Mr. Speaker, if you will indulgence me a little, for more than six months, our committee has been looking at the electoral boundaries from coast to coast. I would like to thank the committee for its hard work and its teamwork on this project.
I would like to thank our clerk, Marie-France. She is the best. Michel and Andre, our analysts, got the report right and in as good a form as we possibly could. I would also like to thank our junior analyst, Charles, who was there for one day. All of the other committee supports and translations have been superb throughout the whole long process.
I would like to thank the more than 100 MPs who presented to our committee, and I would also like to thank the members of the committee, the members for Louis-Saint-Laurent, Hull—Aylmer, Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Toronto—Danforth, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Oxford, Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, Brampton—Springdale, Richmond Hill and Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. They are a heck of a team, and they got it done well.
I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 61st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in relation to the report on the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House this morning to present the reasons I support Canada's economic action plan 2013, Bill C-60. This plan, introduced by the best finance minister in the world, is thoughtful and reasonable, and most of all, it will help Canada with its economic recovery.
The global economy is still weak, and the economies of several European nations are very precarious. The economy of the United States, our biggest trading partner, is shaky. Canada's per capita GDP has been higher than that of the U.S. since 2011. That is unprecedented.
According to the highly reputable World Bank, Canada's per capita GDP was $50,343 in 2011, compared to $48,112 in the U.S. The performance in our country is 5% higher than our southern neighbour's. The World Bank also stated that Canada's per capita GDP growth outstripped that of our neighbours to the south.
Since 2010, our per capita GDP grew by 8.9%, compared to 3.2% for our most important economic partner. According to Statistics Canada’s report “Canada at a Glance 2013”, our country’s per capita GDP is higher than that of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. However, the government does not boast about these achievements. I am probably the first intervener to share these statistics with the House.
Canada is essentially an exporting country, so our economic recovery continues to depend on foreign markets. Nevertheless, since the depth of the recession, in July 2009, one million net new jobs have been created, the strongest economic growth of all the G7 countries. Ninety per cent of these one million net new jobs are full time, and 80% are in the private sector.
Independent organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predict that Canada will have the strongest growth of all the G7 nations in the coming years. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 has been so successful that the opposition has not had any questions for the best Minister of Finance in the world for several weeks. This plan proposes no tax increases. Small and medium-sized businesses have therefore been able to breathe easier since 2006.
In 2006, a typical small business with a taxable income of $500,000 paid, on average, nearly $84,000 in taxes. That amount has since dropped by $28,600, to $55,000. That is how we help businesses create jobs and drive innovation. While the opposition parties want to increase taxes on all fronts, the government has understood that low taxes are the best way to spur economic renewal. That is certainly why we were the last country to go into the recession and were the first to get out of it.
Thanks to our record of tax relief, a typical family will save more than $3,200 in 2013. One million lower-income Canadians will no longer pay taxes. We are on track to a balanced budget in 2015. That is great news. Thanks to measures to reduce spending and additional revenue, lower travel costs because of technology, the pursuit of measures to limit public service compensation and the elimination of tax loopholes benefiting a few taxpayers, we are even projecting a surplus of around $800 million in 2015-16.
That is a cautious projection. I should also point out that the net debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest, by far, of all the G7 countries.
Moreover, before the economic crisis hit our country, the government paid down $37 billion of our debt, bringing it to the lowest level in 25 years, and we will balance the budget without doing so on the backs of the provinces, as the third party did in the 1990s.
In 2013-14, the federal government will transfer $9 billion more to Ontario than did the previous government. This funding will give Ontario a second wind, allowing it to pay for increasingly costly health care. By investing in transfers to the provinces, we will avoid the psychodrama that unfolded in Ontario with the closures of 44 hospitals in the 1990s.
At that time we almost lost the only francophone hospital west of Quebec, the Montfort Hospital.
There is an old saying that you can tell a good workman by his tools. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 is there to give Canadians the right tools so they can stand out internationally. It is statistically proven that a number of skilled occupational groups are having a hard time recruiting workers.
We see that 6% of scientific jobs are unfilled. The figure for skilled jobs is 5.2%, and the national average is around 3.9%. If the companies that are having trouble recruiting staff were able to find what they are looking for, the unemployment rate would certainly reach record lows. That is why the government, under Bill C-60, aims to match Canadians with the jobs that are available.
By involving the federal and provincial governments, and with the participation of the private sector, we will be able to invest $15,000 per person to help job seekers gain the skills they need to fill the jobs that are in demand. I want to emphasize the word “invest”, since this is indeed an investment that will pay off in the medium and long term.
We will also continue to invest in our youth, the future of our great country. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 will promote education in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades.
We want to support high school students at risk of dropping out with tutoring and mentoring. Giving these students a role model is one of the best things we can do so they can walk out of school with diplomas.
Because we need to prepare for the future, the government also proposes to support young entrepreneurs by awarding $18 million to the Canada Youth Business Foundation. Young entrepreneurs would benefit from useful advice through mentoring, learning resources and start-up financing.
The Canada jobs grant is not the only initiative that would make a big difference for the families of Ottawa—Orléans and elsewhere in the country. Before my first election to this House 2,693 days ago, I pledged to assist families who adopt children. Adopting a child is one of the noblest gestures someone can make in our society. It gives an often needy child a chance to find a home and role models, thereby giving the child a much brighter future.
Bill C-60 will help families who want to change a child’s life through adoption. To help adoptive parents with the costs they face early in the process, certain adoption-related expenses that are incurred before a child’s adoption file is opened will be eligible for the adoption expense tax credit.
Under this tax credit, Canadians could claim adoption-related expenses from the moment they registered with a provincial ministry responsible for adoptions or a government-certified organization or from the moment an adoption request was referred to a Canadian court. The tax credit would apply to all adoptions completed after 2012.
It is my fondest wish that this measure will help more young children find a home.
Families would also be supported through various other initiatives, including our expanding tax relief for home care services, simplifying funeral and burial program for veterans, improving palliative care and combatting family violence.
I am not just talking about what this government has done since 2006, such as the universal child care credit, the family caregiver tax credit and the creation of the registered disability savings plan.
On the subject of job creation, we should highlight the Minister of State for Science and Technology and his tremendous work with the National Research Council of Canada, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016.
This agency, the National Research Council, employs 4,000 people in 50 locations across the country, one of which is at the doorstep of Ottawa—Orléans. The NRC is one of the pillars of Canada's innovation system. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, many innovations have languished on dusty shelves and have not been brought to market. Therefore, the NRC, an agency I value a great deal and have been supporting for several decades, would become more closely aligned with industry.
Global competition is intensifying and getting more complex, and Canada must carve out a place for itself. We have an enviable standard of living, but it comes with no guarantees.
We need to take action: we must encourage business to invest even more in research and technology development so that our country can enjoy sustained economic growth.
In co-operation with Canadian industries, which are major job creators themselves, the NRC will address Canada’s technological gaps so that we can remain an economic leader.
As part of this new approach, the NRC would support Canadian industries in large-scale research initiatives. As stated in Canada's economic action plan 2013, the NRC would receive $121 million to support this new role, and under the economic action plan, the government would also invest in world-class research and innovation by supporting advanced research and business innovation and by enhancing Canada's venture capital system.
As many in this House know, the spirit of volunteering and community support burns brightest in the constituency of Ottawa—Orléans.
There are some 300 organizations in Ottawa–Orléans that run mainly on one of the country’s most precious resources: volunteers.
Some of these agencies support seniors, like the Club 60 Rendez-vous des aînés francophones d’Ottawa and the Roy G. Hobbs Seniors Centre. The Orleans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is virtually at the centre of veterans' social life in east Ottawa. The list goes on.
These agencies must raise funds to support their activities. In addition to the work of their dedicated volunteers, they need donations to survive.
It is important to encourage philanthropy. That is what economic action plan 2013 is doing with its first-time donor super credit. This is a sensible way of encouraging new donors to make charitable contributions. The super credit complements the charitable donations tax credit by adding a 25% tax credit for a first-time donation of more than $1,000.
It is also innovative that couples can share the super credit.
With an economic recovery that was lagging due to economic instability in other countries, the government understood that it had to meet the demands of municipalities and move ahead with another plan for long-term investment in Canada's infrastructure.
The city of Ottawa and the district of Ottawa-Orleans have benefited greatly from this economic stimulus program. We need only consider the construction of a light rail line in Ottawa. It will be a total investment of $2.1 billion, $785 million of which is from the federal taxpayers through the building Canada plan and the federal gas tax fund.
Economic action plan 2013 is proposing $53 billion over ten years. The city of Ottawa has been dealing with waste water pouring into the Ottawa River for several years. Although sewers are obviously a municipal responsibility, the federal government has a role to play, since the waste water from the city of Ottawa is going into an interprovincial river between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
Alas, water runs downhill. That is why the government has invested close to $33 million to help the city carry out the first two phases of the Ottawa River action plan. There is still work to be done. The third phase has not yet received funding. I sincerely hope that support can be provided through the revamped building Canada fund.
These measures will help the great residents of Ottawa–Orléans regain full use of Petrie Island, treasure of this community. When I was a child, we could swim in the Ottawa River. That is not a good idea anymore, and we have to do something about it.
Building Canada is not the only infrastructure program under economic action plan 2013. The government has introduced a community improvement fund, which will invest $32.2 billion over 10 years through the gas tax fund and GST rebates to municipalities. The government also plans to renew the P3 Canada fund, which would invest $1.25 billion over five years to support projects through public-private partnerships.
As the House knows, I am a passionate advocate of our two official languages. Canada's linguistic duality is one of its greatest assets.
That is why I have given my full support to Bill C-419, which was tabled by the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. I congratulate her on this bill.
Canada’s economic action plan 2013 introduces the most far-reaching and generous initiative in our history to promote our two official languages. The new roadmap will continue to support the learning of English and French as second languages, and will continue its support for minority school systems so as to foster the development of citizens and communities.
In short, Canada's economic action plan 2013 meets the high standards that we have come to expect of our Minister of Finance. It is a plan that calls us to action through sensible and targeted measures.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your kind attention, and I assure you I will entertain my colleagues’ questions with the same respect.
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord. I listened carefully to his speech. However, I am not sure whether he himself paid attention to what he was saying. He was getting really agitated, practically tearing his hair out. At some point he could not even understand why I was applauding him.
I was applauding to show my support for the May 2, 2011 election result in the Louis-Saint-Laurent riding. I respect this result. I would like him to respect all the other results, including those that legitimately allowed the government currently in power to sit to the right of the Speaker.
In his speech he ranted about all kinds of issues under provincial jurisdiction, over which we have no authority whatsoever. The issue of the day is his proposal to abolish the Senate. I would like him to tell us what legal mechanism he intends to use to do that.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the House this afternoon about the merits of economic action plan 2013.
I would like to especially thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister for La Francophonie for his kind words at the beginning of his speech.
Although the worst of the economic crisis seems to be behind us, the government's priority must continue to be the economy and job creation. In that regard, economic action plan 2013 is right on the mark.
When the recession struck the best country in the world in 2008, the government responded with a bold plan to invest in our infrastructure. The city of Ottawa and the district of Ottawa—Orléans have benefited greatly from this economic stimulus program.
We need only consider the construction of an east-west light rail in Ottawa, a total investment of $2.1 billion, $785 million of which is from the federal taxpayers through the building Canada plan and the federal gas tax fund.
What is more, this capital investment, which is the top and only priority of the City of Ottawa, will create 20,000 jobs a year until 2018.
I would like to take this opportunity to salute the member for Ottawa West—Nepean and Mayor Jim Watson and councillors Rainer Bloess, Bob Monette, Stephen Blais and Tim Tierney for their leadership in advancing this file.
We can also point to the investment of nearly $25 million for the first two phases of the Ottawa River action plan and of $6.7 million for the extension of the Hunt Club Road to Highway 417.
Thanks to the infrastructure improvement fund announced in January 2009 to help kick-start the Canadian economy, the people of Ottawa—Orléans have seen the delivery of 11 projects that directly affect them, at a value of over $11 million.
With an economic recovery that was lagging due to economic instability in other countries, the government understood that it had to meet the demands of municipalities and move ahead with another plan for long-term investment in Canada's infrastructure.
What economic action plan 2013 is proposing is $53 billion over 10 years.
Even though construction of Ottawa's light rail began only last week, elected officials and employees are already working on plans to expand it—even as far as the eastern end of Orléans.
This important project is close to my heart, and it could be supported by the building Canada plan and the community infrastructure improvement fund.
As you all know, linguistic duality is one of the values of this country that I cherish the most.
The French and English languages are integral to our history, our identity and our future. They are a treasure that must be defended.
This is a value dear to the hearts of the wise electors of Ottawa—Orléans, where about 30% of the population is French-speaking.
That is not to say that this value is not also important to the English-speaking residents of Ottawa—Orléans. When they come to settle there, they know that one of their immediate neighbours is going to be French-speaking and they regard this as an asset. They regard linguistic duality as an asset.
The government shares this way of thinking. In addition to supporting the spirit of Bill C-419, the language skills act sponsored by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, the government has slightly increased the envelope of the roadmap for official languages, which stands at over $1.1 billion for 2013-18. This represents the most far-reaching investment in official languages in our history—an increase of 40% over the previous government's plan.
The new road map will continue to support the learning of English and French as second languages and will continue its support for minority school systems so as to foster the development of citizens and communities.
In an interview with L'Express, Ottawa's French-language weekly newspaper, Marie-France Kenny, the president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada, said:
We are happy; this will provide important leverage. For us, it's a real feat for the communities, the minister and the Prime Minister to have managed to maintain funding under the roadmap. For us, it is proof of the importance attributed to linguistic duality and the hard work that has been done in our communities for a year and a half to make our priorities known.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage promised to listen to Canadians before renewing the road map. He toured the country, organizing 23 round tables, in two of which I participated. He delivered the goods.
A little earlier, I was saying that job creation had to continue to be the government's priority. Small and medium-size enterprises are the engine of the Canadian economy. SMEs are the backbone of the Ottawa—Orléans economy. Businesses such as SURE Print, Lacroix Source for Sports in Orléans, the Massage and Treatment Clinic and Cuisine & Passion have come to set up shop.
It is my pleasure to recognize André Lacroix, who has owned Lacroix Source for Sports for 40 years. A terrific businessman, he is equally effective at giving back to the community, and he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
These companies are very well represented by the Orléans Chamber of Commerce and its dynamic team, with its president, Dan Levesque, its board of directors and its executive director, Jamie Kwong.
In addition to reducing income taxes and cutting red tape, the economic action plan is proposing to expand and extend the hiring credit for small business for one year.
This measure, which has proven its worth in recent years, should benefit 560,000 SMEs.
Furthermore, we are going to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption from $750,000 to $800,000, and then we will index it. This positive measure will improve the return on investment in small businesses by making things easier for entrepreneurs who want to pass on the family business to the next generation of Canadians.
The fate of our soldiers and veterans is very important to me. These brave people have sacrificed so much that our country can enjoy the benefits of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We owe our freedom to them. I see them often, especially when I go to my weekly Saturday breakfast at the Royal Canadian Legion in Orléans.
Economic action plan 2013 contains measures to support these important people.
We are suggesting an investment of $1.9 billion over seven years to ensure that our disabled, ill or aging veterans and their families receive the support they need.
We are also proposing to double the reimbursement ceiling for the funeral and burial program. It is the least we can do to offer dignified funeral services for those who have lost their lives defending our country.
Families and communities are not being left behind. We are proposing to invest $1.9 billion over five years to create more affordable housing and to combat the unfortunate phenomenon of homelessness. We would also like to support families who want to adopt a child by granting them tax relief.
Economic action plan 2013 is a reasonable plan that will help our country prosper in spite of these uncertain times.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about this bill. It seems that everyone supports it, even though the government unfortunately made some amendments to it. It is quite obvious that officers of Parliament must be bilingual. In an ideal world, we would not need a law for this. However, it seems that the Conservatives need such a law because they recently appointed a unilingual Auditor General. We therefore need a law to remind the government of its responsibilities. That law will be Bill C-419. I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for sponsoring it.
In committee, the Conservatives used their majority to make useless amendments to the bill. On behalf of his Liberal colleagues, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville voted against each of these amendments, which served to eliminate the preamble and two of the four clauses from the original bill.
Despite these amendments, we still support Bill C-419 since the most important element of the bill remained intact. The most important thing is that officers of Parliament be bilingual when they are appointed.
It is essential that the Auditor General of Canada be bilingual when he or she gets the job. The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada must also be bilingual. The Commissioner of Official Languages, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Senate Ethics Officer, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada, and the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada—all must be bilingual on the day that they are hired.
The Conservatives' amendments weakened the bilingualism requirement. However, the requirement set out in the amended version of the bill is still meaningful. It states that anyone who is appointed to these positions “must, at the time of his or her appointment, be able to speak and understand clearly both official languages”.
The Conservatives also did away with clause 3, which stated: “The Governor in Council may, by order, add offices to the list established in section 2.” That is unfortunate because, if they believed in bilingualism, they would have made it easier to expand the list. It would have been nice if the government had been able to take the initiative to add new positions to the list of those with a bilingualism requirement. However, at least we can rest assured that the government will not be able to remove any positions from the list without parliamentary approval.
The government side also removed clause 4, which pertained to interim appointments to the positions covered by Bill C-419. This clause read: “In the event of the absence or incapacity of the incumbent of any of the offices listed in section 2 or vacancy in any of these offices, the person appointed in the interim must meet the requirements set out in section 2.”
That clause was removed, undermining the clarity of the bill but, fortunately, not changing the fundamentals. Once Bill C-419 becomes law in Canada, all newly appointed officers of Parliament will have to be bilingual, whether the position is occupied by a permanent or an interim appointee.
Interim appointees will be subject to the same requirements as permanent ones. They will have to deliver the goods and fulfill all requirements of the position as set out in the law.
If the law states that bilingualism is a skill inherent to the job, that skill will always be mandatory. It cannot be optional. If the government were to make a bad decision to appoint a unilingual interim officer, it would be breaking the law and would be subject to legal action.
The Conservatives also cut the preamble to Bill C-419. They refused to say why. All they said was that the preamble was not necessary. It is not necessary, but it is useful. A preamble makes the legislator's intentions clear. In this case, the main problem with cutting the preamble is that now, nowhere does it say that the bill is about officers of Parliament.
This is what the fourth whereas said:
And whereas persons appointed with the approval by resolution of the Senate, the House of Commons or both Houses of Parliament must be able to communicate with members of those Houses in both official languages;
Now that the fourth whereas is gone, nowhere in the bill does it say that the 10 positions subject to bilingualism under Bill C-419 are given to “individuals appointed with the approval by resolution of the Senate, the House of Commons or both Houses of Parliament”.
Since both the preamble and the fourth whereas are gone, positions not appointed by Parliament can be subject to Bill C-419.
In committee, my colleague, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, suggested adding the CEO of CBC and the president of the CRTC to the list in the bill. These two officials are not appointed by Parliament, but who would object to the notion that they should have to be bilingual? The Conservatives, apparently.
My NDP colleagues voted in favour of the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville's amendment, and I thank them for that. However, the Conservatives scuttled it. Let us keep that in mind in the future. Since there is no longer a preamble, there is nothing standing in the way of adding more government-appointed positions to Bill C-419 in the future.
Let me get back to the important thing, which is that, by law, officers of Parliament must meet the following criteria.
First, they should have the ability to study matters in both official languages. This is the only way to ensure fair and credible investigations and decisions.
Second, they should be able communicate with parliamentarians who are, in many cases, unilingual. One cannot provide satisfactory service to Parliament if one can speak to some of its members only through an interpreter.
Third, they should be able not only to communicate with all Canadians, but also to listen to them and follow what they are saying. The role of officers of Parliament is not only to be competent public servants, they must also be competent communicators. They must communicate the conclusions of their research with accuracy and subtlety in both languages.
We must state and demonstrate to young Canadians that some positions with national responsibilities in this country require a mastery of both official languages. We should honour the bilingual character of our Parliament, of our country and of our future by supporting Bill C-419.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour, as always, to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, particularly on this important New Democrat motion about restoring the nation-to-nation relationship with first nation people. I will be sharing my time with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
It is very important that the debate comes this week, when we have numerous issues showing us the fundamental failure of Canadians to live up to that relationship, such as at Neskantaga, where we have a horrific suicide crisis. I have seen the suicide crisis in James Bay and the damage that it does psychologically, physically and spiritually to people. I note that Neskantaga in English means Fort Hope. It seems so ironic that a community so devastated is a place called Fort Hope.
This week, nine premiers came forward and asked the Conservative government for an inquiry into the hundreds of murdered and missing women and the government continued to turn a deaf ear. In its eyes, perhaps there is one set of victims it will listen to, but it continues to stonewall the hundreds of missing first nations young women across the country.
This week the government continues its court case against Cindy Blackstock. It spied on a woman who was speaking out on the issue of education and child rights for first nation children. This is at a time when there are now more children being held in foster care and being taken away from their families than at the height of the residential schools. This shows us the broken relationship that we need to restore.
I want to speak today about Treaty 9, because that is the region I represent, the height of land in Northern Ontario. I know in the media, when we had the Attiwapiskat housing crisis, there was the sense of “We won, they lost”. That seems to be the general public view of the treaty, that it was some kind of surrender, or giving up.
However, until we understand the story of the treaty, we do not really understand why the relationship with first nation people has gone so wrong. We would not understand why people like Grand Chief Stan Louttit and Chief Theresa Spence speak so much about Treaty 9. Their grandfathers signed that treaty. This is not ancient history. This is the beginning of what went wrong in the modern 20th century.
If we look at the Indian affairs website on Treaty 9, it is amazing. The very first line on the history of Treaty 9 begins with the opening statement, “We ask you to help us”, as though the first nations were hoping that the Indian affairs bureaucrats were going to come up and make everything right.
What was being spoken about in the late 1800s was the incursion by the white settlers into first nations lands, stripping the lands of their basic resources and the attempt by the people to define some rules on the ground. They were not calling on Indian affairs to come up and take their land and put them on a reserve. They were saying that their fundamental rights, which they never extinguished, were under attack. They were under attack by CP Rail. They were under attack by the white settlers who were trying to flood the communities with alcohol, while taking away the basic hunting rights.
What was interesting also was the issue of resource development. In December 1901, the Hudson Bay Company Osnaburgh House, forwarded a petition saying “For the past two or three years exploration for minerals has been carried on in the country contiguous to Lake St. Joseph”. They asked to meet with His Majesty's officials to discuss what was happening in terms of mineral exploration "as white men are already building upon land which we desire to retain".
In 1903, the Geological Survey of Canada was turned away by the chief of the Crane Band, who said it had no right to come and explore without the express consent of first nations.
Back in 1872, near Jackfish Lake, Chief Blackstone shut down gold development, saying they had no right to be there.
Fast forward to the 21st century when we saw KI, in northwestern Ontario, kick out a junior mining company that refused to consult the Wahgoshig First Nation in my area. The company said that it was not their job to look for Indian arrowheads, that is was a mining exploration company. The refusal to consult today has resulted in the first nations taking the same actions that their ancestors took over a hundred years ago.
When the treaty commissioners came forward, it was never about the surrender of land, it was about ensuring that the land was going to be used in a fair and equitable manner, which was not happening.
It is interesting that Indian Affairs, in its history, blames Ontario. It states:
It was Ontario which had licensed the surveyors and mining exploration parties the Indian people were complaining about to federal officials. And, as the Cree and Ojibwa were later to discover, it was Ontario which had already given out timber licenses to lands they wished to reserve for themselves. If the incursion of whites was the gun pointed at the head of the Indian people, Ontario's finger was on the trigger.
That is the official history from the Indian Affairs point of view.
Certainly we know that across the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec, the provinces treated the first nations people as non-existent. They were a federal responsibility. Hence, they did not exist, and the provinces could do whatever they wanted. However, in the case of Treaty No. 9, the issue was that they were trying to get some certainty with respect to the land. Ontario took the hard line. It said that it would not allow a reserve to have any kind of hydro development potential, period. The first nations were going to get the land that was absolutely worthless. The fact is, it did not tell the people in Treaty No. 9.
When the commissioners came forward in 1905-06 across the upper lakes, they made oral promises to the people, because this was not a written culture. Duncan Scott, the treaty commissioner, knew that no negotiation was going to take place, because Ontario said that if it did not get everything it wanted, it did not care what the first nations did. It was just going to apply. It was going in with a gun to the heads of the first nations.
It is interesting that when the people landed in Fort Hope, where today we have the huge suicide epidemic, Chief Moonias stood up and said to the people that the white guys were not giving them money for nothing. If they were offering money, they were taking something substantial away from them. That is what he was warning the people, and the commissioners had to give the people a story. They said that the people were going to get medical coverage and schools. The issue of schooling was very important to people on the James Bay coast. The Cree communities knew that they needed education as a way to address the fact that their communities were in crisis. They knew that the world was changing.
Daniel MacMartin's diary has only recently come to light. He was with the commissioners as they went across northern Ontario in 1905 and 1906. Daniel MacMartin said that the commissioners had to sweeten the deal verbally, but they did not put any of it in writing. What the people were told they were signing was completely different from what they actually signed onto. Later, of course, government leaders said that they had surrendered the land. It was all there on the page in black and white, but that was not the verbal commitment made.
That was the record of the so-called honour of the Crown for the following 100 years. I have seen it myself. I saw it in Barriere Lake, where the Liberal government signed an agreement with the community, and as soon as the agreement was signed, they walked away. I saw it in Kashechewan First Nation, where we sat down with the then Liberal government. We had an agreement to rebuild the community, and we sat down to look at the paper to have the whole commitment they had made verbally. I remember saying to the chief that none of the promises were on the paper, and we were told that they could trust the honour of the Crown. We know what happened to that. So much for the agreement with Kashechewan, but it took the present Conservative government to rip up that agreement. That was the so-called honour of the Crown.
Daniel MacMartin said that the people were misled. The commissioners had to mislead them to get them to sign off.
It is fascinating, and really deeply disturbing, that it was Duncan Scott who led the Treaty No. 9 negotiations. The people who were coming to him said that they understood that their way of life was under threat. They said that they would make an agreement if he promised that their children would get an education. Duncan Scott had a plan for their education all right; it was the residential schools. Duncan Scott said that the residential schools had to be mandatory, because it was to “get rid of the Indian problem... to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed”. This was about a genocidal policy. However it is said, it was about the destruction of the first nations people. They went into those communities, misrepresented themselves and punished those communities with the residential schools, which nearly broke them.
One hundred years later, history is calling on us. It is knocking on the door of this House of Commons saying that it is time to restore that broken relationship, show that there is honour in the Crown and ensure that the first nations people are treated with the rights and dignities they have as the original first nations people, who never extinguished their rights in this country.
Before we resume debate, and pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, National Defence; the hon. member for Winnipeg North, Citizenship and Immigration; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Investment.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
Mr. Speaker, thanks for the fair warning about the amount of time. I am sure I will be warned before it is over; I love the signals that are given by the chair.
Today I am going to discuss a number of things on the motion that has been brought forward by the party opposite. The first thing I want to cover is something I am hearing a lot of in the House today, whether this is truly the best use of our time.
I have to say that when visiting the coffee shops back in St. Thomas or Aylmer, it is not. We should be here talking about jobs and the economy. I certainly have that conversation a lot. When we get out of this place to spend time back home, the real answer is that it is about jobs and the economy. If the discussion of the Senate ever came up, it would probably be because I brought it up. I chair our procedure and House affairs committee, and that is where we talk about this. I might be asked what I have been doing, and if we talked about Senate reform that would probably be the only reason it would come up on the street.
The real question is about jobs and the economy. This government and this Prime Minister has proven that we can multi-task; we can do a number of things at once. Here we are, sharing in that multi-tasking, covering off a topic that does not seem to be of much use to us today.
I will talk a little about the priorities of this place and how we got to where we are today on this topic. When we get to Senate reform, I will talk a little about Senate reform and what has been put forward by this Prime Minister and this party in our time here, and the help or hurt, whichever way members would like to take it, of the party opposite on helping move that through expeditiously to create the reform they all look for. I will point out the good points and the bad. Certainly another piece we will talk about will be the Senate reform that we are already working on.
I will spend some time talking about our referral to the Supreme Court for an opinion on some of the topics we are talking about, and how instead of the filibustering, talking about topics over and over, and showboating, that we will probably get better answers waiting for the opinion of the Supreme Court and then taking action based on what it has to say.
Unlike some of the speakers before me, who have already come to the conclusion that they need to abolish the Senate, before they have even done the consultation that is talked about in the motion, I will wait and listen to the Supreme Court's ruling first. From that, I will formulate a plan going forward, and I will certainly follow up on Bill C-7, Senate Reform Act, that is currently before the House, which has been referenced. We will do that. We will move forward in that fashion. I think that would be appropriate.
Let us talk about those things. Let us talk about jobs and the economy, and talk about how this fits in. I cannot get up to speak in the House without sharing how the motion before us today on Senate reform is not the topic that is enthusiastically embraced back home. Most often, the topic is on jobs and the economy, and I wish that had been the opposition's choice to talk about today. We could be vigorously debating our opinions on something about jobs, the economy and growth.
However, here we are again. I do not do this often, but I am going to quote one of my friends from across the way. I will talk about one of my friends, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. She is special. She does a great job on committee, and we have had discussions on some of these issues.
This morning I was listening, as closely as I possibly could to the topic, when I would rather be talking about jobs and the economy. I listened to the member's speech. In answers to questions, she did respond, which I thought was very appropriate, twice, and it was great.
First, I believe she said thank you for referring it to the Supreme Court. She is right. It was an appropriate thing for us to do. Therefore, on behalf of all Canadians and myself, she is welcome.
The other thing I believe she was asked about were some of the good things that happened in the Senate. The Senate has actually done some remarkable studies and research on topics. She said that they agreed that this had happened. It did work, that it was really what was going on over there.
We should not judge all for the lack of some and we should not judge an institution based on the hypocrisy of wanting today's talking points. It is only safe to say, that this is where we should go.
I find it somewhat strange that we are here today discussing the motion. When asked, the Leader of the Opposition could not clearly deny that he would not appoint senators. There is a bit of hypocrisy there also. Maybe we should have talked about that too.
I want to talk about another one of my other favourite members. The member for Hamilton Centre was up earlier today. I could listen to him for hours. I believe it is part of why I have a loss of hearing, because whether he is right or wrong, he is loud. Whether he is right or wrong, he will ensure that we hear what he has to say. I love him for that and, honestly, for his participation at committee also. He has been a good friend.
I would like to let him know that today I also looked through speeches and the number of times that Senate reform had come to the House and the number of times the members opposite had spoken. I will give a bit of a history lesson on some of that. There were some 40 speeches from the NDP alone on this. There were 88 opposition speakers. It has come forward for debate in the House on 17 days. There have been nine different committee meetings.
We are sometimes asked, where it is. We rotate legislation around from certain days, but I will give some thoughts on some of this.
BillC-7 was brought forward in June of 2011. It came to the House on September 30, 2011, with a couple of opposition party members speaking to it. On October 3, three more got up and spoke to it, I am sure in conjunction with a number of government members and members of the third party. On November 14, more members got up and spoke to it. On November 22, 15 different opposition members spoke on that day alone to Bill C-7, the Senate reform package.
I have been spending today reading through some of those speeches and watching as many speeches as I can in the House also. One would think that if we had to tell anyone the same thing over and over again, this many times, it has been said and done. The real answer is, apparently it is not. We are still putting more speakers up.
On December 7, 2011, two more speakers from the opposite side were up. On December 8, it was another bountiful day on Senate reform. Eleven more members from the opposition got up that day and spoke to Bill C-7.
We have now moved into 2012 on the bill. On February 27, 2012, the same thing occurred. Another seven members from the official opposition were up speaking that day.
The NDP members have found a niche, something they were looking for, a topic that they like, and that is what this is about.
I would like to paraphrase a speech I read today from the member for Winnipeg North, from November 2011, saying perhaps this was what this was about.
The NDP members have found a topic that they think will stir public interest and will move their interests forward, rather than they found a real interest in what would help in the democratic reform of our country.
We need to look more into what it will take to get it done and that leads me to the other topic of the referral to the Supreme Court and how with that in-hand, significant progress may actually work forward, when members quit standing and saying that the court will not accept that or coming up with other reasons as to why we have this legislation going forward.
Let us talk about what was referred to the Supreme Court.
First, the first piece of opinion we have asked the Supreme Court for is something pretty simple and that is term limits. What term would be appropriate for senators to have if indeed senators had term limits? Can we limit the terms of senators? I know that in the past, the retirement date was changed, so I think terms for senators is an opinion that the Supreme Court will come back to us with. We are suggesting nine years in the one piece of legislation, but we have asked the Supreme Court give us an opinion on a number of different terms.
I believe the last study I read at committee the average length of time served by a senator in our House was nine-point-something years and that was the average length of time a senator did serve in the Senate. Therefore, asking about term limits of nine years is probably very appropriate.
The next thing is the democratic selection of Senate nominees. We have asked an opinion of the Supreme Court about the democratic selection of nominees. Can we ask provinces to determine within their provinces who they would like their senators to be? If that happens, then they would be appointed by the Prime Minister to the Senate. Alberta has already chosen to do this. We have senators now who have been elected by the people of Alberta, representing provincially the province of Alberta in the Senate who have been appointed by our Prime Minister. We are asking for the Supreme Court's opinion on that topic to see whether that is a process we could continue to follow. Would that handle the democratic lack we have of unelected senators by having provinces elect them and then move them forward?
There are a couple of other pieces of opinion we have asked the Supreme Court for and one has to do with net worth for senators and the other has to do with what we are talking about today, the abolition of the Senate. We are asking the opinion of the Supreme Court on this very topic. I mentioned the hypocrisy piece that the member for Winnipeg North mentioned in his speech in November 2011, about bringing this topic forward for the sake of political reasons rather than for real democratic reform. We have hit on it exactly. The party opposite knows the Supreme Court has been asked for its opinion on this topic and yet what is its motion today? Let us spend the whole day talking about this instead of—
The electoral district of Louis-Saint-Laurent (Quebec) has a population of 96,286 with 81,053 registered voters and 220 polling divisions.
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