Mr. Speaker, the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred in late October are a reminder that ISIL is a very real threat to Canadians. It is the reason that we are working to strengthen the tools available to the police and the intelligence community in the areas of surveillance, detention, and arrest.
The protection of Canada from terrorists act is just the first step in our efforts. We will not overreact, but we will not under-react either. I was shocked yesterday to see the NDP oppose this common sense legislation to give our security agencies appropriate powers with robust oversight. The NDP members for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Alfred-Pellan, and Compton—Stanstead need to explain to Canadians why they do not support giving our security agencies the tools they need to do their jobs.
This is further proof that the NDP simply cannot be trusted on important matters of national security.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to use my remaining time at this point. I will remind you that I am sharing my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead.
Let me say very briefly, from the three minutes before the S. O. 31s, that we do farm in northern Ontario and agriculture is an important part of our economy in northern Ontario. I like to remind all the members whenever I can that the Prairies begin in my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, and farming is a critical part of what we do.
It is my pleasure to speak to the bill. In my remaining time, I would like to speak to two things. One is about plant breeders' rights as they appear in the bill. The other is about one of the good things that appears in the bill, and that is improvements to the advanced payments system.
I would also like to talk about the advanced payments program because it is an important program for farmers who live in my riding.
Bill C-18 would make changes to nine different pieces of legislation, some of which we support and some which pose significant concerns.
First, we are troubled by the sweeping powers that are granted to the minister, which is always a concern, including the power in the regulations to unconditionally exempt farmers' rights and privileges on a case-by-case basis.
I find it interesting that the government refers to plant breeders' rights, but talks about farmers' privileges. We on this side happen to believe that these are farmers' rights, not privileges. For some people, that might be splitting hairs, but there is a big difference between rights and privileges.
The Plant Breeders' Rights Act moves Canada toward the ratification of the 1991 model law of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. This has been coming for some time. From 1991 until now is a long period of time. It expands the rights afforded to plant breeders for the varieties they develop and increases the places along the value chain where plant breeders can collect royalties. That will come up in the advanced payments section when I chat about that.
Bill C-18 includes new exclusive rights for plant breeders such as reproduction, conditioning, sale, export or import, repeated use to produce commercially another plant variety if the repetition is necessary for that purpose, and stocking for the purpose of any of the protected acts.
The term of the grant to the plant breeders rights has been increased in some cases to 25 years, in the case of trees and vines, for example, and includes a new clause which grants, and I alluded to this before, farmers' privileges, allowing farmers to save seed and condition seed for purposes of production and reproduction on their own farm.
As I said, we would have preferred to get rid of one of the grey areas in the bill. In my previous comments, I referred to the fact that farmers' privileges should actually be farmers' rights. It is important to note that this privilege was not extended to the storing of seed or the sale of harvested material from protected seed. The government adopted an amendment to include conditioning, but we believe this is still not explicit enough and leaves this area grey.
Bill C-18 also would grant CFIA the ability to make changes through regulation, to which circumstances and classes of farmers and varieties would be covered under the farmers' privileges. It would protect the right of researchers to use patented materials as the basis for developing a new variety or for another research use.
It would make a number of other changes, but because of my limited time, I will say that we have some major concerns regarding the clauses that deal with farmers' privilege. These should be farmers' rights, not privileges. I cannot emphasize that enough.
The bill does not adequately clarify or protect the fullest of activities that producers have called for, such as exchanging, cleaning and selling. Therefore, it remains a concern.
Let me reiterate that there are some good things in this bill, and I would like to highlight one, particularly for the farmers in my riding, which are the changes to the advance payments program. For those who do not know, the advance payments program is a financial loan guarantee program that gives producers easier access to credit through cash advances. This program provides producers with a cash advance on the value of their agricultural products during a specific period. This improves the cash flow of producers throughout the year and helps them meet their financial obligations so they can benefit from the best market conditions.
Essentially, the advance payments program has been expanded. Because there are a lot of beef farmers in my riding, there is one section that is particularly important. What this expanded access to the advance payments program does is allow for regulatory changes to cover breeding animals under the program, which, hopefully, can result in more opportunities for farmers to access the program. Animals that are or were used as breeding animals were not previously included under this program, so it is particularly heartening to see this part in the bill.
It also increases flexibility for producers on a number of fronts, including security arrangements, proof of sale and means of repayment. Not all of the people who appeared before committee were pleased with this bill, though a number were. There were mixed results. There are some things the New Democrats certainly support, but some things we do not.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with our member for Compton—Stanstead, whose remarks I look forward to.
As members will know, my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River is fact at the beginning of the Prairies. I always find it interesting that when Conservatives stand to talk about the Prairies, they do not talk about northwestern Ontario as the beginning of the Prairies. However, we have a lot of farmers in my riding, we have a lot of farmers in northwestern Ontario. Indeed, we have a lot of farmers in northern Ontario. I think many people seem to forget that farming takes place right across this country, not just in the Prairies.
This is an interesting bill. There are some good things in the bill, but I do have some concerns. They revolve around two areas. The first is what Conservatives are calling “farmers' privilege”, which we prefer to call “farmers' rights”. The difference between “rights” and “privilege ” some may say is not that important, but I think there is an important distinction to be made.
The other area concerns the seven amendments that we put forward that would have clarified a number of grey areas in the bill. The problem with grey areas being in a bill is that things are not then spelled out, which means, almost for certain, that there will be some litigation down the road and that the judges will not have a lot to go on because the bill is a little too grey. I was disappointed that the government was not interested in putting those amendments forward, which will try to outline as I go forward.
There is another issue in that regard. When there are grey areas and a bill gets passed, any changes that need to be made are made by regulation. They are not made by coming back to the House to be done in legislation. What that will do, in essence, is give the minister, whoever the minister will be at the time, very wide discretion as to how he or she proceeds.
Those two things were not really addressed in the bill, although we made every attempt to do so.
We have always believed that it is essential to have a balanced approach when talking about plant breeders and plant breeders' rights, and this bill simply would not get us here.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing after question period.
The chair appreciates the point of order, and I would remind all hon. members that in this place they are to refer to their colleagues either by their riding or by their office and to refrain from taking those titles or names of ridings and using them in a disparaging way.
The hon. member for Compton—Stanstead.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be sharing my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead with regard to this debate on the budget.
In the first moments, I want to note that this budget comes with an interesting caveat. I heard the Conservatives complain many times that the Liberals were building in contingency funds and surpluses and money that would be used for political advantage later on.
There is a “$3-billion risk adjustment” included in this budget. At the same time, with regard to this budget, there is some hypocrisy relative to the past in this chamber. The Conservatives were very clear about saying that. It was the Jean Chrétien government in particular, with Paul Martin as finance minister, that liked to do this. It always had a contingency fund, and all of a sudden, magical money would show up at the last minute. Ironically, it often happened just prior to an election year.
It seems to me that this is going to be the path, if we believe the numbers we have in front of us.
Every budget has some good things. When members of Parliament come to this chamber for budget day, they have been working all year advocating and pushing for different items, whether it be in their constituencies, in Ottawa, at committee, in the chamber here, or in the hallways. All these issues deal with our one Canada. Unfortunately, it appears that over the last number of years, when the Conservatives have talked about money, programs, and services, they have talked about it as if it is their own money. It is not. It is Canadian taxpayers' money, and the Canadian taxpayers deserve accountability for it, which comes from every single one of the members who sit in this chamber.
This budget has some good things in it. I would say that money for the Windsor–Detroit border crossing is positive. I will go into some issues related to how it is being dispensed, but it is a positive step forward. There are some challenges with some of the practices, and the vulnerabilities are significant.
We also have some positive auto announcements in this budget. Thanks to the government, it is having to renew early, way ahead of time, a program the New Democrats said was deficient, because the industry is telling it that they need to be at the table. Unfortunately, we are in a reactive mode as opposed to a proactive mode. That is a change we would like to see.
With regard to my community, some interesting things took place after the last budget. We saw the erosion of significant services that are affecting our economy. We saw some significant closures of offices that affect Canadians from different walks of life: seniors, persons with disabilities, veterans, business owners, and business operators. All are being affected by a shortsighted attempt to attack our public service and an ideological drive for across-the-board cuts. That is not a business plan for managing a nation, departments, and economic and social activity in this country. It is an ideological drive just to reduce costs, and it does not always do that.
I would point out that one of the significant cuts we have had in the Windsor region was the loss of our mail sorting. Our mail sorting used to be done more efficiently in Windsor than anywhere else. It had an excellent record for many years, and we lost all of that. Instead of being done in Windsor, the mail is now stacked up on trucks, sent to London on Highway 401, which is crowded as it is and which affects the infrastructure, through all kinds of inclement weather. It is sorted and brought back to Windsor, where it is finally redistributed back to the businesses and homeowners. We have seen a significant change in the turnaround of mail. That is to the detriment of our businesses and citizens who use the service.
Now we see the attack on home delivery. Despite the post office having made a profit 17 out of the last 18 years, we are going to lose home delivery. Then we are actually going to have the cost of delayed mail service. There will be a cost to that.
Retail has things at the end of their aisles, loss leaders, which are a particular service or item that may not make money but leads to other economic activity. I would argue that our postal service is the same thing, even though it does make money almost all of the time. We saw the loss of that service and it affected us as well.
The Consulate General of Canada office is closed in Detroit. We have one of the highest diversity rates in immigration in my constituency and yet one cannot go into the Walker Road immigration office as a member of the public. People are not allowed there unless they are being sworn in. People cannot go in and check on their case anymore. The office does not open its doors. This is despite the fact that the immigration cases that we process directly affect our economy and our social vibrancy because those individuals are in a holding pattern until their cases are processed. When they are finally done, we are talking about employment opportunities, school for children, and family reunification. We are talking about the individual and the family being able to move on.
We have seen cuts to front-line services, like the CBSA. A government that is supposed to be tough on crime has taken away front-line officers who work in counter-intelligence to break cases and also stop guns, drugs, and smuggling into Canada. We have seen cuts in other areas.
Thank goodness, one of the positive things we have in the budget is the increase in food inspections. However, that came because hundreds were laid off before that, as deregulation was attempted in an industry that is very important for our export economy.
One of the most significant closures we have seen is our veterans office. Our veterans office in Windsor had activity of approximately 4,000 cases per year. We had 13 workers. It cost $1 million and was worth every cent. It is closed now. Our veterans are not happy with this. It was a place where they could go with dignity and privacy to have their case examined.
Why does the government want to cut these offices across Windsor, only saving a little on the surface, and force our veterans to alternative services that just do not meet the same needs?
At Service Canada there is no privacy. They do not know the veteran's case file and veterans are often rerouted somewhere else. It does not work. As for the promise that they can be visited at home, as a former social worker I can say that home visits are a very serious thing to consider. There is not only the safety of the individual, they have to be comfortable with someone coming to their home, but there are also other issues to ensure the integrity of the service provided for both parties and other complications. Our caseworkers are going to have to drive from London, Ontario, which means per diems, costs, longer waiting times, and all those things.
I spent a lot of time talking about those cuts, but I want to conclude with this. The border crossing and the auto funds in Windsor are critically important. However, we want to see them done with accountability, and we will be pressing the government on those accountability issues. We were there from the beginning and we will see it through to the end, but it is going to be transparent. It is going to be done the proper way, and we are going to make sure that taxpayers get what they deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to what should have been a much more important bill than it is, because it should have had a lot more things in it. We have already advised what we think should also be in the bill, but it is part of a disturbing trend on the part of the government members to be all talk and very little action when it comes to the environment. When they do bring forth action on the environment, it is to reduce or eliminate environmental protections. One has only to go back to the last budget, and some of this budget, in which environmental protection was weakened or eviscerated entirely.
In the 2012 budget, we lost a lot of the environmental assessment process. The act was changed. Some of the act has yet to be defined. Unless for people on a reserve, we still do not know what the definition of “the environment” is because the ministry has yet to promulgate the regulations that come with that act.
We also have the loss of navigable waters protection, which has hurt thousands of rivers across the country that are no longer protected from oil spills for example.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead, Mr. Speaker.
This bill, ironically named “the aviation industry indemnity act” to make consequential amendments to other acts, would do essentially five things. It would allow some air carriers to be indemnified for flying in war-risk areas. It would allow for civilian aircraft accidents to be investigated in part by the military, which there may be some difficulties with in terms of how public that would be. It would amend the Marine Act to define what the effective date of the appointment of a director of a port authority would be. However, the two most important things that we have been talking mostly about in the House are the portions that deal with tanker traffic and oil transfer capacity in the deep-water ports of Canada.
We have some serious concerns on the part of the people who live along those coasts that they do not wish accidents to happen at all, period. The NDP believes that prevention and preventing accidents, not having them in the first place, is exactly what should be done. We are much better off if what we do is prevent the spill of oil into the oceans in the first place. However, I am afraid the government is not going in that direction. Its philosophy seems to be that it is okay to pollute as long as somebody has insurance, as long as somebody has some means of paying for the cleanup. Given that diluted bitumen has not yet been transported in great numbers and has not been fouling the ocean, we do not even know what the cleanup of that would look like if it should happen. Believe me, spills unfortunately will happen.
All of these systems come with a mean time before failure, MTBF, which means that everybody expects something to fail. When they fail at the same time, as was the case at Lac-Mégantic, an absolutely horrific disaster unfolds. There were several different failures that happened at the same time in Lac-Mégantic, and of course we all wish it had not happened. We all wish we had been more careful with our regulations with the rail industry. We wish we had been more careful with the size and type of railcars that we use to transport dangerous liquids. We all wish we had been more careful with the use of one person instead of two in those rail disaster prone areas. We all wish we had been more careful with the transportation of dangerous goods, but we were not. Therefore, we had a disaster that claimed 40-odd lives and basically incinerated the centre of a town. That should never have happen and it should never happen again.
The NDP is committed to seeing that we build into all of our systems for transporting dangerous goods, including on the open seas, outside of ports and on the west, east and north coasts, systems that prevent the spill of dangerous goods and prevent the disasters in the first place.
The Canadian Transportation Agency and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have made recommendations to the government on a number of occasions about how to make the rail transportation of dangerous goods safer. Has the government acted on any of those recommendations? Not so far. We wish it would. We wish it would bring in positive train control. We wish it would eliminate the DOT-111A tank cars and replace them with tank cars that are actually capable of withstanding even a small collision, but the government sits on its hands and says and does nothing.
I am afraid that is part of what we are up against in the NDP. We are up against a government that is committed to extracting stuff out of the ground as quickly as it can and getting it to market as quickly as it can and hopes that nothing will happen. We cannot live with just hope. We have to build regulations and enforcement mechanisms that prevent things. When things do happen, as we all know they sometimes will, we need to have systems in place that find a way to clean them up. When we close, as the government has done, British Columbia's oil spill response centre and shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, those are two things that are designed to deal with this kind of thing in the first place. The government shuts them down, rather than builds them up.
If we are going to have more tanker traffic, if we are going to transport more oil and if we are going to suck more oil out of the sands of Alberta, which we apparently are as the government is determined, getting it from Alberta to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world has to be done safely. It cannot be done in rusty old pipelines. It cannot be done in tank cars and railcars that cannot survive a fender-bender. It cannot be done with double-hulled tankers on the ocean. Although the government would like to claim that it has introduced the notion of double-hulled tankers, they have in fact been around for more than 20 years and they, too, have spills. They, too, are subject to being punctured in a disaster at sea.
On May 25, 2010, the Malaysian registered Bunga Kelana collided with a bulk carrier. A 10 metre gash was torn in the side of the ship, which then spilled an estimated 2,500 tonnes, or 2.9 million litres, of crude oil into the sea. It was a double-hulled tanker. It did not prevent oil from spilling into the sea.
That is what we are up against. Some might argue that out in the middle of the ocean, if an accident were to happen, nobody is out there anyway. Actually, there is a lot of wildlife out there. There are fish and entire ecosystems that could not stand to have their systems fouled by oil.
To look at the pristine and beautiful coast of British Columbia and to suggest that we are going to allow giant tankers that carry two million tonnes of crude in their hulls along a very rocky and dangerous shore is just playing with danger. It is just inviting a disaster. We in the NDP believe that should be avoided. We believe disasters are meant to be avoided, not played with or messed with. That is our position on this. That is what we have been saying all along.
When we want to safely carry oil, my riding has a rail corridor through it that has hundreds and hundreds of those lightweight DOT-111A tanker cars going through it. When residents in my riding wrote to Transport Canada and asked the director of rail safety to come and talk to them, he said sure, that he would love to come and talk to them and tell them how safe the rail system was. That was until the minister nixed it. The minister actually interfered and muzzled the Transport Canada official. The minister said that he was not allowed to talk to people. There were some brochures and flyers, and that is all they would get. They were not allowed to be told face-to-face.
We in the NDP want a bill that actually prevents spills and measures taken by the government that actually prevent and stop them before they happen, rather than trying to find ways to ensure people are insured for when they do happen.
I am not sure the question is completely relevant to the question before the House.
Does the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead wish to answer the question?
The time provided for government orders has expired. The member for Compton—Stanstead will have five minutes remaining after oral question period.
Order. The hon. member for Compton—Stanstead has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Compton—Stanstead. He is a good hockey player and a member who asks good questions in the House.
I have to say the bill is not very exciting. We are talking about changing regulations that most people do not understand. Even though I am an accountant by profession, it took me several hours to understand what this bill is doing. I told myself that this was not important and there would be lawyers who would sort it all out, but in fact, when we start to look into it more deeply, to think about the effects on the future and the way this is going to affect Canadians, we realize that we need to think twice about it. This is not a bill that is talking about crime or the economy or the budget, and so people do not find it very exciting.
The government is introducing the bill on a Wednesday afternoon, after passing another bill. It is starting to play a game. It says we are going to pass this one because it comes from the Senate so it is not important. But when we look at the Senate debates and the testimony at the committee meetings, we see that the committee did a serious job. There was other work that was supposed to get done, but the Conservatives imposed a gag order on the Senate for this bill and they swept it under the rug just before the Christmas holiday.
We therefore need to do our duty, and I hope the Conservatives will let us do our job here in the House.
One of the ministers from Winnipeg just said that they did scrap the wheat board, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately for him, he is going off his talking points, because the talking point is not that they scrapped it but that they made it better. He just told us that they did scrap it. Whoopsie. More reading for the suntan salon.
The Conservatives dissolved the Canada EI Financing Board, leaving the employment insurance account $9 billion in deficit.
The cabinet takes even more power to rule on environmental assessments and pipelines even while firing the scientists who give them expert advice.
Of course, it is the government that decided during the summer that it was the new church of Conservative scientists. Let us remember what the Conservatives said during the summer: they told us that from now on they had decided they were going to believe in science. How did they prove that? They fired most of the scientists in the government, because they were not needed any more as the Conservatives were now the scientists. The ones the government did not fire were muzzled.
The government is getting rid of things like the Experimental Lakes Area, which is the only place on planet Earth where whole lake ecosystems can be studied. The government is scrapping it.
What do we get from the Conservatives?
The government has an imitator at the other end of the House. He is constantly imitating the newscaster who is given documents to read and does not even know what is in them. He stands up and tells us time and time again that there is really no problem with the Experimental Lakes Area. He says that as long as someone is willing to buy it, it can continue.
Let us imagine. How can we have government scientists doing science in an area that belongs to all Canadians if it is sold to private interests? That is the road the government wants to take us down.
Our very own Ron Burgundy stands up time and time again and reads whatever is put in front of him by the Prime Minister's Office. He does not even know what is written on the piece of paper and does not realize how absurd it is. He is the same person who now believes that Canada is in a situation to actually reduce greenhouse gases and meet its undertakings under international agreements. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government will not be able to meet any of those obligations, because it does not even have a plan to meet them.
As I mentioned earlier, with regard to public safety, there is a pyramid of public administration that exists to protect the public.
When cuts have to be made, the very last things that should be affected are direct services to the public. What are we seeing instead? What did I point out earlier? The Conservatives are making $47 million in cuts to food safety, over $100 million in cuts to air safety and cuts to maritime search and rescue centres. We are talking about services that literally save lives, and the Conservatives are making cuts to them. The Conservatives should ask the people of Quebec City and Kitsilano what they think about this.
The Conservatives are making cuts to the Coast Guard and border security. These are things we are extremely concerned about.
Earlier today, we had the opportunity to listen to the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead describe exactly what is happening at the border in his riding. This is what it means to have no priorities. This is what it means to have no understanding of public administration.
Earlier, I listened to the fantasies and fabrications of the hon. member for Saint Boniface. She painted an imagined picture of what she believes is our approach to public administration.
When we look at the official opposition's experience and the F-35 debacle—a file for which the Conservatives never bothered to assess Canada's needs, never held a competitive bidding process and never determined who the lowest compliant bidder was, and on which they have spent $700 million to date when this aircraft does not even meet Canada's needs—we realize which side of the House the competent MPs are on. It is certainly not the Conservative side. The Conservatives are a bunch of incompetents. Their negligence is disgraceful. We will replace them in 2015.
This week, as 1.3 million pounds of contaminated, tainted meat was being dumped in an Alberta landfill, who was the minister? It was the same minister who four years ago told lame jokes about death by a thousand cold cuts as 23 Canadians died because he had not done his job of putting in place a competent food inspection system.
When the opposition unanimously called for his resignation, who stood up and defended him? The Prime Minister.
This is no longer a question of the incompetent Minister of Agriculture; it is a question of the Prime Minister who is endangering public safety by allowing him to stay in place.
The Minister of Agriculture has absolved himself of any responsibility by saying that he did not carry out the inspections. This is the same gang that every day keeps harping about the queen, everything royal and the monarchy. If they have such nostalgia for the queen, they should think about other parliamentary institutions, the British institutions, where the underpinning of the British parliamentary system is ministerial accountability. It is the minister who is responsible, not the inspectors. It is the minister who did not do his job and who did not ensure that the inspectors were protecting the public. He should be booted out; he is ultimately responsible.
The minister knew about the safety violations at XL Foods. He knew the company was withholding testing data. He knew the Americans had deemed the plant unsafe. In fact, we would never have known about any of this if it had not been for the Americans doing their job of inspecting the meat at the border. Good thing we have the American inspectors as whistleblowers. It took him two more weeks to sound the alarm after the Americans already knew.
Budget cuts of $46.6 million and 300 positions cut is in the budget. Unlike the fantasy about the Navigable Waters Protection Act, that is in the budget: 300 positions cut at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, public protection endangered, Canadian lives endangered.
He dares to point at others. He points at the inspectors and says that it is their fault. Here is where the fault lies. Instead of enforcing legislation in the public interest, instead of doing as the Americans do, going in and enforce, the Conservatives have a self-reporting system. Maybe that is where they got their marks in university. They gave themselves their own marks. They reported their own results to their teachers. Maybe that is what it is. It is the only way to explain it. We do not ask people we are supposed to be enforcing and inspecting to tell us whether they are actually doing it. With public money, we send in inspectors, check them, enforce and regulate in the public interest.
The result is a hit for our farmers and our producers. It is a hit for public confidence in our food system. Everyone loses because the Conservatives are not doing their jobs.
In spite of 50 years of economic growth in our country, the Prime Minister would have us believe that the institutions, the services and the programs we have relied on for generations have suddenly become too expensive and that we can no longer afford them. There is a link between the fact that he is constantly reducing the government's fiscal capacity and the fact that he is now imposing service cuts. In essence, our economic growth is constant, and our institutions reflect what is best about ourselves. These institutions are now at risk because of the negligence, the incompetence of the Conservatives.
Just for fun, let us take a look at this statistic: the small number of chartered banks recorded profits of $33 billion this year. It is a virtual monopoly, an oligopoly. There is no need to be self-congratulatory and proudly remark that they are extraordinary. There are only a few banks in Canada. They have a monopoly and can charge whatever interest rate they want. It is nonsense to say that they are private market wizards. Thirty-three billion dollars in profit equates to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada. Every year, the chartered banks make $1,000 in profit for every Canadian man, woman and child. That does not make sense.
There are institutions that define who we are as a nation.
We are so proud that the NDP, under Tommy Douglas, was responsible for bringing free, universal, public, portable and accessible medical care to our country. We do not think any Canadian family should ever have to choose between having a sick child seen by a doctor and being able to put groceries on the table. I honestly believe there are more things we have in common as individuals than the partisanship on the other side would have us believe. I honestly believe the vast majority of the people who sit across from me in the government benches agree that it is a good thing we do not have an American-style system, that it is a good thing, as Canadians, we take care of each other.
At the beginning I said that is why it was so important to look at the gulf that separated the words of the Conservatives and their actions. In June 2011, shortly after we formed the official opposition, these were a couple of last questions that Jack Layton asked. He asked two very specific questions of the Prime Minister.
First he asked, “Are you going to cut health care?” The answer was categorical. It is in Hansard and is easy to check, “We will not be reducing transfers to health care”. In December of the same year, barely a few months later, during a meeting with his provincial counterparts, the Minister of Finance, over lunch, and it was not even an agenda item, sometime between his coffee and his apple pie, looked over the table and said that he would be removing $36 billion from the projected and budgeted health care transfers from the feds to the provinces. There was no negotiation, no debate, no discussion, straight diktat from the federal government to the provinces. That is the way of the Conservatives. That is not our way.
The other question that Jack Layton asked the Prime Minister in June had to do with pensions. This is what I would call in French, une demi-vérité ou plutôt un demi-mensonge, because it is an art that Conservatives master. It is around, for example, the F-35s. The Minister of National Defence will often go to his microphone and say that not one penny has been spent on F-35 acquisitions—
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the NDP member for Compton—Stanstead stood up in the House to make inaccurate claims about our government's position on border security.
Let us look at the facts. Our government brought in reforms that deter bogus refugee claimants and other abuses of the refugee system. The NDP voted against them. We brought in strong laws to combat human smuggling. The NDP voted against them and the member has a statement on his website condemning them. We increased border guards by 25%. The NDP voted against that. We armed border guards. The NDP voted against that.
In fact, every time our government does anything to protect the border and the people who live in border communities, we can count on the NDP to oppose it every step of the way.
Canadians know that when it comes to matters of national security, the NDP simply cannot be trusted.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Compton—Stanstead talked about the crisis of confidence in the minister as it relates to the food safety issue and to not taking responsibility for the crisis as a minister should.
The member also talked about the producers in his riding and that is a big reason why the minister should step aside. The minister has been responsible for the biggest gutting of the agriculture safety nets in Canadian history. AgriStability was cut from 85% reference margins to 70%. AgriInvest was cut from 1.5% to 1%. Those are the safety nets that are there for producers in difficult economic times. The minister has not only failed Canadian consumers on his lack of responsibility on food safety, but has failed producers in terms of protecting their safety net.
What will be the impact on producers from both the loss of the safety net and the problems on pricing as a result of the beef crisis because the minister just was not there?
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Compton—Stanstead for his question. He is a new MP, and he is doing very good work in the House.
Before May 2, and even before then, the Conservatives said that they would govern in a transparent fashion, that they would respect democracy, and that they would operate out in the open. Since May 2, the government has not been transparent, nor has it shown any respect for Canadian democracy or the House of Commons. We will continue to work for greater transparency—
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my NDP colleagues why they have begun to mimic one of the most unpleasant traits of the Conservatives, which is to fail to respond to objections to their party’s proposals.
We saw this again during question period. When we ask the Conservatives to tell us the number of fighter jets and tell us when the aircraft will be ready, they do not reply. When we ask them to explain why they want to cut pensions when the OECD and all the experts say that it is not necessary, they do not respond.
I would like to invite my NDP colleagues to take pride in not acting like the Conservatives and to answer my objections to this bill, even though they have not responded thus far and have behaved as if these objections had not been raised. This is precisely the same attitude my NDP colleagues took with respect to the abolition of the Senate. The last time I rose in the House, perhaps six or seven times, and asked each NDP member to tell me what majority would be required to abolish the Senate, whether it would be the majority of all Canadians or the majority in each of the provinces, as required in the Constitution, they never responded. So we will see this time.
The first question that I would ask the NDP about this bill is this. If the NDP thought that the House motion of November 27, 2006 meant that Quebeckers, being a nation within a united Canada, should have more weight than other provinces' voters, since the other provinces' voters are not part of a nation within a united Canada, why did the New Democrats not say that when they voted for the motion in the House on November 27, 2006?
Why did they not come straight out and say that they would be voting for this motion and that this would mean that Quebeckers, as members of a nation, should have more weight than the other provinces’ voters? And why did they not say so in French and in English everywhere in Canada? That is my first question.
The second question is this. Both the Liberal plan for 308 seats in the House and the ballooned 338-seat plan of the Conservative Party, which has become the law of the land unfortunately, accept the rule that ensures that any currently overrepresented province will not become under-represented. Bill C-312 does not include this rule. Does this mean it would be acceptable to the NDP if, perhaps, either Manitoba or Nova Scotia became under-represented and, if so, why? Is that because they are not nations? Is that the logic of the NDP?
And if that is the logic, then they should say so, in English and in French, in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and everywhere else.
They would just have to say to Manitobans that they would be under-represented because they are not a nation within Canada. They should say that everywhere. I want to hear that from my colleague from Compton—Stanstead, the sponsor of this bill. Can he confirm that he is speaking on behalf of his NDP colleagues from Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick? Are they are okay with the view that their provinces may be under-represented in the House, since they are not nations? I hope to get an answer to this question.
The third question is the following: is the NDP going to produce some numbers at last? According to its plans, how many members of Parliament would make up the House? It has no reason not to release its numbers. All the other parties have. When you propose something, you have to say what it will look like. Actually, it is a bit difficult to understand what it would look like. If the representation of a province is set in stone, regardless of demographic trends, it can lead to rather complex arithmetical complications.
If Quebec is guaranteed 24.35% of the seats in the House, regardless of what the demographics of Quebec are, that means that other provinces will go down in percentage, since the total has to add up to 100%. Otherwise, it is an arithmetical impossibility. Only in hockey can we have 110%. The NDP has to understand that.
The New Democrats have to show us their numbers. How do they get 100%? Which provinces have to give up seats so that one province is overrepresented based on their calculations?
I want to mention that in this bill, the NDP would keep the rule of equitable representation for the fast growing provinces. They want to correct the under-representation of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. I think it is right to do so. They would keep the Senate clause that no province can have fewer seats than its existing number of senators. It is in the Constitution: we have no choice and have to respect that rule. They would keep the grandfather clause, like the Conservatives, which is a mistake, because then we cannot subtract from the number of seats of provinces but only add to them. They also have a fourth rule that Quebec will remain at 24.35%.
The first three rules mean there will be 30 more seats in the House. That is what the Conservatives decided to do, and so the next time there will 338 seats. The additional rule of Quebec at 24.35% means that we would then have six more seats, or 344.
But if we add those six seats for Quebec, then Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are underrepresented again in terms of the objective. Alberta is no longer making any progress. So we end up with 344 seats and we do not achieve the objective we were seeking. So we have to add seats for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. But then, Quebec will no longer have 24.35%. So we have to add seats for Quebec. And in this little game, even if there were 350 seats, we would not be able to satisfy the four rules proposed by the NDP in its plan. And that is for 2011. Imagine how distorted things could get in 2021 and 2031.
Each national party has an obligation to say the same thing in English and French throughout our great country. I challenge the NDP to do so in this matter, starting by releasing its numbers.
The fourth and last question is whether this bill is constitutional. In permanently fixing the percentage of seats of a province, the NDP is asking Parliament to contradict the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons. This principle is well entrenched in our Constitution. Yes, Parliament has some leeway in how it applies the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces when dealing with the effective representation of communities and provinces in relative decline. That is true. However, that leeway has its limits: parliament cannot run afoul of the principle of proportionate representation. That would be unconstitutional.
While Bill C-312 mentions the Supreme Court decision of June 6, 1991, we have said again and again to our NDP colleagues, but without receiving any answer from them, that this ruling applied to the delimitation of ridings, not to the representation of the whole province. All democratic federations try to accommodate communities while delimiting ridings, but no democratic federation gives extra representation to a whole constitutional jurisdiction on the grounds of its cultural or national character. That would be an extraordinary decision, requiring a constitutional amendment that Parliament cannot do alone without the consent of its constitutional partners, the provinces. In other words, the NDP and the Bloc are asking Parliament to show disrespect for provincial constitutional jurisdiction.
The NDP and the Bloc are asking Parliament to exceed its jurisdiction regarding House of Commons reform with Bill C-312. The Conservatives are asking Parliament to exceed its jurisdiction regarding Senate reform with Bill C-7. Only the Liberals are consistently respecting the Constitution.
We urge all our colleagues in this House to show respect for the basic law of the land, the Constitution of Canada. In the meantime, we Liberals will as always remain consistent in principle. We will oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and impractical.
The next time there is an opportunity, we urge all members of Parliament to support the Liberal plan to freeze the number of seats in this House, because otherwise we will have to extend Parliament as far as the Rideau Canal if we are to fit in all members in the House.
In conclusion, I have asked my questions. Will I get any answers?
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead, so I will have 10 minutes to make an address with some questions and comments afterward.
We on this side of the House support this motion, the recognition of the fundamental right of all Canadians to the freedom of speech, communications and privacy, and looking for a clear affirmation on the need for these rights to be respected for all forms of communication. It invokes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a very important part of our Constitution.
The constitutional guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is very broad. One of the rights specified in the fundamental freedoms, in addition to the freedom of conscience and religion, is the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.
We have in this day and age a media of communication which is a two-way street. There is that of the Internet, emails and electronic communication. We already have, for example, mail service through Canada Post. These are private communications that Canadians are able to make with one another.
When the state desires to interfere with that privacy and to carry out a search or surveillance of these communications, under our law there is a requirement that there be judicial oversight to provide a warrant in most cases, unless someone is caught in the act. No one can enter a person's house, for example, without a warrant, unless under hot pursuit of someone who has just committed a crime. There are protections for fundamental freedoms and legal rights, including the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. These are the kinds of fundamental rights that we have in our society.
People value their privacy. That is very clear. We have had the government go so far as to suggest that Statistics Canada was invading people's privacy by asking them how many bathrooms they had in their house. As a result the government brought in changes to the statistics forms that had been in use for many years by an agency that is sworn to secrecy and uses the information for statistical purposes only. Therefore, privacy is extremely important.
In the face of these fundamental rights, we have a piece of legislation that challenges those fundamental rights and freedoms by giving powers to the state that it does not have now.
The privacy commissioners and experts are already worried about this legislation, that Canadians' personal information could be obtained without a warrant, violating the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens. It does target what the Conservatives like to call law-abiding citizens, which is the vast majority of Canadians.
New Democrats believe that we can go aggressively after criminals and punish them to the full extent of the law without making false comparisons. We have heard in this House, to the shame of the government and to the shame of the Minister of Public Safety, false comparisons made to child pornographers and treating law-abiding citizens like criminals.
It is interesting that the most recent public opinion research on the bill which was released on February 24 indicates that 64% of Canadians reject the notion of requiring Internet service providers to give the subscriber data that would be required in the legislation to authorities without a warrant. That is not surprising to me. What is interesting for members opposite is that the highest level of rejection for Bill C-30 is in Alberta. Sixty-six per cent of Albertans are opposed to the provisions contained in Bill C-30 that impose these intrusions on people's privacy.
I find it interesting, not necessarily surprising, that when I look opposite and see what the breakdown in the House is of representation from Alberta there is 1 New Democrat and 26 Conservatives. Twenty-six members on that side of the House represent a province where 66% of the people reject the notion that the government ought to intrude in people's privacy in the way that Bill C-30 provides. That speaks volumes to how out of touch with the people the government is on Bill C-30. People value their privacy and their communication and they do not want the government snooping around without a warrant. That is the issue here.
I do not think it can be said that 66% of Albertans are in league with child pornographers but that is what the Minister of Public Safety has suggested to members on this side of the House. We are either with the government or we are with the child pornographers. We stand with the government or we stand with the child pornographers.
People made a mockery of that, even Margaret Wente who is not normally opposed to some kinds of Conservative legislation. She said that she was with the child pornographers. That is how she handled it, but obviously it was an ironic and sarcastic statement. I guess 66% of Albertans are with the child pornographers if the Minister of Public Safety is to be believed. I do not think that is the case. I think that is a case of law-abiding citizens of Canada, the majority of citizens of Canada, being concerned about their fundamental rights as guaranteed to them by the charter.
This is a worthwhile motion to have considered in the House as we are doing right now. We have legislation before the House that has not passed second reading and, as we have said, the government needs to scrap this legislation and go back to the drawing board and do the kind of consultations required.
As I said last week, the bill will go to committee which is where we will all have a chance to amend it. I do not have a lot of confidence given the hothouse nature of committees. We have seen how politicized they are. We saw happened to Bill C-10. It went to committee for consideration and, after hearing from dozens of witnesses, the time came for clause by clause study and what happened? We had all the witnesses to consider, all the suggestions that they made, and we sit down and have a two hour meeting. There are five parts to the bill, including nine previous pieces of legislation. We spent two hours discussing part one. Six or seven amendments were proposed and they were rejected by the government. When we went back the next day, we were faced with a motion from the government side saying that we would deal with all the rest of the bill today and that if it were not dealt with by 11:59 p.m. tonight it would be deemed to have been put and passed and sent back to the House of Commons.
That is the kind of thing that goes on in committees in the House. That did not happen because we had what is called a filibuster and started talking about how wrong that process was. Eventually, two days were devoted to discussing it, not very much. However, not one amendment proposed by the opposition was deemed worthy of consideration by the government. That is what happens in committee.
We say that Bill C-30 should be scrapped. The government should go back to the drawing board, listen to Canadians and listen to the privacy commissioners. They are there, by the way. They are public officials with the duty and obligation to act on behalf of Canadians to look at this legislation, not with a partisan eye but with an eye to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians and a principle that says that we should only go so far as we need to go in order to protect the public safety of the people of Canada.
We support the rights of police and law enforcement officials to get warrants to do that. They can get a warrant to look at somebody's mail but they cannot look at somebody's mail without a warrant. They cannot get the kind of information they are asking for people without a warrant. This legislation would provide for warrantless searches, which are not necessary for the protection of the public, whether it be children or adults.
We support the motion today and we want to see it passed. We would hope that the government pays attention to Canadians and pays attention to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians when redrafting the legislation and putting together something that it thinks will be acceptable to Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question, because it is particularly relevant. We have already witnessed this government's decisions many times and in many different areas: we have seen fake lakes and we have seen departments being mismanaged. Now things are changing: the decision-making power that once belonged largely to independent agencies is going directly to the minister's office.
Even in the best-case scenario, is it a good idea to ask the government to decide certain questions that should go to an independent agency? Considering the government's actions in recent months, since the Conservatives won a majority on May 2, it has become clear that we cannot trust this government to make decisions in the interest of Canadians.
In these 105 pages, the minister is given veto powers several times, and that worries us. I am very pleased that the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead asked me this question. This is a very important point that demonstrates why we need more debate in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of Bill C-312, the democratic representation act, introduced by my NDP colleague from Compton—Stanstead.
Over the past few weeks we have heard a number of competing views on how to move forward in regard to seat distribution in this fantastic House.
It seems to be accepted by all the parties in the House, and that is something that is very positive, that we need to ensure that the citizens in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario have their relative representation in the House of Commons increased. However, the views and the opinions on how we move forward from this point are a little more diverse.
We in the NDP fully believe in representation proportionally, albeit while recognizing the diversity of our country and the founding principles of Canadian Confederation.
It is important to point out that this premise is not only held by the NDP, but it has been recognized by the Supreme Court in its ruling of community of interests. This ruling signifies that Parliament must be mindful that any new electoral law must respect not only the demography of our country, but also its history, culture and geography. The precise wording of the Supreme Court ruling states:
Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic.
It is because of this fact the NDP bill will create the same number of new seats for the under-represented provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, therefore ensuring that the ratio of constituents per MP is significantly lowered, and bringing them much closer to the Canadian average.
However, in designing seat redistribution, we should not try to pit region against region, province against province. Seat redistribution should meet the goal of building a stronger Canada. Because of these, any legislation which deals with seat redistribution must also bring forward legislation which deals with that seat distribution and be mindful of the fact that back in 2006, this House unanimously adopted a motion that recognized Quebec as a distinct nation within a united Canada.
Unfortunately, I am aware that all too many motions pass through this House with overwhelming support, and yet government action never seems to follow. I can think of my own motion on credit cards which passed in 2009, and the motion by my hon. colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek to strengthen pensions. There really has never been anything done to fulfill the will of this House.
I do not believe that this should be the way Parliament operates. While motions are not binding on the government, the government should recognize that they represent the will of democratically elected members, and because of this, I think that the 2006 motion should hold some weight as we now move forward.
Because of this, we in the NDP do not feel that Quebec's proportion of seats in the House of Commons should fall below the level that was represented on the date the Quebec nation motion was passed. Belatedly, the Conservatives have recognized the role of Quebec in a strong, united Canada, but it is far too little and much too late.
The Conservatives' new proposal after the NDP raised this issue would add just three new seats in the House of Commons for Quebec, meaning that the proportion of seats for Quebec would still fall. We need to ensure that Quebec's unique role in our country is recognized and this simply does not do that. Only this NDP proposal would ensure increased representation for the fastest growing provinces, while also recognizing this fact.
I know that some members of Parliament, specifically those in the Liberal caucus, have expressed concern with the cost of introducing new seats into the House of Commons and would seek to redistribute the current seats into a new formula. This, in my opinion, is a dangerous way to move forward. To start, Canada's population is increasing, so keeping the number of seats the same actually has the effect of reducing representation but making each MP represent a higher and higher number of constituents each year.
In my riding of Sudbury, I receive countless requests to attend meetings and events and to help with casework in my riding. My staff and I work tirelessly to ensure that we can meet as many of these requests as possible, but I worry that if we increase the number of constituents each MP represents, this becomes harder and harder for representation. This, I fear, will lead to people becoming more disconnected from representatives and less engaged in the political process as a whole.
We can look to the last election, where we had our young people engaged in the political process. They were so excited to get involved, and we know on this side of the House that the NDP had that involvement. We are thrilled to see them, but if we actually take away this representation, take away their opportunity to meet with their MPs and to meet with their elected officials, we will see this political process start to detiorate.
Second, the cost of adding these additional democratically elected representatives is far less than the government spends each year on the undemocratic and unaccountable Senate. To suggest that adding seats to the House of Commons costs too much but that it is appropriate to pay hefty salaries and provide budgets to an institution filled with mostly partisan insiders is simply absurd.
Democracy is something that Canadians from coast to coast to coast believe in. Of course there is a cost associated with that. However, I believe that in this case the increased cost, which I should point is not a dramatic rise because so much of the infrastructure of Parliament is already in place, is justifiable. If we feel that the overall cost of the institution of Parliament should not increase, I can think of a way to lower the overall cost substantially, although I am not sure that our friends in the other place would be happy with it.
One of my constituents in Sudbury talked about the triple-E Senate and he had a great line. He said he was in favour of a single-E Senate. When I asked what that was, he said “Empty”.
In conclusion, democratic representation is something that is fundamental to us as Canadians, but we need to ensure that people continue to have their voices heard here in Ottawa. This proposal is the only way to ensure people across Canada have effective representation while still recognizing the unique cultural diversity within Canada. I am very happy to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the NDP decided to condemn that fibre. The NDP does not make any difference in the time it uses and the fibre itself. The NDP speaks about Zonolite and amphibole. Amphibole has been banned. The NDP speaks about uses from decades ago. When we speak about the West Block, this was used decades ago. Now we are talking about safe use of the chrysotile fibre. That means it has to be encapsulated. This is a safe-use policy that has been developed through the years.
Starting from that assumption, has the member consulted with the member for Compton—Stanstead, who was born and grew up in the asbestos area in Windsor, Quebec, as to why the member is not intervening here?
Did the member consult her colleague from Compton—Stanstead, who was born in Asbestos and grew up in Windsor, Quebec, in the Asbestos region? Does that member agree that his party does not believe that safe use is possible? As for toxicity, we know that it is toxic. It is a question of risk management. Have they consulted anyone about this?
Mr. Speaker, it is refreshing to hear an NDP member speak about the virtues of the market.
As for the limits that he just mentioned, it is unfortunate that we are having this kind of debate. I do not have dust on my coat and I invite him to see for himself all the things that are being done on the ground.
The members for Compton—Stanstead, Sherbrooke and Drummond are not here. Will they intervene in the debate? I know the member for Richmond—Arthabaska will, but will the others?
Also, we are now comparing the safe use of asbestos chrysotile with smoking, which is total nonsense. As well, use of chrysotile asbestos is growing in the world; if it is banned, what would he see being used as a substitute, perhaps with higher bio-persistence? How can he assure people about substitutes when we do not have any idea about them? It is kind of irresponsible, and I would like to hear his views on that.
The electoral district of Compton--Stanstead (Quebec) has a population of 100,148 with 78,050 registered voters and 204 polling divisions.
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