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Results: 1 - 60 of 102
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-06-19 11:54 [p.15351]
Mr. Speaker, it is now the end of June and here is another year lost in infrastructure for Cape Breton. Whether it is road works on the north side of New Waterford, police and firemen structures, waste water treatment and development of Sydney Harbour, or fresh drinking water for northern Cape Breton, everything is on hold again.
Are the Conservatives so arrogant that they actually think they can fool Canadians into voting for them by making a series of desperate, phony, last-minute announcements on infrastructure just before the election?
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2015-06-09 17:30 [p.14836]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to stand to speak in favour of Bill C-588 regarding the Sambro Island lighthouse.
I had the pleasure of serving the community of Sambro between 2000 and 2004. In fact, the boundaries of the Halifax West riding were changed in 1997, and that was not a great year for me in other respects because I began what I call my involuntary sabbatical. I was defeated that year, but I was re-elected in 2000 under those same boundaries, so I had the pleasure and honour of serving the Sambro area from 2000 to 2004 when the boundaries were changed again and it was put back into the Halifax riding and taken out of Halifax West.
The Sambro lighthouse is a very iconic structure. It has a great history. It was established as a result of the very first act of the Nova Scotia legislature. That is remarkable, when we think about it. In fact, it was built in 1758. It is hard to believe that we have any lighthouses in North America that were built that long ago, which is why it should not be surprising, perhaps, that it is in fact the oldest operating lighthouse in North America.
I had the pleasure of going there, back in 2013, when I was no longer the MP for that area but still interested in attending public meetings in the Sambro area, along with the current Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil, who was then the leader of the Liberal Party. He still is, of course, but he was not premier then. We were there to discuss community support for protecting lighthouses and in particular the Sambro light.
I want to begin by thanking my hon. friend, the member for Halifax, for bringing the bill forward. I think it is a very positive idea, and I am very supportive of any measures that may result in this light being maintained and preserved for the long term because of that incredible history it has and the fact that it is North America's oldest light, a beautiful structure.
I also want to congratulate Brendan Maguire, who is the provincial member, the MLA for Halifax Atlantic. He has done a lot of work on this and had many meetings and made lots of efforts with both levels of government to try to get support for the maintenance and the protection of this lighthouse.
I also want to congratulate Rena Maguire and Susan Paul from the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society, who have done so much to gather support for the protection of the lighthouse.
In 2013, I tabled a number of petitions signed by more than 5,000 people, calling on the Government of Canada to preserve the lighthouse at Sambro Island, and I was very pleased that the Government of Canada decided to provide $1.5 million for repairs and upgrades to the lighthouse.
I hope we all recognize that this is an important part of Nova Scotia's heritage and really of Canada's heritage. I think that contribution of $1.5 million to upgrade it and maintain it is an indication of that importance. That is an important step, and we would like to ensure that it is preserved on a permanent, ongoing basis.
I had the pleasure of visiting the lighthouse. I think it was in September 2013 that I was there. Paddy Gray is a fisherman who fishes out of Sambro, and he was kind enough to take me out on his boat. We actually caught a few fish along the way, but then we visited the island itself and went up to the light. I had my camera and took quite a few pictures. As a matter of fact, I have one of my photographs as the wallpaper on my computer, so I see the lighthouse and the island every day when I look at my computer.
Not long ago I was asked to do a painting, just a little one, a five-by-seven canvas, for a fundraising auction. I do not claim to be a Renoir or Monet, but I enjoyed doing this from one of my photographs.
Mr. David Sweet: I am certain he must be.
Hon. Geoff Regan: Mr. Speaker, I am glad my hon. friend thinks I must be. That is very generous of him. I did enjoy doing that painting from the photograph I had taken, and that is why I chose to paint that picture of the Sambro Island light. I put it on my Facebook page. I do not know how hard it is to find it, but if any member wanted to find it they could probably look there and discover it.
The lighthouse is very much symbolic, as all lighthouses are, of our seafaring heritage. For those of us from Nova Scotia, lighthouses mean a great deal.
However, I learned, certainly when I was minister of fisheries and oceans, how much they meant to people all across the country, in places like Collingwood, Ontario, on Georgian Bay, and throughout the Great Lakes and many of the larger lakes in this country. In places where there is navigation, like the Great Lakes, lighthouses have been an important part of our transportation system. They certainly form an important part of our heritage. They are iconic structures, often beautiful structures, that mean a lot to people in the communities where they are.
Not that long ago, 120 lighthouses in Nova Scotia had been declared surplus by the Conservative government. So far, community groups have only offered to take over 29. It is a big responsibility and a big cost for a community group to take on the ownership and, therefore, the ongoing maintenance of a lighthouse. These are often quite large and old structures. For example, the one in Collingwood had stone on the outside and was kind of rotting on the inside. The nature of the construction meant that it was very challenging to maintain. I suspect that the lighthouse in Sambro is of a similar kind of construction and might also be very challenging.
However, I am proud of the cases where communities have decided to take the plunge and take over a lighthouse. For example, the Terence Bay lighthouse society in my riding of Halifax West was among those groups that submitted a business plan to protect the lighthouse in their community. In fact, $80,000 was spent to paint the lighthouse in 2008, and that was a very difficult—excuse me; this is actually in relation to Sambro Island, not Terence Bay. On the Sambro Island light, $80,000 was spent to paint the lighthouse in 2008. The process was extremely difficult because it is on an island and the substantial amount of materials that were needed had to be actually flown in by helicopter.
The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society has what it calls a “doomsday list” of lighthouses that are in danger of being lost through neglect. That is of great concern to many people in my province. Sambro has been on that list. The Sambro Island lighthouse has already been designated as a federal heritage building and national historic site. I think what the act is proposing to do would follow well along with that designation.
Of all the provinces, Nova Scotia—not surprisingly, considering it is a peninsula and all the coastline it has—has the most lighthouses under petition to become heritage lighthouses. I think it shows the pride that Nova Scotia has for its lighthouses and their history.
In fact, I gather we have 92 lighthouses under petition, of the 348 total lighthouses under petition in all of Canada. That is, nearly one-third of all the lighthouses in Canada that are under petition are in fact in Nova Scotia.
It seems to me that the burden of maintaining these lighthouses should not be placed upon the community, especially when we are talking about heritage lighthouses of national importance, like the Sambro Island light, the oldest operating light in North America. This is an important asset for the broader community, in fact, certainly for my province and for our country. I am pleased that there has been money set aside to maintain it, but let us find ways to ensure that it is kept going, that it is protected for the long term, because it is a beautiful iconic structure. I urge any of my colleagues, if they have a chance to go to Nova Scotia, to go out to Sambro. If they could call me, I am sure I or my colleague and friend from Halifax could arrange for them to take a boat tour out to the island and have a look at that beautiful structure.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-588, an act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, with regard to the Sambro Island lighthouse.
I want to commend my colleague the member for Halifax for her tenacity in supporting this community and this iconic structure that means so much to not only the people of Sambro and the people of Halifax but also the people across this country if not internationally. As has been said, the structure was built in 1758 by the first act of the oldest legislature, in the province of Nova Scotia.
There have been a lot of people coming and going from Halifax Harbour, whether as part of the Royal Canadian Navy, war brides, or immigrants coming to this great country. It has been suggested by veterans that, when they left the harbour, the Sambro lighthouse was the last thing they saw, and when they returned to Halifax Harbour it was the first thing they saw. As one veteran expressed, it was like lifting a huge load off of their shoulders in making that crossing, seeing the lighthouse and recognizing that Nova Scotia and Canada were a few short hours away.
It is a huge structure made of stone and concrete, standing 24 metres tall, and located on a granite island off the entrance to Halifax Harbour just slightly beyond the community of Sambro. It is a stately structure and has been referred to as Canada's Statue of Liberty.
The other day I was thinking about how my wife's grandfather came to this country in 1928 through Pier 21 and would have seen this structure as the ship he was on approached this wonderful country, which he then made his home and where he raised his family, as did so many.
Why is this important? This bill would place the Sambro Island lighthouse within the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Therefore, it would become a responsibility of Parks Canada to maintain it and save a piece of our natural heritage.
The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act came into force in 2008. However, for some reason many heritage buildings were missed, this one included. As a result, there was a requirement for the communities to put together a petition to nominate them as historic structures and put together a business plan. It was quite an onerous process. Needless to say it was a difficult one, given the lack of resources. However, there was a lot of work done.
I think an indication of why it is so important for Parks Canada to take over this important structure for the Government of Canada is in recognition of the costs. No community is able to manage the costs of maintaining this important structure. It is on an island; it is 24 metres tall. We received an indication of what it would cost to maintain it when, in 2008, the Coast Guard repainted the lighthouse. It used a helicopter to ferry supplies, including a large web of scaffolding. The total cost was about $80,000, which is a huge expense for a small community and so a very difficult process.
However, I give credit to the Sambro Island Lighthouse Preservation Society for being diligent and tenacious on this issue, along with Barry MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. I do not know how many hundreds of petitions I tabled in the House, along with my colleagues from Nova Scotia, but they ensured it was in the minds of Nova Scotians and Canadians that something needed to be done about this. I commend all of those volunteers for their efforts in this regard. That is why we are now at this point.
I was happy to congratulate the government when I heard in early May that it had indicated that it would invest $1.5 million to restore the Sambro Island lighthouse. The minister at the time indicated that it was one of the most iconic structures in the country. It was great news, which would allow long overdue and needed concrete renovations, rehabilitation of the original lantern and gallery, and repainting to take place.
However, this was recognized as a stop-gap measure. Therefore, it was important that the legislation be introduced in the House. My understanding is that government members have indicated their support, and for that I am happy to commend them.
Part of the Parks Canada mandate is to protect the health and wholeness of the commemorative integrity of the national sites it operates. This means preserving the site's cultural resources, communicating its heritage values and national significance and kindling the respect of people whose decisions and actions affect the site. This is why it is so important for this important heritage structure in the history of Nova Scotia and Canada to be properly protected by the federal government.
It is not as if the federal government has not already recognized the heritage value of this structure. In 1937, the Sambro lighthouse was designated a national historic site, and a plaque was placed in the village of Sambro. Then in 1996, the lighthouse received Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office classified status, which is the highest ranking status for Canadian government heritage buildings. In the case of classified federal heritage buildings for which the minister has assigned the highest level of protection, departments are required to consult with the heritage protection legislation before undertaking any action that would affect their heritage structure
I did not indicate when I began that this is important to me for another reason. I was a member of the legislative assembly for the constituency of Halifax Atlantic between the years 1991 and 2003, and Sambro was part of my constituency. It was a constant reminder of the history that the community had shared with North America. The fact is that Sambro has been an active and productive fishing village for over 500 years, and it continues to thrive to this day based on the collaborative manner in which the people in that community, the fishermen and others, go about harvesting the resource of the ocean in a sustainable fashion.
I am very proud to be here with my colleague, the member for Halifax, who sponsored this bill, to speak for a few moments in support of what she has been able to do for this iconic heritage structure, and also as somebody who has had some attachment and has attended many public meetings in the community about what we would do with the Sambro lighthouse.
It is a good day, and I am pleased to support the bill. Again, I commend my colleague, the member for Halifax.
View 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 Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is the case with any criticism that is brought forward against the government. It completely denies it and comes up with its own facts and figures in order to try to confuse the matter.
However, when we talk to scientists, researchers and the universities it is not in front of the minister because they do not want to jeopardize the bit of money they do get, the little support. Remember we are talking about muzzling. When we get them away where they can talk openly, they are telling us the government is failing to provide the kind of support those young scientists need to go forward with research that needs to be done in our communities and our country and to be able to share that information with Canadians.
Let me just add, the internationally known Bedford Institute of Oceanography is in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Recently, the government granted $3.5 million. However, what was that for? It was for—
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for her question tonight during adjournment proceedings.
From the beginning, Canada has been at the forefront of international response to help the people of Syria and to help the people of Iraq. Most recently, in May, the Prime Minister announced additional Canadian humanitarian assistance funding for both Syria and Iraq, whose people continue to suffer from the ongoing conflict.
Millions inside Syria now require assistance. Millions more have fled to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, not knowing if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Compounding this problem even further, terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State have flourished in such an environment, expanding and threatening stability of the entire region.
These situations represent some of the most difficult and complex humanitarian crises ever faced by the international humanitarian community. Canada has been among the top donors to respond to the United Nations' call to step up humanitarian efforts in both contexts. The top priorities are protection for civilians, including from sexual and gender-based violence, and shelter, food, and access to health care and basic humanitarian services.
Already in 2015, Canada has allocated $80 million in humanitarian assistance funding in response to the crisis in Iraq. Since the beginning of 2014, we have committed $107.4 million to respond to the needs of Iraqis affected by the violence, and this makes Canada the fifth largest humanitarian donor to this crisis—the fifth largest, from a country with a small population like Canada's.
Specific to Syria, as of May 2015, Canada is the sixth largest single country donor to the humanitarian response. Since the onset of the crisis, Canada has allocated over $503 million in support of the humanitarian response, with the most recent funding announced earlier this month by the Prime Minister himself.
It is concerning that opposition MPs fail to acknowledge the real threat posed by ISIS and jihadi terrorism to our country and our country domestically. We take this very seriously.
The military measures we are taking against ISIL do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions. There is no either/or. There is support for both. We will combat ISIS militarily, and we will support the victims of ISIS in a humanitarian way.
Canada has been at the forefront of the international response to the crisis in Iraq, as well as Syria and the surrounding area, since the beginning of each crisis. We will remain at the forefront.
In conclusion, we have helped nearly two million people, provided shelter and relief supplies to more than one million people, and helped to educate more than half a million children.
In Syria, Canada's support has meant 16 million people have access to safe drinking water, 4.1 million Syrians have access to food assistance, and emergency assistance is provided to nearly three million refugees in neighbouring countries.
We are getting the job done when it comes to humanitarian assistance during this crisis in the Middle East.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, the estimates contain all of government spending. All one has to do is check the estimates to see how much money the government is spending. Budget 2015 reaffirms our government's commitment to helping people who live in poverty and responding to humanitarian crises, and this response has been strong.
Our main estimates clearly show the blueprint for the department's annual planned spending. It is right there. Humanitarian assistance has increased 62% this year over the year before, and since 2003 we have nearly doubled the amount of aid to low-income countries over the previous Liberal government.
We are pleased that economic action plan 2015 announces the government's intent to leverage development-focused private investments through a development finance initiative. This will enhance Canada's ability to advance its international assistance objectives by partnering with the private sector to address critical financing gaps in developing countries.
The estimates show all of this clearly. Our Conservative government is reducing taxes on the middle class while delivering aid in a way that is accountable to Canadians and effective for those in need.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question, but I also want to thank the hon. member for her advocacy for disabled people across the country. I welcome the opportunity to address this important issue brought forward by the hon. member for Montcalm.
First, I would like to remind the member that, as soon as the Minister of Employment and Social Development heard about a situation in his riding, he immediately pulled everybody together to find a solution to keep Canadians working. They found that situation swiftly and corrected the issue very swiftly. As the minister said of the 50 hard-working Canadians with intellectual disabilities who have been serving the government well for the past 35 years by sorting, recycling, and shredding sensitive government documents, their determination and dedication to work despite their limitations inspires us all, and we certainly need to continue supporting them and disabled Canadians across the country.
That is why the minister quickly announced that their contract would be renewed for at least three more years. As for their salaries, my hon. colleague would know that they are set by the association and not by the Government of Canada. We partner with many organizations like this across Canada that help Canadians with disabilities get good jobs and fully participate within their communities.
Our government is proud of our improved registered disability savings plan that is available to more than 100,000 Canadians with disabilities. We are also proud of the Canada disability savings grants and bonds, which help Canadians with disabilities save money for their future. We believe that all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities, should have the opportunity to contribute to our country's economy and contribute positively to their community.
Yes, disabled people are still very under-represented in the workforce, and this is concerning, but we are working at ensuring they have access to better jobs. That is why our government, through economic action plan 2015, would invest $40 million annually in the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities. Not only that; we would also invest $15 million over three years into the ready, willing, and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living, which helps connect persons with disabilities with jobs. In my own experience as a parliamentary secretary, I have seen programs like this support literally hundreds of disabled Canadians, connecting them with available jobs.
Currently, there are more than 800,000 disabled people in the country who are unemployed. Of those people, 400,000 have some form of post-secondary education. Conversely, we have employers across the country who are saying they cannot find qualified employees to take jobs. I encourage them all to look within the disabled community. We have able, ready, and willing employees there who want to work and who have a drive to work and be self-sustainable in their lives. It may take some accommodation in the workplace to employ a person with disabilities. It may take a little flexibility by the employer and maybe by the employee to ensure she or he can fill that job. However, I know from talking to employers who have employed disabled Canadians, as recently as a month ago, that they say that when they put the accommodations in place and support those workers they get very good workers. This money would be in addition to the $222 million per year to better meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve the employment prospects for persons with disabilities through a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. That is $222 million.
In closing, we are getting the job done for the disabled community in this country. I thank the member for her interest and her support for that community. We will continue to support employers and employees as they move to jobs in Canada.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, our government is working hard to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities.
On top of the measures I mentioned earlier, we are also extending the enabling accessibility fund to improve accessibility in workplaces and other facilities across Canada.
These expanded criteria will support the disabled people the member across is asking about. We are also supporting many organizations dedicated to the well-being of persons with disabilities, helping them connect with available jobs and equipping them with the skills and training they need.
The 50 workers I spoke about earlier have been providing excellent service to Canadians for over three decades now, and thanks to this government they will be able to continue their great work and keep on inspiring us all.
We will continue to be there for the disabled community. We will continue to support the accessibility fund.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-05-25 14:53 [p.14062]
Mr. Speaker, spring has arrived in Cape Breton and in many communities across Canada. This is when our construction season normally is getting into high gear, but the Conservative government stalled infrastructure spending last year and it looks like this year will be another repeat. This past weekend I was speaking with many councillors in my riding and they are concerned that there is going to be another year lost.
Is the Conservative government willing to commit to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and other municipalities to get the job done and get our people back to work?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-05-25 21:58 [p.14122]
Mr. Chair, the RPP refers to government initiatives that will have their funding sunset in 2016-17. Can the minister list these initiatives?
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2015-05-13 14:41 [p.13836]
Mr. Speaker, there are 169,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn. While students are struggling to find work, the Conservatives are holding back money that was budgeted for programs to help fight youth unemployment. At the same time, the Conservatives are wasting tax dollars on self-promotional ads during the NHL playoffs. The money spent on each one of those ads could fund 30 summer jobs in the Canada summer jobs program
When will the Conservatives stop wasting tax dollars on ads to promote themselves and start helping young Canadians find work?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2015-02-27 11:57 [p.11796]
Mr. Speaker, municipalities across this country continue to find a financial black hole where federal infrastructure should be. The current government is all talk when it comes to infrastructure spending.
In the Cape Breton regional municipality alone, $400-million worth of waste water system upgrades are required. Will the current government finally live up to its responsibility and bring the money to the table so we can get the job done, keep our water safe, and get our people back to work?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina is calling for the government to both renew long-term social housing agreements and provide new funding for housing, and I am pleased to explain our position on both of these matters.
The social housing agreements to which the hon. member referred were signed many years ago, in some cases close to 50 years ago. The end date has been known since those agreements were signed and typically coincides with the final payout of the mortgages on these properties. As I noted in the House some time ago, Canadians understand that when their mortgage expires they stop paying the bank.
That is essentially what is happening here. As the agreements end and as they mature, housing providers will find themselves with a valuable real estate asset and reduced operating expenses that can be used to continue to offer affordable housing to the clients. The fact is that most non-profit co-operative housing projects are expected to be financially viable when the agreements come to an end and the federal subsidies stop.
For those who may experience difficulty, CMHC has been actively working with them to help them prepare for the end of these operating agreements. For example, CMHC's affordable housing centre offers a range of tools to assist housing providers, such as a project viability calculator, capital planning tools, and project profiles. Our government has also created more flexibility in some housing programs administered by CMHC to give eligible housing providers better access to funding for capital repairs and renovations.
Hon. members will recall that in economic action plan 2009, we provided more than $1 billion to renovate and retrofit existing social housing so it could continue to be available for Canadian individuals and families in need. Close to 15,000 social housing projects were completed across Canada, everything from replacing roofs and windows to upgrading plumbing and electrical systems.
As for new funding for housing, I would remind the hon. member that economic action plan 2013 renewed the investment in affordable housing for five years, with an additional federal funding of $1.25 billion. This brings the total federal commitment under this initiative to close to $2 billion over the previous eight years.
This funding is delivered and cost-matched by the provinces and territories, which are best positioned to identify and address local housing needs. Depending on their priorities, provinces and territories can also opt to use the investment in affordable housing funds to support projects whose operating agreements have matured, or for other purposes such as new construction or renovation projects, shelter allowances, or assistance toward home ownership.
I am pleased to advise the hon. member that the renewal agreements have now been signed with almost all provinces and territories. The governments of Canada and Ontario, for example, signed a renewal agreement last August that provides for a joint investment of more than $800 million over five years.
The investment in affordable housing is doing exactly what the hon. member has asked for. It is reducing the number of Canadians in housing need. Looking specifically at Ontario, our government has invested some $5.7 billion in housing in that province since 2006. This includes more than $240 million under the investment in affordable housing—funding that means almost 18,000 households in that province are no longer in housing need.
However, there is more to be done. That is why we have renewed the investment in affordable housing and why, again this year, our government will continue to invest about $2 billion in housing across Canada.
Make no mistake: action is being taken. Working with the provinces and territories, we are ensuring that the housing needs of Canadians are being met.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, as I said, Canadians understand that when the mortgage is paid off, they stop paying the bank. These agreements are coming to an end.
We are continuing to invest large sums of money in housing across the country. We are working with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure they have the resources necessary to continue to deliver housing to the most needy across Canada. We have signed agreements with almost every provincial and territorial government in the country. We are getting the job done when it comes to housing, when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to supporting Canadians to get the shelter they need, the most in need Canadians.
What would not help them is the Liberal policy to increase taxes, implement a carbon tax, which would kill jobs and force more Canadians into poverty and which would increase the need for housing across Canada. That is a plan that will not work.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question of November 24 on affordable housing. I welcome the opportunity to once again explain the government's position on this issue, which we have done many times.
I want to remind the hon. member that the government has a strong record on housing. As I have said on previous occasions, our government has invested more than $16.5 billion in housing since 2006. This has directly benefited more than 900,000 individuals and families across Canada.
Economic action plan 2014 confirmed yet again that our government is committed to ensuring that low-income families and vulnerable Canadians have access to quality and affordable housing.
Our government realizes that some Canadians face financial constraints or have distinct housing needs that impede their participation in the housing market. This is precisely why we have invested heavily in housing and why we continue to work with our provincial partners, the territories, and other stakeholders across Canada to ensure that access to housing remains available to those most in need.
One way we are doing this is by renewing the investment in affordable housing to March 2019, with a federal funding component of $1.25 billion over five years. This funding is being matched by the provinces and territories. It is being delivered through the renewal of existing bilateral agreements.
This collaborative approach has worked well since the investment in affordable housing was first introduced in 2011. This happens in large part because it gives the provinces and territories the flexibility they need to invest in a range of affordable housing programs to meet their local needs and priorities.
We are also providing support annually to households living in existing social housing, including low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities, and aboriginal people. Provinces and territories also contribute to this housing. It is provided under long-term agreements with housing groups. As we previously advised the House on November 25, these agreements span 25 and 50 years, and when they mature, federal government funding ends, as planned. Maybe the opposition just does not understand that when one's mortgage expires, one actually stops paying the bank, but the public understands this.
The majority of non-profit and co-operative housing projects are expected to be financially viable and mortgage-free at the end of these operating agreements. With mortgages now paid off, operating expenses will decrease and housing providers will be in a position to continue to offer affordable housing.
As I mentioned a moment ago, provinces and territories can use the federal funding from the investment in affordable housing to assist housing groups after their operating agreements mature, should the provinces and territories and other operators choose to do so. Our government has provided this flexibility to these partners.
Our government has also taken steps to give some social housing projects greater flexibility when their operating agreements mature. Social housing providers whose operating agreements allow for the establishment of a subsidy surplus fund can now retain any money they may have in this fund after the operating agreements mature. These funds can be used to continue the lower cost of housing for low-income households living in existing social housing. That opportunity and flexibility lies within this partnership
As members can see, our government has taken a common-sense, responsible approach to investing in affordable housing in Canada. We are allowing existing agreements to end, as they were planned to end, but are making needed investments elsewhere in co-operation with the provinces and territories to continue to reduce the number of Canadians in housing need.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I can assure members that the Government of Canada continues to invest heavily in housing, including approximately $2 billion again this year.
These investments are making life better for low-income Canadians, seniors, people with disabilities and others who have real housing needs and need housing assistance from various levels of government and partners.
Regarding the social housing agreements referred to by the hon. member, I will say again that the end dates for these agreements have been known since they were originally signed. They expire between 25 and 50 years after they are signed. When these agreements mature, the last one in the year 2038, federal government funding for the project will end as planned.
The majority of projects are expected to be financially viable, but for those that may face financial difficulties after the mortgage is paid off, CMHC has been actively working to help housing providers prepare for the end of their operating agreements. This work will continue, as will our government's commitment to ensure that Canadians have access to the housing they need.
Once again, Canadians know that when their mortgages are over, they stop paying the bank.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about disaster relief for the provinces. The current government, without any notice, has tripled the threshold to qualify for disaster relief. In Nova Scotia, for example, that means that in the past 20 years, they would have had to forgo $20 million.
The question is really simple. Why is the government downloading again to the provinces? Why does it figure the provinces have to carry this on their own?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech. As he correctly said, the New Democratic Party has very much been a supporter of the rights of victims, and of putting in place programs and supports and making sure their rights are recognized in a process that is often extraordinarily unfriendly and detrimental to them.
My wife was responsible for establishing the first victims services division in Nova Scotia in 1989-90. It concerns me that, while the bill talks in great principles about the need to support victims, it does not do anything in terms of ensuring that there is enforceability, that those principles are able to be enforced, and that they have a role to play in the process; nor have the Conservatives ensured that the resources are there to actually provide the support that the victims require.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2014-12-02 19:07 [p.10107]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to rise and speak about a question that I asked last week but certainly did not get a very satisfactory answer to. It was about the Conservative government's lack of commitment to the health and welfare of our Canadian veterans. There is really only one word to describe it, and that is “shameful”, I am sad to say.
Too many veterans are too often denied benefits they are entitled to, while others are forced to fight their own government for years before they can get the help they need. In fact, this fall the Auditor General's report presented clear evidence that the government has failed to provide adequate access to mental health services, which are needed by many of our veterans. The report that noted that mental health support for veterans was very slow, complex, poorly communicated, not tracked, and not comprehensive enough. In fact, the Auditor General concluded that Veterans Affairs, believe it or not, was largely unconcerned with “...how well veterans are being served and whether programs are making a difference in their lives.”
The Conservative government has closed down regional support offices to save a few dollars. At the same time, it has allowed over $1 billion to lapse and go unspent in this department so that it can make claims about balancing the budget. It is a government that shamelessly fudged the numbers with regard to the recently announced programs to enhance mental health services. While the Conservative cabinet minister originally led us to believe that this funding would flow over 6 years, we then learned that it would in fact be stretched over 50 years.
Imagine being a government that presumes it can announce what is going to happen for the next 50 years. The gall and arrogance of that is appalling. Worse than that, to come across and pretend that the government is going to spend it over 6 years, when it is in fact over 50 years, is fundamentally dishonest. The government should be ashamed of that.
Not only has the government failed to deliver mental health services for Canadian veterans, but a new report reveals that after committing to hire more mental health personnel for our Canadian Armed Forces, the Conservative government also failed to deliver. It is no wonder that Canadians do not believe a word the government says when it comes to the treatment of our men and women who serve our country and have served it in the past. The government simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
Unfortunately, the lack of adequate and timely support for our veterans is clearly taking a toll. Over the last decade, 160 Canadian Forces members have died by suicide. Many more are struggling with mental health issues like PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. However, as the Auditor General pointed out, under the current system, one in five veterans is forced to wait up to eight months to get help from the government. The Conservatives talk a good game about supporting our veterans and armed forces, but they clearly fail to recognize that we have an obligation to those who serve our country and to their families.
This fall's report by the Auditor General is a reminder of the Conservatives' failed record on Canadian veterans. The Auditor General has found that Veterans Affairs needs to update its outreach strategy to include family physicians and that it needs to educate family members on how to spot possible signs of mental illness. Why on earth is it not doing this already? Why does the government not want this to happen? Is it because it does not want people who have PTSD to be found, recognized, and dealt with? Does it not want to know? What is wrong with the Conservative government?
When we ask why the government has failed to correct this problem, what do we get? We get PMO talking points. I hope that we will not get the same thing tonight when the government has a chance to respond.
Again, why does the government take this approach? Is it because it really does not want to know? That is the question on my mind. Is it because the minister is more concerned with photo ops than being available to respond to the report of the Auditor General? Is it because he would rather try to bully and intimidate veterans instead of listening to their legitimate concerns?
Perhaps the parliamentary secretary, in the minister's place, could answer my colleague, the member for Guelph, who asked why the current funding for veterans' mental health is stretched over 50 years and wildly insufficient, especially when compared to the $1.13 billion that Veterans Affairs left unspent and the fact the Conservatives have squandered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on partisan advertising campaigns.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2014-12-02 19:16 [p.10109]
Mr. Speaker, I guess what I did get, in fact, was PMO talking points, but I am accustomed to that. It is not a surprise. For example, I did not hear any explanation about how it was that the Conservatives failed to spend $1.13 billion allocated for the Department of Veterans Affairs, yet apparently had to close nine regional offices that were providing services to veterans across this country.
The fact of the matter is that this report, other reports, and veterans themselves indicate the government is failing them and failing to deal with the mental health problems they are facing. If people were to talk to any member of Parliament who is hearing from veterans in their ridings who face problems and could see the hurdles they have to go through to get benefits, they would see how outrageous it is.
People would understand that someone who is entering the forces has to go to boot camp and go through obstacle courses, but to make suffering veterans go through that kind of a course and go over obstacles constantly in order to get the benefits to which they are entitled is outrageous, and that is what we are seeing from the government. That is what we are hearing from Canadians all the time.
It is time for the government to change its attitude, contrary to what my hon. colleague says, have a change of heart, have a heart, and pay attention to the real problems that our veterans are experiencing.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand here today to address the hon. member's question. The hon. member for York South—Weston has asked the government to explain its position on the issue of long-term funding for affordable housing in Canada, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this question today.
Let me begin by stating very clearly that my colleagues and I share the hon. member's concern for the well-being of people who find themselves in need of housing.
Our government has made unprecedented investments in affordable housing. We have made those investments over the past number of years, and we will continue to do so. Since 2006, our government, through CMHC, has invested more than $16.5 billion in housing. These investments have benefited more than 900,000 Canadian individuals and families. Again, this year, the government will provide $2 billion in housing investments right across this country.
As for the longer term, I am sure that all hon. members of the House will recall that in economic action plan 2013, we renewed the investment in affordable housing until 2019, with $1.25 billion in funding over five years. Further to that, in recognition of the distinctive needs of northern Canada, our government also announced $100 million over two years to support the construction of new and affordable housing in Nunavut.
The renewal of the investment in affordable housing ensures continuity of federal funding for housing programs across Canada, and I am pleased to say that renewal agreements have now been signed with most provinces and territories, and remaining agreements should be in place very shortly. An important component of these agreements is that provinces and territories match the federal investment in their jurisdictions. They are also responsible for designing and delivering affordable housing programs that meet their local housing needs and priorities.
Hon. members should know that the investment in affordable housing, which of course, was introduced by our government in 2011, is making a huge difference in communities all across Canada. As of September 30, over 200,000 households have benefited from this initiative.
As well, this does not include the hundreds of thousands of Canadian households that benefit from the annual federal subsidy for existing social housing units, both on and off reserve. Provinces and territories also contribute to this funding. This is provided to low-income Canadians through long-term agreements with housing groups. These agreements span 25 to 50 years, and when they mature, the federal government funding will end, as it was always planned to end, because Canadians know that when the mortgage is paid off, they stop paying the bank.
The majority of non-profit and co-operative housing projects are expected to be financially viable and mortgage free at the end of the operating agreements. Housing providers will find themselves with valuable real estate assets and a decrease in operating expenses that can be used to continue to offer affordable housing to other Canadians who need it most.
For housing projects that may face financial difficulties when subsidies end, CMHC has been actively working to help them prepare for the end of their operating agreements. It is important to remember that provinces and territories can opt to use funds from the investment in affordable housing to support projects after their operating agreements have matured.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, we do agree on that. When the mortgages end and no longer need to be paid and they are operationally sufficient, we can take some of that money and use it for other projects, for some of the 90,000 people that the member opposite talked about who need housing.
I would like to remind the member that our government has invested heavily in housing, providing over $16.5 billion since 2006. This helps low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities, people in aboriginal communities, and other vulnerable groups across the country. Economic action plan 2014 confirmed that we will continue to work with the provincial and territorial levels of government, municipalities, and other stakeholders, to ensure the accessibility and sustainability of housing, including social housing for those who are most in need.
Our government is investing in those Canadians who need it most through our investment in affordable housing. This will provide federal funding of $2 billion from 2011 to 2019. This program alone represents an eight-year funding commitment, and is over and above the ongoing support for existing social housing on and off reserve.
In closing, these investments are producing real results, and our government stands by its record on housing.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-11-24 13:23 [p.9693]
Mr. Speaker, we have not had the final figures yet on how the government spent it.
I just hope that the government is not doing the same with the farming industry as it has with many others. It is encouraging its administrators to not let the money flow and not let things happen, so it can pad the books and make its budget look good.
We are finishing the harvesting season right now, and we should know in the next few months if the government has good intentions with advance payments for the agriculture industry. There were a lot of crops out west that had problems this year. We are going to see how the program is rolled out and how good the Conservative government is at helping farmers.
In regard to the hon. member's question, we will know in the next few months if the government is doing a proper job, or whether it is doing like many other departments, which is holding back the money from hard-working men and women.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-11-24 13:27 [p.9694]
Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the Conservative government has a track record of cutting research. The other problem we have to watch, if the research is commercial, is whether the big companies are doing it and the government is ponying up money.
Recently I was at the agricultural college in Truro, and I saw the research being done there with public dollars. It was amazing. Just on the blueberry industry alone it was on spraying equipment, reduced pesticides, and varieties.
At the end of the day, we have to have a good research program in this country, one that is publicly funded. Not always is the best research commercialized, big-company research. A lot of research can be done. In Newfoundland, they have the cold-crops research place. Without public money going in, it would never happen. No matter where one is in this country, we need public research and public funds going into it, or we are just going to have big companies like Monsanto taking over all the research.
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 Peter Stoffer Profile
Mr. Speaker, from the time the government took power in 2006 to the end of 2013, $1.1 billion of appropriated money from the budgets of the government has not been spent on the Department of Veterans Affairs. It sent that money back to the finance department for its future tax schemes for the wealthy in this country.
On my desk, I have the files of veterans who have been denied hearing aids and denied access to hospitals. We have an increased rate of suicide. Many veterans are now homeless. Over and over again, veterans across the country are suffering great difficulty.
The money is there in the department to be allocated for these heroes of our country, yet the minister returns that money to the finance department. My question is, why?
View Peter Stoffer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the minister and the Conservative government that when the member for Outremont becomes the Prime Minister of Canada, we are going to fix these problems once and for all for the veterans of our country.
We have reservists who are treated differently from people in the regular forces and we have many RCMP members who cannot get the help they need, yet the money is there in the budget to help these men and women. The government closed veterans' offices across the country as a cost-cutting measure and returned that money back to the finance department.
The veterans of this country and their families are sick and tired of the delays in the benefits that they require. A benefit delayed is a benefit denied. When will the government allocate those funds to help the heroes of our country?
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-06 11:41 [p.6380]
Mr. Speaker, it is exactly because of the tremendous sacrifices made by members of the Canadian Forces and their families that we have made record investments across the board, not only in giving equipment and support for serving members but also by investing an additional $4.7 billion over the course of eight budgets.
It is interesting to hear the member opposite, who continually, as part of the NDP plan, tries to politicize this issue, particularly on a day like today. I would note that all of that investment was opposed by members of the NDP.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-06 11:42 [p.6380]
Mr. Speaker, indeed we do. These are not statistics. We offer the operational stress injury social support program for families. We, in fact, give assessment and treatment for mental health conditions if veterans need it, as well as counselling, within the operational stress clinics.
We have case management, rehabilitation services, financial benefits, group health insurance, the veterans independence program, education assistance, pastoral outreach, an emergency fund, and a hotline. We have introduced a new program to give veterans access to operational support through dogs, as a comfort. We have ongoing program support.
The members opposite, the NDP, opposed these programs.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-06-05 14:19 [p.6284]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Justice told us that the government would follow up on the committee's modest recommendations to improve veterans' quality of life. This requires more funding.
In concrete terms, how many more millions of dollars will be added to the department's budget to improve the quality of life of veterans and their family members and friends who support them?
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-05 14:19 [p.6284]
Mr. Speaker, again, I reference the unanimous report that came from the veterans affairs committee, which speaks directly to the level of support and co-operation that exists to continue to support our veterans, their families, those who have served our country in uniform.
We have established a record over the last eight years of having been very committed to the needs and the support of veterans: the $4.7 billion in additional funding that has been made available to them, the efforts that have been made to support those suffering from post-traumatic stress.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-05 14:20 [p.6285]
Mr. Speaker, I hear the member opposite chirping.
This is an issue that we have taken very seriously from the moment we took office, and we continue to support veterans.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-06-05 14:20 [p.6285]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives love to boast, but they are the ones who have a record of closing offices and refusing to meet with veterans.
Closing offices have left those in need seeing staff at Service Canada that have little experience on these issues. They are calling a 1-800 number or they are travelling long distances to one of the few remaining offices that is open. The Conservatives keep claiming that they are ready to act on committee recommendations, but how—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2014-06-05 14:21 [p.6285]
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives keep claiming that they are ready to act on committee recommendations, but how can they expect Canadians and veterans to trust them to help our most vulnerable vets when the minister keeps cutting basic services?
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-05 14:21 [p.6285]
Mr. Speaker, sadly, that is factually incorrect. We have, in fact, expanded services as recently as this week, with more services available for those who are using service animals. In terms of direct services, we now have available across the country 600 points of contact for veterans and their families. We have invested, as I mentioned before, $4.7 billion in additional funding to ensure that veterans have the in-home care and the most direct services that go to their needs. We have extended numerous compassionate efforts to see that veterans' cares are being looked after in every way.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-04 15:23 [p.6190]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
Indeed, we have a substantive and comprehensive plan. It is absolutely necessary to work with the provinces and territories to give the necessary support to the most vulnerable—the women concerned by this issue—in each region of the country. I invite my colleague to work with my colleagues on this.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-06-03 14:55 [p.6103]
Mr. Speaker, I share with the hon. member and all members here the enormous pride as we prepare to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings. We owe an eternal gratitude to all of the men and women in uniform who took part in that historic liberation.
I note, as the member has said, that we have some 100 former members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and their families, travelling to Normandy. The Prime Minister will be there along with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and other members of the House of Commons.
This is an enormous source of pride for all Canadians, and we thank them for their service.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-05-26 18:11 [p.5616]
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to welcome the member here.
There is no doubt that we need a new act, one modernized for agriculture and the department. However, as this member has already stated here, there is a lot of Big Brother stuff in here as far as plant breeders' rights where it is a privilege now to have these seeds. Then there are a lot of penalties that would be put in place on the people who are processing food.
My question has to do with the advance payment of $400,000 to farms. As the member knows, the farms are big now and it sometimes takes $1 million to put a crop in again before harvest. A lot of farms are saying these advance payments of $400,000 are not enough and they recommend $800,000. We are hoping that when this goes to committee that amendments will be made.
Is the member saying that his party will look at some of the amendments and make changes to the amendments according to what the farm community wants at the agriculture committee?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, we have championed a model to deal with homelessness called Housing First, and under Housing First, we have helped some 2,000 homeless Canadians with mental illnesses find stable housing. We are doing the job when it comes to housing.
The NDP claims to support affordable housing, but it votes against the home renovation tax credit. It voted against the first-time home buyers' tax credit. It voted against disability-related home renovation construction and moving tax credits available for the medical expense tax credit.
Why does it not put its money where its mouth is and stand up to support housing across Canada?
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-05-02 11:53 [p.4875]
Mr. Speaker, grain farmers and westerners are well aware of the income losses resulting from the Conservatives' mishandling of the grain industry. News from the prairies this week states that there is going to be a lack of cash and lack of fertilizer for this year's planting.
Will Dodd, who farms in Saskatchewan, states he will need $750,000 to plant his 4,000 acres and he is sitting on 20,000 bushels of barley that are not sold.
What are the Conservatives going to do to help farmers get their crops planted this year?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise and speak in support of Bill C-33, the first nations control of first nations education act.
The introduction of Bill C-33 follows years of discussions, dialogue, and studies reflecting the efforts of many people, both first nations and government officials, to arrive at this point.
All first nations across Canada were presented with numerous means of engaging in the consultation process and offered multiple opportunities to be a part of the dialogue and process leading to this legislation.
In 2011 the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations jointly launched a national panel on first nations elementary and secondary education, which recommended, in its final report, a first nations education act.
In December 2012 the Government of Canada launched a consultation process and released a discussion guide to help support open and meaningful consultation activities on the government's proposed legislative approach.
Between December 2012 and May 2013 the Government of Canada held face-to-face regional consultation sessions, video and teleconference sessions, and online consultation activities with first nations across Canada.
The government received various input on a variety of topics, including first nations control over first nations education, inherent rights and treaties, the transition of legislation, funding, language and culture, and parental involvement in education.
The legislation that we see before us today reflects the feedback that we received throughout the extensive consultation process.
Engagements with first nations did not end there. On October 22, 2013, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development released for public review the document “Working Together for First Nation Students: A Proposal for a Bill on First Nation Education”. This was the result of input and feedback received on the blueprint for legislation.
The draft legislative proposal was shared with more than 600 chiefs and band councils and every first nation community across Canada, as well as provincial governments, for further input prior to the proposed legislation being finalized. Parents, educators, and students were also encouraged to submit comments on the proposal to further influence the development of this bill.
In response, the Assembly of First Nations issued an open letter that listed five conditions that it felt were necessary in order to reach a successful agreement on this legislation. Members have heard many of their colleagues testify that our government has not only met but exceeded these five conditions.
If the first nations control of first nations education act is passed, the Government of Canada will continue working with first nations on the development of necessary regulations to implement this proposed legislation.
Of course we recognize that funding is necessary to support the implementation of Bill C-33 to support first nations and first nation education authorities as they take on roles and responsibilities established under the first nations control of first nations education act. The Government of Canada has invested through economic action plan 2014 an additional $1.252 billion over three years beginning in 2016-17 and statutory core funding on top of the existing $1.55 billion per year for elementary and secondary education on reserve. Even after the three-year period has ended, this funding would continue to increase at a rate of 4.5% each and every year. The funding would be stable and predictable, ensuring that schools have the resources necessary to help students meet their needs and prepare them to participate in Canada's labour market.
In addition, the Government of Canada would help to support the transition to legislation by creating an enhanced education fund that would provide $160 million over four years, beginning in 2015-16. This funding would help develop the partnerships and institutional structures required to implement the proposed legislation, including support for first nations education authorities.
Another important feature of Bill C-33 is the issue of ministerial oversight. Far from giving the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development more power or more control over first nations education, under this legislation the minister would have far less decision-making power than provincial ministers of education have in their jurisdictions and far less than he has today.
In addition, under Bill C-33 a joint council of educational professionals would be put in place to support the implementation of this legislation. The joint council would have a membership of up to nine members, including a chair. Half of these members would be appointed by the Assembly of First Nations, four would be nominated by the minister, and the chair would be jointly selected by the Assembly of First Nations and the minister.
The joint council would be made up of recognized educational experts and would have the role of supporting first nations and first nations education authorities in the improvement of their education system, as well as the oversight role of ensuring that the ministerial powers provided by the act are exercised with the benefit of the first nations' perspective and are used as a last resort. Indeed, the minister would not be able to create regulations or appoint temporary administrators without the advice of this joint council.
Under the act, first nations or first nation education authorities would have the sole authority to hire and manage school inspectors, oversee school operations, and deal with situations where an individual school is not providing quality education to students. Under exceptional circumstances, the minister could appoint a temporary administrator under clause 40, but only after seeking the advice of the joint council of education professionals. This provision would only be exercised in exceptional circumstances, such as where inspection reports have not been submitted, significant issues have been revealed, standards are not being met, or there is significant risk to student well-being and success. It should be noted that these are the same conditions that would trigger a similar response in provincially run schools.
Finally, I would like to touch briefly on the issue of language and culture. The Government of Canada and first nations believe that language and culture are essential to successful first nation education. Consistent with the Prime Minister's announcement on February 7, 2014, clause 21 of the first nations control of first nations education act would enable first nations to incorporate their languages and cultures into school curricula and offer language and culture programming. Clause 43 of the proposed legislation would also commit the Government of Canada to providing funding to support language and culture programming as part of its core funding.
The intent of the proposed legislation is to create a legislative framework within which first nations would exercise control over first nations education. First nation schools and education authorities would also have full decision-making powers in terms of curriculum choice, providing it meets education standards under the act and the establishment of school policies and school procedures.
In summary, Bill C-33 is an important piece of legislation. Developed in consultation with first nations, it is an essential and overdue step in ensuring that first nation students have the same quality of education and access to education as other students in Canada. I encourage my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-33.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, in my earlier teaching career, when I began my education, I was actually a teacher and a school administrator in the member's riding. The background and the time that I spent there helped me develop my love and experience. Quite frankly, it was the core of my educational experience, particularly in teaching first nations students in that riding. I know that the member cares deeply about the community as well.
In terms of the appointment of this joint council, it would have nine members on it. Of these members, four would be appointed by the Assembly of First Nations and four would be appointed by the minister. The chair of the council would be jointly selected by the minister and the Assembly of First Nations. There would be great consultation with the aboriginal and first nations community on the membership of the council.
Later in my career, I also helped build a school that was, at that time, responsible for the education of elementary students from primary to grade 5 in my hometown of Truro. That school was built with the intent of being inclusive for everyone. It is a public school, but the first nations students on the reserve close by in Millbrook attend the school.
The involvement of the first nations community in Millbrook in this school is absolutely phenomenal. It invested capital money into the school for construction. It put staff from the reserve, appointed by the chief, into the school.
This bill would also provide $500 million to increase capital construction for schools across Canada and renovations in schools across Canada, current schools that need these renovation monies desperately. This is a bill that would put its money where its mouth is. It would almost double the amount of money that is invested, with an additional $1.25 billion. It would also have money allocated for school construction and school renovations.
I am very proud to support this bill. It also has the support of the chief of the reserve in my hometown. I am proud to stand here and support that on behalf of Millbrook, Chief Gloade, and the young people in my community.
View Peter MacKay Profile
View Peter MacKay Profile
2014-04-09 17:24 [p.4498]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, my friend from Mount Royal, for a very thoughtful, constructive speech. He has raised some very important points.
Embedded in his remarks is the reality that this will be an incremental effort. He has also alluded to the fact that this, like many initiatives, will build on previous efforts and build on existing provincial-territorial infrastructure when it comes to victims. It is the living tree analogy.
The member also embodies my own sentiment, and that is that we should not let the perfect get in the way of the good. What we are attempting to do here for victims is a very important non-partisan effort.
In the brief time I have, I want to respond quickly to a couple of concerns about existing mechanisms.
There are resources. There has been a commitment made in the federal budget with respect to the necessity to improve upon existing mechanisms at the provincial and territorial level. We do not want to duplicate the effort where we do, in fact, have some of those mechanisms in place already.
We have also heard from a lot of victims about the necessity of trying to help them collect, as the member alluded to, with respect to restitution. That dovetails with other efforts we have put in place with respect to mandatory and doubled victim fine surcharges.
As well, with respect to examining, I know that the member himself is very much an internationalist in his view. We have looked outside of the country as well when it came to the enforcement mechanisms. We have looked to the United Kingdom, the United States, of course, Japan, and the European Union as to ways in which we could include the right to information, financial redress, and attendance at court proceedings. We found that very instructive.
We have also benefited from input from the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, who will provide some of the recourse and the redress to which the member alluded. If there are failings within the provincial and territorial system, we will look to that federal ombudsman's office to assist victims in trying to alleviate their concerns.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has been going on and on about this. There are no facts to the information he has been supplying.
The reality is that our government is committed to supporting economic development in Cape Breton and throughout Atlantic Canada. Subject to the passage of the legislation by Parliament, the economic and community development activities of the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, including the associated budget, will transition over to ACOA. The level of economic development funding that was delivered through ECBC will be maintained.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2014-03-27 18:00 [p.3982]
Mr. Speaker, I guess I am not shocked that the Conservatives are against this bill. Well, I am shocked, because what better bill could there be for farmers and consumers in this country? I am not saying that some of the initiatives the government has for local produce are not good, but we cannot be cherry-picking certain areas. What we are looking at in this bill, if I can repeat what the hon. member over here said, is more of a Canadian strategy in working with the provinces.
What gets me is when the Conservatives say other countries might get angry with us or call it a bit of a barrier. I have some articles here out of the U.S., and here are some of the programs the United States has. One initiative is called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food”. This is right out of the United States, one of the trade partners that is going to have a big problem with our promoting local food. It states:
In 2009, USDA launched the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, an agency wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. As part of the initiative, several funding efforts and programs were announced to assist farmers, help consumer's access nutritional foods, and support rural community development.
The Americans are going to be really mad at us on this one.
Here is another program that the USDA has in the United States. It is called the agricultural marketing service program. It states:
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service administers several grant programs supporting local food initiatives across the country. The Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) provides matching funds to State agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for food and agricultural products, and encourage research to improve the performance of the food marketing system. In 2009, 8 out of 23 grants awarded went to projects supporting local foods, such as funding to improve the effectiveness of Colorado MarketMaker.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Mark Eyking: I know Conservative members are getting a little wound up, Mr. Speaker, but maybe you could get them to quiet down a bit. Maybe they are surprised that I am supporting an NDP private member's bill, but when a bill is good, we have to support it. I am surprised at the members over there. I know they know it is a good bill. This must have come out of the PMO. I do not know where it came from, but let us not get into that.
What does the bill ask for? It asks for improving access to high-quality and fresh products and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I do not know if the Conservatives are for that, but that is what is in it. The bill recommends a pan-Canadian local food strategy to constitute a local food program, and also wants local foods bought at institutions.
That being said, let us talk about the institutions. As a farmer, I have sold to them before, and if this bill is going to be successful, the government has to help farmers develop products with the right sized packaging, labelling, and distribution system. It would take quite a bit to pull this off and it is very important that the government work with the provinces to make this happen, especially if local products would be going into federal institutions of any sort.
Another great avenue that is taking off, not only in our country but in New Zealand and Australia, are farm markets. I have a brochure from Farmers' Markets Canada, which talks about $3 billion of revenue. It says:
Farmers' Markets Canada is a...national organization dedicated to furthering the viability, growth and prosperity for Canadian farmers' markets....
In 2008, FMC commissioned a national study with the help of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to take the pulse of the farmers' market industry in all 10 provinces and measure its importance to Canadians and the Canadian economy.
One of the most important findings was the value consumers place on being able to buy food directly from the farmer who produced it. While 92% of shoppers rated it as important, a full 62% rated it as “extremely important”.
As many know, it is hard for farmers' markets to stay open year-round, and I would like to talk a bit about the one in Cape Breton.
The one in Cape Breton is called the Cape Breton Farmers' Market. It is a non-profit co-operative that has been in operation for almost 30 years. It started as an outdoor seasonal market and now it is indoors, a market that attracts thousands of visitors weekly from all over the island.
I am proud to say that my dad and I were some of the first vendors 30 years ago. We sold eggs and chicken and fresh produce there. Now look at it.
While I am bringing attention to our own farmers' market, there are thousands across this country. This private member's bill would help those farmers' markets. We need to have more resources for those small farmers if they are making jams or jellies. If they are making value-added products, they are going to need some sort of help. That could stem from Bill C-539.
We talk about oil security but food security is so important. Canada is a big country. We just need to look at this year alone and how the delivery of propane was disrupted by rail and how grain shipments were disrupted.
It is important to have more local food. We do not expect to have the same food year-round locally. We like to have berries this time of year, which might come from Chile or wherever. It is important that when we have local foods, farmers have the opportunity to sell them locally and stores have the opportunity to buy them.
Twenty-eight million shoppers visit farmers' markets. The average purchase price per shopper at a vendor's stall is $32. The average small farmer at these farm markets generates one to five jobs. The numbers are pretty big when we look at those farmers' markets.
I mentioned before that we also have to look at the grocery store business. Recently I visited a store called Bread & Circus Whole Foods Market in Boston. I picked up a bag of carrots and swiped it and the screen not only told me the price but it also told me exactly who the farmer was that grew them, the people working on the farm, and how the carrots were distributed. It was the same with cauliflower. We should be encouraging our own stores to do this. Young people like to know exactly where products are from. This provides them with an advantage, as it does the farmer and the grocery stores themselves.
Bill C-539 is only a start. We need a Canadian approach. The Conservatives get squirrelly when we talk about a national strategy about anything; they do not want national strategies. This is an issue that we should be looking at in the agriculture committee.
Every member in the House must have a local farmers' market in their own community. Think of all the products that are available. Think of being in the Okanagan Valley. It is not just fresh produce I am talking about. I am also talking about wine. I am talking about the new types of wines at the farmers' market in Annapolis Valley, which are available in liquor stores now. It is more than just food that is being sold. Think of the wine industry. Think of the potential if grocery stores and liquor stores have these labelled right.
This legislation is for more than about just farmers. It could also help people who sell fish. I am from the east coast and it has delicious fish. We have to look at how far away “local” means. We have people visiting us in Cape Breton from right across this country, many of them members, even some Conservatives, and they do not want to leave for various reasons. Whether it is at a restaurant or a farmers' market, people want to taste the local food, whether it is produce, fish, or so on.
We have to do more than just have this legislation. We need to have resources for farmers to be able to produce the right type of products for the grocery stores.
Safety is also important. A lot of small farms cannot afford all the tools needed for biosecurity and food safety. We have to help these farmers, because they will in turn expand and produce more food.
I commend the member for her bill. I wish the Conservatives would come to their senses. When the time comes to vote, I urge them to vote for this legislation. It is important for farmers.
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Rodger Cuzner Profile
2014-03-24 15:00 [p.3732]
Mr. Speaker, when Conservatives announce significant departmental changes followed by the statement “it will be business as usual”, we know the business they are referring to is to mislead, misinform, and misrepresent the facts, as usual.
Last week, the people in Cape Breton-Mulgrave were informed that the government had scrapped ECBC. Will the minister confirm to the House that the region will retain a designated budget, as well as matching current funding levels?
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to supporting economic development in Cape Breton and throughout Atlantic Canada.
Legislation will be introduced this spring authorizing ACOA to assume responsibility for the direct delivery of economic development programs, services, and advocacy in Cape Breton. Subject to the passage of the legislation by Parliament, the economic and community development activities of Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, including the associated budget, will transition to ACOA. The level of economic development funding that was delivered through ECBC will be maintained.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, no government has done more for young people, people with disabilities, and aboriginals than this Conservative government under the leadership of the Prime Minister and under the leadership of this Minister of Finance.
Our government will strongly continue to support youth employment. In fact, this summer, literally thousands and thousands of young people will get jobs and employment due to the financial support. In the budget there is $100,000 to support youth internships in this country.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise today to participate in this debate on Bill C-442, an act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy. I would like to begin by commending the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her stewardship of this important bill, and I would like to acknowledge its support by many members in the House.
The hon. member mentioned in her comments that many of us, myself included, live in areas where the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, is endemic. In addition, many of us, myself included, have constituents who have contracted Lyme disease at some point.
This is an endemic disease. It is a Canada-wide disease, and it is a disease that is spreading. For those reasons, we need a national strategy. The support for this bill underscores the need to work together and to address this emerging infectious disease in order to minimize the risk for Canadians.
Across the country, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease has increased significantly in the last decade. In fact, the actual number of cases in Canada is estimated to be up to three times higher than reported because many Canadians may not seek a full diagnosis and, quite frankly, many medical professionals do not know how to diagnose Lyme disease.
To underscore that point, as the hon. member would know, Lyme disease was first reported in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 or 1974. Here we are, 39 years later, with Lyme disease endemic throughout New England and now it has spread into Canada, following the white-tailed deer, of course, and we still do not have a national strategy for Lyme disease. That underscores the need for the important discussion we are having in the House of Commons today.
This has led to a growing recognition among governments, health practitioners, and stakeholders that work needs to be done to address this emerging infectious disease. Support for this bill also highlights the need to better leverage efforts at the federal level and across jurisdictions in Lyme disease surveillance and research.
Our government has already established improved surveillance specifically aimed at Lyme disease, and welcomes the sponsor's efforts to bring additional attention to this important issue.
The proposed bill highlights the need for continued action by governments, stakeholders, and the public health and medical communities to improve the understanding and awareness of risk factors, prevention, and treatment options. The objectives of this bill are laudable, and in fact align with the many activities already being undertaken by our government. Canadians should be reassured that the government has not been standing still.
We are already making significant progress under the leadership of the Public Health Agency of Canada. We are working with provincial and territorial health authorities and other partners in informing Canadians of the health risks from contracting Lyme disease. We also continue to help protect Canadians against Lyme disease through improved surveillance, by conducting research, by providing factual and evidence-based information to Canadians, and by providing support for laboratory diagnosis. Since 2006, our government has invested $4.6 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to specifically fund research on Lyme disease and to disseminate the latest findings and knowledge to the scientific community.
These efforts are a central component of the Public Health Agency of Canada's approach to infectious diseases in Canada. More specifically, our approach to Lyme disease takes important action to reduce the disease's impact.
We do this by enhancing surveillance, prevention, and control; research and diagnosis; and engagement, education, and awareness. These three areas are consistent with the key elements of the bill, and our approach is already delivering results. However, as mentioned before, we are also prepared to do more, and in a collaborative fashion, to further address this emerging infectious disease.
That is why I want to signal to the House today that the government supports the intent of Bill C-442 and that we will be proposing practical amendments to ensure that the vision and values expressed in the bill can be realized and provide maximum benefit to the Canadian people.
The bill addresses an important issue, but it needs to be refined to remain consistent with the jurisdictional roles and accountabilities of Canada's federal system of government. In keeping with the spirit of the bill, we must be mindful of our federal role and respect jurisdictional accountabilities.
As we know, the provision of health care services in Canada falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. It is the provinces and territories that establish and monitor standards of care for health providers. It is also the purview of relevant medical colleges to define clinical care guidelines.
It is not the federal role to tell medical professionals how to practise. The proper role for the federal government in this area is to ensure that best practices are being shared across all jurisdictions, so that Canadians can be reassured that treatments are guided by the best scientific evidence.
In a similar vein, dictating to provinces and territories how and where to allocate their spending is contrary to our government's approach to fiscal federalism. However, it is within our federal role to facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions and with stakeholders to monitor and address the challenges posed by Lyme disease.
We are doing precisely that through our involvement in the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network and our collaborative work with stakeholders such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada and patient advocacy groups.
For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada is already working with the College of Family Physicians of Canada to engage health professionals on Lyme disease by increasing awareness among health care providers to enable them to recognize, diagnose, and treat the disease in its early stages.
Suffice it to say, while we concur with the bill's goals and objectives, it would need to be amended to reflect these jurisdictional realities, which is something that the hon. member has already mentioned she is supportive of.
This government is looking forward to working with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and will propose amendments in these areas to ensure that the bill is consistent with the provinces' and territories' primary role in delivering health care.
Early on in my speech, I mentioned that 39 years ago, Lyme disease was first diagnosed in Lyme, Connecticut. It took 39 years to get to this stage.
I have heard some members in this place—as the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has already alluded—question whether they would support this piece of proposed legislation. Some members say that Lyme disease is not prevalent in their area or that it is not endemic in their area.
I would suggest to these members that they had better take a look at whether they have white-tailed deer in their area. The blacklegged tick, better known in my part of the world as the deer tick, came to North America with the white-tailed deer. It has spread very successfully in most jurisdictions of North America.
As deer become more urban, or perhaps as humans become more rural, more white-tailed deer are moving into what were once rural areas, which are now urban areas. Therefore, this disease is only going to get worse, and it has been wildly underreported. There are a number of cases we are still trying to diagnose that I suspect will end up being Lyme disease or some variant of Lyme disease.
In closing, I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her very important and extremely timely work on this file. I have a number of constituents in South Shore—St. Margaret's in Nova Scotia who are watching this file as it proceeds forward. These folks either have contracted Lyme disease themselves or have family members who have contracted Lyme disease.
This is a terrible, insidious disease that is very difficult to diagnose. Therefore, this is very timely legislation.
View Peter Stoffer Profile
Mr. Speaker, in 1995 the Liberal government changed the means test of the Last Post Fund from an entry level of $24,000 in income to $12,000 in income. Unfortunately, 19 years later, the means test is still at $12,000.
Now I thank the government very much for the fact that there is more money in the Last Post Fund. Some modern day veterans may now be eligible. However, if the means test is not changed, many families and their veterans who pass away will not have access to the Last Post Fund.
Will the government now change the means test so that more veterans who pass away and their families will have access to the program?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the question from the hon. member for Churchill.
We are committed to ensuring that first nation youth have the skills they need to enter the workforce and benefit from participating in the economy.
To help achieve this goal, the first nation and Inuit skills link program is one of two programs that our government administers under the first nations and Inuit youth employment strategy. The skills link program provides many different aspects, including wage subsidies for work placements and mentorship for youth who are not in school, to enable them to develop the valuable skills necessary to ensure full participation in the workforce. It includes work experience specifically in the field of information and communications technology. It includes activities designed to support aboriginal entrepreneurship. It also includes training experiences that support youth in acquiring skills needed for work placements. It includes career development information, including awareness and support activities like career fairs and leadership projects, career planning, and counselling activities. It also includes activities that promote interest in science and technology among aboriginal youth, including science camps, computer clubs, and activities that connect science and technology to traditional aboriginal knowledge. As members can see, there is a diverse amount of opportunities contained within the skills link program for aboriginal and Inuit youth.
In Manitoba, we have arrangements in place to deliver approximately $4.5 million to support skills link and summer work experience projects for 64 first nations and organizations this fiscal year. The skills link program aims to promote the benefits of education as key to labour market participation and to help first nation and Inuit youth overcome barriers to employment.
Another objective of the program is to introduce youth to a variety of career options and help youth acquire skills by providing stipends for mentored work experience, as well as support the provision of mentored school-based work experience and study opportunities such as co-operative education and internships.
Ultimately, we expect participating first nation and Inuit youth to have enhanced employability skills, increased awareness of the benefits of education, enhanced ability to make employment-related decisions, increased appreciation for science and technology as a viable career or education choice, improved attitudes toward the transition from school to work, and an increased ability to participate in the labour market.
These objectives and expected outcomes are consistent with, and support, our government's youth employment strategy skills link program. We will continue to invest in aboriginal youth through these innovative programs.
Our government is focusing on funding projects that generate tangible results. We will continue to support the delivery of essential programs and services through organizations that get results, contributing to the improved living conditions and economic development of aboriginal peoples, while respecting Canadian taxpayers.
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will commit to look into those two particular programs.
The only political agenda going on here is the fact that our government puts millions of dollars into the youth employment strategy for all Canadian youth across the country, including significant dollars for Inuit and aboriginal youth, and that member and her party consistently vote against that money. Therefore, they are asking where the money is to support these programs after they have voted against the money when it was placed in the budget in the first place. That is the political agenda we are seeing here.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is alluding to the charities and we should be clear that the rules regarding charities and political activities are long-standing. Our Conservative government has always supported charities and their ability to exist within the tax rules in Canada.
Economic action plan 2012 provided the CRA with additional tools and resources to increase transparency in the charitable sector.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2013-11-19 14:54 [p.1058]
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment has alluded to what he might be doing for the plant workers in Leamington.
Is the government going to do anything for the farmers who have invested over $1,500 for every acre of tomatoes and have no market for their tomatoes next year?
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way talked about how these things were evaporating. His party saw more taxpayer dollars evaporate into the coffers of Quebec Liberal ad agency firms with $40 million still owed to taxpayers. We have to ask: where is that $40 million that the Gomery inquiry says that the Liberal Party owes to the taxpayers of our country?
As far as this budget implementation act goes, the Minister of Finance has done a tremendous job of putting together an economic program that is going to lead our country to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
I am from Atlantic Canada. Our region has struggled over the years with its economy, but it is starting to turn the corner for many reasons, the most important one being the economic policies put forward by our Minister of Finance and this government. A young child growing up in Atlantic Canada today can look forward to a bright and robust future.
A $25 billion shipbuilding program has been awarded to the Irving shipyards. That is equivalent to 11,000 jobs in Nova Scotia, 55,000 jobs across the country.
Our government strongly supports the west-east pipeline to Saint John. That is going to bring a whole new industry of oil exports to Atlantic Canada. Oil will be refined, value-added, in Saint John and exported to countries all around the world.
We have invested in a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill Falls project. That is a $7.2 billion project. That means jobs and skilled tradespeople will be able to return from out west and take those jobs at the Irving shipyard in Saint John and in Labrador to fill those three large projects. We are taking steps in economic action plan 2013 to ensure we have the measures in place to provide the training so young people from Atlantic Canada fill those jobs and build a future for themselves and their families.
Our Minister of Finance, our Prime Minister and this government have a visionary approach to the future, unlike what we have seen from the opposition. Our Conservative government continues to get the job done for Canadians through economic action plan 2013.
On October 22, the Minister of Finance released the Annual Report of the Government of Canada for 2013. The report shows the continued downward track of Canada's annual deficit. In 2012-13 the deficit fell to $18.9 billion. This was down by more than one-quarter, or $7.4 billion, from the deficit of $26.3 billion in 2011-12. This was down nearly two-thirds from the $55.6 billion deficit recorded in 2009-10 at the pit of the largest economic recession since the Great Depression of the thirties.
Our government's responsible spending of taxpayer dollars has played an important part in the results we have seen in 2012-13, with direct program expenses falling by 1.2% from the prior year and by 3.8% from 2010-11. We are looking at program spending, at government spending, before we look at cutting transfer payments like the Liberal Party did in the 1990s.
I am proud that our government is focused on helping to create jobs and growth and opportunities for Canadians. I am proud our government supports hard-working families. Families and communities will be safer because of the measures we are taking in the area of justice and always putting Canadians first.
According to the Minister of Finance, our government continues its efforts to ensure that every tax dollar is spent as efficiently as possible and wasteful spending is eliminated. We are keeping Canada on track to balance the budget in 2015 without raising taxes and without cutting those very valued transfer payments to the provinces.
As reported by the OECD, Canada's total economic net debt to GDP ratio, which includes net debt of the federal, provincial and territorial governments and assets held in the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, stands at 34.5% in 2012. This is by far the lowest level among the group of seven countries which the OECD expects will average a net debt of 87% in the same year, more than twice as much. All Canadians should be proud of this success.
It is our solid economic and fiscal fundamentals that have ensured Canada remains one of the few countries in the world to continuously receive the highest possible credit ratings from all major credit rating agencies.
Having said that, we are not immune to the effects of slow global growth. We must build on our record by continuing to keep taxes low here in Canada, to work to expand trade, as we announced our trade deal with the European Union last week, to keep Canada on track for a balanced budget in 2015, and to grow our relationships not only here in North America but around the world so we continue to be a trading nation that people in other countries look to with great jealousy.
We are one of the few countries in the world, and one of the only industrialized countries, that has trade deals now with both the European Union and the United States of America, over 800 million people. We have free trade deals with the two most valuable markets in the world. Canada is the country that has that deal now. This is something that all Canadians should be proud of.
Much has been said in the past months about the temporary foreign worker program. We will ensure that the only purpose of the temporary foreign worker program is to provide temporary help where clear and acute labour shortages exist and where Canadians are truly not available for those jobs. We believe that is consistent with the wishes of Canadians.
We have over a million net new jobs that have been created since July 2009; 90% are full time and over 80% are in the private sector. We are getting the job done when it comes to job creation.
Our economic action plan 2013 is going to help many people in my riding and all Canadians through a number of key measures that will strengthen our local economies. In rural areas, in Atlantic Canada, we rely on seasonal employment. Sometimes that is not enough. Training will be required to help workers get into the workforce full time, year-round. As some of these large projects come online such as I mentioned at the beginning of the speech, we will need people who are trained to take those jobs up as we transition from an economy that relies purely on seasonal employment, particularly in the summers, to one where we have full-time good employment for skilled tradespeople, year-round, in Atlantic Canada.
To that end, economic action plan 2013 will increase the skills and training to support these workers with a new $15,000 Canada job grant. This will help retrain workers so they can find high-quality, well-paying jobs, something that will be of direct benefit to my riding and all of Atlantic Canada, as well as all Canadians across the country.
As parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, I cannot stress enough the importance of training workers so that they can get into the workforce. Equally important is the strengthening of the apprenticeship program, which we put in place through economic action plan 2013. It will make it easier for apprentices to get the experience they need to get their journeyman status. With a skilled workers shortage in this country, reallocating $4 million over three years to work with the provinces and territories to increase opportunities for apprenticeships will go a long way toward filling this gap.
We are listening to the skilled tradesmen and women and reducing barriers to apprenticeship accreditation. These include examining the use of practical tests as a method of assessment for apprentices. We are also putting these apprentices to work through measures that will support the use of apprentices through federal construction and maintenance contracts, investments in affordable housing, and infrastructure projects that are receiving federal funding.
An often forgotten segment of the workforce is the disabled. We have not forgotten them in this budget. We will introduce a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities by 2014 to better meet the employment needs of businesses and employment prospects of persons with disabilities. We will do this through the expansion of the opportunities fund. There will be an ongoing funding of $40 million per year starting in 2015-16 to provide more demand-driven solutions for people with disabilities.
Nova Scotians and all Canadians will also benefit from an allocation of $19 million over two years to promote education in high-demand fields, such as trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are the programs that will lead our young people to jobs in the future. We are supporting that now so those jobs will be filled by Canadians with proper training. Students are our future workers. Our Conservative government recognizes this need, and we are fulfilling that need with steps in this budget.
We recently heard through media reports that first nations youth have only a 60% high school graduation rate in Canada. Our government recognizes that these young people need training and opportunities so they can join our larger economy. The aboriginal youth in this country are the fastest growing segment of our youth, and we need to take steps now to provide them the education and training they need to fully embrace the greatness that is this country, Canada.
Higher education is the pathway to employment, and our government is improving services for students who apply for loans and grants. The minister's authority to electronically administer or enforce the Canada student loans program is consistent with economic action plan 2013's commitment to examine new ways to transform the way the Government of Canada does business to improve service and achieve efficiencies within our programs.
This amendment would modernize the delivery of the Canada student loans program--
View Scott Armstrong Profile
Mr. Speaker, charities do a wonderful job for our families and communities across Canada. They often have to do this with little money and few volunteers.
That is why it is unthinkable that any member of Parliament, let alone the Liberal leader, would collect his or her $160,000 MP paycheque and then turn around and charge charities for speaking fees, something which the Canadian taxpayers are already paying MPs to do. This shows a great lack of judgment and is also a disrespectful act toward the charities and the Canadian taxpayer.
Would the Minister of State for Finance please inform the House of the good work our government is doing to actually support charities?
View Peter Stoffer Profile
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2013-06-06 22:49 [p.17891]
Mr. Speaker, I want to advise the previous speaker that the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, herself a proud Nova Scotian, did not malign any one individual. She mentioned the very serious concerns about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which I myself have very serious concerns about as well.
I want to start off today by thanking the government for entering into discussions to ensure that Sable Island possibly could be a preservation site and conservation site for as long as this planet exists.
I just want to understand a couple of things. This is the same government that had massive cuts to Parks Canada. This is the same government that we hear speech after speech from the Conservatives talking about how great this legislation is, how great it would be for Sable Island, yet what do they do? They invoke time allocation on this debate. Sable Island was there long before any of us were here. Hopefully, Sable Island will be there for many years after we are gone. Therefore, moving time allocation on important legislation like this is unconscionable. I would truly love for someone over there to explain to the Canadian people why they felt it necessary to invoke time allocation, unless they plan to prorogue Parliament very soon and thus they know that this bill would end up dead.
I am in favour of turning Sable Island into a national park reserve. However, like my hon. colleague for Halifax, I have some concerns that need to be addressed. That is why the NDP will be supporting that this legislation go to committee. We do not have much trust in that side, but we hope and trust that my colleague from Halifax will be able to invite any and all witnesses that her party wishes to bring forward, that the Liberal Party would be able to do the same, and that the Green Party could make submissions as well, to ensure that every single person who has reason to be concerned about Sable Island in the future would have the right to say so. We are talking about the Mi'kmaq, the first nations, the provinces, the oil and gas sector, the conservationists and the fishermen. All these people need to be heard.
It is too bad the Conservatives could not make a national park out of the Senate. That would be great. Lots of people could go and visit that room and the $92 million that is spent on the Senate could go to preserve Sable Island and all of the other parks we have in Canada and maybe even create a few more. Then those senators could be added to the Species at Risk Act. That would be a wonderful thing.
Here is the problem. I have heard these great Conservatives say time and time again that Sable Island would be preserved for future generations to come. That is wrong. I wish the Conservatives would get that out of their heads. Sable Island is not for human beings. It is not for people.
Farley Mowat, who is a great World War II veteran, a conservationist and a fantastic author, said time and time again, and my colleague, the member from the Green Party knows this well because we were together when he said it, “We, as humans, have an obligation to ensure to protect our environment. We have an obligation to protect 'the others'.” What he meant by “the others” were things like bugs, snakes, horses, plants, birds and seals. The other species that inhabit this earth deserve to have their place as well.
Sable Island is not like Banff National Park. It is not like Kluane in the Yukon. It is not like South Moresby. It is not like Nahanni. It is not like Kejimkujik. It is not like any other park out there where humans can go and interact and have fun and enjoy the beautiful parts of Canada that are absolutely gorgeous. Sable Island is so fragile and so special that we should limit, with the most extreme caution, the number of people who actually go to that island.
My colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's bragged about the fact he has been there dozens of times. He has been there two dozen times and I say he has been there 23 times too often. I have had the opportunity to go to Sable Island. I can assure members that it is a spiritual experience. It is beautiful. However, I felt guilty being there. I felt that I should not have been there. The reality is that with those horses, the plants and the birds, it is absolutely outstanding.
There are reasons why some people are very concerned about the bill and are very concerned about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
I remember very clearly, as a private citizen, in 1995, attending a meeting at the Waverley fire hall in Waverley, Nova Scotia, which is now in my riding. The Sable gas people were there and the petroleum boards were all there. They had maps of the ocean, which had a dark black mark on Sable Island. It was blacked out. The first question I asked was why it was blacked out. They said, “That's Sable Island. We have no intention of touching it, ever. We are leaving it alone. It's too fragile”.
I understand the need for oil and gas exploration. I drive a car, I have a house that burns oil and I fly back and forth all the time. I understand that. I was so proud of the fact that these experts were saying that Sable Island was going to be left alone, with a mile buffer around it. I felt really good about that.
However, we were betrayed by the gas and oil sector. We were betrayed by other people. In fact, they did do seismic testing on that island. I remember it very well how—I cannot say what I want to say—upset I was that we were lied to at these meetings. These were professional people, and they lied to us. They said they would never do seismic testing on Sable Island, and they did.
My very serious concern is that if we do not do this bill right, if we do not put in the concrete measures to ensure we never allow seismic testing on the island ever again, I will not have a good night's sleep, assured that those horses, those birds, those plants and other species that inhabit that island are able to do what they do in God's wonder, to do what they have done for hundreds of years and, hopefully, for hundreds years more.
That island is not for people. The island is for the others. I wish everyone in this Parliament and across Canada would get that into their heads. This is too fragile an ecosystem and it needs to be, as best we can, left alone.
I appreciate the Minister of the Environment and the parliamentary secretary indicating that, yes, in some certain cases, in emergencies, oil and gas workers or people who find themselves in serious trouble could go to the island for rescue, because it is the graveyard of the Atlantic. I understand that, and under strict controls and under strict protocols that is something I think we can all accept. I appreciate that fact.
However, we need assurances from the Minister of the Environment and the government that when this bill gets second reading there will be no shenanigans at that committee, that there will be no time allocation, that there will be no rushing into in camera, as every committee here in this House does. We need to ensure that this is a public forum for all Canadians who are concerned about this precious jewel in the Atlantic and ensure that we do exactly what we are saying here today; that is that we protect the integrity of Sable Island for many years to come.
At the same time, the government has made massive cuts to Parks Canada. We have never heard anything, yet, about funding this. We would like to see where the dollars are going to come from, where the money is coming from. One of the ideas the member for Halifax indicated, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment also indicated, is a historical and interpretive centre in Halifax. Who is going to pay for that? Where is the money going to come from? What is it going to look like? We cannot have everybody going out to Sable Island to see it. It would be much better to have that interpretive centre in the community of Halifax or another community; I am not really particularly concerned about that. I just want to ensure that the dollars will be there to ensure that all Canadians, in fact, all world visitors who come to the area, will get to know that 290 kilometres from the east coast lies one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
It is important that we get it right. That is why the NDP, led by our critic from Halifax, has indicated our support for this legislation to second reading.
However, if we see a lot of games being played there, there is no guarantee that support will come afterwards. My colleague from Halifax has said very clearly that she so desperately wants to work with the parliamentary secretary, so desperately wants to work with the Minister of the Environment, and with the Conservative government, in order to ensure we get the legislation right.
That is uncommon in this place. Normally, anything the Conservatives do would just shut it down. Anything we say, they shut us down. This is an opportunity, in a bi-partisan manner, to work co-operatively together and get it right. I am not sure why the Minister of the Environment or the Prime Minister would not want to pursue that and show Canadians that, yes, Parliament can work together as it has on many other issues.
I was here when the protection of the Sable Island gully was there. In fact, I was quite proud of that because that was where the northern bottlenose whale lived. They offered limited protection to that area. It is a beautiful gully just off of Sable Island. It is absolutely gorgeous. I have never been to the bottom of it, but everything I have seen of it and the species that live under those waters is unbelievable. The Liberal government at the time worked co-operatively to get that done.
We need to ensure that the resources for our Coast Guard, Parks Canada and Environment Canada are there to ensure the integrity of this legislation is matched not only in words but in dollars as well. That is what we need to discuss at the committee stage as well.
We have been betrayed before. Not by the Conservative government, though, I will give it credit for that. It was not in power. We were betrayed by the provincial and federal governments at that time.
I can assure the House that there are a lot of environmental groups out there. I know the Ecology Action Centre and Mr. Mark Butler, one of the great environmentalists we have on the east coast, are very concerned about this legislation. Our colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands indicated the concerns of allowing the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board any kind of management say on anything regarding this Island.
Those are serious questions that need to be asked. I am not saying that someone is right or someone is wrong, but let us get the experts in. Let us get the people in at the committee stage in an unhurried manner, where we can take our time and do it right. If we do that, we can truly leave a legacy not just for people, but for the others with which we share this beautiful planet. That is the beauty of Parliament, when we can work together and achieve something that is greater than ourselves.
I will give the government credit. I used to live in Yukon near Nahanni, which is absolutely gorgeous. When that size increased, I was shouting from the rooftops. I thought that was absolutely wonderful. I remember our colleague, Svend Robinson, was arrested defending South Moresby. Look at it now. It is one of the most beautiful and enchanting areas on the planet on the Queen Charlotte Islands. He risked everything to ensure that happened.
We want to ensure that people do not have to protest in the streets of Halifax to ensure the protection of Sable Island. It simply does not have to happen. We can work in a co-operative manner and get it done.
I will offer some advice for the minister, though. There are a lot more protected marine areas that we need to have in our country and I am proud to hear him say Lancaster Sound. I am proud to see the areas of the Bay St. Lawrence and also on the west coast. I have had the opportunity to live in British Columbia and Yukon and now in Nova Scotia.
This is truly an absolutely gorgeous country. When we are connected in this regard, it is amazing what terrestrial and aquatic areas we have to enjoy in many cases. However, there are certain areas of the country which, in my personal view, should be left alone. Sable Island is one of them.
I give top credit to Zoe Lucas. She is only about 5'2" or 5'3", but she is dynamite. She knows more about Sable than the House collectively will ever get to learn. She is amazing, but she is one person. We need to ensure that it is not just her, because one day she may not be with us. She has worked in the preservation, acknowledgement and awareness of Sable Island. She has brought that to many people in Canada and around the world to ensure the integrity of that beautiful island.
The minister knows as he has been there. He understands the spiritual nature of that place. The last thing we need to see is hundreds of people showing up, taking pictures of horses and running around trying to pet them, stepping on their grounds and grass and everything else.
I have another concern. When I was on the fisheries committee for many years, we had a very serious issue with grey seals. Sable Island is the home of many grey seals. Their population has exploded.
One thing that we in the NDP will never accept is the cull of a wild species, where people shoot and kill the animals and they sink to the bottom and become crab or lobster bait. That is unacceptable. However, we will support a harvest of seals as long as the seals are utilized, whether turned into animal feed or other product. We would not allow an opportunity to go and kill 20,000 or 30,000 seals and then let them sink to the bottom. That does not make this country look very good internationally. However, if we utilize that seal product in a proper humane harvest, that would be good husbandry of the species, and would also protect the integrity of the island.
The minister probably knows that when that many seals congregate on a shifting sandbar like that, it can cause havoc and a lot of damage. We want to ensure that the grey seals do not overrun the island and cause even greater damage. We want to control the species in a manner that is not only humane but offers economic opportunities for some fishermen, and utilizes the seal to its maximum potential. To just go out and kill a whole bunch of them and let them sink to the bottom is not the proper thing to do, and it is also very un-Canadian.
Therefore, we need to know this from the minister, and hopefully we will learn this at committee: If indeed there is a time to harvest some of these seals to reduce the numbers, would the Sable Island park reserve allow limited hunting of those seals in that particular area? If it does, would it be done from the land or from boats? Having that many fishermen tramping all over the island could not be a good thing.
These are the types of things, in terms of strict protocols, that we would need to address to ensure that this legislation is done correctly. We are very proud of the fact that the federal government and the great Province of Nova Scotia and its wonderful NDP government are working collaboratively on many of these issues. However, we still do not have all the answers we are looking for. My colleague from Halifax has done yeoman's work in this regard. I can assure members that when this gets to committee, she will be like a pit bull on a bone to ensure that this legislation is exactly what it should be.
The reality is that she is the only member of Parliament of the 308 of us who has Sable Island in her riding, and that is a wonderful thing. Not many people get to say that. I know I do not. I am surprised she has not changed the name of her riding to Halifax—Sable Island. I do have McNabs Island, by the way. If members ever get a chance they should come down and see McNabs Island. It is absolutely beautiful. It is the same with Lawlor Island, but people are not allowed to go on that one.
The reality is that these are jewels in the Halifax area and off the coast of Nova Scotia that are absolutely gorgeous. I invite my colleague over there from Kitchener to come on down and I will give him a personal tour of McNabs Island and the other island. However, I will not give him a tour of Sable Island. I would encourage him to leave it alone. We will have an interpretive centre, which hopefully the federal government will pay for, and we will walk him through that. In fact, my colleague from Halifax will walk him through it as well, and tell him all that he needs to know. However, we just encourage him with the greatest of respect not to go on the island, because that many people on the island, even if it is strictly controlled, could have unforeseen consequences.
We want to ensure that the bill is done correctly. We want to work in a co-operative manner with the government. We do not like time allocation on this bill, and I would hope that maybe the Minister of the Environment could stand in his place and ask why the Conservatives moved time allocation on this very sensitive legislation.
I hope that, with our colleague from Halifax and the great NDP working with the Conservatives and our Liberal colleagues and Green Party colleagues, we will ensure that we get the right legislation to ensure perpetuity for Sable Island park reserve now and in the future.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2013-06-05 17:44 [p.17737]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak to this. I have been listening to the debate in the House and I heard the member for Markham—Unionville say in his speech that the motion was poorly worded. I want to challenge that because I think it is not a poorly worded motion; the motion is quite beautiful. It is beautifully worded and it is elegant in its simplicity. It says:
That all funding should cease to be provided to the Senate beginning on July 1, 2013.
I do think it is beautiful in its simplicity. We need to do something about the Senate. Look at the situation we are in right now when it comes to the Senate.
What are the facts? What do we know? We are constantly being told that the Senate offers us this house of sober second thought. I think that is debatable. I will return to the sober second thought part.
The member for Wellington—Halton Hills pointed out that we need to speak respectfully about Parliament. That includes the Senate, the other place. I would argue that it is the senators who are bringing disrespect to Parliament, not us who are here in this chamber. They are the ones who are bringing disrespect to Parliament.
This so-called house of sober second thought, these sober second thinkers, are also filing false expense claims. We know that to be true. They are also misleading the public and Parliament about where they live. We know that they are abusing public funds. We know that they find the forms that ask them where they live to be confusing and difficult to understand. We also know that they are driving around with expired licence plates.
I think that Canadians have paid enough money for this undemocratic institution and it is time that we stop spending millions of taxpayer dollars on this institution. The Senate is costing taxpayers $92.5 million a year. Frankly, that is $92.5 million too much.
The member for Markham—Unionville said that this motion is idiotic. Tell that to the British House of Lords because they do not get paid as a right. They do not get paid for being lords. They do not have a salary in the House of Lords. Those folks get paid sort of a per diem for showing up. I would ask this question. Is that an idiotic way of doing things?
The Liberals and Conservatives insist that we cannot do anything about the Senate. They say it is too big a constitutional issue, and once we open up the Pandora's box of constitutional issues no one will ever agree. We will go into this dark abyss of constitutional pandemonium, never to escape. Give me a break.
The NDP does not believe this. That is why we are talking to Canadians first. That is the first step, talking to Canadians. I have been going door-to-door quite a bit at home, and at every single door people are asking if I can tell them what is going on with the Senate. This is what folks are talking about. We want to tap into that and see what people are saying. The NDP has launched our petition to roll up the red carpet, which people can sign, saying that this institution is outdated and it is time to get rid of it.
After talking to Canadians, we need to start talking with the provinces. It is not that difficult. We can start with these baby steps. Let us talk to the provinces. Unfortunately, we have a Prime Minister who refuses to meet with the provinces. He has not been to the Council of the Federation. I cannot remember when he was there last, or if he was even there.
The Liberals and Conservatives are insisting that they cannot do anything, that it is sad and unfortunate but their hands are bound. This is it. It is lovely. It is simple. It is elegant. Here is a solution. Let us pass this motion. There is nothing stopping us from doing this.
I have heard some comments about the constitutionality of this motion. It is not unconstitutional to adopt a motion saying that the Senate should be defunded. The constitutionality of any subsequent legislation is a separate issue. This in itself is no problem. The sole purpose of this motion is the signal that it sends that the Senate is an illegitimate drain on the public purse.
Let us do it. Let us move to the House of Lords model. Those guys are doing just fine. I do not think what they are doing is idiotic. There is not a lot of response to that. The cat has their tongues, the Liberals and Conservatives, because I do not think they treat the Senate as a house of sober second thought. They treat it as a fundraising arm for their parties. They want to keep appointing senators so they can go out and raise money for their parties on the taxpayer's dime.
Let us look at who is in the Senate. There are David Smith and James Cowan, and they are the co-chairs of the Liberal campaign. They are campaign directors. I get along with James Cowan. I have worked with him. He is a nice guy. We are both from Nova Scotia and we have done some work together. We get along because we have a lot in common and we both like politics. I also get along with the Halifax Federal Liberal Riding Association president, Layton Dorey. He and I have a lot in common. We like to talk politics and we can shoot the breeze. I get along with these folks, but there is a big difference between Layton Dorey and James Cowan, because Layton Dorey is not being paid by taxpayers to do the work that he is doing for the Liberal Party.
Let us look at the Conservatives. The chief fundraiser and chair of the Conservative Fund Canada is a senator. They should go for it, fill their boots, do all the fundraising they want to do, but they should not be able to do it on the taxpayer's dime. We should not be paying for a fundraising arm of these political parties. Let us remember that they are being paid, in total, $92.5 million. Senators are campaigning for the Conservatives and Liberals, while being paid by taxpayers and I do not think that is what Canadians are paying them for. If they are doing useful work for those parties, then those parties should be paying them out of their own coffers as fundraisers.
The raison d'être of the Senate, when it was formed at Confederation, was one of sober second thought, with representatives from the provinces bringing regional interests to Parliament in doing that kind of political analysis on policy debates. Senators were supposed to be an integral part of our democracy, but we have seen anything but in the past 146 years. Fundraisers, failed candidates and senior party staffers have all been appointed time and time again to the upper chamber and the reality is that senators appointed by partisan prime ministers have a poor record of defending our regional interests.
When I first arrived here, I spoke with our then democratic reform critic from Hamilton Centre and told him that I was from Nova Scotia, that there were Nova Scotian senators and I was conflicted about our position on abolishing the Senate. He asked when was the last time a senator ever stood up for Nova Scotia. I realized that they did not, they just did what their parties told them to do.
Here is what they are told to do. The Climate Change Accountability Act passed in the House by a majority of democratically-elected members of Parliament. We acted on the will of the people and the will of the people was to pass climate change accountability legislation. When it got to the other place, it was voted down. This is what Marjory LeBreton, the Conservative Senate house leader, stated:
We were as surprised as anyone else that the Liberals forced a vote on second reading of this bill. But once the Liberals presented us with an opportunity to defeat the bill, we of course were going to take it and defeat the bill because the government does not support this bill. The fact of the matter is this was not part of a strategy, this was something that landed in our laps. It was an opportunity to defeat the bill and we took the opportunity.
That evening I was upstairs in this very place with Jack Layton, our then NDP leader. I had never seen him so angry. I had never heard him yell. He was beside himself with rage about how a bill in the House of Commons could be passed by democratically-elected MPs and when it got to the Senate, the senators said it was gone. It was unbelievable. It is $92.5 million too much.
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