- MPndpMay 10, 2013 8:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, Senator Mike Duffy was tipped off about his inappropriate expenses by the senator overseeing the investigation; then when he was caught, there were no consequences for breaking the rules. Those are more reasons that the Senate cannot be trusted to investigate itself.
Does the government agree that it was inappropriate for the head of the investigation to tip off Senator Duffy, and if so, what will it do about this leak?
- MPndpMay 10, 2013 7:15 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, it is a troublesome kind of reality that the current government is so busy losing money, $3.1 billion, and covering up scandals that it does not seem to have the time to do the positive international and domestic work we very much want to happen in this place.
This is an important bill. I am very sorry that it did not come from the government, that it did not come through the House of Commons, because we, as elected members, have an obligation, as I said, to our families, to our country and to the world community. No Senate can do that work.
- MPndpMay 10, 2013 7:10 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, certainly moving expeditiously on this particular piece of legislation is a first step.
However, it is not just nuclear security and the threat of potentially dangerous scenarios we should be cognizant of. Canada has signed a lot of international conventions and a lot of UN conventions. We signed a convention to protect women against inequality, to protect first nations women, to protect first nations rights and to protect children against hunger and poverty, and we have not followed through. It is not just this convention, it is all conventions. I would like to see this Parliament move expeditiously to honour all of our international agreements.
- MPndpMay 10, 2013 7:05 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party believes that we must seriously address the issue of nuclear security and comply with our international obligation in order to better co-operate with other countries on a counterterrorism strategy.
The bill before us is unique inasmuch as we usually oppose the introduction of a government bill through the Senate, because an unelected chamber is not the place to begin the legislative process. However, for Bill S-9, one can see a helpful use of Senate time to do the first vetting of legislation that is intended merely to be technical to create compliance with international obligations.
This bill fulfills Canada's treaty obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, CPPNM, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, ICSANT. This includes extending international measures beyond protecting against the proliferation of nuclear materials to now include the protection of nuclear facilities. It reinforces Canada's obligation under UN Security Council resolution 1540, from 2004, to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as chemical and biological weapons.
In this case, the implementation of the treaty requires amendments to Canadian legislation. The treaty is ratified only when such amendments or new legislation have been passed. To date, Canada has not ratified either the ICSANT or the CPPNM amendments. This is because Canada does not have legislation in place to criminalize the offences outlined in the ICSANT or some of the offences outlined in the CPPNM.
The amendments Bill S-9 introduces into the code represent Canada's efforts to align its domestic legislation with what is required by both conventions. If these amendments become law, Canada will presumably be in a position to ratify both the conventions, something Canada, and other countries, committed to work toward at both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, held in Washington, D.C., and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea.
New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of great common concern, such as nuclear terrorism. We thus need to work with other leading countries that are ratifying these conventions. Moreover, Canada has agreed to be legally bound by these conventions. It is important to fulfill our international obligations and ratify these conventions through the domestic implementation that Bill S-9 undertakes.
To emphasize the seriousness of nuclear terrorism, I wish to quote from Professor Matthew Bunn, associate professor of public policy, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University.
Dr. Bunn testified before the Senate committee on this particular bill. He said:
The danger of nuclear terrorism remains very real. Government studies in the United States and in other countries have concluded that if terrorists manage to get enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium, they might very well be able to make a crude nuclear bomb capable of incinerating the heart of a major city.
In the case of highly enriched uranium, making such a bomb is basically a matter of slamming two pieces together at high speed. The amounts required are small, and smuggling them is frighteningly easy.
The core of al Qaeda is, as President Obama mentioned the other night, a shadow of its former self, but regional affiliates are metastasizing and some of the key nuclear operatives of al Qaeda remain free today. With at least two terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons seriously in the last 20 years, we cannot expect that they will be the last. Moreover, some terrorists have seriously considered sabotaging nuclear power plants, perhaps causing something like what we saw at Fukushima in Japan, or dispersing highly radioactive materials in a so-called “dirty bomb”.
Should terrorists succeed in detonating a nuclear bomb in a major city, the political, economic, and social effects would reverberate throughout the world. Kofi Annan, when he was secretary-general of the United Nations, warned that the economic effects would drive millions of people into poverty and create a second [terrifyingly significant] death toll in the developing world. Fears that terrorists might have another bomb that they might set off somewhere else would be acute. The world would be transformed, and not for the better.
Hence, insecure nuclear material anywhere is really a threat to everyone, everywhere. This is not just an American judgment. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that nuclear terrorism is one of the most serious threats of our time. Mohamed ElBaradei, while he was head of the IAEA, called it the greatest threat to the world.
Russia's counterterrorism czar, Anatoly Safonov, has warned that they have “firm knowledge” that terrorists have been given specific tasks to acquire nuclear weapons and their components....
Fortunately, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we've made tremendous progress around the world in improving security for both nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them. No longer are there sites where the essential ingredients of a nuclear bomb are sitting in what you and I would consider the equivalent of a high school gym locker with a padlock that could be snapped with a bolt cutter....
At scores of sites around the world, dramatically improved nuclear security has been put in place. At scores of other sites the weapons-usable nuclear material has been removed entirely, reducing the threat of nuclear theft from those sites to zero. More than 20 countries have eliminated all weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil, and the nuclear security summits have provided new high-level political impetus, which has accelerated this progress.
Mr. Safonov stressed a few more dangerous areas that still exist.
In Pakistan, a small but rapidly growing nuclear stockpile, which is under heavy security, I believe, faces more extreme threats than any other nuclear stockpile in the world, both from heavily armed extremists who might attack from outside and from potential insiders who might help them.
In Russia, which has the world's largest stockpiles of both nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material dispersed in the largest numbers of buildings and bunkers, the nuclear security measures have dramatically improved, but there are still important weaknesses that a sophisticated theft conspiracy might exploit. And sustainability remains a major concern, as Russia still has neither the strong nuclear security rules effectively in force nor sufficient funds allocated from the federal government to sustain security for the long haul.
At more than 100 research reactors around the world, you still have highly enriched uranium used as fuel or as targets for the production of medical isotopes, and in many of these reactors, security is very minimal. Some of them are on university campuses.
At the moment, unfortunately, the mechanisms for global governance of nuclear security remain weak. No global rules specify how secure a nuclear weapon or a chunk of plutonium or highly enriched uranium ought to be. There are no mechanisms in place to verify that every country that has these materials is securing them responsibly.
Without a doubt, Canada strongly supports the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Canada was, in fact, one of the architects of the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT, and we are encouraged by the adoption of these two conventions by a significant number of countries. We actively encourage others to follow through on the their commitment to become parties, as Canada is doing.
Bill S-9, once passed and followed by the ratification of the CPPNM amendment as well as the ICSANT, would give credence to Canada's commitment to the strengthening of the global national security architecture. It would provide Canada with additional tools to counter this threat as well as enhance our ability to work with partners to mitigate the consequences, should this threat ever materialize.
We must be vigilant. We must work toward disarmament. We must ensure the safety of our world, our country and our families.
- MPndpMay 09, 2013 11:50 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, just to be clear, six weeks ago, the Prime Minister gave his word that he would resolve the case of the mother with cancer who was denied EI benefits, but as we have already heard, Jane Kittmer is still waiting, with no word from the government.
When are the Conservatives going to follow up on the Prime Minister's own commitment in this House? Will Conservatives drop the appeal and resolve this case? Is the government prepared to do the right thing for Jane Kittmer today?
- MPndpMay 08, 2013 4:50 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, that is more lip service. The proof is in real action. In the case of the government, there is no action. I should not have to remind the member opposite that these men and women who are veterans and who served in our armed forces put their lives on the line for us. I should not have to remind the member that to support our troops means that we have to support veterans too.
When will the government stop with the platitudes and start looking at the issues that our veterans face every day?
It is the least the government can do, and it is the morally right thing to do. Care for our veterans is part of the contract, the covenant that we undertake with people who enlist and protect our country. We asked them to serve. Now it is our turn to serve them.
- MPndpMay 08, 2013 4:40 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I want to take the time this evening to discuss the plight of veterans who are trying to get care for their very specific needs. Finding access to long-term care beds is difficult for all Canadians, but finding those beds in facilities that have the expertise to deal with the specific needs of veterans is even more difficult.
It is important to note that the government is shutting and phasing out long-term care facilities for veterans and offloading the responsibility to the provinces. I want to remind the minister that the responsibility for veterans is federal, and that should include their care as they age or after they are injured in the line of duty. At a time in life when they are fragile and vulnerable, the government is refusing to live up to its responsibility to them.
The member opposite will tell us that we have provincial health care, that we do not need to have separate veterans' hospitals. This is a shameful cop-out.
The men and women who put their lives on the line deserve respect and dignity. Veterans' hospitals have the expertise to deal with the very specific issues that veterans face, while other facilities do not have that capacity. Space is available in hospitals with this particular expertise, but veterans are being turned away.
I have had veterans approach me and tell me that they need a long-term care bed. There are empty beds at Parkwood Hospital, in London, Ontario, a veterans' hospital in my riding, but people cannot get in because of the technicality about the mandate of such hospitals. Doctors have said very clearly in the case of a 33-year veteran that his spinal deterioration was most likely because of his service, yet their opinion was dismissed and the veteran in question was denied a bed.
There was nothing available in a nursing home, so after much cajoling, Colonel Russell did receive a community bed. However, he has to pay for it. He has to pay for it because the government does not recognize his service. It is as if he had never served his country. That concerns me very much, and it should concern this Parliament.
I asked two questions in the House regarding Parkwood Hospital and the case of Colonel Neil Russell.
Neil was without a bed in a long-term care facility, and he quite simply had nowhere to go. After months and months, after going to the media and after many letters to the minister responsible, Neil was finally promised a bed. Then he was told that he had misunderstood and had to split the cost of the bed with the province.
It is a relief, in some ways, that he now has a place to stay, but it makes very little sense to me that he had to fight so hard to get it.
This situation is part of a larger picture, a picture of how low a priority veterans are for the current government and how out of touch it is.
First, according to the Royal Canadian Legion, there are 150 homeless veterans in Ontario. It is a disgrace.
Second, the costs of a funeral and burial services have not been met adequately by the government. Some years ago, the assets cut-off to provide monetary help through the Last Post Fund was $24,000. That was reduced by the Liberals. Now it is just over $12,000. That means that 67% of veterans receive no help. This is simply not the way that we, as a country, should be treating our veterans.
I want to say that we on the opposition side will oppose the treatment that veterans receive from this ungrateful government.
- MPndpMay 07, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, back in 2010, the Minister of Finance said he believed we should consider a modest, phased-in and fully funded enhancement to defined benefits under the Canada pension plan. However, then Conservatives flip-flopped, backtracked and set arbitrary criteria for provincial consensus. The required level of provincial support already exists. Why are Conservatives adding new and blatantly unnecessary roadblocks to essential CPP and QPP expansion?
- MPndpMay 06, 2013 11:00 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, manufacturing is a vital part of my community. It is not just about jobs; it is also about the quality of life in London. Despite the steady decline of manufacturing jobs in the area, the manufacturers in my region continue to not only provide employment but contribute back to our community.
On May 1, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters of southern Ontario presented its annual scholarships to eight lucky London students. Alex Boothby and Robert Green received scholarships for Western University. Angela Searay and Christopher Billington received scholarships for Fanshawe College. Secondary school students, Josh Percival, Jacob Schembri, Coletyn Thompson and Nicole Williamson received scholarships to assist with their post-secondary education.
My sincere thanks to the manufacturers in London area for supporting the next generation of skilled trades and the young people of our community.
- MPndpApr 25, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, it is not so. The reality is that more than 67% of applicants to the program were rejected.
The Conservative government can find $28 million to celebrate the War of 1812 but refuses to find the money to ensure our veterans are buried with dignity. Low-income veterans deserve a proper burial service, equal to the sacrifice they made for this country.
Will the Conservatives commit today to raising the $12,000 survival estate threshold?
- MPndpApr 23, 2013 4:05 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice of support for this legislation and thank its sponsor.
A growing body of research has shown that gender-diverse corporate boards are more effective. They perform better across the widest talent pool, are more responsive to the market and lead to better decision-making. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that in your own home you have seen that a good decision was probably a balanced decision made with the influence of a woman.
Because women are active participants in the democratic government of the country, both as voters and as politicians, they should have balanced representation in the management of crown corporations. According to reports based on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth. According to this information, an investment in women is an investment in Canada's future and will undoubtedly lead to economic growth and prosperity.
To create and maintain gender-diverse corporate boards, every opportunity to recruit new board members must ensure that the appointment process facilitates the consideration of qualified women. It is evident that women are actively involved in the corporate community as business owners, shareholders, executives, managers and employees. They play an equally important role in the marketplace as consumers. Women, however, are not yet equally represented on the boards of directors that make the decisions that impact the lives of these same women.
Although women are excelling and represent 47% of the Canadian labour force, they still represent only 14% of board seats among the 500 largest Canadian companies surveyed in 2010. The same survey also indicated that organizations that have a higher representation of women on their boards have much stronger financial performances.
Going hand in hand with corporate boards is the representation of women in this Parliament, and in any parliament. We women have great ideas and a lot to offer here in Canada and around the world. Yet all too often, women are left out of the decision-making process. Globally, women make up only 20% of elected officials. Only 14 heads of state are women. In 2011, Canadians elected 76 women to Parliament. Now nearly 25% of Canadian MPs are female. However, this is still far from the 30% minimum recommended by the UN as necessary to ensure a critical mass of women able to influence policy and needed change. I suggest that it is important that women be there to influence policy. We do not often see that from the government.
Our Parliament now ranks 45th in the number of women elected to Parliament, behind Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Canada, women represent more than half of university graduates and comprise half the workforce. However, statistics indicate that only 25% of Canadian MPs are women, a rate that has changed very little over the last five election cycles. This must change.
We need women in leadership roles, be it in Parliament or on the boards of corporations. It is important to note that many women work in occupations requiring higher levels of education and that provide better levels of pay, but these women are still relatively concentrated in the public service and social services. We need women to contribute their remarkable talents across the job spectrum. We need to encourage women to break the patterns that have been established on boards across this country.
This bill would be a step in the right direction. It is not a new idea. As we have heard, many industrialized countries, such as Switzerland and Norway, have enhanced legislation to achieve greater parity in the corporate world. We should, as Canadians, be added to this list. As others have said, let us move forward instead of allowing the status quo to hold us back.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 1:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the member has cited the news report outlining that authorities have managed to find and control a planned terrorist plot. With that very clearly stated by the member, and given our position that the Criminal Code contains sufficient means to find and detain terrorists already, does it not seem that the extra measures are not needed? Clearly it worked in just the last few hours. I do not understand this need or this obsession with increasing the powers of the government.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 12:30 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from several members of my community who are very concerned about what is happening to the Great Lakes. As we know, we have just spoken in the House about heritage rivers. The Great Lakes basin is part and parcel of that important watershed. Many people from London spent much of their youth, some of it ill-spent perhaps, on the shores of the various beautiful lakes. Since 1999, the water level has dropped between four and five feet, and there is no sign of it rebounding.
Therefore, the petitioners are asking the federal government to provide support and help through the Minister of Natural Resources so that the environmental, fisheries and transportation value of these lakes are enhanced and protected.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 12:25 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-498, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (North Thames River, Middle Thames River and Thames River).
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to join my colleagues and present this bill to protect the Thames River, which was designated a heritage river in 2000.
The Thames flows 273 kilometres through southern Ontario to Lake Saint Clair, meandering through communities large and small, the cities of London and Chatham included.
Along much of its length, it is flanked by rich Carolinian forest, tulip trees, pawpaw, Kentucky coffee trees and sassafras. Wildlife and fish species include many that are rarely found elsewhere in Canada, such as the eastern spiny softshell turtle, the queen snake, the southern flying squirrel and the Virginia opossum.
There is also a rich cultural heritage around the Thames. Its fertile valley has been home to people for over 11,000 years. The Battle of Longwoods, led by Chief Tecumseh, was fought near the Thames. Also, commercial farming in Canada has its roots right here in the Thames River valley, much of it still the same as it was 200 years ago.
From a recreational viewpoint, the Thames is a most diverse watershed. In 1877, renowned artist Paul Peel explored the river by canoe and produced exquisite works of art depicting the local people, scenery and flora and fauna of the Thames.
It is truly a remarkable river, one that must be protected.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 10:45 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, in a democracy, one of our chief aims is to protect. What could be more important than protecting children from whatever is out there, and apparently in this case, protecting them from their own government?
It seems to me that we go far too far. We need to remember that three people died on the streets of Boston a week ago. We have to respect that. We have to honour that. To see the government using it for its own nefarious purposes makes all of us feel dreadful. It is sickening in terms of what kind of response we should have.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 10:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, my point about a refusal to listen was illustrated quite effectively just now.
At any rate, as I was saying, a Liberal opposition day was abruptly cancelled in order to bring this legislation forward. Last week, Bill S-7 was not deemed a priority, but suddenly it needed to be debated today. The explanation given by the members opposite was that this bill needed to be passed in light of recent bombings at the Boston Marathon. I would like to point out that the House unanimously condemned those attacks and members rose in silence and respect for those who suffered.
It is unfortunate that members opposite are using the Boston terror attacks to reintroduce controversial measures. These measures go far too far. They endanger Canadians just as much as any other terrorist. New Democrats believe we need to work in strength and use our intelligence and law enforcement networks to deal with the threat of terrorism. However, the Conservatives are choosing to ignore that, to cut border intelligence units in half and end funding for police programs. It is very clear that this is an act of political expediency and not one of genuine concern.
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 10:30 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, this Parliament is supposed to be a place wherein democracy and communities are protected. Consequently, I have some very serious reservations about Bill S-7 being debated today, the context in which it is being debated and the various elements within the bill. I am concerned because it would not only impact the civil liberties of all Canadians, but it would also be part of a larger dismantling of the democratic core of this country.
Liberty and democracy are very much part of our history and what makes us who we are. For example, here is an excerpt from the translation of the original French poem by Adolphe-Basile Routhier, written in 1880. It is the basis upon which our own national anthem has been created. The poem reads, “The Canadian grows full of hope. He is born of a proud race; enemy of tyranny, but full of loyalty. He knows how to keep in harmony his proud liberty, and by the effort of his mind on our soil establish the truth”.
It worries me greatly that there has been a whittling away of our democracy in recent years and the undermining of truth by those seeking political expediency. In the last election alone, there was illegal overspending by certain MPs, some of whom have been forced to step down and others who are facing serious accusations. These are accusations that Elections Canada is currently investigating.
Of greater concern were the acts of voter suppression in ridings across Canada, and now charges have been laid in one of these cases. This illegal spending and voter suppression is a very real threat to the basic functioning of our democracy in this country. Citizens require the ability to vote, and those running the various campaigns need to be on an equal footing to ensure a fair race, and that is not just during elections.
In this House, the government continues to limit democracy by attempting to silence, by using dissenting opinion, including the opposition and its own members of the government caucus. We cannot speak out on this side of the House or on that side of the House. It is no kind of democracy.
The government has shut down debate a record 31 times and is actively limiting debate, not just in the House but also in committees. The government is using its majority to conduct committee meetings in camera. Therefore, Canadians do not know what is happening. They do not know what members have proposed. They do not know what is being undermined.
Sadly, the government is clearly not interested in hearing other ideas. The problem is that our job here is to work together and collectively look at legislation to ensure it is in the best interest of all Canadians.
The government has no interest in compromise, in the House, in committee, in public, or even behind closed doors. This dogmatic and anti-democratic approach to governing is, to say the least, problematic. It is concerning and it is a travesty of Canadian values.
Bill S-7 continues in that same vein. If passed, it would be a hit on democracy in Canada as it would inhibit the personal freedoms of individuals. This principle is sacrosanct in our democracy and should absolutely be a principle that is above any meddling by anyone.
We have the protections and the prosecutorial measures already in place within current legislation to address terrorism in this country. We do not require the changes that we see in Bill S-7. Bills such as this would tarnish the very core of what makes us Canadian. We are a great country that is known for our democratic principles. However, if we pass this legislation, we would in fact be stripping away the very thing that makes this country great.
It is often said that the goal of terrorism is to create fear. Reacting to that fear and taking away civil liberties has the circular effect of validating that fear and giving into it. In this sense, the terrorist is successful in creating a culture of fear. This is not a new idea. Benjamin Franklin stated, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Without liberty and democracy, we are neither safe nor free.
I want to emphasize that this bill does not protect Canadians from terrorism and it shows a lack of balance between security and basic rights. There are better ways of combatting terrorism without taking away Canadians' civil liberties. Our job in this place is to protect Canadians and our communities. Protecting Canadians does not mean taking away their freedoms, nor does it mean opening up our laws to a cycle of fear. As I have already said, the Criminal Code contains the necessary provisions for investigating those who are involved in criminal activity and detaining anyone who may present an immediate threat.
Paul Copeland, a lawyer from the Law Union of Ontario, when testifying before a parliamentary committee, stated:
In my opinion, the provisions that you are examining here in committee will unnecessarily change our legal landscape in Canada. We must not adopt them, and in my opinion, they are not necessary. Other provisions of the code provide various mechanisms for dealing with such individuals.
In December of 2012, Mr. Paul Calarco, a member of the national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association, stated:
There is no question that the prevention of terrorist action is vital to preserving our society. This requires effective legislation, but also legislation that respects the traditions of our democracy. Unfortunately, this bill [S-7] fails to achieve either goal.
The fact that the sunsetted provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act were never used between 2001 and 2007 is evidence of this. Even though it may be politically risky to oppose measures that have been engineered to seem effective, our position on this side of the House is rooted in the belief that the measures are ineffective and unnecessary, and in the belief that our position reflects the values cherished by Canadians and our absolute faith in the strength of existing laws.
Bill S-7 violates civil liberties and human rights, especially the right to remain silent and the right not to be imprisoned without first having a fair trial. Imagine that. We are talking about putting people in prison for as much as a year without any evidence or a trial. That smacks of the worst kind of totalitarianism. The state should never be used against an individual to force a person to either testify against himself or herself or to inflict punishment of a year in prison without recourse.
This bill shows a lack of balance between security and basic human rights, notwithstanding that there are a few more safeguards than in the 2001 version, notably the role of the Attorney General in an annual reporting process.
The timing of this bill cannot be ignored. A Liberal opposition day intended to propose a more democratic process for members' statements for some parties in the House was abruptly—
- MPndpApr 22, 2013 9:55 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his remarks. He is, as members know, our international affairs critic and as such has a very firm and knowledgeable grasp of situations that impact us here in Canada and that impact Canadians around the world.
I want to pick up on part of his remarks.
I think that this is an issue of leadership. We need leadership in how we respond to events both within and outside Canada, but we have none from the Conservative government.
If we had leadership, the Conservatives would not have cut the security budget by 29.8% in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and put our communities at risk in regard to our preparedness for emergencies and in terms of the personnel we need to respond to them, such as police officers. The recruitment fund has been gutted, with no renewal.
What should the government be doing instead of cutting and dismantling? If the Conservatives truly believe that we need to be secure, what should they be doing?
- MPndpApr 18, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, in January the jobless rate in London was 8.5%. In February, it was 9.1%. By March, it hit 9.6%.
London has long been a manufacturing centre with good value-added jobs. In 2011, the Prime Minister was happy to have a photo op at Electro-Motive Diesel, but when it closed it doors, there was not a Conservative in sight. Their so-called action plan has failed my community.
We need a job plan that brings value-added jobs back to London. Where is it?
- MPndpApr 17, 2013 1:25 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister if he has made any effort to read the report of the committee on the status of women from 2006 and perhaps take note of the draft report from 2010.
We talked to aboriginal women, and they were very clear, they said that the crux of this problem is a lack of decent housing, a lack of transitional housing, and nowhere for them to go.
If the government were truly interested in addressing the issues of violence against aboriginal women, it would not have trashed the draft report of 2010, and it would make sure that the resources were there so that women had a place in their home community to go rather than being forced out.
I am very suspicious about the motives of the government in regard to forcing first nations people out of reserves.
- MPndpMar 25, 2013 12:15 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of Canadians who are very concerned about the changes to old age security and the increase of eligibility to age 67. They believe that this is a direct attack on the poorest of seniors.
The petitioners support the NDP motion of February 2012 calling on the government to make the necessary measures and changes that will eliminate poverty among seniors and increase the guaranteed income supplement so that we can lift every senior out of poverty.
- MPndpMar 25, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are taking a mother with cancer to court, which is yet another example of the government targeting out-of-work Canadians and restricting the EI benefits they have paid into for years. For Jane Kittmer, it gets worse. Not only is she battling cancer, now she has to battle the Conservatives too.
Will the government commit now to dropping this insensitive and unethical attack?
- MPndpMar 20, 2013 12:05 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, in an ideal world the budget would help people, but in Conservative Ottawa, budgets are used to weaken retirement security and cut old age security. In Conservative Ottawa, Canadians are forced to work two years longer before they can retire. Expert after expert after expert has contradicted the government and said OAS is sustainable.
Will the Conservatives now abandon their reckless and punitive cuts, abandon their plan to force Canadians to work longer and restore the OAS eligibility to age 65?
- MPndpMar 07, 2013 8:15 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I am having some difficulty understanding how the minister can say on the one hand that the bill has been before Parliament for five months and then say that it was distributed a week ago. I understand it was tabled, but the reality is that we need time to look at it carefully, to debate it and to change it at committee where it needs to be changed. It took 11 years to get around to this. I think a little more scrutiny is appropriate.
- MPndpMar 06, 2013 11:10 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the Status of Women committee, I introduced a motion to study the 1993 equality action plan from the Canadian panel on violence against women. My motion calls on the committee to examine the document and develop an action plan to address its recommendations.
The report calls on our governments to fulfill their international commitments with respect to women's equality, including equality rights, access to the legal system, political participation, zero tolerance for violence and accountability and monitoring mechanisms to ensure the action plan is reviewed and followed.
The panel believes that when equality is achieved, then women will be truly empowered to protect themselves. We have been waiting for 20 years for this report to be addressed. We have an obligation as parliamentarians to every woman who has been abused or assaulted. We have an obligation to stand up and ensure they have equality.
- MPndpMar 05, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, CPP disability recipients are victims of a data breach that includes highly sensitive information, including their medical condition. To top things off, HRSDC is asking these victims, some of whom are seriously ill or profoundly disabled, to visit a Service Canada office if they suspect fraud.
Under the Conservatives, data breaches reported to the Privacy Commissioner have gone up 300% since 2009. When will the government start taking these breaches of privacy seriously?
- MPndpMar 04, 2013 3:35 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives make it sound just lovely, do they not?
I would like to ask a few more questions. What about the fact that those deductions to pension benefits only came about because veterans took the government to court? They took it to court. They had to take to the courts of this nation to get the benefits they had earned.
What about the benefits to the quadriplegic veteran we met last year in the House? This individual could not get the benefits or support he needed and the government offered him a job. He is a quadriplegic. He cannot take that job. The Conservatives' offers of jobs and work do not meet the needs of this particular individual.
What about all the denials for VIP? We have had letter after letter from veterans and their partners about the inability to get VIP. What about the widows of veterans who are called gold diggers by the government? What about the government's refusal to provide long-term care for modern-day veterans?
All of this adds up to a disrespect for veterans, and no matter what Conservatives say or what spin they put on it, our veterans are not being treated with dignity and respect.
- MPndpMar 04, 2013 3:30 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, last week I asked for a more detailed answer from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Oddly enough, it was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources who stood to answer my questions. He clearly is not familiar with the file and suggested that I was changing the focus of my question. I assure the House that I was doing no such thing.
The focus of my question was how the government abandons the care of our veterans. I was struck by the words of the parliamentary secretary, because it was evident that he was unfamiliar with the file, just as it is also clear that the members opposite are not interested in caring for our veterans or making them a priority.
Back in November, I asked this question of the government:
Mr. Speaker, the government is failing our veterans and trying to hide it from Canadians. The minister would not even tell the Parliamentary Budget Officer how many jobs would disappear from Veterans Affairs or how veterans' services would be impacted by Conservative cuts. What we do know is that injured Canadian Forces members might have to fight the government in court just to get a fair pension.
When will the Conservatives stop playing these games and help veterans get the services and the pensions they deserve?
The minister's response was that veterans can access everything online now.
It amazes me that this is the Conservatives' solution. Many veterans struggle with technology. Not everyone has access to computers or the Internet. If there is an issue, an online form is not helpful; a staff person behind a desk or on the phone is helpful. The cuts have meant that offices are closing and that wait times on the phone are getting longer and longer.
I also find it troubling that in his answers, the minister used the same old excuses for inaction by saying that it is the opposition preventing our veterans from getting faster service. Instead of actually answering the questions, the minister tried to shift blame away from himself and his caucus.
With a Conservative majority government, a government that cuts off debate at the drop of a hat, I wonder how the opposition can possibly prevent the government from acting. What we are doing is calling out the government on its poor policy, imploring it to use some sense and compassion and imploring it to treat our veterans with the respect they deserve.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources suggested that the official opposition votes against everything. That is not true. I do not vote against everything. I vote with my conscience, I vote with integrity, I vote for what is best for Canadians and for veterans.
The bills that the government has introduced to supposedly help veterans have been highly problematic and ineffective and have not made the needs of veterans a priority.
We ask veterans to put their lives on the line on foreign soil. They face great danger, risk of injury and death. They are exposed to chemicals and other hazards. They do all this in the service of our country. The very least we can do is ensure that when they come home, they are looked after and their needs are met. They should not have to fight for long-term care. They should not have to fight in courts for their pensions. They should not be ignored.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 4:45 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, it absolutely astounds me that Conservatives can sit there and perpetuate this nonsense.
We voted against environmental destruction. We voted against seniors being robbed of their pensions. We voted against all of the incredible and undermining things the government has done and plans to do to people all across the country, undermining employment insurance and undermining the poor. How dare they come here and say that somehow or other these insidious things are going to benefit anyone at all.
Conservatives want to abandon veterans. They have made it very clear. They will not support modern-day veterans, and most modern-day veterans have no idea that they are not covered under long-term care. The government has made a very clear decision that it is going to dump the problems, costs and responsibility onto the provinces. They do it every day.
Veterans are a federal responsibility. They are not a provincial responsibility.
- MPndpFeb 27, 2013 4:40 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, in October of last year I asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs who cared for our soldiers after they came home from deployment. The government likes to tout that it supports our troops. However, the minute those troops become veterans, they are all but forgotten.
A case in point is the government's lump sum payment plan for injured veterans. For the most part, the lump sum payment plan has proven to be a failure. In some cases, injured vets get only 10% of what they have received through the courts or worker's compensation. Imagine having to fight the government in court to get a fair pension after risking everything for one's country.
I asked the minister back in the fall when the Conservatives planned to change the lump sum formula to ensure that veterans received the pensions they deserve. His answer did not address the issue. He did not seem to appreciate that some veterans received less than they would on worker's compensation.
Another glaring example of how veterans are abandoned is the government phasing out access to long-term care beds for modern veterans. These veterans are people with special care needs and requirements.
The New Democrats are advocating that the federal government continue the veterans' long-term care program. Currently, World War II and Korean veterans are eligible for dedicated departmental contract beds or priority beds in veterans' hospital wings such as Parkwood Hospital in London, Sunnybrook in Toronto, Camp Hill in Halifax or approved provincial community care facilities if they meet certain criteria. This program will cease when the last World War II or Korean war vet passes away and the Conservative government has no intention to open access up to CF and RCMP veterans. This means that veterans will no longer have priority access to departmental contract beds and will compete with the civilian population for access to long-term care in provincial community care facilities.
Unlike the minister, the New Democrats continue to advocate for veterans because the federal government does have a responsibility for their long-term care in recognition of those who accept the unlimited liability of service in the armed forces.
The NDP proposes that veterans have access to veterans' hospital wards throughout Canada staffed with health care professionals experienced in the dedicated and exclusive treatment of injured veterans.
The minister is not getting the message and people are suffering, people such as retired air force Colonel Neil Russell, who is confined to a wheelchair. He cannot return home and he was callously denied a long-term care bed at Parkwood Hospital in London. It was ludicrous because Neil would have been on the street because there was a one to two year waiting list for a nursing home bed. After many letters to the minister and media pressure, Colonel Russell was told he had a bed. Sadly, within a few days, he was then told he did not have a bed and was informed that he had misunderstood and was given a provincial contract bed, for which he has to pay.
I would like to remind the minister that veterans are a federal responsibility not a provincial responsibility. They have served our country and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Ensuring that they have access to the long-term care they require is the least we can do.
Will the minister do the right thing and support long-term care for all of our veterans?
- MPndpFeb 25, 2013 12:20 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition in regard to the Experimental Lakes Area. It is signed by residents of London, Kitchener, Waterloo and Kingston.
Petitioners are asking the House to reconsider the closure of the ELA, since the ELA has been a global leader in conducting full ecosystem experiments that are critical in shaping environmental policy and in understanding the human impact on lakes and fish. They ask the government to recognize the importance of the Experimental Lakes Area, reverse the decision to close down the ELA research station and continue to staff and provide financial resources so that this experimentation can continue.
- MPndpFeb 13, 2013 12:20 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, as many members in the House know, safe, affordable, decent housing is absolutely central to the well-being of any family. Despite that, nearly 1.5 million Canadian households do not have the kind of housing they need in order to organize their lives, look after their kids and make a real contribution to community.
With that in mind, the petitioners in question have signed a petition in which they call upon the House of Commons to pass Bill C-400 so we can have a national housing strategy that would ensure the right of every Canadian to a decent and affordable home.
- MPndpFeb 11, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, after promising Colonel Neil Russell, a 33-year veteran with the air force, a long-term care bed in Parkwood Hospital, Veterans Affairs is now backtracking. Colonel Russell will have to pay the province for the bed.
This is a betrayal of the men and the women who have served our country. Veterans are not a provincial responsibility. When will Veterans Affairs Canada stop this demeaning and adversarial process and take care of all of our veterans?
- MPndpFeb 05, 2013 12:00 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, after a long-fought battle with Veterans Affairs, Colonel Neil Russell, a post-Korean War vet, was granted a bed in the veterans' wing of Parkwood Hospital in London, Ontario. Granting that long-term care bed in a veterans' wing sets an important precedent.
The fact is that the government keeps modern-day vets out of long-term care, even when beds are available. That is a disgrace.
Will the Conservatives guarantee beds to all veterans, without forcing them to do battle with their own government?
- MPndpFeb 04, 2013 3:20 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, rail freight customers, from farmers to mining companies, are suffering because railway companies have a virtual monopoly when it comes to the vital rail lines that Canadians need to get goods to market.
In most parts of the country shippers cannot choose between rail services because they only have access to either CN or CP. Even in the few places where both rail companies provide access, one is usually priced out of the market, leaving the shipper with no real choice.
Shippers routinely suffer from service disruptions, delays and experience all kinds of examples of non-reliable performance by CN and CP. Deliveries and pickups are not done on time or are skipped completely. Frequently the number of ordered railcars is not matched by the delivered number of railcars and sometimes cars are badly damaged.
When a shipper contracts a specific number of railcars, that shipper needs to know those cars will be available. Anything other than this kind of reliability is bad business and bad management. Unfortunately, we know that 80% of the service commitments for agricultural rail customers are not met by rail companies.
After years of talking, the Conservatives have finally tabled legislation to address a number of key rail freight customer grievances after years of inferior service by the big rail companies. Bill C-52 is a step forward, but is far from a perfect solution.
Key demands from the shipping community have, quite simply, not been addressed. Bill C-52 would also create loopholes because of its ambiguous language. The Conservative language is weak. Its protective measures do not cover existing contracts between shippers and rail companies and offers only a narrow, costly arbitration process for failed negotiations for new contracts. Key demands like the shippers' call to include penalties for rail companies in service agreements, performance standards and an easily accessible conflict resolution process were ignored.
While NDP members will support this legislation, we will also push for amendments at the committee stage to protect shippers from the abuse of market power through the right to comprehensive service agreements and conflict resolution processes.
Rail transport is the backbone of Canada's economy, with 70% of all surface goods shipped by rail. It is crucial to make rail freight services work for both rail companies and shippers. We cannot take the importance of the railroad for granted.
It is also critical to note that current pricing for rail freight services is also damaging Canada's shippers. Bill C-52 explicitly excludes pricing, despite the calls from all parts of the shipping community to address the pricing regime. This has a significant impact on Canada's trade deficit, which is, by the way, ballooning. It reached almost $2 billion in November alone. We cannot afford to lose even more ground when it comes to global competitiveness for Canada's products.
A broad range of industries are affected by the situation created by the virtual monopoly of current rail service providers. I have already mentioned agriculture, but we must not forget other key industries like forestry and mining as well as chemical and automotive businesses. Many of the goods produced by these industries are destined for export.
Lacklustre rail services are hurting Canada's exporters' ability to compete in global markets. For example, soybeans from Argentina enjoy a competitive advantage in markets like Japan and China because they are delivered faster and more punctually than soybeans from Canada, despite the fact that the total distance that needs to be covered is significantly shorter for products from Canada.
Rail freight is not only central to Canada's economy; we also need strong rail freight services to take trucks off the road and tackle greenhouse gas emissions. While the overall share of surface transport for goods remains high for rail, frustrated companies switch to trucking where possible and the environment loses.
Rail freight is only one aspect where the Conservatives are slow to act. From new rail safety measures to cuts at VIA Rail and blocking the introduction of high-speed rail in Canada, Conservatives do not give Canada's rail network the attention it deserves.
The bill has taken a long time to come to the House. For years, shippers have been unhappy but no concrete action was taken by the Conservatives. Since 2007 they employed a talk it out and wait tactic, starting with the promise of an expert panel review.
The rail freight service review started in 2008. The independent panel tabled its final report in early 2011. Half a year later in the fall of 2011, the Conservatives initiated a mediation process that did not yield any results. Presumably with the tacit backing from the Conservative government, CN and CP were unwilling to make any meaningful concessions. The mediation process, led by retired Conservative politician and University of Calgary chancellor Jim Dinning, failed. Dinning released his report in June 2012 and the Minister of Transport promised government legislation on the topic to be tabled in the fall.
Parallel to the end of the mediation process, fortunately, the member for Trinity—Spadina tabled private member's Bill C-441, the rail customer protection act, in June 2012. The private member's bill by the member for Trinity—Spadina, coupled with advocacy work from the shipping community, put pressure on the minister to follow up on his promise to actually table legislation. However, CN undertook a massive lobbying effort last year, first to prevent any effective bill, then to have it watered down. Dozens of documented visits to government offices and a media campaign show the determination of CN to keep the status quo.
Rail customers have banded together now and are organized in the Coalition of Rail Shippers. The coalition is a loose and informal entity, but it wants something positive for its industry. It wants something positive for the people who produce the goods, who create the wealth in this country, the men and women who do the work to make this country tick and be productive.
Shippers are having a hard time getting fair and reliable freight service, and that is simply unacceptable. We can and should do better for those that rely on our rail system. Our manufacturers, farmers and resource industries depend on our rail system. If rail were made more fair and affordable, consumers would also see an advantage.
This is a country that emerged as a strong, independent nation because of the accessibility of our railways. Let us not abandon those who would continue to build our Canada.
- MPndpFeb 04, 2013 12:10 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from constituents adding their names to those of thousands of Canadians who have petitioned the House to change the proposed changes to old age security eligibility.
The government has increased eligibility from age 65 to 67, and that puts a great deal of pressure on the poorest seniors. It means that those very poor seniors will lose as much $12,000 in benefits. It will also impact younger Canadians. Therefore, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to maintain eligibility for retirement age at 65 and to increase the guaranteed income supplement so that we can lift every senior in the country out of poverty.
- MPndpFeb 04, 2013 11:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, there is a troubling pattern of the Conservatives ignoring due process when it comes to the care of our veterans. Today the ombudsman's report provides the latest example of unfair treatment of veterans seeking disability benefits.
Could the minister explain why veterans, and serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP are kept in the dark about what information is used when deciding a claim? These men and women are the heroes of our country. When will the Conservatives start treating veterans fairly?
- MPndpJan 28, 2013 3:10 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right about the difficulties facing people not only in all of Canada but particularly in ridings where multinational corporations have taken and taken and taken, whether tax benefits, resources, consuming infrastructure, or utilizing the expertise of the workers who made them wealthy and competitive industries and simply walked away, leaving the country high and dry, as we saw with the community of London—Fanshawe when the offshoot of Caterpillar left.
The future of this country is very clearly with small- and medium-size businesses. They are part of the community. In fact, last week I had the profound pleasure of speaking to members of the Rotary Club, made up of members of the small- and medium-size businesses that employ people, that are contributors to the community. They are not just there to take, take, take; they are there to give back and make for strong neighbourhoods. Therefore, we need a tax system that suits their needs. We need to stop these huge and ridiculous tax breaks for multinational corporations, the polluters, the banks, which are giving back very little, if anything at all, and we need to look very closely at small- and medium-size business and in that process make it as easy and expedient as possible for them to do their jobs as we would like.
- MPndpJan 28, 2013 2:55 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this afternoon.
I am most pleased to join the debate on Bill C-48, a bill to amend the Income Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Act and related legislation.
The bill makes important and long-overdue changes to the tax laws, and this is the issue. While New Democrats support the bill, we do take issue with the omnibus nature of it. At close to 1,000 pages, it leaves little opportunity for study and debate.
The very point of Parliament and our democratic system is not only to introduce laws but to scrutinize those laws and ensure they are accurate and they work in the best interests of the country. That is the very reason we are all here, to work toward the betterment of this great country.
We put at risk our very democracy and we shun the very core of Parliament by introducing huge pieces of legislation that leave little time for such scrutiny.
I notice the members across have chosen to put up only one speaker on the bill, leaving the official opposition with the task of carrying out that important scrutiny of Bill C-48. That should be the role of all parliamentarians, but it seems that upholding the functions, checks and balances that Parliament is supposed to provide is not a priority with the government.
Conservatives take partisan rhetoric to the extreme and continue to introduce mammoth bills with as little debate as possible, and in fact with closure motions, so that there is as little debate as possible.
I want to add that it is not the changes that Bill C-48 undertakes that New Democrats are concerned about; it is the fact that the bill is so very large that the ability to scrutinize it is almost impossible. The changes outlined in Bill C-48 should have been introduced over the years, not grouped into one unwieldy bill.
There is no need for this massive piece of legislation. It should have been introduced in smaller pieces as routine housekeeping bills over the years. In fact, Bill C-48 includes outstanding legislative proposals dating back as far as 1998. Many of us in this chamber were children then. Good heavens, what a long time to postpone and procrastinate.
Even if the Prime Minister was not aware of these much needed updates to taxes, in 2009, the Auditor General raised concerns about the fact that there were at least 400 outstanding technical amendments that had not yet been put into legislation. There is no excuse. There were several years and plenty of time after this report was released to introduce the smaller bills that would have addressed the backlog of tax changes that needed to be addressed.
Of the outstanding changes outlined by the Auditor General, more than 200 are now in Bill C-48. Most tax practitioners have been relatively happy with the practice of the comfort letter process. However, as I have indicated already, the Auditor General's 2009 report noted “an expressed need for the legislative changes that the comfort letters identified and should be enacted”.
I want to quote a little further from the Auditor General's fall report of 2009:
No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001. Although the government has said that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable, this has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted, including 250 “comfort letters” dating back to 1998.
The Auditor General is very clear. The need for updates to the legislation is important, perhaps even critical, and we had plenty of opportunities to pass bills related to tax legislation long before now.
Sadly, this is not the first time the Auditor General has complained about this issue. She expressed concerns over and over again, and in response the Department of Finance Canada stated:
—the government intends to release a package of income tax technical amendments on an annual basis, so that taxpayers will not be subject to more lengthy waiting periods as in the past before amendments are released to the public.
While comfort letters have since been regularly released to the public, very few technical bills have been introduced or passed in recent years. In the last 18 years, only four such income tax bills have been enacted. Annual income tax technical amendments were promised, but neither Liberals nor Conservatives bothered to do this basic annual housekeeping. How on earth can they continue to misrepresent themselves as good managers when their ability to manage is so obviously bad?
I would like to reiterate that there is absolutely no need to create massive bills such as this. At close to 1,000 pages, this is most definitely an omnibus bill. However, in contrast to the government's Trojan Horse budget bills, Bill C-48 does make some technical changes and does have a purpose as opposed to the callous lumping together of Conservative legislation into two omnibus bills in the spring and fall sessions. In those bills we saw the dismantling of environmental reviews, the rewriting of the Fisheries Act, the elimination of wildlife habitat protection, the repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the reduction of the powers of the Auditor General and the dissolving of the Public Appointments Commission meant to fight patronage.
We also saw the gutting of food safety inspection. It was a one-stop shop of Conservative slicing and dicing through services Canadians rely on, while making changes to a slew of laws that they never once mentioned in their budget. By forcing omnibus bills such as the Trojan Horse bills through, the Conservatives demonstrated a mastery of the art of circumventing the democratic process and ignoring the concerns of Canadians and the concerns of first nations.
We now see another massive bill in Bill C-48 and that tells me that there is still work to be done among Conservatives if we are to see important changes legislated in a timely fashion. Failing to do so would hurt the business community and make it difficult for proper evaluation by Parliament.
It is not just difficult for parliamentarians. The government claims that its goal is to boost the economy, but by introducing overly complex bills, it does not allow small business people to invest the time and resources they need in order to understand them. They are in the business of business. They are not in the business of circumventing all of this red tape.
The Auditor General was clear about this and said, “If proposed technical changes are not tabled regularly, the volume of amendments becomes difficult for taxpayers [and] tax practitioners...”.
It is not just the Auditor General who has noted this issue. We heard from the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. In its pre-budget submission, it said that, “CGA-Canada strongly believes that the key to sustained economic recovery and enhanced economic growth lies in the government’s commitment to tax reform and red tape reduction”.
There is a need to modernize the system and smaller bills would do that.
Finally, I would like to address the very important issue of tax avoidance, parts of which have been addressed in Bill C-48. It is very important for the government. New Democrats absolutely believe in cracking down on both tax avoidance and tax evasion while ensuring the integrity of the tax system.
As members know, there are many honest and hard-working Canadians out there who believe in the systems that our taxes support such as health care, social assistance and various environmental policies, even though they have been dismantled and disrupted. Those Canadians need to know that everyone is paying his or her fair share and that every business and every person is making the contribution to this country that we need. Therefore, it is important to focus on compliance in order to ensure the integrity of our tax system. It is important to get rid of the loopholes in a timely manner. In an ever-growing complexity of tax codes, we now need simplification, clarity and changes that will make it progressive and effective.
- MPndpDec 11, 2012 7:50 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, as we know, Bill C-15 was preceded by Bill C-41, in which numerous amendments were made and passed by the then parliamentary committee. However, these amendments are not seen in the current Bill C-15.
Why on earth would we, in a previous Parliament, make good changes to a bill and then overlook them in the current session?
- MPndpDec 11, 2012 7:05 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.
The first petition is from a group of Canadians who are very concerned about the government's discussions with the European Union in regard to a free trade agreement. The concern stems from the fact that they believe the European Union is seeking domestic changes that will limit our sub-federal governments, our provinces, to procure freely and openly in their own areas. They are also concerned about the impact on drug procurement plans.
The petitioners request that the federal government, the provinces and the territories immediately cease negotiations with the EU until all of these problems can be resolved.
- MPndpDec 10, 2012 12:20 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from hundreds of Canadians.
The petitioners are very concerned about the Conservatives' decision to change the eligibility age for OAS. They understand that this will jeopardize many middle-income Canadians and condemn them to a living standard that is below the low cut-off for lower-income families.
The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada ensure that the Canada pension plan is more stable by maintaining the age of eligibility for retirement at age 65, increase OAS and GIS for all retirees and improve the Canada pension plan by implementing a modest phase-in increase in the contributions and the benefits.
- MPndpDec 06, 2012 9:45 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, her expertise and the work she has done in previous debates with regard to this particular bill.
I find it very disturbing that members of the Canadian Forces can receive criminal records for very minor incidents, minor crimes, because those criminal records follow them all of their lives. They impede employment opportunities and perhaps also educational opportunities, and they are certainly detrimental to the person concerned establishing a clear and purposeful future.
I would say that if one looks at the authorities in this country, whether they be civilian police forces or military forces, one will see that they all serve the public. They are all there with the specific and direct purpose of serving Canadians. Therefore, in that service, I think it is only fair that Canadians have a voice in making sure that they are meted the kind of fair justice they deserve.
- MPndpDec 06, 2012 9:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I understand the essence of my colleague's question, but I would suggest that there is a certain arrogance in insisting that we cannot learn from others. If there is a better way of approaching a bill or changing a law, then I think it behooves all of us to listen carefully. That is why the NDP proposed three amendments to Bill C-41, because we believe it is important to learn from each other and do the best we can.
In regard to Justice Lamer, I would also point out that he made 80 recommendations, representing a very significant body of work by that former Chief Justice. Only 28 of those recommendations were taken up by the government. It seems to me that a great deal is missing, and that is the whole point behind this discussion and debate, that a great deal is missing.
- MPndpDec 06, 2012 9:30 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill C-15.
In October 2011, the Minister of National Defence introduced the bill, which amends the National Defence Act in order to strengthen military justice. This, of course, follows the 2003 report from former chief justice the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer and the report of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
As members will know, Bill C-15 had earlier incarnations. We have spoken briefly of Bill C-7, which died on the order paper due to prorogation. Members will remember the prorogation, when the government saw fit to escape the House because there were certain allegations in regard to the appropriate behaviour of the government. Again, we saw Bill C-45, another earlier incarnation, disappear during the election of 2008.
In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced, again in response to Justice Lamer's report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal, and limited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process, which of course brings us to Bill C-15.
I believe it is important for me to speak to the bill, because justice is more than just a system of laws and regulations. It is also a fundamental value for me, for my NDP colleagues and certainly for the military and Canadians across this land.
The bill is a step in the right direction. We have heard that a number of times, but it does not address the key issues related to reforming the summary trial system, the grievance system and for strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. These are key objectives that cannot be ignored.
While the bill's primary objective is laudable, it does not satisfy our objectives. Much needs to be done to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. We on this side of the House want a comprehensive bill that adequately addresses the problem. No justice system is perfect. We have seen that over the years. However, that should not stop us from trying to improve our system as much as possible. Key elements have been left out of Bill C-15: reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system and strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission.
In fact, the NDP included these three elements in amendments to the previous version of Bill C-15, which of course was Bill C-41. Oddly, and I do say oddly, these amendments are now absent. It is a strange coincidence.
As I said, the NDP is not opposed to the spirit of the bill. What we want is to work with the government to get it right, in order to ensure that the bill is relevant and that its scope is broad enough. I am at a loss to understand why the government did not include the three elements I referred to in Bill C-15. They are important for consistent military justice reform.
Let us look specifically at the grievance system. We will start with that one. We must understand it in order to appreciate the importance of the improvements proposed by the NDP. I would like to quote the directive on military grievances, which can be found on the Department of National Defence's website. It indicates that:
The DND and the [Canadian Forces] shall manage all grievances through the Canadian Forces Grievance System...and ensure that: all grievances are processed as efficiently and expeditiously as possible; a CF member is not penalized for submitting a grievance; and assistance is made available to a CF member in the preparation of a grievance.
The last point is very important. The Canadian Forces has the responsibility to help its members because they do not have a union-type association to defend them. This lack of counterbalance is another reason why it is important to ensure that we have an effective and impartial system.
The NDP proposed two improvements. First, we proposed that at least 60% of grievance board members be civilians who have never been officers or members of the Canadian Forces; and second, that the Chief of Defence Staff be given more authority to resolve the financial aspect of grievances.
The first improvement, namely that the grievance board strike a balance between military and civilian membership, is important to ensure that this process be perceived as external and independent. When it comes to the military, it is critical that everyone in the country is able to see that the system as independent and fair. Members of the military have a great deal of experience in managing such situations, so it is rather important that they be truly involved in the process. However, the presence of civilians is also essential to dispel any idea that members of the military are subject to a different kind of justice than ordinary Canadians.
It is also essential that Canadian Forces Grievance Board be effective and absolutely beyond reproach. The NDP believes that a significant civilian presence on the board would help maintain this perception. When we look at how to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission, the merit of this idea and our position is quite obvious. Police officers, as an example, are agents of social control and play a key role in our society based on the rule of law. They are effective not only because they have the equipment, the manpower and the authority, but also because they are perceived as legitimate by the public.
The military police is no exception. For a police force to operate properly, whether it be military or civilian, it must have the approval of those under its authority. A police force gains legitimacy through its perceived integrity. This perception is built on the actions of the police force and the perception of fairness and justice in its operations.
There is no better way to prove the integrity of a police force than by having a strong monitoring body. A Military Police Complaints Commission that is legitimate and reports to Parliament is the best way to ensure fairness in the actions of military police and, just as importantly, the perception of fairness and justice by Canadians.
We on this side of the House also recommended that the Chief of Defence Staff have more authority to resolve financial aspects related to grievances. This is a simple requirement to ensure that the grievance system is consistent. If the Chief of Defence Staff does not have the ability to resolve financial aspects, it calls into question the relevance of the grievance process.
I would point out that Canada is not the only country reviewing its military justice system. Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland have recently done the same. We are in an excellent position to pass comprehensive and effective legislation while taking into account what has been done in other countries. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the bill as it stands. As I have already said, the NDP proposed amendments to the bill in its previous form, but those amendments are no longer part of the current bill. We would like to see these important and constructive changes incorporated.
We think that our Canadian Forces personnel deserve that. They put themselves on the line each and every day. They have been a source of great pride to this country in their behaviour and conduct in arenas around the world. We owe them a sense of security regarding the justice that is meted out within the military.
I would sincerely ask the government to reconsider the recommendations the NDP has made because we want to strengthen the bill. We want it to be fair and balanced. We want it to work.
- MPndpDec 06, 2012 8:40 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
With regard to the Department of Finance report titled “Economic and Fiscal Implications of Canada's Aging Population” released October 23, 2012: (a) which senior officials or outside consultants made recommendations regarding this report, including, (i) their names, (ii) their duties; (b) what was the total cost of the report; and (c) what portion of that cost was paid to outside consultants?
- MPndpDec 06, 2012 8:35 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a number of citizens who are very concerned about the changes to old age security because the change from age 65 to 67 hurts the poorest seniors in this country. It effectively removes $12,000 from the pockets of the average senior and contributes to senior poverty.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to therefore maintain the age of eligibility for OAS at 65 and make the required investments in the guaranteed income supplement to lift every Canadian senior out of poverty.
- MPndpDec 05, 2012 11:15 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, last night I had a nightmare of Dickensian proportions. I dreamt that the spirits of senators past, present and future rose up from the other place and were feeding upon the hard-earned dollars of Canadian taxpayers, millions upon millions, from poor, hungry and frozen waifs.
These senatorial spectres were dressed in their Sunday best while busy emptying the wallets of the innocent, impoverished masses. Some of these ghastly senators murmured strange things, like, “What if all the maritime provinces turned into one big province?”, or, “I deserve to be paid for a secondary residence, even though I've lived here for decades. These are my entitlements”. The scariest of all was the two-faced man just behind them who was turning his eye from this unaccountable, unelected gluttony.
The question is this: When will the Conservatives wake up from this fiendish nightmare and finally abolish the Senate?
- MPndpNov 28, 2012 12:20 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. The first is from the Grandmothers Advocacy Network and it has been signed by hundreds and hundreds of residents from mostly Alberta. They are asking the government to pass Bill C-398 without significant amendment to facilitate the immediate and sustainable flow of life-saving generic medicines to developing countries.
- MPndpNov 19, 2012 3:45 pm | Ontario, London—Fanshawe
Mr. Speaker, of course we have a baby boomer demographic coming but that means we plan for it, we do not cut baby boomers off at the knees by destroying OAS.
The member had a number of things to say. She suggested that we did not support her government's initiatives. She may well ask why and I can tell her why. The reasons are very clear. We will support any initiatives that would benefit seniors, not banks. We will support initiatives that will help lift seniors out of poverty. The government did not. However, we will not support initiatives couched inside bills filled with poison pills. We will not support initiatives for seniors that do not provide a benefit to them, in particular those living below the poverty line.
The NDP will be happy to support the government when or if it starts to work for the better interests of Canadians and stops working for the interests of large corporations and its buddies in the financial institutions. The time has come. Let the government put its money where its mouth is.
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