Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from Winnipeg North and LaSalle—Émard for their comments.
I would like to to talk about something that my colleague addressed, and that is active transportation, particularly in Quebec. There is a lot of leadership in the area of active transportation in the beautiful province of Quebec. Take for example, Pierre Lavoie, a champion who lost his son but changed his life by becoming an advocate for active lifestyles and active transportation. He created the Grand défi, in which many Quebeckers participate every year. It is a major cycling challenge. I am very proud that the federal government is supporting the Grand défi in its 2014 budget.
The Union des municipalités du Québec has already proclaimed national health and fitness day. Communities such as Chelsea, Quebec, have followed suit. There are people from Quebec in the House who frequently participate in the parliamentary health initiative, for example, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who is always in the pool early on Thursdays, not just for the sake of his own health but also to set an example for all Canadians.
My colleague from LaSalle—Émard spoke very eloquently about cycling. I am very pleased to say that we will mark Bike Day in Canada, which we established last year, on May 11, 2015. I encourage my colleague, all members of the House and all Canadians to participate in Bike Day events. Last year, nine cities participated. My dream is that one day, every city in the country will take part in Bike Day in Canada.
I enjoy participating in the GranFondo, a challenge that involves biking from Vancouver to Whistler. Several thousand people take this challenge every year. Every year, I also tour my riding by bike, from one community to another, to show that it really is possible to use a bike as a means of active transportation. Eleanor McMahon, from Toronto, champions the idea of leaving space between vehicles and bikes. I commend her for that and I hope that car drivers will be aware of cyclists. However, cyclists also have to be sure to obey the rules of the road.
In conclusion, I must respond to the comments made by the member for LaSalle—Émard.
Our government has put $55 billion over 10 years into infrastructure. That is the biggest infrastructure investment in Canadian history and an opportunity to bring in active transportation. Also, the refundable tax credit does respond in part to the problem of poverty and getting people active.
Again, I thank my colleagues for their very fine questions.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her very good speech.
She spoke a lot about credit unions and co-operatives. Last week, the manager of the Caisse populaire de Verner, which is in my riding, visited my Ottawa office. He was very concerned about the government's plans to tie the hands of credit unions. Could my colleague tell us more about how the government is preventing credit unions from doing what credit unions do?
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate today as the health critic for the NDP. I would like to thank my colleague for bringing forward this motion in the House today.
Obviously we will be supporting the motion. We see it as a very minimal demand to the government to ask the Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer and the Minister of Public Safety to appear before the Standing Committee on Health twice monthly to report and account on what Canada is doing around Ebola, both in Canada and internationally. It is a very minimal demand, and obviously we need to go a lot further and do a lot more. Certainly, as far as the motion goes, we support it and thank our colleague for bringing it forward today.
I want to focus my comments today on what it is that has been completely lacking in Canada's response. Of course we do know that Canada has committed $65 million internationally. Just to put that in context, for example, the U.K. has committed $205 million. Germany, for example, has committed $127 million. There has been just recently very generous contributions made by private individuals.
We are obviously glad that Canada has made the commitment of $65 million, but what is really concerning and we should be focusing on is that at this point less than 10%, only about $5 million of the $65 million has been delivered in goods and services in terms of what needs to be done. That is very concerning.
All of us are very concerned about what is taking place in West Africa. We are watching the evolution and the development of this crisis, and the international response is so critical, not only in terms of the vaccine but also in ensuring that medical supplies, protective gear and so on, as well as health care professionals, are there on the ground. That is the most important point I want to make today.
This is not unlike what we have seen with the AIDS crisis. I note the article that came out in The Lancet magazine yesterday also made the point that the critical issue is containment within the countries that are now infected and to ensure that they have the capacity, the support and the resources, including a vaccine, to deal with their situation on the ground. This is about trying to ensure that we are not seeing an increase in transmissions to other countries, whether it be in other African countries, in Europe or in North America.
It is very concerning to us that we are many weeks into this crisis and Canada has fallen so far behind in its ability or willingness, whatever the impediment is, to deliver on the commitments it has made. I have come to the conclusion that unfortunately what we are seeing unroll in Canada is more of a public relations exercise.
I have been on a number of panels with the parliamentary secretary. We have heard the minister in the House when we have asked questions. We are told every time that Canada is a world leader, we are doing this and we are doing that, the vaccine was donated and it has been made available, yet nothing is actually getting done, or very little. It was only yesterday that some of the vaccine actually moved out of Canada.
We even heard the Prime Minister basically blame the WHO for that, when in actual fact, Canada itself sold the licensing rights to a company for $205,000, a very valuable health product, the vaccine that was developed in Canada, and basically did nothing to expedite the development of the clinical trials and the need to get this vaccine to where it needs to go. In the U.S. they have been working on the clinical trials for a month already.
There are so many questions as to why the Canadian government has made these pronouncements publicly but has not followed through and remained vigilant in terms of delivering on the commitments that Canada has made.
Yesterday or maybe at the end of last week, we learned the shocking situation that back in June the honorary Canadian consul for Sierra Leone was urgently sending messages to Canada saying that they needed protective gear. Canada was auctioning off those same items for cents on the dollar. It seems unbelievable.
It was not until September that those discounted auctions were actually stopped. There was a delay from June until September. There was information on the ground that was coming back to Canada, saying they desperately need assistance and need to get protective gear over to Sierra Leone, and Canada was selling off the needed equipment at incredibly discounted prices. We have now learned that it is being resold elsewhere at inflated prices.
This raises a whole question about the plan and whether or not there is oversight on the plan that Canada has developed and that we have been told exists. We certainly do appreciate the briefings that have been given by officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada. We appreciate the information they have provided.
However, I do have concerns. We know the budget of the Public Health Agency of Canada has been cut by $60 million over the last three years. We have to question whether or not, even within our own environment here politically, within Health Canada, within PHAC, if there is the capacity to deliver on the plan that is being developed.
We have been asking, consistently, in the House and in other venues, and in writing to the minister—I think we have now done two letters—very specific questions about what it is that Canada is doing and why it is that we are falling so far behind. I have to say that we are not getting the answers we need.
It is not like this is an issue where we can say, “Oh well, all in good time”. This is a critical urgency. It is an emergency today. There are people who are dying. The rate of infection is averaging 1,000 new infections per week.
Every day, every week there is a lag or delay it is affecting the lives of many people who we could be helping. This is a very critical issue.
I want to mention the letter we wrote recently to the Minister of Health. We asked some very pointed questions. We asked which minister was responsible for ensuring quarantine and treatment protocols in Canadian hospitals and clinics. That is a very basic question.
We know that PHAC has been developing national guidelines. We know that yesterday the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, a very major organization in this country, representing front-line health care workers, expressed a lot of concern about the fact that front-line health care workers are not prepared in this country. They do not have the protective gear. In fact, provinces are apparently developing different protocols and different levels of safety equipment. What is happening in Ontario may be different than what is happening in Saskatchewan or in British Columbia.
It does raise some very serious questions as to who exactly is responsible for not just developing guidelines but ensuring quarantine and treatment protocols. Who is responsible for ensuring that hospitals and medical practitioners have the appropriate equipment? These are questions that we have not yet had answers to.
Today, I want to say that in supporting this motion, it is important that the officials come before the health committee, that we be able to hold them to account and to provide these questions. We will certainly be doing that in the House. I have been very glad that the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Outremont has been raising these questions in the House on a very regular basis, as have I and my colleague, the member for LaSalle—Émard.
We will continue to do so because we are very concerned that this not just be a public relations exercise by Canada, but that it be a full commitment, not just in the short term but in the long term, to help people in West Africa who are affected and to ensure that there are the proper protocols and treatments in place should there be a case in Canada, which of course we hope will never happen. However, we have to be prepared, particularly given what we have seen in the United States and some of the protocols that were broken there.
We support the motion and we will be doing a lot more on this file to hold the government to account.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by 2,000 residents of Montreal, principally in the riding of LaSalle—Émard, asking the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to reconsider the decision to deport the Fuh-Cham family of Montreal.
Mr. Fuh-Cham, his wife and three young children have been active community members in LaSalle, specifically the Saint Jean Brebeuf Church, for seven years. They are facing imminent deportation to Cameroon, where they face grave risk of persecution because of their Christian faith. In particular, the family fears the women and girls would be subjected to forced genital mutilation.
The undersigned in this petition are asking that the minister reconsider the deportation of the Fuh-Cham family scheduled for October 9, 2014, and allow them to remain in Canada where they can freely practise their religious beliefs and continue to contribute to Canadian society.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Since her arrival in the House, she has done a wonderful job with the economic development files, which can be extremely complex at times. She is one of the MPs who knows the most about industry and co-operatives. I want to commend her on the extraordinary work she is doing.
Her speech was both very detailed and very impressive, and in it she mentioned cuts and the possibility of strengthening the legislation.
Could she share her thoughts on the cuts to border services and the public service, which are eroding the public sector as a whole?
Could she also talk about strengthening the bill's provisions?
Mr. Speaker, women have the right to full equality and women have the right to live their lives free of violence. These two principles are inseparable because with the threat of violence there can be no substantive equality. The government can and must do more to support women's equality, especially when it comes to addressing violence against women. It is everyone's responsibility to reduce violence, but it is the particular responsibility of parliamentarians to take substantive action in this direction.
Motion No. 504 is well intentioned, however, when one realizes how widespread violence against women is in Canada, we feel it does not go far enough. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 and this number has remained stagnant over the past 40 years.
In first nations, the statistics are worse. Women are much more vulnerable with homicide rates seven times higher than that of non-aboriginal Canadian women. In the recent reports by the RCMP, there are nearly 1,200 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Both Amnesty International and the United Nations have called upon the Canadian government to take action on this issue without success. Women in countless organizations across Canada have called upon the government to take action.
The Conservative government has claimed to have taken real action to combat violence against women, yet it has refused to develop a national action plan. In fact, in 2006, the government changed the Status of Women Canada women's program, making it impossible for Status of Women Canada to fund the work of organizations when it relates to advocacy, lobbying, or general research on women's rights issues. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has expressed concern on the impact of changes to the Status of Women agency, in particular on access to services by aboriginal and rural women.
The minister who changed the women's program mandate at the time, Bev Oda, said, “"We don't need to separate the men from the women in this country. This government as a whole is responsible to develop policies and programs that address the needs of both men and women."
First and foremost, the government must recognize that gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women. We know that women are 11 times more likely than men to be a target of sexual offences and three times more likely to experience criminal harassment. With these facts in mind and with the prevalence of violence against women stagnant in Canada while all other violent crime rates drop, does the government still believe that we do not need to work toward meeting the needs of women in this country?
As parliamentarians, we have the ability to enact a national action plan that would address the severity of violence against women, yet the government has taken no action in this direction despite the recommendations numerous organizations have made. In the absence of a national action plan, responses to violence against women, including education and prevention programs, are fragmented and inconsistent.
In order to fully address the root causes of violence against women, I urge the government to immediately pick up Motion No. 444 and consult with civil society in order to create a multi-sector national action plan. With Canada in the international spotlight, we must respond. We call upon the government to immediately commit to funding legal aid, shelters, transitions houses, social housing, health services, advocacy, and research in order to prevent and treat violence against women for all women in Canada.
In regard to Motion No. 504, I urge the government to make the necessary provisions that would allow for the issues associated with violence against all women to be addressed. First, we ask the study to include the examination of programs as well as policy. Second, we ask that the study look at best practices in Canada and abroad. Other countries like Canada, such as Australia, have taken strident steps toward a national action plan and their methods are working. We should take this opportunity to learn from them.
There is near consensus among Canadian civil society and violence against women service providers that a national action plan is urgently needed. Indeed, the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses is spearheading meetings to discuss the creation of such an action plan. However, civil society, women's advocates, and service providers cannot accomplish this task alone. The federal government must be a leader at the table. It is incumbent upon the House to listen to what experts and front-line workers are telling us. Right now they are saying the same thing: we need a national action plan.
The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses wrote in its report:
It is clear that in the absence of a National Action Plan, responses to VAW in Canada are largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and can work to impede rather than improve women’s safety....A strategic and sustainable step toward meaningfully addressing VAW in Canada is to establish a multi-sectoral NAP that adheres to the guidelines and principles set out by the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women...and the UN Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women...
The fact is we can study component pieces of the solution to violence against women and it will only be a drop in the bucket of the work that must be done, right now, to end violence in women's lives. Education and prevention are critical, but we must move beyond that.
A national action plan would be coordinated with governments across the country. It would set out a framework to be followed over the course of many years. It would uphold Canada's commitments to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It would be based in evidence, new research and extensive consultation with experts and communities. The plan would include evaluation and accountability measures for government and civil society alike.
With all of this working together, it will have a real effect on women’s lives and the lives of all of those who depend on the well-being of women in our society.
We have international examples of national action plans. Belize, Liberia, Peru, France, Australia, Spain and many more have comprehensive and coherent programs of activity.
I have spent the past year travelling to different parts of the country in order to hold consultation sessions with the people in Canada who are at the front lines of fighting violence against women. I sat down with the directors of emergency shelters, transition houses and drop-in centres. I listened to lawyers, advocates and social workers. I heard the concerns of sexual assault service providers and rape crisis line workers. I met with women who were survivors of violence themselves. Across the board we heard the same thing: the government does not provide enough funding or support to even come close to ending violence against women.
I cannot name or quote these individuals, for fear that the government may slash what little funding their organizations are receiving, but I will paraphrase some of the messages we heard.
Service providers are subsidizing the government with unpaid hours of labour. Two people work for one person's salary in order to provide desperate women with the bare minimum of what they need to exit violence. One of the organizations said, “We tell women that it is possible to leave a violent relationship and start her life again, but the reality is that without sufficient housing, legal aid and welfare that simply is not true”.
I heard from others that, “Repeated cuts to this sector have devastated our capacity to work together as a community to provide the best services”, and “We cannot advocate for women to the government when we are barely able to keep our doors open”.
We heard again and again about how frustrating and insufficient the Status of Women Agency was since the Prime Minister made those substantive changes to its granting system. Short term, two year grants ensure that best practices will necessarily end with no hope of renewal. It means that service providers are in constant grant-writing mode instead of working to help women. The fact that organizations are explicitly forbidden from applying for advocacy and research means that all their work is short-sighted and never allowed to address the major systemic barriers.
Perhaps most telling is that for a time, the government took the word “equality” out of the Status of Women's mandate. The absence of that one word speaks volumes about the regressive attitude the government has taken toward women.
I also want to point to the most recent bill, Bill C-36, which aims to save prostitutes. We in the NDP have expressed our high concern that this new legislation places sex workers in danger and we believe it does not uphold women's charter rights.
For a government that constantly claims to be standing up for victims, it refuses to give vulnerable people what they need to achieve equality. Therein lies the fundamental difference between the NDP and the Conservative approach to women. The government paints women as victims who are in need of protection, but we know women must be empowered to claim their full rights. Women in Canada deserve better. We deserve commitment and leadership from the government to end violence against women.
In conclusion, I move, seconded by the member for LaSalle—Émard:
That the motion be amended by replacing the words “education and social programs” with the words “education programs, social programs, and policies”.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.
I listened to the member for York Centre. That takes some nerve. He gave the House a real million-dollar answer. The member just told us that businesses should make a profit and that the NDP is against that. A business is usually pretty darn happy if it makes a 10%, 15% or even 20% profit. We know what kind of profits stores and other companies make.
That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the fact that it costs banks 36¢, but they are charging $3 or $4 instead of 50¢. That is not a 10%, 20% or 50% profit. That is a 200% profit. That is a massive profit, and for whom? The banks. Who are the banks? Friends of the Conservatives. These are the same banks that made $22 billion in profits, and the government lowered their taxes.
In the Conservatives' budget that the NDP proudly refused to support, there was $40 billion in tax cuts over five years. The banks were getting tax cuts. They are being given tax cuts after they generated $22 billion in profit and were handing out bonuses. I want the member for York Centre to hear this. They handed out $11 billion in bonuses.
The Conservatives are not here to protect the consumer. Banks are not the ones voting for governments. It is the public, consumers, ordinary Canadians, the people who get up every morning and build our country all day long. They work hard. It is the men and women from all classes of society who are forced to give 200% to the banks and financial companies.
Some countries have said that this will no longer happen. For example, in the United Kingdom, 97% of withdrawals are free, as a result of public pressure. That public pressure did not come from the banks. Not from the Conservatives' buddies. It came from the public, the ordinary people who get up every morning, the men and women who work hard for their money.
Now, if someone shows up with cash, they are not even welcome anymore. You need a debit card. Everyone wants that card. The debits are done right away and the store has its money.
The member for York Centre said that the reason credit card interest rates are high is that people get themselves in too much debt. Boy, does he have faith in Canadian consumers. Basically, he said they are irresponsible. What he really said was that if interest rates were lower, Canadians would run up unbelievable amounts of debt, but it is actually the opposite. Before, people could go to the bank and get a loan at 6% or 7%. Nowadays, banks are refusing to loan people money and are sending out credit cards with 19% interest rates instead. If people miss a payment, the interest rate goes up to 23%. They are crucifying Canadians. That is what the Conservative government is doing.
The Conservatives say that they are all for protecting consumers. They claim that the NDP says employers and companies should not have the right to make money. That is not what we are saying. We are saying that people have the right to live. People have the right to earn money so they can buy things for their families. That is what we are saying. People have that right, and they have the right not to be ripped off at the ATM. That is what is happening.
What is the NDP's motion? It is not an extraordinary motion. It simply says:
That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian consumers face unfair Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fees as a result of an uncompetitive marketplace and that the House call on the government to take action in Budget 2014 to protect consumers by limiting ATM fees.
It clearly states “by limiting ATM fees”. Right now, it is a free-for-all.
As we say in English, it is a free for all. When we go to an ATM, it is not normal that we want $20 and pay $3 to get our own money. It is not normal that we want $50 and pay $3 to get our own money. It does not make sense. That is what is happening right now in Canada, where some other countries have abolished the fee or brought it right down to 97% that they just cannot charge anymore, or do not charge. That is what we are saying. We have to put a limit on that.
We have to put a limit on the credit card, as I said a few minutes ago. At one point in time, we used to walk into a bank and the manager would ask if we wanted some money. They do not ask if we want money anymore. They send us credit cards to our homes. It is so easy to get credit. They are saying the reason that the interest rate is high is to stop people from using their credit cards. That is not what is happening. They are putting people in debt, which is unbelievable. Instead of giving them a loan at 6% or 9%, they give them a credit card, which is easy to get. Instead of bothering to go to the bank to borrow money, it is easier to take a credit card with a limit of $20,000 or $30,000 and buy what we want. After that, we get charged an interest rate of 19%. If we miss a couple of payments, they bring the interest rate up to 24% or 28%.
It is unbelievable that the Conservative government that says it is here for the consumer does not do anything to save the consumer money or protect the consumer. The Conservatives do not do anything to protect the consumer, other than speaking words in the House, saying that companies have the right to make money and people have the right to make money. Yes, they do, but not on the backs of the citizens in the way they are doing it now, by gouging them when they go to the ATM. They do not have that right.
Many countries stand up for their consumers because they are the citizens of the country. They are the people, the men and women who get up in the morning and work hard for their money. They are working hard to earn money, and they have banks making billions of dollars of profit. We have the CEOs of the banks paying themselves millions of dollars of wages on top of it. A few years ago, the banks made $22 billion of profit and the CEOs paid themselves $11 billion of bonuses in this country. That is where the government should say that this is not right in our country; the banks do not have the right to do that. They are there to help consumers. They are there to help small and medium-sized businesses to build business instead of doing what they are doing right now.
That is why I believe the citizens will see that we have a good motion and that it should become the law of our country. They will see where the NDP is coming from with this, to protect the consumer. It is not like the Conservatives saying that they are protecting the consumer.
They are not protecting consumers, and this is becoming increasingly expensive.
Today we are asking this government to vote in favour of our motion, to support it and really support consumers and the citizens of this great country.
Before I go to questions, I would like to remind the member and all others to direct their comments to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Mr. Speaker, co-operatives are businesses that are driven by democratic values and principles. They employ over 155,000 Canadians. They pay taxes on more than $50 billion in revenues, and they create jobs and offer goods and services in all regions.
The difference between the co-operative model and other business models is how the profits are used and that their focus is on long-term strategic planning, growth, and success. Co-operatives are more durable, and research has shown that new co-operatives are more likely to remain in business than any other new enterprises and are more resilient in economic downturns.
I am proud to be a supporter of the Canadian co-operatives industry, and I look forward to working with them to create even more jobs in our communities.
Tonight, please join me and my colleagues from Ottawa—Vanier and LaSalle—Émard in celebrating co-operatives at their annual reception at the Parliament Pub. I will see everyone there.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Order, please. There is too much noise in the chamber. I would ask hon. members, if they wish to carry on conversations, to keep them really hushed or to go to their respective lobbies.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to work with my colleague from LaSalle—Émard on the industry, science and technology committee. Whether we are doing a committee study on intellectual property, on digital technology or reviewing legislation, as we will do with this piece of legislation, it is a committee that deals with its work in a very open and thoughtful way.
We did a very comprehensive study on the issue of intellectual property. We heard from a range of businesses on this issue of counterfeit goods. When the time comes, we can consider much of that testimony we have already heard as we deliberate on this important piece of legislation that is important for families, businesses and consumers in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to thank my hon. colleague from LaSalle—Émard for the fine work that she does in the House and for her contributions to the debate, which are always of very high quality and perceptive.
What the question really raises is the fact that in an increasingly interconnected global world, what Canadian companies do abroad matters. It has always mattered, but never has it been so fundamentally important to Canada's reputation on the world stage that our corporations act above reproach, that we set a standard on the world stage for conducting business in a legal and ethical manner. It is only by doing that, by showing an example here in the Canadian Parliament, by requiring high standards for Canadian corporations acting abroad, that we can legitimately urge other countries to carry the same standards in their jurisdictions as well.
What we all want in the House is for the standards of ethics and legality to improve in Canada and around the world. I think we can start by passing laws like this and by putting some teeth into these laws as well.
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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