Mr. Speaker, we have some disagreement with the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, but we have always had a good relationship in committee and when we have disagreed, we have been done that in a cordial way.
I am excited to speak about this legislation, but before I do I want to point out the extraordinary work of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I have only been here since 2008, but I have had the opportunity to be a student of politics and a student of our system and I am confident and secure in saying that he is the best Minister of Canadian Heritage that our country has ever had and I will tell the House why.
What the minister understands, and what previous ministers, including those who served on this side understand, is the importance of arts and culture to not only helping people around the world understand how great our country is, but understand that arts and culture is important to the country's economic growth, that it creates jobs and economic activity.
As a result of that, even when the country was going through one of the worst global economic downturns, this government made historic investments in arts and culture. When other G7 countries were reducing their funding, this government, through the leadership of the minister, was increasing funding to the Canada Council for the Arts to its highest level ever. We invested over $140 million in our national museums and we did that for a number of reasons. It is important that Canadians have access to their history and that they have pride in the institutions that are mandated to tell the stories of Canada. This is why we have made some of these important investments.
I have also heard from members of both official parties about the motion that was brought forward at committee. I want to speak briefly to that because it ties into this a bit. They talked about it being overly prescriptive. The motion actually says that we should talk about Canada and its history before Confederation and after Confederation. It says that we should talk about the 20th century and important developments in Canadian history. It referenced some important battles of World War I and World War II.
Why should we talk about that? We should talk about that because significant anniversaries of important battles in Canadian history are coming up for one. Second, there are still people in our country who can give us first-hand accounts of what they faced in battle. This is an opportunity to bring these people before committee before it is too late, hear their stories and celebrate them. It is not meant to be something like the end of it. If members were to read the whole motion, if they do honour to this place, they would talk about the entire motion. I know we will get co-operation.
We want to talk about the people, the places, the events, the things that have helped shape our country. Sometimes those things are good. Sometimes they are things we want to celebrate, things we want to commemorate, but there are instances when things were not good, but we need to remember them all the same. We talked about the internment of Japanese Canadians. We might not be proud of that part of our history, but it is important that we remember it. That is what we are talking about at committee.
We have heard a lot of people talk about how important it is that we go forward with this project. We have heard a lot of historians talk about how happy they are that we brought this initiative forward. We have seen over the last number of years, especially as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, a reawakening of Canadians' pride in their country, in their province and in their local communities. We have heard consistently that there is no way for them to share this pride in a tangible way across the country.
I want to share a story about something in my riding. About 200 metres from my home there was a discovery made in advance of a subdivision being built in the community, which changed entirely the way we think about our first nations, and there has been a documentary on this called the Curse of the Axe. We found, 200 metres from my home, a Wendat village.
Why is this important? It is because this village had 70 long houses. It was not a community of 10 or 12 houses as was first thought, but a city of 70 long houses. Thousands of people lived in this village and it completely changed the way we thought about these people in this area.
The excavators found that in order to support a village of this size the cornfields alone would have encompassed the entire city of Toronto. They found that these people engaged in trade with other nations, again changing what we thought about the relationships between our first nations at that time. It was revolutionary in how we thought of the Wendat nation.
There are no large communities of Wendat still in Ontario. They are now in Quebec. However, we had ambassadors from the Wendat nation come to my home town of Stouffville and they talked about how significant this find was for their people. They talked about how important it was that the rest of Canada and North America understood what they were doing, how they were doing it and how sophisticated they were. They were very proud of this.
We had the team that led the excavations come to our town a number of times and had displays of the Curse of the Axe. Hundreds of people from our community have come to learn about the local heritage that we just did not know about. Our own community was making headlines across North America. In the town of Stouffville, 200 metres from my front door, there was this amazing discovery. Now we have to find a way to make sure that all Canadians understand it so that we can update what people think of the Wendat and tell them how important and exciting this is.
The minister referenced Douglas Cardinal in his remarks. He said:
I love the fact that the museum keeps evolving and growing, and people still feel that it’s a national monument that can expand and serve all of Canada.
This is important because, although it has a long history, at one point the museum was called the Museum of Man. At the time, I suppose, that was okay. However, time moves on. As the member for Ottawa—Orléans points out, there was a time in this country when women were not even considered persons, but time moves on and we are better for it.
We changed the mandate of the Museum of Man, which became the Museum of Civilization. We got together and said that we had to do better and we did. The Museum of Civilization was brought forward and Canadians have been very excited about that. It has done a spectacular job. Canadians can now be as excited about the new museum of history as they had been about the Museum of Civilization, and for many different reasons.
It is a tragedy that over three million pieces or artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Civilization are in storage and not available for Canadians to see. It is a tragedy, especially when we have museums across this country that have made significant investments.
I look at my own community, the city of Markham, which has massive investments in its local museum. The people of Markham understand how important it is to preserve their local history, their culture. They have made massive investments. They are very excited about the prospect of a museum of history so they can share their collections with the national museum and so the people of Canada can understand just how important Markham was to the development of the GTA.
There are 40,000 people in my home town of Stouffville who poured millions of dollars into our museum. They did that for a number of reasons, predominantly because they knew it was a good investment for the community. They knew people wanted to know more about the history of our community, so they put more money into it. They did it also because so many people were coming, they needed to upgrade the facilities so they could host more people.
I looked at my own community. Last year we celebrated something called the Freedom of the Town for the Governor General's Horse Guards, a unit which, in part, has its history in the development of our community.
Even on that there was not complete agreement. There were people in the community who felt this celebration should not happen in because the community was founded by Mennonites, who did not necessarily support things like the war of 1812. We had fierce debate in the community, but ultimately we had the Freedom of the Town and thousands of people came out from our community to celebrate this historic unit.
However, that does not mean the people who disagreed with it were wrong. They disagreed. They talked about it. I may not necessarily have agreed with them, but they got their message out there. It shows just how exciting history can be when we present it to Canadians in a way they can debate, discuss and share. Then they can go to their local communities.
Think of what this could do to local communities across the country when they have the opportunity to see the last spike in their own little town. Think of what that would do for a local museum, the amount of people who would drive to that museum, the people who would be even more engaged to know about their communities and the things that have helped build our country.
Ultimately, we will always have disagreements in this place. It goes without saying. We are elected from different parties. We all have different attitudes on different things. I know full well that although we have different ideas, that all of us fight and argue, ultimately we are all very proud Canadians. We are all people who want to see our country prosper and do better. We also want to ensure that people around the world can understand what has made our country great. That is what this museum will help us do. That is one of the reasons why I am so proud and excited about this.
We also talked a bit in some of the speeches about the road to Canada's 150th birthday and why that was so important, the sesquicentennial, as the Minister of Veterans Affairs pointed out.
That is such an important time for Canada. It will be a time when we can showcase all the great things Canada has done. So many people came to us at committee and said that the 100th birthday of Canada was one of those remarkable things. Everybody talked about Canada's 100th birthday. I am almost jealous that I was not born then so I could have attended some of the 100th birthday celebrations.
We want to ensure Canada's 150th is the same. We want to really help Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand why they should be so proud of our country.
I had the opportunity to visit Yukon with the fabulous member for Yukon, and he took me to his local museum. That was my first visit to Canada's north. The pride he showed as he toured me around and showed me some of the important places in his community was something that all Canadians should know. Yet not all Canadians can get to the north.
When I looked at the treasures and the collection in storage at that museum and when I heard the minister talk about the opportunities with the new Canadian museum of history, to share these collections so we could be proud of what we had accomplished, I thought this was an excellent opportunity.
We see upstairs in this place a display of the Franklin expedition. We saw the pride the Minister of Health had because something so important to her community was not being displayed just outside the offices of the Prime Minister. It was being displayed and celebrated in other areas of the world, such as Norway. I had the opportunity to meet with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway and to talk about how important this was, how Norwegians were celebrating and wanted to continue to make connections with the Minister of Health's home town. These are things we have to celebrate. These are things Canadians have to know.
I have had the opportunity, as I am sure a lot of parliamentarians have had, to go to Pier 21. My parents came to this country through Pier 21. It is a shame to me, and one of the saddest parts of my life, that neither one of my parents was alive to see me elected. To go back to Pier 21, where they arrived in Canada, and see my parents' names on the manifest of the boat that brought them to this country, to stand on the pier and look out over the exact place they came to, was truly amazing. It was a truly amazing moment for me, and not just me. Others were visiting Pier 21, and it was easy to know who was going back. I could see them standing there and looking around. I could see in their faces how honoured they were to be there and to be Canadians.
We have to celebrate these things and let other Canadians understand. That is why when I hear things about the Historica-Dominion Institute talking to our veterans, getting first-hand accounts and making them available, that makes me proud. It is also talking to people who came to this country through Pier 21 and getting their stories about what they faced when they came to Canada.
My parents came from Italy. My mother always told me that she was depressed for the first 10 years she was in Canada, because the winters were so harsh and the summer was only a time for her to fear what was coming in the winter. It was brutal for her. My father was a very proud Italian, but also a very proud Canadian. He did not understand hockey at all, but he cheered for it, because he knew it was what Canadians did. He could not understand any part of the game, and he always tried to relate it to soccer, but he was fiercely proud of his new country.
Sometimes it takes going somewhere else to realize just how lucky we are and just how special this country is. Going back to my parents' home town, when I was 14, although it was a beautiful place, made me realize how lucky I was to be here. It also awakened me to something then, even that far back. The many Italians who came to Canada did not know enough about Canada. We have all heard stories of tourists who come to Canada in July with skis on their cars thinking it is going to be snowing. We could do a better job.
There is no problem with members disagreeing in the House about history. That is good. Let us disagree. That is what history is all about. It is not our job to write the history books. That is not what we do. It is our job to be in this place, debate, and make sure other Canadians have access to that history. That is what this new Canadian museum of history would do, and that is why I am so excited.
It is not just about a $25-million investment that will update the museum, as the minister said, after many years. Displays have to be changed. It is not just about that $25-million investment. It is not about the $142 million we have already put into arts and culture and into our museums. It is about giving Canadians access to the things, people, places and events that have helped make this country the best country in the world in which to live. Regardless of how we feel about the policies of one another, we can all agree on that. Surely we can all agree on the fact that everybody, not just Canadians, deserves to understand what has made this country so great.
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 Cape Breton—Canso, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Science and Technology.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon and share my time with an outstanding person, namely the member for Ottawa—Orléans. He represents a community in the suburbs of the greater Ottawa area, which includes a large French-speaking community, and he serves it very well.
He also serves veterans very well. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion. I can always count on him. He always attends events organized for veterans. I want to thank him and tell him that I am extremely proud to be with him in a Conservative caucus that is working every day to improve the quality of life for the entire Canadian population.
I want to say in no uncertain terms that I will be supporting our government’s 2013 economic action plan without reservation, for three very simple reasons.
First, this budget is tailor-made for Canadian families. It is consistent with our policies. For example, we have the lowest taxation rate for families. What we want is for the money to stay in the pockets of our families, so they can use it for their many needs.
We want to be an efficient government that is at their service. That is why we have reduced taxes more than 150 times since 2006. As a result, an average family with four children has $3,200 more in its pockets because it is paying less in taxes. Young families, among others, are also receiving grants to raise their children up to age six. People are also paying less in GST. We are naturally staying the course on the economy, and a return to a balanced budget.
Second, every person elected represents municipalities or cities. I have the privilege of representing a large portion of the city of Lévis, with my colleague the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. Now, the city of Lévis has significant infrastructure needs in order to support families and economic growth, and to be able to provide a quality of life in a changing environment. The city of Lévis has infrastructure projects, but so does the municipality of Bellechasse and the Des Etchemins regional county municipality. I am also thinking of Beaumont, which is growing very quickly, and Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague. These municipalities have infrastructure projects.
I support the economic action plan because the huge sums involved will enable municipalities to invest in infrastructure not only this year, but in the years to come. More than $50 billion in infrastructure spending is planned. For example, we are making the transfer of the excise tax on gasoline permanent. That will enable our municipalities to invest. We will be partnering with the provincial governments to enable them to generate leverage with the investments they make in infrastructure. This will consolidate the economic prosperity of our country.
Third, I support this budget because it is designed to serve people who have put their lives at risk for our country. They have served under Canada’s flag. Whether they are still in the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces or have left, they are our veterans and their families.
I would like to take a few moments to show how much this budget respects the government’s responsibility towards its veterans and their families.
In the economic action plan, we have, so to speak, an investment that will represent huge sums in the years ahead for veterans and their families. Among other things, there is one specific measure in the budget: the war veterans’ allowance. For this measure to come into force, however, the economic action plan must be supported. I will talk a little more about it.
What struck me first in the budget with respect to benefits for veterans and their families is the need for support when a veteran dies. The funeral and burial program has been substantially improved with respect to funerals for eligible veterans. We are receiving constructive comments from the veteran community on this matter.
We are also improving our contribution to the important date coming up in 2017, namely the 150th anniversary of our country. That will also be the 100th anniversary of a landmark event in our history: the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where Canadians fought together for the first time. We were victorious, but we suffered substantial losses. That is why it is important that we, as a nation, make sure that people do not forget their sacrifice. That is also why we will be investing $5 million in an interpretation centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
The measures contained in the economic action plan 2013 take our unprecedented support for Canada's veterans and their families to the next level and demonstrate our continued commitment to veterans. We can see this commitment clearly in our government's response to a Federal Court ruling last spring.
The judge who made the decision did not specify its scope. However, he did indicate that there is no connection with the programs provided by National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. That said, under the leadership of our Prime Minister and with the support of the Conservative caucus, our government has decided to go beyond this decision, which involved only National Defence, so that the harmonization of our programs also covers those delivered by Veterans Affairs Canada.
This is an envelope of nearly $1.9 billion. Our government therefore decided immediately to go beyond the court’s decision and to stop deducting the disability pension from Veterans Affairs Canada in calculating the monthly payments as an allowance for lost revenue from the department and as an income support allowance from the Canadian Forces. We were able to do it immediately because that was what we wanted to do.
We wanted to accomplish a third item: the war veterans allowance. To do this, we need regulatory changes. That is why we need support from all parliamentarians for the approval of this measure, which is included in the 2013 economic action plan. Some 2,500 modern-era veterans and survivors should benefit from these changes in the first year alone. We also intend to adjust this veterans allowance in the same way.
Economic action plan 2013 calculates that the total impact of these measures, when we combine National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada together, would be $1.9 billion over seven years. That is an extra $1.9 billion in the pockets of disabled veterans and men and women in uniform. We think this is the right thing to do and we seek support from the House to do so. This includes an additional $95.4 million to veterans above what was announced previously when calculating the earning loss benefit and the Canadian Forces income support benefit.
I want to reiterate how important it is as a government to support the budget for three reasons.
The first is the major increase in the funeral and burial program for those who need it.
The second is the support for the commemorations that would occur at the Vimy memorial centre, which is important. We actually have the Vimy memorial on our new $20 bill. It is our duty to remember.
The third is the harmonization of all of our programs, especially the veterans war allowance.
That is why I invite members to support the budget not only for all Canadian families, but especially for what it does for our veterans and their families.
I thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his intervention. Members of course do know that referring to other members in the House either by their riding name or their title is the appropriate thing to do. Characterizations otherwise invariably take us in the wrong direction for what are healthy debates in the House.
We will continue with questions and comments. The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister is mired in controversy over the failed appointment process for the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament has not even met.
During this 41st Parliament, the committee has had only three substantive meetings. The Prime Minister has clearly ordered the House co-chair not to convene the committee because he fears the budget officer.
Will the member for Ottawa—Orléans tell the House when the committee will be meeting to review the appointment process for the PBO?
Mr. Speaker, it is with both pride and humility that I congratulate Global Community Alliance, which held its fourth annual gala last Saturday.
Global Community Alliance is one of 300 organizations in Ottawa—Orléans that relies heavily on volunteers.
Its gala aims to highlight diversity and encourage unity in Ottawa, values that our community holds dear.
Moses Abayomi Pratt did an excellent job organizing the event, which raised money for Black History Month.
Congratulations to Yomi and his wife Kelly Pratt, to Ryan Pascal for his inspiring speech, and to Bertilia Christian, Tarrah Mauricette, Ewart Walters, Adrienne Coddett, Gabriela Bernal Astrain, MPP Yasir Naqvi and my friend June Girvan for the recognition they received.
To all, thank you for making Ottawa—Orléans and our nation’s capital a place where everyone has a chance to succeed.
Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on what is an excellent motion from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
My riding does not have a reserve in it, but there are first nation people in my riding. I have met with them and talked with them. In fact, a couple of them put on a Remembrance Day sunrise ceremony this past November to honour first nation soldiers who had fought for Canada in wars overseas. It was held at an ordinary school in my riding, Bala Avenue Community School. It was to remind the children in the school that everyone is in this, that we are all together. It was a moving and wonderful ceremony.
Another constituent has asked me on several occasions about whether it would be possible to create a native language immersion school in Toronto, because there are 10,000 native children in Toronto who need an education. We can manage to have immersion schools all over the place for the French language, as one of the nation-to-nation languages in the country, but we cannot seem to put together the wherewithal to build language education for first nation children.
I discovered as a result of my investigation that there are such native language schools at the reserve in Six Nations. They teach their kids Mohawk and Cayuga in an immersion setting from junior kindergarten all the way up to grade 8. It is wonderful. I will talk more about that later.
It is clear now, from this issue coming forward and from the events in Southern Ontario and all over Canada, that the whole issue of the relationship between the government and first nations, mostly about money but also about land claims, has proven to many first nation people across the country that there is a problem. There are people talking about whether or not it is discriminatory on the part of the government to provide less for first nation people than it provides for others and whether it is discriminatory on the part of the government to not fund education the way it should.
The Idle No More protest has created a grassroots manifestation of the frustration that has gone on for many years in first nation communities. I am talking about dozens and dozens of years since the first obligations of the treaties and it started to become clear that the governments were not going to honour some of those treaties. It is not just the treaties but the care and control of the government of the first nation people that has failed. The governments have been paternalistic, punishing and prejudiced in their behaviour toward first nation people. More recently, this government is showing its paternalistic and punishing nature with the bills it brought forward to force first nations to report in a new and different way all the money they take in and earn, because someone somewhere did not like the way it was being done. It is paternalistic and punishing, and that needs to stop.
There are some who would suggest that there is a sense of disdain for native issues among some in the Conservative caucus. The events this week by the member for Ottawa—Orléans and Senator Brazeau, in a fundraiser, showed some of the potential for contempt we are hearing. I hope and pray it is not widespread among the Conservative caucus, but there are those out there who fear that it is.
With that context, I went to visit the Six Nations reserve as a result of my quest to see if we could create a native language school. I discovered when I was there just how hard it is to educate children on this reserve. Whether it is in native languages or not, it is extremely difficult. They told me that they receive about half the money from the federal government that the provincial government provides to teach children off reserve.
It is roughly $10,000 per child that the provincial government gives, and the federal government gives, according to the band council on the reserve, around $5,000 per child. When they question this, the government says “Well, you can pay your teachers less.” Those who are living on reserve do not pay taxes, so that limits the teachers they can get to those on reserve. It is a sense of paternalism. It gets worse, though.
When they created this native language school, they did it not completely independent of the federal government, but as a adjunct to the federal government. They did it with fees from the parents. So it is like a private school in that the parents have to pay to send their children to this school.
However, small business people in the community have decided to contribute, to donate space to that school. So what did the federal government do when it discovered that space had been donated to the school? It deducted the value of the space from the contributions it made on behalf of the children of that school. It clawed back a donation.
Imagine if any school board in this country tried to do the same thing. If the kids were out there selling chocolate-covered almonds to raise money for a trip, and the school board said “If you raise money, if there is a donation to the school, we are going to claw it back”, that would be unheard of. It would not ever happen.
On the Six Nations Reserve, that is exactly what goes on. It is shameful that this kind of attitude takes place. It is shameful that the Six Nations Reserve cannot, with full funding from the federal government, provide whatever kind of education it wants to provide.
The Six Nations Reserve is in southern Ontario. It is in the bread basket of Canada, and yet there are 325 homes without running water. How did that happen? How is it that we have a lack of running water in homes in southern Ontario, only on a reserve?
Fourteen months ago when the member for Kootenay—Columbia was up speaking on first nations issues, I asked him about these 325 homes. He said:
Mr. Speaker, we will ensure and work toward making sure those people at Six Nations get drinking water to those 325 homes.... The infrastructure that is required to be placed into those homes has to be done through whatever means is required: putting pipes in the ground, ensuring they get to the homes, ensuring they are hooked up to the water system, and ensuring they are hooked up to the waste water system.
I am confident that this will occur very quickly. It is unfortunate that it has taken so long, but I can assure the House that our committee and the minister will ensure that it happens sooner than later.
Nothing has happened. That was 14 months ago. That is typical of the government of the day. “It is a priority for us”, I hear them say over and over again in answer to questions, but it does not get done because it is not really a priority. It was not in the budget. It is not in the plans. It is not in the priorities of the government. However, the government members sit there and say it is a priority, but they do not actually do it. It boils down to money.
The other big problem at the Six Nations Reserve is the land claims issue. It has been festering for many years, and in Ontario, in Caledonia, we saw the manifestation of frustration on the land claims issue in 2006 when a group of native protestors took over a housing construction project and occupied it, preventing houses from being built. They claimed that the land was disputed, and that issue is still festering. That was in 2006. That was seven years ago and it is still there.
It is not just seven years. It has been dozens and dozens of years that these native groups and first nations communities have been saying, over and over again, that their land claims have not been respected by governments, not just the Conservative government but also Liberal governments before them.
That needs to be done, on a nation-to-nation basis. What also needs to be done by the government is a real commitment to dollars. The Liberal government froze the funding for first nations activities, like education, at 2%, and the government has not changed it. It found enough money to increase the budget for the ministry of defence by 44%, but it can only find 2% for first nations. There is something wrong with the priorities of the government, and we want to change those priorities.
Mr. Speaker, anything we can do to improve education for our first nations is certainly a step in the right direction. However, let us not forget that the Liberals had 13 years to address the issue and we are where we are today because they were part of the problem as well.
We can talk about the Conservatives' relationship on this file as well. It does no good to belittle first nations, as did the MP for Ottawa—Orléans this week, and as did Senator Brazeau. That is not the type of relationship that first nations want. However, it gives us an understanding that the Conservative government has no understanding of first nation issues.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to commemorate the silver jubilee of the AOE Arts Council.
The AOE Arts Council is one of the 300 dynamic community organizations in Ottawa—Orléans that I have the honour to represent in the House.
This organization has been successfully supporting, promoting and developing the arts scene in Ottawa for 25 years.
Executive director, Christine Tremblay, has been a catalyst in our community since the incorporation of AOE in 1987. The first recipient of the Order of Ottawa, she was instrumental in bringing the Shenkman Arts Centre to Orléans.
After 25 years at the helm of the AOE Arts Council, Ms. Tremblay is stepping down and will soon pass the torch to Micheline Joanisse.
Good luck with your new challenge, Micheline.
I also wish a happy anniversary to all the artists who are members of the AOE Arts Council and may these first 25 years be only the beginning of a great venture.
Before I sit down, I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and members from all corners of the House for their grace and good wishes over the last few weeks. I just want to reassure everyone, it was a big dig but they got it all.
Thank you very much.
I appreciate the intervention by the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans on this matter. In fact, for voice votes members will know that members do not necessarily have to be in their appointed seats, as long as they are in the chamber. Members will also know that if the Chair senses that there is not consent for a motion, there is no consent, which is what I declared, and then we proceed.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North is rising on the same point of order?
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear from the member for Ottawa—Orléans, in both his speech and the response he just gave in respect to the $21.5 billion carbon tax that the NDP would like to implement.
I found his speech rather interesting, in the way he intertwined the importance of the national perspective that this economic plan, this strategy, will have on the rest of the country. He intertwined how the benefits were going to impact Ottawa-Orléans. I would like to ask him further how the benefits in the budget are going to impact the people of his community that he represents?
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the good and wise people of Ottawa—Orléans, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the jobs and growth act, 2012.
Since our election 2,469 days ago, this government has made job creation, growth and economic prosperity its top priorities. This is increasingly true in this 41st Parliament. Despite a weak and uncertain global economy and a sluggish recovery, 820,000 new jobs have been created in Canada since July 2009.
While the government has produced excellent results in terms of job creation and the economy, there is still much work to be done.
Bill C-45 will help us to continue the success and enable Canada to remain a global economic leader. While the government focuses on a plan to promote job creation through competitive taxes, the opposition is dreaming up schemes for higher taxation, as I mentioned in this House nine days ago. For instance, there is a carbon tax on everything, and taking $21 billion out of the pockets of hard-working Canadian taxpayers.
Speaking of lower taxes from this side, this government has offered tax relief in 140 instances since 2006, and has reduced rates for people in the lowest tax brackets in particular.
That is how you help an entire country come out of a recession. The jobs and growth act, 2012, would stimulate the Canadian economy and create even more jobs. How? By extending the hiring credit for small business for another year. Small businesses are economic drivers for Canada and also for Ottawa–Orléans. Last year, this credit helped some 534,000 Canadians.
In Orléans, businesses, such as the very meticulous Sure Print can receive a hiring credit of up to $1,000. Other measures will foster a healthy climate for job creation. They include promoting interprovincial trade, improving the legislative framework for Canada's financial institutions, facilitating cross-border travel, removing red tape and reducing fees for Canada's grain farmers and supporting the country's commercial aviation sector.
In recent months, shortly before the government released its economic action plan 2012, scaremongers tried to stir up public fears about the government’s proposed changes to Canada's pension plans.
Earlier this year, on January 9, I wrote to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the President of the Treasury Board, stating the following:
In my view, it would be fair to change the benefits offered to our public servants yet to be hired. On the other hand, it would be wrong to change the conditions of employment retroactively. It certainly would be wrong to reduce the benefits of people who are already retired.
In his reply, which is available at my constituency office, the Prime Minister made it very clear, when he wrote in his own hand:
[First name of member for Ottawa-Orléans], I agree with you. No changes can be made retroactively.
That reply shows the wisdom and statesmanship of this Prime Minister. He has kept his word. In fact, the only person who will be subject to retroactive reductions to his pension is the Prime Minister himself. This is yet another demonstration of his selflessness in the service of Canadians.
The government has taken landmark action to ensure that the pension plans for members of this House and of the other place and federal public servants are sustainable and financially responsible. These plans will be consistent with the pension products offered by other jurisdictions and will be fair relative to plans offered in the private sector.
Bill C-45 would amend the Public Service Superannuation Act so that contributors would pay no more than 50% of the current service costs of the pension plan, by 2017. In addition, as of 2015, people entering the public service and future parliamentarians would be eligible for their pension at age 65 rather than the current age of 55.
Through changes to the pension plans for federal public servants and parliamentarians, the Government of Canada estimates it will save $2.6 billion over five years. That is a significant amount.
Let us remember, like the old age security program, there will be no retroactive changes to the Public Service Superannuation Act. None.
I personally intervened and the government has listened.
The members of this House are leading by example. It is our duty to do so.
On another subject, the government is focused on the needs of families.
Bill C-45 would improve the registered disability savings plan and help some of the most vulnerable people in society. As of January 1, 2014, the income from a registered education savings plan for a child with a disability could be rolled over to a registered disability savings plan if the child has a severe and prolonged mental impairment and would likely be unable to pursue post-secondary studies. This initiative would offer more flexibility and options to families with a disabled child.
As I am sure members know, children’s health is a subject close to my heart. On September 19, I introduced Motion M-319, which the House unanimously approved. The motion encouraged the government to continue promoting healthy food choices among children as a way to address the serious issue of childhood obesity.
The economic action plan 2012 proposes measures that support M-319.
It promotes a more active lifestyle for young people by continuing to support ParticipACTION. This valuable organization works with provincial partners to provide community-based health and fitness programs.
This is just one of the many initiatives the government has introduced since 2006, such as the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit, which I had promoted.
Seniors play an important role in the lives of families and the Orléans community. A visit to places such as the Regroupement des aînés francophones d’Orléans, the Roy G. Hobbs Seniors Centre or Royal Garden will show how much seniors have to offer.
Since 2006, the government has provided solid support to seniors through $2.5 billion in tax relief. In addition, 380,000 seniors no longer pay federal income tax. The government has also introduced pension income splitting. I worked closely with my colleagues on this issue.
The economic action plan 2012 also supports seniors through the third quarter project, an initiative program that lets employers benefit from the experience of workers aged 50 and over who want to apply their skills in the labour market. With Ottawa's relatively no unemployment rate, employers can have a tough time finding employees with the right skills. Third quarter, which has received $6 million in funding, can help companies here and across Canada find the people they need.
I see the signal that my time is running out. However, there is so much that this budget document is presenting. There are no surprises there. These are the issues that we fought the last election on. These are the issues that we voted on, hours upon hours, last June. We are getting the job done.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me.
It is a great pleasure for me to discuss Bill C-38 this evening.
The United States and especially Europe are in grave trouble. Canada's economy has emerged from the global recession much better than other industrialized countries, especially those in Europe.
Because this government has done its homework since its first victory in 2006, the 2012 election was the first in Canadian history that a government won following a recession. I had voted against holding that unnecessary election.
Those on the other side who had voted for the dissolution of the 40th Parliament remind me of turkeys who vote for an early Christmas. Through this election, voters gave us a clear mandate to keep up the good work with the economy and balance the books as quickly as possible. Canadians want jobs to be created and that is what they expect from us.
Locally, Ottawa roughly had 542,200 people employed at the beginning of the month of May 2012. Between April and May 2012, Ottawa witnessed a drop in unemployed by 9,000, which led to a decrease in unemployment by a tenth of a percent. Since October 2010, the unemployment rate has dropped by an eighth of a percent.
In accordance with the information presented in the 2012 economic action plan, this government has established that it would be near a balanced budget in 2014 and that a balanced would be obtained in 2015.
It is crucial that we return to a balanced budget. It is only under these circumstances that our government can continue to make important investments.
In Ottawa, there is no lack of projects waiting to happen. The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are calling for a new interprovincial bridge at Kettle Island. The National Capital Commission is currently holding public consultations on this matter. In fact, it held a public hearing yesterday at the Shenkman Arts Centre next door to my constituency office.
On the topic of transportation networks, another project will remain at the centre of discussion for the city over the next few years. July 13, 2011, the City of Ottawa adopted a motion presented by councillor Stephen Blais, to extend the route of the light rail transit towards the east as quickly as possible.
The 2008 transportation master plan does not call for extending the light rail line from Blair station to Trim Road before 2031.
By bringing this motion forward before the master plan is reviewed, the city council is ensuring that the feasibility study for the Orleans LRT extension can be completed as soon as possible so that residents from the east end can have access to light rail sooner. For that, Councillor Blais and his partners, Councillor Rainer Bloess, Councillor Bob Monette and Councillor Tim Tierney deserve kudos.
And Ottawa–Orléans is the North American leader in respect to the use of public transit.
If we want major infrastructure projects like these to become reality, both in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada, we need to balance the budget. It is always easier to make investments with a healthy financial position than with a deficit.
In 2012, federal support for the provinces and territories reached a record high and will continue to rise.
In 2012-13, Ontario will receive record support through major federal transfers, most of which is earmarked for health and will provide this province with $19.2 billion.
This investment represents a 77% increase in transfers relative to those made by the previous government. Even if the government, under the mandate of its Canadian electorate, tightens its belt, its methodology differs from the previous government, now a third party in the House of Commons.
They had slashed the transfers to the provinces. They had slashed the funds reserved for health and education. They had forced the provinces to lay off nurses and teachers.
In addition to drastically cutting funding to the public sector, the previous government balanced the budget on the backs of the provinces, while this government continues to increase its share of federal transfers, therefore towards health care, and proposes a 2% decrease in budget spending in the public service. The previous government had cut tens of thousands of jobs from the public service in one fell swoop.
Our approach is incremental. This means that, despite what doomsayers predicted, job losses have been far less significant than certain predictions would have had us believe, the worst of which predicted that 60,000 public servants would be shown the door.
We are now talking about cutting 4,800 jobs in total in the national capital region in the next three years, and that is after increasing the number of public servants by 13,000 over the past five years.
Despite everything, this decision was not made lightly. We have one of the most competent public services in the world.
But, when we look elsewhere, things do not look so bad here. We are far from the situation in Greece, where 15,000 public-sector employees were cut, and an additional 30,000 people were temporarily laid off.
We are far from the situation in Italy, which almost went bankrupt before an interim government resolved to take the measures deemed necessary. Since then, Italy has increased its sales, housing and property taxes. These are things we are not doing.
Since 2006, the Canadian government has kept its word regarding taxation. Canadian taxpayers today are paying less tax than at any point in the last 30 years.
The budget we are now debating today strongly supports world-class innovation and research. This government believes in innovation. On March 27, I was pleased to announce that nearly $1 million would be allocated for an IT professional mentoring program to encourage primary and secondary school students in Ottawa to take an interest in science and innovation.
I see this measure as a great opportunity for the National Research Council of Canada, located at the doorstep of Ottawa–Orléans.
The good and wise people of Ottawa—Orléans know of my unfailing support for scientific research and development. In this budget the Minister of Finance has taken action on the Jenkins report and is investing $1.1 billion in direct support for R and D and $500 million in venture capital.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are at the core of the Canadian economy and that of Ottawa–Orléans.
Constituents, who on three occasions have given me the honour to serve them in the House, can count on dynamic small businesses. The Orléans Chamber of Commerce alone counts on the support of over 200 members.
Before the budget was drafted, businessmen and businesswomen in Orléans took part in a brainstorming session that I chaired, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my friend from Ottawa West—Nepean.
The owners of two SMEs in Ottawa–Orléans, Access Print Imaging and Sure Print & Graphics, shared their ideas, as did Joanne Lefebvre, chair of the Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la capitale nationale, and Jo-Anne Bazinet, chair of the Orléans Business Club.
I am sure that they will be pleased, as will other dynamic members of the Orléans business community, with the important measures we have put forward in Bill C-38. Our government recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation.
The 2012 economic action plan provides several key measures to support them in their growth.
The hiring credit for small business, a credit of up to $1,000, has been extended. This measure will benefit up to 536,000 employers.
Everyone knows red tape hinders efficiency. It was a point raised at the round table I chaired along with the member for Ottawa West–Nepean.
The government has committed to cutting red tape. It has established the one-for-one rule and pledged to create a red tape reduction plan--
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for bringing this issue to the attention of the House of Commons so that we could have this important discussion.
I am very happy to have an opportunity to participate in this debate around childhood obesity, something that is, unfortunately, a problem for too many Canadian families. It is an issue that was included as part of the health committee's 2011-12 study on health, health promotion and disease prevention.
The Standing Committee on Health also tabled a report on obesity in 2007 that called for a public awareness campaign, simple label packaging and the removal of transfats from the Canadian diet.
Those of us who are parents know the challenges of raising children in an age where kids are more interested in playing video games than in going outside to play catch, or street hockey, or ride their bikes. I am pleased to say that tomorrow I will be out with my 15-year-old son and his venturers company, as it is called, cycling in the St. Margaret's Bay area, partly in the riding of my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's and partly in the Halifax West riding. I am looking forward to that. However, I know what a challenge it is for all parents to get their kids away from their Game Boys, their XBoxes--
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth; (b) encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food; (c) encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight; and (d) consider the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weight entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity”, that resulted from the endorsement of the “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” by the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health and Health promotion/Healthy Living, as the basis for action to address obesity, particularly in children, promoting physical activity and making healthy food choices.
Madam Speaker, first I will thank my seatmate and friend, the dedicated member for Okanagan—Shuswap, for being the seconder of this motion on a topic that is dear to me and to the good and wise people I represent in this place.
I am very pleased to address this House and all Canadians on this day, my 2,301st day as the servant of Ottawa–Orléans, in order to raise an issue of paramount importance to the future of our fine country: child nutrition.
“Youth is the smile of the future in the presence of an unknown quantity, which is itself”, wrote legendary poet and playwright Victor Hugo in his masterpiece, Les Misérables.
In his famous poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, the English poet and playwright, Robert Browning, wrote:
Therefore I summon age To grant youth's heritage,
In the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of a worrisome phenomenon: more and more children and young people with a weight problem.
In 1953, when Madame Jeannette Dupuis-Desjarlais was my grade 1 teacher, very few of my classmates were chubby. That is no longer the case.
Twenty-five years later, when I served on the Ottawa-Carleton health council, the trend we are seeing today was already apparent.
I believe it is important for us to pay special attention to this problem, which affects all of us, and for us to begin discussion among parliamentarians. It deserves a national discussion.
This is why I am pleased to speak today to my private member's motion, Motion No. 319. It addresses the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth. It encourages the federal government to continue to work in areas that are aligned with current priorities and activities following from curbing child obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. I do not know why they have long titles like that.
Canada is facing an obesity epidemic, mainly in children and young adults. The rate of obesity in children and young persons has almost tripled in the past 25 years.
More than one in four children and young persons in Canada are overweight or obese: one in four.
These rates are even higher in aboriginal communities.
The Public Health Agency of Canada warns that childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity later in life, as well as the early onset of a number of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and all kinds of others that we cannot even pronounce.
The repercussions of what can be called the obesity epidemic threaten both the health and the economy of our country and because, as I have just shown, the weight problem among young people has worsened in the past decades, Canada's future could suffer.
Links have been established between obesity and the incidence of asthma, gall bladder disorders, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, cardiovascular illnesses and certain types of cancer, including colon, kidney, breast, endometrial, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.
We have to invest in the future of our children. It is critical that we ensure that everyone understands the importance of promoting and maintaining a healthy weight in the early years.
In the May 8, 2012 edition of the Journal de Montréal, journalist Héloïse Archambault wrote about how young persons, particularly young women, attempt to lose weight. In her article on teenagers who want to be thin, she quotes Jacinthe Côté, a psychology professor at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and the author of a study on how young persons try to lose weight.
Her alarming observations are a concern. According to the study, while three out of four young women between the ages of four and eighteen are unhappy with their figure, what they do in an attempt to become thin is frightening.
The most popular weight-loss method include, for nearly 45% of young women, skipping meals. More than one in five young women decide not to eat all day. Dieting, starting to smoke or going back to smoking, taking appetite suppressants or laxatives and vomiting after meals are also among the attempted solutions.
By taking such drastic measures, these young women are jeopardizing part of their future. Is that the sort of approach we want our young people to take in order to lose weight?
The situation is an economic burden on Canada and if nothing is done, it will become increasingly problematic.
The direct health care costs of overweight and obesity have been estimated at $6 billion a year and the indirect costs are roughly an additional $1.1 billion per year in Canada. I am sure that the various levels of government have other uses for what is, on its face, taxpayer money.
Canada is not alone in this situation. Many developed countries are facing similar obesity trends. This is one of the reasons we are seeing renewed momentum to address chronic diseases, including risk factors such as overweight and obesity, on a global scale.
Last September, for example, Canada participated in a United Nations meeting on chronic diseases. At that meeting there was clear recognition that obesity is a global health problem, and countries agreed to make it a priority. While it is not the role of government to force people to adopt particular lifestyles, the government must endeavour to raise Canadians’ awareness of this situation and must become involved in the search for solutions.
In this search for solutions, the government is already moving forward.
Families that register their children in physical activity programs are entitled to a $500 income tax credit each year. The government also funds Participaction, an agency that helps Canadians adopt healthy lifestyles through physical activity and sport. One year ago today, this highly beneficial agency honoured two young constituents from Ottawa—Orléans.
Alexis and Loïc Gagnon-Clément, two brothers studying at Garneau high school and St. Joseph elementary school respectively in Orléans, were the winners of the Dare2Move Your Own Generation Teen Challenge.
In this contest, ParticipACTION invited young people across Canada to produce a short video to educate young Canadians about the inactivity crisis. In the winning video, Loïc plays the role of an obese tweenie, using humour to illustrate times when physical inactivity is a drag.
After the scenarios, the two students present scary statistics about the health of Canadian young persons.
This is exactly the kind of program the government should be encouraging.
My motion is meant to encourage this dialogue among all the sectors, particularly health care, the economy, the environment and education. It also encourages individuals, families, industry, NGOs and governments across the country to take action and to raise awareness.
First, this motion encourages the federal government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, the industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.
This motion also calls on the federal government to encourage discussions that address the factors leading to obesity.
For example, we must expand the dialogue to include key areas for action in order to promote strategies for building social and physical environments that encourage physical activity and promote healthy eating and access to nutritious foods.
My motion calls on the federal government to encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of healthy weights.
We know that engagement and collaboration are fundamental aspects of mobilizing action.
This brings me to the final element of my motion.
The fourth part of this motion urges the federal government to use this framework as the basis for action plans to address obesity, particularly in children, and to promote active living and healthy food choices. This will ensure that governments continue to work together in three specific areas: first, to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles; second, to create favourable environments; and third, to promote multi-sector partnerships.
Canada is sending a clear message to the rest of the world that everyone has a part to play in healthy weights.
Members may know that in January 2010, I started a gym fitness and nutrition program. My goal is to be in good shape for the years to come.
Getting started at my age is not easy. I still have a lot to learn about healthy eating. Habits are hard to break, especially for people in their sixties.
In rising in the House to speak to members today, I earnestly hope that the Canada of the future, which this motion addresses, will have the means to make wiser choices than I did. While it is true that it is never too late to change one's habits, efforts are a lot easier to muster with the energy of youth.
In walking the walk—not just talking the talk—I am going to take Canada’s Food Guide in hand as my pilgrim’s staff and visit schools in the constituency of Ottawa–Orléans that I serve, to take part in the promotion and discussion projects described in the motion I have moved in this House.
Over the next few weeks, all the schools in the constituency of Ottawa—Orléans, from St. Peter High School to Gisèle-Lalonde, by way of Cairine Wilson, will be invited to take part in this activity that I propose. I invite all hon. members, regardless of political stripe, to do the same.
Obesity is a complex phenomenon, and addressing its causes is a long-term goal that will require not only changes in individual behaviour, but also innovative action by governments, industry, non-governmental organizations and other partners.
We each have a role to play.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the employees of Health Canada for their support in this project.
I would also like to thank my staff for their support: Lynne Bernard, Andrej Sakic, Gina Vilsaint, Amanda Weir, Colette Yelle and my executive assistant, Brian Michaud.
I hope all members of the House will support my motion and take part in these discussions and awareness projects to further the important cause of child nutrition.
Young people are our future. Let us not allow this dark cloud to loom over them.
I thank you, Madam Speaker, for your kind attention and assure you that I shall take questions from my colleagues with the same respect.
Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
Madam Speaker, during his speech the member talked about how families have not been overlooked. I think what happened here is that the families have been targeted.
My question to my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans is this: why is his government closing the Kapuskasing Experimental Farm, which has been existence for 100 years and has provided excellent research for farmers in northern Ontario and Quebec?
Because of the focus on northern climate, this type of unique research cannot be generated at any other research station. Instead of putting people out of work, will the member work with us to save the jobs at the Kapuskasing Experimental Farm?
The electoral district of Ottawa--Orléans (Ontario) has a population of 109,950 with 85,456 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.