Resuming debate. The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has eight minutes remaining.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his important words. I would like to ask him a couple of questions.
Does the member feel that the Government of Canada very much needed or wanted the support of Newfoundland, and that is why it indicated it would take part in this $400 million deal whereby $280 million would come from the federal government and $120 million from the province? I understand the minimum processing requirement and how important it would be for the province, but in order to give that up, there had to be some compensation in place.
As I understand the announcement that was made in 2013, the premier indicated that this was for development and renewal as well as for displacement. Now the terminology has changed, and I believe this is a dangerous way for the Government of Canada to negotiate with the provinces. Also, there is no way that the Government of Canada does not have the money, because over the last number of years, DFO has returned approximately $1 billion to the Treasury Board.
Resuming debate. I think the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is aware that he will only have about two minutes to start his speech.
The member for Sudbury will be happy to know that we are past the point where we are now dealing with 10-minute speeches, so it was not necessary for him to have done that.
Having said that, questions and comments, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak to this very important bill. I want to thank my colleagues who, both in committee and in the House of Commons, have defended our New Democrat position in opposition to the bill, and have spoken of what we expected from our proposal to ensure that the bill is about putting a stop to cyberbullying, as it says it is.
Unfortunately, what we have, once again, is the Conservative government using language—and in this case, I would also argue, using people who are in vulnerable situations—to put forward a regressive agenda that has everything to do with attacking people's privacy. It leaves tremendous loopholes in terms of powerful actors gaining access to private information, and that would do very little to put a stop to cyberbullying, which is a very serious and sometimes tragic problem in our society.
We have heard from my colleagues as to why we do not support the bill. We put forward, I believe, 37 amendments at committee to improve the bill. We indicated that whether it is the private member's bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for an anti-bullying strategy, or the bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, to deal with sexual images and exploitation online, there are ways we can try to put a stop to cyberbullying and to the way in which too many people are exploiting privacy, private images, and taking advantage of people, in many cases young women, online.
What I find most disturbing about the debate and discussion around Bill C-13 is the way in which the tragic stories of young women who took their own lives as a result of cyberbullying are being used by the current government to push its agenda.
I do not know how many more ways we can say that this is wrong, that this is beyond disrespectful. It is disturbing, frankly.
I have had the opportunity to meet with the mother of Amanda Todd, and I have met with other youth, including those involved in Jer's Vision, who have done a great deal to try to fight bullying and cyberbullying in our communities. These are people with ideas. Sometimes these are ideas that come from places of immense pain, of having lost a loved one or having themselves experienced suicidal thoughts to get away from bullying. Despite that, they are proposing ideas. They are finding ways in their communities, and they are calling upon leaders at all levels of government, particularly at the national level, to take steps that would have an impact on ending bullying.
I am particularly encouraged by those who are applying a gender lens to this kind of bullying because we know it has a gender lens. There were the high-profile cases of young people who took their own lives as a result of cyberbullying, and they were women. In many of the cases, unfortunately, particularly in the mainstream media, women's experiences when it comes to the use of bullying was missed. Sexual objectification is very different and can lead to some very devastating situations.
I also want to acknowledge the way in which LGBT youth, lesbian, gay, and trans youth, are often the targets of cyberbullying, which has a gendered lens as well. Yet nowhere in Bill C-13 is there any plan to act on, not just bullying, but the cyber-misogyny that we see running rampant online and in our society.
I would like to turn the attention of the House and of those who are listening to the phenomenal work being done across the country to draw attention to cyber-misogyny and the way in which we can take legal action, but more importantly, employ policies and invest socially in order to put an end to cyber-misogyny.
I want to draw attention to the recent report by West Coast Leaf called “#CyberMisogyny” that is entirely about what all of us at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, in our schools and even in our homes can do to begin putting an end to cyber-misogyny. It is not a quick fix and it certainly is not Bill C-13. What it requires is real leadership and tackling the very serious issues of inequality, violence against women, sexual harassment, and the marginalization of girls and women in our society.
It also means taking bold action when it comes to putting an end to the discrimination of trans people and the particular discrimination that trans women face, and recognizing that we have a role to play. Sadly, all I hear in the House is the way in which the Conservative government is using the stories of young women who experience cyber-misogyny to put forward its own agenda, which has nothing to do with that. The hypocrisy, and frankly, the disregard for these women's memories is, like I said, disturbing.
In taking the next steps, I would encourage the government to not only see the value of dropping this badly thought out bill, which stands to benefit some of the government's agenda with regard to pulling people's private information and having access to people's private lives in a way that it sees as helpful, I guess. However, there are other steps it ought to be taking.
For one, it could support the motion that I put forward, a national action plan to end violence against women. It could work with this side of the House to try to find a way to build a comprehensive anti-bullying strategy, including working with community organizations and young leaders who are on the front lines and understand what it means to be a victim of cyberbullying.
It could also look at specific measures, as I have indicated, including Bill C-540 that was introduced in the House last June, which would make it an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of an individual without his or her consent. The list goes on, and many of my colleagues have been pointing to the actual steps that the government could be taking to put an end to cyberbullying.
I would like to end with a demand that so many people have, that the memories of those young women such as Amanda Todd and others not be used as a front for what is, once more, a piece in the regressive agenda put forward by the federal government. It can do better.
Order, please. The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his excellent speech and for his passionate work on the EI issue. He is a great MP for the constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
We are having a very important debate today on the issue of employment insurance.
Our economy has been through many ups and downs over the last number of years. We have seen booms and busts. We have seen rapid technological change. We have seen globalization. We have seen the complete undermining of our manufacturing sector and hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs lost in this country.
Certainly in my province of Ontario, we still see communities that are on very hard times because of the loss of those good manufacturing jobs. When people do manage to find other work, sometimes after many months of looking, it is usually at a much lower rate of pay, and this has meant that many families are struggling to adapt. People have lost homes. They have had to move to other communities. It has broken up families. It has been a very difficult number of years.
In most modern developed countries, there are adjustment programs to help working people and businesses adapt to a changing economy. What do I mean by adjust? Adjustment programs will help with income support. They will help with training. They can help with job search. A whole range of supports can often be available.
While we see the economy shifting and changes taking place, it seems as though much of the risk involved in this change is borne by working people, whereas much of the benefits go to employers, who are doing very well. Companies are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in cash that they are not investing in the broader economy. They are doing very well, but we see many Canadian families struggling.
Workers are taking on much of the risk, and employment insurance was designed to help working people adapt so that we would not be in the situation that my grandparents were in during the Great Depression. At that time, if an individual was out of work, they had literally nothing. My mother tells me that when she was a child, her father, who was unemployed, had to go out and hunt for rabbits. Her mom would skin and clean the rabbits, and my mom would go door to door selling these rabbits to try to get money for them to live, because they were practically destitute.
We do not want people in this country to be destitute, because we are a wealthy country. Employment insurance was designed to help our economy and the people in it adapt to change. However, during the 12 years of the majority Liberal governments, what did we see? Unemployment insurance became employment insurance, and the rules changed. Where once more than 80% of unemployed workers received benefits if they were unemployed, suddenly fewer and fewer people were qualifying, and the number went down to around 45%.
That was a period when the economy had been growing during that part of the economic cycle. The economy was putting more money into the EI fund, and there was a big surplus. What should happen is that we would have a surplus during the good times, and when the economy went down, we would use that surplus to pay out benefits to protect working people. That was what it was designed for.
Instead, the Liberals used that surplus, $54 billion worth, to balance the budget.
What did they do when they balanced the budget? They gave corporations a great big fat corporate tax break. That is what they did, and those corporations put that money into their back pockets and said, “Thanks very much.” There was not even a requirement for them to create new jobs.
Then the Conservatives came in and did the same thing. They took another $3 billion out of the fund and put it into general revenues. Then they gave more corporate tax cuts, and companies said, “Thank you very much” and took that money. They are now sitting on over $600 billion of corporate revenues, and today fewer than 40% of working people who are unemployed get access to EI benefits. In Toronto, the number is 17%. That is in our largest city, one of the most expensive cities in this country.
What did the Conservatives want to do today, now that they and their predecessors, the Liberals, have stolen this money from EI and now that they have denied so many people access to EI benefits? They want to give employers, small businesses, another EI tax break. That means employees, workers, would continue paying the same amount, but employers would get a break. That does not help any unemployed workers. It does not give one more unemployed worker any more benefit. It takes more money out of the EI fund.
What do their cousins in the Liberal Party, who have a similar approach to the economy, want to do? They want to expand that and give it to everybody. Employers would not have to prove that they have created a new job. The Liberals would just give everybody, all the businesses, a break on their EI premiums, while the workers would still have to pay the same amount.
Also, their math is wrong in their proposal, which I suppose is not shocking. I suppose we should have expected that from the Liberals.
However, it is not going to help the working people who need to access EI. If they wanted to do what the Conservatives have done, an idea the Conservatives borrowed from us earlier, which is to give a tax credit to small businesses that create jobs, we support that idea. It was our idea. The Conservatives took it.
We supported that idea. We thought it was a good idea. We disagreed when they cancelled that plan, because it was a job creator. Now there is this idea to further plunder the EI fund and give that money back to employers, when it ought to be going to unemployed workers who desperately need that money now.
I can tell members that there are people living in my riding who have to make a decision every month about whether they buy food or keep a roof over their heads. They have to walk miles because they cannot afford the TTC. There are people who are truly struggling, not just in my town but across this country. It is a disgrace that some in this House are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes by saying that they are trying to do something for unemployed workers. The government is overseeing a stagnating economy, and their handmaidens in the Liberal Party are just helping the Conservatives pull the wool over people's eyes.
Canadians do not have a choice between the bad economics of the Conservative Party and the bad math of the Liberal Party, but they can choose a party that will defend working people, a party that has really good, strong, progressive ideas for growing this economy. That is the New Democratic Party.
I want to make it very clear that New Democrats do not support this idea that they are proposing. What we do support is protecting the EI account so that the money in that account cannot be plundered and will be used for the purpose for which it was designed—that is, as an adjustment program to help working people adjust during a period of calamity for them, which is when they lose their jobs.
We do support a hiring tax credit. We do not think it is a panacea, but it would be a positive thing to do. We support restoring higher benefits so that when people do lose jobs, they would receive benefits to protect them during that time of turmoil.
We also have a lot of good ideas about how to create jobs in this country. We call on government to play a leadership role and to set a path that would give business confidence. A strong, stable, New Democratic government at the helm would encourage business to invest and create jobs, but we do not support this plan that we are being offered today.
Order. The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Halifax's speech. It is very difficult to say it more eloquently than she has, particularly with her knowledge from the Halifax area of the impact that the tragedy of the Rehtaeh Parsons case had, not only on the family, but also on the whole community, in terms of it developing an understanding of how serious this is and can be.
She also has knowledge of the consequences, not only for individuals who go so far as to be induced to commit suicide, but also the thousands of others who are affected by bullying but not affected to that extent. However, they are still affected in their lives, in their self-esteem, and in their ability to carry on an ordinary life. This is particularly when we talk about cyberbullying.
For the most part, research shows that the ones who are most affected by cyberbullying are young people, particularly young women between the ages of 12 and 14. However, it can affect people at any age. This is a very vulnerable group when it comes to attacks on self-esteem and the kinds of bullying that take place online.
In its most common form, we are talking about cyberbullying as threatening or hostile emails. That affects about three quarters of victims. Hateful comments affect about half of all victims. The research considers 12- to 14-year olds to be most at risk, and girls are affected more than boys.
When we talk about this event, we are talking about vulnerable young women for the most part, and the serious damage to their mental health and well-being. It has negative effects on social and emotional levels, and schooling. It provokes feelings of despair and isolation, depression, and suicidal tendencies. An interesting research result is that victims and bullies are nearly two times more likely to commit suicide.
There are extreme cases. Amanda Todd is one of them. The perpetrator has not yet come to trial, as far as I know, but he was an Internet predator. He committed what appears to be a serious and intentional criminal act. However, if we look at the bullies being twice as likely to commit suicide, we are clearly talking about people with problems of their own who are engaged in this behaviour.
It tells me that this issue has to be dealt with as a criminal matter, because it is one. It is the causing of intentional suffering using the means of the Internet. It also has to be dealt with as a problem that needs another aspect to it, in terms of prevention. We need to deal with it as a criminal matter. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour brought that forward very quickly. However, we also have to have some strategy for trying to educate, prevent, and to help people understand what they are doing and how much harm it can cause.
We did have both of those reactions from this side of the House, and in a very timely manner. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour brought forth something that was mocked. It was perhaps not mocked, but it was a small bill that dealt squarely and head-on with the problem. It identified the problem and asked all hon. members to bring this forward and deal with it. That was a year and a half ago.
When it wants to adopt a private member's bill that meets political needs, the government will adopt it. It will bring it forward and make sure it is fast-tracked. It could have done the same thing with the bill by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, but it did not. If the government had said it did not work or if it did not like the wording, it could easily have been changed. There is a lot of expertise in the Department of Justice.
We have an omnibus bill now. We have our usual “throw in the kitchen sink” bill. The Conservatives will call it one thing—it is called “protecting Canadians from online crime”—but it is really about all kinds of other things. There are all kinds of other things thrown in there about protecting Internet providers or theft of communication services and all sorts of other stuff. It has nothing to do with the issue that we are dealing with.
Instead of taking it, going forward and doing the right thing for once, the government decided to use it, as my colleague from Halifax said, to have another go at this failed bill brought forward by the former minister of public safety who shocked Canadians with his statement and his approach and had to have the bill withdrawn. The elements of that bill are still here, in terms of how they are dealing with the so-called “lawful access” provisions, and I will get to that a little later.
However, I am more interested in the failure of the government to take seriously the plight of victims of cyberbullying and deal with it swiftly and uncontroversially, because it could have been done. That is what the victims, the families, the school teachers and community leaders across the country wanted to see happen. They did not get that from the current government because it has this other agenda, this other way of dealing with things that tries to push forward something along with something that is good and put in all the other things that were failed policies in the past and do not meet the tests of compliance with the general law, do not meet the standards that have been there for many years when it comes to privacy and other events, and obtaining of warrants when it is invading people's policy, listening in on their private conversations, and getting access to their data, which is based upon a warrant.
We have, sadly, a failure to do that.
Then, when the opportunity came to support a motion brought by another colleague of ours on this side calling for a national anti-bullying strategy, what did the government do? It said, “No, we're not going to do that. We're not going to support that.” That would have provided some of the other preventive educational opportunities to support the schools, which are trying to solve some of the problems among the schoolchildren, to help communities deal with this, and perhaps even to help provide education to police officers and police departments. They do not all have all the answers, either, frankly.
While we are glad for the contribution that any member of the House has made in their private life prior to coming here, we do know that a lot of work needs to be done to ensure that police departments across the country have the tools to be able to work with us. That comes by having some legislation in place, not so swiftly as to not be considered, but to take it and say this is something that we have identified as a problem, it is a shock to so many Canadians that this would go on, and let us try to ensure that the problem is solved as quickly as possible.
That brings me to the other part. As I have two minutes to deal with it, I will not repeat all of the things—I cannot obviously—that my colleague, the member for Gatineau, has so ably represented in her argument in the House and her work before the committee in identifying, along with the experts, the failings of the bill, when it comes to invasion of people's privacy, the use of standards such as reasonable suspicion instead of reasonable and probable grounds to believe as a standard for obtaining a warrant. That is something that experts pointed out, that my colleague from Gatineau pointed out. She has done a wonderful job in presenting numerous and reasonable amendments to that part of the bill, all of which were rejected by the other side.
I do not think Canadians are surprised anymore when they hear that bills go to a committee of reasonable responsible people, experts come and give their opinions as to what needs to be done to make it acceptable, those amendments are put forward and not a single one, not one reasonable amendment that would fix the bill, was adopted. However, we are used to that, and I think Canadians are used to the fact that the current government has its own ideas about things and is not prepared to listen to anyone else. It wants to ensure that it has things its own way.
That is what is wrong with the bill. We would have loved to be able to be here and have a non-contentious bill that would solve the problem and hopefully save some lives. This is a matter of life and death.
Mr. Speaker, last night in Halifax I was with some friends, a group of women, some feminists. We were getting together to talk about different issues. I said that I was speaking to a bill tomorrow and asked if any of them had any feedback or perspectives they thought were missing in this debate. Everyone knew instantly what bill I was talking about.
Rehtaeh Parsons' story has touched us all in Nova Scotia. It has left an indelible mark on all of us as Nova Scotians to know that this woman died by suicide as a result of images about her spread over the Internet. It has also ignited a really good and healthy debate in Nova Scotia. Everyone has taken part in this conversation, and we are trying to find solutions. The province put together a cyberbullying task force to think about what steps the province can take to prevent this tragedy from happening again. The debate has been lively, solemn, and very real. People have taken this burden seriously and have said that this is something we need to figure out as a community.
I was at this gathering of friends last night, and I told them I had to speak to this bill. One of the women I was with said, “The problem you will have tomorrow with this speech is that the Conservatives are not actually interested in issues. They are just interested in advancing their own agenda, and if they happen to find a situation or a case that helps them advance that agenda, they will use that opportunity to their advantage”. I really believe that this is what is happening here.
There are many reasons why I care about this issue. I care because Rehtaeh Parsons was a member of my community, because she was raped, because she was humiliated, and because she felt that the only option for her, the only way to end that humiliation, was suicide.
I care about this bill as a woman and as a public figure who understands the hurtful and humiliating power of the Internet. I care about this bill as a feminist. I care about this bill as a legislator, because Rehtaeh Parsons is not the only victim. I want to ensure that we have legislation in place to prevent cyberbullying. I want to send a message to Canadians that the distribution of private images without consent will not be tolerated. There are a lot of reasons to care about this bill.
I know that I speak for all of my NDP colleagues when I say that we must better protect people of all ages from the distribution of private images without consent. That is without any controversy. We were all proud to support our colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, when he tabled his bill. He worked to present a balanced and sensible proposal to deal with this issue. He proposed Bill C-540, a bill that would make it an offence to produce or distribute intimate images of individuals without their consent. We stand in solidarity with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. Rehtaeh Parsons' parents are his constituents. He made a commitment to them to figure out how we could change the law to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
However, as my friend said last night, the Conservatives do not have an interest in this issue. They have an interest in advancing an agenda, because Bill C-13, the bill we have before us, goes well beyond what we need to do to change legislation to prevent cyberbullying. The scope of this bill is much larger than my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour's proposal.
Members will remember when the former public safety minister, Vic Toews, stood up in this House and said that we were with them or with the child pornographers. That was in February 2012. It was a pivotal moment for me in my experience as a member of Parliament, because the response from the community was swift and strong. Canadians said, “Not on our watch does a member get away with saying stuff like that”.
That was February 2012. It was when government introduced its hyperbolically named “protecting children from Internet predators act”. It was a bill that everyone rejected. We in the NDP rejected it, privacy advocates rejected it, and the public rejected it. The government was shamed into pulling this bill, never to be heard from again or so we thought.
Here we are and it is two years later, and finally the Conservatives have figured out a way. They have found their vehicle to get those changes brought in. This is their vehicle. This is their opportunity. They are taking two very tragic events, the deaths of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, and are using those events to advance their own agenda because, lo and behold, two years later we find the long-forgotten aspects of the Toews bill here in Bill C-13. Only this time it is under the auspices of cyberbullying.
What does targeting banks' financial data have to do with cyberbullying? What does making changes to the Terrorist Financing Act have to do with young people and the spread of images online without consent? If they are trying to prevent cyberbullying, why in the world do they need to change rules around telemarketing and the theft of communications services? It is a gross misuse of our privilege, the privilege we have as parliamentarians. It is dishonest and it is an abuse of the trust Canadians put in us when they cast their ballots.
If we were honest about our commitment to preventing cyberbullying, we would pass my NDP colleague's motion. If we were honest about our commitment to preventing bullying, we would have passed the motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, to develop a national anti-bullying strategy. If we were honest about our commitment to preventing cyberbullying, we would have split this bill a long time ago.
I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Gatineau, who has worked incredibly hard on the bill, giving us advice as members of Parliament, doing the legal analysis, going to committee. She has tried at every turn to split the bill, because we agree with parts of it but not the rest.
It would be an incredible victory if we could say that this piece of legislation passed with unanimous consent, that there we were as parliamentarians, united in working to prevent cyberbullying. Instead, we have everything and the kitchen sink thrown into one bill, so of course the New Democrats have to say no. Of course we have to vote against it and that is going to be used for political partisan purposes. Thank goodness we cannot send ten percenters into other people's ridings anymore, because I know I would have one sent into my riding saying, “Do you realize that the member for Halifax voted against protecting your children?”
It is for partisan purposes. We should be splitting the bill. We have tried to split the bill. We also have tried to bring forward amendments. These are not crazy, complicated ideas for fixing the bill. They are simple and elegant. Some of these changes are not deal breakers; it is just changing a word. An example is raising the standard from “reasonable grounds to suspect” to “reasonable grounds to believe”. It is one simple word. We know what the solution is. Change that word from “suspect” to “believe” because there is a world of difference between those two concepts. I am suspicious all the time. Do I actually believe that things are happening? Probably not. It is a big legal difference. It is an elegant and simple solution. We proposed it after hearing from witnesses at committee, yet the proposition was voted down.
When my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, introduced his bill in June 2013, this was, as I said, a commitment to his constituents, Glen Canning and Leah Parsons. The member did an interview with Tobi Cohen, a journalist here on Parliament Hill, on July 22, 2013. He said at that time that he does not care who gets credit as long as it gets done, and he hoped the government would introduce a piece of legislation, because as we know, the process of passing government legislation is much more swift. The member said, “I hope that they don’t try to wrap too many things into one piece of legislation”.
Maybe we should not be so cynical as to try and predict that this kind of thing is going to happen, but it is the modus operandi here these days. Perhaps I can address some of my other points when I answer questions.
I find this whole bill to be disappointing. I really wish we could have worked together on this.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for sharing his time with me and, of course, for very ably laying out the reason we are having this debate tonight.
It is all about accountability, and as I listened to the various comments, questions, and speeches, I have found it interesting that by and large members other than the NDP have not wanted to talk about the issues of accountability.
I was fortunate to be elected back in 2004, so I have been in this august place for 10 years now, but we so rarely get an opportunity in this House to discuss the issues around accountability in the Senate. There is simply very little mechanism for us to do this.
I want to applaud the member for Winnipeg Centre for consistently raising this issue year after year. He has been tireless in attempting to get this place to talk about accountability issues with the Senate. It is tonight that we get this very brief period of time to shine the light on the lack of accountability in the Senate.
I was interested to hear the member opposite ask the question about the very strict accountability that was put in place in December. We eagerly await, at least on this side of the House, the Auditor General's report on expenditures in the Senate. We eagerly await that detail and the recommendations for the kinds of measures that need to be put in place to ensure accountability in the Senate.
The other issue that has come up consistently this evening is the fact that people are talking about the Supreme Court decision and the fact that the government proposal in its piece of legislation was not deemed as meeting the requirements under the Constitution.
Certainly, I do not think any of us here is questioning the wisdom of the Supreme Court position with regard to reform of the Senate. However, there are still other mechanisms that we could put forward to talk about making the Senate more accountable. The NDP has certainly made some recommendations about the reformation of the Senate that do not require constitutional change.
The member for Timmins—James Bay mentioned that one of the things we could do is prohibit the senators from taxpayer-funded partisan work. The senators would no longer participate in party caucuses or do fundraising, organizing, or public advocacy on behalf of a political party, using Senate resources. That seems like a really good plan. We do not require the provinces' consent to make that particular reform. In fact, the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal parties, who are the only parties here who have Senate appointments, could actually work with their senators right now to institute that policy this very minute.
Second, we could end taxpayer-sponsored travel that is not directly related to senators' legislative work. This sounds like a reasonable accountability measure. Certainly here in the House we have rigorous reporting requirements in terms of how we report our expenses with regard to flights: what we were doing, where we were going. There is no reason why the Senate cannot have that same kind of rigorous approach.
Third, we could establish a single ethics code and a single ethics commissioner for all parliamentarians. Again, that would make absolutely perfect sense. I mean, there are standards that parliamentarians in the House of Commons have. We have to fill out detailed forms with regard to other activities we may be engaged in. The Ethics Commissioner reviews the forms to ensure we are fulfilling our requirements and responsibilities.
We have seen very rare occasions, fortunately, in this House where members of the government have had to stand up and apologize because their conflict of interest form perhaps did not reveal the details that were required. However, again, we have a rigorous process here, and members by and large abide by that process. It would seem a good process to put in place with regard to the Senate.
I have heard talk about the sober second thought. If only that were true. Since 2011, there have been very few bills that have been amended in the Senate. Where bills have been amended in the Senate, it was because the government gave it marching orders. It was because the government blew something on a bill and then told the Senate what amendments it had to do because they were required. However, in terms of independent review of legislation, that sober second thought that people keep talking about simply has not happened. We have a Senate that is heavily stacked on a partisan basis, and that is the kind of review that is brought to those pieces of legislation.
We have had unprecedented numbers of bills originating in the Senate. One would think, if the government thought they were that important, it would actually draft the bills and have them tabled in the House of Commons and then referred to the Senate. However, we are not seeing that kind of approach to a legislative agenda.
Others have pointed this out, but I was fortunate enough to be a member of the House when the climate change accountability legislation was passed in the House of Commons and then referred to the Senate. With some trickery and chicanery in the Senate, it was defeated. It makes no sense to me that we have the duly elected representatives debating and determining a piece of legislation that we feel is in the best of interest of Canadians, we send it off to the Senate, and it is summarily defeated. That does not seem a reasonable approach for an unaccountable, unelected Senate.
I want to turn to the scandals that have been plaguing the Senate over the last several months.
Again, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour pointed this out. I know from talking to my constituents and other Canadians that people are raising concerns about the Senate, about how money is spent in the Senate, how accountable it is, why it is that the Senate continues to operate in this fashion, and why somebody is not doing something about it.
New Democrats are. We are trying to actually highlight the fact that there is a significant amount of money—in fact, the total amount is $91.5 million, but the amount we are talking about tonight is $57.5 million—which is the part that requires approval of Parliament.
Canadians are asking why. Why are we continuing to spend this money when there are so many other pressing issues facing Canadians? Why does the Senate continue to be funded for a job that it clearly does not do? It rubber-stamps legislation for the government, so why is it continuing to be funded for that?
I want to turn to consultation for a moment. I have been lucky enough to sit here and listen to a number of comments and questions, so I heard the government and the third party ask us a number of times what we did to consult. I have to remind members of this House that the responsibility around consultation rests with the government. It is the one that develops legislation. It is the one that develops policy. It rests with the government.
The Supreme Court decision said that, in order to do that constitutional reform, we need to have the consent of provinces. We do have a long history of Reformers and now Conservatives talking about the need for Senate reform. If they acknowledge that there is that need for Senate reform and they saw what the Supreme Court said, what exactly have they done to move this conversation along?
Again, I want to remind people that it is the government's responsibility to take part in consultation.
I would argue that members in this House, whenever they put forward a private member's bill or a motion, do not engage in the extensive kind of consultation that is required with regard to government legislation. I am the aboriginal affairs critic and we do not even see the government doing appropriate consultation with respect to aboriginal issues. It hardly seems likely that it is going to conduct the kind of consultation required around constitutional change with respect to the Senate.
In the brief time I have left, I want to briefly touch upon a couple of matters with regard to expenditure.
Again, I think the member for Timmins—James Bay mentioned the $57 billion that some of us have argued was theft from the employment insurance fund. That is just one example of where similar kinds of money that should have gone to support the workers and their families in this country have just been removed from government coffers by arbitrary decisions, because of governments that could not balance their budgets any other way except on the backs of workers.
I certainly would like to talk about what $57 million would do for schools on reserve, what $57 million would do for clean drinking water on reserve, what $57 million would do for housing, what it would do for child welfare, and what it would do to implement Jordan's principle. There are many ways that this $57.5 million could be used to actually make lives better for all Canadians instead of for a few senators who are party hacks.
I would urge all members of this House to support this very important motion that the NDP has put forward.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to rise to debate Bill C-5.
I wish to thank my hon. colleague from St. John's East and my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for the tremendous work they have done in raising the issues with respect to this legislation and bringing the debate forward to the House of Commons.
As someone from the east coast, I am all too familiar with tragedy on our coastline, from ship disasters to the Ocean Ranger disaster off the coast of Newfoundland to the one a few years ago involving a helicopter crash just shy of St. John's where 17 people lost their lives.
This legislation attempts to ensure the safety and protection of not just the natural environment of the east coast but also the workers who work there. If it were done properly in collaboration with the provinces, businesses would get on board and it would be profitable for them.
Allow me to play a little dress-up now and read to the Conservative Party what the bill proposes to do.
Canada, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to join law reform negotiations in 2001 following the fatality off the shore of Nova Scotia in 1999. The provinces cannot enact the new law without federal agreement to make the same changes. Bill C-5 would provide regulatory boards with the operating authority to disclose relevant occupational and safety information to the public.
The bill would allocate overall responsibility for occupational health and safety to the operator. The employer would play an implementation and coordination role in this regard. Employees are to take all reasonable measures to comply with occupational health and safety measures. This one is a surprise and I do not know why the Conservatives would be against it. Bill C-5 would provide employees with the right to refuse to perform an activity that they have reasonable cause to believe is unsafe. The bill would afford employees protection from reprisals for reporting unsafe conditions.
Bill C-5 is timely legislation as Nova Scotians will see explorations off their coast by Shell and BP for the first time since the 2010 BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast.
Let me make a little sidebar comment.
On April 28, Canada's flags were lowered to half mast to pay homage to all of the people who went to work last year and died. Over 1,000 Canadians went to work and did not go home. Everybody in the House was mournful and very aware of the fact that workplace safety must be paramount in everyone's daily lives. We as members of Parliament and people we work with here are provided with security and the assurance that the House of Commons is safe and has good working conditions. If we notice something unsafe, we have the right to say something and have it corrected.
Why would the Conservatives oppose something that would enhance and protect workplace safety after standing so quietly and mourning the 1,000 Canadians who died in the workplace? We simply do not understand. Hopefully one day one of those Conservative members will explain to the House and to the working people of Canada and their families why they refused a clause of that nature.
Despite the federal government's refusal to implement recommendation 29 of the Wells inquiry, Bill C-5 is a positive and necessary improvement to the current offshore health and safety regime by placing safety practices in legislation.
New Democrats are proud to support Bill C-5. For several years now we have been calling for the regime to be strengthened.
New Democrats will continue to work with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to further strengthen worker health and safety by working toward the creation of an independent, stand-alone safety regulator. The NDP also supports the collaborative efforts of the provincial and federal governments that produced Bill C-5. Unfortunately, the Conservative government does not collaborate often enough with the provincial and territorial governments to produce measures that would move our country forward.
We encourage the Conservatives to get into the game on this one and understand the importance of this legislation. We urge them to work with the provinces to get this done.
We would all like to see employment and growth in all sectors, including offshore or terrestrial areas.
We must do this with the highest standards of workplace safety and with the highest standards of environmental regulations.
I could not help but notice recently that the categorization of a certain whale off the west coast was changed. Why? It seems so timely before the possible approval of a pipeline in that area.
Why would someone change the classification of an endangered species? It could only be to make it more feasible or easier for an application to be processed.
I know these companies. They are not evil. They obviously want to make profits, grow their industry, and create jobs, and that is good, but at the same time, I am sure that a lot of these companies would like to have the highest of environment standards as well.
All that Canadians and those good folks in my former province of British Columbia are asking for is input. They want to be at the table. They want to have their voices heard honestly and fairly. They do not like to go to meetings to find a decision has already been made and they are just there for show, or in my case eye candy, but we will talk about that later.
The reality is that we cannot ignore the wishes and desires of the Canadian people. They are the ones who put us here. It is our job, and the regulator's job, to have proper and fair consultation and input with these folks before these major projects go on.
At the end of the day, I am not an expert on pilot whales, nor would I ever say I was, but I am very concerned about the environment. A lot of my friends work in the oil patch sector, and they are also concerned. They love what they do, and they make very good money at what they do. They leave their families for long, extended periods of time to work in the oil fields and then they come back. They also have children, and they are also concerned about the natural environment.
They are also concerned when a helicopter coming back from a rig crashes into the water. We found out that one of the aspects of the helicopter was that it did not have a 30-minute run-dry capacity. Recommendations came forward, but we still have not seen compliance on those yet. In fact, we may be purchasing helicopters for our military that may not have that capability.
I do not know why we would do this. We already had a tragedy, and in a small province like Newfoundland and Labrador, a tragedy of that nature affects everyone, and it affects all Canadians. These things do happen, but we can learn from those mistakes and make sure they do not happen again.
Government and the opposition should be working together to ensure the highest standards of safety and that protocols are in place to make sure that never happens again.
If it does happen again, who is ultimately responsible? Is it the company, is it the regulator, or is it the governments? It is probably all three, but explain that to a grieving widow or grieving children who have lost a loved one. Those are conversations we do not want to have.
If we can do it in advance, if we can move the safety issue forward in collaboration with the provinces and then again with industry, then we can exploit the resources we have on both coasts in a proper and environmentally friendly manner so that traditional fishing grounds, for example, can still be exploited, as well as other opportunities for future growth in our economy.
We cannot do that if we risk the environmental aspect of our terrestrial and aquatic systems. We simply cannot do that. We share the planet with the others.
In this I pay tribute to the late Farley Mowat, a great veteran, a great Canadian, and a great novelist who passed away today. He always said to all the politicians that we have to understand that although we are the human race, we share this planet with others. Those others do not have a voice, and those others—the whales, the birds, the fish, the trees, the plants—also share this planet with us as well. We need to ensure that just as importantly as we address workplace health and safety, we address these environmental issues properly.
We encourage the Conservatives to please get on board with Bill C-5 and pass it unanimously.
Order, please. The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate as well. I have had an opportunity to discuss this with our fisheries critic, the member for Cardigan, who recommends that we support this legislation.
There are two aspects to this legislation, and they are the proximity of firearms and the impact of them on the ice.
I grew up in the coastal community of Glace Bay. My riding is predominantly coastal. Anybody who grows up along the coastline of Nova Scotia knows the perils of the ice.
There were not many playgrounds in Glace Bay in the sixties. It was a pretty modest community, and my neighbourhood was certainly modest. I had the great benefit of having the Atlantic Ocean about a nine iron away from my front door. In the summer, it was our swimming pool. In the fall, when the tide was coming in, we would race around the extending points trying not to get knocked over by the incoming tide. In March, the drift ice and the pack ice that came into the coast of Glace Bay became our playground, and we would go down on the ice, much to the chagrin of our folks.
The member for South Shore—St. Margaret's probably went home being wet up to the kneecaps. I recall getting a crack on the behind a number of times because I would be scootching. But I was a kid, six feet tall, and bulletproof. I did not understand the perils of the ice, but that is where we spent a lot of time as kids. My heart would be in my mouth if my own kids went down to play on the ice now.
Living close to the ocean, one becomes a bit ice-savvy and aware of shifts in the ice. A change in the direction of the wind or the wind picking up shifts the ice and opens up perilous water. It is easy to get in trouble.
One can only imagine sealers on the ice and the great peril they would be in if a boat were in close proximity. The shifting of the ice would place the sealers in peril.
I appreciated the comments by my colleagues from West Nova and Dartmouth—Cole Harbour that we look beyond the debate about the seal hunt. The seal hunt is a legitimate industry and should be treated as such. This is not a debate about the legitimacy or the necessity of the seal hunt. We are past that. All parties in the House support our sealers and the sealing industry.
I am very fortunate to have a progressive company in my own riding, Louisbourg Seafoods. Jimmy Kennedy is the owner, and Dannie Hansen is the CAO. They are looking at ways to better serve the sealers and access the great resource that we have with seals. They are very high in protein content. They are looking at ways to process that product and bring it to market, so that it gets the value it deserves.
I have been fortunate in my time in the House. Over the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to sit on fisheries and oceans committee. It was six years ago when my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's was chair of the committee and my colleague from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission was parliamentary secretary. We had the opportunity to go out on the ice.
We choppered out to a Canadian Coast Guard ship and we were able to monitor the hunt taking place. We brought with us a number of leading veterinarians from Prince Edward Island. They, along with us, were able to get on the ice.
The study itself was driven by the seal hunt and whether or not the harvesting practices were adequate.
The strong evidence that we were able to witness and the strong testimony that was shared with us by the veterinarians was overwhelming that this is indeed a humane harvesting practice and is something that we should not be fearful of. They referred to it as an abattoir on the ice. They said this is absolutely every bit as humane as any slaughterhouse in this country. That is one aspect that really stuck with me.
The other one was the peril that sealers place themselves in in order to take part in this fishery. They are out there in the elements. They are on the ice, and the ice is moving. They are exposed to those types of things. I was really impressed with just how nimble they were in getting around on the ice while they took part in the fishery, but it was obvious that the danger and the fear factor were great while they went about and plied their trade. Most were using the hakapik, but some were using firearms.
The bill addresses not just the ice and the movement of the ice, but it would also provide that additional buffer, that additional security for those who are using high-powered firearms in the harvesting of the seals.
I remember the conversation at the time at committee. We had wondered at the time whether a greater buffer should be placed between observers and those who were harvesting the seals. I recall those discussions coming out of that particular study and I believe a recommendation had been made there.
I think the bill being presented today makes absolute sense. It would allow for a safer work environment for those in the fishery as well as for the observers, who absolutely have a legitimate right to take part, to observe, to hold to account those who are in the midst of that harvesting. We certainly acknowledge and respect their right to be there, but it would also give them a much higher degree of safety as they go about their business and do the necessary observation.
I want the member and the House to know that we agree with the principle of the bill. I am sure that my colleague, the member for Cardigan, will continue to work with the member on it as it goes forward, but I am pleased to stand here today and recognize its merit and offer it support.
The electoral district of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia) has a population of 87,886 with 69,469 registered voters and 205 polling divisions.
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