Mr. Chair, I found it a little cool in here, so I went out to the lobby to grab my scarf. Perhaps it is serendipitous that I am wearing this one tonight because I call this my scarf of many colours. Maybe it is indicative that we stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends.
I am always very proud when I am able to have Seder dinner with my very good friends, Sam Goldstein and his wife, Shelly, or with my good friends Julius and Etta Suraski. It is always a pleasure when I am able to spend Second Seder with my good friends Carla and Robin Silver in Richmond Hill. It has been an education for me. They are always evenings of great delight and enjoyment, not only with food but also fellowship and new cultural experiences for me.
When I was first elected, I was part of an inquiry panel chaired by my good friend from Leeds—Grenville. It was a great investigation that we undertook. I will note from our report some comments by Rabbi Bulka. I have read this report several times through and I always come back to one part where he said:
How do we counter antisemitism? To me, the very simple answer is teach, teach, teach.... We need to create foot soldiers, and those foot soldiers are the children of the next generation. We owe it to them. We owe it to the legacy of our founding fathers and mothers that children going through any elementary or high school system will have been so inoculated against hate by the time they get to university that when they see it, they will reject it.
Could my colleague comment on his experience of how we can bring this education into our school curriculum so that as the rabbi said, children will recognize this as hatred and reject it?
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about our new economic action plan 2014, “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”. I have been thumbing through it, and I am excited about all the good things in this budget and that we are on our way to a balanced budget. I am excited that we will be able to start paying down debt and making more investments into our economy and for Canadian families. There are so many great things in here. I am going to briefly go through a few of them, and then I am going to talk about the things that are important to my riding of Selkirk—Interlake.
We will launch the Canada job grant effective April 1, 2014. We will partner with most provinces and move ahead in matching jobs with people who need jobs. We will have the investment and partnership from the business community. The job-matching service is something we would do to help match jobs with Canadians who are looking for work.
We are going to create the Canada apprenticeship loan and run it the same way that we run the Canada student loans program. It would finally allow youth who want to participate in the red seal trades with an opportunity to get student loans while they are taking their apprenticeships. We would increase the number of unpaid internships for young Canadians, with $55 million.
We would cut more red tape for small business. I know of small businesses up and down the main streets in my communities and the owners have to do so much paperwork. The more we can do to reduce that load, the better. We have been working at this for the last several years, and the more we can do, the better off our businesses are going to be.
We are going to continue to have more research in technology and innovation and development, with $1.5 billion over the next decade to allow our universities and colleges to establish the Canada first research excellence fund. These are great things.
There were some things that I was hoping to see in this budget that I am very pleased to see are here. They are important to Manitoba and to Selkirk—Interlake.
One of the things we announced was a $200-million natural disasters mitigation program. This would help communities prepare for natural disasters. Selkirk—Interlake has had a number of overland floods because of either ice jams on the Red River, or flooding over Lake Manitoba because of the diversion along the Assiniboine River and Lake Winnipeg. Whenever we have had weather bombs come through and raise the lake levels, or there is excessive moisture because of heavy snow melts as well as wet springs, we have had a lot of damage.
Where we have been able to put in flood mitigations like the Red River Floodway, “Duff's Ditch”, as we call it in Manitoba, they have saved billions and billions of dollars from flooding in the city of Winnipeg. If we can continue to make those types of investments in dikes and diversions and floodways, it would provide more opportunities to protect more communities, more property, and more Manitobans.
However, it is not just in Manitoba; this is available across the country. I know that in Quebec we have had flooding. We have seen some disasters this past spring in Calgary and High River, and other places in southern Alberta. This is the type of investment from our federal government that would ensure we could mitigate those types of disasters and provide the infrastructure that would have ongoing benefits to communities. It would not cost the treasury billions of dollars time and again with the devastation like we saw in Calgary this year.
I am excited to see the new horizons program get another $5 million in addition to what it already gets. I know that the new horizons centres in my riding, as well as other seniors centres, have benefited from this program. Whether it is from accessibility grants, mentoring programs, or investing in their facility, it provides a place for seniors to gather, share, and have fun, and to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. I know they appreciate it whenever they get money to keep improving their facilities.
In 2005, one of the bills I introduced when I was in opposition was called Jonathan's Bill. That became law a couple of years ago, through the hard work of my friend and colleague from Leeds—Grenville. We were able to establish a program that provides EI sick benefits to parents and families who are caring for terminally ill or critically ill or injured children. I am happy to report that program will be enhanced by $2.4 million over the next two years. It would continue after that with funding of $1.2 million in excess of the EI benefit there now, to allow families to stay at home and care for their children. There is nothing worse for children than to have to depend on the care of someone who is not their mother, father, or grandparent, and to be sitting with strangers, maybe in a hospital.
It is better for their recovery and for their well-being if they can have time to sit at home and be cared for by a family member. Especially if they are undergoing treatment or surgery, it is going to be important that children are with loved ones and that their families get the support they need to help them recover.
In my riding, I often hear how difficult it is to be wired in on the Internet. In rural Manitoba, as in lots of places across rural Canada, Internet access is difficult. It is either dial-up or really poor wireless service. The $305-million broadband program that was announced would speed, extend, and enhance the broadband high-speed Internet network across Canada to over 280,000 Canadian households. That would be a welcome addition for so many homeowners and businesses throughout Selkirk—Interlake.
We would invest another $40 million to improve small craft harbours. I know that many people do not realize that in Manitoba we have an inland sea. In the riding of Selkirk—Interlake, we have over 1,000 commercial fishers. Those commercial fishers on Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba depend on having safe harbours. It is important that they have the ability to access funding to improve those harbours to keep them safe and to deal with some of the weather damage they have experienced over the last few years. I can assure everyone that they are thankful.
As a farmer in an area that represents a large farming and ranching area, I am glad to see one thing I have been asking to have for some time, which is an extension of the tax deferral program for livestock producers when they undergo drought or overland flooding. Right now cattle, goats, sheep, bison, and hogs are the only livestock that qualify for tax deferral. If farmers are in a situation where they have no feed, no pasture, and no opportunity to grow a crop to feed those animals because of flooding or drought, one option many farmers and ranchers entertain is to actually sell the livestock and re-buy stock when weather conditions improve. We have always offered farmers a tax deferral of up to 12 months if they have had to liquidate their herds. Rather than having to pay it off as income tax, they have that cash on hand so they can purchase replacement livestock.
I am glad to report that in the budget we would extend that program to include bees and horses, because in our area, we have a lot of PMU operations and horse breeders. Those are commercial farm operations.
When we talk about bees, we are not just talking about honeybees. We are also talking about leafcutter bees, which pollinate a lot of our crops, especially clover, alfalfa, and some of the other legumes that are so important to the overall production of western Canadian crops.
One thing my friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette has been working on is having the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program. We ran it for the last two years as a pilot. It went over so well that it would be extended another two years and would be increased to $15 million. I see my friend from Wetaskiwin is here, who has also been a very big player in having this program. It enhances not only the commercial fishery but the recreational fishery for the sports fishers who go out there and angle and go after trophy walleye and catfish in the Red River in Manitoba and northern pike, which we call jackfish.
There are so many opportunities for working in partnership with local fish and wildlife organizations in our small communities to develop better fisheries, to enhance the habitat, and to protect and conserve those important natural areas. I am very excited to see that.
One thing that has been very positive, as well, in my area is the trails program, whether it is for snowmobiles or hiking. This $10 million for the National Trails Coalition would improve accessibility for people who love the outdoors and want to get out and see our natural spaces. It is one area that has great benefit for the riding of Selkirk—Interlake, not only for the snowmobilers and off-roaders but for people who like to go out on bikes or to hike and just enjoy the beautiful area of Selkirk—Interlake.
With that I am more than happy to take some questions from my colleagues. I encourage everyone in the House to support this great budget and get back to having a balanced budget and paying down our national debt again.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to this discussion on Bill C-7, a bill that would establish the new Canadian museum of history.
I would like to use this opportunity to remind the House of the importance of museums to our society, our identity, our unity, and our future as Canadians.
Our government values our museums and has demonstrated our support in a number of tangible ways. We have spoken also of the network that the new Canadian museum of history will lead. This network will connect Canada's history museums across the country so that they can access some of the 3 million items that are in the national collection.
Like most museums, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has the vast majority of its collection in storage. The future Canadian museum of history will be negotiating agreements in every single province and territory in this country so that it can get this collection moving across the country.
History is all around us; we are just not always consciously aware of it. Are members aware that the more than 2,500 museums in Canada welcome more than 27 million visitors every year?
Our museums are where many Canadians learn about their history. Our museums have a myriad of stories to tell, stories of grand accomplishments, perseverance, struggle, community, tragedy, and triumph.
As was already noted by the member for Leeds—Grenville in the previous intervention, according to the Canadian Museums Association, 96% of Canadians believe that museums contribute to the quality of life in our nation. Furthermore, 97% believe that museums do an excellent job of preserving and presenting our history.
Recently our government announced that museums across Canada will be able to share their exhibits with the Canadian museum of history and be able to access the new museum's collection.
To make it possible to share this rich collection with all Canadians, changes are being made to the federal museums assistance program in order to remove barriers to the circulation of museum exhibitions interprovincially and to financially assist small museums in borrowing objects and exhibitions from the Canadian museum of history.
We know that it is expensive to host and move exhibits and artifacts. That is why this government thought it was important to help smaller museums across the country access the national collection of the Canadian museum of history and make sure the artifacts could be displayed all across our country. That is exactly what our government is doing. Smaller museums often do not have the capacity to acquire an artifact to complete their collection or simply to be able to add an exhibit for their visitors. With the new support that we are putting in place, it would be easier for smaller museums to approach the Canadian museum of history and access its extensive national collection.
I would also like to point out that it has been more than 20 years since the current Canadian Museum of Civilization has been updated in a significant way. Therefore, it is time to refresh its mandate and orientation so that a new Canadian museum of history can focus on the story of this great country.
As has been mentioned in past debates, the Children's Museum will continue to be an integral part of the new museum; so will the Grand Hall and the First Peoples Hall, which present chapters of our story that are of immense importance, the history of Canada's first peoples.
At the same time, a significant part of the museum's success will be its ability to reach all Canadians and tell their stories, the stories of the people who helped build this country and those who continue to do so today. With that goal in mind, the future Canadian museum of history is signing partnership agreements with a number of museums to establish a nationwide museum network.
This new national museum will work with museums all across Canada to help ensure that our country's achievements and accomplishments are highlighted. We know that museums develop pride in local traditions and customs and that they help people to feel a sense of belonging and involvement in their community. Museums and the programming they support promote co-operation among different cultures and different age groups and help to create community and social networks.
As the creation of the Canadian museum of history shows, our government values the role that museums play in preserving and commemorating our past.
By the time we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, Canadians will have a new museum that highlights the moments, the people, and the objects that have helped to shape our great country.
I ask that the members of the House consider the statement by one of Canada's best known and most respected historians, Michael Bliss, when he said that our collective history is our collective memory. He added that without memory, people become unmoored, adrift, lost, and said that was why so many people work so hard to preserve our national memories, our sense of ourselves as Canadians—as a people who have had a long and rich common experience.
Since the announcement in October 2012 of the transformation of the Canadian Museum of Civilization into the Canadian museum of history, we have heard from many organizations that enthusiastically support this change. I would like to read just a few of those quotes from some of those individuals.
John McAvity is the executive director of the Canadian Museums Association. He said, “The Museum is developing equal partnerships with other history museums across Canada. ... That is good news.”
A press release from the Ontario Museum Association said that the OMA “...welcomes the initiative to strengthen partnerships among museums in Ontario and across the country.” Marie Lalonde, executive director of the OMA, also said, “...we welcome the opportunity to explore new ways that museums may work with each other.” She added that they look forward to the new direction announced by the government.
To go a little further with a couple of additional quotes, Marie Senécal-Tremblay, the president of the Fédération canadienne des amis des musées, said that this announcement will allow small museums to better showcase their unique collections to many more Canadians and visitors.
Finally, Jack Granatstein, a prominent Canadian historian, said, “This move is exactly what I thought should happen” and “ I'm delighted the government and the museum are doing it.”
This is very clear support for the moves being made by our government, and very clear particularly in relation to the fact that we are looking to share that very vast national collection with museums all across this country. It is important to note that.
Clearly, our commitment to Canada's museums is real and ongoing. In the last fiscal year alone, this government invested approximately $355 million in museums and heritage institutions. Our government has made key investments in the museum sector. This includes support for two new national museums, namely the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. We have also increased funding for summer internships in small and medium-sized museums. This year, some 1,600 students were hired to work and learn in museums all across the country.
In my riding alone, here are just a few of the examples of many I could name. One is the Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation, which was able to hire a summer intern to help with its work. Another is the Centennial Museum Society of Canmore. There is also the Luxton Museum Society in Banff National Park, where they have preserved the local first nations history. Those are great examples from my riding of Wild Rose alone.
Now we are embarking on the creation of the Canadian museum of history. In 2017 we will celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, and as we approach that important date, the timing seems right to pause and rethink the way we tell our story to Canadians and visitors from abroad.
Our museums hold the cultural wealth of the nation for all generations, both past, present, and future. Museums play a central role in giving Canadians the resources to celebrate why Canada is such a unique and great country.
Let us all join together to create the national Canadian museum of history as the institution that will capture our lived experiences.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this evening with my good friend, the member for Leeds—Grenville.
I am delighted to rise to speak to Bill C-49, which will create the new Canadian museum of history. In my remarks tonight, I would like to focus on why it is so important to have a national museum dedicated to Canadian history.
Our government believes in our national museums, and we recognize the tremendous value they hold for all Canadians. As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, it is an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and those achievements that define who we are as Canadians.
We have all heard the statistics. Canadians lack knowledge of our history and wish that they knew more about it. Although more than 75% of Canadians feel that learning Canadian history strengthens their attachment to the country, fewer than 50% are able to pass a basic citizenship exam that tests general knowledge of Canada, and only 26% of youth aged 18 to 24 know the year of Confederation. Only 37% know that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in World War I, and only 76% of Canadians are embarrassed about the lack of knowledge Canadians have about their history. Something obviously has to change. Our children deserve and should know more about the long and complex history of this great nation.
The establishment of the Canadian museum of history will give Canadians the opportunity to learn, appreciate and feel proud of the richness of Canada's history. The museum will chronicle our country's national achievements. It will explore the major themes, events and people of our national experience by bringing history to life and providing the public with a strong sense of Canadian identity.
Our government believes that it has a solemn responsibility to wisely manage the money Canadians send to us. That is why we chose not to build a new national museum from the ground up but rather to build on the reputation and popularity of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to create a national museum of history that will showcase the national achievements that have shaped this great country.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is set to begin a progressive transformation that will be completed over the next five years and will lead up to Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. The Canadian Museum of History will provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of our history. Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our story and presents our country's treasures to the world.
Members might ask what this transformation involves. The government investment will allow the museum to undertake the renovation of almost half its permanent exhibition space. The result will be more than 43,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space, due to open in 2016, presenting a comprehensive and chronological history of Canada to Canadians and to the world.
It is important to remember that the Grand Hall and the First People's Hall, which present the history of Canada's first peoples, will remain an integral part of the new museum, as will the Children's Museum.
To complement the government's investment and to ensure that Canadians in all regions have new opportunities to learn about Canada's history, the new museum will sign agreements with several museums across the country to travel exhibitions outside the national capital region, to share expertise and to lend artifacts and other material from its collection to enhance their local exhibitions and educational programs.
To quote Michael Bliss, a Canadian historian and award-winning author, this new museum is a “terrific opportunity” for our local and provincial historical societies as well as our national organizations.
Understanding that not all Canadian museums have the ability to accept large travelling exhibitions, the new museum also plans to work with those institutions to develop travelling exhibitions tailored specifically to their needs. These institutions will also be able to borrow artifacts from the new museum.
The new Canadian Museum of History will not only open its collections to museums across the country but will also provide a showcase for Canadian museums. To increase its capacity to host travelling exhibitions created by museums across this country, the museum will renovate 7,500 square feet on the street level floor of its main building to create a new temporary exhibition gallery. These exhibitions will help the Canadian museum of history to tell a truly national story and connect the treasures that are scattered in local museums across the country to our national narrative.
Between now and 2017, the museum is planning a series of temporary exhibitions that will highlight its new mandate and will build excitement about the changes in its programming.
In terms of how Canada's history is presented, some have wondered if there is a move afoot to present our history in a way that favours a partisan approach. I would remind everyone that the Canadian museum of history will remain a federal crown corporation and will continue to operate at arm's length from the government. The board of trustees and the management of the museum are responsible for determining exactly how the museum will present Canadian history.
Our government has established a new mandate for the Canadian museum of history. That is true. Having done that, we will leave it up to the capable management of the museum to make its decisions about the implementation of that mandate.
I would like to note that the museum reached out to Canadians, in person and online, to seek their opinions and ideas. The Canadian Museum of Civilization even launched an online forum located at myhistory.ca. The museum also carried out a series of cross-country consultations that gave Canadians the opportunity to give their opinions on the personalities, events and milestones that truly tell the Canadian story. In total, more than 20,000 Canadians contributed their ideas to the website, panel discussions and round tables all across Canada. We are delighted by this level of engagement. By the time we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, Canadians will have a new museum dedicated to the history of this country. It will be a celebration of our history and the achievements and accomplishments that have shaped this great land.
This is a great opportunity for young and not so young Canadians alike to have a better sense of and get a better share in our history. We will be able to share the collection gathered at the museum here in Ottawa with other museums across the country, whether they be large museums that can benefit from large exhibitions or some of the smaller museums in smaller communities, like those in my riding of Wild Rose or in Kenora, as my friend from Kenora has just pointed out. Lots of communities across this country will have an opportunity to have the exhibitions travel to their parts of the country so that they can experience them first-hand. Of course, we will see some of the great pieces in some of the museums across the country come to the National capital region to be shared with people here. It is a great opportunity for all Canadians. It is a great opportunity for many of the museums across this country, whether they be large or small.
It is also a great opportunity to see the stories of our Canadian history told. We have a very rich history. Look at some of the amazing feats of soldiers, in particular, in World War I and World War II. I believe that some of those battles were the coming of age of this country. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the places where those battles took place. That is certainly not an opportunity all Canadians have. I wish they did.
Museums that will benefit from the travelling exhibitions are the places where Canadians can learn about these significant parts of our Canadian history. It is a great opportunity for Canadians and for all museums across the country to share our Canadian history.
I will conclude by encouraging all members of the House to join me in supporting this worthwhile and responsible piece of legislation. I will quote John McAvity, the executive director of the Canadian Museums Association. He said that “the renaming of the Museum of Civilization...is essential”, the it “is good news”, and that “it will give Canadians greater access to their heritage [and] to their history”.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the debate. I certainly was listening carefully to the comments of the previous speakers and I have some comments to make about what has been said.
Last week I said in a scrum that if the Minister of Finance was William Tell, I am very glad that I did not have an apple on my head.
I would like to document the gross inaccuracy of the predictions that have been made by the minister before the members opposite start congratulating themselves too much on their alleged record of economic management. Let us have a look at that record.
In 2006, in his first budget, the Minister of Finance predicted 3% growth. The actual growth was 2.8%. In 2007 he predicted 2.3%. He missed that target as well. In 2008 he predicted 1.7% growth and actual growth was 0.7%. In 2009 the minister had to admit that there was going to be a contraction in the economy of 0.8%. The actual contraction was 2.8%. In 2011 he predicted 2.9% growth and the actual growth was 2.5%. Last year he predicted 2.1% growth and the actual was roughly 1.8%.
If the annual real GDP growth experienced under every prime minister were averaged, only one prime minister in the living memory of some members, R.B. Bennett, had a worse economic growth record than that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's average annual growth during the time of his prime ministership has been 1.4% over his seven years.
When the Minister of Finance announced the economic action plan in budget 2009, he promised a temporary deficit that would be eliminated in 2013-14, which by the way, begins six days from now. Instead, we have an $18.7-billion deficit predicted for 2013-14. Based on his previous record, that is not going to be an easy target to reach.
I want to go back over the ground because members keep saying “Let's pretend we don't have a memory of any of these things”. The problem is we do have a memory and we do have a record.
In 2008 the minister predicted a surplus of $2.3 billion. That became a deficit of $5.8 billion, an $8.1-billion difference. In 2009 he predicted a deficit of $33.7 billion, which became a deficit of $55.6 billion, a $21.9-billion difference. In 2012 he predicted a deficit of $21.1 billion, which has become a deficit of $25.9 billion, a $4.8 billion-difference.
Perhaps the most famous inaccuracy of the Minister of Finance, and the bow and arrow is looking a bit shaky in his hands right now, was the 2008 fall economic update, which is perhaps his most infamous economic prediction. We all remember that because it was the one where he predicted no recession for Canada, a series of future budget balances that came in at a $0.1-billion surplus and the balance would be achieved from the future sale of government assets.
It is worth recalling that we reached our lowest point in terms of our debt at $458 billion six years ago. This budget predicts that by the end of this fiscal year it will be $627 billion, an increase of $169 billion.
This is the same Minister of Finance who, as he is delivering his budget speech, stands up and waxes full of pieties saying governments cannot spend their way out of a recession and then, looking meaningfully over at the opposition, says some people might disagree with this statement, but nevertheless the government is standing by its record of economic management and fiscal prudence. A $170-billion increase in the national debt and the government has the nerve to say that it is some kind of an example of fiscal prudence. It is preposterous.
It is also preposterous to say that it is a government that has somehow embraced restraint. Program spending has gone from $175 billion in 2005-06 to $253 billion today, which is a 45% increase. That is far greater than the rate of inflation and the rate of growth in the real economy.
Let us look at the fact that Canada is a federation. One cannot just take the federal programs and the federal approach in isolation. What I would like to see in this budget is not only a statement of the federal government's plans and hopes for the future, which is allegedly what we had in the budget statement. I, and I think most Canadians, would like to see how the federation is doing. How are Canadians doing? Where is the unemployment rate? Where is the job-creation rate? How indebted are Canadians? Have they fallen behind or are they moving ahead? How are the provinces doing? How are the municipalities doing?
Let us look at simple facts. Since 2007-08, the provincial debt, the debt of all the provinces, has gone from $321 billion to $534 billion, which is a $230-billion increase. This year, 2012-13, only Saskatchewan and the three territories that are largely supported by the federal government are now expected to run a surplus. Therefore, when we look at the actual condition of the federation, it is far more serious than the government is prepared to tell us. It is far more problematic than the government is prepared to admit.
However, we have a government that nevertheless is eager to pat itself on the back. I heard this in the statements of my colleagues for Leeds—Grenville and Okanagan—Coquihalla, who said that this was such a wonderful budget because for the first time in 40 years the government had identified the skills challenge as a problem facing Canada. What?
This is not the first time in 40 years that a problem with job training has been identified. There is obviously a problem. Everyone is well aware of this and recognizes the problem. However, acknowledging that there is a problem and proposing a solution are two completely different things.
Let us take a moment to talk about job training. Six years ago, the government signed a number of agreements with the provinces whereby it handed over complete authority for training to the provinces. The government gave them money and told them to do their best to solve the job training problem.
It seems that the Prime Minister became angry recently when he learned that there was a problem. He was the last to notice and to realize what was happening.
The Prime Minister went slightly overboard six years ago. Now he is getting back to work and is saying that he has a solution. He has announced that the government will allow young students and workers to receive $15,000. The government will take care of all the advertising for this wonderful program and will take back responsibility for training.
The Prime Minister said that his government would solve this problem that no one else had addressed before. What an exaggeration, what arrogance on the part of the federal government and the Conservative Party.
The provinces had actually started working on it. Not everyone wanted the government to create a $15,000 program because the Prime Minister would then announce that everyone—including the federal and provincial governments and the private sector—would have to contribute $5,000.
Today, the Prime Minister is saying that he is prepared to sit down and to negotiate with the provinces. It is not a good idea to announce a program before you have conducted negotiations. In fact, that is contrary to what should be done. Better yet, the government should say that it has things to discuss with the provinces and that it wants to do that.
They had an opportunity. Just six months ago, the premiers made an unprecedented decision to tell the Prime Minister that they would like to have a meeting to discuss the economy. They wanted to have a chance to discuss the issues that concern them and concern the government, because running a modern economy or running a federation is not the exclusive property of the Government of Canada. It is not the exclusive jurisdiction of the Conservative Party. It is a concern of every political party, a concern of every region, and a concern of every government.
The Prime Minister declined. The Prime Minister of Canada refused to attend. If we compare Canada to every other federation in the world, no other federation would be in a situation in which the leader of its federal government would refuse to sit down with the premiers who had specifically asked for a meeting to discuss the economy. It is unbelievable.
After the last 48 hours, I have a suggestion for the premiers: they should rent themselves panda costumes and get together and tell the Prime Minister there is going to be a fantastic photo opportunity. They will not even be behind glass. They will be out in public and willing to sit down. That is the only way I think we can get this Prime Minister to sit down and talk to the premiers.
Instead of having a meeting and a serious discussion, what does the Government of Canada do? On health care, the Minister of Finance walked into a luncheon meeting of the ministers of finance and said, “I am too busy to have lunch. By the way, I want to tell you what the transfers for health care are going to be for the next 10 years.”
The member for Peterborough is saying “Hear, hear”. Maybe that goes down well where he comes from, but having sat at a premiers' table and at a ministers of finance table, I can say it is ridiculous to have a federal government walk in and in five minutes describe what the program for transfers is going to be.
There has to be a discussion. The government cannot have a take it or leave it approach. The take it or leave it approach is even being rejected by the members of the Conservative Party opposite.
Even now, even at this late hour in the life of the government, we are beginning to see signs of life, signs of people wanting to speak up, signs of members of the blue army chorus saying they want to wear something different and come out today and have a voice of their own. However, even that is being stamped down by the leadership of the Conservative Party.
This budget does so much less than what it pretends to do. In the dialogue between the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla and the member for Peterborough, the member for Peterborough was saying, “Isn't it a wonderful thing? We have discovered that if you reduce tariffs, it is going to have a positive effect on the economy.”
The Conservatives raised tariff revenues for the federal government in this budget by $300 million, but the two items upon which they reduced them magically leaped out—magically.
John Ivison from the National Post magically picked the items out of all the possibilities of items that the government would either reduce or increase, and he said that the reporters from The Globe and Mail had the same magic information. How did that happen? How would they have suddenly landed on baby clothes and hockey equipment? Of all the items that are there, those are the items they picked.
I do not think so. I do not think it was a lucky guess. I know my friends in the New Democratic Party have written to the RCMP and are going to launch an investigation. I wish the investigators well in their search for this difficult piece of information.
The government has raised tariffs by $300 million. I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to the Minister of Finance talking to our Asian friends and saying, “We really want to lower tariffs and we really want to engage with you in the Pacific negotiations, but by the way, we are taking a $300-million cash grab before we sit down and have a serious discussion about tariffs.”
It is ridiculous. The range of things the government is doing, not to improve the budget but to simply sell the budget, is unbelievable to me.
I have to hand it to the government. It knows how to orchestrate leaks. It knows how to feed little pieces of gruel to the press the week before and say, "Here is a little item. You might want to nibble on this. You might want to nibble on that." Suddenly and magically, the press knew that skills training and infrastructure were going to be the focus of the budget. Every single speech given by a member opposite, dutifully prepared by the Prime Minister's Office, expressed it.
That is what we know. We know the Conservatives know how to orchestrate. We know that after they have orchestrated, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso would have said, they also know how to sell.
He is not even here to listen to what I have to say. This is what happens to an interim leader. He says to mention his riding, but when I go to the length and trouble of bringing him into the story, he walks out. I cannot understand it.
Resuming debate. Seeing no one, I ask the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville for his right of reply for up to five minutes.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-44, the helping families in need act, which delivers on several of our commitments to support Canadian families as we seek to help them balance work and family responsibilities.
The legislation supports parents of murdered and missing children, and parents of critically ill children. It also provides enhanced access to EI sickness benefits for parents who fall ill while receiving EI parental benefits. The amendments proposed in the helping families in need act will allow us to offer new support measures to Canadian families at a time when they need it the most.
For parents, it means they will not have to quit their jobs to care for critically ill children. For employers, it means retaining valued employees who, otherwise, would have had to give up their jobs to care for a child who is critically ill. For children, it means they can have their parents at their sides during the most difficult times they will ever face in their lives.
Children who are critically ill require not only ongoing care, but they need the love and emotional support of their parents during this time of need. I am extremely pleased to see our government taking action to help the parents of critically ill children. In fact, since I was first elected in 2004, one of my first orders of business was to table a motion calling for just this kind of support.
Before politics and after I was first elected, our neighbours had a son, Jonathan Watson, who was terminally ill with neuroblastoma. We witnessed first-hand his courageous battle, his tremendous spirit and how he was just so loved, not only by his family but by our entire community of Teulon. They farmed just down the road from us. It was an incredible hardship for them to deal with all the emotional stress of caring for their son who for seven years fought this terrible disease, which he finally succumbed to.
Brenda, his mother, had to give up her job to be with him full time. His dad had to take on two jobs just to support the family. They did quite a bit of the surgery and care down in the U.S., because the surgeries were just not available in Canada. It took an incredible toll on the entire family, a family of very dear friends.
Jonathan wanted to raise awareness of the battle he was going through. His parents, Ken and Brenda, wanted to raise awareness of their struggle. Using the Candlelighters organization, which gave them a lot of support, along with the tremendous support they got from the community, there were fundraising events. There was also charitable giving, because we knew of the financial hardship the family was going through. We also witnessed their having to pretty much end their farming careers because they just could not afford to put the time into two jobs and the farm while Jonathan dealt with his reoccurring illness, which finally got the better of him.
One of the things Jonathan did that I was able to participate in a little bit was that he twice participated in a car push. He was the driver of a car and a couple of strong men pushed the car for an entire weekend, ongoing, to break the Guinness world record for the longest car push. It was a fundraising event to raise awareness, as well as to raise support for medical research for children's diseases. It was something he was incredibly proud of and we were all quite proud of his participation in it. It was his idea and he was able get involved with a couple of great big guys and do it over a weekend.
I introduced a motion back in November 2005. Motion No. 309 said:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should provide income support payments, expanded parental leave and tax relief to parents, legal guardians or family members leaving work to provide home care to critically and terminally ill children requiring full-time palliative care as certified in a letter from a medical practitioner.
I called that Jonathan's bill. I was quite pleased that in the following Parliament my seatmate, the member for Leeds—Grenville, brought forward Bill C-542 in the 39th and 40th Parliament, and again in this Parliament, Bill C-371, which called for the exact same types of support for families dealing with children who are critically and terminally ill, and also made sure that we have the EI support and employment protection reforms in place. He carried the ball on that in the Parliaments after I originally tabled the motion. It is something I am very proud of him for doing. He worked very closely with Sharon Ruth of Kemptville, a constituent of his, and she has worked hard on this issue, and I want to congratulate both of them.
Parents of critically ill children face difficult choices. In addition to the emotional and physical stress of caring for a critically ill child, many parents must choose between continuing to work to support their families or incurring financial hardship when they temporarily leave work to care for their child.
Are loving parents willing to take leave from their jobs in order to be with their ill children? Of course they are. Should these parents be provided with as much support as possible so they are not penalized for being with their families in time of need? Most members in the House would believe that is true. I hope all parties would support that and all members would have the same realization as we do on this side of the House. Indeed, in a 2006 study of EI compassionate care benefits, it was found that parents of children receiving curative treatments, such as chemotherapy or having major surgery, are likely to quit their jobs to be with their child regardless of the prognosis. I think all of us as parents would do the same thing.
Between 40% and 63% of families who have children with cancer lose income because they work less while they care for their sick child. Loss of income and out of pocket expenses for travel, accommodation and payment for medical supplies can account for nearly 25% of the total disposable income available to these families. As I mentioned with the Watsons, it was even higher than that because they had to go to the United States for the care, treatment and surgeries for neuroblastoma on Jonathan.
Our government wants to ensure that these parents do not suffer undue financial hardship any longer and that we support them and their families during these difficult times. That is why we have created this new EI benefit that would provide temporary income support for eligible claimants who take leave from work to provide care and support to a critically ill child. These measures would be available to parents of a critically ill child under the age of 18 and would provide support for up to 35 weeks. As I said before, we will also amend the Canada Labour Code to allow for unpaid leave for employees under federal jurisdiction to ensure that their jobs are protected if they take time off to care for a critically ill child.
These changes are not simply worth doing, they are the right thing to do to support Canadian families. I am pleased to hear that the NDP and the Liberals will be supporting the bill. The families that this legislation supports need this help as soon as possible. It is too late for the Watsons, but in talking to Brenda and Ken, they want to see that this help is there for families who are going through the same experience that they went through back in 2005 and the seven years previous to that.
One of the areas that has not received much attention from previous governments is supporting families who have been negatively impacted by crime. This is perplexing because it is quite possibly one of the most difficult experiences a parent could ever go through: the loss or disappearance of a child as a result of a criminal act. That is why parents who work for a federally regulated employer who take a leave of absence from work to cope with such circumstances will also receive job protection under this legislation. We will also be providing financial help to parents through the new federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children. This grant is expected to be available as early as January 1, 2013.
Another portion of the bill that would have a significant economic and labour impact is enhancing the access to EI sickness benefits. Under the bill, the Employment Insurance Act would be amended to allow parents access to EI sickness benefits if they fall ill during the time they are on EI parental leave. If a parent is already on parental leave to care for a newborn and then fall ill with cancer or something that would take them out of the workforce for a lengthy period of time, they could still access those EI sickness benefits after the parental leave.
These combined initiatives, which our government is proposing in the helping families in need act, are just some of the actions taken by our government to help Canadian parents balance work and family responsibilities. The bill is in addition to the measures we have already brought in, such as expanding eligibility for compassionate care, allowing the self-employed to opt into the EI program to access maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits, and improved access to EI parental benefits for military families. The initiatives in the bill underscore our government's commitment to support Canadian families and help them through the times when they are most in need.
I want to thank the Prime Minister for originally introducing the bill and talking about it. I also want to thank the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development for bringing it to the House and, as I said, the member of Parliament for Leeds—Grenville, as well as the families and the non-government agencies such as Candlelighters that have been promoting and lobbying for these changes for so long, families such as the Watsons and the Rudys who have been affected by these unfortunate incidents, as has the hon. member for Brant with his own family.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in support of Bill C-44, the helping families in need act.
Before I make my formal remarks, I would like to extend my appreciation to both the NDP and Liberal Parties for their support of this bill, even though at this point it sounds like there may be some conditions around that. I think this is a great example of what some parents and groups across the nation consider a revolutionary change and, certainly, a compassionate new way to recognize those most in need.
The bill contains three measures that will help Canadian families at a time when they most need it. These include EI benefits for parents of critically ill children, enhanced access to sickness benefits for parents receiving EI parental benefits, and federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children.
Thankfully, we have a Prime Minister and government that understand that families are the building blocks of our society and recognize that parents should have the option of being with their children at a time of crisis, without fear of losing their job or financial security.
I would also highlight the work of the member for Leeds—Grenville in his private member's bill on this matter in the last two parliaments, which acted as a catalyst for these changes to be made in this very compassionate bill. As well I would recognize the member for Selkirk—Interlake who moved a motion in 2006 on this topic and has been a determined advocate for parents of critically ill children.
Today presents a rare opportunity for me as a member of Parliament to connect with an issue so personal and so close and to tell a story that I have never told in public before. I stand today to speak for the many families whose lives will suddenly be turned upside down and irreversibly changed when told that their child has a life-threatening critical illness, or has been murdered or is missing and cannot be found.
The Canadian Cancer Society reports that today and every day in Canada four families will receive the news that their child has life-threatening cancer diagnosis. That is four today, four tomorrow and four every day.
Twenty-four years ago my family and I received the news that our two-year old son was critically ill with a very high-risk, life-threatening leukemia. The odds of his survival were slim.
The news was delivered on a Saturday afternoon, and our son was transferred immediately from our local hospital to the McMaster oncology unit in Hamilton where toxic chemicals were injected into his body to arrest the blood cells gone wild. Remission happened two weeks later, and an aggressive two-year chemotherapy and radiation protocol was put into place after the McMaster team of doctors determined that is what would be necessary to cure our son.
We spent over 270 days in hospital over those two years. Our son went through cranial radiation, spinal cord injections, and toxic chemicals were regularly put into his body. However, there was always one parent by his side. We quickly realized that we were not unique: there were 8 to 12 other families at the McMaster oncology unit at any point in time, at different points in the process.
It is true that cancer does not discriminate. It does not discriminate by social situation, economic situation or, for that matter, any situation that people find themselves in.
I was self-employed and, frankly, I had never had the opportunity to participate in EI. It was never available up until the time our government changed it to enable self-employed people to become part of the EI program. Now our government has set the platform for self-employed people to become part of the EI program. Even then, some 24 years ago, that was not possible. Our government corrected that.
We also learned at the time that for those with life-threatening conditions, much more is needed for them to get better than just round the clock medical care. Our children need the comfort of their parents and their family beside them.
Our son Jordan is a miracle child. Now 26, he is here with us today in Ottawa, a cancer survivor after having beaten the odds. He is a unique young man because, like many who received the same treatment protocol, he suffered brain damage as a result of the combination of cranial radiation and a very aggressive chemotherapy used in his treatment protocol. There are many families who face such circumstances and no parent should have to choose between a job and supporting a loved one.
I can tell many stories of the families we met at the McMaster oncology unit. However, I will tell one that has stuck with our family ever since we spent two years at that unit. It is the story of a 16-year-old girl who was in the room next to our son's. There were times we could go home and then back. As I said, we spent over 270 days in hospital. However, every time we went back, she would be on the ward, experiencing yet another trial of a bone marrow transplant or some other experimental drug to try to save her from this dreaded disease. The one time we were there, her entire family had gathered around her because all of the treatment options had been exhausted for her. There she was, a beautiful young girl aged 16, with her family around her saying goodbye to her because the end was near. This is not an unusual story, as there are children of many ages who are being treated today at many hospitals across this country.
As we have said here today, this would immediately help 6,000 families. It will help everyone as it goes forward. When we are told by the opposition that their support is conditional, we say that it should not be conditional. This should have happened a long time ago under previous governments, for all the people who are currently experiencing this.
What Sharon Ruth said at the announcement last week about her daughter and her situation absolutely parallels our experience and that of many other families. She has been such a strong advocate through the years, via the member for Leeds—Grenville, to bring it to where it is today. Therefore, criticism from the opposition saying that this is conditional is absolutely unacceptable to my mind.
As was also mentioned, the helping families in need act will also provide federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children. I would be remiss if I did not highlight the work of my caucus colleague, Senator Boisvenu, for his tireless advocacy on behalf of victims of crime. It is based on his personal experience from the tragic loss of his daughter, who was murdered. He took up this matter and his advocacy work has led to this part of this proposal. For far too long, families who are touched by a traumatic circumstance of a criminal act committed against a family member have not received the support they need and deserve. As Senator Boisvenu would say, the unique situations families face when seeking justice within the criminal justice system require a unique measure to support them during such a trying time. These measures expand on and complement other government supports for parents, many of which have been strengthened by our economic action plan.
Our government recognizes that it is difficult for working Canadians to balance their job and their desire to care for family members with a serious illness or disability, or cope with the trauma of a missing or murdered child. I personally cannot imagine what receiving that news would be like.
I am hopeful that the opposition will be supporting this legislation as they said they would, because this legislation needs to be passed quickly to meet our government's ambitious timelines for implementation.
I cannot put it better than Sharon Ruth, the mother of a cancer survivor. She spoke last week when we announced this new bill. She said the following:
My hope is that this legislation passes quickly and without incident. I know all too well what it's like to suffer the emotional and financial devastation of a child with a cancer diagnosis. The sooner our government can bring relief to those thousands of families across Canada currently navigating this life-altering journey, juggling jobs, bills, treatment and hope, the better.
It is pretty hard to argue with that. I call on all members of the House to support the speedy passage of Bill C-44, so we can deliver this much needed help to families in incredibly difficult circumstances.
moved that Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House today in support of Bill C-44, Helping Families in Need Act.
The government is delivering on our commitment to support Canadian families by introducing new income supports for them in times of sickness and tragedy.
Our government listens to Canadian families. We know that raising a child is one of the most important responsibilities that someone will ever have, so when a parent has to struggle with illness while balancing other responsibilities, whether at work, home or both, the whole family is affected.
We have heard from families all across this great country about situations where a parent becomes ill soon after a child is born and while the parents are still receiving parental benefits. In those cases, parents have been unable to access EI sickness benefits during or after their receipt of parental benefits because of the way the Employment Insurance Act is written.
Our government is taking action and changing the rules for ill parents.
Bill C-44 will enable parents to receive employment insurance sickness benefits if they become ill while they are receiving parental benefits.
This new measure will benefit approximately 6,000 Canadians per year and will come into effect in early 2013. Additionally, as part of the bill, we are including changes for other income supports for families when they need these the most.
As the Prime Minister announced in April of this year, we will provide financial support to parents who are struggling with the disappearance or death of their child as a result of a crime. This measure will come into force in January 2013.
I would like to point out that Senator Boisvenu has worked tirelessly on moving forward with this issue.
I must pause here before proceeding. Everyone I have spoken with and heard from has applauded the introduction of these changes, acknowledging that our government will be providing families in the most tragic and difficult situations with up to 35 weeks of income support.
However, I was absolutely stunned last week when the NDP actually voted against helping these Canadian families. In the ways and means motion that was required to introduce these changes, NDP members turned their backs on parents who need our help. Our strong, stable, national, Conservative, majority government stood up for parents of murdered or missing children last week.
NDP members, as we know, never say no to spending. It seems that that is all they know how to do sometimes, along with providing massive tax increases. However, last week, without any sound rationale, they said no to parents who really need our support.
I am hoping that they have changed their minds since then. Perhaps they heard Bruno Serre's story. It is a tragic story about when he lost his daughter to crime. Perhaps they heard the story as he related it at the launch of the bill last week.
Bruno Serre is the vice-president of the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared and the father of Brigitte, who was murdered in January 2006, at the age of 17, while working a shift at a Shell gas station in Montreal. This is what he said:
I would like to thank...the Conservative government for keeping its promise, a promise that gives families like mine renewed confidence in our government's willingness to help them.
The third component of this legislation was also previously announced by our Prime Minister this summer, that we will offer employment insurance benefits to parents of critically ill or injured children.
Every year about 19,000 children get sick enough to require prolonged treatment in intensive care units.
To heal, seriously ill children not only need doctors day and night, but they also need the comfort that their parents can provide. This new benefit will help alleviate some of the financial hardships experienced by parents who have to miss work to spend time with their families.
They need the comfort of their parents. This benefit will help reduce some of the financial pressure that parents experience as they take time away from work to look after their family. Working parents in this situation have to use up their vacation and any other leave and allowances they may have. Then they will likely have to take unpaid leave from work, often with no clear idea of when or if they will be able to get back to work.
Our government has committed to helping and we are doing so with this legislation. Conservatives have been working hard for families for years and some of the work on this new EI benefit was actually started in 2008 by my colleague, the MP for Leeds—Grenville, who introduced a private member's bill on this topic. That bill and the subsequent discussions helped create the policy for parents of critically ill or injured children, and I thank my colleague from Leeds—Grenville for his efforts.
When announcing the tabling of this legislation last week, I was particularly touched by the story of Sharon Ruth, an advocate for parents of critically ill children. Sharon's daughter, Colleen, was six years old when she was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Sharon's world was suddenly and completely changed. At the podium Sharon said:
[I]t wasn't until our country finally got a majority government that I'm standing here today with all of you on the brink of what I hope will be revolutionary change to help those families that are in need and most vulnerable.
The most important news is that Colleen is now cancer free and is enjoying life as a healthy and very active young woman. Sharon's worlds were clear on behalf of all of the parents who continue to struggle:
My hope is that this legislation passes quickly and without incident. I know all too well what it's like to suffer the emotional and financial devastation of a child with a cancer diagnosis. The sooner our government can bring relief to those thousands of families across Canada currently navigating this life-altering journey, juggling jobs, bills, treatment and hope the better.
To Sharon I say, I hope for that too.
Family, as well as the importance we attach to it, is one of the fundamental values that unite us as Canadians.
When times are tough, sometimes beyond what we could ever have imagined, that is when we support each other. That is what we do as Canadians and that is what we are doing as government. After all, the last thing that a parent should have to worry about at such a time is how to make a mortgage payment or how not to lose their job.
On that note, changes will also be made to the Canada Labour Code as part of Bill C-44 to provide job protection for parents under federal jurisdiction who take a leave of absence while coping with having a critically ill or injured child, or a murdered or missing child.
All of these measures will be providing assistance during some of the most trying or tragic times that a family could ever endure. They also represent our government's steadfast commitment to fulfilling our promises, listening to Canadians and making life better for hard-working families in this country.
As Dan Demers of the Canadian Cancer Society stated:
[I] think it's critically important that we acknowledge that in the last election, this government made a commitment to parents and families who are caring for children in the most difficult situations we can imagine and today, we're not only seeing the Government take action to fulfill this commitment, but they're moving in this town at lightening speed and...they're exceeding our expectations.
He also said:
These programs will strengthen Canadian families and provide them the flexibility and the security they need to help keep their lives as normal as possible through a very very difficult time.
I could not agree with him more, and I can only hope for all the parents who could benefit from these changes that the NDP will realize that this is not time for partisan games and needless dissent.
It is time to work together and help families in this country when they need it most.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-370, which would change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park. I also want to welcome viewers at home and members of the House back from what I hope was a good summer in the ridings for what I know will be a productive and, hopefully, somewhat congenial session of Parliament. I think this private member's bill is a good way to start.
The bill the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville has brought forward for debate today would celebrate and recognize the national heritage that Canada and the famous Thousand Islands region have to offer.
What is in the name of a park?
A name with meaning builds the location in the consciousness of the public. It sets a site within the context of its surroundings. It is open and inviting to those who seek to engage with our nation's protected natural heritage. It is vast and it is something of which we are all proud. The St. Lawrence is a great and majestic river that originates from the outflow from Lake Ontario, near Kingston, and moves eastward 3,058 kilometres, one of the longest rivers in the world, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. There are several prominent islands in the St. Lawrence: Wolfe Island, Montreal, Île d'Orléans and Anticosti Island are just a few.
What does St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as a name, say to the average Canadian?
Those who do not know the park would not imagine a region where majestic castles and historic summer homes stand in contrast to rugged islands of granite and pine that are home to lumbering turtles, soaring eagles and countless other species. The current name says nothing about how the park is located in the heart of the Thousand Islands area, an 80-kilometre-wide extension of granite hilltops joining the Canadian Shield of northern Ontario with the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.
This is a park that showcases the unique landscape created by glaciers retreating 10,000 years ago, scraping sediments and exposing the rounded knobs of an ancient mountain chain. When the St. Lawrence River flooded the area on its path to the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 hilltops became the Thousand Islands. It is a land where soil was slow to form over the acidic granite; where even today the area retains a rugged beauty.
Plants and animals migrated to the region, encouraged by the moderating effects of the Great Lakes and the variety of microhabitats that were created by the rugged topography. The islands form a land bridge, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, from northwest to southeast, across the St. Lawrence River, aiding movement of species across the landscape.
Notable examples of species that are common in the area, but rare in the rest of Canada, include: the deerberry, a plant that exists in only two locations in this country; the black rat snake, Canada's largest snake; the pitch pine, a southern tree species with a range that extends along the Frontenac Arch to just north of the Thousand Islands; and the least bittern, a wading bird whose wetland habitats are decreasing elsewhere within its northern range.
This national park in the Thousand Islands forms part of the UNESCO-recognized Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. It is an area that has important natural and ecological values and is a place where people live, work and enjoy a variety of economic and recreational activities based upon respect for the environment. The people of the region recognize the importance of protecting this land. Local residents were lobbying as far back as the 1880s for the creation of a national park in the Thousand Islands. As was stated earlier, although it took until 1904, the park was still the first national park east of the Rockies.
So, why did the park end up being called St. Lawrence Islands National Park? That is a good question, which my colleague beside me failed to answer, as well. I do not know the answer, either.
Historic government records do not clearly explain why that name was selected but refer to the park land as islands in the St. Lawrence which comprise the Thousand Islands group. They should have had a clue right there.
Despite what may be on the entry sign, many locals and visitors have always used the name Thousand Islands National Park. Each year, the park receives many letters from visitors who address their comments to Thousand Islands National Park. Quite simply, the name St. Lawrence Islands does not fit. It does not fit what this park is, it does not mean anything, and it is not recognized by even those who return to the park on an annual basis.
The idea of changing the park name is not new. It has been debated at the local level for decades. There was a recommendation to change the name of the park to Thousands Islands National Park in 1978, by the St. Lawrence Islands National Park advisory committee. This committee was formed by the Hon. Judd Buchanan, the then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. The committee was made up of representatives of local municipalities, chambers of commerce, local citizens, and provincial and national organizations.
For this current action to change the park's name, the City of Kingston, the Front of Yonge township, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, the Town of Gananoque, the Thousand Islands Area Residents' Association and the directors of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve all approved motions in support of the name change. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce also supports the proposal.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park is a tiny jewel comprised of over 20 islands with a rich and complex history of natural and human interactions. However, the current name does not fit the billboard. The current name does not build public identity and does not increase awareness and support for the park in the Thousand Islands region. It does not capture the imagination of the public. It does not fit the historical regional references to the park.
Our national parks are national treasures. They are also personal treasures. We have all grown up visiting national parks. Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, we spent a lot of time at Riding Mountain National Park. As an Albertan now, I and my family spend a lot of time in Banff and Jasper national parks, which are just magnificent. Those who have not been there need to go. Vacationing on the west coast, we spent time in Pacific Rim National Park.
These are all fabulous areas that are the envy of the world. We should take great pride in them, and we should make sure that they are treated accordingly, whether it is respect for the environment or whether it is making the name mean something.
Let me conclude by saying that I respect the dedication of the hon. member in bringing this bill to our attention for a second time. Changing the name of a national park is not an easy thing to do and it should not be an easy thing to do. I support the member's obvious commitment to the protection of our national environment, and I support his commitment to inspiring the meaningful recognition of a national treasure that does not hold a proper place in the consciousness of Canadians at the present time.
Thousand Islands National Park is a name that has meaning. Thousand Islands National Park inspires imagination. Thousand Islands National Park says something specific about an incredible and unique region of our country. Thousand Islands National Park provides a direct link to the public with Parks Canada's mandate to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and to foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.
It is time for the Thousand Islands National Park to be recognized for what it is, what it has always been and what it will be for future generations. I would urge all members of the House to support this worthwhile bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, namely to change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands National Park. There has been considerable community consultation and there is broad consensus that this will be good for the region and the economy, as the name is recognized by tourists all over the world. I would therefore like to commend the member for Leeds—Grenville for this initiative and recognize that both he and the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands are both good friends of St. Lawrence Islands National Park and of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, an official United Nations biosphere reserve.
Very briefly, a biosphere reserve is where local communities or representatives from key sectors such as agriculture, business, conservation, education and tourism work together to develop projects that link conservation with economic development in the region. The committees are voluntary and community based.
St. Lawrence Islands National Park is the smallest national park in Canada and the oldest national park east of the Rockies, having been created in 1904. The area is an important part of our history. The first inhabitants of the park were aboriginal people who began fishing and hunting about 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, the epoch that we are now exiting. Later, following the American revolution, European settlers began moving into the area, and during the War of 1812 the area of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park was visited by both American and British warships. In the early 20th century the area became a gateway for the rich and famous in North America, and today elegant homes and summer cottages are among the beautiful sights seen on the various boat cruises of tourist attractions.
The Thousand Islands region consists of 1,864 islands at the western edge of the St. Lawrence Seaway, right in the region of the park.
Why is the park important and why should it be renamed? The first reason is to accurately brand the area. The name that people use to quickly and easily identify the area is the Thousand Islands. If one were to conduct an Internet search for the St. Lawrence Islands, he or she would find very little information. However, if the search were for the Thousand Islands there would be many hits. This is absolutely an indication that the Thousand Islands name is the one that is popularly used to describe the region and the place where the park is located.
The second reason is to accurately describe the region. The St. Lawrence River passes from Kingston to Quebec and beyond. The St. Lawrence Islands National Park stretches from Kingston to Mallorytown, so it really is centred on the Thousand Islands region. It is important not to confuse the area with the whole of the St. Lawrence River and all of the other islands within the St. Lawrence River.
It is also important to distinguish this particular national park from the phrase “parks of the St. Lawrence”, which is used by the Province of Ontario to describe a number of other attractions in the area, including Fort Henry, which, by the way, everyone should visit the first chance they have. It is important to ensure that tourist buses passing on the 401 stop and visit the region and enjoy what it has to offer. The park is a very important part of the region's economy and provides a considerable number of jobs. The latest statistics show there are 438 enterprises, employing almost 6,000 people in Leeds-Grenville alone, that consider themselves visitor based.
While this is an important initiative for the Thousand Islands region, it is important to point out that the recent cuts to Parks Canada mean that the St. Lawrence National Park could be struggling. The Parks Canada agency is responsible for 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas in Canada, and it falls under the responsibility of Environment Canada. Sadly, the government is gutting Parks Canada through implementing $29 million in budget cuts. In so doing, it is undermining the health and integrity of Canada's world renowned parks, risking some of our world heritage sites, significantly reducing the number of scientists and technical staff, hurting relationships with aboriginal peoples and attacking rural economies. Indeed, a former deputy minister of Environment Canada said that the federal budget cuts would undermine a decade of progress on protecting the health of Canada's national parks, while another critic called the cuts a “lobotomy” of the parks' system.
PSAC reported that 1,689 of its members received affected notices and 638 positions will be eliminated, representing close to 30% of all scientists. According to the union, the affected workers include scientists, engineers, carpenters, mechanics, technicians and program managers. If the scientific monitors are reduced, who will know what is happening to Canadian ecosystems and what will restore endangered species like Canada's woodland caribou?
On July 12, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, CPAWS, issued a sobering report about the state of Canada's parks. It highlighted the dangers to our national parks due to funding cuts, the loss of science and monitoring capacity, the growth of inappropriate development within and adjacent to many current and proposed parks, the shortening of seasons, and inappropriate recreation and tourism activities.
Under the Aichi biodiversity targets, the commitment is to protect at least 10% of our marine and 17% of our land areas by 2020. Currently, just 1% of Canada's marine environment is protected and 627 species are at risk of extinction. The rate of extinction is expected to peak in the next 50 years because of climate change, economic expansion, habitat destruction and pollution, yet the government, through Bill C-38, has limited the environmental assessment process and stripped endangered aquatic species of habitat protection.
According Parks Canada's report on plans and priorities, it is likely that user fees at national parks and historic sites will increase at the beginning of the next fiscal year. These include entry fees, camping fees, lockage and mooring fees. A national user fee proposal is expected to be tabled in Parliament in early 2013, which will outline the business increases.
Our party has criticized the Minister of the Environment's claim that businesses near national parks and historic sites are getting a “free ride”. We have stated that it was insulting to the owners and operators of thousands of small businesses across Canada who are a key pillar of the Canadian economy and employ over 500,000 Canadians.
In conclusion, the name change has been thought through by the community. This is not rebranding but rather about attaching the name of a park to a brand that is very old and well-known throughout the world, and something that people naturally talk about when they talk about the region.
One of my earliest memories is visiting the Thousand Islands and sitting on the dock with my brother and dad, waiting for one of the cruises. In fact, it is that faded picture that my father always hung in his office and that now lies quietly in his drawer. I hope to revisit the renamed Thousand Islands National Park with my family very soon. It is time to take them back there. I encourage all members to do so as well.
The hon. member for Leeds—Grenville has six minutes left to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Speaker, we find ourselves once again, as a House, debating a question of back-to-work legislation. It has become an extraordinary habit on the part of the government.
I want to try to talk to the House, if I may, from a perspective that is different from the perspective we have heard either from the government or the official opposition, and I know there will be a lot of heckling and other things.
We all recognize that there is public interest in both senses of the word. There is a public interest in the negotiation and discussion process between the workers and the employers. We decided that, in our economic system, we would let the parties make every effort to find solutions to their problems. We recognize the importance of these rights, whether it be at the federal or the provincial level.
It is also important to note that the Supreme Court of Canada also recognized the importance of the process, the importance of negotiations, the importance of making an effort to find solutions and the fundamental importance of recognizing that, in a democratic society, workers and employers will have differences of opinion from time to time and that, yes, there will be strikes.
We do not want a strike. We do not want any disruptions to the economy. We recognize that this is difficult for the economy, workers and employers. However, the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that people have these rights and we recognize that it may cause inconveniences when workers or employers exercise their economic and social rights. That is the law in Canada. That is the social situation in Canada.
We also recognize on our side of the House, and I am sure there are some members, at least in the New Democratic Party, who understand it because of their involvement in various governments at the provincial level, that there is also a public interest in the economy and a public interest in ensuring that at critical times the public interest must be maintained. Therefore, yes, as the minister has said, from time to time governments have introduced back-to-work legislation of various kinds.
I have to say to the minister that the back-to-work legislation she has introduced on previous occasions, and the way in which she has exercised her discretion with respect to the appointment of arbitrators, has shown a bias toward employers and a bias toward simply exercising an authoritarian practice by the government, which is shameful.
It is also the case that when the collective bargaining is still going on and people are still at the table and the minister ventures out to the microphones and says if the parties are not able to reach an agreement very quickly the government will be ordering them back to work, we all have to understand what that does to the balance of the discussion. What that does is this. If an employer knows that the government is going to be there ordering people back to work, not at the end of the day but at the end of the hour, there is no incentive on the part of the employer to reach an agreement. That is the problem we have with the approach that has been taken.
My colleague from Leeds—Grenville spoke in the House, and I appreciated his comments very much and the comments the minister has made where the formula is this: the economy is fragile, the economy is interconnected, it is our competitiveness that is at stake, we simply have to intervene, we have no choice. If that is the case, before the other side applauds, why even pretend there is such a thing as collective bargaining? Why even pretend there is such a thing as a right to withdraw labour? Why even pretend there are in fact democratic rights that do from time to time create an inconvenience? Why not just abandon the whole process and set up an authoritarian structure where the government and the employers get together and establish what the pension rules are going to be, establish what the wage rates are going to be and forget about the democratic rights of the people who are working for a living?
That is the problem with what we see coming from the government. We do not deny for a moment that the government has an economic responsibility. What we deny is the competence of the government. What we deny is the fairness of the government. What we deny is the sense of balance of the government. That is why we will be voting against this legislation and the way in which its power has been exercised.
There is a very serious issue which is now raised by the rhetoric of the minister and raised by the minister and members who were speaking in favour of this legislation. It is the same issue that we had with respect to the Canada Post legislation, it is the same issue that we had with respect to Air Canada, and the way in which it has exercised its discretion to appoint arbitrators and the way in which it has exercised its discretion to intervene.
That is, what is the future of labour relations in the federal jurisdiction in this country, if at every moment and at every time that workers exercise their rights to defend their pensions, to defend their job security, to defend their health and safety, the government is there telling the employer, “Do not worry, we are on your side. We are not on the side of the workers. We are going to be making sure that people get back to work right away”?
All sense of balance is lost. At the end of the day, what really matters in this House and what really matters with respect to legislation is this critical sense of balance. We in the Liberal Party of Canada do not deny for a moment that of course there are times when governments have to intervene. We recognize that. We have done it. We have seen it. We have been there.
It is not a question of “Do we have the right to intervene?” It is a question of “How do we intervene, what is the sensitivity with which we intervene, what is the balance that is struck when we intervene, and how do we ensure that the work of the employer, the work of the workers, both sides are respected and both sides are taken?”
I do not think there is disgrace in the fact that CP Rail makes a profit. It is a good thing that CP Rail makes a profit. The question is not whether it is a profitable company or a private company, the question is, “Do we have a government, today, that is prepared to recognize the need for balance, the need for fairness, and, yes, the need for justice, as well as the needs of the economy?”
Right now we do not have that government. That is the reason the Liberal Party will be voting against this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to support my colleague from Leeds—Grenville and his private member's bill, Bill C-370, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada). I will spend my time today providing more detail on the history of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park.
The member for Leeds—Grenville has already provided a brief background on the discovery and naming of the Thousand Islands. The French were the first Europeans to travel the waters of the St. Lawrence and mark places for future travellers to stop and rest by planting poplar trees along the banks. According to records left by the French in the early 1600s when they arrived, natives were already living in the Thousand Islands region year round, growing corn and other crops and catching fish and game.
Archeological finds indicate that between 700 B.C., about the time Rome was founded, and 1600 when the French arrived, there was a great deal of activity around the Thousand Islands region, although the earliest records indicate that there were people there as early as 7,000 years ago.
Natives originally came to the water in the summer to catch fish and hunt using bows and arrows. Later, they settled in the area and practised agriculture. It was these native settlers, the St. Lawrence Iroquois, who Jacques Cartier met at Hochelaga in 1535. The French called the islands les Milles-Îles and, depending on current relationships with the natives, described voyages through the islands as safe, mildly exciting or very dangerous.
It was a British Royal Navy captain who was responsible for naming the islands in the early 1800s. He divided the islands into groups, the Admiralty, Lake Fleet, Brock and Navy Fleet, and then gave them names based on their grouping. For example, the Lake Fleet group islands are named after warships, while the Navy group islands are named after naval officers.
The period from the mid-1860s to the establishment of the park in 1904 saw a marked change in North American society. After the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, people moved in great numbers from the country to the city. Wages increased and the work week shortened to six and even five and a half days. The wilderness was opening up, thanks to steam engines and railways, and railway companies were being established everywhere.
George Pullman of Pullman car fame knew just the place to locate his railroad, right in the heart of the Thousand Islands. He began bringing the new American city dwellers with extra spending money to the Thousand Islands area. He was not the first to recognize the attraction of the Thousand Islands, but he was the pioneer who brought the first real crowds to the islands in his fancy new Pullman cars. By the early 1870s so many were coming to the islands that the islands themselves became attractive real estate. Citizens of Prescott, Brockville and Gananoque, as well as those in villages in between, became alarmed. Islands they had hunted, fished, farmed and picnicked for generations were quickly disappearing behind no trespassing signs.
In 1874 their concerns led to two petitions being sent to the governor general of Canada. They both read in part:
—[your petitioners] are afraid that if the islands are sold the timber now growing on them will be destroyed , their beauty spoiled and the source of health and recreation they now afford to the public will be utterly destroyed.
The reply was not encouraging. At the time, the federal government held the Canadian islands in trust for the native people who had ceded them to Canada. They were to be sold and the money used to benefit the natives, but the pressure from local residents continued.
In 1877 the idea of preserving some of the islands gained a new champion in Thaddeus Leavitt, the editor of the Brockville Recorder & Times, and a great historian of today.
It is very evident from the speeches today that the residents of the area clearly believe that the name should the Thousand Islands national park. As the member for Leeds—Grenville indicated, many people, including parks people, refer to it by that name and the people and municipal governments surveyed in preparation for this bill all agreed the name should be changed.
I am pleased to support the member for Leeds—Grenville in his attempts to rectify this historic misstep and change the name of St. Lawrence Islands National Park to Thousand Islands national park.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak in support of my hon. friend from Leeds—Grenville and his private member's bill, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act (St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada). My time is short and I will discuss tourism and visitors' services as it relates to the park at the centre of this bill.
One of the key economic challenges facing Canada is tourism and how we can take advantage of the growing market for international tourism.
It is no secret that between 2000 and 2009, Canada dropped from 8th to 15th place in the ranking of international tourist destinations.
That is why last year this government released a federal tourism strategy titled “Welcoming the World”. That document recognizes that millions of people from around the world come to Canada each year to see the country and participate in Canadian experiences.
The tourism and visitor services industry supports thousands of jobs all across the country and could keep on growing in the future.
We have a lot to offer visitors in this industry that continues to show resilience even through the recent tough economic times. The tourism strategy announced last year takes what is called a whole-of-government approach. Every department that touches on the tourism industry reviews its impact on the industry. In 2010, tourism was responsible for $73.4 billion in revenues in Canada which represented about 2% of Canada's overall gross domestic product. According to the tourism strategy, that is as much as the combined GDP of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.
Nearly 600,000 jobs are related to visitor services in Canada.
It is important to note too that tourism drives some of our major service industries, such as accommodations, food and beverage, passenger transport, recreation and entertainment.
These industries account for 9% of Canada's total employment.
International tourism brought $14.9 billion into our economy in 2010, making it an important source of export revenue. Tourism represents about 23% of Canada's international trade in services, making it Canada's second largest service export behind commercial services. Tourism, especially international tourism, supplies more than economic benefits to Canada. It allows us to share our heritage with the world while at the same time forging links, promoting understanding and encouraging respect for the natural environment.
When we talk about tourism in Canada, we are talking about small business. Small business owners are the backbone of our tourism industry.
About 98% of Canada's tourism sector is made up of small and medium-sized businesses, such as boat tour operators, campground owners and marina operators.
Tourism is a many-faceted sector driven by small business.
All of these businesses and organizations, especially in individual regions of our country, work together toward a common goal, offering visitor experiences and products that are second to none.
Tourism, especially international tourism, is a growth industry that will continue to impact on Canada's economic recovery. Over the past 20 years, international tourism arrivals to Canada have been increasing on average 4% per year. Travellers are arriving from new countries and new regions all the time. The middle classes of many of the world's emerging economies are finding Canada an attractive place to visit. By 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourist visits will reach 1.6 billion, double what the number was in 2009. While Canada has steadily dropped on the list of preferred destinations, as have other mature markets, it is still among the top destinations for visitors.
Nevertheless,. between 2000 and 2010, Canada's share of total international arrivals declined from 2.9% to 1.7%.
When we study what travellers want in a destination, the Thousand Islands region and St. Lawrence Islands National Park provide plenty of answers. More often, international visitors are turning to the Internet and social media tools to research destinations. They look for identity. The global market is crowded with destinations and tourism brands. A recognizable brand, for example a name, is increasingly important, not only for the country, but for the area where the St. Lawrence Islands National Park is located.
I have been speaking about our national tourism strategy for the past few minutes. Let me now bring the discussion closer to the park and the region in question.
The St. Lawrence was discovered by Jacques Cartier 477 years ago, on August 10, 1535. Many storied explorers travelled its waters, including Champlain, de Courcelle, Count Frontenac and Cavelier de La Salle. The first reliable geographic maps of the region were drawn by Jean Deshayes, hydrographer to King Louis XIV himself, who named it “les Mille-Îles” or the Thousand Islands in 1687.
Ever since the Thousand Islands region became a tourist destination, in the late 1800s, people have come from around the world to visit.
My parents spent their honeymoon in the picturesque Thousand Islands in August 1944, and we go back there every year.
There are in fact 1,865 islands. Tourism is increasingly important as the economic mix of the area has changed from manufacturing to services. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada indicate that there are 438 enterprises that consider themselves visitor-based in the area, and these employ almost 6,000 people.
And that number is rising steadily.
The Thousand Islands have been on the map for 325 years. Our colleague for Leeds—Grenville keeps them on the map, especially in his work as chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.
Further, the government has been supportive of this economic change in many ways, as we support improvements to national parks and historic sites in the area and participate in the development of new attractions in the region.
Within a few miles of this national park lie such treasures as Fort Henry, the Rideau Canal, Fort Wellington and historic mills and battle grounds from the war of 1812 and the Hunters raids of 1838.
For the region to continue to take advantage of Canada's push for international travellers and for its own marketing of the region, the St. Lawrence Islands National Park must be promoted as the Thousand Islands National Park.
Part of the federal tourism strategy is developing what is called a signature experiences collection. These are experiences that are unique and offer something special to the visitor.
Tourism operators in the Thousand Islands are starting to become familiar with this initiative, and in fact the Thousand Islands are already on the list. Parks Canada's mandate consists in part in presenting nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage and fostering public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment.
Since more international travellers are using resources such as the Internet to research their travel destination and to plan their activities, it only makes sense that this park should properly align itself with the Thousand Islands brand. A quick Internet search for Thousand Islands will show the need to accomplish this. The easiest and best way to do this is to change its name to Thousand Islands National Park, so that it would be found among the other attractions of the region.
The future of the park, like the future of Canada and the Thousand Islands region, is bright, and it will be even brighter once the park's name has been changed.
Mr. Speaker, the dedication of my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville to this issue has been very helpful. His work on the legislative committee has been important.
Just in the past few hours, as we have said as a government that we want to go forward with this legislation, a number of folks have come forward to support this. I want to read into the record what some of the folks have said, who by the way are not necessarily habitual Conservative supporters, but people who recognize the legislation will be balanced and responsible in the way that we go forward.
A press release was just sent to me from IATSE, which is the international union that represents members employed in stagecraft, motion picture and the television production and trade show industries. This union backs this legislation. It says, “The IATSE applauds the government for moving forward with this bill, The Copyright Modernization Act, because the bill will help ensure a stable entertainment industry which is what keeps its 16,000 employees working”.
This legislation is important for the Canadian economy. It is time to get down to work in committee, listen to the amendments of the opposition and move forward with something.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville.
Mr. Speaker, this is to follow on the point of my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville who said yes in the House to send the bill to committee to make fundamental changes.
I had discovered several years ago, and it is one of the major issues that I bring up from time to time, that we cannot make fundamental changes once we have said yes in principle to the bill. At second reading, if the majority votes for it, we have accepted the principles and the scope of the bill. Therefore, the fundamental changes that one had wished to put into the bill would not be accepted by the Speaker. It does not matter if everybody in the House agrees with the fundamental changes. The Speaker has the ultimate responsibility to see if it goes beyond the scope and principles of the bill.
To the point made by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina that there is no grey area on some kind of recourse for a purchased material that could be transferred to another device, that can be trumped by the fact that we have what is called a digital lock. The bill would give us one of the harshest provisions for digital locks in the world.
The electoral district of Leeds--Grenville (Ontario) has a population of 99,206 with 75,075 registered voters and 206 polling divisions.
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