- MPndpFri 8:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, injured soldiers, especially those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, need to have something to look forward to. However, many about to be medically released feel abandoned to an uncertain future. They feel they have been betrayed by a military system after serving their country and risking their lives. The fact is, they need actual solutions, not only counselling and treatment.
When is the government going to listen? We are all concerned about the lives that have been lost, but the real question is, what is the minister going to do to ensure that more lives are not lost?
- MPndpWed 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, despite what the government claims, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are not getting the support they need.
We have witnessed the heartbreaking tragedy of four apparent suicides in the past 10 days. Men and women who have served Canada, who stood up for us, deserve to have us stand up for them. Veterans and members of our armed forces need better mental health supports and serious policy changes, and they need them now.
Is the minister now, finally, willing to listen and take action today?
- MPndpNov 28, 2013 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, there have been three suicides in the last 48 hours. The minister says that the Canadian Armed Forces is investigating, but there are now 50 outstanding boards of inquiry on military suicides. Some are over five years old.
There have been no reports on these deaths, no reports on what could be done to help our soldiers who so clearly need our help.
Could the minister tell us how many suicides have taken place in the Canadian Armed Forces this year and what plan does he have for prevention?
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, today's Auditor General's report on shipbuilding makes it clear. Conservatives will not be able to build the ships needed to replace our aging fleet. Rough estimates, made years ago, have been treated as budget caps.
The Auditor General says the existing budget is “insufficient” to replace Canada's 4 destroyers and 12 frigates with 15 modern warships with similar capabilities.
What is it going to be? Will Conservatives cut the number of ships or will they increase the budget?
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 2:40 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it is very good to hear that some people on the other side actually believe rehabilitation is important.
I do not think the bill is amusing. The title is not amusing but ludicrous because it bears no relation to the bill. It is being used for extraneous purposes, whether it is fundraising, or public relation or bumper-sticker politics.
As to the budget matter, I did not say anything about increasing costs. I said that the populations were increasing by 20%, according to the projections of the correctional investigator. However, the Conservatives are cutting the budget by $295 million when we already have a very small percentage of all of the correctional budget being used for core programs or rehabilitation.
If the member and I agree that rehabilitation is of great importance, then we ought to be spending more money on rehabilitation, on programs for addictions and other programs that are going to help people when they get out of prison, as most of them do. Obviously, there are people with life sentences who are going to serve much of their sentence and there are people who are going to have a great deal of difficulty getting parole because they are deemed likely to reoffend, but most people are going to get out. These are the ones I am concerned about. If they get out, they should be getting out in better shape than they went in, rehabilitated with some chance that they will get out and not reoffend. That is the whole purpose of rehabilitation. We need more money for that.
I am not making projections about where the budget is going to go, but we do have projections of a 20% increase in the size of the prison population with not enough money, more overcrowding and nastier policies—
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 2:35 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, clearly addiction has a significant medical part to it. Part of addiction is related to the physical addiction to the drug. It drives people to criminal activities for the sake of the addiction, so to get at the problem of crime related to drug addiction, we have to get at the addiction. Whatever makes that work and can help make that work ought to be considered by any government that is serious about reducing addictions and crime. Obviously that includes some of the measures the member was talking about in terms of harm reduction, but by removing that as a possibility, the government has removed the possibility of reducing addictions in our society.
In fact, as we heard in the debate on Bill C-2 and the information that stakeholders provided, people are dying who would otherwise live and survive to fight their addictions if proper programs were in place. The government does not seem to be sensitive to that at all.
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 2:30 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will all indulge the hon. member in wishing her mother happy birthday.
As to her questions, first, the $122 million that was invested in an attempt to reduce drugs in prisons was actually a total failure. It was a waste of money.
The head of Correctional Service of Canada, Don Head, has acknowledged that it has not done anything to reduce the amount of drugs, so it was basically wasted money. I think the other stakeholders and experts would say that as well. I am not saying the money was not spent, but it was money that did not do any good. If that money had been put into addictions programs, we probably would have had a better result.
My colleague made reference to victims and that I did not talk about victims' rights. I actually asked an earlier question about what is taken into consideration by parole boards in granting parole in the first place. One of the things taken into consideration that New Democrats support, by the way, which my colleague, the justice critic, acknowledged, is that victims' rights and victims' circumstances are taken into consideration when looking at parole.
I have said many times in the House that there is a lot of talk about victims' rights, but I have not heard the government talk about providing federal funding for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which used to be a feature of the Government of Canada's support for victims. Criminal injuries compensation boards existed across this country with federal and provincial contributions. Many of them have shut down for lack of support. I have made a lot of comments about victims benefiting by having proper programs in prisons so that people do not reoffend.
Obviously, they are taken into consideration at the time of sentencing. That is extremely important, and New Democrats support that fully.
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 2:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have an opportunity to speak on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. That is the official name of it. Of course, the Conservatives, in their usual way, have called it something else that does not relate to it at all. This act may be cited as the drug-free prisons act.
As I will explain shortly, there is nothing in the act that contributes to or is about drug-free prisons at all. However, that is the Conservatives' way of using legislation as some sort of public relations gesture. Some have suggested that it is fundraising. Someone else has called it, quite rightly, “bumper sticker” legislation. It really has nothing to do with the bill at all.
I was just listening to my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, and I want to say what a great job he is doing as the official opposition critic for public safety. He brings his intelligence and his good sense. I will not say common sense because it is not that common, certainly around here. He brings his good sense, experience and articulateness, as well as his great commitment to social justice to this file. This is something that requires all of those things, because it is easy to have slogans.
The Conservatives like slogans. They like using them for fundraising. They like keeping things very short, and in some cases, they think it is meaningful to their supporters or the people who they would like to be their supporters. However, when we look just slightly below the surface, and we do not have to look very far, we find out that these slogans and sloganeering are really just a sham.
This is true of Bill C-12 as well, when we start with the act being the drug-free prisons act and then find out what it is really about. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is about how we run our prisons, and in this particular case, how people are granted parole.
There are only two or three provisions in this act. In fact, there are five clauses, one of which is the one with the short title, which is clearly irrelevant to the rest of the act. Clause 2 would basically allow an offender to be granted parole. I am talking about someone who has been granted parole but has not yet been released. The clause would give the parole board the right to consider the results of a urine sample or the fact that someone has refused to grant a urine sample. It says that this could be taken into consideration. It would be reported to the parole board and it could be taken into consideration. If the drug urinalysis is positive, it would be reported to the board. That is number one. If a urine drug sample is positive, it would be reported to the board.
The second would allow the parole board, if it was going to grant parole, to either cancel it or impose conditions on it. That makes up the next two sections. The big “if” here is provided that the board is of the opinion that the parolee or prospective parolee no longer meets the conditions of the criteria set out for parole.
Those conditions are relatively straightforward. They would apply to all parolees or potential parolees. They are no different in this case. They would ask, based on the results of the urinalysis, if the opinion of the parole board is that the offender would not, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society before the expiration of the sentence that he or she is serving, and that the release of the offender would contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender as a law-abiding citizen.
These are the general principles of parole anyway. This is why parole is granted, and it is very important. Parole is granted, first of all, if there will not be an undue risk to society, and second, if the release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender into society.
These are basic principles of parole. We are not changing those. The Conservatives appear to support those and they are not changing the legislation. All they are saying is that if the results of the urinalysis cancel out those matters, then the person will not be granted parole.
I do not know what that has to do with the notion of drug-free prisons. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the notion of drug-free prisons. What we are doing here, as previous speakers have noted, is something the parole board already takes into consideration. It already takes into consideration the results of a urinalysis or the refusal. There is some question as to whether it is appropriate for them to do it, and this would clarify it. It is already being done and this would clarify this power.
We support it. We are here to support it, and I think every speaker from this side of the House, certainly in our party, has stated that we support the principle of the bill to clarify the right of corrections officers to do this and for a parole board to take it into consideration.
What we do not support is the notion that somehow or another this would deal with the problem of drugs in prison. What we do not support is the current government's general attitude toward corrections and what it is doing to our prison system and how, in fact, it is making things worse for prisoners, for the society and for victims or potential victims of crime. The Conservatives talk a lot about victims, that they are on the side of victims and the other side is not.
Victims of crime, yesterday, today and tomorrow, are falling victim to people who commit crimes for whatever reasons. If the criminals are caught and imprisoned and if they are subject to rehabilitation while in prison, they are less likely to commit crimes in the future. One of the biggest problems of criminal activity in this country has to do with drug addiction. The percentage of prisoners who are addicted to drugs is remarkably high. I think the number is 69% for women and 45% for men. Am I quoting those correctly? I read the numbers earlier today. Sixty-nine per cent of women in prisons are addicted to drugs, and 45% of men.
What do we do to make our streets safer? We try to ensure that when these people are federal prisoners, and are in jail for two years or more, they have some program available to them so that when they are released they have a chance of no longer being addicted or of being on the road to recovery. If I were running the prisons, my number one priority for the protection of society would be to ensure that as many people as possible who go out of prison after their sentences are drug free and on the road to recovery. If I could do that, I could say to people in society that they would be safer because these people would have access to a rehabilitation program in prison and a better chance of not being a harm to society.
We have been steadfast as a party in our support for measures to make prisons safer, yet we have the Conservatives ignoring all the recommendations. That in fact makes prisons less safe, not only for correctional staff but for prisoners and for those in society who are going to be subjected to these individuals when they get out, if they are not better off.
We have measures that have been proposed by the correctional investigator who is a watchdog on behalf of the public and by corrections staff who have encounters with the prisoners day in and day out. They have made recommendations that would decrease violence, gang activity and drug use in our prisons, yet we do not see the government acting on these recommendations. We do not even see the Conservatives acting on recommendations that they themselves have made.
The public safety committee did a study in 2010 and produced a report. Their report, and I say their report, because the majority were Conservatives on that committee, was titled “Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Federal Correctional System”.
These are the two main problems among prisoners: drug addiction and mental health problems. There were 14 recommendations from that committee, from the majority, which sits on the other side, the Government of Canada.
The Conservatives have had three years to come up with legislation or to do things to implement those recommendations. Not one appears in the bill before us, and not one has been implemented by the Conservative government. How serious are they when it comes to being committed to solving the problems of mental health and drug and alcohol addictions in our correctional system? The answer: not at all.
Instead, the Conservatives are focused on some sort of public relations campaign. They are calling something that basically clarifies an existing practice something else and are carrying out a campaign that claims that they are solving problems by reducing the crime rate.
Well, as my colleague for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca pointed out, the crime rate has been going down for 40 years. Yet in 2012, the highest number of persons incarcerated in Canada was achieved. It was the highest number ever in Canada. The all-time high was in July 2012, with 15,000 inmates in federal prisons.
What is the government's response to the lowering crime rate and the highest level of incarceration? It has done two things. The Conservatives have brought in a whole bunch of legislation that would actually increase the number of prisoners. In fact, the Correctional Investigator says that by March 2014, there is going to be an increase of persons in our prisons to over 18,000. Between 2012 and 2014, there will be a 20% increase in the number of federal prisoners from the all-time high of 2012, as the crime rate is going down. What are we achieving here?
By the way, we are also taking $295 million out of the Correctional Service budget. We have less money, 20% less, on top of the highest rate of incarceration ever in our history and a crime rate that has been going down for 40 years. We have a situation where prisons are getting overcrowded, and there is no money left for programming.
The Correctional Service of Canada devotes approximately 2% to 2.7% of its total operating budget on core correctional programs. That includes substance abuse programs. That means that funding for addictions treatment in prison is even less as a result of this $295 million decrease in its budget over two years. No wonder they are being criticized by anyone who has knowledge of the circumstances and the situation, such as the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
Let us look at somebody who should be seen as objective, the Correctional Investigator, who has been working on this for many years and is an expert in the area. He has been in our prisons, has talked to people in the programs, and has talked to all the stakeholders. He has issued reports about what goes in our prisons and the problems that have occurred as a result of the policies of the Conservative government. Mr. Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator, has listed several Conservative initiatives that he says have undermined the idea that prisoners can be rehabilitated.
The rehabilitation of prisoners is done for two reasons. Obviously, it is the humanitarian thing to do. People can end up in prison for all kinds of reasons, and rehabilitation gives them an opportunity to come out the other end less likely to offend and hopefully, able to contribute to society and to have an opportunity to overcome some of their difficulties, such as addictions, psychological problems, or whatever issue they may have. Hopefully they may learn something that would help them make a living when they are outside so that they can become contributing members of society.
The other reason is that we do not want people getting out of prisons angry, frustrated, with chips on their shoulders, more determined than ever to see themselves as separated from and outside of society. Instead, we want them to be able to contribute to society. We do not want people going out with a propensity to commit crimes, because we will create more victims.
The people on the other side of the House who claim to be in favour of supporting victims should realize that one of the best ways to support victims is to make sure that people who come out of prison have actually rehabilitated so they will not inflict harm on other members of society.
What we have instead is tougher sentencing rules, an end to automatic early release for serious repeat criminals and tough-on-inmate policies, as he calls them. These include charging for telephone calls, increasing room and board charges, eliminating incentive pay for work in prison industries, reducing access to prison libraries. What is gained by that? Do we want to make people who go to prison into hardened criminals, living in unsafe conditions, double-bunking, overcrowding, subject to gang violence, unable to learn by not having access to a library, unable to use the telephone to talk to their relatives and keep in touch with their loved ones so that they have some connection to outside society?
...making prisons more austere, more crowded, more unsafe and ultimately less effective.... We seem to be abandoning...individualized responses in favour of retribution and reprisal.
That is what the correctional investigator says, and he is saying that because it is less effective as a prison in terms of rehabilitating people.
My colleague from Halifax mentioned the issue of the prison population. Mr. Sapers said that the entire increase in our prison population over the last little while has been made up of aboriginals and members of visible minorities. Aboriginals now make up 23% of federal prisoners, though they are just 4% of Canadians. They are overrepresented in prisons by five and a half times their population. Something is wrong with this picture. Where are the programs that are available for these individuals?
The problem is that only about 12% of prisoners have access to these broad rehabilitation programs. There are wait lists of 35% of prisoners, waiting to get into programs. Their sentence is over before they get a chance to get any access to rehabilitation, and we have this revolving door phenomenon. The other side would call them repeat offenders. Yes, they are repeat offenders, and why? Because they do not get rehabilitated and they do not get access to programs while they are there.
We have a situation that Howard Sapers sums up this way:
You cannot reasonably claim to have a just society with incarceration rates like these. And most troubling, the growth in the custody population appears to be policy, not crime, driven. After all, crime rates are down while incarceration rates grow.
We have a serious problem in our prisons. We are making it tougher on inmates, and some people like that. They have committed crimes. They deserve to be treated harshly. There are a few out there who do. However, if we scratch the surface, we say that these are human beings who deserve to go to jail because they are sentenced for a crime, and the old saying is, “You do the crime, you've get to be prepared to do the time”, so they do the time, but what happens then? Do they go out better off and less likely to commit a crime, or do they come out a hardened criminal and more likely?
If we want to protect society, we have to ensure that criminals are rehabilitated. We have to ensure that people in prisons have access to programs, including drug rehabilitation programs. We do that by paying attention to these issues, by listening to people who know what is going on and having a better prison system, not by having phony bills that are called drug-free prisons when they are really just implementing something that is accomplished already in our Parole Board.
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 1:05 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in the speech by my colleague, the justice critic for the official opposition. I just want to read a section of the current Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which has the principles that guide the provincial parole boards in achieving the purpose of conditional release. This is important. They are as follows:
...parole boards take into consideration all relevant...information, including the stated reasons...of the sentencing judge, the nature and gravity of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, information from the trial or sentencing process and information obtained from victims, offenders and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by correctional authorities;
First, does the member agree with this as a statement of principles, and if so, would the provisions of the bill actually be included in “assessments...by correctional authorities” that might be made available to the system, to the parole board in making this? Is the bill really necessary?
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 10:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I do have a question, and I look forward to the Minister of National Defence's comments on this legislation after we have finished. He is the former Minister of Justice. He can come back and join in the debate. We will be happy to have him.
However, I was wondering whether the member had any comments on or was surprised by the length of time it has taken this legislation to come forward. I am reading an article here that was written by legal counsel from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. It is dated 2003, and it talks about how the negotiations are almost concluded.
Why does the member think it has taken at least two Liberal governments and three Conservative governments to get to the point, 10 or 12 years later, where we finally have legislation? Why was this issue so low on the priority list of these governments?
- MPndpNov 25, 2013 9:20 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the member's speech on safety, particularly in our offshore and in industry throughout Canada, was very passionate. I thank him for his kind remarks concerning my involvement in this.
I note the member talked about the recommendation of Mr. Justice Wells to have an independent safety regulator, what he called his “most important recommendation”. It was supported by the federations of labour in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nova Scotia and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador most strongly, but it is not implemented here.
I would point out another problem that we have discovered since the legislation has been tabled, which is the so-called “budget implementation act”, Bill C-4. I do not know what this has to do with budget implementation.
This bill is designed to give stronger powers to health and safety officers named in the act, with amendments to such in section 144 of the Canada Labour Code to give certain powers and immunities to health and safety officers. However, it is contradicted by Bill C-4, which also amends section 144, but, in fact, it takes the words “health and safety officers” entirely out of the Canada Labour Code and gives all of their powers to the minister or his delegates.
I am wondering about two things.
I know this is a technical point, but what does that say about the current government's approach to legislation when this bill, which is very much the same as Bill C-61 in the last Parliament and has been around a long time, can be thwarted by a budget implementation bill, one of these omnibus bills that would amend the Canada Labour Code and dozens of other acts? What does it say about the Conservative government's handling of these important matters?
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 1:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the member raises the point that this is part of the government's scare tactic fundraising activities. The day it introduced this bill, it started a major fundraising campaign for the Conservative Party. Therefore, I think the bill is really about pushing an ideological point of view and raising money for the Conservative Party.
The member for Kitchener—Conestoga talked about having a safe injection site next to a school. I do not know what community he lives in. I presume he lives in Kitchener. Do members think the City of Kitchener would allow a safe injection site to be set up next to the school and invite all of the addicts from anywhere around to use it? I do not think the people of Kitchener would put up with that. As the law is right now, I do not think they would have to put up with it.
Therefore, to raise these points and put in a piece of legislation like this, along with a lot of other matters that sensible people have accepted, would make it nearly impossible for anyone to cross all the barriers that are set up here to having a safe injection safe. That is the end run around the Supreme Court of Canada, which said it had to give permission because this is a life-saving activity.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 1:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the member misses the point. Communities already have a say. They have a say about any new service that is being put in a location in a community or neighbourhood. City councils do that all the time. They hold public meetings, listen to their citizens, and understand what the effects are. We hear about this all the time in the news.
This is not about that. This is about making it nearly impossible to have a safe injection site by putting stringent barriers to it. The Canadian Medical Association and all these scientific journals support the effectiveness of this measure in saving lives. That is what is important here.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 1:00 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I am not pleased with the act, but I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak against it, because the act does serious damage to the notion of what government ought to be doing to help some of the most vulnerable people in our country, those who are seriously at risk of dying because of an addiction to a particular drug.
Maybe Conservatives do not have any sympathy for addicts, except for Mr. Ford, in Ontario. I do not know, but they certainly seem to be willing to put at very serious risk of death and further harm people who, by their circumstances, end up being addicted to drugs and could make use of a place such as InSite in Vancouver. They tried to shut it down, and they were told by the Supreme Court of Canada that they could not do it, so they are trying an end run around safe injection sites with this legislation.
Let us look at some raw numbers and the reason this safe injection site was established in the first place. There was a situation in the Lower Eastside of Vancouver in the mid-1990s, when about 200 people a year were dying from drug overdoses. That is a serious public health issue. It is a serious crisis in public safety. There were all sorts of other harms associated with all that activity.
InSite was established to provide a safe place where those who were addicted could inject. It was supervised by professionals who were not only providing a safe place but were also providing other services, such as referrals and access to medical services, counselling, and programs that would lead to detoxification and overcoming their addictions.
In fact, users of this site were nearly two times as likely to go to a detox centre and go on drug programs than those who may have gone there occasionally. It was not the idea to allow the addiction to continue. It was an opportunity to get them out of addiction. As a result, twice the rate of participation in detoxification programs to get off drugs took place.
When InSite started to operate, the number of fatalities from drug overdoses in the Lower Eastside in Vancouver went down by 35%. We are talking about 70 individuals a year whose lives were saved as a result of this. Those are a lot of human lives that one particular program was able to save by being in existence. What was the government's response? It was to get rid of harm reduction as a principle of drug treatment and to shut down InSite. It is trying an end run around the Supreme Court with this particular action.
Another statistic reported in a leading medical journal deals with the fact that there were 273 overdoses in a one-year period at InSite, but not one fatality, not one. That is indicative of the fact that the supervision of the safe injection site leads to greater safety and a lack of deaths. That is how it happens. When we add up some of these facts and the startling number of 70 lives a year saved, what is the possible excuse or reason the government has for introducing this legislation?
One thing we hear about often, even from the current government and lots of others, is something called evidence-based decision-making. We have heard that before: evidence-based decision-making. A good, sensible, reasonable government should be making decisions based on evidence.
What do we have here? We have more than 30 peer-reviewed studies published in some of the leading medical journals in the world. Members will have heard of them. They include the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the pre-eminent medical journals in the world; The Lancet, another significant British medical journal, which publishes only serious peer-reviewed, high-standard, high-quality studies; and the British Medical Journal.
More than 30 peer-reviewed studies have described the beneficial impacts of InSite, just this one particular operation. Some people and many studies have looked for the negative impact, but none have come up with any evidence demonstrating harm to the community.
We have a situation where the evidence is on the side of the use of places like InSite to facilitate harm reduction, the saving of lives, detoxification, helping addicts to get off drugs and making communities safer.
Those are the facts. That is the evidence that is brought to this. There is support from organizations like the Canadian Medical Association. It is hardly interested in promoting the use of drugs. It is hardly interested in having activities that are bad for patients and individuals. It sees it as a positive thing, and it has criticized the government for bringing forward Bill C-2.
Who else? The Canadian Nurses Association said:
Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations—especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness.
Here is the kicker. They said:
A government truly committed to public health and safety would work to enhance access to prevention and treatment services—instead of building more barriers.
That is what we have here, a building of more barriers to helping people who are addicted to drugs.
My community of St. John's East has its share of serious drug problems. They have escalated to the point now where we have hold-ups of convenience stores and gas stations taking place. There are houses being broken in to get money to buy drugs. Some of these drugs are actually prescription drugs. There's OxyContin, a major, significant, addictive prescription drug.
How did that become the bane of so many people's existence? It is something that was supposed to be reserved for only the most serious of pain in the rarest of circumstances. I do not want to exaggerate, but I have heard people say that it is being prescribed for anything from wisdom teeth being extracted to very low levels of pain, as commonly as any other painkiller, instead of being reserved for that particular rare occasion when someone was in such serious pain that addiction was not an issue, perhaps because they were in palliative care or were about to die.
In the time I have left, I do want to say that we have serious problems. There can be solutions. The government should be working very hard to find solutions. Instead, what we see is government acting against the medical profession's advice, that of the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association and all sorts of significant scientific studies that have demonstrated the value of sites such as InSite in Vancouver. We see it taking action to make it nearly impossible for anyone to open further injection sites and perhaps making another attack to try to shut down InSite once again when it gets the opportunity to do so.
As I said at the beginning, I am glad I have had the chance to speak on this bill because I do oppose it. We are against this approach. We think this is a seriously harmful bill that will cause death to individuals who are vulnerable in our society because of their addictions, not allowing them to even get near the help they need. They will stay away. Obviously they will not be able to be near that.
If people are worried about heroin addicts in their backyards, they are going to find addicts a lot closer to their backyards if they do not have a site like InSite that can actually help deliver harm reduction and vital medical and other health services to these individuals.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the Chief of the Defence Staff said that when it comes to cuts in the size of the regular force, “direction has not been given to us yet”.
The government once promised 75,000 regular force members and 35,000 reservists. We are not close to that now.
Can the minister confirm if the number of uniformed members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be cut?
- MPndpNov 19, 2013 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, four years after a helicopter crashed off the coast of Newfoundland killing 17 people, Conservatives are refusing to take action to better protect offshore oil workers. New federal safety regulations do not include the Transportation Safety Board's recommendation that an aircraft should be able to operate for 30 minutes after complete loss of oil, a requirement that would have prevented this tragedy.
Why will the Conservatives not agree to implement this important recommendation?
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, according to new reports, the Auditor General is preparing to tell Parliament that Conservatives have failed to set aside enough money for the national shipbuilding procurement strategy. The shipbuilding secretariat recently said that the total cost for these acquisitions was $36.6 billion for large ship construction and $2 billion for smaller ships.
Could the minister tell Canadians if this is still the case? If not, will the minister tell us today what the true numbers are?
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask about the government's disgraceful treatment of wounded soldiers. Soldiers are being forced out just before they become eligible for their pensions. Sadly, the minister dodges these questions and pretends these soldiers agreed to leave.
Corporal David Hawkins did not agree. He did not want to be discharged a year shy of qualifying for his pension. He wanted to continue to serve.
These soldiers are not asking for special treatment; they are asking for fair treatment. Why will the minister not stand up, do the right thing, and support these soldiers?
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 11:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform across Canada and in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nearly 100 years ago, Newfoundland, then a dominion like Canada, committed thousands of troops to the First World War. Sadly, as we remember all too well, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment suffered devastating losses during the Great War, especially at the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. Plans are afoot for a significant commemoration of these events, which live on in the national memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Over the generations since, all across Canada sacrifices continue to be made right down to today in loss of life and loss of capacity. The memory of those who died and made the ultimate sacrifice is sacred, but Remembrance Day is also a day for veterans to be honoured for their courage and contribution to their country, and a robust, compassionate, and comprehensive program of support for those who need it must be available.
Remembrance Day, to me, is not just about the past; it is also about the present and the future. Lest we forget.
- MPndpNov 05, 2013 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, a new report from the military ombudsman points to a heartbreaking situation facing too many military families. With soldiers on deployment, spouses and children face challenges at twice the rate of other Canadians. Military families are four times less likely to have a family physician. They need better access to housing, employment and decent education.
We are asking these women and men to serve our country, but not enough is done for their families at home.
Could the Minister of National Defence tell Canadians why military families are not given the priority they deserve?
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 11:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
No it wasn't.
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it is more weak excuses, but still no apologies for the treatment of these soldiers.
The Canadian Forces ombudsman has revealed huge problems with the joint personnel support units, the people who are supposed to help wounded soldiers. He has found that they are understaffed, they lack experience and that they cannot properly assist soldiers.
Conservatives are asking our soldiers to come home from fighting for their country, only to have to fight with their own government to get the support they need.
What is the minister doing to immediately rectify this disgraceful situation?
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 8:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of National Defence shamefully failed to explain why yet another seriously injured Canadian soldier is being forced out of the military just shy of qualifying for his pension.
In fact, over 1,000 CF members have been forced out in this way in the past five years. The minister totally avoided the fact that they are being forced out of the military against their will. Corporal David Hawkins told the military he was not ready to leave.
Why is the minister standing by while this soldier is being forced out?
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 7:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right: it is a good step forward, but it falls far short, particularly in terms of recommendation 29 with respect to independence.
The member is also right in saying that although the minister talked about environmental issues, there is absolutely nothing in this legislation that deals with the environment. In fact, that has been another criticism of the offshore oil and gas regime, particularly with respect to even having access to the environmental monitoring that ought to be taking place. That monitoring is not done by independent monitors; in fact, researchers and academics are denied access to the oil platforms for the purpose of even counting birds, doing basic studies, or following up on baseline studies that might have been done years ago.
As a result, we have a situation in which the people who are expected to follow the regulations are the ones who are doing the monitoring. It is not being done by somebody independent. That is the situation in the environmental field, and unfortunately that was also the situation with respect to offshore safety when it came to the lack of regulations: the standards were being set by government, but how to do it was left up to the industry.
In this particular case, we still have a problem in that the same regulator is dealing with both aspects of offshore operations, and we believe that is wrong.
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 7:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, yes, natural resources are important, and it is gratifying to see provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia benefiting from offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
I think a lot of Canadians do not realize that in the case of oil, for example, the operations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador produce the equivalent of 40% of Canada's requirement for light crude, or close to it. Much of it is exported. Almost all of it is exported directly to the United States or elsewhere by the operators, although some of it is refined in Newfoundland and Labrador. The extent of the production is really very high when compared to the Canadian requirements for light crude. It could contribute to energy security for Canada in a very important way, and we have just seen some new exploration successes that will see the industry continue for quite some years to come.
I am not sure if it is true to say that the decision to bring forth this legislation was prompted by the Cougar helicopter crash in 2009. Discussions and negotiations have been going on since 2002. I think we have to all agree that it has been at a rather slow pace and that there did not seem to be a degree of urgency on the part of the Government of Canada to move this measure forward. I am disappointed that it has taken so long.
As I indicated, our party raised the issue on numerous occasions in the legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador when I was there and leading the Newfoundland New Democratic Party. We urged the kind of legislation and regulation that we now have, which was to take it out of the draft, put it into the regulations, make it enforceable, and have a proper regime.
It has been a long time coming. I suppose there was resistance from the industry, which believed it had a new way of doing things and that we could not tell it what to do. The industry believed that it knew more about it than the government. That was the attitude, and I think the Government of Canada listened to that for far too long.
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 7:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this legislation, Bill C-5, at second reading. This is an extremely important piece of legislation as it affects the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador and the workers who risk their lives in a dangerous occupation, travelling back and forth to oil rigs, working on exploration vessels and working offshore for as much as three weeks at a time in an industry that is constantly changing.
At the beginning of offshore exploration, exploration was going on in shallow waters near to shore. Now there are oil rigs and exploration hundreds of kilometres offshore. Transportation is by helicopter, which takes as much as two or three hours to get back and forth. That is clearly a dangerous situation, as we know. Not only are risks being assumed by individuals in pursuit of a livelihood for themselves and their families; but it is also extremely important economic activity for the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, as well as for the taxpayers and the Government of Canada in terms of sharing in the revenue from the offshore oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
Unfortunately, for many years, going back as early as 1992, the offshore safety regime was not controlled by the provinces themselves for workers in Newfoundland and Labrador or in Nova Scotia. The labour portfolios had responsibility for occupational health and safety. That was taken away in 1992 by legislation and given over to the offshore petroleum boards. In their supposed wisdom of the day, they had draft regulations. It was not a situation in which somebody who did something contrary to those draft regulations could actually be charged, treated as an offender, taken before a court, fined or dealt with appropriately and be required to follow the regulations. No, it was a very different regime. The regime was that there were draft regulations, and those draft regulations were really just a framework or guideline. That was entirely unsatisfactory to the workers, and my party in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were very strongly opposed to this particular approach.
I will quote from former Justice Wells, of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, who talked about this issue. The minister claims that this has nothing to do with the Cougar crash and inquiry, that this is something that has been going on for a long time, but it is very important to know that Mr. Justice Wells did a very extensive study of the offshore health and safety regime. He led an inquiry into the Cougar helicopter crash that happened in March of 2009, in which 18 people were on board a helicopter that crashed; 17 were killed and there was 1 sole survivor. It led to an inquiry being undertaken by former Justice Wells into these fatalities. He talked about his work, learning about how health and safety deficiencies are attended to in the offshore oil industry. On page 275 of his report, he stated he learned the differences between prescriptive regulation and performance-based regulation.
What we have in this particular situation, until now, is what are called performance-based regulations. In other words, the regulator comes up with a plan and objectives for safety, and the companies decide how they shall go about meeting those objectives; whereas the regulatory regime in this legislation says what must be done, the standard that must be met, and the requirement is to comply. New Democrats have been calling for this power for years. When anyone objected to the regime that only had guidelines, the answer always given was, “We have the ultimate power, and that is to shut down the operation if it is deemed to be unsafe”.
That, of course, never happened. With the cost of doing that, the way of getting compliance was not satisfactory. We then get into a situation where the same agent, the same organization, the same agency that is responsible for the management and control of the operation, control of the whole of the exploration and production activity, methods, schedules and all of that, is also dealing with health and safety.
That has been deemed by many countries and by the Wells commission of inquiry to be unsatisfactory. He says in his report—and recommendation no. 29 has already been mentioned by one of my colleagues—that there should be a new independent stand-alone safety regulator:
Such a Safety Regulator would have to be established, mandated, and funded by both Governments by way of legislative amendment, regulation, or memorandum of understanding, or other means.
In the lead-up to that he said:
I believe that the recommendation which follows this explanatory note will be the most important in this entire report. Until the end of 2009, the C-NL offshore operated under a primarily prescriptive regime which established the requirements under which the oil operators filed their Safety Plans, received authorizations, and conducted their exploration and production. The essential task of the Regulator was to ensure that the oil operators adhered to what was required of them. This was called the prescriptive system of regulation.
They then changed that entirely. The regulations changed into the performance goal-based regime whereby the regulations specify, and the regulator sets the goals and the operators respond by saying how they will achieve them.
He was not satisfied with that. He said that the new offshore goal regulator regime was introduced by regulation in January 2010. There were no changes made at the time to the regulatory body to strengthen and prepare it for the new and much more demanding regime. He says that there ought to be a separate, powerful, independent, knowledgeable body equipped with expert advice, and he made the recommendation I just quoted.
That is the one flaw in this regime. We support this legislation because it brings us from a situation of operating with draft regulations to a situation where we now have regulations in force. We have authority by legislation. This has been worked on for a number of years by negotiators on behalf of the workers in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The former NDP Government of Nova Scotia and the PC Government of Newfoundland and Labrador worked on these for a number of years.
The labour representatives support this approach. They support the fact that this regulation is there. They worked very hard to achieve a situation where they believe that the offshore workers have the same level of protection as the onshore workers. That is an important principle that is included in this bill. As a result of the work of the labour representatives in these negotiations, they believe this has been achieved.
The second principle is the protection of employees' rights to know and to participate, to refuse unsafe work and to be protected from reprisal. That is there, as well as support for an occupational health and safety culture that recognizes the shared responsibilities in the workplace between employees and employers for a safety regime.
That is why we support it. We think it is a good step forward to ensure that the safety regime is covered by enforceable legislation, and we think that is going to be a better system to protect workers and to protect workers who refuse unsafe work.
Where we have the problem is in the fact that it is included in the same regulatory body as all other aspects of offshore development, whether they be plans for production or exploration, design of facilities and all of that. There is no separate regulator.
Why should we have one? Looking at other countries, we see that in 2001, for example, Norway adopted the concept of having a separate safety regulator. A few years later, Australia did the same thing. Their rationale for imposing separate safety regulators was that there may be inherent conflicts within a single regulator that, on the one hand, regulates exploration and production and at the same time is required to make the hard decisions that a safety regulator must make.
We also had the same situation in the United Kingdom, where it was also believed that this was required. These changes were made and they came from government, not from industry. The changes have been fully accepted by industry, however, and they are deemed to be working, according to Justice Wells in his report, and he said that it was “...independent minds outside the industry which perceived the inherent conflict between exploration and production on the one hand and safety on the other...”.
A second problem that goes against the notion of continuing with a single regulator is something called “regulatory capture”, which is well known in the industry and other types of industrial regulation. I am reading here from the report at page 277:
...regulators and those they regulate work so closely together that friendships and close working relationships can develop. Common interests and what are sometimes referred to as cozy relationships may unconsciously influence the hard decisions that safety regulation requires.
The report did not state, nor did Justice Wells say, that he found that type of regulatory capture in existence. The offshore industry is relatively new and small, and he did not expect regulatory capture to occur. “Nevertheless”, he said, “every effort should be made to ensure that it never happens”.
These are two of the reasons why this should be a separate regulatory body. As Justice Wells said, the recommendation was one of the most important ones he made. It was adopted by the Newfoundland and Labrador government; it supported that recommendation. The workers themselves support that recommendation. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour supports that recommendation 29. We supported it in Newfoundland and Labrador and we support it here, that there should be a separate regulatory body.
The minister says we do not need to have a proliferation of agencies and organizations. We are not talking about a proliferation here; we are talking about a separate health and safety regime in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore industry where it is extremely important to have that concern.
We have a situation now, and it is relevant to the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore and also to the situation involving helicopter transport back and forth to the rigs. That has to do with the resumption of night flights. During the course of Mr. Justice Wells' inquiry, he made an interim recommendation that all night flights of helicopters back and forth to the rigs be stopped. That has been in place since around February 2010, when he made that recommendation. It was implemented by the C-NLOPB, and night flights have not been a part of the regime of the offshore, much to the relief of the workers because part of the evidence heard during Mr. Justice Wells' inquiry was that the survivability from a crash at night in a helicopter was significantly lowered because it happened at night.
The situation is that this helicopter crashed because it had a loss of main gearbox lubricant. The pilots thought, and were told, that the helicopter had the capability of flying for 30 minutes in what is called a “run dry“ state, with no gearbox lubricant. That is a standard for all class A helicopters in use in the world. Unbeknownst to the pilots, there was an exemption given to Sikorsky, and the helicopter did not have that capability, so 10 minutes after the helicopter lost main gearbox oil it crashed, killing 17 of the 18 people on board.
In its February 2011 report, the Transportation Safety Board recommended that all class A helicopters be required to have that 30-minute run-dry capability and asked Transport Canada to enforce that ruling. Transport Canada did not accept that recommendation, nor did it place any restrictions or limitations on these helicopters being used to transport people hundreds of kilometres over the ocean. It left that in place, following what the American FAA did in saying that it would not require Sikorsky to retrofit its helicopter fleet.
That created a regime of concern by offshore workers. They made protestations about it. They made representations to the C-NLOPB. A moratorium on night flights was maintained up until now. However, now the operators, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, are going back to the C-NLOPB seeking to resume night flights. We are back to the situation in which the regulator, which is in charge of all aspects of offshore production safety and regulations, looking at this very question of offshore health and safety.
I believe there would be more confidence among the workers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia if they knew that a decision that was going to be made would be made by a separate, independent health and safety regulator whose only mandate and only concern was the safety of workers. The independent regulator would be making that decision and would take into consideration what the options are. One of the options would be to have more helicopters instead of having night flights.
The issue is how many people can be transported and in what period of time. The reason they want night flights and want to fly in the dark is they do not have enough helicopters to do the transportation in the daytime. The simple solution is to have more helicopters. There is a cost involved, yes, but if safety requires it, then I would expect that an independent health and safety regulator, with no concerns other than health and safety, would be in a better position to make the decision that night flights would not be permitted in the offshore, even if it was a tough decision.
That is one concrete example of the concern that was raised about this issue and the need for an independent regulator. Recommendation 29 of Mr. Justice Wells' report on the offshore helicopter safety inquiry states it very eloquently, with a lot of background information. A lot of work was done, with a lot of consultations and visits to other countries. Whether from the U.K., Norway, or Australia, experts and expertise were brought forward. Retired Justice Wells did a most thorough report and made that recommendation.
It is a pity that it was not adopted by the Government of Canada. The government failed to do that despite the urging of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Justice Wells, the unions involved, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, and many others who are concerned about the offshore health and safety regime.
That said, we do regard this bill as a step forward. Bill C-5 would put into regulation and legislation what was treated as draft regulations for nearly 20 years. It is an unsatisfactory situation that would be resolved. For that reason, we are supporting the legislation at second reading.
I see that my time is nearly up, but I would be happy to answer any questions or respond to any comments my colleagues would have with respect to the bill. As I say, we support it, but we are concerned that there is a lack of an independent regulator to enforce these regulations.
- MPndpOct 31, 2013 7:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister could comment on the fact that the bill provides a safety regime in legislation for the offshore for the first time, but we also have before the House Bill C-4. This is a 300-page omnibus bill amending over 70 pieces of legislation, one of the provisions of which strips the health and safety officers in regimes and jurisdictions across the country of their powers and puts nearly all of those powers in the hands of the minister. On the one hand the legislation purports to give authority to the C-NLOPB and the offshore safety regulation, and on the other hand, Bill C-4 takes it away.
Could the minister explain why the government is doing that and why it thinks the health and safety of workers throughout this country is so malleable in its hands?
- MPndpOct 30, 2013 12:05 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are dismayed to learn that seriously injured soldiers are being kicked out of the military before they qualify for their pensions. In June, the former defence minister said that injured members are not released from the military until they are prepared to do so, yet today another injured soldier is facing discharge.
Will the new Minister of National Defence intervene and immediately put a stop to this disgraceful practice? The NDP supports our troops. Why will the Conservative government not?
- MPndpOct 29, 2013 7:05 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion that, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House that the House immediately adopt the provisions of private member's Motion No. 461, listed on today's order paper, that deals specifically with the creation of a special committee of this House on security and intelligence oversight, to be appointed to study and make recommendations with respect to the appropriate method of parliamentary oversight of Canadian government policies, regulations and activities in the areas of intelligence, including all of those departments, agencies and review bodies, civilian and military, involved in the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence for the purpose of Canada's national security.
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the new fleet of Sikorsky helicopters were supposed to replace our 50-year-old Sea Kings back in November 2008. That is almost exactly five years ago. This is only one of a series of procurement files the Conservatives have grossly mismanaged.
I have a straightforward and very simple question for the Minister of National Defence. When will the new helicopters be delivered?
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the government claims to be co-operating with the authorities, yet it has not yet said whether it has handed over any documents or which Conservatives were involved.
Has the Prime Minister's Office handed over any documents to the police? Which Conservatives were involved? Has anyone now working in the PMO been interviewed by the police?
- MPndpOct 24, 2013 1:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Labrador on her speech. I have a history with the hon. member. In fact, she and I visited southern Labrador many years ago when we were both in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature. She sat as an independent at that time, and I do not think I need to tell hon. members here today that she will be as feisty a member in this House as she was in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature for 16 years. I congratulate her on her maiden speech, that being the conventional name for this, although it is probably a little inappropriate given the member's political experience.
I was in southern Labrador recently during a provincial byelection, and I can agree with the hon. member about the road conditions and about the lack of cellphone coverage. Never mind roaming fees or fees of any kind, residents of southern Labrador, and other parts of Labrador as well, just cannot communicate in a modern way, and I know these improvements have to be made and I know the member will continue to fight for them.
I want to talk about search and rescue in Goose Bay in particular. We all know about the tragedy of last year. Is the hon. member aware that the search and rescue mandate of the squadron in Goose Bay was in fact downgraded? Instead of having, as it had before, a secondary SAR responsibility, when the report came out after the tragedy of last year, the military spokesperson said it had no role in search and rescue other than any other military aircraft anywhere. Is the member aware that this downgrade has taken place? What is she prepared to do to help fight to restore that?
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 4:30 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am at a bit of a loss. The member says that he is rising to speak to Bill S-6. Bill S-6 is not before Parliament. I understand that we are debating government business Motion No. 2. I do not think that bill has been called yet. Perhaps he should wait until it is called, and then we can debate it.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 3:50 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering whether I am the only person here who is feeling a little manipulated by this debate.
The motion before us is to give any minister opposite the power to reinstate any bill before the House in the last session to its previous place on the order paper, merely by getting up and reading it. The member has taken the opportunity, with this motion, to talk about a particular, individual, separate bill. Yet the reality is that if this motion passes, nobody on this side of the House will have an opportunity to debate any piece of legislation on this list introduced by any minister over there.
The member is taking the opportunity to use up the time on this motion to have his say about a bill that we are not really going to have a chance to talk about, because this is not a debate about that bill.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 11:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, a linguist from Memorial University of Newfoundland, on receiving one of the prestigious Impact Awards for 2013, which was presented by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Dr. MacKenzie was recognized for her work over the past 40 years on the lnnu language, which is spoken by over 18,000 lnnu in Labrador and Quebec. The lnnu language project, led by Dr. MacKenzie, was a partnership involving several universities, together with Quebec and Labrador lnnu educational institutes.
It has produced the first dictionary in lnnu, English, and French, and is an impressive volume that includes more than 27,000 words. This dictionary, together with training and school curriculum materials, will be an invaluable tool, in both preserving lnnu language and culture and promoting the advancement of the lnnu people within Canada.
I ask all honourable members to join in congratulating Dr. MacKenzie and all those who collaborated in this project.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 10:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his remarks. Of course, he is also aware of the closure of the marine rescue centre in St. John's and the attempt to close one in Quebec as well.
I want to talk about oil spill response capabilities. Back in February, the environment commissioner talked about Canada’s lack of preparedness for a major offshore oil spill on its east coast and warned of a potential 300% jump in tanker traffic on the west coast. In June the B.C. environment officials warned the minister that even a moderate oil spill in British Columbia would overwhelm provincial resources and that industry requirements of Transport Canada are deficient in scope and scale.
I wonder why the minister is tweaking this bill and not doing a consultation across the country to find out what is actually needed to ensure that our tanker traffic, coastal communities, and waters are safe from the dangers that even a moderate oil spill would cause.
- MPndpJun 18, 2013 4:25 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, a lot of concern has been raised about the possible stigmatization arising from bills like this, so I think it is important to put in perspective the kind of numbers we are talking about.
There was evidence that in Ontario only 0.001% of those convicted of a crime are found not criminally responsible. That is about one in 100,000 people, and of those the recidivism rate is between 2.5% and 7.5%. For other people who are convicted of a crime, the recidivism rate is between 41% and 44%. For those who think this is about mentally ill people being the problem in society, the other 99,999 people who are before the courts do not have any mental illness. This is not really about mental illness. A very small percentage of people are involved, and a small percentage of them would be considered potential high-risk offenders.
- MPndpJun 13, 2013 10:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to tobacco addiction as much as anybody else, and I appreciate the member's comments.
However, are we into the new normal here now? The Senate passes legislation. It has the whole process, then it comes here. We have one hour of debate, and then closure is called. We are the rubber stamp for the other place. Is that the new normal the government is taking on?
- MPndpJun 13, 2013 7:20 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
With regard to the target for the performance indicator “the total average reserve force paid strength by FY (determined by Director Reserves) compared to the target planned strength as published in annual RPP as %”, as cited on page 33 of the 2013-2014 Report on Plans and Priorities: (a) why is the government’s target “to be determined”; (b) how does the government calculate this target; (c) what information is the government missing in order to calculate this target; (d) what government decisions have not been made in calculating this target; and (e) what has changed since the last target so that the government is not capable of having a target until spring 2014?
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it was a half measure. The reality is, they claim that search and rescue is a “priority”, then they fail to act when warned. For over a year, the report from Defence Research and Development Canada gathered dust, potentially putting lives at risk. New Democrats were warning them. Experts were warning them, and even internal reports were warning them. Improving response times saves lives. They were warned, but they did not act. Why?
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, when I heard the minister describe the Indian Act as being antiquated, outdated, et cetera, I thought he was talking about the Senate, where this bill originated a year and a half ago. It was debated in this House for a few minutes, at around midnight, last week. Now the minister says that if time allocation is not brought in, it will not be passed.
What is going on is that democracy is being turned on its head. The Senate had this bill a year and a half ago. The unelected Senate, which has no New Democrats and has only appointed people, has debated this bill. It called witnesses, and it heard all about it.
Now, for some reason, all of a sudden, it is urgent that we not have debate on this except for five hours. Is this now becoming routine that this House will effectively be only the rubber stamp for what goes on in the Senate? We are turning democracy on its head here. I hoped that the minister would not want to continue doing that.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 12:00 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are not denying having access to PRISM, or being in possession of a secret $90,000 cheque, or that the PMO-controlled funds were used in this process. While Canadians deserve answers, the Minister of National Defence repeatedly failed to answer the three questions today about snooping.
Did the Canadian government have access to PRISM, yes or no?
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 11:20 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we are obviously going to need to see those directives.
PRISM, the U.S. government program that collects information from places like Google, Apple and Facebook, has been making headlines around the world. People are concerned. In the U.K., the government has committed to report to Parliament about its use of PRISM.
Is Canada's Communications Security Establishment making use of information from PRISM? If so, will the government report this use to Parliament, as the British government is doing?
- MPndpJun 07, 2013 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister's Office keep any records about disbursements from this fund, and will the government make these records public?
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 8:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that we are not in the Senate, and we have had no debate on this.
I am motivated to remark on the comments by my colleague from Halifax, who asked what is really going on in relation to this bill.
If we look at the preamble to the bill, it talks about amending it to ensure that, for the first time, I think, the Canada National Parks Act is subservient to any other legislation of Canada. Why is this being talked about in a bill that is supposed to set up a new reserve? Why would that vehicle be used to open a debate about the whole nature of how strong the commitment to national parks is in this country?
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 7:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of a number of residents of my constituency of St. John's East and other ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to reverse the decision to close the Canadian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to reinstate the staff and restore its full services.
These residents and many others in Newfoundland and Labrador are still outraged and concerned that the Government of Canada has closed this very valuable rescue coordinating facility in St. John's that has participated actively in saving lives for many years.
- MPndpJun 04, 2013 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we learned yesterday that the defence minister used the independent National Investigative Service to probe an alleged leak that turned out to be from a U.S. Navy press release. Now we learn the military's elite police force has also been used to investigate the release of embarrassing information on the country's top general.
Could the Minister of National Defence tell us if the NIS is being used as it should be, or is it being used by the minister as a tool to go after those who embarrass him or his department in the media?
- MPndpJun 03, 2013 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, undue political interference is not just happening at the PMO. The office of the Minister of National Defence requested that the independent national investigative service track down how a defence journalist got information on a military exercise with our allies. Of course, the information came from a U.S. Navy press release, a fact noted in the story.
Why did the minister push the independent NIS, a branch of the military police, to go after a journalist? Does the minister have a problem with the media reporting on the facts?
- MPndpMay 30, 2013 8:20 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his contribution to the debate. I agree with him. It would open up the program and ensure there would be more witnesses protected under the program. That is why we support it.
It would be done by expanding the criteria to national security and national defence or other public safety agencies that could refer witnesses to the program and by expanding it to include youth gang members. We are anticipating growth in this program.
However, as early as 2007, it was identified that there were inadequate resources available. Why are we standing pat on that and whistling past the graveyard, as I call it, with respect to the need for funding? We are hearing time and again from members from his party that there is no need for any new money, yet we are talking about expanding the program, doubling it from 90 to 180 days. Where is the connection?
- MPndpMay 30, 2013 7:40 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I could quote Commissioner Micki Ruth, a member of the policing and justice committee of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. He testified on March 7 that the problems identified back in 2007 with the adequacy of funding for the current witness program are not addressed. He said, “We urge you to appreciate our position that unless the issue...is addressed, the legislation will not produce the result that is intended”.
We think there ought to be an independent board, and not the RCMP. The RCMP says that it is comfortable with the funding, but it is the one deciding who gets witness protection and who does not. We have seen from the statistics in 2012 that of the 108 people who were considered, only 30 were given access to the program. We do not know what is going on there for sure.
What we are saying is that we have people such as the police boards, who are in the communities policing people and are the ones looking for secure and safe communities, saying that funding is not adequate. It was identified as long as five or six years ago. Where is the increase? We are increasing the eligibility. Where is the increase in funds?
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