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Results: 1 - 15 of 17
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2019-06-17 11:11 [p.29156]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have this opportunity today to rise and speak in favour of Motion No. 173 to create November as diabetes awareness month. People at home might be wondering why I have an opportunity to speak to this motion, given that it is close to the hearts of so many members of Parliament. I am sure they would be interested to know that my own private member's bill was preempted by work that was already being done by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
I have had the opportunity to share my private member's bill with a number of members in the House. The member for Surrey—Newton and I were able to work together to make sure that his Sikh Heritage Month bill made it to the Senate and was passed by both Houses in time for declaration prior to the rising of the House.
I was able to work with the member for Cumberland—Colchester, on a couple of occasions, to make sure that his private member's bill for the repatriation of indigenous artifacts was also able to get through the House and be called into law.
People might be aware that in the last few weeks, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands was able to get Bill S-203, on preventing the captivity of whales and dolphins, through the House by my offering my slot to her on one occasion, and with one of the members from the New Democratic Party.
Therefore, when the member for Brampton South asked if I could help with providing an opportunity to get to second reading on her private member's bill, I was more than happy to help.
One of the reasons is that I have a close connection to diabetes in my family. Just over three years ago, my cousin Jimmy Grouchey passed away from complications of type 1 diabetes, alone in his home in Arizona. Both of my parents come from large post-World War II families. My mom had nine siblings growing up, and my dad had four siblings and two half siblings. The family we were closest to were the Groucheys, because we shared a summer home together. We would vacation together in the summertime, where Jimmy, Christina, David, Jennifer, Jon, Dan and I would have a really great time.
People with diabetes have to manage their disease, and certainly when they are living on their own, complications can result. Jimmy was always a go-getter, fun-loving and free-spirited. With the moratorium on the cod fishery, like many Newfoundlanders, he moved abroad to pursue his career. He had different careers, in sociology, as a patent agent, and in 2009, he became a nurse. He worked in North Carolina and then finally in Arizona.
Lack of awareness about this disease and the complications associated with it can be devastating for families. Jimmy passed away from that. He would have turned 50 on Monday of next week. I wanted an opportunity to tell Jimmy's story and share with the House that families can be affected by this. It is not just statistics; they are individuals and families like mine.
Our government recognizes the impact that diabetes has on roughly three million Canadians who live with it and the 200,000 new cases that are diagnosed each year. I would like to thank the member for Brampton South for her work in bringing this forward to the House. It is important to recognize and raise awareness about it.
By having awareness of diabetes front and centre, fewer people will succumb to the complications. Fewer people will allow themselves to get to the point where they develop type 2 diabetes. More people can have access to prevention methods. More people will have access to care. While friends may not be aware that they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the month itself will provide an opportunity to have that discussion, to let people know some of the symptoms of someone who might be in an insulin crisis and how to provide them with the help they need.
Our government has been supporting various measures. In 2016-17 alone, we invested $47 million in diabetes research. We recently announced a $30-million partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. There are various members in the House who have helped to coordinate the multi-party caucus that led to this. It is not just those on this side of the House who are in favour of diabetes research.
When the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation comes to the Hill, members from all parties are present to listen to the stories of the ambassadors selected for their work in their cause across the country. It is great to meet those 10-year-olds, eight-year-olds, children of all ages who come from our ridings across the country to Parliament Hill to advocate for their cause. I am happy to participate with members on this side of the House, and I am sure that members from all sides of the House are happy to do so as well.
Also, in partnership with organizations in the private and non-profit sectors, as well as other levels of government, we are testing and scaling up interventions in communities across the country to prevent chronic disease, including diabetes. These interventions focus on common risk factors such as unhealthy eating and on physical activity.
Our government will continue to strongly support healthy living and diabetes prevention, including healthy eating, physical activity and smoking cessation. In thinking about my own health, I remember when the member for Brampton South had an opportunity to encourage some special medical testing on the Hill last year for members of Parliament, through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
I had the opportunity to go to this mobile trailer, which provided heart rate monitoring, blood glucose level monitoring and a survey questionnaire, and members of Parliament who had a chance to participate had a deep dive into their health. The results of that were very interesting, and I learned a lot about what I could do to make myself healthier, but also how I could help my kids lead healthier lives as well. They are both far fitter than I am, and when we go jogging they are often about a minute a kilometre ahead of me, but they get me out. We also try to make sure we maintain an appropriate balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our diet. I would like to thank the member for Brampton South for the opportunity to have that extra teaching here on the Hill.
According to the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System, supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada, over three million Canadians, or 8.6% of the population, have diagnosed diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body loses its ability to produce or to properly use insulin, a hormone that controls blood glucose levels.
Canada is famous for its role in the early work on determining that lack of insulin is the cause of diabetes, as well as treatments to provide insulin to people who are suffering with diabetes so they can have that cure. Canada is the perfect place to recognize November as diabetes awareness month. It is probably long overdue; it probably should have happened at the same time when the cure was found.
I am thankful for the work of the member for Brampton South. I encourage all members of this House to support this private member's motion. It would provide Canada an opportunity to yet again raise public awareness, encourage additional research and funding for diabetes, and remember family members like Jimmy Grouchey, a family member of mine who passed away just over three years ago and who would be turning 50 next week.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2019-02-08 12:55 [p.25467]
Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to speak today on the motion before the House. It calls on the government to take the necessary legislative steps to ratify the modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, or CIFTA. I encourage the entire House to support it.
CIFTA is now a modern, forward-looking trade agreement that will better serve the sophisticated Canada-Israel trade relationship, while seeking to ensure that benefits are more widely shared by both Canadians and Israelis.
Our government has said from day one that trade and open markets are vital for Canada's economic prosperity. Earlier, the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook elaborated on that. Canada is a trading nation, and we know that increased trade means more and better-paying jobs for Canadians.
Why modernize CIFTA if we have already been doing so well? Canada and Israel already enjoy a rich and fruitful commercial relationship. Since CIFTA came into force over two decades ago, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Israel has more than tripled, totalling $1.7 billion last year. However, as there was room to grow and deepen the commercial relationship, we made changes.
Israel's economy has significant potential and offers diverse commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses, given its well-educated population, solid industrial and scientific base and productive natural resources sectors. By providing expanded market access and more predictable trading conditions, the modernized CIFTA will enable Canadian companies to take meaningful advantage of these opportunities. This is why Bill C-85 is so important.
Israel is a good partner in trade, and we should capitalize on these additional opportunities for business. I will elaborate further on this point by turning to how this agreement will tangibly translate into real benefits for Canadian businesses.
Once the agreement is in force, close to 100% of all current Canadian agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports to Israel will benefit from some form of preferential tariff treatment. This is up from the current level of 90%. That is great for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the fishery, and also for people in the agri-food sector. This will generate benefits for Canadian companies in areas such as agriculture and agri-food, including products such as cranberries, baked goods, pet food, wine, fruit and fish and seafood.
Meaningful market access for Canadian agriculture and agri-food processors was a key interest in these negotiations, and the Government of Canada delivered by obtaining unlimited duty-free access for sweetened and dried cranberries, which currently have a 12% tariff; baked goods, which are currently tariffed up to 8%; and pet food, which currently has a tariff of 4%. These important tariff outcomes for the agriculture and agri-food sector place Canada on a more level playing field with exporters from the United States and the European Union, which are key competitors in this sector as we try to build our trading relationship with Israel.
This agreement will also give Canadian companies a leg up on competitors in other countries that do not have a free trade agreement with Israel. In exchange, Canada agreed to eliminate tariffs on certain targeted Israeli agriculture and agri-food imports, such as certain fish, certain nuts, some tropical fruits and certain oils.
I am pleased that the negotiated outcome has the support of key Canadian agricultural stakeholders, including Pulse Canada, the Canola Council of Canada, the Canadian Vintners Association and companies involved in the processing of potatoes, cranberries, soybeans and pet food. I am sure my colleagues from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick will appreciate that as well.
In Newfoundland, there is a little-known winery in Whitbourne called Rodrigues Winery. It is in area of the province that is shared by the member for Avalon and the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity. There, kosher-certified berry wines are produced, and they appear on shelves in Israel. Agreements like these benefit companies like Rodrigues Winery by providing access to the market in Israel and by keeping the trade relationship between our countries strong.
This modernized agreement and the benefits it provides will be an important tool for a sector that makes a tremendous contribution to the Canadian economy from coast to coast. Successful trade provides for good employment opportunities, and with one in six Canadian jobs linked directly to exports, we are deeply committed to growing trade with this nation and expanding the pie for all Canadians.
Interestingly, for online retailers and service providers, including those in my riding, such as Eclipse Stores, the agreement also includes commitments by Canada and Israel not to levy customs duties or other charges on digital products that are transmitted electronically.
When I first saw this note, I had some concerns about the relevant paragraphs, so I sought some advice from the department regarding what this meant and how it might affect the playing field between local and foreign retailers. I was assured that paragraph 2 in article 9.2 outlines that the moratorium on customs duties applied to digital products transmitted electronically does not preclude a party from imposing internal taxes or other internal charges, such as value-added taxes. I know that is important to some of my constituents.
These are a few opportunities that the modernized CIFTA would provide.
I would like to speak on some of the more important aspects of the government's trade agenda, which aims to ensure that these opportunities are more widely shared among Canadians. This is our inclusive trade partnership agenda.
A priority for this government is our inclusive approach to trade. Simply put, we believe that everyone should benefit from and participate in the opportunities that come from increased trade and investment. We demonstrated that with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union and with the CPTPP, and we are also demonstrating it with this modernized agreement.
The modernized CIFTA incorporates several key inclusive trade elements. These features will help to ensure that economic gains complement important Canadian values and priorities, such as support for environmental protection and labour rights.
I appreciate some of the comments from members on the other side of the House from the New Democratic Party, who raised some issues about extending these benefits further. However, I believe we strike a good negotiated solution in the Canada-Israel relationship.
These trade elements also help to ensure everyone benefits from and can participate in the opportunities that flow from the agreement. The addition of these inclusive and forward-thinking trade elements signals a commitment from both Canada and Israel to create the right conditions for trade in our modern economies.
There are also additional resources for business. In order for the benefits of free trade agreements to be fully realized, Canadian businesses need to be aware of the agreements and the benefits they offer. Accordingly, the Prime Minister of Canada has mandated the Minister of International Trade Diversification to provide support to Canadian businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that flow after trade agreements are signed, including by drawing on resources from across government and from public and private sector partners. In this regard, Global Affairs Canada has mobilized a free trade agreement promotion task force that is undertaking a comprehensive outreach and training program within the business community. Work on these leading agreements is scheduled to take place across Canada in early 2019 so that the task force can focus on the CETA with the European Union, the CPTPP and the implementing legislation that is currently before Parliament.
In addition, Canadian companies can access the free services and export advice provided by the trade commissioner service, the TCS. The TCS helps Canadian companies export by preparing businesses for international markets. I encourage all members of Parliament to encourage businesses that are exporting to take advantage of this service.
Online resources, such as the step-by-step guide to exporting, have also been developed to ensure that Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises from across the country can benefit.
In conclusion, trade is, at the end of the day, about the relationships between people, the opportunity to share in our common prosperity and to work together to create larger, more interesting markets. Canada's strong friendship and partnership with Israel spans 70 years and stretches back even farther, 250 years, to the arrival of the first Jewish settlers to Canada, the first of successive waves of immigrants who would leave lasting and indelible impressions on the fabric of our Canadian society, economy and political landscape.
Today there are more than 350,000 Canadians of Jewish faith and heritage in Canada. They are an important source of information and support in the political and commercial spheres for both Canada and Israel, and they are also good friends. There are also approximately 20,000 Canadians currently living and working in Israel. Such deep ties are important for many reasons. Strong trade relationships depend on people-to-people relationships, which Canada and Israel have in abundance, and they also create peace.
In St. John's East, I grew up just five doors down from our synagogue. People might not realize St. John's has a synagogue, but it does. It once had a very strong and thriving Jewish community, and now it has a strong but smaller one, since, like many other Newfoundlanders, many people have moved away.
My grade nine French teacher, Ms. Frankel-Slama, was one of the best French teachers I ever had, and she is Jewish.
I also want to mention my roommate, Jono Kalles, who organized cultural exchanges between Canada and Israel for many years. I never had the opportunity to go to Israel or Palestine with him, but I have heard other MPs say they had a chance to go so they could make their own contribution to maintaining good relations between our countries.
I would encourage all members to support Bill C-85 to help us accomplish that and a great deal more in the years to come.
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2018-12-05 16:23 [p.24464]
Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work that my colleague has done with regard to this bill, and to congratulate him on the way that he has approached such an important issue in this country with tremendous sensitivity in understanding how this affects families and individuals. I have had the opportunity to see life from such a program and it is remarkable. It is remarkable for those in mourning; it is remarkable for those in celebration.
What can we all do as members of Parliament to help promote this program in the country and in our constituencies, and to make people more aware of the trend that he is setting right here in the legislature today?
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Madam Speaker, I will start this evening by sincerely thanking the member for Courtenay—Alberni. The motion we are discussing today, cloaked in the guise of financial reporting standards, cuts to the core of this government's commitment to the men and women who have bravely served this country.
As we draw closer to the centennial anniversary of the armistice that was supposed to end all wars, it is important that we consider the commitment we owe to those men who fought a century ago and to the men and women who have fought and protected us since.
Veterans Affairs' entire foundation is set around its responsibility to ensure that veterans and their families receive the respect, support, care and economic opportunities necessary as they transition to a post-military life.
Let us be clear. The support that our government gives members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and their families begins the moment they are recruited and continues throughout their careers and their lives. We are ensuring that each of them has access to any program they need for as long as they need it.
The motion today is based on the premise that lapsed funding in Veterans Affairs Canada is in and of itself a problem. The motion seeks to address a concern that lapsed funding creates a use-it-or-lose-it scenario for the department. The assumption seems to be that when there are lapsed funds, there must be programs or services that have been underfunded or not delivered. This could not be further from the truth, which is why there is no need to change the accounting for a process that works for veterans. However, there is an opportunity today to explain and perhaps educate members on the root cause of lapsed funds.
Whether 10 veterans come forward or 10,000, no veteran who is eligible for a benefit will be turned away because we do not have the funds. To ensure that is the case, we go through the annual estimates process and forecast how many veterans will avail themselves of our benefits.
Given that demand can change throughout the year, our programs are quasi-statutory, so that the government does not need to come back to Parliament if we exceed our forecast of the demand from veterans. If a veteran is eligible for a benefit, that veteran will get it. When that pendulum swings the other way and there are fewer veterans seeking a particular benefit, the money stays in consolidated revenue ready to be used the next year.
Lapsed funding is not a new phenomenon, but it is critically important to distinguish the causes of those lapsed funds. This government has generated lapsed funding because, simply put, our estimates of the level of demand for services have been high. That is distinguishable from the previous government, which lapsed over $1 billion while cutting front-line staff, closing offices and letting the new veterans charter wither unchanged on the vine.
Simply put, one can generate lapsed funds and attendant cuts by placing barriers between veterans and the programs or services to which they are entitled.
The previous government demonstrated from the outset that it wanted to balance the budget and that veterans and their families were not immune from its red pen. We thought those cuts were unconscionable.
That is why our first acts in our first budget were to increase the disability award to a maximum of $360,000, where it should have been for years, and increase income replacement for ill and injured veterans to 90% of their pre-release salary. We reopened all of the offices the Conservatives closed. We started to staff up Veterans Affairs again after nearly a quarter of the workforce was wiped out by the Conservatives. We expanded eligibility to programs veterans were asking for. We made it easier to access dignified funeral and burial services. And we did not stop there.
In the budget of the following year, we introduced our new education and training benefit, which applies not only to ill and injured veterans but also to those leaving the Canadian Armed Forces for any reason after six years of service.
We reformed the broken career transition services that the Conservatives had ample opportunity to fix by changing it from cutting a cheque for $1,000 and saying “good luck on the job hunt” to a comprehensive program veterans and their families could access for job training and job-finding assistance.
Last December I was thrilled to finally unveil the new pension for life, which delivers on our campaign promise to provide a monthly tax-free payment for life in recognition of pain and suffering. This pension for life also simplifies many of the other benefits we offer, making it easier to apply for and access the resources veterans and their families need and deserve. It is no surprise, then, that since coming into office, we have marked a 37% increase in applications for programs and benefits. Veterans are coming forward again to get the help and the support they need in their post-military lives and careers.
We are getting better at forecasting the budget, but due to the nature of the demand-driven programs and services at Veterans Affairs Canada, we will never be able to estimate with 100% accuracy the exact funds required for every program. Looking at the types of services and benefits we provide and the continually evolving demographics that we serve, this approach cannot change.
There are approximately 649,300 veterans in Canada and 95,000 serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Veterans Affairs provides services to nearly 200,000 veterans, family members, RCMP members and others who require support.
Ranging in age from 18 to 100, we serve traditional veterans who served in the Korean War or earlier and modern-day veterans who served after the Korean War. To say we serve a changing and diverse population is an understatement, and each one of them has different needs.
This is why we have seen a significant increase in demand for programs and services, and that is a good thing. It means veterans are coming forward and getting the help they need.
In order to respond to this increased demand, the department has to request additional funds in the middle of the year. As many of my colleagues in the House are aware, these are the supplementary estimates. The department asks Treasury Board for more money, because we have more veterans who want more of the programs and services they are entitled to and, indeed, they deserve.
This is why our services are demand-driven, so whether it is 10 or 10,000 veterans coming forward, they will receive those services. Instead of going back every day when we see another veteran come forward, the department estimates how many people will access benefits and how much money is needed. It is not an exact science. This process guarantees that whether veterans come forward this year or next year or the year after that, we will always have the resources available for them and their families to access programs and services.
If we overestimate in our zeal to ensure that everyone who comes forward requiring that service or benefit receives it, then so be it. Our primary concern is to ensure that the funds are available if they are required, period. Government policy dictates that any money that is not used for its identified purpose by year end must be returned. It is as simple as that. Lapsed funds do not indicate lost money. They do not indicate penny-pinching at the expense of veterans.
Perhaps I have to remind my hon. colleague who put forward this motion that penny-pinching at the expense of veterans would look like a promise to balance the budget no matter what, to balance the budget come hell or high water, a promise he and his colleagues ran on in the last election.
Almost 20% of new funds in the last three budgets have been for veterans and their families, funds they would not have received if the New Democrats were running the show. We know this is a source of confusion amongst veterans and their families, amongst stakeholders, and amongst the general public. This is why we have been addressing it at town halls and stakeholder meetings right across this country.
Just last week we held our national stakeholder summit here in Ottawa. We covered this exact subject in depth to ensure that participants understood the process. We know they have questions. We wanted to explain exactly how an idea goes from a concept to implementation, from gaps or issues being identified to research and analysis to the memorandum to cabinet that paves the way to implement a new program or benefit.
The department's programs are ongoing, and each year adjustments are made to ensure that we can provide for all veterans and their families who may be entitled to benefits. My department will continue to provide programs and services that adapt to the changing needs of veterans and their families. We will continue to review these programs and services to see where things can be improved.
When we came to office, we knew we needed change. Veterans made it clear that there were problems, and they wanted them fixed. They deserved to have them fixed. The Prime Minister tasked us with an aggressive mandate to address these problems, from improving veterans financial support and reopening offices to streamlining the transition from military to civilian life and overhauling how the department's services are delivered. Three years later, we are on track or have delivered on all of them. However, make no mistake, wholesale change was needed to accomplish this, and that could not happen overnight, not if we wanted to do it right.
We also knew that a full conversation was needed. We could not start making decisions on an individual basis. We had to open a dialogue with those who were affected, and that is what we have been doing.
We have heard that service delivery is an issue, and we have been diligently taking steps to resolve this. As a starting point, we opened 10 offices to provide better in-person services to veterans and their families, in addition to hiring over 470 new staff, which has included close to 200 case managers.
Service delivery is now focused on individual veterans: their circumstances, needs and strengths and those of their families. The department is streamlining the processes for applying for and delivering benefits. It is also ensuring that veterans and their families get information they need about the programs, services and benefits they are entitled to, which has been an issue in the past. Some veterans simply do not know what is available to them.
We also increased service in the north, and in 2017, our staff made 12 trips to Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse to meet with veterans and their families. Our staff is committed to ensuring that veterans and their families are better informed, better served and better supported. The approach is working. Applications are on the rise. This is a good thing. It means that more veterans are applying for the benefits they have earned through their service to Canada. It is also why the department is focusing on improving service delivery and streamlining the application process.
This government made a commitment to make it easier for the men and women who have served in uniform to access the benefits they deserve, and we have spent $10 billion in three years to do just that. Starting with increasing the disability award and the earnings loss benefit and expanding the career impact allowance, we are putting more money in the pockets of veterans and caregivers. We also supported a continuum of mental health services, introduced new education and training benefits and expanded a range of services available to the families of medically released veterans.
While there has been a lot of change at Veterans Affairs, the steadfast commitment to veterans and their well-being has remained the same. It is that commitment to wanting to ensure overall well-being that drove the need to take a step back to look at how they could get to where they wanted and needed to be. They knew that well-being was defined as a veteran with purpose who is financially secure, safely housed, in good physical and mental health, highly resilient in the face of change, well integrated in the community and proud of his or her legacy. That fuelled the new vision of a comprehensive approach to veteran well-being to address all aspects of wellness.
In looking at the many factors, we can all agree, without a doubt, that without financial security, it is hard to focus on anything at all. That is why we pushed to reintroduce lifelong pensions. Last December, this government announced plans to restore the pension for life for ill and injured veterans. With the return of a monthly pension option, the pension for life recognizes and compensates veterans for disabilities resulting from a service-related illness or injury with a combination of benefits that provide recognition, income support and stability.
One of the key new benefits is pain and suffering compensation. This is a monthly, tax-free, lifelong payment recognizing a member's or veteran's pain and suffering caused by a disability resulting from a service-related illness or injury. The monthly amount can be cashed out for a lump sum, giving members and veterans the flexibility to choose what works best for them and their families.
Additional support for those with service-related severe and permanent impairments causing a barrier to re-establishment into post-service life is available through the additional pain and suffering compensation, provided as a monthly tax-free benefit.
The income replacement benefit is a monthly program that will replace six current benefits and will provide income support for those facing barriers to re-establishment caused by health problems resulting primarily from service. Additionally, veterans who are able to join the workforce may earn up to $20,000 per year before any reduction to their IRB payment.
Set to come into force on April 1 of next year, the pension for life combines what veterans have been asking for with the most up-to-date research and understanding of the well-being of veterans. More important, it will become an integral part of that comprehensive approach to the well-being of veterans, reinforcing all the programs and services available at Veterans Affairs, of which mental health is a priority.
Pension for life was announced with budget 2018, which reflected other commitments of our government when it came to better supporting veterans and their families. In addition to the $24.4 million over five years for cemetery and grave maintenance to eliminate the current backlog of grave repairs, budget 2018 also committed $42.8 million over two years to increase service delivery capacity, building off the $78.1 million already invested over the last two years.
Make no mistake, Veterans Affairs continues to strive to provide faster, more efficient and higher quality service for our veterans. However, in our efforts to accomplish this, we must rely on our expenditures forecasting to ensure no veteran or family member goes without. That will always result in some degree of lapsed funding. That is simply the nature of the government's accounting process.
I think all of us here can agree that Canada's veterans deserve respect, financial security and fair treatment. I assure members that this government is committed to treating our veterans with the care, compassion and respect they have earned. This government will never cease in our efforts to improve the lives of our veterans and their families.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how I am going to follow that. It was quite blistering, intelligent and if I do say so myself, something I must surpass. I will try. I do not know if I will have any success, nevertheless we know the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is well represented.
I want to thank my colleagues for bringing forward their thoughts on this. We are into third reading on Bill C-76. We are just about to hand it over the Senate. I hope it gets the acceptance.
For me, this is a journey that has taken place for quite some time. It started for me with Bill C-23 in the last Parliament. At the time, it was called the Fair Elections Act. There was much to-do about the title, of course, and a lot of people made fun of the title. A lot of us felt that it was not fair in many respects. Some changes were made that were certainly acceptable, but for the most part, it was a bill that was troubled in the law. In my humble opinion, here we are now winding back some of the mistakes made in Bill C-23.
There are four main themes in Bill C-76. We are talking about amendments to third party spending, which is very important because third party spending has come up quite a bit in politics throughout the world. The United States grapples with this issue every year, not just every four years. Throughout Europe it is the same sort of situation, where one has to track the third party spending looking at how they plan to affect elections. This bill would substantially address that issue, far more substantially than what has been done in the past.
One of the things being encapsulated in this legislation is the fact that the activities around politics and the things we can spend on are being described. Right now, there are all sorts of ways of communicating with the people. With the onset of polling years ago, now we have push polls, pull polls and all that sort of thing, as well as the fact that we also have social media to contend with. In the past, advertising was held to newspapers, radio and television. Through social media, now there are all types of advertising, and ways to track advertising spending have become much more difficult as well. Therefore, encapsulating all of that in this legislation would go a long way.
For example, in the past we always talked about the advertising issue. Right now, there are three elements in this legislation we must address: election advertising, as I have mentioned; political activities, election activities such as rallies and those sorts of things that must be addressed; plus surveys, finding out the information and bringing it back to the candidate and the campaign, and the expenditures surrounding those.
The second part of Bill C-76 is reducing barriers to participation and increasing accessibility. To me, the accessibility measures in this legislation are essential. I will get to those in a moment. However, part of this bill would be reducing the barriers to participate, in particular the voter information card, which is something that has come up quite a bit. I will also address that a little later. In terms of modernizing voting services, I mentioned the advent of technology. We are using technology a lot more in all facets of life, not just when it comes to election campaigns. Another element is amendments related to privacy and protecting personal information.
When it comes to third parties, what we would be doing here is broadening the scope of third party activities. A third party would have to register with a CEO, which we feel is necessary. If they spend more than $500, then they would have go forward, be registered and would have to be tracked in light of that. We are also talking about spending on advertising, as I mentioned, partisan activities and election surveys.
Now, we would be defining two periods to measure this. There would be a pre-election period and the election period, when the writ is dropped until election day. It is very important to capture what would be happening in the pre-election period in this legislation, because we want to track how it affects the election itself. Third party spending is a big part of that. Foreign prohibition also came up. I have been here 14 years, and this issue comes up substantially when talking about foreign participation in our elections. Now, it is not prolific to the point where it is a major problem, but it could be. The language in this legislation would curtail a lot of that activity.
To be precise, it would be people who do not reside in Canada. It would include corporations that do not carry on business in Canada or are not formed in Canada and groups where the responsible person does not reside in Canada. It defines the entity by which third party spending is done.
I want to move on to another subject that is also encapsulated in the bill that is a step ahead. It is called the register of future electors. There are many jurisdictions around the world, and even within Canada, that look at voters younger than the voting age of 18. They go through the process of registering them so that when they turn 18 it becomes a simpler measure. However, what it really does is incorporate younger people to get involved in the election itself. It is not like when one takes part in an election in school. What they are doing is enumerating themselves to be registered so that when the election arrives they will be far more ready and far more aware of the situation of how one registers to become involved. Let us face it, it is a right to vote. We have a right within our charter, and therefore, to exercise their right these people get to the point where they work up to the age of 18.
There are jurisdictions in Canada that do this right now. They are: Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Ontario and Yukon. Around the world, U.K., New Zealand, Australia and Argentina all partake in registering of younger voters before the age they are eligible to vote.
That is only fair. Within the major political parties in the House one can vote for a leader at 14 years of age. Therefore, if the parties recognize they are incorporating people at this age to vote, then certainly it is incumbent upon Elections Canada, which they agree with and seem to be as excited about this as much as I am. They too are now involved in the process. That is also something in the bill that was overdue. Now we are embarking upon that.
On accessible voting, amendments to make it easier for those needing assistance to vote need to be improved. We are looking at assistance by friends or relatives to make the process of marking a ballot easier. Vouching in seniors residences would also become easier. The right to vote and the access to vote is an inalienable for Canadians and must be enshrined in legislation. The access to vote must be improved through the Canada Elections Act.
The other part of the disability involves when it comes to spending and how we do this. Money spent on those with disabilities can be included for election expenses but is not part of the cap. Therefore, we can be reimbursed for expenses for those with disabilities, but it does not go toward the overall spending cap. This is the type of legislation that could go a long way. It may seem like a small measure to many of us, but it is not if one is campaigning for someone with a disability.
Clause 5 restores the broad-based authority of the CEO to educate and inform the public. This was an egregious error in Bill C-23, the former Fair Elections Act, when they took that power away from Elections Canada. The problem with it was that Elections Canada was not able to inform the public about voting, the process and the democracy of it. It was basically pigeonholed to one particular part, which was only to youth. There is nothing wrong with that, that will continue, but now Elections Canada would have the ability to go beyond this and bring to the public information about democracy and voting. It would help promote to Canadian citizens above the age of 18 who have not taken part in democracy, and therefore is essential.
The other part is on the voter information card. How many times would I go around and see people with the voter information card on their refrigerator or on the door, waiting for election day? They would take it down to the voting booth as part of their ID and be turned away because it is not ID. To me, that was just wrong. Therefore, I am glad to see we are restoring the voter information card as valid ID. In the past, with Bill C-23, the problem with that legislation in many respects was it was a solution to a problem that did not exist. The problems around the voter information card were so minuscule that they felt it was unnecessary to use. To me, that was an egregious error so I am glad to see that back in all its facets.
Finally, I would like to say I am glad to see that the commissioner of Canada elections has returned to Elections Canada and has been taken out of the public prosecution office.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-02-26 16:50 [p.17382]
Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the wonderful time we had together working on not only this file, which was quite difficult, but also on Canada Post.
The government operations committee is a very cordial House of Commons standing committee. However, I have not sat on the committee since the break due to some scheduling conflicts that had me move, so I was not aware until just now that the answer had not been forthcoming to the committee. I will undertake to reach out to the minister to determine whether additional resources will be provided to MPs' staff in their constituency offices. Obviously some people have more federal employees affected than others. It is something that I am happy to get back to the member with offline.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-02-01 16:05 [p.16660]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing). This bill proposes amending the Canada Elections Act to bring an unprecedented level of openness and transparency to federal political fundraisers. The legislation is just one of many steps that we are taking as a government to raise the bar on transparency, accountability, and integrity of our public institutions and the democratic process.
The year 2017 marked the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was signed on a blustery day in April on the front lawn of Parliament just a few steps from where we are right now. Canadians cherish our charter and rightly so. It is a model for democracies around the world.
Section 3 of the charter guarantees every citizen the right to vote and to run in an election. This fundamental democratic right, guaranteed to all Canadians, is one of our most cherished civic rights. The simple act of voting is an exercise of democratic freedom that unites all of us as Canadians. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also enshrines the freedoms of association and expression. Section 2 of the charter has been interpreted to include the right of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to make a donation to a party and to participate in fundraising activities. Of course, these rights are both subject to the reasonable limitations that might be imposed in a free and democratic society.
Political parties represent a vital part of our democratic system. They unite people from different parts of the country with a variety of different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences. Parties mobilize ordinary citizens to champion policies and ideas and they foster the kind of vigorous public debate about ideas that is at the heart of our healthy democracy. Voting in an election for a candidate is one of the ways Canadians play an active and engaged role in this society. We see this as an opportunity to make our country a better place for our children and our grandchildren. Some Canadians even choose to work or volunteer in a political party or a candidate's campaign, and for many of us here in this room, we probably know few people who do not. We engage all of our friends and family to help us in our political activities, and many of the people whom we meet are either our volunteers or people who work against us in campaigns.
It is true that it is a broad expanse of the Canadian population that participates in political activity at the municipal and provincial levels, and also here at the federal level, but not everyone has the time or inclination to become involved in politics in that respect. Still, people may want to have their voices heard, so for many Canadians, making a financial contribution to a political campaign is a meaningful way for them to play a direct role in our democracy. It is an important forum of democratic expression. Choosing to support a political party or a candidate is something we must continue to uphold and protect. Everyone in this place knows that donations given by people who believe in us, who believe in what we stand for and what our parties stand for, help make our work possible, and we must continue to ensure that Canadians are free to contribute to political parties and candidates openly and transparently.
It bears noting that Canada is known around the world for the rigour of its political financing regime. Donations from corporations and from unions are prohibited under the existing legislation. To further level the playing field, there are strict limits on the contributions an individual can make. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can each contribute a maximum this year of $1,575 to each registered party. They can donate a total of $1,575 to the leadership contestants in a particular contest. In addition, they can donate a total of $1,575 to contestants for nomination, candidates, and/or riding associations of each registered party. Contributions are reported to Elections Canada and the name, municipality, province, and postal code of those who contribute more than $200 are posted online.
Bill C-50 would build on this existing regime so that when a fundraising event requires an attendee to contribute or pay a ticket price totalling more than $200, the name and partial address of each attendee, with certain exceptions, would be published online. The exceptions are youth under 18, volunteers, event staff, media, someone assisting a person with a disability, and support staff for a minister or party leader in attendance.
Canadians take political financing seriously. There are significant consequences for disobeying the law, and that is why currently the Canada Elections Act provides tough sanctions for those who break the rules. Although Canadians can be proud of our already strict regulations for political financing, we recognize that they have a right to know even more and perhaps in a more timely fashion when it comes to political fundraising events. Bill C-50 aims to provide Canadians with more information quicker about political financing events in order to continue to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions.
If passed, Bill C-50 would allow Canadians to learn when a political fundraiser has a ticket price or requires contributions above $200, that it is happening, and who attended. The legislation would apply to all fundraising activities attended by cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, party leaders, and leadership contestants who meet these criteria.
This provision also applies to appreciation events for donors to a political party or contestant. This legislation would apply only to parties with a seat in the House of Commons. It would require parties to advertise fundraising events at least five days in advance. Canadians would know about a political fundraiser before the event takes place, which would give them the opportunity to inquire about a ticket if they so choose.
Bill C-50 would also give journalists the ability to determine when and where fundraisers are happening. At the same time, political parties would retain the flexibility to set their own rules for providing media access and accreditation. Parties would be required to report the names and partial addresses of attendees to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event. That information would then become public in a much more timely fashion than currently is the case.
The bill would also introduce new offences under the Canada Elections Act for those who do not respect the rules and require the return of any money collected at the event. These sanctions would apply to political parties and event organizers rather than the senior political leaders invited to the events.
We propose a maximum $1,000 fine on summary conviction for offences introduced under Bill C-50. Of course, this is in addition to returning the funds raised. This new level of transparency would further enhance Canadians' trust in government, and that is good for everyone.
If passed, Bill C-50 would deliver on the government's promise to bring greater transparency to Canada's political financing system and thus strengthen our democratic institutions. As I have said, this is just one of the efforts that we are putting into place. The government is also taking action to increase voter participation and enhance the integrity of elections through Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, and the government has partnered with the Communications Security Establishment to protect democracy from cyber-threats.
While we know that Canadians have confidence in our democracy, we recognize that there is always room for improvement. Shining a light on political fundraising activities as and when they happen builds upon our already strong and robust system for political financing in Canada. It should be welcomed by everyone in the House.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-02-01 16:15 [p.16662]
Mr. Speaker, obviously there are roles that relate to conflict of interest and ethics, and those are dealt with under that act. The changes we are talking about today are ones that relate to changes to political financing. The member's question is one that certainly should come up in any review of the conflict of interest and ethics considerations.
With respect to how these changes will help Canadians by providing them more transparency, maybe I could just walk through the process. Under the current rules, if someone donates $200 to a political party, that amount, the information, and the names are already going to be collected. They will ultimately be disclosed to Elections Canada, and then published at some point in time six to nine months after the end of the fiscal year. It makes it difficult then for Canadians to know at the time whether or not people are attending these events, who those people might be, and to make their own determination as to whether anything improper has occurred or could be occurring.
The changes we are putting in now require that when these fundraisers take place, this information will be made available to the media in advance. The media will know where and when the events are taking place so they can attend, if they are accredited, and they can report at the event. Then of course the information will be compiled and provided to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event so Canadians can see who attended.
It will be up to Canadians then, in addition to any other ethics considerations that might fall under a separate regime, to make up their own minds on whether they feel it is appropriate and if they continue to have faith and trust in the system. I believe they will because they will have the information at their fingertips, and the light of transparency will render it clean.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2017-11-23 17:57 [p.15537]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel. With the holiday season almost upon us, our discussion today is very timely. The holidays are a time of year when people get together to celebrate with family and friends, but there is, of course, a cloud to that silver lining: an increased likelihood of impaired driving incidents following the celebrations.
A number of public education awareness campaigns are in full swing this time of year. They encourage Canadians to drive sober or offer drivers alternative ways to get home safely. One of them, as we have heard already, MADD Canada's project red ribbon, is marking its 30th anniversary this year. Together, these efforts have had a powerful and positive impact. According to MADD Canada's estimates, between 1982 and 2010 nearly 36,650 lives were saved in Canada due to reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes. That is something for which we can all be very thankful.
However, despite the progress we have made as a society, impaired driving remains a very serious problem in our country. People who are in no shape to drive continue to get behind the wheel. Some choose to drive after getting high or having too much to drink, but as this motion suggests, impaired driving is not limited to drugs or alcohol. Motorists who are too tired to drive are also impaired and can cause just as much damage as drivers who are drunk or high. The same can be said for distracted drivers, including those who text behind the wheel.
Impaired drivers of all kinds not only put their own lives at risk but endanger the lives of their passengers and everyone else around them. In fact, impaired driving remains the leading criminal cause of death in Canada—anti-social criminal decisions leaving thousands of Canadians dead or seriously injured each year. What makes this carnage on our roads all the more senseless is how easily these deaths could have been prevented. The risks are well known. The risks have been known for decades. The risks are common sense. Today, we would be hard pressed to find someone who would deny the dangers of drunk driving.
Sadly, it is a somewhat different story when it comes to drugs. Drug-impaired driving is actually on the rise. Almost 3,100 incidents of drug-impaired driving were reported by police last year, 343 more than the previous year. Overall, the rate of drug-impaired driving increased by 11%. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 40% of drivers who die in vehicle crashes test positive for drugs. By comparison, 33.3% test positive for alcohol. Figures like these show how crucial it is to get out the message about the risks and consequences of impaired driving, including driving under the influence of cannabis.
As we know, this past spring the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-45. Its overarching goal is to protect the health and safety of Canadians, keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, and prevent criminals from profiting from its production and sale. The bill proposes tough new measures to severely punish anyone who sells or supplies cannabis to young Canadians. That includes two new criminal offences with maximum penalties of 14 years in prison for those who sell or provide cannabis to anyone under the age of 18. These proposed measures complement a public education and awareness campaign informing Canadians, especially Canadian youth, about cannabis and its risks.
Budget 2017 directed an initial investment of $9.6 million for public education and awareness on this topic. The public education campaign has begun and will continue over the next five years, because there is an immediate and continuing need to set the record straight on a number of issues related to cannabis. The funds will also be used to monitor the trends and perceptions of cannabis use among Canadians, especially youth. Too many people are under the delusion that cannabis does no harm, which is completely false. Cannabis presents definite health risks.
Another myth centres on a person's ability to drive after consuming cannabis. We know that young people who test positive for drugs, alcohol, or both continue to be the largest group of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes. However, when it comes to cannabis, research shows that many Canadians, including youth, do not take the risks seriously. According to an EKOS study conducted for Health Canada last year, 27% of Canadians have driven a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. More than one-third of Canadians also reported that they had been passengers in vehicles driven by someone under the influence of cannabis. That number jumps to 42% among young adults and 70% among recent cannabis users.
The results of a national study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada can help to explain these findings. It found that almost one-third of teens do not consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be as bad as doing so under the influence of alcohol. In addition, just over a quarter of Canadian young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that a driver is either the same or, sadly, better on the road while under the influence of cannabis.
The reality paints a far different and more gruesome picture. Among all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in Canada between 2000 and 2010, 16.4% tested positive for cannabis, which is one in six.
It is clear that a large percentage of Canadians downplay or even flat out disbelieve the fact that cannabis impairs your ability to drive safely. That is one reason why Bill C-46 is such an important piece of legislation as a complement to Bill C-45.
Bill C-46 would strengthen Canada's laws to enforce a strict approach for those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including cannabis. Among other provisions, it would create new criminal offences for drug-impaired driving, and authorize new tools to allow police to detect drivers who have drugs in their system.
In September, the government announced up to $274.5 million in funding to support the provisions of the bill. Up to $161 million of that funding is earmarked for building law enforcement capacity across the country. It will help law enforcement and border officials detect and deter drug-impaired driving, and enforce the cannabis legislation and regulations. That includes training additional front-line officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, and providing them with access to drug screening devices. It also includes funding to raise public awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
As announced last month, the Government of Canada is joining forces with Young Drivers of Canada to spread that important message. The project will involve the airing of public service announcements over the next year. Public Safety Canada and Young Drivers of Canada will also work together to share material through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels.
I think all of us in this House can agree that impaired driving is a serious problem in Canada. Awareness weeks like the one proposed by my colleague are another tool that we can use to foster good habits, recognize the dangers of impairment, and even to recognize impairment itself, because there seems to be some misconception about that, and to have safer roads and save lives.
I will be supporting this motion and I encourage my colleagues in the House to do the same.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2017-06-08 22:15 [p.12376]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, political financing, which we feel will help to raise the bar that we, as parliamentarians, are held to when it comes to the important issue of openness and accountability in political fundraising.
We know Canadians value our democracy. While Canada already has one of the strictest electoral finance systems in the world, we recognize we can do even more to increase the transparency in the way that political parties finance. That is why Bill C-50 would contribute to enhance trust in our democratic institutions by providing Canadians with more information than ever before.
Canadians will know who is going to fundraisers, when they are going to be held, and the amount required to attend. Canadians deserve to know that their elected representatives are playing fair. Bill C-50 would not only help achieve this goal by implementing new rules to make political financing even more open and transparent, but it would also allow those across our country to know more about how the political fundraising that the parties conduct is undertaken so they can continue to have confidence in our important and valued democratic process. It will also allow them to make up their minds about who they will vote for in elections and how they can be better informed for that purpose.
As my hon. colleagues know, key regulations, such as spending limits, a cap on annual donations, and a ban on corporate and union donations, are already in place when it comes to political financing in Canada. At the national level, all Canadian citizens and permanent residents have the ability to contribute up to a maximum of, this year, $1,550 annually to the registered party and then of course an equivalent amount to the riding association for the local candidate.
Additionally, contributions to a federal political party are reported to elections Canada and donations of over $200 are already published online with the information, including the contributor's name and address.
Canadians elected our government on a promise of openness and transparency. Canadians have a right to know even more than they do now when it comes to political fundraising. It is our responsibility, as parliamentarians, to serve those we represent. By taking action to make our political fundraising system more open and transparent, we are raising the bar on an informed choice in our political process.
Our government understands that many actions, such as attending a fundraising event, play a very important role in our democratic expression. Choosing to financially support a political party is not only a recognized right, protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also accounts for a valuable form of civic engagement. As a society that values democratic engagement, we must continue to uphold and protect this essential right.
Furthermore, our government knows that Canada's current political party system plays an important part in our democracy. It has contributed to our status as a model for many other democracies around the world, it is a key attribute of our democratic process, and it allows like-minded Canadians from all across the country, from diverse regions, social classes, religions, ethnic groups, and gender identities, to work together on a common purpose.
With this in mind, we must remember that political parties require funding to operate. We must continue to respect the right of all Canadians to choose how to financially support the party of their choice, while ensuring we are providing Canadians with open and transparent information about how this is done. This means taking significant steps to ensure that those across the country can view and understand how political fundraising works and plays a role in our democratic process.
Canadians will be able to determine, as a result of this law, when a political fundraiser is happening, who attended the fundraiser, and how much a person contributed or paid to get into it. Under the proposed measures of Bill C-50, all political parties that currently have seats in the House of Commons will have 30 days to report to Elections Canada the names and addresses of those who attend any fundraiser covered by the legislation.
Who is covered? Any fundraiser attended by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, or party leadership contestants with a seat in the House of Commons where over $200 is required to attend will be subject to these rules. This is commensurate with our current disclosure requirement.
Furthermore, under the proposed legislation, these events will be advertised at least five days in advance, with the date, time, and location of the event. This will all be made clear on the party's website. This information, along with the names and addresses of those attending and the cost of event, will be published online.
As a former volunteer with a political party, as someone who has served as a treasurer of a provincial part, and a treasurer of a riding association, if somebody attended a political fundraising event but someone else had purchased a ticket or he or she attended as a guest, for free, the information might not appear online, whereas for someone who paid the full $200 cost, it did appear online.
This information was obscured, and this has come up in debate in the House. This legislation addresses that gap and makes the event reporting more transparent and open for Canadians so they can make a decision about whether there is some perception of undue influence.
Political parties will be responsible for ensuring this information is properly reported within the necessary time frame. If these rules are not followed, the party or candidate in question will be required to return all contributions from the event and there could also be a fine to a maximum of $1,000.
When it comes to our democracy, we know that balance is important. Under the measures brought forward by the legislation, we are successfully balancing the important charter right of democratic expression, while increasing openness and creating even more transparency in political fundraising. We are doing this to allow the electorate to make more informed decisions.
These measures will not only help strengthen and improve our democratic institutions; they will provide Canadians with more information than ever before when it comes to political fundraising events.
I believe all my hon. colleagues will see the value and importance of improving the openness and transparency of our political institutions. As a result, I encourage all members of the House to welcome the legislation so we can raise the bar when it comes to accountability for political events and to strengthen our continued democracy.
It was interesting to listen to some of the other comments. I want to talk a bit about some of the things my colleagues from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston and Victoria raised with respect to some of the objectives of the act, what was covered, and what was not.
One section in the act states:
at least one person who, in order to attend it, is required...to have made a contribution or contributions of a total amount of more than $200 to the registered party or any of its registered associations, nomination, contestants, candidates...
It is not just events where a ticket price is included. Events like an appreciation event are covered under this act. There is another opportunity to close a loophole where some parties may have held events and said if people made their donations to the party three months ago, they would not report that they attended the event. We will close the loophole to ensure people are on an even footing when they attend events as to whether and how their information is recorded and made public to Canadians.
There are some interests in the background. Again, we already have very strict limits. I do not think anyone believes that a colleague in the House is going to be unduly influenced by the low levels of donations made by the limits set forth in our existing Canada Elections Act. Donating $1,550 among donations in the tens of millions of dollars to parties is not material. It does not go to affect and influence anyone. I do not believe Canadians feel that a de minimis amount of money in the overall scheme of things will affect public officials. I believe they have confidence in them. I do not believe they felt that $1,500 donations to the Conservative Party unduly influenced the Conservative Party, or that $1,500-a-year donations to the NDP unduly influenced the NDP. I also do not believe they feel that $1,550-a-year donations to the Liberal Party unduly influenced the Liberals. These are de minimis in the grand scheme of things when compared to the overall amount that parties fundraise.
However, there have been gaps, and we have seen that with respect to certain types of donations and certain types of political participation. We would not see in the record what clearly happened. At times, this leads to a perception that something is wrong.
I remember reading about events with Dean Del Mastro, a former member of the House, who held fundraising events. The reporters on the events did not seem to understand that when certain people from the party attended these events, they did not pay the ticket price. There were concerns within the articles about there being 300 people at the event, but it only raised a certain amount of money. It cast aspersions on the event that perhaps in that instance should not have been there.
If people understand how the finance laws and the reporting work, which is quite arcane, they will understand that some people were not allowed to pay for a ticket because they had already paid the cap. This change will allow the media and Canadians to understand that when people attend fundraisers in accordance with the rules, it does not always mean people pay the same price. Some people are prohibited from paying an additional amount to attend.
Advertising in advance is important for public scrutiny. Canadians will lose confidence if they only learn about things after the fact. It provides an opportunity for shock and awe type media events and media exposure in respect of events. It is this sort of perception by the media that something inopportune is happening. This has happened for years in Canadian reporting, when in fact nothing untoward has happened. This is a totally normal practice.
Advertising publicly in advance that these events are occurring provides the opportunity for the media to understand and prepare and then report more accurately on the events.
However, of course, every time we go and try to interfere with the type of publication that we are engaging in with respect to political finance reform, we have to recall that under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, thought, belief, expression, peaceful assembly, and association. All of these are implicated in the political process. They are right there in section 2 of the charter. Of course, these can only be limited, in accordance with section 1, when they can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
We feel that we have achieved the right balance here. We are not going to require volunteers' names be disclosed or those of minors under 18 years of age. Journalists in the media will not need to be disclosed if they attend events, if the events only cost $200 or less, either at the event or including all previous donations for the right to acquire a ticket to the event. People providing hospitality and other services at the event will not have their names disclosed. This protects the freedom of association that Canadians hold so dear.
At the same time, for those donors in the over $200 up to $1,550 range, there is going to be some public openness and transparency and accountability to provide confidence that nothing untoward has happened, although generally, I think the members of this House will agree that $1,550 is also quite a low limit.
When it comes to other aspects of the political process that might be interfered with, we will note that during election campaigns, the particular rules about the timing of the promotion of the events will not apply. I think we feel that this would be unduly restrictive.
If we look at the smaller political parties that do not hold seats in this House, we see they do not necessarily have the resources to comply with all the rules in this act. Their access to influence, which could be peddled, is also quite limited. I think everyone would find that it would be fair that they should not have to comply with some of the rules about the promotion of their events, the disclosure of individual attendees, and the amounts donated, provided that they do comply with the limits, of course.
Any donation to a political party of $200 or more is going to be published, regardless of which party. It is not that Canadians do not have visibility into the electoral financing of the smaller political parties. They do, but this additional administrative burden is going to apply to those who hold seats in the House.
Then there are leadership contests. This is a subject that comes up time and time again in terms of the level of disclosure and the level of accountability in a leadership contest and how that affects the public perception of politics in Canada.
I know right now it is in the media about Mr. O'Leary and whether he appropriately financed his leadership campaign. Although they will not affect Mr. O'Leary or the people who are seeking the role of leader of the New Democratic Party, for future leadership contests, these rules would apply. These rules apply so that Canadians can have the information at their disposal within 30 days of the event to know plainly and simply who attended these events and how much they paid. Canadians themselves can come to an informed decision about whether they feel anything untoward has happened, and they can cast their vote accordingly.
I think we balanced the charter, and I think we have learned about the events of recent history. So much to do has been made about nothing, in some cases. Then, in other cases, there may be a situation where something untoward is happening, and promoting and publishing not only who has paid for tickets but also who is attending events, even if they have not paid for the tickets, would allow the opposition parties and the government party to examine exactly what has happened and if anything untoward is occurring in our political finance system.
I have already mentioned the fact that we are covering off appreciation events. I know that earlier in the debate there was some confusion about that. It seems very clear from my reading of the legislation that appreciation events are covered and that if people attend an appreciation event and their attendance is contingent on a donation that solely or in combination amounts more than $200, their names will need to be disclosed and published. I think this is appropriate.
I myself found, in connection with my role in political finance reporting as a riding association treasurer and as a treasurer of a provincial party, that those gaps exist. This act does a great job of closing those gaps, not only so that people are fully aware of what is happening and everyone is on an equal footing when it comes to their donations to a political party, but also so that in this place the opposition parties can review the lists and hold the government to account. I think that is an important feature of our democracy.
I know they like to do it almost every question period. This would provide them with a little more information. That is wonderful.
Bringing leadership and nomination campaign expenses in line with the current regime for candidates is an important aspect of the changes to the rules. Another thing that we found in the last election was that the rules associated with nomination contestants and candidates for a campaign and in the leadership contest are all a bit of a smattering and a bit of a mix, in terms of making sure that we have the same coherent information being provided across the political finance spectrum for all the ways in which Canadians are engaging in the process.
We would allow Canadians to have a better sense of what is going on. The more loopholes there are in our law, the more ways there are for people to provide donations and not have their name published, the more it seems there is something wrong with our system, and it lowers the credibility of the system. I think we have managed to close that off here.
I understand that the NDP is at least going to be supporting the bill at this stage. I am very thankful for that. It points to the fact that New Democrats feel the bill addresses something. I know they are asking for more. I look forward to hearing more from the members of the NDP, as to what they would like to see in the bill.
I look forward to hearing from the Conservatives, as well, even though they are not supporting it. They talked earlier about putting on a fig leaf, and I think we are really talking about pulling the fig leaf away. Let us lay everything out on the table. Let us see what is on the table, in terms of donations, and let Canadians make up their minds with respect to the issues that are of importance to them.
This was important to me before I entered politics, and I am glad to see that, now, as a result of the legislation that is being put forward by the minister, we are achieving on our election campaign commitment to make our electoral finance system more open and transparent. That is something that I hope earns the support of all members of the House.
With respect to advertising by political parties on websites, this will be an opportunity. This should not impose too much of an administrative burden on political parties. Most political parties, at least the ones represented in the House, have well-functioning websites that include the opportunity to host and show events. We have not heard anyone stating today that their party would not be able to comply with this aspect of the bill. From a compliance perspective, this should not put any undue cost or burden on the parties. It is something they are able to do already.
Perhaps it is not something that they are always doing, but this would provide a strict and clear standard on what needs to be done in terms of promotion of events on websites, to make sure that everyone is playing ball fairly, and that when events occur, the media know about them in advance, the public knows about them advance, and people are able to make up their own minds as to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the particular type of event, its location, its costs, and what the party is trying to achieve in hosting it.
In addition to the promotion in advance, there is also an accelerated timeline for reporting the results of the event after it has already occurred. Now there would be a 30-day timeline in which the event organizers would need to provide to the parties the list of the attendees at the event, subject of course to the limits of not reporting minors, volunteers, media, and people providing support to the event; but for all the other attendees of the event, their names need to be provided, along with their addresses, to Elections Canada within 30 days of the event.
I think this is important, because it would provide timely access to information for Canadians. The lack of timeliness of the information is another way by which Canadians lose confidence or faith, or they have a perception that there might be something untoward or inappropriate happening. By accelerating the timelines for this reporting and ensuring that the reporting is done within a month, that would give confidence to Canadians that things truly are on the up and up.
I am sure when Canadians see the results of this bill come forward, if it gets passed in its current form, they will see the benefits of this public reporting. It would help them have confidence that political fundraising is not some type of evil that has to be undone. It is an important part of our political process, and it allows us to do the work we do here every day. It allows Canadians to engage in a fair and balanced way in the political system.
If it has a negative perception as a result of some of the discourse in this place, the bill allows us to overcome that.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2017-06-08 22:41 [p.12380]
Mr. Speaker, I do not think there was a question there, but I will reiterate the point that this legislation would achieve the goal that my colleague just mentioned of making sure that Canadians understand what is happening at the fundraisers, where they are, who is attending, how much they cost, and they can make up their own minds. Canadians do not need to be regulated to death.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2017-06-08 22:43 [p.12380]
Mr. Speaker, I obviously agree with that. In fact, it was the nature of what we discussed. By providing this information, Canadians will have an opportunity to see what is going on. It will also provide information to ministers and their staff to know what is appropriate and not appropriate. Canadians can make up their own minds, because Canadians do not need to be patronized. They are intelligent people, and they can look at the information and make an informed decision.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
moved that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, before I start, I want to say that in 2004-05, when I was first elected, the minister of fisheries and oceans at that time was one of the strongest, most powerful advocates for the sealing industry that this country has ever seen. That, sir, was you, and I thank you very much for that. We all thank you for your service in that cause. That was not just a way of trying to win favour with the Speaker. I am serious about the issue.
This is a very important day for us, and also for a wonderful person, the former Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. She was the champion of this in the Senate in 2014. The bill died on the Order Paper, and then it came back, of course, moved successfully through the Senate, and now it sits here in the House of Commons. I am honoured to move this.
We are proposing to vote for May 20 to be national seal products day. First of all, why May 20? That is a good question. May 20 coincides with European Maritime Day. The reason we are doing this, and it is not in jest, is because in the European Union, they spend a full day celebrating the culture of the marine industry, including fishing, harvesting of animals, and all fisheries around the European Union and the entire continent.
Senator Hervieux-Payette thought to have this day coincide with that day as a way of celebrating what we do in the way of harvesting this animal. As we all know, a few years ago, the European Union introduced a ban on seal products, which we vehemently opposed at the time. We challenged it through the WTO, rather unsuccessfully, but nevertheless it exists. There was an exemption for indigenous persons. I will talk about that in my speech a little later. I understand the member for Cariboo—Prince George will be talking about the indigenous factor for seal products. I thank him in advance for doing that.
I also want to thank the seconder of this bill, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, who worked on this when he used to work for me. He worked on this quite a bit. I am happy to say that he is seconding the bill. It is also very fitting that the mover of this today is from Newfoundland and Labrador, and the seconder is from Quebec. These are the two provinces that have harvested seals the most in the commercial industry.
The gulf seal fishery—because we call it a fishery even though they are mammals—in Quebec, and the other seal fishery, primarily in Newfoundland and Labrador, in an area called “The Front”, takes place in April and May.
As we go into this right now, I want to talk about the industry itself and what it has done for the commercial side in the coastal communities. Certainly over the last 10 years, there has been a decline in a major way. By way of illustration, in 2004, $18 million of seal products were exported, primarily in meat, oil, and, of course, pelts, which was the most at the time. The pelts constitute the garment industry. These are garments such as boots, mittens, slippers, and bow ties.
This one, incidentally, was given to me by the Hon. John Crosbie of Newfoundland and Labrador. I wear it very proudly. He was a true advocate for the industry. Recently, he set up a sealers memorial in the town of Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador. I thank him for this, and I wear it today as such. If anyone has seal products, I suggest they wear them over the next while. I see that some members are wearing them, and I thank them for that.
Let us look at 2004 again. There was $18 million in exports around the world, primarily in nations such as Norway, Russia, throughout the European Union, some at that point in Asia, not a lot, like we have now, and China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong. However, that point was the peak of the industry. One pelt would get just over $100. Today's pelt price is just under $20. That gives us an idea of how devastating it has been.
There are a couple of other factors as well. Several years of the strong dollar did not help. Also, there has been a substantial amount of ice cover, both east of Quebec, Îles de la Madeleine in particular, and also in Newfoundland and Labrador. That did not help the situation.
It was some $18 million that was the value back then. Today, the exports are just over $300,000. It has taken a downturn. I mentioned earlier the ban on seal products in the European Union. Russia has also banned seal products. I am not sure about that one, simply because it was a major importer of seal products. President Putin felt, in his infinite wisdom, that banning seal products was a good thing to do, and it put a lot of people out of work.
Here in Canada, of course, we do not have a ban, but we have an industry that is being recognized for a humane hunt and harvest of these animals. In 2009, through the marine mammal regulations, we put through a three-step process for a kill of a particular seal. It is mandatory training now for commercial licence holders to do this. An independent group of veterinarians, an international group by the way, said a while ago that it represented a humane harvest, more humane than in many cases of domesticated animals, and certainly more humane than other hunts that have taken place throughout Europe.
I will give an example. Several years ago, I put a motion in the House to ban lederhosen. I am not kidding. The reason I did that is there is an unregulated hunt that takes place with deer and boar animals in Germany. The Germans harvest it primarily through Bavaria, but basically it is not as regulated as the seal hunt is here. The harvesting of seals is very regulated, but their wild hunts are not so much. I put a motion in the House. Since they were going to ban seal products, it made sense. They were killing all these animals to create lederhosen. It never got to a vote. I did it in jest. Nevertheless, I wanted to make the point that if they were going to say that the harvesting of seals is inhumane, then they have to open up the debate to all animals being harvested.
How do we harvest our animals? We know about cruelty to animals in domesticated ways; we know about cruelty to animals in general. However, let us look at the situation we have here. We have a highly regulated harvest of a mammal that represents a great commercial value. We do not get as much from it as we used to. It has a value of $34 million in one year as far as landed value is concerned, and these are primarily harp seals. However, we understand that by doing the steps, such as mandatory training in the three-step process for the harvesting of the animal, that makes it humane. These are all international standards that are looked upon by international animal welfare groups. Some of them said “yes”, most of them said “no”, but the problem is that the ones who said “no” did it, in my opinion, in a very selfish manner.
I mentioned earlier about deer and boar that are harvested in Germany and it being less regulated than our hunt. The reason it is not highlighted as much is because putting a deer or a boar animal on the front of a pamphlet to raise money does not work as well as putting a seal pup on there, now does it? Therein lies the problem that we have had for many, many years.
If we look at the seal pup when it is born, it has white fur. Protesters use that as a way of putting forward their mission to raise money for their individual groups. It is demagoguery at its worst. What we have is a situation where we do not harvest that animal; it is much older than that. Therefore, the most frustrating part is the myths that we keep battling against. We keep getting pushed back because those myths keep circulating about how we harvest an animal. It is no different than any other animal harvests around the world.
I had an argument with a British member of parliament one day. He said he did not like the seal hunt because he did not like the way we harvested the animal, the way it is done. I did not want to be too angry. I wanted to try to be intelligent about it, and I pointed out his leather shoes. He shook his head and said he knew what I was going to say, that he was wearing leather that came from a cow, but he said that it is a domesticated animal. I am sure the cow did not really care whether it was domesticated or not; it was about to face its ultimate demise.
Nevertheless, I asked him how the cow was slaughtered, and he could not tell me. Therein lie the mistruths that have been put out there.
The point of this is to say that our national seal products are tied to culture, going way back. I will give members an idea how far it goes back. Several hundred years ago, when the mass harvesting of seals took place, the oil from these seals was transported to London. It was excellent fuel for the street lamps. It is kind of ironic. In a way, the British started the anti-seal hunt campaign with groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenpeace and others.
Many of these groups have come around to understanding how this harvest takes place. Some have not, however. We have suffered the wrath of many mistruths by them, and unfortunately that continues to this very day.
However, there is an exemption in Europe now for indigenous communities. We have invested a bit of money as did the former government. We invested around $5.7 million, which is a good investment, to allow indigenous groups to market their products within Europe and other places. This is essential because the marketing help certainly will bring a level of understanding as to how we harvest animals in a humane way and how we respect this as being the culture of indigenous communities. Nunavut is now doing that and soon the Northwest Territories will embark on the same. That is ideal.
I know my colleague, the member for Labrador, speaks about this quite a bit.
We can do many things to increase the level of understanding as to how we can get around these lies and myths about seal harvesting, with which people around the world have painted us. We have heard it all. My ancestors were called barbarians for what they did. Someone asked me once why my grandfather had taken part in killing seals. I believe I said that it had something to do with supporting his family.
We need to increase this understanding. A short time ago, when the member for Nunavut was the minister, he went to the United States and met President Obama. He had his seal tie on when he met him. I thought that was a very touching moment. We are going to turn the corner. We are going to increase the level of understanding through the indigenous communities, and all coastal communities, for that matter. I have many coastal communities that rely on this.
There was a time when up to half a person's income was created from the seal harvest, up until about 2010 when the market started suffering.
However, I believe the markets will come back for many reasons: first, seal oil is rich in omega-3; second, the fur is high-quality; and third, the meat is also good. We are making efforts to increase market awareness in Asia, such as China. Hopefully, it will turn out to be a big market. However, we need to stay away from the bans of seal products based upon myths, not conservation.
Back in the seventies, there were less than two million harp seals on the east coast. Now there are 7.4 million of them. They are plentiful, indeed, to the point where some nations kill seals because they get in the way of the ecosystem. What is their excuse?
Nevertheless, I want to thank the House for hearing me on this. I look forward to the debate and any questions. I look forward to the support of all members of the House for Bill S-208. Finally, I again would like to thank Senator Hervieux-Payette for bringing this forward.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Durham for his comment about my charming bow tie, as I stand here blushing shamelessly. That is very sweet.
The member is correct. Paul McCartney was the celebrity who did not know where he was. He was in Prince Edward Island but claimed to be in Newfoundland and Labrador.
All that aside, as the member pointed out, the lack of understanding is part of the problem. These celebrities witness the actual harvest but do not witness the cultural aspect that follows the harvest. That is the problem. If they did, they would probably go back with a greater appreciation. I think of a former governor general who took part in the ceremony of eating the seal meat. It was really something at the time. I wish those celebrities would do that.
A lot of people will say that it is easy for politicians from Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador to be in favour of the seal harvest because it is a popular thing. However, in Europe, it is a popular thing to be on the other side of the argument. At least I can say that the vast majority of politicians from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and across the country, have a better understanding of the seal harvest than the protesters.
View Gudie Hutchings Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Gudie Hutchings Profile
2016-09-22 13:56 [p.4976]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today with many of my colleagues from the Atlantic caucus, all 32 of us. Many of us were here this morning, and those of us who were not were busy doing work for their constituents and parliamentary affairs throughout Parliament, and so they were working hard for their constituents.
I am pleased to be rising in the House to speak on the opposition motion moved by the member for Niagara Falls, which does deal with regional representation on the Supreme Court and in particular Atlantic Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada affects all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Thus, a rigorous appointment process is of the utmost importance to ensure that Canadians of all walks of life can be represented in this important institution.
Our government has committed to an open, transparent, accountable process to appoint jurists of the highest calibre who are functionally bilingual and representative of the diversity of our great country. I would like to take a moment to discuss what exactly this will mean for the constituents of my riding of the Long Range Mountains in Newfoundland and Labrador.
My constituents voted for change, clearly. That change means a functional, effective, and representative government that respects the institutions of our country and our regional diversity. Atlantic Canada's representation on the Supreme Court bench is just one example of the new tone that Newfoundland and Labrador can expect from this government. Our position on the motion, presented by the Minister of Justice, is one that I am proud to take to my constituents and Canadians everywhere.
When appointing Supreme Court justices, the former Conservative government used an opaque, outdated process that desperately needed overhaul. Canadians had limited information about the nominees, and the criteria for their selection was unclear. We heard the frustration that Canadians felt with the way the former government operated.
We listened to Canadians, we heard their concerns, and we campaigned on a platform of open and transparent government. In this case, that means when we are selecting justices for the Supreme Court, our government will make public the members of the independent advisory board, the assessment criteria, the questionnaire that all applicants must answer, and certain answers provided to the questionnaire by the Prime Minister's eventual nominee.
Not only that, but the Minister of Justice and the chair of the advisory board will appear before Parliament to discuss the selection process. A number of members of Parliament and senators from all parties will also have the opportunity to take part in a question and answer session with the eventual nominee before he or she joins the bench. That means members of Parliament can truly represent their constituents in this process of utmost importance to our region.
My home town in Newfoundland and Labrador has its own unique issues, as does all of Atlantic Canada. I have one of the largest ridings in the country. My riding of the Long Range Mountains starts at the southwest coast of the island, taking in the little communities of Grey River and Channel-Port aux Basques. It then runs along the Great Northern Peninsula to St. Lunaire-Griquet.
When I mention the size of my riding, it is not just as a geography lesson for the members across the aisle about a region of the country they forgot in their time in power, but it is also to give folks a sense of the scale of the region.
It takes about nine hours to drive the 700 kilometres to Channel-Port aux Basques, and if I go to the areas on the south, it is a six-hour boat ride. With all due respect, some members from other parts of the country may not realize the sheer size of Atlantic Canada. While this is only an example, it highlights the desire and importance of having somebody on the bench who can understand the unique challenges and issues that come up when dealing with court cases at the Supreme Court.
The regional perspective is crucial and so important when it comes to future members of the bench. As I said earlier, the Supreme Court has a direct effect on every part of the country, but there are very few areas of the country where federal government decisions can have such an impact on people's daily lives. People from Atlantic Canada understand that reality.
One of the largest industries is the fishery in my riding. Because of that, when I speak with my constituents, as I did on wharves all summer, one thing is always clear to them, the decisions made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
I raise this because I find it interesting that the members opposite have suddenly developed an interest in Atlantic Canada. They suddenly decided that Atlantic Canada is important to them. I find it ironic that this recognition was missing for 10 years while they were in government. It was clear that they did not understand or recognize the importance of the Long Range Mountains.
I look forward to concluding my remarks after question period.
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