Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to talk about the bill. It is this government that actually has led the way with openness and transparency since we were elected in 2006. It gives me a great opportunity, as I rise to speak on the bill, to talk about some of the initiatives this government is undertaking to make government more open and accountable to the people of this country.
We understand that Canada has always been a world leader with respect to openness. Our first laws with respect to access to information were enacted in 1983, and this government has brought forward a number of other initiatives since that time to make it even more open and accountable to Canadians.
When we talk about the bill, there are many reasons why I will be voting against this piece of legislation. Not the least of these has to be that I look at the sponsor of the bill and wonder if I can trust that what he has put down on paper is something he believes in and would actually undertake to bring forward if he ever had the chance to be on this side of the House.
We know that, when Liberals were in power, they never did any of the things that are talked about in the bill, but I look specifically at the credibility and look back at some of the issues that the member championed or refused to champion. We know that the member has accepted speaking fees from unions and then voted against the union accountability act. We know that this government brought in a financial accountability act, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which Canadians supported, which our first nation partners for the most part supported, because it opened what was a very secretive and closed dimension of our first nations funding.
We know the member for Papineau said, if he got the opportunity to be elected and sit on this side of the House, that he would remove that transparency that Canadians think is so important and that we on this side of the House also think is important. When I look at that, I wonder about the member's commitment to transparency.
I look also at some of the recent undertakings of the Liberal Party when it comes to openness. We know that the leader of the Liberal Party talked about nominations and said that the Liberals would have open and transparent nominations. That is a process that clearly is not being followed in the Liberal Party. We know that in Ottawa—Orléans there was a former contestant for the leadership, who ran against the current leader of the Liberal Party. His major crime is that he actually outsold the preferred candidate of the Liberal leader when it comes to memberships. He was probably going to win the nomination, so the commitment to openness and transparency did not last very long and it went out the door.
When I look at this legislation, I see it was announced last June, when the member talked about bringing the bill forward. The Liberal Party members said that over the summer months they would reach out to and talk to Canadians about it. What did they do? They talked to Canadians through their website. How did they do it through their website? On the website people could comment on the Liberal bill as long as, when they did so, they added their email, name, age, date of birth, language, and aboriginal ancestry. Once people added all of that information and sent it to the Liberal Party, then they could make a comment on whether they thought the bill was appropriate or suggest changes.
That is the type of outreach the Liberals did, and people probably received a fundraising letter right afterward. Therefore, when it comes to openness and transparency, I am little troubled by what the Liberal Party does and what it says.
In his speech, the member for Winnipeg North talked about proactive disclosure. He said the Liberals wanted to lead the way on proactive disclosure, but we know that the Liberals say one thing and do something completely different. We know that it was actually Conservative members and senators who provided proactive disclosure in a very timely fashion.
It was a rather awkward situation for the Liberal leader last June, when he introduced this bill and had a press conference about it. It was noticed by the reporters that the Liberals had, at that point, not provided proactive disclosure and identified their expenses. I will read a couple of things from the report. The Liberal House leader said that they were struggling with the work that was involved putting these expenses online. The Liberal House leader went on to say, “In my view, it’s as timely as we can make it...”.
The Liberals never said how quickly the expenses would be posted online. However, the last round posted for the final quarter of 2013 was made a month and a half after the disclosure. In this case, they were two and a half months late with the disclosure. This is another example of how the Liberals say one thing and do something completely different. They are all about openness and transparency, as long as no one asks them to prove that they are for openness and transparency.
We know that, in their time in office, the Liberals did just the opposite of what they constantly say. That is the Liberal hallmark. We know that. We know that the Liberals will say one thing. If they think the NDP is going to trouble them at the campaign, they will try to steal NDP ideas. They know we are constantly going to be bringing forward ideas, and I guess it is unfortunate for Canadians that the Liberals do not steal our ideas of putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadian taxpayers. We know they do not do that, because they tend to want to tax and spend more. We do just the opposite.
When we look at some of the things that the Conservative government has brought forward, we see that one of the first things was the accountability act. The accountability act brought in a number of things for openness and accountability. Some of these things, such as the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, are all things we brought forward after 13 years of Liberal secrecy and mismanagement of a number of different files. That culminated in the sponsorship scandal, which rightly outraged Canadians. There was a culture of secrecy in the former Liberal government, and we put an end to that with our accountability act back in 2006.
There are a number of other things we have done. We championed proactive disclosure. Expenses are more available. Contracts are put online for people to see. There are a number of other different disclosure mechanisms. The President of the Treasury Board has provided an open government program, which allows people to access a number of different files and data sets of the government and to use them.
We understand that when we provide access to information, it is actually a positive thing. The reason it is positive is that it gives Canadians access to information. It gives them access to the information that will allow them to understand what the government is doing and why it is doing it. When we look at all the things the Conservative government has done, we can see that, when it comes to openness and accountability, it actually does what it says, unlike the Liberals, who time and time again have said one thing and done something different.
When I look at this bill and some of the changes that are being suggested for the Board of Internal Economy, I have no problem. However, there is a whole host of other things that are completely wrong about this bill and that Canadians would find offensive. When we look at how this bill was drafted and how the Liberals, and this particular Liberal leader, have fashioned this debate, we can only conclude that it is another cynical and really immature attempt to score cheap political points on something that is very serious.
When we compare it to what this government has done with respect to openness and transparency, we can see the difference between this side of the House and that side of the House. I think Canadians understand that this is the only government that will continue to protect them, their pocketbooks. The Conservatives will continue to make government open for all Canadians.
The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans is rising on a point of order?
I appreciate the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans raising the point. I will have to take a look and see what was said exactly.
I will warn hon. members, though, about using terms such as “deliberately misleading”. I heard some phrasing of that in kind of a rhetorical nature. I do not think it is helpful. It gets far too close to the line. I would ask members, instead of trying to get as close to the line as they can, to stand a few paces back. I think members will appreciate that.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to part (a) of the question, this change was not preceded by consultations.
On July 8, 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote to the chair of the commission on behalf of the Government of Canada asking the commission to consider renaming the Rockcliffe Parkway the “Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway”.
After discussion, the NCC board of directors voted in favour of the renaming of the parkway.
The member of Parliament for Ottawa—Orléans made the announcement on September 6, 2014, on behalf of the Government of Canada that the Rockcliffe Parkway would be renamed the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway to honour one of Canada’s founding fathers.
As stated by the Member of Parliament for Ottawa—Orléans:
When…the [hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs] announced the renaming of the former Ottawa River Parkway to the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway two years ago, I felt compelled to write him to commend him for this important gesture and also to make the case for this renaming in George-Étienne Cartier’s honour….
Sir George-Étienne Cartier fought for a united country…. He was a man of vision and worked tirelessly to achieve not just Confederation, but a confederation that accommodated and respected differences. Today [September 6, 2014] is, in fact, Cartier’s 200th birthday and I do not believe that we could pay tribute to him in a more befitting manner. Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier were the two leaders of the pre-Confederation province of Canada and they both played pivotal roles in Confederation. These two Fathers of Confederation are commonly recognized together, such as in the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, and the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.
With regard to parts (b), (c), and (d), they are not applicable.
Mr. Speaker, my thanks go to the erudite and wise member for Ottawa—Orléans for sharing his time with me.
It is considerable sadness that I rise in the House to do something that I never dreamed I would need to do, which is to convince the members of the Liberal Party to return to the internationalist and multilateralist roots of Liberal foreign policy and to reject the isolationism that its current leader wishes to impose upon it. To be clear, the Liberal leader wants his caucus to turn its back as he has turned his back on the atrocities being committed against innocent women and children in Iraq.
I would like to speak today about the multilateral and internationalist policies, like the responsibility to protect doctrine, which used to be the foundation of the Liberal Party's foreign policy, but which the current Liberal leader recently brushed aside with two short sentences amid a lengthy speech about what Canada's response should be to the atrocities being committed against women and children in Iraq, even as we speak.
Every state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The international community has an obligation to assist states to fulfill that function. The international community has recognized that its members may have to act quickly to protect innocent citizens against ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. For geopolitical reasons of its own, which I urge members of the Liberal Party to reject, China has expressed reluctance to allow the UN to invoke the R2P doctrine, vetoing R2P in response to the deaths of innocent civilians in Syria to date.
In the case we are debating today, however, where unlike the government of Syria, which resisted any effective international intervention, Iraq has actually invited Canada and others to provide military assistance to protect its citizens against the ethnic cleansing and other atrocities being perpetrated by ISIL. There is no reason to prevent the international community from acting.
I would like to quote from the Liberal Party policy document, “Canada in the World: a Global Network Strategy”, which represented the tradition of the Liberal Party before the current Liberal leader reshaped it to conform to his own unthoughtful and dictatorial whims. The document says:
Another Canadian-inspired idea, Responsibility to Protect, will ensure that military intervention is truly a last resort, but that when sovereign states fail to protect their people and the international community mobilizes to stop large-scale harm to innocent life (for example in genocide and ethnic cleansing), Canada will be there.
The same Liberal Party policy document also endorsed “A muscular approach to renewing Canadian multilateralism”.
This is not simply a Liberal Party sentiment. This is actually the policy of governments of Canada, past and present. This is the tradition that is being pursued by our Prime Minister today in the resolution that we are debating. Unfortunately, it is a tradition which the recent remarks of the Liberal leader show has been abandoned under his leadership in favour of spurning our multilateral ties with close allies and adopting instead an unpredictable and inept isolationist approach.
It is also helpful to quote from last week's report by the United Nations office for human rights, which said:
ISIL and associated armed groups intentionally and systematically targeted these (Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yezidi and other) communities for gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control...OHCHR notes that many of the violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
That report recommended that:
Iraqi political leaders should use every opportunity and urgently achieve a substantial and effective resolution of the crisis by restoring control over the areas that have been taken over by ISIL....
It is for that purpose that Iraqi leaders have reached out and requested international and Canadian military assistance.
In the face of this authoritative report of unspeakable atrocities, what did the leader of the Liberal Party propose should be the world's response? He suggested that R2P required the international community to provide no more than development assistance to Iraq and refugee assistance to Turkey, as if somehow that would protect innocent women and children from the slavery, murder, and other atrocities being perpetrated by ISIL. Shame. Tell that to the women and girls in ISIL's slave markets. Tell that to the children who will have to watch their parents butchered before their eyes by ISIL.
The Liberal leader called on the parties in Iraq to come up with:
...an inclusive government that speaks for and represents all Iraqi men and women....a government that is fair-minded and which respects the many ethnic minorities within its borders.
As if somehow a series of Canadian-sponsored seminars would convince ISIL to stop committing atrocities and to become fair-minded and respectful of minorities.
Perhaps that would have been an admirable prescription for the Iraq of 2004, but it has absolutely no air of reality today in 2014. Had I not read the Liberal leader's words myself, I would hardly believe that such an uninformed view could come from any member of the House, much less the leader of the Liberal Party.
I do not pretend that the international responsibility to protect, which has arisen in Iraq, is susceptible to any easy or predictable course. The government of Iraq, which has requested international help to protect innocent civilians within its borders, is not itself an ideal ally. The strength of ISIL has been misjudged up to this point. Military commanders, as in any armed conflict, will need to proceed step by step to contain our adversaries, and the course of that battle plan cannot be predictable.
Nonetheless, the responsibility of the international community, including Canada, to protect those innocent women and children in Iraq from ISIL could not be clearer. The resolution before us today offers a modest, even minimalist, Canadian contribution to the international responsibility to protect. We could not do any less.
I expect I am not alone in this House in wishing that pacifism was a sufficient answer to atrocity and to mortal threats. We would all prefer to avoid causing anyone's death, and no Canadian takes any glory in military action. However, no government can proceed without a firm commitment to protect its citizens. It has been one of the great advances in our international practice to recognize the global implications and application of that principle.
I have no great expectation that the NDP will turn aside from the isolationist approach with which it so often shrouds itself. However, I expect better of our colleagues in the Liberal Party.
I urge them to turn away from isolationism and to embrace Canada's role in multilateral efforts to assist the international community in fulfilling its responsibility to protect innocent women and children from the ongoing genocide and other atrocities in Iraq. I urge them not to surrender the time-tested principles of respected Liberal foreign policy to the dictates of the current leader.
The hon. member for Ottawa—Orleans.
Order. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of attending my first working meeting with Marie-France Lalonde, the new MPP for Ottawa—Orléans, her executive assistant, Anick Tremblay, and mine, Bryan Michaud.
Ms. Lalonde, a political newcomer, was elected by the people of Orléans last June.
Ms. Lalonde's election to Queen's Park is welcome and marks the start of a new era in federal-provincial-municipal relations in Ottawa—Orléans.
Of course, there is no shortage of work to be done when it comes to ensuring that Orléans continues to be a good place to live, work and play. One of our joint priorities is cleaning up the Ottawa River so that the people of Orléans and the entire region can enjoy our “jewel”—Petrie Island—to the fullest.
I have assured Marie-France Lalonde that my door is always open, and she made the same pledge.
Mr. Speaker, taxpayers in the riding of Ottawa—Orléans were shocked to learn that they were on the hook for a $72,000 bill in expenses so that a former general could move a few blocks down the road. What is even more shocking is that the individual who left taxpayers with this outrageous bill is none other than the Liberal leader's senior advisor Andrew Leslie.
What is the Minister of National Defence going to do to ensure that these types of outrageous expenses never occur again?
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for the service he has given to our country and for graciously sharing his time with me today.
It is the men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed so much for our country, and those who continue to do so, who have made our nation what it is today.
That is why I am pleased to rise today to support the government's efforts to recognize these sacrifices by helping our veterans find meaningful employment in the federal public service. It is the least that we can do.
Our veterans are the ones who have defended our freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law and the ones who, too often, have given their own lives doing so.
Their sacrifice has allowed us the freedom and peace to pursue and realize the great riches and potential that our country offers.
Indeed, Canada’s veterans personify the ideal of commitment to cause and country. They embody honour and modesty.
Each week, I run into many veterans, whether I am stopping by at the Orléans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion or participating at different commemorative events. There are a considerable number of military personnel and veterans in Ottawa—Orléans, and of course, Branch 632 is the friendliest Legion in the region.
When veterans are asked about their service, their sacrifice or the reasons why they served, their answer is almost invariably because it was their duty.
They did much more than that. They have made Canada a nation that is universally respected around the world. They have helped those in crisis and in need. They have helped to keep the peace in many troubled areas far from Canada.
When all other avenues failed, they fought to protect our way of life and preserve the right of others to live in freedom.
The proud record of Canada's veterans explains the government's deep commitment to recognizing their service and honouring their sacrifice every day.
The government continues to strive to ensure that veterans and their families receive the care and support they need whenever and wherever they need it.
The veterans hiring act further solidifies the government’s commitment and determination to be there for those who have always been there for Canada.
It is our responsibility to ensure that veterans have access to a broad range of programs and services to help them achieve new success after their time in uniform is complete.
The measures we are proposing today will greatly help veterans succeed by creating new opportunities for veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces to start rewarding new careers in the federal public service.
We will create a five-year statutory priority entitlement for Canadian veterans who are medically released for service-related injuries and illnesses.
This change will move these veterans to the front of the line, ahead of all other groups for jobs in the federal public service and by doing so, it will recognize their very real sacrifices for Canada.
Additionally, these new measures will extend the priority entitlement period for all medically released veterans from the current two years to five years.
This means that eligible veterans whose military service is cut short by a career-ending injury or illness suffered in the line of duty will have the time they need to find a federal public service job.
However, we must not forget our other honourably released veterans and still-serving military personnel. As outlined in economic action plan 2014, the government made a commitment to allow eligible, still-serving military personnel to participate in the hiring process for internally advertised positions in the federal public service. This eligibility would extend for a full five years after their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
To ensure our veterans move to the front of the line for federal public service jobs, a hiring preference for our veterans will be established.
If a veteran has the same qualifications as another applicant in an externally advertised hiring process, the veteran will get the job.
This new hiring preference will be available to all veterans who are honourably released with at least three years of military service. It will last for up to five years from their release date.
This will give our veterans who want to upgrade their skills and education before entering the public service the time to do so. This is great news for these remarkable men and women, and it is the kind of action Canadians have come to expect from us.
Check our record. The government, regardless of fiscal pressures or economic uncertainties, has delivered on its pledge to maintain and enhance veterans' programs and benefits.
Due to the action taken by the government, the annual budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by a total of almost $785 million since 2005. In total, almost $5 billion in new funding has been invested towards enhancing veterans' benefits, programs and services.
At every turn, we have been adapting our programs and benefits to meet the changing needs of the men, women and families that we serve.
We have been streamlining the way we provide this support. We have been simplifying and reviewing our programs and policies.
We have been introducing new technologies to deliver better and faster service. It is all part of our cutting red tape for veterans initiative, because on this side of the House we are actually allergic to red tape.
The government has made significant improvements to ensure the best care, support and benefits for Canada's veterans and their families.
Turnaround times for processing veterans’ disability benefits have been significantly improved.
The approval time for access to rehabilitation services has been cut in half from four weeks to two.
Paperwork has been reduced.
We are listening. The government is implementing a comprehensive approach to serving veterans that is responsive, inclusive and flexible.
Passing this legislation will keep this momentum going. The implementation of these measures is key in helping veterans and releasing members of the Canadian Armed Forces make a successful transition to civilian life.
We are keeping faith with the courageous women and men who have served and continue to serve our country so well.
All members should demonstrate their own support and commitment to Canada’s veterans and serving members by supporting this bill.
I thank members for their kind attention.
I will be just as attentive to the questions put to me by members of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree with my colleague more that finding innovative ways to improve the care provided to Canadians is essential.
On top of our government's significant investments in health research that he mentioned, I was proud to announce this morning, along with my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans, over $13 million to support the launch of three new national research networks in the areas of respiratory health, stroke and vascular health.
We are partnering with the Canadian Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Hypertension Canada to put patients at the heart of our research and deliver life-changing results for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, today is budget day. We look forward to hearing the Minister of Finance speak to us this afternoon.
Economic development in Ottawa—Orléans has been lagging behind for decades.
Thanks to the attentive team work begun in 2006 by the dedicated Orléans city councillors, our dynamic chamber of commerce, and their servant in this House, we are in the process of re-branding Orléans.
Thanks to an $880 million investment from the government, the new Communications Security Establishment Canada office should be up and running by the end of the year.
Very soon the VENUS Cybersecurity Corporation will be setting up shop in Orléans. VENUS will serve as a business incubator for the knowledge industry.
Orléans has become the computer and telecommunications security capital, generating many jobs.
Orleans, an educated and bilingual community, is on a roll.
The member's time has expired. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans will have two minutes to wrap up his speech when the House resumes debate on this motion.
We will now proceed with statements by members.
Before we go to resuming debate with the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans, I will let him know that we have about eight minutes remaining in the time allocated for his remarks.
The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
The electoral district of Ottawa--Orléans (Ontario) has a population of 109,950 with 85,456 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
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