Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this important free trade agreement and to share my time with the hard-working member for Don Valley West.
I will start off by reconfirming that there is no government in Canada's history that has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. The Minister of International Trade has been spending many days away from home trying to secure new markets and to deepen Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world. I think it is key to these efforts.
The Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first FTA with an Asia-Pacific nation, is an ambitious, state-of-the-art agreement covering virtually all sectors and aspects of free trade.
Today I will speak specifically to the foundation of the agreement, which is the extensive and profound people-to-people ties that bind Canada and South Korea. I think that is a very important aspect that has not really been talked about.
It is an increasingly interconnected world. People-to-people ties are crucial to ensuring long-term success in the competitive global economy. It is all about relationships, and this free trade agreement is a classic example. It is a landmark achievement that would result in mutual benefits and prosperity for both of our countries and that would lay the foundation to unlock the full potential of our political, economic, and secure relations.
Canada can leverage its rich history and flourishing people-to-people ties with South Korea to build on this free trade agreement and pave the pathway to jobs and prosperity for generations to come.
Canada and South Korea have had formal diplomatic relations for over 50 years, yet the connections between our two peoples extend back more than a century. Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1963, Canada came to South Korea's aid in the Korean War, contributing the third-largest contingent of troops to UN forces. More than 26,000 Canadian soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with their Korean brothers and sisters against the spread of tyranny. Unfortunately, more than 500 individuals ultimately gave their lives. George Barr, from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 in my riding, and others across Canada, have been incredible ambassadors for the Canada-Korea relationship. The memories of helping folks in Korea and Canada continue to strengthen that bond.
Korean President Park was here last month for her official state visit, and she laid a wreath in memory at the National War Memorial. It was one of the highlights of her visit and was a testament to the importance of the shared history of our two nations.
When I had the honour of travelling with the Prime Minister and the delegation in March for the initial signing of the agreement in Seoul, the Prime Minister and the delegation laid a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery, as well.
I would like to take a moment to think about Corporal Cirillo. His funeral procession is taking place in Hamilton right now. I am thinking about soldiers, the men and women who sacrifice their lives, and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families as well.
After the Korean War, almost 7,000 additional Canadian soldiers served as peacekeepers in South Korea between 1953 and 1957. Canada also participated in supervising South Korea's first elections in 1948 as part of the United Nations temporary commission on Korea. Aside from the United States, Canada is the only other state that has permanent military representation, with the United Nations Command, otherwise known as the UNC, in Korea.
Canada continues to participate in the UNC Military Armistice Commission that supervises the armistice. Last year, a delegation of Canadian veterans, led by the current Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, travelled to South Korea to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, 2013.
Building on our proud and shared history, our bilateral relationship is further championed and advanced by our strong, growing, people-to-people ties. Canada is home to some 200,000 people who identify themselves as being of Korean origin. It is the fourth-largest Korean diaspora in the world. Over 23,000 Canadians are currently residing in South Korea, including around 3,200 language teachers.
Last year, our government designated the year 2013 the Year of Korea in Canada. It marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Korea and celebrated the contributions of the Korean diaspora to Canadian society.
The Year of Korea in Canada featured a number of cultural and artistic events. I am sure many members had the opportunity to take them in. There were great festivities across the country that gave Canadians the opportunity to learn more about Korean culture, tradition, and diversity.
The Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Group is co-chaired by Senator Yonah Martin, Canada's first and only Korean senator, an incredible, hard-working individual. She shares that responsibility with our acting Speaker, the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, who has held three successful Canada-Korea dialogue series on the Hill, the last of which was held in June this year. It was attended by more than 100 participants.
Senator Martin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, and the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock also travelled to Seoul, Korea, in September to meet with senior government officials, Korean national assembly members, and business officials to discuss the wide-ranging benefits of the trade agreement to continue to move this agreement forward.
Some Canadians were a bit disappointed with the NDP at committee recently when members tried to remove what I believe is one of the cornerstones of a modern trade agreement, the investor protection provisions. The Liberals talked about this trade agreement in 2003, but it was our Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade who were actually able to get this over the goal line.
The opposition had taken us virtually out of the game of international trade. It was not a priority for them, and I understand their reasons. However, our government wants to create jobs and open doors and opportunities to put Canadian workers and businesses first. The opposition put us at severe risk of falling behind in the era of global markets, but that has changed in a positive manner. Fortunately for Canadians, our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians.
Last month, during President Park's visit to Canada, our government announced its intent to develop a science, technology, and innovation agreement with South Korea, providing Canada with the opportunity to further strengthen the people-to-people ties and to build a lasting strategic framework with one of the world's most innovative economies and top funders of research and development.
The agreement would provide Canadian stakeholders with opportunities to create new partnerships and enhance business-to-business linkages through a mechanism that would directly support bilateral, industry-led research and development funding projects in strategic areas.
As well, I am proud to say that our education ties are extensive and growing. I am sure members from all parties have constituents who have gone to South Korea. It is Canada's third-largest source of international students. We have had constituents going there to teach, and we have had more than 19,000 young and talented students choose Canada as the destination of choice to pursue their education. Based on the average estimated expenditure by international students in Canada per year, that would translate to Korean students contributing over $500 million to the Canadian economy. Many high-calibre international students choose to stay in Canada post-graduation, leading to the enrichment of human capital in Canada. Those who go back to Korea are some of Canada's best ambassadors.
There are over 100 active agreements among institutions in Canada and South Korea facilitating the exchange of students, faculty, staff, and curricula and providing joint research and degree programs. That is very important. The Government of Canada has a number of memoranda of understanding with South Korea, including in the areas of industrial science, engineering and technology, research, co-operation, clean technologies, energy, and Arctic research and development.
On tourism, over 140,000 Korean tourists visited Canada in 2013. It is the eighth-largest source of tourists to Canada, which is very important to my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country. They spent almost $250 million in the Canadian economy. South Korea is one of the Canadian Tourism Commission's top-ten priority leisure markets. In 2013, the annual growth in the number of Korean tourists to Canada stood at 3.3%. An estimated four million Korean travellers are actively considering a Canadian holiday in the next two years.
On September 22, the Prime Minister and Korean President Park witnessed the signing of an open-skies air transport agreement between Canada and Korea, another significant milestone moving forward.
Ultimately our goal is to create jobs and growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. That is why we will continue to deliver pro-export leadership.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise again to take part in this debate on this important legislation. As members opposite would know, the legislation is intended very much to protect people, young people in particular, our most vulnerable; to protect seniors from online criminality and fraud that could defraud them of their life savings; to protect individuals from the security breaches and attacks that we know are happening regularly online.
The bill is about modernizing sections of the Criminal Code, respecting precedent, including recent Supreme Court decisions, and respecting the Constitution. However, it is about modernizing in a way that takes Criminal Code sections from the age of the rotary dial phone into the 21st century, the Internet age. We have more information available at our fingertips now and youth are more able to access information than at any other time in world history. Therefore, it stands to reason that we would want to bring legislation forward that would similarly modernize the Criminal Code and the rules that govern online criminal activity.
The bill is about amending the Criminal Code in a way that would create a new offence of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. It would also update a number of offences and the investigative tools that allow police to use modern technology to police the Internet, so to speak, by amending other statutes such as the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.
Bill C-13 would also allow Canada to co-operate with like-minded countries in the investigation of cybercrime. I know my friend from Lévis—Bellechasse, the Minister of Public Safety, fully appreciates, from his daily interactions with police and investigators, that they need this capacity to protect people from online criminality. The portions of the bill that we are bringing forward are consistent, related, and support the common objective to give the police the ability to prevent online criminal acts.
Bill C-13 would also achieve these goals in a balanced way, something that was recognized by many of the witnesses who have already given testimony and appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where the bill was thoroughly examined.
Following this review at the committee and to reflect concerns about the difficulty of forecasting the impact that these important changes to the law and the amendments that were adopted by the committee, this was done as part of the parliamentary process and in recognition of the contributions of members and witnesses. It was done in a way that proposes changes to Bill C-13.
An important change was that after seven years of coming into force, there will be a thorough review. This is not an uncommon provision, but when breaking new ground, as the bill would do, it provides sufficient time to lapse before we assess the implementation and the impacts of the reforms.
I mentioned that the thorough review of the bill by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights took place. This review involved 10 committee meetings, hours of examination, with appearances by over 40 witnesses. Many of the witnesses came to urge the committee to pass the legislation, to move forward and address the serious problems particularly around cyberbullying. We heard from people like Glen Canning, who tragically lost his daughter to a very pernicious and persistent act of cyberbullying. Therefore, there is urgency in bringing this legislative movement forward.
Those most passionate that we heard at the committee were victims, those who had felt the sting of the loss resulting from ongoing harassment and humiliation online. In several of the cases, the people who had lost loved ones because of this modern plague of cybercrime urged the government and committee members to move post-haste in getting these provisions to the Criminal Code in place.
The insidiousness of some of this behaviour is troubling in the extreme and what happens in the virtual world can have deadly consequences in the real world. While some witnesses expressed concern about the proposals, most witnesses saw the wisdom of the bill. They congratulated the government on taking action to address cybercrime, which, I am quick to add goes far beyond just the legislative initiatives.
We have put in place programs and assistance to help with getting information into schools and spreading the word, particularly to young people, about how they can get help and how they can help remove some of these offensive images that cause them such stress and anxiety. That type of information is very important, as well as the improvement and modernization of the investigative tools, which require judicial oversight and the authorization of a judge before that type of information is sought.
This is a comprehensive and balanced bill. It is about protecting the public through this new offence that is designed to address the aspects of cyberbullying. In particular, it is about modernizing existing offences and the investigative tool kit. It is very much there to give the police the ability to do in a virtual world what they do in the real world, and to seek out those who are causing this type of harm through the Internet.
The offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images prohibits the sharing of intimate photos or photos containing nudity without the consent of the individual shown in the photos.
It is important to respond in this manner to cyberbullying, which involves activities that can cruelly humiliate and shame its targets. It can cause irreparable emotional and psychological harm to the victim. There are far too many of these cases that we could enumerate here. Suffice it to say, the pain being felt and experienced by the families is unquantifiable. The anonymity of what happens online sometimes emboldens people and empowers some to act in a cruel and wicked fashion.
Bill C-13 would respond directly to recommendations that were made in a June 2013 federal, provincial and territorial report. Therefore, there is broad support and consensus among our provincial and territorial partners to move in this fashion. The report was unanimously supported by my predecessor, the Minister of Public Safety, as well as all of those provincial attorneys general and public safety ministers.
I also alluded to the committee, which heard from a number of victims of cyberbullying and sadly the parents of some deceased victims, many of whom have now become advocates for change to better address the scourge of cyberbullying. Most of these witnesses expressed strong and unconditional support for the proposals found in Bill C-13.
In particular, and his name has been mentioned previously, Mr. Glen Canning expressed serious concern to the committee about the challenge faced by police in responding to modern crime using outdated tools. He also expressed his belief that had Bill C-13 been law, it could have had a positive impact and might have saved his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons.
These are compelling arguments to be made for passing the bill. Further delays would leave more people vulnerable, simply put, and online crime to go unchecked. The alarmist rhetoric and some of the partisan banter here is not going to change that. Moving the bill forward will in fact fill the gap.
I hope the House understands just how important the proposed legislation is. Our police need these modern tools for modern times. Criminals are certainly using the Internet to great effect, and it is time to fight back. Bill C-13 would give the police the means to investigate and hold offenders accountable online, just as in the real world. It would provide the police with increased, judicially authorized, 21st century police tools and techniques.
I urge all members to support the bill. It is a balanced, necessary approach to putting in place offences and investigative tools that would provide the means to respond to criminal law challenges in this century and those that arise from cyberbullying.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have met with thousands of Canadians all across the country in the past few months. I have personally had people from Lévis—Bellechasse and Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, for example, tell me how frustrated they are when they compare the government's rhetoric on the economy with the realities facing the middle class.
What is more, their Conservative representatives have essentially become mouthpieces for the Prime Minister.
How would the Minister of Industry describe wage increases in Canada? Is he happy with how these increases compare to our economic growth?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for his question. It gives me an opportunity to clarify an extremely important point that I referred to earlier: the urban legends being spread by the opposition.
What must be understood is that in every case, it must always be to the worker's advantage. Take a seasonal worker during the off-season. It must always be to the worker's advantage to be out working rather than drawing benefits. That means that we take the costs of travel, gasoline and vehicle expenses into account. We also look at whether or not the person has a vehicle.
Judgment must be exercised. Unfortunately, the opposition would like to take people from the Magdalen Islands and send them to Gaspé, and so on. That is not a good idea. It is time we had a reasonable, sensible debate, in order to match workers to the jobs that exist in each region.
At present in Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins, the unemployment rate is among the lowest in Quebec and comparable to that in Calgary and Edmonton. Still, we have to ensure that our seasonal workers can take advantage of these opportunities and keep more money in their pockets.
Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the member for Lévis—Bellechasse. What would he say to the people from out east, to the women who want to go work as cleaners in Fort McMurray, where the men have gone? They are being told that there is no work, yet temporary foreign workers are being brought in from the Philippines, China and other countries. People from eastern Canada want to go work there, but they are being told that there is nothing there, that they cannot go. What would he say to those people?
What would he say to the scaffolder who called me yesterday? He wanted to go work in Alberta, but he cannot because companies there have hired Americans. Our people cannot go work there. What would he say to those people?
What would he say to the woman out east who this morning was visited by an employee from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada who was delivering some forms and who told her that if she did not try to find a job by 1 p.m. the next day, he would see her in his office and take away her employment insurance benefits? What would he say to those people?
I would like to hear from the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, who says that the government is doing such wonderful work and that the Conservatives are there to help people find jobs. But really, they are there to cut people's employment insurance. That is what they are doing.
Mr. Speaker, I would like first to congratulate my colleague from Nova Scotia, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, on having generated wealth and employment in Nova Scotia and in the Atlantic provinces.
I would like in turn to comment on the motion respecting employment insurance changes introduced in the House by the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and to express clearly my disagreement with the NDP's position on the issue.
The employment insurance plan is the most important Canadian program devoted to the labour market, and Canadians rely on it to assist them financially when they are temporarily out of work and are looking for a job. I have myself received employment insurance benefits. It is a useful and necessary program for all working people.
We know that those who remain active in the labour market are more likely to find permanent work more quickly. Permanent jobs are what provides stability and makes it possible to improve living conditions for Canadian families and Canadian regions. There is no doubt that most Canadians want to work, and are actively looking for employment while receiving employment insurance benefits. That is one of the principles of the system.
The changes we are making to the employment insurance plan are necessary to ensure that it remains fair and efficient. One of the goals is to help workers find jobs more quickly, preserve jobs and ensure that Canadian workers have more money in their pockets.
The measures we announced in the 2012 economic action plan are ensuring that the employment insurance plan is now better suited to Canadians’ needs, more flexible and more equitable. They also ensure that the plan helps Canadians stay active in the labour market, and find employment more quickly. How? Members will agree with me that it is does not make sense for employment insurance claimants to be looking for work, on the one hand, for jobs to be available, and for those concerned not to speak to each other. That is what the new measures introduced by our minister are bringing about, in every part of the country.
We are proposing and putting in place a better way of connecting Canadians with job opportunities in their local area. We have also clarified the responsibilities of claimants while they are receiving regular employment insurance benefits. For example, we realized that some people have difficulty in finding a job, or in seeing what jobs are available in their region. Sometimes they are unaware that their skills, particularly those of seasonal workers, which are remarkable, could meet the needs of other industries during the off-season.
That is why we undertook to enable Canadians receiving regular employment insurance benefits to receive daily notification of job offers from various sources in their region, in order to assist their job search.
We have also provided clear definitions in the regulations for “suitable employment” and “reasonable job search.” We believe these clarifications reinforce the responsibilities of claimants receiving regular benefits and will help them in their active job search, in order to accept suitable employment.
Contrary to what the opposition claims, we have no thought whatever of compelling people to accept jobs for which they do not have the skills—we are dealing here with the kind of urban myths perpetuated by the opposition—or asking them move to another part of the country, or accept underpaid work, as some people have wrongly claimed.
This is about clarifying claimants' responsibility when receiving EI benefits and sticking to clear parameters. The new and enhanced job alert system has been introduced to provide Canadians with better, more relevant information on employment.
The employment insurance system to which workers and employers contribute is designed to provide temporary income support. It is not designed to provide an income supplement when people choose not to work. That goes without saying and everyone knows that.
It is important to note that those who do not manage to find work will still be able to rely on the employment insurance program. Again, those who are not able to find work can still count on the EI system.
In our desire to better connect Canadians with available jobs, we have also improved coordination between the EI system and the temporary foreign worker program.
It is very simple, and the objective is clear. We just want employers to consider hiring Canadians before foreign workers, and we want foreign workers to be hired where we need them most. Let us first meet our needs with Canadian workers, and then let us get additional help abroad, if necessary. This is just common sense. It is a sensible and reasonable measure. Let us first offer Canadian jobs to our own workers. Then, if necessary, we can turn to foreign workers.
We have also adopted a new Canada-wide method to calculate EI benefits, so that people living in regions with similar labour market conditions can be eligible for the same benefits. We are talking about fairness for all regions of the country and a flexible system that takes into consideration the employment insurance rate.
That is why we are convinced that these new initiatives, which are being implemented, will help more Canadians find work, and will put more money in workers' pockets. These measures will provide greater support to people looking for work. A daily report will inform them of available jobs in their region. In addition, as I mentioned, thanks to these measures people will have more money if they work than if they merely collect EI benefits.
Our government is committed to making targeted and sensible changes to the EI system, for the benefit of Canadians and the whole country. I hope opposition members will support our efforts to connect available jobs with workers who are looking for work. This will create wealth and prosperity in all our regions, particularly in areas that are so dear to us, like Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins.
Mr. Speaker, our government is introducing in the House Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. This bill will provide as well for an impartial arbitration process to finalize the terms of a new collective agreement.
Our government agrees that employers have a right to freely negotiate collective agreements. I am sure that all members of Parliament are of the same mind on this fundamental principle of labour relations in Canada. The current federal system governing labour relations puts the emphasis on mediation and conciliation and is generally effective at resolving the disputed issues in labour agreements.
In these negotiations, though, we have done everything possible to resolve the outstanding issues but our efforts have been in vain. The parties still have not managed to find a basis of agreement, and under the circumstances, we must consider the repercussions of a work stoppage in a broader context.
No one is happy to see people forced back to work, but we are living in unusual times that require us to take action. We must act quickly to avoid a lengthy interruption of postal service, which is an essential cog in the Canadian economy at a time when the economic recovery is still fragile.
Before speaking about the economic repercussions of this work stoppage and our responsibility to act—as several of my colleagues have done today—I would like to share some basic information about the dispute and explain how the process has led to the situation in which we find ourselves.
The negotiations between Canada Post and the members of the Urban Postal Operation unit of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers started in October 2010. The collective agreement governing nearly 50,000 postal workers expired on January 31, 2011. After more than eight months, the parties have failed to reach an agreement despite the efforts at negotiation, conciliation and mediation.
On May 30, the union gave the employer strike notice effective June 3. On that date, the Canada Post employees began their pressure tactics by launching rotating strikes. The Minister of Labour has played a proactive role from the beginning. On several occasions, she tried to bring the parties together in order to restart the negotiations. Despite all her efforts, the employer and the union have not managed to reach an agreement. On June 15, management declared a lockout, thereby putting an end to the rotating strikes. Since then, postal service has been paralyzed.
We therefore find ourselves in the very unfortunate situation of a work stoppage in which the employer and the union have not managed to reach an agreement, and their positions remain very far apart. This is not only unfortunate but very concerning. Canadians from coast to coast are quite anxious about the consequences for the economy and the effects on them. They feel caught between management and the employees. All Canadians are affected and penalized by this labour dispute, whether in regard to their companies or families or to seniors all across the country, including in Lévis—Bellechasse et les Etchemins, or whether living in urban or rural areas, because Canada Post plays a key role in our society.
We all remember the 1997 labour stoppage at Canada Post lasting two weeks. At the time, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimated that the stoppage had cost small and medium-sized businesses $200 million a day.
Even though the postal service has lost ground since 1997 to technologies like email, fax as well as electronic billing and banking, small and medium-sized businesses still rely heavily on the postal service for billing and processing orders. By May 18, when the federation released an open letter to the management of Canada Post, the federation and its 108,000 small and medium-sized businesses were already sounding the alarm.
They said, over a month ago, that they were concerned about continually rising costs at Canada Post and their impact on SMEs, which they say will push even more businesses to look for alternatives for their mail and will have a negative impact on Canada Post.
They went on to add that “for other small businesses, a lengthy mail interruption may negatively impact their firms”. Consider magazines, newspapers and other periodicals, for example. A majority of their circulation depends on the postal service provided by Canada Post. During a postal interruption there are no other practical and viable ways to distribute those publications.
This means that the periodicals industry will be hard hit if this postal interruption lasts any longer. And this is not the only example. A prolonged work stoppage would have negative repercussions for many other industries and segments of the public, whether it be our families, our seniors or our veterans. Some businesses are on high alert and are calling on the government to live up to its responsibilities.
Receiving cheques and accounts payable and delivering customer invoices, as well as sending and receiving important documents, are all disrupted by this dispute. Canada is barely starting to show signs of recovery after the economic crisis that hit the entire world hard. We are in a good position, thanks to the stability of our banking system and the extremely positive impact of our government’s economic action plan, and our economy is indeed continuing to grow more rapidly than the economies of the other industrialized countries.
In fact, we have had 2.9% growth this year, and growth is estimated to be 2.6% next year. But it is still fragile. We are facing a number of challenges, including major budget cuts, not to mention that the global economic recovery is moving slowly and there continue to be risks in the markets.
Canada is not on an island, and is not immune to the fluctuations and crises taking place in other parts of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to rest on our laurels. At this stage, we have to do everything we can to stimulate economic growth and job creation. That is what we have undertaken in the Speech from the Throne. We have said very clearly that our government “will continue to focus on jobs and growth”.
A lengthy interruption of postal services could counteract all the efforts made, not only by our government but also by our businesses, our associations, our community organizations and all Canadians, to promote the recovery and strengthen the foundations of our economy.
The figures speak volumes: it is estimated that each week Canada Post employees are on strike represents losses of $9 to $31 million for the Canadian economy. Each additional day of lockout causes significant commercial and financial losses for Canada.
The parties have had ample time to reach an agreement: over eight months. It would be irresponsible for us to allow matters to take their course at the risk of the situation becoming poisoned and this work stoppage going on for a long time.
The Canada Labour Code applies to federally regulated employees in key economic sectors. Part I of the Code deals with the rights and responsibilities of employers, unions and the Minister of Labour in the collective bargaining process, specifically when parties are unable to resolve their differences.
Ideally, the parties will be able to prevent and resolve issues in dispute by themselves. However, a deadlock may arise during the bargaining process and result in a labour dispute with implications that are extremely damaging to the national economy. When this kind of situation arises, Parliament has a duty to act, as it has in the past when similar situations have occurred.
In the past 60 years, our Parliament has used this instrument 32 times. Under the legislation we are proposing, a four-year collective agreement may be put in place. This new collective agreement would include wage increases phased in over the four-year period. In addition to ensuring the immediate resumption and continuation of postal services, the bill we introduced yesterday would make arbitration the method for resolving issues that remain bones of contention between the parties.
The onus will be on the arbitrator to choose between the final proposals made by union and management. It should be noted however that this legislation in no way prevents the parties from continuing the bargaining process and reaching an agreement, which is what occurred in 1997. Our government lives up to its responsibilities and is pressing both management and labour to reach an agreement.
The bill specifically provides that parties may agree to enter into new collective agreements at any time. It is our fervent hope that the parties continue to negotiate to resolve this conflict before the arbitrator has to step in and make a determination.
Lastly, the act would come into force 24 hours after royal assent, thereby giving workers an opportunity to fully acquaint themselves with the requirements and implications of the legislation. This is an exceptional measure that has come at a time when economic recovery is still fragile. I can assure the House that this decision was not made lightly, as I have made clear. We are aware, however, that there is no benefit to delaying the process and that Canadians expect our government to live up to its responsibilities. We are determined to take the necessary steps to protect the interests of Canadians and of our economy.
In closing, in order to safeguard our economic recovery and the well-being of Canadians, I would encourage all members of the House to support our government’s actions to put an end to this dispute, thereby ensuring the resumption of regular mail services throughout the country.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on being elected Speaker. I also wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary East, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is doing a remarkable job.
I am very honoured to participate in this important debate today. I am able to do so because I was re-elected by the people of Lévis, Bellechasse and Les Etchemins on May 2. I would first like to thank them for their continued support.
I would also like to thank all the volunteers who worked on the election campaign and my office staff, my team, who, for more than five years, have worked on behalf of the people of Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins. I would like to say that we are here for all the people in my riding, to meet their needs and give them the straight goods, to the best of our knowledge.
Naturally, I would like to thank the members of my family: my parents, Monique and Irvin, an accordion player whom many people know; my children, who are becoming increasingly involved in this adventure, sometimes in spite of themselves; and my wife Marie, who is always by my side. If we are in this place, it is because we have people who make it possible for us to perform this wonderful duty, and I am very grateful to them. I would also like to thank my in-laws, Louise and Jacques, who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
We live today in such a great country because we stand up for the values of freedom as well as for the women and children who live here and elsewhere. I want to take part in this debate today in order to maintain peace here and abroad.
As has been said in many speeches today, the humanitarian situation in Libya remains very precarious and, unfortunately, continues to deteriorate. There is a serious crisis in terms of the protection of civilians, and our main concern remains the fate of people trapped in areas where there is fighting, including Tripoli, Misrata and the mountainous region in the western part of the country.
Damages to infrastructure and shortages of money and gas will likely have significant repercussions on the population over the weeks and months to come, particularly on the most vulnerable. That is why Canada remains committed to the mission in Libya and is determined to ensure that Libyans' most basic humanitarian needs are met.
The UN assessment mission in Misrata found that infrastructure in the downtown core had been generally destroyed. What is even more worrisome are the deficiencies when it comes to protection, particularly the protection of women and children, that the mission also found. We are extremely worried about the allegations of sexual violence used by military forces as a weapon against civilians. We have called for a thorough investigation into the situation so that the aggressors can be brought to justice for these deplorable acts.
Furthermore, the use of anti-personnel mines by Gadhafi's forces and the negative impact they are having on the ability of humanitarian organizations to carry out their activities is completely unacceptable. We are especially concerned about the situation in the mountainous region in western Libya. We have emphatically told the Libyan government of the importance of providing civilians with basic necessities and we have urged that country's government to ensure that humanitarian organizations have unrestricted and safe access.
To date, Canada has responded to international appeals for humanitarian aid by giving some $8.6 million to its partners in the region. The full amount of this contribution was allocated and spent and it provided the people of Libya with much needed water, essential items, food, shelter and emergency medical care.
In conjunction with the Canadian International Development Agency, we are working with several partners, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Food Programme and the United Nations Department of Security and Safety. Canada has also taken a leading role in ensuring that the humanitarian situation in Libya steadily improves; however, there is still much work to be done.
On June 9, it was estimated that over 660,000 people had left Libya and not returned and that 135,000 people had been internally displaced.
Canada continues to raise serious concerns about the measures taken by the Gadhafi regime, which have led Libyans and migrants to leave the country to go to Egypt, Tunisia and other neighbouring countries. As well, we have publicly exhorted the Gadhafi regime and the anti-Gadhafi forces to protect civilians.
The Gadhafi regime chose to wage a war on its own people. In so doing, it violated international law. In light of this blatant disregard for human rights and international law, Canada was among the first to demand that the regime immediately cease the attacks on its own people and guarantee that the perpetrators of these deplorable crimes would be brought to justice.
Our country, Canada, was one of the first to ask the UN Security Council to bring the situation before the International Criminal Court, and we have strongly supported the creation of an international commission of inquiry into the human rights violations. The preliminary results of this inquiry have confirmed the severity of the crimes committed. The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has asked that warrants be issued for the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi, his son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, and his brother-in-law, Abdullah Senussi.
The prosecutor alleged that these three people planned and ordered crimes against humanity and organized widespread, systematic attacks against civilian populations, including murder, torture and persecution. The international community cannot and will not tolerate this situation. The international commission of inquiry conducted an investigation and found that crimes against humanity and war crimes had been committed by Libyan government forces. What is more, the commission says there are indications that these crimes are part of a strategy devised by Colonel Gadhafi and his inner circle.
Canada is extremely alarmed by the allegations, which are currently under investigation by these two bodies, that the Libyan regime systematically uses rape and sexual violence as an instrument to repress its population. When used as a weapon of war, rape is a war crime and a contemptible act. When used to systematically attack, repress and terrorize people, rape can also be a crime against humanity. These are heinous acts of sexual violence perpetrated to advance the military objectives of a regime. We unreservedly condemn these acts and express our most sincere sympathy to the victims.
These reprehensible acts are the reason for Canada's involvement in the NATO mission. War crimes and crimes against humanity are serious crimes that threaten world peace, security and well-being. The scope, extent and brutality of these acts make them international crimes, an international concern that calls for an international response. The international community must demonstrate a collective determination and continue to guarantee accountability and protection for the people of Libya.
Canada supports the investigations by the commission of inquiry and the International Criminal Court. The perpetrators of these crimes have to face justice, and these crimes must never be committed again. Let the people in Libya who continue to order these heinous crimes be warned that the world is watching and they will not escape justice.
Canada will ensure that those who seek to remain in power in Libya by committing these crimes against their people are arrested and held accountable for their actions. Canada's role in Libya must continue for the reasons I just mentioned. Colonel Gadhafi must leave. The Libyan people must be liberated and protected.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here for a third term, thanks to the support of my constituents in Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition recognizes the excellent measures in our budget, particularly for our veterans with the helmets to hardhats program, as well as sales tax harmonization, which is an important issue for many Quebeckers.
However, he now has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 680,000 seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement by $600 per year for single seniors and up to $840 per year for couples. The people of my riding have been waiting for this measure for weeks and months, if not years. We have seen this budget before. We, the members of this House, have the opportunity today to pass this budget before the summer recess, in order to deliver real change that will help our seniors and to adopt measures that will stimulate our economy.
This budget contains measures concerning energy efficiency. It also contains an important project for the Quebec City region: the National Optics Institute or INO.
Will the Leader of the Opposition support measures to give our most vulnerable seniors extra income, to improve energy efficiency and to support the INO in Quebec City?
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his recent appointment.
As the member is aware, under the Privacy Act, I cannot discuss the specific details of this individual case. However, I was given a mandate by the people of Lévis—Bellechasse and today, as the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I commit myself to bettering the lives of our veterans, and I count on the support of all members in the House, starting today.
What took place many years ago was unfortunate and was an unacceptable mistake. Corrective measures were taken. I have instructed my officials to follow up on this veteran's case—
Mr. Speaker, instead of doing his job as an elected official and defending the interests of the Davie workers, the Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse has lambasted the shipyard, urging its administrators to find a serious investor. This is unbelievable.
While it is his government that is hurting Davie's recovery, he has the nerve to blame the shipyard's management.
How can the Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse and his government abandon the Davie workers like this? Have they written off the shipyard, just as they have written off Quebec?
Mr. Speaker, it is completely normal for government suppliers to be solvent. However, by requiring that bidders meet this condition 50 days prior to the submission deadline, a condition that was not set out in the preliminary documents, the Conservatives gave the Davie shipyard fewer weeks to restructure. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse should follow the example of his counterpart in the Quebec National Assembly and insist that the federal government give the Davie shipyard a fair chance to submit a bid.
Will they stop trying to sabotage the Davie shipyard's recovery?
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. Bloc Québécois colleagues for supporting me in my speech on the budget.
I am pleased to speak here today, because the budget is of particular interest to me. As the member for Québec and caucus chair for the Quebec City region, I cannot help but note that the Quebec City region has been forgotten in this budget. The budget reads more like an election speech, since the measures within the budget are simply a smattering of goodies for vulnerable groups.
The Conservatives will say that, during the election campaign, seniors will not get their $50 a month. They said we did not read the budget, but with our experience here in the House of Commons, we have a good research service and members who have a thorough grasp of their files. From a careful look at the budget, we could see right away how little it has to offer Quebec.
We made some very targeted requests in precise figures. In fact, the Conservative Minister of Finance even said that the Bloc had done a good job. So why are we not voting in favour of this budget at the outset? We had asked for $2.2 billion in compensation for harmonizing the GST and the QST. Six provinces have been compensated, including British Columbia, Ontario and the maritime provinces. Yet Quebec is being ignored. Several billion dollars were given to those provinces in compensation: $1.6 billion to British Columbia, $4.3 billion to Ontario and $1 billion to the Maritimes, for a total of about $7 billion. Quebec paid $1.75 billion of that amount to compensate them. We are asking for $2.2 billion.
It is also shocking to see how quickly the Conservatives agreed to that: after 244 days for Ontario and 131 days for British Columbia. How long has Quebec been waiting for an agreement to be signed? How many days? It has been 6,841 days. It is truly shocking to watch the Conservatives drag their feet on this issue.
Earlier, the Conservative member for Beauport—Limoilou said that we are always whining. We read the papers just like everyone else, just like the citizens of the Quebec City region. We know very well that Minister Bachand has been working hard while trying not to upset the Conservatives too much because they react easily and he does not want them to slam the door and say that they will not compensate Quebec. Nevertheless, Quebec has been waiting for this money. If Quebec had $2.2 billion dollars in its coffers, the Government of Quebec would be able to pay off 60% of its deficit, which would give it more flexibility to meet the needs of the people.
Conservative MPs from the Quebec City area should have demonstrated more leadership with regard to this budget, which could be called an election announcement. The epicentre for the MPs that were elected here in the House is the Quebec City region, which has six representatives. If there is an election—we are, of course, still waiting to see if there will be one—we will hound the Quebec City region's MPs. They will have to answer questions. During debates or when they are interviewed by our local and regional newspapers, they will have to answer, in an intelligent way, certain questions that we want to ask them.
For example, they put on Nordiques jerseys to support the team coming back to Quebec City. We do not know why they put those sweaters on but, in the end, they did not bring in any funding for the Quebec City arena. They said that private funding was needed. Private funding was obtained and then they wanted something else. The real reason was put in writing. There was a directive from the Prime Minister's office stating that funding would not be given for arenas anywhere in Canada. The Conservatives also wanted to make it seem as though this arena would be used exclusively for sports. That is untrue. This is a multi-purpose arena that would house cultural and sporting events, as well as some Olympic events. Clearly, the people of Quebec City have been misled.
Furthermore, a number of issues have been put on the back burner, for example, the Quebec Bridge.
My hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert has worked hard on defending that issue in the Quebec City area. He also moved a motion in the House calling on the government to repurchase the bridge and enter into discussion with the owners, CN, to find a solution. Again, we saw the Conservatives' bad faith with this file. They acted just like the Liberals and let the matter drag on, saying it was up to the courts to decide. In the meantime, as in Montreal, the bridge is rusting and it could end up costing more than we think. This was an important issue for the Quebec City area.
The Shannon issue is one that I have followed closely and on which I have dogged the government. The groundwater in Shannon is contaminated. We will not get into details about the levels of contamination, but the shocking thing is that the government failed to include any money in this budget for decontamination.
It would cost roughly $20 million a year for a technique that might be better than the last one. This technique would allow us to move forward and clean up the groundwater so that people in the municipality of Shannon can be safe. I know that this case is currently before the courts, but enough with the excuses.
Before the last election, many things were promised. For example, they promised to resolve the mail sorting centre issue and to do something for the zoo. Once the election was over, we did not hear another word about these plans and they moved on to other things. Many things need to be addressed and there will be many more challenges to face for the development of the Quebec City area.
The Prime Minister said in his speech, the day after bringing down this electoral budget, that he was focused on job creation. If there is one issue in the Quebec City area that all members from Quebec City should focus on it is the Davie shipyard issue.
The rules for the request for proposals were changed causing the shipyard to lose weeks, and thereby preventing it from being able to restructure and become solvent. Regardless of what we want to do in this case, they have stymied our ability to be proactive.
In Le Soleil or the Journal de Québec, a daily newspaper in our region, the counterpart of the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse has said he thinks the federal government should be much broader in its request for proposals and give this company the opportunity to prove its solvency.
What is shocking is hearing the leader of the members from the Quebec City region, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, say that the Quebec City region should not expect the Davie shipyard to be a priority. We can see what little weight she carries in cabinet when it comes to talking about the Davie shipyard. She herself said that there should be no expectations, even if the Davie shipyard were solvent. She should stand up for her region and be proactive. She should do everything she can to ensure that the Davie shipyard receives its fair share. The total for all of the contracts is said to be $35 billion. Could the Quebec City region not receive its fair share? We are talking about 2,700 jobs and economic spinoffs to the tune of $2.1 billion, but the Conservatives are nowhere to be seen.
Earlier, I mentioned the Quebec Bridge. Money was taken from the fund for the continental gateway strategy to restore the Champlain Bridge. This fund is meant for modifications or economic inputs in connection with the St. Lawrence River and for the continental gateway. The money being taken from that fund is not new money, and that is what I find despicable about how this government works. We are seeing a smattering of goodies to please voters. I think that vulnerable groups are being held hostage. We know what the Conservatives are capable of doing. During the previous election, we saw how they could dangle the idea of another $50, but we also know that there was a price.
So it is not for everyone. People need to take a close look at this measure.
It is too bad; I would have liked to speak longer. the Quebec City region and a number of leaders were disappointed by the Conservatives' motives in the region—
Mr. Speaker, I understand that the member for Lévis—Bellechasse is nervous because he has not managed this file well. That said, the claims he made about my colleague lying have to do with the political debate.
The government found original ways to help the automotive industry in southern Ontario by investing in GM, for example. The government was able to help the industry. But it is not able to make the same kind of effort for Davie in Lévis. If he wants to continue with the debate we will do so, but I think that this has to do with the debate and not a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, concerned about the fact that the Conservative government is trying to exclude the Davie shipyard from a major request for proposals, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously adopted a motion calling on the federal government to be fair. The Conservatives and the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse have to stop sabotaging Davie's recovery.
Why did the government change the request for proposals midstream, thereby giving the Davie shipyard less time to restructure?
The electoral district of Lévis--Bellechasse (Quebec) has a population of 105,927 with 87,830 registered voters and 248 polling divisions.
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