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Mar 13th

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:05 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my voice to the ongoing dialogue on Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.

    Since Bill C-2 was introduced in the House of Commons, it has been the subject of much debate. Over the past few months, we have heard many different opinions about the proposed legislation. At the same time, there are aspects of the bill I believe we should now all agree on. They relate to the bill's contribution to maintaining public health and public safety in all of our communities.

    As this is my first opportunity to speak about the bill, I will take some time to review the important points raised by the members of the House, the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, who led the consideration of this bill at committee stage, and the expert witnesses who were called before that committee to share their knowledge and views on the substance of this bill.

    The health and safety of Canadians is something our government is committed to protecting and maintaining. It is an important issue, which we campaigned on. It is why Canadians elected this government and why we stand on this side of the House working to bring forward bills that allow us to do just that.

    What is this bill about? In its decision regarding Insite in 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Minister of Health's discretion to grant or deny exemption applications and to request information for that purpose. In exercising her discretion, the Minister of Health must take into account public health and public safety considerations in accordance with the charter.

    The Supreme Court of Canada decision also stated that the Minister of Health must consider evidence, if any, of the five following factors when assessing an exemption application related to activities at a supervised injection site: one, the impact of such a facility on crime rates; two, the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site; three, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility; four, the resources available to support its maintenance; and five, the expression of community support or opposition.

    Why are supervised consumption sites considered to impact both public health and public safety? Let us look at what is actually at play when it comes to providing an application for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA, for activities at a supervised consumption site.

    As we have all heard, the CDSA controls activities involving controlled substances and precursors to minimize the risk of diversion to an illegal use. The CDSA and its regulations do, however, allow access to controlled substances for medical, scientific, and public interest purposes. One way the CDSA makes this possible is through exemptions under section 56 of the act. Section 56 provides the Minister of Health with the authority to grant an exemption from provisions of the CDSA for activities involving controlled substances.

    Bill C-2 would amend section 56 to create a distinct regime for an exemption for activities involving illegal substances that are obtained on the streets and are then used in supervised injection sites. This is the reality of what is going on now, every day, at Insite. I hope we can all agree that a solid framework is needed when we are overseeing the use of street drugs in this way.

    According to a 2008 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, supervised consumption sites are described as specialized facilities that provide injection drug users with sterile consumption equipment and “a clean, unhurried environment”. The clients frequenting these sites typically have a long history of drug use and drug abuse and often live on the margins of Canadian society, untouched by traditional health or social services.

    It has been argued that these types of sites serve to meet the needs of those who use drugs by serving as a point of entry into health and social services. However, it is also important to remind listeners that the drugs used on the grounds of the facility are illegal and that these pre-obtained illegal drugs are acquired on the black market, usually from drug dealers and others who are exploiting the addictions of Canadians. This market presents obvious health and safety risks, so it is only right that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act should lay out a framework to address this.

    That is why the bill is clearly needed. The current system does not provide the tools needed to adequately consider the complex risks associated with supervised drug injection sites.

    The respect for communities act would provide the minister of health with information needed to properly assess section 56 exemption applications and to balance public health and public safety considerations, in accordance with the charter.

    To be more specific, the bill sets out the criteria that build upon the five factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. These criteria would provide clarity to the applicants on the type of information the minister would consider in an exemption application related to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

    Given the serious risks to human health and public safety associated with illegal drugs, and given that substances obtained from illegal sources are known to contribute to organized crime, our government believes that exemptions to undertake activities with them should be granted only once rigorous criteria, identified in Bill C-2, have been addressed.

    Under Bill C-2, the minister of health would continue to have responsibility for granting the exemptions. However, to provide clarity and transparency in the application process, the bill sets out the information requirements to inform these decisions.

    I have looked at this very carefully through the lens of being both a former mayor of a small town and a health care practitioner. I believe that what the minister has created in the bill is a positive and appropriate framework for these decisions.

    Bill C-2 specifically identifies the type of information the minister would need to support informed decision-making. It would ensure that the Minister of Health would have access to community perspectives from a broad range of relevant stakeholders so as to give consideration to the potential impact a site could have on a particular community. To take that local government perspective, they are often looking at zoning applications and uses for different pieces of property, and there are frequently very strong opinions on both sides. Again, it is the community that has the ability to express those opinions. The ability of people to express their opinions to help inform the decision-making is absolutely critical.

    Applicants would have to provide a report on consultations with the licensing authorities for physicians and nurses as well as with local community groups. As well, letters of opinion would be required from, for example, provincial ministers of health and public safety, the head of the local police force, and the lead health professionals of the government of the province. These individuals would be consulted in their professional capacities so that the minister's decision could be informed by leading experts from the local area. These letters would contain their opinions on the proposed activities and any public health and public safety concerns they might have.

    The applicant would need to provide a report outlining the views of these groups and describing how they would respond to any relevant concerns raised during the consultations. The applicant would also be required to describe proposed measures to address relevant concerns raised by the head of the local police force, the local government, and community groups.

    Available information about crime and public nuisance, public use of illicit drugs, or inappropriately discarded drug-related litter, such as needles, would also have to be submitted, along with any law enforcement research or statistics on the subject.

    In addition, to address the safety of individuals and communities, the applicants would need to provide a description of the potential impact of the proposed activities at the site on public safety. This would include available information on crime in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality and a description of measures to be taken to minimize the impacts.

    Applicants would also be required to provide information on security measures, record keeping, and the establishment of procedures for the safe disposal of any controlled substances or the devices that facilitate their consumption. Criminal record checks for key employees would also need to be provided.

    Members on the other side of the House have raised a variety of concerns regarding the proposed legislation and the information required to support an application for an exemption for activities conducted at a supervised consumption site.

    I would like to point out that we need to balance the obligations being placed on applicants with the needs of the Canadian public, meaning the individuals, organizations, and businesses that would become the eventual neighbours of any supervised consumption site in their communities.

    A typical and appropriate community process should happen at a local level. That is what this bill is about. It would set up clear parameters and would require a thorough consultation process to ensure that applications for these supervised drug-injection sites were thoroughly reviewed by local experts and community members as part of any decision.

    Our government believes that it is important to give members of the public an opportunity to provide input into proposed activities that could impact their communities. That is why, under Bill C-2, the minister would also have the authority to post a notice of application for a 90-day public comment period to seek direct input from community members. It is not unlike a rezoning application, whereby a large sign is posted to inform everyone who is local that it will happen. It is part of the local community consultation process.

    That is what I have found so surprising about the debate on this bill until now. The opposition members continue to delay and drag out the debate, when the single largest accomplishment of the bill is simply consultation with local communities. To be quite frank, to me it is incomprehensible. Members in this House need to pride themselves on local grassroots input, whether it is for an environmental assessment process or a rezoning, so I am surprised that there seems to be such resistance to providing what is normal due process in important decisions a community makes. I am pleased to see that we are making some progress on this today.

    Consultations are not the only improvement contained in the bill. There are also important new clarifications that would be brought to the inspection regime to monitor these sites following their establishment. This would ensure that the government had the tools needed to monitor any injection site that may be established following the new consultation process.

    One of Health Canada's responsibilities under the CDSA is to monitor the distribution of controlled substances and to inspect facilities, as needed, to verify compliance with the act, its regulations, and the terms and conditions of an exemption. This is done to minimize the risk of diversion and any negative impact on public safety. I do not think anyone should argue about the importance of having that measure in the bill. As someone who was responsible for a health centre, there were many different groups that had the ability to come in and monitor the work we were doing, whether it was on our work with controlled drugs and substances or the privacy commission. Again, these are appropriate and necessary safeguards.

    The proposed legislation would amend the CDSA, which sets out the powers of inspectors. The amendments would provide authority for inspectors to enter supervised consumption sites for inspections to validate information on any exemption application received by Health Canada. These amendments would also authorize inspectors to enter a site for which an exemption was granted at any reasonable time to verify compliance with the terms and conditions of the exemption. Again, these are appropriate measures and safeguards that would be put in place. If the conditions of the exemption were not followed or the act or regulations were not complied with, there could be a danger to public health or safety, and an exemption could be revoked.

    That brings us back to the real issue at play, which is the danger to public health and public safety. It is no secret that when illicit drug activities take root in neighbourhoods, the health and safety of individuals, families, and communities are put at risk. Illicit drugs that are bought and sold on the streets are inherently dangerous and present dangers in the communities in which they are found. For example, we know that the proceeds from the sale of illicit substances often contribute to organized crime, and the use of these substances can increase the risk of harm to health and safety, especially when these substances are unregulated and untested.

    While a supervised consumption site aims to reduce the risk of illegal drug use, it is also important to keep in mind that no level of oversight can ever make illegal, untested street drugs completely safe.

    That is why I also want to note that the bill will require applicants to provide information regarding the drug treatment facilities that may be associated with the injection site. I think all members of this House can agree that the true goal of the program designed to help those of us struggling with addictions is to end drug use in a safe way. That is what any of us would hope for family or friends fighting an addiction. It is only right to analyze the drug treatment facilities that are proposed and associated.

    We often hear about safe injection sites being a pathway to treatment, to care. As someone involved in the health care business, I too frequently saw people who were desperate to have detox, to have rehabilitation, to have support with nothing being available to them. If this is to be a pathway to supporting people in their recovery, then it has to be associated with those pieces of the treatment puzzle.

    Everyone in this House probably has family and friends who are aware of enormous dollars that have been spent to send their loved ones to treatment centres because there are no public options available as they were desperately struggling with recovery.

    These changes are in line with our government's balanced approach to tackling illegal drug use in Canada. In 2007 we introduced a national anti-drug strategy. The strategy focuses on drug prevention and access to treatment for individuals who suffer from drug dependencies. It also focuses on combatting the production and distribution of illicit drugs by targeting drug dealers and producers who threaten the health and public safety of our communities, and more particularly important, of our youth.

    One of the key components of the strategy is the enforcement action plan, which has increased the capacity of law enforcement to proactively target organized criminal activities. For example, under this plan, funding was provided to the RCMP to expand its dedicated anti-drug team to help locate, investigate and shut down organizations involved in the production and distribution of illicit drugs. Funding was also provided to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute offenders.

    Through these and many other activities under the national anti-drug strategy, we have made great progress in helping to protect public health and safety.

    To emphasize just how much the issues related to public health and public safety are intertwined, both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to address questions raised by members in their consideration of this bill.

    During her testimony, the Minister of Health clearly stated that, “This legislation was not prepared overnight or on a whim”. It was “...drafted to specifically codify a detailed ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in September 2011 on a supervised injection site”. As I have said, that ruling identified the specific factors the Minister of Health must consider when reviewing applications that grant exemptions from Canada's drug laws to allow such sites to be established.

    There are many things I could say about the process. I know 20 minutes is a long time, but it can also be a short time. Most people in the House, I expect, have had families and friends who have struggled with addiction. We heard a very powerful statement yesterday from one of our colleagues. We are trying to create a balanced piece of legislation that will really, as I say, take care of the public safety issues, to look at the public health issues and respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:20 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I have ongoing dialogue with many members in Kamloops, including ASK Wellness, on many pieces of legislation, whether it is our prostitution legislation or others.

    The member is missing the point. The point is that there are criteria giving consistency to how applications will be received. Most importantly, what it would do is say that if there is ever a proposed site in Kamloops, all of the groups that the member mentioned would have the ability to speak very directly to it, as would the local government and police force.

    Again, what we are talking about is the ability of communities to have consultation and be able to determine what is appropriate and what is going to be helpful to deal with what is a very difficult challenge.

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:25 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I have worked in small northern communities and I have seen the decimation that addictions can create in those communities. I also saw the huge lack of appropriate detoxification and rehabilitation services. I can remember time after time when people came to me and said, “Listen, we are ready to quit”. I had to say, “I am sorry, but there no are beds or services available”. I told them that in six months, we may be able to give them the support that they need. That was a shame, because six months later, those people might not have been ready anymore.

    Treatment and prevention services that are directly associated with the site is an enormous and absolutely critical piece of this complex and comprehensive puzzle.

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:30 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest of respect for Dr. Montaner in terms of some of the work he has done around HIV/AIDS. I have listened to him speak here on Parliament Hill.

    The point of this legislation is that we would put in place some appropriate parameters around the minister determining whether to give an exemption. There is even a process around rezoning applications. When a mining company is looking at establishing a mine, there is a process around it. We have created straightforward criteria that look at a balance, include prevention and safety, and include community consultation. To be quite frank, I think all opposition members should be on board with us on this particular piece of legislation.

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for becoming the new health critic for the New Democratic Party.

    As the health critic, could he explain to me why the bill was sent to the public safety committee instead of to the health committee?

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:50 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest. As the critic and my colleague was going through the list of what he called onerous things that would have to be done to get a safe injection site going, not one of them seemed unreasonable: scientific data, the ability to have criminal record checks, community consultation, a letter from the police. The opposition is fearmongering around what is an appropriate and reasonable framework.

    I have to pick up on one of the member's comments. Does he also believe we should provide the heroin and the illicit drugs in these sites? Is that something he believes should also be part of this proposal?

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    Mar 13, 2015 7:55 am | Ontario, Frontenac

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great analysis.

    When he was speaking, I was harking back to 2011 when I was invited to Oakland for an international conference on HIV-AIDS prevention and how to deal with it. Guess who was the keynote speaker? It was the model of prevention, our friends from Vancouver. We were on the international stage, but, meanwhile, back home the government was challenging them. I was asked as a Canadian politician to explain that and I could not. However, at the same time, Oakland had declared a state of emergency because of HIV-AIDS. The people were saying that we had to stop locking up people for drug use and start helping them. They were really looking to Canada as a world leader in this area because we were seen as a model.

    How is this health approach important versus the public safety approach? It is despicable that people would try to make money off victims. Maybe you could talk about the different approaches of health versus public safety.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:00 am | Manitoba, Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments carefully. I was involved in this debate when I was parliamentary secretary and before that, as health critic. The terminology is important. It is not a safe injection site in Vancouver. It is called a supervised injection site. Would the member agree that there is no such thing as a safe injection site or safe injections?

    If I understand the member correctly, he wants facilities to be BYOH, “bring your own heroin”. Is that what he is suggesting?

    Is he offering up his riding for a supervised injection site that he is promoting so valiantly today?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:00 am | Quebec, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière

    Mr. Speaker, on March 17, many countries, including Canada, the United States and France, will honour Irish immigrants by joining them in simple, friendly celebrations of their national holiday and the joy of being an immigrant of Irish origin.

    St. Patrick's Day is about people celebrating in the streets of Ireland. It is also celebrated all over in Irish pubs in big cities. Young and old alike love to see leprechauns, those little red-headed folk sporting top hats and clovers, and all the people dressed in green with Irish flags painted on their cheeks.

    On March 17, I will be in my riding learning about Irish history through the cultural references and folklore of our good Irish friends, and I encourage everyone to do the same. Do not miss this wonderful opportunity.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:05 am | Ontario, Alma-Lac-St-Jean

    Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks, the wearing of the burka and the niqab has been the subject of polarized debate.

    The wearing of religious symbols and clothing in the public sphere is appropriate under all but a few specific circumstances.

    Obtaining a driver's licence, a citizenship card, or a passport are some of these circumstances, the latter requiring that citizens even remove their glasses for their photo.

    In addition, everyone's face should be uncovered during the course of the citizenship ceremony and while he or she is voting.

    Basic common sense dictates that a person needs to allow visual identification by the public servant dealing with the issue. If a woman refuses to uncover her face because the official in front of her happens to be male, we should be able to accommodate her by having a designated female public servant available to step in.

    Furthermore, anyone wearing a veil that does not cover the face should be allowed to testify in court.

    Reasonable Canadians will debate this topic in a measured and respectful manner.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:05 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are facing a retirement security crisis. The Conservatives have blocked attempts to make retirement more secure for Canadians.

    The Canada pension plan is proven and reliable, yet the Conservatives have broken their promise to strengthen it for future generations of Canadians.

    The Conservatives have also raised the age of retirement from 65 to 67. Private pension plans and the workers who own them must take a back seat during bankruptcy proceedings. The Conservatives want to make it easier for employers to change secure defined benefit pension plans to risky target benefit plans. As well, younger Canadians today are financially squeezed between having to care for their aging parents and raising their own children.

    Canadians want their government to act, and New Democrats are ready. We will secure and enhance the CPP, restore the retirement age to 65, help make the workplace pensions of Canadians more secure, help lift seniors out of poverty, and help our young people prepare for their own retirement.

    All Canadians deserve a secure and dignified retirement, and a New Democratic government will take action to ensure that each and every Canadian has just that.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:05 am | Saskatchewan, Palliser

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to extend warm congratulations to Team Canada on winning its second straight Tim Hortons Brier victory. After a slow start at the Brier, the foursome switched up the roles and moved Moose Jaw native Pat Simmons up to skip. They never looked back after the switch. The team was rounded out by John Morris, Carter Rycroft, and Nolan Thiessen. Simmons, who shot 93% in the final, was named winner of the Hec Gervais award as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

    I am also proud to offer congratulations to Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock on their bronze medal victory over Brad Gushue's team.

    Finally, I hope all members join me in wishing Team Canada well at the Ford World Men's Curling Championship beginning at the end of this month in Halifax.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:10 am | Ontario, La Prairie

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the Halabja massacre, also known as Bloody Friday.

    March 16 marks 27 years since the brutal chemical weapons attack perpetrated by Saddam Hussein's regime on Kurdish civilians, which killed as many as 5,000 innocent people and injured almost 10,000 more.

    Kurdish Canadians will be gathering across the country over the next week to remember this horrific crime against humanity and its victims.

    As we reflect on what took place at Halabja, we also recognize the determination of the Kurdish people, who are today facing off against ISIL in northern Iraq. Kurdish forces have played a crucial role in protecting civilians and religious minorities from ISIL.

    Canada is proud to be advising and assisting our Kurdish allies as they combat this genocidal death cult, and we stand with them and Kurdish Canadians in commemorating the Halabja massacre.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:15 am | Ontario, Newmarket—Aurora

    Mr. Speaker, As tax season approaches, constituents in Newmarket—Aurora have been overwhelmingly supportive of the tax-free savings account.

    The Canadian Association of Retired Persons agreed that the tax-free savings account is extremely important for seniors. This is another example of how our government is helping seniors, middle-class families and indeed, all Canadians.

    Unlike the Liberal leader, they cannot rely on their trust fund to pay for their retirement or their kids' education. The Liberal leader wants Canadians to pay more tax and the NDP voted against the tax-free savings account.

    Overall, 11 million Canadians of all ages and income levels have opened an account, allowing them to save, tax-free, for their own priorities.

    Our Conservative government is fulfilling our promise to keep taxes low, and we will continue to do so while putting more money back in the pockets of families.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:15 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax

    Mr. Speaker, it is now being reported in Turkish media that the individual who was detained for allegedly helping three British schoolgirls join ISIS was working for the Canadian embassy in Jordan, where Bruno Saccomani, the former head of the Prime Minister's security detail, is the ambassador.

    Can the government confirm that someone linked to Canadian intelligence, an employee, an agent or an asset, is being detained in Turkey?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:20 am | British Columbia, Beloeil-Chambly

    Mr. Speaker, it is strange. They are pushing this controversial bill, but they will not introduce a budget. Canadians deserve better than that.

    This week, private sector economists said that the government had no reason to delay introducing a budget. The Conservatives are futzing around while Canadians are losing their jobs. Again this morning we learned that the unemployment rate rose by two points in February. In other words, there are now 50,000 more unemployed workers. What is the government waiting for to introduce a budget that will stimulate job creation?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:20 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax

    Mr. Speaker, Ronald Atkey, a former Conservative minister and chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, stated very clearly that allowing CSIS to ask a judge to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will turn into a constitutional nightmare.

    Why does the government want to rush a bill that is ill-conceived?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:25 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, today's job report also shows that there are fewer jobs for young Canadians. In fact, there are 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than in 2008.

    Meanwhile, Canada has just set another new record for high levels of household debt. There is a connection between household debt and a weak job market for youth in Canada. Middle-class parents are taking on extra debt in order to help their adult children make ends meet.

    When will the Conservatives actually understand the real challenges faced by middle-class families? When will they give them a real plan for jobs and growth?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats and Liberals propose one job measure, and that is their tax increases. They believe that the only way to create jobs is to, in their words, increase taxes on families and on job creators.

    We have the opposite approach. We have a low-tax plan for jobs and growth. It has created 1.2 million net new jobs; 85% of them are full-time, 80% are in the private sector, and two-thirds are in high-wage industries. We will continue to ensure taxes go down so that job creation goes up.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:30 am | Ontario, Haldimand—Norfolk

    Mr. Speaker, I always believed that this particular project to improve accessibility for handicapped people at the Markham centre was worthy and was in the public interest. I accept the guidance provided by the commissioner to make sure that these programs are handled in a manner that is fair, accessible, and equitable for everyone involved.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham

    Mr. Speaker, this is a dispute between three individuals, none of which is the federal government. At the same time, when it comes to accountability, it is the NDP that owes Canadian taxpayers close to $5 million for illegal offices. That is $2.7 million for illegal offices and millions of dollars for illegal mailings, and they refuse to pay that money back.

    When it comes to accountability, they have nothing to talk about. They took illegal money from unions. They have illegally taken money from Canadian taxpayers, and now they are refusing to even pay it back.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Quebec, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière

    Mr. Speaker, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec works with all regions of Quebec to promote economic development. I hope my colleague realizes that we have even helped his riding.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre

    Mr. Speaker, Vic Toews wife now denies that she took a $1-million kickback from a first nations chief who was directly involved with her husband, the senior minister for Manitoba. She says it was no more than $50,000 tops, as if that makes it okay. I know it is peanuts on the scale of Conservative shenanigans. Mulroney's personal rogues would not even get out of bed for that kind of chump change.

    Would the government not agree that it is time to tighten up on the post-employment rules for ministers and their spouses so that they cannot exploit the time they spent in public office for personal and private gain?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:35 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, the application was rejected after both an internal and an external review. We have to decide between projects all the time.

    What the New Democrats have just confirmed is that they believe that Patrick Brazeau should be in charge of grants and contributions. Maybe that is how they would run their government if they ever had the terrifying prospect of coming anywhere near taxpayers' money, but Canadians will never allow the NDP or the Liberals to do that, because they know that they will only pay more taxes and face more debt if that were to ever happen.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Ontario, La Prairie

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's television, film, and digital media industry contributes nearly 125,000 jobs to the Canadian economy. That is why we proudly created the Canada media fund in 2009 to help with the creation of quality by Canadians for Canadians.

    Our government has worked tirelessly to better serve Canadians, bringing them better consumer choice in television while protecting Canadian jobs. We have always been clear: Canadians should not have to pay for the channels they do not want. They should get the ones they choose.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Alberta, Edmonton—Sherwood Park

    Mr. Speaker, the member has apologized, but who has not apologized is the Liberal leader for his comments earlier this week. In fact, regarding his speech, B'nai Brith has said, “Such language is divisive and only does a disservice to Canadians interested in dealing with pressing issues of the day”.

    When will the leader of the Liberal Party stand up and apologize for his comments earlier this week?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor

    Mr. Speaker, since 2011, 70% of funding under the enabling accessibility fund has been spent in Conservative ridings. Conservatives have been using a program designed to help those with disabilities as a political slush fund to reward their friends.

    If that is not bad enough, now the Prime Minister himself ensured that a failed application was put on top of the pile, fast-tracked, and given over $1 million. It is like Duffy all over again.

    There is one word for this bad behaviour; it is called corruption. How can he defend it?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, the reason we created the enabling accessibility fund is to help people with disabilities have the same access to community centres, churches, synagogues, mosques, and recreational centres every other Canadian enjoys, and that is why we have been proud to fund wheelchair ramps, special elevators, and a whole host of other projects that help disabled people across the country.

    We have also brought in the registered disability savings fund so that parents can set aside money for their disabled children's futures, and I am happy to say that both of those programs have been an enormous success.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:45 am | Ontario, La Prairie

    Mr. Speaker, the member is well aware of the rapidly changing media environment, to which no industry is immune in our country.

    We are carefully reviewing the decision, but to come back to the main point, we created the Canada media fund specifically to assist Canadians in the industry. When we look at the 125,000 jobs that come out of that industry, it is because they understand, they know, they create, and they produce, all with Canadian content, and it is for Canadians. We should let them make the decisions in terms of how we drive forward in the industry.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:45 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, we have formed the program to ensure that Canadians come first for Canadian jobs. We have required that employers sign an attestation that no Canadian will be either put out of work or out of hours if a temporary foreign worker is hired. We have required employers do extra outreach to hire underemployed groups within the Canadian labour force, such as aboriginals, new Canadians and young Canadians. We have brought in tough new fines and even jail time for those who break these and other rules.

    We are working hard to create more jobs through lower taxes and ensuring Canadians come first for those jobs.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:45 am | Ontario, Nickel Belt

    Mr. Speaker, it has been six days since the Gogama train derailment. I visited the crash site and saw the horror of the devastation.

    The communities of Gogama and the Mattagami First Nation are concerned about the environment and their safety. Citizens have been told that for trains with more than 20 cars their speed will be reduced from 80 kilometres to 48 kilometres an hour from Capreol to Hornepayne.

    Could the minister confirm that the speed reduction will be permanent?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, Thunder Bay—Rainy River

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP has launched a study of the forestry sector at the natural resources committee, one that is so important to so many communities in northern Ontario and across the country.

    We have lost more than 100,000 forestry jobs under the Conservatives' watch. Many forestry towns are in crisis. The government support for industry transformation is drying up.

    Will the minister commit to ensuring there is new support for forestry in the upcoming budget?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, the Military Police Complaints Commission found the military's investigation of the death of Corporal Langridge to be incompetent and lacking professionalism. Its handling of this traumatic situation has been mired in secrecy and a seven year ordeal for the family.

    The family has asked to see the entire board of inquiry report, but have been stonewalled. Instead, this week it was provided with a selective partial report, which blames the soldier and his family for this horrible tragedy.

    Will the government denounce these deplorable findings and commit to releasing the full report?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax West

    Mr. Speaker, today we find out that Canadian veterans injured before 2006 will see their benefits clawed back under the government's new retirement income security benefits plan. When the minister was asked if he would fix this problem, he reportedly said, “we are not looking into that at this time”.

    Will the government reverse this clawback and ensure that no veteran loses a single penny under this new plan?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, we have already reformed the program to ensure that Canadians come first for Canadian jobs. These changes include requiring the employer to prove that no Canadian will lose either a job or hours of work if a temporary foreign worker is brought in. We put limits on the percentage of positions that can be filled by temporary foreign workers. We will continue in this direction.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:55 am | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake

    Mr. Speaker, what happened in this case is completely unacceptable. The inclusion of these remarks in the board of inquiry report is further evidence of how unacceptable it was.

    Our thoughts remain with the family of Corporal Stuart Langridge during this very difficult time. The Department of National Defence is reviewing the Military Police Complaints Commission report. We want to ensure we act upon those recommendations so this never happens again.

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:55 am | Saskatchewan, Palliser

    Mr. Speaker, while the Liberals and the NDP are focused on their carbon tax and tax-hike plan, our Conservative government is working on the economy and projects that will create jobs.

    The Prime Minister was in Saskatchewan to announce an important project for our economy. Could the parliamentary secretary update the House on this important announcement?

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    Mar 13, 2015 8:55 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague from Palliser for all the hard work he has done for his constituents, not only in his riding but also in Saskatchewan.

    Yesterday, the Prime Minister was in Saskatchewan to announce a major infrastructure program of over $32 million for the twinning of Highway 7 to four lanes, from Saskatoon west to Delisle. This project will not only create jobs, it will improve safety, enhance traffic flow and reduce travel time.

    Unlike the NDP and Liberals, whose only plan to improve the economy is to raise taxes, we are committed to lowering taxes. That was why we launched the building Canada fund and approved, to date, over $5 billion worth of projects.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:00 am | Quebec, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière

    Mr. Speaker, the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec is working very hard to foster economic diversification of all regions of Quebec. Since 2006, over 440 projects have been distributed in Quebec, and we will continue with that approach.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:00 am | Nova Scotia, South Shore—St. Margaret's

    Mr. Speaker, to begin with, we encourage anyone who believes they have received incorrect information from CRA to make a formal complaint.

    We expect CRA to continuously improve the quality and accuracy of the telephone service it provides. We are implementing several measures to improve the quality of services offered by CRA.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:05 am | Ontario, Alma-Lac-St-Jean

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to table in the House the following petition.

    It is a petition signed by the people of Orleans who support Development and Peace and are calling on the government to adopt international aid policies that support small farmers, especially women, in order to recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study of the supplementary estimates (C), 2014-15.

    I am proud to report that the committee, in keeping with its commitment to make a more thorough and robust examination of the supplementary estimates, undertook to study $730 million of the $733 million in estimates that were referred to the committee, which is again in keeping with what all committees should be undertaking: to examine the estimates and not simply allow them to pass unnoticed.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:05 am | Saskatchewan, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 22 petitions.

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:10 am | Nova Scotia, Halifax

    Mr. Speaker, some constituents asked me if I would table this petition in the House of Commons, and I have to say that I am very impressed by the number of people who have signed it. It shows that people in Halifax really care about the rights of small-scale farmers to preserve and exchange and use seeds.

    The petitioners are asking the government to adopt international aid policies that support small-scale farmers; to ensure that Canadian policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers; and that they protect the rights of farmers in the global south to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.

    The petitioners and I look forward to the minister's response.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:10 am | Ontario, Kitchener—Waterloo

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition signed by the students and teachers at Abraham Erb Public School in my riding of Waterloo.

    The petitioners are underscoring the importance of clean water, clean air, and a clean environment in our country.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Ontario, Oak Ridges—Markham

    Mr. Speaker, the Privy Council Office identified no contracts under $10,000 granted by the Prime Minister's Office from March 27, 2014 to January 29, 2015.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | British Columbia, Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam

    Mr. Speaker, as of 1996, (a) the government introduced a lawful intercept condition of licence that requires the licensee to maintain interception capabilities so that information can be provided when required by a warrant.

    (b) The government does not pay for the costs of these provisions.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Manitoba, Selkirk—Interlake

    Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces, DND/CAF, do not create records of visits by members of Parliament to CAF bases and stations, nor have a centralized tracking and reporting mechanism for such visits, the reasons for visits or their costs. As such, DND/CAF is unable to provide the requested details.

  • retweet
    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | British Columbia, Vancouver Quadra

    With regard to military base CFB Petawawa: since 2007, (i) what are the names and ridings of Members of Parliament who have visited the base, (ii) what are the dates when the Members visited, (iii) what were the purposes of the visits, (iv) what were the costs associated with each Members' visit?

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    Mar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Ontario, St. Paul's

    Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, at third reading.

    I have a couple of other suggestions for the name of this bill. It could be called “the refusal to honour the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada bill”. How about “the pursuing ideology versus evidence act”, or “the refusal to save the lives of people with addictions act"?

    This bill was introduced in response to the Supreme Court of Canada 2011 ruling that Insite, in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, had been proven to save lives and reduce harm, and that the government's efforts to close Insite would violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to life, liberty, and the security of the person. It is clear that the government did not like this ruling, and therefore has tried to go about refusing to honour the ruling by another route.

    It is also clear that this bill will not fulfill the spirit of the court's ruling. Rather, it would make it cumbersome for a group or municipality to apply for a section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which allows a facility to operate. However, the likelihood of any future sites opening in Canada would become slim to none. Making matters worse, Vancouver's Insite would have to apply for a renewal based on the same 26 different criteria as new applications, as well as two additional provisions.

    Section 56 of the CDSA gives the Minister of Health discretionary powers to grant exemptions from the act under one of three categories. They are medical purposes, scientific purposes, or in the public interest. Of the exemptions that have been granted for activities with illicit substances, two types are for law enforcement purposes. These are to train sniffer dogs using seized drugs in the public interest and to allow the Vancouver Coastal Health authority to operate Insite. It was initially for scientific purposes, but since the Supreme Court's decision, it is considered a medical exemption.

    The government's intentions have been clear from the beginning. It has always opposed Insite and has been trying to close it down since it formed government. Thankfully, the work of the community of Vancouver and the courts have stopped these attempts.

    I would also like the opportunity to thank the member for Vancouver Centre and the Liberal Party of Canada health critic for her tireless efforts on this file to ensure that public policy is based on evidence and not ideology.

    This is an ideological bill based on crass political motivation from a government that has always opposed evidence-based harm reduction measures such as safe injection sites. Only an hour after the legislation was introduced, Conservative campaign director Jenni Byrne issued a crass and misleading fundraising letter to supporters, stating that the Liberals and the NDP wanted addicts to shoot up heroin in the backyards of communities all across the country.

    Despite this bill being tabled by the Minister of Health, it was given to an enforcement department, the committee of public safety and security. This is further evidence of the government's view of addiction as a criminal act. The public safety and security committee heard witnesses from three meetings, with many expressing concern that this bill would effectively shut down the current safe consumption site in Vancouver and deny the creation of further sites.

    There were amendments suggested by the Province of British Columbia, the chief public health officer of British Columbia, and the City of Vancouver, which were consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada criteria. Even witnesses in favour of the legislation expressed concern that in some parts the legislation is too restrictive. Over 60 amendments were moved by the opposition parties to bring this legislation in line with the Supreme Court ruling. However, the legislation, as usual, was not amended.

    The Liberals proposed amendments to the legislation at committee to amend clause 5, which outlines the criteria that new and existing applicants for exemptions must meet by deleting measures that were not outlined in the Supreme Court ruling. Due to a motion passed by the Conservative majority at the public safety committee, a party can only have five minutes to speak for each clause of the bill while moving amendments. Clause 5, which is the majority of the legislation, required several amendments.

    Due to the time constraints, the Liberal Party was unable to speak to the majority of the amendments, as time had elapsed. This is undemocratic and restricted our right to speak and to explain our amendments at committee.

    Liberals recognize the need for some form of legislation based on the Supreme Court of Canada ruling. However, this legislation does not reflect the spirit nor the intent of the court's decision.

    As stated in the 2011 Supreme Court ruling:

    The factors considered in making the decision on an exemption must include evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates, the local conditions, indicating a need for such a supervised injection site, the regulatory structure in place to support this facility, the resources available to support its maintenance, and expressions of community support or opposition.

    Instead, of the five criteria listed in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, Bill C-2 lists 26 different prescriptive criteria that must be met, including the areas that are intrusive into provincial and municipal jurisdiction. It also interferes with the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies on health care providers, as well as provincial and municipal police forces and provincial public health officers.

    Liberals support the need for broad community consultation for the establishment of any safe consumption site, which is how the Liberal government established Canada's first safe consumption site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. When the Liberal government gave the exemption to Vancouver's safe consumption site, we consulted broadly and worked in conjunction with provincial and municipal governments, public health authorities, business associations, and the public.

    Insite was the product of co-operative federalism. Local, provincial, and federal authorities combined their efforts to create it. The Vancouver police support Insite, as well as the City of Vancouver and the British Columbia government.

    It was initially launched as a scientifically based research project based on experience with SCS in Europe and Australia on very high, at-risk and resistant groups, which had proven to be successful. It has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area.

    lnsite has an average of 700 to 800 visits a day, and over 275,000 visits annually. As of March 2010, there have been over 1.5 million visits, over 12,000 unique individuals registered, and an average of 11 visits per month, per person

    It has been proven to reduce harm. There has been a total of 2,395 overdoses since the facility opened, with zero fatalities. There were 20,000 referrals to health services in 2008-09, and over 50% of those were to detox.

    lnsite users are 30% more likely to engage in addiction treatment than non-lnsite users. It has also dramatically reduced the rate of new HIV infections in the Downtown Eastside. There are three in ten injection drug users in the Downtown Eastside who are HIV positive; 18% of lnsite clients are HIV positive. There were 30 new HIV cases in the Downtown Eastside in 2011, compared to 2,100 new cases in 1996.

    I would like to highlight the four pillars of any effective drug strategy: harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The bill underlines the government's misguided decision to remove harm reduction from the equation and from an effective drug strategy.

    As Liberals, we support evidence-based policies that reduce harm and protect public safety. Liberals established Vancouver's safe consumption site, which has proven to be effective in supporting those suffering with mental illness and addictions, reducing crime and protecting public safety.

    Across Canada, medical officers of health, such as David McKeown, in my home community of Toronto, need this public health approach to get on with creating new life-saving facilities such as this.

    Unfortunately, the bill raises the criteria to establish a safe injection site to such an extraordinary high level that it would be nearly impossible for any future site to be established in Canada.

    Legislation proposed in this House must adhere to the rule of law. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada was clear. This legislation would put lives at risk and would likely be challenged in the courts again.

    We cannot support the legislation. To put it bluntly, we cannot help people if they are dead.

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