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View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
2019-06-13 13:40 [p.29053]
Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member knows that in the Conservative-run province of Manitoba, two agreements had been signed with the Métis people for hydro development. Under that government in Manitoba, the Conservatives started cancelling those treaties, I mean agreements. Agreements do sound a lot like treaties. Where is the respect in Manitoba for indigenous rights under a Conservative government?
As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Province of Manitoba, when we say those words at the beginning of every speech, “We are here on the traditional lands of the Métis nation”, we must recognize that this province was founded by the Métis people under their leader Louis Riel.
I would like to quote David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, who said, “Do you want to get revenge on the Métis people?”
I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary, should we be respecting indigenous rights right across this country, not only by Liberal or NDP governments but also by Conservative governments?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that this was a great concern of John Diefenbaker, who gave indigenous people the vote. Most of the ugly residential school experiences were under the Liberal government of Mackenzie King. Let us not point fingers when it is not required.
I should also make a point for my colleague from Manitoba. The agreement he referred to was by Manitoba Hydro, not by the Manitoba government.
The crocodile tears of all the members opposite crying for indigenous people are truly sickening. All they talk about is process, process, process. There has not been a single major development in this country that has helped aboriginal people, ever.
I am going to make a prediction right now. If all the socio-economic indicators of indigenous communities were measured when the Liberal government took office and when it is going to leave office on October 21, I absolutely guarantee that not a single socio-economic indicator will have improved.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House to speak to this particular bill. Unfortunately, Bill C-88 is another anti-energy policy from the Liberal government, which is driving energy investment out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and increasing poverty rates in the north. Like Bill C-69 before it, Bill C-88 politicizes oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of the cabinet to block economic development and adds to the increasing levels of red tape that proponents must face before they can get shovels in the ground.
Further, Bill C-88 reveals a full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for increased control of their natural resources. I am deeply concerned that with Bill C-88, the Liberals would entrench into law their ability to continue to arbitrarily and without consultation block oil and gas projects. As witnesses noted in the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, again we see the Liberal government putting together very different pieces of legislation. Before taking office, they promised to table only legislation that stands alone, and they have run away from that promise altogether.
The former Conservative government viewed the north as a key driver of economic activity for decades to come. Other Arctic nations, including China and Russia, are exploring possibilities. The Liberals, meanwhile, are arbitrarily creating more barriers to economic development in Canada's north, with the Liberal government's top-down and ever-paternalistic action to do nothing to reduce poverty in remote and northern regions of Canada. Northerners face the unique challenges of living in the north with fortitude and resilience. They want jobs and economic opportunities for their families, and they deserve a government that has their back.
Bill C-88 is another one in the long list of failed Liberal environmental policies. There are Bill C-69, which will further throttle natural resource development; Bill C-68, the new fisheries act, which will add another layer of complications to all Canadian economic development; Bill C-48, the tanker ban; as well as Bill C-55, the marine protected areas law. Added together, it is a complete dog's breakfast of anti-development legislation.
The natural resource industries are extremely important in this country. Indeed, I am very honoured and proud to represent a natural resource constituency. What do the natural resources consist of in this country? They are energy, forestry, agriculture, mining, commercial fishing, hunting, fishing, trapping and so on. In my riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, all of these activities take place in various regions, in all 66,000 square kilometres of my riding, and it sickens and angers me how the workers in the natural resource industries and the people in the communities are continually being attacked by the government, whether it is anti-firearms legislation, Bill C-69 or Bill C-68. All of these pieces of legislation collectively add up to a complete throttling of rural communities.
I listened with great humour to the parliamentary secretary's comments about the Mackenzie Valley. I cut my teeth as a young fisheries biologist doing environmental impact work in the Mackenzie Valley. I was there in 1971, 1972, 1975 and again in the 1980s. While I would certainly never claim to know as much about the Mackenzie Valley as does the hon. member for Northwest Territories, my experience as a biologist has been unique.
Back in the 1970s, when the first environmental impact assessment work was done in the Mackenzie Valley, I was part of teams of biologists who sampled every single waterway in the Mackenzie Valley where the pipeline would cross. We assessed fish and wildlife habitats up and down the valley, and I am one of the few people in this country, apart from the residents of the Mackenzie Valley itself, who have seen, experienced, photographed and measured essentially all of the environmental amenities and characteristics that the Mackenzie Valley has. In addition, I have also visited most communities. It was quite a while ago; nevertheless, I do not think a lot has changed.
The implication from the parliamentary secretary is that absolutely nothing has been done in the Mackenzie Valley, nothing at all. The work started in the 1970s, with the aforementioned environmental impact assessment that was done and that I was a part of. Those were the years of the Berger commission. The shameful Berger commission held hearing after hearing. That was a time when natural gas and energy prices were fairly high, so much so that Thomas Berger recommended that the project be shelved, which it was, after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on exploration activities and with much community involvement. I was there. I saw it. I was part of it.
In the 1990s, it was done all over again. The same streams that we sampled in the 1970s were looked at, the same wildlife habitat, the same environmental characteristics were all measured and, again, the same conclusion was reached: no development.
The late 1990s were a time when natural gas prices were something like $15 per 1,000 cubic feet. It made the pipeline economical. Well, along came fracking, and the price of natural gas went down to $3 per 1,000 cubic feet, and in the mid-2000s, the pipeline project was shelved in perpetuity, leaving these communities consigned to poverty.
The Mackenzie Valley is a unique and wonderful place. The soils are rich and the trees are big. It is indeed an anomaly in the north. One does not have to go too far east of the Mackenzie Valley to hit the tundra. There have been experimental farms in the Mackenzie Valley. There was one at Fort Simpson when I was living there. Again, the agricultural and forestry potential is absolutely enormous.
The parliamentary secretary talks about the fragility of the Mackenzie Valley. I doubt he has seen it. All of the world's environments need to be treated with care. However, does he realize that there have been oil wells in Norman Wells since the Second World War? Does he realize that, in 1980, a pipeline was built from Norway House to Zama Lake, Alberta? All of these developments were done without any fanfare, and Norman Wells, producing some of the finest crude oil in the world, has been operating for decades now with little or no environmental impact. People who do not know what they are talking about and do not know about the environment are making laws that consign people in these communities to poverty in perpetuity, and that is absolutely shameful.
In terms of indigenous communities and resource development, one need only look at the Agnico Eagle gold mine at Baker Lake. I hate to break it to my friends opposite, who so object to resource development, but the employment rate in Baker Lake is 100%, thanks to that mining operation.
During the testimony for Bill C-69, I asked Pierre Gratton, the head of The Mining Association of Canada, about the social conditions in communities that operate in the diamond mining area. These are his words, not mine, but I am paraphrasing. He talked about the increase in education levels. Literacy went up; job training went up; and the social conditions improved.
The current government is consigning Canada's north and Canada's northern communities to poverty in perpetuity, and I hope it is happy about it, because I certainly am not. It is shameful what it is doing.
In my time as a biologist, I have seen the evolution of environmental policy, starting in the 1970s. I was not there, but I remember the first Earth Day in 1970, which Maurice Strong organized. Back in the mid-1980s, the Brundtland commission came out with “Our Common Future”, which talked about the concept of sustainable development. Gro Harlem Brundtland was very clear on the concept of sustainable development. She said clearly that sustainable development is not an environment concept; it is a development concept, and it is development in harmony with the environment. However, the current government has seen fit to break that particular compact with the people.
In the 2000s, of course, I also saw the rise of climate science and environmental policy. It is an evolution I have been very fortunate to witness, but what I see now, from the Liberals especially, is that they are phony environmentalists, most of them, apart from the member for Northwest Territories, whom I have an enormous amount of respect for. They talk a good game about the environment, but they do not know anything about it. They have never been there. They have never studied it. They do not measure it, and they have no concept of what goes on.
There are two paths in terms of environmental policy. One is with the Liberals and the NDP. For them, environmental policy is all about process, consultation and nothing else. Strategies without results are meaningless. On this side of the House, Conservative environmental policy is focused on real and measurable environmental results. It is no accident that former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was named the greenest prime minister in Canadian history: the acid rain treaty, the Montreal Protocol, the green plan, the pulp and paper effluent regulations. My own previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, connected with that particular legacy.
The track record of Conservative governments is by far the best in terms of measurable results. Environmental assessments should be all about what effect a project would have on the environment, how we mitigate it and how we ensure the project moves ahead with all the attendant benefits that it will develop?
What is really interesting is that those on the Liberal left think modern society is the problem. Those of us on the Conservative side of the House say modern society is the answer.
A group of academics coined an index called the “environmental benefits index”. Basically, it is a graph comparing country income, per capita income in any given country, and environmental quality. It is very clear, if we look at measurable environmental indicators, such as water quality, air quality, amount of protected land, conservation agriculture, the fewest species at risk and on and on, that the wealthy countries have the best environments.
Which party delivers economic growth, economic development through trade, creating a business climate for economic growth? That is only the Conservatives. That is why, under Conservative governments, if one looks at the actual measurable environmental characteristics of Canada, for example, indeed all of the developed nations of the world, they are vastly superior to countries that are run under the stultifying control of excess governments.
We can look, for example, at the Sudbury miracle. What happened there? A few decades ago, a moonscape was around Sudbury. Investments were made in sulfur dioxide removal. Now the forests have all come back. There are still jobs there. The forest and the environment have come back. That is what happens when we have Conservative-style environmentalism. We actually get results.
Let us get back to the Mackenzie Valley. When we were doing our assessments in the Mackenzie Valley, we had aerial photographs. This was back in the days before GPS or any of that kind of stuff. We sat down with aerial photographs in our laps, big huge rolls. We were in the helicopter, following this black line through the Mackenzie Valley. The GEO chemist beside me would take notes, the hydrologist would take notes, and then the helicopters would land in various stream crossing areas, where we knew the pipeline would cross.
All of us scientific types, hopped out and did our various work, such such wildlife habitat and fisheries habitat assessments. I would set my little nets in the pools and see what was there. I have to confess something, I was actually paid to fish back in those days. It is something that a young biologist very much appreciated.
This was back in 1975, the care with which the pipeline was planned, the soil types were measured, the depth of the permafrost was looked at, all that kind of stuff. Even back then, in the dark ages of 1975, we knew darn well that that pipeline could be built and delivered in an environmentally sound way. Indeed, my friend, the natural resources critic would know how many kilometres of pipeline there are in the country, about 30,000 kilometres of pipeline, give or take. However, nobody knows where they are, because they are all cited according to our best environmental practices.
It always bugs me when I hear members opposite, or the NDP members, talk about cleaning up our economy, going green, clean tech and so on. I have a dirty little secret to share with them. All industries in Canada are already clean.
Let me give an example of that. Brian Mulroney, the Conservative PM in 1989, implemented the pulp and paper effluent regulations. They mandated the construction of a waste water treatment plant at every pulp and paper facility. What was once a toxic effluent now became an effluent that people could actually drink. Industry after industry across the country follows those exact same guidelines.
Before I became an MP, I had this pleasure through environmental assessment in the oil sands. I lived at the Denman camp, part of the Kearl project. It is a human tragedy what the Liberals are doing. I had a chance to mix, mingle and make friends with people all across the country of all ages, of all education levels, from tractor drivers to hydrogeochemists and everything in between. They were all fulfilling their dream, making a very good living, helping their families, paying their way through school, buying that first house. The Liberals are destroying that for the families of those good people who work in the oil sands. That is something I will never forgive. It is simply not true that our industries are not clean. They are the cleanest in the world.
Here we are importing oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, leaving aside the social conditions in those countries. We know there are simply no environmental standards in those countries. The government and the NDP willingly import that kind of oil, yet block the exports of Canadian oil and gas whether it is from the Arctic or the west coast.
What is also interesting is that there are national security implications to this as well. I remember meeting with the ambassador from Slovakia. That country is dependent on Russian gas. It would only be too happy to buy energy from us. The implications of what the Liberals and NDP are doing to stop Canada's resource development goes far beyond our country. Indeed they go far beyond Alberta. Again, Canadians from all walks of life have worked in the oil sands.
Getting back to the bill for the Mackenzie Valley, it truly saddens me when I think about the communities of the Mackenzie Valley, which are ably represented by the member for Northwest Territories. It really saddens me to see what is perhaps going on there, apart from where there is no resource development. I mentioned Baker Lake and the diamond mines. Where there is resource development, communities are thriving. Wages are high. Environmental quality is very high because all these industrial activities, all these installations are built with the highest environmental standards in mind.
People say that this industry did this badly or this industry is not doing it right. Every industry in the country operates under the terms and conditions of an environmental licence. I should know. I managed an environmental licence for a paper company. We had to do the appropriate monitoring of our industrial activity. I had to submit reports. We were checked on a regular basis.
If any industry in the country does not operate in an environmentally sound way, it is not the industry's fault; it is the government's fault. Either the terms and conditions of the environmental licence are not right, but the company is following these terms, or the government is not enforcing the rules.
I, for one, will stand and proudly defend all the Canadian industry. What we do in our country is right and proper and is a model for the world.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefore:
Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 85 and 86, with a view to removing the ability for the federal cabinet to prohibit oil and gas activities on frontier lands based on “national interest”.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, as much as I respect my friend, what a stupid question. Of course indigenous people need to be involved in these consultations. To suggest otherwise to a member who has 15 first nations in his own riding is far beneath what I would expect from my friend. It is an ill-considered comment.
As I said earlier, while I certainly would never claim to have as much knowledge as he does about the Mackenzie Valley and the people who live there, my experiences living and working with the indigenous people in the Mackenzie Valley has been nothing but positive. I absolutely respect and revere their knowledge of the land and their desire to ensure it is conserved. I also respect and revere their desire for economic development to make their lives better, as well as for their families, their children and their communities.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for playing right into my hands. Should he wish to debate environmental policy, I will do it anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
I noticed that in his question, there was nothing about environmental results. It is all process oriented. Under the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, 1,700 kilometres of streams were fixed and two million square metres of spawning habitat was restored. A record number of hectares became protected areas in this country. Under the national conservation plan, 800,000 hectares of valuable endangered species habitat was protected. The national conservation plan had measurable results. Sulfur dioxide emissions and nitrous oxide emissions were down and greenhouse gas emissions in general were down.
The NDP and the Liberals, I notice, never talk about results. It is all about environmental process.
I was on the fisheries committee when Bill C-68 was being debated. It was going to change the Fisheries Act, 2012. We asked witness after witness from the same class my hon. friend is from, the Ecojustice types, very pointed questions. We asked whether the changes made to the Fisheries Act, 2012 had any measurable effects on any fish population or community in this country. They kind of looked at their shoes and said that they really could not say, that they did not know and that there were really no effects.
This is about the environment, what is measurable and what progress is made. That is what environmental policy should be about.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have a perfect example to answer his question. Today the Minister of Natural Resources had the gall to stand and say, with a straight face, that he is denying a permit to allow Manitoba to deliver clean, green hydroelectricity to Minnesota, as though it were some spurious thing. It has been a five-year process with the National Energy Board. Having worked on transmission lines, I know that there are thousands of kilometres of transmission lines in this country. Once the transmission line hits the U.S. border, it is going about 100 kilometres or so.
To have that project stalled at the whim of a natural resources minister who really knows nothing about the file is nothing but shameful. It is also shameful that members of Parliament on the Liberal side are not protecting and defending the interests of Manitoba. Shame on them.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-06 10:33 [p.28664]
Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on a question that the member for Yukon put forward.
The Conservatives have attempted to make a big issue out of this, and theirs is the only party in the House that has really taken the position it has. However, when it came time for a vote the other night, it was interesting to see that only 35, about a third of the Conservative caucus, voted for the opposition motion. That speaks quite strongly about the Conservatives' sense of commitment on this issue, let alone supporting the member's statement.
Could the member indicate why so few Conservative voted in favour of their opposition motion?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-06-06 10:47 [p.28666]
Mr. Speaker, I heard the member cite a number several times in his speech, a number I have heard before in the House, about lifting 300,000 children out of poverty. My colleague from Saskatoon West has asked the government for a breakdown of how that number was calculated. We have not been successful so far in getting any information on how that number was arrived at. I am wondering how that number was arrived at.
If the hon. member does not know where that number came from, I am interested to know where he got it from and on what authority he is using it here in the House.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-06-06 11:04 [p.28668]
Mr. Speaker, when irregular border crossings began in earnest, the Conservative Party was calling for the entire Canadian border to be treated as an official point of entry, so that people crossing the border could be turned away wherever they crossed, without being able to make an asylum claim in Canada. The government at that time was very critical of the Conservative position.
There are provisions in this budget bill that would effectively mean that all borders will be treated as official points of entry, in just the same way the Conservatives recommended.
It is not clear to me, so I wonder if the member would care to elaborate on the ways, if there are any, in which the changes proposed in this omnibus budget differ from the Conservative proposal.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-06 16:36 [p.28718]
Madam Speaker, the member has an interesting background on this particular issue. He was not always on side with his Conservative Party when Stephen Harper was the prime minister. I respect that of the member opposite.
Listening to the Conservatives speak on this particular bill is a little confusing. The NDP members seem to have taken the position that they are not going to be voting for this bill, because they want expungement. If I listen to the Conservatives, some of them stand up and say that it should be expungement as opposed to a pardon. Others stand up and say that the pardon is good. Overall, it looks like the Conservatives are voting for the bill. It is hard thing to tell for sure.
Could the member give a clear indication of the Conservative Party's position on this bill? Do the Conservatives favour it, or are they inclined to vote against it?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-06-06 17:08 [p.28722]
Madam Speaker, this has been an interesting process, at the very least. We have seen a dramatic change in social policy, and it is a positive step forward. Providing pardons with this piece of legislation is going to assist a lot of individuals in being able to take further steps in employment and other aspects of life. Parties may disagree with regard to expungement versus pardons, but there is no doubt that it is a step forward, just like the legalization of cannabis itself. Would the member not agree?
View Terry Duguid Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Terry Duguid Profile
2019-06-05 21:57 [p.28639]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her remarks, as well as for her terrific work on the status of women standing committee, particularly her work in advancing the cause of senior women.
Manitoba is home to 63 first nations. It is the homeland of the Métis Nation. I wonder if the hon. member would comment on the historic investments we have been making in our indigenous communities in Manitoba and beyond, and how we are helping to reduce poverty in those communities.
View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2019-06-05 22:31 [p.28644]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, for sharing the block of time we have here this evening. It will allow me to zero in on one issue. He said that there are many that I might speak about, but I am going to zero in on one this evening.
In the Liberal's budget implementation bill, the government snuck in a major change to Canada's refugee laws. In fact, the Liberals did not even want to send division 16 to our immigration committee for review. Luckily, our former Liberal chair, who I believe is very much opposed to his own government's changes, was able to get it referred to our committee.
I want to set the stage for why the proposed changes are too little and too late. There is a good chance that they will be deemed not compliant with the Singh Supreme Court decision from the 1980s.
Since the between-ports border crossers started to enter in the numbers we have seen in these past couple of years, the Liberals have literally done nothing to close the loophole in the safe third country agreement with the United States. While there are MPs in this House who want to scrap the agreement in its entirety, our public servants, who are in constant contact with their American counterparts, still firmly believe that the United States is upholding the spirit of the agreement.
What we do not know is if the Liberal government has tried to renegotiate the agreement. Trying to get a straight answer out of the immigration minister is harder than getting the finance minister to tell us when the budget will be balanced.
I also understand that division 16 caused great consternation in the Liberal caucus. This was a major pivot from their previous stance that we could not do anything because of obligations and international law. Somehow this change, which came out of nowhere, seems to have been given the green light by the justice department.
The proposed Liberal changes have been panned by virtually every immigration professional in Canada and are not likely to withstand any sort of court challenge. We have asked for the government's charter review of the legislation, and it has yet to provide it. What the government did provide was a very high-level response that said it was compliant.
Multiple witnesses testified at our immigration committee and said that these changes might even add to the administrative backlog and the burden on the refugee system by directing people through the pre-risk removal assessment process. This change also raised concerns that the pre-risk removal assessment process would be conducted by departmental officials rather than by the independent and quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board.
After ignoring concerns about how the Liberals reacted to the influx of people walking across the border to claim asylum, they took almost two and a half years to introduce legislation. In fact, they stuck it into the budget implementation bill, and our immigration, refugee and citizenship committee was not even permitted to amend it. The Liberals pushed it through and tried to limit any political fallout. It sounds just like how the Liberals presented the deferred prosecution agreements issue in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
To add to the confusion, there are conflicting media reports as to whether the Liberals have reached out to the Americans to amend the safe third country agreement. According to the CBSA, they have had fruitful discussions with their American counterparts, but neither the Minister of Border Security nor the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship have told us if they want to amend the safe third country agreement.
Moreover, the Auditor General just gave the Liberals a failing grade on how they have handled Canada's refugee system. The Auditor General was clear that the government “did not process asylum claims in an efficient and timely manner.”
The audit revealed that the Liberals did not adequately respond to the influx of border crossers from the United States, and the Auditor General uncovered serious inefficiencies, which are contributing to significant delays.
Due to these delays in processing claims, there has been an increase in total costs for all levels of government for such things as housing, social assistance and health care. This report confirmed that the Liberals were incredibly slow to react. They should have responded immediately, rather than delay for two years.
The Auditor General conducted this review because of “the rising number of asylum claims that is testing the ability of Canada's refugee determination system to process claims in a timely manner.”
According to the report, if the Liberals do not improve the system, the backlog and wait times will continue to grow. They are projecting that if the number of new asylum claimants remains steady at around 50,000 per year, the wait time for a decision will increase to five years by 2024, which is more than double the current wait time. It goes without saying that these delays are costing taxpayers millions of dollars and putting tremendous strain on the resources of our provinces and municipalities.
In the report, it was determined that roughly 65% of all asylum hearings are being postponed at least once before a decision is made. This means that individuals seeking a decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board are facing increasing wait times to determine if their claim is valid or they will be issued a deportation order.
The Liberals have only themselves to blame. The Auditor General was clear when he stated the postponements “were due to administrative issues within the government's control.”
The Auditor General also brought to light that while the government records the identity documents of those seeking asylum claims, some were indecipherable and could not be read.
Furthermore, the Auditor General took a sample of the asylum claims and reported the government failed to check for criminality or to determine the identity of 400 individuals. He concluded that neither CBSA nor the immigration department tracked whether criminal record checks were always completed.
There is a vacuum of leadership at the very top that is now permeating throughout the entire government. If the Liberals cannot properly manage our immigration and refugee system, it is time for a new government. They should stop blaming others and take responsibility. They have had years to make the necessary changes to improve efficiencies, and now the entire system is backlogged for years to come.
If the Liberals think their proposed changes in the budget implementation act are a step in the right direction, they should listen to the litany of people who are speaking out and saying it will only create more confusion. What we would have liked to have seen is a clear commitment to fix this situation once and for all.
It was just last year that I wrote to the Parliamentary Budget Officer to request a full financial analysis of border crossers into Canada. The request stemmed from the lack of financial information provided by the Liberal government.
Since January 2017, over 40,000 border crossers have been intercepted by the RCMP in Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The PBO revealed that the border crossers cost taxpayers $340 million in 2017-18, $368 million this year, and if similar numbers come across next year, it will cost another $396 million. It is projected to cost at least $1.1 billion in just these three fiscal years, while costs will only continue to go up as the wait times for processing through the Immigration and Refugee Board have ballooned.
These numbers are just the federal government's expenses, and they exclude the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs being borne by provincial and municipal governments for housing and for welfare payments.
The numbers in the report are quite staggering. If the Liberals do nothing to either close the loophole in the safe third country agreement or deter border crossers, we can expect that the overall price tag will only continue to grow.
The PBO outlined in his report that the average cost per asylum claim will grow from $14,321 to $16,666 by 2019-20 as the backlog continues to grow.
The reason for this increased cost is that while asylum claimants are in the country waiting for their refugee hearing, they are eligible for various government services. Moreover, as asylum claimants are denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board, the individual can appeal that decision, which could end up costing $33,738 by the time the appeal is done.
The PBO also revealed that only 18% of border crossers have had their refugee board hearing, and out of the failed claimants, only a fraction have been removed from the country.
Because of this influx, there has been significant pressure on resources for all organizations involved in this process, which has led to delays in the processing of these claims.
To wrap up, not only do I oppose division 16, but I also want the Liberals to immediately get to work to renegotiate the safe third country agreement. Then and only then will we be able to restore confidence in our refugee system and stop ill-thought-out changes of the kind we find in this budget implementation act.
View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2019-06-05 22:42 [p.28646]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question he has put forward and congratulate him on his new position as the chair of the immigration committee.
However, to answer his question, no, I am not in favour of division 16. If he was listening to my speech, he would have learned that we think still stronger measures are needed to be more clear in how these border issues are being handled.
On the issue of people who have come across between the border crossings, the government has come up with an idea right out of the blue, which I think half of its own caucus was surprised to see come forward. I think there needs to be consistency in dealing with this issue.
As my colleague for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola said a while ago, that consistency is lacking in this budget, and the situation facing the border crossers right now is another point of inconsistency with the way the government has handled it. One of the things the Liberals took two years to do was to even talk to the Americans about whether or not they could begin the process.
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