Mr. Speaker, I do not want to put members of the Canadian Armed Forces at risk should they have some far away link to the use of these horrible weapons. The opposition has said that is not an issue, that it is not a problem and that we should not worry about it, but those of us in government have to worry about it. We have a responsibility to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure they are not put in harm's way in an international judicial proceeding.
We consulted with the Chief of the Defence Staff. We consulted with representatives of the Canadian Armed Forces to get their best advice, to find out their practical operations on the ground. They were clear that they had never used these weapons, and they never would.
We have to follow one aspect of the convention that was negotiated in the convention on interoperability so we do not put someone who is not using these evil weapons in harm's way.
With respect to clause 11, the member for Tobique—Mactaquac, along with the members for Ottawa Centre and Westmount—Ville-Marie, pushed hard to get the bill tightened up a little so it would be a bit more clear. We were happy to work with the opposition to strengthen the bill.
I understand there is not agreement, but part of a debate is having a vote. We cannot debate bills forever. An important part of the debate is getting up and having a vote.
Mr. Speaker, I have just a quick question for the member for Tobique—Mactaquac. I want to talk about regional development because I am not sure if it was in his speech. I do not think it was. Being from Atlantic Canada, the movement of the ECBC in Cape Breton into ACOA represents a far greater change than we anticipated. I am worried that there is no focus on regional development like there was in the past. Hopefully, we are not getting away from that.
Could the hon. member address that, as far as investments go into New Brunswick and how important they have been? Would he dispute the fact that there has been less investment in economic opportunity through ACOA?
Mr. Speaker, for the minister and for those in the House who may be “Hooked on Phonics”, I think I should just kind of go through the name of my riding so people can kind of get it.
It is Tobique—Mactaquac. One person told me one time it is like “toe” of a foot, “bic” like the “Bic” pen, Tobique; then Mactaquac would be like if there was a duck named Mac and someone was going to teach Mac to quack. Then we would be good to go. That is just for future reference.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss Bill C-31 concerning our government’s economic action plan 2014. As we know, many measures are really crucial for our economy, and that is why I support Bill C-31.
It is not possible to discuss all the clauses, but in the time I am allowed this evening I would like to talk about two things. First, I would like to address the clause that creates a stable environment in the area of income tax, and more specifically the Financial Administration Act. Second, I would like to share a few observations on the provisions concerning the implementation of the Canada—United States enhanced tax information exchange agreement.
There is a clause concerning financial administration, and more specifically the initiative that I proposed in my private member’s bill, that will improve transparency when there are potential changes to our Income Tax Act.
When the Certified General Accountants Association testified before the committee, it said that clause 31 required the Minister of Finance to table a list of legislative proposals in Parliament every year. The first version of this bill proposed to include the legislative proposals announced publicly that were not enacted by Parliament since the last federal election, not all proposals.
The committee decided to amend that clause because it thought we could improve clause 31 significantly by amending it. In its initial form, the clause required that the minister report only on the tax measures proposed during the current Parliament. Accordingly, the list tabled would not include the numerous tax measures that were already in the wings before the current Parliament took office.
The committee members adopted the CGAs' recommendation, and we amended the Public Finance Act. Now, the Minister of Finance has to present cumulative reports, not just the changes since the last election.
In addition to that, it would also provide for the government a 12-month lag for a new minister, after an election, to file their first report of these unlegislated tax measures.
I want to thank my colleagues on the committee for working together to incorporate constructive suggestions from CGA-Canada to improve clause 31.
I would like to spend a little time on the enhanced Canada-U.S. tax exchange agreement and cover a number of topics under this. First is a bit of the history of where we are and how we got here, a bit of what FATCA is and what it is not, and what the repercussions would have been if we had just let FATCA happen as opposed to taking the initiative to sign an intergovernmental agreement with the U.S.
I would also like to talk a bit about the due diligence processes that are going to be in place for the banks, as well as the exceptions from reporting for the banks. I maintain that the changes and the intergovernmental agreement that we have negotiated is a good agreement to protect as many Canadians as we possibly can.
The U.S. has had a taxation on citizenship since 1913. It is one of only two countries in the world, the other being Eritrea, that has that kind of taxation. Most, like Canada, tax on residence, but the U.S. does not.
In fact, that was challenged in the early 1920s, through the Constitution, in the U.S., as being unconstitutional. That constitutional challenge was actually defeated. Here we are with U.S. citizens required to pay taxes in the U.S.
We all agree, and I do not think anybody in our committee disagrees, that FATCA is overreaching, on the part of the U.S. There is no question about it. We are left with the situation where, as a government that deals with the 28 other countries that have signed intergovernmental agreements, and there are about 33 that are actually working toward agreements in principle now, we have to learn to deal with this in order to protect as many citizens as we can.
In the discussions we had with the U.S. Treasury, this spring, in Washington, it was pretty evident that the U.S. Treasury, in spite of some of the lobbying we did, was not hearing any of it and that FATCA was still going to exist. The fact that FATCA was passed in 2010 means that is how the U.S. was going to apply that law.
With that in mind, we have a choice. Do we just let FATCA happen, as it is and as it was passed by the U.S.? Or do we try to negotiate an intergovernmental agreement in the best interests of Canadians based upon what we are going to have to deal with? Because it is a false choice to say that we can opt out of FATCA. We cannot opt out of FATCA. There is no way we can opt out of FATCA.
If we let FATCA happen, then we are going to be faced with up to a 30% withholding tax on the transfers coming in, not only to banks, but also to individuals. As we know, there are a lot of investments that are U.S.-denominated and there is going to be a 30% withholding. As we heard in committee, that is not just a withholding tax. It is not a withholding against tax. It is a withholding tax. Essentially, there is potentially double taxation.
There are also potential privacy issues if we just let FATCA go the way it is because, then the IRS is going to negotiate individual agreements with every bank. That is what is going to have to happen. And every bank that wants to continue to do that is either going to have to suck up the 30% withholding or it is going to have to come up with an agreement to actually transfer this information to the IRS.
Also, it could get so crazy, to the point where banks would actually have to turn down clients if they ask them, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” They would have to turn them down, under the way FATCA is worded.
With the IGA and the intergovernmental agreement that we have, there is no withholding tax. The transfer of information that is going to be transferred between Canada and the U.S. will actually go through existing tax exchange agreements. It will go through the CRA, to the IRS, and it will be used very strictly within the rules and regulations of that information transfer. That is a very important concept.
Also, it would ensure that we have that privacy kept and it would also allow the banks to take on U.S. clients.
I want to talk a bit about due diligence. When we talk about due diligence, Canada did really well in the negotiations of the due diligence of this agreement because accounts under $50,000 are not even reportable. Accounts between $50,000 and $1 million are done through an electronic scan. If there do not happen to be any U.S. indicia on the account, such as a U.S. tax identification number, a U.S. address, or some other U.S. identifier, then that account is not reported. All of a sudden this million people we are starting to talk about in Canada might be impacted. When we take out the underage people who might not even have a bank account, we are squeezing this down to a very small number of people. If the account is over $1 million, then, in addition to the electronic scan, there will be a manual search in case of U.S. indicia.
I would suggest that the individuals with accounts over $1 million do have the wherewithal, in that case, if they happen to be U.S. citizens, to deal with that and its challenges and to actually ensure that they do the proper filings. It is important to understand that those are some of the things in there. Not only that, we filtered out the RRSPs, the RESPs, and even the agriculture accounts.
Furthermore, there is a favoured nations clause in there so that if a better deal comes around, as time progresses, Canada will be able avail itself of better clauses.
I have heard a lot about FATCA. Most of what I have heard is that there is a lot of mix-up between the filing of taxes, which has been an obligation for U.S. citizens since 1913, and this obligation, which is on the transfer of information through the CRA to the IRS under existing processes. They are two separate things.
Furthermore, I would maintain that the deal that was signed, the intergovernmental agreement between Canada and the U.S., is the utmost best we can do from the standpoint of protecting taxpayers. We have done very well when we compare ourselves to the 28 other countries that have agreements with the U.S.
That will complete that round.
Now we will move to the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac.
Mr. Speaker, development of offshore resources is a priority and must be done safely, and I believe that this legislation would ensure that safety. I would like the member for Tobique—Mactaquac to elaborate on that.
Order. I would ask all hon. members to co-operate with the Chair during questions and comments when a signal is given to wrap up a question or answer. It would be appreciated.
The hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac.
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.
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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