Mr. Speaker, may I first thank all of my colleagues from all parties, across the aisle and on this side, for their participation and for taking this matter seriously. It is very important to the people of Hamilton, so I thank everyone for that.
Having said that, I have to say that there was not a government member who got up and said anything that was of any real value, other than a lot of rhetoric and reading out Conservative talking points about what they have done. Nowhere did anyone stand up and address the key issues we have placed before Parliament. Once again, it shows that these workers, employees, potential pensioners and those already on a pension are just not a priority for the Conservative government. Anyone who wants to question that should read the Hansard. Read Hansard and see what was not said as opposed to what was said.
On the other side of the spectrum, let me also thank my two Hamilton colleagues, the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. They both spoke very passionately and knowledgeably on the issue in front of us and on the harm and damage being done to these U.S. Steel workers, formerly Stelco workers, and members of Local 1005 USW.
If people are interested, a lot of the rhetoric came up about what happened with the pensions at Stelco back in the 1990s provincially. I urge anyone who wants to know the truth and the facts about that to visit the remarks of my colleague from Hamilton Mountain on December 4, 2014, when we first debated this. She went into great detail, spelling out exactly what is the truth and what is just a lot of myth, politics, and spin. I thank her so much for that.
I also want to thank my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup so much for his passionate remarks. We can certainly tell that he gets this issue.
My motion asks for three very simple things. It is not that complicated. Number one, we asked for an apology, and we feel that we are owed an apology, because it is the government that makes a decision, under the Investment Canada Act, as to whether a foreign takeover can take place. That is a judgement call, and it is supposed to be based on whether there is a net benefit to Canada. There was no net benefit to Canada. There sure as heck was no net benefit to those pensioners whose pensions are on the line right now. Their whole quality of life is on the line right now. There was no net benefit for them.
This was a terrible decision at best. It is not unreasonable for the people of Hamilton to ask for an apology from the government for making this really awful, horrid decision that has led to this crisis in all of these hundreds and thousands of Canadians' lives. It is nothing less than that.
We asked the government to make public its secret deal that got us to this point. The Hamilton city council has asked for the documents. It has taken this so seriously that it has struck a special steel subcommittee. I believe it was today that Councillor Scott Duvall was re-elected as the chair of that committee. Councillor Sam Merulla is the vice-chair. That is how seriously the people of Hamilton take this issue.
We asked that the government make amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the CCAA, to ensure that in the future, pensioners go to the top of the list, not the bottom.
Here is the crime of this. One cannot relive the years it takes to build up a pension. To deny people the right to the pension they worked for is unacceptable in this country. It is immoral to do that to people, yet that is exactly what is happening here. It is not just the union workers. It is also the salaried non-union workers. Their pensions are on the line just as much.
This is unacceptable. We need to turn around and elect a government that is going to care about the people of this country by doubling the CPP, for example, rather than throwing people off pension lines in terms of the amounts they are entitled to receive.
This action by the government has caused countless heartaches and stress for all those people affected, and the government to this minute, has still not given Hamiltonians the justice and decent attention that they are entitled to.
Until the government does, we in the NDP and those of us from Hamilton will stand up and holler from the rooftops that this is wrong, and we want pensioners and Hamiltonians to attack it the way it deserves.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his comprehensive speech, his analysis of what exactly is happening to our country under the leadership of the current Conservative government, as well as the foundations that were weakened or even taken away by the previous Liberal government.
I am very proud to stand in this House to speak to our opposition day motion. I want to make sure that it is clearly known what we are putting on the table. We propose, as the motion says:
That, in light of sustained high unemployment since the 2008 recession and the long term downward trend in job quality since 1989 under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, as documented by CIBC, the House call on the government to make the first priority of Budget 2015 investment in measures that stimulate the economy by creating and protecting sustainable, full-time, middle-class jobs in high-paying industries in all regions of Canada and abandoning its costly and unfair $2 billion income-splitting proposal.
This is all about priorities. We know that we are entering a time that is crucial when it comes to acting on priorities: budget time.
We have been very clear from the beginning that our priority in the NDP is one where we seek to invest in the economy. We seek to stimulate the economy through investment and through the protection of sustainable, full-time jobs in high-paying regions across the country, and investing in initiatives in housing, transit, broader infrastructure, education, and health care.
Then we look at what the Conservatives are proposing. Despite the rhetoric about a strong economy and supporting job creation, they are choosing to spend $2 billion on an income splitting proposal. This is at a time when Canadians have been told to keep their purse strings tight and not to expect to see any spending. In fact, those who are working for the federal government have seen record job losses. Canadians across the country may have seen their jobs leave the country. Some continue to be in poverty, and chronic poverty continues to go unaddressed by the current federal government. On the other hand, we see a commitment to income splitting.
I had the opportunity to speak across my constituency on what is happening to our country, and I feel that is very much what we are talking about today. We are talking about the vision of Canada that we have seen the current government hold steadfastly to, and the kind of direction the Conservatives have taken us in.
I come from a part of the country that is very diverse, particularly in terms of indigenous communities. There are also people who have settled there from across the country and from around the world. However, we need look no further than northern Manitoba and a lot of our northern regions in terms of the kinds of inequality that people across our country face.
Many of us were horrified just a few weeks ago by a report indicating that first nations in Manitoba face some of the greatest challenges in terms of quality of life. We know that across the country, first nations children face the highest rates of poverty, at about 25%, and if we look at Manitoba, that number jumps as high as 62%.
In this case, we are not talking about job creation only, or a strong economy as the government talks about. We are talking about chronic, sustained, deep-rooted poverty.
I wish that the federal government would spend some time talking about a vision when it comes to poverty on first nations. However, sadly, any time we hear Conservatives talk about indigenous issues, it is often to disparage indigenous leaders or peoples, or in the case of legislation like Bill C-51, to create barriers and threaten indigenous communities that are pushing for their rights to be recognized and for better opportunities in their communities and across the country.
Instead of spending $2 billion on income splitting, we would like to see the government place a priority on eliminating poverty, understanding that it has a different face in parts of the country, understanding that there needs to be investment in first nations education, that there needs to be investment in health care on reserve and that there needs to be investment in housing.
By making those investments we create economic opportunities. For example, in Manitoba, with the growing indigenous population, if more and more young people leave the north or in the inner city have a better chance at an education in terms of primary education, but also secondary and post-secondary, that they will be better able to contribute to their local economies, to our national economy, whether it is by accessing existing jobs or creating and innovating new jobs.
I also have the honour of representing people who depend on the resource extractive industry. I have no doubt that every single one of them would say that $2 billion can be better spent on the priorities many of them see as imminent, rather than spending it on income splitting.
Many of the folks I represent have seen their jobs exported outside the country because the government has not stood up for them, whether it is because of the softwood lumber deal or whether it is because of the way in which the agreements for foreign companies to buy out Canadian companies have become largely rubber stamps under the leadership of the government.
In the case of Thompson, my home community, a Brazilian multinational bought out a Canadian company, Inco, and soon after threatened to export all of our value-added jobs, jobs that we know are fundamental in our community and fundamental to our province.
Thankfully, as a result of public pressure and regional engagement, the company came to the table to try to find a solution. It was little thanks to a federal government that continues to allow foreign companies to buy out Canadian corporations, and either quickly or over a range of years, export value-added jobs, jobs that sustain our communities and our entire country in many cases.
I would also say that when we are talking about where we could spend $2 billion, it is pretty clear that when we look at the needs of newcomers to Canada, we need to see investments in education and training, in credential recognition, which arguably does not have a monetary cost but would allow people who come with tremendous expertise from around the world to contribute to our communities and our economy in a much greater way. Instead of that, the federal government chooses once again to spend $2 billion on income splitting.
I want to spend just one moment on what income splitting is really all about. Not only is it a ghastly waste of money in terms of $2 billion, but it is a proposal that has everything to do with reinforcing inequality in our country, and particularly marginalizing women in our country, because income splitting encourages women, who often earn less than their male partners, to stay at home and focus on what I am sure many in the government would consider the more “traditional” caring duties that women are supposed to do.
I want to say that I was taken aback with the Prime Minister's reference today to others being anti-women in their agenda when in fact many have argued, and I have certainly argued in this House, that income splitting is anti-women's equality. When it comes to things that we can really do to improve the equality of women, improve the equality of all Canadians, in means taking away that $2 billion, that waste of money on income splitting and moving it to the real priorities that we in the NDP are putting forward, and we know that many Canadians are putting forward as well.
There is no consent.
The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
With regard to government spending in the Hamilton East—Stoney Creek riding, what was the total amount spent, from fiscal year 2010-11 up to and including the current fiscal year, broken down by (i) the date the funds were received in the riding, (ii) the dollar amount, (iii) the program through which the funding was allocated, (iv) the department responsible, (v) the designated recipient?
Mr. Speaker, yesterday our nation came together, standing to honour Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
As the member of Parliament for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, I was the corporal's MP. Yesterday, above all else, I was honoured to have been part of a contingent of Canadian government officials there to express our deepest condolences to Corporal Cirillo's family.
During such times of tremendous loss, words often fail us.
Together in Hamilton, along with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we expressed our collective and profound appreciation for the sacrifice made by this young man.
Our grief as a nation is nothing compared to that of Corporal Cirillo's loved ones, his parents, siblings, and most important, his five-year old son. It is our hope that they understand how closely Canadians continue to hold them in our thoughts, that they know that we as a country pray they somehow find the strength and courage to face the difficult days ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I had a chance to spend a few weeks in Australia this summer. I went to restaurants, and lo and behold, there was no tipping. I asked why there was no tipping. They said it was because they pay their people more. I found out this morning from my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek that the minimum wage in Australia is $17.45 an hour. If this can be done in Australia, where its people are making a half-decent living, why can we not do it here?
My second question involves small business. Would the member not agree that one of the best guarantees to assist small business is to have people in the community who have money to spend? In other words, if we were to increase the minimum wage, the research has shown that most of this money would stay in the communities and that would help guarantee the survival of the small businesses in the small rural communities that I represent. I would like to get his comments on this.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for a very balanced and thoughtful presentation. I also wish to thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for the work he does for his constituents, the incredible work he does in his capacity as critic for international affairs, and the very steady, compassionate, and solution-oriented work he has done with regard to conflict minerals and the impact the struggle to finance war, insurgency, and militia groups has on vulnerable, innocent victims and communities.
This debate and this bill are about human beings, human beings who are trapped and terrorized by those who wreak havoc in many regions of the world. This afternoon I am going to speak about the violence in places like the Great Lakes region of Africa; the victims, many of whom are women and children; and the purpose and possibility of Bill C-486, standing in the name of my colleague from the New Democratic Party. It is a very important discussion.
Briefly, the illegal exploitation and trade in minerals in the Great Lakes region of Africa is, as has been said, funding and fuelling a brutal and deadly armed conflict. This is a war that had its origins in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Refugees from that horrific slaughter flooded into the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area formerly known as Zaire. During the Congo wars from 1996-1997, and later from 1998-2003, the conflict involved nine countries and more than 40 rebel groups.
At the present time, there are about three main armed groups operating in eastern Congo, all of them competing for the resources they need to continue fighting by exploiting the illegal trade of minerals in this region. We have to remember how very lucrative the minerals are. They include cassiterite, coltan, wolframite, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. The profits from these illegally traded minerals are estimated at between $140 million and $225 million, and as has been said, they provide up to 95% of the money that keeps these armed groups going.
The human cost has been horrific. More than 5.4 million deaths are directly attributable to this trade, and the devastation goes beyond death and murder at the hands of combatants. That devastation comes in the form of sexual and gender-based violence. It has become a weapon of war, and it is used as such in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are at least 40,000 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC. No one knows how many women and girls have died at the hands of their tormentors, these armed men who rape.
All of this violence, all of it, is to instill fear in communities and is used as a form of vengeance. Women and children are the stable base of society, and in this case, they are specifically targeted by these militia to undermine the very fabric of that society to destabilize communities and make it easier to pillage them for those valuable minerals we have been talking about. The result is traumatized women who are often marginalized because they are forced to bear the children of the enemy. These women, some as young as 13 or 14, are rejected by their communities, and so are their children. No one is safe. Women are raped and men are subjected to torture and humiliation. The victims include children as young as four and adults as old as 65.
For many, the injuries never heal. The survivors suffer from a number of health problems, including damaged reproductive organs; fistulas, in the case of women; sexually transmitted diseases; and HIV-AIDS. Many survivors have also been robbed of their possessions or can no longer work as a result of their injuries, and they cannot afford medical care. The DRC is one of the most dangerous places in the world, particularly for women.
Locals in mining communities are forced to take part in the illicit mining economy. Money earned from the sale of these minerals, as I have said, is used to further the violence. Minerals are smuggled out of the Congo through neighbouring countries and are shipped to smelters around the world for refinement.
Once minerals are processed in this way, it is really difficult to trace their origin. Conflict minerals easily make their way through the United States to Canada and to consumers in our countries. This underscores the purpose and the importance of Bill C-486.
It is supported by a wide range of Canadian and international civil society and corporate organizations. Consultations were a part of the drafting of this legislation. My colleague has done many consultations, including with representatives from Partnership Africa Canada, BlackBerry, KAIROS, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Enough Project, and Global Witness.
Bill C-486, quite simply, requires Canadian companies using minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to practise due public diligence to ensure that no armed groups engaged in illegal activities benefit from the extraction, processing, or use of those minerals
The bill would allow Canadians to know whether minerals in products they purchased may have contributed to the funding and fuelling of conflict and to the horrific crimes against human beings. It would also empower Canadian consumers to make more informed choices.
The New Democrats have long supported transparency and accountability by Canadian corporations overseas, including those in the extractive sector. The bill complements other legislation and efforts made by the New Democrats to encourage responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices in all sectors, including the extractive sector.
Bill C-486 is part of an international trend toward due diligence and corporate accountability. Enforced regulations—and it is important that they be enforced regulations—will create a level playing field for all Canadian companies while ensuring environmental, labour, and human rights, the protections of which we can be proud.
As we know, there is a vast trade in these minerals. They support electronics and jewellery companies. We simply have to know that the products we are buying are not financing atrocities. We, as Canadians, deserve to know that.
It is critical to build a clean mineral trade in the Congo so the people who live there and the miners who work there can have decent living conditions and know that their region is a place where they can eventually build safe communities, conflict free, where people can survive and live in harmony.
Unfortunately, as we have heard, the government is primarily focused on voluntary industry and government initiatives in regard to the extractive industry. That is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that we have seen opposition to bills like Bill C-300 that would require Canadian extractive companies to behave as they do in Canada when they work abroad.
Canadians want to choose products that do not fund war and human rights violations. Canadians need to know that companies that provide electronic products and jewellery are not funding those wars, that there is corporate transparency, and that Canadians can absolutely rely on the products that we have in our homes and know that they are not causing undue harm and terror for those people living in areas like East Africa.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek has been the spokesperson for human rights for our party for a very long time and I congratulate him on that because he is doing an excellent job.
I was astounded by the comments of the parliamentary secretary toward the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. Members of the Conservative Party like to call themselves Christians. They have prayer meetings and invite members to prayer breakfasts all the time, and yet they want to sign a trade agreement with a country that regularly kills people for speaking out or jails them. People disappear all the time in Honduras. Now the Liberals are supporting that.
Would the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek comment on both the Conservatives and the Liberals?
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate. I particularly enjoy the fact that it is one of the few times we get to reach across the floor and be in agreement. For all the headlines of fighting and the various things we get into around here, there are times when we are able to rise above that and do justice to this profession and the people who elected us.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale for leading off the debate and sponsoring the bill in the House. He has done great service and justice to all that Lincoln Alexander has meant to Canada and to Hamilton, so I certainly will not repeat any of the milestones, except to maybe add a few pieces to the story.
First, I love the fact that when I checked the Hamilton Spectator website this morning, in the local section there was a headline that I am sure my colleagues saw. Certainly the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, and our colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain are very supportive of the bill. I am sure it warmed their hearts, as it did mine, to see one of the headlines, on this day that we begin debating the bill, that says “The Linc” is to be extended. The “Linc” speaks to a secondary highway in Hamilton that links the west mountain and the east mountain. That is as far as I am going to go on what all of that means.
The great irony that everyone loves is that it is a perfect connection. Of course, “Linc” is his name. When I say Linc, it is not disrespectful. The first thing he would do after someone said “Hello Mr. Alexander” was to say, “No, call me Linc”. Everyone knows that, so my references from here on in will likely be to Linc. I am referring to my fellow Hamiltonian in the most respectful way that I can, and showing the camaraderie and relationship that Linc had with the city.
The great irony of having the link named “The Linc” is that Linc never had a driver's licence in his whole life and he is one of the few people who has a highway named after him. That is one more accomplishment that he did not necessarily set out to do, but managed to do anyway. There, in the Hamilton Spectator today, the spirit of Linc lives on.
I am hoping that all members will be supportive of this. As a result of the bill being passed in both of these places, Canada as a nation will forever remember Linc.
Everyone here makes the history books, but most of us are footnotes in the great historical span of Canada. It really is something to have personally known an individual who looms so large in a nation and, with a little hometown pride, it feels good when they are from one's hometown city.
This is an important day for us in the House who represent Hamiltonians, and our entire community. When Linc was appointed lieutenant governor, in 1985, that happened to be the same year I was elected to city council. After we had the big celebration, what I remember most is that I was finding it hard to believe that a position so important was going to be represented by a Hamiltonian. However, when we thought about it being Linc, it was not such a surprise.
In 1990, when I was lucky enough to be elected to Queen's Park, again, there was that burst of pride. We were sitting in the House when the throne speech was to be read, and it was Linc who came through the door. He just smiled and winked to those of us from Hamilton as he walked down.
He pulled off the impossible. He had this way about him that was so real.
My colleague who just spoke is absolutely right. If we walked up to him, there was this sense of familiarity. He would look at us as if he thought he had a new friend. There was just that sense from him. It was not only that, but he had the royal jelly. When he walked into a room, there was that presence, and that was before he became lieutenant governor.
I remember one time when we were at Hamilton Place and it was a police appreciation night. This was not long after he had retired, so he was still in robust health. I remember him walking out. He had a number of police uniforms. He was an honorary police chief of a number of police services. It must have been the Hamilton one he was wearing that day. This big, strong, strapping officer in this uniform came walking out on the stage. He walked up to the microphone. I can still remember that. One could hear a pin drop. Linc said, “Do I look good in this uniform, or what?” It was such a solemn occasion, yet there was a “Lincism” there. That is the kind of guy that he was.
If I can, there are a couple of claims to fame for my riding, our riding, because we fight over how much of our ridings we get to claim from Linc.
Ellen Fairclough, also a predecessor of ours, was the first woman in cabinet, in 1957. She was made a secretary of state. The following year she became a full minister. This riding has great history. The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and I are pleased to provide the historical footnotes that made Linc so important in our time.
However, I will go for a little more claim of him than my colleague, simply because he lived on Proctor Boulevard, which is in the heart of my riding. Not only that, I made it into his book. This is nothing but pure bragging. I make no bones about it. If it is possible to name-drop in this place, I am doing it.
Linc wrote in his book:
There is no bigger supporter of our men and women in blue than me. I am an honorary chief of several police services, and the honorary commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, whose headquarters in Orillia is named after me. It was in 1994 that [the member for Hamilton Centre], who was Ontario's solicitor general at the time, visited Hamilton council to announce that the new four-storey OPP headquarters in Orillia would be named after me. OPP Commissioner Thomas O'Grady also spoke at the announcement event, and they presented me with a framed artist's drawing of the headquarters.
There is a great little side story that goes with that. We were in the mayor's office. Next to the mayor's office was his assistant's office, which also acted as a green room. There was a large coffee table there. I do not think it was real marble, but it was a nice coffee table. With regard to the picture that Linc was talking about having been presented to him, the OPP Commissioner, Linc, the mayor, and I, all put our feet on this thing and held the picture. It was a nice photo op. The only problem was the entire table collapsed and broke into about six pieces. I said to the current sitting OPP commissioner that Tom O'Grady promised that table would be replaced. To the best of my knowledge, that has not yet been replaced in Hamilton City Hall. There is a debt that the Ontario office of the Solicitor General owes to Hamilton City Council.
I have one minute left, and I want to wrap up. I hope that I have done justice to Linc. I tried to show some humour in the sense of the man, the person we got to know individually, but also recognition of the respect that we have and we need to show. What is important is the statement of passing this bill from our generation now to future generations. Linc stood for the values of Canada. Therefore, when we celebrate and honour Linc, we honour Canada; we honour the values that are Canada.
I look forward to the moment when we will all rise unanimously, supporting this important bill to mark the life of this important man.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is exactly right. We have a government that seems to have a bit of paranoia as to what is actually happening in the background.
To have 1.2 million requests for personal information is unbelievable. My colleague mentioned the government indicated that it would be willing to give any equipment needed to do that work, yet we have people who have a hard time getting their CPIC clearance until months later and should be going back to work. Is that not what the government should be doing, working to get people to work instead of providing the police with the tools that it needs?
What are people doing already with this information? My colleague here from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek rightly pointed out a situation where someone had tried to travel abroad and was turned around because of her mental health issue that someone found out about. She did not have a criminal record.
Why is the government going in this direction and not speaking up on the safety of Canadians and their privacy?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to give a final summary of this debate. I want to thank all of my colleagues for participating in the two hours of debate. I am actually a little more enthusiastic about my colleagues on this side of the House than that side, but nevertheless I do appreciate their at least engaging.
I want to commend the member for Lac-Saint-Louis and the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for speaking today. I do want to correct the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. I think he confused me, as the sponsor of the bill, with his esteemed colleague from Ottawa Centre, who has his own very worthwhile bill on the floor of the House.
As he and others have rightly said, this bill is modelled on the Cardin-Lugar amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill. It is about as similar a bill as one could make it given the differences in the jurisdiction, because I did not want to see an unnecessary regulatory burden imposed on Canadian companies that trade exclusively in Canada.
Ironically, Canadian companies that trade both in Canada and the U.S. will be forced to comply on September 1. They will be forced to tell the United States Securities and Exchange Commission what moneys were paid, to whom they were paid, the currency they were paid in, and what project they were paid for, so that everyone in the world, including Canada, will find out what Canadian companies paid to secure those concessions, and yet the government continues to resist.
I had occasion to go over the arguments put forward by government members in the last hour of debate, which I found more amusing than anything else. Regrettably, it is not a laughing matter.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources has referred previously to “The new mandatory reporting regime announced by the Prime Minister...”. There is no mandatory reporting regime. There are no regulations. There is no law. There is an announcement. That is it. The only time a Canadian company would actually have to disclose the information in Bill C-474 would be when it files its return with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
The parliamentary secretary went on to say that “Canada already has a well-established financial recording system...”. There is no recording system. If there were a recording system, we would not have to go through this.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs recognizes international voluntary guidelines. It cannot be voluntary and mandatory at the same time. The industry is actually quite supportive of the voluntary guidelines.
The same parliamentary secretary then made reference to the CSR's extractive sector and Marketta Evans. She has been in place for, I think, either three or four years. She resigned last year. Her budget was around $1 million a year. She had precisely three cases, none of which were resolved. I do not know how that can be considered to be progress on this particular file.
This month, the former minister of natural resources, now the Minister of Finance, made a big announcement at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference, where he said that if they could not get their game together, particularly the provinces, the government would start the process of initiating legislation on April 1, 2015, more than a year from now. Any legislation he initiates will look a lot like Bill C-474.
As I said, it cannot be both voluntary and mandatory. There is no voluntary aspect. It is actually mandatory.
The government, by its announcement at PDAC, contradicts all of the representations made by the speakers from the Conservative side in the first hour.
This is very serious stuff. Mining companies are having real difficulties these days. It is extremely expensive. The meltdown in shares, particularly of one company in South America, because it did not follow disclosure requirements and did not take corporate and social responsibility seriously, has resulted in a massive multi-billion dollar write-down in its share value and the exit of the chairman of that corporation.
I wish not to be discouraged but I am. The Prime Minister is prepared to blow off the G8, President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, and Canadians. I regret to say that the industry is desirous of this kind of legislation and the only drag is the government itself.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek is absolutely right. This is the problem. After a motion was adopted by all parties at the procedure and House affairs committee, the Conservatives said, “We are going to do away with the self-policing”. Once the cameras were shut down and the lights were turned off, they decided to take a completely different stand.
Today, members saw my amendment. We had a bit of a dialogue about it. All that we moved was that the Auditor General be invited to audit the disclosure. Is there nothing more motherhood and apple pie than that: bring in the Auditor General just for this disclosure? The Conservatives spoke strongly against it. They rejected that.
I can just say, shame on them. Shame on them for refusing to have the Auditor General come in and monitor MPs' expenses. Shame on them to have to answer to their constituents.
The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saluting those who have served as volunteer firefighters over the years in my community, the West Island of Montreal. They are sterling individuals. My constituents and I take our hats off to them.
In particular, I would like to mention two individuals, Peter Neville and Wayne Belvedere, who are residents of the town of Baie d’Urfé. Peter and Wayne are pillars of the community. It is hard to imagine what West Island community life would look like without them and the volunteer contributions they have made over the decades, contributions far too numerous to count.
Peter Neville and Wayne Belvedere are well-known and respected for their generosity of spirit. Both have worked side-by-side as volunteer firefighters, and also in support of various community causes and initiatives. I believe that if we looked into the matter we would discover that volunteer firefighters are more than just firefighters; they are the underpinnings of our communities in so many different ways. Their involvement is not limited to responding to fires. Their presence and influence radiate all through the community, through numerous channels and volunteer activities.
Both Peter Neville and Wayne Belvedere are loyal, long-time Rotarians. Their community engagement in the service of others knows no limits. They are models of civic participation and both were well-deserved recipients of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal last year. They made their home town of Baie d’Urfé stronger, as well as the West Island as a whole, through their involvement in charities and grassroots initiatives, including the Baie d’Urfé Volunteer Fire Department.
Sadly, we no longer have volunteer firefighters in the West Island of Montreal. Allow me to take a moment to explain why that is the case. It is not because the volunteer spirit has fled the West Island. Rather, the reason is structural and relates to a reorganization of a municipal government on the Island of Montreal that took place almost 15 years ago, and since then as well.
Around the year 2000, the Government of Quebec thought it would be a good idea to take all of the municipalities on the Island of Montreal, including the City of Montreal and numerous independent municipalities, and merge them into a concept known as “One island, One city”. This created quite a wave of protests in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis in the region of the island of Montreal known as the West Island. All these cities and towns were merged into the City of Montreal and their firefighting services became part of the City of Montreal firefighting service.
A couple of years later there was a movement to de-merge. It was called “de-merging”, a term I know we do not hear often. However, there was a movement to de-merge these formerly independent municipalities from the new City of Montreal, and they regained their independent status. They did get some of their powers back, such as their municipal councils and mayors. Unfortunately, as a result of the negotiations that took place involving the City of Montreal, the Government of Quebec, and these newly independent municipalities, they did not get their firefighting services back. Those remained under the jurisdiction of the City of Montreal, which does not allow volunteer firefighters. All firefighting is now within the purview of professional firefighting services.
Here we are talking about a bill that is problematic for a number of reasons.
Before we get to that, I would like mention that we on the Liberal side of the House do not share the government's anti-labour perspective. We certainly value the role of organized labour. On the other hand, we do not support everything organized labour would do on any given day. For us it is not a matter of faith, as it is for the NDP, to support every demand of organized labour, but we support organized labour, and we understand its role and its importance.
We believe that organized labour should be consulted before changes are made to the Labour Code. In fact, we found that organized labour, or firefighters associations, have not been consulted about the bill. We find this a violation of a principle we hold quite dear, the idea that we should consult widely before making changes to the Labour Code, and second, that the Labour Code should not be changed through private members' bills.
In this regard, we rest our view on the opinions of members of organized labour. I will quote Mr. Hassan Yussuff, who is the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. He said when he appeared before the human resources committee during the study of another private member's bill:
Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted, pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions, and government.
We have a representative of the Canadian Labour Congress, a representative of the union movement in Canada, suggesting that this is not the route to take and that consultation is primordial.
Let me also quote from Mr. John Farrell, the executive director of the main employer group representing federally regulated employers, who also appeared before the human resources committee during the study of another private member's bill, Bill C-525:
This critical consultation process is completely bypassed when changes to the labour relations regime are proposed through the mechanism of one-off private members' bills. It provides no meaningful way for pre-legislative consultation to take place in an open and transparent manner, and it seeks changes without the required engagement of practitioners, recognized third-party neutrals, and the resources of government agencies charged with the responsibility to implement, adjudicate, and monitor the industrial relations system in the federal jurisdiction.
Last I quote a member of the NDP, a member of this House, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who said, on January 28, 2014:
I believe it is irresponsible on the part of the Conservative government to allow a private member's bill to amend Canada's labour relations legislation. If there were any case at all for changes to our labour relations legislation, then there must be consultations with all the stakeholders, and a full study before proceeding to draft any such bill. It should absolutely be done by a government bill, not a private member's bill.
There was not a lot of support among those who are involved in management-labour relations for taking this route. I firmly believe, as a private member, that consultation is a key principle. Consultation in labour relations and in changing the Labour Code is a kind of sacrosanct principle that should be respected. Unfortunately, the bill does not respect that principle.
I am not aware of any case where a federal government employer, in other words, a department or agency of the government, has said to a volunteer firefighter, “I am sorry. You cannot go and put out that fire. We need you at the office”. I do not know of any cases. Maybe we would have known of some cases if proper consultations had taken place.
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the remarks from the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. The key point he made was that the committee be allowed to do its job properly, and in order to do that, it should travel.
Mr. Speaker, I think you know that even with committee hearings here in Ottawa, in theory that should work. However, the practice with the government has been one of absolute control of its members at committee. That is where we run into the problem with the hearings in Ottawa.
I have always found that when committees travel they become less partisan. It is not as possible for the parliamentary secretary to come in the room, put his hand on a shoulder, and say “you're a member of the government”. They are not; they are a member of the governing party and they have a responsibility to constituents. However, the pressure on backbench members, especially from the Conservative Party, is not as great when we are out in the country.
Could the member explain how committees are working, or more properly, as he said, not working, in Ottawa in the community's interest, so that Canadians understand why it is necessary for the committee to travel?
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-563, An Act respecting a Lincoln Alexander Day.
Mr. Speaker, Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, one of the most outstanding and accomplished Canadians of our time, was born on January 21, 1922. Rising above the prejudice of the era, he embraced the opportunity of public education. He developed his talents and reached his full potential through disciplined study and the strength of his character.
He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Home again after the war, he graduated from McMaster University and Osgoode Hall Law School and qualified as a lawyer.
Responding to the call of public service, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1968, representing Hamilton West. In 1979, he was appointed to be minister of labour, making history as the Government of Canada's first black cabinet minister. Later he served as chair of the worker's compensation board of Ontario, now known as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board; as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the representative of Her Majesty the Queen; and as chancellor of the University of Guelph, among many other community contributions.
He passed away on October 19, 2012 at the age of 90. His life was an example of service, determination and humility. Always fighting for equal rights for all races in our society and doing so without malice, he changed attitudes and contributed greatly to the inclusiveness and tolerance of Canada today.
I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than to make January 21, the date of his birth, Lincoln Alexander Day in Canada. I am pleased to have the full support of the members for Hamilton Centre and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, as well as our leader and the entire caucus, for this important bill. I hope we will be able to pass it today.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
The electoral district of Hamilton East--Stoney Creek (Ontario) has a population of 116,434 with 85,802 registered voters and 227 polling divisions.
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