Mr. Speaker, on January 7, just after 6 p.m. eastern time, a CN Rail train derailed in Wapske, New Brunswick, a small community just outside Plaster Rock. Thankfully there were no injuries to rail employees or any residents as a result of the accident. A large part of that was due to the great work of the many first responders, both career employees and volunteers, who quickly reacted to the incident to provide fire control, resident evacuation, and ongoing site management.
I want to thank all the people who so graciously provided for the evacuees while they were away from their homes, the mayor and village staff, and all of the region's volunteer firefighters. Most notably I would like to thank Chief Tim Corbin, of the Plaster Rock fire department, who played a key leadership role in ensuring a fast response to the accident. This shows the importance of volunteer fire brigades to our rural communities and their commitment to the training required to get the job done, no matter what the situation. I am sure we will see many of these folks in a few weeks, contributing their volunteer time again as the world comes to Plaster Rock for the World Pond Hockey Championship.
On behalf of all the good people of Tobique—Mactaquac, I thank them for all they do to contribute to and ensure the public safety of our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to pay tribute to Gordon Hunter of Florenceville—Bristol, New Brunswick who was inducted in to the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame this week.
While his academic interest led him to the practice of law, Gordon's heart was in egg production. In 1985, Gordon and his wife Brenda assumed the ownership of Hunter's Poultry and guided the operation to new growth levels.
Gordon's foray into egg industry politics began in 1985 when he joined the New Brunswick Egg Marketing Board, which led to roles at the provincial, national and international levels representing egg producers.
Gordon's dedication to egg farming and his ability to provide leadership has made him an outstanding representative, as evidenced by numerous re-elections by his fellow producers.
However, more than just the industry, the local community has also benefited from Gordon's generosity, including his 40-plus years as a member of the Rotary Club and his selection as a Paul Harris fellow.
On behalf of all the good people of Tobique—Mactaquac, I congratulate Gordon on his induction and his steadfast dedication to egg producers and the development of the egg industry in Canada.
Mr. Chair, I share the opposition members' enthusiasm for the minister's performance here tonight. It has been great. We want to thank he minister for sharing his evening with us in such an effective way.
I also would like to acknowledge Mr. Dupont and Mr. Arora for the time that they have spent here tonight and the expertise that they bring on this file as well, and I know there are other people who have worked hard to present the natural resources case for this country.
I also want to acknowledge my colleagues who have spent the evening here with us. Most of them have spoken and have spoken extremely well. I think of the chair of the natural resources committee; the member for Vegreville—Wainwright; my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac; my friend from Wetaskiwin, who spoke a bit earlier; the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt; the member for Yukon, who even sent a “hi” out to his mother there; and the member for Calgary Centre, who spoke so effectively.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Blackstrap, who has been here with us all night tonight because resources are important to Saskatchewan. She is an important member of the cabinet and an important member from Saskatchewan. It is great that she was able to be with us as well.
We have been talking about numbers all night tonight, and there are some numbers that I find a bit disquieting and intriguing. We have talked about the 630,000 jobs that are projected to be created by the oil sands over the next 25 years and the hundreds of thousands of other jobs that are going to be created by the resources sector across this country. Unfortunately, again tonight it seems that we have heard the New Democrats say one more time that they want to say no to those jobs.
It bothers me, when I come from a resource-based province, to hear that kind of thing. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that they oppose everything about natural resources. We heard the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, from Alberta, the province where the oil sands are so important, who came in here and opposed oil sands. We heard my colleague from Calgary Centre talk about the Kearl project and how those greenhouse gas emissions now are similar to what is being produced from regular oil production. Certainly the opposition members should be welcoming that news, but they do not seem to be willing to do so.
We have heard in the past how they have opposed offshore. They do not like offshore and the development of offshore. We hear how they do not like pipelines. Some of them do not like pipelines and some of them seem to. They keep changing their position. I had to appreciate my colleague this afternoon in what seemed to be grudging support for the west-to-east pipeline, although last week his leader changed his own position on that, so we wish them luck in trying to convince their leader that he actually needs to represent all of Canada and just not small interest groups in particular areas across this country.
We are concerned, as I read in a quote a bit earlier, that the NDP opposes all things nuclear. The New Democrats' leader was straightforward about that here in the House. He said that they are just going to oppose it. I can hear my colleague across the way saying that they of course oppose that, that they certainly do oppose that.
There is shale gas, the latest and greatest development around the world that is going to change the way energy is produced and used on this globe, and the New Democrats again come up dead against it.
We also see their opposition in so many ways to mining across this country. My colleague from Yukon and other colleagues from the north are particularly concerned about their opposition up there as they try to develop their economies and begin to get some of the same advantages that the rest of us have.
It was interesting to hear about the impact that the development of natural resources will have on our aboriginal communities. Those of us from the west, and particularly from Saskatchewan, know that we need to get our young aboriginal people involved in the economy and that probably the quickest and best way to do that is through the resource sector. It pains me to have to ask again why the New Democrats stand so strongly against that when it is so important in so much of our country.
At the natural resources committee today we were excited to hear from some folks from Montreal who were talking about the importance of the west-to-east pipeline and the re-reversal of that pipeline so that it can create opportunities in Quebec and further east, as far east as my colleague from New Brunswick. He looks forward to having some of those opportunities as well.
I wanted to talk about the New Democrats' great commitment to the carbon tax and the $20 billion that it would take out of Canadians' pockets. We have not mentioned much about that tonight, and they certainly do not want to bring it up anymore.
However, we look forward to continuing to be the government in this country, continuing to develop resources across this country, continuing under the great leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources, and being able to do that in spite of what the New Democrats want to do to our resource communities, our resource jobs and so much of our resource-based economy.
Mr. Chair, given that a significant portion of the west-east pipeline would travel through the Tobique—Mactaquac riding in New Brunswick, it is very important to constituents of mine that this be done in a safe manner.
Minister, in the estimates you noted there is $5.6 million allocated for heightened public safety awareness of pipeline safety. When we discussed the $5.6 million in our committee, it was said that the $5.6 million is really around $5 million which is going to actual operations and safety, and inspections, its actual work on the ground. About $600,000 of that amount is explaining this to Canadians, by enhancing the website and responding to various kinds of inquiries. However, my understanding was that the bulk of it was to be actual safety operations.
When you say “heightened public awareness”, what is your impression of what that means, and what provisions are in the main estimates to make sure we enhance that safety?
Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, December 1, the world's only Women's Institute Home will celebrate its diamond jubilee anniversary. I am proud to say that this highly respected home for senior women is located in Woodstock in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
I wish to congratulate Marion Briand, who has served as the home's matron for 17 years, as well as the entire network of Women's Institutes in New Brunswick and across Canada for their fine work. More than 60 years ago, WIs throughout New Brunswick raised money to purchase a home and on December 1, 1952, the grand Victorian structure on Chapel Street welcomed its first resident. While originally intended for WI members, the home is now open to senior women. Currently, there are 19 residents and a capacity for 21.
In honour of its diamond jubilee, the Women's Institute Home will hold a high tea this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m., carrying on the Women's Institute tradition of working together for home, community and country.
All of my colleagues and I send best wishes to the home for a successful event. I wish to thank the facility for its past six decades.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill S-11.
Sincerely, and with great deference to the other place or at least with as much deference as I can give the other place, I believe it should have been Bill C-whatever number we would have given it. The bill should have started in this place, not the other place. The 120 days that the other place took should have been spent in this place with us studying the bill, rather than the paltry number of days that the government has decided we should have simply because the other place had it for a period of time.
Whether the other place debates it or not is of no consequence to New Democrats and it is certainly of no consequence to this member for Welland. What is of consequence at the end of the day is the House debating the people's legislation, because this is the people's House and this is indeed where the legislation should have started. That is why I have called the government to account on that particular aspect.
To get back to the bill itself, at one point in time we had an emergency debate, and I will not use the reference the minister suggested and the colourful language that he used to describe the debate. At one point in time I actually said to my friends across the way that when one cannot take yes for an answer, it is still yes. It was yes then and it is yes now.
The unfortunate part for my colleagues across the way is that they could not find a way to say yes to any of the suggestions that this side of the House had. According to the parliamentary secretary, they deferred to the “experts”, when indeed it was simply a question of someone parroting verbatim the good things that the PMO suggested they parrot.
Ultimately one gets back to Sheila Weatherill's report. I had the great pleasure of serving with my colleague from Malpeque on the subcommittee on listeriosis and that was when I first came to know about food safety. I came to know first-hand the devastating effects that food safety, when it is not followed in the way that it needs to be, can have on Canadians. We saw that with the great tragedy in 2008 when those folks died from listeriosis.
That is why it was so eminently important for us on this side to make this legislation as good as it possibly could be. That is the one shortcoming we find on this side. What we had said from the beginning was that we would be supportive, encouraging, helpful, proactive and bring forward what we believed would be good suggestions. We held to our word along the way, even though the government curtailed the amount of time we actually had to work on it.
When I was on the subcommittee during 2008, the government decided to call on Ms. Weatherill and do a parallel investigation. The irony of the investigation, which by the way cost the Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars, was that all but a handful of the recommendations were exactly the same, almost uniquely identical. We saw the same things.
One of the things that we saw in the CVS, the compliance verification system, that Sheila Weatherill also saw was that the compliance verification system was flawed and in need of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”. She went on to say it was “implemented without a detailed assessment of the resources available to take on these new [CVS] tasks”.
It was not just a question of adding up the numbers of how many people were there. Ms. Weatherill said that we had to audit the design, the planning and the implementation. That is what recommendation number seven said. It was not that we go out to PricewaterhouseCoopers, a nice place that adds them up and says, “Today, there are 22. Tomorrow there will be 24, and now we are done.”
The entire system needed to be looked at because the CVS was a pilot project. That is all that it was, leading up to 2008. It was started in 2005 by the previous government as an attempt to do food safety differently. There was nothing wrong with the pilot project. There was nothing wrong with making that attempt. What was wrong was verifying that the verification system actually verified what it was intended to work on. No one ever answered that question because no one audited it.
We are still left with the question hanging over our heads. Was the compliance verification system actually verified to see if it does what it was intended to do in the first place? We added up the number of folks who might be in it and we received a number. The government still does not really tell us the actual number. It uses this number of 700.
Let me offer a little help to the government. There are 170 new inspectors in the ready-to-eat meat sector. That came out of two places: the subcommittee that recommended that additional people were needed in that field and Sheila Weatherill who said the same thing. Since we are in the spirit of being nice, let me commend the minister for taking on and fixing the ready-to-eat meat sector and putting 170 new inspectors there.
That did not happen at XL. None of those new inspectors who went to the ready-to-eat meat sector are in those abattoirs. There are no additional inspectors in any of those abattoirs. The XL meat plant certainly has more today than two years ago. It simply filled the vacancies of the folks who left, because there is a great turnover in that plant as all of us now know. Sheila Weatherill actually went through that.
Carole Swan, who at the time was the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the actual person in charge, said about this audit, which was supposedly conducted and the one that the government stands today and still defends as an audit, that:
They didn't conduct it as an audit. An audit is a very specific process. It was a detailed review.
Number seven of Sheila Weatherill's report has not been completed. Parts of it have been done. The government counted the number of people but it did not audit the design, the plan or the implementation because it never asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to do that. It did what it was asked to do and that is fair. It is fair for the government to say that it counted the number of people but it is unfair for the government to suggest that it did a strategic audit of the recommendation, which was fundamentally critical to ensuring that the CVS actually worked. We can have as many people as we like in CVS but if it does not work, it does not mean anything.
Consequently, the government has not lived up to fulfilling all of the recommendations of the Weatherill report, let alone the recommendations coming out of the subcommittee. Some of the recommendations were done and some were not. Some of the recommendations were just left out because the government did not really like them.
When it comes to resourcing, the government loves to tell us one number and play with another one. Let me quote again for the House what we know to be true. On May 8 of this year the Minister of Agriculture said, “Planned Spending is declining by approximately $46.6 million and 314 FTE’s”, which in human resource jargon means full-time equivalences. What that means is that over the next two years there will be 314 less jobs now than the before.
The government loves to tell us about the $100 million, but it neglects to tell us that it is actually over five years, not this year. It neglects to tell us that it has actually only spent $18 million of that $100 million already. It should have spent far more than that because it has been out there for over a year. The resourcing that the Conservatives' continually talk to us about is not always wholly there because it is the jig of the number. They throw numbers out and somehow they might look similar or perhaps not.
We do know the facts because we did read the budget, although I sometimes wonder about my friends on the other side. We did read that lovely book that the government gave us in budget 2012 that says the three-year outlook for food safety indicates a projected cut of $56.1 million annually.
That is the Conservative's budget. I am not making it up. I am just reading the stuff they gave us. Of course, if the other side is now telling us the book is not true, that they no longer believe that page of the budget is going to be enacted, then I think they would have to amend it. Surely they would have to retract it and tell us something altogether different. However, they have not done that.
It is unfortunate, as this is a bill that the House seems to want to pass. I have heard my colleagues from the far end and my colleague for Guelph, who works on the committee with us in the spirit of co-operation to make food safety the priority that we all believe it is. This is about safe food for Canadians, for the children and people out there who may be immune suppressed and for the elderly who we saw get sick once before and some in fact died. We want to ensure that we do not have that happen again. All members in the House believe this to be true.
Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, the official opposition went to committee and told the government side that we could help make the bill better. We put amendments forward because we wanted to help make the bill better. No one person or one party is blessed with all the best ideas. Unfortunately, some may think that perhaps they are. The irony is that we all know that.
I know the member but I always mispronounce his lovely riding, so I won't go down that road. It is a wonderful place in New Brunswick, Tobique—Mactaquac. Every now and again Glaswegians can get their mouths around funny words. However, it was with that spirit of working together that we entered into making sure that this legislation came back to this place in an expeditious fashion, unlike the other place that hung onto it and then went on vacation for the summer, which is how important its members thought it was. They went on vacation.
Meanwhile, some of us worked on the special co-op committee during the summer, which was our vacation. I see some of my colleagues from all sides of the House who were there working. It was the members of the House who went to work during the summer and the members of the other place could indeed have done that. If they did not want to do that, they should have passed the bill to us.
There were a number of amendments that we put forward. Some were as simple as defining a container. In the legislation it says “containers” and then goes on to define a cargo container. What is a cargo container? Is it a box car? Is it a shipping hold? We suggested that we should better define it and talk about pails, totes and baskets to give it further definition. We thought that would be understandable so that when folks saw the legislation they would get a sense of what it was about, rather than having to wait for the regulations to come out for the definitions.
The Conservatives said no, but I have to give them credit, they had a reason. For the first four amendments we put forward they had some reason why they did not like it. However, on the other seven amendments, they just voted no. They did not seem to have any reason or they ran out of reasons, I am not sure which.
Clearly, the opposition side of the agriculture committee, including the member for Guelph who was supportive, felt that the two responsible factors were the compliance verification system and the audit. We felt an audit should be done now because in five years when we go back and look at the system, the problem is that we may not know where we started.
As I said in committee, if I want to drive to Edmonton and I do not know where I am when I start, in five years from now I will be somewhere. It might Edmonton but it might be in Malpeque, which is a wonderful place in Prince Edward Island. When I get there I know the member for Malpeque will say to me, “Member for Welland, you actually drove in the wrong direction. Turn around and go back the other way and then you will get to Edmonton”. However, I would then get there in ten years instead of five years.
Therefore, doing an audit now would give us a benchmark of where we are and where we are going to start from. In five years, we would know if we were better, worse or the same, and whether we need as many inspectors. Part of the government's problem is that when we say those things, it thinks we want to have more inspectors in five years.
Maybe we need fewer. Maybe the system is working so well and is so efficient that there are too many people doing that and we need to transfer them to where they are not doing quite as well. That would be the value of the resource. That would be the value of legislation.
Of course, my friends across the way on the government side just voted no. They did not really have a reason. They just voted no. Then when we suggested whistleblower protection, their response was that the Criminal Code covers that off.
We heard the parliamentary secretary say that the Criminal Code covers tampering but that it is not the best way to do it. Instead, it should be in the legislation. We agree. We think that is the best way to do it, as we do with whistleblower protection.
In the last crisis we just faced, there were workers who said that had they been protected, they might have come forward sooner, and we may not have had a crisis. That is “may”. We are not certain. However, any opportunity that would have prevented it would have been good for the cattle ranchers across the country. They suffered needlessly because of the failure of someone in the system. Whistleblower protection may have indeed helped those ranchers not suffer the unintended consequence of what happened when it came to that crisis.
We saw the government rely on the Criminal Code, but it did not rely on it for this one aspect of the bill because it believed it was better, more expeditious and made more sense to do it that way.
As for fundamental protection for people who want to come forward and tell the government something it ought to know, it is telling them to take their chances in the courts and see if they can convince a crown attorney to go ahead with the charge and see if they can get a conviction. What the government did not talk about was whether they could get their jobs back afterwards. They are more likely to be fired while going through the court system. Of course, if people won that one, they would have to go through civil proceedings to try to get their jobs back. Therefore, they would go to court twice, and along the way, would have to pay for lawyers.
However, if the Conservatives had put simple whistleblower protection into the act, it would have talked about people who make vexatious claims against a company because they are mad at the boss. This was about real claims to help prevent another food crisis for Canadians across the country.
We want to make food safety better. We want to help this legislation be the best it can be for two simple reasons. The first is that this may be the last opportunity for quite some time to do something with respect to the food safety act as we amend three acts into one. More importantly, this is about food safety for Canadian families, children, the elderly, and all of us. All of us eat. We all eat differently. Some of us graze, and some of us do not.
At the end of the day, this was about making fundamentally good legislation. It started out as decent legislation. It could have been great legislation, because all of the hands at the committee were indeed onside to make it so. The government side brought forward a bill that in its sense was pretty decent. All sides of the House at that committee, including my friend from Guelph, were bound and determined to try to make it better. There were no egregious amendments or poking sticks in eyes. There was none of that. This was about making it better from the day it showed up at committee. The unfortunate part is that as good as it is, the bill could have been so much better than it is. That is the shame of not having all sides work together.
When the government puts a hand out and asks that all sides work together, it should recognize when the hand comes from the other side to work with it to make it better. Our hand was extended to the government to make it better. Unfortunately, it decided to say no, and that is truly unfortunate.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
I represent a riding with a very mobile workforce. People from Guysborough, Canso, Mulgrave and all through Cape Breton Island have travelled for years to some of the biggest construction projects in North America and around the world. It is very interesting to have an opportunity to share conversations with people at the airport who are travelling to seek employment and ply their trade.
My colleague from Sydney—Victoria just shared a statistic. In 2006 in Cape Breton there were 1,700 workers from Cape Breton employed in Alberta. It was bringing something like $3 million a week into the local economy. Obviously, there are some social challenges when people are having to travel to work, but certainly it is of benefit to both places. It is of benefit to local communities when they are able to earn that level of income, but it is of benefit to Alberta, Saskatchewan and those provinces that need access to a labour force. Therefore, know full well that I am comfortable with understanding the benefits to both the employers and the employees when a workforce is mobile.
That is not the case in this instance with the changes in regulations. I would like to address them in a couple of different ways. I want to talk about the impact on business; about the department's capacity to really handle these changes, which I call into question; and then whether or not there are better ways to go about it.
First, the impact on business. My good friend from Tobique—Mactaquac had indicated that both employees and employers contribute to the EI fund. The employers in seasonal industries in our communities contribute to this as well. I fear that with the changes in the legislation, it will decimate business operators in seasonal industries. It has the potential to rob them of skilled workers, people who have been with them and provided expertise and services over a long period of time.
I have talked to people in the tourism sector and the forestry sector. They, and obviously people in the fishery, are very nervous about these changes and the potential impacts. I want to read into the record a letter I got from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. Beth Densmore, the president, has shared her concerns with both the minister and MPs from Nova Scotia.
First, she makes reference to the fact that the majority of the labour force in the agriculture sector is skilled in a particular profession. It is just that the profession is in a seasonal industry. She says:
We, in the Federation, believe that the proposed changes have not been well thought through and would urge that the Federal Government give greater consideration to the perhaps unintended consequences of such action. Is this simply a way to move the responsibility for the working poor from one level of government (Federal) to another level where the worker's only recourse will be to apply for social assistance (Provincial or Municipal)?
The federation even suggests a possible amendment:
One possible scenario would be to provide an exemption from the proposed EI changes for the resource based industries which depend on a skilled workforce, but, only for a portion of the year.
Maybe that would be something that would make sense. It would certainly alleviate some of the fears that are being put forward by, not just the workers in seasonal industries, but those who operate those businesses and who are really the foundation of rural communities.
In this particular legislation, the government did put $21 million into a particular program. That is the e-alert program. I think it is worthwhile to make more information about potential for job opportunities available to those who are unemployed. That is a positive thing. Right now the rules are there that it is incumbent on those receiving EI benefits to pursue work opportunities, but I think this is of benefit. It is a fairly hefty cost, but it is of benefit.
However, if the government thinks this is going to solve all the problems, it is not. Forty percent of families with a total household income of $30,000 or less have no access to the Internet, and 25% in the bracket of between $30,000 and $50,000 annual household income have no access to the Internet.
We know that the government has carved the guts out of the community access program that enabled people to go to libraries and community centres to access the Internet. That has been lost now, and what we are doing with these actions is placing greater hardship on those who most need that access.
The burning question that begs to be asked is how the government is going to handle the changes in these regulations. We know that right now approximately 180,000 Canadians have waited over 29 days to receive their first employment insurance cheque. The EI processing centres no longer have the capacity to process these claims. We have seen closures in a number of different areas.
We saw the minister try to shore things up and put a band-aid on it last year by putting 400 people in over the Christmas rush to address this issue, but it remains a problem when 180,000 Canadians have waited over 29 days for their first EI cheque.
I know the minister herself was not very aware. The payment indicator, when correspondence is kicked out to someone who has applied for EI, measures both those who get notice of nonpayment and those who actually receive a cheque; she thought everybody was getting a cheque within that period of time. She thought they were doing famously over there, that everybody was happy and everybody was getting their money.
Actually, it is really hard to take a notice of nonpayment to buy groceries for the kids. Once the minister realized that, she did put some additional resources into the processing centres at Christmas time. Again, it was an interim measure.
Now, with all these regulations, we have to hound and pursue workers and find out if they are chasing down the jobs, whether or not the jobs are deemed suitable. There is nothing in the estimates about more resources being provided to make sure these regulations are concurred with. That should raise an alarm to everybody that we should anticipate further delays in payment of EI benefits to those who have earned and deserve them. I am not that confident there and I see nothing in the estimates for that.
I will close with this. The minister was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently. I want to read a quote from her into the record. She said:
Why would we want to bring in people from outside when we have people here who need the jobs and who can do them? It only makes economic sense.
There are 140,000 unemployed people in Alberta. There are 25,000 unemployed people in Saskatchewan. If we put them together, that is more than the number of unemployed people in Atlantic Canada. Would it not make more sense to put money into training for those people, rather than shaking people in Atlantic Canada out of their communities? All that is doing is contributing to the further decline in population in rural communities. I think that is the question I would like to pose to the member today.
I want to thank my colleagues in the NDP for bringing this motion forward to the House today.
Mr. Speaker, over the last few weeks, I have had an opportunity to attend fundraising campaigns and presentations celebrating the long years of service of volunteer fire brigades in the community of Tobique—Mactaquac.
Volunteer firefighters provide tremendous protection for our rural communities. On a regular basis, they hold fundraisers to purchase new equipment and, in some cases, including this past weekend in Meductic, to help their own in dealing with challenging life situations.
I want to thank each and every one of these brave individuals for their long-term dedication to public safety and to their families whose thoughts and prayers travel with them each time they are called upon for an emergency.
It was a tremendous honour as a member of Parliament to present the Governor General's long service awards for 20 years and 30 years of service and see the pride in the faces of these long-time volunteers, not to mention the incentive of this recognition, along with initiatives like the volunteer firefighter tax credit provided to young volunteers.
These folks are true heroes. I know that all members in the House will join with me in commending our volunteer firefighters for helping to make our rural communities dynamic and strong.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity I have to share a few words on Bill C-19.
No other issue raises people’s blood pressure in my riding as much as the long gun registry does. This is an important issue in my riding, Tobique—Mactaquac.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. It is especially interesting to follow my colleague for Cariboo—Prince George. He has given us a nice history lesson on how we got to where we are today from 1995. Here we are 17 years later still dealing with this issue. Hopefully we will be done dealing with it very soon.
I also want to give a tremendous amount of credit to my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville, who has carried the lunch can on this for a number of years. He is a tremendous advocate on behalf of our heritage activities in the country.
I will focus my comments on three major areas based on information and feedback from my riding since I started running for office back in 2004. I have heard this in every election and on every weekend. It is about public safety, respect for our traditions and protecting taxpayer dollars.
It is important to put this into context and I will provide a little background on the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
To look at some of our western ridings, it is not one of the biggest, but it is somewhere around 17,000 square kilometres, so it is a fairly large riding for Atlantic Canada. It extends along the border with Maine in the U.S. It has a tremendous amount of traditional industries such as farming and forestry as well as tourism, which includes hunting and fishing. In this riding there are a lot of outfitters, guides and people who entertain sports and come in at various times during the year for hunting and fishing. This is an important aspect in my riding.
I did a poll a number of years ago and I received about 1,400 responses back. Of the constituents of Tobique—Mactaquac, over 90% said that we had to get rid of the long gun registry. I did another poll recently. Again, those numbers are staggering, still up over 90%.
I am not in denial of the challenges that violent gun crime presents to people. It is an issue. At the same time, I can point to two instances a couple of weeks ago of armed robberies in two small community stores in my riding. The people came in with a handgun. At the end of the day, people were scared and intimated. However, mandatory minimums for serious gun crimes are about that. This is what our legislation is intended to do. This is why we put those policies in place for, not a gun registry that unfairly targets the folks who are in our traditional industries.
On the other side, we have also invested in policing, helped communities with their policing and crime prevention strategies to help our youth understand that it is important they stay away from gangs. Also, our flagship representation and bill going through now, the safe streets and communities act, is very important in addressing some of those issues.
Bill C-19 is a pretty simple bill. First and foremost, the new legislation would remove the need to register non-restricted firearms such as rifles and shotguns. This provision is directed at all the farmers who need to protect their livestock, all the sportsmen and women who hunt wild game and all the other rural residents who use long guns to make a living. However, as it has been emphasized here a number of times, I do not think we want to forget that individuals will still need to have valid licences to possess a firearm.
We have had a number of people come to our offices to talk about the process used to obtain a licence, and it is onerous. There is a number of hours of training. Some people in my riding provide the training to those folks. They go through the background checks that are required to determine safety. The bill would preserve these public safety aspects, but it would strike a balance with what gun owners need. Owners of non-restricted and shotguns would no longer have to register these firearms. That is great news to all the long gun owners who have waited so long to see this registry eliminated.
At the same time, owners have talked to us about their personal information. I am pleased to say that clause 29 of the bill also includes the destruction of the records related to the registration of rifles and shotguns. Unless the data is destroyed, there is still a long gun registry and there is still the ability for someone to come down the road and recreate it. It is important for us to ensure that those records are gone.
The second point is about respect. I want to refer to a committee that I put together back in 2006 to talk about the long gun registry. It was interesting how the folks on that committee started it out as a long gun registry committee, but then decided they wanted it to be called a public safety committee. They wanted to address firearms legislation from the standpoint of the proper controls of licensing.
Some of the people on that committee were Mr. Cormier from Saint-André, who does training and gives the course to long gun owners; Mr. Kierstead, who is the coach of the national shooting team; Bill Ensor and Ray Dillon, sport guides in the region of my riding; a doctor who was a gun enthusiast; Mr. Ray Tibbits, a member of a local gun club, who respects and teaches our young kids in the proper use of firearms; and Mr. Dale Clark, former president of the New Brunswick Trappers and Fur Harvesters Federation. Those people had great input to where we could go with the bill.
I know I am getting to the top of the hour, but I will quickly note that the previous bill, Bill C-68, and the long gun registry did not respect our traditional pursuits and did not respect seniors, who were being harassed by the long gun registry, and other seniors who might have had their long guns handed down to them through the generations. They were being harassed by police forces and the long gun registry, which is just despicable.
Madam Speaker, I recognize that the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac has worked long and hard, trying to see that this type of legislation gets passed in the House.
Since 2006, our government has introduced three bills to repeal the long guns registry. We introduced a bill in 2006, again in 2007 and again in April 2009. We did this for the very reasons my colleague raised. Some individuals collect guns and feel like criminals if they do not want to register them. That is truly one of the issues we have heard over and over again from constituents.
By introducing Bill C-19, we are following through on our government's commitment to eliminate this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We are following through on a commitment that Canadians want.
Mr. Speaker, the member talked a lot about tradition in his riding.
In my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, people participate in a variety of sports. We have farmers and many of them use long guns. Hunting is a way of life. I also have had a chance to visit of number of ranges in my riding where people are taught to respect firearms and to use them safety, not to be scared of them. I think there is a lot of fearmongering that we should be scared. That is one thing that will be taken away. One of the concerns that those people had was that we were intruding on their ability to teach their kids the responsible use of firearms, as well as to hunt and everything else.
Could the member comment on some of that tradition and why people feel so insulted by the existing law?
Mr. Speaker, there is quite a bit of inconsistency in the NDP's argument. On one side they say the government should play no role and that we should allow the two sides to bargain. On the other side they accuse the government of somehow being involved in the lockout. Therefore, on one side we are not supposed to be involved, and then they say we are involved. They are all over the road on it.
One thing seems very clear to me. We are calling this a lockout, and my hon. colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac said some time ago that in fact the workers themselves are locked out by their union. They are locked out from having the opportunity to have their say on the most recent contract offer that was made by Canada Post, and I do not understand why. I have letters from postal workers.
I hear the member for Malpeque shouting, but I want to ask this member a very succinct question. I have a number of letters from postal workers in my riding who are experiencing hardship and who want the opportunity to vote on Canada Post's most recent contract offer.
Would this member join me in calling on CUPW to allow its members to vote on Canada Post's offer? Doing that would make this bill redundant.
Mr. Speaker, on May 2, the people of Tobique—Mactaquac did me the honour of electing me to represent them as their member of Parliament for the third time. I want to thank them for the confidence they have placed in me.
I want to express my appreciation to the many volunteers who worked hard for our team and the tremendous support from my family.
May was also bittersweet in that, on May 23, we said goodbye to our mother after a long battle with Alzheimer's. I remember back in 2003 when I first told mom I would be offering for political office, her immediately reply was that I was crazier than heck.
However, she stood by me and I know that the values she taught us, of hard work, honesty, integrity and commitment to family, friends and community, have played a major part in my success to date and the many positive relationships built in Tobique—Mactaquac since 2006.
Again, I thank the residents of Tobique—Mactaquac for their support, and I thank mom for all the special training she gave us growing up. There is a hole in our hearts with mom gone. We miss her and we love her.
Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of International Cooperation announced $30 million in aid for 15 development projects in Haiti.
One of the education projects put forth was by the Association Québecoise pour l'avancement des Nations-Unies. The project will build a vocational school in memory of New Brunswick RCMP sergeant, Mark Gallagher, who was killed in the Haiti earthquake.
While AQANU along with les Petites Soeurs de Sainte-Thérèse were the applicants, this effort would not have happened without the vision of Woodstock High School teacher, Richard Blaquiere, and the support of a strong local committee comprised of co-chair John Slipp and representatives from the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, including the local RCMP, school district, New Brunswick Teachers' Federation, the Rotary Club, politicians of all stripes and, of course, Mark's family.
I want to thank the local committee for its vision and perseverance as we have worked together toward this milestone. While Mark Gallagher may have left this world, through this school his legacy of sacrifice above self will live on in our hearts for many years to come.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-42. It really is a fundamental question about the right of Canadians to privacy versus some other foreign national government's decision, whether it be the United States, or some other third party such as Colombia or Panama or any other country around the world that wishes to have the personal information of me or anyone else in our country who chooses to travel by air.
I find it quite astounding that somehow we think that giving this information up is okay and we can trot out security as being the justification for giving up our private information.
Where does it would stop? Some would say that it is just our names, the hotel we are going to, whether we are renting a car and where we are going to travel in that country. We know there are sophisticated programs in place that could develop profiles about people. However, profiles can be false. I remind the House that there are a number of us who have similar last names. I and the member for Tobique—Mactaquac have the same last name, but we ensure in the House that we identify the member for Welland or the member for Tobique—Mactaquac. The same is done for others whose names are similar.
However, as my colleague and friend from Winnipeg ably pointed out, what we see is that where mistakes are made, they cannot be corrected. Therefore, if a person has a similar name that may sound like someone else's, that person ends up on a list. As my friend described his case earlier, travelling from his Winnipeg riding to his workplace in Ottawa became a great challenge based on being misidentified. Imagine how many other folks have been misidentified.
We know about Maher Arar and the absolutely heinous crime perpetrated against that individual by misinformation that was passed from government to government. Yet they were supposed to have the ability to do it well.
Now airlines will pass information to government agencies and we will not know where it goes. We will not know who they share it with. It could be other foreign national governments. It could be other agencies within the United States or within other foreign national governments. Yet as individuals we will have no control over our information and we will not even be able to come to our own government. People could not come to us and say that they needed us to help them control what had happened to their personal information because these agencies had it wrong and thought they were someone they were not.
As representatives of the citizens of our country, how do we protect the sovereignty of this nation and those citizens if we cannot correct the information that we helped deliver to a foreign national that got it wrong, when it simply puts up the roadblock, puts its hands in the air and says that it is sorry but that is the way it is going to be?
I remind my colleagues of the days in elementary school. One of the activities that many teachers used to give elementary school children was to whisper a story into the ear of the first child in a row and ask each child to whisper it to the next and pass it all the way through. By the time it came out from child number 23, the class would see how close it matched the original story. I believe, as that information goes from one government to one agency to a second agency to a third to a fourth to a fifth to another government then another government and its agencies, by the time it is finished I am not sure who they think I am anymore.
If it is our sense that somehow we are keeping terrorists out of the sky, we are really mistaken. That will not prevent folks from doing that. Folks who intend to perpetrate heinous crimes find a way to work outside of the system.
My friends in the government are always keen to talk about the long gun registry and how it does not prevent crime because criminals do not obey the law. Terrorists do not obey the law. Developing a law to give information to someone will not prevent terrorists from simply saying that they think they will become Mr. or Mrs. so and so today.
We know how easy it is in this Internet age to steal identities of other people. In my case, I would hate for someone to steal my identity. I could end up, like my colleague from Winnipeg, thinking I am going on vacation with my family and getting turned away at the airport. Because I am headed back to my ancestral homeland, going back to Glasgow, Scotland to visit with my aunts and uncles, I could find out that I cannot get there because I am about to fly over some foreign country. In this case it could be Greenland or Iceland.
I could be told that my name is on a list, unbeknownst to me and because of someone else who decided to misappropriate my identity. It could end up not being able to be corrected. We face this serious situation. Somehow we have not come to grips with it in our rush to simply give up the personal information of our citizens.
We are not asking for this to be done, by the way. There is no great groundswell of public opinion in Canada asking us to do this.
One of the questions earlier was about information. I believe the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore asked if the government was delineating this information in any kind of political way. Forget about the politics, the government ought to tell Canadians that it is willing to tell foreign governments all about them, that it is willing to give them the information of Canadians, that it is not going to fight to ensure Canadians can keep their privacy and that it is going to pass a bill to ensure their privacy is compromised. Let us see what Canadians have to say to us about that.
This is so far under the radar, no pun intended, that it is ridiculous. We need to inform our citizens that the government is about to compromise their privacy. They believe they have a right to privacy. The charter says they do have a right to privacy.
If citizens believe it and it is enshrined in law, why is the government compromising it, all in the name of “security”? I believe those who work for our security services, whether it be CSIS, the CBSA, the RCMP or the other agencies across this land, are up to the job. When people board a plane, folks have a sense of who they are. They have to identify themselves.
If there is an issue with me, if I have some difficulties with the law, security services will know that and they will then be able to do something about it.
We are contracting out, like we do with so many other things, the security and the privacy of Canadians to someone else. It could be to Panama, Bolivia, Guatemala, the U.S. or the EU. Our right is to our citizens. Our work is on behalf of our citizens. In my view we do not have the right to contract that obligation and that responsibility out to third, fourth, fifth, sixth parties. As they pass it around, that is exactly where it is going to go.
This is from testimony that came before the committee from some of the witnesses who talked about how this thing actually took place. It states:
After running a risk assessment for each passenger using data-mining technology, the Department of Homeland Security in turn issues a boarding pass result back to the airline. The result instructs the airline to issue a boarding pass...
In other words, someone in Canada is looking to get a board pass, the list goes somewhere else, to Homeland Security in this case because he or she is going to over fly the U.S. The U.S. Homeland Security will decided whether people can get a boarding pass, even though they are not going to the United States. They could be going to a destination wedding in Mexico. My family is participating in one next week for a very gorgeous young woman who I have known from the age of five.
I cannot comprehend the thought of my wife and two daughters showing at the airport and somehow their names being on a list. They could get turned away and not be able to go to the wedding of that young woman, simply because someone in the U.S. said that their names were on a list. Their name would be on a list inappropriately.
We need to ensure we do the job in our country and do it well. I think Canadians expect us to do that. We need to ensure that our security forces are robust, and they are. We do not need the help of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security still thinks the 9/11 terrorists came across the 49th parallel and flew those planes into the Twin Towers. The bottom line is it was wrong. It was such a horrendous, heinous crime and yet Homeland Security cannot get it right. I do not know it can get Smith and Allen right quite frankly.
Mr. Speaker, over the recess period, a number of regions in New Brunswick were hit hard by storms and high winds. In my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, private and public property damage was significant, including along the Saint John River and Keswick River valleys.
During the process, I had an opportunity to spend time on a cleanup crew removing damaged walls and insulation.
It is a terrible sight to see people go through something like that, and even worse when it happens over the holidays.
In spite of the challenges, people are working hard to restore their homes and their lives. I want to express my appreciation and thanks to the many volunteers who have stepped up to assist those folks in need, the local service organizations, community members and businesses who have donated time, money and supplies to the restoration cause and to our valued volunteer firefighters who have played a key role in ensuring community safety.
We hope and pray for continued success in the coming weeks and months as those impacted work to restore their lives. I know the continued dedication of family, friends and community will play a big part in that continued progress.
The electoral district of Tobique--Mactaquac (New Brunswick) has a population of 68,352 with 53,203 registered voters and 169 polling divisions.
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