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View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2015-06-09 17:30 [p.14836]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to stand to speak in favour of Bill C-588 regarding the Sambro Island lighthouse.
I had the pleasure of serving the community of Sambro between 2000 and 2004. In fact, the boundaries of the Halifax West riding were changed in 1997, and that was not a great year for me in other respects because I began what I call my involuntary sabbatical. I was defeated that year, but I was re-elected in 2000 under those same boundaries, so I had the pleasure and honour of serving the Sambro area from 2000 to 2004 when the boundaries were changed again and it was put back into the Halifax riding and taken out of Halifax West.
The Sambro lighthouse is a very iconic structure. It has a great history. It was established as a result of the very first act of the Nova Scotia legislature. That is remarkable, when we think about it. In fact, it was built in 1758. It is hard to believe that we have any lighthouses in North America that were built that long ago, which is why it should not be surprising, perhaps, that it is in fact the oldest operating lighthouse in North America.
I had the pleasure of going there, back in 2013, when I was no longer the MP for that area but still interested in attending public meetings in the Sambro area, along with the current Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil, who was then the leader of the Liberal Party. He still is, of course, but he was not premier then. We were there to discuss community support for protecting lighthouses and in particular the Sambro light.
I want to begin by thanking my hon. friend, the member for Halifax, for bringing the bill forward. I think it is a very positive idea, and I am very supportive of any measures that may result in this light being maintained and preserved for the long term because of that incredible history it has and the fact that it is North America's oldest light, a beautiful structure.
I also want to congratulate Brendan Maguire, who is the provincial member, the MLA for Halifax Atlantic. He has done a lot of work on this and had many meetings and made lots of efforts with both levels of government to try to get support for the maintenance and the protection of this lighthouse.
I also want to congratulate Rena Maguire and Susan Paul from the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society, who have done so much to gather support for the protection of the lighthouse.
In 2013, I tabled a number of petitions signed by more than 5,000 people, calling on the Government of Canada to preserve the lighthouse at Sambro Island, and I was very pleased that the Government of Canada decided to provide $1.5 million for repairs and upgrades to the lighthouse.
I hope we all recognize that this is an important part of Nova Scotia's heritage and really of Canada's heritage. I think that contribution of $1.5 million to upgrade it and maintain it is an indication of that importance. That is an important step, and we would like to ensure that it is preserved on a permanent, ongoing basis.
I had the pleasure of visiting the lighthouse. I think it was in September 2013 that I was there. Paddy Gray is a fisherman who fishes out of Sambro, and he was kind enough to take me out on his boat. We actually caught a few fish along the way, but then we visited the island itself and went up to the light. I had my camera and took quite a few pictures. As a matter of fact, I have one of my photographs as the wallpaper on my computer, so I see the lighthouse and the island every day when I look at my computer.
Not long ago I was asked to do a painting, just a little one, a five-by-seven canvas, for a fundraising auction. I do not claim to be a Renoir or Monet, but I enjoyed doing this from one of my photographs.
Mr. David Sweet: I am certain he must be.
Hon. Geoff Regan: Mr. Speaker, I am glad my hon. friend thinks I must be. That is very generous of him. I did enjoy doing that painting from the photograph I had taken, and that is why I chose to paint that picture of the Sambro Island light. I put it on my Facebook page. I do not know how hard it is to find it, but if any member wanted to find it they could probably look there and discover it.
The lighthouse is very much symbolic, as all lighthouses are, of our seafaring heritage. For those of us from Nova Scotia, lighthouses mean a great deal.
However, I learned, certainly when I was minister of fisheries and oceans, how much they meant to people all across the country, in places like Collingwood, Ontario, on Georgian Bay, and throughout the Great Lakes and many of the larger lakes in this country. In places where there is navigation, like the Great Lakes, lighthouses have been an important part of our transportation system. They certainly form an important part of our heritage. They are iconic structures, often beautiful structures, that mean a lot to people in the communities where they are.
Not that long ago, 120 lighthouses in Nova Scotia had been declared surplus by the Conservative government. So far, community groups have only offered to take over 29. It is a big responsibility and a big cost for a community group to take on the ownership and, therefore, the ongoing maintenance of a lighthouse. These are often quite large and old structures. For example, the one in Collingwood had stone on the outside and was kind of rotting on the inside. The nature of the construction meant that it was very challenging to maintain. I suspect that the lighthouse in Sambro is of a similar kind of construction and might also be very challenging.
However, I am proud of the cases where communities have decided to take the plunge and take over a lighthouse. For example, the Terence Bay lighthouse society in my riding of Halifax West was among those groups that submitted a business plan to protect the lighthouse in their community. In fact, $80,000 was spent to paint the lighthouse in 2008, and that was a very difficult—excuse me; this is actually in relation to Sambro Island, not Terence Bay. On the Sambro Island light, $80,000 was spent to paint the lighthouse in 2008. The process was extremely difficult because it is on an island and the substantial amount of materials that were needed had to be actually flown in by helicopter.
The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society has what it calls a “doomsday list” of lighthouses that are in danger of being lost through neglect. That is of great concern to many people in my province. Sambro has been on that list. The Sambro Island lighthouse has already been designated as a federal heritage building and national historic site. I think what the act is proposing to do would follow well along with that designation.
Of all the provinces, Nova Scotia—not surprisingly, considering it is a peninsula and all the coastline it has—has the most lighthouses under petition to become heritage lighthouses. I think it shows the pride that Nova Scotia has for its lighthouses and their history.
In fact, I gather we have 92 lighthouses under petition, of the 348 total lighthouses under petition in all of Canada. That is, nearly one-third of all the lighthouses in Canada that are under petition are in fact in Nova Scotia.
It seems to me that the burden of maintaining these lighthouses should not be placed upon the community, especially when we are talking about heritage lighthouses of national importance, like the Sambro Island light, the oldest operating light in North America. This is an important asset for the broader community, in fact, certainly for my province and for our country. I am pleased that there has been money set aside to maintain it, but let us find ways to ensure that it is kept going, that it is protected for the long term, because it is a beautiful iconic structure. I urge any of my colleagues, if they have a chance to go to Nova Scotia, to go out to Sambro. If they could call me, I am sure I or my colleague and friend from Halifax could arrange for them to take a boat tour out to the island and have a look at that beautiful structure.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-588, an act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, with regard to the Sambro Island lighthouse.
I want to commend my colleague the member for Halifax for her tenacity in supporting this community and this iconic structure that means so much to not only the people of Sambro and the people of Halifax but also the people across this country if not internationally. As has been said, the structure was built in 1758 by the first act of the oldest legislature, in the province of Nova Scotia.
There have been a lot of people coming and going from Halifax Harbour, whether as part of the Royal Canadian Navy, war brides, or immigrants coming to this great country. It has been suggested by veterans that, when they left the harbour, the Sambro lighthouse was the last thing they saw, and when they returned to Halifax Harbour it was the first thing they saw. As one veteran expressed, it was like lifting a huge load off of their shoulders in making that crossing, seeing the lighthouse and recognizing that Nova Scotia and Canada were a few short hours away.
It is a huge structure made of stone and concrete, standing 24 metres tall, and located on a granite island off the entrance to Halifax Harbour just slightly beyond the community of Sambro. It is a stately structure and has been referred to as Canada's Statue of Liberty.
The other day I was thinking about how my wife's grandfather came to this country in 1928 through Pier 21 and would have seen this structure as the ship he was on approached this wonderful country, which he then made his home and where he raised his family, as did so many.
Why is this important? This bill would place the Sambro Island lighthouse within the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Therefore, it would become a responsibility of Parks Canada to maintain it and save a piece of our natural heritage.
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act came into force in 2008. However, for some reason many heritage buildings were missed, this one included. As a result, there was a requirement for the communities to put together a petition to nominate them as historic structures and put together a business plan. It was quite an onerous process. Needless to say it was a difficult one, given the lack of resources. However, there was a lot of work done.
I think an indication of why it is so important for Parks Canada to take over this important structure for the Government of Canada is in recognition of the costs. No community is able to manage the costs of maintaining this important structure. It is on an island; it is 24 metres tall. We received an indication of what it would cost to maintain it when, in 2008, the Coast Guard repainted the lighthouse. It used a helicopter to ferry supplies, including a large web of scaffolding. The total cost was about $80,000, which is a huge expense for a small community and so a very difficult process.
However, I give credit to the Sambro Island Lighthouse Preservation Society for being diligent and tenacious on this issue, along with Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. I do not know how many hundreds of petitions I tabled in the House, along with my colleagues from Nova Scotia, but they ensured it was in the minds of Nova Scotians and Canadians that something needed to be done about this. I commend all of those volunteers for their efforts in this regard. That is why we are now at this point.
I was happy to congratulate the government when I heard in early May that it had indicated that it would invest $1.5 million to restore the Sambro Island lighthouse. The minister at the time indicated that it was one of the most iconic structures in the country. It was great news, which would allow long overdue and needed concrete renovations, rehabilitation of the original lantern and gallery, and repainting to take place.
However, this was recognized as a stop-gap measure. Therefore, it was important that the legislation be introduced in the House. My understanding is that government members have indicated their support, and for that I am happy to commend them.
Part of the Parks Canada mandate is to protect the health and wholeness of the commemorative integrity of the national sites it operates. This means preserving the site's cultural resources, communicating its heritage values and national significance and kindling the respect of people whose decisions and actions affect the site. This is why it is so important for this important heritage structure in the history of Nova Scotia and Canada to be properly protected by the federal government.
It is not as if the federal government has not already recognized the heritage value of this structure. In 1937, the Sambro lighthouse was designated a national historic site, and a plaque was placed in the village of Sambro. Then in 1996, the lighthouse received Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office classified status, which is the highest ranking status for Canadian government heritage buildings. In the case of classified federal heritage buildings for which the minister has assigned the highest level of protection, departments are required to consult with the heritage protection legislation before undertaking any action that would affect their heritage structure
I did not indicate when I began that this is important to me for another reason. I was a member of the legislative assembly for the constituency of Halifax Atlantic between the years 1991 and 2003, and Sambro was part of my constituency. It was a constant reminder of the history that the community had shared with North America. The fact is that Sambro has been an active and productive fishing village for over 500 years, and it continues to thrive to this day based on the collaborative manner in which the people in that community, the fishermen and others, go about harvesting the resource of the ocean in a sustainable fashion.
I am very proud to be here with my colleague, the member for Halifax, who sponsored this bill, to speak for a few moments in support of what she has been able to do for this iconic heritage structure, and also as somebody who has had some attachment and has attended many public meetings in the community about what we would do with the Sambro lighthouse.
It is a good day, and I am pleased to support the bill. Again, I commend my colleague, the member for Halifax.
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-09 18:04 [p.14841]
Mr. Speaker, we are here at the end of two hours of debate on the bill to save the Sambro Island lighthouse. I know that lots of people in Sambro and in Halifax are watching right now. I will let them know that I have this right of reply, where I actually have five minutes to talk about what we heard in the House and sort of sum up, if it is possible.
We heard a lot in the House about the reason it is about this lighthouse. It is not about all lighthouses. It is about the Sambro Island lighthouse.
Here are some reasons why. It is the oldest continuous working lighthouse in the Americas. We heard that the building of the lighthouse was actually commemorated as a historic event in 1937. We heard that it was designated a heritage building in the 1990s. We heard that it is a perfect example of a particular type of architecture when it comes to lighthouses. It is one of the best examples of permanent coastal navigational aids along the coast of Nova Scotia, and it played a tremendous role in the development of our nation. We heard about how it was associated with safe shipping in the early development of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia.
We also heard some stories attached to the lighthouse, like the fact that this was the last structure seen by the Royal Canadian Navy as it departed in times of war and of peace. It was the first welcoming light as people came back home. We heard about how this light was a sign of hope for war brides, immigrants, and refugees making their way to Canada through Pier 21.
We have heard all of these facts and figures. We also heard about how this is not a lighthouse at the end of a pier or on land. It is on a rock in the ocean. It is not easy for the community to hire some summer students to throw a coat of paint on it and take care of it. It involves so much more, because it is quite dangerous. We heard about the weather that prevents people from even getting out there, with the fog, the rain, and the wind.
What we have not heard are the voices of the people on the ground who are working to protect the lighthouse and who care about it deeply. I would like to bring some of their voices to the House today.
Nancy Marryatt said, “I am 73 years young. I can remember going in Dad's fishing boat with the family to visit with the Gilkies on a Sunday afternoon. My brother and I would get to go up in the light. It was exciting. I hope the government will continue its support”.
M.H. Watson, from Sambro, said, “Surely we can find some love for a piece of our history. Our first lighthouse, America's first lighthouse and the last view our soldiers saw as they sailed off to war”.
Sheilah Domenie, a Sambro resident, said, “This island is so special. As they say, if you don't know where you've been, how can you know where you're going?”
Jeanne Henneberry, from Sambro, said, “Help us preserve an historic part [of our past], the Sambro Lighthouse. It reflects the hopes of the community and the country for a 'better world'”.
Leslie Harnish, also from Sambro, said, “I'm a descendant of the lighthouse keeper, the Gilkie family that were keepers on the island, and I've always wanted to see the island and the lighthouse preserved”.
I am going to sum up with a bit of a long quote from Kathy Brown. She said:
This lighthouse has a long and distinguished history and can be regarded as Canada's most important pre-Confederation building.
For the love of their lighthouses, the people of the Village of Sambro have founded the Sambro Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. They are working hard to raise awareness and money to save this Canadian icon. But this lighthouse is not just their responsibility, it is the responsibility of all of us, wherever we live and of whatever political stripe to make sure that Sambro is property recognized and preserved.
Since Sambro was not designated immediately in the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, this is a chance for you to set aside your political differences to amend this mistake. It is a chance to show that heritage and history are of real importance, not just the subject of fancy TV ads and passing celebrations.
I urge you, as the first step in preserving this heritage building for future generations to show your support for Bill C-588.
I am heartened by the words I have heard spoken in the chamber in support of the bill, spanning party lines as well as geography. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute in some small way to the protection and preservation of this important piece of our heritage and to find a way for this light to shine on.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Chair, it is a real pleasure to rise and speak in the House tonight.
In 10 minutes, it is hard to put across one's entire career in politics, whether a short-lived career or one that has greater longevity. However, for my political career, June 2 marked 18 years. I remember coming to this place 18 years ago as a young parliamentarian, quite frankly green as grass, and walking onto the green floor of the House of Commons, which of course, represents the grassroots.
It is not just representative of the grassroots of Canada, but it goes back to another era and another time, to the time of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. King John, of course, was granting greater taxation abilities to the knights and nobility. Because he was the king, he forced the knights and nobility to dismount and stand on the grass, and that is where the expression “grassroots” comes from. It was because they were standing on the grass sod.
We know, in today's terms, that it was a very elite group, certainly the cream of society, whereas in this place, under true democracy, everyone—even myself, a kid growing up in rural Nova Scotia—has an opportunity to come to the House of Commons of Canada. It is a great gift to be passed to other Canadians.
I think back to my nomination speech, and we all went through one. We all got our supporters out and dragged them to a fire hall or town hall somewhere and got them all to vote. I cannot tell members what I said in my nomination speech. I really have very little idea, because I was extremely nervous. However, I do remember quoting Robert Service from The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and I think it stood me in good stead for this job. It was probably the only part of my nomination speech that was delivered fairly well. I quoted this part:
When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare, There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear. He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse, Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
I always felt that put me in the right frame of mind to come here, because this is a very adversarial chamber at times, with quite a rowdy crew at times. At times, we could be mistaken for that barroom in that piece of poetry written by Robert Service.
However, in all honesty, there are many times when we work more collaboratively and actually do a good job, and I think everyone comes here with the right intent. Regardless of our political affiliation, people come here for the right reasons. Sometimes they get led astray a little bit, but the majority of us are here for the right reasons, doing a good job on behalf of our constituents and on behalf of the country.
I wrote down “politics can be frustrating, demanding, perplexing, and gratifying”. I think all of my colleagues would recognize those words. However, we are all here because we have partners in life, family, friends, supporters, and all of the volunteers who have been kind and generous of their time, and who allow us to stand in this chamber and discuss the events of the nation.
Certainly, I need to first of all thank my family, my wife Judy, our six kids, my brothers and sisters, and my friends who have been supportive over the years. I know we are not allowed to draw attention to anyone in the gallery, and I have no intention of doing that, but I am pretty sure that my wife Judy, my sister Marsha, my brother-in-law Charlie, my friends Keir and George are probably watching this tonight.
I need to recognize my staff in the riding: Kim who has worked for me as long as I have been a member of Parliament, Jennifer, Shauna, who has now left and is working in New Brunswick, Cathy, who works in the Barrington office, and Ben, who works in my Ottawa office. They really are the glue that holds us together. As important as the support and love of our families are, members could not do this job, as was mentioned earlier this evening, without the quality, expertise, and professionalism that our staff shows us every single day. That includes former staffers, many of whom have gone on to great careers in political life themselves.
I want to take a moment to talk about the volunteers. All members, whichever side of the House we work on, have got here because of the hard work of dozens, hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of volunteers. Here in Canada, we are a volunteering society. People volunteer at their local legions, churches, and food banks, but it is somehow a dirty word to say that someone volunteers in politics. Quite frankly, shame on us, because those volunteers are the other part of the glue that binds this democracy together. We need to recognize them and thank them for their contribution to the work that goes on, whether it is the Parliament of Canada, the provincial and territorial legislatures, or the municipalities. We could not do this job without them.
I want to thank all of my colleagues. I am not going to name everyone and I do not mean to steal the Minister of Justice's line, but we were elected at the same time, on June 2, 1997, and at that time we were a small band that had come to Ottawa trying to make big changes. It took us a long time to do that, but quite frankly, because we put the two parties together, we are standing here today not just as retiring members of Parliament but retiring members of Parliament in a government that has made real, serious change to this country, for the better.
I want to recognize and thank the Prime Minister for putting his faith in me and allowing me to serve as parliamentary secretary. That is something I will always appreciate. I was able, in that role and capacity, to work on some large files, which I never would have been able to do otherwise.
Private members' business was mentioned earlier. When I first got here, I was looking at reducing or eliminating the capital gains on privately owned woodlots in Canada, and I was able to bring that forward in a private member's bill. The government of the day did not see fit to pass it, but it did bring in the legislation itself and it became law. I also had a private member's bill on fisheries capital gains. We brought that in as an election promise and did it. It has been a huge boost for private woodlots and fisheries.
I also had the great honour of working on the Heritage Lighthouse Preservation Act with folks like Barry MacDonald from Nova Scotia. We were able to preserve forever a number of ancient lighthouses in Nova Scotia, one in particular on Cape Sable Island in my riding. The Minister of Justice and I were able to make the announcement on the other one just outside of my riding, the Sambro Island light. The Sambro Island light is the oldest lighthouse not just in Nova Scotia, Canada, or North America but in the western hemisphere. That is a piece of heritage that we were able to help preserve.
I want to say to all of my colleagues, family, and friends that it has been an honour and a pleasure to serve.
View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2015-06-09 19:14 [p.14851]
Mr. Chair, it is a real honour. It is certainly an honour to follow my friend and colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's but also to be here with all my colleagues and with you, Mr. Chair.
As I rise in this place, perhaps for the final time, I too wanted to share some thoughts and reflections on the last 18 years and the gift it has been to be part of this institution, this formidable place. It is beyond question. The House of Commons and our Parliament of Canada has stood for almost a century and a half, and I suspect that now, as in the future, it will remain a work in progress. Clearly, the physical and political infrastructure and the construction that continues around this place will go on.
As I pass through, I will remember, first and foremost, the people. The majesty and the splendour of these gorgeous buildings and this remarkable chamber leave one breathless. However, so too do the gracious and hard-working people who populate it, the people who work here, the people who keep us safe, transport us, feed us, and keep us moving forward in our daily tasks.
Of course, no one would be here without the people we represent, our constituents. My first words of thanks are to the people of Central Nova. My northern Nova Scotia constituency comprises Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough, parts of Halifax County and soon parts of Musquodoboit Valley, which I will inherit from my friend from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who I now call the last man standing.
Although the name changed, the people remained the same: strong stock, hard-working, industrious, loyal. They are communities and people I was always proud to represent. I have held their confidence as their member of Parliament for six terms. It is a true honour in every sense of the word.
I listened to the eloquent words of colleagues who have spoken before me, and I share so many of those sentiments. I cherish so much of this shared life, this political life, here in Ottawa and throughout the country.
My fellow parliamentarians, and those in particular of the Conservative Party, my political home, also went through an evolution during my tenure. There has been throughout our history, from John A. Macdonald to our current leader, the Prime Minister, an unbroken continuity in our political bloodline and a commitment to the building and advancing of our Canada. I am proud to have served as a Conservative and am comfortable in the knowledge that we are a strong, united party with strong values, Canadian values, a progressive political party deeply ingrained in the origins and future of our nation in our outlook and orientation.
As was mentioned as well, it is a party that I believe brings about many shared recollections. I am glad to share them with my colleague opposite, the previous justice minister, the member from Mount Royal, who was for me, in many ways, a mentor. I was his critic, and today he is in some ways my critic. However, that criticism is always constructive and respectful and indicative, I think, of the very best of this place when we come together around important ideas and important notions that move the country forward.
My efforts, first and foremost, have always been to improve the lives of those of my constituents in Central Nova, whether it be through infrastructure, through investments or programs, or through personal support, much of which can only occur through the work of those in our constituency offices. Other members, of course, have made the same observation. I have been so fortunate to have a remarkable team.
Through government portfolios I have held in the last nine years, I hope I have been able to contribute, through bills and debates over the years, as have all who have gone before me. Though some would inevitably be spoken with words of passion and even great emotion, this is a place of ideas and healthy debate first and foremost. Debate should flourish, as it does.
In this place, this formidable institution, our House, I hope I may have left a small impression, not on the physical side, not carved in limestone or in wood, like the words, figures, and symbols found throughout this place, the work of gifted craftspeople and masons from all parts of Canada, but through the decisions and the debates, governance, rules, and regulations we are duty bound to respect but also to amend and modernize over time.
Many previous speakers referenced family, and I, of course, will do the same. There was one small contribution from my days as an opposition House leader. As my friend from South Shore—St. Margaret's mentioned, we came to this place together, young, idealistic, and ready to bring about change. I was a single man, and I argued successfully for the installation of baby change tables in all of the parliamentary precinct washrooms, both male and female, and I used one the other day with my son.
I made that presentation at the Board of Internal Economy, but it was really the brainchild of my good friend, John Holtby, a giant in my eyes, who remains one of the most knowledgeable parliamentary procedural experts in Canada, an author and intellect, an icon and a friend. He is now back growing his garden, and like my grandfather, he loves to watch nature grow, including budding politicians, who he took under his able wing.
It has been my honour and privilege to serve in this House of democracy, and I thank all of those, of all political stripes, past and present, and my colleagues, too many to recall here, I served with. Although we sometimes lined up on different issues on different sides of this place with different parties, we served alongside one another.
Parliamentarians all come with true hearts, clear heads, and an intent to bring positive change. It is a great privilege afforded to all of us by our constituents and is a shared experience, a common goal, to leave this place and the country stronger.
This pursuit is an honourable calling, despite its frailties and its failings, like democracy itself. As the great Sir Winston Churchill said of democracy:
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried...
I am humbled by this privilege and hope that my record will show that I did my best for my riding, and indeed, for all of Nova Scotia and Canada. My grandmother encouraged me to do so.
Since 2006, the Prime Minister has bestowed on me the privilege of serving as foreign minister, minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency responsible for the Atlantic gateway, minister of national defence, and currently Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. In addition, I have represented Nova Scotia in the federal cabinet and other provinces. I have chaired cabinet committees. I thank the Prime Minister for his confidence and support in all of those positions. I did my best to fulfill our Conservative government's promises to Canadians.
I thank him personally, as well, for the request that I continue in my role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General until the election, and I relish the opportunity to finish with a flourish and to finish out my mandate as the member of Parliament for Central Nova.
In each and every portfolio, I have worked with dedicated public servants who work hard and put in long hours to help implement changes and improve policy and programs. From deputy ministers to those throughout the ranks, I thank them for their service.
As many in this chamber will know, I was honoured to work with the Canadian Armed Forces for some seven years during a war. Those folks, our greatest citizens, who sign up and literally put service to their country first and foremost and put their lives on the line, are truly remarkable. I remain in awe, humbled and inspired by those who serve our country in uniform, and I was honoured to be called their minister.
I have been well served in my time here, from literally day one, by Madeleine and Krista, who I met in a previous occupation in the law, and so many others back home, who I named and spoke of, many of whom have been with me a long time.
I thank all of my staff, who have been exceptional in their loyalty to me, to the government, and to Canada. I thank them for their public service and their dedication. They are a keen, hard-charging team that I have with me to this day, and it makes me lament the fact that I will no longer have the joy of working with them. They are, in my estimation, an all-star team.
Marian, my chief of staff, wore out her knees walking these halls and can match minds with anyone in this place. Her Irish makes it hard to disagree with her once her mind has been made up. There is Marc Charbonneau, who, like many I have known, would literally take a bullet for me, which takes on real meaning given the events of last October. I will miss them, not as employees but as friends and colleagues.
The relentless pace here sometimes make it feel like we are living life in fast forward.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, the undeniable reason I chose to move on from this place. My parents and grandparents made me all that I am and gave me all that I have. They instilled in me good values, a fine example in their lives, and the sacrifices they made for my siblings and I remain my greatest inspiration.
My father was a parliamentarian. He set a high bar. My mother would have been an excellent and compassionate member of this place as well, with a heart that would fill this chamber. She would have been a great debater as well, and I never want to debate my mother. I thank them for their love and support. It has been my lifeblood.
My siblings are my closest and dearest friends. Most of all, I thank my wife, Nazanin, who I met here as a member of Parliament, in fact, in this lobby just behind me. Were it not for politics, I would not have met the love of my life. She remains my compass and my confidante. Her values, kind nature, and disposition are in our son Kian's DNA. Our wonderful, healthy, and curious boy has given my life real meaning. I cannot wait to meet our unborn daughter.
Appropriately, my last words are spoken with passion and love for this place but are only outweighed by my hope for more time with the people I love more.
As I close, I borrow the words of the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, who said:
Adieu! a heart-warm, fond adieu... With melting heart, and brimful eye, I'll mind you still, tho' far awa'.
À bientôt, mes chers collègues, till we meet again.
I quote, as well, the great John Diefenbaker, who said that “parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom”.
Time and time again, we have proven that when Canada's collective freedom and security is threatened, it does not matter where we come from or what our political background. When it comes to Canada, we come together for the betterment of our nation and our constituents. That is when this House is at its best.
May this place never be without our truly dedicated citizens, who above all else, stand for the betterment of our nation.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech on employment insurance.
We heard a lot of talk in Ontario about increasing CPP, which would increase payroll taxes and premiums for job creators and everyday workers.
Do the member and his party support an increase in EI premiums, which would be another increase in payroll taxes, and lead to a lot of people losing their jobs across Canada?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, for his leadership on this issue and for the hard work that he has put in to make sure that Canadians understand the damage that the Liberals and Conservatives have done to the important program of employment insurance.
Does the member think it is satisfactory that we have a fund in this country that is supposed to provide support to workers, families and communities when they are unemployed through no fault of their own, yet eligibility has dropped below 4 in 10? In other words, of the 1.3 million unemployed in this country, a small fraction of them are actually eligible for support from this program. Would the member not agree that this is something we have to deal with right now?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to get up and speak for a few minutes on this important issue of employment insurance and the fact that there needs to be a viable program in this country that provides support to unemployed workers, their families, and their communities.
There was such a fund, until the Liberals got their hands on it back in the mid-90s. At that point, 80% of unemployed Canadians had access to this fund. By the time the Liberals got through with it, that had been reduced to 45%. Now, since the Conservatives have had their go at it, it has been reduced to 36% or 37% of unemployed Canadians who actually have an opportunity to access these funds.
I want to talk a bit about that, because that is really at the heart of why we are dealing with this motion today. It is to not only protect the fund, and I will explain why that is important, but to make sure that the account is set up in a way that truly does the work necessary and does what employment insurance was originally established to do, which is provide support for unemployed workers, provide support for parents on parental leave, provide sick benefits, and even provide training for people to bridge the period between jobs.
Let me talk for a second about why access has come to be such a problem.
As I indicated earlier, before the Liberals got at this account, 80% of unemployed workers had access to it. Under their reforms, EI access fell to below 50%. The Conservatives saw an opportunity and have continued to reduce access. As recently as 2012, they brought in some major changes that have particularly affected seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada, which is my part of the world. They made it particularly difficult in a number of different industries that depended on shorter term, seasonal work to the point that in July 2013, fund eligibility reached 36.5%. It is up a bit now and is a little closer to 40%. One reason for that is the high level of unemployment in this country.
Only 60% of new mothers receive maternity benefits, mostly because they have insufficient hours under these Conservative changes.
On top of those eligibility issues, unemployed workers and their employers have a problem with Service Canada. Of the applicants for EI, 25% are waiting beyond the supposed service standard of 28 days. It is now in excess of 40 days. We raised this issue last fall. We have actually raised it for the past two years, but last fall, the minister responsible stood in this place and talked about how his parliamentary secretary had done a study on this work and had made some changes. We asked him to table the study to show us what the results were, and all of a sudden, that study was not good enough to be released. We still have not seen it. What we do know is that people seeking unemployment insurance benefits are still having to wait over 40 days.
As I indicated, the government made a number of changes in 2012 in terms of eligibility for benefits. One of the particular issues was related to the Social Security Tribunal.
There used to be an appeals process that was tripartite. The worker had a representative at the appeal, the employer had a representative at the appeal, and there was an independent chairperson at the appeal. In other words, there was due process. There was justice. Workers could expect that they would have an opportunity to have their cases heard.
That process has been completely revamped. Now there is an official within the department who looks at this. That individual does not share information. A lot of it is done behind closed doors. The worst thing of all is that at the end of 2014, there was a backlog of 11,000 cases. Not only was the process turned upside down, with workers no longer having access to due process, but now the process is not even going forward, so these appeals are not being heard.
The other point I want to make is in regard to the EI fund. My colleague from Trois-Rivières said that we have tabled a bill in this House to protect the EI fund. Why are we doing that? Why do we have to protect the sanctity of that fund? It is because the Liberals took $54 billion in the EI fund, and they used it for other purposes. In other words, the money that was put into that fund by workers and employers to provide employment insurance when workers lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, was appropriated to other places. The Conservatives came along and thought that it was pretty neat to have access to that fund, and they tried that too. The Conservatives went ahead and had their way with over $3 billion in that fund, all the while, of course, not changing premiums.
Now we have a situation where there is less money in the fund, Even so, now the current government is proposing to reduce premiums next year. If we even left the premiums at their current level, we could provide EI benefits to another 130,000 unemployed workers. We think that makes a lot of sense.
My point is that the EI fund should be managed independently. Decisions about premiums should be independent of government. They should not be influenced by the political whims of the government of the day. We have seen the damage that can be done as a result of what the Liberals and Conservatives have done. It is wrong. That is why we are proposing this motion and why we have talked with Canadians about how under an NDP government, we will certainly make those changes.
I want to go back to what we want. We want to ensure that more Canadians and middle-class families have access to the support they need if they lose their jobs, need to take parental leave, become ill, or need to care for loved ones under the compassionate care leave program. That was extended in this budget to six months, which we support. We pushed for that. However, the eligibility problems are still the same: it is accessible by very few people. People caring for ALS patients are unable to have access to that fund.
The NDP wants to make sure that the premiums workers and employers pay to the fund are actually used to provide EI benefits for the unemployed, special benefits for families, and training for Canadians. That is why I had the pleasure of tabling Bill C-605 to put a fence around that fund.
We want to make sure that Canadian workers and businesses are involved in creating an EI fund that actually works for them. When the current government made those five massive changes in 2012, it did so without any consultation with the Atlantic provinces, with Quebec, or with any other provinces. That had a very detrimental impact, and the provinces said so to the federal government.
We are committed to working with the provinces, to working with workers and their representatives, and to working with employers to make sure that we have an EI fund that is protected, that is independent, and that actually supports working people.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I do not make any apologies for feeling passionate about working people and about the way the government is treating working people and the way the Liberal Party has been treating working people in this country. I make no apologies for getting a little wound up about that. Let me tell the House that for sure.
I can commit to that member and to those members opposite that when we are in power after October 19, we will work with workers, with employers, and with the provinces to make sure that we have an EI fund that is sustainable, that is independent, and that actually serves the needs of workers, their families, and employers in this country.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 12:29 [p.14677]
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of statements the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour had that I fully agree with, and certainly access is one I fully agree with. We have to do a better job as a nation in looking after those who find themselves out of work right now.
However, specifically on the EI premium rate, could I get his opinion on this? If we go back to 1993, employers and employees were paying $3.02 per $100 earned in EI premiums. The unemployment rate was 12.5%. As a matter of fact, the Conservatives had proposed to go to $3.20. Twelve times since 1993, that rate has come down by a nickel, a dime, or whatever it may have been, to about $1.78. I think that is what it was when we left power in 2006, so it did come down considerably. Also, the unemployment rate came down from 12.5% to 6.5%.
I have two questions. Does my colleague see that we have to be fair both to employers who create jobs and to employees? Is it at a rate now where we should not go lower? That is what I am hearing in this context. It should be about keeping that fund the same and improving access. I think we agree on that point.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso. This is an issue he knows something about. In 1997, many Liberals in Atlantic Canada got tossed out on their ear as a result of some of the unilateral changes they were making to employment insurance. He knows that, and I would have thought he had learned much from that experience.
The difficulty we have now is that we have a fund, and both the Conservatives and the Liberals are proposing to give cuts to employers to create jobs, something that should come out of general revenues. They would be taking money that should be used to provide support for working Canadians who are suddenly unemployed.
We need to ensure that in terms of rates, they are sufficient to ensure that Canadians, when they are unemployed and need support, are able to receive that support. Those decisions should not be political. They should be independent and done in fairness, with a sense of equity for employers and workers.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the motion brought forward by the member for Trois-Rivières regarding access to employment insurance.
Our government recognizes that EI is a vital resource for those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The opposition is trying to distract from its irresponsible scheme that would have people work simply for 45 days and then collect employment insurance for the rest of the year. The high-tax opposition's 45-day work year would cost $6 billion and be paid for by job-killing payroll taxes levied on workers and the businesses that employ them.
As members know, employment insurance is designed to provide temporary income support to help Canadians and their families withstand financial pressure when they lose their jobs. Our employment program also works by offering training and support to help unemployed Canadians return to work.
We know that Canadians want to get back to work as soon as possible. They want to earn a good living. They want to support their families and be productive members in their communities. To foster a strong, competitive workforce, our employment insurance program must succeed in helping them find a new job. What we are striving for is economic growth, while ensuring long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
I can assure members that the employment insurance situation of Canadians is a matter of great concern for this government. The result of this hard work has been clear. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered all the jobs that were lost during that period. We have one of the strongest job creation records in the G7 and one of the best in the developed world. We have created over 1.2 million net new jobs since the pit of the economic recession in 2009, 80% of those jobs are in the private sector. Of those jobs, 80% are full-time and 65% are in high wage industries.
However, the recovery has varied across the country and across segments of the population. By helping Canadians connect with available jobs and by putting a priority on skills and training, we are ensuring continued economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity. The employment insurance program is an important part of this success. It plays a key role in helping Canadians stay attached to the labour market and return to work as quickly as possible.
With all due respect, I do not believe the members opposite know all that they need to when it comes to accessibility for employment insurance.
First, I want to put to rest the notion that only a small percentage of unemployed Canadians receive EI benefits. According to Statistics Canada's latest survey, in 2013, nearly nine out of ten recently unemployed Canadians who paid into the EI program and lost their job were eligible to receive EI benefits. That is not a small percentage; that is the vast majority. Further, of those people who were disqualified from EI in 2014, far less than 1%, it was because they failed to search for work or refused to accept suitable work.
Members should keep in mind that the entire unemployed population includes many people for whom the program was not designed and therefore does not work well. This includes people who did not work in the previous 12 months, people who quit their jobs to go back to school and people who quit their job without a good reason.
Another myth that I would like to address is that changes to the EI program in recent years have negatively affected eligibility rules. That is untrue. The reality is that changes that were introduced by our government have assisted unemployed Canadians in returning to work and have not restricted any access to EI benefits. It had nothing to do with accessibility.
Our government is committed to a program that is more reflective of and more responsive to local labour market conditions. When we designed the changes, we took into account the unique needs of the different regions and the different circumstances, including seasonal workers. We believe that working is always a better option than collecting employment insurance. We are committed to supporting workers and ensuring that EI enables a strong and competitive workforce for all Canadians in every region of the country from coast to coast.
To achieve this, over the last three years we have announced several targeted, common-sense changes to help Canadians in all regions of the country. These changes were not about restricting access to EI benefits, but rather supporting unemployed workers by giving them the tools that they needed to help them get back to work. As long as workers meet their obligation of seeking suitable employment, they will continue to meet their obligations and will then be eligible to receive their benefits.
We introduced ways to help Canadians connect with available jobs in their own communities. For example, the job alert system makes it easier for job seekers and employers to connect. More specifically, the job alert service has sent out 514 million alerts to over 775,000 since it was launched in January 2013, making it easier for job seekers and employers to connect. These numbers continue to grow each and every day.
We also clarified the long-standing responsibilities of EI claimants to look for work while they are receiving benefits. Some say the changes hurt claimants living in small communities by forcing them to travel great distances or worse, forcing them to move out of the community altogether. That is simply not true. No one ever has been and no one ever will be forced to move. Claimants are only expected to look for work within their communities. Moreover, personal circumstances are always taken into account, such as the availability of public transportation and access to child care. Those are things that are considered when evaluating each individual employment insurance claim.
However, let us not lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the EI program is to provide temporary income support to those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, while they look for a job or they look to upgrade their skills. It was not, and is not, meant to be an income supplement for those who choose not to look for work for part of the year. However, for those Canadians who live in areas of higher unemployment, or areas where jobs simply do not exist outside seasonal or specialized industries, EI benefits will always continue to be there for them.
We have also implemented the variable best weeks approach to calculating EI benefits. We believe that claimants living in regions with similar labour market conditions should be treated similarly when they look for work. Before variable best weeks was implemented, there were two different methods for calculating this benefit rate. This meant that claimants with similar work patterns and similar labour market conditions would receive different benefit amounts just because they lived in different parts of Canada. Variable best weeks created a national benefit rate calculation based on the monthly unemployment rate within the claimant's EI region. Further, by making weekly benefit calculations with the regional unemployment rate, EI is more responsive to changes to labour market conditions.
In budget 2015, the Government of Canada proposed a $53-million investment to renew the working while on claim project parameters for another year. Working while on claim is designed to help unemployed Canadians get back to work in their local workforce as quickly as possible. The previous pilot project, which began in August 2012, encouraged EI claimants to accept available work while on EI. This working while on claim project reduces claimant's weekly EI benefits by 50% for each dollar earned while on claim, starting with the first dollar earned. Earnings beyond the threshold of 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate EI rate of benefits reduce weekly EI benefits dollar for dollar.
This 90% cap ensures that claimants cannot earn more while on claim than they were while they were working. The working while on claim project applies to claimants receiving regular, fishing, compassionate care, parental or parents of critically ill children's benefits, as well as self-employed persons receiving compassionate care, or parents of critically ill children.
Initiatives, like the working while on claim pilot project, help ensure the El program remains relevant for today's labour market. According to the 2013-14 employment insurance monitoring and assessment report, they will continue to be effective. The report demonstrates that the El program continues to support unemployed workers and their families as they transition back to work.
The report also reaffirms that eligibility for El remains high. Over 85% of individuals who have paid into the system and have lost their job do no fault of their own are eligible for El benefits. For example, in 2013-14, 1.33 million regular claims accounted for $10 billion in regular benefits.
The same year, there were more than 515,000 special claims, such as maternity, parental, sickness, compassionate care, parents of critically ill children. These resulted in $4.7 billion in special benefits. The numbers do not lie. The El program is clearly a strong support for those who need it and strong support when people need it the most.
We know the employment situations of Canadians can change for any number of reasons. Some, like an employer going out of business, are difficult but understandable. Others, like dealing with a critically ill child or a friend or family member's serious illness, are less so.
Through the employment insurance program, compassionate care benefits provide financial assistance to people who have to be away from work temporarily to care a family member who is gravely ill, with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. A recent parliamentary committee report on palliative and compassionate care showed that family caregivers provided a substantial amount of care, between 70% and 80% in fact. The report stated that family and friends were the invisible backbone of the Canadian health care system. As such, we want to ensure the program's parameters better reflect this reality. That is why in economic action plan 2015 we outlined our intention to invest an additional $37 million annually to ensure those caring for gravely ill family members would have the support they needed.
Here is what we are doing. We are extending the duration of the compassionate care benefit from the current six weeks to six months as of January 2016. We are also expanding the period of time during which claimants can receive these benefits. These benefits can be used to care for a parent, spouse, partner, child or sibling and extended family members.
We have not forgotten that no program can be successful if its benefits do not reach those who truly need them, which is why we continue to improve how we deliver EI benefits to Canadians. Service Canada monitors EI claims on an ongoing basis to ensure we provide the best possible service to Canadians who are in need of these benefits.
Our government has continued to make a range of improvements to ensure we can manage fluctuations in the volume of applications in a cost-effective manner. It is a challenging problem and one we are up to.
It is clear that the EI program continues to be there for those who have paid into the system and those who have lost their job through no fault of their own, including in areas where jobs simply do not exist outside of seasonal or specialized industries. We have spent years implementing changes to make this program more fair and flexible, while continuing to support Canadians when they need it most. We have done so to meet our commitment to a national program that is more reflective of our response to local labour market conditions.
These are responsible, necessary and sensitive efforts to help Canadians get back to work faster. It is good for government, good for the economy, good for employers, but most of all, good for Canadians and their families.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how the opposition parties believe that when we invest in tax cuts so employers can hire more people, by lowering payroll taxes like CPP premiums and EI premiums, it somehow is government spending. That is not what it is.
We want to ensure we have a fund that meets the needs of people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The changes we made in 2012, unlike what the opposition claims, had nothing to do with accessibility. We did not change one thing about accessing the program. In fact, if we look at recent figures from Service Canada, it shows that less than 1% of claimants actually lost their benefits due to turning down work.
We are now investing in connecting people to available jobs. There is the job alerts program. We are negotiating with the provinces to try to ensure our labour market development agreements actually get to people earlier, sooner after they lose their jobs, so we can get them back into the workplace as soon as possible.
Those are the things the EI fund is being used for, getting people back to work.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 12:48 [p.14680]
Mr. Speaker, like my friend and colleague on the human resources committee, the parliamentary secretary, I am a Nova Scotian and I represent a rural community. We have long seen the movement of people from rural communities to urban centres, from Atlantic Canada to opportunities in Saskatchewan and Alberta. However, one thing we had not seen in my time in politics is that sectors in the seasonal economy had not had any problem getting workers. For the first time, we are seeing fish plant operators and tourism operators making applications for temporary foreign workers.
It may be great for the government to say that its only seeing 1% in refusals for those who apply for employment insurance in those seasonal industries. However, what we are seeing is that people in those communities are voting with their feet. They are moving out of those seasonal industries into other industries. We are seeing those communities being impacted; certainly, the businesses are being impacted.
Is there any way that the government is measuring, beyond the 1% refusal, as to what kind of impacts these changes have made? We do not have access to the information, but anecdotally we are hearing that people are leaving the industries.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I believe that if someone is working a seasonal job where they are forced to collect unemployment in the off-season, and then they have an opportunity for a full-time job, particularly if it is in the same community, it is much better for them to take full-time employment. There are many reasons for why that is, but I will give one right now.
When people are collecting unemployment insurance benefits, they are not contributing into the CPP. When they are working all year round, they are contributing into the CPP for 12 months a year. When they turn 65 and retire, they will have a much larger benefit. They will not be as reliant upon government, and they will be able to be more self-sustainable.
With any effort to get people to take full-time, full-year employment instead of seasonal employment, those people will be better off in the short term and they will be better off in the long term.
We do need to have workers in the seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada. This is why we need to work with employers, why we need to ensure we connect people who are currently unemployed. Most of these areas have higher than 10% employment, yet these seasonal industries are having a hard time in attracting workers. We need to ensure that these seasonal workers have the skills they need to apply for these jobs. The unemployed workers who are currently not working in the off-season have the skills they need to do those seasonal jobs as well. That is why we should be using the employment insurance premiums to help fund training that matches with jobs.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, first, people have to accept that they are always better off working than they are collecting employment insurance benefits. If they accept that they are always better off when they have a job, we need to have a government program that supports people through training and employment.
Last year, people saw us make a landmark deal with the provinces across the country for the labour market agreement, a $500-million fund from the government coffers to support connecting people to jobs and ensuring that they have training.
We have changed that now. We have established what is called a Canada job grant. The Canada job grant allows employers to put some skin in the game, hire someone who does that training, and then the labour market agreement kicks some money in for that training. That allows the employee to train and get skills for a job they know is going to be there at the end of the training.
We are now negotiating with the provinces on a much larger fund, the labour market development agreement, which is a $2-billion fund in terms of training. One of the goals we share with the provinces is that we need to ensure we have access to people for training sooner after they lose their jobs, so they can more quickly get back to jobs.
This is why we are putting an emphasis on connecting people to available jobs and training. We also have to ensure that people who are currently on benefit apply and attempt to get work when they are collecting that benefit. They will be better off in the long run. Those are the priorities that our government has put in place.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I said no such thing. What the member is talking about is their plan to implement a 45-day work year, where someone can simply work for 45 days and then collect employment insurance benefits for the rest of the year. That is the NDP plan. That is not our plan. We want to to put measures in place to give people the training they need to take available jobs.
We have a problem in Canada right now. We have literally thousands of jobs available without employees with the proper training to take those jobs. When we look at the construction trades alone, over the next eight years, 300,000 new employees will be needed. Right now we are not going to be able to meet the demand that the industry will place upon Canada.
However, if we can reach into our workforce, give them the training they need to get these high-paying, high-wage jobs in the private sector, they will be much better off in the long run, as will all of Canada. This is why we have focused on tax cuts, training, and trade. Those are the keys to a successful future, not a 45-day work year.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 12:56 [p.14682]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate.
My friend and colleague from Acadie—Bathurst and I have been in the House for 15 years now. We have been on the same side of a number of debates and on different sides on others. He is leaving and gave a farewell statement the other day. I know he has been a strong, passionate supporter of Canadians who work in rural communities and seasonal industries, and this is one issue that he and I have worked on a number of times during my time in the House. I respect his interventions and commitment to making sure that all Canadians are able to share in the wealth of this country.
In response to my question to the parliamentary secretary about the impact of the EI changes on those who work in seasonal industries, he said that Conservatives are happy to see Canadians leave those seasonal jobs and go to full-time jobs in those communities. He should step back from Starbucks and go to rural Canada because full-time jobs are not there. When a seasonal industry cannot maximize its operations because it does not have access to a workforce, that has an impact on everything in that community. It has an impact on schools, hospitals, all aspects of how that community operates, including charitable organizations and volunteer groups. Those communities get old and dry up. That is the reality of what is happening. That is what we are seeing. Anecdotally, we are seeing that, and I am sure that other members have seen the same. The changes are having an impact.
I would like to discuss a couple of aspects of the motion that was put forward, and I should say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.
Right now, we are at a 70-year low. Less than 38% of unemployed Canadians are actually receiving EI benefits. Obviously, part of the problem is that the current EI system does not reflect the new reality in Canada's job market. We are seeing an increase in the number of Canadians who are working in minimum wage jobs. There are almost a million Canadians working for minimum wage right now. That is an increase of 66% since the government took power.
Whenever Conservatives are asked questions on the economy, they like to stand and talk about the jobs they have created. If there has been an increase in 66% of minimum wage jobs in this country, what they are probably doing is leading the G7 nations in creating crappy jobs. I do not know of anybody who can look after and raise a family in a minimum wage job. We see time and time again that Canadians are knitting together a number of different job opportunities and working a couple of different jobs just to make ends meet.
In this country, there are now 165,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the recession. There are some 200,000 more unemployed young Canadians than before the recession. Year over year employment growth has been below 1% for 15 months in a row, the longest stretch below that mark outside of recessions in almost 40 years of record keeping. Job quality is reported by CIBC to be at a 25-year low.
Part of the motion is on accessibility, and we see an increase in the number of long-term unemployed in this country. We see that 37% qualify, but the part we should really be concerned about is that 25% of those who would be eligible are really long-term unemployed Canadians. Where do they end up? They end up on provincial welfare roles, as files in community service departments in the various provinces. This is 25%, and that is up over the last number of years.
We see the rise in temporary work, precarious work, and the changes in the EI rules have had an impact. We know that when the Conservatives came to power, they cut 600 jobs in the EI processing centres, which affected processing and the appeals process, as mentioned by my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
When I first came to this chamber, if somebody was three weeks late in receiving an EI benefit, we would get a call, because that person would be in a bit of panic. Now we see time and time again files going seven and eight weeks for some people, and five weeks is not uncommon. There are 700,000 claimants each year. If the square peg is in the square hole and the round peg is in the round hole, there is chance of getting a cheque in 28 days. For anything outside of that, anything being referred back for more information, and I am thinking of 70% of the claims that are not right not on the money, they are now waiting an average of seven weeks. Try running a household without that income. People who are living cheque to cheque, week to week, are not investing in their tax-free savings account.
When we take that much manpower out of the system and think that the machines are going to do it, that does not happen. Therefore, the Conservatives have gone back and reinvested, and brought about 135 people back in the last year. However, two years ago, if we phoned an EI processing centre, there was a 54% chance that the call would be dropped, which is down to about 47% now, and that is with the addition of those new bodies.
One would think that the government would be able to connect the dots: if we put the necessary manpower, recommit to the public service and put some people to actually process these applications, then maybe the hardship would not be put on this group of Canadians. Maybe we could deal with these and actually provide service at Service Canada. I would hope this would dawn on those who are making the decisions over there.
The working while on claim was changed in budget 2012, which introduced a new clawback rule. For example, a person receiving a benefit may be able to get one day of work, which is not uncommon. The tourism industry is really busy from May until the end of October and then it is quiet. A person may claim an EI benefit, but there may be something come up in November and be able to work one day. However, the government would now claw back 50% of those earnings. Unless a claimant works four or five days, and back home in Cape Breton—Canso they call that a full-time job, but any less than that, one, two or three days, then there are clawbacks. Therefore, those changes have hurt Canadians and a lot of industries in a lot of communities across this country.
We are looking forward to this debate today on the motion put forward by my colleague from the NDP.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 13:08 [p.14683]
Mr. Speaker, as I said before to my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a bit of history does not hurt this topic. Prior to when the Liberals came in in 1993, the Auditor General had identified that the EI system had been bankrupt under Brian Mulroney and the previous Conservative government. The unemployment rate was 12.5%, and inflation was in double digits. Therefore, Paul Martin had frozen the rates at $3.02, as they were on their way to $3.20, and he brought them down 12 successive times over the course of the Liberal government. I am not saying that is the entire answer, but I do not think we can divorce the fact that it was an incentive to business to further invest in employees because there was not that heavy tax burden of EI premiums. Therefore, the unemployment rate went from 12.5% down to 6.5%.
Is it where it should be now? I agree with my colleague that the focus now should not be on lowering rates but on increasing access.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 13:10 [p.14683]
Mr. Speaker, the short answer to do I think the Conservatives will stop being untruthful is no.
The member made reference to the 360 hours. Somebody made a statement like that when Toronto got rocked by the SARS epidemic and so many people were staying away from work. I was in the House at the time and somebody had made the comment that it should be 360 hours and access, but that was never adopted as Liberal policy. The unfortunate part is where this House has gone. I know we are approaching an election. This is a serious issue and a serious motion brought forward by the NDP today. We should be drawing that emotion and that partisanship out of this and talking about what works best for Canadians. That would be ideal. What creates jobs, what creates sustainability, what shares the fairness in this country should be the topics of this discussion today. Do I think that will happen today? It is very unlikely.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-08 13:36 [p.14686]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated about half the intervention of my colleague. However, I want to go back to EI processing. I know he represents a great number of people in seasonal industries, so I am sure he has a number of active files within his riding.
I would like to ask my colleague if this makes sense. Prior to 2008, the standard for EI processing centres was to answer the call within three minutes. That happened about 95% of the time. After the Conservatives got their hands on the EI processing centres and starting making cuts, rather than reinvesting and keeping that standard, they lowered it to 80% of calls within three minutes. Last year, they lowered answering the call 80% of time within 10 minutes. We are starting to see a pattern here. Now, in response to an order paper question last year, they are only hitting the standard of answering a call within 10 minutes 45% of the time.
Is this what Canadians are experiencing now for someone who is trying to put some food in the fridge, maybe fill a prescription or put some oil in the tank? Is that what you are experiencing?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for his speech. One of the things he talked about was access to the employment insurance system. He said that people have to fight for it, but that is not true. For anyone who has paid into the program and has the requisite number of hours, all they have to do is apply and employment insurance is there for them.
There is a service standard that Service Canada has put forward, in that 80% of people who apply for employment insurance will receive their benefits within 28 days. That service standard is now being met. Therefore, anyone who is eligible for employment insurance and makes an application will have that claim put through within 28 days and will start receiving their benefits.
Knowing that, my question for the hon. member is whether he is now prepared to admit that there is access to the employment insurance program.
People do not have to fight for it. The program is there. All they have to do is put forward the requisite number of insurable employment weeks and they will then get their employment insurance benefit, just like any other Canadian who is due those benefits.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-06-08 15:58 [p.14711]
Mr. Speaker, it is comical listening to the Conservatives talk about EI and what they are doing to it. We see what they are doing with the seasonal workers, whether a part-time nurse, substitute teacher, or someone trying to get maternity EI benefits. The Conservatives have cut, cut, cut. Not only that, they have eliminated the appeal process as it used to be, which is making it harder for anybody to go to an appeal process.
I was listening to my hon. colleague, and it sounds like he has a riding similar to mine with a lot of seasonal workers. Also, in my area, we have a lot of people who work out west. However, now there is a downturn, so we have a lot of young men and women who have to shift what they are doing. Therefore, I do not think the motion went far enough.
EI is only for people who get laid off. Why did the NDP not have something in there for training? There should be money kept in the EI fund to help people transition from different types of jobs.
My question to the NDP member is, why is there no money allocated in that EI fund for training for new skills?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-06-08 16:13 [p.14713]
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the hon. member, I do not think his dad would appreciate what the Conservatives are doing to the people on EI, whether they are in remote fishing communities, whether they are substitute teachers or part-time workers. I hear stories in my riding and across Canada of people trying to get maternity leave. The waiting time is unbelievable.
The system is there and people pay into it. It is there to help people. It has helped seasonal workers and people who are going through hard times. Why are the Conservatives making it so hard for these people to make ends meet? Why do people have to wait months to get EI? When there is a problem, there is no tribunal or place to go when they need to settle a claim.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, the member talked about people needing compassionate care.
As we know, this year's budget clearly dictates that we will be expanding the compassionate care part of the employment insurance program so someone who has to take care of sick relative, maybe an elderly person or child, can extend that six weeks to six months. The NDP has said consistently that it supports this, and we thank it for that.
Knowing that this is in this budget, will she put her money where her mouth is and when it comes time to vote on this budget, will she stand up for the millions of Canadians who have been delivering compassionate care to their children or their adult parents who need a little help? Will she stand in her place and support that and this budget?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, of course, the minister is telling the truth. I welcome the opportunity to respond to the hon. member for Hochelaga.
Ensuring that low-income families and other vulnerable Canadians have access to affordable housing is a matter of great importance to the government. That is why we have made unprecedented investments in housing over the past nine years. Working with our partners, some 940,000 individuals and families have benefited from these investments. This includes those living in existing social housing units.
Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, our government has invested almost $19 billion in housing since 2006, and we will be continuing this important work. This year, CMHC is providing approximately $2 billion in housing investments on behalf of the Government of Canada. It is funding that includes support for nearly 600,000 Canadian households living in existing social housing, including on reserve.
We have also ensured the continuation of federal funding for housing programs through the investment in affordable housing initiative, a collaborative effort with the provinces and territories to reduce the number of Canadians in housing need. This initiative was launched by our government in 2011 and has been renewed until 2019, with total funding of close to $2 billion over eight years.
The hon. member will be pleased to know that one of the ways the provinces and territories can use this federal funding under the investment in affordable housing initiative is to support projects after the long-term housing agreements with CMHC have matured. That is their choice.
As I have said on previous occasions, the majority of non-profit and co-operative housing projects are expected to be financially viable and mortgage-free when these agreements mature. For projects that may face financial difficulties when the federal subsidies end, CMHC is taking action to help them prepare for the end of their ongoing operating agreements. For example, in 2013, CMHC changed its lending program to allow non-profit co-operative housing groups to prepay closed CMHC mortgages with a penalty that is consistent with private lending institutions.
In addition, social housing providers whose operating agreements allow for the establishment of a subsidy surplus fund can now retain any money they have in this fund and use it after the operating agreements mature to continue to lower the cost of housing for households living in existing social housing. These are changes that support exactly what the member opposite is talking about.
Building on the prepayment flexibility announced in 2013, economic action plan 2015 proposes further support for social housing providers by allowing them to prepay their long-term non-renewable mortgages without any penalty at all. This will enable eligible social housing providers to access private sector loans with more favourable interest rates, significantly reducing their mortgage expenses. Lower mortgage expenses will help housing providers undertake capital repairs and renovations to help them improve the condition and quality of the affordable housing units.
I would also like to remind the hon. member that Canada's economic action plan 2009 included an investment of $1 billion to protect and revitalize the existing social housing stock off reserve. This funding supported the renovation and retrofit of more than 12,600 social housing projects across Canada, ensuring that these homes will continue to be available for years to come.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I would say again that our government recognizes the need for low-income families and other vulnerable Canadians to have access to quality affordable housing. We have made unprecedented investments in housing over the past nine years and we will continue to work with the provinces and territories to deliver funding where it is needed most and will have the greatest impact on reducing the number of Canadians in need of housing.
As an example, the investment in affordable housing has already supported close to 225,000 households across Canada and tens of thousands more will be helped through the renewal of this initiative in 2019. This is the type of respectful, collaborative and flexible approach that our government favours and that should be supported by the hon. member on the other side.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-05 11:21 [p.14643]
Mr. Speaker, Liberals have a plan for fairness for hard-working Canadian families. We are going to simplify the complex system of child benefit payments into one monthly payment for families that need the help, and we are going to make these payments bigger and tax free. A single mother earning $30,000 per year and raising her four-year-old daughter will get an extra $1,100 per year under our plan. Conservative income splitting will do nothing for her.
Why are the Conservatives fighting so hard to keep that money from single parents who need the help?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-05 11:23 [p.14644]
Mr. Speaker, under the Liberal plan for fairness, every family earning less than $150,000 will get a bigger monthly cheque. For example, a couple struggling to raise three kids on $70,000 per year will get an extra $380 every month from our plan.
Compare that with the Conservatives, who are giving less money to struggling families and more money to the families who do not need the help, the wealthier families.
Why are the Conservatives fighting so hard to keep the money from struggling, middle-class families who need the help the most?
View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2015-06-05 12:04 [p.14651]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
What's this got to do with the bill?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-06-04 14:04 [p.14598]
Mr. Speaker, the lobster season in Cape Breton is off to a good start. Each year this is kicked off in the fishing community of Alder Point with the blessing of the fleet.
It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today and recognize Mrs. Eunice MacFarlane who started the tradition 60 years ago, and continues to do so today at the young age of 91.
This past weekend I attended the blessing of the fleet. It is an event that allows the community to come together and wish fishermen well for a safe and prosperous season. They also honoured those who are no longer with us.
The fleet was blessed by Father Peter MacLeod and Reverend Julio Martin. The community also offered entertainment and fun with games for everyone.
I thank Eunice and all the volunteers for their tireless dedication over the past 60 years to keep this event going strong.
May all those who go on the water to bring our tasty catch to shore have a safe and bountiful season.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
Mr. Speaker, Maureen Vine was a remarkable woman. The epitome of a great citizen, she blazed a trail as an active and caring spouse, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and a strong feminist. A member of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and the Raging Grannies, she was incredibly passionate about her community and worked tirelessly for peace, social justice, women's rights, and the environment.
Maureen received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, but the best reflection of her impact is in the words of those who knew her. “Maureen is a legend”, said one person. “Maureen was a role model who made a huge difference in our community”, said another. Someone else described Maureen as “a champion of real people; helping create and maintain a kind of Canada that I believe in”. As her daughter Jocelyn put it, “She really is a force of nature”.
I extend my deepest condolences to her family and her legion of friends. We love Maureen and we will miss her.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-04 14:40 [p.14604]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians want a government that respects their tax dollars but also respects the public service. The government is doing neither by making a joke of the collective bargaining process and refusing to provide any evidence that this will make employees healthier or save the taxpayer money.
Will the minister start respecting the collective bargaining process so that the public service can feel confident that any deal reached on sick leave will be fair and honest?
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-04 14:41 [p.14605]
Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board knows that the $900 million is phony.
The minister likes to talk about fair and reasonable. Is if fair and reasonable to trample on bargaining rights? Is it fair and reasonable just to prop up his $900-million phony budget application? Is it fair and reasonable to steal away from workers something that was negotiated at the bargaining table? Is it fair and reasonable to try to mislead this House and Canadians about the integrity and character of our public service?
We see nothing fair nor reasonable about the actions of this minister.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, we have a very fair tax system in Canada. When the auditors choose to audit any individuals or any company in Canada, that audit is carried out in a professional manner.
In this case, the individuals were found to be in compliance, and they should be satisfied with that result.
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-03 14:24 [p.14526]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we heard a clear message from the survivors and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: words are not enough. There also needs to be concrete action.
However, the Prime Minister is once again refusing to implement key recommendations, such as the recommendation to apply the principles set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Why is he refusing to take this opportunity to move toward reconciliation?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-03 14:25 [p.14527]
Mr. Speaker, it is too bad the government lacks the courage and strength to act.
It said no to an inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women. It passed legislation affecting aboriginal rights without any consultation. It voted against implementing the UN declaration. It has underfunded first nations education and social services. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting aboriginal and treaty rights.
As Justice Murray Sinclair has said, “Words are not enough”.
Will the Prime Minister commit to real change and real reconciliation?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-03 14:27 [p.14527]
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation is not just about what happened in the past, it is about what is still happening today.
Twenty years after the last residential school closed, the state of first nations education in Canada is a disgrace. There are too many first nations children who do not have a safe, quality school to attend in their local community. First nations students still receive an average of $8,000 less than students in the rest of Canada.
Will the government act now to close the gap before another generation suffers from these discriminatory education policies?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-06-03 14:44 [p.14530]
Mr. Speaker, supply management is good for our farmers and our consumers. It puts nutritious eggs, chicken, turkey and dairy products on our plates every day at a reasonable price.
Yesterday in question period, the member for Beauce cynically said that the Conservatives were only going to promote supply management and not protect it in treaty talks. Then, at the foreign affairs committee, the member for Edmonton Centre said that it should disappear altogether.
The Conservatives now have confirmed what we always knew. They want to scratch supply management. How much are they going to give away in the next trade negotiations?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-03 15:00 [p.14533]
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy shrank last quarter. We are halfway to a recession. TD, BMO, CIBC and the OECD have all downgraded their projections for Canada.
TD is saying that while the headline growth number was bad, the underlying details were worse, yet yesterday the Minister of Finance, ignoring mounting evidence, predicted growth this quarter.
Why will he not tell Canadians the truth, that the economy has flatlined and we are teetering on recession? Why is he refusing to provide a real plan for jobs and growth? Does he think wishful thinking is a replacement for a plan?
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-03 16:26 [p.14541]
Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the question posed by my colleague from Chicoutimi. I do not think he was suggesting that the current government is breaking the rules, but that the Conservatives manipulate the rules. They stretch and they bend, and we have seen that time and time again.
Somebody made a reference the other day to the NHL playoffs in 2009 when Sean Avery, who played for the New York Rangers, stood in front of Martin Brodeur, world-class Hall of Fame goaltender, and screened him. However, he faced the goaltender, contrary to how everybody else screened the goaltender. He stood in front of Brodeur, waved his arms around, shook his stick at him and all of that. The referee did not know what the heck to do. The referee would call a penalty, but there were no rules. It was clearly against the spirit of the game. Therefore, the rules committee for the NHL met the next day and came up with a rule called the “Sean Avery rule”.
The sad part is that the current government makes the rules and abuses the rules. This is just another example of how the Conservatives have abused this chamber, imposing closure 98 times. They should be ashamed of themselves.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-02 12:18 [p.14459]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Victoria. He made some very good points. I hate to say it, but he makes good points in the House quite frequently on a range of issues. He is a pretty smart fellow.
On any criminal justice issue, it is really important to look at examples from other countries. For instance, if we want to talk about things like mandatory minimums, we could look at the U.S. and say that if putting more people in jail for longer periods of time created safer communities, then American cities would be the safest in the world.
However, on the decriminalization side of marijuana and some other drugs, if we look at the Portugal example, 12 years ago Portugal decriminalized marijuana and some other drugs. Since then, the rate of drug abuse and addiction has declined because the government redirected money that it was spending in the past on interdiction, jail and the whole police and judicial system on health promotion. It treated drugs as a medical issue and invested in mental health, addiction treatment and health promotion, telling people the dangers of it.
Does the hon. member agree that perhaps things could lead to less drug abuse and addiction if we redirected resources to health promotion, mental health treatment and addiction treatment?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-02 14:16 [p.14477]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are on an unceded Algonquin territory.
Today, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Canada's Indian residential schools issued its final report. The documentation is of a tragedy, a cultural policy of assimilation carried out by the Canadian government and institutions that stole children and childhoods, devastated communities and destroyed lives. Over 6,000 students died while in residential schools.
More than 150,000 aboriginal children were sent to residential schools, and the intergenerational traumas persist: poverty, health problems and addiction.
It is time for the government to be part of the solution.
As Commissioner Sinclair said, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem — it is a Canadian problem”.
This is a tragedy that spans generations. We must honour it through action. It is time for true reconciliation.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2015-06-02 15:01 [p.14485]
Mr. Speaker, Wally Fowler has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of racial discrimination and harassment he experienced while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Mr. Fowler made repeated complaints about the treatment he received and the lack of assistance the military provided to him and his family as they dealt with the impacts of the harassment they experienced. After a decade, his complaints have still not been fully investigated.
Will the government commit to conducting a public investigation into Mr. Fowler's complaints?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 13:00 [p.14383]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion from the member for Davenport seeking a ban on pay-to-pay fees charged by Canadian banks.
I want to start by examining the issue of pay to pay and how it relates to existing consumer protection measures in the financial sector. Then I would like to use the rest of my time to discuss a more meaningful way to bring fairness to the middle class and those Canadians working hard to join the middle class.
I believe that the underlying issue of today's motion is one of fairness. The motion before us calls for “a mandatory financial code of conduct to protect consumers”. While the text of the motion does not explicitly lay out an objective, I believe that its main objective really is fairness, which is something any reasonable person in this House can support.
It is an issue that speaks to our founding principles, peace, order and good government, and is a recognition that we need strong consumer protection measures so that Canadians are treated fairly when they make a purchase or enter into an agreement.
There is an inherent imbalance between large institutions and large businesses and individual consumers with respect to information and power. Most individuals need the protection of strong laws and consumer protection measures to help even the scales.
Canadians are justifiably proud of our banks. We have some of the largest and most successful banks in the world. Our resilient banking system did not just happen by accident. It was shaped, largely, by reforms in the 1990s, directed, in fact, by the strong governments of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien, when globally, the banking systems were being deregulated in Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. Canada did not follow suit at that time and did not follow the global trend of deregulation. Canadians and our banking system are better off for it.
However, every system needs balance. A strong banking system must be complemented by strong consumer protection measures that ensure fairness for Canadians.
In today's economy, access to basic banking services is essential for consumers. We are moving towards a cashless society. It is becoming nearly impossible to carry on today without a bank account. Even the federal government is pushing Canadians towards an increasingly cashless society and electronic transactions. The government is in the midst of phasing out, for instance, its use of printed cheques. As of next April, Canadians will be required to accept all payments from the federal government by direct deposit. This will include tax refunds and federal child benefits as well as CPP, OAS, and EI payments.
The government has said that it will only issue cheques under exceptional circumstances. For example, it will continue to issue cheques to people who live in remote communities where they do not have access to a financial institution. For everyone else, it is clear that the government sees bank accounts as a prerequisite to receiving financial support.
Liberals believe that the government ought to show more compassion, understanding, and flexibility in allowing more Canadians to continue receiving cheques. For instance, we can look at situations with many of the elderly, who may be less disposed to using electronic banking, or low-income Canadians, who may not have ongoing and reliable access to high-speed Internet or who cannot afford those connections on an ongoing basis.
We recognize how essential it has become for Canadians to have access to basic banking services, particularly, as I mentioned, for low-income Canadians, who cannot afford to see their meagre earnings eaten up by large fees. That is why, in 2001, the Liberal government brought in legislation to guarantee access to basic banking services for all Canadians, including low-income Canadians. It is why the Liberal government banned the banks from placing a hold on government cheques valued at $1,500 or less. It is why a Liberal government brought in rules requiring each of the largest banks to offer a standard low-fee bank account. These accounts include between eight and 12 transactions per month as well as a free debit card, free deposits, and free monthly statements.
At the same time, a Liberal government established the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to monitor the financial services industry, educate consumers, and enforce new, stronger consumer protection measures. These reforms were introduced by a Liberal government. They were an important step forward, but a lot has happened over the last decade. Technology has changed everywhere. Smart phones are now everywhere. More Canadians are doing their shopping and banking online, and a growing number of companies in telecommunications, broadcasting, and the banking sector are pressuring Canadians to pay their bills online as a way to cut costs.
In the past few years, we have seen a proliferation of pay-to-pay fees. Let us be clear about what that term actually means. “Pay to pay” is widely understood to mean the practice of charging customers an additional fee for mailing them a paper invoice or statement, in a lot of cases. It does not mean an end to all transaction fees for payments.
Last year, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre estimated that Canadian consumers were paying between $495 million and $735 million per year to receive paper bills for telco and banking services combined. Of that total, $180 million was for the banking sector. PIAC also conducted a survey that found that a third of Canadians were uncomfortable receiving bills or statements online, for a variety of reasons. I mentioned seniors, particularly, who may be averse to that.
Many Canadians are worried about falling victim to online scams and identity theft. Earlier this year, thousands of employees at the Canada Revenue Agency were unable to identify a fake email phishing scam that was sent to them as part of a test. It is understandable that cautious Canadians would take extra steps to avoid the possibility of being scammed.
Another reason some Canadians insist on paper billing is because they simply do not have a choice. They do not have high-speed Internet at home. This is a significant barrier to low-income Canadians. According to Stats Canada's latest Canadian Internet use survey, only 58% of households in the lowest-income quartile have Internet at home. That compares to an access rate of 98% and 94% in the first and second income quartiles. Not surprisingly, the PIAC survey found that low-income Canadians are more likely to pay their bills in person or by mail rather than online, and they are not alone.
Canadians living in rural and remote communities are less likely to have reliable high-speed Internet at home. Seniors are less likely to use the Internet regularly, making them more likely to end up paying extra fees for paper billing.
It seems unfair to punish Canadians with extra fees because they are poor, they are low-income, or they live in an area where they cannot get high-speed Internet. It seems to me that we are disadvantaging those who are already disadvantaged.
PIAC estimated that Canadians without Internet access spend between $77 million and $102 million per year on paper billing. Pay-to-pay fees were virtually unheard of before 2010, but between 2010 and 2014, a system came into place that forced some of these most vulnerable Canadians to pay extra fees just to find out how much they owed for banking and telco services, which are considered essential in the modern world.
In the last few months, new consumer protection measures have come into place. Bill C-43 introduced measures to end pay-to-pay fees in the broadcasting and telco sectors. It prohibited service providers from charging customers who receive paper bills for wireless, Internet, telephone, and television services. Liberals voted in favour of these measures during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
There have also been new measures to limit bank fees. The government has built on the reforms Liberals introduced in 2001 and expanded low-fee and no-fee bank accounts. Students, low-income seniors, and Canadians with disabilities are entitled to basic banking services with no fees. With low-fee and no-fee accounts, many Canadians can avoid pay-to-pay fees at their banks.
However, according to the banks around 15% of Canadians pay fees for mailed bank statements. Apparently, the banks are willing to waive these fees for customers who face economic hardship or who do not have Internet access, but there is more that can be done to avoid pay-to-pay fees across the federally regulated financial sector.
Of course, the devil is in the detail. Closing the door on pay-to-pay fees would not mean a thing if it leads to similar fees popping up elsewhere. The government must be clear in how it defines the term pay-to-pay. Does it refer to invoices for accounts where the customer owes money, such as credit cards and mortgages? Does the government have a broader interpretation that would include statements for all financial accounts at the bank, including investment accounts, or is the government's interpretation even broader still? It seems that a small number of people are trying to morph the term into something far more comprehensive, covering almost any financial transaction fee on any payment. Therefore, we need some level of clarity around that. No one likes bank fees, but banning transaction fees in a modern world of e-commerce has to be done discerningly.
It is really important to recognize that there are many meaningful ways we can bring fairness back to Canadian families who are struggling. Today's motion reflects one way. The Liberal plan for fairness is another way to help struggling middle-class Canadian families and those Canadians working hard to join the middle class.
The Liberals have put forward a plan to stand up for Canadian middle-class families. We recognize that too many Canadian families are struggling just to make ends meet. They are struggling under the crushing weight of record levels of personal debt, $1.66 for every $1.00 of disposable income. Canadians have been taking on more debt as the job quality in Canada has deteriorated. In fact, according to CIBC Economics we have the worst job quality in Canada that we have had in 25 years. We have seen full-time jobs with benefits being replaced by part-time work.
Too many middle-class Canadians have not had a real pay raise in a long time and too many young Canadians have yet to really start their careers. They face a labour market that still has 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than back in 2008. Young Canadians face a growing pressure to take unpaid work, just for the work experience. We have all heard of recent graduates who are stuck in a cycle going from unpaid internship to unpaid internship, while their parents are struggling to help pay the bills. That is another reason why more and more Canadians are going deeper into debt, the direct financial subsidization of young Canadians who have good educations but cannot find good work to support themselves.
Many middle-class parents are delaying their retirement in order to help adult children who simply have not been able to achieve financial self-sufficiency. It is no longer unusual to hear of young Canadians still living with their parents into their late 20s or beyond. Meanwhile, income inequality has grown, and growing income inequality does not just go against our sense of fairness, it is also bad for economic growth. We have learned that from the IMF, among others.
A Liberal government would make the tax system fairer and cut the middle-class tax rate by 7%. That is a $3-billion tax cut for those who need it the most. We could afford to do this by asking the wealthiest Canadians to pay a little more so the middle class can pay less. We would introduce a new tax bracket for the top 1% on incomes over $200,000.
We would also cancel the Conservatives' $2-billion income splitting scheme that the C.D. Howe Institute has actually told us will only benefit 15% of Canada's richest families. Income splitting provides $2,000 more to those who do not need the help. It does nothing to help single parents or low-income families. In fact, according to the C.D. Howe Institute, 85% of Canadian households, those who need the help the most, will not get a dime from income splitting.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, higher income families are not only more likely to qualify for benefits under income splitting, the average benefit actually rises with family income. The Conservatives are providing the most help to precisely those who need it the least. We do not think it is fair to ask struggling Canadians to pay for a $2,000 tax break for the Prime Minister's family or, in fact, for the family of the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Income splitting is not just unfair, it also needlessly complicates our tax system and is bad for growth. It is complicated that we need to follow an 85-step process just to apply. Even the tax experts within the Department of Finance who wrote the rules got it wrong the first three times it came to Parliament. It is also bad for growth. The PBO has shown that income splitting will actually weaken our economy rather than strengthen it. He estimates that it would cost the equivalent of 7,000 full-time jobs.
The Liberal plan would do more to grow the economy and help families with the high cost of raising kids. A Liberal government would provide one bigger tax-free monthly cheque to Canadian families with children. Under our plan, every family earning less than $150,000 per year would receive more monthly benefits.
With the Liberal plan's new Canada child benefit, a typical two-parent family with two children earning $90,000 per year would get $490 tax-free every month. Under the Conservatives, the same family today only receives $275 after tax.
When we compare the two plans, the Liberal plan would provide an extra $2,500 per year tax free over what Canadians are now getting under the Conservative government. Therefore, that family making $90,000 a year with two children would be $2,500 better off every single year.
With the Liberal plan, a typical single-parent family earning $30,000 a year with one child would get an extra $533 tax free every month. That is significantly more generous than the $440 that family gets under the Conservatives currently.
A Canadian family making $45,000 per year with two children would receive an extra $4,000 per year after taxes under the Liberal plan for fairness than they are receiving right now under the Conservatives.
It boils down to choices, and Canadians have two fundamentally different choices now. The Conservatives are offering tax breaks for the wealthy, and the Liberals are offering a plan to help the Canadian middle class with a middle-class tax cut and a new, fairer, more generous and simpler Liberal Canada child benefit.
Liberals believe in a country that works for everyone. We will put more money in the pockets of Canada's middle-class families and those Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.
In conclusion, today's motion focuses on small fees that are an irritant to Canadians. It is a step that we expect all parties can support. However, a Liberal government would go further by tackling the bigger issues facing Canadians.
We would provide real, meaningful help to Canadian families who are struggling and a middle-class tax cut that would put more money back in the pockets of the Canadian families who need the help the most. A Liberal Canada child benefit would help vulnerable Canadian families, low- and middle-income families with children who need the help the most.
We can afford to do that and still balance budgets, because we are prepared to make a choice by asking wealthier Canadian families to pay more. It is fair and it is also good for jobs and growth, because when we cut taxes on the middle-income and lower-income Canadians, it is more stimulative to the Canadian economy.
We will be presenting more plans for jobs and growth in the future and fairness for Canadian middle-class families. We are looking forward as a government moving forward to really helping those families after the next election.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 13:21 [p.14386]
Mr. Speaker, although I appreciate the question from the hon. member, one would think that I had said in my remarks that we did not support his motion. We do support his motion, and his gratitude is overwhelming.
In terms of the specific fee that he mentioned, I have not seen information on that. If it is on the service he has described, it seems high and exorbitant. However, I have not reviewed that fee. I am not sure how the hon. member likes to conduct himself, but I like to get the facts on something before I offer an opinion. I have been around long enough to not offer an opinion until I have seen the facts on something like that. Therefore, with no disrespect to the hon. member, I would like to have a little more detail and I would be glad to discuss it with him at any time.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 13:23 [p.14386]
Mr. Speaker, I would direct my colleague in the Conservative Party to his House leader and other members of the Conservative government who are responsible for the omnibus bills that force the House opposition parties to vote on hundreds of items that are totally unrelated to the fiscal situation of the government, which should be budgets. The government is in the habit of putting in massive pieces of legislation that affect a wide range of unrelated areas of government and forces us to sometimes vote against measures that if we were provided with an opportunity to vote on as individual items we could possibly support. Therefore, if he wants to understand why opposition parties, New Democrats, Liberals and independents vote against measures that on the surface sound like they might make sense, then he ought to ask his own government why it put those more sensible measures in with measures that we fundamentally disagree with as part of omnibus legislation. I would direct him back to answer a question with a question. The hon. member ought to be asking his own government why it continues with this counter-democratic practice of omnibus legislation that forces opposition parties to vote against some reasonable measures that we could potentially support if the government did not continue with this ham-handed anti-democratic omnibus approach.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 13:26 [p.14386]
Mr. Speaker, it is an important question, and I thank my colleague from Winnipeg North, who intervenes in this House from time to time and does so with great passion and with an understanding of the issues. I have campaigned with him in his riding, and there is no member who has any more direct relationship with his constituents than the member for Winnipeg North. I have seen that in his riding.
The whole issue of combining a plan for fairness with one for jobs and growth is based on what some economists describe as a marginal propensity to consume or to spend. What that means is that if the same amount of money is provided to low-income or middle-income families and to high-income or wealthier families, the low-income or middle-income families are more likely to spend that money than the high-income or wealthier families. It is actually good for jobs and growth.
Economists, including our colleague from Markham—Unionville, who is a former chief economist of the Royal Bank of Canada, understand the importance of providing a real break to low- and middle-income families. Those are the families that are struggling the most, so it is fair and it is the right thing to do in terms of tackling inequality
Incidentally, inequality is really bad for jobs and growth, and we are getting a lot of reports on that. Measures to address inequality for low- and middle-income families, such as cutting their taxes and increasing their benefits, actually are good for jobs and growth as well.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 13:29 [p.14387]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. I have a good understanding of our tax system. I agree with my colleague that our tax system is too complicated. Under the Conservative government, it has also become less fair.
That is why the Liberal Party has presented a plan to cut taxes for the middle class. This plan includes a new tax bracket for incomes over $200,000 a year. This will make our tax system fairer and will really help middle-class families. I think that makes sense for our economy and our society.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2015-06-01 14:02 [p.14391]
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to add my voice to ALS Awareness Month.
ALS is a disease where the living wire that connects one's brain to one's muscles degenerates, leaving Canadians affected with this disease in a state of progressive paralysis, which will eventually impact their ability to breathe. The outcome, of course, is death. As of today, there is no treatment.
All members in the House have family, friends, or acquaintances who have been impacted. In September 2009, my former chief of staff in the Liberal whip's office, Richard Wackid, lost his battle with the disease. The incredibly talented and respected young man was struck down in the prime of his life.
Many of us would have met Brian Parsons, a former political staffer, who today not only fights his own personal battle with ALS but continues to be a champion for the cause.
Last year, 260,000 Canadians participated in the ice bucket challenge, donating $17 million for ALS. The money went toward research and equipment support services to maintain a patient's quality of life.
We must continue this momentum in the fight to find a treatment. I ask all members to join me in support by wearing a cornflower today and donating to this important cause.
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-01 14:16 [p.14394]
Mr. Speaker, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the Indian residential school system will be released tomorrow.
The testimony of more than 7,000 people was heard. There are thousands of stories about children being taken from their families and forced to deny their culture and language. Many of them were physically and sexually abused. This is a veritable tragedy and a blot on Canada's history.
Will the Prime Minister seize this opportunity and finally answer the call of our first nations?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-01 14:17 [p.14394]
Mr. Speaker, Commissioner Murray Sinclair was clear: “...it takes more than words. In addition to the apology, there has to be atonement and there has to be action”.
First nations have been dismayed by the government's failure to embrace reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had to go to court to get key documents released. Victims have been denied compensation or treated with suspicion and hostility.
Will the government change its attitude and work with first nations to achieve reconciliation?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-01 14:18 [p.14394]
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that since the 2008 apology, little has changed for indigenous people. The legacy of residential schools is still present today in high rates of poverty and unemployment, in the high number of children in foster care, and the unacceptably high number of missing and murdered indigenous women.
If the government is serious about reconciliation, it will have to do a lot more to show it.
Will the government commit to honouring the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-01 14:39 [p.14398]
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy has not just stalled, it is going in reverse. In fact, we are now half-way to a recession.
In response to Canada's bad job numbers, last week TD Bank said “While the headline number was bad, the underlying details were worse”. It points to a deep drop in investment, which is bad for future growth. Meanwhile, the finance minister says that to boost growth, we need to make it easier to fire workers.
How many more jobs does the minister think we need to lose before the Canadian economy can grow? How can the minister and the Conservatives be so out of touch with this slow growth economy and the challenges it is creating?
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-05-28 10:24 [p.14263]
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite certainly laid out what this bill would do, but I am left with a number of questions about future plans for the current government. In particular, we know that in order for this international treaty to be ratified and implemented we need 25 countries to sign on to ratify the agreement.
I wonder what our government is doing in terms of taking a leadership role in working with those other countries to sign and ratify the port state measures agreement. I wonder if our government is actually taking a leadership role, specifically with some of our trading partners, like Mexico, Spain and Panama, whose fishing vessels we know are engaged in IUU, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This is a serious issue where Canada should be seen to take a leadership role, and I do not see any evidence of that happening.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to add my support for amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. As we have heard the last time this bill was debated, members from both sides of the House recognized the importance of this bill moving forward. Unfortunately, the suggestion of my colleague, the member for Yukon, for a vote on this important bill was not supported by the opposition.
As a Nova Scotian, this issue is particularly important to the economy of my province and the economy of the riding I represent. It is certainly my hope that we will be able to pass this legislation quickly so that we can continue to focus on protecting fisheries at our ports with the new tools contained in this legislation.
The proposed changes we are discussing today would bring our already rigorous system in line with new international standards for combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as outlined in the port state measures agreement. As my colleague noted, in 2010, Canada signed this important agreement.
The agreement points the way towards practical, cost-effective solutions that will deter and stop illegal harvesting operations. It would do this by requiring some practical standards for ports around the world. For example, it spells out that vessels involved in illegal fishing activities would be refused entry into a port or the use of that port's services. It also sets minimum standards for information that vessels must provide to obtain entry into a port for the inspection of vessels and for the training of inspectors. Also, it allows for greater co-operation and exchange of information between jurisdictions.
It will require at least 25 ratifications for this agreement to enter into force. As my colleague mentioned, currently 11 members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have taken this step. Some 20 others, including Canada, have indicated that they are moving towards ratification. In doing so, these measures would support the global fight against illegal fishing and would help us protect the livelihoods of our hard-working fish harvesters here at home in Canada.
Our government is committed to supporting the efforts of our hard-working fishermen. As part of economic action plan 2015, our government is increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $1 million for owners of fishing businesses. This means that fishers and their families would have more money in their pockets.
On the topic of supporting our fishers, I would like to take a moment to speak to the economic advantages of approving these proposed legislative changes.
Canada currently enjoys one of the most valuable commercial fishing industries on the planet. Around 85% of Canadian fish and seafood products are exported internationally, to the tune of over $4 billion annually in export value. We are a major global player in the international seafood market. In fact, Canada is the world's seventh largest exporter of fish and seafood products, and we believe that this is going to grow exponentially. Of course, in order to ensure that this industry continues to provide strong economic opportunities to future generations, we are devoted to responsible fish harvesting practices. We closely monitor fishing within our own waters as well as the activities of Canadian fish harvesters as they conduct their craft on international waters.
With the current Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, Canada already has the tools to carefully monitor and regulate activities by foreign fishing vessels in Canadian waters and in specific areas of the high seas, but what about fish harvesters who do not act responsibly? What about those who try to bend or break the rules? The economic impact of those operations is very serious.
A 2008 study estimated that illegal fish harvesters are potentially siphoning off up to $23 billion from the global economy each year. By refusing to follow the rules and regulations, illegal fish harvesters can reduce their own operating costs, selfishly. This puts legitimate fish harvesters in Canada and around the world at an economic disadvantage.
Fish are one of the most globally traded food commodities. When we consider the volume of Canadian exports each year, it is clear that illegal fishing in other parts of the world does great damage to our economy.
Members should consider for a moment the impact of illegal fishing on our trading relationship with Europe. Between 2010 and 2012, the European Union imported an average of $25 billion annually in fish and seafood. Canada's share of that total was $400 million annually. With the upcoming comprehensive economic trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, our industry stands to have unprecedented access to the European market for our fish and seafood products. That is good news for Canadian fish harvesters and processors. When this agreement comes into force, it will lift 96% of tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products, and remaining tariffs would disappear over the next seven years. We want to protect these economic opportunities for our fish harvesters from the detrimental impacts on prices caused by illegally caught fish.
Of course, these rules and regulations are in place not just to protect the livelihoods of legitimate fish harvesters, but they are also meant to safeguard our marine resources for future generations. When illegal fish harvesters break the rules that ensure global fish stocks are sustainable, they damage the ecosystems that the fish depend upon. Therefore, for both economic and environmental reasons, we must join our international partners to take comprehensive action to stop these devastating illegal fishing activities. That is exactly what we would do with Bill S-3. We would strengthen our already rigorous system and support this global action to protect the world's fisheries.
For example, our existing legislation, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and its regulations, gives the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the discretion to authorize foreign fishing vessels to enter Canadian fisheries waters and Canadian ports. In other words, the act prohibits foreign fishing vessels from entering Canadian fisheries waters unless they are already authorized to do so by the act, regulations, or other Canadian law. The act also prohibits any person or crew member aboard a foreign fishing vessel from fishing in Canadian waters without proper authorization.
It is important to stress that Canada's legislation already serves us well. We are among the world's leaders in responsible fishing. Nevertheless, there are a few areas where our legislation could be strengthened before Canada meets the requirements of a new standard approach. This approach is outlined in the port state measures agreement. Today's debate is not only about strengthening the Canadian approach to our port control measures; it is also about supporting a global effort to fight illegal fishing. These two goals go hand-in-hand to protect and support both our industry and our environment.
To that end, Bill S-3 proposes several important changes that would make it possible to share information among federal departments and with our trusted international partners. These amendments would also allow Canadian authorities to take enforcement action against foreign fishing vessels that are directed to our ports by their flag states for inspection and enforcement purposes. These changes would make it illegal to import fish and fish products that are sourced through these criminal activities and would prevent their entry into our market.
Together these changes would create the conditions to ratify the port state measures agreement, an important tool in the global arsenal to fight illegal fishing.
Canada's fish and seafood industry is a mainstay of economic life in coastal and inland communities around the country. My riding is a prime example of this. Currently, the fishing industry employs 80,000 Canadians in jobs nationwide, ranging from fishing wild stocks to aquaculture harvests. With our government's ambitious trade agenda, these industries would benefit directly and see Canada's world-class seafood products on dinner plates across the globe.
We are already seeing some of these improvements and advantages taking place in industries like the lobster industry in Nova Scotia. However, in this global context we must continue to support the fight against illegal fishing, for both economic and environmental reasons. To that end, I am urging all hon. members to support changes to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to protect our industry and our environment, and to ensure that we continue to protect this vital industry and economic resource for Canada's economy.
View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-05-28 10:38 [p.14264]
Mr. Speaker, I have the same question for my colleague opposite as I did for his colleague who spoke before him. I do not see any evidence of government wanting to take a leadership role on this.
This bill was first introduced in 2012. Here we are quite a few years later, and it still has not been passed by us here in Canada. I want to know this. Once we finally put this piece of legislation to rest and it is passed, will the government urge other countries in the international community to sign and ratify the port state measures agreement?
Beyond that, when we are looking at leadership internationally, would the government consider some regulation that is similar to the regulation we see in the EU, which would require all fish and seafood products entering the Canadian market to be certified and have their origins traceable? Those are really the next two steps here if we are to tackle this issue and be serious about it.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
CPC (NS)
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. As I said in my remarks, it would take 25 countries internationally to ratify this agreement to put it into force. Currently, 11 have done so. Canada is one of 25 other nations that are getting the legislation in place and moving toward ratification. As members can see, we are all moving together as an international global community to protect our fishing industry and our fishing environment.
As we ratify the agreement in Canada, we will continue to encourage our allies and our colleagues across the international community to put this measure in place. It would bring in international regulations that would have to be followed from one end of the globe to the other. We encourage all other nations to get on board, make sure we pass this legislation, and make sure we protect our industry and our environment.
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