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Results: 1 - 12 of 12
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House tonight to speak to this important budget, budget 2019.
As members and Canadians know, the economy has been moving very quickly and successfully. Canadians have created over one million jobs since 2015, and over 110,000 jobs in the last month alone. That is extremely impressive.
We have also seen, with our investment of the Canada child benefit, that we lifted over 300,000 Canadians out of poverty. That is another very important signal of success that we have moved forward on for our economy. As well, we have seen and are seeing the lowest unemployment rate in 45 years. When we took office here, the unemployment rate was at 7.1%. It is now at 5.7% to 5.8%. That is a strong indication of how strong our economy is moving forward. That is because of the budgets and investments we have made over the last four years. This budget is a continuation of that philosophy.
I want to talk about veterans. As members know, I have the largest number of veterans in Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia has the highest number in the country per capita. We have made some big investments over the last three and a half years for veterans, of over $10 billion. Even in this budget, we have again made some major steps forward.
The first budget was on transition. We have been working hard to find a seamless approach with a joint committee between DND and Veterans Affairs. It is in place and we are seeing some very positive steps forward in that area. However, we were only focusing that transition on ill and disabled veterans. Now we have included, in this bill, non-ill veterans, which is another very important factor.
We have enhanced the education and training benefit for veterans, which is $40,000 for six years of service or $80,000 for 12 years. We have now added the reservists to the list of those who can benefit from those programs. Those are very big steps that the veterans community was asking for and that we were able to put forward.
The other investment is the veterans survivor fund. Prior to this budget, the benefits and pensions of veterans who got married after the age of 60 would not be moved over to their spouse or partner. We made sure that we would bring forward investments to correct that as well, which was another important ask from our veterans community.
There are also investments in the Juno Beach Centre. We are celebrating, on June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We want to remember the loss of over 14,000 Canadians during that important time.
That is just a quick run-through of some of the investments in the veterans sector. Let us talk about the young people in this country.
We need to make sure that we are helping those young individuals to move forward and we have included some major steps in this last budget. Regarding student loans, we know that if students get a job they have to make over $25,000. We talked about that in previous budgets. Now we are saying that they will pay a prime rate but will not have to pay the plus 3%, which was a big one. Also we said that there will be no interest on the loan and no payments for the first six months, which is a big change as well.
For first-time homebuyers, we have set up an opportunity for young people. If they are purchasing a home for $400,000, they would have to put 5% down, which would be $20,000, so their loan would be $380,000. However, with the shared-equity strategy that we have put in place, their loan now is $340,000 and that is major. That is a savings of $225 per month. If I run that through for 30 years, it is $81,000 that an individual would save. That is a very important investment, as members can note.
As for student summer jobs, when the Conservatives were in power the number of summer jobs was the lowest that had existed in this country. Now that we are in 2019, there is the greatest number of summer jobs. In my riding alone, there are 255 individuals who are going to or are working in those summer jobs. That is $770,000 invested in that portfolio for students in my riding. As members can see, it is a broad approach that we are bringing forward, a coordinated strategy.
Then, we have brought in some investments in the Canada training program, which is a very important new program. It is tax free and people can save up to $250 a year, $1,000 every four years, for upgrading. That is something that we did not have access to. All members in the House know that young people today will often change jobs. The technology is moving so rapidly that this training is essential. We also have a program where people can draw from EI during the four weeks they are attending upgrading courses, which is extremely important.
We need to talk about seniors. We know that by 2034, seniors will represent about 25% of Canadians. That is a very high number. In the Atlantic provinces, the number is even higher than that. We need to focus on seniors. My riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook in Nova Scotia had the highest increase between 2011 and 2016. The Conservatives were going to move the retirement age to 67 and we said that was unacceptable. Canadians who have worked up to the age of 65, if they so desire to retire, they should be able to retire in dignity. Therefore, we ensured that the age of retirement stayed at 65, which was a crucial investment.
We have made investments to the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement, in two areas. The first one is a big investment of approximately $950, which allowed 700,000 seniors to move above the poverty line. That was very important, as well.
On health care, pharmacare, we are going to move forward. We have had a committee study a national pharmacare program. We should be able to deliver that in the very near future. We have made some investments in the Canadian drug agency to lower the costs. A national dementia strategy is very important. I met with a group in Sackville last week, in my riding. Northwood is trying to open an adult day program for dementia patients. Again, that is very important as well.
I must also include some of the investments on reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We have eliminated over 80-some boil water advisories. We have promised that by 2021 there will be no more boil water advisories. There is an investment for indigenous peoples for entrepreneurship and economic development, and for start-ups and expansion for Métis small businesses. Those are big investments for indigenous people.
I would like to finish off, of course, with the African Nova Scotian community. We have made some major investments there as well. The black community is the oldest black intergenerational community in Canada. It has the biggest Black Cultural Centre in Canada. Two months ago, the Prime Minister was in the Preston area. It was the first time a Prime Minister ever stepped into the Preston area.
There are some very successful initiatives that we are moving forward on. One is the anti-racism strategy investment, which will allow community-based focus groups to come forward with all kinds of different projects. There is also some capital investment, up to $25 million over five years, for projects and capital assistance to help the vibrant black community continue to grow.
I have to close with the trade deals. We have brought three trade deals to the table, successfully. That is 1.5 billion people trading in and out of Canada.
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-11-08 15:37 [p.23473]
Madam Speaker, through the testimony we heard at committee, it is obvious that the measures in this bill will go a long way toward dealing not only with the delays in our court system but with the unfairness as well. There is a patent unfairness that we see far too often when marginalized individuals come before the criminal justice system, and for one reason or another, are given conditions they cannot reasonably comply with and that are therefore breached. They do not comply with conditions they really had no ability to comply with.
It is important that the judicial referral hearings that are one aspect of this bill are put in place to not only deal with the backlog in our court system but to ensure fairness for all individuals who are facing a criminal charge.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-68 following the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review and analysis of this bill.
We thank the committee members for their careful study of this legislation and their thoughtful amendments. During this review of Bill C-68, my colleagues in committee heard from many different witnesses and experts. I would like to take this time to talk about what they heard. I would also like to share the concrete steps proposed to make improvements and move forward with this legislation.
From the environmental NGO community and members across the aisle in the Green Party and the NDP, the committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat. The government supported the associated amendments put forward in committee.
The committee also heard from industry groups seeking amendments to the rules proposed for the processing of applications for habitat authorization during the transition from the current to the new legislation. In response, the committee adopted the amendment to provide clearer transition provisions.
The committee also heard about strengthening the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. This is why the committee proposed the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulation. However, the legislation would require that when such cases arose, Canadians would be informed and provided with a rationale. Our aim is to sustainably manage fisheries resources for the long-term benefit of Canadians.
As members know, in 2012, the previous government decided to change habitat protection without the support of or consultation with indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, and the Canadian public. In contrast, our government has worked with all Canadians and has encouraged everyone to be part of this process. The proposed amendments to Bill C-68 are part of our government's broader review of environmental and regulatory processes under Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which was reviewed by the committee.
The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development also adopted some important amendments, which have been reflected in Bill C-68. These include better protections for indigenous knowledge and clearer transition provisions that would ensure better business continuity.
The changes proposed in Bill C-68 would support several government priorities, such as partnering with indigenous peoples; supporting planning and integrated management; enhancing regulation and enforcement; improving partnership and collaboration; and, finally, monitoring and reporting back to Canadians. This is transparency.
This bill would include the reintroduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat as well as the prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish and fish habitat through a new permitting scheme, for big projects, and codes of practice, for smaller ones.
The amendments would enable the regulatory authorities that would allow for establishing a list of designated projects, comprising works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit would always be required. We have been, and will continue to be, engaged with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, stakeholders, and others to capture the right kinds of projects on the designated project list.
Habitat loss and degradation and changes to fish passage and water flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitat in Canada. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitat. That is why we proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that would include the consideration of restoration as part of project decision-making.
The bill is motivated by the need to restore the public's trust in government, which was lost following decisions made in 2012.
In order to re-establish the trust of Canadians in government, access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat, as well as protecting information and decisions, is essential. We listened and we proposed, through Bill C-68, measures to establish the public registry, which will enable transparency and access. This registry will allow Canadians to see whether the government is meeting its obligations and allow them to hold the government accountable for decision-making with regard to fish and fish habitat.
The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions will more clearly guide the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions and provide a framework for the proper management and control of fisheries, and for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.
Fisheries' resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. Respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples of Canada, taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat, is one way we are showing our commitment to renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples.
We listened to Canadians on the need for modern safeguards. That is why we have proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that provide a new fisheries management order power to establish targeted fisheries management measures for 45-day increments where there is a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries or to the conservation and protection of fish. This will help to address time-sensitive emerging issues when a fishery is under way and targeted measures are required.
Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act include a new ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity. This will support our international commitment to protect at least 10% of our marine and coastal areas by 2020. Proposed changes also include authority to make regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks.
As I mentioned earlier, our government reached out to Canadians to help put the bill forward. We listened to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. We were pleased with the amendments of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans during its clause-by-clause review. We listened to environmental groups, and the committee proposed provisions aimed at implementing measures to promote the sustainability of the major fish stocks.
In addition, in keeping with modernizing the act in line with other federal environmental law, changes are being proposed to the Fisheries Act to authorize the use of alternative measures agreements.
Through Bill C-68, the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By restoring the lost protections and providing these modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries.
Since introducing this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments that will return Canada back to the forefront when speaking about fish for generations to come.
I urge all hon. members on both sides of the House to join me in supporting this bill, which is so important.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am so glad my colleague touched on consultation. Over the 10 years of Conservative government, it did not consult in any way, shape, or form. When the former prime minister visited a province, he would not even let the premier know. That was disrespectful.
With respect to indigenous people, a large majority of them support the pipeline, for example. We are not going to get 100% support. What is important to note is that the minister will have the authority to enter into any agreements with indigenous people, and this is in the bill as well. They will not be consulted but they will be part of the solution, and that is really good when it comes to what we are trying to accomplish as a government.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-12 12:47 [p.15028]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for her question. She underscored the double-talk aspect.
What we have here in the House is legislation that proposes to put an end to barbaric practices. What about the fact that if someone is an aboriginal women, she is more likely to be murdered than someone who looks like me. I do not think that is justice. I do not think that is the kind of Canada we intended to create. However, we are there. Why are we not taking action? There was a truth and reconciliation commission. The report said clearly that it was cultural genocide that was attempted in residential schools. How is it that we do not see any action? There were 94 recommendations, and we have not heard a peep.
If we want to talk about hypocrisy, it is pretty easy. Just come into the House and listen to what the Conservatives have to say about some groups but not others. They are certainly leaving the first nations communities out in the cold.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2012-06-11 20:55 [p.9198]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-38, the 425-page omnibus budget implementation act. It would, among other things, gut Canada's environmental laws; break the Conservatives' election promise by raising the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67; create uncertainty for businesses, workers and seasonal industries with changes to EI that attack rural Canada, Atlantic Canada and the provinces; and that would hurt Canada's international brand by tearing up 100,000 immigration applications.
Bill C-38 imposes the Conservatives' unilateral decision to reduce health transfers to the provinces and territories. It allows the Conservatives to target charitable organizations they disagree with.
It would wipe out groups such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Rights and Democracy and the National Council on Welfare. All of these groups have one thing in common: over the last 30 years, and in some cases more, these groups were independent. They were funded through the government, but they took independent positions based on evidence that was sometimes contrary to the governing party, which was, in some cases, Liberal governments, in other cases, Progressive Conservative governments. However, the current Conservative government is the first government that actually de-funded these groups simply because they disagreed with the governing party.
Bill C-38 would reduce the Auditor General's oversight on a number of government agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Northern Pipeline Agency. It would reduce oversight on Canada's spy agency by abolishing the office of the Inspector General. It would repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It would eliminate a number of the government's reporting requirements on climate change and public service jobs. It would make changes that experts warn are unconstitutional to parole hearings.
The finance committee spent a few days studying the legislation since the House last debated the bill. A finance subcommittee was struck to examine part 3 of the bill, which was focused on environmental measures. However, this study took place while the environment committee was travelling to Alberta and Nova Scotia, which limited the ability of key MPs with expertise on the environment to participate in the Bill C-38 study.
The subcommittee's report on Bill C-38 was a disgraceful whitewash. The main report did not include any reference to public opposition to the bill, with the exception of a single reference that completely misrepresented the testimony of former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister, Tom Siddon. Mr. Siddon, who was the fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990 in the Mulroney government, said:
They are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act.
They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act and it’s in devious little ways if you read all the fine print...they are making a Swiss cheese out of [it].
That was said by a former minister of fisheries, a Progressive Conservative activist and minister.
Mr. Siddon was part of a group of four former fisheries ministers, two Liberal and two Progressive Conservatives, who wrote a letter warning the government of the disastrous effect the bill would have on our fisheries.
The subcommittee's report endorsed the changes made to the National Energy Board despite having heard from witnesses who were overwhelmingly opposed to these changes.
Today, Barrie McKenna's article in the The Globe and Mail argues that Bill C-38 undermines:
...the NEB’s authority and independence [and] turns back the clock on five decades of credible resource regulation.... The omnibus bill gives Ottawa carte blanche over as many as 750 decisions a year. That is a lot of authority for Canadians with their X mark in the voting booth to grant a cabinet dominated by one man. It delegitimizes the NEB and injects needless uncertainty into the process.
Furthermore, industry was not calling for a lot of these changes. In fact, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, CAPP, stated that the NEB plays “a very important role in ensuring that we’ve got [a] secure, reliable, affordable energy supply for Canadians, and sustainably develop our abundant energy resources”.
The main finance committee studied parts 1, 2 and 4 of the bill. We heard from officials and a total of 57 witnesses on the 636 clauses contained in parts 1, 2 and 4. To be blunt, the study was a farce. The committee's timeline was rushed, leaving us unable to examine many aspects of the legislation.
We were not given the chance to hear from a single witness outside of the government on a large number of the issues. For instance, we did not hear from any municipal leaders, despite the impact of Bill C-38 on communities.
The main finance committee did not hear from any witnesses from aboriginal groups, even though this bill proposes a number of changes that will impact them directly, such as changes to the First Nations Land Management Act. Parliament has a responsibility to consult with Canada's aboriginal peoples before making these changes.
National Chief Shawn Atleo did appear before the subcommittee. He said:
To date, first nations have not been engaged or consulted on any of the changes to the environmental and resource development regime proposed within Bill C-38....In its current form, part 3 of C-38 clearly represents a derogation of established and asserted first nations rights. If enacted, it will increase the time, costs, and effort for all parties and governments, as first nations will take every opportunity to challenge these provisions.
That testimony, by the way, before the subcommittee was expunged from the subcommittee's report, which the government of course controlled and basically wrote at the committee level.
We did not hear from any railway companies, even though Bill C-38 would increase their share of costs for railway crossings by 500%. The government did not allow us enough time to conduct a proper study of this bill.
The finance committee heard from only one witness on the issue of the changes to the oversight of Canada's spy agency, outside of government officials. That was Paul Kennedy, a former senior assistant deputy minister at public safety, responsible for national security activities and former chief counsel to CSIS, who called these changes to CSIS “sheer insanity”.
The finance committee only heard from one witness on the changes to parole hearings who described the changes as unconstitutional. The Canadian Bar Association also wrote to the finance committee to warn us that these changes in Bill C-38 were unconstitutional.
Many of the witnesses we did hear from were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the changes in the bill. Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch told the committee:
I don't think that anyone, to the best of their abilities, could represent their constituents when there's a 500-page bill that affects virtually every aspect of Canadian society.
The issue here is not just the length of the bill; it is the breadth of the bill and the number of sweeping changes that are totally unrelated. The reality is we have an environment committee with members of Parliament, with expertise in the environment. We have an aboriginal northern affairs committee with members of Parliament, with an expertise in that area.
If we broke down this bill and not only enabled individual legislators at the committee to study the changes and the legislation in separate bills, but ultimately to vote on them, we would actually be respecting democracy and we would be respecting Parliament. However, the Prime Minister is not interested in that.
In terms of some of the changes on old age security and EI, the government is targeting some of the most vulnerable Canadians. Old age security changes are being rushed through. The Conservatives are saying that we should not to worry, that they will not take effect for 11 years and that if people are 53 years old, they can start saving more money. For goodness sake, 40% of Canadians make less than $20,000 per year. How are they supposed to save money on that? Who gets OAS? The reality is that 40% of the people getting OAS make $20,000 a year or less and 53% make less than $25,000 a year.
This is targeting Canada's most vulnerable. It is an affront to democracy and it is an affront to Canada's most vulnerable who will pay a price for this neo-conservative agenda, which is not well thought out and is an attack on some of Canada's lowest-income people, an attack on rural Canada and an attack on Atlantic Canada.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
View Robert Chisholm Profile
2012-06-11 23:25 [p.9219]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to get up and speak for a few moments this evening about this important piece of legislation.
I am somewhat confused by the responses of the members opposite when they say a couple of things. They say that this is common sense way to deal with a number of problems, by introducing an omnibus bill that changes 70 important pieces of legislation; it is a common sense approach to dealing with important matters; it is simply a way of growing the economy, creating jobs and moving the country forward; and that a lot of the changes they have introduced in the legislation are important changes that will benefit the country, and that they are very proud of them.
What I cannot get over is, if that in fact is the case, then why do they not take some time to consider each one of those changes? For example, when we look at the changes to the employment insurance system contained in the bill, none other than the four Atlantic premiers have come out in the last few days and said they have very serious concerns about the proposed changes. They have not been consulted and would like to examine those changes.
We have talked a lot in the House over the past number of weeks about the changes to the Fisheries Act. Contrary to what one member opposite said, many of us have looked at the bill, examined the changes that have been made and have listened to a number of experts who have considered what the impact will be. As recently as this afternoon, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission came before our fisheries committee to talk about invasive species. They spoke to a resolution that had been passed and forwarded to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans by the advisory committee to that commission, asking that the government engage in further consultation on the changes to the Fisheries Act, and failing that, that the government recognizes that the definition of fisheries habitat it has used is completely and utterly inadequate. They suggested different language in order to do that.
That does not sound to me as if the people who are affected by the legislation are understanding or being supportive of these changes. Therefore, what is confusing me and confusing many Canadians who are being directly affected by the legislation is that if government members are as proud as they say they are about the changes they are trying to implement, why do they not take time to talk with Canadians about what they are proposing to do and make sure that everyone is on board?
Unfortunately, what we have seen over the past number of weeks is the government hell bent on getting the legislation through. It is trying to prevent Canadians actually seeing what is in the bill and understanding what is here.
The member before me spoke glowingly about the changes to EI, the changes to the temporary foreign workers program, and the changes to the Fair Wages and Hours Act and how this was going to help employees. What they are doing with those three changes alone is driving down the wages of working people in our country so they will not be able to afford to purchase goods and services in our communities. How in the name of heaven is that supporting the economy in Atlantic Canada or in the member's own constituency? I would like him to give that some consideration.
I was on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance that considered Bill C-38, the 70 pieces of legislation that were being affected, and we had only 14 hours to do that.
We had 14 hours to consider the employment insurance changes and the Fisheries Act changes. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would be completely repealed and replaced in Bill C-38. We had 14 hours to examine and to listen to representations by Canadian experts, by people who would be directly affected by this legislation. These people came before us and told us what they thought about it. They told us how the bill would affect them and the issues that they are interested in. They brought their expertise before us. It was revealing. I learned a great deal from both those who supported the legislation and those who were opposed to the legislation.
However, what concerned me the most, as a parliamentarian and as someone who has some experience in legislation, in dealing with these matters, was the dismissive way that many of these witnesses were dealt with. I was disgusted, frankly. Members opposite, members of the government side, challenged anyone who raised any questions. They treated them poorly. In fact, if we look at the subcommittee's report that was tabled in this House when the finance committee reported back to this House, we will see a report that is nowhere near reflective of the testimony that we heard in those 14 hours.
Let me give an example. The Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Chief Atleo, came before our committee. He told us in no uncertain terms how upset he and his people were. They had not been consulted, the government had completely ignored the duty to accommodate and the duty to consult that has been reaffirmed in Supreme Court decisions over the past 20 years. The changes being proposed in a number of pieces of legislation do not consider the role that the first nations play in this country. It would create extraordinary hardship and extraordinary damage to many of the things that the first nations people in this country hold dear.
Do members see that sentiment reflected in the subcommittee's report? Not a word. Grand Chief Atleo's testimony is not even referred to once in the subcommittee's report. How can that be? We are talking about the Assembly of First Nations that represents over 600 first nations communities in this country, first nations that have rights, treaty rights, constitutional rights that have been defined by and confirmed by the Supreme Court. His testimony and the concerns of the first nations people in this country are not even reflected once in that report.
Members opposite are laughing. They think this is a great joke. But let me say that as a member of this chamber, I am thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted with the way that this matter has been handled. It is so disrespectful of the people who have taken their time to come before us to provide testimony. It is as though, if anyone disagrees with the current government, whether it is a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and on the Economy, or Grand Chief Shawn Atleo or members who came before us today of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, or anyone who has any objection with the government, the members will shout them down, they will rule them out, they will not include them in their reports. It is shameful behaviour. I am telling members that Canadians are paying attention and they are not going to stand for this. They are not going to stand being railroaded by the government.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2010-06-07 12:44 [p.3453]
Mr. Speaker, I have been disturbed by the amount of misinformation that has permeated and dominated the important and legitimate debate on this issue. I have repeatedly corrected the NDP member of the trade committee when he has made incorrect and false testimony.
At the time of the murder of 12 members of the Awa nation, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster actually accused the Uribe government of conducting the murders. Then, because the murders occurred when the hon. member for Toronto Centre and I were in Colombia, we were accused of condoning murder. That was the deeply personal and grossly biased and inaccurate type of argument made.
As it turns out, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that the murders of the 12 members of the Awa nation were committed by FARC, because they were living on grounds contiguous with a FARC drug operation. It was not the Uribe government, so I think that the hon. member from the New Democrats should apologize to me and to the Uribe government.
View Peter Stoffer Profile
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2007-12-10 15:19 [p.1947]
Mr. Speaker, again I am going back to the issue of the day, which is the big difference between those of us in the NDP and those in the Conservative and Liberal Parties.
We in the NDP believe in the collective. We believe that the government can be a source of good for Canadians across this country from coast to coast to coast. We also believe that the resources of this country should benefit Canadians. As well, we should be able to share our expertise and wealth with those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity and also on the environment, education, health, et cetera.
However, also within our own country there are many who are veterans and widows of veterans, who have been promised certain things by the government and have been denied. As my colleagues used to say, there is no greater fraud than a promise that has been broken.
On June 28, 2005, when the current Prime Minister was then opposition leader, he promised Joyce Carter of Cape Breton that if the Conservatives formed the government they would immediately extend the VIP services for all widows and veterans of World War II and Korea. Twenty-two months later, there is still nothing.
Also, when the Prime Minister and the member for New Brunswick Southwest, who is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs, were in opposition, they said publicly in Gagetown and during the campaign in 2005 that they would look after and compensate all those victims of defoliant spraying in Gagetown from 1956 to 1984. “All” of them is what they said. They recently came out with a package that covers only those in 1966 and 1967, which is exactly what the Liberals had proposed beforehand.
The Conservatives in New Brunswick were elected on that promise and they broke that promise. It is unconscionable that a government that is like Scrooge McDuck, sitting on a pile of coins, loonies, toonies and cash, is not able to help those who served their country with such distinction and honour.
I recently toured the north. One of the most outrageous conditions people there are living with is extremely crowded housing. They simply do not have enough housing to go around. We talk about Arctic sovereignty, first nations rights and helping aboriginal people and improving their health, yet the government does very little, if anything, to solve the housing crisis of the far north.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. After travelling to Resolute, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay or Iqaluit and the other communities of the great territory of Nunavut, one understands that there is a terrific housing shortage going on. If the government is not going to help when it has billions and billions of dollars of surplus, when is it going to do so?
As I said earlier, a colleague of mine who just got back from Afghanistan said the mission in Afghanistan will not end until the final soldier who serves in that country passes away. What he meant by that was quite clear. A lot of the individuals coming back from Afghanistan are going to suffer from mental and physical disabilities. A lot of them are going to require long term care. They and their families are going to need that care for the rest of their lives. That is what he was referring to: the mission will continue in their lives. It is the same for people who lose loved ones in Afghanistan. For them, Remembrance Day is every day.
The government has billions of dollars for the mission in Afghanistan. We argued that point the other day. The reality is that it is not hesitant to spend money on the actual mission itself, but when the government is asked what contingency funds are put aside to help with the mental and physical disabilities the soldiers and their families may have down the road, the answer is zero.
I reiterate to the government: if it cannot do this now, when it has surpluses, when is it going to do it? I advise the government to make sure there is enough money put aside to ensure the proper care and treatment down the road of those brave men and women who serve their country.
Also, one of the greatest opportunities we have for economic development in this country is shipbuilding. The industry committee unanimously adopted a resolution that the accelerated capital allowance, or ACA, proposal should go from two years to five years, yet the government still has not done that. Those in the shipbuilding industry would like the same considerations that the government has been giving to the aerospace industry in Quebec for a long time.
We have approximately $20 billion worth of construction to do on naval replacement vessels, Coast Guard replacement vessels, ferries, the laker fleet, tugs, et cetera. We have five remaining shipyards in this country that could do that type of work.
I would encourage the government to ensure that the domestic procurement process enables those workers and those industries in those yards across the country, in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Welland, Lévis, Halifax, and Marystown in Newfoundland and Labrador,to have the opportunity for long term sustainable growth. That way, especially in Atlantic Canada, people would not have to go down the road to find work.
Those are some of the things the budget should be addressing.
Other issues, of course, are seniors and student debt.
We in Halifax have the privilege of being one of the education breadbaskets of Canada, but so many students who come to our schools get their education and leave with a massive debt. That cripples them in their opportunities down the road and they make choices that they normally would not like to make, such as having to move to the United States or other parts of Canada. We would like them to be able to work and find their livelihood right in Atlantic Canada, but saddling them with a massive debt is unconscionable.
We in the NDP were very proud to rewrite the last budget of the Liberals when they turned around, drafted Bill C-48, took away the corporate tax cuts and reinvested that in housing, public transit and student education. I was very pleased to see that the Premier of Nova Scotia just recently authorized a $400 rebate for students in our province.
These are some of the things the budget should be doing. I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the House of Commons may have.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2007-02-02 10:04 [p.6321]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-31, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.
On June 22 the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled a report in the House entitled, “Improving the Integrity of the Electoral Process: Recommendations for Legislative Change”. The report was based in part on the recommendations that we had received from the Chief Electoral Officer. While there have been discussions about fundamental changes to our entire electoral system, these should not detract from the efforts that have been made to improve our existing system.
The government tabled a response to the committee's report on October 20 and agreed with a vast majority of the recommendations that were made by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Bill C-31 was subsequently introduced on October 24 of last year.
The proposed bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to improve the integrity of the electoral process by reducing the opportunity for electoral fraud or for error. It would require electors before voting to provide one piece of government issued photo identification that shows their names and addresses or two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer that show their names and addresses, or they can also take an oath or they might be vouched for by an elector who does have photo identification.
The proposed bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to, among other things, make operational changes to improve the accuracy of the national register of electors. It will facilitate voting and enhance communications with the electorate. It amends the Public Service Employment Act to permit the Public Service Commission to make regulations that will now extend to the maximum term of employment of casual workers. We see this as an improvement.
While the government did not incorporate the committee's recommendations in Bill C-31, it stated that when it did not accept these recommendations, it had a fundamental disagreement in principle, or the items required further study, or we had received inadequate testimony and had been unable to reach a definitive decision during the committee proceedings.
A key concern of the Liberal committee members was to ensure that the bill allowed aboriginal status identification to be deemed acceptable proof for voting purposes. Government officials have clarified that the text of the bill requires government issued photo ID with an address or government issued photo ID without an address. This would include band status cards, but they would have to be accompanied by a letter from the band council or something like a phone bill that would have the person's number, name and address to corroborate the claim that he or she was indeed an eligible voter in that specific riding.
A second concern that the Liberal committee members have is ensuring that the enumeration process is strengthened on the reserve communities. The government has suggested, rather than send the bill to committee, that the committee simply pass a motion calling on the Chief Electoral Officer to strengthen enumeration in reserve communities.
My riding of Sydney—Victoria is in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It has the highest population of aboriginals in Atlantic Canada. There are three communities: Wagmatcook, Membertou and Eskasoni. Eskasoni is the largest aboriginal community east of Montreal. These communities are overcoming some major challenges and it is very important that as they are taking charge of their destiny, they get involved in our electoral process.
These communities contain 4,000 status aboriginals. Voter turnout in these areas has been historically lower than in the rest of the communities in my riding. I would hope this measure could help increase the voter turnout.
According to the 2001 census, 4.5% of the riding is aboriginal and I think this measure will go a long way to bring voter turnout up to match the portion of the population. Indeed, Eskasoni is probably the fastest growing community in my riding. It deserves representation so that its infrastructure and social needs can be addressed.
As the bill has emerged from the work of the all-party committee, sending it back to the committee would somehow be redundant, given that the government has assured the opposition that the aboriginal ID concerns are addressed in the text of the current bill.
On this side of the House we support changes to the Canada Elections Act that protect against the likelihood of voter fraud and misrepresentation. We need to be assured that the aboriginal photo identification is acceptable. We also support strengthening the enumeration process, particularly on the reserve communities and in other areas where there is low voter turnout.
Before I became a member of Parliament I did work in underdeveloped countries. As a member of the trade committee and the foreign affairs committee we visited many countries with my colleagues. Many of these countries were just embarking on a democratic process.They use us as an example.
It is not only important for Canadian citizens to be encouraged to vote, but it is also important that we encourage other citizens of the world to fully participate in democracy. I encourage all my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to support this legislation.
Voter turnout continues to be low. I never thought I would see a 60% turnout from an area that used to have some of the highest participation rates in the country. Even in my riding where people are generally more engaged politically there continues to be a lower turnout. There is nothing more frustrating for voters when their name does not appear on the list.
The ID provision in this bill actually will make it easier for voters to engage in the political process. I am sure all my colleagues have seen that problem and will agree with that.
My riding is on the north shore of Cape Breton Island. It stretches from Bras d'Or Lake in the southwest to Cabot Strait in the northwest all the way to St. Paul Island in the northeast. Sydney is our largest centre, along with North Sydney, Sydney Mines and New Waterford. They are all communities in my riding.
As I stated before, there are also three Mi'kmaq reserves: Membertou, Eskasoni and Wagmatcook. They want their voices heard. I believe this bill will bring greater confidence to the system.
A government issued ID photo is a small requirement to protect our precious right to vote. Indeed, even without an ID a voter still may be sworn in. That makes Canada by far one of the easiest jurisdictions in which one can exercise one's franchise.
There are other components to our system that make Canada a model for the world, including our system of professional returning officers. In my riding of Sydney—Victoria we have always been blessed with competent returning officers and our electoral staff. They undergo more training than ever before and this adds to the credibility of our system.
I believe the bill in a small way helps keep faith in the integrity of our system and that is why I am support the bill.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2007-02-02 10:14 [p.6323]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, as many MPs have aboriginal communities in their ridings and it is very difficult for them. Many times, their communities are remote and polling stations are out of reach. We have to make it as easy as possible for those people to vote.
The other point the member brought up was about the telephone bill and the address. I am sure it is not just a telephone bill that would be accepted. I think we are looking at any piece of identification that shows the name and address on it as being acceptable.
This is not going to be perfect when we are done, but I believe that some of these steps are big steps and are going to make it a lot easier not only for aboriginal communities but for many communities that have low voter turnout. These steps are going to make it easier for people to vote and to not be embarrassed when they go to the polling stations.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2007-02-02 10:16 [p.6323]
Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, people at the polling station are going to be able to identify most of the people coming in and out, but if someone really wants to do something wrong, it is hard. As for someone who comes in with someone else's identification and says he or she is that person and votes, it is really a disappointment. We hope that is minimized. We hope that is eliminated.
I think the gist of this bill is to encourage more people to get out and vote, to encourage them in areas where there is low turnout, where people feel intimidated when they go there and their names are not on the list. Also, of course, its purpose is to encourage the aboriginal communities. There is never going to be a foolproof system for someone going in with someone else's ID, but we are hoping that the people at the polling station will recognize that someone is using the wrong information.
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