Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-7, which is before us.
Before I get into my comments, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.
What happened last week in Boston was a heinous crime. It was a horrible situation that affected real people. It terrorized a community. We were all moved by it when we saw the images on TV.
As someone who likes to run and who takes part in running, I can personally say that it is normally a place of celebration. If members have never seen a marathon run, I would recommend that they go. It is a magical place where people of ages, sizes and genders come to celebrate participation and civic action. It is one of the most wonderful expressions of civic participation, because it involves not only the people participating in the race but also those who are on the sidelines cheering people on. When people come to Ottawa during a race weekend, they see people by the canal cheering on people they do not even know. It is a magical thing to see. That is why it was so difficult to witness this heinous assault on a public space.
Boston is known for its friendly citizens. The Boston Marathon is world renowned, and we were all moved. None of the members in the House have the licence to say they were moved or more concerned than another member. Let us start with that premise, the premise that everyone in the House thought what happened last week was horrific and that we need to do things to make sure that we prevent those kinds of occurrences from happening again. Let us make that point, because sometimes the debate gets heated and people become passionate. I think we have to avoid being personal and partisan when it comes to this issue.
However, when it comes to the application of this bill and the agenda, it is very important that we underline what appears to be the motive of the government. As members know, this has been stated, and it needs to be restated: it was on last Friday at the last minute that the government decided to put this bill in front of the House. Let us remember that it has been around since 2007. In 2001, there were provisions brought in by the previous government, with a sunset clause in 2007. In 2007 a bill was brought forward, and since 2006 we have had a government that has had the opportunity since 2007 to pass it.
It works against the logic of the Conservatives when they say they have to do this right now, because they have had the ability to pass the bill for years, not only with a majority government but before that, because the Liberals were supporting them when we had a minority Parliament.
Let us be clear about where everyone stands on this. The Liberals support the bill, notwithstanding the fact that there are concerns around civil liberties. We have concerns mainly because since 2001 and 2007, the provisions that were put in place by the Liberal government were never used. If we look at some of the concerns we have had in this country with respect to terrorism, such as the infamous Toronto 18, that was not dealt with by using these provisions but rather through good old-fashioned investigative police work and coordination. That was how it was dealt with.
The Liberals want to support the Conservatives on this bill, and that is fine. However, the point is that the Conservatives could have passed this measure even when they had a minority Parliament. They have had a majority Parliament, yet last Friday they claimed they had to pass it immediately because it is urgent. The government has no credibility on that—zero.
Some members get angry when they think about what is being done here, but I will say it is unfortunate. It is with deep sadness and regret that we see a government using this issue and this bill in the way it is today.
We heard the parliamentary secretary say that this is very important and that they wanted to hear from everyone. I am not seeing that so far from the other side today while we are debating this bill. I am not seeing the opportunities to ask questions and the opportunities for senior ministers to get up and speak. I will leave it to citizens to figure out what it is all about.
What is so incredibly unnerving is to see what happened last week being used in this way. Canadians really have to understand what the agenda of the government is. If it was on this issue, it would have passed this law back in 2007. It could have. It had the support of the Liberals. The Conservatives have had a majority since 2011. Did they pass the bill? No. How many bills have the Conservatives rammed through this place? If it was so important, they could have had this done. They have had time allocation and they have had omnibus bills and they could have done it.
For the government to stand and say that this is urgent and we have to pass it in light of what happened in Boston lacks credibility, to put it mildly. If the government is seriously concerned about this issue and wants to see results, then it has to put its money where its mouth is.
To that end, what we do have is a government that has actually done the opposite. It has cut border services, the people who are responsible for being our eyes and ears when it comes to threats of terrorism. It has cut RCMP budgets as well.
We have to ask ourselves what is at play here. We have heard from experts, as members on the committee would have heard, who have deep concerns around how the bill could be misapplied. Giving up rights—which, let us be clear, is what we are talking about in this bill—has to have a premise and there has to be evidence for it.
The evidence to date has been that we have never used these provisions when they were available and that we have been able to prevent terrorism by using the tools we have available to us. I mentioned the Toronto 18 case, and there are others. If the government is going to take away rights, then it has to make the argument and it has to have the evidence. We do not believe an argument has been made that is cogent enough to actually undermine civil liberties.
As has been mentioned a couple of times, The Globe and Mail did say in its editorial today that there are a lot of questions around the timing, but there is also another a key question. I will quote from the editorial today:
More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens. A wise course of action would be to postpone the bill’s final reading so that any emotional fallout from the Boston bombings doesn’t colour an important debate about public safety in Canada.
I could not agree more, regardless of whether members think this is the way to go or not. The time to push this through, ram this through, is not immediately after an incident like this, because it will have made no difference to the incident we are talking about, which is in the United States. To date we have not seen any evidence that it was connected to Canada. Certainly these provisions would not have helped.
Again, it really is up to the government to explain why it is doing this now and for my friends in the Liberal Party to explain why they support it.
We heard about the importance of the charter last week from Liberals. I have to say we are proud as a party to have stood against the War Measures Act. We stand against this bill, but most of all we stand for being clear and honest about the reasons and the rationale for actions one takes in this Parliament.
Today we stand with the victims of the horrific terrorism case in Boston and we stand with all victims of extremism, but we stand against cynicism and we stand against political gains when it comes to protecting citizens no matter where they are. That is the position of our party, and I say it proudly.
I am sorry, we are out of time.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Before we resume debate, I noticed there is a great interest today in participating in the period allocated for questions and comments, as is normally the case with most speakers. We only have five minutes for these questions and comments and with a greater amount of interest in participating, I will ask members and those who respond to questions to keep their comments as concise as possible so more members will have the opportunity to participate.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
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 member for Vancouver Kingsway, Foreign Investment; the member for LaSalle—Émard, Foreign Investment.
Resuming debate. The member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say right at the outset that I am very honoured to be sharing my time with the very talented and eloquent member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be speaking in just a few minutes.
Where to begin? I think all Canadians were profoundly stunned and disappointed on Friday evening when, in a very hastily convened press conference, thrown together at the last minute with very little advanced notice, we had the Prime Minister telling all of Canada, including the three-quarters of Canadians who have been profoundly concerned about the CNOOC takeover of Nexen, that the government would simply rubber-stamp it and push it through.
Following the comments from Canadians flowing into Conservative members of Parliament, flowing into members of the opposition, such as the NDP, and on news websites, we can see that well over 90% of the comments that have been coming out have been wholly negative, given the government's completely irresponsible decision of Friday night.
I want to go into a little bit of the background and I know my colleague from LaSalle—Émard will follow up as well. I say with profound dismay that when we have the Prime Minister standing up at a press conference and saying the CNOOC takeover of Nexen is a bad thing and then approving it in the same breath, that is a logical contradiction that Canadians will not swallow.
The Prime Minister had a few tough words, basically saying that next time they will have some kind of excuse to approve these kinds of takeovers, but what the Prime Minister signalled on Friday was that Canada is for sale. When we look at the evolution of the government over the last six years, when we see that two-thirds of oil sands production is by foreign companies, whether they are state-owned or not, what we see is the very clear intent of the government to sell off Canada, regardless of the consequences.
We can say on this side of the House that the New Democratic Party, the official opposition, consulted with Calgarians. I went out, as well as my colleagues from LaSalle—Émard, Scarborough and Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and we talked with Canadians. We said that it was not in the best interests of Canada. There was no net benefit to Canadians. We do not believe that this takeover should have been rubber-stamped by the government and we profoundly believe that Canadians deserve better than what the government has been doing over the past few years.
New Democrats have always done the heavy lifting on the Investment Canada Act. We are the ones who raised concerns about the sellout of the Canadarm. We were the ones who raised concerns in the House around potash. We are the ones who fought in minority parliaments because we saw that those takeovers were not in Canada's interest. We were able, successfully, with the support of millions of Canadians across the country, to stop what would have been egregious sellouts.
Since the government has become a majority government, it has, at no time, despite weird and amateurish decisions often taken at midnight, not disapproved a single takeover. That is a fact. That is an undeniable reality of the government. I think that is why so many Canadians look forward to 2015 when they will finally have a government that takes a responsible approach to foreign investment and a responsible approach to looking at these kinds of takeovers—
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard on a point of order.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Order. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges.
I am quite pleased to be standing here today to talk about this. I would like to commend the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his role in the natural resources committee when it comes to foreign takeovers or trade deals.
I would also like to thank and congratulate the member for LaSalle—Émard, our industry critic, on the wonderful work she is doing on behalf of her constituents.
I worked in the mines for 34 years and in my last few years the company that I worked for, Inco at the time, was bought out by a foreign company from Brazil. When foreign companies purchase Canadian companies, they not only export our natural resources but we import an attitude. There is an attitude the comes with these foreign companies. It is an attitude that is not just for the Canadian workers and for the communities. I will get to that later, but I wanted to bring it up right now.
As we know, the mineral industry is a boom and bust cycle. It is good for 10 years, then it is down, then it is good. Miners get laid off, miners get hired, communities boom and then there is a downfall.
Last night I went to a mining safety forum. The reason I was there was because two miners in Sudbury were killed, Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier. They were killed by what we call in the mining industry “a run of muck”. For those who do not understand what a run of muck is, it is like a mud slide or an avalanche. It is when water gets into the muck and lets go. It is not stoppable.
I went there last night to hear the speakers. Among the speakers were family members. We want an inquiry into these deaths. That is why I talked about importing an attitude a while ago. Everyone in that mine, including management, knew there was a problem. They knew because they had been sent emails. The place had been barricaded. The barricades were taken down. The member who put up the barricades and sent these emails was one of the miners who was killed. That is very unfortunate.
I want to go back to the attitude. After that forum I received an email from Tim. I want to read it so everyone will understand why I am talking about attitude. He says:
Hello Claude thank you for being part of this much needed inquiry. To me it's insane that there were no charges for what happened at Stobie. Yet a man gets fired for getting hit by a loose at Coleman.
A loose is a fall of rock. He goes on to say:
Try to understand he gets fired for not following procedure yet Stobie management disregarded one of the most important procedures in the underground setting. I was recently fired from Vale for putting in a work refusal.
For those who do not know what a work refusal is, it is when a miner finds a situation that is unsafe. The miner can put in a work refusal because he thinks something is unsafe. This guy was fired because of that.
He further states:
I will now have to go to arbitration which will take a year or two. I can't believe the fear the men and women are working in. It is one thing to talk about at the meeting but to live it every day is very sad and frustrating I was working in disbelief every day. I will give you one example but there are many. One of my fellow miners broke his ribs at work and did not report it because of the fear of discipline.
That is why I was talking about attitude. We give these companies the right to invest in Canada, but they bring with them an attitude that is un-Canadian.
I want to quote a good friend of mine, the international president of the United Steelworkers, Leo Gerard, a former Sudbury native, on the value of good-paying jobs. He states:
Virtually 90% of wages and benefits earned by our members in the Vale Inco mines, plants and smelter have been spent in Greater Sudbury. The $190 million paid out to workers in nickel bonus, which over the years equates to slightly more 1% of company profits, has found its way into every nook and cranny of Sudbury and area businesses, services and charities. Home renovations and construction, autos and trucks, boats and ATVs, department and grocery stores, men's, ladies' and children's wear stores, restaurants and theatres, corner stores and bakeries, yard sales and bingo halls, all businesses and many charities shared in the wealth and prosperity of unions' collective bargaining.
This is something that foreign companies do not understand. They try to import, along with their attitude, wages and labour practices, standards from other countries that are well below the Canadian standard. The Conservative government also does not understand economics 101, that good-paying union jobs in a town feed and grow our local and national economies.
Some takeovers are good, some are bad, some are ugly. I have a list of the good things, but it is short.
In Sudbury, these companies have donated to charity and invested significantly in clean air technologies. We all know that in order to grow, Canada needs foreign investment, there is no disputing that, and we know that Canada was built on trade and foreign investment. Foreign investment can play a positive role in building our country as long as it is done right.
Now let me speak about the bad and the ugly. We lose when we sacrifice control. I will not be able to get through my whole speech, so I will jump to the last page.
The bottom line on foreign takeovers has to be Canada, not another country. The bottom line has to be our workers, communities and local economies, not a foreign corporation taking as many resources out of the ground or our water in as fast a time as possible. The bottom line has to be a Government of Canada that represents Canada and Canadians and does not only shrug about globalization and the new economy. The bottom line has to be accountability, transparency and everyone knowing the promises made to win government approval, because promises made must be promises kept.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government: (a) should not make a decision on the proposed takeover of Nexen by CNOOC without conducting thorough public consultations; (b) should immediately undertake transparent and accessible public hearings into the issue of foreign ownership in the Canadian energy sector with particular reference to the impact of state-owned enterprises; and (c) must respect its 2010 promise to clarify in legislation the concept of "net benefit" within the Investment Canada Act.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate today. To underscore the importance of the debate, I will read a letter I received last night from Calgary from one of the many Canadians who are concerned both with this deal and also with the lack of government action and irresponsible approach that it has taken thus far on a file, an application, that it knew about more than two months ago.
Part of the letter reads as follows:
I am a lawyer with over 25 years of experience in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industry. Currently I am VP Legal and General Counsel for a pipeline transmission company headquartered in Calgary. ... I have grave concerns about the proposed CNOOC takeover of Nexen.
CNOOC is a state-owned entity. ... While CNOOC has promised to comply with federal and provincial health, safety and environmental laws, this commitment doesn't address the fact that the executives directing the Canadian subsidiary's actions reside in China, well beyond the reach of Canadian courts. The Sinopec case shows that Chinese state-owned entities will fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to avoid prosecution.
...selling our non-renewable natural resources to the highest bidder is not the answer [to the issues before us].
Please note, I'm not asking you to say "no" to foreign investment in the oil sands, but rather to say "no" to foreign takeover of the oil sands. Once these resources are sold to a state-owned entity, Canada will never get them back.
This is why this issue is so fundamentally important. Canadians are writing and phoning in saying that very clearly. In the constituency meetings we are having across the country, I know every member of Parliament has had people approach them about this deal. I certainly I have in my riding.
What the NDP is saying is that there needs to be public consultations on this deal. Before the government moves to rubber-stamp, it should consult the public. That is what we are saying today and that is where we are hoping to get support from all members of Parliament in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with our terrific industry critic, the member for LaSalle—Émard. I will be looking forward to her presentation in just a few minutes.
The concerns that have been raised by that particular individual are not concerns that we only see occasionally but concerns being raised regularly right across the country.
It is only fair to listen to what the public knows so far of this particular application. An opinion poll just a few days ago indicated that about 70% of Canadians oppose this deal.
Mr. Speaker, you know, because you are very well versed in these matters, that the majority of chief executives who are polled are opposing this deal unless they can see stringent conditions. I will get back to that in a moment. There are real concerns about the government's ability to even put in place the kind of conditions that are required.
We are seeing concerns raised by the public and in boardrooms across the country. We have even heard concerns raised in the Conservative caucus.
For all of those reasons, the NDP is presenting a motion today that would allow for the type of considered discussion around this issue that needs to take place. We are saying that there should not be a rubber-stamp placed on this “without conducting thorough public consultations”; that the House should direct the government to “immediately undertake transparent and accessible public hearings into the issue of foreign ownership in the Canadian energy sector with particular reference to the impact of state-owned enterprises”; and that the government “must respect its 2010 promise to clarify in legislation the concept of 'net benefit' within the Investment Canada Act”.
That is what we have put forward. Certainly no Conservative member of Parliament could oppose a commitment that was made to Canadians both in a previous House and in a previous election campaign.
As we start this important debate today, I will recall for members on all sides of the House the unanimous support for the motion by our late leader, Jack Layton, two years ago and adopted unanimously in the House.
It stated that in the opinion of the House we needed to make public hearings a mandatory part of foreign investment review. The Conservatives voted for that.
More particularly, it called for increased transparency by:
(b) ensuring those hearings are open to all [who are] directly affected and [to the] expert witnesses they choose to call on their behalf.
—which the Conservatives and everyone else in the House voted for, and—
(c) ensuring all conditions attached to approval of a takeover be made public and be accompanied by equally transparent commitments to monitoring corporate performance on those conditions and appropriate and enforceable penalties for failure to live up to those conditions.
—which again, all members of the House voted for, and by—
(d) clarifying that a goal of the Act is to encourage foreign investment that brings new capital, creates new jobs, transfers new technology to this country, increases Canadian-based research and development, contributes to sustainable economic development and improves the lives of Canadian workers and their communities, and not foreign investment motivated simply by a desire to gain control of a strategic Canadian resource....
Every single member of Parliament, including every member of the Conservative Party there on that date in 2010, voted for that motion by Jack Layton. It was one of those rare occasions when there was a unanimous move by the House of Commons to direct the government to undertake certain actions.
Now it is two years later. Has anything been done to follow up on that motion passed unanimously by the House?
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard has five minutes.
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 Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Air Canada; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, Science and Technology.
Order. Time is getting on.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for a short response, please.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for a brief answer.
It did. It was brilliant.
I am now going back to Kenora—Rainy River, another Conservative-held riding. These Canadians are writing or tweeting us, posting on Facebook or writing in emails. They are faxing and phoning NDP MPs and saying, “Please stand up for us in the House of Commons. Please represent us, because our MPs won't do that. This budget is not good”.
This is another letter from Kenora—Rainy River.
It says, “I want to register my strong protest about the Conservative government's elimination in the recent budget of a very positive program for young people in Canada. Katimavik volunteers have visiting Sioux Lookout for the past three years under a program where they learn cultural diversity and civic engagement. In fact, Sioux Lookout has a history with Katimavik dating back to the late 1970s.
“I have had the privilege of supervising the work placements of many of these young people at the Salvation Army thrift store. We are all volunteers at the Sally Ann. We are all working to better our community and our cross-cultural relations. We support recycling, reducing and reusing, and the Katimavik youth have been active in helping us pursue our mandate. We have appreciated the enthusiasm and excitement these youth have shown for Sioux Lookout. We have also learned about their commitment to a better country, their interesting community, aboriginal issues, and their idealistic goal of striving to save the planet.
“These are kids 17 to 21 years of age who earn $2 a day for six months of tireless volunteering, often seven days a week in communities like ours. They are frequently trying to make up their minds about what to do with their lives, and the Katimavik experience helps shape those decisions.
“This is a significant program for youth. It broadens their knowledge of Canada and of our French-English-first nations heritage. It prepares them to join the workforce by giving them valuable work, life and leadership skills while fostering community development.
“The Conservatives have been whittling away at Katimavik for years. When my son experienced Katimavik in 2007, it was a nine-month program, with three months spent in three different communities, and it always included a French experience. Katimavikers then earned $3 a day. For those kids who completed the program, there was a $1,000 survivor's bonus. They were proud kids who received that cheque.
“Now it is a six-month program—two times three months—and the kids have to pay to apply and pay to join. Long gone is the final thank-you cheque.
“Surely this program cannot be a big-ticket item for the government, yet it's a priceless experience for both the participants and the communities lucky enough to enjoy their presence. Last year more than half a million hours of community work were performed by Katimavik youth, but that is down from three-quarters of a million hours the year before because the government keeps slashing the number of participating communities. I am distressed to see the direction we are heading under a Conservative majority, where successful and inexpensive programs for youth are eradicated mid-term.
“Katimavik was just entering the third year of a funding agreement whose term ends in March 2013. The government will undoubtedly incur costs to cancel housing rental agreements, vehicle leases, staff contracts, etc.
“It's hard not to think this is a vindictive move by the Conservatives, who view Katimavik as some other initiative, no matter that it has benefited 30,000 young people since its inception, and assisted numerous communities like Sioux Lookout across Canada.
“This is a valuable program for youth. It makes no sense to eliminate it. What kind of message are we giving our young people when we cut important opportunities for them like this while we increase our spending on prisons by the millions?”
That was a comment from Ms. Mombourquette from Sioux Lookout. I thank Ms. Mombourquette for writing in about Katimavik.
I will continue on.
A constituent from south Vancouver writes, “I'm devastated to learn that as part the 2012 federal budget, our Conservative government has cancelled Katimavik. This is a program that invests in Canadian youth and changes lives for the better. Since 1977 this program has allowed more than 30,000 young Canadians to get involved in more than 2,000 communities across the country.
I am one of those 30,000. My daughter was supposed to be one as well; she was to leave in July for six months. Such a tragic waste of such a valuable program.”
This is from the British Columbia Southern Interior: “It is a hidden economic cost to cut Katimavik. I worked for Katimavik for several years. Now I volunteer with the local Katimavik program. The Katimavik project provides over 5,000 hours of volunteer support to local charities. It strengthens the capacities of these non-profits to serve the community. As local organizations jointly collaborate their support with the Katimavik program, they discover new ways of working together and of jointly serving their community.
“I've seen first-hand how this program fosters resilience and builds the leadership skills of thousands of young people, enabling them to prosper into adulthood. They go home recognizing their personal responsibility in building sustainable communities and valuing active participation in the community. Many participants carry on their community leadership throughout their lifetime.
“It's not uncommon to hear participants say, 'It has changed my life.' ”
I heard that four times this evening when current Katimavik volunteers in the Katimavik Guelph project heard that the 41st Parliament is planning to deny this kind of leadership experience to Canadian youth and community organizations in our communities and across Canada in the future.
“For the past 35 years, 30,000 Canadian youth have made a difference in communities across Canada. It is not uncommon to hear participants say, 'It has changed my life.' They leave the program with increased confidence, ready to go into the workforce or go back to school, passionate about pursuing a new-found goal.
“For those whose lives have been filled with challenges beyond their control, it gives them a chance to realize and harness their strengths. For those who've had more resources growing up, it broadens their understanding of the privileges they've had and the challenges many families have on a daily basis. At a time when civic engagement and voter turnout are at an all-time low, when youth unemployment rates are double the national average, this is clearly the worst time to cut Katimavik.
“Katimavik's ability to promote and instill long-term social responsibility and civic involvement and to provide job skills for our young people is needed more than ever before. I hope for the sake of tomorrow's youth that you can emulate the leadership skills of these young people and take the necessary action to reverse the government's decision.”
That is another Canadian voice.
This is from Edmonton, Alberta, yet another Conservative-held riding. We are giving those Canadians a voice on the floor of the House of Commons.
This lady writes, “I'm writing in response to the funding cuts to Katimavik just announced in the federal budget. I can't believe the government would be so short-sighted and narrow-minded as to wipe out a program that clearly offers nothing but good for Canadian youth.
“A country's longevity lies in the strength of its younger generations. Volunteering and exchanges build resilient, compassionate, intelligent adults who have a better understanding of their world and the people in it. It is ludicrous to assume that Canada does not benefit from youth who can see beyond their own bubble.
“Cutting funding to Katimavik shows a clear disdain for a program that promotes values fundamental to a healthy society. I am ashamed to be governed by a Parliament that fails to see the necessity of volunteers and young people. I would appreciate it if you could make it clear to those in Ottawa that this move is not sitting well with students here in Edmonton, Alberta”.
From the heart of a Conservative riding, here is another Canadian who is speaking out and saying she does not accept the cuts in the Conservative budget.
I'll move on to Toronto. To the member of Parliament for Davenport, an exceptional member of Parliament, a constituent of his states that, “I am writing you as a concerned constituent in your riding regarding the recent decision to remove government funding for the youth program Katimavik in March 2013. In short, I feel this is a poor divestment from Canadian youth and I would like to see the decision challenged”.
He goes on to talk about his experience with Katimavik as a volunteer project leader and resource person and says, “These experiences have given me a clear understanding of the values of the program that has shaped up to 1,000 youth per year since the early 1980s. Here are a few concise points on the values and importance of the Katimavik program.
“The program enforces Canadian values such as diversity appreciation, civic engagement and healthy living. The program unifies Canadians from various provinces who share their experiences, reducing the notion of regionalism in our country. The program benefits 7 to 14 social service organizations in about a hundred communities across Canada with full-time volunteers throughout the year. The program builds the skill sets and confidence of Canadian youth to work in social sectors.
“I personally continue to work in the youth engagement and human rights field. I am only one of the many examples.
“According to my unofficial calculations, the program costs $2 million a year and generates more than $12 million in volunteer work revenue.
“The program allows for stronger connections in Canada by exposing young Canadians to three different regions of Canada outside their home community. The program contributes to creating safer spaces for female and lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgender and queer Canadian youth by promoting egalitarian values in group living and connecting with social services of various communities focused on women's and LGBTTQ rights.
“I will happily discuss with you my thoughts in more detail if you would like to hear about the program as a whole”.
There again, from Davenport, Toronto, are concerns about Katimavik.
I will go to someone from LaSalle—Émard, who writes: “Please include me among those who find the government's decision in the budget to end funding to Katimavik as lacking in insight and judgment. From all accounts, Katimavik offers young Canadians an opportunity to see other parts of Canada while engaging in worthwhile community service. I understand many participants want to work in the non-profit sector, thereby improving the lives of less fortunate Canadians. At a time when youth unemployment is very high and many young people are looking for direction and meaning in their future, this move seems especially incomprehensible. I urge you to lend your voice to those asking the government to reconsider the decision”.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue, of course. He who hesitates is lost.
I have one more to read. Even as we speak on the floor of this House of Commons, Canadians are flooding our email inboxes and fax machines and are making phone calls, so it is hard to keep abreast of the numerous Canadians across this country who are asking us to speak out on their behalf.
I was thinking I would move on to another issue, but I just have a fresh pile of emails and tweets and postings from Facebook, and I will have to come back to them.
However, the last one I am going to read from this older pile is from someone in the B.C. southern interior. This person says the following: “I participated in Katimavik in 1979. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I fondly remember the good times and the bad, learning from each other as we connected with fellow Canadians from all provinces. This program helped me immeasurably develop and mature and transition from high school into the greater beyond. It opened doors, working side by side with people from the small communities with whom we lived and gained experience from.
“The loss of this program is a blow to all Canadians. This kind of endeavour keeps Canadians engaged and helps them to become productive citizens. There should be more programs such as Katimavik, not less. It's a sad day indeed for all Canadians.
“I had hoped to send my children on this learning adventure, to share with them the majesty of our great country, even for low-income families. How short-sighted is this decision to cancel Katimavik? Consider my kids, who may now hang around on street corners, perhaps getting involved with seedier individuals, as there are few opportunities for them to experience something other than a low-income family existence. I wonder how much this costs Canadians in the long run, how many of our kids will end up on drugs or involved in crime as there are only low-paying jobs awaiting them, if they are lucky, or who have no concept of what Canada is like.
“Isn't it ironic that this government is willing to spend billions more on building prisons and funding crime instead of enriching the lives of our kids? Shameful, myopic and stupid. That's really what this kind of decision exemplifies”.
We thank very much the writer of this letter from British Columbia for raising that point.
The letters talk about connecting with fellow Canadians in all provinces. That is what we do in the NDP caucus. We have Canadians from every part of this country, from every part of this land, working together.
However, the government does not share this same perception of Canada as a united country. We see in this budget what will be a dismal and dark and divisive decade if we go through to 2015. We have seen how the government tries to divide one generation against another. We have seen how the government divides one region from another region, one community from another community. This is how the Prime Minister functions, by dividing Canadians. Katimavik brings Canadians together. Perhaps that is why the government is trying to axe it, because it provides a unity that the government does not want to encourage. The government wants to encourage division and to pit one Canadian against another.
On this half of the House, in the official opposition, we say that what Canadians want is unity. Canadians want to work together. We want an end to this kind of divisive politics. That is why we are going to be fighting to save the kinds of programs that bring Canadians together, because Canadian families deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I said earlier today that the Conservative MPs would start to see the light, that they would start to smile and we would see the light bulbs going on.
As we have been criticizing this budget, I am seeing now that there has been some movement. Maybe it is because of the tweets that they are getting from constituents. Maybe it is because of the emails and the phone calls they are getting from seniors and future seniors.
I do not know, but I am certainly feeling the love from the other side. That can only mean they are starting to understand why Canadians are reacting so negatively to the budget. I get the sense that the Conservatives are starting to understand why these cuts hurt Canadians.
Certainly it is a good thing that in the course of debate and through these many emails, tweets, the postings on Facebook and the very heartfelt letters from Canadians right across this country, we are touching or reaching Conservative members of Parliament. That makes it all worthwhile to be collecting these comments from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are going to continue to work, because if we can have Conservative MPs stand up for their constituents and this country and vote against this budget, that would be a very good thing. We certainly hope that happens.
I have a bunch of new emails and comments that have arrived even while I have been speaking. The wonder of modern technology is that now people can have their word brought forward on the floor of the House of Commons. So many people are doing that, and so many are younger Canadians. This is what has been most inspiring about the last couple of days of this debate. It is young Canadians who are speaking out; it is young Canadians who are tweeting and urging their Conservative members of Parliament to vote against the budget.
It is young Canadians who are expressing their hopes and dreams not only about their own futures and those of their classmates, friends and families, but more importantly also the future of their communities, their provinces, their regions and the country. That is what we are finding so inspiring about this, the words of inspiration coming from young Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I am going to continue. We have a message from a constituent in another Conservative riding, Lennox and Addington, who writes the following: “I live in a Conservative riding, Lennox and Addington. I am disgusted by the latest budget. I do not believe that my member of Parliament has any intent or any ability to represent me and fight for what I want to see in the federal budget.
“There are many areas of concern, including the cuts to the old age security, as well as cuts to the public service, Elections Canada, and the emphasis on jails and fighter jets. I have a 15-year-old son, and I am very concerned about his ability to make a decent living in the future. There seems to be no focus on jobs unless they have to do with exploiting the oil sands in Alberta.
“Please continue to fight on our behalf and let the Conservatives know that most Canadians can see through their flimsy speaking points and their attempt to distract us with the elimination of the penny”.
Those were very apt comments from another Canadian in another Conservative-held riding, who is concerned about the cuts to the OAS, the public service, Elections Canada and, the most important recurring theme, the emphasis on jails and fighter jets. We have heard about the latter when we have talked about cuts to services, and cuts to youth programs and cuts to pensions.
Canadians can add things up. They are saying this about the astronomical cost of the F-35 fiasco, which started at $9 billion and has now escalated to somewhere around $40 billion. No one on that side can tell us what it is going to cost, although we have certainly been asking. They cannot for the simple reason—
The electoral district of LaSalle--Émard (Quebec) has a population of 100,327 with 74,505 registered voters and 195 polling divisions.
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