Of course, competition is instrumental in bringing down prices. The fact that we have not seen prices fall in spite of the dominant profits being recorded by big grocery and some of the producers but that we see things like shrinkflation and skimpflation creeping in, where we are paying more for a smaller or inferior product, means that something is not working. When something is not working between what the market price is and what Canadians value, then we think it is the job of government to come in and close that gap.
    For Canadians, the updates to Bill C-56 would mean more choice and better affordability. When someone needs to pay their bills, the exact motivations or mechanisms behind anti-competitive conduct do not matter. The effect of paying higher prices remains the same. What does matter is that businesses can be held to account. It matters that the law can impose meaningful penalties to ensure compliance. It matters that the Competition Bureau has the information it needs to study problems in the market.
    The updates to Bill C-56 have been prioritized because they are the most directly related to addressing the issues identified in the grocery retail sectors. In fact, if we look at the whole landscape, particularly the concerns about inflation, the two big players to this point, at least in the retail market, have been gas, oil and diesel, and grocery. We have seen the market handle gas and oil, because the prices have been dropping at the pumps, which is a welcome sign for most Canadians, and probably one of the main reasons inflation in Canada has dropped to well less than half of what it was about a year ago. However, the thing to remember is that the provisions in Bill C-56 now, and what is coming, would apply to all sectors of the economy. As such, they would have a broad and, we hope, positive impact.
    These changes would also be just the first steps in responding to the issues that have been identified by the stakeholders and the public in our comprehensive consultation on Canada's competition law. As the government announced in its fall economic statement, it intends to introduce significant additional amendments for the consideration of Parliamentarians in the coming weeks. Perhaps in the question period to come, some of the hon. members here in the chamber can suggest some additional amendments that we should consider in the coming weeks.

  (1210)  

    Madam Speaker, competition is at the front and centre of everyone's minds right now, especially when Canadians are paying the highest grocery bills ever in the history of this nation. Even the report that came out last week said that grocery bills in 2024 are going to go up still another $700 per family, and they are struggling now just to buy the basic necessities.
    Could the member please tell the House what exactly this bill would do to lower that $700 bill per family next year?
    Madam Speaker, to be honest, the hon. member's question is key. The first thing we have to do is really get a firm grasp about what is causing prices to be so high. Hon. members would point to the carbon tax, but there was a report out of the University of Calgary that said, no, that was not really it.
     We would point to the war between Ukraine and Russia, with Ukraine's exports of grains being greatly reduced because of the conflict, which has had a chilling effect on the availability of food around the world that then had an effect on prices. However, it is anti-competitive behaviour at a time when all of the major grocery chains are recording record profits that suggests there is something not working properly in the free market system. That, I think, is the purpose of the Competition Act amendments.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I hope my colleagues in the House are having a good start to their week.
    The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-56, which would refund the GST to builders. What bothers me, however, is that Bill C-56 extends over seven years, so that means the rebate will be spread over seven years. In 2023, it is hard to foresee what is going to happen in a month or six months.
    How can we be sure that a bill like this will be effective when it is going to extend over seven years and plenty of questions remain about the criteria for housing affordability and the desired potential reduction in rent?
    I would like my colleague to comment on that.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the fact is that two years ago we would not have foreseen the situation we face today. The fact is that this is going to be long term. It will intentionally be a forever measure to deal with anti-competitive behaviour in whatever sector it arrives. It is necessary right now to deal with groceries. It will certainly be fundamental in dealing with some of the issues on housing, which the hon. member presented, but it is also going to have to be nimble.
    Over the course of the years to come, the House will have to sit down and consider what is going on in the day, look at the Competition Act and make the changes necessary to ensure that basically everybody in the market is getting a fair shake. That means not only the producers, the grocery stores and the farmers, but also the consumers.
    Madam Speaker, very much related to Bill C-56 is the degree to which corporations are making record profits these days while everyone else seems to be suffering.
    We recently had Galen Weston, chairman of Loblaw, appear before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. His profits continue to rise while everyone else, all Canadian families, especially in my riding, are having to struggle and make do without. We see the same thing in the oil and gas sector. Over the last three years, its profits have gone up by over 1,000%. Mr. Weston thought that his executive compensation, which is 431 times the average salary of one of his workers, is a reasonable amount, and he could not tell the committee how many of his full-time workers have had to access a food bank to get by.
    Conservatives do not want to talk about gross corporate profits these days, but I would like to hear from my hon. colleague what the Liberals are going to do to tackle this corporate culture in which corporations are continuing to make profits while everyone else suffers. We have had 40 years of too much corporate deference in this country. What are they going to do to start turning that around to make sure that the pendulum swings back in favour of Canadian families?

  (1215)  

    Madam Speaker, it is like an onion. There are layers upon layers of things that need to be considered. I would direct him and anybody witnessing this to the Roosevelt Institute in the United States, which is looking at a fundamental rebalancing of the wealth that comes out of the market. That rebalancing will be away from the CEOs, the boards and the executives and more towards the workers. We have seen this in the resurgence of union activity in the country, where unions are again having the opportunity and the ability to assert the rights of working people and skim maybe a little more off of the top of the executive compensation, which has really gone off the rails, I would say, in the last 20 to 30 years.
    This Competition Act amendment is an iterative thing. It will be subject to amendments as we see opportunities to make things better for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, my question to the member concerns both legislative and budgetary measures. On the issue of the affordability of groceries, the government, in the last budget, came forward with a grocery rebate, which literally put cash in the pockets of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 11 million Canadians. I wonder if my colleague can provide his thoughts as to why that was an important thing to do for Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, that question highlights two things. First of all, the strategy generally used by the government has been to ensure that the people who need the help get it. That is the reason, for instance, that we took the Canada child benefit away from millionaires and made it income tested so the people who actually needed the help got it.
    In the case of the grocery rebate, that could not have come at a better time because things such as the Competition Act and this act are all meant to relieve the pressure on people and fix things that are wrong in the market system, and the grocery rebate was something that helped to bridge people earing very low incomes over the hump while all of these elements came together for Bill C-56. I would not discount, perhaps, the need to do that again at some point in the future. I would advocate for it as an individual MP. Of course, it is up to the government to assess the situation and move forward.
    Bill C-56 is meant to solve the problem for which the grocery rebate was a band-aid on a wound that needs healing.
    Madam Speaker, part of the legislation deals with the purpose-built rentals in an attempt to see more rentals being constructed emphasize a good strong public policy. Now we are witnessing other provinces adopting the same approach where PST is also being exempted.
    I wonder if my colleague could provide his thoughts on the federal government working along with the provincial government, with the federal government playing a leadership role, and on how it really makes a difference because we are going to see thousands of new units come on stream in the coming years. Could the member provide his thoughts on that aspect of the legislation and the impact it would have?
    Madam Speaker, my experience with metro Vancouver's transportation authority revealed a number of issues connected to the hon. member's question.
    Municipalities are stressed because, if, for instance, we build new high rises, as we will through our riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells along the new SkyTrain line, which the government is supporting with funding, the municipalities have to keep up with the water, sewer, all of the other infrastructure, schools, parks, recreation centres etc.
    The pattern until now in metro Vancouver has been for new growth to pay for new growth. The could easily erase the benefits of the removal of the GST and the PST on purpose-built rental units. Therefore, with respect to the support that we are offering and want to offer, and in addition to the partnerships that we have with the provinces, we need to factor in our municipalities as partners as well because they are left holding a pretty large bill that also needs to be satisfied if this is going to be a success.

  (1220)  

    Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to share my time with the hon. member for Lévis—Lotbinière.

[Translation]

    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to split his time?
    Hon. members Agreed.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I can speak for 20, 30 or 40 minutes about this important topic. I am happy to stand in the House today on the report stage of Bill C-56.
    We have been talking about competition quite a bit in the House, including the need for competition and the lack of competition. We know that Canada has a competition problem. We see it in every sector that Canadians are a part of, including cell phones, banking, groceries, wireless and Internet. There is not really any sector in the Canadian economy that is not dominated by oligopolies and monopolies.
    When this bill came along, we looked at it favourably because certain aspects were going to be improved. Mostly we looked at it favourably because there were Conservative aspects that were part of it, including my private member's bill, which was read into the act. Of course, I have a new private member's bill. We are all happy for that, and we are moving on.
    The crux of the bill, the affordable housing and groceries act, is really anticlimactic in that, when this bill receives royal assent and becomes law, it will not really change the fact that Canadians are still paying the highest grocery fees and are in the worst housing crisis in this country's history. That is because the bill does promise to make some changes to the Competition Act. This bill would do some minor tinkering around the edges for what we need to have changed in the Competition Act. However, it does not do the real hard work. It does not have the courage to change the real things that need to happen to change competition in Canada.
    The bill would enact Competition Act changes. It would certainly make some provisions and changes to the abuse of dominance. It looks at illuminating the efficiencies defence, which was in my private member's bill that came forward. It looks at how market studies should be handled by the Competition Bureau itself.
    However, when it comes to the real aspects that are hurting consumers at the grocery store right now, where they are paying 20% more for groceries after eight years of the Liberal-NDP government, it does not tackle the biggest aspect, which is the carbon tax. The carbon tax is added to the farmer, to the trucker, to the manufacturer, to the cold storage facility, so it is added one, two, three, four times to the consumer bill and passed on to the consumer.
    It certainly does not tackle the fact that, when it comes to housing in Canada, we are building fewer homes now than we did in 1972, when we have over 40 million Canadians in this country right now. It certainly does not tackle the fact that, because of high inflation after eight years, the costs of everything have gone up, including building materials and labour for homes. The fact is that over the years, we have built up a big barrier of what we call Nimbyism, protecting our backyards from others so that we cannot build homes.
    Consumers are stretched. Mortgage renewals are coming due. Over 70% of Canadians with a fixed mortgage will have to renew their mortgage over the next two years, this during the fastest run-up of interest rates in the whole history of this country.
    The carbon tax had unintended consequences, and consumers are screaming. They were promised that they would get more back in rebates than they put in. However, the unintended consequences have been that those carbon taxes have added costs to grocery bills. Those added costs are on the price of almost everything that Canadians are paying. They see the rebate in their hands, compared to the bills they are paying each and every day, and Canadians are smart. They now know that they are paying way more in those carbon taxes than they are getting in rebates. After eight years of the Liberal-NDP government, Canadians cannot afford any more.
    We have looked at competition, and we have looked at the two parts of the act that we need to solidify. One is to put a stranglehold on how big the big, bossy, dominant conglomerates, oligopolies and monopolies can get in Canada. Canadians have had enough, whether it is cell phone bills, where we have three companies that control 90% of all cell phones in Canada, which are the most expensive three carriers out of 128 carries in 64 countries, or whether it is groceries, where we used to have competition in Canada. Eight grocery stores used to run and compete with one another, driving prices lower. It is now down to only three Canadian companies competing with two American conglomerates. They used to all be Canadian competitors. We used to be able to go to different stores. Now Canadians find that they oftentimes going to the same competitors.

  (1225)  

    Obviously, prices have not gone down, and this is only after the last eight years with a Competition Act that was outdated. It has certainly outlived its prime, since the Competition Act was created based on the 1960s industrial policy, which said, “We want Canadian companies to get as big as possible to compete internationally.” It is actually in the purpose clause of the Competition Act right now to make Canadian companies as big as possible so that they can compete internationally. This is what we deem as competition. When it comes to competition, we want more companies to compete, not internationally but to compete for Canadians' dollars. Canadian companies should not be able to make all of their money on the backs of hard-working Canadians; Canadian companies need to compete with one another for Canadians' hard-earn tax dollar.
     The breadth of this Competition Act, which needs to be changed, is the premise and the purpose of the Competition Act. Number one, we need to ensure that big-box conglomerates and corporations cannot get bigger on the backs of hard-working Canadians. However, the second and most important aspect of the Competition Act is to ensure that we have competition or that we have start-ups in Canada.
    Canada now, according to the BDC, has 100,000 fewer entrepreneurs compared to 20 years ago, despite our population increasing by over 10 million people. Canada has failed to create competition. We can look at one aspect to say that we would really love to make sure that we stifle the top monopolies and oligopolies and make sure that they cannot merge with one another, but the other big problem we have missed along the way is to have start-ups created to compete with one another. It used to be that Canada was the bastion for that, and we were able to find start-ups and have great Canadian companies start up and grow in scale, but for the first time in our history, we have fewer start-ups per capita than ever before, after eight years of this government.
    When we talk about new jobs and creating wealth in this country, which is something I am afraid we are going to have to speak about a lot over the next year, we look to small business and start-ups to fulfill that role. Ninety-seven per cent of all new jobs in Canada are created by small business. When we look at the complexity and the value of these small businesses, the men and women who can take a risk and start something new in Canada, right now what we are missing most of all is to ensure that we create those jobs and businesses in this nation.
    At the end of the day, we have to really look at what this bill would do and what it would not do. We are certainly going to vote for this legislation. At the end of the day, the Competition Bureau itself has been ignored for the last eight years. Coincidentally, the first time that this government starts talking about it is when the opposition leader names a competition shadow minister for the first time in government, which looks at the importance of what competition can do for the nation and what it means for Canadians. Of course, the first thing it means is prices, and the second thing is our jobs and paycheques. We can create new start-ups and new businesses.
    For instance, when we look at the banking sector, the biggest thing we are trying to put forward is consumer-led or open banking. There is an opportunity, where this government has been dragging its feet, to create hundreds upon hundreds of financial tech institutions that can not only create jobs and paycheques for Canadians, but provide options for Canadians of where to put their hard-earned money when it comes to financial services in Canada. I would hope that through this, and we will be talking about it when we get back in January, the government introduces the legislation that it promised in 2018.
    More importantly, as Bill C-56, the affordable housing and groceries act, comes forth, Canadians are going to be angry about how anti-climactic it will be. Grocery prices are not going to go down after the bill passes, nor will our housing crisis be solved. It would do something important for the Competition Act, but not nearly enough to undo what has already been done. Most importantly, it would not create the start-ups that have stopped, the start-ups that can drive housing starts and create more options and more food in the value chain.
    We need boldness, and we need courage. We need a new government to present policy that would actually create homes and grow food without punishing our farmers in this country. It is time to bring it home for farmers, for our country and for Canadians looking for a home of their own.

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy here. The member talked about, at the beginning of his speech, the idea of competition and said that the Conservatives want competition. Then he talked about the big five. The last time there was actually an amalgamation of grocery stores, when a grocery store was bought up, was with Shoppers under Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper and the member's current leader allowed Shoppers, through billions of dollars, to be consumed by Loblaws.
    Then the member stands up and says that they want more competition. Where was the member when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, let alone today's leader of the Conservative Party? They were nowhere when it came to competition. Why should Canadians believe that anything has changed with the Conservative Party, when its members consistently vote against good, solid policy initiatives?
    Madam Speaker, let us talk about hypocrisy, then, for a minute. Here are the mergers that have been approved by the Competition Bureau since the Trudeau government has been in power: Air Canada was approved to buy—
    I remind the hon. member that he is not to use the name of parliamentarians who sit in the House.
    The hon. member for Bay of Quinte can continue.
    I am sorry, Madam Speaker. I did not even realize I did that.
    Here are the mergers that have gone through: Air Canada and Air Transat in 2019, approved by the Competition Bureau; Rogers and Shaw in 2022; RBC approved to buy HSBC in 2023; WestJet buying Sunwing in 2022; Superior Propane buying Canexus in 2018; and Sobeys approved to buy Farm Boy in 2018. The hypocrisy knows no bounds.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke at length about one of the two aspects of the current debate on Bill C-56, which amends the Competition Act, among other things. We agree; it is not going to solve every problem.
    The other aspect this bill addresses is housing, in particular the GST on rental housing. It touches on this other problem that we have heard a lot about and that is a real scourge this year: housing.
    What my colleague did not mention is that the only solution his party has proposed so far on the housing issue is a bill introduced by his leader, a bill that is essentially designed to show cities some tough love and tell them that funding will be cut if they do not meet their targets.
    That is not what cities, particularly those in my riding, need to successfully address the housing issue. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, housing is very important. Speaking as a former municipal councillor, I know the buck really falls with the municipalities. There is a provincial act that oversees the municipal act itself, but it does come down to the municipalities to be able to push things forward, and that is the Nimbyism I have point out.
    I am going to talk about some stats that came out today, and this is after eight years of the government. The Rentals.ca December rent report confirmed that while American rents are beginning to stabilize, Canadian rents remain at record highs. The average rent increased 8.4% this year. “One-bedroom apartment annual rent growth remained strongest”, with an average of $1,943. There are people in Toronto who are renting the other side of the bed; that is how bad it has become.
    We believe we need to incentivize but also reward municipalities for pushing through rental and construction as a whole. We believe that as party, and I believe that as a former municipal politician.
    There are so many times when it is easy for a municipal politician to vote down a rental agreement or a plan that comes forward. We need to find ways to incentivize municipalities that are getting things done, especially around high-density transit, especially where we need housing and especially where we need rental.

  (1235)  

    Madam Speaker, another point the member did not talk about when he talked about how much they would love to get rid of the price on pollution is the rebate. The rebate ensures that over 80% of people get more money back than they pay in with regard to the price on pollution. Could the member be very clear on whether he supports Canadians getting the environmental rebate?
    Madam Speaker, yes, members I have talked to are all looking forward to the rebate when we axe the tax and get rid of all the tax they are paying. Canadians know when they go to the grocery store now that they are seeing the increase because the farmers and the manufacturers and the truckers have all incurred increases and are passing them on. Why are food prices the highest they have ever been in the history of Canada? It is because of the carbon tax. Canadians want that tax off. Let us axe the tax.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for sharing his time with me.
    After eight years of this Liberal Prime Minister, inflation has reached its highest level in 40 years. I can say that I would not want to be in the shoes of the Liberal government right now.
    Salaries of middle-class Canadians no longer cover even housing, which has doubled, and groceries, which are predicted to rise even more this year. Increasing numbers of people rely on food banks, and children have almost nothing in their school lunch boxes, which is a crying shame.
    The effects of drug legislation are being felt. The increase in addiction rates is harming families and our sense of security. This is where we have landed, thanks to the wildly reckless spending of this Prime Minister and his spendthrift government, which attempts to buy votes with wishful thinking. He wants people to forget the disaster he has caused to those who can no longer make ends meet.
    Let us not mince words. We will all pay for this Liberal government's disastrous policies over the next 25 or 30 years. Let us be frank in the House. We now find ourselves with a failed Prime Minister, a failed government, public spending in the red, and a society that is being unwittingly bankrupted, and no longer knows how it is going to pay its grocery bills.
    I would like to be reassuring, but how can we continue to have faith given the scale of the challenges before us each day and the financial threat that looms over so many households? As the Prime Minister says, we will continue doing this, that or the other. Well, empty words no longer work.
    This is truly scandalous, without a doubt. In eight years of governing, only the Liberals could think of this and pull off such a thing. Since 2006, I have proudly represented the people of Lévis—Lotbinière. The previous Conservative government was responsible and had a vision for our young people, our future and our economy.
    The sad reality is that this bill resolves absolutely nothing while increasing public spending and taxes. Years ago the Liberal government should have put in place new housing measures and certain measures to reduce the cost of groceries. Homelessness is now a reality for hard-working people who, not so long ago, could afford housing. Faced with $20 billion in new costly spending, we were quickly walked through this mini-budget in the fall. Prices are going up, rents are going up, the debt is going up, and taxes are going up. What about the price of groceries? That is going up too. More than $20 billion in new inflationary spending will keep inflation and interest rates at a higher level than Canadians can afford to pay.
    The end of the year is approaching, and the honeymoon with this Liberal government is definitely over. I wonder what the Prime Minister will be thinking on his next trip while he is lying on the beach in the sun. We hope that this time the trip will be at his own expense. What will he think of the sad reality of people who have trouble affording a turkey for Christmas, putting presents under the tree, if there is one, heating their homes, or putting gas in their vehicles? Many Canadians and Quebeckers will find that 2024 is going to be as harsh as this winter, especially since the government is proposing to raise taxes on the backs of the middle class. Ironically, there is a lot to be stressed about: Next year this Prime Minister will spend more money on servicing the debt than on paying for Canadians' health care.
    As for balancing the budget, maybe that will happen in 30 years, because it has become a mirage. Members may recall that the Liberal government told Canadians they would balance the budget by 2028. Since the Minister of Finance announced that pious wish, she has announced $100 billion in new expenses. Even though we need millions of new housing units by 2030, the government, which has been scrimping on important issues since it came to power, announced this fall it would spend $15 billion on a fund that will support the construction of barely 1,500 housing units a year. I would like to remind the government that 2030 is only six years away. That is not very long, except for the people who have to sleep outside or those who have been paying double for housing since the Liberal ice age.
    Now more than ever, it is clear that this bill does nothing to help ordinary Canadians. Even worse, Canadians are becoming even poorer.

  (1240)  

    We have seen what this Liberal government has gotten wrong. Here are a few facts to help convince my colleagues. There were a record two million visits to the food bank in a single month. The cost of housing has doubled. Mortgage payments are 150% higher now than when this government came to power. Violent crime has increased by 39%. There are tent cities in almost every major city in Canada, and a lot of the people who live there are people we know. More than half of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. Canadians who renew their mortgage at the current rate will see an increase of 2% to 6% or more. The IMF says that Canada is the G7 country most likely to experience a mortgage default crisis. Worse yet, the business bankruptcy rate increased by 37% this year.
    While Canadians are up to their necks in debt and there is no foreseeable miracle forthcoming from the Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition, we are trying to find a way back to a common-sense solution, a way of really being heard to mitigate the daily suffering of people across the country. I said I have been a legislator since 2006. I can say that I am not the only one to long for a government that knows how to count and invest every one of Canadian taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. A lot of people were deceived by the siren song of the Liberals’ promises, and we are all paying the price now. This also proves that voting for the Bloc is costly.
    They can say anything they want across the aisle and talk about the horrors of going backwards, but this country needs a Conservative government to put it back on track. We need to understand that our country was doing well, very well, actually, before this Liberal government came to power. Let us remember the interest and inflation rates before this Prime Minister. They were low. Taxes dropped faster than at any other time in our country’s history. We had a balanced budget. Crime was down 25%. Our borders were secure. Housing cost half of what it does today. Net wages increased by 10% after inflation and income tax. What are we seeing now? It is a disaster. Many Canadians will have to wait up to 25 years to save enough money to buy their first house and, for many of them, home ownership is an impossible dream.
    The legacy the Liberals are leaving us is a world upside down. Come the next election, voters will have two options. The first is a costly Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition that will take taxpayers' money, raise taxes, and enable more crime. The second option is a common-sense Conservative government that will enable people to earn a bigger paycheque to buy groceries, gas and a home in a safe community. The choice is obvious. Let us just hope that our country can hold on until then.
    With last fall's mini-budget, we are going to pay more taxes, because the government raised the carbon tax across the country. It is going to quadruple. That does not make any sense, and it is truly outrageous. Bill C-234 would give Canadian taxpayers a little breathing room by eliminating the carbon tax for Canadian farmers. That would bring down food prices in Canada. When the government taxes the farmers who grow food and the truckers who transport it, Canadians have to pay more to put food on the table. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change promised to resign if this bill were passed. He is not thinking about those who are struggling to make ends meet at the end of every week.
    Will the Prime Minister choose to save his environment minister or to feed Canadians by lowering the cost of food through Bill C-234, which must be passed but is stuck in the Senate because of the Prime Minister's machinations? The choice is easy and obvious. Let us help our farmers and all Canadians.

  (1245)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, as an FYI to the member, this bill is not about what he talked about. What he needs to recognize is that one of the big initiatives in this legislation would exempt purpose-built rentals from GST, a good, sound policy. I suspect that the Conservatives might vote in favour of that. After all, we have now seen provinces get on board. A number of provinces are doing likewise for the PST.
    The federal government is leading on the housing issue, and I am wondering if my Conservative friend can explain why we as a national government today lead on housing-related issues, whereas the Conservatives in the past, under their current leader, did absolutely nothing when it came to housing in Canada.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, let me remind the government that what little it has fixed when it comes to housing in Canada is only a drop in the ocean.
    The government promised $15 billion in loans and to possibly build 1,500 more housing units per year when millions more are needed. With the Liberals, it will take 2,500 years to get to where we want to be. We will need between 4 and 5 million more housing units by 2030. With the Liberal government, that is an unattainable target.
    Madam Speaker, when it comes to housing, the Conservatives made cuts too and did not invest enough in social and community housing, which is what is needed.
    That said, how does my colleague from Quebec deal with the fact that his Conservative colleague was shown on Infoman to have taken some liberties with the truth—to keep things parliamentary—on the carbon tax, according to independent journalists?
    This morning, we learned that independent economists raised red flags regarding the Conservative leader's so-called documentary. They said that his viral video—again, I am trying to keep things parliamentary—lacked in correctness and used arguments that are much too simplistic for such a serious crisis.
    Madam Speaker, I am going to talk about actual facts.
    I have five children. Around 10 years ago, my oldest daughter bought a house for about $150,000. Seven years ago, my second daughter bought a house. It cost an additional $100,000. Three years ago, my son bought a house that cost an extra $100,000 on top of that. It cost him $350,000. My two youngest are barely able to rent a place because house prices have shot up past $450,000, $550,000 and $650,000 in the space of half a generation.
    When the Conservatives were in government, young people could buy and build a home. Today, in the Liberal era, it is impossible to even rent a home. Imagine that. These are the facts and this is reality. My family has lived it. This is what every Canadian family is experiencing today.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the Liberals in the House have been crowing about removing the GST on housing construction. I find it ironic, and would ask my colleague to comment on this, that they talk about making life more affordable by removing GST on housing yet the government has refused to remove the carbon tax on groceries, on everything we produce in this country and on gasoline.
    I would ask my colleague to comment on the apparent contradiction between the Liberal government's intent to make life more affordable by removing the GST on housing and the fact that it will not axe the tax.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. The carbon tax is a totally hypocritical tax for all Canadians. It increases the price of everything, everything that is transported. All of our goods and services are transported all over Canada several times, and everyone keeps a cut. That is how we end up with two-by-fours going from $3 each to $12 each, and fruits and vegetables going from maybe 35¢ a pound to $1.50 a pound.
    This is never going to end. We need to get rid of the carbon tax, because that will lower the cost of everything.
    Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
    One second, I need to seek unanimous consent.
     Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Madam Speaker, this is the first time in two years that I have gotten the unanimous consent of the House, and I am proud of it. Before beginning my speech, I would like to make one thing clear. This is not a case of the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberal Party standing together. It is the Conservatives that stand alone. That is not the same thing.
    Today we will be discussing Bill C-56, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act. I will be talking mostly about that last part of the bill, in terms of both its technical points and its rationale. Before we begin, though, we always need to establish what we are talking about. What is competition? It means coming together and converging on the same point. That is what competition is. It is not necessarily a bad thing. However, what is the motivation for coming together? What is the purpose? Is it good or bad? As members of Parliament, our objective must be commendable, because we obviously have the public interest at heart.
    In one amendment, the bill would increase the maximum monetary penalty for abuse of a dominant position to $25 million for the first offence and $35 million for subsequent offences. The aim is to give the law teeth, to make sure that it will not be taken lightly, that people will not think that they can get away with a slap on the wrist. This provision also makes Canadian law more comparable to U.S. law, of course.
    The second important amendment in the part on competition would allow the Competition Bureau to conduct market study inquiries if the minister responsible for the act or the commissioner of competition so recommends, and would require the minister to consult the commissioner before doing so.
    The Competition Bureau already has significant powers, but it cannot demand certain things from the people it is investigating. It cannot request a search unless there is a clear offence. It cannot request a search just to look around. It cannot make assumptions. All of us here know that groceries are expensive and that we pay the highest cellphone fees in the OECD. It does not take a genius to realize that the commissioner might want to investigate these things.
    When it conducts a study, the bureau will have to determine whether there is adequate competition in a market or industry. Right now, it does not have that power in every industry. What the Competition Bureau can do at present is all right, but it is not necessarily the best thing right now. It may have been sufficient at the time, but now it needs to be enhanced.
    In its report on the state of competition in the grocery sector, published in June, the bureau noted that the grocery chains did not really co-operate with its study. I like that euphemism: “did not really co-operate”. They said no, which is not the same thing, and the Competition Bureau, with its current powers, could not make them say yes. They refused to provide the documents the bureau asked for, and they refused to answer certain questions. My colleagues will no doubt agree that there are many shades of meaning between “did not really co-operate” and “refused to answer”. The aim of Bill C-56 is to solve this problem by granting the Competition Bureau the power to conduct inquiries where applicable.
     Lastly, the bill would revise the legal test for abuse of a dominant position prohibition order to be sufficiently met if the tribunal finds that a dominant player has engaged in either a practice of anti-competitive acts or conduct that is having or is likely to have the effect of preventing competition. That is the technical part of the bill. However, when someone drafts a bill, they need to think about why they are doing it, what they are trying to accomplish.
    The purpose of the Competition Act is to ensure that Quebec and Canadian consumers have freedom of choice. We sometimes talk about monopolies. What is a monopoly? It is an exclusive right. What does “exclusive” mean? It means doing everything possible to keep others out. It means restricting, refusing, blocking, rejecting. Exclusivity means limiting access. It is almost like a secret agreement.
    The bill also seeks to prevent stakeholders from abusing a dominant market position. To dominate means to master, to control. In the past minute, I have talked about refusing, blocking, mastering, controlling, exclusive rights. All of this goes against the free market that this country promises, that it says it has, but that is sometimes, in reality, only an illusion.

  (1255)  

    Essentially, the drafters of the bill wanted the Competition Bureau to have more power, the power to provide us with freedom of choice, the power to investigate where appropriate until it is satisfied that it can make this possible.
    As I said at the beginning of my speech, competition means getting together and converging on the same point. If that is not possible, if certain players dominating a market prevent that from happening, we are being deprived of our freedom of choice. It is a sort of manipulation. It is a sort of lie.
    Without calling anyone a liar, we can still talk about what a lie is, here in the House of Commons. A lie from someone in a dominant position may prevent someone else from doing something they would have done had they known the truth. Lies imply secrecy. Monopolies imply secrecy. It is this secrecy that this bill seeks to eliminate so that everyone can exercise freedom.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciated the comments about the bureau and how when we think of competition and enhancing competition, making changes to the act would, in fact, take away the efficiency argument.
    Therefore, I believe, at the end of the day, it would be healthier for Canadians because it would ensure there is more competition. The member made reference to cellphones. Whether it is cellphones or groceries, taking away the efficiency argument within this legislation, I believe, would help address that going forward.
    Can he expand on why it was good to see changes to the legislation affecting the bureau?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, those who hold monopolies or exclusive rights do not need to be good at what they do. They just have to be there. At the end of the day, they can charge whatever they want, with whatever conditions they want, to whoever they want. They do not have to sell to everyone if they do not want to.
    The law will need to improve the efficiency of service providers, because they will not have the luxury of serving a passive and captive clientele.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, all the legislation in the world and all the regulations in the world will not help us make our environment and economy more competitive if we do not have a government that has the backbone to say no to anti-competitive mergers. There have been a lot of mergers over the last eight years that the Liberal government has approved, and those mergers have reduced competition in the marketplace here in Canada.
    Has the Bloc supported those mergers or does it support a more cautious approach to making sure Canadians have full competition, so the price of groceries and the price of housing go down in this country?

  (1300)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, competition is for oil companies too. Funny how the price of gas never goes down, only up.
    Regulation is not always a cure-all, but it is the right solution in this case because the players are not trustworthy. If they were, we might be inclined to let them self-regulate, but they have shown that that was not good enough, particularly when they refused to answer questions from the Competition Bureau.
    I think that the proposed legislation seeks to restore consumer confidence in the bureau's services. I do not believe that there will be a loss of efficiency. I think that we will see increased efficiency, because the players will have no other choice.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, as I have pointed out previously, another aspect of the legislation is to increase the number of purpose-built rentals to increase housing supply. What we have witnessed, and I mentioned earlier, is provinces adopting the same policies where they are incorporating sales tax relief to encourage more construction. I am not too sure what the Province of Quebec has done.
    Does the member know what the Province of Quebec has done with respect to the GST being forgiven for purpose-built rentals?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will respond candidly and honestly: I simply do not know.
    If my colleague so desires, I can look into it and get back to him later. At this point, I could not say.
    Madam Speaker, on many occasions I had the fortune or the misfortune to observe that when a member of the Bloc Québécois uses the old expression “it is about time” in the House, most of the time, unfortunately, it is a euphemism. Unsurprisingly, that old saying “it is about time” applies well to the bill before us today.
    Currently, when the Competition Bureau studies the competitive environment in a given sector, it cannot compel anyone to testify or order the production of documents. That is not very convenient. However, with the passage of the Bill C‑56, it will be able to do so. When I say it is about time, that is because the Bloc has been calling for this measure for a good 20 years.
    On the other hand, I would be lying if I said that Bill C‑56 did not lack teeth. I will spoil the surprise right away: I will vote in favour of Bill C‑56 like my Bloc Québécois colleagues. Here are the reasons why. This bill contains some good measures. Most of all, it does not contain any that are outright harmful. Let us just say that I expected more. For me, this is just a drop in an ocean of needs. Now I will explain my thoughts in greater detail.
    Part 1 of Bill C‑56 modifies the Excise Tax Act. It extends a GST rebate, 5% of the sales tax, to builders of rental housing. The rebate will occur at the moment of sale or alleged sale if the builder becomes the owner. The rebate does not apply when the purchaser is already entirely or partially exempt. For example, this is the case for government organizations, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations or housing co-ops. That means that Bill C‑56 will have no impact on the cost of social or community housing projects because it concerns only private housing.
    Part 2 makes three amendments to the Competition Act. The first, as I said earlier, gives real investigative powers to the commissioner of competition. The second broadens the range of anti-competitive practices prohibited by law. At present, competitors cannot agree to push another player out of the market. Bill C‑56 will prohibit agreements even with non-market players aimed at reducing competition. For example, when a grocer rents space in a shopping centre, it is common for the lease to contain clauses prohibiting the landlord from renting to another grocer. Such practices that effectively limit competition will be prohibited under Bill C‑56.
    The third amendment to the Competition Act will make mergers and acquisitions more difficult. Today, when a business wants to buy a competitor, for example the Royal Bank's proposed acquisition of HSBC, the act states that the Competition Bureau should allow the merger if it can be proven that the purchase will result in a gain in efficiency, even if the merger will reduce competition. This provision, which appears to favour concentration, will be repealed by Bill C‑56. The Bloc Québécois and my colleague, the member from Terrebonne, have been asking for this measure for some time now.
    As I said at the start of my speech, Bill C‑56 contains a number of good measures and, more importantly, none that are outright harmful. However, I also said I believe it is but a drop in an ocean of needs.
    In housing, there is real urgency. However, nothing indicates Bill C‑56 will do anything to reduce rents. It would be astonishing if a landlord dropped rents just because they no longer had to pay the GST on a new property, especially since interest rates alone are driving up mortgage costs. This increase will greatly exceed the GST exemption on new rental units. When landlords renew their mortgage, who will they pass the increase on to? The question is rhetorical. We can expect prices will keep rising, with or without Bill C‑56. At best, by removing the tax on rental buildings, Bill C‑56 might entice some developers to build rentals instead of condos. It might simply become more profitable for them. Again, this is just speculation.
    Although Bill C‑56 will not directly affect rents, it could help alleviate the housing shortage in some small measure. If Bill C‑56 increases the percentage of new rental housing construction even a little, it will be a good thing. However, we would still be light years away from meeting needs.
    I repeat: There are some good things in this bill, such as the amendments to the Competition Act. The Bloc Québécois fully endorses those. On the other hand, we consider it misleading to claim that the bill will help lower the cost of groceries, as the government suggests.

  (1305)  

    Giving the commissioner of competition real investigative powers when carrying out a study should enable him to get to the bottom of things when it comes to the competitive environment in a given sector. That is very true. Now, learning more about an issue is a good thing, but it does not increase competition and it certainly does not bring down grocery costs.
    Since 1986, the vast majority of grocery chains have disappeared, after being bought out by competitors. Steinberg disappeared. A&P disappeared. Provigo was bought by Loblaws. IGA was bought by Sobeys. Marché Adonis was bought by Metro. Of the 13 grocery chains that existed in 1986, only three remain. If we include the two American big box stores that also sell groceries, Costco and Walmart, that means that five players control 80% of the market.
    While it is true that a number of factors are contributing to the increase in food prices, it is important not to lose sight of the grocers' profit margins. When prices go up, profits go up. However, according to the Competition Bureau study published last June, grocers did not just maintain their profit margin, they increased it.
    When a merchant can raise prices at will, it is a blatant sign of a lack of competition. The amendments to the Competition Act found in Bill C‑56 will certainly prevent the situation from worsening, and they will make mergers and acquisitions harder to do in the future. However, they do not resolve the situation. The damage is done and, unfortunately, Bill C‑56 will do nothing to fix it.
    In short, even though Bill C‑56 does put forward some good measures, this cannot possibly be the government's one and only response to the skyrocketing cost of housing and groceries. When it comes to housing, the government needs to review and improve the national housing strategy, which, let us face it, has failed.
    In terms of competition, they need to review the notion of abuse to prevent the big players from endlessly profiting from their disproportionate market share. Those two initiatives must be undertaken, and we are just starting both, whether Bill C‑56 passes or not.
    To end my speech, I would like to say the following. The Bloc Québécois's support for Bill C‑56 is certainly not a motion to congratulate the government, quite the contrary. However, we do see it as a step in the right direction. The Bloc Québécois's support today is like a pat on the back. It is like a nod of the head, but coupled with a “what comes next?”.
    I suspect that I may have to wait awhile before the government actually takes any further action, but I hope I will not have to wait too long.

  (1310)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully as the member described the steps we are taking as a federal government to try and alleviate some of the pressure in the rental market. The rental market is generally under provincial jurisdiction, which I know the Bloc watches very carefully.
    Removing the GST in a time of high interest rates is to try and stimulate construction, create conditions where there are more units to rent and introduce competition in the rental market and, therefore, drive down prices. That is the move we are trying to make as a federal government.
    Could the hon. member comment on how creating the right conditions in the market might actually help the people of Quebec?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.
    The problem that we have with this provision, which seeks to eliminate the GST on the construction of rental housing, is that the government is making assumptions. The government is trusting the private sector to bring prices down. It is always a bit risky to trust the private sector to lower prices. There is nothing to guarantee that, once the rental units have been built, private builders will pass those savings on to renters in the form of lower rental costs. The government is making assumptions.
    That is why we do not think that this is the answer to the problem we are facing. However, as I said in my speech, this measure could result in the construction of more rental units, which would reduce pressure on the market by increasing availability, but there is no guarantee of that. The government is hoping that is what will happen if it implements this measure, but we are not convinced that it will have such a major impact on lowering rent. In fact, we are not convinced that that will happen at all. That being said, we will not vote against Bill C‑56, because it contains good measures and nothing harmful.
    Madam Speaker, for the most part, I agree with my colleague's observations and analysis.
    I am not suggesting that removing the GST from rental housing construction is a bad measure. It was one of our proposals as well. However, I agree that this measure alone is not going to solve the housing crisis that has been going on since 1994, when the federal government completely pulled out of building truly affordable social housing.
    I would like to hear his thoughts about the fact that the real solution is non-market housing, such as co-ops, community housing, student housing and, most importantly, social housing.
    Madam Speaker, the member for Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie and I generally agree on that.
    Quebec is a unique ecosystem. In fact, we call that a distinct society, a nation. The co-operative system is rather unique in Quebec, at least in terms of the number of co-operatives that exist in Quebec.
    Housing falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec. Social and affordable housing requires funding. As usual, Ottawa knows best and it is interfering in a jurisdiction that is not its responsibility. The federal government does not have the expertise, but it has the money because of the fiscal imbalance and because all of the revenues are in Ottawa and all the expenses are in Quebec and the provinces.
    We are asking Ottawa to send money to Quebec, the provinces and the territories who have the expertise in affordable and social housing. Then things will go much smoother. That being said, there is an even more radical solution that would be even better and would practically solve everything: if the federal government stayed out of Quebec and we had all the power over such matters. If we were a country, the housing situation would be lot better.

  (1315)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-56 once again and maybe take a stab at addressing some of the issues that have come up in debate. I will start just by saying, first of all, that New Democrats, of course, support this legislation.
    What we said at the beginning in respect to housing was that it is good to increase supply but that it is not just any increase in supply that is going to help with the housing crisis. We have to be concerned about the various kinds of housing along the way and ensure that we are increasing supply in all parts of the housing spectrum where there is need. Of course, there is a need for more market-based, purpose-built rental and eliminating the GST off purpose-built rental is a way to incent the development of more market rent apartments. This will be great for Canadians who can afford market rent, which is certainly a smaller percentage of Canadians than it was just a short time ago. Nevertheless, for those who can afford it, are looking for it and cannot find it, more market supply will certainly be helpful.
    However, we cannot wash our hands of the issue and think that the work is done simply because we have brought in a measure to incent the development of more market-based housing. A lot of other Canadians out there will not be able to access that market housing; nevertheless, they need to be housed, deserve to be housed and, as far as I am concerned, should have an enforceable right to be housed in Canada. That is why, from the word go, when this bill was introduced, New Democrats said that this on its own would not be enough. We want to see the government accompany this legislation with some measures for development of non-market housing, which does not always mean affordable or social housing. Non-market housing can be provided at market rents. We see that in some co-ops that choose to offer market rent suites to those who can afford them and, at the same time, offer some affordable rents or social rents, where rent is actually geared to folks' income. Therefore, it is only ever a percentage of their income. It does not eat up the entirety of a household's budget.
    All this is to say that incenting more market supply is not enough. This bill would do that. It is one component of addressing the housing crisis. There is a lot more to do. New Democrats were certainly disappointed in the fall economic statement for not having been more ambitious on that front. There was a billion dollars announced for a replenishment of the coinvestment fund, but the fact that this replenishment does not come until 2025 is a serious issue. I think it is a sign that the government still does not understand the extent to which we need to confront the housing crisis in Canada with a serious sense of urgency.
    Other housing that we need to look at, whether market or non-market, is housing to be able to address the concerns of many indigenous communities across Canada. I just want to take a moment to recognize the good work that my colleagues from Nunavut have done, both the current member for Nunavut and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who was the MP for Nunavut in the last Parliament. She spent a considerable amount of time travelling through her riding, the territory of Nunavut, documenting the serious housing need there: the overcrowding, the mould and the dilapidated condition of a lot of housing that has been built. I think it is important to note that taking the GST off purpose-built rental is not going to do a thing for folks in Nunavut and small remote communities, where there is not an abundance of contractors waiting to build housing. They are not looking to go there as a market.
    We have talked a lot about the competition space, whether it is telecoms, grocery companies, banks, fossil fuel companies, where we have these oligopolies that have developed in Canada. Members can just name the market. We can talk about better competition policy until we are blue in the face. If we are talking about grocery prices at the one grocery store in a rural community where people have to drive hundreds of kilometres just to get to the next grocery store, the fact is that improving the competition framework is not going to do a lot in respect to pricing in a community like that. Taking the GST off purpose-built rental is not going to do a lot to incent the development of new housing in small and remote communities in Nunavut. That is why we have to go outside just thinking about the market and how to incent market players. What do we hope they will do? It is not profitable in the way that they are used to making profit in a place such as Toronto, Vancouver or even Winnipeg or Halifax.

  (1320)  

    It is not profitable to build up there, and folks certainly do not have the money to pay to make it profitable for somebody to build up there. However, we need people to do so. That is why we need good public policy that is not dependent on just trying to provide little carrots for profit-seeking companies in the market.
    It is not that they are doing anything wrong. They are not bad people for not wanting to move their business from downtown Toronto, where they develop condos, to Nunavut and start building appropriate housing for people in small, remote northern communities.
    We should not expect people to do that all on their own; however, one needs public policy in the context of a strategy that includes addressing workforce needs and training up local people to have skills. Such a strategy includes having the funding required, when they are done building homes in one community, to move that infrastructure and the people to the next community to do some of that building and to share those skills. It also includes having what amounts to an economic development plan that is about putting indigenous people back in charge of their own communities while ensuring that they have the resources to do something with their skills as they develop them.
    The market is not going to do that. It is not meant to do that, nor is it interested in doing that.
    We get up and talk a lot about these things. People say that we do not care about entrepreneurs, business or risk-taking. That is not true, but we understand the limits of it.
    There is an intellectual and administrative laziness that permeates the Liberal and Conservative parties, where they would rather just pretend as though somehow, if one gives the market enough of a free hand, it will fix all these problems. It is not true.
    The market is not designed to fix certain kinds of problems. Sometimes, the very problems that it is not designed to fix are some of the most important problems. The people who, not wrongly, but we all make choices, decide to live their life seeking profit in the market are not interested in solving these problems, because there is no money to be made in solving them in that way. However, they are life and death problems.
    The problem of housing in Nunavut is killing people right now. It is making it impossible for them to get an education. We have heard stories about schools built in indigenous communities that were not even open for six months before they got shut down. A shoddy job was done of building the school, and they ended up having structural problems with the school right away. We were just talking about this last week.
    If a child is fortunate enough to have a school, and they go to school, come back and try to do homework, but their home was built for five people and houses 15, we can be damn sure that this child is going to struggle to get their homework done. If they have to sleep in shifts because there are not enough bedrooms for people to go and lie down, the child will struggle to focus on learning.
    We know that, even in major centres, kids in school right now are having a hard time concentrating. This happens more and more as Canadians struggle to afford food, because the kids do not have a full belly.
    This is why New Democrats have been supporting the idea of a national school food program.
    I am proud to say that this is a priority of the new government in Manitoba, and I look forward to it getting done. I do not think it should have to do it on its own. I think the federal government should be at the table doing that. We have heard a lot of words, but we have not seen a lot of action. We certainly have not seen any funding for that.
    We need to get on with that. If we want people to succeed, if we want the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” language to make any sense at all, it has to be in a world where people have the resources to be able to do that.
    As a starting point, they have to be housed. They have to be fed. Their parents cannot be working three jobs just to make ends meet and never be around to have any time to provide support or direction.
    These are some things that the market is not going to do for us. That is not what it is there for. It is all well and good for people who are well resourced, whose children have opportunities and who are well-supported, to say, “We did it. Why can't everybody else?”
    The fact of the matter is that there are so many more children who can do it and would do it if they had the right start and just a little bit of those resources that so many of us have the privilege of being able to take for granted.

  (1325)  

     I say yes to eliminating GST from purpose-built rental, but we cannot then pretend that the work is done. I think the fall economic statement betrayed that the government does think that the work is done and that it can take its sweet time getting around to the rest of it. The government thinks it can say to the territorial government in Nunavut that if it wants money for housing, it will have to apply to the indigenous government that it already gave money to, failing to recognize that they serve different populations. There is a lot of overlap, but their mandates are not the same. Indigenous governments should get money to provide housing to people in their communities, but not in lieu of territorial governments getting resources to build housing in those communities. The deficit of affordable housing is large enough that we need both of these organizations, if they are willing, to be working together to try to meet the housing need.
    We need to start addressing some of these things, just as we need to address some of the larger infrastructure required in order to build the housing. I think of the Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link, for instance, which, if built, would deliver power to a community in Nunavut, as well as a mine. It is an important thing we could do, both to incent economic development in the region and also to make it possible to build housing. There is no point in building a house in the 21st century for somebody who does not have electricity. We need to find a way to get power to communities even as we think about building more housing in those communities.
    I talked before a little about what I think is a kind of intellectual laziness and an administrative laziness, by which I mean governments that do not want to do the hard public policy work of developing an effective strategy, funding it and resourcing it. Let us be frank; I think we tend to dismiss the work of public administration. However, it is important to be able to have a plan and line up all the players, which includes market players. For instance, we are not going to have a housing strategy that does not involve talking to the people who build the homes. I am an electrician by trade. There is a lot of good information that can be gleaned from the people who actually do the work, as opposed to talking just to the engineers or the estimators.
    To put together a public strategy like that, to bring all of those pieces together, takes a lot of time and a lot of work. It is also a unique set of skills that we do not necessarily see everywhere else. That is why courses in public administration are offered. For too long, there has been a prevailing attitude, in both of the parties that have governed since the mid-1990s, when they cancelled the national housing strategy, that we are here just to make it easy for the guys in the market to take care of it all, and that if cannot be taken care of by the market, it is not for us to worry about.
    It is quite the contrary; that is exactly the thing that people in government should be worried about. It is exactly the job of government to take care of some of the very important things that the market will not take care of. However, first of all, we have to accept and admit that the market will not take care of every need if it is left to its own devices. Thankfully there is a lot of overlap between what one can make a lot of money at and providing services to people in good ways. We see that in many facets of our economy; small and medium-sized businesses, particularly, are very good at identifying gaps in the services in their local communities, and developing a product and selling it at a fair price. When we look at some of the larger companies, like telecom companies, oil and gas companies and banks, that is not what is going on. Even though they make a lot of money and benefit greatly from a public policy environment designed to help them make their money and defend their interests and power in the economy, they do not accept any reciprocal responsibility.
    There are only three big Canadian grocery chains. Do they accept any responsibility for providing groceries at an affordable price to Canadians? No, it is very clear they do not see that as their job. Just take a look at the work that my colleague, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has done, asking difficult questions of grocery CEOs at the agriculture committee. They made it pretty clear that they accept no responsibility. They have a completely privileged position in that market. Food is something Canadians cannot decide to do without. The CEOs accept no reciprocal sense of responsibility to Canadians for that.
    We can look at oil and gas companies that have been making money hand over first lately, even while laying off more employees. Do the Canadian oil and gas companies think that they need to do anything to try to reduce the cost at the pump? Absolutely they do not. They see an opportunity. They see that they have a captive market. To the extent that they can push prices up, they certainly have been doing so.

  (1330)  

    Between 2019 and 2022, oil and gas profits in Canada rose by 1000%. This is not an industry that accepts any responsibility for the privileged position it occupies and the power that comes with it in the Canadian economy. The idea that we are going to leave it all to the market is, I think, a false idea, but unfortunately it has been the predominant idea for at least 30 years in Canada. We can trace it back at least to the original free trade agreement debate in 1988 and the years leading up to that. This is relevant to the point of competition, I would say. My Conservative and Liberal colleagues usually argue about who is the greatest supporter of corporate free trade.
    It is interesting to watch, after the Conservatives voted against the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement most recently, how the argument goes. We see that the Conservatives voted against the trade agreement for no good reason I can identify except to make everything about the carbon tax. That includes things that are not about it, like a conflict half a world away that has everything to do with the preservation of democracy. Instead of taking that seriously on its own terms, they would rather make it about the carbon tax for their own domestic political needs. That is a sign of a government that does not have our back. It has been interesting to watch Conservatives try to defend their position as the greatest defenders of corporate free trade while voting against that trade agreement.
     It has been interesting to watch the Liberals not just zero in on the Ukraine issue but also see this as their opportunity to establish themselves as the biggest champion of corporate free trade in the Canadian political space. That has been fascinating, because the thing about free trade is that it was supposed to bring us lower prices. I just heard a Conservative member talk about how there are only five big grocery companies in Canada, three Canadian ones and two American ones. He talked about how he wants more Canadian companies. That was the argument New Democrats were making in the free trade debate: that if we opened up the economy, what we would end up with is Americans coming over and taking over essential industries. Just watch.
    There are Conservatives who believe we should deregulate the air industry and invite American airlines into Canadian spaces as a way to lower prices and improve service. Just wait until it happens; they are going to be singing the same crocodile tears song 20 years after it happens that they are singing now about grocery companies, as if anyone should believe them. Either we are of the point of view that we can take a strategic approach to certain pillars of our economy and believe that we need the tools at our disposal to protect those things and conduct business in a certain way, or we believe that we should open it up completely to competition and free trade agreements and even give foreign companies the right to sue the Canadian government, which is what Conservative and Liberal governments have done when they have tried to have a strategic economic approach.
    Conservatives get up and cry foul, not just on groceries but also on the battery plant jobs and on workers coming in. Do they know how they are coming in? They are not coming in through the temporary foreign worker program, for the most part, although we would not know that when listening to the Conservatives. What is interesting on that point too is that the TFW program blew up under the Conservatives' watch and then had to be fixed because it had become such an exploitation of foreign workers. The workers are coming in under international labour mobility provisions negotiated in free trade agreements by the Conservatives. At the time, when we asked them if they knew that would mean that multinational companies were going to import foreign workforces when there is a big investment in Canada, they said that it would not happen, that they would just bring in supervisors who were going to help share some specific expertise and then move along. The jury is out on whether that is what is happening in the battery plants. The government owes Canadians a better answer and more guarantees for what it is doing for their tax dollars. The fact of the matter is that it is just egregious for Conservatives to get up and pretend they do not know how those international labour mobility provisions work or that they did not negotiate them.
    I look forward to talking more about these things in the Q and A.

  (1335)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. I noted, when he was talking about the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, that he was positioning it as though the government's position were to somehow one-up the Conservatives with respect to our commitments to free trade.
    I have been very vocal on this issue. For me, this is not about bringing attention to one side's being better than the other on free trade; rather, the whole issue of the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is to suggest that Canadians look into why it is that Conservatives have taken this position. I believe it is because they are moving so far to the right that we are now seeing an all-right influence from the United States, the pro-Russian propaganda they are buying into. Would he agree with me that this is a shared concern that he and his NDP colleagues have?
    Madam Speaker, as I said, what is important is that the conflict be judged on its merits and that Canada take a position to support Ukraine, because I do think that is an important front for freedom and democracy in the world right now, and Russia cannot be allowed to win. The effort to try to make it about something else, like the carbon tax, to suit the domestic political needs of the Conservatives is short-sighted, and I think it is wrong. There is a serious question to be asked about why they do not see that and why it is not decisive for them.
    We can think about the time that Canadian Conservatives spend with the Republicans across the border talking about political strategy and about how to implement a common agenda for North America, and about the prominence of Donald Trump in the Republican movement and the fact that he was bought and paid for by the Russians a long time ago and has been influencing the Republican Party, which is not to let any of the Republicans themselves off the hook, to diminish support for Ukraine. I think that there are some real questions we should be asking about the Canadian Conservative connection to that movement.
    Madam Speaker, I have a lot of respect for my colleague opposite, but there seem to be a lot of conspiracy theories flying around the chamber about the Conservatives' view of Ukraine. We have been clear that we support Ukraine. We already have a free trade agreement with Ukraine. Ukraine has asked for more munitions and weapons; the liberals and the NDP voted against that. The Liberals have also not given the LNG that Ukraine is asking for. Certainly, I think it would be good to look at the record of the members opposite on that file.
    However, the current debate is about affordability. Instantly, if the Liberals and the NDP both cared about affordability for Canadians, they could axe the tax that is going to be quadrupled and the tax on that tax.
    Why is the member standing and supporting the Liberal government to drive people into poverty?
    Madam Speaker, I have supported carbon pricing consistently from the time I was nominated, right through all three elections in which I have been elected in Elmwood—Transcona, so there has been no change of position on my part. I am happy to answer to the electors in Elmwood—Transcona any time on that issue, and I have already three times.
    However, when it comes to the question of Ukraine, I just watched, on Friday morning, the Conservative caucus that bothered to show up and vote, because they did not all bother to vote and the record will show that, but of the ones who did—
    The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, the member well knows we are not supposed to point out absence or presence in the House of Commons.
    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Well, there were a lot of Conservatives absent. We are not talking about an individual.
    Mr. Bob Zimmer: Madam Speaker, to finish my point of order, if we were able to reflect on who was or was not here, we could easily reflect on that party, the NDP, whose members were not here either, or members of the Liberal Party as well.
    Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, it is very clear to see that between midnight and 6 a.m., fewer than 49% of the Conservatives were actually voting.
     This is starting to cause disorder in the House. The hon. member did not quite indicate specific individuals who were not in the House, but I do want to remind members that if it is causing disorder in the House, then I would ask members to refrain from that.
    The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

  (1340)  

    Madam Speaker, I do apologize, I should not have used the term “show up”. What I was referring to was the public voting record. No number of points of order are going to change the public voting record, and if Canadians consult the record, they will see that many Conservatives did not vote through the whole voting marathon.
    However, the point stands that the Conservatives who did vote voted against $500 million in military aid to Ukraine. On three occasions, they voted against funding for Operation Unifier, and on a separate occasion, they voted against funding for the emergency assistance for folks who want to leave Ukraine and come to Canada. If we add up all of what they voted against, the baseline is $500 million, but I believe it is almost $1 billion in aid to Ukraine. That is after they voted against the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, which President Zelenskyy asked us to vote for. His ambassador to Canada has expressed disappointment that there was not a unanimous vote. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has written a letter to the Conservative leader, also expressing disappointment not only on the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement but also on the Conservative votes last week against funding. Therefore, let us not pretend that somehow I am making something up. I will take no lessons about conspiracy theories from the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
    Many of us in the House believe that the GST rebate for rental property builders will not really have any impact on the availability and affordability of housing. If the results are questionable, how does my colleague explain the government proposing that this be spread over seven or even 12 years for the final reimbursement, until December 31, 2035, to be exact? I would like his opinion on that.
    Madam Speaker, as I said, I believe it is appropriate to introduce targeted measures for the market, but not in a context where the work is not being done to ensure that housing is being built and that the necessary resources are available for not-for-profit organizations that have a mandate to build other kinds of housing.
    I think this government has a habit of focusing on what amount to market mechanisms and ignoring its responsibility to invest in non-market housing. The government's highest duty lies precisely in that type of housing, because the other players in the economy will not be interested in that type of housing, which does not make a lot of money.
    Yes, we can build more housing that turns a profit, but the government must also focus on non-market housing.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for his speech and also for his interventions with other members of this House. We have been studying this issue in depth at the agriculture committee and I have had the chance to question multiple CEOs; notably Galen Weston of Loblaw.
     The problem is that we can see the data and everyone talks about small margins in the grocery sector. The fact of the matter is that the margins have actually doubled since the pandemic and the grocery chains are making record profits and they do have gross amounts of executive pay. Mr. Weston's compensation is 431 times the average salary of his employees. We know from unions representing grocery workers that in many cases those workers cannot afford to shop where they work. None of the CEOs could tell me how many of their employees are using food banks to get by.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the fact that through both Liberals and Conservatives we have a policy, over the last 40 years, of too much corporate deference in this country and not enough hard analysis of how we are letting corporations get away with this. Canadians are being asked to shoulder the blame while corporations are continuing to make a lot of money off their backs.

  (1345)  

    Madam Speaker, my colleague has done so much work on this. Canadians do see that they have just a handful of companies that largely control their access to food, which is something they cannot just decide to do without, and that the leadership of those companies do not feel any sense of responsibility for their incredible money-making power, which has grown, as the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford has pointed out, over the last number of years. The leadership of the companies do not have any sense of responsibility for the fact that they are the ones who control the food.
     This is not just another product on the market. This is Canadians' access to the basic necessities of life. The companies have been allowed to do that for exactly the reason that my colleague identified, which is a sense of deference: If they are a big company, they must be doing something right and we do not want to get in their way. However, we have to do better in Canada than to allow a handful of companies that control our access to food to single-mindedly pursue the highest return to their shareholders, because it is Canadians who are getting burned.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak on Bill C-56. It is yet another initiative the government is taking to support Canadians. From virtually day one, through the introduction of legislation and taking budgetary measures, as a government we have been very supportive of having the backs of Canadians, whether with the very first piece of legislation we introduced back in 2015-16 regarding a tax break for Canada's middle class or the many support programs put together during the pandemic that ensured small businesses and Canadians had the disposable income and supports necessary for Canada to do as well as it has. This was done through a team Canada approach, not only getting us out of the pandemic but putting our economy in a great position to do exceptionally well going forward.
    This is reflected in one of the most important stats I believe we have, which is regarding employment. Employment numbers are very encouraging, especially when we compare Canada to other jurisdictions particularly in the G20 or the G7. Relatively speaking, Canada is doing quite well. It does not mean we let up. It means we need to continue to recognize the issues Canadians are facing on a daily basis, which is what Bill C-56 is all about.
    Bill C-56 would be there to support Canadians. Before I speak about Bill C-56, I want to recognize this week is a very important week, because we are doing the formal expansion of the dental program. This will allow for seniors and people with disabilities to participate in the dental program, which is going to help literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Again, this is a very progressive move. It is a move that clearly demonstrates there are elements with the House of Commons today, contrary to the Conservatives', that are there to provide more hope and opportunities for Canadians.
    Bill C-56 would, in essence, do a couple of things. I want to focus on two points. First and foremost is the issue of competition. Changes would be made to the Competition Act that would ensure we have more competition here in Canada going forward. For example, it would get rid of the efficiencies argument. The efficiencies argument is something corporations have used in the past in order to justify taking over large businesses. The one I have often made reference to is a very good example because it is relative to the debates and discussions we have had for a number of months now. It is about the price of groceries, the concerns over that and the steps being taken, whether by the Minister of Finance or the standing committee calling the big five grocery companies to come to Ottawa to be held more accountable for their actions. I see this as a positive thing.
    Bill C-56 would provide more of an opportunity to ensure healthier competition into the future. The best example I can come up with offhand is when the current leader of the Conservative Party sat around the cabinet table of Stephen Harper and that government actually approved the Loblaws purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart. For individuals watching or listening in to the debate, I invite them to visit a Shoppers Drug Mart, where they will see a great deal of food products. We are talking about a multi-billion-dollar deal that took away competition. I do not know all of the arguments that were used at the time, but what I do know is that was the last time we saw such a major acquisition of a grocery line. I would suggest that was not healthy for Canadians, and we are starting to see that today.

  (1350)  

    We are now down to five major grocery stores and we are looking at having a grocery code of conduct. We need to establish that certain behaviours are not acceptable. I was pleased when Canada Bread actually got a fine through the courts. It was tens of millions of dollars because of price fixing. We need to ensure the Competition Bureau has teeth for this type of thing. Not only does it get rid of the efficiency argument, but it also increases the opportunity for fines and gives it more power to conduct investigations. That would make a positive difference. I think all members of the House should support this legislation.
    The other part to the legislation is something that I believe would make a huge difference. We know housing is an issue in Canada. Never before have we seen a national government invest as much in housing as we have with this Prime Minister and this government. We are talking about historic levels of funding. This is in terms of our involvement, support and encouragement in housing, like non-profits, and that is what Bill C-56 would do. It would encourage the growth of purpose-built rentals. These things would have a huge impact. We are talking tens of thousands of new units. The policy is so sound that provinces are also looking at engaging with the provincial sales tax component. They realize this is a good way to ensure we build purpose-built rentals.
    Ironically, as has been pointed out, the Conservative Party has taken a position that is very anti-housing. When the current leader of the Conservative Party was responsible for housing in Canada, it was an absolute disaster. The federal government did not do its work back then and that is very clear by the actions, or lack of actions, from the Conservative Party. He might say he was just following Stephen Harper's orders. Maybe that is his excuse. However, on Thursday going into Friday, there was a voting marathon. There was a vote dealing with housing and ensuring that the money would go to supporting over 80,000 new apartments, including an affordable home component. The Conservative Party members who showed up to vote actually voted no to that measure. That reinforces that the Conservative Party of Canada, under its current leadership, does not support housing.
    When Conservative members raise issues about housing, they have zero credibility on that file. Never before have we had a government that has demonstrated as much leadership in working with municipalities and provinces, and invested more financial resources than this government in the history of Canada. On the other side, we have an incompetent Conservative leader who was a disaster when he was the minister responsible for housing. When there is such a huge demand, what does the Conservative Party do? The members who decide to vote, show up and vote against supporting housing. They are oozing with hypocrisy. Unfortunately, that example is not alone. I was listening to the back and forth, and the questions that were being asked.

  (1355)  

    Consistently, this government has recognized the importance of Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be part of it. We want an economy that is going to work for all Canadians in all regions. That is the reason we have invested so much energy into trade. Trade supports all of us.
    It is surprising, when we think of affordability, that the Conservatives voted against the trade agreement. I have talked a great deal about that, the principles of trade and how important it is that we get behind the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. Hopefully I will get more time to focus on that in a while, but I was shocked to see the Conservatives not once, not twice, but on three occasions vote against financial supports for Ukraine. There were votes on individual lines, and they voted against Ukraine once again.
    It is a consistent policy with the Conservative Party. Whether on housing or trade, the Conservative Party is reckless in its policy development. A number of Conservatives have stood today on this legislation and talked about affordability. We recognize affordability. That is why we brought in the grocery rebate. That is why we have legislation such as this, which will have a positive impact. What is the Conservative Party's policy? It is very simple. It is a bumper sticker that says, “Axe the tax”.
    The Conservatives' whole concept of axing the tax is stealing money from Canadians. That is what they are doing, because most Canadians get more money back than they pay for the price on—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. I would remind members there will be 10 minutes of questions and comments. If members have something to say, they should wait until then.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, let us think about it. They are saying they are going to get rid—
    The hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I believe the language the member used is unparliamentary. We cannot say indirectly what we cannot say directly. He basically stated that Conservatives are stealing from taxpayers. I would ask him to withdraw that statement and apologize.
    Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, if they take away the rebate, they are taking money out of the pockets of Canadians. Many would say that is taking away—
    This is a debate. I would remind members that they cannot say indirectly what they cannot say directly.
    If the hon. member would withdraw his comment, we will go to Statements by Members and he can continue his speech later.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, I withdraw it.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Reconciliation

    Madam Speaker, last week, instead of voting to support over $20 million in investments for first nations children, the official opposition prioritized filibustering Parliament for over 30 hours. Through these actions, Conservatives said loud and clear that political theatre was more important to them than the continued transfer and control of child and family services and laws to first nations communities.
    Unlike the leader of the official opposition, who cares only about first nations when it suits his needs, we believe in furthering progress toward self-determination. We will not let childish antics get in the way of providing the tools and support needed for first nations to act on what is best for their children, families and communities.
    Enough is enough. On this side of the House, we will do what is required to right the wrongs of the past and move forward together in true reconciliation.

Season's Greetings

    Madam Speaker, today, we remember the real reason for the season.
    C is for the Christ child who was born in Bethlehem that first Christmas night.
    H is for the hope for all humanity that came down to us.
    R is for the fact that there was no room in the inn for Him. The question remains: Is there room for Him in our world and hearts today?
    I is for Immanuel, which means “God is with us”, and He is indeed with us through whatever we are going through and will be with us until the end.
    S is for the shepherds, commoners, farmers and keepers of the flock, who were the first to be entrusted with the great news of His birth.
    T is for the three wise men, who came searching for the newborn king of Israel. The wise still seek Him today.
    M is for the fact that He makes all things new again.
    A is for all, because the promise of Christmas is for all people everywhere.
    S is for the Saviour, who frees the whole world and every individual from fear, sin, shame and sadness, and as a result, a weary world rejoices.
    From my family to others and to all Canadians, merry Christmas and happy new year.

Women Entrepreneurs

     Mr. Speaker, our women entrepreneurship strategy is reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape in Canada. With $7 billion in investments spanning over 20 federal departments, the program is not just a gesture; it is a resounding declaration that we recognize the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs.
    In my community of Halifax West, funding empowers the Centre for Women in Business to continue its work fostering women-led businesses. With the nearly 9,000 loans this program has already provided, we are helping women realize their dreams and break down the barriers to their success. The data shows that women are jumping at the chance to access these resources, connect with mentors and further their education.
    Women have their place in the world of entrepreneurship, and we will continue to hand them the tools they need to make their mark. While the Leader of the Opposition forces his caucus to vote against the program, we will always be there to empower women across the country.

[Translation]

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, last week, more than 1,000 farmers took to the streets of Quebec City to ask for more government support.
    Farmers need help to deal with climate change, and yet Canada is investing almost four times less money than the United States and the European Union to support our people.
    This puts our farmers at a disadvantage, creates unfair competition and jeopardizes our food security.
    For a G7 country that says it wants to feed the whole world, things are off to a bad start. If we want our farmers to feed us, they need to be able to make a living from their trade without having to work a job on the side to make ends meet.
    The Bloc Québécois is echoing the message from Quebec's farm businesses loud and clear. The federal government must come up with a plan, a direction and a vision, especially for risk sharing.
    Feeding our people is a societal undertaking. Our farmers are central to the solution.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, last week, we watched the Conservatives join together to vote against agriculture. When we say that we support our farmers, we have to walk the talk.
    They voted against an investment program for our dairy farmers and processors; they voted against our agricultural producers; they voted against the on-farm climate action fund; and they voted against funding for implementing the Indo-Pacific agri-food office, which we know would benefit our agri-food exporters.
    The behaviour of the leader of the official opposition does not surprise me. When he had the chance to stand up for our farmers at the cabinet table, he chose to remain seated and support a $200‑million cut.
    The leader of the Conservative Party is not worth the risk. When the time comes to support our farmers, he is not worth a nickel.

  (1405)  

[English]

Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame Inductee

    Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to recognize a trailblazer in the County of Newell, Garnet Altwasser, for his recent induction into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, adding another accolade after having been previously inducted into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame. A founding director of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Garnet became a leader in Canadian agri-food production after establishing Lakeside Farm Industries in the County of Newell, growing it into the largest single-site feed operation and one of the largest beef processing plants in Canada.
    He has always been humble and has not sought recognition. I can say that his influence on Alberta's agriculture industry is second to none and is leading investment to the advancement of Canadian ag. It is thanks to people like Garnet Altwasser that makes Alberta agriculture world class.
    Congratulations to Garnet Altwasser for his worthy induction to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame. I thank him for helping to feed Canadians and the world with Alberta beef.

School Food Programs

    Mr. Speaker, our government's priority is ensuring every child receives the best possible start in life. Building a national school food policy that provides conditions for children to succeed not only in school but over a lifetime is incredibly important. School food programs play a vital role in strengthening education and health. I thank food banks across Canada that are working hard to keep our communities fed and organizations like Food4Kids in the Waterloo region.
    Last week, it was disappointing to see Conservatives vote no to my colleague, the MP for Acadie—Bathurst, and his proposal to lay the groundwork for a national school food program. Not a single Conservative voted in favour. I hope Canadians are paying attention to the Conservatives and their attempts to block work toward children receiving nutritious food at school.
    Let us rededicate ourselves to ensuring a brighter future for our kids, not only in my community of Kitchener South—Hespeler but all throughout our incredible nation.

Climate Change

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians from coast to coast continue to feel the effects of climate change. While our government is putting forth important funding to move forward on our environmental agenda, Conservatives want to reverse our government's progress and put us in reverse on fighting climate change.
    Last week, they voted against $10 million in funding for restoration efforts for damaged infrastructure from hurricane Fiona. They voted against $6 million in funding to support amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. They voted against support for Parks Canada to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in those operations. They also voted against the oceans protection plan.
    What Conservatives showed Canadians last week is that they continue to deny the fact that climate change is having serious and real impacts on Canadian families and Canadian industry. The Conservatives will put an axe to every single funding measure for the environment and fighting climate change.

Barrie and District Christmas Cheer

    Mr. Speaker, Christmas is right around the corner and many families in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte are struggling with the high cost of living. Residents can thankfully turn to their local food banks and other great community programs over the Christmas season to help put food on the table and gifts under the tree.
    I want to highlight one charity in particular. Barrie and District Christmas Cheer provides toys and food for over 1,700 families in need in my community. Stephen Quenneville, president of Christmas Cheer, recently stated that he has seen a surge in applications compared to previous years and it is only the beginning of December. Barrie and District Christmas Cheer relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers and donations to ensure that these families in need have a magical Christmas.
    Along with food and toys, Barrie and District Christmas Cheer is accepting monetary donations. They can be made directly through its website or at its Santa's workshop, which is located at 49 Truman Road and will be open for in-person drop-offs starting today, December 11.
    I want to thank all the volunteers at these charities for their tireless work. Please know that if anyone needs assistance during these challenging times, Christmas Cheer will be there to help.
    From my family to others, I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy new year.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe what I saw here last Thursday evening. Every member of the Conservative Party voted against ACOA, the Atlantic Canada opportunities agency. It is as shocking as it is disappointing. Nothing has changed, and it seems like the Conservatives still do not care about Atlantic Canada. It is a painful reminder of how our region was neglected under the Harper Conservatives, and not just ignored but dismissed.
    ACOA is a crucial institution for us. It invests in local businesses, encourages innovation and creates jobs. It is a lifeline for our communities, offering hope and positive transformations, from revived fisheries to growing tech ventures.
    Last year alone, ACOA invested in 3,042 small businesses and community projects. This investment helped create or maintain over 8,600 jobs. However, the reckless Conservatives want to cut ACOA funding and take us back to the time when Atlantic Canada was an afterthought. ACOA's support is key to building a strong and sustainable future for the people of our region.

  (1410)  

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of the NDP-Liberal government forcing Canadians to pay the price for their policies, we see that the Prime Minister is simply not worth the cost.
    It seems that the only ones doing well these days are Liberal insiders, high-paid lobbyists and the super-rich elites, all when regular Canadians are falling behind and being forced to cut out the essentials.
    The Prime Minister has faced multiple ethics investigations himself. Members of his cabinet seem to be embroiled in new scandals daily, and Liberal appointees are protecting people who have funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own personal gain. In desperation, we have the Liberals, along with their coalition NDP partners, refusing to hold those responsible accountable, and have gone as far as to silence whistle-blowers who have spoken up about the recent revelations around the green slush fund, which has been called a sponsorship-level scandal.
    It is time for the Prime Minister, his cabinet and everyone involved in this scandal to come clean, so we can get answers on why $200,000 went to Liberal insiders.

Carbon Tax

    Mr. Speaker, families in my community of Kelowna—Lake Country are looking forward to Christmas, but they are increasingly concerned about the cost of Christmas dinner.
    The NDP-Liberal government's high tax, inflationary deficit-spending agenda has caused food prices to skyrocket. Food bank usage in Canada is higher than ever before. A food bank in my community has seen Christmas hamper sign-ups increase by 32% over last year, and they are expecting a 100% additional increase in demand over the next few months. Food banks themselves have been hit with higher prices on the food they purchase. Canada's Food Price Report 2024 predicts that the average family will spend $700 more on food in 2024. The Prime Minister is just not worth the cost.
    After eight years, his carbon tax, as it flows through the entire food supply chain, has proven to directly make food more expensive. Will the Prime Minister finally cancel his carbon tax so Canadians can have a meal to share with their families this Christmas?

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, last week, we spent more than 30 hours voting in the House. The Conservatives voted against a salary increase for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, against $500 million in military aid for Ukraine and against funding for Canada's military operations here and abroad.
    The Conservatives have no problem and no shame voting against our armed forces and the support they need to accomplish the difficult tasks we ask of them.
    One thing is clear: On this side of the House, we will defend our troops, our allies, our partners and Ukraine, even if the Conservatives will not.

[English]

Coulter’s Pharmacy

    Mr. Speaker, locally owned and operated small businesses are the cornerstones of so many communities.
    In London, East Enders know they will receive incredible care from a good neighbour at Coulter’s Pharmacy. In 1973, Tex Coulter and his partner, Bob Yates founded the pharmacy. Scott Coulter took over the family business in 2000 when his father retired, and the pharmacy celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
     During the pandemic, Scott and his incredible team served our community and got vaccines to folks. They found solutions for families when child cold medications hit an unprecedented shortage, and as the opioid crisis hits the most vulnerable in our community, Coulter’s is there, providing naloxone kits without question. Coulter’s also provides leadership, whether it is as a member of the Argyle BIA, through supporting minor hockey in being an official partner of the London Knights, or through its annual toy drive in support of the Salvation Army.
    We thank Coulter’s Pharmacy for their past, present and future service to our community.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Rémy Girard

    Mr. Speaker, the Québec Cinéma gala took place yesterday. This year, Stéphane Lafleur's Viking took home a whole bouquet of Iris awards. The evening was also an opportunity to rename the people's choice award after Michel Côté, who died last year. There could be no better choice. This gala also recognized a Quebec cinema great for his life's work and, in a way, corrected an injustice.
    Rémy Girard, the Quebec actor with the most impressive resumé of his generation and Denys Arcand's actor of choice since The Decline of the American Empire, has never won an award in Quebec for his acting roles. He did not win an award for playing Rémy in The Decline of the American Empire, Stan in Les Boys or Tom in And the Birds Rained Down.
    For someone who was able to play an unfaithful university professor and a garage league hockey team coach just as convincingly, while adding his own flair to every one of his roles, this lifetime achievement award is very well deserved.
    Congratulations to Rémy Girard on an incredible career.

[English]

Carbon Tax

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years, Canadians face a grim choice under the NDP-Liberal government: keeping their homes warm or putting food on the table. With the Prime Minister's plan to quadruple the carbon tax, costs for gas, groceries and home heating are set to soar.
    This is not just a concern of a few. Leaders from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and now the Northwest Territories are demanding carbon tax exemptions. These premiers represent the concerns of almost 60% of Canadians, and many more across Canada share in their frustration. This tax is hitting Canadians hard, from families to first nations, which are now taking legal action against the Liberal government. The burden on farmers will be equally devastating.
    The Prime Minister is just not worth the cost. Will the Prime Minister cancel his plan to quadruple the tax on families, first nations and farmers for good?

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, when the leader of the Conservative Party was the minister responsible for housing, he was a disaster, and nothing at all has changed now he is the leader of the official opposition. It is hard to believe that last Thursday Conservative after Conservative stood in their place and voted against housing. It is absolutely terrible. Can members imagine? There was a vote for tens of thousands of purpose-built apartments, and the Conservative Party said no, unanimously, among those who chose to take the time to come to vote.
     I say shame on the leader of the Conservative Party because that is not what a leader is all about. A leader should be inspirational in ensuring that we provide the type of supports that are necessary. That means that the leader of the official opposition is not only reckless, but also does not have a policy that is worth a cent, quite frankly.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister is not worth the cost of housing, which has doubled since he promised to make it affordable more than eight years ago. We are now learning that rents have risen by 14% in Quebec City and Montreal, all as a result of inflationary spending that has bloated government bureaucracy.
    When will the Prime Minister follow my common-sense plan to eliminate taxes and cut red tape in order to build affordable houses and apartments?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, speaking of Montreal, it is nice to see the Leader of the Opposition show up for work today. I guess there was not a fundraiser that he could attend.
    However, if we want to talk about last week, what Canadians saw on display was the Leader of the Opposition bringing right-wing Republican tactics to try and shut down the government.
    Canadians do not want the kind of chaos they see in Washington. They want responsible leadership in Canada, and that is not what we witnessed from the Leader of the Opposition last week.
    On this side of the House, we will continue to stand up for Canadians and stand up to bullies.

  (1420)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Bloc Québécois, along with their carbon tax, are not worth the cost for Quebeckers. Reports now indicate that the average family will have to spend an extra $700 on food next year. That is the result of the most staggering increase in food prices in 40 years. That is what we get with these taxes that the Bloc Québécois wants to drastically increase.
    Will the Prime Minister follow my common-sense plan to eliminate inflationary taxes and deficits so Quebeckers and Canadians can eat?
    Mr. Speaker, on Thursday and Friday, the Conservative leader ordered his members to vote against security measures for Ukraine, to vote against funding for emergency shelters for women and girls, and to vote against funding for thalidomide survivor support programs.
    Does going after vulnerable people make him feel stronger? Is that courage? Will he admit that his irresponsible choices went much too far?

[English]

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, last week, we were proud to vote against more inflationary bureaucratic spending that does nothing for working-class Canadians. If more government spending were to solve the problems, then we would not have two million people lined up at food banks and nine out of 10 young people unable to afford a home.
    Now the Liberals want to quadruple the carbon tax just as we learn that Canadians will be forced to spend another $700 to feed themselves. Will they follow our common-sense plan to axe the tax?
    Mr. Speaker, last week, the Conservatives voted against Operation Unifier, which is about direct military support for Ukraine. They also voted against our free trade agreement with Ukraine. When we look at the extreme right south of the border parroting Putin's lines, we used to think that could never happen in Canada, but it is happening here.
    On this side of the House, we are proud to say, “Slava Ukraini”. Canada stands with Ukraine.
    Mr. Speaker, they spread fear and falsehoods about matters in other countries to distract people from the absolute misery they have caused here at home. We understand why they do not want to talk about how Canadians are living because folks cannot afford to feed themselves. They are lining up at food banks while there is the worst food price inflation in 40 years, yet the Prime Minister wants to quadruple the carbon tax with the help of his NDP junior coalition partners.
    Will the Prime Minister reverse his plan to quadruple the tax so Canadians can afford to eat, heat and house themselves?
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see the opposition leader run from the uncomfortable questions that are being put to him on the floor of the House of Commons.
    Let us look at some of the voting record that the Conservatives demonstrated last week when it comes to saving people money on reducing the cost of housing. The member has made clear that his personal position is that the government has no business investing in housing, but individual members of Parliament had the opportunity to stand up and be counted when there was a vote on the floor of the House of Commons. They said no to investments in affordable housing. They said no to thousands of apartments. They said no to housing for indigenous communities and to emergency shelters for women and girls. They also said no to funding for homeless veterans. They should be ashamed.
    Mr. Speaker, we said no to doubling housing costs. The Liberals doubled housing costs. That is the reality. All the slogans the member wants to spit out are not worth a hill of beans when all they have done is double housing costs.
    It is just like when they said the carbon tax would help the environment. Now we know Canada has fallen four places, to 62nd out of 67 countries in the world, after they tried to impose this carbon tax.
    Instead of quadrupling a tax that has failed, why will they not axe the tax and invest in technology?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we are proud to stand up for Canadians.
    Last week, what the Conservatives did is that they voted consistently against measures that not only make life more affordable for Canadians, but help them in their time of need.
    On the 988 line, which was just launched with regard to suicide prevention, what did the Conservatives do? They voted against it. When it came to supporting victims of gender-based violence, what did the Conservatives do? They voted against it. The list goes on.
    That is irresponsible. That is reckless. Quite frankly, these are right-wing extreme politics from the United States that we do not want here in Canada.

[Translation]

Dental Care

    Mr. Speaker, the government is unbelievable. Every time we tell ourselves that its incompetence could not get worse, we get treated to a “just watch me” moment that proves us wrong.
    Up until last Friday, the Government of Quebec thought it was negotiating a dental care agreement with Ottawa. It is over; there is no agreement. Ottawa is trespassing in an area under Quebec's jurisdiction and stirring up another quarrel instead of reaching an agreement that would benefit everyone. At some point, maybe it would like to start working for the people?
    Mr. Speaker, it is not about jurisdiction; it is about health.
    Today, dental care will be available across the country for everyone. It is not simply a question of justice, but prevention and health as well. Today, we have significantly improved our health care system, and I am so very proud of that. We can work with all the provinces and all the territories to make sure the system will work.
    Mr. Speaker, we already have a dental care system in Quebec. The government could simply have sent over the money and we would have improved our system, but apparently that is too complicated.
    Quebec has a public system, the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, or RAMQ, which can be enhanced through an agreement with Ottawa. That is what everyone wants, but no, Ottawa wants to force Sun Life, a private company, into our public system. We thought that Ottawa wanted an agreement to respect provincial jurisdictions, but no, it does not give a damn. What Ottawa wants is good news just in time for the holidays. Why impose a system that is incompatible with Quebec's?
    Mr. Speaker, we do not want to replace provincial and territorial systems. Our goal is to make sure that everyone in Canada who does not have dental insurance can have access to dental care. That is our goal. It has nothing to do with jurisdictions; it is about justice, health and dignity for everyone across the country.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, thanks to New Democrats, nine million Canadians will have access to the dental care they deserve. Seniors, children, people with disabilities will soon be able to go to the dentist without worrying about the cost. Because of the NDP, families will save thousands of dollars during an affordability crisis. This is the biggest expansion of public health care in half a century.
    Shamefully, last week, the Conservatives again voted no to dental care and to putting money back into people's pockets.
    Can the minister explain the impact of the NDP dental plan on Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, in a time of great global difficulty, in a time when people all over the world are finding things hard, there are those who stand up, provide solutions and talk about how we make things better. I want to recognize the NDP for stepping forward and talking about solutions and talking about answers, when we saw Conservatives voting against dental care, voting against support for seniors, voting against support for persons with disability, voting against our children who need dental support. Shame on them.
     Congratulations to any party that stands up for ideas and getting things done in this country.

  (1430)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, more and more people are struggling to pay their bills and cannot afford a dentist. The Liberals and the Conservatives teamed up twice to vote against a dental care program.
    Thanks to the NDP, seniors, children and people with disabilities will have access to this essential care. The Conservative leader, who has had dental coverage paid for by taxpayers for 20 years, wants to cut this program. It seems that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. However, the NDP is getting people the help they need.
    Why did it take the Liberal government so long to fulfill its commitments on dental care?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a huge leap forward in providing dental care to everyone across the country.
    I really appreciate the NDP's work. I also like the notion that all parties in the House need to work together to find solutions in these difficult times across the country, not just point out problems and criticize everything.
    This is a historic day for our health care system.

[English]

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is causing division and anger in unprecedented ways, with a backlash we may never have seen in this country before: 133 first nations suing the Prime Minister over the carbon tax, several provinces taking the Prime Minister to court to try to stop the tax, one province refusing to collect the tax altogether, and now the Premier of the Northwest Territories asking for a full exemption, saying, “the prices are just getting higher and higher here.”
    After eight years, it is clear the Prime Minister is not worth the cost. Will he put his ego aside and axe the tax?
    Mr. Speaker, last week, when the Conservatives had the chance to stand up for first nations people, they voted against the measures indigenous communities need every single day to deliver things like clean water, to deliver things like education and to make sure infrastructure is kept running and maintained. When they had a chance to stand up with first nations, what did they do? They voted against them.
    Mr. Speaker, when Liberals have a chance to provide relief to all Canadians and first nations, they say, “We'll see you in court.” They have succeeded, though, in uniting Canadians around one thing: their hatred for the carbon tax.
    As hard-working Canadians across the country visit food banks for the first time or turn their thermostats down, northerners are really facing the sting of the carbon tax. The Premier of the Northwest Territories went on to say, “I mean, ideally, a complete exemption for the territory is what we would hope for because, like I said before, the costs are already high”.
    Why will the Prime Minister not have some mercy on Canadians and axe the tax?
    Mr. Speaker, it is important that the hon. member stop misleading Canadians. Research coming out of the University of Calgary last week shows that the Conservatives' plan to make pollution free again will only benefit those earning over $250,000 a year and hurt almost everybody else.
    The Conservative leader says that he cares about affordability, but last week, in the middle of the night, they voted to cut affordable housing construction, cut the school food program, cut dental care for the most vulnerable and cut affordable child care. Shame, shame, shame.
    Mr. Speaker, in one of his first comments as Premier of the Northwest Territories, R.J. Simpson simply said yesterday that a carbon tax “doesn't work” for Northwest Territories. He said, “a complete exemption for the territory is what we would hope for because, like I said before, the costs are already high—higher costs are not the solution up here.”
    Will the Prime Minister do the right thing this Christmas, fire the environment minister and axe the carbon tax?
    Mr. Speaker, wildfires have ravaged our country. In the Northwest Territories, towns were almost burned down. We had to evacuate the capital city of the Northwest Territories. What did the Conservatives do? They voted against the measures that fight against climate change, and they voted against the measures to support Canadians in their time of need as well.
    Mr. Speaker, that answer throws the current Premier of the Northwest Territories completely under the bus. The Prime Minister unfairly gives a tax exemption to certain Canadians and not others. His environment minister has doubled down recently and said he is going to give that exemption to some, but not others. Liberal hot air will not keep Northwest Territories residents warm this Christmas.
    Will the minister come to the Northwest Territories, sit across from families in Northwest Territories and tell them why the government will not exempt them from the carbon tax?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, climate change is having a devastating effect on northern communities, with the north warming at three times the rate of the south. We have seen some of the most devastating effects of climate change this last summer, with horrible wildfires all over Northwest Territories. Our government is focused on making ends meet for northerners, while at the same time battling climate change and making sure that northerners have what they need to live a good life.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years, the Bloc-Liberal coalition is not worth the cost. The Premier of the Northwest Territories wants to know why the provinces that voted for the Liberal Party got a tax break while the Northwest Territories are having to pay the tax when the prices there, and I quote the premier, are just getting higher and higher. With rising prices, Canadian families will have to choose between heating and eating at Christmas.
    When will the Prime Minister scrap his plan to drastically increase the carbon tax for farmers and families?
    Mr. Speaker, if I were a Conservative member from Quebec, I would be embarrassed this morning. I would choose my words carefully. They voted against funding for the Mégantic bypass, against assistance for Quebec's dairy, egg and poultry producers, against funding for the Plains of Abraham and against assistance for the Magdalen Islands following the hurricane. They even insulted the people of the Magdalen Islands.
    If I were a Conservative, I would be darned embarrassed.
    Mr. Speaker, Christmas will be here in a few days. Here is what I would be very embarrassed about if I were a member of this Liberal cabinet, or a Liberal. I would be embarrassed to know that one child's Christmas wish list asked for a gift card so that he could enjoy a good Christmas meal. That is embarrassing.
    When will the Liberals finally understand that their plan is broken and that their insistence on quadrupling the carbon tax will only make things worse for all Canadians and Quebeckers?
    Mr. Speaker, now we have heard everything. The Conservatives are trying every trick in the book to avoid talking about what they did last week. It is disgraceful. Canadians feel betrayed that the Conservatives voted against measures, against food banks, against offering shelter and services to women and against Ukraine.
    Who gives them their instructions? Is their leader being influenced by Donald Trump in the United States?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

    Mr. Speaker, sometimes in politics there are simple files, so my question will be rather simple.
    The federal government owes $460 million to Quebec for taking in asylum seekers, something that falls strictly under federal jurisdiction. Last Friday, the Minister of Immigration met with his counterpart from Quebec.
    My question is simple: Did he reimburse Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, I met with my counterpart, Minister Fréchette, on Friday. We had some good conversations.
    It is clear that there are some things where we do not see eye to eye with Quebec. For example, we would like Quebec to make more of an effort when it comes to welcoming and reuniting Quebec families. Nevertheless, the meeting generally went well.
    Now, we will see. The finance ministers are meeting and they will have good conversations on the issues that concern them. I am very optimistic about all of this. We all care about migration and reasoned approaches to immigrant settlement.
    Mr. Speaker, no need for three-month round tables; a 30-second conversation should be plenty. The minister has three things to say. The first is thank you. The second is, to whom should I make out the cheque? And the third is, where do I deposit the money?
    When will he reimburse Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, we will continue the conversation, but Bloc Québécois members will not be the first to know.

Democratic Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers are royally fed up with the monarchy. That is why the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion last Friday to request the elimination of the position of Lieutenant Governor. Every elected member of every political party wants to replace this role with a democratic institution.
    Of course, there would be no such consensus in this House. We know that some Canadian MPs think night and day about their fealty to Charles III. As for us Quebeckers, our desire for democratic modernization is unanimous. Will the government listen to reason and finally eliminate the position of Lieutenant Governor of Quebec?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, I understand that my colleague fantasizes about the monarchy and reopening the Constitution.
    On this side of the House, we prefer to tackle the challenges of our society like housing, the rising cost of living and, most importantly, Conservative cuts. They want to make cuts in areas where cutbacks would be totally unacceptable. They voted for cuts in areas that are incredibly important for Quebec and all Canadians. They should be ashamed.

[English]

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, after eight long years, more and more Canadians are realizing that the Prime Minister is simply not worth the cost. We can now add the Premier of the Northwest Territories to the growing list of people asking the NDP-Liberal government to listen to their concerns and axe the carbon tax.
    As the Christmas season arrives, the Prime Minister's gift of giving has been replaced by a gift of taking from families, farmers and first nations. Will the Prime Minister finally cancel his plan to quadruple the carbon tax and stop his plan to ruin Christmas?
    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government came to power, after 10 years of Harper and the member for Carleton, we were on track to see a 12% increase in carbon emissions by 2030.
     Last week we released the update on the emissions reduction plan, and it was a dramatic turnaround. We will exceed the initial target of 30%, which we then raised to 40%. We will more than achieve the 2026 interim target, and we are on track to achieve the 40% target by 2030. I am very pleased to say that our climate plan is working. Where is the Conservative climate plan?
    Mr. Speaker, this is from a minister whose government spent three-and-a-half times more responding to emergencies than supporting first nations communities to prevent these emergencies.
    The NDP-Liberal government refuses to listen. The newly elected AFN chief now lends her voice to the growing list of people who want to axe the carbon tax, which increases the costs of gas, groceries and home heating for all Canadians.
    Will the Prime Minister finally cancel his carbon tax, so families, farmers and first nations can afford a meal on Christmas Eve?
    Mr. Speaker, last Thursday evening and Friday, the Conservative Party of Canada explained exactly who they are and how much they support farmers. In fact, they voted against farmers. For example, there was $337 million for the supply management program; Conservatives voted against it. It is vitally important to the agricultural sector.
     I can assure the dairy farmers, chicken farmers and egg farmers in this country that we support them and will continue to do so.
    Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals actually wanted to support farmers, they would axe the carbon tax.
    After eight years of the Liberal Prime Minister, a turkey in northern Alberta costs $82. Why would this be? Perhaps it is the carbon tax. I talked to a turkey farmer in northern Alberta, and he says he is struggling to pay the carbon tax. Regardless of how expensive the turkey is in the grocery store, he is having to pay the carbon tax; he is unable to make a living to put food on his own table.
    Will the Prime Minister quit his “bah, humbug” approach this Christmas and take off the carbon tax for families, farmers and first nations, so Canadians can all enjoy a turkey for Christmas?
    Mr. Speaker, I hope that turkey farmer looked at what the Conservative Party of Canada did last Thursday and then Friday.
    Conservatives continually vote against agriculture and farmers. We, on this side of the House, will make sure that we fully support agriculture. Conservatives voted against funding for on-farm climate action. On-farm climate action will help the environment.
    We have supported farmers; we will continue to do so and take care of the climate in this country.

  (1445)  

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, right here in Ottawa, the average rent for a one-bedroom has hit a record high of $2,100 a month. It is close to $3,000 in Vancouver and Toronto. It is unacceptable that the out-of-touch Liberals are delaying housing funding for another two years; people cannot afford rent now.
    Then there are the Conservatives, who do not even believe in community housing and would rather give handouts to luxury condo developers. Will the Liberals stop delaying and get the money out the door now to build much-needed affordable housing?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her advocacy for additional investments in affordable housing and housing more broadly. I would remind my hon. colleague that, in fact, there are programs that exist today that are rolling dollars out the door to get more homes built. In fact, just a few weeks ago, we announced more than $4 billion worth of loans; this is going to result in more than 12,000 new apartments being constructed. In addition, we recapitalized our affordable housing fund to the tune of $1 billion in the fall economic statement, on top of the more than $300 million going to co-operative housing, which will be rolling out early in the new year. I am willing to work with all members of the House, including that member, to build more homes faster.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Kouta family are Palestinian Canadians from London who are currently stranded in Gaza. Ahmed Kouta is a nurse who has spent months caring for the wounded at one of Gaza's besieged hospitals. He is a hero, but he and his three brothers are being denied the right to exit Gaza, and the minister refuses to explain why. Without a ceasefire, there are strong reasons to worry that the Kouta family may be killed within days if Canada does not act now. Mohammed Kouta asked, “Is there hope or am I waiting for my death?” When will Canada get the Kouta family out of Gaza?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for having done so much work last week, voting for 30 hours in support of the work that we are doing together.
    Meanwhile, I completely understand how dire the situation in Gaza is. It is one of the worst places in the world to live right now. The Minister of Immigration and I are working actively to find a very compassionate approach when it comes to Canadians and their families, and we will get Canadians out of Gaza. I am in close contact with my Israeli and Egyptian counterparts to make sure that the Kouta family can come back to Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, our federal government has always shown support for Ukraine as it defends itself against the illegal and unprovoked attack by Russia. In fact, this House, and indeed this country, has always been unanimous and steadfast in its support; however, two weeks ago, Conservatives voted against the modernized Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, and just last Friday, they voted against $500 million in additional aid to Ukraine. Can the Minister of National Defence highlight the support that Canada has been providing to Ukraine in its fight against Russia's illegal invasion?
    Mr. Speaker, sadly, the member for Davenport is right. Just last week, the Conservatives voted against funding for Canada's military operations, they voted against compensation improvements for CAF members and they voted against military aid for Ukraine under Operation Unifier. Under Operation Unifier, we are doing vital work, including training nearly 40,000 Ukrainian troops and supplying Ukrainian forces with the munitions and equipment they need.
    We will stand up for our troops. We will stand with our allies and partners. We will stand up for Ukraine, even if the Conservatives cut and run. Hansard remembers.
    Slava Ukraini.

Carbon Pricing

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of the current NDP-Liberal government, the Prime Minister is not worth the cost of Christmas dinner. His carbon tax is driving up costs so high that Canadian households are struggling as we head into the holiday season. What is worse is that he is planning to quadruple this tax on groceries, gas and home heating. Instead, why does the Prime Minister not axe his carbon tax so that Canadians can afford Christmas dinner?
    Mr. Speaker, in a shocking turn of events, just last week, the Conservative Party held hostage the progress and investments that we continue to make in Canadians. When given the chance to support increasing the number of child care spaces in rural and underserved communities, what did the Conservatives do? They voted against.
    What does this mean? This means not supporting new and much-needed child care spaces in rural and underserved communities. The Conservatives are just not worth the risk.
    Mr. Speaker, what the Liberals simply do not understand is that their plan is just not working. It is not just Conservatives saying it. The Chiefs of Ontario, representing 133 first nations, nearly a third of which are located in the Kenora district, are taking the government to court. They argue that the carbon tax leaves them worse off and breaches the principles of reconciliation. Therefore, why does the Prime Minister not finally show some common sense and axe his tax on farmers, families and first nations for good?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are always trying to cancel climate action, but last week the Grinch, or the leader of the Conservative Party, tried to cancel Christmas as well. Instead, he cancelled—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. As the hon. parliamentary secretary and all members know, we are not supposed to call members of Parliament mock names.
    I would ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to rephrase the question, please.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are always trying to cancel climate action, but last week. the leader of the Conservatives tried to cancel Christmas too. Instead, he just cancelled his credibility.
    Last week, the Conservatives voted against the GST being taken off psychotherapy and counselling. Last week, the Conservatives voted against seniors getting their teeth fixed. When will he admit that his reckless plan is putting Canadians at risk?
    Mr. Speaker, 133 chiefs from across Ontario are calling out the government's unjust carbon tax as driving up the cost of everything for first nations communities. In what is typically a festive time for many, indigenous families are wondering how they are going to pay the cost of food. The Prime Minister's quadrupling of the carbon tax is driving up the cost on farmers and truckers, which raises the cost of food.
    Will the Prime Minister finally cancel his plan to quadruple the carbon tax on families, first nations and farmers forever?
    Mr. Speaker, today I have heard a lot about rising costs. I just want to make sure Canadians watching appreciate that, when parliamentarians vote for 30 hours, and it costs about $70,000 an hour to keep this place running, it is costing Canadian taxpayers about $2 million. That is the first point.
    Second, with respect to the point that was just made by the member opposite, if Conservatives were so concerned about the price of food, I would have thought they might have voted in favour of a school food program to keep food prices down for young Canadians in this country. Alas, they voted against it.
    Mr. Speaker, after eight long years of the Liberal-NDP government, quality of life has not improved for indigenous peoples. Now, 133 first nations in Ontario are taking the government to court over the carbon tax, stating that the climate cannot be helped at the expense of communities. The Prime Minister is making life harder for everyone by raising the cost of food through his carbon tax, so Conservatives will delay the Prime Minister's vacation until he removes it.
    Will the Prime Minister finally cancel his carbon tax, so indigenous families can share a meal with friends and family on Christmas?
    Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives had wanted to make life easier for first nations people, they would not have voted against so many measures that first nations leaders need and are essential to running good communities, things like education, emergency management, water infrastructure and the building of homes.
    These are the kinds of things that Conservatives voted against last week. They have never been there for indigenous people, and they continue to vote against them.

[Translation]

Climate Change

    Mr. Speaker, COP will come to a close tomorrow, ending in failure, with a final declaration that obfuscates the importance of eliminating fossil fuels.
    Canada blames the OPEC countries. However, the Liberals just announced a plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions for oil companies, but that does not apply until 2030. There is nothing until 2030, and if we have not cut emissions by 60% by then, global warming will have shattered the Paris Agreement targets.
    Do the Liberals realize that their record at COP is no better than that of the oil monarchies?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada is at COP28 to show that we are committed to advancing the low-carbon economy.
    We are working on a plan to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector and ensure that this sector makes a significant contribution to meeting Canada's climate targets.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is time for the COP review, and the year-end review as well.
    When Quebeckers look back on their year, they will think about the forest fires that turned Quebec's skies into a science-fiction set. They will think of the torrential rains that cancelled vacations, ruined harvests and caused rivers to burst their banks.
    Quebeckers will not be thinking about COP, but they will be thinking seriously about climate change. At the end of the day, that is how the success or failure of governments is measured at COPs.
    Do the Liberals realize that they are once again ending the year on a failure?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to, once again, say that Canada was the first nation ever to put a cap on oil and gas emissions at COP28.
    That comes in the exact same week as Canada was the first country ever to suggest that we were going to reduce our methane oil and gas emissions by 75%. That is leadership in climate action.
    I welcome the questions from the Bloc and the NDP about how we fight climate change, because the questions from the Conservatives are so consistently about whether or not we fight climate change.
    The answer is yes. We rise to the challenge and we are climate action leaders here in Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about Canada's leadership in the global environmental arena.
    As we all know, COP28 is happening right now. I am participating virtually, which means that I regularly attend the discussions, but with zero emissions and zero cost. Let us not forget that last year, at COP27, a document was published on the effectiveness of countries in terms of climate change. Canada ranked 58th.
    Would the minister please stand up and tell us where Canada stands one year later?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has done a tremendous job. He has already given very good answers to the many questions posed by the opposition.
    However, there is one thing that I do not understand. The last battle on the Plains of Abraham took place in 1759, but during the votes last week, we saw that the Conservatives want to wage another battle on those plains. They voted against renovating infrastructure at the Plains of Abraham and making it safer. We know that there are very few Conservatives in the Magdalen Islands and that they are not welcome there.
    Will the Conservatives be a little embarrassed to visit the Plains of Abraham in the coming weeks?
    Mr. Speaker, I can understand why the minister would be embarrassed, because Canada dropped from 58th place to 62nd in just one year. That is the result after one year under this Liberal government. What happened after eight years? The Liberals have spent the past eight years lecturing everyone and setting high targets that they are never able to meet. Canada has now fallen to 62nd place.

[English]

    By the way, who was saying, in 2015, that “Canada is back”? The Prime Minister. Today, Canada is way, way back. That is the reality of their eight years in this cabinet.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we take no lessons from the Conservatives.
    Last week, they voted against the aerospace industry. They voted against tourism businesses. They voted against the Plains of Abraham. Imagine that, the Plains of Abraham. The member for Louis-Saint-Laurent should be ashamed to have voted against the Plains of Abraham.
    Will he use his influence to bring his colleagues to their senses? On this side of the House, we will fight for Canadians.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of this Liberal-NDP government, even a report from COP28 is showing that this Prime Minister is not worth the cost. The climate change performance index ranked Canada 62nd out of 67 countries on climate change performance, despite the fact that Canada has one of the highest carbon taxes in the world.
    Will the Prime Minister finally admit that he does not have an environment plan and that he has a tax plan?
    Mr. Speaker, not only is the Conservative Party opposed to addressing affordability in this country and not only is it opposed to fighting climate change, it has a hard time keeping its statements straight.
    In 2008, the Conservative Party platform stated, “We will work...to...implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases.”
    The 2021 platform, on which all of these members were elected, stated, “We recognize that the most efficient way to reduce our emissions is to use pricing mechanisms.”
    More recently, the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, who asked a question here about carbon pricing, sat in Premier Campbell's caucus and voted in—

  (1500)  

    The hon. member for Guelph.

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, housing is too expensive everywhere. To solve the housing crisis, we need to get more homes built faster. One simply cannot get more homes built by cutting housing funding.
    How will the housing measures included in the supplementary estimates, which the Conservative leader just voted to cut, help solve the housing crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, we know from the course of our history that we have to make investments if we are going to solve the national housing crisis, but with the Conservative position to cut everything, Canadians are right to ask what it is they are going to cut. Thankfully, they put on a full display of a series of measures that they want to get rid of. This includes investments that were going to build thousands of affordable homes for Canadians. This includes investments that are going to build apartments at reasonable prices. This includes investments in indigenous housing initiatives, investments in transitional housing for women and children, and investments in homelessness supports for veterans.
    If Conservatives cannot stand along with the vulnerable, they will stand with no one but themselves.

Public Services and Procurement

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's Ethics Commissioner has launched an investigation into a second Liberal-appointed member at their billion-dollar green slush fund. Two Liberal appointees together have funnelled more than $600,000 to their own companies. It is clear the Prime Minister is not worth the cost to struggling Canadians. Though the NDP-Liberal government tried to silence the whistle-blower, the whistle-blower will be testifying at committee tonight.
    Can the Prime Minister cut the drama so that we do not have to wait for this evening, and tell Canadians how many other Liberal insiders got rich?
    Mr. Speaker, let us cut the drama. These Conservatives are so against climate change that they want to cut one of the institutions that funds clean technology in this country.
    The moment we learned about the allegation, we launched an investigation. We took remedial action. The chair of the board has resigned. The CEO has resigned. We are going to get to the bottom of this, restore confidence, have governance and continue to fund clean tech in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, these Liberals and that minister were satisfied with their cover-up report and wanted the board chair and their CEO to implement the recommendations at this corrupt organization, but now with the Auditor General investigating and the Ethics Commissioner investigating two Liberal appointees, the board chair and the CEO have resigned in disgrace. There is $1 billion on the line and we know that up to $150 million has been embezzled. Canadians cannot afford the Prime Minister after eight years of him and his NDP-Liberal government.
     It is very easy. We want to know who got rich.
    Mr. Speaker, what Canadians, those watching at home, cannot stand anymore is the fact that these Conservatives are making up stories and allegations. They saw last week what they are able to do. Let me get the facts straight. The moment we learned about the allegation we took action and, by the way, the chair that the member referred to served under a Conservative government.
    Let us not focus on people. Let us focus on restoring governance and funding clean tech in this country. We will get to the bottom of this and restore confidence in this institution.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, after eight years of this Liberal government, friends of the Prime Minister use the Canada green fund to treat themselves. The head of the $1-billion green fund is under investigation for approving $400,000 in funding to a business he is the owner of.
    When and how will the government recoup the taxpayer dollars given by the green fund to friends of the Prime Minister and stop handing out gifts paid for by Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and his dramatic performance. I am sure he will get an important part.
    In terms of facts, I think that Canadians will stick to what we are saying. As I said, the moment we learned about the allegations, we launched an investigation. The chair of the board and the CEO of the institution have resigned. We are going to get to the bottom of this and restore governance, but we are also going to ensure that we fund businesses in Canada that will introduce technologies to fight climate change. That is the responsible thing to do.

  (1505)  

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, our government has made it clear that dental care coverage is a priority, but in this House last week the Conservatives were the only party to vote against funding for the Canada dental care plan. Instead, the Conservatives want Canadians to pay for their care out of pocket.
    Today, the Minister of Health announced the next steps of our work to provide a historic dental care program in this country. Can he tell Canadians what this means for them?
    Mr. Speaker, on Thursday and Friday, we got to see what the Conservatives had not been willing to show, which is that in a time of global difficulty when people all over the world are suffering, their solution here in Canada is to cut from the services and supports that Canadians desperately need.
     What does that mean in dental care? It means for seniors I have been talking to for decades who have not been able to get their dentures, they voted against them getting their dentures and having that dignity. They voted against preventative health care that makes sure people do not get cardiovascular disease or diabetes or that they have to go to an emergency room because they put off that critical care.
    We are delivering dental care for this country along with the NDP.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the delay-and-disappoint Liberals are letting veterans and their families down yet again. This time it is because they failed to eliminate the “marriage over 60” clause that puts veterans' spouses, mostly elderly women, into poverty. When I asked the Minister of National Defence what has happened with the $150 million the Liberals promised for a veterans survivors fund, after four years, he could not give me an answer.
    Our veterans and their families deserve better, and so I am asking the minister again: Are any of the veterans' families receiving the promised survivors benefit?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her continued advocacy on this matter.
    When a veteran serves in the military, their family serves with them. Our government is extremely sensitive to the situation of widowed spouses of veterans who married after the age of 60. In budget 2019, we announced an amount of money to make sure we put in place a program, and I am looking forward to making sure that the program rolls out in the very near future.

Persons with Disabilities

    Mr. Speaker, following the disability community's disappointment that not a cent was set aside for the Canada disability benefit in the fall economic statement, stakeholders are now sharing that the Department of Finance is considering determining eligibility through the incredibly burdensome application for the disability tax credit. This flies in the face of an amendment I proposed, and was supported by all colleagues, requiring that the benefit be barrier-free.
    Will the minister confirm that they will find a barrier-free application process as prescribed by law?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his active participation in voting for investments, like the administration of the Canada disability benefit, while the Conservative members voted against it last week.
    As I mentioned in the the committee earlier today, getting the CDB out as quickly as possible and getting it right is our top priority. We are doing it by extensively consulting with the disability community in the true spirit of “nothing without us”. In fact, online, public, fully accessible consultations are open, and I hope that all members and all Canadians with disabilities will participate.

[Translation]

    That is all the time we have for question period.
    The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, earlier, I referred to a document that was tabled at COP28 entitled “Climate Change Performance Index”—
    I am sorry, but I can already tell that the hon. member does not have unanimous consent.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1510)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 32 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), and consistent with the policy on the tabling of treaties in Parliament, I have the honour today to table, in both official languages, the treaties entitled “Convention Establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory”, done at Rome on March 12, 2019, and “Agreement between Canada and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory concerning the Accession of Canada to the Convention Establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory” done at Ottawa on October 13, 2023, and at Lower Withington, United Kingdom, on October 30, 2023.
     Second, I table “Agreement on Air Transport between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Dominican Republic”, done at Santo Domingo on February 2, 2023.
     Third, I table “Exchange of Letters constituting an agreement amending the Agreement for Co-operation Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, done at Washington on 15 June 1955, as amended”, done at Washington on June 26, 2023, and at Ottawa on July 7, 2023.

First Nations Clean Water Act

Committees of the House

Agriculture and Agri-Food  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege and the honour to present, in both official languages, two reports of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
    While I have the floor, let me say that I am very proud that we are a very functional committee here on the Hill and are getting lots of good work done.
     I present the 15th report, entitled “Protecting Against Animal Biosecurity Risks: The State of Canada's Preparedness”, and the 16th report, entitled “Striking a Balance: Electronic Logging Device Requirements Impacting Animal Transportation”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to each of these two reports. I have copies of the document, which I am happy to give. I thank all the folks who participated in these two studies, and I thank my hon. colleagues for their good work.

Foreign Affairs and International Development  

     Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, entitled “Current Human Rights Situation in Iran”. It is in reference to an icon of the human rights movement in Iran, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh.
    In addition, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, entitled “The Rights and Freedoms of Women and Girls Globally, and in Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia”.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to these reports.

Natural Resources  

     Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in relation to Bill C-50, An Act respecting accountability, transparency and engagement to support the creation of sustainable jobs for workers and economic growth in a net-zero economy.
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report it back to the House with amendments.

  (1515)  

Justice and Human Rights 

     Mr. Speaker, I move that the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented to the House on Monday, June 5, be concurred in.
    Today, I am seeking the agreement of the House on the 12th report of the justice committee, a report which condemns the violence of the Taliban regime, affirms that it is not the legitimate government of Afghanistan and expresses the belief that the Taliban must remain a listed terrorist organization. This matter is particularly timely, for reasons that I will explain shortly.
    As 2023 draws to a close, the world is seeing a proliferation of violent conflicts that merit our closer scrutiny. I will focus my remarks today mainly on Afghanistan, of course, but I do think the wider context is important to set out first.
    The further invasion of Ukraine by Russia continues. We now see clear evidence that genocide and other war crimes have been perpetrated by the invading armies, at the direction and with the full support of the Putin regime. This regime practises the large-scale abduction of Ukrainian children, allows its soldiers to use sexual violence as a weapon of war and indiscriminately targets civilians for the purpose of inflicting maximal terror. For the residual “end of history” crowd, this war should have broken any remaining illusions about what kind of a world we are still living in.
    This fall, the terrorist organization Hamas launched a horrific and unprecedented attack on Israel. Like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this attack by Hamas has included child stealing, sexual violence and the intentional targeting and terrorizing of civilians. Hamas did not act in isolation; it has received constant support from the terrorist IRGC, the Iranian regime's weapon of terror. The Iranian regime has long been recognized as a state sponsor of terror through its support of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian regime, Houthi rebels in Yemen, extremist militias in Iraq and others. The regime uses proxies in an attempt to shelter itself from direct retaliation, but we should be under no illusions about its responsibility.
    When it comes to war and terrorism, at least in the Middle East, all roads lead back to Tehran, and this is a key reason Conservatives have long called for the listing of the IRGC as a terrorist organization, particularly since the House of Commons adopted my motion calling for that listing more than five years ago. The Iranian regime is committing grotesque atrocities in its attacks against Israelis and others that parallel the atrocities that the Russian regime is responsible for. These two regimes have been steadily increasing their co-operation, sharing technology and offering each other various other forms of strategic support.
    Meanwhile, the people of Burma are fighting for their freedom. Following a military coup, the dissident democracy movement has established effective dissident institutions and strengthened itself through growing ethnic reconciliation efforts that include the long-persecuted Rohingya people. Burma's democratic forces are facing the illegitimate coup leaders in the Tatmadaw that occupies their capital, and the Tatmadaw is increasingly escalating its atrocities, also targeting women, children and civilians in general. The Tatmadaw, the military that claims but does not effectively control the territory or exercise legitimate sovereignty over Burma, is also collaborating with the Putin regime, sharing weapons and technology, and allowing it to avoid western sanctions.
    I met recently with leaders from various communities in Central and South America to talk about human rights issues here in our hemisphere, and it was a strikingly familiar message: persistent abuse of human rights by authoritarian regimes, this time with roads leading back to Havana, including the targeting of civilians and escalating co-operation between the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes, on the one hand, and the governments of Russian and Iran, on the other. One demonstration of this growing association is that Cuba is actually sending soldiers to fight for Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. It is, I think, not nearly widely known enough that Cuba is effectively participating in sending its own soldiers into Russia's genocidal invasion. The Government of Venezuela is now threatening its neighbour Guyana, holding a sham referendum recently to justify potential aggression. The Maduro regime is further stepping up its pressure on its neighbour after the discovery of additional oil reserves in Guyanese territory.
    There are Russia, Iran, Burma, Cuba, Venezuela, and to this list we could add others, such as North Korea, Eritrea and, most critically, the Government of the PRC. The Communist regime in Beijing controls the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy, and this regime is working overtime to overturn the concept of a democratic rules-based order and replace it with a dynamic in which oppressed domestic populations and vulnerable neighbours can be threatened and dominated at will by regimes whose only necessary justification is power.
    The free and democratic nations that uphold doctrines of universal human rights rooted in universal human dignity must struggle, and struggle successfully, against this emerging axis of revisionist imperialist authoritarian powers. We must struggle for the rule of law and for the greater recognition of universal human rights against these powers and principalities for whom the exercise of raw power requires no moral justification. This is the new cold war. The string of events that we see around the world are not random, unrelated occurrences. They are not simply a collection of bad coincidences. They are, rather, the result of strategic co-operation among nations that want a different future for the world than the free and democratic future that we desire for our children and grandchildren.

  (1520)  

    Struggling successfully in this new cold war requires us to invest in our military, to build up our munitions productions capacity, to support people who are fighting for their own freedom around the world, to decisively isolate terrorist organizations, to stand with our allies and to strategically engage the swing states of the 21st-century global conflict through strengthening trade and other forms of partnership with the global south. We must do these things, and we must do them persistently over time. Lifting the new iron curtain will require a renewed iron will.
    In these challenging times, I believe we can prevail, but I do not believe we will prevail necessarily. We will prevail if and only if we make the smart decisions that are required to defend our security interests and our way of life. Fancy socks, photo ops and cuts to our military are not going to help us in the midst of this new cold war. Serious times require serious leaders. Our country needs true statesmanship. It needs a will to confront hard truths in the pursuit of a more just, human and democratic victory.
    Afghanistan is one more front in this global struggle. In the fall of 2021, a little over two years ago and before many other aspects of this escalating cold war had taken place, Afghanistan was abandoned by the west and then overrun by the Taliban, an internationally recognized terrorist group. The western pullout from Afghanistan was not the result of battlefield defeats. Rather, it was the result of that pernicious virus in which foreign policy debates in the democratic world seem uniquely susceptible: fatigue. Many of us are too optimistic in wishing to believe that our struggles for freedom and justice will be quick and easy. We react to initial needs with eagerness, but our interest tapers off as the events in question are no longer in the news. Eventually, people start to ask themselves, “Why is that still going on? Is that thing over there still happening?” Fatigue in foreign policy explains the odd habit among free nations of sometimes abandoning a task when it is almost complete. While it may be psychologically understandable, this is strategically inexplicable, allowing the reversal of critical gains at the point at which most of the work has, in fact, already been done.
    In Afghanistan, by the time of the pullout, the Afghan army was able to fight back against the Taliban with relatively limited western air support. Far from constituting a forever war, limited backup support at a relatively low cost was sustaining the Afghan army and the Afghan government. In a sense, the task was almost complete. The Afghans were fighting for their own future in circumstances that required some, but limited, western support. Arbitrarily pulling these last elements of western support created a hole in the dam, and the Taliban flooded in.
    Free peoples must not allow themselves to be overcome by fatigue when steadfastness and strategic patience can instead finish the job. If we needed to learn that lesson again, I hope we apply it in today's ongoing struggles in other places. Our strategic foes in every part of the world, particularly in the Kremlin, hope that we will be overcome by fatigue and abandon our posts in more countries, opening the door to the further expansion of injustice and tyranny.
    The invocation of fatigue is particularly striking to me when used to explain the behaviours of countries or individuals not actually involved in or doing the fighting, which was the position of many countries by 2021. Even countries that were involved were committing far fewer troops than many other theatres around the world. If some felt fatigue about the length of the conflict in Afghanistan, or if we feel fatigue today because of how long the war has gone on in Ukraine, then imagine how the people of Afghanistan and Ukraine felt and feel. If they, in the midst of the intensity and violence of their struggles, are prepared to persist in their own bloody fights for their freedom, then the least we can do is have their back. If we needed to learn again about the dangers of this so-called fatigue, then I hope Afghanistan has taught us well. Afghanistan was abandoned, so fell to the complete control of a terrorist organization. This terrorist organization, though having its own particular genesis and ideological orientation, has unsurprisingly fallen quickly into partnership with the world's authoritarian block.
    The motion before us is timely because the Taliban's ambassador has just been accepted and received in Beijing, as both sides cultivate ties with each other based on shared antipathy toward the west, shared disdain for international human rights norms and a narrow calculation of immediate interests. Formally speaking, it does not make sense that an ostensibly Muslim organization would aggressively court a regime currently committing genocide and seeking to replace in their homeland the Muslim Uyghur people, but the new cold war reality is one in which authoritarian powers notionally conflicting ideologies co-operate against the west, not for ideology but for power.
    The temporary loss of Afghanistan to this authoritarian block has been a significant setback, but on this side of the House, we believe the west must remain resolute in its support for the Afghan people and its recognition that they desire and deserve that their freedom and democracy be restored. If we accept Taliban control of Afghanistan, if we accede to this violent takeover, then we would be leaving the Afghan people to a fate we would never contemplate for ourselves. The Afghan people around the world are now mobilizing to challenge the Taliban in all domains. Democratic nations should be prepared to pursue strengthened dialogue and collaboration with democratic opposition and resistance groups, working to keep the dream alive.
    Authoritarian regimes are often weaker than they appear. The nature of repressive regimes is that evident elements of weakness cannot be discussed directly by those who can see them most clearly, which is why predicting the moment of their fall is always very difficult.

  (1525)  

    Without popular legitimacy, these regimes are brittle and can disintegrate unexpectedly. Bringing about that disintegration requires supportive engagement with democratic opposition groups and unrelenting pressure on the regime.
    At this time, the House must consider what we can meaningfully do to promote democratization in a place like Afghanistan. It seems that often in these sorts of situations, we perceive a binary choice that is in fact a false choice. In the aftermath of 9/11, democracy promotion was discussed particularly in terms of western military action. The sense was that if the west wanted to promote democracy, that involved directly pushing the advancement of democracy through military action. Of course, that approach was very costly.
    Critics of this approach have posited as the primary alternative a complete “live and let live” approach, leaving in place anti-democratic regimes, tolerating them, engaging with them, and naively seeking the kind of close relations that make us vulnerable to strategic trade disruption and foreign interference.
    Importantly, there are many other alternatives for dealing with regimes we do not like, besides the extremes of military intervention or complete tolerance. We can, instead, pursue policies of non-interventionist intolerance. That is, we can firmly oppose anti-democratic regimes at the diplomatic level, especially in international forums. We can use terrorist listing, sanctions and other tools to punish bad actors, and we can structure our trade relations to avoid situations of strategic vulnerability for us while seeking to deprive our adversaries of the material capacity to oppose us. We can also support opposition and civil society groups. This combination creates many points of pressure on anti-democratic regimes, pressure that makes them less sustainable over time.
    The shock and awe of direct external military intervention produces quick, though not always durable, results. Sustained pressure, non-interventionist intolerance, takes time. It seeks to tip the scales as much as we can toward freedom and democracy, acknowledging that we in the west do not have limitless capacity to change the world, but we do have some capacity to change the world. This strategy seeks to use the capacity that we have in ways that are prudent and effective.
    Strategic and financial pressure does not usually have a predictable timeline associated with it, but it produces results when the combination of external and internal pressure becomes too much for the regime to hold. This strategy has a good track record. It is, after all, what won us the last Cold War, when the free democratic world finally developed the necessary clarity and resolve to squeeze the Soviet empire and bring about its disintegration. Such success was possible, though it was never inevitable. It required investment, discipline and confidence over time. The same will be required to achieve victory in this cold war.
    During the French Revolution, the great Admiral Horatio Nelson said, of England's relations with the revolutionary and violent French Republic, “although we might one day hope to be at peace with France, we must ever be at war with French principles.” He meant that, of course, in the context of the revolution.
    A similar situation should prevail today as it relates to the Taliban. Although we are not at war with the Taliban, we are at war with Taliban principles. We oppose the things they stand for and we oppose normalization. In a world that is more interconnected than ever, normalization of relations with extremist terrorist groups obviously makes us more vulnerable. Normalization undermines the efforts of opposition groups and effectively provides terrorist organizations with more resources that they can use against us and against their own people.
    A policy of sustained pressure on the Taliban and on other bad actors aligns with the aspirations of the Afghan people and of all people everywhere. The greatest strategic advantage that free democracies have is that they are offering a system that the people living in countries controlled by our strategic adversaries actually want. Sustained pressure is not going to impose change from outside. It will rather create the conditions that allow the Afghan people to eventually seize control of their own destiny once again.
    In the meantime, we must also maintain and strengthen engagement with the Afghan people in other ways, including through looking for innovative tools to provide information and education to people living inside Afghanistan who are barred from attending school. I know all members are horrified by the policies of gender apartheid that are in place in Afghanistan and that prevent girls from going to school. We need to be thinking more creatively about unconventional tools for delivering education and other forms of information to people living in repressive contexts. There are many ways to deliver education outside of a traditional classroom context, ways that are harder for the Taliban or other repressive authorities to interrupt. This is how we must stand with and continue to support the Afghan people.
    It is important to add that we are having this debate in a context where the government has been extremely weak on the listing of terrorist organizations in general. Up until now, the Liberal position has remained to support the continuing listing of the Taliban as a terrorist organization, which is good, but Liberals have refused to follow the direction of the House to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization and to list the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization.

  (1530)  

    These organizations, instruments of terror for the Iranian and Russian regimes respectively, belong on our terror list. The selective listing of terrorist organizations undermines the whole endeavour. All terrorist organizations should be listed as such. Listing these organizations as terrorist entities would shut down their operations in Canada. It would prevent them from operating, fundraising and recruiting here on Canadian soil.
    The government has refused to shut down Iranian and Russian regime-backed terrorists by listing these entities. We will continue to push it to add these organizations to the terrorist list and shut down their operations here in Canada. I proposed Bill C-350, a bill that would list the IRGC and take additional measures to support victims of torture, terrorism and extrajudicial killing. We have tried to advance that bill, but the Liberals have twice blocked it from advancing. We will continue to fight to move it forward.
    In the time I have remaining, I have one additional observation that I want to make about the current debates happening throughout North America in the context of this new cold war.
    Sometimes in the face of authoritarian threats, we in the west have a strange habit of trying to identify authoritarian regimes as “right” or “left”. One dictatorship is deemed “rightist” and another is deemed “leftist”, even if the regimes in question are doing essentially the same things for essentially the same reasons. Efforts to code authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships as representing either the left or the right, in terms of western democratic political understanding of these terms, miss the more essential point that these ideologies share the essential points in common and always stand far apart from the democratic values embraced by the west.
    The coding of foreign dictatorial regimes as “left” or “right” generally reflects their own attempts at self-justification. Regimes that more frequently invoke the iconography of religion and tradition tend to be coded as “right”. Regimes that more frequently speak in terms of workers or equality tend to be coded as “left”. It is not entirely arbitrary how this coding emerges, but it still obscures the fact that these regimes do the same things to their people, work together on common anti-western projects and change the nature of their self-justification when it is convenient.
    The Communist regime in Beijing is notionally a left-coded regime, because it calls itself Communist and it is increasingly reintroducing education and discussion about Marxism, but it also increasingly uses Confucian language and icons to justify its rule and promotes a kind of ethnonationalism alongside Marxism. The CCP acts through party committees at big corporations. All of these characteristics underline the problem of identifying it or trying to label it as being of the left or of the right.
    Let us consider another example. The regime in Russia is frequently seen as “right” and the regime in Cuba is frequently seen as “left”. Canadian Liberals, who rightly oppose the regime in Moscow, preserve a soft spot for the regime in Havana. Our own Prime Minister shamefully described Castro as “larger than life leader who served his people”. Not only do the Russian and Cuban regimes deploy similar methods, but they are actively collaborating in the invasion of Ukraine. As mentioned, there are Cuban soldiers directly involved in the invasion of Ukraine. Calling one extreme “left” and the other extreme “right” just does not make much sense, given their common approach and collaboration. These are merely choices of the regime to justify itself in the terms it finds most convenient.
    Our position, on this side of the House, is that we should, always and everywhere, condemn these extreme statist totalitarian regimes, whether they wear the clothes of the right or the clothes of the left, whether they wear a bit of each or whether they change their clothes from time to time. On this side of the House, we stand for freedom and democracy, always and everywhere, and we stand against authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships regardless of how they code their politics. We are uniquely consistent on this point.
    To my friends in other democracies, it is important to underline that the Putin regime is an authoritarian dictatorship, strongly opposed to our values and our interests, working closely with the regimes in Havana and Tehran and backed up by the CCP. We cannot fight half the cold war. There is no sense in opposing our strategic foes in one theatre while ignoring their advances in another. These are not different fights; these are different parts of the same fight, and we must look squarely on that challenge and face it to preserve the future that we want for our children and grandchildren.
    This is why Canadian Conservatives will always stand for freedom. We will stand for freedom here at home, and we will stand for freedom abroad. We will stand for freedom in Afghanistan, and we will stand for freedom in Ukraine. We stand for freedom, always and everywhere.

  (1535)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague with interest. There are a few things that came out of his speech: the use of the word “fatigue” almost 10 times; the Russian illegal war in Ukraine; the potential flashpoint between China and Taiwan; and the things that are happening with Israel and Palestine. With these sorts of flashpoints around the world, does the west have enough capacity? In fact, the member rightly mentioned that we do not have limitless capacity.
     He was very clearly opposing the authoritarian regimes. The west has a relationship with various systems that are not democratic in a traditional sense. We have even started opening negotiations with Venezuela. Should we not put our interests as the focus whenever we build alliances to take care of world events?
    Madam Speaker, I have enjoyed discussing these matters with the member. What I was advocating in my speech is that we can take a posture of non-interventionist intolerance in many cases. That is recognizing the limits we have in our capacity. We cannot be everywhere. We cannot be actively fighting with every opponent to freedom and democracy. However, that does not mean that we should tolerate their repression or we should ignore human rights abuses that take place.
     There is a great alignment between our values and our interests. When we stand for freedom in the world, there is clarity about our position, and that allows us to build support and alliances among nations and also peoples who share our conviction. Very often, the advocacy for us to ignore our values for our interests actually ends up undermining our long-term interest. Standing for a set of convictions, being clear that our nation stands for something on the world stage, is consistent with both our values and our interests.
    Madam Speaker, just this past week, President Zelenskyy tried to get support in Washington, and the right wing there tried to stop support for a military fight against the illegal invasion by Putin. It was the same week that the Conservatives decided that their leader, their foreign affairs critic and their defence critic would make sure they were seen standing in the House multiple times voting against Operation Unifier. I was looking at Operation Unifier and thinking, what is it that could be so offensive to the Conservatives that they had to make such a clear statement? The fact is that we have Canadian soldiers on the ground, Canadian soldiers doing military training and Canadian soldiers doing medic training, and yet the Conservatives are out to undermine that support for Ukraine.
    I would refer to the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who wrote, “For the second time this month, Conservative MPs undermine support for Ukraine by voting against funding for Operation Unifier.... Canada's support for Ukraine should be unanimous and beyond political games.”
    That is what the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has said. Why is it that the Conservatives stood up with their leader to vote against some fundamental military support for Ukraine? The message they are sending is very clear: They are undermining—
    I have to give the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan an opportunity to answer.
    Madam Speaker, my hon. friend is not as ignorant as he pretends to be. He knows that we support Operation Unifier, and he knows that we started Operation Unifier—
    I have to interrupt the hon. member.
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, we asked a question about Conservative policy on military, and they start calling us “ignorant”. That is unparliamentary.
    It is unparliamentary and the hon. member should know better.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Madam Speaker, if you judge it unparliamentary, I will withdraw it out of deference to your office.
    The member knows the following facts. He knows the Conservatives support Operation Unifier. He knows that we started Operation Unifier, actually. He also understands that when we have budget and confidence motions, members are not just voting on the particular item on the table; they are voting regarding whether or not they have confidence in the government. Conservatives do not have confidence in the current government, which is why, when given the chance, we voted non-confidence in the government at every single occasion. Does that mean that we oppose every single spending item? Clearly it does not. That is obviously absurd. We voted non-confidence in the government every chance we got.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for raising this very important debate, considering the travesty that is going on in Afghanistan, in particular against women and girls. Reports are coming out, as recently as today, talking about the 1.7 million foreigners in Pakistan they are looking to push back to where they came from. This in particular has a huge impact on women and girls who are from Afghanistan, including those who were the breadwinners in their families, such as widows who lost their husbands during the conflict and who worked when they were allowed to work during the west's intervention. Now, to quote their words, they are saying, “We will be eliminated if we return to Afghanistan.”
     What can the member add about the importance of the west's continued participation in standing up against these autocratic regimes around the world? At the same time, can he address the fatigue he talked about and how it requires that long-term sort of thinking in order for us to continue to support those who need our support around the globe?

  (1540)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his service in Afghanistan and to our country.
    It has been inspiring to me to see the deep bonds that were established between Canadian Forces members who served and the Afghan people, and to see the incredible lengths that people who served in Afghanistan have gone, since the pullout in 2021, to assist and support the Afghan people. That goes for not only this member and other members of the House, but also many veterans and members of our military, who are not in elected office but who are nonetheless doing everything they can to raise money and take other actions. I want to salute the service of our veterans and their work supporting the Afghan people. They understand. They have made these sacrifices.
    To the member's question about fatigue, those who fought and served understand the immense sacrifice. They have made far more sacrifices than any of us who did not serve in that way have made. They understand the importance of us continuing to stand with the Afghan people.
    This is why I talked about the proposals in my speech of refusing to legitimize or tolerate the Taliban and continuing to apply maximum pressure while engaging with and supporting opposition groups. Different opposition groups are organizing and coming together in various ways to oppose the Taliban. We should be opposing the Taliban while actively engaging and supporting the opposition, recognizing that the fight is not over, that it is the birthright of the Afghan people to have freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and that we must be with them until the job is finished.
    Madam Speaker, as many would know, very few if any members have brought forward concurrence reports as the member opposite has. That, as the member knows, prevents debate on government legislation. Today, we were supposed to be debating Bill C-56, and the member has chosen to bring forward another concurrence report.
    Does the member not recognize or have any sort of desire to see government legislation? Why does he consistently want to bring forward concurrence reports to try to frustrate the legislative process here in Ottawa?
    Madam Speaker, the House of Commons standing orders provide various opportunities for the government to put forward its legislative agenda, and they also provide various opportunities for opposition members to put forward ideas for debate that are priorities for them and their constituents.
    The way the schedule works on Mondays is that we have an hour for Private Members' Business, the government has available two hours for Government Orders and then we have Routine Proceedings, which is a time when members can move motions and table petitions. I could go through all the mechanics of that, but the hon. member knows them well. He knows that concurrence motions and debates are part of the process.
    Fundamentally, this is an extremely important issue. There are Afghan Canadians and people of goodwill around the world who I know are watching this debate and are interested in the outcome of this debate, because they are concerned with the cause of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan. This is not about raising that issue only but about raising the broader issues of this new cold war we are in and the lessons we can learn from what happened in Afghanistan for other situations.
    I think this is an extremely important issue to be raised in the House of Commons. It is the right place to debate it. It is the right time to debate it. I certainly will make no apologies for putting that idea forward at this time.

  (1545)  

    Before we resume debate, I wish to clarify for the House that the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has moved concurrence in the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, not the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which is on a very similar topic. The Chair misspoke earlier in putting the motion to the House.
    Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
    Madam Speaker, I think the most appropriate place to start off is the line of questioning that I just asked the member opposite. Prior to question period getting under way, we were having a healthy discussion at the third reading stage of Bill C-56. I know I was not the only one prepared to come to the House to debate Bill C-56.
    What I would like to talk about for the next number of minutes is the purpose of moving concurrence reports such as this particular report. It is not necessarily to have the focus of the House of the Commons on debating the issue the member has attempted to bring forward. As we saw in a number of questions, issues aside from Afghanistan were raised. Rather, it is about a rationale and reasoning that I believe, as many others believe, we see from this particular member: He stands in his place time and time again in order to prevent debates of the government agenda. One only needs to look at the timing of when the member brings forward concurrence debates. They are all on the government's legislative dates when we are going to be debating substantive legislation.
    This morning, as members would know, we brought forward Bill C-56. Prior to question period getting under way, I was the one speaking to it. Bill C-56 is very important to Canadians in a very real and tangible way. It is about an issue that Canadians are very much concerned about from coast to coast to coast. To amplify that, all one needs to do is take a look at the last remarks, because as we were getting to question period, I had to stop speaking on the legislation because we were entering into members' statements, followed then by question period.
    It is interesting that a big focus of question period was in fact the issues I was talking about in the lead-up to members' statements. Also, if we go through members' statements, we will find that these were the issues being amplified. Members of the House, outside of the Conservative caucus, came to the House believing that we would be debating Bill C-56. That is not to say that what is happening in Afghanistan today and what has taken place since 2001 are not important issues. We recognize many of the horrors that have taken place in Afghanistan. We understand the important role that Canada has to play in it.
    However, we also need to recognize at this point in time the types of tactics and efforts from the official opposition, the Conservative Party, a minority inside this chamber, today to prevent debates and legislation from passing. A very good example of this is in a question raised by the New Democrats. We talk about Canada and its role in Afghanistan, and the member talked about the alliance that seems to be out there, indirectly referring to Russia, Afghanistan and like-minded countries. Then he posed a question about the Conservative Party with respect to Ukraine. I think it was a legitimate question to be asking the Conservative Party. Again, we saw the tactics it used last Thursday and Friday. The response was laughable. The question was why the Conservative Party not once, not twice, but I believe three times in total voted specifically to deny Ukraine funds. One of those funds was with respect to the—

  (1550)  

    We have a point of order from the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge.
    Madam Speaker, we are well into the speech and have not heard anything about the report. We have heard about procedure and about some matters that are entirely unrelated. He is talking about a question that has nothing to do with this report—
    The member has mentioned Afghanistan and the service. The hon. member still has 15 minutes to get to the heart of the report. The hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge knows that we have a certain tolerance for when members get to the point of a report.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, the point I was getting to is that Operation Unifier is a military operation, and the member who introduced the motion talked about the Canadian Forces and the role we played in it. Another member tries to imply that it is not relevant, and he needs to give his head a shake. At the end of the day, it is absolutely relevant to be talking about Operation Unifier, a project that is taking place in Ukraine, and the Conservatives' behaviour, which is not consistent with the motion they are moving today.
    On one occasion, the Conservatives voted directly on that. On two other occasions, they voted against Ukraine. When the member was asked about it, what was his answer? Well, it was a confidence issue. We went line by line on expenditures, and the Conservative Party had a choice. They did not have to vote specifically against something they believe in. To try to give the impression that it is a confidence vote is absolutely bogus.
    The bottom line—
    I have to interrupt the hon. member. I have a point of order from the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.
    Madam Speaker, I realize that I have not been here that long, but as it would certainly appear the member has been here much longer than I have, he would well know that every vote against the budget item from the opposition, which it is appropriately meant to do, would be a confidence vote against the government for the reckless fiscal attitude it has concerning—
    I do understand the point the hon. member is trying to make, and I am sure the parliamentary secretary knows full well that all budget votes are confidence votes. It is on the record now.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, I suspect that there is a lot of regret on the other side over the types of things they voted against. They can still have all the confidence votes they want, but at the end of the day, the Conservatives have shown very clearly that they do not support Ukraine in a fashion they like to believe they do.
    This is consistent with the style and pattern we have witnessed from the Conservative Party over the last six months and more, where members opposite try to give a false impression and say they had no choice and had to vote against Ukraine on all three occasions, which is just not true. They could have still vote with a lack of confidence on a wide variety of budgetary motions. They did not have to vote against those budget requests.
    Operation Unifier, as an example, is very relevant to what we are talking about today, because we are talking about the ways that we conduct our international affairs, whether it is diplomacy or with our Canadian Forces. As we went through the budget, line by line as someone has pointed out, the Conservatives had a choice and they chose to vote on the side of Russia. That is in essence what they did—

  (1555)  

    I would remind the hon. member to avoid such suggestions, because we do not want to assume reasons.
    The hon. member for Calgary Centre.
    Madam Speaker, you addressed my point very well.
    Madam Speaker, there is no turning back.
    When we look at the different lines that were actually voted on, for the time the members were there to actually vote. I want to make sure I am parliamentary on this; at times, the Conservative Party showed up at 50%. It got down to about 49% or something of that nature for voting—
    We cannot reference the presence or absence of members in the House, and the parliamentary secretary knows that.
    Madam Speaker, that is true.
    Suffice it to say that, when it started to get a little late, some members felt it was more important to have some sleep than to actually participate in a vote. I am not saying—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    This implies they were absent from the chamber. We cannot project indirectly what we cannot do directly. I ask the hon. member to try not to incite disruption.
    Madam Speaker, I think the point is made.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to clarify your point here. We are in a hybrid Parliament, so people are in this chamber regardless of whether they are here or voting virtually.
    The hon. member definitely has a point. People can vote virtually or in person.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. Who votes and who does not vote is a matter of Hansard. It is a matter of record. The hon. member did not mention certain members who were or were not here, but mentioning that half of a particular caucus was not there for a vote is a matter of Hansard, and I think that could be mentioned in debate.
    It is true that the records of our voting are public. Members can mention that people did not vote, but not that they were not in the chamber.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, to the last point of order, the member is right in the sense that if we are in hybrid, it means that members can either be inside the chamber or they can be on screen. However, after midnight, maybe Conservatives were in bed. I would suggest that, at the end of the day, let us push that to the side and talk in terms of why we are debating this particular motion today.
    The Conservative Party would like to give the impression—
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would point out that it is the Liberal government, which the member is a part of, that has allowed members to vote from bed. They are good with that. We have opposed that all the way. It is the Liberals who moved that into Parliament—
    Let us start with the debate. We are not redoing that point.
    I will allow the hon. parliamentary secretary to complete his speech.
    Madam Speaker, I was moving on from the Conservatives being in bed. At the end of the day, it is up to the Conservatives, and I get the sense that they have a guilt thing going on. However, just because a significant percentage preferred sleep as opposed to voting, they are the ones who have to justify it, not me. If they are feeling a little guilty about that, that is fine.
    Where I have a problem is when Conservatives try to lump all those votes and say that they had a right to vote against each one of them, because—
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It appears that we are about 12 minutes into this speech, and we have not heard one word from the member that is relevant. This report that we are debating is about the criminal—

  (1600)  

    He was about to start when he was interrupted. I am going to give him another chance.
    Madam Speaker, the member across the way has not been listening very carefully at all. I have made reference, right from the very beginning, in regard to the report.
     I have both motions, the motion that ultimately went to the wrong committee, in terms of the concurrence report, and the one that we are actually supposed to be debating. It is not that difficult. It is about Afghanistan and the Taliban. When we talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban—
     The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester is rising on a point of order.
    I find it fascinating, Madam Speaker. The member on this side of the House clearly outlined the government business that is allowed, the rules in this chamber and how he can present a concurrence motion, but the member continues to say that something else should be debated at this time. That is exactly—
    We are talking about the two reports.
    Madam Speaker, we all know very clearly that concurrence in a report is an acceptable measure in the House.
    Yes, it is. The hon. member—
    Otherwise, Madam Speaker, you would, of course, have ruled that it was unacceptable to present it at that time.
    Absolutely, it is admissible. It is part of the rules. The hon. parliamentary secretary was referring to the two reports that caused confusion with the Chair, not with the House.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary is rising on the same point of order.
    Madam Speaker, interruption is the game the Conservative Party is playing. I find it highly inappropriate, because it disrupts the train of thought.
    At the time the member stood up to say that I was not being relevant, I had both motions in my hand and was going to read the one that we are debating. That is definitely relevant, even for the simplest mind to understand, I would suggest.
    I would like to be able to continue with my speech and not be constantly interrupted by—
    We are not going to debate that any longer.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor.
    Madam Speaker, we are talking about a report that the Conservative Party felt was such an important issue that it had to be debated today. This comes right from committee. The motion reads, “That the committee report to the House that it firmly denounces the Taliban and rejects any recognition or legitimization of their control over Afghan territory.” I will stop there for a moment.
    I do not know about the Conservatives, but no one on the Liberal benches, and I suspect no one in the NDP, the Bloc or even the Green Party, would dispute what I just read. Duh. Does the Conservative Party really believe this is what Canadians want us to be talking about today when, earlier, we were talking about affordability and purpose-built rentals, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80,000 homes being built? That is one aspect of competition. That is what we are supposed to be talking about. That is what is on the minds of Canadians.
    What is on the minds of Conservatives in this chamber? I will continue to say what is on their minds.
    The motion goes on to say, “In particular, the committee denounces the Taliban system of gender discrimination”. Who in this chamber does not support that? Are we all not discouraged by what the Taliban has done with regard to gender discrimination? It is very real. Women are losing their lives to the Taliban. Do we really think that, at this point in time, as we get closer to winding up the session, there is any indifference on that particular issue? I would ask anyone in the chamber who disagrees with that to put up their hand. I suspect no one will. However, the Conservatives feel it is so important that we need to talk about this.
    I suspect that if we were to do a Hansard search, which I have not done, we would find that I have talked about this issue in the past. I would be prepared to bet a Big Mac on that.
    I want to continue the debate that we had just before question period. That is what I want to talk about, because that is what was on the legislative agenda. That is the agenda the majority of MPs came to this chamber to talk about today. Prior to question period, the Conservatives were getting a little exercise and stood on points of order so that they would not allow me to say what I wanted to say. It is a form of censorship, I would suggest, and everyone knows how sensitive I can be at times. I was emphasizing a pattern that I saw in the leader of the Conservative Party's office. That is why we have this motion before us today.
    We will remember the big threat made last week by the leader of the Conservative Party, whom I did not see very much during the votes. He made the statement—

  (1605)  

    The hon. parliamentary secretary knows he may not have seen the person, but they could have been participating virtually, as is allowed by this House. I would refrain from making such references.
    My apologies, Madam Speaker. They are a little sensitive on the other side for some reason today. I suspect some of—
    There is a point of order from the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Madam Speaker, I have been trying to follow him, but my colleague keeps getting upset and then losing his train of thought. The issue is not about who was not in the House. He can say who was in the House. For example, the Conservative leader was clearly in the House to vote against Ukraine. It is one time I saw him, so that—
    That is debate; it is not a point of order.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor.
    Madam Speaker, that is a point well taken, for sure.
    Why are we talking about this today? It is because the Conservative leader made a decision, which was made very clear to all Canadians last week. He said, “We are going to stick it to the government. We'll go to Christmas. We want them to axe the tax.”
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Madam Speaker, now they are all applauding. They like this. Now I am really relevant to them. All one has to do is say “axe the tax”, and they think one is relevant.
    This is the problem that I started to get into prior to question period. Then they were all jumping up like beans, and I was not able to conclude those remarks.
    Let us talk about this resolution, and I will suggest that there is a common theme. It is much like when the leader of the Conservative Party made it very clear, coast to coast to coast, that the Conservative Party was going to do what it could on one issue, which is the price on pollution. This is because Conservatives really do not believe in climate change.
    At the end of the day, what is happening is that the MAGA right, the Donald Trump far right in the States, is creeping its way into Canada and coming through the leader of the Conservative Party's office. This is why we are debating the motion. Part of this is their thinking that it does not necessarily have to be true; they just say what they think will look good on a bumper sticker. What has happened—
    The hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge is rising on a point of order, on relevance, I am sure.
    Yes, Madam Speaker. You could guess it was going to be about relevance, because the member has not made any relevant comments in his entire speech. He has been given tremendous latitude, and your generosity is a credit to you, but bring this man to order.
    A lot of latitude has been given, yes. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary to bring it to the relevance of the report.
    Madam Speaker, if the member is prepared to give me leave, I would be more than happy to ensure the balance is as relevant as can be.
    I want to finish up on my point about the leader of the official opposition's office and the way in which, in looking at this particular motion of concurrence today, it determined that this was more important. Afghanistan, the harms that have taken place and Canada's role in Afghanistan are the things the leader of the Conservative Party wanted to talk about today, as opposed to the government legislation that dealt specifically with the issues of the day.
    If I were to provide comment on Afghanistan, I could go from 2001 to 2014, when Canada pulled out its troops. The year 2014 was a pivotal time, as was 2001, when the decision was made by Jean Chrétien to stay out of Iraq and to contribute to Afghanistan and what was taking place there. We have many individuals in our caucus who are accepting of issues such as women's rights and education for children. I would suggest they are universally accepted. Many Canadian values that we fought for in Afghanistan are things the Taliban is absolutely opposed to; there is no doubt that we are very serious about Afghanistan. Canada has a strong leadership role to play, not only in Afghanistan but around the world, and there is a time and place.
    I would suggest that this is not the time for this debate. We should be debating the issues Canadians are wanting to see debated—

  (1610)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge.
    Madam Speaker, there was a lot in that rambling bit of incoherent, non-relevant debate. It was not relevant to the motion and the report. There are some things that bear correction.
    I wonder if the member can verify and confirm that he is aware that the bill we are not debating is time allocated and that this debate on concurrence is not slowing down or interfering with the government's agenda. Is he aware that the motion we are debating was on notice, so anybody who was coming prepared to speak today may have been aware that this motion could be moved, as it was on notice, and that it is up to members to move concurrence motions during Routine Proceedings?
    That is the only time in the rubric where such a motion can be moved if members, such as the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, would wish to debate that particular motion.
    Madam Speaker, do we see some irony here?
    The member did not ask anything about the motion. He stood up many times on points of order, and heckled from his seat that I am not being relevant, but then he stood up and did not even talk about the motion.
    I would suggest to the member that he needs—
    The hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, it is customary, in the House, to give members an opportunity to withdraw their remarks and correct the record when they say something false. He falsely said that I did not address the motion in my remarks. I asked him if he was aware, and I was correcting the points he had made—
    The hon. member did ask a very precise question. I would remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that he did refer to specific elements of the hon. member's speech.
    Madam Speaker, he did say the word “motion”. That is very good, but that is about it. Members can read what the hon. member—
    I would just remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge was asking the hon. parliamentary secretary a specific question to the hon. member's speech, not to the motion.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, the member asked the question on the process and the process is such that there are many motions of concurrence on the Order Paper that could be introduced, not just this motion. The member would know that. The member would also know that the legislative agenda today was to deal with Bill C-56. The member would also know how many times the Conservatives will cry because they do not have enough debate time—
    I have to give other members the opportunity to ask questions.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
    Madam Speaker, I took the time to find the motion that we are debating today, because the Conservative Party seems to be a bit confused. The motion reads as follows:
     In particular, the committee denounces the Taliban system of gender discrimination, systemic violence targeting minority communities...and other violations of fundamental human rights.
    This motion clearly refers to human rights. However, last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Conservative member for Peace River—Westlock made a video on Facebook Live in which he enthusiastically applauded and said that access to abortion in Canada was the greatest human rights tragedy of our time.
    Despite all that, the first thing that the newly elected Leader of the Opposition did after his party's leadership race was to appoint the member for Peace River—Westlock as human rights critic. He also made that member the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
    How out of touch with Quebeckers and Canadians does the Leader of the Opposition have to be to appoint someone who applauds when access to abortion is reduced in another country?

  (1615)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the impact of the whole issue of the court decision on Roe v. Wade was, I think, fairly profound.
    There was a great deal of disappointment from coast to coast to coast here in Canada. One has to be concerned, in how the Conservative right responded to the decision. It, in essence, implied, at the very least, and I am being kind, support. I think that really raises the issue to the degree in which—
    The hon. member for Calgary Centre is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, the member is straying into complete falsehood here. There has not been any acquiescence on any abortion debate in the United States by any party in the House.
    The hon. member is answering a question from another colleague.
    I would ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to conclude to give other members a chance to ask a question.
    Madam Speaker, I was responding to a specific Bloc question, in which I have implied, through my comments, that I agree, in principle, with what the member is saying. The Conservative Party's stance on the issue was a great disappointment to many Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, I will challenge the member on that again, and I will challenge you to correct the member because the Conservative Party has no stance on that issue. It has never stated any stance on such matter—
    Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, I want to make sure it is very clear on the record that the Conservative Party of Canada filibustered a study in the foreign affairs committee for 16 weeks so that it would not have to study women's reproductive rights. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
    That is entering into debate.
    The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, they are saying that what I said is false. The member I mentioned, the member for Peace River—Westlock, did a Facebook Live video when the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned. He said that it was excellent news, that this was his mission in politics and that this kind of decision should be made in Canada. If members are saying that it is not true, they should go watch the video. It is still online.
    We are getting into a debate about what was seen or not seen.
    I will let the member for Timmins—James Bay ask a question.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the conversation. I was really shocked that the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan took this discussion of the Taliban and then tried to talk about support for Ukraine.
    We are not going to say who was not in the House, but in the House I saw the leader of the Conservative Party, the foreign affairs critic and the defence critic sending a very clear message. They stood up to vote against Operation Unifier. They stood up to vote against Ukraine in the same week the right-wing in the United States shut down Zelenskyy, and at the same time that Orban in Hungary, and there are certainly Conservatives over there who are friends of Orban, has been undermining Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people.
    What does my colleague think about the Conservatives having the gall to pretend that they are supporting Ukraine, when the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called out the Conservative leader and his party—
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, the president of Ukraine came to Canada in September and signed a Canada-Ukraine modernization trade agreement. A couple months later, we had that legislation brought forward to the House. Games were being played. Ultimately, the Conservative Party of Canada voted against the trade agreement. Now it is filibustering the trade agreement.
    Over the marathon votes, the Conservatives, on three separate occasions, voted against supports to Ukraine. I say shame on them, from the leadership down, for not supporting Ukraine—

  (1620)  

    The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
    Madam Speaker, I want to answer the member's question, and then I am going to ask him a favour.
    The reason we are debating this and why it is so important for this to be debated today, as I read in my previous intervention, is that women who are stuck in Pakistan and are being forced to return to Afghanistan will be eliminated. Those are their words, not mine.
    There are a number of Afghans who are supposed to come to Canada as part of the programs that were put in place along with the SIM program. We are now hearing rumours that the program is frozen and people's application processes are not being moved forward. Canada said it was going to help these people. There are lots of Afghans, whom I know personally and through my connections, who are still stuck in Afghanistan, and now they are in limbo.
    We are also coming up on the one-year anniversary of one of the former Afghan women MPs being murdered by the Taliban regime. We have had an all-party team working for over a year, and how many of those women MPs are here?
    I ask the member to use his influence as a parliamentary secretary to ensure these Afghans, especially these Afghan women and children, are given the opportunity to get to Canada and are not frozen in limbo where they face certain death if they get sent back to Afghanistan.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate member's mentioning the contributions to the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, and all those who have served. There are about 40,000 Canadian soldiers that were there, from what I understand.
    If the Conservative Party really felt this was the type of debate that should be taking place, it could do it through a take-note debate or an emergency debate. There are different forms that would have enabled the debate to take place. The member himself could have been speaking to this and introducing it. That might have given it a bit more credibility.
    There is absolutely no doubt that we, as a government, had no idea the opposition was going to be bringing forward this concurrence debate. That is why I believe this is another example of the Conservatives using concurrence motions as a way to frustrate government legislation.
    Madam Speaker, on a point of order, it would be nice if the government would help out in this way, but the member is admitting that they do not know the rules of the House and that they did not know what was on the agenda. Therefore, I am rising on a point of order to say that this is the normal business of the House.
    It is indeed normal procedure, but the hon. member was referencing the specific report being brought to concurrence.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean has the floor.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thought this moment would never come. It may come up from time to time.
    I was not expecting to give a 20-minute speech about this. I had prepared a speech on another committee report, but in the end, things changed.
    In my opinion, the Conservatives may have slept too much. Looking back on the votes that were held during the 30-hour voting marathon, the members who voted the least were certainly not members of the other parties. I do not know what they were thinking. They sort of remind me of Icarus. Do my colleagues know the story of Icarus, the man who wanted to fly the fastest and highest? Before long, he burned his wings. When he got close to the sun, all of a sudden his wings caught fire and he quickly fell back to Earth. I get the impression that is what happened here.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I am not seeing the relevance of some of the comments my colleague made on voting and who was here or not. We know from the record, and it is public record—
    I do not think the hon. member said who was here or not here, just who got sleep and who did not get sleep.
    The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, maybe I got it wrong after all. Perhaps they did not get enough sleep, if they are raising points of order like that.
    As I was saying, the story of Icarus is very interesting. He was so sure of himself that he thought he had come up with an excellent solution, but in the end, he found himself in trouble and landed on his head very quickly.
    We saw this again in the 30-odd hours we spent voting. All I saw was a Liberal caucus that had not been united at all since the fall suddenly come together. I saw the ammunition given to the other parties in the House when I looked at exactly who was going to vote on which economic measures. It really reminds me of Icarus.
    This brings me to the motion before us today, which also reminds me a little of Icarus. This motion gives me a chance to talk about human rights and what has been discussed in various committees, not only the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but also the committee that deals with international human rights, specifically, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Special Committee on Afghanistan. Human rights have been discussed extensively. That topic was the foundation of all the conversations we had in those committees.
    I want to come back once again to one of the first decisions the Leader of the Opposition made when he was elected leader of the Conservative Party. The decision had to do with human rights. How did I come to that conclusion? It was easy. As vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, I saw the change in the Conservative membership of that committee following the election of the Conservative leader, the member for Carleton. Suddenly, I saw the member for Peace River—Westlock become vice-chair of the subcommittee. I looked into him because I like to be thorough in my work. I want to know my new committee colleagues. I did my research and I realized to my astonishment and disappointment, but mostly astonishment, that the member had made a live video just after getting off a plane, when he found out that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, making access to abortion in the United States more difficult and, in some cases, a criminal offence. This is what I was asking my Liberal colleague about just now. The Conservative member applauded that ruling and said, in that same video, that access to abortion was the worst human rights tragedy in Canada.
    Here I am, faced with a person who is entitled to his opinions, but I know full well that they are light years away from Quebec's values in terms of abortion access and rights. This member was appointed by the leader of the official opposition to sit on this committee. What is more, the leader made him what he calls his shadow minister, meaning the opposition's critic on the matter. That means that if the Conservative Party had come to power, this guy could probably and possibly have ended up either as minister for international aid and development or as parliamentary secretary. This is a guy who says that access to abortion is the worst human rights tragedy in Canada. That is important.
    I want to come back to this motion telling us that we need to talk about human rights. Of course everyone agrees with that. I will read it:
     That the committee report to the House that it firmly denounces the Taliban and rejects any recognition or legitimization of their control over Afghan territory.
    No one is raising their hand to say they disagree. I will continue:
    In particular, the committee denounces the Taliban system of gender discrimination...
    Now maybe a Conservative MP will stand up and oppose the motion.
    No? Good. I will continue:
...systemic violence targeting minority communities...
    No one has anything to say about that either? All right then.
...reprisals against former members of the Afghan National Security and Defence Forces, Forces, attacks on freedom of the press, and other violations of fundamental human rights. The committee believes that the Taliban must remain a listed terrorist organization.
    We are going to spend three hours debating this response and the tabling of the report by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, even though everyone is in agreement.

  (1625)  

    I mentioned Icarus. Unfortunately, they are bringing about their own downfall. I have to talk about human rights in connection with a motion that everyone agrees on. I have no choice but to continue. This will take however long it takes, because that is how they want it. It was quite a job just to find out which committee report we were going to talk about today. As I said, there may be a minor breakdown in professionalism. That is so unlike them. I am not sure what is going on. Maybe they feel like they made a big mistake last week and that they keep making more. That is overconfidence. Overconfidence is always dangerous in life, whether at work or in sport. I have played team sports, and I can vouch for the fact that overconfidence is very dangerous. In the end, it can cost the team the game. However, I do not want to go overboard in giving advice. I will leave them to reflect on their own behaviour.
    This report from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights does contain something worthwhile. It is important to note that this is a result of what happened on the Special Committee on Afghanistan. When the committee began its work, we quickly realized that Canadian humanitarian organizations were unable to do their work because they were violating Canada's Criminal Code. I asked a non-governmental organization, or NGO, about that for the first time on February 7, 2022. I was told that, because the Criminal Code prohibits the funding of terrorism, which is a good thing, Canadian NGOs were unable to send humanitarian aid, such as medication and food, to vulnerable populations. The Criminal Code made it difficult to send such aid.
    We set about putting pressure on the Liberal government. On that point, I should mention that I had a lot of help from the opposition parties, the NDP and the Conservative Party, to put pressure on the government, which was far too slow to act. It eventually introduced Bill C-41, which we passed. This legislation is not perfect; in fact, it is quite imperfect. I found this out last week during a committee meeting, when I asked NGO representatives about it. They told us that it had improved things a little, but that it was far from perfect and that certain aspects of the bill still prevent them from being able to do their work normally.
    We talked about this in early February 2022, and the government introduced the bill a year later, in the winter of 2023. It was still at committee in the spring. All that happened more than 18 months after the UN had taken action with resolution 2615, which called for countries to amend their criminal codes so they could send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and to adapt their laws accordingly. That UN motion, as well as the motions we moved in the various committees regarding humanitarian aid and the fundamental rights of vulnerable populations, were effective.
    As usual, the Liberal government is very slow to act and sometimes spends too long studying issues. Unfortunately, this is having a real impact on the ground. Some people suffered because Bill C‑41 was not in force. Children died of starvation because humanitarian aid could not be delivered. This was documented in articles in reputable newspapers all over the world. Some families had to sell some of their children because they could not afford to feed them all. They had to sell some of their children, even though Canada had a moral obligation towards these people because it participated in operations in Afghanistan and had direct ties with Afghan interpreters, members of the Afghan security forces, and politicians in Afghanistan, especially women politicians. Canada had created programs to help women successfully participate in politics in Afghanistan.
    Canada ensured that women can get involved in democratic public discourse in Afghanistan. When Canada left, it left these women to fend for themselves. They had to face the Taliban. If there is one thing that upsets the Taliban, it is a woman who stands up and takes part in democratic debate in her own country.

  (1630)  

    I think the Taliban's biggest fear is to see a woman become empowered and participate in democratic debate in Afghanistan. To the Taliban, that is the devil incarnate.
    Canada had a moral duty to these people and it did not live up to that duty. It arrived a year too late with an imperfect bill, which we supported because we believe that a step forward is always good for the people that will benefit. However, this is not right. Canada is neither an economic nor military power. Canada has a history of leadership in international human rights. That is coming from a Quebec sovereignist. I am thinking of Lester B. Pearson's peacekeepers. To be fair to my Conservative friends, I will also mention Brian Mulroney, who contributed to the fall of the apartheid regime.
    These things happened. Let us also consider Jean Chrétien, who had a major impact on friendly countries in Africa. That is part of Canada's history. I imagine that these actions were largely driven by the values of Quebeckers, or I hope so. We have always been there. Humanitarianism started in Quebec, and Canada followed suit. So much the better if we can lead our Canadian friends in the right direction. We do it often. The child care system is just one example. I am not saying that Quebeckers are better than Canadians. No one is better or worse; we are simply different. That seems the best way to put it.
    The only thing I held against my friend Jean Chrétien was the fact that he would say that Canada was “the bestest country in the world”. What country is second best, sixth best or eighth best? I do not know. I think there is no such thing as a best or worst people, a best or worst country. There are only different countries. Quebec is one of them and, one day, it will have everything it needs to become an independent nation. Perhaps I am getting off topic. Maybe it is because my Conservative friends added to the confusion today about the various motions we had to debate. I think it has affected me. I have to speak about a motion for 20 minutes when I only learned I had to talk about the motion two minutes before I took the floor.
    Everyone agrees that we cannot let the Taliban continue to ensure that human rights are not upheld in Afghanistan. We cannot allow our humanitarian organizations, our NGOs, not to help them. That sums up what was said in the various committees, including the justice committee. Yes, we must keep the Taliban on the list of terrorist entities, and we must also allow our NGOs to deliver humanitarian aid on the ground there, because they know the ground, they have contacts and, above all, they have a big heart and want to help people. We can only applaud them for that. They need more support, and Canada should give them more. The government should give them more. They should not be overjoyed when access to abortion is restricted.
    I will now be pleased to answer my colleagues' questions.

  (1635)  

    Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the speech by the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
    I think we both have an affinity for Greek mythology. I really enjoyed that part of his speech. We both also value the evolution of human rights domestically, in Quebec and in Canada, as well as the influence Canada has had around the world.
    I would like to ask the following question. Although our Conservative colleagues say they support human rights, it seems to me that they would rather choose which rights to extend to women, and may not fully support allowing them certain rights. I would like my colleague to tell us a little more about that.
    Madam Speaker, I do find that disappointing, because I have a lot of friends in the Conservative Party. They know me. I am someone who likes to work with others. I have friends in every party. I am in politics to advance issues. I think that is easier when we work together and set partisanship aside.
    However, there are fundamental values that push us to represent the people in our ridings, values that we cannot set aside. Those values are what motivate us to get up every morning to go to work for our constituents, our families and our children. When I hear that some members of the House are celebrating the fact that women's freedom to choose is being undermined, I cannot help but go to bed disappointed when thinking about all that.
    I know that I, personally, will not be able to change those colleagues' minds, but I think that the friends that I have in the Conservative Party, those with whom I get along well, could have a little talk with their friends to ask them to think for a moment before they undermine women's right to choose.

  (1640)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, we are here debating an important motion about human rights in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. A couple of members have said we should not be debating this. We do not need to be debating this for the full three hours. Those members have proceeded to give lengthy speeches on the subject. Of course, those members know the process is if they think it should maybe collapse on an item, then the most effective way they bring about that result is by not speaking to it. I am referring in particular to my friend across the way from Winnipeg North.
    My friend from the Bloc, of course, found ways of connecting all kinds of other issues into the discussion, as sometimes happens in this place, but I do want to ask him a question about Afghanistan. I would like to hear his views on what we in Canada can do to concretely promote democratic development in Afghanistan. I think some people look at the situation and they feel a certain kind of fatalism. I believe there are still things we can do and we need to do to stand with the people of Afghanistan, that we cannot give up on the cause of freedom and democracy.
    What does he think that Canada can concretely do to support the people of Afghanistan in their desire to realize democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I always enjoy working with my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
     I think a lot more needs to be done. One of the things we could do, and this has already been proposed at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which I am a part of, is not put a cap on the number of Afghan immigrants we welcome. The special measures program for Afghan refugees currently plans to welcome 40,000 Afghans.
    Everyone agreed in committee. At least, the opposition parties did. The motion was moved by the NDP, and the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois supported it. The Liberals were somewhat receptive.
    Earlier, my colleague talked about female members of Afghanistan's parliament whom we have been trying to evacuate from that country for a year. We have worked very hard together on that file, but it is still not resolved. We think that the government is too slow to bring these people to safety on Canadian or Quebec soil.
    Once they are here, these people could use their voice because they are the best people to restore democracy in Afghanistan. We must help them come here so that they can be safe and deliver their speeches and be heard internationally. That is how they could help their country.
    That is one way to help rebuild democracy in Afghanistan and ensure that the Taliban leaves the region for once and for all. I think that is one possible solution.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is always interesting to listen to my colleague and hear his thoughts. We are in this place right now having this debate. We were not told that this was coming. This has been a bit of a surprise for us. We are trying to think of ways that we could help the people of Afghanistan. I do not think there is a single person in this place who does not think that we should do everything we possibly can, particularly for the women and girls of Afghanistan.
    I have to say, though, that I have the list here of the votes that we had over the 30-some hours that we stayed in the House voting because the Conservative Party thought that was a useful thing to do. While they are here telling us that it is vitally important that we support Afghanistan, three times for millions of dollars they voted against supporting international development and foreign affairs efforts. On one hand they are taking away the money that people in Afghanistan need. In Afghanistan right now, we have people who are severely food insecure, who need help, yet we have the Liberals with Bill C-41 making it very difficult to deliver that aid, and we have the Conservatives literally voting to stop it. In fact, they ran in the last election on cutting foreign aid by 25%. How do—

  (1645)  

    I have to give the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean the opportunity to respond.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it is not easy because, on the one hand, the Liberals are not helping us with Bill C‑41, and on the other hand, we have people who want to cut back on international aid.
    Canada currently spends 0.3% of its GDP on international aid. The UN is asking for 0.7% from countries like Canada. The average for OECD countries is around 0.42% or 0.43%.
    Right now, under this government, our spending is lower than it was under the Harper government. Back then, it was at 0.32%. The current government is the one that has been the stingiest when it comes to devoting a percentage of its GDP to promoting international human rights.
    When my colleague tells me that the Conservatives are not consistent and that they are not credible when they talk about international aid, we need only look at the votes held during those 30 hours. When I talked about Icarus at the beginning of my speech, this is the proof. I now have ammunition. The next time they talk about international aid, I can name all the members who voted against it. They really have no credibility.
    Madam Speaker, in his excellent speech on human rights, my colleague talked about a woman's right to make decisions about her body, to have an abortion if she so chooses.
    As my colleague mentioned, among the Conservatives, there are some who applaud what happened in the United States and the fact that they took away women's rights. As we also know, when the subject of abortion has come up, we have seen Conservative committee chairs in tears, unable to chair their committee's work.
    Conservatives are uncomfortable with that. They are standing up and raising points of order. They do not seem to have a position. They are not unanimous. There does not seem to be consensus on the issue of women's rights.
    I would like my colleague to tell me whether, in his opinion, in Quebec and within the Bloc Québécois, there is a consensus on this issue.
    Madam Speaker, there has of course been a crystal clear consensus since the Chantal Daigle case, and I think that a woman's right to make decisions about her body is as fundamental to me as Quebec becoming a country. These are values that go together.
    When I look at the other side, I see people who say they are pro-choice, yet they sit with people who are pro-life. In the Bloc Québécois caucus, that would simply be unthinkable.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to stand in this place and represent the good people of Edmonton Strathcona.
    This is a concurrence debate. We were unaware that this was coming, and so I am going to talk a little bit from the heart and tell members a few of the things that I have been thinking about, now knowing that we are to debate this motion.
    As we all know in this place, in 2021, Kabul fell and the Taliban took over Afghanistan. I do not think that any one of us can really understand the horrific consequences that had on women and girls in Afghanistan and what that shift, that change, means to women and girls in Afghanistan who had been given hope for so many years, because there was the possibility for them to go to school, and for them to be teachers, doctors, lawyers or members of Parliament. The women were able to participate in their culture and their country, but in 2021, that was all taken away from them.
    I have been working with members across the floor. The member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound mentioned earlier that we have a cross-party group that is trying desperately to help some of those women MPs get to safety. It is unbearable how slow it is. One of the worst days I have had as a parliamentarian was waking up and finding out that one of those members of Parliament had been murdered. I know that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound feels the same as me. I know that all of us in this place are absolutely horrified that these people have not been able to be brought to safety, and so we are continuing to work with civil society, and we are continuing to work across aisles to make sure that we can bring these women to safety.
    I also want to tell a bit of a positive story as well, because we often talk about women and girls in Afghanistan and the burden, trauma and absolute horror that they are facing. It has literally been described as one of the worst places on earth to be female. When I am in my riding I like to talk to classes. I think talking to students about democracy and how to be involved in democracy is very important. I think it is a big part of my job. I was a teacher before I was a politician. I was talking to a grade 6 class about how devastating it is that education had been taken away from women and girls in Afghanistan, and a little girl in the front row put up her hand and told me that she was from Afghanistan. She had gotten out of Afghanistan and come to Canada. She was in the front row, and she was studying. She was in school, and she was learning. It is stuff like this that makes me think that we have to fight so much harder.
    I have a dear driver, a lovely guy, and his daughter is from Afghanistan. She came to the House last week and spent some time with us here. She sat and watched question period. I hope we were all behaving, although I must say I doubt it. However, it is a pretty important thing to know that there are girls and women from Afghanistan who are getting that education. It means a lot to me.
    I do think that it is important that this place be seized with what we can do to help women and girls in Afghanistan. I do think that it is important that we talk about foreign issues and that we talk about humanitarian support. Canada is not playing the meaningful role it needs to play. We have not lived up to our obligations. We have not lived up to our reputation. We have not lived up to what we should do. Our ODA is extraordinarily low.
    We are really good at saying things like “We have a feminist international assistance policy”, but we are not very good at actually implementing it. This government loves to tap its chest and say that it is a feminist government. In fact, government members keep telling us that there is a feminist foreign policy, although nobody has ever seen it.
     The fact of the matter is, if we are going to be a country with a feminist international assistance policy, which I fully support and in fact I helped write the policy before I was elected, then we need to stand up for women and girls, and that does not just mean in concurrence debates. It does not just mean that when the MP for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan decides he wants to mess with what is going on in the House he can call a concurrence debate and cry crocodile tears for Afghan women and girls.

  (1650)  

    He did not vote last week to support international development spending; he voted three times to not support international development spending. The Conservative members voted three times to not provide support for women and girls around the world. Folks have been talking to us today about the reproductive rights of women and girls. We know that, under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives cut that completely out of international development funding. I can tell the House something right now: When support for abortion is cut, it does not stop abortion; it stops safe abortion, and people die.
    When I asked to do a study on women's rights in the international human rights subcommittee, the Conservative member from Peace River who sits on the committee said he was not interested in doing a study on the rights of women but would be more than happy to do a study on the rights of the preborn, not women who have been born, not women who are in our world who are struggling, but the preborn.
    We all know what this is about; it is about the Conservatives' trying to change the channel from their appalling voting record. It is all about the fact that they are trying to change the channel from the fact that they voted against the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, voted against Operation Unifier and voted against support for Ukraine. My goodness, Conservatives voted against the human rights museum. Honestly, who does that?
    I was at home this weekend. It was my son's 16th birthday, and I would like to have the indulgence of the House to wish my son a very happy 16th birthday. I was sitting with my family, and members may be surprised to learn that my family is very non-political. None of them can really understand why they have a member of Parliament in the family. We are not one of those families. They all asked me about the nonsense in the House. They wanted to know what that nonsense was, when members had to sit here for 30 hours. I told them they would not believe it, but it cost $2 million for the Conservatives to do the little fundraising kerfuffle that they thought was so important. They asked me whether the Conservatives thought it was a good use of time and whether they thought it was what Canadians want from their politicians. Today is a great day for me, because New Democrats got dental care for Canadians. The Conservatives got a concurrence debate on an issue that their voting record shows they do not even care about. There is where we are at, folks.
    Let us talk a little about some of the issues with regard to Afghanistan. I can talk about international development, foreign affairs and international humanitarian law all day, and I am happy to do it. At the initial time when we heard we were doing a concurrence debate, it was going to be about Bill C-41, or the aid to Afghanistan bill. Of course, the Conservatives must have made a mistake, because they do not actually care what they are bringing forward to the House. They are just trying to come up with something they could throw up as a shield. They got the wrong bill and the wrong concurrence motion. Then we had to sort of change direction a little. However, since they had initially wanted us to talk about Bill C-41, I am game. I am keen to talk about Bill C-41, which the the NDP could not support. We were the only party in the House that did not vote for the bill, because it was such a flawed piece of legislation.
    Let me explain a little. International humanitarian law exists in the world, and it is very clear that organizations working on international humanitarian efforts have certain protections so they can do that work. These are the people we ask to go into the world, into the most dangerous, most heartbreaking situations that we have on the globe. They do that so they can bring food, shelter and life-saving humanitarian aid. There are international humanitarian law standards in place. Instead of using those standards the way that Australia, Europe, the U.S. and all sorts of countries did, the Liberal government found a weird convoluted route whereby it was kind of like one had to opt out. One is a terrorist until one opts out; this is basically how it works. One has to get a special pass to give humanitarian assistance.

  (1655)  

    We were able to get some carve-outs through the legislation. We were able to get some of that to work, but I sat in the committee meetings and can tell members that the people who wrote the legislation, and the members of those committees, do not understand how international development works. It does not happen in a sterile environment. It does not start on day one and end on day 12. It is not as definable as that.
    The legislation that was put in place is very problematic. In fact, an article that came out on the CBC says that aid groups still say that Ottawa is hampering work in Afghanistan. We started asking for the legislation in 2021. It took years for flawed legislation to come forward. I do not know how many times I stood in the House and asked questions about it. The legislation is still not working; it is still not acting properly. Organizations are still not able to deliver the aid. Realistically, if the Conservatives actually cared about the people of Afghanistan and about getting support to Afghans, they would be more concerned about making sure that the legislation is fixed. World Vision's policy director Martin Fischer says that he is “frustrated and bewildered” that the process is taking so long. He says, “It's hard to understand why the machinery of government is having a hard time putting in place what should be a pretty straightforward...process.” The legislation is still not working. The aid is still not getting to Afghanistan.
    As I mentioned it earlier, the Liberals, who have the lowest ODA, or official development assistance, that we have ever had in this country and who are abdicating their responsibility under a feminist foreign policy and a feminist international assistance policy, have brought forward legislation that is overly bureaucratic, is overly problematic and does not work. On the other side, we have the Conservatives, who, frankly, if one were to listen to them, probably do not like women very much.
    This is where we are at with that. When I talk about—

  (1700)  

    The hon. member for Calgary Centre is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I would like you to ask the hon. member to withdraw that last sentence, please, because, frankly, we are very much in support of all Canadians, of all sexes, of all genders and of all sexualities.
    That is a point of debate, and I would like the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona to try not to ascertain that.
    Madam Speaker, to be fair, I really should be more clear. It is only some members of the Conservative Party who have been very clear that they are not supportive.
    Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. It is uncommon that I have to raise a point of order on one of my own colleagues, but on the issue in which she said that Conservatives were against women, it was the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan who brought a legislator from Uganda who called for the death penalty for LGBTQ people, so I do not think it is just women who—
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    We are not going to start debate.
    The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan is out of order.
    I am going to ask the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay to withdraw his comment.
    Please, we do not want to generate more acrimony.
    Madam Speaker, it is a fact, but I will withdraw it.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The hon. member repeatedly spreads falsehoods on this issue. I spoke up and corrected him the last time the member spread this nonsense. It is complete nonsense. The committee in question invited an opposition member, with whom I disagree on many issues, as it happens, who very clearly said, in the context of the committee, that she did not agree with anything the member is saying.
    This is completely false—
    That is debate, and it is totally outside the question of the speech that the hon. member made.
    The hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona did clarify what she meant. We are not going to touch other subjects. All of the other subjects that were raised are out of order.
    The hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge is rising on a point of order.
    Madam Speaker, I believe I heard you instruct the member for Timmins—James Bay to withdraw his comment. Did he? He has withdrawn it.
    Madam Speaker, frankly, I was on the foreign affairs committee when that witness came, so I can be very clear on that, certainly.
    I want to talk about international humanitarian law. We were talking about the fact that international humanitarian law means that Bill C-41 was bad legislation that was unnecessary. Sometimes we forget in this place how important it is that Canada apply international law equally around the world. It is really important because it is our reputation at stake. It is what gives us the moral ability to talk to other countries and demand better of them. Right now, we are not applying international humanitarian law or international law equally. I will give a perfect example. Right now, the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois Party and, of course, the NDP are very supportive of Ukraine. I am delighted that Canada is playing such a key role in ensuring that humanitarian law is protected in that circumstance. We are using the tools that we have through the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice to ensure that Russia, which is an occupying force, is held responsible for the crimes it commits.
    One of the interesting things about the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice is that they are unbiased and look at crimes committed by both sides. That is really key. They are entities that are able to use non-violent ways of resolving conflicts, and that is an important thing that we have, as a globe. However, the International Criminal Court wants, and has asked the International Court of Justice, to undertake an investigation of the crimes that are currently happening and that have happened in Israel and Palestine, and Canada is playing a spoiler in that situation. From my perspective, there is not a soul in this place who is not absolutely horrified and appalled by what Hamas did on October 7. It is a terrorist group, full stop, and the hostages it has must be released immediately, but the Government of Israel is a government, and it and Netanyahu need to be held to a different standard than a terrorist organization is. What we need to make sure we see is that the people committing crimes, on either side of the conflict, are held responsible for those crimes.
    What we need more than anything, which I think no one here is going to be surprised to hear me say, is a ceasefire so the 18,000 people who have already died, the majority of them women, children and babies, are not asked to pay the price for the terrorist organization that is Hamas. When Canada applies international law standards differently, and when it looks different in Ukraine than it does in Palestine, what do members think the rest of the world sees? What do they think the world sees from Canada, and how do members think we will respond? When we pick and choose human rights, pick and choose when to apply international humanitarian law and change the channel when it is inconvenient for us, that is not the Canada we need to be. Canada needs to be so much better than that.
    I look at the situation we have seen in Yemen. I know it started under Stephen Harper, but, frankly, it has been eight years, which we have heard time and time again, and the Liberals have not fixed it. Why are we still sending arms to a country that is using them on civilians? Last week at the foreign affairs committee, I asked whether we even know whether any Canadian arms are being used in Gaza, and we do not know.

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    We have to do better. Canada has to do better. We have to have higher standards. We have to get back to that place where we punch above our weight. We are the country that is standing up for democracy and for international law. We stand up for human rights regardless of where one is, what colour one is and what religion one practices. These are the values that Canadians expect from their government and their parliamentarians, so we need to do more.
     We need to do so much more for Afghanistan, but this charade the Conservatives have brought forward is a distraction. They are trying to change the channel. I want every one of the Conservatives over there to look in the mirror and ask themselves, if they ever become government or, would they cut foreign aid and cut supports for women and girls in Afghanistan. If there is even a spark of a chance that will happen, I want every single one of them to sit down and stop talking.
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1863, 1867 to 1869, 1886, 1892, 1901, 1909, 1919, 1923, 1927, 1936 to 1938, 1865, 1870 to 1878, 1885, 1893 to 1895, 1902 to 1908, 1916 to 1918, 1921, 1926, 1934, 1939 and 1941.

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    We will now begin questions and comments with the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
    Madam Speaker, I have a brief question for my NDP colleague. She spoke a bit during her remarks about the fact that the NDP is calling for, from what I understand, an immediate ceasefire in the context of Israel and Gaza. As far as I have seen, the NDP has not called for an immediate ceasefire in the context of the Ukraine war. I am trying to understand the consistency of the position of the New Democrats with respect to that. Why are they taking one position in one case and a different position in another case?
    Madam Speaker, if the Conservative Party does not understand the difference between Russia i