- MPndpTue 7:15 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I, too, present a petition signed on behalf of many constituents who are seeking to remember Kempton Howard by making sure that the government creates a country-wide system of public support for the loved ones of murder victims, as well as ensuring stable, long-term funding to keep youth away from gangs and crimes, and to reverse the reckless cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency that allows so many guns and drugs to enter our country.
- MPndpMon 4:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the attempt at a response, but, unfortunately, it leaves a whole bunch of unanswered questions.
The agent in the U.S. did, in fact, have her medical information in front of him. He knew that she had been hospitalized. She had not shared that information with anyone and the government says that was not shared. Then how did he get it? It was shared and placed on the database. That information ought not to be shared.
With regard to persons accessing their records, he says to contact the RCMP. Unfortunately, the RCMP requires more personal information to be shared with it before it will grant access to CPIC. It requires applicants to actually provide fingerprints before it will share any information on the CPIC records with an individual and in some cases has refused to share that information with an individual. It is not an appropriate answer to suggest that this person can just go and see what information is there.
- MPndpMon 4:10 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, last Monday, December 2, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and I raised a serious question during question period about the access of foreign governments to the private medical information of Canadian citizens.
The case involves a constituent of mine, Mrs. Ellen Richardson, a paraplegic who was flying down to the United States to participate in a $6,000 cruise in the Caribbean, courtesy of the March of Dimes. She was prevented from doing so by the U.S. border services at Pearson airport. They had on their files a reported mental illness episode from June of last year. Although Mrs. Richardson was guilty of no crime, in order for her to continue her trip the U.S. border services required her to seek, at some considerable expense, a U.S. appointed doctor to determine her capacity to travel before granting her access to the United States. Needless to say, this was not possible given the timelines and Mrs. Richardson lost her cruise and her money.
This episode raises troubling questions about how a foreign government could gain access to the private medical information of Canadians. Mrs. Richardson, we have discovered, is not alone. According to the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, a Government of Ontario agency, dozens of Canadians from Ontario have been stopped at the border by U.S. officials on this basis in recent years. That is, they were stopped because the U.S. border services had information about their health, information that is by law in Canada, confidential.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, in reply to my question said that the government respects the privacy of Canadian health information, but that such health information is the responsibility of the provinces. The fact is that the responsibility for sharing Canadian information with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lies with the RCMP through its Canadian Police Information Centre and the RCMP is clearly the responsibility of the federal government. This is where we believe the federal government should be acting to ensure that private health information, unrelated to criminal records, that is contained in CPIC is kept confidential and not shared with foreign governments.
What happened to Mrs. Richardson at the border was not only crushing for her, it raises questions for all Canadians. How did her personal medical information end up in the hands of U.S. border guards? Did a Canadian entity share this information with U.S. authorities? If so, why? Was it a mistake, or was this information shared with U.S. authorities according to Canadian government policy? Who has access to it? What other information is being shared?
It turns out there is very little control over what information the RCMP collects and stores in this database and how it is to be accessed. Surely there is a difference between criminal records, outstanding warrants, stolen property and criminal surveillance, which are all legitimate items to share with law enforcement agencies, and 911 calls for assistance, police reports where no charges were laid and other non-criminal activities. Surely there are reasonable limits to what Big Brother should know and share with other governments.
Ellen Richardson broke no laws, yet her personal information ended up in the hands of the U.S. government. Therefore, the question still remains. Is the government, which says it is committed to ensuring the privacy of all Canadians' health information, willing to take steps to do so? Is the government ready to publicly review the criteria of what information in the RCMP's Canadian Police Information Centre can be accessed and by whom, in order to assure Canadians that non-criminal health information about them remains confidential? Canadians deserve better.
- MPndpMon 12:20 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, residents in my community of York South—Weston who endured terrible flooding last July 8, in part caused by inadequate and antiquated sewers, have signed a petition calling on the Government of Canada to immediately take steps to fund urgent infrastructure projects in order to upgrade our sewer systems and avoid future property damage.
- MPndpDec 04, 2013 12:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of presenting to the House of Commons two petitions signed by my constituents in York South—Weston. The first one calls on the Government of Canada to immediately take steps to fund urgent infrastructure projects in order to upgrade sewer systems and avoid future property damage such as was caused by the massive flooding in Toronto last July 8.
- MPndpDec 03, 2013 2:30 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague from southwestern Ontario.
His colleague from Thornhill made a comment about trying to plow a field straight and suggested that the government was actually plowing in a straight line. Unfortunately, when we read the bill, we see there is nothing straight about the bill. The bill wanders all over the map. It does not deal just with economic issues; it deals with many issues that are weird and do not belong in a budget bill, and they are issues that we have not had time to debate.
For example, the bill reduces health and safety protections for federal workers. It reduces some of Quebec's rights in the Supreme Court. It strips civil servants of their right to free collective bargaining. It cuts some people at the National Research Council. It reduces the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and it forces immigrants to get permission from the minister to continue.
There are so many right turns. We cannot have a straight furrow with this many right turns. If we turn right often enough, we end up back where we started. I wonder if the member would like to comment.
- MPndpDec 03, 2013 2:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my friend on her excellent speech and her excellent references to the fact that the budget would do absolutely nothing to protect social housing and to enhance social housing, because we clearly do not have enough in this country.
Last night, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development confirmed that this $1.7 billion would end and disappear over the coming years and that many individuals would lose those subsidies and find themselves in untenable positions they would not be able to afford. The government claims it is not a cut, and yet it is. The government is spending $1.7 billion. It is going to spend zero. We know what a cut is. That is a cut, and housing groups will lose the subsidy they have been receiving for so many years.
Therefore, the current government has shown, again, its lack of understanding of the housing issue in this country.
Would she like to comment?
- MPndpDec 03, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, yesterday I raised the matter of Ellen Richardson, a constituent of mine who was turned around at the U.S. border on her way to a March of Dimes cruise, but Ellen broke no laws. Instead, U.S. security officials cited a 2012 bout of depression as grounds for Ellen's rejection.
Why are law-abiding Canadians being punished for seeking help for mental illness, and what are Conservatives doing to ensure these private medical records are protected?
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 3:35 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. However, they confirm my worst fears, that in fact the current government intends to cut the $1.7 billion it is now spending on affordable housing through the co-op agreements by simply allowing those agreements to expire without any replacement funding whatsoever.
In fact, the government will apparently determine that it will save $1.7 billion, which would then go to provide a more balanced budget, which at the same time, would leave several hundred thousand Canadians without adequate, suitable or affordable housing.
The government suggested, in its opening statement, that it has a commitment to safe, suitable and affordable housing. Yet, when presented with Bill C-400, which would have in fact allowed the government to create a strategy with the provinces and territories to do just that, the government decided to vote against that motion and to kill any idea that the government would be involved in a strategy with the provinces, territories and municipalities.
In conclusion, it appears that the government has not yet answered the question about what will happen to those people whose residences would become unaffordable when these long-term agreements expire.
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 3:30 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, on November 27, I asked the minister for social development about the government's plan to address the affordable housing crisis that exists in this country. Her answer shows that the government just does not understand the depth of the problem. It is a crisis that is causing the city of Toronto to bring people to Ottawa to rally and to ask the federal government to stop the cutting. It is amazing to see a city send people here. It is one thing to have social groups, but a city sending people here to rally is quite an amazing feat.
As the Conservatives allow the long-term housing agreements to expire, up to $1.7 billion in annual funding for housing will be lost. Low-income Canadians will bear the brunt of these cuts. They will no longer be able to afford to pay their rents when their rent-geared-to-income programs end.
I asked why the government is allowing the funding for housing to expire. What I received in reply was a litany of what exists today in helping people who are in housing need. There are 800,000 families and individuals currently being supported in part by federal funds, the result not of the government's action but the actions of previous governments, including the deal cut between Jack Layton and Paul Martin in 2005. The current government voted against it, and I heard nothing about the government's plans to help those in housing need.
The government has been cutting and plans to cut even more from its contribution to housing. The federal contribution to affordable housing was $3.6 billion in 2010. It has fallen to about $2 billion today, and it will fall further, to $1.8 billion by 2016. This is a 52% cut over six years, at a time when the need for affordable housing continues to increase. Further, the number of households served by federal funding to make their rents affordable will also decline, from 800,000 today, to 525,000 by 2016.
The minister also in her answer suggested that job creation would somehow solve the problem. It again shows how out of touch the government is. Many of those receiving assistance already have jobs, but the cost of housing strips many of their ability to pay for their rent. The government is making it worse by forcing people to accept less when coming off EI.
The need for affordable housing for low-income families in this country, which is already great, is growing. Housing need is defined as having to pay more than 30% of one's gross income on shelter.
In my riding of York South—Weston, there are nearly 16,000 households in housing need today. That is over one-third of the households in my riding.
If government members had passed Bill C-400, presented by the NDP, it would have forced the government to begin creating a strategy to deal with this crisis in collaboration with provinces and municipal governments. When it killed the idea of a strategy, it said that to fully correct the problem would cost $6.2 billion. It is good that it has identified the scope of the problem. That is based on the 1.4 million households needing help and that the help needed is an average of $4,779 per year per household. The government is good at pointing its finger at the problem but refuses to lift that finger to help.
When housing costs eat up so much family income, there is little left to pay for health needs, for the needs of children, or to save for the future. There is little left for food. It is no wonder that food bank use is so high in this country.
My question remains: With housing costs at an all-time high, why is the government allowing the funding for housing to expire?
- MPndpDec 02, 2013 11:45 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, that answer does not actually help Mrs. Richardson. She did not tell anyone about her hospitalization in 2012. She thought it was a private matter, so how did this information end up in a U.S. security database? Canadians hearing Mrs. Richardson's story are beginning to wonder how much of their own private medical information is being shared with foreign governments.
How is it possible a Canadian citizen's medical information would have been shared with U.S. authorities? What is the minister doing to get to the bottom of it?
- MPndpNov 28, 2013 3:20 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, first I wish to thank the member for Brant for bringing this issue to our attention. It is of great importance to us here in the NDP. I also wish to congratulate him on his recent appointment as chair of the human resources committee. He did bring this to our attention during our study of this issue last spring, and he was very knowledgeable and caring about it.
My riding of York South—Weston has a significant proportion of individuals with disabilities, mostly because the riding is one of the places in Toronto where people can afford the housing. As a result, persons with disabilities end up in the riding because the housing is cheap and not because they necessarily want to live there. However, there are not very many supports for those individuals in the riding. There are not a whole lot of employment supports; put it that way.
This motion is a good motion, but as with the report of the government side at the human resources committee this spring, the motion does not go far enough. Our standing committee studied the issue for the 20th time in 30 years, and none of those studies resulted in any significant change in the level of employment for persons with disabilities. I fear that the most recent study will soon collect dust on a shelf, and we will be no further ahead.
We in the NDP agree with what the member for Brant is proposing. We need to do all five of the things he has asked, but that is only a very small part of the puzzle.
Unemployment among persons living with disabilities is extreme. Over half of those who want to work and who are capable of working are not working. Of 800,000 persons, nearly half have some form of post-secondary education. So the problem is not one of availability of the workforce.
The focus of the panel and of the government's report from the standing committee is to lay the problem squarely at the feet of the private sector employers. The motion goes a little beyond this, but not far. It does not address some very real government-controlled systemic issues that place persons living with disabilities at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to employment.
The standing committee heard from many witnesses who gave evidence that the income support programs in this country are not helpful in keeping persons with disabilities gainfully employed. For example, the EI system contains a mechanism by which many Canadians are protected against income loss due to illness or injury. The rules are quite rigid. One must wait for 2 weeks before claiming anything, and one is limited to 15 consecutive weeks of payments. There are no provisions for persons with episodic disabilities.
One of my co-workers years ago at the CBC underwent dialysis three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and it took the whole day. He was out of commission for those days. The CBC, the union, and the insurance company got together and figured out a way that he could continue to receive a full salary even though he was only working three days a week. This arrangement went on for many years until his death. If he had been forced to use the EI system, he could not have had any kind of assistance whatsoever, because the EI system cannot deal with that.
The witnesses who were at the committee are not the first to urge the government to fix the system, but so far there has been no action from this or any previous federal government on this issue.
Another big flaw is in our health care system. Many persons with disabilities are heavily dependent on medical intervention to keep them alive and able to function. Motorized wheelchairs are not cheap and are generally not provided by provincial health systems. Maintenance drugs are not provided by most health systems, with the exception perhaps of Quebec. Hearing aids and seeing-eye dogs, and the list goes on, are not provided by provincial medical systems.
There are only two ways for persons living with disabilities to get support for such medical necessities. One way is to be employed with a good employer, and that good employer would have a medical plan that provides for these things. Some do, and some do not. The other way is to be unemployed and seek assistance from the provincial government's disability program. In Ontario, the province I am most familiar with, it is called the Ontario disability support program. It is available as a form of income support for persons with disabilities. It includes a living allowance, housing help, transportation help and access to the drug benefit program, but it is not available to persons who are working.
Our standing committee heard from several witnesses who pointed out the Catch-22 that lies therein. Persons who want to work and can find work lose their support programs, including access to medical programs. Therefore, faced with that choice, they choose not to work. That is not any way to run a railroad.
Some disabled individuals qualify for a Canada pension disability pension. The program is designed to help those who cannot work as a result of a disability, and it carries them to age of 65, when OAS kicks in. However, with the new OAS rules, it does not start until 67, so there is a two-year gap for persons with disabilities.
The Canada pension disability program does not provide any kind of medical or other benefits. Persons who qualify, and it is difficult to qualify, are not provided with any kind of medical benefits.
It is also not easy to use it for episodic disabilities. A person who recovers sufficiently to go back to work but suffers a relapse, such as a person with multiple sclerosis, et cetera, must requalify for CPP disability, which is a long and complex process.
In closing, we support the member for Brant's motion. It is well intentioned. It essentially brings some of the recommendations from the panel to the House. It brings to the House's attention issues that need our attention, as mentioned earlier. However, as has been the case with the government side of the standing committee, it does not go far enough to address the systemic problems facing persons with disabilities in Canada in becoming employed. To repeat, those problems generally have to do with income and benefits.
We in the NDP want the government to address those issues first, and then we will have a system that is non-discriminatory in terms of income and medical support for persons with disabilities.
- MPndpNov 28, 2013 12:45 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I was intrigued to hear the member for Don Valley West say in his speech that the threshold for court orders in cases where it is personal information is higher in this bill than the threshold for things when, in fact, those of us looking at it would think that “reasonable cause to suspect” is actually a lower threshold than “reasonable cause to believe”.
If in fact the intent of the government is to make it a more difficult task to get personal information through a warrant, would the member for Don Valley West be willing to support an amendment to this bill to correct this mistake?
- MPndpNov 27, 2013 11:55 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives allow the long-term housing agreements to expire, up to $1.7 billion in annual funding for housing will be lost. Low-income Canadians will bear the brunt of these cuts. They will no longer be able to afford to pay their rents when the rent-geared-to-income programs end.
With housing costs at an all-time high, why is the minister allowing the funding to expire?
- MPndpNov 26, 2013 1:45 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I am intrigued by the comments of the hon. member about whether or not the Prime Minister is either complicit or incompetent by not knowing what is going on behind him. Were those accusations that they were either complicit or incompetent not the same accusations that were levelled against Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien in the sponsorship scandal? In fact, somebody did go to jail as a result of that.
As we have come to discover, the Senate is being used by both the Liberals and the Conservatives for partisan political activities on the taxpayer's dime. We in the NDP put forward a motion not too long ago asking that the practice of doing partisan fundraising activities and the like on the taxpayer's dime cease. There are several Liberal senators out there who are doing that on a regular basis, and the Liberals have voted against that motion, so they seem to agree that it is a good thing for the Senate and that it is acceptable for taxpayers' money to be used for political fundraising.
Would the member care to comment?
- MPndpNov 20, 2013 6:40 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Chair, absolutely, I must agree, and I am glad the member opposite has agreed with me that preparation is important. Climate change adaptation is the term that has been used by the government and by others. Part of that is recognizing it, not just in developing countries or in far-flung places in the world, but right here in Canada.
In Alberta, in Toronto and in Mississauga there were effects of storms this summer that were unthinkable, and they clearly displayed that some parts of this country are not prepared for the worst-case scenario and for the scenarios we likely are going to see more of, as a result of global climate change.
We welcome the government responding “yes” when the City of Toronto asks it for help with infrastructure spending in order to prevent the kind of property damage that occurred because its sewer systems could not handle the rain that fell in this last storm. However, in addition, funding assistance and best practices to developing countries or to countries where infrastructure is weak or unable to withstand the kinds of devastation that have come from this typhoon are another welcome goal that Canada can set for itself in its role in the world.
- MPndpNov 20, 2013 6:35 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Chair, in fact I am taking that message out to my entire community.
All members of Parliament have tremendous communication tools, but one of the difficulties is the time frame. The December 9 deadline does not allow us the time to send mail out to the riding to advise of the necessity of fundraising.
It is fairly well known in the public, but I am going to make as much use of my communication tools as I can to make sure as many people as possible are aware of the fundraising that is going on this weekend and, generally, that the government is matching funds.
- MPndpNov 20, 2013 6:30 pm | Ontario, Davenport
According to the Philippine government, there were 4,000 people killed by the typhoon, 18,000 injured and a whole lot of people still missing. The minister suggested there are some Canadians still missing. I wonder if the minister in his comments could let us know if they have identified those Canadians who are still missing.
It is a tragedy that affects all of us.
- MPndpNov 20, 2013 11:55 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, today a rally for affordable housing was held on Parliament Hill, and no Conservative even bothered to show up.
While the Liberals were in power they eliminated funding for affordable housing, until NDP leader Jack Layton forced them to start investing again. Now the Conservatives are threatening to end affordable housing agreements, putting 200,000 more families at risk. When will the Conservatives do the right thing, restore long-term funding, and commit to addressing this housing crisis?
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 12:05 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table petitions signed by my constituents calling on the government to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act in order to reprotect Canada's lakes and rivers, including the heritage river, the Humber River, in my riding.
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 10:30 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I too have noticed the lack of government members speaking on this bill, which leads us to wonder just how important it is to the government members.
It is very important to the people of Canada. It is very important to the people who live in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver that they have the ability to have a safe injection place to reduce public harm, not just to the individuals who are injecting themselves but to the community at large. This bill would get in the way of that. It would defy the Supreme Court decision by putting in place huge obstacles to the creation of safe injection sites.
One would think that in a parliamentary democracy, we would have a robust debate, back and forth, between both the government and opposition members. However, to this point, there has been very little from the government members.
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 10:25 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that excellent question. That is precisely why community leaders, medical officers of health, and the medical community have rallied around the notion of finding a safe place for people who cannot control their addictions, whom we understand to be disabled Canadians, to inject their injectables.
Public health would be increased. We would have a better place to live. We would not have needles in parks. We would not have an increase in HIV and hepatitis C. We would not have individuals who are finding public places to inject themselves, leading to a lack of safety in communities. This is about public safety, not ideology.
- MPndpNov 18, 2013 10:15 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the bill, which was formerly Bill C-65 and is now Bill C-2.
The bill is on something about respect for communities, but that is not really what is going on here. It is an attempt to undermine a Supreme Court decision by putting in rules and regulations, which the Supreme Court has asked the government to do, that would make it virtually impossible to actually abide by the Supreme Court decision, which says that these places should be permitted to exist.
Once again, we have a government that ignores facts, statistics, and evidence. This is a government, do not forget, that wanted to eliminate evidence by closing down such things as the long form census and the Experimental Lakes Area. The Conservatives do want there to be evidence. They do not want Canadians to know what they are up to by there being evidence of what might happen.
We have a government that acts, time and again, in opposition to evidence-based decision-making. It acts in opposition to science-based decision-making. It acts in opposition to decision-making that is for the public good. Instead, its actions seem to be knee-jerk reactions that give the Conservatives opportunities to raise money to get elected and to continue this practice of doing things that are not in the interest of the public.
This is yet another example of an action by a government that is attempting to raise alarm bells for citizens about what might or might not happen in their neighbourhoods.
So far, only three communities I am aware of have actually asked for the authority the bill would grant, albeit without going through some pretty steep hoops. They are Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa.
My riding is in Toronto, in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Ontario. It is against that context that I want to talk about why it is the NDP believes that the bill is completely wrong-headed. In fact, the bill would be defying the Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court ruling directed the government to come up with mechanisms to allow these things to happen. Instead, we are getting a bill that would make it well-nigh impossible for a community, a public health agency, doctors, and respected members of a community to actually put in place a safe injection site where public harm and harm to individuals would be reduced.
If the Conservatives are opposed to reducing harm, why are they in government? The whole point of us being here is to try to reduce harm. However, the bill would actually increase it in places where we should be trying to reduce it.
The government has taken its cue, based on the questions I have been hearing so far today, from the notion that people do not want one of those things in their neighbourhood. Well, I walk in the park in my neighbourhood. It is a big, beautiful park on the banks of the Humber River, and there are needles in that park from drug users who have not had a safe place to inject, and therefore they litter the ground. One cannot walk safely in my little park, because there is no place for harm reduction in my neighbourhood. There is no harm reduction place where people can go to inject the drugs safely.
An addiction is recognized by medical authorities, the public, insurance companies, and even the reputable sources of disability recognition as, in fact, a disability, not a crime. It is not something to be looked down upon. We need to find ways to help individuals who have addictions.
One way to help these individuals, which has been successfully promoted in Vancouver, is a safe injection site. It is a place where it has been found that harm is reduced for the public, both the individuals who are addicted and the public at large, by providing them with a place they can go to safely inject themselves with what we otherwise understand are dangerous drugs.
We would all love it if these things did not exist, but they do exist. They exist in a manner in which the outcome of the use of these drugs in unsupervised ways, in unsafe ways, has led to significant increases in other diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Who is going to look after those individuals when those diseases get the better of them? Those diseases will eventually get the better of those individuals, and it is the public, not the individuals themselves, that will pay for their health care.
We are dealing with a government that is preaching about the government having to watch every penny. Here is a situation in which the taxpayer, which Conservatives claim to be on the side of, will end up paying more because of this shortsighted bill. The taxpayer will have to look after the individuals who eventually come to hospitals and medical facilities as a result of diseases we could have prevented and limited had we been dealing with them in a more proactive way early on, when these individuals started to inject themselves unsafely.
We should be doing more to try to deal with the addictions themselves. As we have seen in the press very recently, in a big and public way, addictions are a real problem for individuals in my city. One of the first things that happens to addicts is that they deny it. They do not have a problem.
I was a union representative for many years, and many were the individuals who claimed they had no problem. Some we were able to help. Some got treatment. Others did not, and unfortunately, they became a burden to the health system first, and then, in some cases, they passed away. Those individuals were a burden on society, not because they were not able to get the help they needed but because they denied that they had that problem in the first place.
The same is going to be true of individuals who are seeking help at the safe injection sites. Some of them do not believe they have a problem. How are we going to convince them to get help unless we lead them to the help? That is part of what the safe injection sites do. They provide a safe place where addicts can get counselling and where they can get attention from nurses and doctors. They can therefore be exposed to the help to get them free from their addictions.
That kind of thing is being asked for by the City of Toronto as part of its request to the federal government. In fact, the City of Toronto will be speaking on this matter when the bill goes to committee, because it has recommended that the Board of Health make a submission to the federal government to register its opposition to Bill C-65. This is a recommendation from the medical officer of health of Toronto, by the way. It will also recommend the development of a more feasible CDSA exemption application process for supervised injection services, in consultation with relevant provincial public health, public safety, and community stakeholders, including people who use drugs.
The Board of Health urges the provincial government to fund the integration of supervised injection services on a pilot basis, but they cannot do that if the federal government will not give its permission. That is what we are up against. We are up against a government that, as evidenced by the questions I have been hearing so far, is fundamentally opposed to the existence of these things anywhere. It has put into the bill such blockades or walls to get over that it will be virtually impossible for any of the cities in our country to create a supervised injection site with permission from the government.
- MPndpNov 05, 2013 7:05 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, residents in my community of York South—Weston who endured terrible flooding last July 8, in part caused by inadequate and antiquated sewers, have signed a petition calling on the Government of Canada to immediately take steps to fund urgent infrastructure projects in order to upgrade our sewer systems and avoid future property damage.
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 2:15 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, just this week there was yet another derailment just west of Edmonton, so we have had two on the same line in two weeks. In this case, sulphur dioxide was being transported in one of the tank cars. Luckily, it did not rupture, but something is wrong with the system when we keep having these incidents involving dangerous goods being transported in a way that is not necessarily safe.
The railroads argue that the number of accidents is way down. The railroads have forgotten that the number of cars carrying dangerous goods has risen exponentially, and if only one of those bad things happens in the centre of a town—oops, it did, in Lac-Mégantic—then we have a disaster. We have to prevent those disasters.
- MPndpNov 04, 2013 2:00 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to what should have been a much more important bill than it is, because it should have had a lot more things in it. We have already advised what we think should also be in the bill, but it is part of a disturbing trend on the part of the government members to be all talk and very little action when it comes to the environment. When they do bring forth action on the environment, it is to reduce or eliminate environmental protections. One has only to go back to the last budget, and some of this budget, in which environmental protection was weakened or eviscerated entirely.
In the 2012 budget, we lost a lot of the environmental assessment process. The act was changed. Some of the act has yet to be defined. Unless for people on a reserve, we still do not know what the definition of “the environment” is because the ministry has yet to promulgate the regulations that come with that act.
We also have the loss of navigable waters protection, which has hurt thousands of rivers across the country that are no longer protected from oil spills for example.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead, Mr. Speaker.
This bill, ironically named “the aviation industry indemnity act” to make consequential amendments to other acts, would do essentially five things. It would allow some air carriers to be indemnified for flying in war-risk areas. It would allow for civilian aircraft accidents to be investigated in part by the military, which there may be some difficulties with in terms of how public that would be. It would amend the Marine Act to define what the effective date of the appointment of a director of a port authority would be. However, the two most important things that we have been talking mostly about in the House are the portions that deal with tanker traffic and oil transfer capacity in the deep-water ports of Canada.
We have some serious concerns on the part of the people who live along those coasts that they do not wish accidents to happen at all, period. The NDP believes that prevention and preventing accidents, not having them in the first place, is exactly what should be done. We are much better off if what we do is prevent the spill of oil into the oceans in the first place. However, I am afraid the government is not going in that direction. Its philosophy seems to be that it is okay to pollute as long as somebody has insurance, as long as somebody has some means of paying for the cleanup. Given that diluted bitumen has not yet been transported in great numbers and has not been fouling the ocean, we do not even know what the cleanup of that would look like if it should happen. Believe me, spills unfortunately will happen.
All of these systems come with a mean time before failure, MTBF, which means that everybody expects something to fail. When they fail at the same time, as was the case at Lac-Mégantic, an absolutely horrific disaster unfolds. There were several different failures that happened at the same time in Lac-Mégantic, and of course we all wish it had not happened. We all wish we had been more careful with our regulations with the rail industry. We wish we had been more careful with the size and type of railcars that we use to transport dangerous liquids. We all wish we had been more careful with the use of one person instead of two in those rail disaster prone areas. We all wish we had been more careful with the transportation of dangerous goods, but we were not. Therefore, we had a disaster that claimed 40-odd lives and basically incinerated the centre of a town. That should never have happen and it should never happen again.
The NDP is committed to seeing that we build into all of our systems for transporting dangerous goods, including on the open seas, outside of ports and on the west, east and north coasts, systems that prevent the spill of dangerous goods and prevent the disasters in the first place.
The Canadian Transportation Agency and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have made recommendations to the government on a number of occasions about how to make the rail transportation of dangerous goods safer. Has the government acted on any of those recommendations? Not so far. We wish it would. We wish it would bring in positive train control. We wish it would eliminate the DOT-111A tank cars and replace them with tank cars that are actually capable of withstanding even a small collision, but the government sits on its hands and says and does nothing.
I am afraid that is part of what we are up against in the NDP. We are up against a government that is committed to extracting stuff out of the ground as quickly as it can and getting it to market as quickly as it can and hopes that nothing will happen. We cannot live with just hope. We have to build regulations and enforcement mechanisms that prevent things. When things do happen, as we all know they sometimes will, we need to have systems in place that find a way to clean them up. When we close, as the government has done, British Columbia's oil spill response centre and shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, those are two things that are designed to deal with this kind of thing in the first place. The government shuts them down, rather than builds them up.
If we are going to have more tanker traffic, if we are going to transport more oil and if we are going to suck more oil out of the sands of Alberta, which we apparently are as the government is determined, getting it from Alberta to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world has to be done safely. It cannot be done in rusty old pipelines. It cannot be done in tank cars and railcars that cannot survive a fender-bender. It cannot be done with double-hulled tankers on the ocean. Although the government would like to claim that it has introduced the notion of double-hulled tankers, they have in fact been around for more than 20 years and they, too, have spills. They, too, are subject to being punctured in a disaster at sea.
On May 25, 2010, the Malaysian registered Bunga Kelana collided with a bulk carrier. A 10 metre gash was torn in the side of the ship, which then spilled an estimated 2,500 tonnes, or 2.9 million litres, of crude oil into the sea. It was a double-hulled tanker. It did not prevent oil from spilling into the sea.
That is what we are up against. Some might argue that out in the middle of the ocean, if an accident were to happen, nobody is out there anyway. Actually, there is a lot of wildlife out there. There are fish and entire ecosystems that could not stand to have their systems fouled by oil.
To look at the pristine and beautiful coast of British Columbia and to suggest that we are going to allow giant tankers that carry two million tonnes of crude in their hulls along a very rocky and dangerous shore is just playing with danger. It is just inviting a disaster. We in the NDP believe that should be avoided. We believe disasters are meant to be avoided, not played with or messed with. That is our position on this. That is what we have been saying all along.
When we want to safely carry oil, my riding has a rail corridor through it that has hundreds and hundreds of those lightweight DOT-111A tanker cars going through it. When residents in my riding wrote to Transport Canada and asked the director of rail safety to come and talk to them, he said sure, that he would love to come and talk to them and tell them how safe the rail system was. That was until the minister nixed it. The minister actually interfered and muzzled the Transport Canada official. The minister said that he was not allowed to talk to people. There were some brochures and flyers, and that is all they would get. They were not allowed to be told face-to-face.
We in the NDP want a bill that actually prevents spills and measures taken by the government that actually prevent and stop them before they happen, rather than trying to find ways to ensure people are insured for when they do happen.
- MPndpOct 29, 2013 3:25 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member is trying to impose democracy where we find very little, which is in this chamber.
The notion that a small minority of members of a bargaining unit could in fact turf out a union is anathema to me and to many trade unionists. We know where the intimidation comes from. One only has to talk to the workers at a McDonald's in Ontario, in Orangeville, to find just what intimidation from the employer is all about prior to a vote. Yes, they had enough cards before the vote, then the vote, and the vote overturned it because they were all afraid they were going to lose their jobs because the employer was going to fire them all if they voted in favour of the union.
That is exactly the kind of thing that this card check certification in the labour code prevents. The intimidation comes from both sides.
I wonder if the member would comment.
- MPndpOct 29, 2013 1:20 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments by the member for Barrie.
There are two things I would mention. One is that this supposed budget bill actually creates dangerous workplaces by forcing employees to continue to work even though a danger exists, unless somehow they can prove that danger is imminent or will cause serious harm. We are now getting into the whole range of things about what is imminent and what is serious. Is asbestos imminent? No. Is it serious? Maybe. Are changes to a person's reproductive system imminent? No. Is it serious? It depends on whether they want to have children. Those are two examples of the kinds of things the bill does to weaken this legislation.
The other issue is that there is nothing in the budget bill that helps small businesses in the hon. member's community deal with the cost of banking. The banks have recently raised the fees that businesses must pay to Visa and other credit card companies. The voluntary system just is not working and there is nothing here for it. Maybe he would like to comment on that.
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 9:40 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the comment that the government tends to attack working Canadians. It does this more than any other I have ever seen. The attacks that we find in this omnibus budget bill are attacks on ordinary Canadian workers. I use the term “budget bill” lightly because it really is not a budget bill when the government includes redefining the definition of a danger in a workplace. Those attacks take place in the context of something that the government is saying is a necessary part of the budget bill.
The government wants us to think, and wants Canadians to think, that this is ordinary, regular business, that it is ordinary for governments to throw everything into a budget, including the kitchen sink. It is not ordinary. It is extraordinary and it is extraordinary to limit debate on it. We, as parliamentarians, will not be given the opportunity to say our piece on the matters that the government has added to the bill.
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 9:35 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, that is not in fact what I said. What I said was that there were groups of individuals in the country who were bound by the definition of an essential service, and I referred to police, firefighters and ambulance attendants. Those individuals, seeing a change at the federal level, ought to be worried about where that will take us at the provincial level. When the federal level starts re-deciding what can be arbitrated and how badly an arbitrator's hands would be tied, those kinds of indications at the federal level will spring up at the provincial level. We get, “If the feds can do it why can't we?” Those individuals ought to be worried about where the government is taking us.
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 9:25 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-4, which was to be a budget implementation bill but it is much more. It is that much more that has a bunch of us on this side of the House worried about what the government really intends to do. For example, this budget implementation bill includes a redefinition of what constitutes a danger in the workplace.
The definition has been in the Canada Labour Code for many years and is well understood now by the health and safety officers, workplace safety committees, employers and employees and to change it in a manner that will not allow us to have full and fulsome debate is a dangerous practice in itself.
We will not know what the new definition means. The old definition talked about any existing or potential hazard or condition, or any current or future activity that could reasonably be expected to cause injury or illness to a person exposed to it.
The new definition requires that this danger be imminent or serious. What the heck does imminent or serious mean? To find out, we have to ask the minister. The minister is the only person who is now able, under this legislation, to determine whether something is an imminent or serious threat to an individual, because the government has taken out health and safety officers across the country and replaced them with one individual.
Each and every declaration of a danger to a person in a workplace in Canada now has to be determined by the minister himself or herself. I do not know if the minister has enough time to get to all the workplaces in Canada. The minister is pretty busy legislating companies back to work, so I do not know if he or she has enough time to do that.
It is a very serious measure that is being taken in a budget implementation bill with very limited time for discussion.
The other thing that is happening in the bill is that for the public service the definition of what can be arbitrated, in terms of what we call interest arbitration processes, has changed dramatically. The definition of what constitutes an essential service is now in the head of the minister. It is not in a jointly agreed to by both parties system.
The minister can decide what is an essential service in the civil service. For example, the minister could decide that his or her driver is an essential service and therefore that person would be prohibited from taking any action.
The danger with this kind of tinkering with the existing well-known and well-understood legislation is where it may lead in the rest of Canada. We have police forces, fire departments, ambulance services and paramedic services across the country that rely on an arbitration system to feel as though they are getting paid appropriately for their work and that their terms and conditions of work are dealt with. They are not allowed to go on strike. They are not allowed to exercise what the rest of Canadians have, which is the ability to withdraw their services.
All of those other folks across the country have to be wondering where the heck the government is going and where it will lead the provincial governments that deal with these things as well.
The government has not only redefined what is an essential service and just basically said that the minister can pick and choose what he or she wants it to be, but it has redefined what constitutes the terms under which an arbitrator can decide a collective agreement.
As members will recall from a year and a half ago, or maybe two years, the former minister of labour actually set the conditions under which an arbitrator was free or not free to decide a collective agreement. When it came to Air Canada, Canada Post and CP Rail, those agreements were decided by an arbitrator, except the arbitrator's hands were tied.
If I were in the police force or if I were a firefighter, I would be worried about where this federal government was leading us, down the road of re-defining what could and could not be done by an arbitrator.
I want to talk about this issue, because I am the deputy critic for persons with disabilities. The member for Winnipeg South Centre talked in glowing terms about the fact that the government had made the enabling accessibility fund a permanent feature of future budgets, which is a good thing. The problem is that fund is a Conservative slush fund, unfortunately. I do not mean that any of the groups that receive the money are somehow complicit in this, but 85% of the money goes to Conservative ridings.
Conservatives do not represent 85% of the population of Canada. I think something like 24% voted for them last time. How is it that 85% of the enabling accessibility fund goes to Conservative-held ridings, or if a group or organization is turned down for money under the enabling accessibility fund, all it has to do is have a friend like the Minister of Foreign Affairs and that minister will grease palms or whatever it is he has to do to change the decision by whoever made the decision so a group or association can get money out of the enabling accessibility fund?
We do not have any objections to there being an enabling accessibility fund. In fact, it should be bigger than it is, but we would like to see it distributed fairly across the country. I have groups in my riding that have been turned down for enabling accessibility money and cannot fathom the reasons why, because they are not given. There is no sudden decision that a group did not get it because of X, Y or Z. The decision is made that they just did not get it. When we hear that groups in Conservative-held ridings have no trouble getting money, we wonder where the money is coming from.
The other thing I want to say about the budget implementation act is that the government has determined it can add new stuff that was not in the budget. Not only were the issues dealing with the redefinition of what constitutes a danger, the removal of health and safety officers and replacing them with the minister, the changing of the arbitration for the civil service, but a redefinition of what constitutes a Supreme Court justice has been added, someone coming from Quebec. How is that in a budget bill? How is that something that we can think costs money? The Conservatives response, and I understand where they are coming from, but I do not like it, is that it is something that came up just recently, that they have to fix it really quick and that they can rush this thing through and get it done in a hurry.
There are a whole bunch of other things that came up just recently that have not been included in the bill but have to do with money, that have to do with budgets, that have to do with taxpayers and their pocketbooks. The Conservatives talked about them in the throne speech, but they are not here.
The throne speech talked about “pay to pay”. For those who do not know what that means, a cable TV or a cellphone subscriber with any of the big carriers in Canada has to by $2 to get a paper bill. If they do not have Internet to get their bill, they have to pay $2 and the government collects tax on that $2. No wonder it is delaying it because it wants to keep collecting that tax.
Most of the people affected by that are seniors who do not have access to the Internet, who do not have ready accessibility to electronic forms of payment. Not only that, even those people who have opted to get it electronically are now being told that if they want the detailed billing, they have to pay $3 to get it electronically, and the government will tax that. Therefore, there will 15¢ federally and in Ontario another 8¢ provincially going into the coffers of the government every time people pay their bill or accepts the bill in paper. The Conservatives promised to do something about that in the throne speech. Where is it? If they can do things really quick like this, why can they not put this in the budget implementation act?
There is no help for airline passengers. The Conservatives voted almost unanimously, if not unanimously, against Bill C-459, which would have provided a system to help airline passengers from the vagaries of the airlines bumping them off a flight. There was talk about that before the throne speech, but there is nothing in the throne speech or in the budget bill.
There is nothing in the budget bill that is a relief for the 200% increase in cable TV fares that have cable and satellite fees that have taken place since it was deregulated completely by the CRTC. In the throne speech the Conservatives did not even talk about that. They said that consumers would be able to pick and play whatever they want, but at a cost. If I pick a channel, it would cost me an arm and a leg. There is nothing in here for the pocketbook of the ordinary Canadian. If the Conservatives want to talk about pick and play, let us apply it to this legislation. We would like to pick and play those things that are good for Canadians and not have to vote against them, while we can vote against those things that are not good for Canadians. That is the kind of pick and play I would like to see.
We have no relief for bank fees. People from the Syme Seniors' Centre in my riding told me that just recently the banks told them that in order to get a printed statement of their bank account they would have to pay. It is a not-for-profit seniors centre that is trying to struggle through with whatever little money it can get from grants and the rest. It now has to pay to get that statement. It did not used to because it was a seniors centre. Now that it has to pay to get the statement, there is no relief. There is nothing in the budget bill that actually reduces those exorbitant bank fees.
We need to rethink how we do these budgets and not put things in a budget that have nothing to do with budgets.
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 9:20 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments from my colleague from the west.
However, he did talk about creating opportunities in the trades, and if he would go to the front page of the economic action plan website, he would find a link called “creating opportunities in the trades”, where there is a link to a video in which 90% of the people who are getting education in the trades are men and the only education being given to women in the trades is for cutting hair, applying fingernails, and cutting food.
Over on this side of the House, we think that women can do anything that men can do. Why do the Conservatives not think so?
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 8:30 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, the member seems to forget that this scandal was created by the Prime Minister who appointed these senators in the first place and by the Prime Minister's Office, which tried to cover it up.
Let us try again. Can the government confirm Pamela Wallin's assertion that the Prime Minister directed Marjory LeBreton and Ray Novak to request her resignation?
- MPndpOct 25, 2013 8:00 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, this past summer, the city of Toronto suffered what is described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Thousands of homes were flooded, families lost cherished possessions and spent millions rebuilding. Neighbourhoods in my riding of York South—Weston were among the hardest hit.
I visited the flooded streets to offer comfort and assistance. I saw tremendous resilience from the very young to the very old. I also saw the aftermath of the current Conservative government's neglect of our city and its critical infrastructure needs, such as improved sewer systems, some of which are over 100 years old.
With climate change, severe storms, like the one that hit Toronto on July 8, will become more frequent. The Conservative government needs to get off the sidelines and start investing to prevent widespread flooding from happening with each big storm.
I have written on these matters to the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Infrastructure, but the response did not offer any assistance.
This is a prime example of the climate change adaptation the government talks about. The time to help is now. My constituents not only expect it, they demand it.
- MPndpOct 24, 2013 10:40 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, the member did say at the very beginning that we should check out www.actionplan.gc.ca, so I did. The very first thing on the list is something called “Creating Opportunities in the Trades”.
There we see a lovely video featuring Mike Holmes, in which almost all of the participants are men. They are learning all kinds of trades, under Mike Holmes' tutelage, I assume, though I am not sure. In the only places where women show up in this video, they are doing hair, doing fingernails, and preparing food.
Why is it that the Conservative government believes that women are not part of the economic action plan and that women are not available to learn all the trades in this country?
- MPndpOct 24, 2013 9:10 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, the government does not really understand how labour-sponsored venture funds actually work or it would not be doing what it is doing. These funds are job creators, yet the government, which claims to be a job-creating government, is doing things that will actually kill jobs in Quebec. Perhaps it is because the government has such disdain for labour, or such disdain for Quebec, that it has done this in the budget. In addition, the government has taken other pokes at labour by removing health and safety protections from the labour code, putting all of that on the back of the minister herself.
We see, yet again, a Conservative omnibus bill that goes well beyond what a budget would ever include. It includes things that should never be in a budget.
I wonder if the member would like to comment.
- MPndpOct 24, 2013 8:35 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for my colleague from the riding to the north of me concerning this budget bill which includes not only budgetary items.
The government has included some workers health and safety things that would strip powers from health and safety officers. This was never mentioned in the budget, yet it is in the budget implementation bill. I think if the workers at the Bombardier plant in his riding were facing the same kind of action by the provincial government, they would be pounding on my colleague's door complaining about what the provincial government was doing to them, yet the Conservatives are proposing something similar that was never in the budget. Why it is there?
Why are some of the consumer protection things that the government has touted as being necessary not there? They could have been included.
Why are the Conservatives insistent on making this a time allocation bill when the opposition was prepared to agree on the amount of time it was going to have?
The government prorogued and did not spend a lot of time in the House and yet it wants to hurry this up.
- MPndpOct 24, 2013 7:05 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table petitions signed by my constituents calling on the government to protect Canada's lakes and rivers, including the Humber River in my riding.
- MPndpOct 21, 2013 12:05 pm | Ontario, Davenport
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-541, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda).
Mr. Speaker, events this past summer exposed a huge failing in the Criminal Code, so I am pleased today to introduce an act to amend the Criminal Code, specifically the section dealing with hate propaganda.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code to include persons with disabilities among the groups of identifiable people against whom hate propaganda would be prohibited. By so doing, people with disabilities would have the protection of the law from those who would engage in spreading hatred on the basis of a disability, such as suggesting euthanasia for simply having a disability such as autism. The bill would help affirm that persons with disabilities are a valued part of Canada deserving respect and are able to live in our communities without fear of oppression or hatred.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 3:40 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I was hoping to get to the Canadian Air and Space Museum, which existed for many years on the site of the former military base at Downsview Park. It was in a historically designated building, plant 2 of the de Havilland factory. The crown corporation that owns and runs Downsview Park decided to kick out the museum, tear down the historical building and build a hockey rink in consultation with the Maple Leafs. That was somewhat misguided. We should try to preserve, not destroy, Canadian history using whatever government resources are available. That was not done in the case of the Canadian Air and Space Museum.
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 3:35 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I only wish that the Twitter hashtag had been, “PrimeMinisterialHistory”, but unfortunately, that is not what it is and in order to accurately state it, and I will not state it again because I understood your reference, I had to state the word which was the hashtag.
In any event, the concern has again been raised by the Twitter verse that the party opposite is attempting to rewrite history by its review of the standards that Canadian schools are teaching. I am not sure what the boards of education across the country are thinking, but they cannot be happy.
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 3:25 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the foreshortened debate on Bill C-49. After only one hour of debate, the Conservatives decided it was time to shorten the debate even further by imposing time allocation.
The minister referred to this legislation as having been on the books for eight and a half months. We are not in control of the agenda; the other side is in control of the agenda. If it chose not to bring it forward over the past eight and a half months, that is not our fault. The minister might want to speak to the government House leader to find out why it has taken so long for the bill to come forward.
Members opposite keep saying that we are creating a museum. This bill would not create a museum. It would destroy one museum and out of its ashes build another. It is a good idea. We on this side think a Canadian historical museum would be a good thing to have, but we should not destroy the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which has an entirely different mandate and an entirely different purpose than a Canadian museum of history.
The mandate of the Canadian Museum of Civilization is:
—to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements and human behavior by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behaviour, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent.
This is a very broad and ambitious goal and the museum has met some of that goal over the course of the past 23 years that it has been in existence.
I have been there. It is an absolutely amazing place. What it puts forward is way more than just history. It is in fact about the culture and civilization of not just Canada, but of many places in the world, and of Canada not just the country, but Canada as it existed before the white man arrived. This is also in that existing human cultural achievements.
The new mandate of the Canadian history museum is
—to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.
I emphasize the word “Canada's” history and identity because we now lose the notion of civilization. Canada did not exist officially until 1867. Does this mean we are only to discuss things that happened from 1867 forward, that the contributions of the fact that this continent was peopled by native North Americans long before any of us Europeans ever arrived on the scene? Is that not to be considered as part of Canada's history? It is hard to tell from the statement of mandate of what the intention of this history is.
We have in the Canadian Museum of Civilization an internationally regarded icon of something more than just history, and it is associated with the war museum. In France, there is no museum of war. There is a museum of peace and it too is internationally regarded as a place to discuss something other than historical artifacts leading to war, or historical art leading to war or whatever wants to be discussed. That notion of discussing peace lends itself to an international recognition. The notion of discussing civilization lends us to an international recognition, which I fear we will lose by focusing on only history and only the history of Canada.
In terms of the amendments that were proposed by the various bodies in the foreshortened again committee stage, one of the ones that the minister referred to earlier, was the suggestion that there should be curatorial independence. Curatorial independence means that the museum, whether it is the Museum of Civilization or the museum of history, should be in a position to decide itself what it wants to display, how it wants to display it and whether it should take on controversial displays.
The minister said today in the House, “As the minister, I have never once, nor could I ever interfere with the decision of a museum to put on an exhibit or not”. When he said that, I could not believe my ears, because it was just a few short months ago that an Ottawa museum, the Museum of Science and Technology, put on an exhibit that the minister said, “The exhibit does not fit within its mandate. Its content cannot be defended and is insulting to taxpayers”.
The minister will stand and argue that he did not actually tell the museum not to run it. When a minister gets up and publicly states that something is not within its mandate and is insulting to taxpayers, he is questioning the curatorial independence of that museum. To stand here in the House today and suggest he has never done it is beggars belief.
When the museum put on that display, it was clearly going to be controversial, a display that the museum itself and its curators decided was important and within its mandate, but the minister interfered.
Is that making a statement publicly that something is not within its mandate and is insulting to taxpayers somehow not interfering in the mandate of the museum or in the ability of the museum's curators to have curatorial independence? In my view it does. Whether the minister actually pulled the display off the shelves with his own hands is not really the question. The question is whether the minister publicly went against the decision of the museum itself. That is what we, on this side of the House, want to see more strongly placed in legislation as we get the opportunity because of the events of the past year.
The third point I will make is the concerns we have about creating a museum of history at the same time the government has gone about rewriting history. For example, even today, when the minister said that he never did that, yet he did a year ago, is rewriting history. It is suggesting that it did not actually happen.
However, we are concerned we have a government that wants Canadians to be more focused on battles, on wars, on the War of 1812, on the relationship with the British Crown, on the battles that Canada has been in since Confederation and maybe a little before, because we have been talking about the War of 1812.
Twitter uses hashtags to get people interested in a topic, and the hashtag is, “HarperHistory”. That hashtag was created because the Prime Minister started to rewrite history in the House of Commons in question period by making erroneous allegations about the NDP. That hashtag, “HarperHistory” resurfaced again in the past few weeks when the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage decided to undertake a thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects of Canadian history.
There was a breakdown, a comparison of relevant standards of courses of study offered in primary and post-secondary institutions and there were considerable numbers of people responding to the hashtag, “HarperHistory” who were—
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 12:25 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak. I have lost count now as to the number of closure motions the government has put forward to limit debate, but it is clear the members opposite have virtually no regard for what parliamentary democracy is all about. We are now rushing through debate and consideration of every bill that comes before the House. Yet, when it comes to the democratic process itself, the government has failed to provide the bill that it has promised for I do not know how many months on reforming the democratic system to allow Elections Canada to have more oversight over spending and how elections themselves are conducted.
The government is only interested in pursuing its agenda in a rapid-fire way, in a way that undermines the very ability of Parliament to study and debate matters, while at the same time refusing to put forward the changes to the elections process that it has promised over and over again. We are at the point where we honestly do not believe the legislation will ever come forward.
Could the government tell us when the reforms to the elections process will be coming?
- MPndpJun 17, 2013 11:05 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, VIA train 92 derailed last year, killing 3 and injuring scores. Last week the Transportation Safety Board made three recommendations: that railway cabs be made safer so that engineers are better protected; that recorders be on board so that investigators can find out what happened after a crash; and the most important recommendation, that railways be required to put into place automatic braking systems to prevent these crashes.
Recorders were recommended 10 years ago. There has been no action from the Conservative or predecessor Liberal government. Safer cabs are mandatory on new locomotives, but too many are grandparented. Automatic braking systems, the norm in most of the world, are not even on the minister's radar when he talks about the reports of the safety board.
The board said the conditions that resulted in the Burlington crash happen once a month, a frightening statistic. It recommended action on the part of the government to prevent future deaths.
We in the NDP are calling on the government to act to implement these sensible recommendations. To do otherwise is to fail to stop a ticking time bomb.
- MPndpJun 11, 2013 11:10 am | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, last Sunday I attended the service in remembrance of the 69th anniversary of D-Day. In attendance were members of the Mount Dennis and Silverthorn branches of the Legion, veterans, politicians of all stripes and air cadets from the 700 David Hornell VC Squadron.
In a very moving and poignant service, the Reverend Canon Allan Budzin remarked that we, as Canadians, ask a lot of our soldiers. He said we give our young men and women rifles and ask them to go to foreign lands and fight our enemies. Then when they return, we give them pencils and ask them to go and fight our bureaucracy.
It is a shame that we, as parliamentarians, cannot put aside our partisan bickering for a few moments and begin fixing the bureaucratic nightmare that awaits our veterans and their families as they grow old.
For some, it will be a minefield of government lawyers to fight, as it was for disabled vet Dennis Manuge. For others, it will be discovering too late that they fought in the wrong war to be given all the rights and privileges they deserve as our protectors.
Let us fix it now, lest we forget.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 6:20 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, my colleague did not deal with the issue of the failure of some of the existing tax treaties to deal with the changes in Canadian tax law. For example, the tax-free savings account is not part of what is reciprocated in the U.S. so people who have to pay U.S. taxes have to pay on any money that they invest in a tax-free savings account in Canada.
However, of more concern to me as the deputy critic for persons with disabilities is the disability tax credit, which is not available to those people who file taxes in both Canada and the U.S., who live in Canada, whose children live in Canada but who, by reasons of the U.S. government, are deemed to be U.S. citizens. As a result, those individuals are paying tax twice. I would think that the Conservative government would be working hard to try to resolve the issue of double taxation with our biggest trading partner, the United States.
I would ask the hon. member what the government intends to do about that.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 5:55 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to park money offshore and avoid taxes, but it is quite another situation for individuals such as those the member referred to, who are in fact paying their taxes.
There was a dispute, and they are paying the taxes. There is no question that the money is getting paid.
Ordinary working Canadians are paying taxes. These people are paying taxes, as any ordinary working Canadian could and should. The issue is not that; it is that the $29 billion that is not being paid to our treasury would go a long way toward alleviating some of the difficulties the government is in after losing track of $3.1 billion.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 5:50 pm | Ontario, Davenport
That is completely unfair. This legislation does not actually deal with that, but it does deal with the notion of taxes, taxes that should be fair and should be treated fairly. People should not be doubled taxed. Yet the woman and her son in Calgary are being double taxed because they will pay tax in the U.S. that they did not have to pay in Canada, which is not fair.
There is also spectre of the government now deciding that it is going to use technology, as the member for Don Valley East suggested, to go after the tax cheats. I had a phone call from a constituent just last week when he heard about the great tax cheats out there who made the mistake, he thinks, of writing to the Prime Minister because shortly after that he was audited. This is a senior on a fixed income.
That audit determined he owed $80 from three years ago. He got a letter from Revenue Canada saying that if he did not pay that $80, he could go to jail for five years. If he agreed with the CRA, he could pay the $80, he would be fined and maybe not have to go to jail, but if he disagreed, he certainly would go to jail. That is what he thought was going to happen. He ended up paying the $80 and a $150 fine. Why are we going after this little fish in this big fish pond? There are so many more people who are evading taxes by so much more than that. By spending the resources to go after a poor senior who apparently did not pay $80 three years ago is doing ourselves a disservice.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 5:45 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, we are dealing again with another closure motion. The most important thing we could ever face in the government right now is that we sign six fairly routine international tax treaties with six different countries.
Canada's international reputation with treaties is not good. Canada's international reputation with treaties is that we sign them and then we break them, or we sign them and we do not keep them up, or we sign them and ignore them. An example is the tax treaty we have now with the United States. If people are American citizens or people that the United States deems to be American citizens, because even people who are born here are deemed by the United States to be American citizens, if they come to Canada after the age of 14 and have children in Canada, those children are now American citizens.
A woman in Calgary wrote to me because she was experiencing some serious financial pressures as a result of the lack of updating of the tax treaty with the United States.
She had a disabled son who the U.S. determined was a U.S. citizen because she came from the United States when she was 15. That U.S. citizen son had taken advantage in Canada of the disability tax credit. She had taken advantage of it and he had taken advantage of it. As a result, they had some tax savings in Canada.
However, when they filed their U.S. taxes, they discovered that the U.S. government did not recognize Canada's disability tax credit and did not recognize the disability caregiver tax credit. As a result, any savings that they had were lost. Plus, they had to pay accountants $2,000 each time to file these taxes with the U.S.
Canada has not taken any action on that. We are by far the furthest behind when it comes to these treaties with the U.S., our biggest trading partner. By far, the greatest number of Canadians who are of American descent and who are accidental Americans, as it turns out, are affected by that. Yet here we are under closure dealing with these treaties which are routine. They are not, as the government has suggested, going to provide wealths of money to the Canadian government.
Therefore, this is part of a series, I think, of treaties that the Canadian government has signed that are not necessarily being kept up by the government.
I wonder whether these treaties actually go far enough and whether they will be kept up by the Canadian government, whether we will go after people who are trying to cheat on taxes in any systematic or realistic way.
We also have the examples of the Kyoto accord, which was an international treaty that was signed and then abandoned.
We have the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed in 2010 and the government promised the UN that it would provide a report card in March 2012. We are still waiting and the UN is still waiting. This is another example of an treaty that was signed internationally and that was abandoned.
It is bad for Canada's reputation, a country that wants to sign tax treaties with other nations, that wants to be a progressive part of the tax system in the world, not just for tax purposes but for all kinds of purposes, for trade purposes, for environmental purposes, to have the ability to convince the United States to run a pipeline down through the U.S.
That is just a smattering of the examples of ways that Canada's reputation, internationally, has been suffering under the Conservative government.
Switzerland is one of the countries that is part of this bill. Right now, Geneva is hosting the United Nations Human Rights Council as we speak, which is looking into the issue of violence against women. We understand that Canada is reported to be disregarding recommendations on taking action against sexual violence against women and to be opposing sexuality education programs
Those reported actions are part of a trend of the government that I have noticed, which is leaving women out of economic action plan ads, leaving women out of suggesting that women's training should be equal to men, that women should be only trained as hairdressers and nail salon people. That is another example of the kind of attitude the government brings to these kinds of things. Women pay taxes, too. Women deserve the same kind of rights as men. Women should not be left out of the equation.
The government suggested that today was Tax Freedom Day, whatever the heck that means. I went on the Fraser Institute website to see what Tax Freedom Day means and, in fact, in 2009 Tax Freedom Day was last Friday. Therefore, we are going backward. We are paying more tax now under the current government. How did that happen? It was earlier in the year in 2009. Is it a mistake maybe? It is all lies, damned lies and statistics when it comes to facts and figures.
The government has also suggested that Canadians, on average, are paying $3,200 less in tax. Again, the Fraser Institute says that the average Canadian is paying $3,100 more in tax now than in 2006. Where does the Conservative government get these unabashed statistics about taxes? It is part of the government's responsibility to deal with these tax treaties with other countries and this is a fairly routine thing that we support, although we do not want the government to try to take credit for this bill doing more than it would actually do. This bill would not find a way to solve a tax cheat problem.
If $29 billion of money is waiting to be collected by the government, why is it not collecting it? More than signing this treaty, why is it not doing something about finding that money and putting it back in the coffers of the government? Can anyone imagine what the tax savings would be for ordinary Canadians if the government could find that $29 billion? Can anyone imagine the amount of good that could come from it? We could almost afford the Senate—no, we could not.
- MPndpJun 10, 2013 5:40 pm | Ontario, Davenport
Mr. Speaker, one of the things our friends in the third party suggested was that there had been some money spent on collecting from tax cheats. However, the Auditor General in fact said that at the end of 10 years of Conservative rule until 1994 and then again at the end of 13 years of Liberal rule in 2006, the amount of money being escaped from taxes was actually growing and growing significantly.
Could he comment on this?
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