Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher was in Winnipeg this weekend to celebrate the best of Canadian music at the Junos.
The proud people of Winnipeg were all about music last week, celebrating en masse how music brings culture to life and makes it travel the world.
Our music thrives from coast to coast, from Quebec City's Karim Ouellet and Burlington's own Walk Off the Earth, to Calgary's Tegan and Sara, the multi-talented and awarded Serena Ryder, and Métis band, A Tribe Called Red. Music in Canada is prolific, diverse, and alive.
I want to congratulate the winners of the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, iconic couple Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk, for all the work they have done with War Child Canada.
Times are changing for musicians as the digital world changes the way we access music. It is up to us as parliamentarians to make sure Canadian music shines and remains a strong cultural industry.
If the name is used in a quotation, the same rule applies. The member should replace it with the member's title or riding.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
Order, please. The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher is rising on a point of order.
It is okay, Mr. Speaker. I have no problem talking over the opposition.
It is a pleasure to rise again to complete my discussion on the Canadian museum of history. As I said in questions and comments earlier, it is really a shame that for the 50th time we have had to force the opposition to debate a bill in the House. The opposition has been so afraid to do work that, for the 50th time, the government has been forced to bring in time allocation, after eight and a half months of those members delaying and refusing to deal with the important business of the people of Canada. We have been forced to bring in the motion so we can deal with the important matters of governing. It is truly amazing, and I am sure the massive amounts of people watching at home are wondering to themselves what would happen in this country if we ever let the opposition govern. Nothing would get done. Those members would probably talk themselves in circles.
We have heard a lot about what is actually in the bill. Opposition members keep saying we did not listen to them with respect to amendments, and it keeps talking about how we brought in time allocation. As the minister said, this piece of legislation has been before us for eight and a half months, and as much as the opposition has talked about the things it does not like in the bill, 99% of the amendments it brought in were focused on one thing and that was the addition of one word to the name of the museum. Opposition members focused on that in committee. They were okay with calling it the Canadian museum of history, but they wanted us to add the word “civilization”. That made up 99% of their concerns.
After eight and a half months and hours of debate, this legislation sailed through committee. It did not even take us the full amount of time in committee to deal with the proposed amendments. As a result of there being so little opposition by the parties opposite, the legislation sailed through. Because we did not agree to adding that one word, they want to continue debate for many more months.
A number of things have been brought forward by the opposition. I will focus on the opposition critic, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who talked a lot about critical understanding. Using his own words in his speech, he said, “What a scary word. The museum will no longer have the mandate to share its wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world”. That was one of the reasons he will not support the bill. Had he read paragraph 9(1)(h) on the second page of the bill, he would have seen it says that the museum will be continuing to do research.
That member also talked about how the people of Ottawa and Quebec and the tourism commission would react to this legislation. We already know that the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau support the bill. The original architect Douglas Cardinal supports the bill. Thousands of Canadians participated in discussions and consultations with respect to the new mandate of the museum.
Hundreds of Canadians across Canada are excited about this new Canadian museum of history. Communities across the country are excited at having the opportunity to share in the collections that are currently in storage. Even more important, as we approach Canada's 150th birthday we would have a new institution that would tell the stories of Canada, not only to Canadians but to people around the world. We live in the best country in the world and we should not be afraid to show that off, not only to Canadians but to people around the world.
I commend the Minister of Canadian Heritage for bringing the bill forward. I also commend all those members on both sides of the House who will be supporting it.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for those responses. I just want to touch further on a bit of the independence that he talked about. The member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in his speech said governments should not be deciding what is in our museums. That seems like a pretty obvious principle.
He went on to say that the contents of museums should be left up to the experts and professionals and that the government, and we as legislators, have no place in determining content or the orientation of a national--
Mr. Speaker, that was a long 20 seconds.
I am happy to join in the debate this evening on Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
In plain language, it is a bill to change the name and mandate of Canada's most popular and successful museum for reasons that make the Conservatives happy, but has others wondering if we will sacrifice a world renowned museum in order to celebrate some sterilized 1950s version of Canada in its place.
In addition to that, we know that while the government is changing the name of the museum, it is financially starving and constraining those individuals who do the work the museum is built upon. If it sounds ironic, it is because it is.
At the heart of this debate is a basic contradiction. The government claims it is interested in the country's history and wants to celebrate it and make the public more aware of it. However, the same government has undermined research into our history more than any other government.
With respect to the bill, the government is not listening to the historians, archeologists, archivists, anthropologists and ethnologists, the experts on our history who make it their life's work. Sadly, this is consistent behaviour for a government that seems to value its opinion more than fact and goes out of its way to starve and silence those who prefer the benefit of strong empirical evidence.
We see that across all manner of legislation and this is merely another in a long stream. When it comes to silencing, dismissing and starving critics, we could be talking about environmental research, the census or even the work of the NRC.
It is part of a larger pattern of behaviour to reshape Canada in dangerous and limiting ways. Certainly we have heard from professionals, researchers and experts that budget cuts combined with the federal government's consistent meddling in their affairs in research will have lingering negative effects on their work and the research that ultimately helps us understand our history better.
It would seem the Conservatives want to have their version of Canada become the official history of our country, which would certainly amount to official revisionism. Revisionism is a dangerous thing that can happen when a government does not like the portrayal of its country and sets about meddling in history to suit its sensibilities.
Not understanding our history or whitewashing it to reflect governing party values is revolutionary in exactly the wrong way, and we have certainly heard a lot about whitewashing this past month.
It reeks of anti-intellectualism and reminds me more of the actions of tin pot dictators than it does of modern western democracy. Last week my colleague, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, gave a strong speech showing how the government was playing fast and loose with Parks Canada, which maintains many historic sites, including some that are certified “historic” by UNESCO, which is the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture.
He explained how the government had laid off more than 80% of the archeologists and curators, those who take care of historic sites and preserve our precious artifacts. Now there are only about 10 archaeologists working for Parks Canada across the country, for all of our national parks, national historic sites and world heritage sites.
The member also gave a frank and clear warning that world heritage site status was not a given and UNESCO could revoke that status at any time.
I would hope the government had been listening to the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, but will keep my expectation in check at the same time.
Tonight, the government has the gall to tell us that it wants to promote history when the facts are, through indiscriminate budget cuts, it is actually walking away from fragile historic sites across the country. For example, it is planning to remove carefully preserved artifacts from Parks Canada's regional facilities in Quebec City, only to put them in storage in Ottawa. It is unbelievable. That makes our history less accessible and can never be considered promoting it.
Sadly, this is in keeping with the actions of a government that continually says one thing but does another.
The Conservatives say they are interested in history, but at the same time they have set about weakening and destroying every single federal public institution responsible for protecting our history. They have cut deep into Parks Canada, which is responsible for protecting our 167 national historic sites as well as Canada's world heritage. They hobbled Library and Archives Canada as well. In fact, the guardian of Canada's archives for 140 years, both as the National Archives and as the National Library, whose experts, archivists, professional librarians and others are recognized and admired around the world for their work, did not escape indiscriminate cuts. Now those wonderful exhibition halls are closed and those people find themselves out of work. For a government that says it promotes jobs and the economy, that is not the way to go.
We have to be clear and understand that this is a government that cut millions of dollars from research and the preservation of Canadian history. This is a government that laid off hundreds of archivists, librarians, digitization experts, historians and professionals at Library and Archives Canada. This is a government that destroyed programs like the national archival development program, which supported small communities all over Canada to create their own local community archives, allowing Library and Archives Canada to accomplish an essential part of its mandate. This is a government that almost put a complete stop to the acquisition of historic documents and artifacts by cutting the Library and Archives Canada $1 million budget to $12,000 a year. Yes, members heard it right. The Conservative government cut the budget of Library and Archives Canada from $1 million to just $12,000. Unbelievable.
This is a government that has allowed irreplaceable manuscripts and relics of our history to slip through our fingers and be purchased by auction houses and speculators, and then be exported to shady warehouses in the United States.
When the Conservatives claim they want to promote history, we can be excused if we meet that claim with a good degree of cynicism. When they want to change the name and mandate of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they should be reminded that it has existed in one form or another for almost 150 years. In fact, some of the collection existed before Confederation.
The museum's mandate is “…to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements and human behaviour by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behaviour, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent.”
Now this has to change and the focus would be on Canadian history.
One should not mess with success in that way. The Louvre has not been rebranded to promote more art from France. The British Museum has been going strong for hundreds of years. These are just examples. My point is that a museum requires continuity to gain credibility and become well known. That is what has happened to the Museum of Civilization, and the government is not willing to admit that a rebrand would amount to a new start and building a new reputation from the ground up. This is because of a notion that we do not celebrate our history enough.
Canada Hall will be gutted to make way for this. The fact is, arguably, the hall contains the most impressive display of Canadian history in the world. We will also be walking away from a commitment to maintain a collection of objects for research and posterity, which is absolutely shocking.
Many of these proposed changes indicate an interest in adopting a simpler story of Canadian history. However, critics worry that there is a risk of excluding different experiences from Canada's past that may not fit into an unchallenging narrative. That is not the Canada most people see or want to see. A country's greatness comes in some ways from the acknowledgement of its warts. The colonization of first nations or the regrettable treatment of ethnic minorities are not items that should be forgotten or marginalized.
We are supposed to learn from our history, but there is no guarantee that is what we will do. In fact, most of the renovations are shrouded in secrecy and we are being asked to give this our stamp of approval, which is something New Democrats are not prepared to do.
In closing, let us not change what works. Let us acknowledge the Museum of Civilization as a great achievement that celebrates Canadian history as it is and be proud of our achievement and contribution to the great museums of the world.
Point of order. The member for Huron—Bruce will have to take his chair for a moment.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher on a point of order.
The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for a short question.
Again, could I direct all members of the House to direct their comments to the Chair and not to each other or other members of the House?
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to begin my speech by replying to my hon. colleague from Essex.
This debate is far too serious to play the “my dad is stronger than your dad” game. The Liberals invented the infrastructure program and really emphasized it. This is not about what has been done, but what we can do right now, and that is the goal of my colleague's motion. We are not judging what has already been done. We can be critical and partisan. Besides, it was minority Liberal governments that helped bring forward this kind of budget.
What is important today is to reflect appropriately on the federal government's role in relation to the municipalities. We must not get caught up in a constitutional dispute, since some will say that municipalities are creatures of the provinces. The reality is that sharing, funding and pilot projects will help improve people's quality of life.
The Liberal Party and I will be supporting today's motion. We believe that not only is it important to do so, but the motion itself is also consistent with our party's position on infrastructure.
Indeed, we need an effective strategy and we need to listen to our constituents. As my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher said earlier, we now have an infrastructure deficit of $171 billion. What is more, we also know that over 30% of existing infrastructure is failing and in deplorable condition. Of course, no single municipality or provincial government will be able to resolve the situation.
At present, we have a serious governance problem. One of the most important measures that we need to adopt is what is known as “dedicated funds”. Now, we have a certain amount of money, we set that money aside and we do not necessarily know where that money will go. If we want to be effective when it comes to transportation, housing and infrastructure, we need to bring back the notion of “dedicated funds” for urban transit and basic infrastructure. When it comes to infrastructure, if we are talking more and more about sustainable development, we also need to do things differently, to do them correctly.
We must find a new way to invest more, particularly in the greater Montreal area, where there are problems with bridges and public transportation. This is the digital age and we have new management methods, as my colleague, the official opposition transport critic, said, and the whole notion of productivity is closely tied to infrastructure.
That is why the Prime Minister at the time, Paul Martin, was the first to talk about bringing back the gas tax. I commend this Conservative government for having the good sense to make it permanent. Just because we are in the opposition does not mean that we must oppose everything. Of the many initiatives put forward at the time, making this tax permanent was a good thing. But we must now double it and index it.
It is an ongoing process. We need to make sure that from now on it is not only permanent, but it is indexed and doubled. This is key.
My colleague from Essex was right when he talked about its importance to municipalities, but it is not a one-shot deal. We need to find a better way with these dedicated funds to provide the right funding for the future. It is a good policy, so we have to go further than that, I would suggest.
One of the problems was that we thought we knew the Conservatives' track record since 2007. The reality is that we will renew this plan in 2014. If we want to do so, we must start now to develop benchmarks for the future. We must think in terms of dedicated funds and also long-term funding.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, for one, is talking about planning for up to 20 years. This must be the start of a discussion on governance. We may be able to think about a 20-year span, but with renewals every five years. Do we need benchmarks? They do not necessarily need to be written in stone.
We definitely need to redefine the long-term vision. We can no longer operate only in the short term. In the current context, we also often need to take measures that will give the municipalities the tools they need—updated tools—even if they are receiving money on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, this is too often not enough. The Liberal Party is supportive of a long-term fiscal commitment to municipal infrastructure.
We have been calling for predictable and sustainable funding for a long time. We need to redefine what we mean by “infrastructure” in order to determine whether we are referring to productivity, housing or other aspects.
When I was president of the Privy Council, I called it “smart regulation”. We need to bring back the notion of smart cities. Smart cities mean smart citizens and smart regulations. It is not just based on mortar; different digital strategies have to be put forward as well.
We are proud of our country. However, people identify less and less with their country or continent and, instead, identify with their city. We must go beyond the issue of jurisdiction and share tools interdepartmentally. It is no good to have a department responsible for infrastructure. Human resources, the Minister of Industry and the person responsible for innovation must work together to acquire the necessary tools. The word “infrastructure” must be clearly defined.
For that reason, I think we must consider holding a federal-provincial conference. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister may be meeting with premiers individually instead. It has been too long since the last federal-provincial conference. We need a specific strategy for infrastructure and the future of the municipalities. We must develop tools in order to improve people's quality of life. I am thinking about green infrastructure, digital infrastructure and core infrastructure.
Montreal is having major problems despite all the money invested. We are still losing 40% of our drinking water, despite current investments. We do not need just the money that is currently being invested. We also need to acquire the necessary tools so that the government can invest more. As hon. members know, entities other than the Canadian government are responsible for over 60% of all infrastructure projects.
The government needs to develop a national public transit strategy with funding of its own, and a national general infrastructure and funding strategy.
Above all, I think that the government must avoid partisanship. It has to give itself permission to commend past investments and it has to come up with the right tools. There is still a long road ahead and a lot of work to do.
Earlier, the hon. member for Essex was talking about all the money from the building Canada fund. Instead of talking in concrete terms about the future, he said that the Conservatives have invested more than the Liberals. I would like to point out that an extraordinary minister, a prominent politician and a great Canadian, Herb Gray, also played a role in his region. We do not need to get into who is better. We need to start recognizing the infrastructure sector.
It is an ongoing issue. It is not just based on what one has done in the past, or if one has invested more than another. It is all about what is in it for the future. The more we invest for the future, the more impact we will have on the quality of our lives, on sustainable development and on other policies. However, we have to realize that if we do not have that kind of strategy, it will have an impact on human resources.
As a former minister of immigration, I was always there to discuss with my counterparts the future within the cities. For example, 87% of all the immigration goes through Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Of course, we need that kind of dialogue. We need the infrastructure. We need the transport because it has a direct impact on quality of life. This is not just an infrastructure debate; it is all about what kind of society we want to live in and what the future should be for our great country.
This motion may be the beginning of an interesting debate. As my party's critic for transport, infrastructure and communities, I already started having this conversation on the future of infrastructure at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I imagine there is a cause and effect relationship between that and the NDP's opposition motion. That is why we are in favour of this motion and why it must be adopted.
I think we need to take this debate further. This is an extremely broad issue. As far as repairs are concerned, we are talking about improving productivity in Canada, as I was saying earlier, and we are talking about partnership and transparent funding for the long term.
There is another important aspect that the government side touched on earlier.
It is important to make sure we are not living in a one-size-fits-all, so for every policy and program we promote, it is also important that we realize it is not just the major cities, but all the communities. If we want to make sure we are inclusive and everyone feels like a first class citizen, we will have to make sure we are listening to them.
This is an opportunity to counter cynicism. All political parties in this House must work together on this. It is a motion. We are constantly reminded by this government that a motion is not really binding. In my opinion, this could be the start of a worthwhile debate.
When I go out to speak to the people in my riding of Bourassa and the people of my city, Montreal—I am referring to the Montreal metropolitan area—many people talk to us about this issue. They do not have questions about the Constitution. They believe that we are all part of the solution and that we have specific work to do.
We have talked about social development and sustainable development. However, economic development is extremely important. If we want to be one of the world's great countries, and if we want to ensure that all cities can accommodate more businesses, it is important that our cities have decent infrastructure. Canada is an exporting country and does a huge amount of business with the rest of the world. We have to study what infrastructure can do for economic development and quality of life.
For example, as we prepare to enter into a free trade agreement with Europe, we must ensure that we put this infrastructure in place, because when European businesses want to become established in Canada, they will go to Montreal and have a look at the infrastructure. This is not just about the cities and provinces. When these people arrive, we welcome them to Canada. If we really want to welcome them to Canada, we have to ensure that we build proper infrastructure and that we work towards that.
I am very pleased to have participated in the debate on today's motion and, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I can say that we will support this motion.
The electoral district of Longueuil--Pierre-Boucher (Quebec) has a population of 98,032 with 77,111 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
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