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View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:58 [p.547]
Madam Speaker, one cannot make the Parliamentary Budget Officer's reports go away with an amendment, so the answer is no.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, at the end of debate today on the sub-amendment to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the question be deemed put and a recorded division be deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, December 10, 2019, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.
View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Mr. Speaker, by its very nature, the throne speech is a statement of principle. It contains ideas that may seem, perhaps intentionally, vague, hazy and ill-defined.
Yesterday's speech, delivered by the British monarch's representative at the Prime Minister's behest, is nonetheless very revealing. A highly detailed, specific speech full of clear, costed commitments with concrete timelines could mask its true intentions.
In contrast, if a speech is too vague, it cannot really hide just how devoid of meaning it is.
There is clearly not much there. There certainly isn't anything clear.
Yesterday I talked to the media about issues facing seniors and farmers as well as what Quebec and the provinces want. Today I will start with the most glaring omission in the speech.
I believe I speak for many Quebeckers and artists from Quebec in pointing out that there was not a single word about the arts, culture and the unprecedented crisis Quebec media are going through.
Not so long ago, the Bloc Québécois was the only party, like France, that was calling for a 3% tax to be imposed on the income of web giants. Then, one by one, every Canadian party began to adopt our position. While just a few months ago, the Liberals and the Conservatives saw this tax as a tax against the middle class, now the Liberals and even the Conservatives are more open to it.
First, I would like to point out that this alone is proof of the Bloc Québécois's relevance. Of course, we have served Quebec's artists and media, but we are also pleased to have been useful to Canada's artists and media.
This benefits everyone. The tax that web giants, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, would pay is not actually a tax. It is a royalty, which is an amount that must be paid by anyone who is using a product that does not belong to them for commercial purposes. Given the vulnerability of creators whose content is commercialized and pirated for advertising revenue, it is the government's duty to set the terms of what is, in effect, a licensing agreement.
However, the Bloc has added two criteria to this. First, any money collected in this way must be reserved for the arts, entertainment and the media. Then, 40% of it must be reserved for francophone media, entertainment and artistic creation, as is done in the music industry.
We will not budge on these criteria. The absence of culture in the Speech from the Throne sadly speaks volumes, as does the absence of language. The fact that so many Franco-Canadians and Acadians are turning to the Bloc Québécois to have their voices heard in their language in Parliament should have tipped off the government. They are right to turn to the Bloc. We will support all of our North American francophone brothers and sisters whatever the future may bring, including the creation of the country of Quebec.
As far as culture is concerned, many people lamented the fact that the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie is not being called to work on making Canada a nation that is a bit, even just a little bit, greener.
Personally, as someone who worked for over 20 years in the world of arts, entertainment and news, I do not blame him. I do not blame him for not being able to work “Canadian Heritage” into the throne speech. Of course, for us, it would be “Quebec Heritage” rather than “Canadian Heritage”.
That being said, I sincerely invite the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie to collaborate with me so we can properly advocate, together if necessary, for the issues facing Quebec's creators, artisans and media. However, he will have to forgive me if, in conversation, I hark back to the days when he used to climb towers to raise awareness of threats to the environment.
There is another aspect of this speech that is worth mentioning. No one could fail to notice that the speech referred to the regions of Canada. It referred not to the provinces, territories or Quebec, but to the regions.
Let us make one thing clear: Quebec is not a region of Canada. Quebec is the territory that the Quebec nation shares with several first nations. Today's Canada is composed of provinces, territories and Quebec.
The regions that the throne speech seems to create are the provinces, territories and Quebec. Each one is perfectly real and has its own legislature and government. It is the jurisdictions of these provinces, territories and Quebec that this speech, like all speeches written by the Liberal Party of Canada, tends to encroach on.
Canada does not hire doctors, nurses and orderlies. It is Quebec that hires doctors, nurses and orderlies. Quebec and the provinces called for a 5.2% increase in health transfers on Monday. The throne speech once again exhibited the Liberal Party's habit, which it shares with the NDP, of interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction in a centralist Canada. Ottawa has ignored the unanimous call of the Council of the Federation. The Bloc will not allow such interference and will protect Quebec's jurisdictions. If this also helps the provinces, that is good.
With a similarly united voice, Quebec and the provinces also called for environmental assessments done by Quebec and the provinces to take precedence over federal assessments. That is interesting because the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill on that very topic at the end of the last Parliament. Unsurprisingly, that bill was defeated. Of course we will introduce another bill in this session, as we promised to do. In doing so, the Bloc Québécois is voicing in this place the will of not only the National Assembly of Quebec but also of the provinces. Ottawa ignored the unanimous call of the Council of the Federation on this issue, as well.
I want to make something else perfectly clear: The Bloc Québécois was given a unique mandate.
Many Quebeckers do not identify with any federalist political party. They are not all sovereignists, but they are nationalists. They have left behind the years when they were made to feel guilty about their language, their values and, generally speaking, their differences, years during which Canada sought to erode, and even drown, a proud and legitimate nation within its own system of multiculturalism. Many of these people voted for us and told us so outright because that is the urgent need of the Quebec nation, because that is the current configuration of the National Assembly of Quebec, and because Quebec needs a voice all to itself, a voice of its own.
The Bloc Québécois accepted this mandate. We will not prevent Parliament from doing its job to prove that it does not work. We will not attempt to make Canada more dysfunctional than it already is to prove that it is. Even in an entirely functional Canada, the fact remains that a nation is better represented and served when it can exercise all of the elements of its sovereignty.
Let me be perfectly clear: although it may not be our focus this Parliament, Quebeckers know that the Bloc Québécois is a separatist party. It certainly feels good to say that out loud.
I want to get back to those three topics. The government wants to make life better for seniors, and so do we. We campaigned on this topic. We proposed that seniors should get an additional $110 a month. We believe that this extra money is necessary not only to increase the buying power of those who built the prosperous society we now live in, but also to support Quebec's regional economies and populations.
Unlike what is in the throne speech, our position on this is clear, as are many other of our positions to help seniors and retirees. We will repeat it again and again, and we will continue to explain that if the government does not satisfy this legitimate request for our seniors, they will take note and this government will soon be judged again.
Supply management is another file that has progressed. The Bloc Québécois cannot take full credit, of course, but it is clear that this file, just like the web giants file, would not have progressed as much without the Bloc. There is still work to be done, however.
Paying compensation for the first year is the right decision. Producers want confirmation that the conditions will be the same for the entire eight-year payment period. Producers want to know what the compensation will be in the wake of the free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico negotiated on bended knee by this government. Processors also want to know what is being done for them.
The Bloc Québécois also called for an initiative that is important to supply-managed producers. We want legislation to be introduced to ensure that supply management is never again used as a bargaining chip, like it was this time around to support Ontario's auto industry and the Canadian economy, to the detriment of Quebec's economy. We will introduce that legislation.
Let us now talk about oil. The word oil does not appear in the Speech from the Throne.
For those who want know what I will be talking about, it is oil.
Science is very stubborn. Human activity is causing greenhouse gas emissions that continue to grow. The climate is warming. The economic and human costs are astronomical. This is only the beginning.
Canada is one of the worst performers in the world in that respect. There is no measure to fight climate change that will offset Canada's eagerness to increase the production, export and consumption of oil and gas for purely commercial reasons.
Science is very stubborn. We are not indifferent to the plight of western Canadians. As world citizens, we believe that we need a plan, not for reducing, mitigating or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, but for moving away from this economic model. It will have to be done carefully, gradually, wisely and without pushing anyone into poverty, but we need to move away from a carbon-based economy within the next few decades.
We will support any initiative that will help carbon-dependent economies transition toward an economic model that is compatible with the environmental issues the planet is facing.
I want to address the rude or offensive messages I am receiving from certain parts of Canada. The example comes from the top, but I want to take this opportunity to speak to the people of western Canada.
I want to say for the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan mostly that the Bloc Québécois, and for that matter something like the whole of Quebec, offers to collaborate on a necessary transition toward an economy that will, in due course, not depend anymore on carbon, on oil or on gas.
Investing in such a transition with an open mind and compassion is an extended hand from us. However, we do not want to be part of any further contribution to any further climatic impact of an economic model of the past.
The throne speech that was read to us reveals a lot more by what it does not say than by what it does. There is nothing in the throne speech about culture, language or media. There is nothing about the fight against tax havens or about a solution to the problem that has been plaguing the families of public servants, who are still waiting to get their fair take-home pay. Contrary to what its name would suggest, the Phoenix pay system is a failure that is unable to rise from its own ashes.
While the speech does mention human rights, it fails to address the repression of Catalonia's democracy. I want to take a moment to quickly mention that, by nature, the right to self-determination cannot be subject to a constitution written by the majority or the conqueror with the goal of abolishing that same right. That does not make any sense. Even Canada did not do that.
However, the Prime Minister of Canada boasts about his friendship with Mr. Sanchez and extols the virtues of the Spanish regime, virtues that I have my doubts about. It is embarrassing. Instead, the Prime Minister should be ensuring that the President of Catalonia in exile, Carles Puigdemont, is able to travel freely to Quebec and Canada to meet with people, institutions and the media. I have had inspiring conversations with Mr. Puigdemont, and I can assure the House that he is a very peaceful, caring man who loves arts, culture and diversity.
The word “oil” does not appear in the Speech from the Throne, but the debate over oil is a profoundly divisive one in Canada, pitting those who see no solution but oil against those who insist on the urgency of ending oil dependency. Obviously, the only way forward involves collaboration and alternative technology.
I get that the Prime Minister wanted to please everyone at least a little. I understand why, as the head of a minority government, his approach was to offer vague promises and keep mum on some issues altogether.
The Bloc, in contrast, has such a clear agenda that people have often asked us why we were so specific when we obviously never intended to be the governing party. We did it because Quebeckers, Canadians and the elected members of the House know our values and our ideas. There will be no surprises. This is who we are. That is why 32 Quebec ridings elected us to bring these ideas forward.
We believe in healthy, courteous dialogue, so today we are committing to the kind of well-intentioned collaboration that will characterize our relationship the day it undergoes a profound transformation, the kind of collaboration that will characterize our relationship once we are two equal, friendly, sovereign nations.
I therefore move the following:
That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the words “national unity crisis, which requires” and substituting the following:
“respecting provincial jurisdiction, in particular by not authorizing any project that does not comply with provincial and Quebec laws relating to environmental protection and land use planning;
(d) underfunding of the health care system, which requires an increase in transfers;
(e) an unprecedented crisis facing media and creators, who must be supported through the imposition of royalties on web giants; and
(f) loopholes in the supply management system that must be protected by legislation”.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
View Stéphane Lauzon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the chair of the veterans committee, for his hard work. My thanks as well for pulling everyone together on short notice on this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in this debate as parliamentary secretary. Veterans' well-being is very important to us, and this motion truly shows how, together, we can quickly make things better.
I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 225, which seeks to prevent and end veterans homelessness in Canada by 2025. Since we took office in 2015, our government has been working hard to help Canadians find safe and affordable housing.
In the 2016 budget, we restored the federal government's role in housing by making record investments. In 2017, we introduced Canada's first-ever national housing strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion plan to provide more Canadians with affordable housing. In the 2019 budget, we further increased our investments in housing, turning the national housing strategy into a 10-year, $55-billion plan.
All in all, since taking office, we have invested over $7 billion in housing in Canada and helped over one million Canadians find safe, accessible and affordable housing.
Although the national housing strategy is designed to help all Canadians, it focuses primarily on the most vulnerable members of our society, including veterans. We are doubling investments in the homelessness partnering strategy by investing over $2 billion to combat homelessness. We also set an ambitious goal of reducing chronic homelessness by at least 50% over the next 10 years.
We made just as strong a commitment to veterans. Since 2015, we have made significant investments totalling more than $10 billion for veterans and their families. What is more, we created the veteran and family well-being fund, which enables us to support initiatives to combat homelessness among veterans.
We also appointed a point of contact in every regional VAC office across Canada to help homeless veterans. Last year, we brought together more than 70 organizations from across the country that work to combat veterans homelessness in order to find a way forward.
We implemented the veterans emergency fund, which gives us the flexibility to quickly provide support to veterans and their families when they encounter urgent and unexpected situations, for example by finding them a place to live until steps can be taken to secure adequate funding.
In other words, our government recognizes that one more person living on the street is one too many, and we understand that no one who serves our country should be left behind. This is why I am pleased to say that the government will support this motion. The member for Bay of Quinte has done excellent work as chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and his work has resulted in a motion that I hope will receive support from all members on both sides of the House.
However, we realize that getting this motion passed in the House in a couple of weeks is a real challenge. For once, we need the House as a whole to pull together. Normally, in light of the little time remaining, the motion would be at risk of dying on the order paper. Frankly, this motion is far too important for that to happen. We have a duty to our veterans, and our government has made combatting homelessness one of its top priorities. Time is running out, but together we can get this done.
I hope that all parties will let debate collapse, which will allow this motion to move forward and enable the government to develop a plan to eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2025. Together we can make it happen.
Our request today to skip the normal two hours of debate for a private member's motion is an unusual one. However I think that members on both sides of the House, from all parties, recognize how urgent it is to adopt this motion. We must act now for our veterans instead of waiting even longer. We owe it to our veterans.
At this point, I would like to bring forward an amendment to the private member's motion, Motion No. 225.
I move:
That the motion be amended in section (b) by replacing the words after “June 2020” with the following:
co-led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and
I believe that this motion has its place and that we should make an exception, on behalf of veterans. By supporting this motion, all parties are demonstrating that it is possible to restore dignity. That is a good way to end the session.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-05 23:29 [p.28651]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Provencher for sharing his time with me. The NDP and the Conservative Party often disagree, but we have been able to work well together in true parliamentary spirit.
I have five key points to make. Obviously, there could be more, since we are talking about an omnibus bill, but I will focus on five points that I believe should raised in today's budget debate.
The first is that the oil industry subsidies are being maintained, despite the government's promise to get rid of them. These subsidies are still in place. Budget 2019 is a missed opportunity to do something to fight climate change and provide additional revenue in order to truly invest in green energy, the energy of the future.
The second aspect I would like to address is another missed opportunity, and that is the fact that the government is not requiring web giants like Netflix to collect sales tax. That is important, and it shows a major lack of political will. Just look at Quebec. With the stroke of a pen, Quebec managed to do what the current government has not done in four years. We are seeing the consequences today, with massive layoffs at TVA. We know that our cultural industry is suffering the effects of this unfair situation, which would be so easy to fix. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a new tax. It is just a matter of applying existing taxes and the law consistently, as they apply to businesses here.
Third, I would like to talk about the fact that this is an omnibus bill. The issue of immigration and refugees comes up in this bill. A budget bill is creating a situation that is unfair and discriminatory towards refugees. Omnibus bills were criticized under the previous Conservative government, which is precisely why the Liberals promised not to use this kind of problematic tactic. As the member for Sherbrooke pointed out earlier in his speech, this matter was raised several times at the Standing Committee on Finance. Stakeholders and civil society representatives had to appear before the finance committee to share their concerns regarding legislative changes that will affect refugees. It is completely absurd that this issue appears in an omnibus budget bill. It is completely unacceptable.
Speaking of missed opportunities, my fourth point is about employment insurance, the 50 weeks, and people with serious illnesses who cannot get their fair share of EI and so are unable to return to work, despite having gone through a terrible ordeal while dealing with a very serious illness. We have been fighting for this for quite some time. Just think of people like Marie-Hélène Dubé and everyone fighting for the same cause. We in the NDP will continue to support them. This is another one of this government's missed opportunities.
I addressed my last point when I talked about the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Despite the government's repeated promises, it introduced a number of omnibus bills. Some of them were even longer than the ones introduced by the previous government. That is a broken promise that violates our rights as parliamentarians.
In closing, I would like to present an amendment:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“the House decline to give third reading to C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, because it:
(a) gives more to big business than to Canadians;
(b) does not establish a universal pharmacare plan;
(c) does not solve the current housing crisis;
(d) maintains subsidies to oil companies;
(e) makes major changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that are unfair and fail to meet the standards of the process established by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada;
(f) is an omnibus bill that is contrary to this government's promises; and
(g) limits the Members' ability to vote separately on the various divisions of the Bill.”
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-05-31 14:01 [p.28372]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Motion No. 230 from my Conservative Party colleague. I am pleased to have the opportunity to share my opinion.
As my colleague said in his speech, he took this measure from the NDP's policy book. He even said that a number of NDP members and our party's leader spoke about the idea of lowering heating costs for Canadians. That said, our new plan is even more ambitious. Our idea of lowering heating costs for Canadians has evolved, so much so that our leader recently announced an even more ambitious measure than the one proposed by my colleague. The measure would lower heating costs at the source, which is the real solution to the problem we are debating today.
Of course heating is essential in Canada with our climate. It is a basic need just like housing. The recently unveiled NDP plan is very clear. We were just talking about it this morning, when we were unveiling our broader plan for the environment and climate change. Our plan would renovate all Canadian homes by 2050 to make them more energy efficient. This solution would allow Canadian homes to save $900 a year. My colleague's proposal, which consists in removing the GST from home energy bills, would save Canadians only $117 a year on average, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
This week, Habitat for Humanity in partnership with Université de Sherbrooke and engineers, announced that they would develop a house using new technologies that would cost on average $8 a month to heat. That is the type of solution we need to be looking at instead of a half measure that simply removes the GST from home energy bills. The Conservatives should have chosen that solution instead of coming up with a half measure and hoping that would solve all our problems. We have to address the problem at the source. Homes have to be more energy efficient. The less energy we need to heat our homes, the more we save. We think that is the best approach.
I know several members and leaders of APCHQ-Estrie back home in Sherbrooke. They told me that they were pretty disappointed when the previous Conservative government cancelled the eco-energy retrofit program, a program that offered savings to Canadians that make energy efficient retrofits. The Conservative government decided to cut that program between 2011 and 2015 in its attempt to balance the budget at all costs.
The Conservatives speak out of both sides of their mouths. Today they are complaining that the cost of heating is too high, but when they had a chance to fix the problem, they went in the opposite direction and cut a program that helped people renovate their home and make it more energy efficient, which reduced their energy bill at the source, not just when they got their bill. This encourages people to be more environmentally conscious.
I would to remind members that buildings, which must be heated and air conditioned, are the third largest source of greenhouse gases. They represent 25% of energy-related emissions. Of the current stock of buildings, 70% will still be in use in 2050. Thus, to reduce current and future emissions, one of the most important steps we can take is to make our housing stock more energy efficient.
There is another aspect of this motion that is disappointing. When I started reading it, it was familiar and was something the NDP had talked about already, up to the last paragraph, paragraph (e). Once again, the Conservatives are trotting out the carbon tax bogeyman. They seem to be fixated on this. They talk about it every day in the House. They mentioned it at the very end of this motion, and it seems like a poison pill to prevent the NDP from supporting it.
As the member said in his speech, these are measures that we presented in the past, but they added the provision to repeal the carbon tax. It would seem that my colleague has managed to ensure that he will not have the support of our party on this issue. In the spirit of co-operation, he should have stuck to the issue of the GST.
That was a little disappointing, so I am going to propose a slight amendment to the motion that will reveal my colleague's true intentions. I am going to propose removing the part about the carbon tax. He can mull that over for the few minutes we have left. We will see if his desire to advance his cause by collaborating with other parties is genuine or if he is just trying to score political points.
Regardless, I think his main intention, gaining traction for his idea, is good. In general, his intentions here are good, but I want to point out that the real solution is reducing at-source energy costs. By merely lowering the final bill after calculating energy consumption, we are not encouraging households to reduce consumption because we are not reducing costs at the source. That means the more energy one consumes, the bigger the discount at the end of the year. Some of my colleagues have already talked about this. The bigger one's house, the more energy it takes to heat, the more it costs and the bigger the annual savings. It is contradictory, in a way. We should be encouraging people to consume less energy, not more.
I am going to propose an amendment that will reveal my colleague's true intentions and show us whether his mindset is one of collaboration or confrontation. I propose that the motion be amended by deleting the words “(e) repeal the Carbon tax”.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-05-30 18:01 [p.28326]
Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise to speak to Motion No. 153. After all, we are discussing violence against people of faith, religious communities and the discrimination they face.
In Canada, there is an important tradition of religious freedom and also of religious diversity. These rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite the claims we hear from time to time, we are unfortunately not immune to the forces that exist here and around the world and that, all too often, target these people because of their faith or for all sorts of other reasons that we will examine today.
Some of these acts of discrimination may seem to belong to the past, but several have occurred recently. For example, there are frequent attacks on Muslim women wearing a hijab or niqab. They are victims of violence in our public spaces. We also know that these incidents occur in big cities with diverse populations, places like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, where the population's diversity is rightfully celebrated. However, these people are targeted all too often.
I want to point to a variety of incidents, but one in particular I read about in the media. People we know personally have lived these experiences.
I want to mention the experience of Ms. Merriman, who has roots in Canada. She was born in Winnipeg. She was physically attacked in Toronto because she was wearing a niqab. That type of incident makes one's blood run cold. In a city that rightly celebrates its diversity, a woman was attacked for something she had chosen to do. Her life could potentially be in danger.
I would invite colleagues to read that media coverage and the many other stories. It is a sobering reminder that we are not hidden away from these forces, the discrimination, the hatred that can be committed on religious communities, and too often on Muslim women.
It is not only individuals who get attacked both physically and otherwise for their faith. It is also places of worship. As the NDP's public safety critic, I know a lot of work needs to be done, and that is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the government needs to provide protection for these places of worship.
We can think of things ranging from vandalism to firebombings and other forms of heinous damage that is caused, sometimes with the risk to people in those areas.
I think of February 1981, in Merritt, BC. Around 3 a.m., an explosion occurred at an East Indian church. Firefighters speculated that someone had thrown dynamite through the window. Obviously, given the time, no one was in the building. One can only imagine what that represents to the community and it people, seeing their place of worship attacked.
In 1985, the Temple Shalom in Vancouver was firebombed. The damage was significant, $400,000. It also threatened a Jewish funeral chapel.
Communities too often feel under attack by individuals who put forward bigotry and hatred. That fear is certainly exacerbated by these types of attacks.
There have been firebombings in Mosques in Calgary and Hamilton and in synagogues in Edmonton. A Hindu temple in Hamilton suffered an arson attack. That attack was mentioned earlier in debate today. There were attacks on a synagogue in Saskatoon and a Mosque in Edson. A Sikh temple in Vancouver suffered an arson attack. Someone who douses gasoline on temples creates a climate of fear and hatred.
These acts obviously create a climate of fear and hatred and cause physical harm. They can lead to the kind of physical attacks we have seen committed against people.
This brings me to the next example, the attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec on January 29, 2017, which we are unfortunately all too familiar with. Six people were killed, and nearly two dozen were seriously injured. As we know all too well, it was an important and tragic reminder that such acts can be committed here in Canada.
An individual had been radicalized by far-right values and white supremacy. He was anti-Muslim and had been radicalized by politics that are more common among our neighbours to the south and by certain ideas that have been put forward by President Trump. These ideas can fuel a fear of the other, which is too often behind these acts.
Since then, people within the Muslim community, along with many Canadians, have shown their support for and solidarity with their grieving neighbours. This solidarity in the face of all the hatred and violence is an important reminder that we have the power to make a positive change when it comes to these kinds of acts. When we list all these heinous acts, all the attacks against places of worship and people of faith, the list is unfortunately far from exhaustive. However, these examples show that there has been an increase in religiously motivated hate crimes in Canada.
According to Statistics Canada, police reported that hate crimes increased by 47% from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, just two years ago, there were 2,073 incidents, 664 more than in the previous year.
Jewish Canadians, as we unfortunately know, continue to be the most targeted community for religiously motivated hate crimes, and incidents increased from 221 in 2016 to 360 the following year.
Muslim Canadians see a growing trend of hate crimes committed against them, with incidents increasing by over 150% in that same span from 2016 to 2017, for a total of 349 police reported hate crimes. That is an important distinction. We can only imagine the unreported crimes that are also committed. Additionally, there were also 142 racially or ethnically motived hate crimes against Arab or West Asian Canadians. Given the overlap between these groups, we would definitely see the statistics as being interrelated.
The New Democrats understand the role we also need to play as politicians when we see outlets like Rebel Media and associations between party leaders that take the same platforms as individuals like Faith Goldy, for example. Even though social media has been a laggard in dealing with this type of hate, even they know this hate has no place on their platforms.
We have a responsibility. The New Democrats are proud to work with anyone who believes, as I think all Canadians do, that this type of bigotry and hatred toward religious communities and, quite frankly, any Canadian who is part of any part of any minority group who can be discriminated against for any reason whatsoever deserves our full and unequivocal support.
Before I propose an amendment to the motion, we should to look to New Zealand and its Prime Minister and the example she showed. It was so important for her to remind her constituents, and particularly the Muslim members of her community, that it was not an us and them thing that too often fuelled this hate.
We are all one together in this fight against this form of bigotry and hatred. That is our core responsibility as parliamentarians.
In closing, I would like to move an amendment seconded by my colleague from Drummond. Considering all the groups targeted by hate, I think this amendment gives the motion a broader scope.
I move that the motion be amended by replacing the words “January 29 of every year as National Day” with the words “the entire last week of January of every year as National Week”.
View Christine Moore Profile
Mr. Speaker, although I am pleasantly surprised that the government has finally decided to do something about rural telecommunications, I am a little disappointed that it comes in the form of a motion proposed so late in its term. I suspect that some of the things the motion calls for will not be feasible in light of the constraints of the parliamentary calendar. The motion mentions two committee studies that will probably not happen due to time constraints.
I want to commend my colleague, the member for Pontiac, for making an effort to raise the issue of rural telecommunications infrastructure, but I must say that I would have liked to see the government take the first step, seeing as I have been asking it to do something about cellphone coverage for over three and a half years now. Right now, some major roads in certain rural areas do not have cell service. That creates a lot of public safety issues.
Furthermore, one of the weaknesses of this motion is that it calls for the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to undertake a study to prove that improving wireless communications will enhance public safety. Well, everybody already knows it will. When someone gets in a car accident in an area without cell service, they cannot call for help and may have to walk five kilometres in the middle of the night, with kids in tow, in -40°C weather, with wild animals around to boot. Anyone can see that this scenario is not very safe and could easily be avoided with modern technology.
Cell phones did not exist in the 1970s, so it was normal to walk if you were in an accident in the middle of nowhere. Now, however, technology is accessible, and when people travel to parts of Africa they are often surprised to see that there is cell service everywhere. I did a humanitarian placement in Senegal and there was cell service everywhere. It was only in a very remote region of western Africa in a village called Tiaré, about a two-hour drive from Kaolack, that cell phones no longer worked.
However, in Canada, a G7 country, there is still no cell coverage along some highly travelled roads. I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable. It is a matter of public safety, and a functioning cell phone can save lives in many situations.
It makes absolutely no sense to ask the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to study this issue to show how important a wireless telecommunications network is to public safety. I think that the Minister of Public Safety has enough data at his disposal to make investments, considering the impact these investments could have on public safety.
Another important thing we need to talk about when it comes to wireless communications is the lack of a national strategy. In fact, that was mentioned in the Auditor General's report on high-speed Internet access in rural regions. The government takes a piecemeal approach to its programs and investments without ever establishing a national strategy or knowing where it is going. That has considerable repercussions.
Often programs are put in place or subsidies are given to certain companies so that they can have a faster Internet connection. As a result, the companies that are granted these subsidies crush their competitors who receive nothing and the cycle starts all over again. Unfortunately, the money invested in rural infrastructure is not being optimized. In other words, this creates a value-for-money problem. It is not clear if we are creating competition or if this is truly working.
It is also unclear whether investing in the private sector is more effective than investing in co-operative style businesses. It is too bad that a comprehensive vision was not explored.
We are also seriously behind when it comes to implementing wireless communications programs. For example, the latest programs earmarked slower speeds than the ones proposed in the recent CRTC rulings. According to current usage of high-speed Internet and wireless telecommunications, the CRTC believes that people should have access to 50 megabits per second.
Unfortunately, in the latest programs, the speed is often 5 megabits per second. We are perpetually behind. By the time various measures included in a program are implemented, the program is proposed, proposals are received and reviewed, money is disbursed and the program finally rolls out, it is already obsolete and fails to meet current needs.
I would also like to have seen something else in this motion. It makes no mention of the different areas in which wireless communications are especially important, particularly telemedicine. Telemedicine is an important technology that enables people to communicate with specialists, particularly people in rural areas, where access is limited. High-resolution videos make it possible to transmit live images of an X-ray, for example. Different things can be done and people can have access to specialists who will advise their local health care providers.
Education is another important aspect of wireless communications and high-speed Internet. Many people take distance education courses from Laval University, for example. They do the courses from home. Unfortunately, that requires quite a bit of bandwidth. Many people do not have high-speed Internet and are unable to take distance education courses because their Internet is too slow. Sometimes they do manage it, but they then have to pay exorbitant amounts for their data usage.
At the end of a session, it is not uncommon for students to receive monthly bills of $200 or $300 for watching the various videos required by their courses. I think there is a problem if people living in rural areas do not have the same access to education as those living in urban areas.
I appreciate my colleague's efforts, but I believe that this motion could have been better had it been drafted differently. That is why I would like to move, seconded by the member for North Island—Powell River, that Motion No. 208 be amended by: (a) deleting the words “, particularly wireless telecommunications infrastructure,”; (b) replacing the words “caused by extreme weather events” with the words “and for telemedicine purposes”; (c) adding, after the words “fundamental fairness; (d)”, the words “reliable and accessible digital infrastructure is critical to education given the development of distance learning, to access to government services and to full participation in cultural life;”; (d) by replacing the words “(d) the government should (i) continue in its efforts to support Canadians, especially those in rural regions, in accessing the digital infrastructure they need to innovate, create economic opportunity and maintain public safety, (ii) examine the possibility of enabling further investments in rural digital infrastructure, including by reviewing the terms and conditions of the federal infrastructure program Investing in Canada, to incentivize investments in rural connectivity by the private sector and by leveraging funds from other orders of government, (iii) continue to work with telecommunication companies, provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and relevant emergency response organizations to enhance rural connectivity and ensure maximum preparedness in emergency situations;” with the words “(e) the government should (i) continue in its efforts to support Canadians, especially those in rural regions, in accessing the digital infrastructure they need, (ii) ensure value for money from investments of public funds in rural digital infrastructure, including by reviewing the terms and conditions of the Connect to Innovate program to include wireless in the program and reduce the risk that public funds replace private-sector investments, (iii) continue to work with telecommunication companies, provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and relevant emergency response organizations to enhance rural connectivity;”; (e) replacing the words “(e) the Standing Committee on Industry” with the words “(f) the Standing Committee on Industry”; (f) deleting the word “significant”; and (g) deleting the words “and (f) the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security should be instructed to undertake a comprehensive study on the public safety dimensions of wireless infrastructure deployment in rural Canada, and report to the House at its earliest convenience”.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-02-19 10:35 [p.25478]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased rise after my colleague from Timmins—James Bay to speak to the important revelations that have emerged, some of which came to light last week.
We already had concerns about potential political interference by the PMO and the Prime Minister himself in the case against SNC-Lavalin when we left to go back to our ridings over a week and a half ago. This is a very important criminal case, given that the company has engaged in many rather shady dealings involving corruption in other countries. Many questions were raised at that time which have yet to be answered. No clarification has been given since the first time this allegation was raised a week and a half ago.
On the contrary, many other questions have been raised since we left the House on February 8. At that time, the veterans affairs minister was still in cabinet, but she resigned last week. What is more, the Prime Minister's principal secretary also resigned last week.
Today, the Liberals would have us believe that they have absolutely nothing to hide, that the government is being transparent and that we have to get our answers somewhere else. However, all these events happened within a week, not to mention that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has launched an investigation into the matter, which only happens when there are questions on the issue brought to his attention. Today, I am sure that the government will keep trying to have us believe that this is a non-issue, but that is absolutely not true.
A lot of questions need to be answered. That is why the NDP is calling for an independent public inquiry. What is more, the Liberals used their majority on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to simply refuse to shed light on whether the Prime Minister's Office interfered with the former attorney general of Canada regarding the SNC-Lavalin trial. This is a fundamental question that deserves answers. Given that the standing committee refused to look into this, we are calling for a public inquiry. Clearly, the Liberal majority has no intention of shedding light on this issue.
In reality, the Liberals are trying to distract us by calling people who are not involved in this issue to testify. They are trying to create distractions to divert our attention. They obviously have something to hide. I find it hard to believe that a minister and the Prime Minister's principal secretary would resign when a scandal broke if they had nothing to hide. That is why we need to shed light on this whole business.
We need to launch a public inquiry to clear up the issue of political interference, because our justice system is founded on the independence of the courts and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. That independence is enshrined in law. The Attorney General cannot give these kinds of directions willy-nilly, or with a simple phone call. The Attorney General is required to follow clear procedures when giving directions to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to influence the conduct of penal and criminal prosecutions.
These protections exist for a reason. Our laws are designed to guard against political interference in the judicial process, in order to avoid the slightest suspicion that the justice system might be politicized. That independence is the cornerstone of our system. Today, the independence of the court system is being called into question because of potential, attempted or actual political interference by the Prime Minister, his office and his principal secretary. The public inquiry will determine which one of those it was. For now, we do not know why the Prime Minister's principal secretary resigned, but I believe that launching an independent public inquiry is warranted.
The NDP also feels that we need to consider the employees of SNC-Lavalin. In the wake of this political interference scandal, they are worried about their future, and I can understand why.
That is why the focus today is not SNC-Lavalin, but the Prime Minister's government. His very office has brought the independence of our country's judiciary into question. That is the issue, not SNC-Lavalin, which is currently dealing with legal problems and irregularities with the awarding of foreign contracts. Naturally, this raises questions, but the employees work in good faith to support their families and they do their best every day.
The SNC-Lavalin executives are the real focus. That is why it is important to ensure that the most senior executives of the company, who were involved in the corruption at the time, are brought to justice. It is unfortunate that today we are seeing these executives get off scot-free, even though they have committed serious crimes, because of the administrative delays in the justice system.
I can understand that Canadians are worried about a company getting off so easily in such a terrible case of foreign government corruption. That is why we must absolutely look into this issue and into the political interference in our judicial system. It is extremely important to ensure public confidence. Canadians are increasingly under the impression that the government only looks after the interests of Canada's biggest players, the corporations and their executives. The government seems to listen to them very carefully when they want something. Whether it is SNC-Lavalin or KPMG, for example, the Liberal government seems to lend them a very receptive ear when some of their business practices are called into question.
SNC-Lavalin is a good example. KPMG is another. When push comes to shove, the Liberals always give priority to corporate interests over the interests of workers, as we saw with Sears and GM. They could care less about the workers, which is why we need to be thinking about them today. We must make sure that workers and the public interest are foremost in our discussions and in our minds, in every decision the government makes. It is quite clear that, in many areas, the government cares only about its buddies who give them hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the past, some companies that seem to have this government's ear have sometimes made illegal donations.
The other part of the problem I want to talk about is the political influence that SNC-Lavalin had in the debate on Bill C-74. I was on the Standing Committee on Finance when the bill was studied. I asked the official what motivated the idea of a deferred prosecution agreement, and she seemed to be rather alone and a little unprepared for the many questions from the opposition and the government. The member for Hull—Aylmer asked a number of questions, including some on division 20 of Bill C-74. Although I asked which cases and files could have motivated such a bill, this official was not able to provide a single specific case. She was obviously trying to evade the question, but there was clearly something fishy going on.
This part of Bill C-74 seems to have been drafted for a specific case, namely, SNC-Lavalin. This company had been asking for such a measure for many years, and it kept asking until it was successful. Once this happened, the company continued to lobby to get this bill passed and to make sure that the Attorney General would grant this deferred agreement.
This deferred agreement has not yet been granted, which may be why the former justice minister stepped down. We must adopt this motion today so that we can get to the bottom of this affair and make sure that there was no political interference and that there will not be any under the next government.
I move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following after the word “Act”:
“and to report back to the House no later than May 31, 2019,”
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-02-05 11:10 [p.25250]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to the opposition motion moved by the Conservatives. I, too, moved a motion yesterday, but on a different matter. I am pleased that the Conservatives are changing the subject. They are obsessed with taxes, a balanced budget and the carbon tax. They are always harping on these three topics, but there is never a substantive debate or any concrete proposals. They just keep rehashing ideas.
That is why they deserve some credit for deciding to debate a very interesting subject. Much has been written publicly about this issue, which has drawn the attention of several stakeholders, especially the Government of Quebec. The National Assembly of Quebec has also taken an interest in this matter. The Conservatives are finally interested in having a serious debate on an important issue, rather than fruitless debates on the same subjects every day.
The idea behind the single tax return is that Quebec taxpayers would be treated the same as taxpayers in the other Canadian provinces and territories, who file a single tax return every year. This return is processed by Ottawa, and the tax revenue is then distributed to the provinces, based on their individual tax rates.
This issue has been raised in the public arena in the interest of fairness. A number of stakeholders, such as accountants and people who have an interest in tax collection and the effectiveness of this system, started to talk about it to see what could be done to make life easier for Canadians and, in this case, for Quebeckers.
I think that, ultimately, every member in this House has good intentions and wants to make life easier for Canadians. Taxpayers in other provinces definitely have it easier when it comes to filing taxes. There are a number of potential solutions for making life easier for taxpayers by allowing them to submit a single tax return.
That is why this idea has stuck around for years through good times and bad, but it was only when the NDP brought it up that it became a hot topic. No offence to the Conservatives and the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, who wanted to take all the credit for being the first to raise the issue, but this idea has been around for a long time, and it was the NDP that first proposed exploring it. Initially, the idea was to explore it in Ottawa, and then the NDP adopted a resolution during its February 2018 national convention to make this proposal.
I will now read the resolution adopted in February 2018, well before Quebec's National Assembly voted on the issue on May 15, 2018. A lot happened between February and May. For example, the Conservatives realized they might want to take an interest in this idea. Our resolution read as follows:
WHEREAS having two tax returns in Quebec is costly, inefficient and an exception in Canada; WHEREAS simplifying Quebeckers' returns would result in major savings in public funds; WHEREAS having a single tax return would enable taxpayers and businesses in Quebec to save time and money; WHEREAS having a single tax return would enhance Quebec's fiscal autonomy, which is perfectly consistent with the principles set forth in the Sherbrooke declaration...
Let me just note that the Sherbrooke declaration is part of our official policy. Without getting into too much detail, it respects Quebec's autonomy and its decisions. I will continue with the resolution.
...WHEREAS various stakeholders and specialists have worked to bring about this change for many years; WHEREAS the Government of Quebec is already responsible for collecting GST for the federal government...
This is where we get to the heart of the matter, our February 2018 resolution, which reads as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the NDP propose the idea of a single tax return administered by the Government of Quebec, which would subsequently transfer federal tax to the federal government.
Today, I want to focus on the second “be it resolved” statement in the convention resolution, which shows the merits of the work done by members of the NDP before proposing this resolution. It states:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the implementation of this idea must not result in a loss of employment within the federal public service, and therefore this policy proposal must be made in collaboration with the unions and representatives of federal public servants.
The second part of the resolution specifically seeks to ensure that the federal government collaborates with representatives of federal public servants so that this idea is implemented without any jobs being lost in Quebec. The potential loss of jobs in Quebec if this proposal is adopted is something that keeps coming up in today's debate. This condition was put in place by members at the convention. Their intelligence and quick thinking led them to include this condition in the resolution to ensure the maintenance of these high-quality, well-paying jobs, which are an economic driver for the regions.
The NDP then took steps to find the ideal solution, one that would make life easier for Quebeckers while protecting federal public service workers, particularly those working for the Canada Revenue Agency in Quebec’s regions. That was when we started a frank and open discussion with union representatives to explore the viability of this idea. During these long discussions, we came to understand that, if this proposal were implemented under the current circumstances, there would be few options for safeguarding jobs in Quebec. There are several reasons for this.
It would not be possible to transfer employees from the Government of Canada to the Government of Quebec. Jobs cannot be transferred to Revenu Québec to handle the resulting workload, because the conditions of employment and benefits are very different. Another solution that was explored was to offer alternative assignments to the affected CRA employees. Again, employees have skills in different areas, whether it be audits, collections or investigations. They do not all have the same skills, and they cannot learn to do another employee’s job overnight. They cannot exchange work, because certain skills and requirements are needed for certain positions. It was obvious that this was not a good option.
We therefore realized that, under the current circumstances, it is difficult to support this proposal because we cannot meet the condition of protecting jobs in Quebec.
Today, the Conservatives are raising the same issue in their motion. I have the impression that they are taking up the issue for reasons different from ours, reasons that they have not admitted.
At the end of my speech, I will propose an amendment to the main motion. It will allow us to see the Conservatives' true colours. The amendment seeks to protect the federal public service jobs in Quebec. The Conservatives say that they want to protect jobs. They keep saying that their leader has said as much in various forums, that the jobs will be protected, that the federal public service employees need not worry, that everything will work out and there will be no job losses. We shall see whether the Conservative leader's words translate into action and into protecting the federal public service jobs in the text of the motion. It is all well and good to say that these jobs will be protected, that no one needs to worry, and that all CRA employees will be able to keep their jobs. When it is time to put their money where their mouth is, we will see how they really feel about this issue. We will finally see the Conservatives' true colours.
Although they will not admit it, the real reason the Conservatives proposed this motion is that they want to bring back the austerity of 2011. If that is not true, let them prove it. If they do not support this amendment, then we will see that the real goal of the Conservatives' motion is to bring back the austerity of 2011, when thousands of federal public service jobs were slashed on the pretext of balancing the budget. That is what we are going to see in the 2019 election campaign. They are going to propose an austerity agenda in order to balance the budget by cutting public services and public service jobs. According to current figures, 5,000 federal employees of the Canada Revenue Agency are located in Quebec. That is why the Leader of the Opposition jumped on this proposal. He spotted his chance. Here are 5,000 jobs that can be axed overnight, using Quebec's request for a single tax return as an excuse.
The Conservative leader thought that would be a key piece of his election platform to achieve a balanced budget once he is elected to power. What the Conservatives will not admit, is that the single income tax return has the support of the Conservative leader and Conservative MPs across the country because they see this as an opportunity to introduce a new austerity program. Here is a chance to easily get rid of 5000 jobs that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That is the real reason why the Conservatives support this motion. We will see what they say later. If they accept my amendment, we will see that they are more concerned about the overall public well-being by making Quebeckers’ lives easier and protecting good jobs that drive the economy in important regions, including that of my Conservative colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. I think he would be very sad to see the Conservatives vote against an amendment that aims to protect jobs. He must receive a lot of phone calls and emails from his constituents. He will have the opportunity to say it later in his speech. I think that his constituents will be concerned about the motion if we do not include a condition protecting jobs. The Conservatives will have their say, and we will see what they really believe in.
A large number of taxpayers are angry. They are angry because of they way our tax system is managed in general. Taxpayers who pay taxes every year usually tell me that they are angry with the Liberal government’s laissez-faire approach toward those who are better off, those who can afford to hire lawyers, tax specialists and accountants specializing in tax avoidance. They are angry, and that is why they insist that the government listen to their demands. These taxpayers do everything they can to pay their taxes when they are due. Sometimes, because of errors made in good faith or because of an omission in a form, they are set upon in record time by the Revenue Agency demanding arrears plus interest. However, they read in the paper that wealthy taxpayers, who do business with companies like KPMG, create tax evasion schemes with the Isle of Man to send their money to another country where income tax rates are low if not non-existent.
A major scheme of this sort was uncovered by the Canada Revenue Agency. These millionaire taxpayers are given amnesty or backroom settlements. A secret deal is made, and everything is settled. They are asked to pay what they have owed for a number of years, then the books are closed, all is forgotten and they go on as if nothing had happened.
The Canada Revenue agency never offers the average taxpayer this sweet deal. The average taxpayer is pursued and hounded by public servants who do what the Canada Revenue Agency asks them to do. It is not their fault, but they do their job and hound taxpayers.
The Minister of National Revenue goes after people with disabilities who merely want the tax credit for persons with disabilities. She treats them like criminals. Earlier, the minister said that agency employees, victims of Stephen Harper’s EI reform, were viewed as criminals.
That is exactly what the Minister of National Revenue is doing to people with disabilities who claim their tax credit. They are seen as criminals who want to take advantage of the system.
Standing here today, I understand why taxpayers are angry and why they are insisting that the government be more attentive to their demands. This motion is an important potential solution. We must consider it and continue to try to find a solution to make Quebeckers' lives easier while protecting jobs in Quebec.
That is why we adopted a responsible approach. We did our homework, discussed the issue and spoke with the people involved in order to help simplify the lives of Quebecers filling out their income tax returns.
The Conservatives have not done that. We will see later on where they stand on the issue of protecting jobs.
We assumed our responsibilities and did our homework, unlike the government. Rather than doing its homework, sitting down, reading the documentation and speaking to representatives of Quebec and the union representing employees, it decided to shut the door without discussion, as if making Quebeckers' lives easier were unnecessary and not a priority, despite what my constituents in Sherbrooke are telling me. I am certain that, in all of my colleagues’ ridings, people are saying that they want to simplify their tax returns.
The government simply refused, as it has in other areas, and slammed the door on Quebec. It said no thanks, it is not interested in Quebec’s proposal, since it does not agree with it. End of discussion.
That is a prime example of the government's condescending attitude towards Quebec. It is the same condescending attitude we have seen in several other areas when it comes to respecting Quebec and its autonomy.
That is very different from our respectful approach, which aims to find effective solutions for Canadians who pay their income tax every year and act very responsibly and in good faith—only to be slapped on the wrist at the first opportunity. That is why the underlying principle is good. We want to simplify life for Quebeckers and at the same time respect public servants.
Since my speech is coming to a close, I move, seconded by the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, the amendment that will show us what the Conservatives really believe in: I move that the motion be amended by adding the following after the words “May 15, 2018”: and must not result in a loss of employment within the federal public service.
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