Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, Employment; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Rail Transportation.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
I declare the motion carried.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, Canadian Heritage.
Mr. Speaker, I saw the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley rising. I am sure he would have pointed out that, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in 2013, of the jobs the current government managed to cobble together, 95% were actually part-time, and we have 300,000 more unemployed than we did the year before. Therefore, the Conservative government, I guess in keeping with not showing up to evening sessions, is a part-time government. The Conservatives are only able to stimulate the economy with part-time jobs, and that is not even going. I know my colleague for Skeena—Bulkley Valley would also mention the fact that tens of thousands of jobs were lost last month.
We are talking about a government that right now does not seem to be doing much right.
It is rather sad that the government is again moving this motion that it is imposing with its majority. The NDP is always willing to work evenings. There is no doubt about that and we have proven it many times. Every June since 2011, NDP members were always in the House ready to debate bills and provide advice. The problem is that this government does not listen and is not prepared to listen to good advice. I will come back to that in a moment.
We are very familiar with the results. We know that bill after bill has been rejected by the court. The government is then often required to make amendments to the botched parts of the previous bill. The government seems to want to bungle everything, not just services to Canadians, but also the legislative process that leads to the introduction of appropriate bills and proposed amendments to improve bills in order to help Canadians. This process does not seem all that complicated, but it is unfortunately often botched by this government.
I am referring to the Conservatives' use of closure and time allocation motions, which is on par with their use by the Liberals when they were in power. It is appalling that this government systematically wants to shut down debate and deprive members of their right to speak. Each time, 280 members, on average, are deprived of their right to speak. The Conservatives vote for these closure motions. That is ridiculous.
In ridings where a Conservative member was elected—I am not so sure they will be re-elected the next time—that member takes away his own opportunity to speak on behalf of his constituents. The Conservatives say they want to shut down debate and therefore they do not want their constituents in Calgary, Red Deer, Lévis or any other riding to be represented in the House of Commons. They want to shut down debate. Thus, the vast majority of Conservative members seldom talk about the needs of the people in their riding or bills introduced in Parliament.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has just stood up and said that the Conservatives are going to work harder, but that also happened last year. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley knows what I am talking about. Last year, the Conservatives were not in the House to speak. One evening, there was six hours of debate and only a single Conservative member was in the House to speak. Only one Conservative member spoke in six hours. The government moves time allocation and closure motions, and the Conservative members remain silent instead of speaking.
Members of the NDP, on the other hand, are always in attendance when the sitting hours of the House are extended. We are always there to fight, to improve bills and to solicit comments about bills. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are nowhere to be found. They do not come to the House, or perhaps one of them will show up over the course of the evening. As we said earlier, during the debate on S-12, no Conservative members came to speak about the bill. Not one, and we were there for six hours. What were they doing?
I do not know. It is not as though they were out consulting their constituents. The Conservatives are not here. They are not speaking.
I am going to come back to this momentarily, but the result is that we end up with botched legislation because the government does not listen and the Conservative members do not even speak on behalf of their constituents. Honestly.
We receive a generous salary from our constituents, the taxpayers. We are here to work to help our ridings move forward. I represent the riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. It is my duty to be in the House to stand up for the interests of the people of Burnaby—New Westminster.
If members decide to stop speaking, to systematically go along with the government's time allocation and closure motions and therefore deprive their ridings of the right to speak and if, on top of that, members do not even show up for the evening sessions in the House of Commons to contribute to the debate and the legislative process, then this approach becomes a complete sham.
I am fairly certain—and I would take a bet with any Conservative member—that this year, we will have the same problem as we did last year and the year before: 90% to 95% of the time, the NDP, or sometimes other opposition members, will be speaking and the Conservatives will not even be here.
The reasoning behind this motion does not make sense. The Conservatives are not the ones who will be here working. The Conservatives will not be here representing their constituents. The Conservatives will not be here giving passionate speeches about their ridings. They will not be here.
The proof, as we will soon see, is the way this motion is structured. The way the government decided to structure the motion is evidence of how much it will once again diminish the democratic rights all Canadians value so strongly. Canadians across the country want us to be in the House. They want us to represent them, regardless of where we are from.
For example, my colleague from Sherbrooke is an extraordinary young man, and he does a good job representing his riding. He is always in the House and speaks often. He is here; he represents his riding. He understands how important it is to represent Sherbrooke in the House of Commons. The same goes for my colleague from Hochelaga. Her riding is not the wealthiest riding in Canada. The average family income in her riding is below the average. She is always here representing the people of Hochelaga and talking on their behalf. She gives speeches on the importance of affordable housing. That is because she understands her role as member of Parliament.
Members on the Conservative side, on the other hand, refuse to speak at second reading or at report stage because there is a time allocation motion, and they refuse to show up on evenings when we have extended debates. How can the government expand the scope of its activities when it does not listen and when government members refuse to speak on behalf of their constituents? They refuse to defend government bills, they refuse to take action, they refuse to present amendments and they refuse to offer anything at all when it comes to legislation.
In such circumstances, voting Conservative does not mean a great deal. When people voted for the Conservatives, they voted for members who are controlled by the Prime Minister's Office, not members who rise in the House, defend their constituents' rights and speak on their behalf.
I want to speak to the motion now because I know that many of my colleagues are reading it. We want this to be a useful study of an important motion. For those who are watching, I will go step by step.
To begin, the majority government, as usual, wants to force a decision on the House. Unfortunately, debate and democracy are foreign concepts for the Conservatives.
They are proposing that commencing upon the adoption of this order and concluding on Friday, June 20, 2014, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be midnight, except that it shall be 10 p.m. on a day when a debate, pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1, is to take place.
As I said, we do not object to working until midnight. However, what actually happens is that the members opposite rarely show up to speak in the House. Opposition members are the ones who really contribute to the debates, and that is a major problem. If the government listened to us, it would not be problem, but that is not the case.
This has caused many problems with bills in the past. More than once we had to make amendments to botched bills with subsequent legislation, or, again, the Supreme Court clearly indicated that the bills were not in order.
Today, the Conservatives are proposing that we adjourn at midnight, or 10 p.m. if a debate pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1 is to take place. That refers to emergency debates.
My colleagues in the House, including the hon. member for Laval—who works very hard for the people in his riding—and the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, are always listening to their constituents and are always ready to raise questions that often result in an emergency debate.
A few weeks ago, in fact, an emergency debate was held in accordance with Standing Orders 52 and 53.1. That debate on the kidnapping of young Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram was proposed by the member for Ottawa Centre. Many people from across the country came here to attend the debate, and people were still talking about it when I returned to my riding, Burnaby—New Westminster, last week.
Now the government wants to prevent us from holding emergency debates before 10 p.m. If the Chair decides that there is to be an emergency debate, that debate cannot begin before 10 p.m. For working people in eastern Canada, who have families and work hard, that is late. They will be denied their right to tune in.
It will not be so bad in my riding because of the three-hour time difference. For example, 10 p.m. here is 7 p.m. back home. That is a reasonable time. However, for the vast majority of Canadians, this government motion deprives them of their right to tune in to the emergency debates that will take place in the coming weeks.
Second, when we look at the second clause of this motion, which deals with recorded divisions, we see that what the Conservatives would now do is put in place a voting system that would have votes occur at the conclusion of oral questions, in the middle of the afternoon. This proposal reveals the whole intent of the government.
The Conservatives say that they want to work harder. We have already ripped up that argument by showing that when they said they wanted to work harder that last year, over 90% of the time it was not Conservatives but New Democrats doing the work. Only one Conservative member would show up every night to speak in the House of Commons, so this idea that somehow the government wants to work harder is simply not true.
Paragraph (b) deals with recorded divisions demanded in respect of any debatable motion before 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. In this case the vote would stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on that day, while if a division is demanded after 2 p.m., it would stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the next sitting day.
What the Conservatives would do is basically do away with those evening votes. Not only do they not show up to speak, but they also do not even want to show up to vote. This could be perhaps the laziest motion ever put forward in the House of Commons by the government. It is far from wanting to work harder, as we have shown quite clearly when 90% to 95% of the time it is the New Democrats carrying the heavy load.
We are fine with carrying the heavy load. We come from humble roots and we are hard workers. Everybody acknowledges that, and that is why 90% to 95% of the time it is we who do the hard work in the House.
However, now the Conservatives want to even do away with evening votes. They are saying, “No, that is too hard. It is too hard voting at 6:00 or 7:00 at night. We do not want to show up to speak”.
This is a licence for laziness. That is what the government has brought forward. The Conservatives want to make sure that motions are voted on around question period time so that folks can show up around question period and then do whatever it is that Conservative MPs do in the evening. I have no idea of that.
I should also point out that, in this motion, the same goes for private members' business. Where this motion mentions Wednesdays governed by this order, it says that recorded divisions will be deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday. As for other private members' business, the motion says that this too will be deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday. That is the same thing.
This is really a licence for laziness. As we have shown, 90% to 95% of the time, the Conservatives are not the ones showing up to speak in the House. They do not want to vote in the evening, not even on private members' business. They want to curtail all of these activities and make sure that no votes happen in the evening.
What difference will that make? The NDP will still be here working. We work hard. We have a reputation for working hard. We come from humble roots and we represent our ridings well. I know that the members here this afternoon are very hard-working, and we will continue to work hard. Votes, including votes on private members' business, will now be held in the afternoon. That means the Conservative members will have their evenings free.
That is really the problem. As we move through this motion, we see time and time again that this is like a giant recess for the Conservatives. They have structured this so that they do not have to have votes in the evening anymore. They do not show up to speak in the evening 90% of the time, depending on the evening. It is New Democrats who actually put in the representation of their ridings. What we are seeing again is the Conservatives, through this motion, giving themselves an evening off.
The real clue to what the Conservatives are doing, this licence for laziness, is that they will not show up to speak or to vote, but they are telling the NDP that we can do our stuff and speak on behalf of our constituents. They have also proved that they are not willing to listen to the good advice we offer them, which is why they got into so much trouble having to amend legislation they brought forward previously and having pieces of legislation rejected by the Supreme Court. If they had listened to us and to Canadians, they would not be in so much trouble.
The key to this is paragraph (h): “No dilatory motion may be proposed, except by a Minister of the Crown after 6:30 p.m.” The essence of the motion is that Conservatives will not show up to speak in the House of Commons. They will not show up to participate, because they do not do that; they let harder-working members do that. They will also not show up to vote in the evening. They will not show up to vote on private members' legislation, and they will not show up to vote on public legislation. That is why they want the votes after question period, when it is convenient.
That means that the Conservatives are shutting down the rules of the House so that only they can use them. It is incredible. If we had not been through Bill C-23, in which they were trying to cook the next election campaign, it would be unbelievable that after all the decades, a century and a half and more of Canadian parliamentary democracy, a government would say that the rules will exist, but the government members will be the only ones who can use them. Only Conservatives can use these rules. Only a minister of the crown can use these rules.
We will have this period. I know it, because we went through it. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley knows it full well, because I think he probably spent more time in this House than any other member. Night after night, there will be no Conservatives here wanting to speak, or maybe one member of Parliament from the Conservative Party will want to speak. However, the Conservatives will not show up to vote, because they are having all the votes deferred to question period, when it is convenient for them, and they are now saying that all the rules of the House apply only to them. Only they can use them. They are basically putting handcuffs on every single member of the opposition. They are saying that only a Conservative can use the rules that normally function that make this democratic place a democracy. Only the Conservatives can use them. It is unbelievable.
If we had not been through the unfair elections act, where the Conservatives were trying to subvert the next election campaign, we would actually think this could not be Canada. These are not Canadian values. That is what they are doing. They are putting in, and writing it out so that any Canadian can see, “No dilatory motion may be proposed, except by a Minister of the Crown after 6:30 p.m.”
This is not an approach to try to work harder. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was trying to slide that by us a little while ago, and we simply do not believe it. The evidence simply shows that this is not the case. Conservatives will not be showing up to speak in the House. They did not last year. They did not the year before, and 90% to 95% of the time they let the heavy lifting be carried by New Democrats. We are strong, we are tough, and we do not mind doing it. We will do an even better job in 2015 once we are the government. That is when we will really see changes, when the heavy lifting actually benefits people directly through good governance.
I can tell members something else we will not be doing. It is what I mentioned half an hour ago.
I am enjoying this. I am not sure when I am going to sit down, actually. I think my colleagues from the NDP are appreciating it too.
I just want to mention what happens when due diligence is not done. Conservative members should know this, but they are muzzled. They vote for time allocation and muzzle themselves, so they do not actually speak on legislation in the House. There are 280 MPs, on average, who have their right to speak on legislation ripped away every single time, the dozens and dozens of times, the government has used closure techniques. Sometimes it calls it time allocation, but it amounts to the same thing; it is closure. Every time the government does it, 280 MPs, on average, are denied their right to speak. They do not show up to the evening session to speak. One does, and that is normally it. Then 90% to 95% of the heavy lifting is done by the NDP.
What is the result of this? I will give three examples. I could give tons of examples. I could probably speak for 14 hours on bad, botched Conservative legislation. I could do that, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you and the public would find it interesting, but eventually we are going to have to go to question period. I am going to mention only three examples.
The Conservatives rammed Bill C-38 through the House without due care and attention and without showing up for evening sessions. Bill C-38 was one of the omnibus bills. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley raised major concerns about it at the time. The Conservatives botched the bill. They botched it so badly that the next bill they introduced had to fix the mistakes they made in the first bill. They rammed Bill C-38 through the House with time allocation. It was omnibus legislation, which was quite all right, except it was wrong. It was badly botched in a way only the Conservative government could do it.
It was so badly botched, the government had to introduce another piece of legislation, Bill C-45. Bill C-45 had to fix all the problems in the previous bill. Was that a good use of taxpayers' money? Was it a good, use of this legislative process? The government rammed through Bill C-38 but botched it so badly that it had to bring another piece of legislation in to fix it. That is like bringing one's car in to get fixed and driving off without the wheels. It is incredible. We went through another process, with Bill C-45, to fix what was wrong with Bill C-38.
That is just a snapshot of how the government handles legislation. It is like the guy who has a hammer and thinks everything is a nail. Conservatives think everything is pavement and they can steamroll over all of it, except that when legislation is badly botched, there are consequences.
That brings me to another piece of legislation, Bill C-4. It is the same kind of thing. The Conservatives tried to throw a whole bunch of things in the bill, a laundry list, except that the Supreme Court rejected part of that legislation. As we know, the Leader of the Opposition has been raising this repeatedly in the House.
We have a problem whereby botched legislation leads to more time wasted, because the Conservatives have to introduce other legislation to fix the bad legislation they forced through in the first place without listening to the NDP. If they had listened to the NDP, they would not have had the badly botched legislation in the first place. If they do get it through the House, then, as we saw with Bill C-4, the Supreme Court says, “Sorry, you badly botched this legislation and it is not constitutional”. As a result of that, we have to reject part of this legislation.
This is the real problem. It is not that the government, as it likes to say, does its job and produces a quantity of legislation, so everyone should give it a pat on the back. It is bad legislation in so many cases. It is legislation that has to be fixed. New Democrats always offer the amendments and the fixes. We are always there to try to direct the government. We often feel as if we are trying to direct a puppy, because it seems to get distracted often.
The reality is that the work the government does should be very important. The legislation the government presents in the House should be very important. There should be a proper legislative process. There should be amendments that are considered. There should be a process people can actually respect. That is not what happens under the government.
The government just throws legislation out without due respect for parliamentary traditions. It refuses to listen to the opposition to develop the legislation so that it can actually accomplish what it purports to set out to do when it puts the legislation on the floor of the House. The government will not take amendments, will not listen to debate, actually shuts down the debate, and rams legislation through. This costs Canadians enormously.
Every time the government has to provide new legislation to fix the old legislation, and as has happened a number of times in the past few weeks, every time the Supreme Court says that what the government is doing is simply not constitutional, it costs Canadians.
We have this motion that is a licence for laziness. It dismisses Conservatives from voting in the evening. It dismisses Conservatives from having to participate in debates that are actually quite important, because that is how we get legislation fixed, particularly the shoddy legislation the government tends to present in the House.
Now we have a government that has such profound arrogance that it says, quite clearly, “No dilatory motion may be proposed, except by a Minister of the Crown”, which means that no dilatory motion may be proposed except by a Conservative, except by a minister of the crown, after 6:30 p.m.
What the government is doing, at the height of its arrogance, is saying to Canadians, “Hey, we are just going to run this government, this country, exactly how we want, and we do not care about the consequences”.
We care about the consequences. We care when we see shoddy legislation that has to be corrected, and it takes months of work, because the government did not get it right in the first place. We care when the Supreme Court says that what the government is doing is unconstitutional.
We care when we see, right across this country, growing concern about the government's arrogance and its attacks on a whole host of institutions, not just in the elections act but in the attack on the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Sheila Fraser. How could anyone attack Sheila Fraser? The Conservatives have been doing just that.
When we see all those attacks, we see a government that has simply done its time. It no longer has any sort of legitimate agenda but just wants to lash out at its perceived enemies and wants to set a perception that is simply not true.
With this motion, this licence for laziness, Conservatives get off scot-free. They do not have to vote in the evening. They do not have to show up in the evening. The government has said it is going to handcuff every single member of the opposition to their desks and not let them use any proper parliamentary procedure after 6:30 p.m. Only the government can.
That arrogance is something Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of. That arrogance is something Canadians are saying they have had enough of. In the most recent poll, the Prime Minister had an approval rating of one-third of Canadians. Two-thirds of Canadians disapprove of the work he is doing.
The leader of the Liberal Party has falling approval levels, but he did better. It was 50/50.
The top approval level in the country is for the Leader of the Opposition. Two-thirds of Canadians see his work in the House of Commons and approve of it. They see him as strong and as defending Canadian democracy.
That is what we are going to continue to do. We are going to ensure that legislation is effective. We are going to continue to speak out and work hard on behalf of our constituents. We are looking forward to that day, October 19, 2015, when we can get rid of the government and start having an NDP government that is going to fully respect our democratic traditions here in the House of Commons and right across the country.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, The Budget; the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, Industry.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.
That is okay, Mr. Speaker. I do not mind Conservatives heckling. It just shows how sensitive they are to the corruption and the criminal activity that the public is denouncing across the country.
The Conservatives could have put in place a public safety officer compensation fund. That would have been a good bill to see. As well, they could have restored the cuts they made on the crime prevention program. Instead of that, what they did was present this flawed bill. This, as well, flies in the face of the legal system. The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that programs like InSite should exist.
Why was InSite put into place in the first place? It was put into place because of the escalating number of overdose deaths in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, skyrocketing up to several hundreds. The community responded by putting in place InSite, with the support of the city, the province, the health authority and the community. I mentioned earlier in speaking to my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord that it was with the support of over 80% of the public in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
The Supreme Court, tested by this, as the government wanted to shut the thing down, said yes, that there was definitely a place for this, not only because it was good for crime reduction, not only because it had reduced overdose deaths by 35%, but because it made good policy sense. That is what the Supreme Court ruled.
Again, we have a government that likes to slap the law in the face. It is not just police officers who receive its bad treatment, and not just Parliament, where we see regularly the disrespect for democratic institutions, but it is also a Supreme Court judgment that clearly stated that a program like InSite was beneficial for the community.
Instead of responding to that, the government brought forward Bill C-2. It would allow the minister to shut the whole thing down. Does that make sense when there has been a 35% reduction in overdose deaths? Does that make sense when we have actually seen an overall reduction in crime? Does that make sense when we talk about thousands of referrals to the whole issue around addiction programs?
This has also not been treated well by the government, but when thousands of people have been referred to addiction program to be weaned off drugs, how the government has approached this issue does not make sense, not at all. Here we have a community that is in support of a program, that has reduced the crime rate and reduced overdose deaths and increased referrals to addiction treatment programs, but the government says that it will shut the damned thing down. It does not make sense from our point of view. It does not make sense from the public's point of view.
We are debating this bad bill now, but I, like so many others across the country, can hardly wait for 2015 when we finally get the chance to throw this corrupt, tired, criminal government out of office and put in place an NDP government in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord on his outstanding work in the House of Commons.
I have personally seen him on the ground in Charlevoix. He is doing a great job with his constituents. He is in touch with them and he is also very active in the House. I wanted to pay tribute to him and talk about my community, because I know that he is very present in his.
In the lower mainland of British Columbia, in the greater Vancouver area, support for a more sensitive approach to safe injection sites is roughly 80%. However, the Conservatives want to go against that support and pass a bill to close those centres.
In my colleague's view, when a cause has this much support from a community, whether his or mine, should the federal government listen to the local people who understand the situation?
Order, please. We have reached the end of the time allowed for the hon. member's comments. We will go now to questions and comments.
The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government may not listen to workers or employers, but will it at least listen to Conservatives?
More and more of them are condemning the job-killing employment insurance reform. The long list includes Allen Cormier, Conservative candidate in the most recent election in Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia; Michel-Éric Castonguay, Conservative candidate in the most recent election in Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord; André Plourde, former Conservative MP for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—
The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Mr. Speaker, let us take care of business. I have an advantage: I have been here nearly 16 years. I have seen things from both sides. I have got along pretty well. From here, I now have a better overall view. I have to admit that I find this sad, and even unacceptable. We have a bill with something like 516 clauses that deals with a number of bills. It is introduced in catch-all form, which ultimately means that the public, and we, their representatives, do not have a chance to really shed light on each bill. So there is something that is not working in our democracy. It is called an abuse of power.
I am certainly very sad to see the contribution by the NDP, who are jeering and trying to ditch the Conservatives. Some people have said 3,000 amendments was superficial. No, it is giving democracy a chance to express itself. We are the same people who recently spent the night together. We remember that. There were several hundred amendments that time. Why did we do it? To define this government. We call that consistency. If we want to give democracy a chance to express itself and if we want to show just how much this government is abusing power and just how antidemocratic it is, then we have to play the game to the very end. When we are at a finance committee meeting and we make all the motions and propose all the amendments possible, it is to define this government.
Unfortunately, the official opposition has painted itself into a corner. The New Democrats can call the government whatever they like, but they have created a dangerous precedent. Unfortunately, the New Democrats, working together with the Conservative Party, have created this precedent that a majority party will be able to do what it wants from now on. They could have stood up and spoken out for their fellow Canadians. This is not a matter of partisanship; it is a matter of how democracy works. Unfortunately, the NDP voted with the Conservative Party.
He is signalling to me there, my young colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, but those are the facts. They are going to have to explain that inconsistency, because in a democracy, procedure is essential. This bill is not just an omnibus bill, it is not just a mammoth bill, it is not just a catch-all bill; it is a way of defining parliamentary democracy.
That is what is important, and I have said it in both official languages because I am a proud Canadian and proud Quebecker and I can speak in both official languages.
Democracy is not about making it fast. Democracy is about giving us time as legislators to make sure that we can look through every article in every piece of legislation, because our role is to enhance the quality of life and protect those who are in need. It is also to make sure that we fight inequities, to make sure that people in rural Canada are also treated as first-class citizens. However, to do that we have to know procedure. Here, my colleague put forward 3,000 amendments, but did not do so for nothing. It was to define the current government. It was to make sure that we understand what Parliament and democracy are all about.
We have an official opposition that I do not understand. We spent nights together for God's sake and now that party has totally changed.
Order. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
First I would like to say that I am proud the NDP has proposed this motion on employment insurance.
I find it sad that the government thinks that people who receive employment insurance are a bunch of lazy slackers. As the member for Madawaska—Restigouche put it so well, there are still people who prefer to receive employment insurance because they want to go hunting. That is how the Conservatives think.
The parliamentary secretary asked whether it was not better to have a job 12 months a year rather than six months a year.
Yes, it is much better.
The parliamentary secretary said she went to visit Newfoundland. I would like to know whom she spoke to in Newfoundland. Let her report to the House on whom she met in Newfoundland, because there is a fishing industry in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Gaspé.
If the Conservative government is so smart, I invite the Prime Minister to introduce a bill to melt the ice in Chaleur Bay so that people can fish in winter. If he is so smart, if he really believes in jobs 12 months a year and if he wants to support the fishing industry, I invite the Prime Minister to melt the ice in Chaleur Bay. That way, people could fish 12 months a year.
In addition, let him put some fish in the sea because this same government shut down the groundfish fishery. I invite the parliamentary secretary to come and tour New Brunswick. Let her come, and I will take her around to the employers who are having problems as a result of seasonal jobs: they want to keep their employees. However, the government's bill does the exact opposite. It wants those employees to go work elsewhere.
Industry back home in New Brunswick, and in the riding of Acadie—Bathurst, amounts to fishing and peat moss. Has anyone ever wondered how you harvest peat moss under the snow? This Conservative government is really out of touch with the reality of the regions to a ridiculous degree. The parliamentary secretary says she comes from a rural area. All right, but she may come from a rural area where there are secondary or tertiary processing jobs and employment 12 months a year.
If the Conservative government wants to do the right thing, let it put tools in place. Let the human resources minister put the tools in place for us to do the secondary and tertiary processing instead of sending all our fish to Japan.
Under these new regulations, unemployed workers are required to look for work twice a week. Some 3,000 people lose their jobs at the end of June because the fishery winds up in June and starts again in mid-August. The biggest surprise this government could have right now would be for fish plant employees to decide, twice a week, to go and see employers one hour’s drive away about jobs those employers do not have. Employers would tell the Conservative government to get those workers off their backs because they would not be able to produce anymore with them coming to work in their yards when there are no jobs.
The government's parliamentary secretary said they were going to send unemployed workers job alerts twice a day to tell them where they could find work, but the problem that was raised is that some of them do not even have a computer. The government responded that 85% of people filing employment insurance claims did so online.
They file employment insurance claims online because the government requires them to do so. It has shut down human resources offices everywhere. There were more than 100 human resources offices in Canada, and since the Conservatives intend to close some of them, there will only be 22 left.
Applying once for employment insurance means going to a neighbour and asking to use his computer. This happens once a year. But if a person has to ask to use his neighbour’s computer twice a day to check jobs, the neighbour will get fed up.
The government is saying that if you want a job, you will have to use a computer to get it, because that is where the jobs are. Is the government telling us that it is going to send out two letters a day to Canadians to tell them that jobs are available? My goodness, I do not know what planet I am living on. If there are that many jobs in Acadie—Bathurst, I cannot wait to find out where they are. I am sure that the residents of Acadie—Bathurst cannot wait to know where all these jobs that the government is announcing are.
We are not against motherhood and apple pie, we are not against the fact that the government is telling people that there are going to be jobs available at specific locations. We are not against employers posting jobs or workers being available. The problem is telling somebody that if he does not go to a specific location for a job and accept it, his employment insurance will be cut off. If I were an employer, I would tell the government to mind its own business because it is not up to the government to dictate who should be in the private sector. If the government forces somebody to work for a particular employer and the person does not like the job, how productive will he be?
The 70% model sounds good, does it not? For those who get a job at 70% of their salary and are then laid off, will the next job be at 70% of that salary? Will it be 70% until the person receives the minimum wage? The government wants to help employers keep wages down. The government is going to play a role in forcing people to go and work for employers who will not increase wages. The Conservatives are going to make sure that people remain in poverty. That is what this measure is all about.
Furthermore, this measure is found in Bill C-38. Why did they not separate it from Bill C-38? They should let the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities conduct a real study. If the bill put forward by the minister and the federal Conservative government is so good, why is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador not satisfied and why was it not consulted? Why is the Province of Nova Scotia not satisfied and why was it not consulted? Why is the Province of Prince Edward Island not satisfied and why was it not consulted?
The exception is New Brunswick, because we know that our premier, Mr. Alward, follows everything that the Prime Minister of Canada says. The Conservatives are in power in New Brunswick and they will not touch this with a 10-foot pole. The premier might have to answer for this in the next election in New Brunswick, because at the moment he does not represent the seasonal workers in our province.
The people in our province who work in the fisheries are wondering where they are expected to find a job. What will happen to the 60-year-old woman in Caraquet who has almost reached retirement age if she tries to take her car to work at a McDonald's in Bathurst with the winter road conditions that we have? By the way, it is not funny when you drive along the coast. With the wind, even if there is not much snow falling, it becomes a storm. On the peatlands and in open country, the roads can be impassable just because of the winds. This is what they are doing; they are putting people's lives in danger.
The Conservatives think that people are happy to receive 55% of their salary and feel as though they are on vacation. They should see these people's living conditions and they should live in these conditions. They should answer the calls that I get in my office from people saying that they would like to work. They should remember the time when the fisheries were good and people worked 35 weeks per year. They worked 15- and 16-hour days, 7 days a week, for 35 weeks. I will never allow them to call our workers lazy slackers. These are the same people who leave our region to go work out west, where they can find jobs.
If the Conservative government wants to help people get jobs, it can help us get a better airport in Bathurst. The runway needs to be lengthened. It can give us a building that is capable of handling our people travelling up to the far north for jobs. This is the same government that cut $18 million from ACOA and that gives us no tools. Tools are what we want. It is the government's responsibility to provide tools and to make it possible to get jobs, not to do what it is doing at the moment, cutting employment insurance so that people fall on hard times, sending them onto welfare and putting all the burden onto the provinces.
I hope that the Premier of New Brunswick is also listening to me; I hope he realizes that we, the taxpayers of New Brunswick, are the ones who are going to be paying for the federal government's mistakes—
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege to raise a matter that represents a serious offence against the dignity and authority of Parliament and, as such, constitutes a clear contempt of Parliament.
On February 24, a package addressed to me was received by the House of Commons delivery service. However, although the package was clearly addressed to me, the shipper used the address of my former officer, which is now occupied by the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
The messenger went to the office of the hon. member in question, which signed for the package even though it had my name on it. As we had not received the package, we looked into the matter with the House of Commons delivery service and we contacted the office of the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, which sent a very clear and short email in response: “Yes, we received the package that was addressed to the hon. member. The thing is that the hon. member regularly receives these sorts of promotional items so we handed them out. Sorry.”
This is a serious offence. What is more, that package contained items that were meant for a charity.
While a contemptible offence has taken place, regardless of what was contained in the package, it is worth noting that the package contained toys intended as fundraising prizes to raise money for sick children from the north who need to come south for medical treatment. Although an offence against the dignity of the House regardless of the contents, the theft of these contents, in my view, is also an offence against common decency.
I wish to quote from section 356 of the Criminal Code under the heading Theft of Mail, which states:
Everyone commits an offence who
(i) anything sent by post, after it is deposited at a post office and before it is delivered, or after it is delivered but before it is in the possession of the addressee or of a person who may reasonably be considered to be authorized by the addressee to receive mail.
While the member's office has admitted to receiving the package addressed to me, opening this package, removing the contents and giving them away, it remains unclear who specifically took part in the offence. In other words, was it the member himself, members of his staff or both? On this point I will simply note that I have notified the sergeant-at-arms of this situation and, pending his investigation, a further complaint to police may be made. Regardless of who committed the offence, this took place within the parliamentary precinct and as such would constitute a contempt of Parliament.
Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, Second Edition, states on page 163:
Each House of Parliament has jurisdiction over its precincts. While outside of “proceedings in Parliament” and parliamentary debate the criminal law applies to Members of the House of Commons, the act of doing something within the “precincts” could constitute a contempt of Parliament....
Furthermore, the opening and/or theft of the member's private correspondence or mail are tantamount to past findings of contempt where an invasion of privacy of members has occurred.
Maingot states on page 256:
The invasion of the privacy of a Member of the Senate or of the House of Commons within the precincts of Parliament by any person also constitutes a prima facie question of privilege. This includes the interception of a private communication on the precincts.
On October 17, 1973, a meeting of the NDP caucus on the precincts was the subject of electronic eavesdropping by a journalist. A question of privilege was raised by the leader of the NDP at the time, David Lewis, who stated on page 6942 of Debates:
Whether or not it is illegal under the present Criminal Code, or any other statute of which I may not know, is irrelevant. Certainly it is totally illegal as far as the rules of parliament are concerned. I hope that those responsible will not find it more offensive that I intend it to be when I say that it is morally and socially wrong in every respect for them to have done this.
Those words are as accurate in describing the present event as they were in dealing with that prima facie breach of privilege in 1973.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, in defining contempt of Parliament, states on page 82:
[...] the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its members, or its officers.
It is, I believe, self-evident that the theft of a member's mail within the precincts of Parliament undoubtedly represents an offence against the authority and the dignity of the House, as does the cavalier response of the member's office once confronted and admitting the offence.
I would understand if, in error, the hon. member or his office staff had opened the package. However, what occurred was not simply an error. They received the package, opened it and, once viewing the contents, toys intended for a fundraiser in regard to a cause supporting children, miniature shuttles in this particular case, they did not call and return the contents with an apology for opening the package clearly addressed to me. Instead, they removed the contents and gave them away. That was not only an invasion of my privacy but it was theft. When contacted by my office, they showed no remorse whatsoever for the offence.
I understand that the member is new, having only been elected a year ago, and that his staff may also lack the experience to understand the more complicated nature of privilege, but this is not a complicated matter. Surely the office of the NDP leader has someone responsible for organization who can inform that member and his staff that they do not open packages that are not addressed to them.
While the member and his office are new, there is no excuse for this.
Sadder still is the fact that the beneficiaries of the charity will suffer as a result of this deplorable and unimaginable situation. Sick children, who are supposed to benefit from this care, saw these items that were meant to help them handed out to the hon. member's friends. It was a very offensive act and I cannot accept it.
Should you rule in my favour, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Ontario and Nova Scotia have publicly called for the Senate to be abolished. The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has said that the Senate is useless. Manitoba is in favour of abolishing the Senate. Does my colleague think that the government does not want to hold a referendum to hear the opinion of Canadians because it sincerely believes it will lose?
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. He does a very good job in the House, which I admire a lot. He has done a lot of work, even though he has only been in the House for a few months. He does an excellent job. I wanted to make sure that I complimented him.
Canada has seen massive job losses. We cannot deny that. October was a catastrophic month for Canadian families. We lost 62,000 full-time jobs because of this government, which does not even want to take action. The Conservatives are so caught up in talking up Conservative policies that they did not even notice the job losses and the fact that the Canadian public is suffering because of the government's inaction.
We must recognize that we are influenced by global trends. We cannot deny that. However, the reality is that this government and its inaction have created a climate that, in October alone, led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs across the country.
I must point out that, since May 2008, the Conservative government has created only 200,000 jobs, while the labour force in Canada increased by 450,000 job seekers. This means that we need a quarter of a million jobs just to maintain a stable job market in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, as we have said many times, the government wanted the private sector to have a significant stake in this project and the agreement concluded between the Quebecor group and Mayor Labeaume falls short of the mark.
I want to take this opportunity to point out to the hon. member for Québec, who called me “supposedly” responsible for the Quebec City region, that I still have my responsibilities, whereas she has been replaced by her colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
Madam Speaker, the first Conservative Party member to speak was the member for Beauport—Limoilou. In response to a question asked by my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, she said—not without looking at her BlackBerry though—that she personally would not have an issue voting in favour of this important motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
My question is very simple and is for the member who just spoke. Generally speaking, will the rest of the Conservative Party members be in favour of the motion by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine?
Madam Speaker, it would appear that members are still exercised about an issue that they have already agreed has passed. In fact, the Americans gave us notice some 16 months ago that the legislation that led to Bill C-42 would be implemented and put into effect in the United States last December.
This is not an issue of security. It is an issue of the government now trying to backtrack because it presented this last June and only now wants to put it into law. Just imagine being unable to protect Canadian sovereignty for all that period and then to come forward and say that it is a question of security. It is not.
The member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord has just indicated rather eloquently that this is a commercial issue. It is to prevent airlines from being sued for breach of privacy legislation by Canadians on Canadian carriers. It is an issue of sovereignty ceded to the Americans because of the government's incompetence and inability to negotiate what the Americans asked it to negotiate on 16 months ago.
I would like the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord to elaborate on this. What this shows is that the $40 million spent on those special machines in 11 locations in Canada to provide greater aviation security meant nothing to the Americans and that the legislation to impose another $3.2 billion in aviation tax for security measures was unimpressive to the Americans, and therefore we have to go to this because our airlines will be exposed to harassment by Americans. That is what this legislation is about.
The electoral district of Montmorency--Charlevoix--Haute-Côte-Nord (Quebec) has a population of 90,535 with 74,813 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.