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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-09 15:27 [p.27635]
Mr. Speaker, as always, I would like to salute all the people of Beauport—Limoilou tuning in this afternoon. I would also like to salute my colleague from Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, who just gave a speech on Bill C-91. We worked together for a time on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. I know languages in general are important to him. I also know that, as a Métis person, his personal and family history have a lot to do with his interest in advocating for indigenous languages. That is very honourable of him.
For those watching who are not familiar with Bill C-91, it is a bill on indigenous languages. Enacted in 1969, Canada's Official Languages Act is now 50 years old. That makes this a big year for official languages, and the introduction of this bill on indigenous languages, which is now at third reading, is just and fitting. That is why my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, the Conservative Party's indigenous affairs critic, said she would support the bill when it was introduced back in February. Nevertheless, we do have some criticisms, which I will lay out shortly.
The bill's purpose is twofold. Its primary purpose is to protect indigenous languages and ensure their survival. Did you know that there are 70 indigenous languages spoken in Canada? The problem is that while some languages are still spoken more or less routinely, others are disappearing. Beyond ensuring their survival, this bill seeks to promote the development of indigenous languages that have all but disappeared for the many reasons we are discussing.
The second purpose of the bill, which is just as commendable, is to directly support reconciliation between our founding peoples and first nations, or in other words, reconciliation between federal institutions and indigenous peoples. As the bill says, the purpose is to support and promote the use of indigenous languages, including indigenous sign languages. It seeks to support the efforts of indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen indigenous languages, especially the more commonly-spoken ones.
Canada's official opposition obviously decided to support the principles of this bill right from the beginning for four main reasons. The first involves the Conservative Party's record on indigenous matters. Our record may not have been the same in the 19th century, and the same could be said of all parties, but during our 10 years in power, Prime Minister Harper recognized the profound tragedy and grave error of the residential schools. He offered an official apology in 2008.
I want to share a quote from Prime Minister Harper, taken from the speech by my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo:
The government now recognizes that the...Indian residential schools policy...has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language.
That is why my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said:
We acknowledged in 2008 that [the Canadian government at the time was] part of the destruction of these languages and cultures. Therefore, the government must be part of the solution in terms of helping to bring the languages [and culture] back, and part of that is Bill C-91.
This is why I said that reconciliation is one of the objectives of this bill, beyond the more tangible objective. That is the first reason the Conservatives will support this bill on indigenous languages.
The second reason is that, under Mr. Harper's fantastic tenure, we created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was an important and highly enlightening process.
There were some very sad moments. Members of indigenous nations came to talk about their background and share their stories. They put their cards on the table for all to see. They bared their souls and told the Canadian government what they go through today and what their ancestors went through in the 19th century. Not only did the Conservatives offer a formal apology in 2008, but they also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to promote reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the Government of Canada and all Canadians. Our legacy is a testament to our sincere belief in reconciliation. I am sure that is true for all MPs and all Canadians.
Now I will move on to the third reason we support this bill. I am the critic for Canada's official languages, French and English. That is one of the reasons I am speaking today. When I first saw Bill C-91 on the legislative agenda, I considered the issue and then read the Official Languages Act of 1969. The final paragraph of the preamble to the Official Languages Act states that the act:
...recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing the use of languages other than English and French while strengthening the status and use of the official languages....
When members examine constitutional or legislative matters in committee or in debates such as this one, we need to take the intent of the legislators into consideration. When the Official Languages Act was introduced and passed in 1969, the legislators had already clearly indicated that they intended the protection of official languages to one day include the promotion, enhancement and maintenance of every other language in Canada, including the 70 indigenous languages. Clearly that took some time. That was 50 years ago.
Those are the first three reasons why we support this bill.
The fourth reason goes without saying. We have a duty to make amends for past actions. Those who are familiar with Canada's history know that both French and English colonizers lived in relative harmony with indigenous peoples for the first two or three centuries after Jacques Cartier's arrival in the Gaspé in 1534 and Samuel de Champlain's arrival in Quebec City in 1608. Indigenous peoples are the ones who helped us survive the first winters, plain and simple. They helped us to clear the land and grow crops. Unfortunately, in the late 19th century, when we were able to thrive without the help of indigenous peoples, we began implementing policies of cultural alienation and residential schools. All of that happened in an international context involving cultural theories that have since been debunked and are now considered preposterous.
Yes, we need to make amends for Canada's history and what for what the founding peoples, our francophone and anglophone ancestors, did. It is a matter of justice. The main goal of Bill C-91 is to ensure the development of indigenous languages in Canada, to keep them alive and to prevent them from disappearing.
In closing, for the benefit of Canadians watching us this afternoon, I would like to summarize what Bill C-91 would ultimately achieve. Part of it is about recognition. The bill provides that:
(a) the Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous people recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages.
This is a bit like what happened with the Official Languages Act, which, thanks to its section 82, takes precedence over other acts. It is also related to section 23 on school boards and the protection of anglophone and francophone linguistic minorities across the country. This bill would create the same situation with respect to section 35 and indigenous laws in Canada.
The legislation also states that the government may enter into agreements to protect languages. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism may enter into different types of agreements or arrangements in respect of indigenous languages with indigenous governments or other indigenous governing bodies or indigenous organizations, taking into account the unique circumstances and needs of indigenous groups, communities and peoples.
Lastly, the bill would ensure the availability of translation and interpretation services like those available for official languages, but probably not to the same degree. Federal institutions can cause documents to be translated into an indigenous language or provide interpretation services to facilitate the use of an indigenous language.
Canadians listening to us should note one important point. I myself do not speak any indigenous languages, but for the past year, anyone, especially indigenous members, can speak in indigenous languages in the House. Members simply need to give translators 24- or 48-hour notice. That aspect of the bill is about providing translation and interpretation services, but those services will not be offered to the same standard as services provided under the Official Languages Act. However, it is patently clear that an effort is being made to encourage the development of indigenous languages, not only on the ground or in communities where indigenous people live, but also within federal institutions.
I would also point out that the bill provides for a commissioner's office. I find that a little strange. As my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said, for the past four years, the Liberals have been telling us that their most important relationship is the one they have with indigenous peoples. I understand that as a policy statement, but I think it would be more commendable for a government to say that its most important relationship is the one it has with all Canadians.
Now I will talk briefly about the current Commissioner of Official Languages. Many will understand the link I am trying to make with the new indigenous languages commissioner position that will be created. Right when all official language minority communities across the country are talking about the need to modernize the act, today the Commissioner of Official Languages released his annual report and his report on modernizing the act. Most Canadians want bilingualism that is even more vibrant and more wide-spread across Canada. At the same time, there are clearly important gaps in terms of implementing the Official Languages Act across the entire government apparatus.
I have a some examples. A few months ago, the National Energy Board published a report in English only in violation of the OLA. At the time, the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie said that was unacceptable. The government's job is not to simply say so, however. She should have taken action to ensure that the National Energy Board complies with the Official Languages Act. Then, there were the websites showing calls for tender by Public Services and Procurement Canada that are often riddled with mistakes, grammatical, syntax, and translation errors and misinterpretation. Again, the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie told us that this was unacceptable.
There is also the Canada Infrastructure Bank, in Toronto. The Conservatives oppose such an institution. We do not believe it will produce the desired results. In its first year, the Canada Infrastructure Bank struggled to serve Canadians in both official languages. Again, the minister stated that this is unacceptable.
These problems keep arising because of cabinet's reckless approach to implementing, as well as ensuring compliance with and enforcement of, the Official Languages Act across the government apparatus. It has taken its duties lightly. The minister responsible is not showing any leadership within cabinet.
When cabinet is not stepping up, we should be able to count on the commissioner. I met with the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Théberge, yesterday, and he gave me a summary of the report he released this morning. He said that he had a lot of investigative powers, including the power to subpoena. However, he said that he has no coercive power. This is one of the main issues with enforcement. For example, the majority of Canadians abide by the Criminal Code because police officers exercise coercive powers, ensuring that everyone complies with Canadian laws and the Criminal Code.
The many flaws and shortcomings in the implementation of the Official Languages Act are due not only to a lack of leadership in cabinet, but also to the commissioner not having adequate coercive power. The Conservatives will examine this issue very carefully to determine whether the commissioner should have coercive power.
The provisions of Bill C-91, an act respecting indigenous languages, dealing with the establishment of the office of the commissioner of indigenous languages are quite vague. Not only will the commissioner not have any coercive power, but he or she will also not have any well-established investigative powers.
The Liberals waited until the end of their four-year term to bring this bill forward, even though they spent those four years telling us that the relationship with indigenous peoples is their most important relationship. Furthermore, in committee, they frantically rushed to table 20-odd amendments to their own bill, as my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo pointed out.
How can the Liberals say their most important relationship is their relationship with indigenous peoples when they waited four years to table this bill? What is more, not only did they table the bill in a slapdash way, but they had to get their own members to propose amendments to improve it. It is not unusual for members to propose amendments, but the Liberals had to table a whole stack of them because the bill had all kinds of flaws.
In closing, I think this bill is a good step towards reconciliation, but there are no tangible measures for the commissioner. For instance, if members have their speeches to the House translated into an indigenous language and the translation is bad, what can the commissioner do? If an indigenous community signs an agreement with the federal government and then feels that the agreement was not implemented properly, who can challenge the government on their behalf?
There is still a lot of work to be done, but we need to pass this bill as quickly as possible, despite all of its flaws, because the end of this Parliament is approaching. Once again, the government has shown its lack of seriousness, as it has with many other bills. To end on a positive note, I would like to say that this bill is a step toward reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the founding peoples, which is very commendable and necessary.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-09 15:48 [p.27637]
Mr. Speaker, the member is right. We are celebrating 50 years of having two official languages in Canada. They are official languages in terms of status and institutionalization of the facts, because historically, there were two languages three centuries ago. They were part of our identity in Canada, and they are still part of it.
There are a few ways to ensure that the Commissioner of Official Languages has more powers. As legislators, we have to do our due diligence and look at this carefully. Specialists have said that we should have pecuniary and administrative sanctions. For example, some governmental agencies and private enterprises go against the law. Only one private enterprise in Canada is under the law, which is Air Canada. Some of them constantly go against the law in their behaviour and actions, on a monthly basis sometimes. Although the commissioner is constantly making recommendations, 20% of his recommendations are never followed, as was said this morning. Why? It is because he does not have the power to tell organizations to stop or they will pay a fine.
Another option is to have an executory deal. It is less coercive. The governmental agency or private enterprise could be asked to make a deal, such as being in accordance with the law within five months.
If my colleague is interested, he can look into how it is done in Wales, England. It has a commissioner who has huge coercive powers.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-09 15:51 [p.27638]
Mr. Speaker, if I correctly understood what the member said, there is, in fact, a part at the beginning of the law that speaks about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, which does not bind the government to this law, and maybe she finds that unfortunate. However, I voted against UNDRIP.
There were some indigenous people in my riding who came to my office, and with courage and pride I sat in front of them and explained to them why it was actually a courageous act as a legislator in 2018 to vote against the ratification of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Canada. Why? It is because most constitutionalists would say that it goes against some of our own constitutional conventions and laws, and I think that a courageous legislator must tell the truth to Canadians.
Although we might like UNDRIP, it is not in accordance with Canadian law. What is most important for a legislator is not to protect United Nations accords; it is to protect the Canadian law. I explained that to my constituent, who was an indigenous person, and I think we had huge respect for each other. Although he did not agree with me, I understand why he could not agree with me, which was because of the history he had with us and the founding people. Maybe that is why UNDRIP is not so clearly enshrined in this law.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-09 15:54 [p.27638]
Mr. Speaker, to the first question on the importance of language, I know what it means, because I am a Quebecker. I am a French Canadian, and I am able to speak in French in this institution, but I like to show respect and answer in English when someone talks to me in English. My father is an anglophone, by the way.
When my daughter was born five years ago, I intended to speak to her in English, and I told my wife that she could speak to her in French, but I could not do it, because when I speak in English to my daughter, it is not from my heart. I do not feel the connection. Therefore, yes, a language is fundamental to a person's identity. It is fundamental to carry the culture we are from. It is impossible for me to speak to my kids in English. I do not see them that much, because I am here, but when I speak to my kids, I want my heart to be speaking.
Second, it is obvious that there were a lot of mistakes in the bill, because the government had to present more than 20 amendments. We should be afraid that there are other mistakes in the bill, which we did not have time to discuss or analyze correctly. I think that could be something troublesome that the next government, which will be Conservative, will have to repair.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-30 18:55 [p.19946]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the member for Québec, whose riding borders mine. They are both very beautiful ridings.
The minister said something that deeply troubled me. It is one of the Liberals' recurring themes. He said that Canada was back on the world stage; however, we never left it. We simply have a different public policy, a different understanding, and a different approach.
I do not see how they can claim that we left the world stage when we signed 47 international treaties and we sent the Canadian Armed Forces to Kandahar on one of the most dangerous missions. It was a great success. My brother went there in 2006 to fight the Taliban and then al Qaeda.
I do not understand how they can say that given that we established the free trade agreement with the European Union. If that is not an international commitment, I do not know what it is. As I often say in the House, according to the Liberals' rhetoric, they have a monopoly on virtue.
I would like to know if the Liberals are going to move another time allocation motion this evening or if we are going to start a serious debate of their proposed legislation.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-04 12:40 [p.19159]
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her maiden speech after her recent election in her beautiful riding. I know my colleague and all Conservative colleagues here, and probably all party MPs, go to their ridings each weekend. We work hard. We have activities in the communities, such as spaghetti dinners, etc.
The member will be able to share with us everything she hears from her constituents about the need to ensure Canadian oil can be exported outside the country. It is a major issue.
How can we still, today in 2018, be importing petroleum from dictatorship countries when we have all these resources here? Could my colleague share with us some of the comments she has heard from her constituents?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-04 12:42 [p.19160]
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House of Commons.
On a more serious note, I would like to take a moment to talk about my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, who passed away very suddenly this week. I never imagined this could happen. I share his family's sorrow, though of course mine could never equal theirs. His young children will not get to share amazing moments in their lives with their father, and that is staggeringly sad. I would therefore like to publicly state that I encourage them to hang in there. One day, they will surely find joy in living again, and we are here for them.
As usual, I want to say acknowledge all of the residents of Beauport—Limoilou who are tuning in. I would like to let them know that there will be a press conference Monday morning at my office. I will be announcing a very important initiative for our riding. I urge them to watch the news or read the paper when the time comes.
Bill C-48 would essentially enact a moratorium on the entire Pacific coast. It would apply from Prince Rupert, a fascinating city that I visited in 2004 at the age of 18, to Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This moratorium is designed to prevent oil tankers, including Canadian ones, that transport more than 12,500 tons of oil from accessing Canada's inland waters, and therefore our ports.
This moratorium will prohibit the construction of any pipeline project or maritime port beyond Port Hardy, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, to export our products to the west. In the past three weeks, the Liberal government has slowly but surely been trying to put an end to Canada's natural resources, and oil in particular. Northern Gateway is just one example.
The first thing the Liberals did when they came to power was to amend the environmental assessment process managed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; they even brag about it. Northern Gateway was in the process of being accepted, but as a result of these amendments, the project was cancelled, even though the amendments were based on the cabinet's political agenda and not on scientific facts, as the Liberal government claims.
When I look at Bill C-48, which would enact a moratorium on oil tankers in western Canada, it seems clear to me that the Liberals had surely been planning to block the Northern Gateway project for a while. Their argument that the project did not clear the environmental assessment is invalid, since they are now imposing a moratorium that would have prevented this project from moving forward regardless.
The Prime Minister and member for Papineau has said Canada needs to phase out the oil sands. Not only did he say that during the campaign, but he said it again in Paris, before the French National Assembly, in front of about 300 members of the Macron government, who were all happy to hear it. I can guarantee my colleagues that Canadians were not happy to hear that, especially people living in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta who benefit economically from this natural resource. Through their hard work, all Canadians benefit from the incredible revenues and spinoffs generated by that industry.
My colleague from Prince Albert gave an exceptional speech this morning. He compassionately explained how hard it has been for families in Saskatchewan to accept and understand the decisions being made one after the other by this Liberal government. The government seems to be sending a message that is crystal clear: it does not support western Canada's natural resources, namely oil and natural gas. What is important to understand, however, is that this sector represents roughly 60% the economy of the western provinces and 40% of Canada's entire economy.
I can see why the Minister of Environment and Climate Change says we need to tackle climate change first. The way she talks to us every day is so arrogant. We believe in climate change. That is not the issue. Climate change and natural resources are complex issues, and we must not forget the backdrop to this whole debate. People are suffering because they need to put food on the table. Nothing has changed since the days of Cro-Magnon man. People have to eat every day. People have to find ways to survive.
When the Liberals go on about how to save the planet and the polar bears, that is their post-modern, post-materialist ideology talking. Conservatives, in contrast, talk about how to help families get through the day. That is what the Canadian government's true priority should be.
Is it not completely absurd that even now, in 2018, most of the gas people buy in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and Ontario comes from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia even though we have one of the largest oil reserves in the world? Canada has the third-largest oil reserve in the world, in fact. That is not even counting the Arctic Ocean, of which we own a sizeable chunk and which has not yet been explored. Canada has tremendous potential in this sector.
As I have often told many of my Marxist-Leninist, leftist, and other colleagues, the price of oil is going to continue to rise dramatically until 2065 because of China's and India's fuel consumption. Should Canada say no to $1 trillion in economic spinoffs until then? Absolutely not.
How will we afford to pay for our hospitals, our schools, and our social services that are so dear to the left-wing advocates of the welfare state in Canada? As I said, the priority is to meet the needs of Canadians and Canada, a middle power that I adore.
To get back to the point I was making, as my colleague from Prince Albert said, the decision regarding Bill C-48 and the moratorium was made by cabinet, without any consultation or any study by a parliamentary committee. Day after day, the Liberals brag about being the government that has consulted more with Canadians over the past three years than any government in history. It is always about history with them.
The moratorium will have serious consequences for Canada's prosperity and the economic development of the western provinces, which represent a growing segment of the population. How can the Liberals justify the fact that they failed to conduct any environmental or scientific impact assessments, hold any Canada-wide consultations, or have a committee examine this issue? They did not even consult with the nine indigenous nations that live on the land covered by the moratorium. The NDP ought to be alarmed about that. That is the point I really want to talk about.
I have here a legal complaint filed with the B.C. Supreme Court by the Lax Kw'alaams first nation—I am sorry if I pronounced that wrong—represented by John Helin. The plaintiffs are the indigenous peoples living in the region covered by the moratorium. Only nine indigenous nations from that region are among the plaintiffs. The defendant is the Government of British Columbia.
The lawyer's argument is very interesting from a historical perspective.
The claim area includes and is adjacent to an open and safe deepwater shipping corridor and contains lands suitable for development as an energy corridor and protected deepwater ports for the development and operation of a maritime installation, as defined in Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act.
“The plaintiffs' aboriginal title encompasses the right to choose to what uses the land can be put, including use as a marine installation subject only to justifiable environmental assessment and approval legislation.”
He continues:
The said action by Canada “discriminates against the plaintiffs by prohibiting the development of land...in an area that has one of the best deepwater ports and safest waterways in Canada, while permitting such development elsewhere”, such as in the St. Lawrence Gulf, the St. Lawrence River, and the Atlantic Ocean.
My point is quite simple. We have a legal argument here that shows that not only does the territory belong to the indigenous people and the indigenous people were not consulted, but that the indigenous people, whom the Liberals are said to love, are suing the Government of British Columbia. This will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court because this moratorium goes against their ancestral rights on their territory, which they want to develop for future oil exports. This government is doing a very poor job of this.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-04 12:54 [p.19161]
Mr. Speaker, Canadian oil is the most highly regulated oil in the world. Our oil is subject to the largest number of regulations regarding the environment, transportation safety, taxation, consumption, royalties, and so forth.
Would the founding nations consider it normal today for hundreds of huge oil tankers to cross the Atlantic ocean and come to this country when scientists are telling us that we have the third-largest oil reserve in the world? The carbon capture technology for the oil sands is getting better by the day.
We need to improve our environmental practices, I think that goes without saying. However, once again, how can we justify telling our grandchildren that we do not want to share in the wealth created over the next 40 years by the China's and India's incredible consumption of oil? Those countries are not going to stop purely for environmental reasons. They are going to consume oil. They are in a full-blown industrial revolution and it is their right to do so. We could sell up to $1 trillion in oil to build hospitals and an education system that are efficient.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-04 12:57 [p.19162]
Mr. Speaker, environmentalists, just like NDP members, all have the same problem. They suffer from amnesia.
Since the 19th century and over the past 40 years, we have seen great environmental achievements, not only in Canada, but also around the world, with issues such as acid rain or the environment in our cities. The air in London in 1845 was worse than it is today in Beijing. Remarkable progress has been made on the environment. What is disappointing about the NDP, the Liberals, and environmentalists is that they never acknowledge progress and the efforts of Canadians.
We are transitioning towards green energy, but we cannot change Canada's entire supply chain in the space of a few years. This is why we are talking about it, because we need to be able to take advantage of our resources in the meantime.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-12-12 10:39 [p.16313]
Madam Speaker, as usual, I would like to say hello to the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are tuning in today. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that we are debating Bill C-24 at third reading this morning. This is one of those typically Liberal bills designed to satisfy special interest groups that support Liberals and lend credence to their ideological views.
I found it particularly interesting to see the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons champion the bill so passionately, but I do have questions about some of her arguments.
First of all, I wonder if, in defending the bill, the minister is putting on an act or if she truly does not understand the difference between ministers, who are responsible for portfolios crucial to the nation, and ministers of state, who are there to lend a hand and support other departments of national importance.
Five major federal ministers have always had a seat at the cabinet table, namely the Minister of Finance, the Treasury Board minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of National Revenue. Those five cabinet positions have always existed, and they have always been important to the government's ability to govern well.
The minister also said repeatedly in her speech how important Bill C-24 is for gender equality among cabinet ministers. That is not exactly how many of her colleagues seem to understand it. At the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, which I was honoured to serve on for over a year in 2016 and 2017, many Liberal members thought that, on the contrary, Bill C-24 was not about achieving gender equality.
When the committee was hearing from witnesses for the bill's study, the member for Newmarket—Aurora said:
I'm not sure the purpose of this bill was at all to express gender equality....I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised...
The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, who also serves on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, thinks that ministries of state should be called emerging ministries. This is another example that illustrates that the Liberals do not seem to understand the difference between ministries of state and departments critical to good governance, such as the Department of Finance.
The hon. Liberal member from Don Valley East told the witnesses:
I was as confused as you were about why we are even talking about gender equity....I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24...Let's not be disingenuous and try to say that [Bill C-24] has anything to do with gender equality...
I simply wanted to mention these small details to show that despite the speech by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons today at third reading stage of Bill C-24, a number of her colleagues expressed an opposite view in committee, that the bill had nothing to do with gender equity. It is just a tool to take up the House's time and distract from other awful realities that this government would rather not talk about, namely its capacity to break promise after promise since it was elected in 2015.
For example, the Liberals broke their promise to run a deficit of $10 billion a year. That is well known in Canada. Now they are running deficits of more than $20 billion. They also broke their promise to balance the budget by 2019. That has been put off indefinitely. They do not even have the honour or decency to announce a target date for balancing the budget. Then they broke their promise to move forward with electoral reform and to change the Canadian electoral system, which was a key election promise. They also broke their promise to restore home mail delivery for all Canadians by making Canada Post review its policy to stop home mail delivery. They also broke their promise not to introduce omnibus bills, which have been piling up over the past two years. As a matter of fact, we debated an omnibus bill in the House just yesterday. They also broke their promise to give veterans the option of choosing a lifetime pension by restoring the system that was in effect before 2005, or before the new veterans charter was introduced.
Those are just a few examples of the Liberals' broken promises. That is this government's track record. I am pointing that out because Bill C-24 is yet another attempt to hide another broken promise, the promise to have true gender parity in cabinet. When the Prime Minister formed his cabinet two weeks after winning the election in 2015, he was very proud to announce to the media at a press conference that he had a gender-balanced cabinet. When he was asked why, he responded “Because it's 2015”. It is already mind-boggling enough that a prime minister would not have a better explanation than that, but in the months that followed, journalists, Canadians, interest groups, and women's rights groups slowly became aware of something that the Prime Minister was trying to slip past them. His cabinet was gender balanced with regard to the number of men and women at the cabinet table, but not with regard to the importance of the positions they held.
At the beginning of my speech, I named Canada's most important government departments. For example, the head of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is a man. The same is true of the Treasury Board, the Department of Finance, and the Department of National Defence. The only other department that is undeniably important to the government is the Department of Foreign Affairs. Of the five major departments, only one is led by a woman.
Women were chosen to head a few other departments, such as the Department of Indigenous Services and the Department of Health. However, all of the other women in cabinet are ministers of state. It is not that they are less important, but they do not lead real departments with an office building, thousands of employees, a minister's office, and the tools needed to properly manage a major department.
In practical terms, Bill C-24 would do two things. First, it would eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for Canada's economic development agencies. Second, it would create eight new federal minister positions. Five of them would be ministers of state who would receive the same salary as full ministers, thanks to an amendment to the Salaries Act that is supposedly intended to ensure parity within cabinet.
We Conservatives have no choice but to oppose Bill C-24, if only because abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies would have such a detrimental effect on the well-being of Canada and all of its regions.
Regional economic development agencies play a pivotal role in Canada. They help thousands of projects get off the ground in every province and major region. Canada is divided into five regions: the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, the western region, and the Pacific region. Each of these regions has its own economic development agency, whose job is to determine the basic needs of its small and medium-sized municipalities and large urban centres.
The Liberal government's decision to eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for these six economic development agencies is a clear attempt to centralize power in Canada. Every time the Liberal Party comes into power, its goal is to centralize power in Ottawa, within the federal administration. That is what it tried to do with the health agreements it recently negotiated with the provinces, when it made their funding subject to conditions. Now it is doing the same thing on a bigger scale by abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for regional agencies.
For example, Mr. Denis Lebel, who was our political lieutenant for Quebec, was responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. Every year, the agency distributes roughly $200 million only in Quebec, specifically to revitalize municipal neighbourhoods, provide small and medium-sized businesses with new tools, and finance concrete projects in small airports to help local businesses get much faster access to major centres and even to other countries.
A minister in charge of a regional economic development agency is a bit like an MP. As members, we visit our ridings to understand the daily needs of our constituents. We participate in events and we do canvassing, not to mention the work we do in our offices, where we welcome constituents. This enables us to hear what they have to say about bills and government politics, and especially about pressing, local needs. A minister who represents a regional economic development agency has a similar job, but they do it for the designated region as a whole. In this case, I am speaking of Quebec.
Denis Lebel was the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. His duties as a minister and political lieutenant included visiting companies and making ministerial announcements. He travelled all over the province, meeting citizens and entrepreneurs and visiting small and medium municipalities, entrepreneurial communities, or even community development organizations, in order to determine what they needed.
Like an MP, a minister responsible for an economic development agency must come back here to Ottawa and report to cabinet about the region he or she represents.
When Parliament is sitting, we are all expected to come to the House every week, whether it is fall or spring. We are expected to come here and report to the House or to our national caucuses on what our constituents, the various orders of government in our regions, our municipalities, and our ridings need. Collaboration and synergy between the different orders of government is always a good thing.
The work we do in the House is exactly what the ministers responsible for regional economic development agencies do in reporting to cabinet and ultimately to public servants and the Prime Minister. These people provide an essential link between the needs on the ground and the whole governmental and bureaucratic apparatus in Ottawa.
Every department that is responsible for allocating funds for projects across Canada is part of an extremely complex state system that is like an endless bureaucratic web. It involves 300,000 public servants in Canada, and the decisions they make often take a very long time.
The work of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies was therefore central to the actual funding allocated for projects, because they were there in Ottawa to establish a connection between the needs on the ground and government priorities and to navigate administrative and bureaucratic processes.
For example, the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the regions of Quebec at the time, Denis Lebel, was handed a list of projects several times a month, and he had to approve the really big ones. His role and responsibility was to ensure that what he was hearing on the ground informed the public service's administrative priorities so that the most important projects got done as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the Liberal government cut cabinet positions associated with various economic development regions in Canada and put one person in charge of all the economic development agencies in the country. That person is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, an MP from Toronto who already heads up a major department. He is now responsible for being up on what is going on with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for example. He also has to be aware of what is going on with economic development agencies for western Canada, Quebec, and Ontario. He is the person who is supposedly going to be familiar with the issues affecting every little community and every region across Canada and who is going to make sure they get money for the projects that matter most to them.
It is hard to understand how the Liberal government was unable to find one person among the 30 members from Atlantic Canada with the right skills and who would have been honoured to head the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
We can already predict what will happen. Projects submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency were generally authorized or would move forward after about 30 days or so; we now see delays of more than 90 days. This centralization will have a major impact on how money is allocated to the communities and regions of Canada. It is impossible to believe that a minister from Toronto will be able to single-handedly grasp all of Canada's regional concerns.
As far as the gender-balanced cabinet is concerned, the Liberals are once again getting taxpayers to foot the bill for one of their political mistakes. The Liberals led Canadians to believe that theirs was a gender-balanced cabinet, but it is balanced only in terms of numbers. It is not balanced in terms of ministerial importance. To fix their mistake, the Liberals are telling Canadians that they will give every minister of state the same salary as “real” ministers.
Again, taxpayers are paying for a Liberal mistake.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-12-12 11:01 [p.16315]
Madam Speaker, I am quite surprised by the affirmation of the member across the aisle, because the House leader emphasized throughout her speech, just three minutes ago, that on the contrary, the purpose of this bill is gender equity. It would show Canadians how important gender equity is to the government.
I would say that the member is wrong. The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, for example, is not as important as the Minister of Finance. That is exactly why the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is a minister of state and the salaries are not the same. The reason is quite simple. Real ministries have buildings, employees, and a ministerial cabinet with about 40 staffers. They must make sure that governmental responsibilities and goals are brought forward, which is not the case for ministers of state, who are there to support bigger ministries.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-12-12 11:03 [p.16315]
Madam Speaker, I agree completely with my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.
The Liberals have been doing a terrible job over the past year. The softwood lumber crisis is still ongoing, although it should have been resolved when President Obama was still in power. The member for Papineau said he had an excellent relationship with the American president, so he should have taken advantage of that to resolve the situation before a new president was elected.
There is also the NAFTA file, which, by all accounts, is a mess. It is still unresolved. We will probably have to wait until the summer of 2018 to find out whether NAFTA can be saved.
Today in the House, instead of having a dialogue about how to reach a deal, how to make sure NAFTA is salvaged and Canadian interests are protected, or how to make sure the softwood lumber crisis is resolved, something that is very important to Quebec and B.C., we are debating a bill to increase ministers' salaries, which means, once again, that taxpayers will have to pay for this government's political mistakes.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-12-12 11:06 [p.16316]
Madam Speaker, I have the utmost respect for every single member in this House. That is not the question. I did not question the competence or goals of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Of course he wants good things for Canada and wants to make sure that all regions can access the money necessary for their economic projects.
I was referring to pragmatism, rationality, and the necessity of having a minister responsible for a specific region who comes from the region, who knows, almost by heart, the needs of the people and is sensitive to the needs of the region. It should be someone who has grown up there and lives there now and knows the place, knows the ground, and knows the people and goes there every single weekend after a week of work here in the House of Commons. That is the goal of having ministers responsible for economic development agencies. Those people know the regions, because they are from the regions.
I am not questioning the competence or the knowledge of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development concerning Canada, but he does not have specific knowledge of each region. He does not have the time to go to each region to hear about people's concerns and needs.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-12-12 11:08 [p.16316]
Madam Speaker, yes, of course. I was knocking on doors two weeks ago, and I spoke about the bill to some of my constituents. They were a bit mad, I would say, since they see all the different issues coming to their door more and more.
The Prime Minister went to China for no apparent reason. Well, he said he had a reason, but his own reason, the free trade agreement with China, has not come to any result. There is the softwood lumber crisis, which has not been dealt with. We also have the NAFTA negotiations, which are in disarray. The government does not seem to be putting any strategy forward to make sure that it does not fall apart.
Now we have this bill that would basically close down representation of all regions of Canada in cabinet. As well, it would increase the salaries of ministers of state to that of ministers. However, ministers of state do not have the same amount of responsibility as ministers. That is why their salaries have not been the same. It is all about competence and equality of responsibilities.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2017-10-31 11:05 [p.14754]
Madam Speaker, some provisions of the bill attempt to respond to a specific situation. Sometimes, two airlines may be compelled to streamline their operations. For example, if there is a flight between Toronto and Atlanta, Delta Airlines and Air Canada could decide to merge their operations and offer a single route instead of two separate ones. That means that when a customer books a plane ticket, either Air Canada or Delta Airlines will get the contract.
When airlines merge their operations, even if it is just for one particular route, the competition commissioner must determine whether so doing will reduce the competition on the market and he must also ensure that this will not drive up prices for consumers.
Under this bill, the minister would have the final say as to whether this sort of action is in the public interest or not. I would therefore like to know how the Liberals define the notion of public interest when airlines want to merge routes.
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