Mr. Speaker, New Democrats oppose Bill C-7, which proposes to change the name and mandate of Canada's most visited and most popular museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Let me explain why I have taken this position and why this House should vote down this bill. First, the process the government is using to change the museum is flawed and it lacks transparency.
Second, the changes to the mandate of the museum are unacceptable. The government wants to shut down the Canada Hall social history exhibit. It wants to ignore the contributions of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Canadians, contributions they made to Canadian history.
My third and strongest objection is to the government and its apparent desire to dictate how the history of Canada is to be told. Governments should not be involved in determining what its people know and do not know about themselves. Museums must be left to the museum professionals.
The Conservatives should stick to politics and leave history to the experts. They have no business rewriting what Canadian history is and how it is told.
As to my first point, members might ask how changes to the Museum of Civilization lack transparency. We are told that the re-branding, renaming and remaking of the Museum of Civilization is going to cost $25 million, but where is this money coming from? Which programs in the Department of Canadian Heritage are being trimmed and cut in order to pay for these unneeded changes?
The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages has refused to answer these questions. Besides the lack of transparency around the money, the Canadian Postal Museum, which was housed within the Museum of Civilization was unceremoniously closed, without notice or consultation. What possible reason could the government have to still the voice of the pioneers of our postal service?
Even though the Museum of Civilization performed national consultations about the changes at the behest of the government, these consultations appear to have been an empty public relations exercise giving the false appearance of transparency.
According to experts, these public consultations were not true consultations. Notes were not taken. Concerns were not addressed. The real decision-making is not happening out in the open. The decisions are actually being made behind closed doors. How is that transparent? How is that democratic?
As for my second objection, to the reorientation and renaming of the museum, my colleagues across the aisle might be wondering what the harm is in changing the name of the Museum of Civilization to the museum of history. In fact the name change is just a hint of the larger changes in the museum's mandate. Besides, most of the museum is already dealing with historical content and, until now, did not require a change of name.
The Conservatives want to eliminate all things at the museum that are anthropological or part of social history. They want the museum to be all about the heroic and a “who's who” approach to history. They want to emphasize dates and events. Anthropology has been part of this museum's mandate since 1907, but now the government seems to want Canadian history to be a simple and tidy story.
Let me remind the House that history is messy. History is complicated. History is best told from a holistic approach. History is more than just famous people and famous events. The museum currently uses a broad approach, and this is what we want to see remain.
Let me ask my colleagues across the aisle why they want to cut out the history of ordinary folk. What is wrong with the history of how things really were for everyday Canadians in the past? What is it in the current museum that they want removed? What do they want Canadians to forget about, besides the Senate scandals?
This country was built both by its famous people and its ordinary people. However, the government wants to sideline different stories, including stories of first nations and those marginalized due to class, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
The Conservatives want a museum that ignores the contributions of diverse and ordinary Canadians. That is why the government wants to eliminate Canada Hall. That is why it wants to get rid of what has been called the largest and finest social history display in the country.
Canada Hall took 20 years to build and is made up of a series of life-size replicas of historical Canadian cities. This exhibit is a benchmark for the telling of social history in this country. It displays the lives of a wide breadth of ordinary Canadians from coast to coast to coast. These displays encapsulate an entire uninhabited history of this land.
I, for one, defer to and support museum professionals such as historians, anthropologists, archivists and archaeologists, and they are telling us not to reorient the museum to concentrate only on famous people. Famous people are not the only important people in Canadian history. Allow the museum to continue to tell the history of regular Canadians, of the people who built this country by their devotion to the land and by their determination to carve a future.
Canadian social history should not be sidelined. Canadians and visitors to Canada ought to be able to learn about all the different people who made this country, even those who are not famous.
Social exhibits like Canada Hall are about all of us. I am calling on the government to leave the mandate of the Museum of Civilization alone. If people could vote with their feet, then the 1.2 million people who visit and enjoy the Museum of Civilization annually would seem to agree with me.
The Museum of Civilization has been hailed as the crown jewel in our national network of museums. People love its approach to Canadian history. It is not a broken museum. Bill C-7 is a solution in search of a problem.
In my riding of London—Fanshawe, in the area around the city of London, we have excellent museums that are about our community's history. I am proud of the Strathroy-Caradoc museum and how it helps people discover our story.
The Fanshawe Pioneer Village, located in my riding, does a fantastic job of enabling people to learn about and understand local history, showing rural and urban life and the lives of everyday farmers and tradespeople in the 19th century.
Nearby, the Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, is a display that is devoted to the social and cultural history of first nations people. It is a testament to the contribution and reality of the people who lived in the Thames River valley.
My constituents love learning about and discovering their own history. The broad approach used by the three aforementioned museums is to be commended and shows Canadians want to know about their communities.
In his book, Museum Politics: Power Plays at the Exhibition, Timothy Luke talks about how museums, like the Museum of Civilization and the ones I mentioned from the London area, are places where Canadians first learn and later reassure themselves about their culture and their history.
He describes how, in other countries, museums have become a battleground in culture wars. He describes how politicians have tried to influence national identities by meddling with these public institutions of memory and history. He warns that “Museum exhibits may not change public policies, but they can change other larger values and practices...”, that is to say, what people know about their history and what they know their community. I quote: “...that will transform policy”.
This is the reason I object to Bill C-7, and this brings me to my third and final argument. The changes being made at the Museum of Civilization have not been asked for by museum professionals, our country's historians, anthropologists and archaeologists. These academics have said they too are against these changes. We are listening to these experts, and the museum experts do not want Bill C-7.
Why are we going through with this charade? It is absolutely essential that we take a very close look at the motives behind these changes and that we consider what this museum means to Canadians and what its impact is on our understanding of ourselves. If we do not do that, we have failed.
If we allow the government to ram through this bill without any comment, without any discussion, then we have failed the people of Canada. We have failed those who have made our history and those who choose to preserve it.
I thank my colleague from London—Fanshawe for this question about occupational health and safety. I know her long-time and serious commitment to this issue. It is also an issue that so many of us have lived.
Working people know their own jobs best, and they know if they are working in a hazardous or risky situation. The rights working people have developed over the years to know about dangers in the workplace, to be informed, and to refuse unsafe work were hard fought for. Employers resisted them, but they have made our workplaces safer and healthier over the years. That the Conservatives would want to undermine the health and safety of Canadians in the workplace is unbelievable.
It makes no sense. It is not only dangerous for working people, it makes no business sense. It is bad for businesses. It is a bad direction the current government is taking our country.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, Canada Post.
The hon. member for London—Fanshawe will have five minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next returns to this question.
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.
The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 7:11 p.m.)
Before we resume debate, I would like to let the hon. member for London—Fanshawe know that there are only about five minutes remaining in the time allowed for private member's business, so we will have to interrupt her.
Of course, she will have the remaining time when the House next gets to this business at some point in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate for the Liberal caucus and to speak in favour of Bill C-473 at second reading.
Of course, the Liberal Party has a long and well-established reputation as a leader and an advocate for gender equality, as many in this House do, in all areas of society and our parliamentary caucus continues to be committed to this legacy.
On April 17, 1982, Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into law and, with it, section 15 took effect. As a result of Mr. Trudeau's quest for a just society, section 15 assured that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
So, while the charter-signing ceremony took place under the capital's cloudy skies, its impact was to provide a fledgling ray of sunshine for women and girls struggling against the odds. For the first time in our history, the Constitution of Canada formally recognized that men and women were viewed as equals in every way, under Canada law. However, there was still much yet to be done along the road to full equality for Canadian women. Today, three decades after Mr. Trudeau's historic move, Canadian women and girls continue with their efforts to attain full gender parity.
For most people, myself included, particularly those within the Liberal Party, there is a clear understanding that inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for the nation as a whole. Canada's economy can be strengthened immensely by employing more women and by ensuring their entrance in vocational fields traditionally occupied only by men. That is why I am speaking to this issue today.
Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the board of directors of a parent crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year, 40% the fourth year, and 50% the sixth year. The legislation does stipulate that the numbers may vary when the board of directors consists of no more than eight members. In these instances, Bill C-473 proposes that the difference between the numbers of directors of each gender may be not greater than two.
Now, these are laudable objectives that I applaud but, prior to committing to support Bill C-473 at all legislative stages, I would like to have a few specific questions answered both here and for discussion at our committee.
First, are the gender breakdown numbers being cited in the legislative preamble accurate, and is there a reason for the current levels?
Second, what would the real world impact be upon business if mandatory quotas of this nature were established with the timelines suggested?
Third, what penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies?
I am a lifelong and strong advocate for gender equality, as are many in the House. However, I believe that the standing committee would be an appropriate venue for us to have a full discussion on the implications of Bill C-473, and I think the appropriate place for that is, of course, with the status of women.
I also have questions that the sponsor may be able to answer. On March 8, 2012, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-407. That legislation is nearly identical to Bill C-473, with one notable exception. Bill C-407 would have required that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women. Bill C-473 is premised upon Bill C-407, but the new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% commencing in the sixth year following the coming into force of the section. I am not suggesting that the change is good or bad, but I would like to know why Bill C-407 and Bill C-473 have proposed different target percentages. I am quite sure that the mover of the bill will be able to explain that further at committee level so that we can have further debate on it at our committee.
There are also considerations on the business side of the equation.
Bill C-473 seeks to rapidly modify the environment in which crown corporations must function. As such, consideration must be given to ensure that both gender equality and corporate success can exist simultaneously under the proposed rules set out in this legislative package.
Perhaps we can all agree that Bill C-473 establishes a legal goal without speaking to the methodology necessary to attain that important goal. As it seems this portion of the discussion has been forgotten or omitted by the sponsor, the Liberals on this side of the House believe it is prudent to explore the issue at committee prior to determining amendments and voting intentions at report stage or third reading in the House of Commons.
This is not to say we will lend our support to Bill C-473. In fact, I am asking all members of the House to support it at second reading and to send it to the standing committee so we can explore all of the avenues.
Gender inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for Canada. I am hopeful that Bill C-473 is just one more step along that path. Hope is important because Canada has clearly been slipping as of late.
In October 2012, The Globe and Mail reported that when compared globally, Canada had fallen three spots and was no longer in the top 20 nations when it came to those making progress on equality issues. In fact, the World Economic Forum's annual gender gap ranked Canada in the 21st spot, behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua. When the study was first conducted in 2006, Canada was in the 14th place out of 115 countries. That was leadership.
Although Canada landed in the 12th spot regarding economic opportunity for women and girls, with high levels of income, labour market participation and professional workers, it must be noted that wage equality still lags behind international benchmarks.
On April 17, 1982, Canada emerged as a global leader in the fight for gender equality, but in the 31 years since our lustre has been somewhat tarnished. Today, as in 1982, there is much to be done to help Canadian women and girls and that work must begin in earnest.
I thank the sponsor of this bill and I look forward to working with all members of the House and with our status of women committee to thoroughly debate the pros and cons of Bill C-473 that is before us.
Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her visionary private member's bill. She acknowledged the work of other NDP women, including the MP for London—Fanshawe, who put this idea forward.
It is time for Canada to show leadership. We hear about an advisory committee the Minister for Status of Women has put together. We hear about some interest from the government. How important is it that the government support the private member's bill she is putting forward?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for London—Fanshawe for her question and her work. I was recently in her riding and I know that she has done a remarkable job of connecting with the constituents within her riding and, in fact, had a meeting with members of the Arab and Muslim community after they went through a very difficult time. She has shown real leadership on the ground in her riding.
However, to answer her question, one should invest in the very people who are our eyes and ears in preventing terrorism or extremism. It is quite surprising to hear the audacity of the Conservatives when they say on the one hand that we have to move on this issue because it is so important while on the other hand they are cutting the budgets of the very people who would prevent extremism and terrorism. The answer is that we invest in people to ensure that we prevent acts of extremism and terrorism. One does not just talk about it; one actually does it.
In the budget put in front of us and in previous budgets, we have seen cuts, so it is inconsistent for the government to say that it is serious about this issue when it actually cuts the budgets of the very people who help prevent extremism and terrorism.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012. It is a very important piece of legislation. While the legislation may be technical, it is nonetheless important legislation that would benefit all Canadians, providing the clarity and certainty to Canada's tax system.
Our government has conducted extensive consultations on the provisions of the bill, some provisions having been announced over a decade ago. As previous parliamentarians' efforts to pass these amendments were unsuccessful, the backlog has increased over the years, and it is more important than ever to pass these technical amendments. In fact, among those calling for Parliament to quickly pass the amendments includes the Auditor General of Canada, who in a 2009 report stated:
Taxpayers' ability to comply with tax legislation depends on their understanding of how the rules apply to their own circumstances. [...] Uncertainty about how the law should be applied can also add to the time taken and costs incurred by tax audits and tax administration.
I could not agree with the Auditor General more. However, it is not just the Auditor General who is saying this; it is all the other parties in the House, as the bill has all party support. In fact, earlier this week, during the finance committee study of Bill C-48, the NDP member for Parkdale—High Park, and finance critic for her party, said, “Obviously we support the goal of closing tax loopholes and making the tax system in Canada clearer and easier to understand for Canadians”. The NDP finance critic went even further, on Bill C-48's first day of debate, saying, “the official opposition [New Democrats] will be supporting the bill”.
One would think that after making such an unequivocal statement of support for the legislation that she and all NDP members would be eager to vote on this important piece of legislation and ensure its timely passage through the House of Commons.
Alas, the actions of the NDP seem to be at odds with the NDP finance critic's statement. I have to ask: What is the reason for the NDP delay? Even more puzzling, it is not simply the NDP finance critic who is displaying these bizarre tendencies; it is every member of the NDP. My hon. colleagues have all declared their support for the bill while at the same time trying to filibuster second reading, for over 100 days. This attempt to disrupt what is only the first stage in a long legislative process continues to delay the finance committee's opportunity to formally study the bill.
I have taken the liberty of reviewing the debate on the bill and, time after time, the NDP MPs are vocal in their support for this piece of legislation. For example, the NDP member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques said, “We will support this bill because it eliminates some tax loopholes and other measures that lead to fiscal inequity”. The NDP member for Beauport—Limoilou said, “It will be a great pleasure for me to support this bill”.
The NDP member for Manicouagan said, “We support the changes this bill makes, and particularly those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”. This sentiment was echoed by the NDP member for Surrey North, who said: “We support the changes being made in the bill, especially those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”.
The NDP member for London—Fanshawe said, “The bill makes important and long-overdue changes to the tax laws” , and then went on to say, “New Democrats support the bill..”. The NDP member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said, “As the House is aware, the New Democrats are supporting the bill...”.
The NDP member for Scarborough—Rouge River even highlights that her reason for supporting the legislation is that many of the provisions have already been announced, declaring, “Once they've been announced, people accept them as adopted. It's for these reasons that we are supporting the bill”.
These kinds of comments from the NDP continue and continue. NDP member after NDP member have all voiced their support for this piece of legislation, which has been in Parliament for more than 100 days. Furthermore, all of these statements of support came on the very first day of debate; yet more than 100 days later, we are still debating the bill at second reading.
This is simply unbelievable. Why would members of the NDP support the legislation, but not ensure its passage at second reading to the finance committee for closer examination by their own NDP colleagues? One wonders what the NDP hopes to gain by prolonging the debate. Again, perhaps the members are unaware that many of the measures have already undergone extensive debate in this House.
In fact, Bill C-48 has been before Parliament for five months now, as it was introduced in November of last year. Do members know what this means? Clearly, the NDP members do not, and so I will spell it out for them.
Let me state again that the House of Commons has had more than 100 days to examine and debate this bill at second reading stage already. We have already had days and days of debate and heard hours and hours of speeches, but what has all this debate yielded from the NDP benches? As I have highlighted, it is repetition upon repetition of support and praise for this legislation.
Well, if NDP members truly do support it, I plead with the NDP to not stall second reading in debate. Let us work together and pass this important legislation that would help Canadians. Let us make Parliament work. That would be an important change for the NDP, as its members have repeatedly shown that they have a track record of delaying and opposing legislation that would be beneficial to Canadians. For an example of this, we need look no further than our Conservative government's economic action plan legislation in these recent years.
What is more, NDP members have shown time after time that they would prefer to vote against tax relief measures that help Canadians and our economy, such as the hiring tax credit for small business and the introduction of a tax-free savings account. They even voted against a reduction of the GST to 5%.
However, we all know what the NDP does support: a carbon tax. I find this very puzzling. On the one hand, the NDP would gladly support a reckless $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the price on essential goods and services for Canadians, but it would stall well-reasoned and thoroughly examined legislation like Bill C-48.
While the NDP finds these partisan procedural games amusing, Canadian taxpayers and businesses, who are waiting for these technical amendments to be passed, certainly do not.
Despite the NDP's bizarre position on this bill, Canadians can rest assured that their Conservative government will work to ensure the passage of Bill C-48 through Parliament so that taxpayers' confidence is not lost in Canada's tax system.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Etobicoke North, Public Safety; and the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Veterans Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for the tone and content of his remarks. I think he has summarized our objections to the bill in a very comprehensive way, from the heart and out of principle.
Given the nature and subject matter of the bill, I also want to recognize and pay tribute to my colleagues from London—Fanshawe, Churchill, Halifax, and the many others who are volunteering to be recognized today, with the notable exception of the member for Kings—Hants, for the contributions they have made to this important subject matter, which includes not only the serious issue of sexual harassment in the workplace but also the issue of restoring confidence and pride in our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
For whatever reason, we know that the image of the RCMP has suffered in recent years as a result of unresolved allegations, investigations and complaints regarding the operations and functions of that workplace in the context of harassment and in the broader context of bullying, a word that has come up a number of times in comments by learned members in the House. Bullying has almost become a motif or theme throughout a great deal of the objections we have heard, and I think we cannot separate the two.
I am also proud of the opposition day motion that my colleague put forward, the motion regarding an anti-bullying policy or strategy for this country. It is a shame that the anti-bullying initiative was turned down, because the issue we are dealing with today could be quite appropriately dealt with in the context of that anti-bullying legislation.
The reason I wanted to compliment my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore is that he got to the root of the problem, which is that it is actually too late to be debating the merits of the bill now that it is at third reading.
We tried to amend the bill at committee stage. We supported the bill at second reading in the hopeful belief that there was an intention of co-operation by the government side members to accommodate some of the legitimate concerns we brought forward. The theme of the speech by my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore was with respect to an arrogance in this place, the likes of which we have never seen in the government, as it has refused to allow a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament.
I was a member of Parliament during the majority Liberal government. We were a small party, about the size the Liberals are now, and almost as irrelevant as the Liberals are now. However, we did have one member on each committee, just as the Liberals have now. I can say without any fear of contradiction that during the Liberal majority years, my colleagues and I used to get amendments through on pieces of legislation at committee. That is only reasonable, because in a Westminster parliamentary democracy there is an obligation on the ruling party to accommodate some of the legitimate issues brought forward by the majority of Canadians who did not vote for the majority party.
Before we move on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Veterans.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for questions and comments.
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe will have two and a half minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on this question and the usual five minutes for questions and comments.
Before we resume debate with the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, I will let her know that we do not have quite enough time for the full 10 minutes. When we get to 6:30 p.m., we will come to the end of the usual time allocated for government orders for today. However, I will give the hon. member an indication of when we need to wrap up.
The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right about the difficulties facing people not only in all of Canada but particularly in ridings where multinational corporations have taken and taken and taken, whether tax benefits, resources, consuming infrastructure, or utilizing the expertise of the workers who made them wealthy and competitive industries and simply walked away, leaving the country high and dry, as we saw with the community of London—Fanshawe when the offshoot of Caterpillar left.
The future of this country is very clearly with small- and medium-size businesses. They are part of the community. In fact, last week I had the profound pleasure of speaking to members of the Rotary Club, made up of members of the small- and medium-size businesses that employ people, that are contributors to the community. They are not just there to take, take, take; they are there to give back and make for strong neighbourhoods. Therefore, we need a tax system that suits their needs. We need to stop these huge and ridiculous tax breaks for multinational corporations, the polluters, the banks, which are giving back very little, if anything at all, and we need to look very closely at small- and medium-size business and in that process make it as easy and expedient as possible for them to do their jobs as we would like.
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Aboriginal Affairs; the member for London—Fanshawe, Pensions; the member for Vancouver Kingsway, International Trade.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for London—Fanshawe for being such a passionate advocate on seniors' issues over the last number of years that I have been honoured to work with her.
We have a number of shortfalls in the overall system. Part of it is federal and part of it is provincial. There is the issue of a lack of access to home care. When people do not have the proper home care they need, they have accidents, such as a broken hip, and end up in emergency. However, there is no place to put them and the emergency rooms are backed-up.
When I go into my communities of Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake, Cochrane, Timmins and Iroquois Falls, I hear from seniors all the time. There is no housing for them to move into. They cannot afford the places they are staying in and they cannot move into places with dignity. We see this issue of the need to have enough qualified staff to be there to work for them when they are no longer able to stay in their houses.
Yes, this is a big issue and I am glad that we are debating it within the House. Obviously, it seems to be a discussion only among New Democrats, but we have always been the party that has said that seniors are a major priority. No wonder my grandmother was such a strong New Democrat.
The electoral district of London--Fanshawe (Ontario) has a population of 107,218 with 74,810 registered voters and 183 polling divisions.
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