- MPndpMon 10:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague for Markham—Unionville, somewhat, in that he and I both listened to the same speech from the Minister of State (Finance).
I actually learned about the minister of state's wild, unsubstantiated claims about catastrophic job loss not from his speech in the House of Commons but from the website of Finance Canada. Posted on the Government of Canada website is what constitutes a viciously partisan political attack ad against the New Democratic Party, with a series of wild, unsubstantiated claims about hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost and essentially life as we know it coming to an end.
I would ask the member what he thinks of the Conservative government using government communication tools for partisan political promotion, as it were. Does he believe, as a former cabinet minister, that this crosses the ethical guidelines of non-partisanship the Government of Canada is obliged to conduct itself under?
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 1:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, let us talk instead about why the bill is dealing with veterans, reducing the number of permanent members from 28 to 25 on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. In whose interest is it to reduce the number of representatives on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board? By what convoluted pretzel logic could the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette support a piece of legislation that has such a profoundly negative effect on veterans, of all people?
Another impact for Manitoba specifically, where we have great big beautiful buildings, is that the Conservatives completely changed the mandate of the National Research Council. They laid off hundreds of Canada's top scientists and researchers. Did we debate this in any adequate way? No, we just learned about it when they prorogued Parliament long enough to invent this neo-conservative wish list that is against the best interests of working people in every respect.
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 1:50 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
My colleague from Ottawa Centre knows that it is a big fat goose egg. It is zero. If the Conservatives would walk the talk and put their money where their mouth is and do a favour for small businesses, they would eliminate the small business tax.
It is another illusion. It is a facade.
My colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I think, supports the idea of eliminating the small business tax. He has seen the benefit in the province of Manitoba, which we call home.
The Conservatives are cutting, hacking, and slashing the big corporate tax rate for businesses that do not need a tax break. The banks and the big oil companies are the only ones that really benefit. It is only profitable businesses that would benefit from having their income tax lowered. A business that is not showing any income and that needs the support gets nothing from it, yet the Conservatives do nothing for the small businessperson.
We could have celebrated. If the Conservatives had wanted to put a 71st detail into this budget implementation act to eliminate the business tax, they would have had the support of the NDP. However, it is disingenuous and it is misleading to lump fiscal details in with non-fiscal details in a bill that is supposed to be limited to just that.
How did we end up dealing with the selection of Supreme Court justices in the context of the budget implementation act? That alone is a subject that warrants a great deal of consideration by Parliament and by committee. We would want to deal with that at great length.
What about the selection process for new economic immigrants? We have an immigration issue finding its way into this bill. There is simply no time.
The Mackenzie gas project impacts fund act is the name of the bill that I was groping for earlier.
I see that I am almost out of time. That will be the whole sum total of time that I am going to have, as the member for Winnipeg Centre, representing 100,000-some Canadians, to comment on or provide scrutiny of, or oversight to, over 70 pieces of legislation. It is a travesty.
I do not want anybody in Canada who might be watching this to think that this is normal. There is nothing normal about this abuse of the democratic process that has found its way into these so-called omnibus bills. It is completely undemocratic and contrary to all of the principles of democracy. It offends the very sensibilities of anyone who considers themselves a democrat.
The New Democratic Party will allow proper oversight and scrutiny of the legislation that we introduce in 2015.
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 1:40 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech on the bill by my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, and I would disagree with him profoundly in virtually everything. Virtually every aspect that he raised about the bill I find great fault with.
I would like to begin by finding great fault with not just the content of the bill but the whole process by which the Conservatives are abusing our system of parliamentary democracy. Under the guise of the budget implementation act, they are introducing what is tantamount to a neo-Conservative wish list, like a catalogue for the Tea Party Republican Party. It is everything they would ever like to do rolled up into one big ball, free from scrutiny and oversight from the opposition parties and from the people of Canada.
As the representatives who represent the majority of Canadians, we will never be able to do justice to a massive tome like this. The Conservatives have stuffed 60 and 70 pieces of legislation into one. They are pieces of legislation that are not even related, things that are fiscal and non-fiscal, things that have to do with the Labour Relations Act, things that have to do with a new Mackenzie gas project.
The scope and the scale of this thing makes it so unwieldy that we simply cannot do a detailed analysis on these pieces of legislation, even though many are broad and sweeping social policy changes that we will have to live with for many years until such time as the New Democratic Party forms the government and we can restore some semblance of order and balance to the nation.
The Conservatives do not have to pack a lunch, because it is sneaking up on them. The more they abuse, undermine, and try to cut a swathe through everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy, the more motivated the general public will be to show these people the door.
I do not have time—and this is the whole point, that none of us have time—to deal in any kind of detail with any of these pieces of legislation rolled up into one. However, I will mention one, just because it offends me so profoundly, and that is the fact that the Conservatives have seen fit, under the guise of a budget implementation bill, to amend the Canada Labour Code to change the definition of what is dangerous work. You tell me, Mr. Speaker, what undermining the health and safety provisions within the Canada Labour Code has to do with the budget implementation act.
I do not know if people have had time to think this through. I can guarantee they have not, because not only are the Conservatives ramming through 70 pieces of legislation at once, but they move closure at every stage of these bills. As a result, we cannot call a sufficient number of witnesses, we cannot give it the debate it deserves in the House of Commons, we cannot test the merits of their argument with informed exchange and information to see that we are passing good laws and good legislation, as per the prayer that the Speaker reads when we open Parliament every day. That is by the wayside.
The Conservatives should explain to me what it has to do with the economy, with jobs, or with good governance generally to gut the Labour Code under that particular definition of what constitutes dangerous work, specifically as it pertains to maternal care. It is doubly offensive to me that an individual no longer has the right to refuse unsafe work if she is a pregnant mother working in circumstances that she believes may be harmful to the unborn child. That reference has been entirely deleted.
The Conservatives not only amend 60 or 70 pieces of legislation at once, they create whole brand new ones within the context of their budget implementation act. They sometimes delete whole pieces of legislation. In their last omnibus bill, they deleted a piece of legislation called the Fair Wages Act. For some reason, the Conservative government is opposed to the concept of fair wages, opposed to setting minimum wages in the construction industry on federally regulated projects.
In whose interest is it to drive down the wages of middle-class Canadian workers? We do not need our government to do that for us. There are enough economic forces out there that can affect our income. We really do not elect a government to drive down our wages, yet the Conservatives saw fit to do so, singing to some tune.
I presume it was the merit shop guy, Terrance Oakey, who seems to have a revolving door to the PMO to dictate what he seems to need in his particular industry sector.
By what pretzel logic could it possibly be argued that it is in the best interests of Canadians to gut the safety provisions of the Canada Labour Code? It is simply beyond me. Regarding the changes to EI, again, if a budget implementation act is about enabling the implementation of the budget, why does it not deal with relevant issues that may in fact stimulate the economy?
I heard my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, talking about enabling small businesses to create more jobs. If the government really believed that, we would be debating legislation that would reduce the business tax for small businesses. The Conservatives argue that they would reduce it from 12% to 11%, but in the socialist paradise of Manitoba, when we were elected, the Conservatives had the small business tax at 11%, and every year thereafter the NDP lowered it by 1%, and another per cent, and another per cent to where—
- MPndpNov 29, 2013 8:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, yesterday testimony at the Senate confirmed that Irving Gerstein contacted Michael Runia about changing the Duffy audit, and then, yes, Michael Runia contacted the auditors, asking them to alter it. That makes Michael Runia perhaps the most important witness to the allegations of interference with the Duffy audit.
What possible justification could the Conservatives have for blocking the attempt to have Michael Runia testify under oath what he knows about blocking the Duffy audit?
- MPndpNov 28, 2013 11:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Well, Deloitte Canada has received $135 million from government contracts, and then they were hand-picked for the sole-source contract to investigate—
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 9:20 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her particular insight into this situation. Excuse the pun. I know that as a medical practitioner, she has first-hand experience in observing ways of treating addiction that show results and ways that do not. New Democrats made the distinction early on in our remarks that addiction and substance abuse is a health issue and should be treated as such, not a criminal justice issue.
Even Conrad Black, who I usually do not pay a lot of attention to, said that when he was serving time in an American prison for his fraud charges, 80% of the prisoners he was in there with did not belong in jail; they belonged in a rehabilitation or detox centre for their substance abuse issues. He said it was how they got there, they were not being treated there and they would be back in again because their health issues would still be a factor.
- MPndpNov 21, 2013 9:10 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I asked for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2 today because it is a piece of legislation that has to be called out. It has to be exposed. We have to tell the Canadian people what is really going on in the Parliament of Canada and what is driving and motivating the type of legislation being put forward by the Conservative Party, the ruling party.
I should say at the outset that Bill C-2, the bill that is supposedly entitled “an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act”, should really be called “an act to raise money through fearmongering act”, because within hours of Bill C-2 being tabled in the House of Commons, a blitz, a flurry, of fundraising letters went out across the country under the title “Keep heroin out of our backyards”.
Imagine the cynicism of introducing legislation that is not based on evidence, reason, logic, science, or public health. Not one of those factors enters into this whatsoever. The fact is, the Conservatives are running out of red meat to throw to their base. They do not have the gun registry to milk anymore. I am amazed that they killed the goose that laid the golden egg on the gun registry. That used to be how they bankrolled the whole darn party, really, their war room and everything.
The hon. member across is probably wanting to say that we do not have the Canadian Wheat Board to slap around anymore. No, the Conservatives cannot milk that one anymore either. That was a good one. They milked that one for years, calling it marketing freedom. I always called it the freedom to sell grain for less.
We should label these bills a little more honesty, really. The keep heroin out of our backyards fundraising campaign started just hours after the bill was tabled. Sometimes it is the same minute that the bill is tabled that the fundraising letters start blitzing out. It makes us wonder who is paying for some of the mailing, because I know a lot of this messaging is paid for by the taxpayer.
In my own riding, 10 Conservative members of Parliament have been carpet bombing my riding with their propaganda and their literature, followed up immediately with a fundraising letter from the party. The Conservatives plant the seed on the taxpayer's dime, putting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of letters into my riding on a regular basis, and then they pay for the postage stamp for the follow-up letter that asks for money based on the taxpayer-funded literature that just arrived.
Is that legal? I do not think it is. I think it is an abuse. At the very least, it is an abuse.
When the Prime Minister's Office is being investigated for high crimes and misdemeanours, let us summarize some of the abuse of privileges, mailing privileges being one. With the Prime Minister's Office being investigated for bribery, breach of trust, fraud, and obstruction of justice, we could add contempt of Parliament to that sordid list. We could add abusing the taxpayers' dollars by misusing the mailing privileges of members of Parliament to another one.
But I digress. I want to speak to the substance of the bill in a serious way.
I might be one of the few people in the House who have actually toured the InSite safe injection site in Vancouver, although I know quite a few of our NDP members have, in fact. I doubt that very many members on the Conservative side ever have, because they would not be able to say with a straight face that there is any evidence in the way they have been arguing in the keeping heroin out of our backyard fundraising drive. That is because if they did canvass the community of the Downtown Eastside, they would find it is overwhelmingly supportive. If they canvassed ordinary Vancouverites, they would find the site is overwhelmingly supported. There is no NIMBY, not in my backyard, associated with InSite, yet we have a whole piece of legislation that is crafted specifically to undermine the Supreme Court ruling and shut down one public health facility in downtown Vancouver. It is another spurious, wasteful use of the taxpayer's dime to have Parliament seized of the issue in order to get revenge for the Conservatives losing a Supreme Court ruling on the veracity, the use, and the efficacy of the InSite safe injection site in downtown Vancouver.
One of the problems is that the mindset of the Conservatives is that substance abuse and addiction are somehow a criminal justice issue. They are not. They are health issues and they should be treated as public health concerns.
One of the other problems that I do not think a lot of the people who introduced this bill realize is that if we are going to help someone who has a substance or addiction problem, we need to reach them and have the supports available and concentrated for when that person is ready.
I had an example in my own office recently. My riding has some serious issues, not unlike the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. There was a young sex trade worker who worked up and down the street on Sargent Avenue, where my office is. One time, she came into our office, clearly jangled on what we believe was crack cocaine. She wanted to make a change to her life. She said she had had it and she wanted to get off the streets. She wanted help and she wanted to clean up.
We got on the phone to try to help her, but we could not find a bed for her. We could not find any place to refer her. We cannot tell addicts that we are glad they want to clean up, but to come back in six weeks when we will have a bed for them. It does not work that way.
One of the magic things about InSite is the Onsite, which is eight floors above. There are rooms. They are clean, safe, detox-assisted rooms where an addict can literally be using the safe injection site on the main floor one minute, speak to a counsellor or social worker that very moment and then be referred to the detox centre, where they dry out in the rehabilitation program in the same building at the same time.
The success rate is evident. The empirical evidence exists that InSite saves lives and helps people get off drugs, because we can have access to them to offer the services that they need to clean up their lives. Unlike the situation with the woman in Winnipeg, where there was no room available. InSite/Onsite/apartment hotel services are a whole campus of support mechanisms, concentrated right where they are needed.
In this fearmongering and fundraising campaign about keeping heroin out of our backyards, one of the pieces of literature that the Conservatives are bombing into my riding, misusing their MPs' mailing privileges, has a picture of a guy sneaking in a bedroom window with a knife. It is as if this junkie is going to kill us in the night with his knife if we do not vote Conservative and only the Conservatives can help protect us from the junkie who is going to creep into our bedroom windows. That is how cynical this messaging is. They build up a straw man and then try to convince people that this straw man is going to hurt them, and say that the Conservative Party is the only one that can protect them from this imaginary straw man.
That is what the Conservatives are doing with this legislation. They are trying to imply that if the bill does not pass and if we do not somehow overturn the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling, we are going to have junkies in our backyards shooting up heroin. That is really what the message is when we strip it down to its actual substance. The Supreme Court ruling showed great wisdom and it is a shame that it had to go that far.
InSite opened in 2003 and started showing improvements immediately. There used to be 12 people a year dying from an overdose in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. That has changed dramatically. Communicable diseases are way down in terms of people using dirty needles and sharing hepatitis C, or even worse, HIV-AIDS. These things are being treated with a common sense approach.
People were supportive. The Supreme Court of Canada was supportive. The Conservatives are sore losers, so they are again abusing the arbitrary and absolute power that they have by not showing any respect for Parliament to ram this through. At least show some respect for the Supreme Court of Canada, which has spoken recently on this subject.
Bill C-2 should go down in flames. The Conservatives should apologize for the fundraising campaign where they are trying to milk the public by fearmongering.
- MPndpNov 07, 2013 11:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call upon Parliament to correct an historic injustice, set the history books straight and reverse the conviction of Louis Riel for high treason, and instead recognize and commemorate his role as the founder of the province of Manitoba, a father of Confederation and the champion of the rights of the Metis people.
Louis Riel was elected president of the provisional government of the territory he called Manitoba, and he negotiated its entry into Confederation as Canada's fifth province on July 15, 1870. He was elected three times to the House of Commons as a member of Parliament, and he demonstrated his loyalty to Canada by organizing the Metis people to repel the Fenian invasion of 1871.
In spite of this, he was wrongfully tried, convicted and executed for high treason on November 16, l885, murdered by the Crown, a case of justice and mercy denied. Sir John A. Macdonald said at the time, “[Riel] shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour”. In 1992, the Manitoba legislature unanimously passed a motion recognizing the unique and historic role of Louis Riel as the founder of Manitoba.
It is consistent with history, justice and respect for the rights of the Metis people that the conviction of Louis Riel for high treason be reversed and that his historic role in building our great nation should be formally recognized, commemorated and celebrated by Parliament with a statue of Louis Riel on the grounds of the Parliament Buildings.
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 11:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of Public Works is fully capable of answering such a simple question in her capacity as the Receiver General for Canada.
The Receiver General is responsible for accepting all payments to the government. The Prime Minister said on May 9, “Senator Duffy some months ago repaid the money”. That means a cheque went through her office.
Would the Minister of Public Works table in the House today a true copy of the cancelled cheque that the Prime Minister claims he received before May 9? The Prime Minister's credibility stands on the line, based on her answers.
- MPndpOct 28, 2013 11:10 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it seems Canadians from all walks of life are frustrated that the Prime Minister keeps changing his story.
On Friday he was claiming there would be no deal with these miscreant senators, that they must all be taken off the public dime. Then we learned that the leader of the Conservatives in the Senate was offering up backroom deals. Today he is contradicting his story about how Nigel Wright left the PMO. Which story are we to believe? Did he resign or was he fired?
No wonder that even the Minister of Finance has broken ranks and is now standing with the NDP, calling to get rid of the Senate, calling it an anachronism.
I call on the Minister of Finance to back up his words with actions and include a new line item in the next federal budget: the de-funding of the Canadian Senate. We may not be able to abolish the Senate without the provinces, but we can cut off its blood supply.
We know the Conservatives are happy to cut services Canadians rely on. Will they now cut out the patronage of this undemocratic, out-of-date, anachronistic body?
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 4:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks and her grasp of the issue.
My message to the Canadian public would be that as offensive as it is that the Prime Minister's chief of staff gave $90,000 to some errant senator, we are missing the bigger picture. There is an expression, a medieval nursery rhyme, that says:They hang the man [...]Who steals the goose from off the common,But let the greater villain looseThat steals the common from the goose.
That is the bigger picture that we are losing here. It is up to us as members of Parliament to fight for the integrity of our parliamentary institution, because there are people who are willing to run roughshod and cut a swath through everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy to achieve their own ends. They do not have a mandate to trample all over Parliament. They may have a mandate to govern, but it is with the checks and balances that people smarter than we are put in place to make sure that Parliament works. It is not working now. It is dysfunctional.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 4:20 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Elections Canada is not finished its investigation and neither is the Commissioner of Elections. Therefore, my colleague from Edmonton Centre cannot make the claim that it has been decided that no one was denied their right to vote.
In fact, one of the biggest problems with the Elections Canada investigation is the Conservative witnesses either refuse to co-operate and the elections commissioner does not have the power to compel production of papers or testimony and some of them leave the country, bailing out so that they do not have to testify.
Somebody knows who dialed those robocalls. Somebody knows who read that script. Somebody, I believe, on that side knows.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 4:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I take no pleasure in the speech I just gave. I do not accuse colleagues on the other side of any kind of particular malice in this regard.
I can accept that most of us want a robust and well-functioning parliamentary democracy, that we believe in it and that we ran with all the right intentions. However, it is getting to be a widely-held view that there are some very bad people who sabotaged the last federal election.
We do not know who the actual architects of this electoral fraud are. We do know it took place. The courts have now ruled that in at least 246 ridings this kind of electoral fraud took place. The Conservatives won by a 12 seat majority.
Let us do the math. If there was not this kind of interference, trying to systematically deny Canadians' right to vote in a free and fair election, we do not know what the outcome would have been. At the very least, the ruling party should consider the legitimate points of view of the majority of Canadians as represented by the opposition. Those are the two requisite parts of Parliament.
There is an obligation when a party wins an election to rule for all the people. There is an obligation to at least accommodate some of the legitimate concerns brought forward. There is an obligation to consider amendments if they have merit. Amendments to legislation should not just be denied based on who moved them.
I saw a bizarre example where our colleague in the justice committee moved six amendments to a crime bill, because it was clearly unconstitutional. They were denied at committee and the former minister of justice had to stand up in the House of Commons at third reading and amend his own bill because we were right, and he was wrong but there was no way he would allow them just because of where they came from.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 3:55 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to join in a debate that I find increasingly difficult to stay out of. The more I listen to some of the diversionary tactics being put forward by my Conservative colleagues as they try to obscure the depth and the breadth of the real substance of the issue that we are debating today, the more increasingly uncomfortable I get. They either do not get it or they are deliberately trying to avoid the reality of what they are doing today to undermine, sabotage and diminish our parliamentary democracy as we see it today.
I agree with my colleague from St. John's and also my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley who made the point that there is nothing untoward, nothing particularly unconstitutional about prorogation. However, when that legitimate parliamentary procedural tactic is abused in a systematic way, it undermines and diminishes the integrity of the parliamentary democracy that both sides of the House dedicate ourselves to.
Maybe the masterminds, the architects of their strategy, realize it, but I am not sure some of the backbenchers realize what a fragile construct we enjoy in our Westminster parliamentary democracy. It requires the two requisite parts to play their roles, to effectively debate and test the merits of legislation put before us. Our strict and rigid guidelines with which to do that are being systematically undermined as we speak because there is nothing normal about using prorogation to avoid being accountable to members of the House of Commons, and by extension to the people of Canada that those members of the House of Commons represent.
By the same reasoning it is completely an affront to democracy to bypass after prorogation the normal negotiations that often take place in order to put certain pieces of legislation of particular merit and virtue back where they were before prorogation.
What is happening today and what my colleague from St. John's was trying to point out is that the government is trying to do an end run on all of that. The Conservatives are trying to have it both ways. They prorogued Parliament to avoid accountability for the increasingly embarrassing Senate scandals. They delayed for an extra six weeks because they said they needed more time to craft a new legislative agenda for the fall session. That is what they told the general public. Yet when we have taken this extra six weeks off so that they can presumably recalibrate their legislative agenda, the first item of business, Motion No. 2, would reinstate everything that happened before. Everything would start exactly where it left off as if prorogation never happened. The Conservatives cannot have it both ways. They should not be able to have it both ways. I would argue that it is an affront and it should offend the sensibilities of any member of Parliament who considers himself or herself a democrat.
The Senate scandals are perhaps deeper and more fundamental than we even realize. I am sure Conservative members are reeling with shock and horror at every revelation that comes forward. It now becomes apparent that the good senator currently at the eye of the hurricane is not going to go gently into that good night. In fact, he is going to go down kicking and screaming, and he fully intends to take a lot of people down with him.
The Conservatives have not done a very good job of avoiding the very reason that I believe they prorogued Parliament, but let us put it in context.
The whole idea of prorogation and a new Speech from the Throne is to put forward a new vision for where the government wants to take the country. A Speech from the Throne should not simply tweak existing programs or make minor alterations to what had already been under way. We did not hear anything of substance in the Speech from the Throne to deal with what I believe is the biggest problem that Canada has right now, and that is the fact that it has now become increasingly obvious and declared by the courts that the 2011 federal election was decided by widespread electoral fraud.
One would think that the ruling party, the government in power, would be concerned by this now that the courts have ruled that in 246 ridings, by their count and they are not finished their examination, there was widespread fraud that sought to undermine the democratic process and deny Canadians the right to cast their ballot in a free and fair election, free of intimidation, harassment and molestation. In fact, people systematically tried to deny Canadians the right to vote. That should horrify every person in this room. Yet the Speech from the Throne is silent on it and there is nothing in the legislative agenda to correct it in the 18 months or two years that we have before we go to the polls again in another federal election. We are just as vulnerable to those who would seek to defraud the electoral system and steal another federal election by cheating. It concerns me that not a single word in the Speech from the Throne deals with this, whether it is robocalls or widespread electoral fraud. As I have said, people should be horrified by this.
The Conservatives have made reference to the loophole loans bill. In fact, we used to call it the Mazda bill because it was the Conservative member for Mississauga—Streetsville who used his own Mazda dealership to loan himself a quarter of a million dollars to run his election campaign. Of course, when is a loan not a loan? If one never pays it back it is not really a loan, it is a gift or a donation. This is what gave cause to bring in some kind of a loophole bill to plug this loophole. We are not going to have any satisfaction in that either.
We have a problem. We have a serious democratic deficit. We have a democracy that is really only a facsimile of a democracy. I mean, our democracy today in 2013 reminds me of one of those California strawberries or those tomatoes from the supermarket that taste like cardboard. It looks like a tomato but it does not taste anything like a tomato. That is kind of what the public sees. They see us going through the motions of a democracy here, but in actual fact the people across the aisle with their logic that the end justifies the means in every single case have been sabotaging and undermining this fragile democratic structure that we call the Westminster parliamentary system in every way imaginable.
Going back to the widespread electoral fraud, one has to look to motive and opportunity I suppose any time one looks for who committed an offence. The courts have been very helpful to us, but failed to point out specifically, or could not say specifically, that it was the Conservative Party of Canada that orchestrated this widespread electoral fraud. However, the courts did say that it was the Conservative Party of Canada's CIMS database that was used to orchestrate this widespread electoral fraud. One looks to who would benefit from cheating at this level. I mean, why would all the NDP and Liberal voters be phoned in a riding and lied to that their polling station had moved? I do not think we would do that ourselves.
These are some of the concerns that I have as I listen to this debate about what is really red herrings and smoke screens. We are debating the relative merits and virtues of having a museum change its name, when the big picture here is that we have a democratic deficit that is severely problematic. I do not know how we can continue unless that is dealt with. Therefore, if one is going to prorogue Parliament and come back with a Speech from the Throne, one is either negligent or demonstrating wilful blindness if one does not talk about what I think is the most serious thing facing us today as members of Parliament.
I have mentioned the political loans bill, but I would also like to point out some of the things that are happening in Parliament today, never mind political loans and electoral fraud. There is the whole notion of omnibus bills. We are dealing with an omnibus bill now. Essentially this motion is omnibus by nature in that it affects however many pieces of legislation introduced in the 41st Parliament.
However, there are two things I would like to point out about what is problematic in the period of time leading up to the situation in which we find ourselves. This whole notion of omnibus bills is, by its very nature, undemocratic and has to be challenged. We have 60 or 70 pieces of legislation rolled into one with a few hours of debate and a few hours of committee hearings. Some of the things that happened within those omnibus bills are wide, sweeping and deserve a great deal of national attention and scrutiny. How much time did we really spend in the House of Commons on the issue of changing the age of retirement from 65 to 67? How much time were we allowed? How much time at committee could we call witnesses to ask them about the need to change the age of retirement to 67 years old?
There were pieces of legislation affected by these omnibus bills that had huge impacts on industrial sectors where not a word was spoken. It was by accident that we stumbled across one bill that was repealed and was called the construction fair wage and hours of work act. It set minimum wages in the construction industry. Then the same omnibus bill has changes to temporary foreign workers legislation where people can get a temporary foreign worker in 10 days. In one step, they would eliminate the minimum wage laws for construction workers to where people can pay them the provincial minimum wage, and in the second step they invite contractors to bring in temporary foreign workers within 10 days. How is a fair contractor in this country who hires construction workers at a living wage ever going to compete on another job if contractors can now pay a minimum wage on a federal construction project and bring in temporary foreign workers? These things would have come up if we had the opportunity to test the merits of their arguments with rigorous, robust debate as was intended by the very structure of the House of Commons.
Then these things go to committee stage where they also gerrymander the type of witnesses we can hear. Committees used to be the last bastion of some non-partisan co-operation, where we would leave our political baggage at the door and do what is right for the country. I have been a member of Parliament for awhile here. I was here when the Liberals had a majority government and I was the only NDP member on that committee. I used to move amendments to pieces of legislation and have them succeed. That sounds like pie in the sky today, it sounds like a fantasy.
Mr. Speaker, do you know how many amendments have been passed? You probably do, or the table can help us.
Not a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament has been allowed. Does that mean the Conservatives have a monopoly on all good ideas? Does that mean they would not benefit from any suggestion from anyone? Amendments are being denied and declined on the basis of where they come from, not the merits of the language.
This is what I mean about undermining some of the most fundamental principles of our parliamentary democracy. It is almost absurd when we think about it. The Conservatives will not allow any controversial subjects to ever be debated anymore. We used to have some really interesting exchanges. Studies that I think elevated the standard of political discourse in the whole country occurred at parliamentary committees once upon a time, but not anymore. If we suggest a study that is any more challenging than pablum, we will not get it through. The Conservatives will deny it. They want to tie us up with busy work for 18 months, studying nothing and producing reports that go nowhere and gather dust. That is the state of the nation.
I am not proud of it and in fact I think we are wasting our time. In actual fact, our democracy is in tatters. We are getting these omnibus pieces of legislation so there is no scrutiny, no oversight, no due diligence, pieces of legislation flying past us. We hardly even get a chance to read them by the time this guy, the House leader for the Conservatives moves closure. He sometimes moves closure on the same day that he introduces legislation. There is nothing unconstitutional about time allocation or closure. It is permitted by our rules, but it is supposed to be the exception, not the rule. When I asked how many amendments were allowed into legislation, I could pose the same question about how many pieces of legislation had time allocation applied to them. The answer is easy: all of them, every single bill, every stage of every single bill. Time allocation and time allocation, it is absurd.
I would not have believed 10 years ago that this would be the state of the House of Commons and that our parliamentary democracy would have been so undermined, so eroded and so diminished that we find ourselves in this almost embarrassing situation. That is what I mean when I say we have a mere facsimile of a democracy. It is enough, perhaps, to fool an, unfortunately, quite unengaged public, but for those of us who are locked into this situation, it is depressing. I have talked about the parliamentary committees that used to be a last bastion for some semblance of co-operation. They, too, are gone.
The Conservatives seem to have the attitude that the winner takes it all. In actual fact, when a party wins a razor thin majority, with 39% of the popular vote, the system is such that there is an obligation to take into consideration some of the points of view put forward by the majority of Canadians who, quite frankly, did not vote for the Conservatives. They voted for the people on this side, and they are putting their ideas through their representatives to have them added to the mix and to make good legislation that is for the whole country. That is the way it is supposed to work. However, again, it sounds like some distant fantasy dream now, because I have not seen any evidence of that kind of responsibility whatsoever.
I have a real concern that there are fundamental changes going on in society. There is an agenda going on. There might be two parallel legislative agendas going on. One on the face of it and another, far more sinister, situation going on behind the scenes. I am concerned that the Conservatives have essentially launched a war on the middle class. I saw a bumper sticker the last time I was in Washington that said “at least the war on the middle class is going well”. The same could be applied to this country.
The Conservatives are consistently trying to undermine the influence of unions. There is going to be an attack on labour. They are running out of red meat issues and hot button issues that they can raise funds for their base with. I am surprised they gave away the gun registry and that they finally did do away with it because that was the real money-maker for them, was it not? They were fundraising on the gun registry for years. That has gone.
The Conservatives do not have the Wheat Board to raise funds on anymore, so how are they going to excite their base? They could pick on the public service pension plans, they could pick on unions and they could try to pit worker against worker. It is easy pickings. It is the last refuge of the scoundrel to start picking on the public service and blame workers' pensions for the deficit hole that they have dug for other reasons. We can almost predict that is coming down the pipe.
The Conservatives are going to declare war on what they call “legacy costs”. They have already done away with the minimum wage laws associated with construction workers, the largest employer and the largest industrial sector in the country. Now the Conservatives are going to pick on public servants and say that their pensions are too fat. They will get into the Sun Media newspaper chain and try to convince other working people that the public servants have big, fat pensions.
It is one of these mug's games that is offensive, but it is effective. I can almost guarantee that the Conservatives will be fundraising on that.
I would like to go back, if I can, to another element of what I believe is widespread electoral fraud and some of the examples. I have an example of one guy who phoned me during the federal election, Gerald McIvor, who is an aboriginal man who lives in my riding. He received a phone call on election day, telling him that his voting station had moved across town. He replied that it could not be across town as he and his wife had just voted right across the street. He could see the voting station from his window. They had just got back from voting, so the caller was wrong. He demanded to know who it was, but the caller refused to say and hung up.
This is the kind of thing that went on right across the country and nobody is talking about it. We have been waiting for legislation to fix this since God knows when. We would think that if the Speech from the Throne would create a new vision for Canada, there would at least be some recognition of the problem that took place in the last election, so we could go with some confidence into the next federal election, knowing that our forefathers went to war to fight for democracy and that it is still alive and well in our country.
I put it to the House that it is not. It is sick, it is tattered and it desperately needs attention.
- MPndpOct 18, 2013 8:15 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, freedom of information is the oxygen democracy breathes. It is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy that citizens have an absolute right to know what their government is doing with their money. However, yesterday Canada's Information Commissioner served notice in no uncertain terms that the freedom of information system in this country has collapsed under the Conservative administration.
...there are unmistakable signs of significant deterioration in the federal access system.
She also said that Conservative cuts have had a direct and adverse impact on the service that institutions provide to requesters.
It was the culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish under the Liberal regime, but the Conservatives are even worse. They are obsessed with hoarding information and use the black shroud of secrecy to systematically deny the right of the Canadian public to know what their government is doing.
Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. After 2015, the NDP is committed to shining the light of day on the inner workings of a truly open government and putting an end to the paranoid secrecy that—
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 12:15 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. More Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined.
The petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms, institute a testing and removal program for property owners and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.
- MPndpJun 13, 2013 11:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it was the culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish under the Liberal years, but the Conservatives are so obsessed with secrecy, they are even trying to sabotage the selection committee to replace the parliamentary budget officer. They have assigned their chief henchman to the government House leader to ensure they wind up with a lapdog instead of a watchdog.
I argue that Kevin Page was about the best friend the Canadian taxpayers ever had. Canadians have a right to know what their government is doing with their money. Why are the Conservatives so fundamentally afraid of having a truly independent parliamentary budget officer?
- MPndpJun 13, 2013 7:15 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. In fact, they point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined.
Therefore, these petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all its forms; to begin a nationwide abatement program for homeowners and property owners who may have asbestos in their properties; and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.
- MPndpJun 13, 2013 7:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to our study of energy efficiency in government buildings, structures and public works. On behalf of the co-chairs of my committee and the committee members, we would like to recognize and pay tribute to the outstanding contribution and extraordinary support we received from our Library of Parliament research analysts, Lindsay McGlashan and Raphaelle Deraspe, and the very competent and capable stewardship of our clerk, Marc-Olivier Girard. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
- MPndpJun 12, 2013 1:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first one is signed by hundreds of people from my own riding in Winnipeg Centre. They largely draw the attention of the House of Commons to the fact that cluster munitions are morally and ethically reprehensible. They criticize Bill S-10, saying that it contains language that results in loopholes and exceptions, which run counter to the object and purpose of the treaty and undermine its spirit and intent.
Therefore, these petitioners call upon Parliament to amend Bill S-10 to close the loopholes and make it clear that no Canadian should ever be involved in any use of cluster munitions for any reasons, anytime, anywhere, for anyone.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 7:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Quickly? April 2012?
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 7:20 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering how we can take the parliamentary secretary seriously, that there is any sense of urgency on the government's part to implement this legislation or to get this legislation going.
It was in December 2008 that the government signed the treaty. In April 2012, it was given to the Senate. For some reason, the government decided the Senate should have it for a full seven months. It was December 2012 before it was finally introduced in the House. It was May 29, 2013, when it had the first snippet of debate at second reading, and I believe it was for about 10 minutes at one o'clock in the morning. We were here during one of those late night sessions, and the parliamentary secretary stood up for about 15 minutes and that was it. We have it now under closure because there is great urgency, for some reason, that we must ram this legislation through in its current form.
We have tried to point out the glaring hypocrisy associated with claiming that one is against cluster munitions and then introducing legislation that has a whole section describing the terms and conditions under which Canadians will and may continue to use cluster munitions.
If the government really believes that cluster munitions are morally and ethically reprehensible and they should be abolished and condemned in the strongest possible terms, why is it enabling, with its clause 11, the continued association of our country with this horrific and inhumane type of weapon?
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 6:40 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, cluster bombs are morally and ethically reprehensible. They are inhumane. There can be no prevarication. There can be no qualifying of our condemnation. We should be absolute and thorough in our condemnation. We should not dedicate two whole pages of the enabling legislation to provide an exit strategy, an out, a loophole that we can drive a truck through to, where we can do anything in terms of handling, enabling, aiding and abetting. As my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands pointed out, subsection 3 is a road map for how to continue using cluster bombs.
The Parliamentary Secretary over there was the chief apologist, a champion of cluster bombs, it would seem. He was the number one apologist for justifying when and where they are applicable and necessary. That is not the tone we want to set in the Canadian House of Commons.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 5:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, we believe that the use of cluster bombs is morally and ethically reprehensible and we will not tolerate any weaseling away from that position. We will not be the boys who carry the cluster bombs for the Americans to drop. We will not do it. We should not be allowing people to manufacture them here or to send them across our borders to the United States.
It raises this question: who is shaping our foreign policy? That is the question Canadians want answered. On this whole idea that the Conservatives will try and paint themselves as the ones who are trying to rid the world of cluster bombs, let me say one thing: villainy wears many masks, but none so treacherous as the mask of virtue. That is what I accuse the Conservatives of.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 5:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I certainly would not call for a total ban on musicians. I could perhaps be some musicians. Bagpipes come to mind. Some people say that the best use for bagpipes is to use them as kindling for a bonfire of accordions. That comes to mind as well. I do not mean to offend any cultural or ethnic group. There are a lot of Scots and Ukrainians.
Ninety-eight percent of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians, not military. I know Canada is going to destroy our limited stockpiles. I also know the United States has no intention of doing so.
The parliamentary secretary might think I spent a lot of my speech bashing musicians, but he spent a lot of his speech as a cheerleader, a champion and an advocate of the sometimes unfortunate necessary use of cluster bombs. It was a disgrace.
We listened on this side and we could not believe our ears. He was tying himself in a knot with some kind of pretzel reasoning, saying that the Conservatives wanted to ban cluster bombs, but sometimes when it was necessary to use them, they could not block their use by allies in NATO. We do not have to carry and deliver them as is contemplated in this clause 11. We do not have to facilitate them or help them promote the use of cluster bombs.
With a clear denunciation, maybe even our colleagues and our partners like the United States might take note that an enlightened country like Canada will not tolerate it.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 4:50 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Well, that is my reading of it. I would be interested to hear how my parliamentary secretary colleague would say that I am wrong, because the understanding of any objective outsider reading this would be that there are exemptions and loopholes here that one could drive a truck through. It makes a mockery of the entire initiative in both the letter and the spirit of the law.
I am saying this trying not to be inflammatory, but the only reason that the Conservatives could possibly find to move time allocation and closure on this particular debate is that they would be embarrassed if school kids and activists around the country got wind of it and laid their eyes on this unworthy document and were aware that we were going to be facilitating those who use cluster munitions.
Never mind participating in the ban. We may in fact dispose of our stockpile in our country, but we have full permission to do anything necessary to enable countries that do have a history of using them regularly to carry on using them.
One of the most moving things I ever saw was when I had the opportunity to go to Geneva. There is a statue of a kitchen chair in Geneva twice as big as the Speaker's throne. I would say it is probably 30 feet high, with one leg blown off and simply splintered. It became the international symbol of land mines. It captured the imagination of the whole international community, I believe. It serves as a stark reminder that there are some things we just will not tolerate.
Again, as other speakers have mentioned, the face of warfare has changed so dramatically that it really becomes a game of who is willing to sacrifice the most civilians and not necessarily armed combatants. It is not necessarily soldiers versus soldiers any more, but how much brutality one is willing to cope with before one yields. That is the nature of war, and the victims of war are more often civilians and innocent bystanders.
It is cluster munitions perhaps more than anything else, now that land mines are being eradicated and remediation is under way to clear the hundreds of millions of mines that have been placed around world. Now the world has turned its sights on cluster munitions to rid us of this scourge, yet Canada is not doing its part. We are not pulling our weight. We are falling short and dropping the ball. We are failing innocent civilians around the world by not speaking out and not using everything possible to denounce, deter, restrict and move toward a global outlawing of these cluster musicians.
Therefore, clause 11 is why we will oppose the proposed legislation at this stage. We do not believe we could even support it in principle. I am sure politics will be played with this. The Conservatives will be putting out press releases saying that the NDP has voted against banning cluster munitions. I am sure they will play that game, but this is one of those debates that needs a more extensive treatment, because we can point back to the Conservatives as kowtowing to some greater master, somebody who is pulling their strings and telling them not to pass the legislation without leaving this mega-loophole in.
At committee, there will be an attempt to delete clause 11, or at least modify it so it does not undermine and completely destroy the intent of the international convention on cluster munitions. I am sure this may not even occur until after we come back in the fall. I doubt very much we will have the opportunity between now and adjournment to give this proposed legislation the complete treatment it deserves.
The Conservatives have been moving closure at every stage of every bill. They have also been manipulating committee. Our parliamentary democracy is in tatters. It is really only a facsimile of a democracy that we have left. All the checks and balances to ensure there is some ability to accommodate the legitimate concerns brought forward by members, other than the actual authors of the bill, have been eradicated.
We are getting pretty tired of this winner-takes-all attitude that the Conservatives have exhibited. I am surprised they play this kind of cheap, petty politics with such a significant humanitarian initiative. It disappoints me, and I say that in all sincerity. I do not even feel like yelling and screaming about it. It makes me sad more than angry.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 4:40 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, we just listened to the parliamentary secretary tie himself into knots in his pretzel logic. He sounded more like a cheerleader for cluster bombs than an opponent of cluster bombs. He spent most of his speech justifying places where they maybe need to be used in the interests of some higher power. He sounded like he worked for the NRA, not the peace movement.
It is no surprise that the loophole clause is called chapter 11, because 22 is a multiple, and my colleague has a Catch-22 mentality about the banning of cluster mines that is worthy of Joseph Heller.
I was hoping there would be a serious debate on this issue tonight, because the country is watching. The country was optimistic that we might be taking some tentative measures to reclaim our position in the global community, much as we did when the whole nation got involved in the land mines treaty. School kids got involved. People were proud of our country and of the lead position that we took as part of the international community, whether it was led by Lady Diana or by others in our own country, such as Dr. Samantha Nutt and Lloyd Axworthy. They played powerful roles and made the country proud.
Instead, we took something that was virtuous and had great merit, and then sabotaged and undermined it. We are actually undermining and sabotaging the international community with this loophole clause.
Let me explain.
The parliamentary secretary is laughing. I do not think he realizes how bad he is making our country look with his shenanigans.
I do not know if he is responsible for the sabotage. I do not think he is that high up the totem pole in his rank. I am going to back up a second while he is still here, while we have his attention and while he is still lucid, because it is getting late and he may be reverting to the chitter-chatter that goes on to try to undermine any kind of meaningful debate in this place.
I will read clause 6. I am going to go through a few parts of it.
Clause 6 would meet the nod test with most Canadians and in fact would make most Canadians proud that we signed on to this treaty in 2008. Clause 6 states:
—it is prohibited for any person to
(a) use a cluster munition...
(b) develop, make, acquire or possess, a cluster munition...
(c) move a cluster munition...
(d) import or export a cluster munition...
(e) attempt to commit any act referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d);
(f) aid, abet or counsel another person to commit any act referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d);
(g) conspire with another person to commit any act referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d);...
All of that sounds great. It sounds very thorough and comprehensive that Canada will have no part of cluster munitions in any way, shape or form, including the manufacture, the shipping, the export, the sale, the handling or the use. We are out.
We are out until we go a few pages further, to a much larger clause that goes on for a full two pages. It is clause 11, which states:
Section 6 does not prohibit a person...from
(a) directing or authorizing an activity that may involve the use, acquisition, possession, import or export of a cluster [musician]...
(b) expressly requesting the use of a cluster [musician]...
(c) using, acquiring or possessing a cluster munition...
These are all the exceptions.
Clause 11 goes on to state:
Section 6 does not prohibit a person, in the course of military cooperation...from
(a) aiding, abetting or counselling another person to [use a munition]...
In other words, it gives a road map for all the ways that Canada can participate in the use of cluster musicians.
Did I say “musicians” again? That is what members are laughing about. I am a little upset, and they ought to cut me some slack because I have never been so disappointed, I do not think, in my 16 years here.
There are many things wrong with how this came before us, but I think it is absolutely tragic that we are missing this opportunity to accurately reflect the mood of the nation and engage in a robust denunciation of cluster musicians.
Now I am going to say it all the time.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 11:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I do not envy Conservative backbenchers as they head out on the barbecue circuit, forced to defend broken promises on the Senate 59 times, broken promises on transparency, broken promises on electoral fraud and phony campaign financing. The only defence they can come up with is that they are not quite as bad as the Liberals used to be.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask Conservative backbenchers: Is this really what they came to Ottawa for, to defend the unbridled patronage and rum bottle politics that they used to so resoundingly condemn?
- MPndpJun 07, 2013 8:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, never mind the $90,000 mystery cheques. I wonder how it feels for grassroots Conservative MPs to be forced to defend using tax dollars to play Pimp My Ride with the Prime Minister's flying Taj Mahal.
Did the Conservatives use the PMO's slush fund to re-brand “air force run” in Conservative Party colours?
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 1:35 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for reminding us, and I do acknowledge his long experience and expertise in this field as a well-respected leader of the James Bay Cree and the northern Quebec Cree people.
We are missing the point collectively, but some people are missing the point by design and deliberately. It is very convenient when they keep changing ministers and they keep changing members of the aboriginal affairs committee, so that nothing ever happens. We are paralyzed. It is almost too important to be left in the hands of political discourse. It is just basic needs, and it should simply be done. We might have to book $5 billion, which is the estimate of the immediate shortfall just to provide running water, never mind adequate sewage treatment, et cetera, to the homes. We are missing the boat.
I do not want my grandchildren to look up to me someday and say, “Grandpa, what did you do to address the appalling social conditions that used to exist in Canada? Were you part of the problem or part of the solution?” All of us in this chamber should be asking ourselves the same question.
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 1:30 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for reminding us of the powerful words of one of the most respected auditors general Canada has ever seen, and the admonition that she expressed as one of her parting speeches.
We just heard that Elijah Harper passed away, quite an iconic aboriginal leader. My colleague is right, in Red Sucker Lake, there is no running water and that is where he is from. There was a funeral service for him. My colleague, the member for Churchill attended. It is not that there is no running water, it is that a lot of the houses have no running water in Red Sucker Lake.
Shamattawa, Pukatawagan, Poplar River, we have toured those communities. It is absurd. Not only are there 15 people living in a house designed for 5, but when we took off the drywall to observe, we found black fur mould. Kids were crawling around on the streets. They have mold in their houses, no running water and are using a five-gallon oil can as their toilet.
We should not tolerate these conditions. Why do we? Desmond Tutu had it right when he visited Canada. He shook his head at our northern reserves and said, “Ah, yes, we have this, too, in my country. It is appalling”.
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 1:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, maybe I will have an opportunity to expand somewhat on those thoughts and remind my colleague again of the legal meaning of the word “consultation” and all that it implies.
Let me preface my remarks today with two opening comments. First of all, I am holding the bill we are debating today in my hand, an act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands. There could be no more important subject for the House of Commons to be seized with, I would argue, given the state of the nation as it pertains to the right to safe drinking water in first nations communities. However, it also goes on to say “AS PASSED BY THE SENATE June 18, 2012”.
There are two things about that. Where does the Senate get off dealing with a piece of legislation before the House of Commons gets its kick at the can on it? How do the senators pass legislation? Who gave them the right, the mandate, to generate legislation? Where does their legitimacy come from? I would argue that they have no legitimacy, have no right and have no mandate to generate legislation in the other place. They have things completely turned around backwards.
Legislation is generated here by the duly elected representatives of the people of Canada, as chosen in a fair and free federal election, at least when it is not meddled with by the Conservative Party rigging elections. We are the representatives of the people. We deal with legislation. Senators have the constitutional right to review the legislation we pass. They even have a history of vetoing legislation in the Senate.
In the early years of this country, fully 10% of all the legislation passed by the people's representatives was vetoed outright by the other place. Fully 25% was amended significantly. However, rarely, and in fact, I would argue never, in those days, as per the founding fathers of Confederation's vision of our federal system, did we see legislation generated in the Senate. This is a new phenomenon.
Now senators are cranking bills out like there was no tomorrow. Bill after bill after bill comes to the House of Commons. We get the second shot at looking at something that has already achieved all the levels of debate, scrutiny and oversight in the Senate. It is fundamentally wrong. Every time they come to our door with another piece of Senate legislation, we should reject it. We should march it back down to the Senate, drop it on the doorstep and leave it there, because I argue that they have no right. It offends the sensibilities of anyone who would call themselves a democrat, in my view.
The second thing I would point out is that in light of the importance of the subject matter we are dealing with, we should really take a moment today and reflect on the fact that the government has moved closure on this important bill, once again. If one asked how often the government uses the intrusive heavy hand of the tyranny of the majority to shut down debate and pull the shroud of its oppressive nature over our opportunity to deal with this matter, I would answer that it does it every time.
It used to be a rare, infrequent thing. Only when there was a logjam on issues of national significance or national importance would the government of the day advance a bill in spite of it being against the will of the other chamber. They were issues such as the national pipeline debate, in the late fifties. They were huge issues of national significance. Now Conservatives do it at every stage on every piece of legislation, and they do not allow a single amendment to a single bill in the 41st Parliament.
I would argue that our democracy is in tatters. This is only a facsimile of a democracy that is left here. It is kind of like a California strawberry. It has the look of a real strawberry, but when it is bitten into, it tastes like cardboard. This has the outward appearances of a democracy, but in actual fact, it falls short in every respect, because all the checks and balances have been stripped away. All the checks and balances that used to put some restraint on the absolute power of the Prime Minister's office and the ruling party have been tossed aside. Again, that offends me.
I do not want to use my whole speech railing about those two items, but it makes my blood boil to watch the status of our great chamber deteriorate and be undermined and sabotaged by, what I would argue, some very insensitive people. We are dealing with an issue of grave concern and I want to give it the attention it deserves.
I start my remarks by telling the House that the social conditions of our first nations, Metis and Inuit people are our country's greatest failure, our country's greatest shame.
We live in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world and we cannot provide basic needs to a family to survive in 2013.
In Pikangikum, Ontario pipes are laying there with weeds growing over them because they have been there 5 to 15 years. There have been 100 false starts to its promised fresh water and sewage system and yet those first nations still have no running water in their homes and they are using a five gallon oil pail as a toilet. It is a national disgrace.
I have been here 16 years and for 16 years we have been saying that very same thing. When Jim Prentice, a friend of mine, was made the minister of Indian affairs, he announced that this would be his number one priority. Then I watched other ministers of Indian affairs year after year adopt one theme. Andy Scott's number one priority was education. With Jim Prentice, it was going to be water, that most fundamental and basic human right and need. How many years has it been since we have seen Jim Prentice around here? His government is now imposing, and I use that word with all the weight that it implies, a pile of regulations instead of addressing the legitimate basic needs of first nations communities.
Without fresh water and adequate housing, this permanent underclass in our society will continue. As elected representatives, it is our greatest failure. I find it hard to express how disappointed I am in us, and I say that collectively, that we have not been seized with the issue sufficiently to make significant progress on something that is so easy. We are talking about fresh water for communities. We can do this. This is not rocket science.
The government says that it is all about money, that it cannot keep shovelling money at the problem as that is not the solution. I have news for the Conservatives. That is the solution. It is a complete paucity of money that causes those pipes in Pikangikum to lay there with weeds growing over them. The government's solution is to imply that all first nations leadership is either corrupt or incompetent.
That was the government's big priority. It was not a government priority to address the basic needs of first nations people. The government wanted to clean up the act. It said that it gave them lots of money, but there was nothing to show for it. Let us do the math. With 1 million people and $7 billion in total project, $3 billion or $4 billion gets lost, what we call line loss in engineering, and $3 billion or $4 billion gets to an intended person. That amounts to $7,000 per person for their housing, education, health care and infrastructure. We pay $15,000 per student for just high school in Manitoba in non-aboriginal communities and the government allows $7,000 per person for everything. We wonder why we have a permanent underclass and we why children do not achieve their full potential.
Children are growing up in chronic, long-term, multi-generational poverty and they are not being welcomed into the full economy, even though we have all of these skill shortages. The government will bring in 500,000 temporary foreign workers and allow an unemployment rate of 85% in communities in northern Manitoba, that is people between 16 and 25 years old. Who is failing to make this connection? We are, as elected representatives. It is an appalling situation.
The shortcomings of this legislation are legion and well-documented by all of the witnesses. Virtually all of the witnesses representing legitimate first nation organizations condemn this legislation. Yet it is being imposed in the customary way for them.
The Conservatives have been looking for validators. They have lost their number one stooge, Patrick Brazeau. They had to kick him out of their caucus. Therefore, they do not have a stooge anymore to support some of these initiatives, to say that this is exactly what first nations need, that the reason they are poor is because they are all corrupt. Therefore, they can pass some legislation to ram and impose some more accounting down their throats.
If the Conservatives knew anything about the reality of life administering a first nation reserve these days, they would know, as the Auditor General pointed out, that first nations are over-audited. These people have to put in 160-some-odd financial reports per year, over three a week, to the five funding agencies. They are doing nothing but paperwork. If they file one of those 160 documents incorrectly, they are told that they will be put under trusteeship, third-party management, because they are not managing their money properly.
Then the Conservatives impose, through the Indian Act, an instrument of oppression, if I ever heard one, an instrument of oppression unworthy of any western democracy. As per the Indian Act, they have to re-elect a new band council every two years, so nobody ever develops any expertise in doing this kind of thing.
It is a paternalistic Eurocentric cluster something is what it is.
I remind anybody who has any working knowledge of these things, and I have noticed some of the guys claiming they have spent some time on the aboriginal affairs committee, to read this penultimate Harvard study that took place a number of years ago. It noted that the degree of successful economic development in first nation communities all over North America, not just in Canada, was directly proportional to the degree of self-determination and independence. If they can get out from under the yoke of the paternalistic Eurocentric Indian Act and the meddling of naive people who are trying to impose some set of rules without any sensitivity to culture, heritage or anything else and starved for resources and finances, there would be a road forward.
This bill represents the worst manifestation of that same paternalism that we have seen since the Indian Act was imposed on day one. There is pretty much a blanket condemnation here.
This reminds me of the days of the first nations governance act, the Liberal version of imposing even more Eurocentric naivety on them. It had many of the same properties of some of the critics who came forward condemning this, after being consulted and not having any of their concerns accommodated. Some of them were blanket condemnation of which we should really take note.
Jim Ransom, the director of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, said:
The last concern we have with Bill S-8 is in the sense of how it confers to the provinces jurisdiction over first nation water systems.
What a hodgepodge of overlapping jurisdictions that is sort of a recipe for paralyzing any progress. It is almost institutionalizing some long squabble over jurisdiction and obligations.
In Manitoba, we have been dealing with this for years now when it comes to child and family services and health services. Even though the Conservatives adopted Jordan's Principle, as put forward by our colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan to make the case that a child is a child is a child and deserves equal treatment whether it is under section 15 of the charter or section 35 or under first nations rights, we are not going to squabble about that. We are not going to wait for an air ambulance to take some kid to Winnipeg because nobody could figure out who is going to pay for the treatment of this child. We are going to do it now and we are going to fight with Ottawa later. That is what we are left doing.
The same is true for education. We have kids in Thompson off reserve. The budget is $15,000 a year to keep a kid in high school there. The budget for educating a similar student in a reserve 100 miles away is $8,000 per year. That is almost a 50% difference.
Some would argue that it should cost more to provide a comparable level of education on reserve because of the isolation, all kinds of different costs, the economy of scale and so forth, but it is about 50%. Then we wonder why the outcomes are poor in the education system.
No one can tell me that it is not about money and that in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world we cannot provide for the basic needs of a child and indeed a family to survive, because that is an absolute myth.
I heard a speech one time by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He had a very poignant way of pointing things out. He said that if one had five children and only three pork chops the solution would not be to kill two of the children, but neither would it be a solution to divide those three pork chops into five equal pieces. The social democratic view of that problem is to challenge the basic assumption that there is only three pork chops because that is the big lie in a society and a civilization like this. There is enough money to provide for the basic needs of families in this society.
Nobody worked with the communities, nobody worked in a respectful nation-to-nation relationship that we had all been promised for so many years when the government dedicated that $330 million to infrastructure in the first nations. It has become almost a meaningless cliché. People actually cringe when we use that term now because that commitment has been broken and compromised so many times that nobody believes it anymore. The relationship is so strained, the leadership is so challenged to keep a lid on that simmering pot of unrest that it is tempting fate.
I am not here to speak for anyone, but I have nothing but admiration for the leadership in first nation communities to have kept the youth down as much as they have in terms of social unrest because it is a recipe for social unrest. A bunch of able-bodied young ambitious 18 to 25 year old youth completely excluded from the economy yet seeing on television and on their iPads what the world is really like in western society and they have none of it is a recipe for social unrest and we had better get in front of that bus or we will get run over by it, in my view.
Shawn Atleo has announced that the level of unrest this summer could be a concern. It is dependent on the level of accommodation that they get from the government. The leadership has to be able to tell the people that there is hope, that there is promise on the horizon. If it is the status quo and more of the same, it cannot keep a lid on it forever. I hate to say where I would be if I was a young aboriginal man today. I think I would have a very difficult time containing myself, given the injustice of it all, the social injustice of the social conditions of our first nations, Metis and Inuit youth.
I have used much of my time criticizing the fact that this bill comes from the Senate when it should not. The government has invoked closure not once, not twice, but 41 times in this Parliament on every bill, every stage of every bill and has never accommodated a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament.
Our democracy is in tatters. It has become a farce in three acts. The Conservatives are losing members. Principled MPs are walking out and I believe more will as they realize they have come to most resemble that which they used to most condemn, which was the corruption of the Liberal Party. It was the culture of secrecy in the Liberals that allowed corruption to flourish. The Conservatives are obsessed with secrecy and they are not making any progress on what I believe is the most pressing social emergency of our day, and that is the social conditions of our first nations, Inuit and Metis people.
- MPndpJun 06, 2013 11:40 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it seems for a Conservative MP to take a principled stance on transparency and accountability, he has to leave the Conservative caucus to do so.
The moral of the story is that, when a political party abandons every principle on which it got elected, principled people will abandon it. What starts out as a trickle will turn into a torrent as more people realize that their party has come to most resemble that which they most condemned in their period of opposition.
Can the Prime Minister tell us, for the sake of future historians, at exactly what point he decided to jettison all their principles for the sake of political expediency?
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:30 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the love of my life, Jenni, is from New Zealand. I think that is a sensible little country, which does, in fact, have a unicameral system.
The Province of Manitoba abolished its Senate in 1876, and others were not far behind: Nova Scotia in 1928; Quebec in 1968. Never mind having a Senate for the sake of having a Senate. What is it hoping to achieve?
The idea of regional representation has kind of been put to bed as more powers have gone to the provinces. Capable, competent provincial legislatures now very capably and competently represent the interests of their regions. We do not need this vestigial organ, as the leader of my party calls it. It is an expensive nuisance, and certainly, since it has been compromised and misused and abused to such a great extent, it is an impediment to democracy and does not enhance democracy.
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am sympathetic to the situation my colleague is in, but he has to understand that the Senate has become an extension of the PMO. It operates under a shroud of darkness, essentially. Nobody really pays any attention to what goes on over there. That is where meritorious bills from the opposition go to die. That is why they send them there, and that is where they abuse them and misuse them.
I am the first to admit that there is room for and maybe even a benefit to some sort of consideration by some kind of council of elders. Douglas Cuthand is an aboriginal writer and leader who wrote a very thoughtful piece in the Calgary newspaper suggesting that we might want to model ourselves on the way aboriginal people view their elders. A Mohawk leader named Rarihokwats wrote a very thoughtful consideration that perhaps the Companions of the Order of Canada might be a suitable list where we might start looking for a council of elders to give advice and counsel on policy issues if we feel it is needed.
There is nothing the Senate has ever done that could not be done as well or better by others. There is nothing magical about the reports senators give or the policy investigations they write.
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:20 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague for Durham is new here, but I challenge him to find what is unconstitutional about moving a motion to have vote 1 pulled from the main estimates to be debated and voted on separately. That is all my motion aspires to do. It is to have a separate vote on the money allocated for the Senate of Canada, the $58 million. I think he is the one who should maybe re-read what is constitutional and what is not.
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:10 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it was the Progressive Conservative Party that was defeated, from 202 seats down to 2. It was the worst defeat in Canadian history.
However, their caucus remained at roughly 50 people, because they had all these senators. I said to myself, “Self, it would not have hurt if we had a dozen or so senators in the other chamber to help us live through those dark years when we were reduced to nine seats”.
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:05 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
I do not know who is bad-mouthing me over there, but whomever it is has a lot of lip and a lot of nerve too. The member might get a fat lip by the time it is finished. No, I would not say that.
The Conservative Party of Canada was reduced to two seats, but its caucus was 50 people because it had 48 senators and all their staff, resources and travel abilities. That is like 100 people fully salaried and fully staffed able to rebuild—
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 4:00 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, in the interest of clarity and just to keep people posted on what is really going on tonight, we had a debate earlier on an opposition day motion put forward by the NDP. What we are debating now, and we should not confuse the two, is that we were asked, in the course of approving the main estimates, the instrument of supply for the Government of Canada, to vote to approve $58,169,816 funding for the Senate.
I put forward a motion to pull that money out of the main estimates and consider it as a separate vote so we might consider, on behalf of the constituents that we represent, if this chamber really wanted tonight to vote for and approve another $58,169,816 for the Senate of Canada. I wish it was a larger figure. I wish we could vote tonight at 10 o'clock on the whole amount that this money pit sucks up every year, but $58 million, sadly, is the only amount that we deal with as a voted appropriation. The rest is statutory. That is what we are faced with tonight.
This is the debate we are having on behalf of our constituents. Do we, or do we not, want to keep shovelling wheelbarrows full of money down the hallway and dumping it into that black hole, that money pit of the Senate. That place is insatiable. It will gobble up every nickel we put there and there will be nothing to show for it except for a bunch of high flying, globe trotting, semi diplomat senators. The only thing they like doing more than fundraising for the parties they represent is flying around the world on the taxpayers' dollar as some kind of a quasi diplomat.
I will be the first to concede that it is difficult to abolish the Senate by constitutional amendment. That would take a referendum put to the people of Canada. Perhaps in the 2015 election it might be a good addition to ask the people of Canada what their wishes are at that point in time. However, one thing we can do tonight is cut off its blood supply. We can throttle it. We can shake it up. We can tell it in no uncertain terms that we are sick and tired of the shenanigans in the other place.
I come from a time when we were not allowed to say the word Senate in the House of Commons. You, Mr. Speaker, would have called me out of order if I used the word Senate, never mind criticizing it. That place has fallen into such disrepute right across the country that even that rule is now out the window. The whole country is universally condemning and shouting it from the rooftops that they have had enough. They will not tolerate it anymore. They are sick of shovelling money into the Senate. It has gone from an impediment to democracy to an expensive nuisance to a national disgrace, and that is where we are right now.
Frankly, the monkey business around a few expense accounts is the least of the problem here, because there is absolutely nothing new about senators fudging expense accounts and wasting their dough.
- MPndpJun 05, 2013 3:50 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary's comments would be marginally more plausible if it were not for the fact that he serves under the most profligate and prolific abuser of the powers of the Senate in Canadian history.
He should be willing to admit that he and his party are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It would be almost comical, if it were not so sad, to watch successive Conservative and Liberal members of Parliament stand up here and squirm, wriggle and tie themselves in knots trying to defend the indefensible, when it is as plain as the nose on one's face that the Senate of Canada is beyond redemption.
I have not been here that long, but I have been here for 16 years and I have been watching these attempts to reform the Senate. Since 1972, there have been 28 significant attempts to constitutionally reform the Senate, and 28 times they have failed.
The position of our party has been consistent since 1933. In fact, the second term in our founding constitution, the second item for both the CCF and the NDP, is to abolish the Senate. We have been consistent.
My colleague is correct that back in 1867, working people immediately objected to the creation of a House of Lords. The founding fathers believed Canada needed an aristocracy because we had none, so they created an imitation of the House of Lords to make sure that the great unwashed did not pass any bills that might inadvertently share the wealth of the nation. They needed to—
- MPndpMay 29, 2013 11:20 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, last night both Conservative and Liberal senators feigned shock and horror to learn that Mike Duffy had been engaged in partisan politics while milking the Senate, but the reality is it is a time-honoured tradition. Lots of senators are full-time political operatives for their parties, with their salaries, their staff and their travel fully paid by the taxpayer. This has been going on for decades, but not a single Conservative or Liberal blew the whistle on any of these senators. Why would they? Just like there is no fix for an egg-sucking dog, once the senators got a taste for that juicy subsidy, there is no way to ever make them stop.
No wonder the Prime Minister's Office orchestrated a cover-up. How many other senators were working the last federal election while collecting a senator's salary?
In a few moments, the Prime Minister will again face simple, straightforward questions from the Leader of the Opposition. I implore the Prime Minister, out of respect for Canadians, to leave his talking points alone and tell Canadians the real story behind the Mike Duffy cover-up.
- MPndpMay 28, 2013 2:25 pm | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I want to thank my colleague for pointing out that the first national museum ever built outside the national capital region is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in my riding . I also want to recognize and pay tribute to those who raised funds to bring that about. MPs would be interested to note that the Museum of Natural History and the people of Winnipeg have raised more money for that museum than all the other museums in Canadian history combined. Approximately $150 million of private money has gone into that museum.
When there was a 10% cost overrun, we were told to have a tag sale and raise some more money. When there was a 100% cost overrun at the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa, the federal government simply wrote a cheque totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.
My question is simple. Why is there a double standard for these museums outside of the national capital region? Second, how much money in total are they spending to renovate the Museum of Civilization? Why has the construction started before they even have the enabling legislation passed?
- MPndpMay 27, 2013 11:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it is a little rich to hear Marjory LeBreton, an artifact of the golden era of Gucci shoes mandarins--
- MPndpMay 23, 2013 11:15 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are witnessing the death rattle of an archaic, outdated and expensive anachronism. With false residency claims, double-dipping expenses and political stumping at the taxpayers' expense, the Senate has gone from an expensive nuisance to a national disgrace. It is more in sadness than in anger as Canadians watch this abuse and the ethical lapses unfurl. We were promised that things would be different, but instead the legacy of the administration will be $16 glasses of orange juice and an almost comical cliché of hog-troughing senators.
Grassroots Conservatives must be horrified that this administration has more in common with Grant Devine than with Preston Manning. Conservatives squandered their chance to do anything meaningful with their minority government. When we ask ourselves what they have accomplished with their majority government, they abolished the gun registry and the Canadian Wheat Board. Whoop-de-do-dah-day. Pretty thin gruel for a strong, stable majority Conservative government. What a pathetic waste of an opportunity to build a better Canada.
The Senate of Canada should be abolished. That is plain and simple.
- MPndpMay 22, 2013 11:35 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, the minister is going for cocky when he should be going for contrition. A little less swagger and a little more Jimmy Swaggart would be in order.
They rode into Ottawa on their high horse of accountability, and all we have to show for it is the mess that horse left. They should take their Federal Accountability Act and run it through that horse and throw it on their roses for all the good it has ever done us.
My question for the minister is simple: when did it all go so terribly wrong? When did they jettison integrity and honesty and accountability for the sake of political expediency?
- MPndpMay 21, 2013 11:30 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, it was in 2005 that the Prime Minister puffed up his chest and said “If anybody violates the public trust under my watch, they are going to prison”. Now his tune has changed. “All governments make mistakes” is what he says today.
Was it a mistake to continue to hand out plum patronage appointments to their pork barrelling friends? Was it just a mistake to run a bunch of self-serving ads for programs that do not even exist? Was it a mistake to have the Prime Minister's Office cut a $90,000 cheque to buy the silence of a Conservative senator?
The public trust has been violated. It has been abused. In fact, Conservatives have stomped all over it. What happened to the promise they made in 2005? Who is going to jail?
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 10:10 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for that very relevant question. I appreciate the work she has done on the file as our representative on the aboriginal affairs file.
The unemployment rate among aboriginal youth in my province and in many places across the country can be as high as 50% or 60%, four or five times higher than the already high unemployment rate for youth. There are communities in northern Manitoba where the unemployment rate is 85% to 90%. There is a vast pool of youth between 16 and 25 who, with an opportunity, could make a meaningful entrance into the workforce.
When I was head of the carpenters union, we did make an outreach effort specifically to go up and do some training in northern Manitoba because we had hydro dams going there. Believe me, a lot of the apprentices we signed in the aboriginal apprenticeship initiative found really satisfying careers in the construction industry. It is not a bad segue into the industrialized workforce, the construction and building trades.
It is hard work, and they are no strangers to hard work, growing up in the north. It is the high school kids from downtown Winnipeg who have a tough time getting into the construction industry, because it is hard work. These guys think it is easy money. For those who spent their life splitting wood and hauling fish nets in the wintertime, construction is easy money.
We are missing the boat by not matching the skills shortages that everybody knows about in the construction industry and the human resources surplus that is under our nose. Surely it is cheaper to train a kid from Pukatawagan than it is to fly them in from Lebanon or Southeast Asia or wherever these other temporary foreign workers are coming from. For God's sake, it is completely counterintuitive.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 10:05 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
They are one step up from Simon Legree. They are slave drivers. They are human traffickers.
- MPndpMay 03, 2013 9:55 am | Manitoba, Winnipeg Centre
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to follow on the heels of the speech just made by the Minister of Labour, because it gives me the opportunity to point out to anyone listening, to the country in general, that this particular piece of legislation and the recent actions of that Minister of Labour constitute nothing less than a war on labour and the left. It is a war on fair wages and benefits, earned over a century of free collective bargaining and trade union rights. The minister has been systematically undermining the rights of workers to organize, the rights of workers to bargain collectively and the rights of workers sometimes to withhold their services, in fact, as is their right should collective bargaining reach an impasse.
We find it again in the most egregious assault on trade union rights in the post-war era. We find it again in the parameters of this document in which the Conservatives are interfering pre-emptively in the collective bargaining rights of crown corporations. They say that they will dictate the terms and conditions of those working people.
I do not think I need to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that a burgeoning, well-paid middle class is the greatest strength our economy has, and it can be traced directly to the advent and rise of the trade union movement, which bargained for fair wages and working conditions for working people all over North America. It was the United States of America's biggest folly and biggest mistake when it attacked trade unions in that country with its right-to-work legislation, with measures just like we are seeing from their neo-conservative counterparts in Canada. They diminished the rate of unionization in those right-to-work states, and correspondingly, wages and working conditions cascaded and tumbled to where a good job in Georgia or North Carolina these days pays $8, $10 or $12 an hour, with no benefits whatsoever.
If that is the direction the Conservatives want to go, I ask in whose interest it is to drive down the wages and working conditions of Canadians. Canadians do not need to elect a government to do that. There are market forces all over the place that seek to do that.
The Conservatives are interfering with the normal market forces, the natural market forces, that dictate that in a time of skills shortages, working people can command a better wage. That is the time they go to the bargaining table and say that our labour might have been worth only $20 an hour last year, when there was no work, but there is lots of work now. Now is the time when working people should be able to negotiate fair wages.
What are the Conservatives doing in my industry? One example found in Bill C-60 is the temporary foreign worker program. People forget that in the last omnibus budget bill, that minister eliminated the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. They hardly even noticed that. The construction fair wages act set minimum wages for non-union construction workers at something higher than the provincial minimum wage. She said that they got rid of that because hardly anyone works under it anyway.
Correspondingly, the Conservatives brought in the temporary foreign worker expedited 10-day guarantee. Labour brokers, labour pimps, from around the world are now bringing crews of construction workers to Canada under that program. They are being paid 15% less, and not less than the construction wage but less than the minimum wage in a province. How does any fair employer ever compete? How does any fair contractor ever win another job if its competition is using these labour pimps that have been facilitated by the minister to undermine the whole fair tendering process?
These are the unintended consequences, or maybe intended consequences, of the rash, irresponsible legislation we are seeing in these massive omnibus bills. There is no debate. There is never any time to debate any of these predictable consequences. We would have brought these things to the attention of the minister if these things ever could be debated fairly.
I was thinking earlier today of a poem by Allen Ginsberg called Howl. It begins, “I saw the best minds of my generation [rot]”. I watched the best aspects of our parliamentary democracy systematically undermined, assaulted and destroyed by the government. The Conservatives have this idea, like a lot of neo-conservative fundamentalists, that the end justifies the means, that they can throw away everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy, because somehow God is on their side and they are going to drive this down people's throat, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it is the wrong way to go.
I saw a bumper sticker the last time I was in Washington that said, “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. That is what is happening here.
The Conservatives have this idea that they have to ratchet down the expectations of Canadian workers by ordering people back to work at Canada Post at a rate lower than what was negotiated with their employer, or by pre-empting job action at Air Canada by ordering people back to work before there was even a strike, or now, by stripping the collective bargaining ability from the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people who work in crown corporations.
In whose interest is it to drive down the wages of Canadian workers? Are they out of their minds? We can look south of the border at the predictable consequences. They have destroyed their middle class there. They have completely undermined fair wages.
I come from the building industry. I served an apprenticeship as a carpenter. I have indentured literally hundreds of apprentices in my experience as the head of the carpenters' union. We predicted skills shortages 40 or 50 years ago, for heaven's sake, given the predictable demographics of the baby boom. It was no surprise.
A temporary foreign worker program that saturates the market with cheap foreign labour is not a human resources strategy. It is the polar opposite. It is admitting defeat.
Let me give an example of some of the catastrophes in that program. I already brought it to the minister's attention years ago. Gold River Tahsis, on Vancouver Island, had a pulp and paper mill shut down. It was a terrible loss to the community. A company in China bought the pulp and paper mill, but it had to be dismantled and torn down. Eighty unemployed millwrights in the town of Gold River Tahsis could have used one more year's work to dismantle the pulp and paper mill. Instead, the company had to go to a labour broker, a labour pimp we call them, and bring in 80 people from South Asia to do it. We got the documents. We got a copy of the application. It asked if they had tried to find qualified Canadians. The response was “yes”. It asked why they did not hire qualified Canadians. The response was that the cost was too high.
That is what the contractor put in the documents that went to the minister's desk, and the Conservatives signed off and brought in these guys. All these local people in Gold River Tahsis were locked outside the gate looking in while a bunch of temporary foreign workers got the last few weeks of employment in their dying pulp mill. That is an atrocity.
The Winnipeg International Airport is another example. Again, I tried to go to the minister with this complaint. We have a couple of hundred unemployed carpenters in Manitoba. We are building a brand new airport that we are all proud of. Where does the construction crew come from to place all that concrete? They come from Lebanon. Their last job was in Latvia. They are a bunch of Lebanese workers being shopped around by these labour pimps who go around the world with their crews undermining the local conditions. There are hundreds of unemployed carpenters in Manitoba. It is skilled work doing elevated concrete ramps with all kinds of staging and scaffolding involved, and it goes to a bunch of Lebanese workers.
I have nothing against the good people of Lebanon, but they have no right to those Canadian jobs. If we need to open the doors to immigration, there would be no complaint from this side of the House, but those jobs should not be given away to temporary foreign workers.
God knows under what terms and conditions they were being paid. Believe me, the local contractors can never compete with someone who can get 40 people working at 15% less than the minimum wage. How does a fair contractor ever win another job?
The most recent example is the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg. That is going on right now. The labourers and carpenters are picketing that job as we speak, because temporary foreign workers are doing labour work. These are not even carpenters' jobs. They are construction labourers. The Conservatives cannot tell me that there is not some unemployed aboriginal kid in a northern Manitoba reserve, where the unemployment rate is 80% and 90%, who could not be trained and put on that job at $20 an hour to do construction labour.
No one has tried hard enough to place the skills shortages with the labour surpluses. It is a pathetic situation, absolutely pathetic.
Bill C-60 is full of 50-some odd pieces of legislation that we as members of Parliament, representing the people who elected us, will never have a chance to give proper scrutiny and oversight to. We are being denied that right by closure again. How many times have the Conservatives moved closure on a bill? All of them. It is an easy number. I do not need to even know the number.
Every single time they have a piece of legislation, they deny us the right to do due diligence, as is our obligation and duty as elected members of Parliament.
I am sick of it. I have watched it deteriorate, and in my 15 years as a member of Parliament, I have never seen it as bad as it is today. These guys are a disgrace.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8