- MPndpMar 12, 2015 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the previously secret board of inquiry report was released to the Fynes family yesterday.
Incredibly, it blames the parents for the death of their son, though he had attempted suicide five times and was being cared for by the military. Sheila Fynes says that this conclusion is gratuitous and outside the accepted bounds of humanity, decency and civility. This comes on top of this week's findings of an incompetent follow-up investigation by the military.
Will the minister apologize to the family for this additional insult to the memory of Corporal Stuart Langridge?
- MPndpMar 10, 2015 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the report of the Military Police Complaints Commission into the death of Corporal Stuart Langridge is scathing. It found incompetence and negligence on the part of the military police.
The current government has consistently failed to right the wrongs in its handlings of the Langridge case. The Department of National Defence has rejected most of the recommendations and had even tried to hide its rejection.
Does the minister agree with his department or will he move to reverse this position and implement the recommendations of the commission released today?
- MPndpMar 10, 2015 9:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I know that many regions of the country, and the member talked about his, are suffering from job losses. However, one of the biggest job creators, certainly in the private sector, has been small businesses. In fact, 78% of all new private sector jobs between 2002 and 2012 have been created by small business. Yet, the Conservatives have really ignored the small business owners in favour of the wealthier corporations. They have cut the corporate tax rate for the wealthiest corporations by over 25%, but their support for small business has only been a cut of 1%. We know where their emphasis has been.
We also know where the job creation is in the private sector. It is in many regions of the country, particularly in rural areas, such as that represented by the hon. member, and in places like Newfoundland and Labrador where every job counts. When there is an unemployment rate of 11.4%, a persistently high unemployment rate, it needs the support of public measures such as those we are proposing in order to advance and provide those jobs that people need.
- MPndpMar 10, 2015 8:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for raising the issue of loan guarantees. It is something that I and my party have supported going back to 2004 and 2005. We were there supporting the notion of a federal loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill development long before the current government made any commitment in that regard.
Clearly, it is a positive thing that the federal government finally decided to support a loan guaranteex for Newfoundland and Labrador hydro development. However, never before today have I heard it referred to as a small business measure. This is an $8-billion project, and it will have a loan guarantee of $6.2 billion. In our understanding, that is not a small business; that is a very large business.
While we recognize that it is an important role for the Government of Canada to play, what we have offered is a cut in the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% in recognition that 98% of all businesses in Canada are small businesses, and they do need help because they are the big job creators.
- MPndpMar 10, 2015 8:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to join in this debate on the NDP motion, which calls upon the government to take seriously the needs of Canadians, for a proper level of stimulation and to deal with the very high, sustained unemployment we have in Canada.
The Conservatives keep talking about job creation, but what we hear is that the job situation in Canada is in fact getting worse. Their plans do not include a solution to the problem. Since the 2008 recession and a long-term downward trend in job quality, as described most eloquently by a recent CIBC report, job quality is going down.
What is job quality? Job quality is an index being used by the CIBC, the employment quality index, that deals with the distribution of full-time and part-time jobs. We are seeing fewer full-time jobs and more part-time jobs; not only part-time jobs, but jobs that have been described as precarious employment. These are short-term part-time jobs and term employment, where one works for a few weeks here and a few weeks there. There is an inability to even qualify for employment insurance, the jobs are so precarious. Therefore, less than 40% of those who are unemployed are even able to qualify for employment insurance, despite the fact that they may have been working quite a bit in the period leading up to their unemployment, because of the changes to the employment insurance regime that this government and the previous Liberal government have brought in.
The employment quality index also deals with self-employment versus paid employment and the compensation ranking of jobs in a hundred different industry groups. It looks at whether we are dealing with good-quality jobs that pay well, that provide some benefits, that allow people to take advantage of a middle-class income standard that gives a quality of life whereby they do not have to be concerned about where their next meal or their next rent cheque is coming from and they have a measure of security for themselves and their families.
That is something that Canadians really deserve to have. We have a very prosperous country. We have superior level of natural resources. The GDP in Canada is very high. However, we have growing inequality.
What do we do about it? We have a government that does not deal with that problem. It comes up with an income-sharing scheme that is extremely expensive and is going to benefit only 15% of the population, and unfortunately, it costs $3 billion of taxpayers' money that could well be spent in providing for programs such as the ones we have put forward, like a high-quality child care program that would allow Canadian families to have quality child care at an affordable price to a maximum of $15 a day. I have heard some of the members opposite describe it today as being a big bureaucracy, somehow or other.
One thing about it is that it would actually require someone to sit down with the provinces, something the Prime Minister has not done since he has been in power. Why is that? It is because he does not really want to have good national programs that raise all boats by giving Canadian working families a real opportunity to have a decent job, to support their families, and to become a part of the middle class to which so many aspire if they are not already there.
That term “middle class” is kind of a funny term to me because, as New Democrats, we have always talked about the working class or people who have been left out, but most Canadians see themselves as either being in or aspiring to be part of the middle class. Therefore, when we talk about middle-class Canadians, we are talking about the bulk of Canadians who see themselves as, hopefully, participating in the economy, having an opportunity for some income security and hopefully retirement security, being able to educate their children, and giving them a good start in life.
Instead, what we have is fear and worry because of the precarious job situation of this generation. They are saying that their parents had a better way of life and that progress ended with their parents.
Do we want the next generation to say that progress in life and in this country ended with their parents? That is a legacy that I do not want to see us leave to the next generation.
That is the danger with the policies of the Conservative government. It is why we are calling for the first priority of the upcoming budget to be investment in measures that stimulate the economy, that create and protect sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada. It is why we are calling for the government to abandon its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.
We talk about all regions of the country. Look at my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are suffering with an unemployment rate higher than 11%. The last number I saw was 11.4% unemployment. That is shocking. To talk about all of this so-called economic progress that has been made is unacceptable.
Instead of seeing job stimulation through investments in infrastructure and job creation, we are seeing what the Conservatives think will get votes from their base. They are rewarding their base because they promised four or five years ago that they would have income splitting, which has been shown to be costly, ineffective, and bad public policy, according to the late finance minister. It has contributed to growing inequality in this country. That is the kind of policy that the Conservative government is putting forward, instead of policies that would help to lower the amount of inequality we have.
It is not only in Newfoundland and Labrador. We see it in other provinces as well, but I will talk about my home province since it is the one closest to my heart. In addition to the high unemployment rate, we have a staggering problem now as a result of the lowering of oil prices. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced that it will be facing a $1 billion deficit for the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador history. It is going to have a very difficult job assisting people, providing the services it has been providing, and providing the kind of stimulus that would be needed to sustain the jobs and growth that are necessary in that economy.
In times like that, provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador do expect the Government of Canada to play a more positive role, to get in there and say it needs to solve some of these problems and help by stimulating the economy, jobs, and growth. It is not doing it.
We are looking for immediate action in the budget to boost job creation and to grow our economy. We are not the only ones who believe it is important that this happens. Concerns have been raised by others who recognize that issues such as a balanced budget are not the most important thing to have in the Canadian economy this year. What is really required is trying to make some progress in economic terms, and we are not doing that.
Kevin Page, for example, said that in the last 10 years, we have made virtually no progress on all of our big issues, such as longer term economic challenges, closing innovation gaps in the economy, dealing with aging demographics that will put pressure on health care, and dealing with environmental sustainability. We have not even had discussions or proposals from the government.
I see that my time is rapidly running out here. We really need to help small business owners. That is part of our proposal and our plan. Cuts to the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, extending the accelerated cost allowances, and other ideas are part of our economic plan. We hope that the members opposite will see the light and support this motion.
- MPndpMar 09, 2015 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the sad saga of the death of Corporal Stuart Langridge continues. At least now the family will not have to sue the Department of National Defence in order to get the department's response to the upcoming report of the Military Police Complaints Commission. However, the family members have still never been shown the results of the previous military board of inquiry into their son's death. They have never been briefed on the inquiry. With the family here in Ottawa today, will the new Minister of National Defence give the family members the findings of the internal board of inquiry in the death of their son, Corporal Stuart Langridge?
- MPndpFeb 26, 2015 11:55 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, staff at the Atlantic Regional Treatment Centre for mentally ill prisoners in New Brunswick have been notified that the centre will close on April 1. Some 45 of the total capacity of 50 beds at Shepody are currently occupied, and we are told that current and future inmates with severe mental illness will be transferred to Archambault near Quebec City, where 100 of 119 beds are already occupied.
Could the minister confirm that he has ordered the closure of the Atlantic Regional Treatment Centre for mentally ill prisoners?
- MPndpFeb 25, 2015 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, universality of service continues to be a policy that haunts the Canadian Armed Forces. It has been condemned not just by soldiers but by the National Defence and the Veterans Ombudsmen. An internal report by DND shows that 70% of Afghan war veterans will be involuntarily released by the CAF within 10 years of deployment. This policy of discharge for those who face mental health challenges must be changed.
When will the minister finally do the right thing, the fair thing, and fix this harsh and arbitrary policy?
- MPndpFeb 23, 2015 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we are looking for a bit of clarity from this government, not just more and more rhetoric.
The Minister of National Defence knows that he should not be publicly musing about becoming militarily involved in Libya or Syria. He knows full well that Canada has not made a legal case for bombing in Syria. The Prime Minister has said that it would require the support of the Assad regime to do so.
Can the minister assure the House that there are no plans for military operations in Syria or Libya?
- MPndpFeb 23, 2015 9:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague from Victoria mentioned the matter of unlawful. The Minister of National Defence mentioned many times over the weekend that we should not worry, that lawful protests and dissent were okay.
However, so many times, whether it be a strike that is not exactly in keeping with the existing labour laws, protest movements like Idle No More, or some of the matters that the member mentioned, they are clearly not authorized by law, which is the proper definition of “unlawful”. It seems to me that it is a very serious problem. It is fooling people into thinking that it is harmless, because if they are not breaking the law, they have nothing to worry about. However, the issue of lawfulness is a real problem for the application of this legislation.
Would the member care to comment on that?
- MPndpFeb 23, 2015 9:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the discretion to decide whether there is a violation of the charter of rights is quite astonishing. In fact, clause 42 says, “The Service shall not take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada if those measures will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, unless they go to a judge.
The determination would have to be made by CSIS officials that they would violate the charter. Who is CSIS to make these determinations in the first place? Only if the people at CSIS were sure that it would, would they then go to a judge.
When we look at the experience of CSIS in dealing with the judiciary already, it has been found to have misinformed—in other words not told the truth—to Mr. Justice Mosley in an application in relation to getting secret powers. There is a real question here as to whether this would be abused, would likely be abused, or would be possible to abuse, particularly if there is no oversight.
- MPndpFeb 23, 2015 9:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.
Bill C-51 is now before us so that we can debate something that is of great importance to the people of Canada. I think its short title is the “anti-terrorism act, 2015”. There is a real question as to what it is really about.
In fact, The Globe and Mail, one of the oldest and most prominent newspapers in Canada, says:
On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may”—not “will”—occur.
That is a pretty fierce condemnation of a piece of legislation by what purports to be a serious government interested in dealing with terrorism.
Let us make no mistake. Terrorism is a real threat and everyone agrees that public safety is a top priority for any government. However, Canadians do not have to choose between their security and their rights. This is in fact a false choice presented to the people of Canada by the current government and by the Prime Minister.
When the member for Ottawa West—Nepean was announcing his retirement as foreign minister, he quoted John Diefenbaker that "Parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.”
I believe that is right. What we are doing here today on this side of the House is what we can and must do as parliamentarians to protect the freedoms of Canadians, because that is the issue here. The issue is that we need to have concrete measures that would keep Canadians safe without eroding our freedoms and our way of life. Unfortunately, time and time again, the current Prime Minister and the current government is putting politics ahead of principle.
Once again, The Globe and Mail stated, on February 1:
Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he [the Prime Minister] now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.
Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties.
Where does that come from? It comes from the provisions in the bill itself, which would give additional powers to CSIS that it does not already have and, arguably, does not need; and which would allow for information-sharing broadly between 16 government departments. The bill does not specify this would be limited in nature. It would cause problems that have been described and outlined by many prominent citizens—former prime ministers, former leaders of political parties, academics, legal expects, former justices of the Supreme Court of Canada—all of whom have condemned the legislation as going too far and giving unnecessary and dangerous powers to government agencies with a profound lack of parliamentary oversight.
The government's position on oversight is that we already have enough, that we have a robust system. We do not. We do not have any system of oversight for the Canada Border Services Agency. We have an appointed body, SIRC, that deals with CSIS, but it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself in its most recent report and it makes the distinction between oversight and review. It says it is a review agency that looks at things some time after the fact. It does not have oversight on a continuous basis over what is going on in the moment on the day. Therefore, it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself and recognizes that oversight is a different value and is required.
Its provisions have been put before the House to provide the kind of oversight that we could use, oversight that some of our Five Eyes friends have over intelligence. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have robust parliamentary or congressional oversight with the power to know what is going on and to keep an eye on things.
This has been rejected outright by the government. There was private member's bill, Bill C-622, that would have modernized a piece of legislation that was before the House in 2006, a piece of legislation that arose out of the committee that you, Mr. Speaker, sat on, along with the current Minister of Justice, who said at that time that this would be a desirable, necessary, and important measure to be undertaken. That bill died on the order paper, but Bill C-622, which proposed modernizing that legislation to some extent—which I am not saying we agreed with entirely—was before the House and was defeated by the government at second reading.
Also before the House is Motion No. 461, a motion that I presented to the House on October 24, 2013, calling for a special select committee of the House, like the one the Speaker and the Minister of Justice sat on, to devise the best and appropriate form of oversight by Parliament that might be required given the change in circumstances since 2004 and the experiences of other jurisdictions, for us to devise the best system for our Parliament.
Although it was offered up for debate, the government House leader refused to allow it to be debated, saying there was no necessity for any more oversight than already in place. That flies in the face of all the experts, the academic experts and people who have studied this time and time again, such as lawyers, judges, former leaders, and former prime ministers, who have all said that parliamentary oversight must be present in a system that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals in this country when we are dealing with this kind of legislation.
The bill is is extremely intrusive. It gives significant police powers, including the power to disrupt activities. I heard the Minister of National Defence—who all of a sudden is the spokesperson for Public Safety, as I do not know what happened to the Minister of Public Safety, who seems to have disappeared off the map since the new Minister of Defence was appointed—say several times over the weekend in various interviews that “No, no, no, we're giving powers to the judiciary, not to CSIS”. That is wrong. The power to disrupt in section 42 of the bill would be given to CSIS directly. It would only be when CSIS decided that whatever it wanted to do would actually violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that it would have to go a judge, and the judge supposedly would be allowed to tell CSIS that it could break the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I do not think that is constitutional. I do not think a judge can have a licence by legislation to violate the Constitution of Canada, which is what the bill would allow. That is how bad this legislation is. that in itself is enough to say that the bill is bad, wrong, unconstitutional, and cannot be supported. I will leave it at that.
- MPndpFeb 19, 2015 2:30 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the hon. member, and I listened to what he was saying here today about oversight and the things that are needed to fix this bill. I have some sympathy for the member's position in a sense, because his leader has said that no matter what the member says, no matter what amendments are made or refused, he is going to vote for the bill.
I wonder why the members of the Liberal Party have abdicated their responsibility as parliamentarians such that when a measure is coming forward that they say they do not agree with, they have committed in advance to voting for it. How is that doing one's parliamentary job?
I just do not understand it. A party that seeks to be in government says, “Well, we are not in government, but we will support the government, even though we are opposed to what it is putting forth”.
- MPndpFeb 03, 2015 8:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I listened with care to my colleague's exposition of the law, and it bothers me tremendously to know that even though we have a fixed election date and the law now says that the next election will be on October 19, even if we wanted to ensure that at each election we had a fresh voters list for Canadians living abroad, surely the doors could be open now.
How many people do we estimate would have to register and be processed and do all of those things within the 35 days of a writ? What possible reason could there be for not starting that process on January 1 of an election year under the fixed election law?
- MPndpFeb 02, 2015 2:20 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question, I am reminded by my colleague. I would ask if the member could answer that.
It is pretty clear what the Prime Minister said after the meeting with Premier Davis. The Prime Minister's Office said that it “was always intended to compensate hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for demonstrable losses...; it was never intended to be a blank cheque”.
Here are talking points replacing a defined agreement that was about something else entirely. That is unfortunately the way the current government operates.
- MPndpFeb 02, 2015 2:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor does not think this debate is a waste of time. However, he raises a very good point. If this were a fisheries adjustment fund, we would have the minister responsible for Service Canada implementing this for worker adjustment. We would not have ACOA. We might have the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or something like that.
This is an industry fund for research and development and things like that. The Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency was brought in after the fact. He was not part of the deal. He did not negotiate the deal. He was brought in for implementation purposes only, to implement a deal that was about industry renewal, industry development, research and development, and innovation, those things his ministry does in other aspects of industry, so it is not surprising to me.
What is surprising to me is that he has been told to do something that is not even related to his department, which is basically worker adjustment. I am afraid we have a serious problem here, and that minister has been sent out to carry the bad can for a government that would not keep its deal.
- MPndpFeb 02, 2015 2:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I reject the notion, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador long ago rejected the notion, that this was a compensation fund for affected individuals. If it is compensation at all—and I do not think it is—the fund is compensation for the government giving up the policy tool.
“Up to” $400 million is really about the 70-30 split. If the Newfoundland government would pay up to $120 million, the federal government would come up with the other $280 million. The $400 million is the combined fund based on the province's contribution. That is where the “up to” comes from. It is very clear that for each $1 that the Newfoundland government puts into this investment fund, the Government of Canada will put in $4. That is where the $400 million comes from. The money is not there as a compensation fund for individuals, although some individuals may receive some assistance.
- MPndpFeb 02, 2015 1:50 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for putting this motion forward. It is extremely important that this be debated in the House. I am shocked to hear the member for Calgary—Nose Hill call it a waste of time to talk about something involving federal-provincial relations between Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa. It was an agreement made between two levels of government at the request of the Government of Canada.
I was supposed to be here earlier today. A taxi left my house at 6:30 a.m., Ottawa time, to get a flight to get here. I got here around 3 p.m. This is a big, diverse country. Each province and jurisdiction has its own industry, issues, problems and jurisdictional responsibilities. Each province acts in a different way within its provincial jurisdiction.
The Alberta government runs its oil and gas industry and royalty regime program differently from other parts of the country. Agriculture is a very important sector in Quebec, Ontario and out west. They all have different ways of doing things. Inside the jurisdiction of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had certainly policy tools at its disposal to protect, develop and grow its industries, and to support the rural culture.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has had a system of minimum processing requirements for a long time so Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can benefit as much as possible from the resources around their shores. Newfoundland and Labrador brought this into the Confederation in 1949, along with all the oil and gas resources in the offshore, as a contributing member of the Canadian Federation.
A lot of the talk around slush funds reminds me of the attitudes of some Canadians about treating Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as some sort of a handout province within Canada. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is only recently that Newfoundland and Labrador has been considered a have province, with oil and gas prices at a very significant level. That may or may not change as a result of the drop in oil prices, but we are very proud to contribute on a fiscal level in a way that we had not before. However, we have always contributed to Canada in terms of our resources, our human resources, our educated and skilled people who went throughout Canada and helped to create the wealth of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. That is part of what Confederation is about.
We do have divided jurisdictions in Canada. We have federal responsibilities and we have provincial responsibilities. International trade is a federal matter. It is up to the Government of Canada to negotiate trade deals. CETA is one of them, and it is an important one. There is no question about it.
However, this is not about CETA and whether it is good or bad for Canada and Newfoundland. We know that there are big advantages to the Newfoundland fishery of the removal of the tariff on shrimp and cod fish. It has been an irritant for many years. In fact, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have complained about the fact that the Government of Canada has not used its influence with Europe to fix this in the past. There have been complaints for decades, going back 30, 40, 50 years, about the failure of the Government of Canada to protect the offshore fish stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador, instead of allowing them to be overfished and reduced to the point they were.
There is a lot of history around this. The jurisdiction of the Newfoundland government to have control over fish processing and minimum processing requirements is part of a policy tool that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has had.
Seafood production and the provincial seafood sector are extremely important to Newfoundland and Labrador, with over $1 billion in production value in 2013 alone and more than 18,000 people directly employed, mainly in the rural parts of the province. Minimum processing requirements are one of the policy tools within the jurisdiction of the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
What happened? This conflicted with the negotiated requirements and expectations of the Europeans, who said to Canada that they wanted it off the table. They wanted Newfoundland and Labrador to withdraw that policy tool. That was not said by Newfoundland and Labrador; it was said by the Europeans.
Then the Government of Canada, the Minister of International Trade and his department, called and asked the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do this. They said that it was a demand at the table and they would like Newfoundland and Labrador to get rid of this policy tool as it affected the deal with Europe. It was not just for next year but forever. The province was asked what it would like in return for giving up this policy tool. The negotiations then began in good faith and resulted in an agreement.
However, this was not solely about compensating individuals who may have lost a specific job. I think that was what the federal government wanted initially, but it was very clear that was not what resulted at the end of the day. In fact, the negotiations, the exchange of letters, all of those things have been examined by independent people, including, for example, Professor Saul Schwartz, the public policy professor at Carleton University. He looked at the documents, the exchange and the correspondence, even correspondence from the minister responsible for ACOA. He concluded that the province's interpretation of what went on in the final deal was absolutely right.
A CBC story reads:
Saul Schwartz said based on his analysis of letters between former International Trade Minister...and Keith Hutchings, the former provincial fisheries minister, the deal is broader than what the federal government is now saying.
Schwartz said the letters show the money is meant to build a fishery of the future.
Therefore, when the minister said that this was only for adjustment and Mr. Hutchings said, no, that they wanted it for both any harm that might be done and for industry development, the positions were clear. In the end, the Minister of International Trade caved and said that the province could use it for industry development as well.
The article continues with:
Schwartz said the federal government could not have believed the fund was to be used for displaced workers only.
This is consistent with the debate we have heard from the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. He quoted a lot of correspondence and letters on what went on for many months.
This is a matter of great controversy in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not something that just slid under the table. The Newfoundland government was criticized by people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, by people who were concerned about giving up this policy tool, people who said that it should not do that. The government had to take the criticism on chin, but made it very clear that this agreement was about fisheries development, fisheries research, marketing development and other aspects of the fishery of the future.
I mentioned earlier about different jurisdictions. The federal government is responsible for fisheries, but the Newfoundland government is responsible for fish processing and other aspects of the fishing industry. However, because this is such a big concern in Newfoundland and Labrador that the federal government has let it down, Newfoundland has gone into paying for its own scientific research because the federal government has failed to do so.
This is not a waste of time today. We are asking the House to recognize that it is very important for the Government of Canada, in dealing with the province, to deal in good faith. When one makes a deal, one makes a deal. The deal was $400 million.
I can say without question that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador would never be able to say to anyone in the House that this $400 million was only for individuals who would lose their jobs in the next two, three or four years in the implementation. Not a chance. In fact, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and Keith Hutchings, the minister of intergovernmental affairs and former fisheries minister, told me that they were told by the federal government to think outside the box, that this was not just about the fisheries. Whatever the province wanted to put on the table, the federal government wanted it to give up this jurisdiction, this policy. This was not talking about how the workers individually might be affected. The federal government wanted the province to give up the jurisdiction and asked what it wanted from the federal government in return.
There were lots of things on the table. What it came down to in the end was a joint fund. The Government of Canada would put up as much as $280 million and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador $120 million.
What was that for? Was it to compensate individual workers? No. If there were demonstrable effects, they would be compensated, but outside of that, it was designed as a fund.
This $280 million is in the federal budget now. It is not there for 2020, when this deal might be implemented and we might be seeing some effects; it is in the budget now, and it is designated for the fisheries investment fund. It is an investment fund, not a compensation fund. It is a fisheries investment fund to deal with marketing, development, innovation, research, and all of those things that are important to Newfoundland and Labrador because of the significant need for the province to develop its fishery, independent of some of the other problems that are going to come about.
Therefore, this is not something one could even argue about. When the Minister of Justice came to Newfoundland and said, “This is not meant to be a slush fund”, what an insult it was to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. What an insult to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to suggest that is what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are trying to pretend it is, that they want slush from the Government of Canada. I am shocked and shamed that the minister would say that.
Not too long ago, before the minister was responsible for ACOA, the minister was the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador. For him to come to Newfoundland and Labrador and say that I found insulting and not worthy of him, frankly. The Minister of Justice knows Newfoundland and Labrador. He has lots of good friends there. He goes fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador. I found it offensive for him to say that.
We have even heard it suggested that this was a fund for all the Atlantic provinces. I do not know who said that. I hope the minister can say that he did not say that and that he never intended that. Of course, why would Newfoundland and Labrador put up $120 million for an Atlantic fund if no other provinces were doing anything to do with that?
However, that is how far this debate has gone. It seems that it is like shifting sand to sit down with the Government of Canada and make an agreement in good faith. It was something the Government of Canada wanted. It was not Newfoundland and Labrador going cap in hand to Ottawa and asking the government to do something for it because it might be affected by this deal. It was a specific policy option that the European negotiators said to Canada they wanted off the table or there would be no deal. The Newfoundland and Labrador government, in good faith, entertained the request from Ottawa to do this, knowing it was a policy option that whatever its use or effect was now, was something they could not do in five or 10 or 20 years' time, because this was an agreement that was going to last forever.
There were negotiations and discussions back and forth between two mature partners, each with its own constitutional jurisdictions. This is not someone coming cap in hand looking for a handout from a parent. This is a jurisdiction that has it as a right under its law, whether we like it or not. Some people might call it protectionist. I can call Buy America protectionist too, but it does not change the power of the United States to do it.
We can argue whatever way we want about the trade deal itself and on the whole net benefit question, and that debate is going on in Canada, at least in some quarters. The Liberals have decided they like the deal. They did not need to read it. They did not need to see the text. They did not need to see anything. Whatever the government does on it, they support it.
We are having a look at that, and at the end of the day we will decide what our view is on it. In the meantime, this debate is not about that. It is about a specific detail that involves the Government of Canada, which we hope and fully expect can deal in good faith with the partners of Confederation.
We know the Prime Minister does not meet with the provincial premiers as a whole. He had a meeting with our premier in December, and our premier came away and said, “I don't think we can trust this guy.”
That is a shocking state of affairs. A Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador came to Ottawa to meet with thePrime Minister, knowing the background and expecting that it was obviously some misunderstanding because the minister responsible for ACOA , even in early October of 2014, was referring to it as a fishery transition initiative and by the end of the month was saying something different.
The premier came to Ottawa with the minister of intergovernmental affairs and said, “Obviously this is a misunderstanding. We'll go to the source. We'll talk to the Prime Minister and it'll be sorted out. If there's a misunderstanding, we've got the documents, we've got the correspondence, we've to the whole shebang.”
He did not hear anything from the Minister of International Trade, by the way. He was absent from this discussion. He is the guy who made the deal, but he was not around. The minister responsible for ACOA was put on the hot seat and told, “Okay, you're going to take this position now”, but he did not negotiate the deal. I do not think the minister for ACOA was at the table.
The Minister of International Trade and his representatives were, including, according to John Ivison of the National Post, the now principal secretary for Minister of International Trade, who was at the table and who did write to the Prime Minister and the Newfoundland government about this matter.
However, all of these people who were involved were not around. It was just the minister responsible for ACOA who was asked to carry the bad news to Newfoundland and Labrador that we were not going to follow this agreement.
Newfoundlanders are a trusting group of people. When they make a deal, they feel that the other party is going to follow through in the good faith that the deal was made, so the premier came to Ottawa to see thePrime Minister and had a meeting, apparently on very short notice, with the Prime Minister, which was a good thing. I am certainly pleased to hear that it took place. Unfortunately, the results of that meeting were very dissatisfying for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador because, lo and behold, the Prime Minister repeated what now appear to be talking points. We heard the deputy government House leader repeat those talking points today, saying “Why would we do that?”
Well, the fact of the matter is that the government did do that. Why? It was because it wanted Newfoundland and Labrador to give up this jurisdictional policy tool that it had at its disposal and was using and wanted to continue to use. The idea was “We will give it up, not for the benefits of CETA in general but in response to the program that the Government of Canada put on the table after much negotiation.”
As John Ivison says:
The solution is simple. The [Conservative] government should stump up the $280 million it agreed to pay on the implementation of CETA. And Ministers Hutchings and King should stay home and save their breath....
That is the problem we have. The problem is that the government is not meeting the agreement that it made and is not following through on its commitments. Unfortunately, given those circumstances, it cannot be trusted.
I do not think this can be belaboured very much, but I do want to say there was an email to the Newfoundland government in October of 2013—so this agreement is not new; this is old—to Mr. Bill Hawkins, chief of staff to the trade minister, who is now the Prime Minister's principal secretary. The email says:
...a transitional program of up to a combined total of $400 million that would address fish and seafood industry development and renewal, as well as workers whose jobs are displaced in future.
That was the deal. It is known to be the deal, and this government is trying to back out of it.
- MPndpJan 29, 2015 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, today, before the joint committee meeting on the mission in Iraq, the Chief of the Defence Staff said that he gave the order that special forces could call in air strikes at the front lines as part of the advise and assist mission. He described this as an evolution and agreed the situation had changed.
Canada is now an outlier in its operations compared with our allies.
Was the Minister of National Defence aware of this expansion of the mission and did he give his approval?
- MPndpJan 28, 2015 12:25 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a most serious question of privilege pursuant to Standing Order 48 of the House of Commons. This is a question of grave importance because it concerns misleading information that the Prime Minister has provided to this House regarding the Canadian military engagement in Iraq.
This is an extremely serious matter. Misleading statements are not only a breach of the privileges that MPs must rely on in the carrying out of their duties as parliamentarians but they are also a breach of the trust of Canadians who elected this Parliament to govern responsibly.
Therefore, I will be asking that you find that a prima facie case of privilege exists, so that the matter can be further investigated in committee.
I want to point out that this is the first opportunity that I have had to raise this issue since it became clear that the Prime Minister had indeed misled the House last fall.
New facts have been uncovered every day this week to illustrate how Canadians were deceived, but only yesterday, under questioning by the Leader of the Opposition, myself and the member of Parliament for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, did it become clear that the Prime Minister and his defence minister have no explanation as to why he misled the House ahead of last year's vote to send our troops into battle.
Let me take a moment to remind the House of the facts surrounding the engagement of Canadian ground forces against ISIL, as well as the clear contradictions of those facts against the Prime Minister's statements last year.
We have to remember that the mission to Iraq consists of two elements, the actual air combat mission involving Canadian Forces CF-18s as well as the other air assets, and the ground forces of the special operations forces in northern Iraq who are engaged in what was called an advise and assist training mission. We are talking here about the action of the ground forces.
This week, Canadian military officials and indeed the defence minister confirmed that Canadian Forces ground personnel have been supporting Iraqi forces in the following ways: regularly accompanying them to the front line; calling in air strikes; painting targets, which is accepted by the military community as a combat role; and engaging in return of fire with ISIL fighters.
On September 30, in the days before members of Parliament were asked to authorize sending Canadian Forces personnel into Iraq, the Prime Minister faced direct, detailed and intense questioning from the Leader of the Opposition.
The NDP leader asked:
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that the rules of engagement are to advise and assist the Iraqis, but the question is, assist them how? For instance, are Canadian soldiers currently going on patrols with Iraqis or Kurds?
The Prime Minister responded very clearly, even switching from French to English in order to say precisely what he intended.
Mr. Speaker, I said advise and assist the Iraqis. If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister informed the House in the days before the vote on the most sacred duty that MPs have, which is a decision to send our brave men and women in uniform into harm's way in the name of our country.
When the NDP leader asked this simple six-word question, “Are they going into combat zones?”, the Prime Minister again responded very clearly, “Mr. Speaker, I just said that Canadian soldiers are not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat.”
We must remember the vote was on October 7 and this is questioning on September 30 and beyond.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that during these days of intense questioning in the House and by the media, the Prime Minister was in possession of the best and most accurate information on Canada's proposed military deployment. Perhaps he was even setting the terms of the deployment himself. There can be no doubt that the Prime Minister knew exactly what parameters were set out for our armed forces being sent into a theatre of war.
Today we know that the Canadian military ground troops have been involved in multiple firefights with ISIL forces and are the only coalition partner reported to have been involved in any at all. We know that they have regularly accompanied Iraqi forces to the front lines, not under extraordinary circumstances but as a matter of routine duty. We know that they are conducting duties that the international military community routinely defines as combat roles, including painting targets.
The Canadian Armed Forces ground forces are engaged in activities that our Prime Minister explicitly ruled out when this Chamber was making its decision on whether or not to authorize the mission. He misled the House and Canadians in a deliberate attempt to downplay Canada's level of engagement as well as the risk involved to our brave men and women in uniform.
Canadians, including the loved ones of our soldiers, had a right a know the truth and the Prime Minister withheld that from them and instead provided information that we now know was false.
Parliamentarians had a right to know the truth too as each and every MP in this place made our individual decision to support or oppose the mission according to our consciences and influenced heavily by the answers and assurances of the Prime Minister.
I ask you today, Mr. Speaker, to defend these rights and our democratic institution of Parliament by finding that there is a prima facie case of privilege and contempt of Parliament.
For the sake of clarity, let me remind everyone here of the rights afforded to members of Parliament to carry out their duties on behalf of Canadians. These are the rights afforded to members of Parliament. They are spelled out on page 75 of the 23rd edition of Erskine May's A Practical Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. Parliamentary privilege is defined as:
...the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions.
Parliamentary privileges are of utmost importance not only for our parliamentarians but also for Canadians who have put their trust and faith in Parliament to legislate on their behalf and to hold their government to account. In other words, it is a fundamental aspect of our democratic society.
Canadians trust that we can perform these tasks unimpeded and unobstructed. They trust that their government will provide truthful answers in the House. These are basic principles of paramount importance for Canadians to continue to believe and engage in our democratic process.
Breaches of these privileges can take many forms, but the one we are dealing with today, misleading the House, is one of the most serious and citing the Prime Minister for this action is the most serious of all.
On page 111 of Erskine May it states that “The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt”.
The second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice by O'Brien and Bosc also tells us on page 111 that the provision of deliberately misleading information constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.
I will quote further from page 63 of Erskine May which states:
It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.
It is important to note here that no explanation has been given either by the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence as to why the information given to Canadians by the government on the mission was so blatantly false.
Mr. Speaker, you gave a ruling on a previous incidence of the Prime Minister blatantly providing misleading information to the House, and I am referring to the information he provided about who in his office knew that his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was paying a sitting parliamentarian $90,000 to help to promote the Prime Minister's Office's version of events on the Senate spending scandal.
When the NDP brought that matter up in the House as a question of privilege, as I am today, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that while the Prime Minister had obviously given the House information that was not true, his own assertion that he simply did not know what all his staff was up to was enough to get him off the hook. I hate to use the vernacular, but that is essentially what the ruling was.
However, in that ruling you cited Speaker Fraser's December 4, 1986 assertion, found on page 1792 of Debates, October 30, 2013, that:
Differences of opinion with respect to fact and details are not infrequent in the House and do not necessarily constitute a breach of privilege.
You also cited House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 510:
In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.
However, I would contend here that there is no possible way to interpret the current contradiction as a difference of opinion. Canadian ground troops are accompanying Iraqi forces to the front line and the Prime Minister said they were not.
You also made it very clear in that ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the Chair has an important role to play, however limited, when allegations are made that the House has been misled. You stated in a separate ruling that three elements were to be met before the Chair could rule that a prima facie case had been made. Your ruling said that:
One, it must be proven that the statement was misleading; two, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that in making the statement, the member intended to mislead the House.
On element number one, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister told the House things that have now clearly been shown to be false with respect to the nature of the Canadian Forces mission in Iraq.
On element number two, did the Prime Minister know that the statement was incorrect? I think that is an important matter. The Prime Minister is the head of the government and is required to know the details of military engagement.
Indeed, we have heard today in this House and yesterday from the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence that the military in Iraq have been acting on the mandate given to them by this House. If that was the understanding of the mandate by the Prime Minister at the time the debate and vote took place, that is the time he was saying in this House that ground troops would not be involved at the front line, they would not be involved in the combat zone, and they would not be painting targets.
On element number three, that the member intended to mislead the House, we believe, and there can be little doubt, that the Prime Minister misled this House and Canadians in order to minimize the risk that public opinion or the consciences of parliamentarians would turn against him ahead of the vote to authorize the mission. I think we all remember in this House, and Canadians remember, the discussion about no boots on the ground engaged in combat. We would not have that.
Therefore, it was clearly intended to make members of this House believe and understand that our troops, the people who were being sent to Iraq in the training mission to advise and assist, would not in fact be engaged in combat because the government knew, the Prime Minister knew, and the House knew that Canadians would not favour such a position.
Mr. Speaker, in your ruling on the Prime Minister's false statements on the Mike Duffy affair, you also emphasized the importance of the time-honoured tradition of accepting a member's word in the House. That is what members on this side of the House, and indeed members on all sides of the House, would have accepted when the Prime Minister made those statements in the House on September 30 and at other times during the debate leading up to the vote on October 7.
This, I submit, is the very tradition of accepting the word of an hon. member, in particular the word of the Prime Minister, that we are at risk of losing under the watch of this Prime Minister. Obfuscation, omission of facts, bluster, bravado, and simple refusal to answer questions are all time-honoured traditions of this House as well, and they are tactics that have been mastered by previous Conservative and Liberal governments for decades. However, and this is very important, providing false information is quite a different matter. Not only is it unethical, it is clearly against the rules of this place.
What we do know is that clear and easily avoidable false statements have been made to this House by the Prime Minister, which not only is a prima facie breach of the privileges of all members but also of all Canadians who have put their trust and faith in Parliament. These Canadians include the husbands and wives, the mothers and fathers, and the sons and daughters of Canada's courageous soldiers, who were clearly and repeatedly told that their loved ones would not be engaged in ground combat in the Iraq theatre. Now the Canadian people and the families of those soldiers have no reason to trust the current Prime Minister when he proclaims that their loved ones are not meant for combat duty against ISIL.
Mr. Speaker, as has been done in the past, as you will likely note, I want to leave the final word to the current Minister of Justice and former Minister of National Defence. He made a remarkable statement, which I think is worthy of repeating. In 2002, he said the following:
I would suggest in the strongest possible terms that members of the House of Commons must be able to rely on the information they receive in response to questions placed to ministers. This goes to the very cut and thrust of the responsibilities of members of the House of Commons. A high standard has to be met....
He later said:
Integrity, honesty and truthfulness in this Chamber should not ebb and flow like the tides. This should be something that is as solid as the ground we walk on and as solid as the foundation of this very building in these hallowed halls. Every time we come into this Chamber, we should be reminded of that.
For whom is this rule more important to follow than the Prime Minister himself?
That is my submission, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that you find that there is a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament and a question of privilege that should be therefore referred to committee. If you so find, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.
- MPndpJan 28, 2015 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, what we are actually expecting is some real oversight of intelligence operations by this Parliament, the kind that the Minister of Justice was in favour of when he was in opposition.
No one is questioning the need to go after those who download terrorism-related material. However, what we are concerned about is the potential that the Communications Security Establishment may again be going beyond its mandate and monitoring Canadians.
Can the Minister of National Defence say categorically that the CSE is not monitoring the domestic activities of Canadians?
- MPndpJan 27, 2015 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I submitted a formal question to the minister on the order paper requesting the cost of the military mission in Iraq, and I was expecting a serious answer. Instead, the minister's response was that he will only provide the information his department has 90 days after our time in Iraq is complete, whenever that might be.
Can the Minister of National Defence confirm that his department is actually in possession of the cost estimates but that he just will not release them?
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 12:20 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I rise under Standing Order 52(2) to ask for an emergency debate in the House on the issue of the military mission of the Canadian Forces in Iraq. It arises as a result of revelations made only in the past week.
This is the first opportunity to raise the matter of the engagement of the Canadian Forces in matters that were not contemplated by the House prior to the authorization that was given on October 7, 2014, for a mission to Iraq and in fact contrary to those assurances given in the House by the Prime Minister, in the foreign affairs committee by the Minister of National Defence, and since then, repeatedly, by the Chief of the Defence Staff that the engagement of the Canadian Forces ground troops would not be involved in combat.
There have been three occasions now, one revealed last week and two more today, of engagement by Canadian Forces special operations forces in firefights or gun battles with ISIL operatives, spending considerable time, some 20%-plus, routinely on the front lines in harm's way, in reach of machine gun fire, which is an indication of how close they are.
This was not contemplated. In fact, when asked specific questions, the Prime Minister in the House and the Minister of National Defence in committee, as to whether or not our ground forces would be painting targets for the air strikes, we were repeatedly assured that there would be no combat engagement by our Canadian Forces troops.
The news last week and this morning came as a shock to Canadians who were assured that this would not be the case.
This Parliament gave the authorization for the mission back on October 7. The mission, as has been described in the last week, is very different from what Canadians and the House was assured of, and what the House was led to expect.
This is an opportune time for a full debate in Parliament about this. Other opportunities, such as question period, are not sufficient to receive the kind of response we need. We need a more fulsome debate.
An emergency debate under Standing Order 52(2) would be an opportunity for that debate. Parliament was where this motion was brought down in October and Parliament is where this debate should take place. There is an emergency debate procedure. The conflicting messages from the government and military officials have left Canadians confused about what risks our troops are confronting in Iraq and the extent of parliamentary authorization for this mission. There is also ongoing ambiguity about costs, success criteria and the length of the Canadian mission.
We know there will be debate in April about the potential continuation of this mission, but the nature of the mission is the source of confusion. There have been conflicting statements today, in the past and in the last week.
There ought to be a full emergency debate today about this matter. We rely on your careful consideration of this application, Mr. Speaker, and look forward to your ruling.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 12:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
With regard to the Canadian Armed Forces’ advise and assist mission to Iraq announced on September 5, 2014: (a) what are the estimated total and incremental costs of the mission; (b) are there other personnel associated with this mission and, if so, how many; and (c) is this mission scheduled to end six months from October 7, 2014, the date the motion to initiate it was adopted by the House of Commons?
- MPndpDec 11, 2014 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, rising costs and slipping timelines of the F-35s were laid out in careful detail in yesterday's independent review report. There could be $1 billion more in costs and the final purchase could be pushed back to 2025, a far cry from the $9 billion originally claimed in 2010. The report also says three other jets could equally meet Canada's needs.
Will the Conservatives be having an open competition, or are they still in favour of a sole-sourced purchase of the F-35s?
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 7:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is also signed by a number of individuals in St. John's and other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. The petitioners state that Canada does not recognize transpersons who identify as a particular gender without genital reconstructive surgery or persons who identify as neither male nor female, and that the effects of denying correct gender markers to transcitizens denies them the freedom to fully express who they are. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to ensure the Government of Canada takes action to ensure equal rights for all citizens by allowing all citizens to identify truly to themselves.
- MPndpDec 01, 2014 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about gravely serious allegations of a pattern of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment spanning four decades. This involves young people between 12 and 18 participating in the cadet program on Canadian Forces bases, and it includes cases involving Canadian Forces personnel.
We have a solemn responsibility to protect these young people. How long has the Minister of National Defence been aware of these allegations, and what action is he taking to deal with this horrific situation?
- MPndpNov 27, 2014 10:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for her question and for her concern about this issue.
Speed is very important. That is why part of my speech was to emphasize that, yes, we appear to have unity today in the House. As my colleague pointed out, it has been more than six months that the group has been trying to meet with the minister and the government. She has agreed to do that and has shown some compassion. We need to move very quickly, because each and every day that goes by, we know that these individuals have needs. Those needs are going to become greater. Two of these individuals have died in the last year, so it is very important that whatever effort can be made be made soon.
It is important that the government act in good faith, meet with the individuals, understand their needs, and provide something that is going to satisfy them
- MPndpNov 27, 2014 10:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question, but I do take issue with one of his comments, which is that Canada has been trying to help. As early as 1962, discussions about compensation began, and it was not until 1991 that some form of compensation was offered. However, clearly it was totally inadequate to provide for the needs of these individuals.
Yes, I agree with the member that it is important to have unity on this issue, because it does express the unanimous feeling of Canadians about this story, which has been hidden for some time. It has been invisible. People remember it, but they were never faced with its consequences and the heartbreaking stories of the individuals who we now know about today who are struggling. Yes, we need to have unity of purpose here, but the real thing that we need is a proper, good faith system based on the models we have seen, such as that in the U.K. and in Germany with a lump sum payment and a substantial monthly payment that provides for the needs they have on an individual basis.
That is what is really needed here today: unity first, good faith solutions second.
- MPndpNov 27, 2014 10:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the opposition day motion presented by the member for Vancouver East. The motion would ensure that we see a response from the government to the plea made by the surviving victims of the thalidomide drug and the tragedies that occurred in 1960, 1961, which continue to this day for these individuals who survived the approval of this drug for pregnant women suffering from nausea or insomnia. In some cases, even though a single pill was prescribed, it caused birth defects.
The resolution itself calls for full support to be offered to the survivors of thalidomide, that the urgent need to defend the rights and dignity of those affected by thalidomide be recognized, and that the government provide support to survivors and “in co-operation with” the Thalidomide Survivors Task Force, as per the amendment moved.
I do not know what the amendment means, so I will start with it. I hope that the change in the wording from “as requested by” to “in co-operation with” will not mean a lessening of good faith and commitment by the government to support the needs of the surviving victims of the thalidomide tragedy. I would want to see the principles that are spelled out and suggested by the Thalidomide Survivors Task Force to be honoured in any discussions or negotiations. We have precedents in other countries, which have been far more compassionate and responsive to the needs of thalidomide victims in recognizing the responsibility of their governments to look after them.
Let me speak for a moment about the circumstances and the timeline of what happened. We are talking about something that occurred in 1961. As a young boy, I recall the tragedy. It was something that we saw pictures of on television and in the newspapers. It was heartbreaking to see the consequences of the use of this drug on the children who were born at that time. In some cases, they were born with no arms, but had hands protruding from where their arms should have been. Other children were born with organ problems, were blind, or had other severely debilitating conditions that have caused them enormous struggles over many years.
The timelines were very short. I commend The Globe and Mail for bringing the issue to the doorsteps of the nation and its other newspapers and media, and the message that it is time that the government deal with this tragedy. Some of these thalidomide survivors received some sort of settlement in 1991, which has been described by many of them as a take it or leave it offer that did not satisfy their needs in any real way.
The application to allow this drug to be used was made to the Canadian food and drug directorate in September of 1960. The approval was given in November 1960, two months later. A month after that, there were articles in the medical journals warning that thalidomide was the possible cause of nerve damage. Yet in April Canada put thalidomide on the market. Within six months of its approval, it was being sold despite the fact that warnings were already appearing in the journals.
In April 1961, thalidomide was put on the market. By November 1961, the manufacturer took it off the market in Germany as a result of media reports revealing suspicions in the medical community that thalidomide was causing malformations in babies. By December, it was pulled in Britain and in Australia, but it was not until the next year in March that the Canadian food and drug director advised that thalidomide should be removed from the market. However, it remained available in some pharmacies until mid-May. The consequences were horrific for victims who were born with the defects that we have talked about as a result of their mothers having taken this drug.
The article in The Globe and Mail said:
The thalidomide scandal caused a furor in Canada in the early sixties, shocking a nation that trusted in the safety of medications and the federal gatekeepers who were supposed to screen them. The story has been largely forgotten, but its victims have never escaped it. Now almost all in their early 50s, many are exhausted and in pain, unable to work, and struggling to get by.
They need help. They need the help from a country that should be compassionate and caring, the kind of country that we on this side of the House have been struggling to build for many decades.
The needs of these individuals have been spelled out by the Thalidomide Survivors Task Force. It has been seeking, since last March, to get a meeting with the minister to talk about it. Now we have this resolution, as a result of all of the publicity and the public becoming aware of this. It is very timely. I want to congratulate the member for Vancouver East for bringing it forward and to thank the government for responding positively. We hope that this will pass today with unanimous approval of the House, but we are concerned that the principles the victims requested be included in any resolution to this situation.
I will run through what the thalidomide group has told us are the principles they want respected. They want a one-time payment to survivors to help them address their immediate and urgent needs, such as health care and assistive devices for living circumstances, and they also want a monthly payment to survivors, based on the level of disability, to assist with their ongoing care and medical needs.
In the United Kingdom, for example, there is a substantial grant administered by a trust providing payments to survivors based on their level of need. The average payment is approximately $88,000 Canadian, which is a very substantial amount of money. Given that it is based on need, it provides us with an idea of how great the need is of these individuals in dealing with the problems they have encountered. Many are in pain. Many require a tremendous amount of help to be able to carry on with the activities of daily life.
I want to end by saying that it is important to me and my constituents, and I think to all Canadians, that we recognize the need and the situation these individuals find themselves in as the result of a failed system of protection of Canadians that was in place when they were born.
- MPndpNov 26, 2014 12:00 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence implied that the minister would finally reveal the cost of the Iraq mission at yesterday's defence committee meeting, but yesterday the minister was mum. Either his parliamentary secretary was misleading Canadians or the minister got cold feet. This is not a state secret we are talking about. The Americans have shared their costs with the American people, and the Australians have shared their costs with the Australian people.
The minister has been given these costs by the Chief of the Defence Staff, so when will the minister share the costs of the Iraq mission with Canadians?
- MPndpNov 18, 2014 11:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, how is it that, despite official denials, the government is down in Washington organizing an early production date for F-35s? The Pentagon did not say that these documents were wrong or that the presentation was wrong; it said it was “...for official use only. It was to inform future decisions regarding Canada's F-35 acquisition”.
The document does state that, for this proposed swap to happen, the Conservatives will have to deliver a letter of intent this month. Will the government be doing that?
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 8:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, news has come out this morning that the government has told the United States that it plans to buy at least four F-35 fighter jets. Pentagon documents show that the Conservatives have asked to swap places with the United States Air Force in the production line and place the order in the current fiscal year.
Could the government confirm that this is the case? Did it really bring back the sole-sourced F-35 purchase without Canadians or Parliament being told anything about it?
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 8:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague just pointed out, the rate of satisfaction of Canadian Armed Forces members with the health care they receive is far below National Defence's target levels. Despite the well-known problems in staffing military mental health care, $41 million of spending on health care for soldiers was allowed to lapse last year while the crisis in military mental health unfolded. This is unacceptable.
Why has the current government failed on almost every measure to deliver the needed health care for soldiers and veterans during this urgent crisis?
- MPndpNov 06, 2014 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence is now confirming publicly that the Conservatives' Canada first defence strategy for military procurement is in shambles. The departmental performance report tabled yesterday notes that little more than half of CFDS projects are on time. When we look at the joint and common support projects, none of them are on time, despite a target of 85%. Now that is not performance.
Can the minister explain this abject failure to the House?
- MPndpOct 31, 2014 8:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Conservatives have a budgeting problem at the Department of National Defence. On average, over the last 7 years the Conservatives have underspent 23% of funds allocated to defence.
It is a major part of the surplus, but it is happening while mental health services are chronically understaffed; critical procurement, like the joint support ships and fixed-wing search and rescue, have been delayed for years; and while soldiers are being forced out of service before they qualify for pensions.
Does the minister really think that is good planning?
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 3:25 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-622. I have to say I am not surprised by the remarks I just heard from the government, but let me first talk about the bill itself.
I want to thank, once again, the member for Vancouver Quadra for bringing forth Bill C-622. It seeks to do two things, as has been pointed out by her. It seeks to change the nature of the intelligence agency CSEC and Parliament's ability to oversee its activities, which are two separate things, divided in two parts.
The Minister of National Defence has a lot of control over the activities of CSEC, and in fact can make things legal that would otherwise be illegal in such a way that we actually do not know what the rules are. That also deals with the issue of metadata. However, part two seeks to establish an intelligence security committee of Parliament, not of any particular House of Parliament but of Parliament itself and not a parliamentary committee, with members of Parliament and senators together to provide oversight. Those are the two separate parts.
We know that there have been plenty of warnings that CSEC needs greater oversight and that as we move forward with changes to greater security measures and powers, we also need greater oversight. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives have been refusing to act, and we heard the same thing today.
Under the Conservative government, the spying activities of CSEC and its budget have ballooned to four times what it was in 1998, yet Canada remains the only member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that does not have parliamentary oversight of its intelligence activities. By “parliamentary oversight”, clearly we are talking about members of Parliament to whom the government is accountable, having oversight over the intelligence activities of the executive.
New Democrats support the spirit of Bill C-622 to establish this parliamentary oversight, but we do not think the bill is robust enough. We also think that it should not include senators because that destroys the democratic legitimacy of the kind of oversight that we are talking about. Our proposal, which I mentioned in my question to my colleague from Vancouver Quadra, was a plan to have comprehensive parliamentary oversight by a committee of Parliament of all intelligence activities, not just of CSEC, crafted to take into account the modern realities.
We know something was done 10 years ago and things have changed since then, but we want the whole thing evaluated and looked at afresh to craft the best possible committee, taking into account the changes and modern technology and hearing from experts about what is the best way to deal with the technology that we have.
Given the indication from the other side that the government will not be supporting the bill, it is not likely to even get to committee, so we will not have the opportunity, unfortunately, to deal with the questions of the bill itself. However, I want to indicate that New Democrats support the measures included in it that would make a change, particularly in the role that the minister has in terms of authorities under the existing National Defence Act to allow the collection of metadata and other kinds of information without the oversight or even the knowledge of the Canadian public of what the authorities are.
It is easy enough for the commissioner for CSEC to say that in all of the matters that he reviewed the law was complied with. We do not even know what the rules were, but we do know that he did not review all of the things that CSEC did.
Although I know the member for Vancouver Quadra did not have time to deal with all the questions that I had, one area of significant concern is the relationship between CSEC and other agencies of government, whether they be law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency or provincial and municipal police forces.
Part of the role of Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC, is to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties. Although we constantly hear that CSEC is not allowed to spy on Canadians or look at the activity of Canadians, clearly under that provision, that is almost all it does, look at the activity of Canadians. Unfortunately, the bill does not go far enough to deal with that relationship.
We had an earlier report this year that the government agencies requested the involvement of CSEC on many occasions. This is something we need to have proper oversight of as well.
We do not get the right answers for this either, but we also found out that CSEC had a relationship with telecommunication companies, which is problematic. In fact, it was also reported that government agencies in general, including CSEC, requested user data from telecommunication companies 1.2 million times in 2011 alone.
When CSEC officials who came before the parliamentary committee, because this is one of the alternatives that was suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, were asked questions about the relationship with telecommunication companies and if they got information from telecommunication agencies, we were not given an answer. They refused to answer those questions. Therefore, we do not have oversight from parliamentary committees. There is not oversight by Parliament as a whole.
The Conservatives, who despite their claims of accountability and transparency, and in fact bringing in legislation when they became government, have refused to co-operate with parliamentary committees and the requests such as we are bringing forth now to have a more robust system of parliamentary oversight.
I do not think I will go into too many of the details, but I know that the model of the bill is based on former Senator Segal's work, who did a good job slightly adapting the U.K. legislation model, which has members of the House of Lords and members of the U.K. parliament not sitting as members of that parliament, but sitting as so-called parliamentarians outside of that parliament, and incorporating the terms “House of Commons” and the “Senate”.
However, that is not the model we like. It would not report to Parliament, but to the Prime Minister who would have the right to veto anything in the report before it would be tabled in the House of Commons or in the Senate on the grounds of his opinion.
In the opinion of the Prime Minister, it would be injurious to what? It is the three things that this activity is all about: injurious to defence, international affairs and security. If the Prime Minister had the ability to prevent a report from getting to Parliament on that basis, members can be sure that the report would be significantly truncated and not contain the kind of information that we would want. There needs to be some discussion about that.
The parliamentary committee that we are talking about would need to have significant security clearances, and perhaps members of the Privy Council. All this is a matter of discussion that would take place in the kind of robust all-party committee that would have the authority to compare and get advice from all parts, particularly our five eyes, the countries that we deal with on these matters.
However, we need more robust oversight of activity, because the job of our security agencies is to keep Canada safe and also protect our rights in the process. That requires good laws for the authorities and powers of the intelligence agencies. It also requires robust and comprehensive parliamentary oversight.
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 3:15 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing forth this legislation to allow the debate that we are having here today. I want to let her know that we do support this bill at second reading and want to see it studied in committee, but I have some questions.
First, the member knows that I have a motion, Motion No. 61, to set up an all-party committee of this House to examine the entire issue and come before the House with the best model. If her own bill is not accepted by the House, would she support that approach of having an all-party committee of this House look into the whole issue and come up with a model that can be recommended to the House?
Second, if the member wants it to be a democratic committee and have the confidence of the public, as she said, so that MPs can say that their security is protected, why do we not have simply a committee of this House for oversight? Why would we want to included unelected senators?
Third, I recognize the importance of metadata, and her definition of it is actually quite good. However, I do note that part of the mandate of CSEC is that its third mandate provides for CSEC to assist—
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 11:40 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Forces ombudsman has called the universality of service rule for the Canadian military “arbitrary and unfair”. Members across the country have also been saying that the rule makes it harder for them to come forward with mental health issues. They fear being discharged.
The number of members who are being forced out for medical reasons before getting enough experience to receive a pension is large and growing. Does the minister still believe that it is a reasonable, fair, and effective policy for the Canadian military?
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 8:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that his remarks are out of order. He was ruled out of order before when he raised this, but he insists on raising points of order and then when he is denied, he continues to want to talk about it.
My point of order is on how the member gets to have two speaking opportunities by having a point of order and then wanting to speak. That seems to me to be out of order.
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 7:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the minister said a few moments ago that omnibus bills were common. They have been common since the current government started putting 600-, 700-, and 800-page bills together and forcing them on the House through time allocation, which is also becoming common. It is 80 times that the current government has used either closure or time allocation to limit debate on measures before this House.
I want to ask the minister of state this. Canadians are not clamouring, to my mind, for rules that would allow provincial governments to cut off refugees from social assistance and welfare, even though they are not allowed to work in this country while they are refugees. Is that something the minister of state thinks people are clamouring for that must be put into a bill? It has nothing to do with the budget itself.
- MPndpOct 21, 2014 11:30 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, once again, the parents of a soldier who committed suicide are being treated with total disrespect. This time, the government was trying to force them to participate in a secret hearing, with no legal counsel, under the legal threat of a summons.
Thankfully, it backed off when their lawyer filed a court application.
Would the minister apologize to Rick and Ellen Rogers for this abuse of process?
Will the government finally fix this broken military board of inquiry system and have an open and accountable process?
- MPndpOct 20, 2014 1:10 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of hundreds of residents of my constituency of St. John's East who object to the erection of a cellular telephone antenna on the rooftop of a hotel that is close to a child care centre and across from a major subdivision. The petitioners believe this is potentially harmful for their children and the neighbours.
The petitioners are requesting that the Minister of Industry deny the application for a licence to erect this tower, or alternatively that Bell Mobility and the hotel owners withdraw the application and move the cell tower at least 200 metres away from area residents and child care facilities.
- MPndpOct 20, 2014 11:45 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, fully one-third of Canadian Armed Forces members feel that disclosing a mental health issue threatens to end their career. This speaks to continued problems in military mental health that the government has failed to adequately address. In the last five years, more than 1,000 soldiers have been medically discharged before they qualified for a pension. For those who come forward, wait times for assessment can take over 100 days and there are still 40 vacant military mental health positions.
More than nine months after the minister promised to act, where is the action?
- MPndpOct 08, 2014 11:50 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, the replacement program for the navy's resupply vessels is so far behind that the Conservatives are now considering using private ships to resupply the navy while relying more on the United States. Despite promising replacements in 2006, the Conservatives cancelled the program two years later. We are now years behind. Is this the future for the Canadian navy: lend or lease?
- MPndpOct 07, 2014 10:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I would remind my colleague on the opposite side that in 1939 the CCF party also supported the Second World War. Although the leader was a pacifist, the rest of the caucus fully supported Canada's involvement there, and of course we supported the mission in Libya initially in 2011, when it was directed at the responsibility to protect.
However, I want to put this proposition to him. The effectiveness of the air strikes being proposed is being seriously questioned by many, and others with substantial experience have even suggested that air strikes are counterproductive. Even those who accept that tactic are aware that we will run out of targets very soon.
My concern is with the costs that might be involved. In Libya, we were talking about $350 million. Why would the government's money and efforts not be better spent in providing direct humanitarian aid to the 1.8 million people whose lives are at risk immediately and who need—
- MPndpOct 07, 2014 10:15 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the parliamentary secretary, particularly the first part about one of his constituents and the loss a mother was experiencing of her son who had become radicalized and gone to Iraq and lost his life. I am assuming it was Iraq—
- MPndpOct 07, 2014 9:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for Winnipeg North and his predecessor, the member for Malpeque. Forgive me if I am confused about the position of the Liberal Party. I had understood that it gave unquestioned support for the initial mission of 30 days, even though questions were not answered. We did not support it because we did not really know what we were being asked to support. However, that is a different question altogether.
The Liberals, in both previous speeches, said that they are opposed to the air strikes but they want to find a military mission that they can get behind. I am wondering what that might be, because people are saying that the air strikes alone are not enough. The answer from the military perspective seems to be ground forces. Is that what the Liberal Party is now suggesting? Is it trying to show that it does want a military response but it has not figured out what that is, or is it just that it is not sure what it wants to propose?
- MPndpOct 07, 2014 7:15 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we had an interesting debate yesterday. I do not know why, in the midst of that, the government House leader decided that they had to have a closure motion to bring it to an end.
On the government side mostly we have heard from ministers or parliamentary secretaries. I am sure there are a lot of backbenchers on the government side who would like to participate in this debate, and maybe a lot of other people over here.
Why insist on bringing the debate to a speedy close, when it is an important mission? Some of the speeches have been full of rhetoric, but this is an important debate. Questions need to be asked and answered.
I do not know why we are going through this process.
- MPndpOct 06, 2014 1:05 pm | Newfoundland, St. John's East
Mr. Speaker, we were responding to the motion that was put forward and we wanted to make it clear that we did support that aspect of the mission that was already going on with military effort, the delivering of materiel and munitions. We do not make a general statement about that, but if we are to be actively involved in setting up refugee camps and those sorts of things, we may need a military component associated with that as well.
This is not about no military versus yes military. This is about the combat role. I think the Liberal Party now supports the fact that there ought not to be a combat role, at least with respect to air strikes. We have not discussed anything else, because there is nothing else on the table at this point and we were not consulted. It was not discussed with us. It was not discussed with our leader, which had always been done in the past, even with our current leader.
Also, we could not support a motion that did not have full disclosure from the beginning. I am afraid the member's party signed on to, essentially, a blank cheque without even hearing the details. All you asked at that time was if the government was to change it, to let you know. That was all I heard at the time. I did not hear anything about a vote. I did not hear anything about having a debate and full disclosure in the House. What I heard was “We support you and just keep us informed. We're going to monitor it. Keep us informed if there's any change”.
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