- MPndpMar 12, 2015 7:10 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, for all of those reasons, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to stop these devastating cuts to our postal service and look instead for ways to modernize operations.
The Conservatives continue to find millions of dollars for their well-connected friends, it is time they found a way to keep the mail coming to our doors.
- MPndpMar 12, 2015 7:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to give voice to the frustration, and dare I say, anger felt by many of my constituents about the Conservative government's decision to cancel door-to-door mail delivery and install community mailboxes.
Petitions continue to flood in, and I am pleased to be able to table 20 more today that were circulated at a recent public meeting organized by municipal councillors to lend their support to our campaign to save Canada Post. My federal NDP colleagues and I have been at the forefront of that fight since January of last year. We all know that we cannot save a business by cutting services and raising prices.
The petitioners are appalled that the Conservatives would allow Canada Post to eliminate home delivery for millions of customers, set up community mailboxes without taking residents' legitimate concerns into account, put thousands of employees out of work and then have the gall to raise the price of stamps.
Our postal service helps connect us, and these cuts will unfairly impact the most vulnerable in our society, including seniors and people with disabilities.
For all of those reasons, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to stop these devastating cuts to our postal service—
- MPndpFeb 25, 2015 11:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, March 8 marks the tenth International Women's Day I will celebrating as a member of Parliament, except that it is not much of a celebration. Instead of eradicating barriers to women's full economic, social, and political participation, the Conservatives have been erecting them.
They have actively undermined many of the advancements essential for the security of women by backtracking on pay equity; eliminating funding for the court challenges program; failing to create a national child care strategy; decreasing support for international gender-equality projects; failing to address violence against women; attempting to restrict women's reproductive rights; failing to improve the lives of aboriginal women; lacking strategies to address the specific challenges faced by women of colour, women from the LGBTQ community, and women with disabilities; reneging on the commitment to bring in gender-based analysis across ministries; failing to improve women's pension rights; closing three-quarters of all Status of Women offices; and eliminating even the mention of gender equality from the mandate of Status of Women.
It is a daunting list, but New Democrats will not give up the fight. We know that Canadian women deserve fairness, affordability, opportunity, equal pay for work of equal value, a decent standard of living, and the freedom to live without fear. We will never stop in our efforts to ensure the full and equal rights of all women.
- MPndpFeb 04, 2015 11:20 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, there is more bad news about jobs this week and still no plan from the Conservatives.
Today, 383 workers at Wrigley Canada in Toronto found out they were losing their jobs. After 52 years, production is going to shift to Gainesville, Georgia.
This comes right on the heels of other hard-working Canadians losing their jobs in retail: 17,600 families got hit by Target's closure, because a foreign company bought out their stores and then shut them down; 400 jobs lost from Tim Hortons corporate offices, along with Sony closing 14 stores and Mexx closing 95 stores. In total, 16 different chains have shut down or pulled out of Canada.
What do we get from the Conservatives? They are playing politics with the legitimate concerns of Canadians about safety from terrorism. They are planning tax cuts for the most well-off. They are delaying their budget.
Canadians deserve better, and this year they will get better when the NDP forms government.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 10:10 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I really do have a plethora of things on which I could comment. I will start with a point that I did not get to highlight in my speech as much as I had wanted to.
One of the things that is obviously true in Canada is that much of our pipeline infrastructure is aging. It is one of the reasons why Canadians are so concerned about the possibility of spills. The Americans are way ahead of us on that, or at least in recognizing there may be a problem.
Members in the House may be aware that there has been a second spill in Montana. This spill was near the city of Glendive, Montana. Over 40,000 gallons spilled and contaminated downstream water supplies. Relatively speaking, I guess that was the minor spill of the two spills that happened in Montana. However, when the local senator, who is a Montana Democrat, was asked about that, he told the media that more frequent inspections by regulators were needed and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.
In Canada, we are going the exact opposite way. As I said, in 2011 it was pointed out to the government that we needed greater oversight and stricter regulations. The Conservatives, as my colleague from Scarborough Southwest said, are gutting regulations. They have gutted the navigable waters act. It is no wonder that Canadians are concerned about pipeline safety in our country.
I do not often say this, but in this instance we ought to be taking a page out of the book that is south of the border, where the Americans are actually taking environmental damages and the potential for environmental damages more seriously than we are in Canada. Canadians deserve that kind of certainty when it comes to potential impacts on the environment.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 10:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I posted on social media some time ago that Canadians had been as nice to the nearly departed as they were to the dearly departed. The same is holding true in the House. I thank my colleagues for their comments. It is unfortunate that I was unable to use those comments in my last election brochure, but it is better late than never.
I welcome the question about absolute liability, because my colleague is absolutely right. It seems with the government that, often, these numbers are just pulled out of thin air. The member will recall that we debated nuclear liability in the House, not just twice, but three times, I think. Each time, the amount of money that the government had included under the liability regime changed. There was never any reason given for that change in numbers nor, frankly, for the first number that it chose.
Now we are dealing with a bill that targets that number at $1 billion, as was the case with nuclear liability and offshore liability. I suppose we should at least celebrate the fact that there is some consistency here. However, we do need to have a close look at that number in committee.
If we believe in the polluter pays principle and that companies ought to be responsible for the environmental damage that they cause, the number ought to be whatever the cost of environmental damages. If it is $1.2 billion, companies should be paying $1.2 billion. The figure of $1 billion is entirely arbitrary.
Perhaps the question about how the government got that number would have been better put to the minister. It will not surprise my colleague that I cannot speak for the Conservatives. Getting into their minds has always been scary place for me, and I would not venture to do that here today. However, it is a point that we will definitely have to pursue once the bill gets clause-by-clause scrutiny in committee.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 10:00 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I have not quite counted my presence in the House in days. I guess I have not had enough time to do that, but I do appreciate the numerical count. I thank the member, and I appreciate the good wishes.
With respect to the question being put about whether I support pipelines or manufacturing, it is a little like asking if I support the environment or the economy. It is a false choice. Of course I support manufacturing, and at no point in my speech did I say that I did not support pipelines. It would have been naive to say that we heat our homes with gas, but that we do not need gas pipelines. Nowhere in my speech did I make any such statement.
What I did say was that Canadians needed to have confidence that pipelines were safe, and that the Conservative government and its latest bill would not, on the face of it, provide Canadians with enough certainty that there would not be any pipeline spills. As the member will recall from my speech, I also said that we had a world-class workforce. That labour force, when it is constructing pipelines, is doing the very best that it can with the money and the mandate given to it by pipeline companies.
All I said in my speech was that Canadians deserved certainty. We have to implement the polluter pays principle. We have to develop our resources in a sustainable way. That includes the transport of those resources, of which pipelines are a significant part in Canada.
I would be willing to debate the manufacturing sector next. I would welcome that debate in the House, and perhaps we could do that. Perhaps the member would like to introduce a private members' bill so we could once again debate U.S. Steel, for example, a topic on which the Conservative government has been absolutely silent.
The future of U.S. Steel is obviously a huge issue in my hometown of Hamilton. Thousands of pensioners are concerned about their future. They have been waiting for the government to stand in the House and comment on the manufacturing sector, to bring forward a manufacturing sector strategy, and to take real action on the retirement security of Canadians.
I look forward to that debate.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 9:45 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, since this is the first sitting day of the 2015 calendar year, I begin by wishing you, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues in the House a belated happy new year.
I do not know how I got lucky enough to be the first New Democrat to give a speech on a government bill in this chamber this year, but I am certain that there is a short straw with my name on it somewhere in the opposition lobby. Anyway, let us launch right into it.
The bill before us today is Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. Perhaps it will help people to stop from nodding off if I explain at the outset that despite its unimaginative title, the bill really purports to improve pipeline safety in our country.
That is where we find the yardstick for whether my NDP colleagues and I will ultimately be able to support the bill. Does Bill C-46 actually improve pipeline safety, or is it a rhetorical exercise to provide the government cover in what is, after all, an election year? I will spend the next 20 minutes or so in this House trying to answer that single and most germane question.
I will begin by providing a bit of context first. There is no doubt that Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and that our energy sector is the motor of the Canadian economy. It is imperative that we capitalize on those unique advantages. For New Democrats, that means that we have to leverage them by creating high quality middle-class jobs, by harnessing the full potential of Canada's natural gifts, and by maximizing the benefit of development for all Canadians. That development is vital to our economy and our country.
However, the reality is that resource development can only move forward if development is done sustainably. If we are going to seize the opportunities ahead, if we are going to leverage our resources to create wealth and prosperity for generations to come, then we will have to rise to meet new challenges and adapt to the new reality of the the new century, and that requires a new vision, a vision that my NDP colleagues and I have been promoting tirelessly, not just for months, but for years now.
Our vision is one that promotes economic growth without sacrificing social or environmental sustainability, one that looks to the future instead of clinging to the past, and one that creates lasting prosperity instead of feeding endless cycles of boom and bust. To that end, our vision is based on three key principles: sustainability, to make sure that polluters pay for the the pollution they create instead of leaving those costs to the next generation; partnership, to make sure that communities, provinces, and first nations all benefit trom resource development and that we create value-added, middle-class jobs here in Canada; and most important, long-term prosperity that leverages our natural national resource wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technology that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure there are affordable energy rates into the future.
For far too long, Canadians have been told they have to choose between our economy and our environment, but that is a false choice. It is an approach that is stuck in the past. A little less than two years ago, government documents revealed the very real economic costs of the environmental cleanup of the Giant Mine at Great Slave Lake. They have doubled from initial estimates, ballooning to nearly a billion dollars.
This is a vast industrial waste site bordering on the second deepest freshwater lake in the world, a Canadian treasure, and yet for more than half of the last century, it was contaminated with no regard for the costs it would impose on our children and grandchildren.
Communities from coast to coast to coast have made their voices clear. We will not let that happen again. However, despite this mess, the Conservative government is continuing down the same short-sighted path. It is dismantling every major piece of environmental protection and hurting Canada's economic development at the very same time.
Past generations can perhaps be excused for the way they treated places like Great Slave Lake, but our generation has no excuse. The fact is, in the 21st century, a social licence is every bit as important as a regulatory licence, if not more. In this day and age, any development model that relies on degrading our environment, on putting public safety at risk, or on exploiting our resources without benefiting our communities is no model at all.
Canadians understand only too well the long-term consequences of the Conservative government's attacks on our environmental laws, and they are reacting because those attacks are sabotaging resource development and ultimately our economy as a whole.
In big cities and in small towns, development projects are meeting increasing resistance. The northern gateway, Kinder Morgan, and energy east pipelines are but three of the most recent examples.
Why should Canadians not be worried? They see the Conservative government gutting environmental assessments, they see dangerous pipeline spills on the rise, and they worry whether their communities will be next.
A recent Harris/Decima poll conducted for the government made it clear that only 27% of Canadians are confident that the Government of Canada is able to respond effectively to a significant oil spill on water. The number is only slightly higher, at 32%, for oil spills on land. Similarly, a significant proportion of Canadians do not feel confident that pipelines, tankers, and trains are transporting dangerous goods safely. When it comes to rail transport, only 29% of Canadians feel confident that it is safe. Only 37% of Canadians believe oil tanker transport is safe, while 47% of Canadians are confident that pipelines can safely transport oil.
Clearly, that is not a vote of confidence in the Conservatives' handling of this critical file.
It is equally clear that Canadians share the belief of New Democrats that we must take steps to ensure that we are developing and transporting our resources in a safe and secure way; that we have to implement effective oil spill prevention measures; that we have to increase inspections in oversight; and that we have to push for expanded liability so that we are giving teeth to the polluter pays principle.
When it comes to oil transport, with the huge expansion in production and transportation of crude oil, we need enhanced safety protection. This is common sense, no matter what the method of transport.
Public safety and environmental protection must be the highest priorities if we are to develop our natural resources sustainably.
That brings us back to the heart of the bill that is before us today. Would Bill C-46 implement a true polluter pays regime in Canada, and would the bill go far enough to obviate Canadians' legitimate concerns when it comes to pipeline safety?
Let us look at what the bill purports to do.
Unfortunately, in the time allotted to me here today, it is only possible to do that in the broadest of terms. However, I am hopeful that we will be able to undertake the detailed clause-by-clause scrutiny the bill merits at the committee stage of the legislative process.
At its most general, the purpose of Bill C-46, would be to improve Canada's pipeline liability regime.
It would be part of the government's larger review of the distinct liability regimes that govern different aspects of Canada's oil and gas development. Here, members will recall that last year Bill C-22 dealt with liabilities related to offshore drilling and potential spills in both Arctic and Atlantic waters. As well, over the course of last year, the government began consultations on the liability regime governing rail transport, as it sought to do damage control in the wake of Lac Mégantic. Now, we have yet a third piece before us dealing with the liability regime governing Canadian pipelines.
Here is what Bill C-46, would do.
It would reinforce the polluter pays principle.
It would confirm that the liability of pipeline companies is unlimited if an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or any other commodity is a result of fault or negligence.
It would establish the limit of liability, without proof of fault or negligence, at no less than $1 billion for companies that operate pipelines with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels per day and an amount prescribed by regulation for companies that operate any other pipelines.
It would require that pipeline companies maintain the financial resources necessary to pay the amount of the limit of liability that would apply to them.
The bill would authorize the National Energy Board to order any company that operates a pipeline from which an unintended or uncontrolled release occurs to reimburse government institutions for the costs incurred in taking any action in relation to the release.
It would require that pipeline companies remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines.
It would authorize the NEB to order pipeline companies to maintain funds to pay for the abandonment of their pipelines.
It would authorize the Governor in Council to authorize the NEB to take, in certain circumstances, any action the NEB considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release.
It would also allow the Governor in Council to establish a pipeline claims tribunal to examine and adjudicate claims for compensation for damage caused by an unintended or uncontrolled release from a pipeline.
Many of these changes are long overdue, and I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that they appear to be a step in the right direction.
However, it is also true that, once again, the Conservatives are late to the game. New Democrats have been waiting for the government to fix oil spill liability for quite some time. As always, with the current government, the devil is in the details.
Let us take a closer look at the some of the pluses and minuses of what has been presented to us in this bill.
On the upside, the fact that polluters will be absolutely liable for harm caused by a pipeline spill is obviously a good thing. What it means is that any company operating a pipeline will be liable in the event of a spill even if it has not been negligent and has not broken any laws. Moreover, companies must have enough financial resources to cover in full the absolute liability limit. For companies whose pipelines have the capacity to move at least 250,000 barrels per day, that limit will be $1 billion once this bill passes. That monetary amount may be increased by the government in the future, but the bill would prohibit cabinet from lowering it. That too is a good thing.
The bill would also give the NEB new tools to recoup cleanup costs from polluters, and in certain circumstances it even gives the board the power to recover costs from the industry as a whole, not just from the individual polluter.
Finally on the plus side, the bill would make polluters liable for environmental damages. Members will recall that we spent a lot of time when scrutinizing of Bill C-22 on the need to make polluters responsible for environmental damages or losses of non-use value of public resources. It is as important now as it was then to ensure that liability is not just restricted to the environment's commercial value. Bill C-46 sets out to do that and is an important first step in catching up with U.S. oil spill regulation, which is much more developed with respect to the recognition of environmental damages.
However, as a thoughtful analysis by Ian Miron at Ecojustice makes clear, there is an overall lack of certainty in Bill C-46 that may well undermine what would otherwise be this positive first step. Specifically, Mr. Miron points out three things. First, and perhaps most crucially, Bill C-46 does not impose unlimited absolute liability on polluters. No liability regime can truly be called a polluter pays regime unless and until polluters are made absolutely liable for the full costs of environmental harm.
While the $1 billion limit for some companies may be a big improvement over the status quo, it still would not completely cover the cleanup costs of an accident such as Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan. According to recent estimates, that spill, the largest in U.S. history, cost more than $1.2 billion to clean up, not including compensation for damages.
Moreover, Bill C-46 actually takes a step backward by eliminating the government's ability to recover cleanup costs for a pipeline spill under the Fisheries Act, which applies in certain circumstances to make a polluter absolutely liable without limit. In the absence of such unlimited absolute liability, the government and, therefore, Canadians may still be on the hook for spills, and that, frankly, is wrong. If the government is so convinced that pipelines are a mature industry, then the industry is one that can and must pay for itself. Instead, the fact that this bill does not completely enshrine the polluter pay principle means that the Conservatives are giving just one more handout to its friends in the oil patch by making taxpayers liable for oil spill risks.
In that regard, it is also worth pointing out that the bill is completely silent on identifying absolute liability limits for smaller oil pipeline companies, or for gas and other non-oil pipeline companies. While such limits may be set by cabinet down the road, it begs the question of why the government would not do so now. Is volumetrics the only criterion the government has used to assess the potential magnitude of damages from a spill? I hope that in the course of our deliberations the Conservatives will give us an answer to that rather pressing question.
This leads to my final broad criticism of the bill. Just as the absolute liability limits are discretionary for all but the big pipeline companies, many other aspects of the new liability regime are as well. While the bill would create several new tools that could enhance the NEB's ability to recoup cleanup costs from a polluter, the NEB or the cabinet get to decide whether or not they will be implemented. As Ecojustice thus rightly points out, BillC-46 leaves considerable leeway for politically motivated decisions and backroom arrangements between operators and the NEB, a regulator that lacks credibility on the pipeline front.
In fact, this may be a good time to say yet again that the NEB needs a fundamental overhaul. While the Liberals and Conservatives have generally been happy simply to rubberstamp pipeline projects, my NDP colleagues and I firmly believe that major resource projects must be judged on their merits. That means that the NEB has to subject proposals to a rigorous and robust environmental assessment process. Assessment criteria must include the impact of each individual project on our emissions and climate change commitments, on Canadian jobs, and on national and regional energy security. Public consultations must be credible and democratic, not shallow, limited, or by paper only, and projects must honour our legal obligations to first nations.
Clearly, such rigour was absent in the NEB review of both Enbridge's northern gateway and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, and the same flawed process is now being applied to TransCanada's energy east plans as well. No wonder Canadians are worried about these pipelines snaking their way through backyards.
Northern gateway has the capacity to move 525,000 barrels per day, 890,000 barrels per day for Kinder Morgan and a staggering 1.1 billion barrels per day for energy east. The potential for disaster is huge, which brings me to the last point I want to raise in wrapping up my participation in today's debate.
While the new liability regime deals with protecting Canadians from the cost of cleaning up an oil spill, my NDP colleagues and I believe the best way to protect Canadians is to ensure such spills do not happen in the first place. Measuring risk correctly and assigning liability may be one tool in the kit to encourage industry to improve its safety practices and therefore reduce the likelihood of catastrophic accidents. However, it is only one tool of many and nothing else is being done. Where is the concrete action to fix the broken environmental assessment process that the Conservatives have dismantled? Where is the much-needed legislation that would bring in better regulation and oversight?
As far back as 2011, the environment commissioned highlighted that the National Energy Board was failing to ensure that known problems were being fixed and that pipelines were being properly maintained. We have a world-class labour force that is ready and eager to do that work. However, without companies making commitments to pipeline safety, Canadians can be forgiven for wondering not whether an oil spill will happen but when.
Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and managed properly and sustainably they can be important drivers for our economy. This is particularly true of the energy sector. However, instead of guiding our energy policy in the best interest of Canadian jobs, the environment and the economy, the Conservative government is gutting assessments and reviews, and failing to address the valid concerns of Canadians. That is such a narrow-minded and counterproductive approach. Social licence, the consent of Canadians for the development of Canada's resources, is crucial to the success of any project. However, instead of working to achieve such consent, the government's intransigence is actually undermining the support for companies in the pipeline sector by exacerbating opposition to energy development right across the country.
There is a better way, and the New Democrats have been championing it for years. It is based on sustainable development. Governments must look at environmental, social and economic impacts before going forward with any development project. That way we can prevent devastating environmental damage, while ensuring that Canadians benefit from Canada's natural bounty of resources. It is the right thing to do, and it finally would allow us to move beyond the all too convenient Conservative canard that Canadians must choose between the economy and the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
With the right kind of leadership, Canadians will finally be able to have their cake and eat it too, and that is the kind of leadership the NDP will provide when it forms government, under the experienced leadership of the member for Outremont, later on this year. That will make this a happy new year indeed.
- MPndpJan 26, 2015 9:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the minister's speech, and those of us on this side of the House would say that indeed it is long overdue that we bring in an updated liability regime for pipelines. As the minister well knows, Canadians are profoundly worried about pipeline safety.
As a general comment, I would say that it is good that we are finally dealing with this bill. One might wonder why we are dealing with this matter now when we had the opportunity to update other liability regimes earlier in this Parliament, such as the nuclear liability regime and offshore oil and gas, but nonetheless here we are. I would suggest, though, that it might be a bit early to celebrate, because as we know, with this government the devil is always in the details.
In fact, when we look at this bill more closely, one of the things that becomes very apparent is that much in the legislation is left to the discretion of both the National Energy Board and the Governor in Council, which means that we cannot really be certain that the government is acting with any kind of real commitment to improving pipeline safety.
I will explain why I am worried about that. There is a briefing note posted online from McCarthy Tétrault to its clients about what this bill may mean, and those clients are pipeline companies.
It talks about the new responsibilities that companies may now have to comply with. Here is the final sentence in that brief:
Accordingly, pipeline companies should consider their safety and financial obligations...to ensure they meet legislated requirements once the Bill’s amendments are brought into force.
It makes one wonder what companies are doing now. Do they not care about safety now, if this is the advice they are receiving from their lawyers? I would want Canadians to know that there is absolute certainty about what this bill is going to do, about how we are going to improve pipeline safety and how we are going to improve the liability regime, because Canadians need to be able to trust that pipeline companies are not going to put their lives and their environment in danger.
- MPndpDec 04, 2014 3:10 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in support of Motion No. 537, which was put forward by my NDP colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre. I apologize to the interpreters; I may be speaking a bit fast tonight, but I have a lot to say on this topic.
For those of us in the NDP caucus who represent Steeltown, this motion could not be more timely. It demands accountability and action from the Conservative government to compensate Hamiltonians and steelworkers in particular for allowing U.S. Steel to run roughshod over the requirement to provide a net benefit to Canada as a result of its takeover of Stelco.
In fact, New Democrats have been demanding such action from the federal government ever since it became apparent that U.S. Steel was flouting its obligations as spelled out under the Investment Canada Act.
Unfortunately, like their Liberal predecessors, the Conservatives simply refuse to ensure that foreign investments: (a) create new jobs for Canadians; (b) bring new capital to Canada; (c) transfer new technology to this country; (d) increase Canadian-based research and development; (e) contribute to sustainable economic development; and (f) improve the lives of Canadian workers and their communities.
Only if all six of those conditions are met, can any government feel assured that new proposals are indeed of net benefit to Canada, which is, after all, the key legal criterion for determining whether a foreign takeover should be allowed to proceed. Instead, foreign investments have been approved despite the fact that they were motivated simply by a desire to gain control of Canada's strategic industries and resources. Sadly, that seems to be just fine by the Conservative government.
Let us review what has been happening in Hamilton. U.S. Steel acquired the former operations of Stelco Inc. in 2007. That included both Hilton Works in Hamilton and Lake Erie Works in Nanticoke.
Under the Investment Canada Act, U.S. Steel had to demonstrate that its investment would provide a net benefit to Canada. As a result, it had to make commitments with respect to job creation, production levels, and domestic investment. To that end, U.S. Steel and the Government of Canada signed an agreement that committed U.S. Steel to 31 different undertakings and promises. U.S. Steel then started up its operations in the fall of 2007. Just a year later, layoffs began at Hilton Works and in 2009 at Lake Erie Works as well.
In the spring of 2009, the government started to ask questions, and U.S. Steel responded with a whole host of reasons for why it is excused, or ought to be excused, from meeting its employment and production commitments. The excuses did not fly, and so the government took U.S. Steel to court in July of that year.
The Steelworkers and Lakeside Steel, a company with a potential interest in acquiring U.S. Steel operations, were granted intervenor status. This was a huge victory for the steelworkers. Winning intervenor status is rare in cases such as these, but the court said that the union had “unique interests” that ought to be considered in determining an appropriate remedy.
U.S. Steel, of course, did not just roll over, and so in September of 2009, the company went back to court challenging the constitutionality of the entire act. The judge dismissed U.S. Steel's claim. Once again, U.S. Steel filed an appeal, and then asked for a stay. The court did not grant the stay application, but the Charter challenge was never resolved.
Even just to that point in the U.S. Steel saga, a number of points had already been thrown into relief. First, by taking U.S. Steel to court, the federal government acknowledged that it does indeed have a legal duty to ensure that foreign investments provide a net benefit to Canada.
Second, the case made it clear that commitments made by foreign corporations with respect to job creation, production levels, and domestic investment are legally binding. They are not fairweather wish lists that foreign corporations can unilaterally abandon. Both of those things are good news; but, and this is a big but, clearly these are not ironclad guarantees.
In fact, when the Conservative government rolled over in December of 2011 and dropped its lawsuit against U.S. Steel, it got nothing in terms of either guaranteed production or employment levels at the former Stelco. Instead, it got a promise of new investments of $50 million in both the Hamilton and Lake Erie plants, which many of us believed at the time was simply a way to fatten the pig before the slaughter, or in this case, before a sale.
In any event, the Conservatives completely let the company off the hook, and effectively said to all foreign investors that Canadian companies are free for the taking and that the legislated need to secure a net benefit from such transactions will simply not be enforced.
How can that be? What was in the original agreement with U.S. Steel that let it get off the hook so easily? What happened behind closed doors between the government and U.S. Steel? In truth, we will never know. Herein lies the crux of the problem. We do not know, because the agreements between foreign corporations and the federal government under the Investment Canada Act are negotiated in private and are never made publicly available.
It does not need to be that way, and it should not be that way. That is why the motion before us today mandates the government to make public the commitments U.S. Steel agreed to under the Investment Canada Act in respect of the acquisition of Stelco Inc. in 2007, and the 2011 out of court settlement, concerning employment and production guarantees and maintenance of the employee pension system.
This is absolutely critical and mirrors my own private member's bill, Bill C-358, the Stelco Inc. acquisition act. My bill is short and to the point. It requires the Government of Canada to publish: (a) all written undertakings given to Her Majesty in right of Canada under the Investment Canada Act in respect of the acquisition of Stelco Inc. by the United States Steel Corporation in 2007; and (b) all demands sent by the Minister of Industry in respect of those undertakings.
The intent here is clear. The single biggest challenge to holding companies to their commitments is not knowing what commitments were made in the first place. In essence, we are creating a legal requirement for transparency and accountability. The alternative is what is playing out in Hamilton right now. With a government abdicating its responsibility to hold companies to their commitments, hundreds of workers are now fearful of losing their jobs, and over 9,000 pensioners are terrified that their pension plan may be wound up and that they will lose a significant portion of their hard-earned retirement benefits.
That is why the motion before us today concludes by calling on the government to take immediate action to ensure pension benefits remain fully funded and protected, including amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act to protect worker pensions in the event of bankruptcy.
Allow me just to expand on this a little further.
Whenever we mention pensions and USW Local 1005, old rumours begin to resurface about how the current bind can largely be attributed to the Rae government in Ontario. I am no fan of Bob Rae, but this misinformation campaign is readily disproved by the facts. The contention is that it was the NDP government in Ontario that threw the floodgates wide open for corporations to underfund their pension plans, and that is why we are in such difficulty now. That is complete nonsense.
Let me once again set the record straight. It is true that a number of companies approached the government in the early 1990s with a request for pension contribution holidays during what was then a very serious recession. The government did approve a limited number of those requests, but only on the condition that companies had to file detailed plans with hard deadlines for repayment of the plan. Every one of the companies approved by the NDP government met those conditions. Every pension plan was repaid.
Stelco did not apply for its contribution holiday until after Mike Harris came to power in June of 1995. Stelco filed its election to pay penalties rather than fund the pension plan in June of 1996. The Harris Conservatives allowed that to happen without any requirement that a pension plan repayment schedule be either filed or met. Without such a binding requirement and without any enforcement, underfunded pension plans began to abound in Ontario. That is how we ended up in the mess that has now become a full-blown pension crisis. That is why we need to pass the motion that is before us today on an urgent basis.
The workers and pensioners at U.S. Steel deserve the government's support. They did not approve the foreign takeover that led us down this path; the government did. While an apology to Hamiltonians for not securing a net benefit for our community would be a good start, concrete action on full disclosure and pension security would offer real assistance to the innocent victims of this sweetheart deal with U.S. Steel. Frankly, steelworkers and their families deserve nothing less.
- MPndpDec 01, 2014 12:15 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to table a petition with over 400 signatures from Annunciation of Our Lord parish in my riding of Hamilton Mountain.
The petitioners join with thousands of others in endorsing the campaign of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace entitled, Sow much love. It is a global call to action to support small farmers who are the guardians of the world's seed biodiversity. In a very real way, they are fighting to protect the future of food.
The petitioners are asking the government to make two concrete commitments. The first is to adopt international aid policies that support small family farmers, especially women, and recognize their vital role in the fight against hunger and poverty. Second, the petitioners want the government to ensure that these policies and programs are developed in consultation with small family farmers and that they protect the rights of small family farmers in the global south, to preserve, use, and freely exchange seeds.
While the rules of the House do not allow me to endorse a petition, let me conclude by saying that I share wholeheartedly in the desire to build a more just and sustainable food system for our human family.
- MPndpNov 26, 2014 12:20 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to table a petition with hundreds of signatures that were collected by the Hamilton chapter of CURC, the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada.
The petitioners are profoundly worried about the government's plan to allow the conversion of defined benefit pension plans to target benefit or so-called shared risk plans. Such a conversion would allow the government to strip pension benefits of legal protections and permit employers to reduce all benefits, including those earned through past service.
The petitioners call on the government to abandon this ill-conceived scheme and to focus its energy instead on improving the retirement security of the 62% of Canadian workers without any workplace pension plan by expanding the CPP.
While the rules of the House do not allow me to endorse a petition, I firmly believe pensions are deferred wages and employers cannot be allowed to break their promise to deliver those benefits to retirees. It is our job to ensure that this solemn promise is kept.
- MPndpNov 26, 2014 11:55 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have never fought to protect Canadian workers from Buy America policies, and companies are tired of being shut out.
Now they are even being shut out of projects in Canada on federally owned lands. Because of Buy America policies, steel for a northern B.C. ferry terminal must be bought from the U.S., excluding Canadian steel companies from places such as Hamilton from even bidding.
How did the Conservatives let it get this far? What are they doing to fix the situation? When will they stand up for Canadian jobs?
- MPndpNov 25, 2014 11:10 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a time for giving. It is a time to think beyond oneself and to give to those who do not share equally in our country's great blessings.
I am pleased to stand in the House to pay tribute to the thousands of Hamilton Mountain residents and the millions of Canadians who will make a special effort this holiday season to give back to those who are less fortunate. Community organizations, church congregations, the Salvation Army, food banks, and others will lead the effort to make this festive season a true celebration for those who would otherwise go without this Christmas.
Sadly, that spirit of giving has not reached the government benches in the House. The Prime Minister, in particular, still has not learned that it is better to give than to receive. How else can we explain his recent announcement of income splitting? Although the program costs taxpayers $4.9 billion, 86% of Canadians cannot benefit from it. Here is the kicker: the Prime Minister can.
In the spirit of the season, will the Prime Minister not reconsider? Why will he not help those who need help the most? Otherwise, Canadians may be forgiven for simply saying to him “Bah! Humbug!”
- MPndpNov 21, 2014 8:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, it was obvious to the ethics commissioner, as it was to everyone else, that this fundraiser was totally inappropriate. The minister is claiming ignorance, saying that she did not know what her fundraisers were doing. Why is it that in scandal after scandal, the Conservatives refuse to take these problems seriously, and do not even bother to explain the rules to their fundraisers, until they get caught, that is? When will the minister take personal responsibility and apologize?
- MPndpNov 19, 2014 11:20 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, last night Canada's largest province endorsed the NDP's affordable child care plan.
We congratulate Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP for getting the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to endorse our plan to create affordable and accessible child care spaces at a cost of no more than $15 a day.
Sadly, in the nine years since the Prime Minister first promised to create 125,000 child care spaces, the Conservatives not only broke that promise but under their watch parents have seen child care costs skyrocket.
Meanwhile, the federal Liberals spent 13 years in government making and breaking promises on child care.
The leader of the NDP is ready to work with the provinces to make affordable, accessible child care a reality because only the NDP believes it is time to give parents a break.
Affordable child care is just one election away.
- MPndpNov 17, 2014 11:10 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, on May 2, 2013, Brian Mulroney was the headliner at a fundraiser to pay Dean Del Mastro's legal fees. With a setup like that, Conservatives should have known that something bad was going on.
The Minister of Employment and Social Development was there. The cost was a mere $600 a plate, and was conveniently located just a few blocks from Bay Street.
We now learn that this entire fundraiser was conducted by Del Mastro's riding association, meaning that rather than have to pay out the full price, the guest list of senators, developers, executives and Conservative caucus members actually got a taxpayer refund for their contributions to the “Free Dean” campaign. The Conservatives should now have to explain why of the $39,000 raised, almost $24,000 will be reimbursed by taxpayers.
When it comes to sticking it to the little guy, there is no one better than those Bay Street Conservatives and their old friend, Brian Mulroney.
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 8:20 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme will go over better in a room full of bankers than it does with regular Canadians, or economists, or former finance ministers, or pretty much anyone else who has looked at the details. They are all opposed.
By contrast, New Democrats have put forward a plan for quality universal child care at $15 a day or less. Why will the minister not adopt our plan to create one million spaces and reverse the trend of climbing costs that put the squeeze on so many families?
- MPndpNov 07, 2014 8:15 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am sure the Minister of Finance is looking forward to heading back to hang out with his Bay Street buddies next week, but Canadian families are wondering when they will get their update on what happened to the Conservatives' promise to create 125,000 new child care spaces. Last I checked, the counter is still at zero and the costs of child care continue to climb.
How many new child care spaces will be announced in the fall economic update?
- MPndpNov 04, 2014 12:05 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, this week, a respected energy executive with 40 years of experience in the sector, including as a deputy minister, former CEO of BC Hydro and former chair of Manitoba Hydro, dropped out of the National Energy Board review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, calling the process fraudulent and a public deception.
He is not the first to raise concerns about the weakened NEB review of Kinder Morgan. Why have the Conservatives created a project review process that shuts out community voices?
- MPndpOct 30, 2014 11:35 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I do not think Canadians are reassured by the minister's words, and they should not be.
In fact, the Public Accounts released yesterday show that in spite of all her talk of rail safety, the Conservatives actually cut funding for rail safety in each of the last two years. Last year, they failed to spend nearly $4 million of the budget that was left.
Why do the Conservatives say one thing and do the other when it comes to ensuring rail safety?
- MPndpOct 24, 2014 8:25 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives tabled yet another mammoth budget bill. It is 458 pages, with more than 400 clauses, dozens of laws repealed, rewritten, or amended, and all in a single omnibus bill.
Canadians expect us to study, debate, and deliberate on their behalf, and to make thoughtful choices. Will the government agree not to shut down debate with closure or time allocation on this large piece of legislation?
- MPndpOct 03, 2014 8:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President of Liberia urged Canada to do more as the Ebola outbreak continues to devastate her country. She said there is an urgent need for highly skilled health workers, testing centres and training. The WHO cites that the situation in Liberia in particular continues to deteriorate. Liberia needs strong international support to bring the outbreak under control.
Will the Canadian government respond to the plea from the Liberian president?
- MPndpOct 03, 2014 8:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, starting tomorrow, over one billion Muslims worldwide will begin to celebrate Eid al-Adha. This special holiday is a reminder to Muslims of Abraham's sacrifice of his son as an act of devotion to God. It is about giving of what is best of oneself, giving that which is most precious of oneself, to God. It is a celebration of generosity and charity.
Eid al-Adha also marks the end of the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca. We welcome back all those who are returning from the Hajj and thank them for their deep commitment to the values of unity and peace.
These values of peace, charity, family and friendship are dear to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and they reinforce our common bonds of humanity. They speak to our shared belief in fundamental social justice.
As Muslims come together in the days ahead to pray, feast and give back to their communities, I want to wish them a joyful celebration among family and friends.
On behalf of the entire NDP caucus, I want to thank Canada's Muslim community for its contribution and commitment toward creating a stronger fabric of respect and understanding in our country. In the spirit of peace and friendship, Eid Mubarak.
- MPndpOct 02, 2014 7:35 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question. On raising the integrity of medicines and the health and safety of Canadians with respect to the medications that they take, he is, of course, spot on.
I think the member was referring to matters that we raised in question period here on this side of the House with respect to Apotex and the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health effectively said that they raised the issue of unsafe drugs with the company but the company refused to act, as if that somehow were good enough for Canadians. Clearly, it was not.
Now, in Bill C-8, we have that issue before us again. We moved amendments in committee to make sure, as I said, that consumers would still be able to take generic drugs with the confidence that they were taking the right medication. We are now able to have generic drugs with the same shape, colour and size as the original medications precisely so that consumers can have confidence in the system. That is absolutely imperative.
The other question we have to ask ourselves is this. If we are creating this framework to keep Canadians safe, why are we cutting the resources for both the RCMP and Canadian border officials, which would make it impossible to enforce that regime?
Those resources have been cut dramatically. Over 500 full-time jobs will be gone. How can Canadians have confidence that, even with this new regime, the necessary enforcement will be there to keep them and their families safe?
- MPndpOct 02, 2014 7:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. The statistic we have is that a quarter of RCMP investigations and seizures of counterfeit products were potentially harmful to consumers in 2011, and that proportion has gone up from 11% in 2005. Both of those were a response to an order paper question that my colleague from Sudbury placed on the order paper. That was the only way we were getting the information from the government.
The question we still have, as I indicated in my speech, is this: when is the government going to focus its efforts, in the area of counterfeiting, on the health, safety, and security of consumers?
- MPndpOct 02, 2014 7:10 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-8, the combating counterfeit products act. What a great short title for a bill. Who could possibly not be against counterfeit products coming into our country, especially when they may pose serious health and safety risks for Canadians? Certainly New Democrats are against that. However, despite the fact that the bill tries to frame the debate in the now infamous George Bush way of suggesting “you are either with us, or you're against us”, my NDP colleagues and I take our responsibilities here in the House very seriously, and we proposed a number of amendments that would have vastly improved the bill. So yes, despite supporting the thrust of the bill, we were at times critical of some of its provisions.
Let me not get ahead of myself. I will speak to our proposed amendments in due course. First though, let me spend a moment commenting on the bill as a whole. Bill C-8 would amend both the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act so as to strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark rights and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies or counterfeit trademark goods.
To that end, the bill would add two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act, for possession and exportation of infringing copies, and create offences for selling or offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale. It would also create a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods and introduce some balance to that prohibition by creating two exceptions: one, for personal use, meaning items in one's possession or baggage; and two, for items that are in transit.
On the enforcement side, the bill would grant new ex officio powers to border officials to detain infringing copies or counterfeit goods. This is a significant policy shift. Until now, border officials required private rights holders to obtain a court order before seizing infringing copies or goods. I will have much more to say about that in a moment, but first let me continue with my quick overview of Bill C-8.
The bill would also grant new ex officio powers to the Minister of Public Safety and border officials to share information on detained goods with rights holders. Lastly, it would widen the scope of what can be trademarked to the features found in the broad definition of “sign”, including colour, shapes, scents, taste, et cetera.
There can be no doubt that dealing with counterfeiting and infringement is important to both Canadian businesses and consumers, especially as I said before, where counterfeit goods may put the health or safety of Canadians at risk. However the bill is only as good as its enforcement. The strongest laws in the world do not mean a thing if governments are not willing to dedicate the necessary resources to crack down on counterfeit products coming into our country. When I look at the Conservative government's track record in that regard, I fear that we might be creating a paper tiger.
It is very difficult to see how a bill like this would be implemented, when last year alone the Conservatives slashed $143 million in funding to the Canada Border Services Agency, which further reduced front-line officers and harmed the agency's ability to monitor our borders. In fact, CBSA's report on plans and priorities indicates a loss of 549 full-time employees by 2015.
When I asked the minister about that at committee, he said that no new resources would be needed to implement the bill, but that means that border officials and the RCMP would have to reallocate existing resources to enforce this new law and that begs two questions. Which of the functions that they are currently performing to keep Canadians safe are they going to drop to enforce Bill C-8; or are they really not going to get serious about combatting counterfeit goods, in which case, why are we passing this bill? We never did get a satisfactory answer to that question, but it is a point that we will continue to press because it is critical to the successful fight against counterfeiting.
I want to move on now to a different issue. Canadians will remember that my NDP colleagues and I have often criticized the Conservative government for failing to take a balanced approach to copyright legislation in the past. The government's record was far from stellar. I do want to give the government some credit where credit is due. Bill C-8 contains important measures to protect consumer and individual rights, and my NDP colleagues and I worked hard at committee to make sure that these measures were maintained and strong.
When dealing with intellectual property, it is imperative that we adopt an approach that strikes a balance between the interests of rights holders and the interests of users and consumers. At first, alarm bells went off when the deputy minister for the Department of Industry said that Bill C-8 would bring Canada in line with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA contains copyright provisions that have been heavily criticized for failing to achieve this necessary balance. The European parliament rejected ACTA after an unprecedented outcry because its benefits were far outweighed by the threats to civil liberties.
Those threats included the risk of criminalizing individuals, concerns about the definition of “commercial scale”, the role of Internet service providers, and the possible interruption of the transit of generic medicines. In the end, the European Parliament rejected the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement.
I was therefore happy to see that Bill C-8 is much narrower than ACTA and that it contains a number of provisions that offer balance. There are important personal-use exceptions and exceptions for goods that are in transit. Most important, the bill does not address Internet service providers. Therefore, while my NDP colleagues and I continue to be concerned about the broader provisions in ACTA, we are comfortable supporting Bill C-8.
Ironically, it was the Liberal Party that, at committee, threatened to undermine the important balance that Bill C-8 struck. In fact, it moved two amendments that we worked hard to defeat precisely for that reason.
The first Liberal amendment was to remove the personal-use exception for individual travellers, a provision my NDP colleagues and I believe is absolutely crucial to bringing some balance to the bill.
As Dr. Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, put it in his blog:
Given that personal use exceptions are even included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it is shocking to see any party proposing their removal, which would result in longer delays at the border and increased searches of individual travellers...“this was one of the important provisions that brought some balance to the bill.”
Professor Jeremy de Beer added that:
...the personal use exception...[is] important...to make the whole system workable, manageable, and cost-effective. It's not possible to do everything within the resource allocations and the training parameters that our agents are provided with. So the system in the bill as it is creates a very pragmatic, workable starting point, and I would encourage us just to leave it there.
Thankfully, the Conservatives agreed with us, and the Liberal amendment was defeated.
The same was true of the Liberal amendment to add statutory damages to the bill. Having already proposed removing the personal exception for travellers and a simplified procedure for the seizure of goods that would remove court oversight in the destruction of goods in a greater number of cases, the Liberals proposed an amendment to add statutory damages, with a mandatory minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $100,000 in liability. The provision would limit the discretion of judges to order damages based on the evidence.
Again, I am going to quote the expert testimony by Dr. Geist at our committee:
With respect [to trademarks], statutory damages...are unnecessary. Rights holders frequently cite the specific value of their goods and the harms associated with counterfeiting. If the claims are accurate, demonstrating the value for the purpose of a damage award should not be difficult.
Moreover, other countries have experienced problems with statutory damages for trademarks. For example, Taiwan reformed its trademarks statutory damages provision when courts began awarding disproportionate awards. In the U.S., statutory damages for trademarks has led to trademark trolls engaging in litigation designed primarily to obtain costly settlements against small businesses that can ill afford to fight in court.
Again, my NDP colleagues and I were adamant that this amendment be defeated, because it not only undermined the delicate balance achieved by Bill C-8 but actually went beyond what even ACTA had envisioned.
Not all proposed amendments were bad, however, and as I said at the outset, there were sections of the bill that could, and should, have been strengthened. To that end, I want to spend the remainder of the time available to me here to highlight just a few of the amendments my NDP colleagues and I moved in committee in a sincere effort to improve the bill.
The first was one that all parties ended up agreeing to, which was that we needed to return to the original definition of “distinctive” in the Trade-marks Act.
I understand that squabbling about definitions may seem as exciting as watching paint dry, but in this case, it was important that we get it right.
As the generic drug industry persuasively argued before our committee, there is significant case law to make it possible for a generic version of a drug to have the same colour, shape, and size as the brand-name drug with the same effect. This is absolutely crucial for the patients who are using those drugs, since any confusion could have deadly consequences.
To throw that case law into doubt by changing the existing definition for no demonstrably important reason made no sense to any of us on the committee.
I am pleased to say that the original definition is now restored in Bill C-8. Sadly, the spirit of co-operation did not extend to other amendments that would have been equally important to ensuring that the intent of the bill was actually reflected in its language. For example, the NDP moved amendments to Bill C-8 that would have ensured that parallel imports would be excluded from the bill's reach.
Intellectual property lawyer Howard Knopf told us:
The bill should propose appropriate declaratory language for both the Copyright Act and Trade-marks Act that makes is [sic] absolutely clear that, with the exception of the sui generis book importation scheme now found in s. 27.1 of the Copyright Act, neither of these acts shall in any way restrict the importation, distribution or sale of any product, whether tangible or digital, that has been manufactured or first put on the market anywhere in the world with authorization.
This is crucial, because parallel importation is an important tool for many businesses for participating in perfectly legal trade, which we would not want to discourage. Yet the bill is unclear as to whether trade like this could unintentionally get caught under this bill. We of course continue to expect that important health and safety standards are met by all parallel imports, but at the same time, we want to ensure that small and medium-sized businesses, and in fact businesses of every kind, can continue to engage in parallel importation.
We heard from Jeremy de Beer at committee. He said:
...I've consulted with a number of my expert colleagues, other intellectual property experts—we don't understand how this doesn't apply to parallel imports. If it's inadvertent, then it's an easy fix. If everybody agrees this shouldn't apply to parallel imports, then we just add an exception for parallel imports and the matter's closed.
We could not agree more, but unfortunately, the government rejected the amendments that would have added that much-needed clarity to the bill.
Our NDP amendments to create a duty to use the measures of the bill in good faith unfortunately met the same end. The intent of our amendments was to counter vexatious litigation and to prevent a rights holder from using detentions and delays to harm a competitor in cases where there was no legitimate counterfeit infringement concern. This is especially important for small-business owners whose businesses may not be able to survive the costs of malicious or bad-faith claims. Again, this was a concern that was raised in testimony to our committee.
Michael Geist made this clear:
...detention of goods can be used to harm small Canadian businesses that could find the goods they are seeking to import detained, oftentimes by competitors. The absence of a misuse provision in this bill is particularly notable in this regard.
Our amendments should have been seen as friendly. They were in keeping with the spirit of the legislation and simply sought to improve enforcement mechanisms without creating new barriers to competition. Sadly,the government rejected our good-faith efforts to improve the bill.
In a similar vein, we tried to amend Bill C-8 to address the costs that may be borne by small businesses for the wrongful and mistaken detention of goods. As the bill is currently written, it contains a “no liability” provision for the crown and provides for damages against rights holders in cases where court proceedings are dismissed or discontinued. In attempting to strike an appropriate balance between consumer and industry interests, Bill C-8 would place the cost of detaining suspect goods on the rights holder. However, as we heard during testimony at committee, Bill C-8 is clearly lacking misuse provisions to ensure that actors are not engaging in frivolous claims as a means of acting anti-competitively. As a result, our amendments sought to provide the courts with the clear authority to provide for damages where any court action is determined to be frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith.
Without creating a new barrier for rights holders to protect their copyright or trademark, this amendment would create a safeguard to ensure the integrity of the system and would protect small businesses from the possibility of a company abusing the provisions of Bill C-8 for anti-competitive purposes rather than for protecting their legitimate intellectual property. Although we again believed that these amendments would be deemed to be friendly by the government, we were mistaken. These two were defeated, and in our view, it was an important missed opportunity to make the bill stronger.
The last NDP amendment I want to highlight here was our effort to create a tool for assessing whether the bill would actually be effective in combatting counterfeit products, as the bill's title would have us believe it would be. When my NDP colleagues and I asked in committee whether it was possible to ascertain the extent of the problem of counterfeit goods coming into our country, the answer was a resounding no. At best, we know the value of the seizures that were made. As the RCMP told us, the retail value of counterfeit goods they seized increased from $7.6 million in 2005 to $38 million in 2012. However, that does not account for any of the goods that were not detected as they crossed our borders.
That is a significant concern, especially since, as I said earlier, the government has cut the ability of Canada Border Services to do its job by slashing the agency's budget by $143 million. That cut has seriously harmed our ability to monitor our borders.
We know that the problem is bigger than the numbers reflected in the RCMP's seizure stats, but accurately measuring the scale of counterfeit copies and goods in Canada remains difficult. This is owing to the clandestine nature of counterfeiting. In addition to the actual seizures, much of the data are estimates based on anecdotal information or are from industry itself, in which case, the collection methods may be unavailable to assess.
What we do know is that counterfeit products can pose risks to the health and safety of consumers, whether we are talking about counterfeit electrical components, faulty brake pads, or unsanitary stuffing in goose down jackets.
According to the Chamber of Commerce's Canadian Intellectual Property Council, counterfeit batteries have exploded in the desks of police who have stored them, and the acid leaking from counterfeit batteries has caused burns to at least eight Canadian children. It is precisely for those types of safety reasons that it is essential that we know the scope of the problem. How else can we know whether we are assigning the appropriate resources to dealing with the problem of counterfeiting?
When I raised this issue with the Minister of Industry in committee, he acknowledged that there are no more accurate estimates out there. When we asked the RCMP whether it had numbers, just with respect to the number of Canadian manufacturers who have been convicted of importing or exporting counterfeit goods, we were told that it had no figures for that either. Therefore, it seemed to us that the bill could create an important opportunity to require accurate information to be both collected and reported so that Parliament, and more importantly Canadians, would have a better way of evaluating whether we were being successful in addressing the concerns at the heart of this bill. In fact, we were simply echoing the recommendation of the industry committee in 2007, which called on the government to establish a reporting system that would track investigations, charges, and seizures for infringing copies and counterfeit goods as a means of collecting some data.
Our proposed amendment had the support of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. Joy Nott, the president and CEO of the organization, responded to a question from me by saying:
Do I support the monitoring of this sort of thing? Absolutely I do. I think that's a great idea because, from a business perspective, business lives on metrics and on data. This is how they help to make decisions. Right now when it comes to copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and the ability to import into Canada, it's a little bit like the wild west in that there's nothing that stops these shipments at the border currently unless the owner of the trademark takes specific, very onerous action through Canadian federal courts to register something.
Since there seemed to be agreement that a reporting requirement would be an important improvement to Bill C-8, we moved an amendment to require an annual report to Parliament with information on detainments made under the bill. We had hoped for information on the number of detainments, the number of requests for assistance under both the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act, and the number of inspections conducted. Sadly, the government members voted to defeat this amendment, and once again confirmed for me that this government has complete disdain for evidence-based decision making.
Despite the fact that our amendments were defeated, we continue to be supportive of the bill as a whole. In this case, at least it is a start. Dealing with counterfeiting and infringement is important for both Canadian businesses and consumers. Members can rest assured that with or without a report back to Parliament, we will not stop holding the government to account on this important file. Without adequate resources for enforcement, C-8 will prove to be a paper tiger. That cannot be allowed to happen, especially when the health and safety of Canadians may very well be at risk.
- MPndpSep 30, 2014 11:15 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, no sooner had the face palms ended and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister finished his apologies than up popped the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to retract the apology.
The member argued that irrelevance is the cornerstone of the government's approach, but let us be clear: rules already exist governing the content of questions.
You, Mr. Speaker, have yourself ruled a number of opposition questions out of order, but the government House leader does not believe that those rules should apply to ministers. He seems to believe that making Conservatives talk about apples when asked about apples is the first step towards a democratic apocalypse.
Canadians disagree. Even members of the Conservative caucus disagree, and I know members across the way are embarrassed by what has been happening, so let us take a step in the right direction today. Let us show Canadians we are capable of improving accountability and of taking juvenile, irrelevant antics out of question period once and for all.
- MPndpSep 29, 2014 11:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, another day and another example of mismanagement of the temporary foreign worker program, but it does not stop there. Conservative mismanagement is taking its toll on the economy too.
Today S&P slashed growth forecasts for Canada in just the latest condemnation of the Conservative record. For far too long, Canadians have faced low wages and persistent unemployment under the Conservative government. When will the minister switch course and introduce a plan to create good, full-time, family-sustaining jobs?
- MPndpSep 29, 2014 11:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, this year we mark the 25th anniversary of the unanimous resolution by Parliament to eradicate child poverty by 2000.
On November 25, the all-party anti-poverty caucus, a caucus that I am honoured to co-chair, will mark that anniversary in partnership with Campaign 2000. In 1989 we had the collective will, the values and the conviction to want to eliminate poverty, but a quarter century later, we still do not have a concrete plan to make it happen.
As a result, Canada is now ranked close to last in UNICEF and OECD reports on the welfare of children. We spend the least on early childhood education and care. We are the only industrialized nation without a national affordable housing strategy. Only one in five children has access to regulated child care. We do not have a universal food program for kids. The federal minimum wage has been eliminated, and over 60% of Canadians do not have access to EI.
It is time for all of us to recommit to building a Canada where no one is left behind. It is about justice, not charity. It is about human rights.
On this 25th anniversary of the Broadbent resolution, it is time to keep the promise to make Canada poverty free.
- MPndpSep 25, 2014 11:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative approach to the economy is not getting the results that Canadians need. Their low-wage agenda of cutting EI while boosting temporary foreign workers has resulted in Canada having the highest proportion of low-wage jobs of nearly any OECD country. Only two countries are worse.
The Conservatives are making it harder and harder for Canadians to make ends meet, while wealthy insiders get further ahead.
Will the Conservatives abandon their low-wage agenda, ensure access to EI, and raise the minimum wage?
- MPndpSep 25, 2014 8:25 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, this is now the 77th time in this Parliament that the Conservative government is shutting down debate on one of the most important pieces of legislation for Canadian taxpayers, for Canadian citizens, in the House.
Bill C-22 is a bill that deals with nuclear liability and liability in the case of offshore oil and gas accidents. At stake here is whether Canadian citizens ought to be on the hook for the cleanup of accidents, either in the offshore oil and gas industry or with respect to nuclear accidents. We know that in Fukushima it will cost $250 billion to $500 billion to clean up after that nuclear accident. However, here in this bill, the government is proposing that companies be on the hook for only $1 billion, meaning that taxpayers would be on the hook for the rest.
This is a fundamentally important bill that goes to the very heart of the polluter pays principle. However, we find that the Conservatives, clearly not very proud of their approach on this, want to shut down debate and want to make it impossible for us to take those views into account to produce a piece of legislation that actually protects Canadian citizens and our environment.
The irony here is that in no other bill has it ever been this apparent that the Conservatives only shut down debate when people disagree with them. There was no closure motion and there was no time allocation at second reading when we indicated that we would support the bill being sent to committee so that we could improve it and bring it up to international standards. At that point, they were fine with the debate, as long as we all said we were supportive of the bill. However, at third reading, we made it very clear that the bill, even after being amended in committee, fell far short of what Canadians deserve, and now the Conservatives are trying to shut down debate.
It is absolutely outrageous. I want the minister to stand up and agree today to give us the debate that Canadians deserve so that we can enact the polluter pays principle effectively.
- MPndpSep 24, 2014 4:10 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day. I could not be happier that the bill has finally made it to the floor of the House of Commons for debate. What a long and tortuous road it has been.
I remember when I first got the call from Lincoln Alexander's widow, Marni Beal, asking for my help to establish a national day in Linc's honour. I immediately agreed that it was a stellar idea and I was sure that it would get support across party lines. However, I did ask Marni why she was coming to me instead of one of the Hamilton area Conservative MPs, since Linc of course had been the Conservative member of Parliament for Hamilton West. Marni said she had indeed contacted them but no one had committed to moving forward with it and she was really looking for a champion to get the ball rolling.
I told her I would be honoured to play that role. Naively, I thought proclaiming a day in Linc's honour would be a piece of cake. At first, when I talked to some Ontario MPs from all political parties, including cabinet ministers, everyone was on side. The only hitch was how to go about doing it. Since everyone appeared to be in agreement, the simplest way of making it happen would be through a motion that the House would adopt unanimously. Lincoln Alexander Day could be proclaimed in minutes, as opposed to sending a bill through the drawn-out legislative process.
The government House leader, himself an Ontario MP, confided that although he was okay with that approach, he wanted to make sure that he would not be in the House when I moved that motion since he had told some of his caucus colleagues that they should not move similar motions but rather should introduce them as private member's bills.
Fair enough. I waited until he left the House and then rose to say the following:
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among the parties, and I believe if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: I move that this House designate January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day.
Imagine my surprise when some Conservative members said “no”. Clearly, all of the verbal assurances that this was a matter where we could rise above partisanship and simply do the right thing as parliamentarians had meant absolutely nothing. Obviously, there was nothing left that the Conservative Party would not try to use to its own narrow partisan advantage.
I got in touch with Marni and told her what had transpired. It now looked like a bill would be the only option for moving ahead. Right after question period on December 9, I introduced Bill C-563, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day. The bill would make January 21, which was Linc's birthday, Lincoln Alexander Day.
I was still cautiously optimistic we might be able to pass the bill in time for the day to be observed this year. That hope was quickly dashed when I learned three hours later that the Conservatives tabled an almost identical bill to mine in the Senate. I say “almost identical”, because in their haste to introduce something of their own, they screwed it up. The English version proclaimed January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day, but the French version made it July 21. Would it not have been easier just to support mine? Not if one's only goal is to score political points, even if that means scoring on one's own net.
Senator Meredith did that twice. First by getting the date wrong in the French version of the bill and then by gloating on Twitter that the bill had become law after it was passed in the Senate. However, he forgot one important thing. A bill doesn't become law in Canada without being passed by the House of Commons.
After getting third reading in the Senate, it had to come here, sponsored by a member of Parliament. Of course, that MP is a member of the Conservative caucus. Mission accomplished. The Conservatives can now claim credit for enacting a national day in honour of Lincoln Alexander.
The thing is, I do not care, or ever did care, about who got the political credit. In fact, I mentioned earlier that from the very beginning I had asked Linc's widow whether she would not rather have a Conservative MP move the bill forward. I just wanted to make sure it happened. Now it finally is. My only regret is that we could not rise above partisanship to make it happen in a more timely way. We missed the opportunity to formally recognize Lincoln Alexander Day this year, and I think that speaks poorly of how we fulfill our roles in this place.
In that regard, we could all stand to learn from Linc. For him, public service was just that. It was all about serving the public and not an end in itself. Born in Toronto in 1922, the son of a maid and a railway porter, Linc embarked on an exemplary life path that involved military service for his country, a successful political career, a thriving law career and vocal advocacy on subjects ranging from anti-racism to the importance of education.
Anyone who has read his biography “Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy” will know that a remarkable series of events helped shape the charismatic and influential leader whose impact continues to be felt today. From facing down racism to challenging the postwar Ontario establishment, serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, becoming Canada's first black member of Parliament and our country's first black cabinet minister, entertaining royalty as Ontario's lieutenant-governor, and serving as chancellor of the University of Guelph, Linc's is the ultimate, uplifting Canadian success story. He was the embodiment of public service at its finest.
Others who have spoken in this debate have already listed Linc's long list of credentials and accomplishments, and I don't want to repeat them all here. For anyone unfamiliar with Linc's legacy, they need merely read the preamble of my bill. It is a very succinct expression of a man whose spirit in so many ways was too expansive to capture in words.
Sandra Martin also wrote a superb obituary that was published in The Globe and Mail. It beautifully describes and honours the life of a man who did so much to advance the cause of Canada's youth, fight racism, and advocate on behalf of seniors.
However, in what little time I have remaining in today's debate, I want to reflect on the Linc I knew personally. I first met him when I was an intern at Queen's Park from 1989 to 1990. Linc was the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario at the time, and always made time to meet with each year's new crop of interns. Our academic advisers and Linc's aide-de-camp primed us for the meeting. Our heads were spinning with protocol. From something as simple as knowing how to pronounce “lieutenant-governor” to being told when to rise and how to greet him, to what we could and should not ask, we were ready, and just a little bit nervous. This was the Queen's representative after all.
After we had all assembled in the foyer, we looked to the top of the grand staircase and down bounded this energetic giant of a man. We politely greeted him in the way that protocol demanded, and with a twinkle in his eye, he said to us what I have heard him say to hundreds of people since, “Just call me Linc”. With that, all of our shyness and awkwardness went out the window. We spent almost an hour with a man who seemed more interested in our education, dreams and goals than he was in talking about himself, yet he shared just enough of himself to leave us awed by his grace and dignity and inspired by this larger-than-life role model.
As The Globe and Mail so rightly pointed out on his passing, Linc loved being lieutenant-governor because he loved interacting with people, with royalty and commoners alike. There were no airs about Linc. He was everyone's friend. I remember him calling a heckler to order during a heritage awards ceremony at the Scottish Rite in Hamilton. In a packed hall, it could have been a moment of tension and strife, but instead Linc handled the situation in such a self-deprecating way that he left the audience laughing, the heckler silenced but smiling, and no one in doubt about who owned the stage. For me, I must confess it was the highlight of the event. His exact words still make me chuckle.
Of course, all of us in Hamilton chuckle at the fact that an expressway that bisects my riding of Hamilton Mountain is called the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. Linc never learned to drive and in truth he was afraid of traffic. However, that did not stop him from cruising up and down the main streets of Hamilton in his motorized red scooter after he retired. His body may have been starting to show its age, but there was no way it was going to keep him from getting out and about.
More often than not, it was now Linc who heckled dignitaries at public events. I remember speaking at the opening of Bay Gardens, and Linc heckled one of us there. I so desperately wanted to grab the mic and use the same line that Linc had used at the Scottish Rite. I think he would have laughed like hell if I had reminded him of the reference, but my sense of protocol did not let me do it and I still kind of regret that to this day.
Right to the end, Linc was a force larger than life. He taught us all to never give up and to always use our skills to improve the world. He was an inspiration and a role model. By proclaiming a day in his honour, future generations of Canadians will learn about him and from him. As a man who prized education above all else, that opportunity to learn is the most fitting tribute of all, so let us finally get this bill passed.
- MPndpSep 23, 2014 11:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, one moment the minister accuses the Liberals of raiding the EI fund, and the next he is doing the exact same thing, and neither plan helps the 60% of unemployed Canadians who cannot access EI at all.
Instead of raiding EI and shovelling that money to their corporate friends, why will the minister not admit it is not their money and allow the hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians to access the benefits they paid for?
- MPndpSep 22, 2014 11:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, the only part of climate change where the Conservatives lead the world is on empty rhetoric. Take coal regulations, for example. Despite the Prime Minister's crowing that we are ahead of the U.S., a report released last week by former environment commissioner Scott Vaughan shows that Canada's loophole-ridden coal rules will have hardly any impact on greenhouse gas emissions for 15 years. Is this what the minister calls “climate-change leadership”?
- MPndpSep 19, 2014 10:30 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in the discussion of private member's Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits).
I have listened with great interest to the rhetorical flourishes of the Conservative members who have debated this bill so far. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley said his government “always puts victims first”.
Not to be outdone, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo said:
It is clear that our Conservative government continues to stand up for the rights of victims and that Canadians can count on us to deliver results.
Quite the chest-thumping by a party that is trying desperately to persuade Canadians that it is only party that is tough on crime.
The only problem is that this bill did not actually originate with them. This is decidedly not a Conservative bill. On the contrary, it is a watered-down version of a bill that was first introduced in this House as far back as June 2010, and which was then reintroduced in this current Parliament on June 9, 2011.
How can I be so certain of that chronology? It is because, in fact, it is my bill. I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and as New Democrats we are certainly used to governments stealing our ideas and implementing them. However, when the Liberals did it with respect to medicare and pensions, they at least did not have the audacity to claim these ideas as their own. That is why everyone knows it was J. S. Woodsworth who gave Canadians their old age pensions and Tommy Douglas who brought us medicare.
However, the Conservatives have made this place so hyperpartisan that they cannot even acknowledge in passing that this bill had its genesis across the aisle. It is mind-boggling, unless of course they were fearful that by referencing my bill, they would draw attention to the differences between our two legislative initiatives and that theirs would then be found to come up short, and indeed it would. Let me explain.
At the heart of both my bill and the bill now being put forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex is the principle that criminals should not be able to profit from their crimes.
I had assumed that this principle would be firmly enshrined in the eligibility criteria for government benefit programs. Members may imagine my surprise then when I received the following correspondence.
I have a relative who killed his wife, served very little time for manslaughter, and is (and has been) collecting CPP survivor benefits for over 10 years. Since 1-2 women per week die at the hands of their partners, how many more men are collecting this? How is this legal?
I researched the file to verify that this could really happen and learned that there is no legal prohibition that prevents people who have been convicted of spousal homicide from collecting either the death benefit or the survivor pension. Clearly that is a loophole that must be closed.
My bill set out to do precisely that. It would have amended the Canada pension plan to prohibit the payment of a survivor's pension, orphan's benefit, or death benefit to a survivor or orphan of a deceased contributor if the survivor or orphan has been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the deceased contributor.
Now I want to draw attention to that last line. My bill would have prohibited anyone from benefiting from both murder and manslaughter. That is something the Conservative bill we are debating here today does not do. Yes, if someone is convicted of first or second degree murder, that person will no longer be entitled to collect survivor pension benefits; however, if someone commits manslaughter, that person can merrily continue to collect.
Really? How is that fair? How is that putting victims first? I cannot imagine that this would pass the nod test for anyone who is watching this debate, either here in the House today or on their TVs.
It sure does not pass the nod test for Susan Fetterkind. Susan is a woman from British Columbia whose father killed her mother. He stabbed her multiple times and then went on to collect pension survivor benefits for 28 years, until his death.
I have been on numerous radio and TV shows with Susan, and she has just one message:
The government is enabling killers to profit from murdering their spouse. You're not supposed to be able to profit from murdering somebody.
Ostensibly, the Conservative MPs want people to believe that they agree, so we would think that Susan would be happy with the legislation that is before this House today. We would be wrong.
Here is what she had to say about the bill being brought forward by the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex:
His bill mentions first and second degree murder but it does not mention manslaughter. My father did a plea bargain and he was convicted of manslaughter.
Therein lies the rub. Whereas my bill covers first and second degree murder as well as manslaughter, Bill C-591 does not include manslaughter as a reason for revoking pension entitlements.
This creates a huge policy gap, especially when we consider that the largest proportion of family-related homicides are spousal murders and that a great number of those result in a plea bargain to reduce conviction of manslaughter.
Do we really want to legislate a system wherein a person who is convicted of murder cannot collect pension benefits, but if he manages to have the charge plea bargained down to manslaughter then it is fine for him to collect? This is a loophole that must be closed. This is an area that my NDP colleagues and I are determined to redress when the bill gets to committee.
I know that more than one person will have picked up on the fact that I said “he” can still collect after committing manslaughter. I know that will generate some heated feedback from those who think I am promoting sexist stereotypes. Let me be clear: all violence is unacceptable. However, here is the reality. About half, 49%, of all female murder victims in Canada were killed by a former or current intimate partner. In contrast, only 7% of male murder victims were killed by intimate partners. That is why this issue is of critical importance to women's groups from across our country, and why I was proud to get support for my bill from the Woman Abuse Working Group's action committee in my hometown of Hamilton.
All of us in the women's movement, and in the NDP caucus, would prefer if instead of just dealing with the consequences of violence against women, we turned our attention in a systemic way to preventing intimate partner violence in the first place. It is not like we do not know what needs to be done. There have been gazillions of studies, with detailed recommendations, about how to reduce the rates of violence against women and how to protect vulnerable women. However, appallingly, we have a Conservative government that simply refuses to act.
All of the evidence shows that violence against women and children increases during times of economic crisis, which should suggest the need for an urgent increase in services. Instead, we have a federal government that has been single-minded in its purposeful gutting of financial resources for the most meaningful community supports. Cuts to social services, housing, child care, social assistance, shelters, and legal aid all contribute to diminishing the independence of women and making them more vulnerable to violence. It does not need to be that way, and it should not be that way. But when a government is intent on being tough on crime instead of being smart on crime, we end up dealing only with the symptoms and never the cause.
My NDP colleagues and I are committed to dealing with both. We will support the bill that is before us today, Bill C-591, and we will work to improve it in committee, by making sure it does not just cover first and second degree murder but manslaughter as well.
We will also fight to eradicate the root causes of domestic violence and continue to push for the passage of our Motion No. M-444, which calls on the federal government to establish a coordinated national action plan to address violence against women. The Conservatives have happily adopted my bill as its own. I would encourage them to steal Motion No. M-444 too.
New Democrats are secure in the knowledge that ours are still the only policies worth stealing. If the Conservatives need to be able to claim those ideas as their own in order for them to take action, then I say to my colleagues on the other side of the House, by all means, fill your boots. I have a number of other private member's bills on the order paper. Let us work together to get them passed too. I can assure members opposite that they are as meritorious as the one they stole here today.
- MPndpSep 19, 2014 7:50 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on one particular part of the bill. I had the privilege of being on the industry committee when this bill was before it and had the opportunity to talk a little with the RCMP and border services officers who were going to be enforcing the bill. One of the questions they were asked is whether there are any numbers on how many Canadian manufacturers have been convicted of importing or exporting counterfeited goods. The superintendent of the RCMP did not have those figures at hand, which is fair enough, so we asked whether he could provide the committee with a written response.
The written response to the committee stated that the RCMP information systems do not capture or track a sufficient level of details in order to provide the number of Canadian manufacturers that are convicted of importing or exporting counterfeit goods. It seemed odd to the committee that we have no way of actually tracking the problem. How do we decide what kinds of resources we need to bring to bear on the problem if we do not know the magnitude of it?
New Democrats moved an amendment asking that Parliament receive annual reports with information on detainments that were made under this scheme. I wonder if the member wants to comment on whether he supports that amendment and why he thinks it is an important one.
- MPndpSep 18, 2014 11:25 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, that answer is cold comfort to steelworkers and their families.
It gets even worse. Not only have the Conservatives failed to protect these jobs, they are also failing to protect pensions. Fifteen thousand former and current employees are seeing their pensions put at risk. Pensions are deferred wages that people are counting on for their retirements.
The one thing the government could do to help these pensioners today is put them at the head of the line when it comes to paying out creditors. Will the Minister of Finance finally agree to change Canada's bankruptcy laws to protect retirees when companies fail?
- MPndpSep 18, 2014 11:20 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, U.S. Steel Canada has filed for bankruptcy protection. It is a major blow to families in Hamilton and Nanticoke. It is a cold reminder of the failure of the Conservatives to stand up for workers during foreign takeovers.
In failing to hold U.S. Steel to production and employment commitments, the Conservatives turned their backs on thousands of workers in Hamilton and Nanticoke.
Will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who is also the MP for Haldimand—Norfolk, finally stand up for steelworkers and join us in the fight to protect their jobs?
- MPndpSep 16, 2014 11:35 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, New Democrats believe that people who work 40 hours a week should not be living below the poverty line. When asked about raising living standards for employees in federally regulated workplaces, the Prime Minister simply shrugged his shoulders. Canadians deserve better.
In real terms the average minimum wage has increased by just 1¢ in over 40 years. Do the Conservatives really think that 1¢ every 40 years is an acceptable raise, or will they adopt our NDP motion for a $15 federal minimum wage?
- MPndpSep 15, 2014 2:05 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, of course we acknowledge that the nuclear industry will be with us in the foreseeable future. What we on this side of the House would like to see is the government actually getting serious about investing in a diversified, mixed energy economy. To that end we would like the government to actually invest in new technologies, in green technologies, which is something the government has not done at all.
On the contrary, we have lost the renewable power production incentive and the wind power production incentive. Even something as beloved by Canadians as the eco-energy retrofit program for people's homes was gutted by the government.
Yes, we acknowledge that the nuclear industry will be part of our energy mix for some time to come, but we desperately want the government to diversify that mix, and we have not seen any commitment from the government. On the contrary, we are now taking steps backward.
- MPndpSep 15, 2014 2:00 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to comment on that again, because as I said during my comments in the speech, it was ridiculous. We had three meetings set aside at two hours each. Two sets of two hours to hear witnesses and then two hours to deal with this mammoth bill and for clause-by-clause consideration.
We did not have nearly enough time to hear from Canadians. Those who made submissions to our committee actually commented on the fact that they did not have enough time to give us thoughtful and in-depth expert opinion.
We were fortunate that some of the members I quoted, from Ecojustice, from CELA, from Greenpeace, gave us superb testimony, but my goodness, when we are talking about legislation that potentially deals with the equivalent of a Fukushima-type accident, which happened in Japan and cost $250 billion to $500 billion for cleanup, surely we should have taken our time in making sure that we have this piece of legislation right.
This is not only about taxpayers being on the hook for cleanup, that for sure is part of the equation, but equally important, as MPs in this House, it is our responsibility to make sure that we have legislation in place that prevents those accidents, those spills, from happening in the first place.
I am proud to serve in the caucus of a leader who was the environment minister in Quebec, who has years of experience and a proven track record on sustainable development, on environmental protection.
We had expertise to give and the time just did not allow us to do that job as fully as we would have liked.
- MPndpSep 15, 2014 1:35 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in the debate on Bill C-22, an act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the nuclear liability and compensation act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other acts.
I suppose I should begin by giving a brief synopsis of what the legislation is about, since it has now been some months since the bill was last before the House.
With respect to nuclear liability, Bill C-22 would update Canada's nuclear liability regime to specify the conditions and the procedure for compensation of victims following an incident at a nuclear power plant. It would maintain the principles of absolute limited and exclusive nuclear liability for operators except in situations of war or terrorist attacks. It would increase the absolute liability limit from $75 million to $1 billion. These nuclear liability changes would apply to Canadian nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel processing plants, and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel. Moreover, the bill would extend the limitation period for submitting compensation claims for bodily injury from 10 years to 30 years to address latent illnesses, while maintaining the 10-year period for all other forms of damage.
With respect to offshore oil and gas liability, Bill C-22 purports to update Canada's offshore liability regime for oil and gas exploration and operations to prevent incidents and to ensure a swift response in the event of a spill. It would maintain unlimited operator liability for fault or negligence and would increase the absolute liability limit from $40 million in the Arctic and $30 million in the Atlantic to $1 billion for offshore oil and gas projects in both Arctic and Atlantic waters. Significantly, the bill explicitly references the polluter pays principle to establish clearly and formally that polluters will be held accountable.
As members may recall, my NDP colleagues and I supported this bill at second reading in order to get it to committee so that it could be studied thoroughly and so we could present amendments to fix its many flaws. As we indicated at the time, our support was premised on the promise made by the former Minister of Natural Resources that there would be plenty of time for public consultations. I guess we should have known better.
After the cabinet shuffle in the spring, the new Minister of Natural Resources simply ignored his colleague's commitment. Instead of comprehensive public hearings and detailed scrutiny of the bill, the natural resources committee was allotted only three meetings, for a total of six hours, to study this important piece of legislation. Two of those meetings were set aside to hear from witnesses and one meeting was for clause-by-clause consideration. To add insult to injury, one meeting designated for witness testimony was cut short because members had to go to the House for votes, and that lost time was never compensated for at a later date.
With apologies to Thomas Hobbes, this committee process was “nasty, brutish and short”. The whole process was a sham, entirely in keeping with the government's utter disdain for public consultation. The government's desire to get this legislation passed without any meaningful input was, of course, not lost on Canadians.
As one witness said before the committee, her family lives just shy of four kilometres from the Pickering nuclear power plant. Her neighbours know nothing about Bill C-22 going through Parliament, and the witness did not have time to tell people that Pickering residents' personal assets were currently being discussed in the hallowed halls of Ottawa. They have one newspaper that goes out Wednesday and Thursday. They could not even get real-time news during the ice storm through the mainstream media, let alone news about a bill rushed through Parliament.
Not surprisingly, this impassioned plea for more time to study Bill C-22 and its impact on Canadians and their communities did nothing to change the government's approach to dealing with this important file.
Just as Canadians got the brush-off, so did members of Parliament. New Democrats put forward serious amendments, buttressed by expert testimony, that would have significantly improved the government's bill. The amendments were reasonable and simply aimed to strengthen the bill by bringing fairness and balance to its approach. However, not a single one of our amendments was adopted, and as a result, the government missed out on enacting a truly cutting-edge piece of liability legislation for Canada's energy sector.
It is unfortunate that I have only 20 minutes in the House today to reflect on some of the powerful witness testimony that we heard in committee. Twenty minutes is wholly inadequate to explain the importance of some of the amendments New Democrats moved and to explain the deleterious consequences of the government's inaction with respect to their adoption. At a minimum, I owe it to those who lent us their expertise to give a high-level overview of the bill's serious flaws.
In a nutshell, here is what New Democrats attempted to accomplish with our amendments. First, we tried to establish the polluter pays principle, including the removal of a liability cap. Second, we wanted to see the sustainability principle adopted in this legislation by including non-use value damages.
Third, we attempted to increase the incentive for safety by making suppliers and contractors liable, not just operators.
Fourth, we moved an amendment that would increase the timeframe for submitting claims regarding bodily injury, latent illnesses, and death.
Finally, we tried to get concrete commitments for inclusive public consultations on a go-forward basis.
We moved 13 amendments in these five broad categories, but not a single one was passed. Let us look at them in a little more detail so that folks who may be watching the debate here today can truly understand the potentially dire consequences of the Conservatives' intransigent attitude on this file.
Let us look at what the bill entails. The single biggest flaw in this bill is that it continues to subsidize the industry by making taxpayers assume any financial risk in excess of $1 billion. It does this by failing to uphold the critical principle of polluter pays. In Bill C-22, absolute liability is capped at $1 billion, putting public funds and taxpayers on the hook for accidents that exceed this limit.
Witnesses repeatedly told the natural resources committee that the $1 billion cap is as arbitrary as it is inadequate. Here is just a sampling of the testimony we heard.
In a submission from the Canadian Environment Law Association, Theresa A. McClenaghan wrote:
...the amount of $1 billion is far too low to provide assurance of the ability to adequately compensate victims of a severe accident in both the offshore oil and gas as well as the nuclear energy sectors. In the offshore oil and gas case we saw the experience with the Deepwater Horizon spill where President Obama established a $20 billion fund which is not even inclusive of the environmental damages or state clean up costs. The potential consequences of a Fukushima large accident from the nuclear plants in Ontario could far exceed the amount of 1 billion dollars; this number would have to be assessed in light in property values in the GTA as well as the experiences at Chernobyl and Fukushima. The concerns about the reality of potential accidents are not academic concerns; an article written by Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette of the University of Notre Dame just after the Fukushima accident listed 26 unintentional nuclear core-melt accidents that have occurred worldwide since the 1950s; the most notorious of course including Chernobyl in 1986 and the three at Fukushima in 2011 . For Fukushima, the Physicians for Social Responsibility have cited figures ranging between $250 billion and $500 billion in consequences from the events there. The scale of these types of accidents far exceeds the billion dollar amount that Bill C-22 establishes for the absolute liability limit in both the oil and gas and the nuclear sectors.
Professor William Amos from Ecojustice echoed those concerns. He said:
I sense the $1 billion number is literally picked out of thin air. Conversations we had with the government were not dissimilar to the question of what's the right number. We said there is no right number; it should be unlimited liability. It seems to me that at a certain point there has to be a recognition on the part of the government that, if there is going to be a functioning free market, then entities that want to engage in risky activities, for example Arctic offshore drilling, they should be able to pay the full freight. I think it is unlikely that we could expect the crown to recover all of the damages caused, including non-use damages, if there were a worst-case scenario off any of Canada's coasts.
He went on to say:
The goal of any extracontractual liability regime is to make sure that an operator's actions in terms of prevention are at the highest possible level and to make sure that the company itself, not the Crown or the taxpayers, assumes the clear risks. Certainly, when a regime is based on the polluter pays principle, and when the provisions of the legislation require the company to pay a greater part of the damages in the case of a catastrophic spill, the company will take steps in advance to modify its behaviour. In this case, modifying the behaviour of those with a financial stake is most important.
Finally, I want to quote from the testimony of Dr. Gordon Edwards from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility:
We urge you, as elected representatives of the Canadian population, not to approve this Act for third reading without insisting on due diligence. First of all, why is there a need for such a limitation of liability? Shouldn't every enterprise be required to accept full responsibility for potential offsite damages? If the government has to ultimately step in to deal with a messy situation, such as that at Lac Mégantic, so be it—but why should the owner or operator have his responsibilities lifted from his shoulders ahead of time? Secondly, where did the figure of one billion dollars come from? This is even less than the cost of a reactor refurbishment. It is far less than the cost of onsite damages in the event of a severe nuclear accident, for which the owner/operator is fully liable and adequately insured.... Costs are mounting. Overnight, the estimated cost of the radioactive cleanup of Port Hope went from $800 million to $1.8 billion. Overnight, the $7 billion cleanup of Chalk River went up by another billion dollars.
New Democrats on the committee took that expert testimony to heart and introduced amendments to abolish the $1-billion liability cap. We agree that Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for cleanup and compensation costs beyond the $1 billion. The Canadian taxpayer is not the polluter and therefore should not be held liable for damages caused by the industry. Only if we legislate the polluter pays principle will Canadians get the protection they deserve.
Keeping on the theme of liability, let me quickly raise a couple of other issues we sought to address through our amendments at committee. First, as if it was not bad enough that the Conservatives refuse to lift the liability cap altogether, they added insult to injury by giving additional discretion to the minister to reduce absolute liability even below the already inadequate $1-billion threshold. In the absence of any credible rationale for providing relief from liability, we moved to have those provisions scrapped from the bill. We simply cannot trust the Conservative government to protect the public interest when it has a track record of abusing arbitrary powers. Not surprisingly, our amendments were handily voted down by government members on the committee.
Our efforts to create a more even distribution of liability met a similar fate. In its current iteration, Bill C-22 completely excludes suppliers from any liability. On the nuclear side, they are not held accountable beyond negligence, thereby limiting the possibility of a more even distribution of liability. Not incorporating the supply chain as part of the liability process places the entirety of the blame on the operator. This allows smaller suppliers to act in a hazardous way, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear accident, as companies down the supply chain may act with financial impunity for their actions.
Instead of leaving taxpayers on the hook for cleanup costs that a company could not pay, New Democrats at the committee submitted amendments that would include suppliers and contractors in the liability process. This would increase the incentive for implementing best practices throughout the entire supply chain and would therefore help to ensure the safety of Canadians.
A number of witnesses supported our belief that we needed to fix the imbalance in the existing legislation. Theresa McClenaghan, from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, addressed supplier and contractor liability this way. She said:
Both aspects of the bill channel supplier and contractor liability to the operator or the licence holder for that absolute liability portion, but only on the oil and gas side is liability ever possible against suppliers and contractors and their negligence. On the nuclear side, that's never possible. The nuclear suppliers to that entire supply chain never have to consider the consequences of the decisions they are making around risk, and on the nuclear side as well as the oil and gas side, decisions are made every day around risk.
In its brief, CELA said:
...we would recommend amending Bill C-22 to bring suppliers and contractors into the liability framework in the nuclear sector, just as it does in the offshore oil and gas sector, and to remove the cap on liability so that the nuclear operators as well as others in the supply chain are liable for consequences of their negligence beyond their $1 billion insurance.
I could not agree more. We should not be allowing suppliers and contractors to engage in the nuclear sector with full immunity from any and all liability risks. Nuclear operators should be facing the full consequences of any negligence on their part, just like they do in the oil and gas sector.
Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst from Greenpeace, agreed. He said:
At this time, in terms of liability, a reactor supplier has no obligation if an accident occurs. That is how the law is worded and that is also true of the new version. In our opinion, this is not a good thing. In the case of Fukushima, it was demonstrated that the designer, General Electric, was aware of the reactor's problems not only in design but also in manufacturing. That was not what caused the accident, but it did contribute to the radiation leaks into the environment. In any other industry, the Japanese could have sued the company. We therefore recommend that there be a right of recourse in that respect. The operator is always the entity that can be sued. However, a negligent supplier could be sued by the operator as he is in the best position to do so and thus obtain the largest amount of compensation for the affected population. That is what we are requesting.
Sadly, even this most reasonable amendment was rejected by the Conservatives at committee.
The same is true for another eminently reasonable amendment dealing with the health of Canadians. We moved an amendment that sought to increase the time frame for submitting claims regarding bodily injury, latent illnesses, and death. The current prescription for claiming damages due to injury and latent illness is 10 years. Bill C-22 would increase this to 30 years, but there is no medical evidence to suggest that health issues manifest and are then able to be identified within 30 years. On the contrary, from what we know about the mutagenic effects of radiation release and exposure, the government should have used this opportunity to include an additional generation to the time frame for submitting claims.
In an effort to strengthen this part of the bill, New Democrats moved an amendment that would have simply extended the time limit from 30 years to 50 years. However, even something as straightforward as that was met with Conservative opposition. Protecting the public interest was clearly not at the forefront of the government's objectives when drafting the bill.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Conservative members on our committee would also vote down our amendment seeking to create meaningful and inclusive public consultation on this file. New Democrats moved an amendment that would require the review of the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act to be made public, and that it be done in consultation with non-industry stakeholders and those not affiliated with the nuclear industry. Such an approach is crucial to transparency and accountability. As Dr. Edwards asked rhetorically at committee, “should there not be an opportunity for adequate public input and debate on the substantive pan-Canadian issues of equity that are involved? Shouldn’t citizens from provinces without nuclear power reactors be given the opportunity to comment on a bill that would potentially bind their children and grandchildren?”
The answer of course is yes; they absolutely should. However, that was not the answer we got from the Conservatives when we moved our amendment at committee. Those efforts too were voted down.
I know my time is almost up, but I do want to say just a few more things about the offshore oil and gas side of the bill. One of the cornerstones of the NDP's energy policy is sustainable development. It ought to be a guiding principle in all sectors of Canada's energy economy. However, as it is currently written, sustainability gets short shrift in Bill C-22. It de facto ignores those vital aspects of our world that cannot and have not been assigned a monetary value. The bill fails to provide any regulation-making provisions for the calculation of non-use environmental damages.
Here is what Professor Amos told our committee. He said:
...the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the availability at common law of natural resource damages, or damages which compensate for harm to non-use value...of the natural environment.... However, natural resource damages claims at common law are currently subject to uncertainties. ...the process for assessing natural resource damages is ill-defined, reflecting a lack of baseline ecological information and the inherent difficulty in assigning monetary values to environmental values.
It is commendable that Bill C-22 includes the legislated imposition of liability for natural resource damages, including the explicit adoption of damages for non-use values. However, no regulation-making powers are included in Bill C-22 for the calculation of non-use damages. This is a serious gap, as significant regulations are needed to address the lack of baseline ecological information and the inherent difficulty in assigning monetary values to environmental values.
To close that gap, we moved an amendment to both quantify and account for the loss of non-use damages. We wanted to use the regulatory window to include the environment in assessing the scope and the cost of harm to the environment. Sadly, those provisions were never adopted, leaving the whole section on non-use damages deeply flawed.
None of our amendments were intended to tease the proverbial bears. We acknowledged that starting the debate on enhanced liability was a step in the right direction. However, failing to improve the bill represents a colossal wasted opportunity. We did not propose things that were radical or over the top. In fact, most of our amendments simply sought to bring greater fairness and balance to the legislation. Even our proposal to remove the liability cap altogether is not as radical as the government would like Canadians to believe. In fact, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland all have unlimited liability for nuclear power plants already. Even in the U.S., the absolute liability limit is $12.6 billion.
Do not let the Conservative response to that fool you, Mr. Speaker. Predictably, the Conservatives will try to suggest that an unlimited cap would encourage operators to claim bankruptcy instead of cleaning up after an accident.
However, that is looking at the problem upside down. New Democrats believe that liability has to be strong enough to ensure that a nuclear or offshore disaster never happens in the first place, and that operators will have to put the best safety measures into practice. That is how to protect the interests of Canadians, and frankly, they deserve nothing less.
- MPndpSep 15, 2014 1:25 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, as you can imagine, as the NDP critic for natural resources, I have a ton of questions for the minister that I would love to ask, but I do not want to offer him a big buffet today so he can pick and choose which ones he answers. I will focus in on something really specific.
Access to information documents acquired by Greenpeace indicate that the Department of Natural Resources commissioned a study on the impacts of the economic effects of a nuclear accident in 2013 to support revisions to the nuclear liability and compensation act.
According to those documents, Ontario Power Generation and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission limited the scope of another study on the health effects of a nuclear accident so they would not undermine the study by the ministry.
The CNSC study was released to the public and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, but study on the economic consequences of a nuclear accident was not.
To me, it is completely unacceptable that both parliamentarians and the public would be kept in the dark with respect to that study as we are debating Bill C-22.
I am respectfully requesting the minister today to agree to table those documents in the House of Commons so we can all have the benefit of knowing what that study said before we give third and final reading to the bill.
- MPndpSep 15, 2014 12:20 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, this summer I was proud to work with CUPW local 548 to save door-to-door mail delivery in my riding of Hamilton Mountain. We circulated postcards and petitions that returned with thousands of signatures. I am pleased to table them on this first day of the fall session.
The petitioners all know that one cannot save a business by cutting services and raising prices. They also know that is exactly what the Conservative government has planned for Canada Post. While they can find millions for their well-connected friends, the Conservatives cannot seem to find a way to keep the mail coming to our door.
The petitioners are appalled that Canada Post wants to eliminate home delivery for millions of customers, slash rural postal hours, put thousands of employees out of work, and then have the gall to raise the price of stamps.
Our postal service helps connect us, and these cuts will unfairly impact the most vulnerable, including seniors and people with disabilities.
For all of those reasons, the petitioners call on the Government of Canada to stop these devastating cuts to our postal service and look instead for ways to modernize operations.
While I know that the rules of the House do not allow me to endorse a petition, let me just conclude by saying how proud I am to stand in solidarity with both my constituents and Hamilton letter carriers on this important issue.
- MPndpMay 27, 2014 11:15 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, we have all had a bit of fun with the comments from the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, who was taped talking about the Liberal leader's “bozo eruptions”. I know the Conservatives are having a lot of fun with the Liberal leader's gaffes and blunders, but let us keep in mind that bozo eruptions are not exclusively a Liberal thing. In fact, the Conservatives invented bozo eruptions.
Who can forget the Minister of Foreign Affairs dropping the F-bomb talking about Toronto, or the Minister of Industry's quote, “Is it my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so.” Who could forget the Prime Minister saying, “Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status”, or the Minister of the Environment, who denied climate change exists, or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration calling a reporter a “Trotskyite”?
When it comes to bozo eruptions, both the red and blue teams have been showing their true colours.
- MPndpMay 26, 2014 2:10 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today with hundreds of signatures calling on the government to urgently implement a national dementia strategy. The petitioners know that Canada has a crisis looming in the number of people afflicted with dementia illnesses. It is a huge cost for health care budgets and a big challenge for caregivers. In fact, according to a new study commissioned by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia now stands at 747,000 and will double to 1.4 million by 2031.
As the petitioners point out, Canada's health care system is ill-equipped to deal with the staggering costs, which will skyrocket from $33 billion per year today to $293 billion per year by 2040. Additionally, the pressures on family caregivers are mounting. In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours per year looking after someone with dementia, representing $11 billion in lost income and 222,760 lost full-time equivalent employees in the workforce. By 2040, they will be devoting a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year. It is clear that Canada needs a dementia plan now. Let me say that I share the petitioners' hope that our NDP Bill C-356 will be passed expeditiously.
- MPndpMay 26, 2014 11:05 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, before the expiry of the Canada health accord this spring, I organized a public meeting on Hamilton Mountain about the future of our health care system. The room was packed. We were joined by my colleague, the NDP health critic, as well as Drs. Gordon Guyatt and Tim O'Shea, and nursing professor Leanne Siracusa. Together, the four panellists inspired us to fight for reforms that ensure all Canadians have access to sustainable, affordable, and high-quality public health care.
Unfortunately, that goal is not shared by the Conservative government here in Ottawa. On the contrary, the Prime Minister has always wanted to replace public health care with an American-style, for-profit system. However, here is the thing. He knows that 94% of Canadians support national public health care. That is why he is trying to sabotage the system quietly by cutting $36 billion over 10 years and breaking the health accord.
New Democrats are not going to stand idly by as the Conservatives deliver nothing but longer wait times, reduced front-line services, and lack of access to home and long-term care. Canadians have been telling us that public health care is a top priority for them. It is time that we had a government in Ottawa that made health care its priority too.
- MPndpMay 13, 2014 11:15 am | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, last night the Conservatives disappointed Canadians and voted down improvements to the unfair elections act. The Conservatives opposed giving the Commissioner of Canada Elections the power to compel testimony. They opposed requiring political parties to provide receipts and documentation for their activities. We are now getting a better picture of why.
Conservative lawyer Arthur Hamilton, who was already caught dragging his feet and not co-operating fully with authorities, has now been fingered for deliberately misleading investigators. He provided them with false information about Conservative calling scripts and then did everything possible to prevent witnesses linked to the Conservatives from providing information to investigators.
The unfair elections act would make it even harder to investigate and catch Conservative voter suppression, but then that is what this bill is all about, stacking the next federal election in favour of the Conservatives.
New Democrats are not going to let that happen. We have been showing up for work, standing up for Canadians, and getting ready to replace the Conservatives in the next election.
- MPndpMay 12, 2014 12:15 pm | Ontario, Hamilton Mountain
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition today in support of my Bill C-336.
With the long weekend just around the corner, motorists, small business owners and industry are again worried about the very high gas prices that are causing real hardship. The federal government is doing nothing to help ordinary working families that are getting hosed at the pumps.
As a result, the petitioners encourage the government to pass my Bill C-336, an act to establish the office of the oil and gas ombudsman to investigate complaints relating to the business practices of suppliers of oil or gas, which would provide strong and effective consumer protection to ensure no big business could swindle, cheat or ripoff hard-working Canadians.
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