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Results: 1 - 60 of 287
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-06-15 14:42 [p.15065]
Mr. Speaker, for Canadian students, the search for summer jobs is even tougher this year. There are more students looking for work and there are fewer jobs for them. Layoffs in the retail sector have hit young Canadians particularly hard. Students need summer work to pay for school and they need the work experience. However, the Conservatives have slashed the number of jobs created by the Canada summer jobs program by more than half.
When will the government reverse these cuts? When will the Conservatives do more to help young Canadians who are struggling to find work?
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2015-06-11 10:13 [p.14927]
Mr. Speaker, the third petition calls on the government to place a moratorium on cuts to Canada Post services. Under recent announcements by Canada Post, 6,000 employees will lose their jobs and millions of households will lose home delivery. The petition calls for Canada Post to give its customers a chance to have real input into the modernization process.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate and to indicate my support for the motion.
It is important we recognize that the work of scientists, who work for the people of Canada, is extremely important. The information, the studies they conduct, the research they produce and the results they come up with are extremely important. Canadian taxpayers pay for this important research that is being done, all levels of inquiry, and it is something to which Canadians should have access.
My critic area is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, I talk to scientists who look at lobsters, for example, and the impact of warming temperatures on them, how they migrate, when they molt, what it means to their spawning areas with the closeness of salmon pen farms to them and where they are in relation to various outflows. This is all extremely important information.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with my colleague, the wonderful MP for Louis-Hébert, and I look forward to hear what he has to say about this important issue.
Again, on the issue of lobsters and salmon, so much work needs to be done. There is the impact of climate change, for example, on not only marine life but on the ice in the north and the impact that has on various cultures and communities. It is extremely important information, which I would suggest needs to be done in partnership with Canadians, universities and private sector scientists. However, there needs to be a strong public component, and Canadians have the right to have access to that information.
I cannot say how many times I have been at meetings and conferences where I have listened to the people who do the research. I heard scientists say that their request to speak to a group on their particular research was declined. Some received media interview offers or whatever. People had found out about their work and were interested in it because it was an interest to the community, or in the case of lobster, there was an interest from all Atlantic provinces, but their political masters denied them that opportunity. In most cases, with all public servants who are under the control of the federal government, there is a very strenuous, rigorous protocol that they need to follow before the Conservative government will give them permission to speak.
It is interesting that the Conservatives talk about getting rid of red tape, making things more efficient, streamlining the activity and work public servants do in providing services, whether that be information or handling employment insurance claims, yet they encumber the processes to such a degree because of their fear of information going astray or their desire to control the message at all times and at all levels, which is ironic beyond belief.
During this discussion about the muzzling of scientists, I listened to a couple of government members recite all kinds of facts and figures about evidence of how the government was supporting scientists and allowing them to communicate.
The reality is that since the Conservatives gained a majority in 2011, and certainly before that, they have cut funding to science programs. If truth be known, this all started back when the Liberals were in power. However, they have also been cutting programs themselves. For example, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' budget has been cut upward of $1 billion over the last four years, and a great deal of that has had to do with scientists. My colleagues have talked about how 4,000 scientists have been let go by the government.
We heard a story last week about a gentleman in Halifax, a scientist for DFO, Steve Campana. He does world-class research. He was afraid, like a lot of his colleagues, to speak out until he retired. Once he retired, he shared his feelings about how the government was controlling his work and the work of his colleague, and that not only were the some of the waters becoming toxic but, more important, the environment in which these people work was becoming toxic.
Some senior research scientists in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other departments cannot wait to retire. If they could afford it, they would retire sooner. Some of them are leaving and going to the private sector, because they just cannot take it anymore.
On the other end of the employment scale, I have visited a number universities across the country that are extremely concerned with the lack of support for post-doctoral work in sciences and, in my experience again, in the whole area of marine science where Masters and Ph.D. students do important scientific research on areas such as the impact of increasing temperature, the impact of the changing chemical composition of the ocean, the impact on the marine life, on the biodiversity of our coasts, of our oceans as a result of the increase in ocean acidification, for example. This is a serious problem as a result of the carbon dioxide emissions that are being held by the oceans. The volumes are getting so large that it is affecting the chemical composition of the ocean, and that is having an impact on marine life, whether it be crustaceans or other things. We need to know what that impact is.
We need that research to be done, and we need it to be done by scientists. We see the research that is being done at our universities. Because Ph.D. students are unable to get funding for post-doctoral work here, those brilliant minds go to other countries. They are going to Nordic countries, or to Europe or to the United States to continue that work.
We have funded that. We have supported that research. The students have made an incredible contribution, and we have just simply let them go. That is what has been happening under the government. That is the problem. It is a combination of muzzling and a lack of support.
We have a list of programs that have been cut by the government since 2011, and it certainly goes beyond that. I said that DFO had been cut by $1 billion. Environment Canada, Libraries and Archives Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Libraries, the National Research Council have all had cuts, and on it goes.
We need to start respecting our scientists and researchers and the role of the public sector and ensure that work gets done.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-05-07 11:50 [p.13589]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill S-3, an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. The fishery is the biggest employer in my riding and also provides many of the fresh fish products to the states and throughout Asia. The fishermen back home are trying to get out on the water, but they are surrounded by ice.
It is a pleasure for me to speak on this bill today, a bill that would prohibit the importation of illegal codfish and marine plants, extend Canadian control over foreign fishing vessels seeking access to Canadian ports, give Canadian fisheries protection officers greater authority and powers of enforcement, and allow the minister to share information with regard to the inspection of foreign vessels, as well as greater information sharing between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency related to the importation of fish and fish products.
As the Liberal critic, the member for Cardigan, said when he spoke on this bill at second reading, the Liberal Party supports this bill and the implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement. On November 22, 2009, a conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations approved the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, or Port State Management Agreement. Canada signed the agreement on November 19, 2010, but it has yet to be ratified. The Port State Measures Agreement would contribute to harmonized port state measures, enhance regional and international co-operation, and block the flow of illegal, unreported, and unregulated—which we abbreviate to the IUU—codfish into national and international markets.
As discussed previously in the House and at committee, this is a good bill. It is good that the government is signing on to the Port State Measures Agreement and making the proper legislative amendments needed to do so. On the other hand, however, Liberals wonder why the government has taken so long to move on this important legislation, a question I asked of the member earlier. Proroguing Parliament takes this all away, sometimes for political gain, and the government should look at the situation and how it is putting the fisheries in jeopardy.
This was first introduced as Bill S-13 at the end of 2012. Then it was brought back as Bill S-3 in October of 2013. It is difficult to understand why the Conservatives let the bill sit so long before moving it forward if they place any importance on this issue. The major problem we have on this side is that, while the government is finally putting this legislation in place, which is a good thing, it is taking away the other areas that are so important in this fight against illegal fishing.
While Liberals welcome the measures in this bill, the government has undermined surveillance and monitoring programs for foreign offshore fishing vessels. It has cut $4.2 million and 23 full-time jobs in Canada's offshore surveillance of foreign fishing vessels, which will result in a reduction of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or as many of us know, NAFO. NAFO air hours will go from 1,000 to 600 and its sea days will go from 785 to 600. That is a big reduction. If we are going to implement this bill, we are going to need more resources, but the trend now is that we are getting less. That is very concerning. It is hard to see how this would help in the fight against illegal fishing activities, both within and outside of Canadian waters.
The government also has no information on what illegal fishing is taking place, both within and outside of Canada's 200-mile limit. Despite repeated questions at committee stage of this bill, the government could not provide the proper answers to members of the committee or provide the witnesses who would be able to answer the committee members' questions with knowledge and authority. For a country that relies so much on fisheries, having such a large fisheries department, and taking part in international agreements, one would think the committee would have been able to get the proper resources and people to answer those questions. We can see the scope of how important this bill is.
The lack of this information is made even more concerning when combined with the government's cuts to offshore surveillance.
These are serious concerns. Illegal fishing inside or outside waters and illegally caught fish entering our country are very serious issues. I wish the government would take these things more seriously and have the proper answers as to what kind of activity is taking place and what is going on in these areas.
Members of the House and Canadians deserve answers to questions like this. We are all here to represent people who sent us to the House of Commons. If the people in our ridings depend on the fishery, they deserve to have more answers. As I stated before, in communities that I represent all through northern Cape Breton, it is a lifeline. Tourism is important in our area, but fishing is the mainstay, and it always was. People originally came to Cape Breton for the fish. Before coal and steel, fish were the thing. They came for the groundfish, now it is shellfish. Whether it is crab, lobster or shrimp, these are the big fisheries in our area. The fish move, so when they move in and out, and people catch them offshore, it is a problem.
People involved in the fishing industry and all those concerned with illegal fishing activity deserve to have answers. If the government has some details on these questions, perhaps it could provide them to the members here today.
How much illegal fishing activity is taking place in Canadian waters? How much is happening outside the 200-mile limit? I was very concerned with some of the members bringing up how our surveillance was getting shorter and the limit was being expanded. How much illegally caught fish and seafood enter into our ports? These figures are very important to members of the House and anyone involved in the fisheries. If the government could shed some light on that, it would be much appreciated.
As long as I have been in the House, I have been involved in the fisheries. I have represented men and women living in my area. In my area of northern Cape Breton, there are at least 20 fishing communities from Pleasant Bay all the way to New Waterford. The average community would probably have 20 or 25 lobster boats, but they also catch crab, groundfish and halibut. In addition, we have four fishing plants there. If we take everyone who is involved, whether it is the skippers on the boats, or the helpers, or the guys and girls on the wharfs sorting the lobsters, or the people who bring ice or the truck drivers, the fisheries are very important in my area.
These fishers employ thousands and people in Cape Breton rely on that, whether the fishermen are buying trucks, or rope from our rope manufacturing plant. Therefore, it is more than what we see down at the harbour or at the port. There is more of an impact directly and indirectly from all those jobs in the fisheries. It was such a big thing for us at the time to get the 200-mile limit, but now we have to go one step further. We catch mackerel in our area, but they swim outside the 200-mile limit and come back. If they are getting caught outside that limit, we are not going to catch them. We use them not only for eating but also for bait.
Sometimes it can be hard to get people in central Canada and people in the west, who are thousands of miles away from our coasts, to fully understand just how important the fisheries are to us down home. Many come there during our tourist season and see it. We appreciate it when they come to the east coast to see not only our beauty, but our small fishing communities. It is not by coincidence that we still have those small fishing communities. It is part of what was installed years ago by the late Roméo LeBlanc when he set up the quota system and the owner-operator system. Those are key pillars to our fishing communities.
Sometimes we have to look at it. It is a major economic driver, not only to my province, my riding and Atlantic Canada, but to all of Canada.
We have some of the best seafood products in the world down home, and it is very concerning that if there is illegal fishing taking place, it could be contributing to lower prices for our products or weaken demand at home and abroad. Therefore, not only is it taking the fish away, but it is dumping them on markets and bringing the prices down.
The government made some needed amendments at committee, which brings the bill in line with what it sets out to do. However, I would like those on the government side to clarify that the fines set out in their amendments would have a cap for fines and punishment of at least $500,000 upon conviction, or impose heavier fines if needed.
Members of the fisheries committee tried to get these answers last week. However, since the Conservatives were unable to let the committee hear from any legal experts on this, I am sure they were been given the proper legal opinion. It is great to catch people, but what will deter them? There has to be major fines.
For example, imagine if the amount of illegally-caught fish was in the millions of dollars. It is like catching people speeding. They could be doing it all time. Therefore, if the catch is $1 million, those convicted have millions of dollars in capital, and a fine of $500,000 might not even be enough to deter them from doing it again. It is one thing to catch people, and we would need to have the surveillance and people there to catch them, but when they are caught, there has to be a quick process, such as major fines and being blacklisted around the world for illegally catching fish. Many times, illegal fishing hurts the fishermen in these areas, but it could also decimate some of the fragile fish species.
The government and the courts need to have the flexibility to make the punishment fit the crime. Far too often, members of Parliament and members of committee ask questions but get no answers from the government. I hope the Conservatives can clarify these issues in the House.
The amendments made at committee were okay, and we support them and the bill. However, I wish the government would be willing to provide further information and clarification for members who have questions on these issues. However, the port state measures agreement implementation act is important and it needs to be passed into law so Canada can do its part in the international fight against illegal fishing.
Canada needs to take a leadership role in the fight against this kind of activity, both at home and around the world. As a country with the world's largest coastline and so many people relying on fisheries to make a living, it is our duty to be a leader on this. We took the leadership on the 200-mile limit, and we should take leadership on these measures.
The Liberals believe in the vital role the fishing industry plays in Canada's economy and culture. It contributes over $5.4 billion and 71,000 full-time jobs to the Canadian economy, which is big. In Canada, over $4 billion, including $1.3 billion in my province of Nova Scotia alone, in fish and seafood products are exported each year. This number could be even higher if Canada and the global community came together to effectively crack down on the illegal fishing happening here and around the world.
We believe the federal government must play a strong role in cracking down on illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, fishing to protect the livelihoods of fishers, fisheries conservation and the Canadian economy. It is important to note that illegal fishing activities cost the global economy up to $23 billion per year.
I am proud the Liberal Party has a strong record when dealing with illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. As many in the House know, former fisheries minister, Brian Tobin, made a very good point to the world when we caught a Spanish trawler off the coast of Newfoundland. It was shocking to see the small fish the trawler caught, which I think were turbot. Mr. Tobin took the net to the UN in New York and held it up. The world could not believe how small the mesh was, so no fish would get through.
It really woke up the international community at the time, and Canada took a big lead in that. However, it was under the leadership of Mr. Brian Tobin and the Liberal government of the time.
We had communities, whether they were in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, or P.E.I., that lost a ground fishery because there was overfishing. It was not just because of international causes, we were one of the culprits. We were catching too many fish. We were going through a phase when we were trying to get our fisheries back, so we took strong steps. We had the cod moratorium, so we closed our fisheries. However, lo and behold, others did not. Others were fishing outside of our limits. It was very important that to manage our fisheries, protect them, save them and rebuild them everybody around the world also had to do it. However, that was not happening, so what Mr. Tobin did was a good thing.
We established the 200-mile limit fishing zone that protected the fishermen from foreign trawlers. We also amended the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to extend its application to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or NAFO, regulatory area. Then there was the turbot war, as I mentioned. We are an active member on the High Seas Task Force, an international task force committed to stopping the IUU fishing in parts the ocean that is not under the exclusive control of sovereign states.
Our party has taken a strong lead in protecting our fishing communities and helping them rebound. Fish, especially wild fish, is in great demand around the world, not only for its taste but for its health. It is only going to be maintained if we regulate it properly, if we catch the bad guys who are catching too much of the wrong species or the wrong size and not reporting it.
In my community, and in many communities, we are now seeing a process in place where people are certified in managing and monitoring their fisheries properly. Many countries in Europe and around the world, and many of the buyers of fish are looking for that certification. That will also be a deterrent in preventing illegal fish or the wrong fish getting into the market.
We on this side the House are pleased to support the bill and to fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, both here at home and around the world.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, I represent one of the largest and most valuable fisheries ridings in the country. Our landed catch, along with West Nova, the neighbouring riding, is somewhere in excess of 20% of the entire Canadian fishery on all three coasts.
If the member were to ask the fishermen in my riding, they would tell her that there is lots of enforcement. There is a process in place, which the hon. member is very aware of. They have to hail out before they leave to go fishing and they have to hail back in. There are on-board inspections. There is an inspection when they come to the wharf. It is very difficult to break the rules in Canada. Also, there is much more electronic surveillance available. A good part of the fleet carries a black box, so they have geographical positioning at all times, so fisheries and oceans can track those vessels. They know if they are fishing up against the line, if they are not allowed inside the 30-mile line, or if they are supposed to fish outside the 50-mile line. We know where they are at all times.
In answer to her question, enforcement is extremely important, but enforcement tools are more robust and far reaching than they have ever been.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and privilege to rise to speak to this legislation, Bill S-3.
As I indicated in my question to the member who spoke before me, I am disappointed by the fact that it has taken so long for this piece of legislation to work its way through the process. It was introduced in the Senate. It should not have been introduced in the Senate to begin with; it should have come through the House of Commons. Instead of slipping it in through the back door, it should have been dealt with here first by the elected representatives of Canadians.
The member suggested that Canada has a significant coastline. Canada has the longest coastline in the world. There are also important ocean nurseries, such as Georges Bank and Lancaster Sound. I am continually frustrated by the lack of leadership that the government shows on issues like this, issues that deal with our fishery, oceans, ocean health and the ocean ecosystem. The Conservatives committed to another international agreement through the UN that 10% of our coastal ecosystem in marine-protected areas would be protected by the year 2020. There is not a hope, if we continue at this pace, that we are ever going to achieve that commitment.
Luckily, as a result of the election that is about to be upon us, on October 19, a New Democrat government is going to start putting things in place to make sure that commitment is fulfilled and that 10% of our coastal ecosystem in marine-protected areas is protected by 2020. It can be done; it just requires the will. New Democrats will show the Conservatives how that is done.
Before I get into the significance of the bill and the lack of leadership we have seen by the government, another important issue is the government's failure to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-380, on shark finning. The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has worked tirelessly on this issue. He has worked tirelessly on it because it is important. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone. He worked with members on all sides of the House to get their support, and it was close, but too many members on the government side bailed. They would not stand up. They said they were going to bring in stronger enforcement against shark finning, but that simply has not happened. That is another example of the lack of leadership on this important issue by the government.
I will not forget to mention that the government has cut funds for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard by well over $100 million over the last couple of years in the area of science and enforcement. It has been one thing after another. Frankly, it is laughable when members opposite stand and talk about the leadership role that they play in fisheries management and protecting the oceans. As I have suggested, they do not contribute in any way in a leadership role on the issue of healthy oceans internationally.
Turning to Bill S-3, the bill was last debated in the House in February 2014. I do not know why that is. We had two committee meetings to deal with it, so it was not the committee that held it up, that is for sure. As it was, we only dealt with a few technical amendments and then voted to pass it on.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continues to be a very important global issue. It affects not only the health of our ocean's ecosystem and issues of conservation of stock management, but it also affects our economy.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine habitat destruction. Globally, IUU fishing takes many forms, both within nationally controlled waters and on the high seas. We know that it further threatens marine ecosystems, puts food security and regional stability at risk, and is linked to major human rights violations and organized crime.
While it is not known for sure how much IUU fishing is taking place, it is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30% of all fishing activity worldwide. The worldwide value placed on IUU catches is somewhere between $4 billion and $9 billion a year. Approximately $1.25 billion of this illegally captured fish is thought to be taken from the high seas, with the remainder fished illegally within the 200-mile limit of coastal states. The overall impact on the global economy, however, is valued much higher, in the area of $23.5 billion.
As members would expect, illegal fishing is most prevalent where governance measures to manage fisheries are the weakest, which explains why developing countries are the hardest hit by IUU fishing. An estimated $1 billion in IUU fishing happens in the coastal waters of sub-Saharan Africa each year.
Strong governance of the high seas through regional fisheries management organizations is integral to reducing illegal fishing activities. The bill before us would help ensure that IUU fish do not make it onto the Canadian market and would provide disincentives for black market fish markets.
Tackling fishing on the high seas, as we have seen historically, requires large-scale international co-operation and commitment, both in terms of providing resources to implement agreed measures, such as in this case, implementing the port state measures agreement, and of coordinating efforts between relevant national and international authorities where, as I have suggested earlier, Canada should be a global leader.
Here in Canada, believe it or not, we do have fairly strong policies and enforcement to combat illegal fishing within our waters. Unfortunately, with the cutbacks to the Department of National Defence and DFO as it relates to the Coast Guard, we continue to be concerned with the ability of the government to actually carry out its enforcement responsibilities within the 200-mile limit.
I will speak for a minute about the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. It regulates foreign fishing vessels fishing in Canada, as well as harvesting sedentary species like oysters and clams on the continental shelf of Canada beyond Canadian fisheries waters. The act also extends its application to the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, regulatory area and prohibits specific classes of foreign fishing vessels from fishing for straddling stocks. The act also prohibits fishing vessels without nationality from fishing in Canadian or NAFO waters.
As I indicated, Bill S-3 is making changes to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and enacting the international port state measures agreement that requires 25 nations to sign on in order for it to be ratified. Unfortunately, it has not reached even halfway yet.
The port state measures agreement specifically aims to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. Under the terms of the treaty, foreign vessels would provide advance notice and request permission for port entry. Countries would conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards. Offending vessels would be denied use of the port or certain port services, and information sharing networks would be created.
The bill also provides regulatory power in relation to authorizing foreign fishing vessels ordered to port by their flag state to enter Canadian waters to verify compliance with law or conservation and management measures of fisheries as an organization.
The bill expands the definition of “fishing vessel”, which we have heard, to include any vessels used in the transshipment of fish or marine plants that have not been previously handled. The bill further expands the current definition of “fish” from shellfish, crustaceans and marine animals to include any part or derivative of them.
The port state measures agreement is the first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of illegally, unreported and unregulated fishing. To date, the European Union, Norway, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar have already ratified the port state measures agreement. The United States has introduced legislation, similar to Canada, in an effort to ratify the PSMA. As I indicated, in order for it to take effect internationally, it requires ratification by 25 states.
The illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery is a serious problem. It is a serious problem for the reasons that I have indicated and others. Canada needs to be at the forefront of measures like this to ensure the agreement is ratified by 25 nations. My question would be as to what Canada is doing to ensure that 25 nations actually move forward and take steps to ratify this agreement. We have not heard that in any of the debate. If the government was taking a leadership role, it would be able to give us a report on that.
Surely the government must understand. As I said earlier it has been two years since the bill was first passed in the Senate. We have had lots of time. The government has been aware of the issue. The government has been involved with this issue. I would certainly like to know, and I have not heard an explanation or a report on progress, how the other states are doing on the whole question of ratification.
When can we expect the agreement to be implemented? Will it be ignored, like the commitment to protect 10% our coastal ecosystem by 2020? Have the signatories to this agreement set a date by which they want to have the agreement ratified? Can the government report on what it is that it has done?
I and other members here have expressed some of our frustration about the lack of action on various issues relating to coastal protection and the failure of the government in so many areas relating to habitat protection.
Speaking of frustration, today in our committee we were hearing from witnesses. There was one from Alberta, the fish and wildlife society I believe it was. He talked about his frustration with the fact that the federal government is not doing enough to deal with questions of the damage to fish habitat. In fact, if I caught it correctly, he said something to the effect that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is invisible in the western provinces.
I assured the witness that now that there is an NDP government in Alberta, he has the opportunity to work with a government that understands the importance of the environment and that, once an NDP government is in place after October 19, we would address that frustration. I assured him that we would ensure there is action taken in these areas and that the federal government would not be invisible in dealing with important issues of habitat management and ecosystem destruction.
We do not have enough time on these committees to ask questions, but one of our concerns is the way that industrial expansion and the development of resources and resource extraction are taking precedence over environmental protections, taking precedence over our ability to protect important marine ecosystems, our rivers and lakes, let alone our oceans.
As members know, the government made enormous negative changes to the Fisheries Act back in 2012 and really exposed itself to this country and to many Canadians. I am in contact every day with those Canadians. They are concerned about the lack of attention that the current government is giving to fish habitat and to our ecosystems, concerned that the Conservatives are primarily concerned with resource extraction, whether that be in the moving of resources. If there is a waterway in the way—if it is a fish-bearing river or brook—the Conservatives have provided for undertakings to be granted that will basically allow them to run pipelines over these rivers and streams and through lakes. Those are the concerns that many of us have expressed and that our witness was partly expressing in his testimony today, if I may say so.
What we are looking at in our committee is the whole issue of the recreational fishery. It is an important fishery economically and culturally. However, as the representative from the Thames River in southwestern Ontario told us, if we do not have a healthy habitat and we are not able to protect and restore marine habitat, we are not going to have any fish. While we want to talk about how important the recreational fishery is to this country, we have to ensure we protect that marine and fish habitat.
It is about leadership, which I have been trying to talk a bit about. While I am pleased that this piece of legislation has come forward, I am disappointed at how long it took. I am disappointed at the fact that the current government has not been out in the forefront of ensuring that illegal, unregulated, unreported fishery stops, not in 10 years' time but now or next year.
Let us see some timelines. Let us see the government taking some action to make sure that the 25 nations, which are supposed to ratify this agreement, get it done. The Conservatives have not indicated to us whatsoever the actions they are taking to make sure they get it done.
I will be supporting this legislation. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak, and I would be happy to answer some questions.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, testing has confirmed that H5 avian influenza is on a number of farms in Ontario.
We are working closely with the province, industry and producers. CFIA has placed the farms under quarantine, and has established appropriate control zones in accordance with international protocols.
CFIA will continue to keep the public informed of developments through its technical briefings.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-04-02 11:34 [p.12700]
Mr. Speaker, there are cuts, and it does not make any sense. Cutting 24% of the National Energy Board's resources, when it actually needs more oversight and more resources, is just plain wrong. Provinces have serious concerns about the NEB's capacity, and so do local communities across this country.
How can Canadians trust that their safety is the number one priority of the Conservative government when these cuts are going ahead?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-03-24 14:37 [p.12246]
Mr. Speaker, young Canadians are struggling to find summer jobs to pay for school, and the Conservatives are actually making it tougher for students.
This year, the Canada summer jobs program will hire fewer than 35,000 students. The Conservatives have cut the number of jobs in the program by almost half. They have also cut the number of jobs in the government's student work experience and co-op programs by almost a third.
When will the Conservatives help struggling youth and reverse these cuts to summer jobs?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-03-24 14:39 [p.12247]
Mr. Speaker, for young Canadians to pay taxes, they actually need to have a job. There are 166,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the downturn.
Students need help finding work, not cuts to students jobs programs or more money wasted on the government's self-serving ads. A single ad during the hockey play-offs will cost $100,000. That $100,000 could create 32 summer jobs. When will the Conservatives stop wasting money on ads and start helping struggling students find summer work?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-02-26 14:56 [p.11745]
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Young Farmers are in Ottawa. I met with many of them this week and they tell me that there is a great future in agriculture, but their biggest concern is how the government is treating them, especially the business risk management programs, which have been cut by over $200 million per year. With so much potential for agriculture, why are the Conservatives cutting this very important funding?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-02-25 14:39 [p.11668]
Mr. Speaker, speaking of main estimates, Environment Canada's funding for climate change and clean air has been slashed by 20%. That is $32 million less for clean air.
To make things worse, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency was cut by a whopping 44%, scrapping support for aboriginal consultation on resource projects.
The environmental assessment process was bad enough and Canadians do not trust the government on the environment as it is, so why is it pursuing these cuts?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-02-23 14:42 [p.11526]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are ignoring the challenges faced by middle-class families. They have cut funding for veterans. They have cut public health funding to educate Canadians about the importance of vaccinations. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are shovelling more money into economic action plan ads.
When will the Conservatives lay off the action plan ads and start focusing on the things that really matter to Canadians, like supporting veterans or protecting children?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-02-19 14:55 [p.11418]
Mr. Speaker, after years of drastic cuts to Parks Canada, now we need volunteers to keep the parks open. The Conservative government funds hand-picked trails and private clubs. Canada's national parks are forced to scale back or shut their gates for the winter, but a study by Canadian Parks Council shows that an $800-million investment in parks can create $5 billion in economic activity in our local communities. Those are local jobs.
Why is the government abandoning Canada's parks and squandering both the environmental and economic benefits?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-02-18 15:16 [p.11358]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition, which is one of many hundreds of others that I have received in my office.
The petitioners call upon the government to reverse the cuts to Canada Post.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-02-05 14:26 [p.11113]
Mr. Speaker, that is false and they know it.
The truth is that the Conservatives are playing a shell game with infrastructure funding just to create a notional surplus on the eve of an election.
The truth is that 73% of the new Building Canada fund would not even be available until after 2019. That is two elections from now.
The truth is that $210 million is available this year. That is a 90% cut from last year.
When will the Conservatives simply tell the truth and reverse their cuts to infrastructure funding?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-02-05 14:27 [p.11113]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to take credit for funding that would not even flow until 2020. Meanwhile, they have slashed the Building Canada fund for the next two years. That $210 million this year represents a 90% cut from last year.
The middle class is struggling. The economy shrank in November. We are seeing stagnant growth and virtually no job growth. The economy needs a boost now, not just in five years.
Why will the Conservatives not tell the truth, reverse their infrastructure cuts, and create jobs today?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives gutted Canada Post, refused to consult Canadians about it, and are now hiding details about the bungled plan. With more than 300,000 new boxes being purchased in the U.S., and huge cuts being downloaded to municipalities, Canada Post is refusing to say how much this will cost.
With five million households losing service and 8,000 good jobs on the line, Canadians deserve to know: Will the minister hold Canada Post accountable and give Canadians the facts?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-02-02 14:41 [p.10913]
Mr. Speaker, according to a secret report, the government knows very little about the toxic effects of the oil sands on our lakes and rivers. More research is needed on the effect oil has on the aquatic environment.
However, the Conservatives have made cuts to funding for research, they abandoned the experimental lakes and they cut funding for the Maurice Lamontagne Institute. Why are the Conservatives playing games with Canadians' safety and their environment?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-02-02 14:42 [p.10913]
Mr. Speaker, a federal report reveals huge gaps in the handling of oil sands bitumen spills. Nobody, not the National Energy Board, Environment Canada, or Fisheries and Oceans, knows how to deal with a bitumen spill properly. In the Arctic, the problem is even worse, yet the Conservatives continue to pretend that nothing is wrong.
The Prime Minister has gutted environmental laws and cut funding to that very research. When will they stop cutting the research that would help us to deal with these spills?
View Peter Stoffer Profile
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2014-12-10 14:43 [p.10420]
Mr. Speaker, while the government sends our brave men and women off to war, it refuses to admit that when they come back with physical or mental challenges there is a moral and social obligation to care for them. It has lawyers in B.C. right now arguing the point, spending thousands of Canadian tax dollars, that there is no moral or social contract for our veterans.
Does the parliamentary secretary believe or does he not believe that there is a legal, fiduciary, moral and social obligation to care for the heroes of our country?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, Canadians pay EI premiums so they have insurance if they lose their jobs, so they can still pay the bills and put food on their family's table.
Under the Conservatives, though, front-line services have been cut and waiting times have grown. This is not about hiring a few temps to help out for a few weeks; this is about finally fixing the backlog.
What is the minister doing to cut down on these endless delays, once and for all?
View Peter Stoffer Profile
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2014-12-09 14:58 [p.10382]
Mr. Speaker, when young men and women from Canada go off to war, they and their families need to know that their government and country will care for them in the event they become physically disabled, mentally challenged, or make the ultimate sacrifice.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs, does the government have a sacred obligation to care for them? He would not answer it.
My question is directly for the Prime Minister of Canada. Does the Prime Minister of Canada believe that the government has a judicial, legal, moral, and social obligation to care for the heroes of our country?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-12-08 14:18 [p.10294]
Mr. Speaker, contrary to what we were told by the Prime Minister last week, the Conservatives have cut front-line services for our veterans. Public servants who manage benefits, pensions and health care have been affected the most.
Why did the Prime Minister try to mislead this chamber?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-12-08 14:19 [p.10294]
Mr. Speaker, 30 public service positions in the rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods divisions have been vacant since 2009 because of cuts.
How can the minister claim to have learned from the Lac-Mégantic tragedy when she is preparing to make another $600,000 in cuts to rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-12-08 14:20 [p.10294]
Mr. Speaker, today we learned that over 30 positions in the dangerous goods and rail safety divisions at Transport Canada have been vacant since 2009—just another thing that is down. This includes the manager of dangerous goods in the Quebec region.
With damning rail safety report following the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, why did the minister not fill these vacancies as she promised?
View Peter Stoffer Profile
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2014-12-08 14:37 [p.10297]
Mr. Speaker, the only reason that I, as a Dutch foreign Canadian, get to stand on Canadian soil is because 5,700 Canadians and our allies are laying beneath Dutch soil.
When we send our heroes off to war, they expect to be cared for, and their families, when they come back injured, either physically or mentally, yet the government is spending thousands of dollars on lawyers defending the argument that there is no moral or social contract to care for our veteran community.
My question to the minister is very simple. Yes or no, do you or do you not believe, through you Mr. Speaker, that you have a fiduciary, legal, moral or social obligation to our veterans?
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2014-12-05 11:41 [p.10246]
Mr. Speaker, the government members should be appalled, not applauding, especially in light of the scathing Auditor General's report that showed some veterans waited months, if not years, for access to mental health services.
There is the lapsing of well over $1 billion promised for veterans services and now the rewarding of officials for denying services to our brave veterans.
Are they still prepared to clap for a minister whose sole legacy is the shafting of Canadian veterans? When will the Prime Minister take action and punt the minister?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-43, an act to implement the budget. As we know, the focus of our government is jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, and there are many measures within this bill that support that focus, that priority, of the Government of Canada.
I would like to start by talking about where we were back in 2008 when the biggest recession since the Great Depression struck our nation and many nations around the world. In fact, 62 million people around the globe lost their jobs during that recession due to global economic instability. However, since then, Canada has fared far better than most countries in the world in terms of job creation and recovery. In fact, since the pit of the economic recession in July 2009, Canada has created 1.2 million net new jobs, with employment all across this country. This has allowed our government to move toward a balanced budget and deliver on many promises made in the 2011 campaign.
The federal tax burden is now at its lowest in 50 years. People are paying less in taxes than they did in part of the Diefenbaker era. Things are going well in Canada. We have more employment, more growth, and larger projected growth than any other country in the G7. The IMF and KPMG both predict that for this year and next year we are going to have very successful job growth, job creation, and overall economic growth in this country. Canada is on the verge of a great economic and prosperous time, and we are going to keep putting measures in place so the people of this country can benefit from it.
What has allowed us to do this? What has allowed Canada to do so much better than many other nations emerging from a global economic recession? I believe it was our commitment as a government to balance the books and then use surplus spending to invest in tax cuts and to support jobs and economic growth. This was a commitment we all made on this side of the House as we went door to door in the 2011 election. We committed to first balance the budget and then to reinvest in Canadians by lowering taxes, supporting young families, and reinvesting in jobs and growth.
There are some members of the House who believe balancing the budget will happen by itself and that we do not need to focus on that, but it is hugely important. The only way to balance a budget, whether it is a household budget, a municipal budget, a provincial budget, or a federal budget, is to make it is a huge priority and put a plan in place to reach that balanced budget in a targeted amount of time. That is what this government did following the 2011 election. We kept our commitment to the people of Canada by putting the economic action plan in place, with the goal of balancing the budget within the mandate of this government, which we have.
It is not easy, and it does not just happen by itself. To do it, there are really three choices a government can make to balance the budget. The first choice, and I would argue the easy way to do it, is simply to raise taxes. We have seen governments and previous administrations, both provincially and federally, try to balance budgets on the backs of Canadians by raising taxes: raising business taxes, raising income taxes, raising fees. That, I would argue, is the easy way.
We saw the NDP government in Nova Scotia try to do this a few years back. It raised taxes to try to balance the budget. This government gave the Canadian people a cut in their GST sales tax, or HST in some provinces, like mine, in Nova Scotia. When we cut the GST federally from 7% to 6% to 5%, almost every Canadian was able to benefit from that tax reduction, except in my province of Nova Scotia, where the provincial government came right in behind and almost immediately raised the sales tax by 2%.
While in New Brunswick, right next door to my riding, people were paying 13% sales tax in the combined HST, in Nova Scotia we were paying 15%. A border riding like mine saw jobs flowing across the border. Gas stations were shutting down, because between that and the increased fuel taxes in Nova Scotia, people could pay far less a litre in New Brunswick than they could in Nova Scotia. While everyone else was benefiting from this cut in the sales tax, the people in my province were not, because the provincial government decided to do that in an effort, it argued, to balance the budget, which, in fact, never really happened. That is the easy way to try to balance the budget: by simply raising taxes.
The second way a federal government can try to cut taxes is by eliminating, cutting, or reducing transfers to the provinces. Transfers to the provinces pay for education, put teachers in classrooms, pay for educational assistants for special education students, and provide other support services in every school.
Those transfers pay for our health care system so seniors across this country can enjoy the health care they deserve in an equitable health care system, from one end of the country to the other. That is why we have these transfers. It is so the provinces can deliver their constitutionally designated role of delivering effective, equitable health care from Newfoundland all the way to British Columbia and to the north. That is what Canada is all about. We are all in this together. That is why those transfers are so valuable.
The Liberal government in the nineties chose to balance the budget, coming out of an economic recession, on the backs of the provinces, on the backs of our seniors, and on the backs of our children by reducing those valuable transfers to the provinces. Significantly cutting those transfers, I believe, destabilized both the education system and the health care system in many provinces across this country. It was an effort, arguably, to balance the budget.
The third way a federal government can try to balance a budget is not by raising taxes on the people and cutting the valuable transfers to the provinces that need those dollars so desperately to deliver those effective services I talked about. The third way is to look at how the government spends money. We can look at ourselves, look across federal departments to see what we can do to save money for the Canadian taxpayer so we can get the budget balanced and start making targeted investments for the future of all Canadians.
In 2011, that is what we promised to do, and that is a promise we have kept. We have delivered on that promise, and now we have the budget balanced and are moving forward.
Every department across the board had to look at reductions. With targeted savings, usually in back-office services, making sure that we protected front-line services, particularly in the regions of this country, we were able to slowly move the budget to balance. Now, on schedule, we have a balanced budget in this country due to excellent fiscal management by the Prime Minister, former finance minister Flaherty, and the present Minister of Finance.
This government has moved Canada to a balanced budget, and that gives the government the financial flexibility to deliver the other promises we made when we all went door to door during the 2011 election. I am speaking of things like income splitting for families, the family tax cut, and an increased UCCB. Support for young families across this country is a target of this government to ensure that the future of this country is protected.
By raising the universal child care benefit, we are supporting the next generation of Canadians in getting the child care they need. We are supporting the next generation of Canadians in getting the education they need. We are now focusing on changes to our education system, changes funded by the federal government through our post-secondary support for apprenticeships, a $100-million program for interest-free loans for apprentices across this country.
Budget 2014 supports our young people and our young families and is delivered under a balanced budget format.
Now that the budget is balanced and we are moving forward and are keeping those commitments to Canadian families, what is the next step for Canada? Where can we go? The future of this country is bright. We have worked so hard to come so far from the great recession of 2008. The strong fiscal management of this government and this party, led by our Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, will support the bright and prosperous future of this country.
I hope the opposition will stand in support of this legislation on Monday night, because it is in the best interest of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-12-04 10:11 [p.10166]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by hundreds of constituents in my riding concerning the reduction of Canada Post services. The petition calls upon the government to reverse these cuts to Canada Post and look instead for an option to fill the void, such as postal banking.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-11-25 14:19 [p.9773]
Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report is definitive. The Conservatives have failed to provide our veterans with speedy access to mental health care. In some cases, veterans wait up to eight months. The auditor says that is way too long, especially considering the number of veterans who have committed suicide.
How can the minister justify sending $1 billion back to the treasury and firing staff when there are such desperate needs?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-11-24 14:59 [p.9710]
Mr. Speaker, Halifax's Leave Out Violence program, or LOVE program, does incredible work by helping extremely at-risk youth find and keep jobs in our community. There are glowing reports of its success. Everyone at the department recommended a renewal of LOVE's funding, but the minister denied its funding.
How are people supposed to play by the rules when the minister changes the rules at whim, casts aside evidence, and ignores everyone's advice? Why is he denying funding to LOVE, a program with proven success in helping at-risk youth?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-11-21 11:55 [p.9660]
Mr. Speaker, in 2010, the Conservative government announced it would freeze foreign aid for five years to balance its budget. Then in 2012, further spending cuts were announced, padding its surplus. We have now learned that the government has also deliberately underspent Canada's aid budget for poor countries by $125.9 million. Development assistance for people who need it the most is being slashed. These countries overseas have some of the highest infant mortality rates. They need our help.
Why are the Conservatives allowing this to happen to these poor people in the world who need our help?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2014-11-06 14:39 [p.9295]
Mr. Speaker, experts like David Dodge, the IMF, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce all agree that we need more public investment in infrastructure. Now we can add Governor Poloz to that list. This week he called infrastructure “a key ingredient in our economic growth story”. He said that with interest rates at “a generational low”, the “missing ingredient” is government and the certainty government can provide.
Governor Poloz is right. Will the Conservatives listen to Governor Poloz and to David Dodge? Will they reverse their 90% cut in planned infrastructure spending this year?
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-10-29 14:50 [p.8923]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative move to end home mail delivery has raised controversy and opposition across the country. Now the new superboxes are causing their own trouble, because just last week a woman from Nova Scotia realized that her mailbox key opens the mailbox of one of her neighbours.
Canadians count on sensitive personal mail information being kept confidential. Why are the Conservatives still backing a plan that manages to make getting mail both less accessible and less secure?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the government to stop the cuts to our postal service. Again, it is a petition signed by hundreds of constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
The third petition also asks the government to stop the cuts to our postal service, in particular because of the consequences to seniors and people with mobility issues as well as the 8,000 jobs that will be lost as a result of this decision.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-10-08 17:19 [p.8428]
Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague from Trinity—Spadina to the House. This is my first opportunity to interact with him here in the House since his election.
He asked if I knew about this, and I have to admit that I did not, because I do not follow Toronto politics closely. I am here, and I follow politics back in my home province of Nova Scotia. It is interesting that he can bring it to the floor and talk about that here.
I am not going to comment on Toronto municipal politics, but I will talk about skepticism. I did say that I was going to put down my talking points and I have, but this is the truth. We have seen cuts to Parks Canada. Twelve hundred jobs have been cut in parks across Canada. If parks are so important, how are we going to protect them, especially when we are seeing job cuts, park hours diminished, and parks being closed for different seasons? This is where my skepticism comes from. People cannot go to Kejimkujik National Park in my home province in the winter anymore. A lot of the communities around these parks rely on them being open year-round. It is unfortunate.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-10-08 17:21 [p.8428]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his kind words.
Indeed, it is an incredible opportunity for us to be part of a government—I think that the opposition and all the other parties are part of the government—that will create Canada's first national urban park. What are the other challenges? As I already mentioned, I am a bit concerned about funding for the parks. Is it possible to create a new national park with the cuts to Parks Canada? Will there be enough scientists and employees in the park to support its objectives? I have a lot of concerns.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-10-06 14:46 [p.8279]
Mr. Speaker, it is more like the government has committed to cutting over 1,100 jobs. The Conservatives have cut programs and opening hours, and they have changed guided tours to self-guided visitor activities. Now not only are these people who safeguard our national treasures out of work, but so are the people in the communities who rely on the full-year operation of parks.
Why do the Conservatives pretend to support jobs and Canadian heritage when they are firing workers and closing park gates?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, in terms of housing, we have initiated a new program: housing first. This is an evidenced-based program, which delivers for low-income Canadians who need housing.
Just think how difficult it must be to try to apply for a job when an individual has no address that they can fill in on the form.
Housing first gives someone a place to live that allows them to participate in employment and get a job. That is what we are doing. It is evidenced-based. It is working. The opposition should get behind it.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
I am pleased to speak for a few minutes to this important bill, Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act creating the Nááts’ihch’oh national park.
This is a process, and we recognize that the terms and conditions of the constitutionally-protected Sahtu land claim agreement have been met, including the creation of an impact benefit plan and a management committee. However, we have some concerns around the government's commitment to the park, and I will talk a bit about that.
The establishment of these parks on land and marine areas is all about meeting conservation targets, preserving biodiversity and, in this case, helping communities realize the economic and tourism potential that our national parks can provide.
Some of my colleagues have raised concerns about the government's commitment and whether it is carving up parks in Canada in such a way as to facilitate achieving two objectives: one, meet these constitutionally-required negotiations with first nations; and two, continue to allow resource development to go forward unabated.
It was suggested by someone involved in this process that the boundaries of this park were carved out in such a way as to ensure that a mine, almost in the middle of this territory, was kept out of the park and therefore would be allowed to continue to produce. These things are a concern.
As was mentioned by my colleagues, the Sahtu Dene Nation was involved in these negotiations. Three options were put on the table and one of those options was agreed to. While we have not heard a lot of complaint out of that area, questions have been asked as to why the smallest piece, in this case option 3, was chosen?
A few minutes ago my colleague for Edmonton—Strathcona asked why the government had not come forward and attached an additional commitment to this project. After a particular period of time, of five years or so, will it participate in discussions around expanding these boundaries? That would certainly give some of us some comfort as it relates to where the government is going with this.
The Parks Canada budget has been cut to a significant degree over the past few years. Budget cuts have led to a 33% staffing cut in science for Parks Canada, as one example. There have been 60 out of 179 positions eliminated. Talk about hampering Parks Canada's ability to carry out its responsibilities.
Infrastructure is in a desperate state. It is being reported constantly that infrastructure in Parks Canada is in serious need of investment, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The government has not shown a willingness to invest in these important parts of Canadiana and Canadian infrastructure. In fact, it has been cutting back. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has been reported as saying that there is a wide and persistent gap between what the government commits to and what it is achieving. When we go into a situation like this, it is important to note what the government is bringing in behind it.
This is a critical piece of territory. It is a large portion of the South Nahanni River watershed. My understanding is that option one, the bigger piece, would have ensured greater protection of that watershed to make sure that the health and well-being of the Nahanni River and the caribou would be adequately maintained. There is some concern that option three did not cut the mustard in terms of guaranteeing that the watershed was going to be protected, and it left out an important breeding ground for the caribou in this area.
My colleague from Northwest Territories knows this area well. He talked in his intervention about tourism. One of the commitments the government makes in negotiating agreements with the first nations community is economic benefits, economic development, and other ways to compensate for the change in the land use in an area like this. Part of that is tourism. As he so clearly stated, given his vast experience working in this area, Canada has done a terrible job promoting areas like this across the country.
The amount of advertising in the United States about tourism opportunities in Canada has basically dried up. The concern, of course, is what the government will do to ensure that those opportunities that are part of this agreement materialize for the first nations. It was indicated that a park had been formed close to seven years ago, and the government still has not followed up with the investments and infrastructure that is required.
That having been said, as I indicated earlier, we have not heard a great deal of concern expressed by people involved in this particular undertaking. However, we are looking forward to a more extensive discussion and to hearing experts at committee so that there may be a fuller discussion to examine what else can be done.
My colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona said it well when she said that in terms of making suggestions about what we can do to make this bill better, it is better left to the representatives on the committee and the witnesses that will be called before the committee to make sure that sound recommendations come forward. Members can bet that members on that committee from the official opposition will certainly be in a position to offer helpful advice based on consultations they will have with the first nations communities involved in this particular endeavour.
As my colleagues have also indicated, I will be supporting moving Bill S-5 forward from second reading to committee.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-3. As has been clearly stated, this is a very important issue. It is one issue of many dealing with the ocean's ecosystem and issues of conservation and stock management that needs to be seriously considered.
It has been suggested that the bill is a piece of housekeeping legislation in that it is meant to help ratify the port state measures agreement that was signed at the UN back in 2010. It would have to be ratified by 25 nations before it would come into effect.
One would think that Canada, with the longest coastline of any country in the world and with important fisheries on all our coasts, including the Arctic, would show some leadership on this issue and would underline the problem by bringing it forward with some urgency and some import.
However, the government introduced the bill through the Senate. Many of us have suggested that introducing legislation through the Senate is like introducing it through the back door. It indicates that the government thinks it is something that should be dealt with but that is clearly not wholly important. It is not something the government wants bogging down its agenda.
The bill was dealt with in March 2013 by the Senate It passed third reading in March and was ready to come here, but then the Conservative government, in its wisdom, decided to prorogue the House in the fall, which meant that legislation died on the order paper. It had to go back through the Senate again. It had been Bill S-13 and had to be reintroduced in the Senate as Bill S-3. Now here we are in September 2014, and the bill has not even passed second reading. Undoubtedly it will, later on this afternoon, but it appears to me as a legislator that the government is not taking this issue seriously enough.
In the whole question of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing, it has been estimated that tens of billions of dollars in economic value are being lost as a result of the practice of nations around the world taking and selling fish and thus undermining regulated markets. It is something that has been going on for centuries.
There is no doubt that the IUU fishery does threaten ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. It violates conservation and management measures, such as quotas and bycatch limits. It is important to recognize that, and there is an attempt internationally to try to control how the signatory countries, the fishing countries, go about fishing these stocks.
We have a lot of science in this country, although if the Conservative government gets re-elected, there may not be any left. However, there is lots of work being done around the world in terms of monitoring the patterns and health of fish stocks to determine the levels at which the individual fisheries should be prosecuted so that the fishery is sustainable.
If we allow millions of tonnes of fish that are subject to those conservation measures to be taken out of the water without any control, then it defeats the purpose. As was suggested by my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl, there is some question as to the efficacy of those conservation management measures to control how nations prosecute the fishery.
Nonetheless, here in this country commercial wild capture fisheries, aquaculture, and fish and seafood processing contribute upward of $5.4 billion in total GDP and 71,000 equivalent full-time employment positions to the country's economy. It is a big deal, and we must do our utmost to work on this issue.
New Democrats have indicated their support for the measures provided in Bill S-3 because they are part of an international agreement and because we think Canada should be a player in establishing the rules and regulations on the international stage on something as important as the fishery. Some of us would like the Government of Canada to take a much more aggressive role so that we would be much more involved and much more heavily engaged in taking a leadership role on this issue.
My colleague from Northwest Territories talked about the problem with the Arctic donut hole, and that is a real problem. That area is unregulated by international agreements, and some foreign nations are beginning to go into that area and fish at will. They are setting up historical fishing patterns that will have an impact when there is some kind of international agreement that affects that particular area. Canada has not played a role there and, I suggest, will suffer as a result.
I will talk for a few moments about the port state measures agreement, the international agreement to which Canada is a signatory and which Bill S-3, once passed, will cement. It states:
The Agreement aims to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. Under the terms of the treaty, foreign vessels will provide advance notice and request permission for port entry, countries will conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards, offending vessels will be denied use of port or certain port services and information sharing networks will be created.
It is the first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. I missed the comment from the parliamentary secretary earlier, but I understand there may be up to a dozen nations that have signed on. However, it is important to understand that 25 nations must sign on and ratify it through legislation, as we have, in order for it to come into effect.
Bill S-3 provides regulatory power in relation to authorizing foreign fishing vessels ordered to port by their flag state to enter Canadian waters to verify compliance with law or conservation and management measures of fisheries as an organization. The bill expands the definition of “fishing vessel”, which we have heard, to include any vessels used in the transshipping of fish or marine plants that have not been previously handled. The bill expands the current definition of “fish” from shellfish, crustaceans, and marine animals to include any part or derivative of them.
We are going to talk more about some of those issues in committee because, on this side, we have some issue with the process and with what authority our Canadian officials would have to carry out those inspections. It appears they would need to get a court order, a warrant, in order to be able to move in to inspect the contents of a ship, a plane, a warehouse, or whatever. Any vehicle or structure used in the trans-shipment of fish or fish products is allowed, but the question is how that will happen. What are the provisions and the authorities that would be allowed? We need to understand that aspect better.
There is another part to that. The bill adds a number of new provisions under which a justice may hear applications for a search warrant, a warrant authorizing a protection officer to seize something, or a forfeiture order. We will want to seek some clarification of that. We will do that at committee.
On this side of the House, we have seen the commitment from the Leader of the Opposition. As a result of his experience on environmental issues, he understands how important ocean health and the ecosystem of our oceans is in terms of how the fishery is conducted and what it means to the overall health of our planet and our environment. As members on this side have intervened in this debate, we have heard them raise concerns about the government's commitment on issues such as conservation, habitat management, and questions of science.
As an example, when I look at the added responsibilities of Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers under Bill S-3, I wonder how they are going to be able to carry them out, given the cuts to their staff over the past three years under this government. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have seen a reduction in the number of vessels available to the department and to officers to carry out surveillance and to apprehend, and we have seen a reduction in the ability of our coastal agencies and our navy to be able to help out. The ability of the Coast Guard to intervene is certainly in question as a result of the damaging cuts the government has made.
Likewise, we question the government's commitment to ecosystems, to fisheries management, and to measures to enforce those issues.
We have seen cuts to the inspection staff. We have seen cuts to the rules with respect to legislation and regulations governing what can appropriately be conducted on a lake, a river, or the ocean and we have seen the impact it will have on the fishery and the ecosystem. What the government has done over the past three years will have a detrimental impact on our ability to maintain a sustainable fishery on all our coasts. It will affect these fisheries and it will affect the ability of the people who prosecute these fisheries to do so in a safe and healthy way. It will affect the ability to ensure that families and communities are able to prosper, not only now but well into the future. That is what the whole idea of a sustainable fishery is.
We heard members talk about what happened last spring with northern shrimp. The government weighed in on the side of the corporate fishery, in particular on the side of the big factory trawlers, against the small fishery, the coastal and community fisheries. The result has been, and will be, the loss of hundreds of jobs, not only for the small boat fishery but also in the processing that goes along with this in a number of communities throughout northern Newfoundland and the south coast of Labrador.
That is why some of us are asking questions and raising concerns about the government's commitment with respect to the fishery and ensuring that we have a sustainable fishery. We need to do everything in our power, not only within our purview but within the areas where Canada and the Canadian government have an impact, to protect the environment and ensure the fisheries and those oceans are healthy and we have a sustainable fishery. The government needs to actively participate in a leadership capacity in those international bodies that set regulations, conservation and other management measures, such as quotas and bycatch limits. It needs to ensure that not only are we managing the fishery properly within Canada, but that internationally we are doing everything we can to ensure fishing is sustainable so we do lose that as a result of overfishing, bad management and driving species out of existence. That is happening far too often already. We need to a better job with this.
Let me reiterate a couple of points about Bill S-3. I am disappointed with the way the government introduced these provisions. This was an international agreement signed by Canada in 2010. We are now in 2014 still dealing with the legislation. Why is that? That is because government first introduced the bill not through the House of Commons, not through the front door, but through the back door. It came in through the Senate. The Senate dealt with it in the spring of 2013. That bill ended up dying on the table because the government prorogued the House in the fall of 2013. This does not give us a sense that the government understands the urgency of this problem and will move quickly to deal with the issue.
The whole question of the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery is a serious problem. Canada needs to be at the forefront of measures like this to ensure this agreement is ratified by at least 25 nations and that we get the job done. Then the government will need to put the resources forward to ensure we can properly enforce the agreement and do everything we can within the powers of our country and of Canadians to ensure we do our part to stop the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-06-19 10:04 [p.7135]
Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, be concurred in.
I want to thank my colleagues for such a warm welcome. We have been here for so long that it is hard to be warm these days.
I am moving concurrence in the report from the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I am a member of that committee. The report is called “Terrestrial Habitat Conservation in Canada”. Why did we study this? That is a good question. I am going to go back a bit on why we even have a report on terrestrial conservation.
I do not actually remember which throne speech it was, but a couple of throne speeches ago, there were some hints that the government was going to have a conservation strategy. That is not bad news. It is ostensibly good news, so we were excited to see what was going to happen with that. Then the environment committee was tasked with doing a study on what a conservation plan would look like.
On the face of it, that actually seems like really good parliamentary procedure. We have an idea from government. We are going to task a committee to study something and get some really good information so we can give advice to the minister. As I said, on its face, that seems wonderful and it is exciting to actually do good parliamentary work at committee, but what happened is it went off the rails a little bit. I know it is hard to imagine in this environment.
Where we started was with a general conservation study. My colleagues and I would show up and we would be keen. We had done our research. We would ask questions of the witnesses about conservation, what a conservation plan would look like, what that kind of strategy would look like. It was interesting. There were moments when it was very frustrating, because for some reason the Conservatives did not want to hear anything about climate change when it comes to conservation. It is interesting because conservation actually is a good solution to climate change on a lot of fronts. For example, if we are preserving large tracts of land, we are keeping the vegetation that is there. It is basically a natural carbon storage.
We heard some interesting testimony about climate change and how conservation would actually help us deal with the effects of climate change and prevent climate change from advancing. We also heard some really interesting testimony about the impacts of climate change on conservation efforts, the fact that we are going to have to adapt a little bit. If we are going to create parks, for example, we need to think about extreme meteorological events. We need to think about the impact of waves, tides, and storms on our infrastructure. It was good testimony. Remember that this is not the current report on which I moved this concurrence motion; it was the report before.
There was good information, good testimony about climate. None of it is in the report. We have to remember that Conservatives do have a majority on these committees, so what comes out in the end, although we can fight in camera and try to get stuff in a report, it does not end up in the report. There was nothing about climate change. The report was absolutely silent on that subject.
Getting back to this idea of studying conservation generally, as I said, there was good testimony. We were pretty excited. We were thinking that this was our way to contribute to the parliamentary process, the democratic process. We were going to give some advice to the minister. Despite the fact that climate change did not make it into the report, there were some other positives about the report. We had these moments of feeling that we were part of a parliamentary project, that it was a worthwhile endeavour.
Then we went in camera to decide the next committee business. All kinds of ideas were put forward. The NDP has all kinds of ideas. We put forward so many motions. We put forward a motion that our committee review the government's sectoral approach to greenhouse gas regulations, and review the delays in establishing those regulations for the oil and gas sector. We put forward a motion on the Great Lakes and how climate change is impacting the water levels. We put forward a motion about the Arctic, to study the impacts of climate change and resulting new resource development and transportation routes on the Arctic, its environment, species and ecological balance. We came armed with so many good ideas.
We went in camera, where the majority rules, and we came out with a study on urban conservation. We went from conservation to urban conservation. We tried to be optimistic and full of energy and said, “Okay, another conservation study. Here we go.”
Maybe there is a point to the urban conservation study, because in some musings that the government members had, they also talked about the creation of Rouge Park, a national park that would be an urban park. I think it would be North America's first urban national park. That is pretty exciting stuff. Again, there is a glimmer of this ability to contribute to the parliamentary process and government decision-making. That means there would be another study on conservation, but at least it would be on something where maybe there is a hope that the minister would be listening and we could talk about some important issues that we would see the results of in a bill about Rouge Park.
We started our study. There was some great testimony from people about urban conservation, the way that people can connect with the natural environment while living in cities and urban environments. We heard really good testimony about climate change, the way we can mitigate the impacts of climate change, and that we can mitigate the fact that climate is changing, and there are things we need to do to adapt when we are looking at urban conservation and climate change. Of course, none of that ended up in the report, because we cannot talk about climate change at the environment committee. It is quite amazing.
We did this study on urban conservation. What was interesting is that on Friday last week the government tabled a bill on the creation of Rouge Park in Scarborough. I believe it may be on the docket to talk about today, so I have been madly prepping to speak to the bill. It has been really difficult. I read the bill yesterday during my caucus meeting. We had a briefing on it from the minister's office yesterday afternoon. We are scrambling to give some feedback on the bill and we have not had the time to do a proper analysis. I have read it, but I have not digested it. I have not had time to reach out to stakeholders to get their advice on what is in the bill and if it is doing what it purports to do. However, I will say that I have had the time to look at our notes from that urban conservation study. There was a small section on Rouge Park that we did in that study. I looked at the bill, and it is not apparent to me where those suggestions from our witnesses are in the final bill.
At the time I felt a bit discouraged that we were doing urban conservation right on the heels of a conservation study. However, I thought that maybe we would have an impact on the legislation, that maybe we are giving advice to the minister, which is what committees are supposed to be doing, and maybe it would be in the bill. I have the bill. Perhaps it will become clearer to me later when I listen to the minister's speech, but I do not see that good advice from the witnesses that we heard at committee reflected in the legislation.
I have gone from being a little disheartened by doing two studies in a row on the same subject to wondering what is the point of us even doing these studies if the minister is not listening. We did not choose the study topic. I will leave it to everyone's imagination, but a majority on the committee probably made the decision to study these topics. I wanted to study climate change. I wanted to study some other topics, but let us make the best of it if we are doing conservation, and then the results of our report are not even reflected in the bill. There were two studies on conservation.
We finished the study on urban conservation. If my memory serves me correctly, I think we managed to work in a rare show of collaboration with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. I think we had a unanimous report on urban conservation. There is nothing egregious in it. We pointed out that it is missing a lot of things, but the information that was in there was accurate. There was no discussion on climate change, which we pointed out.
Then we went in camera and we made decisions about what we would study next. It is on the public record that the NDP put forward some incredible motions, such as doing a study on the Species at Risk Act, its implementation and funding. That is a really important issue right now. It is one of the only pieces of environmental legislation that was not gutted in the 2012 omnibus budgets.
Speaking of budgets, we put on the record that we wanted to do a study on the impacts of budget cuts on the operations, sustainability and accessibility for visitors, and sustainability impacts for the surrounding communities to Parks Canada. That is a great idea. Why are we not looking at the fact that we have seen all these job losses and all these budget cuts at Parks Canada?
Time passes. Also, in 2013, we had motion to receive a briefing by the official Canadian delegation to the climate change convention negotiations prior to the meetings in Warsaw in November 2013 to detail Canada's negotiating priorities. It sounded good to me. We are still waiting for that briefing.
An hon. member: 2014.
Ms. Megan Leslie: It is 2014, I know, Mr. Speaker. There is no point any more.
We come out, and what is on the docket for us to study? Terrestrial conservation. Do we not wish we were on environment committee? Talk about demoralizing. I think there are good reasons to talk about terrestrial conservation, but there are so many other issues, and we have already done two studies on conservation. Now we are doing terrestrial conservation, and that is what this report is, for which I moved concurrence today.
Why terrestrial conservation? Why not marine conservation? We would not want to study marine conservation because then we would have to talk about fish habitat. This is a way of excluding the important legislation that government gutted back in 2012. The House will remember there was a budget announcement in 2012 and then there were two bills after that in 2012. Those two bills, both of which passed, were remarkable in many ways. They were omnibus pieces of legislation. The first one touched over 70 pieces of legislation: it amended or repealed in some way or added to 70 pieces of legislation, all wrapped up in one bill that was over 400 pages long. Then we had a second one in the fall. This is really significant.
It is a little hobby horse of mine that the first bill, a budget bill, made changes to assisted human reproduction. Whether or not I can be a surrogate, whether or not I can sell my eggs was in a budget bill. My reproduction has nothing to do with the budget.
We have these giant omnibus bills. What happened on environment? A number of things. The Environmental Assessment Act was repealed. It was not tweaked or amended; it was pulled off the books and replaced with another one. What are the problems with it? For example, we have had what is called a trigger system with environment assessment. If a project touched a federal issue, such as migratory birds or waterways that crossed provincial boundaries, it would trigger an environmental assessment.
That makes sense. We can wrap our head around why it would be that way. However, now we have a list of things that mean environmental assessment. If something is not on the list, there is no environmental assessment.
Why is that problematic? Members should think about the oil sands. If we had had a definitive list 70 years ago, oil sands exploration would not have been on that list because we would not have known it was in the realm of the possible. We would not have considered that we should put oil sands development on the list. A trigger is important, because it is the situation that causes the assessment, not this definitive list. The other thing about the list is that it is cabinet that makes up the list. It is trouble, because the list is narrow. Seismic testing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is not on that list. I think that is pretty problematic. We have moved from the trigger to the list.
We also had the environment commissioner testify at committee about this list. There used to be three stages of environmental assessment. The lowest stage was like a paper stage, where one would submit documents and get feedback on them, but it was still effective. Forgive me if I get the numbers a little bit wrong because I am tapping into my memory. We asked the environment commissioner how many environmental assessments were being done. My memory says he said 4,000 to 6,000 per year. My next question was how many will be done now that the Environmental Assessment Act has been replaced in this regime. He said 10 to 12. I actually thought he meant 10,000 to 12,000, but he said it was just 10 to 12 for the country. These are incredible changes to our environmental assessment regime. It practically does not exist anymore.
There are also all of the changes to consultation, where people now have to be directly affected. What does “directly affected” mean? If I live 10 kilometres downstream, am I directly affected? If I live 100 kilometres downstream, am I directly affected? If I am a scientist living in Vancouver who has expertise about the Douglas Channel, am I directly affected? There is no definition of this, and it completely curtails who can testify and be a party to these hearings.
In addition to the changes to the Environmental Assessment Act in 2012, there were changes to the Fisheries Act. The Fisheries Act was one of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation that we had here in Canada, because it talked about the protection of fish habitats. If we are going to protect our fish and our fisheries, we have to protect our fish habitat. That makes sense.
In 2012, the protection of fish habitat was taken out of the legislation. What does that mean?
An hon. member: Incredible.
Ms. Megan Leslie: It is incredible, Mr. Speaker. Now we are not protecting fish habitat. We are protecting fish, but not all fish. We are only going to protect fish that we name, and they are going to be fish that are of commercial significance, first nations significance, and recreational significance.
An hon. member: What about all of the other fish?
Ms. Megan Leslie: What about the other fish, Mr. Speaker? That is a great question. They are not protected. What about the fish that the protected fish eat? They are not protected. If we talk to anybody at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, they cannot tell us what fish are on the list. It does not exist. They do not know which fish are protected. It is a secret. Secret fish are being protected. Their food stock is not being protected.
An hon. member: It is a conspiracy.
Ms. Megan Leslie: It is a conspiracy, Mr. Speaker. We are not protecting fish. We can destroy their food source, we can destroy their breeding grounds, we can have a fish with three heads and that is okay, as long as we do not kill them. We can kill a lot of fish, just not the protected fish that do not exist and that are secret. It makes no sense that we have done this to one of the greatest environmental protections that we had.
We did a study on terrestrial conservation. Why? We do not want to talk about fish habitat because it agitates the Conservatives when people come and say that it was a bad decision, that we are not going to have a fishery anymore if we do not protect fish habitat.
We have a very narrow study on terrestrial habitat. The terrestrial habitat conservation in Canada report that came out had no mention of fish habitat. I will say that the New Democrats were crafty. We talked about that liminal space between the terrestrial habitat and the marine habitat, and we managed to get some soggy land in some of the testimony. We asked, “What about that soggy area in between the lakes and the land?” That soggy area can sometimes be fish habitat. We were tricky and we managed to get in some important information about fish habitat.
We have a supplementary opinion to this report. It is a dissenting opinion that is on the record. It is worth a read. It is two pages. I want to point out that one of the things we said clearly was that there is no greater threat to our ecosystems or barrier to habitat conservation than climate change. There was significant consensus from witnesses on the need to address climate change issues in order to protect our biodiversity, and to design strategies for habitat conservation and the preservation of biodiversity in the context of a changing climate.
The Conservatives can control the reports. They can control the outcome. They can control what it is that they say happened at committee, but they cannot change committee witness testimony. They cannot change the fact that we had witnesses saying that we need to address climate change if we are going to do anything about habitat conservation in Canada.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2014-06-18 14:42 [p.7070]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are out of touch with the reality that people cannot raise a full-time family on part-time work. Since last year Canada has lost 27,000 full-time jobs. Wages are stagnant, and families are falling behind. However, we can fix this. Smart investments in infrastructure can create good full-time jobs, but the Conservatives have actually cut infrastructure spending by 90% for next year.
Will the Conservatives listen to experts like David Dodge? Will they reverse these cuts? Will they invest in infrastructure and create good full-time jobs for Canadians right across the country?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-06-17 10:08 [p.6954]
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.
The first petition calls upon the government to reverse its recent cuts to Canada Post services and look instead for ways to innovate in areas such as postal banking.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2014-06-12 10:58 [p.6713]
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to present a petition on behalf of many Nova Scotians who are concerned about recent cuts announced by Canada Post. They call upon the government to place a moratorium on these cuts and conduct meaningful consultations with the public to determine the best way to modernize operations with the least impact on customers and employees.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to back off on the cuts to home delivery by Canada Post. Again, it is signed by hundreds of my constituents and other Nova Scotians.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for a few moments to speak about Bill C-247. I want to thank the member for Guelph for introducing it. I think it has incredible value.
In fact, just a couple of days ago, I spent some time talking on the phone with a woman from Dartmouth whose husband died recently. She was in the midst of going through some of the problems other members have talked about. She was trying to clarify with the Canada pension plan what was going to happen in terms of her pension and whether there were any spousal benefits. It was a serious problem. She told me that she had some family who were working with her. I did what I am sure any member here would do. I told her that if there was anything my office could do, we would certainly help her.
There is no question that it is far too complicated. There is not enough sharing of information. I understand the privacy issues that have been raised, but surely we can overcome those. We could ensure that there is designated staff to provide this kind of information.
It was cited by others that funeral homes are very good at dealing with some of these issues. The funeral home I have had the unfortunate, yet fortunate, opportunity to work with on far too many occasions, White Family Funeral Home, in Kentville, Nova Scotia, is very helpful in terms of helping families who have lost loved ones work through some of these issues.
The bill, as I say, deals with finalizing all outstanding matters between a deceased person and the Government of Canada. The individual acting on behalf of the deceased person may be required to connect with several different departments. We think, of course, of the Canada Revenue Agency, where a final return must be filed for all deceased Canadian residents and citizens. There are several optional returns.
Employment and Social Development Canada is another place where somebody might need to go for termination of the Canada pension plan and old age security benefits.
If the deceased was a veteran or a member of the Canadian Forces, then Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence would need to be dealt with. It could be the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Each one of these different areas, depending on a person's circumstances, is a government department a person would have to deal with to clear up the affairs of a deceased person.
I recognize how important the bill is, and I recognize the value of the intent. However, I am concerned about the services that Service Canada personnel are already required to provide and the challenges they have in meeting those responsibilities, whether it is EI or dealing with Veterans Affairs files, or whatever it is. The staff in that department have been reduced. I am finding that people trying to reach Service Canada offices by phone, because we are not able to walk into Service Canada centres anymore and have to reach them by phone or through the Internet, are waiting days, often, to get a reply from a person.
In terms of providing service for people who have filed EI claims, the department says that it will get back to them and resolve the claim in 28 days. That is just a fantasy. That does not happen anymore. It does not happen, because there are not enough people working on these files to deal with the great demand. Waiting times for EI now, for example, are upwards of 40 days.
In Nova Scotia, the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney was recently shut down, one of the eight or nine offices across the country that were shut down, and all the files from that office were sent to the Halifax-Dartmouth area. That is more work put on an already stressed staff, an already depleted staff. The government has taken something in the area of $243 million out of the budget of Service Canada over the past few years and has cut hundreds of employees from Service Canada.
My point is that I very much support the idea of there being one point of entry, one point of contact, for a family that is trying to clear up these kinds of matters, but I am concerned that unless the government is prepared to assign some resources to get this done, all we will be doing is adding more burdens to an already stressed out and overburdened staff of that particular department. We will be adding more problems to an already difficult situation. That is my point.
We will be supporting the bill. We agree with the intention, but I make those points and I hope they will be received well. There needs to be more specificity in the bill about what departments have to be involved. Right now it just says, “including—but not limited to—” Canada Revenue Agency, old age security, et cetera. However, there are other departments. I have cited a few. I think it should indicate all of the places and all of the services that are necessary to make sure it is all encompassing, because surely we recognize that for many people, the places they need to go differ, but surely we can list that in the bill to make sure it is clear.
However, I would say again to the sponsor of the bill that we need to have a serious discussion with the government about what it will do with resources, what it will do in terms of ensuring that not only money but staff is assigned to departments.
Rather than just seeing the Conservatives agree and lay on more responsibilities without putting in the resources, they will first need to decide how best to deal with the privacy issues and how best to ensure that each department is talking to the others and is sharing that information in a way that makes sense, because it will cost money to get that done. Second, they will have to ensure that Service Canada is supplemented with the necessary resources and the necessary staff for the extra mandate.
I think all members will agree. We all deal, undoubtedly, with the kind of problems the bill is trying to address and recognize. We all need to support it, but it is not enough to say that it is important. We actually have to sit down and make sure that the government commits the resources to make sure that what we commit to actually gets done.
My time has drawn to a close. I want to thank the member for Guelph for introducing the bill and to indicate to him that I will certainly be supporting it as we move forward. We would be more than happy to work with him to try to make it as good and as effective a piece of legislation as it can be.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2014-06-10 11:44 [p.6524]
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien inherited the largest deficit in history. At the time, some difficult, but necessary decisions had to be made.
We take responsibility for that. We are not here to blame any party. Every federal and provincial government has to take responsibility for the decisions it makes and do its job by creating progressive policies for the future.
Today, I am a bit disappointed with this NDP motion because it is not necessary to be so divisive on an issue as important as inequality.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for a very few moments to debate this particular motion. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
I am pleased to wade in here to have this discussion. The motion that is before us is about the estimates, and it is about the Senate. The mover of the motion, our first speaker, talked about the whole question of accountability and approving a line item of $92 million to the Senate, where there is no accountability for how that money will be spent.
In reality, and let me clarify this, members on both the government side and the Liberal benches have been extraordinarily upset that we are going to cut off all the money to Senate, which will not be able to operate anymore and some of the staff may be laid off. They have been very concerned about that.
Let me assure members that what we are talking about is the discretionary part of that particular budget line, which is nearly $58 million, and the $34 million, nearly $35 million represents statutory forecasts, in other words the amount of money that has been deemed necessary to keep the lights on and the staff working, and so on.
I know that members opposite and adjacent have been very upset by the fact that we may be proposing to vote on a motion that would lay staff off. I would love to hear what working people across this country think about the faux concern that they have heard tonight from government members and Liberal members.
That is the first point, the concern that we would cut off money and that the Senate would not be able to operate.
The second concern, of course, is that if we close the doors to the Senate, then we would not be able to do anything. We would not be able to pass any legislation. We would not be able to do any business.
It used to be the case in this country that 10 provinces had a Senate or two Houses. They got rid of them, and they still operate. The provinces still do business. My province of Nova Scotia got rid of its Senate in 1928, and it is still working. It is still governing. It is still doing business. It is still passing legislation. It is still raising taxes and still spending money on behalf of the people who have elected the Senate members.
Let us be clear, I understand what the nub of the problem is here. The Liberals and the Conservatives have had this other institution over there that they have stuffed chockablock full of partisans for 150 years, who have gone across this country from coast to coast to coast on the taxpayers' dime performing partisan activities.
It is not that some of them have not done good work or that some of these committees have not done some good work from time to time, when they have been able to find time, when there are no elections or fundraising events or snowstorms in P.E.I. or something of the like happening. They have done some work.
It is not about the individuals, and that is what gets confusing sometimes. It is about a few of them. It is about the ones who seem to use the money they get, the allowances, and the credit cards they get, as if it is their own money to do with what they will, before they finally get caught. It is those ones who end up getting chased around by the authorities, the police, and others. That is a bit personal. Those are the people we are talking about.
We are saying to the government and to the Liberals that we can hold the Senate accountable. That is what this motion is all about. It is about accountability.
Why do we not, as a group, stand up, suck it up a little bit, and start playing hardball with the Senate, start demanding some accountability? The government has not been able to do it in the 10 years it has been proposing to make the Senate accountable. It has not been able to do anything. Let us agree tonight, all of us here in this chamber, to do it once and for all. We will defeat this motion so that all of a sudden, tomorrow morning, the senators will realize they will not get $57 million until they start coming up with some accountability measures that have teeth and that Canadians can trust, and most important, members in this House who are responsible for paying those bills will have some confidence that once and for all, the activities that go on in that chamber will be held accountable.
We will get to the other part. Members suggest that it is impossible to actually deal with Senate reform or abolishment, but it is not. Canadians are ready for it. Provinces are ready for it. We hear about it wherever we go in the country. People are fed up with the fact that we have a chamber where men and women have been appointed simply because of the favours they did for a particular prime minister or for the water cans they carry for a political party. That is not good enough. Canadians are demanding more. They are demanding more because the government and the former government have been asking Canadians to tighten their belts and to do with less.
I talked to a woman today in Dartmouth who is having a hard time finding housing for her and her two children because of the cuts the government has made in the availability of affordable housing across this country. We have tried, my colleagues on this side have tried to force the government to bring forward a national housing strategy, to no avail. The woman, on behalf of her children, wants to see us holding the Senate accountable for at least $57 million of the $92 million that we are supposed to approve tonight.
A number of people have been in my office in the past two months who have had to wait upwards of 40 days to get their claims paid through EI. They have asked me why it is that the Senate, which is unelected and unaccountable, can be allowed to spend $92 million without any explanation, without being held accountable.
I am here to say, and my colleagues are suggesting in their debate and in their support for this motion today, that we have the opportunity to hold this institution accountable tonight, right here, on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of Canadians across the country who are asking us to be accountable for the money that we allocate. We have the opportunity to do that today. Let us do it today. Let us vote to hold the Senate accountable and then let us move on to get rid of the Senate, because we can operate. Canadians are asking us to make sure that the decisions that are made by the Government of Canada in fact are accountable and are made by people who are duly elected.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member getting involved in this debate. I appreciate the fact that he is feeling somewhat emotional about the fact that we are facing right now a debate about allocating $92 million, $57 million of it discretionary. He does not have to worry that the workers that he is so concerned about representing will be okay. They will be because $34 million will still be there.
He has to answer to his constituents just like I have to answer to my constituents, “What did you do when the opportunity arose to hold the Senate accountable for spending $92 million? Did you step up, or did you sit down?”
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, these organizations were informed three years ago that the federal government was changing the way it funded from core funding to project-based funding so that the money will actually get to people who need to learn how to read and write and improve their literacy skills.
The department is open for business. These organizations can apply and submit programs that are based on a project-based format. We encourage them to apply, and we will take a look at their applications. We want to make sure that people get the literacy skills and the education they need to improve their lives.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, that is not true. These organizations were informed three years ago that the way the funding was going to flow was going to be changing from core funding to funding actual projects that get to the people who need the literacy skills. We need to make sure that the money coming from the federal taxpayers supports people who need to learn how to read and write and improve their literacy skills.
We are going to continue to work with these organizations. We encourage them to apply. We are open for business. We want to work with them.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to table this petition, which is signed by nearly 400 of my constituents from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Petitioners are asking the government to stop the cuts to our postal services. People in my community feel that door-to-door service is important. The 8,000 well-paying jobs that will be lost are a serious problem. They feel Canada Post should be looking at options to ensure that it can raise additional revenue to maintain this service for constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and across the country.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-05-15 10:10 [p.5442]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by many residents of Cape Breton, calling upon the government to reverse the recent cuts to Canada Post services and instead explore other options for modernizing Canada Post's business.
View Peter Stoffer Profile
Mr. Speaker, we have just learned that veterans affairs department found $100,000 to waste on tweets.
This is a government that closes veterans offices and lays off over 1,500 people in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The $100,000 could bury 10 veterans and give them a dignified funeral. It could give 20 veterans a service dog. It could give 40 veterans the VIP service.
Where does the government get off spending $100,000 on tweets, when that money could go to really help veterans? Does the government honestly believe that tweeting away $100,000 is a wise expenditure of taxpayers' dollars?
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-05-12 14:40 [p.5200]
Mr. Speaker, I know that the member, and seemingly her party, are very much opposed to any steps that bring about greater accountability and financial responsibility within the public service.
What we are doing and continuing to do at the Department of Justice, and throughout government, is to ensure that we bring value to hard-earned taxpayers' dollars for Canadians, to ensure we are getting the maximum efficiencies out of departments like mine and others.
Research is of course undertaken to obtain information to support priorities of government, measures of government that are actually getting results. That is what has happened in this case. That has happened across all government departments.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-05-12 14:41 [p.5200]
Mr. Speaker, what seems to be ideological is this member's and her party's ideological disdain for anything that brings about savings for taxpayers and anything that brings about more accountability and efficiency in government departments, whether it is justice or across government.
We have made a determined decision to bring about greater accountability, greater value for dollars, greater respect for taxpayers' dollars. That is what we are doing in justice. That is what they are doing in defence. That is what they are doing in public safety. That is what Canadians want and demand and expect of government in the 21st century.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2014-05-05 15:19 [p.4929]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from Nova Scotian citizens concerning the reduction in Canada Post services. The petition says that the undersigned citizens draw to the attention of the House the following: that Canada Post and the Conservative government are taking an axe to long-treasured postal services, killing good jobs, eliminating door-to-door delivery, closing post offices, and drastically increasing postage rates. Six thousand to eight thousand workers will lose their jobs and five million households will lose their door-to-door delivery over the next five years.
These cuts hurt seniors and disabled Canadians in particular. Canada Post has failed to do necessary consultations and is effectively eliminating any opportunity for input from the people who will be most affected.
Canada Post offers a public service that needs to be protected. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to reverse these cuts to services announced by Canada Post and to look instead at innovative approaches including, potentially, postal banking.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions signed by constituents of mine from Dartmouth and surrounding areas. The petitioners are concerned about the cuts to Canada Post. They are concerned about postal services for themselves and for members of their community. They want to ensure those cut services are restored.
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