Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House today to speak to this issue and set the record straight on a number of these issues.
I would like to thank my colleague the member for Sarnia—Lambton for her excellent speech and her excellent answers to the questions. Her riding of Sarnia—Lambton and my riding of Wetaskiwin share many commonalities, including great petrochemical refineries and those kinds of installations, as well as the oil and gas sector and all of the well-paying jobs that this part of the economy supports.
I am glad to be here to set the record straight on this important matter, raised by the member for Drummond. As most members know, Canada possesses one of the largest and most diverse energy supplies in the world. As an Albertan, I know this. Canada is the world's fifth-largest producer of natural gas, with technically recoverable resources estimated to be up to 1.5 trillion cubic feet. Canada is also punching above its weight when it comes to clean energy. It is the third-largest producer of hydroelectricity and the second-largest producer of uranium in the world.
However, of all our assets, perhaps none is more important to Canada than its vast oil reserves. Canada is the world's fifth-largest producer of oil, with the world's third-largest proven reserves. There are 173 billion barrels, of which 167 are in Alberta's oil sands. That is not the best news. As technology evolves, Canada's oil sands reserves could nearly double to over 300 billion barrels to become the largest oil reserve in the world.
As members know, natural resources are a huge part of Canada's economy. When we take direct and indirect impacts into account, the natural resource sector represents approximately 20% of Canada's gross domestic product, and energy resources are a huge part of that equation. Canada's oil sands are creating jobs and wealth right across the country. This strategic resource has attracted more than $215 billion in capital investment and, of that, about $175 billion is in the last 10 years alone.
While Canada's endowment of petroleum resources is immense, we have only one major customer, which is the United States. In fact, Canada currently exports nearly 100% of its natural gas and oil exports to our friends and neighbours south of the border.
The United States is now becoming awash in energy resources, and it is poised to become a net energy exporter itself. New energy discoveries have reshaped domestic production in the U.S., driving down the demands for Canadian energy resources. That is something that we just did not fathom here a few years ago.
While Canada will continue to be a key supplier to the U.S., there is a strategic imperative for our country to access new and growing markets. The growing demand for oil and gas and other resources in new markets such as China and India represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Canada.
The International Energy Agency now predicts that by the year 2035, the world will need a third more energy than is currently being consumed today. Non-OECD economies are forecast to account for over 90% of that energy demand growth, with China and India alone accounting for 49%. The world will need more oil and natural gas to drive global economic growth. It will raise living standards and lift millions out of poverty in these countries, and Canada is a safe and responsible supplier of energy.
Right now, the opportunities for growth are unlike anything we have seen in our history. According to analysis by Natural Resources Canada, there are hundreds of major resource projects currently under way or planned in Canada over the next 10 years. These projects represent a total investment of up to $675 billion. Our government wants to ensure that every dollar of that potential is realized.
Expansion and diversification of our energy markets, both within Canada and globally, is a top priority for the Government of Canada. The Conservatives recognize that without the infrastructure needed to move our energy products to tidewater, our oil will be stranded. That is why we need to build pipelines going west, south, and east.
The numbers tell the story. In 2012, 82% of crude oil delivered to Atlantic Canada refineries and 93% of crude oil delivered to Quebec refineries was imported from countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Angola. Our government welcomes, in principle, the prospect of transporting Canadian crude to consumers and refineries in eastern Canada and, ultimately, to new markets abroad. Perhaps most importantly, it would make our country less reliant on foreign oil.
Our government has been clear that projects can only proceed if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. That is precisely what responsible resource development is all about. It sends a clear signal that the Government of Canada is determined to protect public safety and the health of the environment based on sound science and world-class standards.
Looking at our record, we see we have instituted strict rules and regulations governing the development and shipment of products like oil and gas. All federal pipeline projects are subject to an independent and rigorous environmental assessment by the National Energy Board. We have also given the National Energy Board the necessary resources to increase annual inspections of pipelines by 50%. The board is also doubling the number of annual comprehensive safety audits to identify pipeline issues before incidents even occur.
Equally important, the National Energy Board now has the authority to impose substantial financial penalties on companies that do not comply with safety and environmental regulations. It can levy fines of up to $100,000 a day for as long as the infractions go unaddressed. However, we are not stopping there. We have announced plans to give the National Energy Board even greater authority, so we can strengthen incident prevention, preparedness, and response and liability and compensation.
Here is the bottom line. As I said, our government will only allow energy projects to proceed if they are proven safe for Canadians and for the environment. With our plan for responsible resource development, we have increased our protection of the environment and streamlined regulatory reviews. We have enhanced pipeline and tanker safety, and we are working to reach new markets for Canadian energy projects.
Therefore, subject to regulatory approval, our government supports energy infrastructure projects that will create jobs and generate economic growth in Canada now and for decades to come.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of the members who participated in the debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and the member for Essex.
I also thank the member for Beaches—East York, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Newton—North Delta, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, Sarnia—Lambton and Windsor West. I thank each of them for their compliments of my work on the motion and for their support of the motion.
It was clear through the comments that we heard on this particular question and on the motion that there are a number of different questions and concerns that arise out of any debate that involves not only our important Canadian waterways but in this case the Great Lakes. Many of those members of Parliament whom we heard from take their economic means from and much of their local enterprise is derived from things such as recreational boating and all of the things that come from that, from retail to services to marinas. All of those economic interests are affected when we clear up impediments such as the canal at Port Severn.
As members heard, this is a beautiful part of our country. We do everything we can to attract recreational boaters and tourists, for a whole host of reasons, to experience the wonders of Georgian Bay and the inland waterway that stretches from Lake Ontario all the way up to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. This is what connects much of that summer-season commerce and we know we want to keep that going strong. That is what the direction of the motion is.
I would just finish off and somewhat encapsulate what we heard with a quote from the lockmaster at Lock 45, the immediate lock there. He was there for more than a decade and his family has been there for generations. He summed it up this way:
...very frustrating for the boaters, as well as for me and the staff, because they thought it was our problem. The years passed and water got lower and lower; the problem magnified. Boats had problems going downstream. With any current, they were on the rock shoal. Boats couldn’t meet under the bridge. The boats from 36 feet and upwards started avoiding the locks because of the dangerous and unsafe area.
That is exactly the precise direction of the motion, to address that particular issue. Once again, I thank all hon. members for their support of the motion, and I look forward to seeing it pass should the members consider it that way.
Mr. Speaker, over the last year, the member for Miramichi has spent a lot of time working on this at committee. The vice-chair of the committee, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, has been working on this committee for a long time and has truly become an expert on many of the things that have come before committee. Her input has been invaluable in helping to pursue some of the avenues that we are now attacking with respect to accountability in government since we were elected in 2006.
I would like to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay. He rightfully highlighted the fact that this government was elected in 2006 mainly on a promise of increasing accountability. It came after a time when Canadians were somewhat disappointed by the activities that they had seen from the Liberal Party beforehand with respect to the sponsorship scandal. Canadians work very hard day in and day out. They always want to make sure that the funds they send to us, that they entrust to their elected officials, are used wisely. They were rightfully outraged when information came out at the Gomery commission to show that was not the case.
In 2006, we ran on a platform of not only restoring Canada's economy and opening up new markets for our manufacturers, creating jobs and cutting taxes, but also on restoring balance in our justice system. A big part of that platform was about restoring people's trust and faith in the government and the institutions that support government. That is what brought the Federal Accountability Act forward.
The Federal Accountability Act was the first piece of legislation this government introduced after being elected. It was obviously very important. Members may recall at that time the conflict of interest commissioner, who I believe was appointed by Prime Minister Chrétien, reported only to the prime minister. He was not subject to Parliament and did not report to Parliament. He only reported to the prime minister. The prime minister at the time, I suppose, would accept reports and pass judgment on what he heard. We knew Canadians would not be confident with that mechanism.
As a result of the sponsorship scandal, we saw it was not working and that was why we passed the legislation in 2006, which subjected the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to Parliament. Ms. Dawson, who is the commissioner right now, reports to Parliament. There was a provision in the act stating that it would have to be reviewed. It goes without saying that is something we would expect. As circumstances change, as our lives change as parliamentarians, and the tools that we use change, all pieces of legislation have to be updated. In this instance, all parliamentarians would agree that such an important act which highlights how government works in an accountable fashion, how it addresses accountability, needs to be reviewed. These things are top of mind to all Canadians. That review process is an important one.
The committee started its work in January 2013. I was not serving on the committee at that time. It took six months for the review and it finalized a report by June of that year. That report came back to committee in the fall of 2013.
The committee listened to hundreds of hours of testimony. It received recommendations from a number of individuals. By and large, we heard that people were happy with the act, but it contained some elements that needed to be addressed, some rules that needed to be clarified, and others that needed to be brought forward.
This would ensure that not just parliamentarians but the government as a whole and those who work within government, those who were entrusted to undertake the things that we have passed here in Parliament, would have that same level of accountability, because what we hear when we go back into our ridings, especially coming out of the sponsorship scandal, is that although parliamentarians are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make, what we saw in the sponsorship scandal was that parliamentarians enabled people down the line, people who work within the public service, to make decisions on their behalf, which then caused a lot of the trouble, as we saw in the sponsorship scandal.
We heard a lot of this through our consultations within our ridings and consultations at the committee. We heard that certain rules had to be tightened up and that certain people had to be brought within the scope of the Conflict of Interest Act. That is what we acted upon.
However, we also wanted to make sure that any changes reflected the fact that Canadians by and large, as well as those working under this act, could be confident that it was actually doing what it was designed to do: provide a set of rules for those of us who are elected, those of us who are ministers or parliamentary secretaries or ministers of state, to govern the way we act, the way we do our business, and to make sure that those activities are done in an honourable and ethical fashion.
I think what we have seen is that by and large, it is working. That does not mean that every single provision and every single thing that we have done with respect to improving accountability is perfect. Obviously that is why the five-year review was put in place: to ensure that we can improve on all of the things that we do.
One of the things that was highlighted, something that I think really underscores the differences between this act and what came before it, is the independence of the commissioner herself.
As I highlighted earlier in my discussion, the previous commissioner reported only to the Prime Minister. Under this act, the commissioner reports to Parliament. The commissioner can make investigations; those investigations are made public and are reported to Parliament. Parliamentarians can learn from the unfortunate mistakes that some of our colleagues might make. We can know what they did wrong or what they may have made a mistake with, and we, the rest of us, can learn from those mistakes.
Previously, that was not how it worked in this place, so that is a huge benefit over the previous system.
As I said, I reviewed a lot of the testimony, and what we heard from a lot of the testimony was very clear: we had to continue to do all we could to ensure that ethical practices were followed, that the act itself was working properly, and that this was not the time to throw out an act that was working well and completely start all over. However, some areas needed to be modified.
Recommendations came through the committee after almost a year of debate in committee. The report was finalized, if I am not mistaken, toward the end of October or early November. My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton can probably correct me if I am wrong on that. After almost a year of consideration, we came out with a report.
Obviously the opposition did not appreciate all of the recommendations that came through the majority of the committee members, but the process also allowed them to make a comment, and there was, of course, a minority report that was attached. It also becomes part of the public record for debate.
By and large, the committee actually did what it was supposed to do, what it was tasked to do. It looked at an act, an act that is a good act and that has fundamentally changed how public office holders work within government. It is transparent, it is open, and it gives clear indication to the Canadian people that their politicians, those they elect, are acting in an ethical manner, but it also says that as time moves on, we will make sure that we improve on it, and that is what we did. The committee worked in a very good fashion on this task. It took the time it needed, it listened to the witnesses that it needed to, and, after almost a year of study, it came up with these recommendations.
I think they are good recommendations. I commend the committee members, especially the member forMiramichi and the vice-chair, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who did extraordinary work.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hard-working member from Sarnia—Lambton for the excellent question.
Today, our government did in fact table in the House the Canada-Korea economic growth and prosperity act. Stakeholders from across Canada are openly calling on Parliament to pass the bill without delay so Canadians can reap the benefits of the agreement.
We know the NDP's anti-trade ideology and we know the Liberal Party's mediocre record on concluding trade agreements. Only our Conservative government understands how critical freer and more open trade is to the long term prosperity of our country.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.
Let me begin by reminding the hon. member that the new small business job credit is only the latest of our government's actions to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. We have been taking numerous measures to lower the tax burden on small businesses since we came to office. By leaving more money in the hands of entrepreneurs and businesses, they can hire more Canadians and expand their operations. We understand that lower taxes make Canada's economy stronger and create good long-term jobs for Canadians.
According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters:
Reducing business taxes creates jobs, boosts investment, makes Canada more competitive and puts more money in the pockets of the Canadians....
...business tax cuts are critical drivers of the Canadian economy.
As a result of our Conservative government's low-tax plan, a small business earning $500,000 now saves over $28,000 in taxes. That includes tax cuts such as reducing the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, increasing the amount of income eligible for the small business tax rate, and increasing and indexing the lifetime capital gains exemption.
Every time our government lowers taxes, the Canadian small business community and the workers they employ receive concrete benefits, and they benefit greatly from our fantastic small business job credit. However, no one has to take my word for it. Let me quote Monique Moreau of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who stated, “Small businesses in Canada should be thrilled with this announcement because they told us time and time again that payroll taxes are the biggest disincentive to hiring”.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business also estimates that the new credit would create 25,000 person years of employment over the next few years alone. Indeed, job creation is one of the many reasons that our government is committed to keeping payroll taxes and all other taxes low for Canadians.
However, we know that more needs to be done. We are well aware that Canada must continue to generate the highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets, and create well-paying jobs. That is why I would like to devote my time today to our government's commitment to strengthen education, skills training, and innovation in Canada.
For example, it is important for young Canadians to have access to information on a variety of careers in order to make informed choices about their education early in life. Good choices early on can help to ensure that young Canadians obtain the skills and experience necessary to find work quickly, avoid unnecessary debt, and get a better start on their careers. For instance, if young Canadians are interested in lifelong careers as skilled tradespeople, they need to know when, where, and how they can obtain the training that will secure them the real jobs that are in demand.
I would like to refer hon. members in the House to an article in the August 23 edition of The Economist. It is the Schumpeter article entitled “Got Skills?”, and it refers to the issue of vocational training at length. I would encourage members to take a look at it.
Of course, there are many different career options in Canada. Our government will continue to promote education in high-demand fields, including the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We take youth employment very seriously. Since coming to office, we have helped over two million youth obtain skills, training, and jobs.
In economic action plan 2013, we reallocated $19 million, over two years, to inform young people about fields of study that are relevant to existing and forecasted demand for labour in particular occupations. As well, our government is providing more information on the job prospects and benefits of working in various occupations. It is developing new outreach efforts to promote careers in such high-demand fields as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the skilled trades.
Although Canada boasts high levels of post-secondary achievement, the transition to a first job can be challenging. To ease this transition, the career focus program supports paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates, ensuring they get valuable hands-on work experience. Economic action plan 2012 provided funding for an expected 3,000 additional paid internships in high-demand fields. Economic action plan 2013 announced an additional investment of $70 million over three years to support an additional 5,000 paid internships.
Building on these measures, economic action plan 2014 introduced the flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training pilot project to expand the use of innovative approaches to apprenticeship technical training. With this initiative, we are continuing to work with provinces and territories to harmonize apprenticeship systems and reduce barriers to certification in the skilled trades so that apprentices can more easily work and train where the jobs are. To further support apprentices, economic action plan 2014 takes steps to increase awareness of the existing financial supports available to apprentices through the employment insurance program while they are on technical training.
It also announced that our government will improve the youth employment strategy to align it with the evolving realities of the job market, and to ensure federal investments in youth employment provide young Canadians with real-life work experience in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades. Our future certainly depends on these high-demand fields to create the well-paying jobs of the future. This is especially the case when it comes to research and innovation. The government plays an important role in Canada's science, technology and innovation system. Since 2006, the government has provided more than $11 billion in new resources to support basic and applied research, talent development, research infrastructure and innovative activities in the private sector, including more effectively aligning federal support for research with business needs.
To be successful in the highly competitive global economy, Canada must continue to improve its ability to develop high-quality talented people performing world-leading research and generating new breakthrough ideas. In 2013, our government's support exceeded $3 billion for research in the post-secondary education sector alone. Economic action plan 2014 builds on these commitments with the creation of the new Canada first research excellence fund. The fund will provide significant flexible resources to further drive Canadian post-secondary research institutions to become the world's best.
Our government's investments in science, technology and innovation have helped ensure Canada leads the G7 in post-secondary research expenditures as a share of the economy, and our commitment remains strong. In economic action plan 2014 alone we announced the largest annual increase in funding for research through the granting councils in over a decade. This includes $46 million per year on an ongoing basis to be allotted as follows: $15 million per year to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for the expansion of the strategy for patient-oriented research, the creation of the Canadian consortium on neurodegeneration in aging, and other health research priorities; $15 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to support advanced research in the natural sciences and engineering; $7 million per year for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to support advanced research in the social sciences and humanities; and $9 million per year for the indirect costs program.
If I had more time today, I could easily continue highlighting our government's many initiatives to position Canada at the forefront of innovation and excellence in education. Unfortunately, I must conclude.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for the passion she brings to this file.
Delegates are working together on three key objectives: delivering results for mothers and children; doing more together globally; and taking real action for women and children's health.
We are seeing tremendous results. Anthony Lake of UNICEF recognized the passion of Minister of International Development on the file and credited the Prime Minister. He said, “He has led the way on this and Canada has delivered and is delivering, again 80 per cent of its commitment at Muskoka”.
The solution to this problem is within arm's reach and Canada will be a driving force to realize this great achievement.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and join the debate on Motion No. 456, on palliative care.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, over the past five years a number of parliamentarians from all parties joined together to produce the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care report. I joined as a co-chair with the member for Guelph and also the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, whom I believe you know very well. It was a real honour for me to join with that group and many other colleagues from all parties to produce the report on palliative and compassionate care.
I want to read a bit of the introduction of that report to give Canadians an idea as to how this came about and the actual work that was done. It states:
The Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) is an ad hoc, all party group of MPs, dedicated to improving care for elderly, dying and vulnerable Canadians. It is unique in the history of the Canadian Parliament as it was formed by the MPs on their personal initiative and funded out of their member office budgets.
The committee is an example of what is possible when MPs work closely across party lines on issues of profound concern to everyone. The spirit of non partisan collaboration exhibited by the members of the committee is a great example of what parliament is at its best.
Receiving testimony from hundreds of people at twenty four hearings, and local round tables, MPs were profoundly impressed by the dedication and depth of concern expressed by Canadians for issues surrounding the way palliative and compassionate care is practised in our country.
Also, over the course of this study, I had the opportunity to visit different palliative care places and hospices across the country. One that sticks out in my mind was when I visited a hospice in the riding of Sarnia—Lambton. My colleague there hosted us for one of the round tables and then we visited the hospice. I was deeply moved by the compassion and empathy that the medical personnel, especially the doctors, showed for their patients, as well as the nurses and other support personnel as well.
These kinds of examples are multiplied across the country. Our task is to see that these are replicated in many more communities, especially in our rural communities, across Canada. This is at the heart of what the motion, and the recommendation of the committee, is all about.
Our government recognizes the growing need of Canadians for compassionate end-of-life care. There is no doubt that care should be there when people really need it, but it should also be the best care possible and made available at a reasonable cost to Canadians.
Despite the fact that most people say they would prefer to die in the comfort of their own home, the truth of the matter is that about 60% of Canadians spend their last days in a hospital setting. This is clearly not the preferred place to be, for a variety of reasons. Care at the end of life in hospitals can take a toll on patients, their families and other caregivers and is particularly taxing on the health care system. Additionally, it has implications on hospital wait times for emergency services and may limit the availability of hospital beds.
One of the solutions to address this issue and its unintended consequences is palliative care services. Palliative care focuses on relieving suffering and improving the quality of living and dying. It benefits people of all ages dealing with life threatening conditions, such as AIDS, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Palliative care treats the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical needs of the person who is dying. It also recognizes the needs of that person's family and other loved ones.
While many people associate palliative care with hospices and hospitals, it can be delivered in a variety of settings, including long-term care facilities, or even in one's own home. Again, I would just like to refer to a quote from the report, which states:
The palliative care philosophy is person-centred, family-focused and community-based. The philosophy moves us from disease or condition specific care to person-centred care. No longer will we refer to “the cancer patient in bed 4A” or “the heart patient going down to pre-op” or “the broken arm in 6B getting a cast”.
One doctor, Dr. John Meenan, from Kitchener, Ontario stated, “Doctors need to move beyond the model of glorified mechanics—
It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton will have five minutes of questions and comments when we return to this debate.
The member is correct.
Resuming debate, the member for Sarnia—Lambton.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to take the time that you have generously given to me to say two words that we do not hear often enough in this chamber: “thank you”.
It is with humility that I would like to thank the members of Parliament and the House of Commons staff for all their kind words of encouragement over the past few weeks and months.
I wish to say a very special thank you to the members for Barrie, Brant, Burlington, Don Valley East, Kitchener—Conestoga—right here behind me—Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Mississauga South, Okanagan—Shuswap, Sarnia—Lambton, my seatmate, Saskatoon—Humboldt, Scarborough Centre, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, Vancouver South, Willowdale, and Winnipeg South Centre, and to the very dedicated vice-chair of the veterans affairs committee for carrying my duty in this chamber and in committee.
Also, thank you to the citizens of Orleans and my friends and family for their visits, their encouraging words and their prayers. Their support and assistance has helped me to feel better and to get better. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Even in the most difficult times, I made an effort to be in this House and to vote, as it is our duty to do. Voting is a fundamental Canadian right. It is a symbol of our identity. It is the oxygen that keeps our democracy alive.
In many countries, much blood has been spilled and many diplomatic efforts have been made to establish democracy and the right to vote. It is our way of saying yes or saying no to the type of society that we want to build. Canada is a model of modern democracy around the world.
Developing democracies call on Canadians when they want to ensure that their elections are free and fair. Our sense of duty and our expertise give us international credibility in election monitoring.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency, with the assistance of CANADEM, deployed more than 800 Canadian election observers in bilateral missions and 30 multilateral missions in more than 20 countries.
These observers went to Haiti, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Senegal, and many other nations.
Because I participated in one of these missions, I have a keen interest in this subject.
In 2004, I was assigned by CANADEM to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to co-chair a team of international observers during the rerun of the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine. The other co-chair was a Swiss engineer. We were sent to Dnipropetrovsk.
It was an exhilarating experience. I was able to see first-hand that Canada is synonymous with democracy and freedom. However, that which does not evolve is doomed to disappear. We can continue to be proud. We can continue to improve things.
We will continue to be a model of democracy around the world only if we allow democracy to evolve. The separation of powers is a basic component of our system.
Consistent with separating the administration of the law and its enforcement, the fair elections act proposes that the commissioner be under the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In a hockey game, would we ask the owner of the Ottawa Senators to referee a game between the Sens and the Canadiens?
Our Minister of State for Democratic Reform said it well: the referee should not be wearing a team jersey.
Canada's government, which I support in this House, proposes that greater independence be given to the person with the power to conduct investigations and enforce the law.
The fair elections act will make our legislation more stringent, clearer and easier to follow.
It would protect Canadian voters from fraudulent and misleading calls by setting up a mandatory public registry. We want to establish a new public registry for mass calling.
Telephone service providers involved in voter contact calling services, and any individual or group that uses these providers would have to register with the CRTC.
We also propose that the fines for preventing or trying to prevent someone from voting be 10 times higher. Under this legislation, anyone convicted of impersonating an election official would face a jail term. These penalties would be more severe for individuals who deceive people out of their votes.
According to the Neufeld report, identity vouching procedures are complicated and have a 25% error rate. That is one in four. This problem is threatening our democracy, and we must take action, and so we propose to put an end to vouching.
The fair elections act would also require Elections Canada to tell Canadians which pieces of identification will be accepted at the polling station so that they know what to bring with them.
Thirty-nine different pieces of ID can be used to prove a voter's identity.
In addition, the voter information card would no longer be considered valid identification.
Elections Canada must also inform voters which pieces of ID are valid and would be accepted at the polling station. These cards contain incorrect information one out of six times.
The show Infoman highlighted the problems with voter information cards during a segment called the “Elections Canada two-for-one special”.
To prevent the more powerful elements in our society from drowning out citizens’ voices, we would ban the use of loans to sidestep donation regulations.
Some people have used unpaid loans to evade donation limits and make larger donations.
As elected representatives, we must stay clear of this type of pressure.
That is why we insist on standardized and transparent reporting for political loans.
In addition, candidates and political parties that have exceeded the ceiling on election expenses, would see their reimbursements reduced, and we would maintain a total ban on loans by unions and businesses.
I am pleased to say that Marc Mayrand, the current Chief Electoral Officer, lives in Orleans, as does his predecessor, Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
While Mr. Mayrand does not seem to support this brilliant bill produced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, his predecessor appears to. Mr. Kingsley gave it an A minus, indicating that it is a good bill.
When I received an A minus, I did not ask for a rewrite—
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present this petition on behalf of residents in the Sarnia—Lambton area who are concerned about cuts to the rail passenger service.
It is important for young students, seniors, and families, and it is particularly important for smaller communities and their economies.
The petitioners are calling on the government and VIA Rail to reverse the cuts that have been made across Canada and to re-establish this rail service for passengers.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by hundreds of people from the Sarnia—Lambton region who call upon the Government of Canada to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. The petitioners point out that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial or occupational causes combined.
Therefore, the signatories from the Sarnia and Lambton area of the province of Ontario call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms, to ban the abstraction, production, sale and export of asbestos in all of its forms and to stop the importation of asbestos laden products from other countries.
Mr. Speaker, I continue to support Bill C-313 from the member for Sarnia—Lambton. Bill C-313 has received support from all parties.
As we all know, the bill is aimed to classify non-corrective contact lenses according to subrule 2(1) of part 1 of schedule I of the Medical Devices Regulations, which states:
Subject to subrules (2) to (4), all invasive devices that penetrate the body through a body orifice or that come into contact with the surface of the eye are classified as Class II.
I also thank the hon. member for being very open to amendments and suggestions at the committee stage of the bill. In fact, there was an amendment that very much improved her bill, which was that it would be best to classify the non-corrective contact lenses as a device under the Food and Drugs Act as opposed to a medical device. The member agreed to that.
I want congratulate the member and her bill has the support of the Liberal Party because we believe in sound, evidence-based policy, and this bill would do exactly that. I thank the member for continuing to pursue this. I look forward to its passage.
I had hoped that it would have been in the budget but, alas, that was too much to hope for.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today, especially on the heels of my colleague, the member for Sudbury, who has done amazing work on consumer protection issues for Canadians. In fact, I would call him a true consumer advocate. Therefore, it is great to speak after his speech on the consumer protection issues involved in the bill.
I have learned a lot from the bill. I did not know that cosmetic contact lenses were not a class II medical device. In fact, I did not know what a class II medical device meant, despite the fact that I have worn coloured contacts. I am wearing contacts right now, although this is my natural eye colour. I did not know any of this because I was able to purchase my coloured contacts many years ago from my optometrist. That is not the situation that we have with this bill.
Because I needed corrective lenses, I had to see an optometrist. I have to meet with him regularly and get regular checkups. I was instructed on how to properly handle my contact lenses, how to insert them and how to clean them properly. In fact, he always advises me when there is a new type of contact lens that comes out, which allows more oxygen into my eye. It is not something I know anything about. I trust his expert advice, when he says there is a new contact that is be better for my eyes because it does allow more oxygen in. I learned all of this because they are corrective lenses. When I was in high school, I had a slight green tint to my contacts, but they were still corrective lenses, so I still received the proper training and proper monitoring.
Last year I had a regular checkup with my optometrist. When he took a picture of my eye, there was a dark spot on it. He said that it could have been a freckle or it could have been something quite serious, but that he would not know until time had passed to see if the size of it had changed. Immediately, I was so terrified that I did not want to go back to see him. I know that is not logical, but sometimes we are not logical. Sometimes we just react with our gut emotions. I did not want to know if this was something dangerous. It made no sense, but it was how I felt.
However, because I had to see him to get my prescription renewed to order new contacts, I was forced into the position where he had to do another checkup. That is a really positive thing.
Some people complain that we might be regulated to death. In the situation like this, we are trying to protect Canadians to ensure they are healthy and safe.
If someone like me, an informed and educated consumer, a consumer who is familiar with the product, is too scared to go back to get a photo taken of the back of my eye to see if there was something wrong, too scared that I wanted to avoid knowing the truth about the health of my eye, imagine, for example, young people, large consumers of non-corrective or cosmetic contact lenses, not knowing how to handle them properly or not knowing the risks involved, and there are incredible risks. They think it is just for Halloween so they will get fun lenses so they can look like a cat, or a vampire or whatever. It seems pretty harmless. People wear contacts all the time. However, they can have pretty serious eye injuries. They can have an allergic reaction. There could be a bacterial infection. They could have inflammation or swelling of the cornea, scratches on the cornea, even loss of sight. However, the one thing with the Halloween contacts is some of these reactions can happen in as little as 24 hours.
We think it is just this silly little costume thing, but this is very serious. It is eye health. We only have one shot at this. Imagine having some of those kinds of impacts happen in as little as 24 hours. Some of these things are very difficult to treat and sometimes they are permanent.
I watched a CBC piece about a woman who went to Panama to get permanent contact lenses. There is an operation where a hard disc is inserted in the eye to permanently change the colour.
This woman is now legally blind. She can only see shapes and colours. She has had to have numerous surgeries, one surgery to take these disks out and then numerous cornea surgeries. It was heartbreaking to see. This was a young beautiful woman. This is how desperate people are sometimes to alter themselves cosmetically, that they go to such lengths. This surgery cannot be done in Canada, thank goodness. However, people actually spend their savings to go down to Panama so they can have blue eyes. It is hard to imagine, but that is the reality.
If that is the reality, we need to be doing everything we can to make sure Canadians are safe. When it comes to corrective contact lenses, absolutely they should be a class II medical device. It only makes sense.
My colleague from Sudbury used the term “low cost, high reward change”. This is not going to cost us anything. It is something that has been demanded. It has been asked for. Health professionals have been warning Canadians for the last 10 years about these risks. They have been urging the government to actually come forward and make these changes.
One of the first responsibilities of government should be to protect the health and safety of Canadians from potentially dangerous products. That is a no-brainer. It does not matter if people believe in big government or small government. This is fundamentally about what government should be there for. It is there to help us, to protect us, to make sure we are safe.
One thing about the bill that I think we have heard some folks chat about is that this bill is only the first step because, by and large, contact lenses are regulated provincially. It is a good first step. It is a necessary first step. However, what we are going to have to see is the federal government taking on more of a leadership role and working with the provinces to make sure there is an effective regulatory regime established for cosmetic contact lenses.
On that point, I would note the leadership shown by the member for Sarnia—Lambton in bringing forward this bill. I commend her for what she has done. Effectively what she has done is stepped up to the plate where her minister has failed to. We have been hearing about this for years. In 2000, Health Canada issued a warning. Health Canada issued a warning about cosmetic lenses and recommends that people only use them under the supervision of an eye care professional. Where is the Minister of Health on this? She is utterly absent in all the mandates where she has been serving, utterly absent on stepping in to play a leadership role in protecting the health of Canadians.
I just wanted to add those who have actually been championing this in civil society, to say that this is the kind of leadership we need from our government: the Canadian Association of Optometrists, a huge champion of this; the Canadian Ophthalmological Society; and the Opticians Association of Canada. They have all been publicizing the risks that are associated with cosmetic contact lenses, and they have all been asking Health Canada to regulate them under the Food and Drugs Act.
They recognize the jurisdictional issues here, too. By and large, it is the provinces that would be regulating contact lenses. They are saying both federal and provincial regulations are needed to treat cosmetic contact lenses the same as corrective lenses.
Going back to the evidence, I talked about some of the groups that are actually bringing forward this idea and being champions. There really is an abundance of evidence and research—
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to stand here today in support of this private member's bill in the name of the member for Sarnia—Lambton. Bill C-313 would amend the Food and Drugs Act in regard to cosmetic non-corrective contact lenses.
Cosmetic contact lenses do not have any effect in improving the eyesight of a wearer. Instead they alter the colour and appearance of the eyes. However, while the contact lenses do not alter the wearer's eyesight, they do interact with the eye in the same way that a corrective contact lens would. This means that cosmetic lenses have the same health risks as corrective contact lenses, but despite the risk of complications and injury, cosmetic lenses are not listed as class II medical devices under the Food and Drugs Act and are therefore not subject to regulation by Health Canada.
As the New Democrat consumer protection critic, this obvious gap in the consumer protection regime is worrying. There is a large amount of research detailing the problems that can occur from the improper use of cosmetic contact lenses, such as using lenses that are not suited for a particular individual, using lenses that are not the proper size for the wearer or not fitted correctly, or wearing contact lenses which are of a questionable quality from an unknown supplier.
It is also often the case with these cosmetic contact lenses that critical information and proper instructions. For example, on how to put the lenses in, remove them and clean them are not included with the contact lenses.
By amending the Food and Drugs Act to classify cosmetic contact lenses as class II medical devices, it would mean they would be regulated in the same way as regular corrective lenses. This would mean that all cosmetic lenses sold in Canada would need to be licensed through Health Canada and the distributors of cosmetic lenses would require a licence in order to supply them.
To understand the dangers that occur because of a lack of regulation, we only need look at the statistics related to contact lenses. A 2003 Health Canada report stated that the rate of severe injuries among users of daily corrective lenses was around 1%, while the overall rate of complication was approximately 10%. Report after report has estimated that rate of injury and complications due to infection, inflammation or ulceration is much greater for users of cosmetic contact lenses.
This is not just a public health problem, but an economic one. In 2007 vision loss carried the highest direct cost to Canada's health care system, more than any other disease. Given that 75% of vision loss is preventable, regulations to protect the users of cosmetic contact lenses would go a long way to saving people's eyesight and money, as well as public money.
That brings me to the great work that is done in my riding by the CNIB. I think of Paul Belair, executive director, who would over and over again tell people of the importance of what was talked about earlier: preventive regulations to protect users of cosmetic lenses and the eyesight of Canadians because eyesight is so crucial.
I applaud the member for Sarnia—Lambton for bringing forward this legislation, but it begs the question as to where the government was on this issue in the past. This is not an issue that the government was blindsided by. In 2000 Health Canada issued a health warning about cosmetic contact lenses and recommended they only be used under the supervision of an eye care professional. Then, in 2003, Health Canada recommended the federal government should regulate cosmetic contact lenses.
What does that mean? It means both the current government and the previous Liberal government simply failed to act on this issue against the recommendations of their own departments. When we think of all the opportunities that have occurred in the last 12 years for a government to introduce this simple change, it speaks volumes about how little interest those governments had in protecting consumers.
Once again, while I applaud the MP for Sarnia—Lambton for bringing forward the bill, but I am deeply troubled that we have to address this issue in private members' business in 2012. Put simply, it never should have come to this point.
It is important to realize that the bill is really only a first step, an important step, but still just a first step all the same. The prescribing and dispensing of cosmetic contact lenses is controlled by the provinces and territories. As such, if this change becomes law, the prescribing and dispensing of cosmetic contact lenses would fall to those provincial health departments. This means that any long-term plan to improve upon the quality and safety of cosmetic contact lenses must be designed in coordination between the different levels of government, as the only way to establish an effective regulatory regime is through the federal government working actively with the provinces.
However, this requirement also raises a more worrying question in the long run. As the government has failed to act appropriately in bringing forward the legislative changes needed to regulate cosmetic contact lenses, how can we expect it to work with the provinces and build a long-term regulatory plan for them? It makes me wonder.
Now, I am sure Health Canada will be on top of the issue, just as it was in its 2000 and 20003 reports, but will there be political leadership from the government to act, to work with the provinces to come up with comprehensive legislation that will protect Canadian consumers? Given its track record on this issue and many other consumer protection files, that scenario seems doubtful.
The list of consumer failures that the government has made is shocking. It has turned a blind eye to gouging at the gas pumps. It has let banks walk away from an independent and impartial ombudsman system, avoiding regulating credit cards by announcing a voluntary code of conduct which was designed behind closed doors with the credit card issuers. It wasted years before implementing all-in-one pricing for airlines. Then in last week's budget, it slashed $56.1 million in funding to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Trusting the government to act in a proactive manner to protect consumers using cosmetic contact lenses, as much as I would like to, just seems foolish given its past action, or more properly, its lack of action.
I am very happy to support the initiative of the member for Sarnia—Lambton in bringing forward this legislation. It is a low cost, high reward change in the current legislation. However, it is indicative of the government's lack of adequate consumer protection policies that we are dealing with this issue in this private members' business. We need to continue to push the government to be more proactive when it comes to protecting Canadians and protecting consumers.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak, literally, as the voice of the member for Vancouver Centre, who seems to be suffering from body betrayal today.
I would also like to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for introducing Bill C-313.
The fact that this bill has received support from all parties in the House this evening is a rare occurrence in this place. Miraculously, the bill was also allowed to be improved upon in committee, which is also a little bit rare in this place these days.
Initially, the bill aimed to classify non-corrective contact lenses according to subrule 2(1) of part 1 of schedule I of the Medical Devices Regulations, which states:
Subject to subrules (2) to (4), all invasive devices that penetrate the body through a body orifice or that come into contact with the surface of the eye are classified as Class II.
A class II medical device is a low risk device, including contact lenses, pregnancy tests, ultrasound scanners, endoscopes, et cetera. Manufacturers require a Health Canada licence before selling or advertising Class II devices. Annual licence renewals are required.
Health Canada noted in committee that because these non-corrective contact lenses have no therapeutic benefits nor aim to correct vision, it would be best to classify this as a device under the Food and Drugs Act as opposed to a medical device. It is important to note that manufacturers of non-corrective contact lenses will not have evidence of nor will they be required to attest to the effectiveness of these products as they have no role in correcting vision. By making this change to a device, regulations under the FDA would apply and the committee, therefore, passed this amendment. By adding non-corrective contact lenses as a device under the Food and Drugs Act, we can ensure greater safety in the manufacturing and sales of these decorative contact lenses.
In November 2005, the United States declared all contact lenses, corrective and non-corrective, as medical devices requiring a prescription.
The United States food and drug administration states:
Without a valid prescription, fitting, supervision, or regular check-ups by a qualified eye care professional, decorative contact lenses, like all contact lenses, can cause a variety of serious injuries or conditions. For example, lens wear has been associated with corneal ulcer, which can lead rapidly to internal ocular infection if left untreated. Uncontrolled infection can cause corneal scarring, which can lead to vision impairment, and in extreme cases, blindness or the loss of an eye. Other risks include conjunctivitis; corneal edema (swelling); allergic reaction; abrasion from poor lens fit; reduction in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and other visual complications that can interfere with driving and other activities.
A motion calling for non-corrective contact lenses to be classified as a medical device was unanimously passed in the House of Commons, as the member has stated, in March 2008.
Non-corrective contact lenses designed to change the appearance or colour of one's eyes should be listed as a device in order to protect consumers. Placing a contact lens on the surface of the eye that does not fit properly or is poorly manufactured can lead to many health concerns as was identified by the U.S. FDA.
The Liberals support evidence-based policy and recognize that this measure has been advocated for in the U.S. by groups such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Prevent Blindness America and the Contact Lens Institute. It is also supported by the Canadian Association of Optometrists, which has called on parliamentarians to “enact it with haste”.
Bill C-313 was amended in committee to remove the word “cosmetic” as this is defined elsewhere in the Food and Drugs Act and should not be applied to a medical device. It was amended to remove “Class II medical device” because all class II devices have to show proof of effectiveness and non-corrective contact lenses are not meant to be effective.
It was further amended to provide for the coming into force on a date specified by the Governor in Council.
Bill C-313 was supported by all witnesses at the health committee and all members passed this bill.
We congratulate the member for Sarnia--Lambton for this important initiative. We, too, think it has taken a very long time and look forward to its passage in this place.
The electoral district of Sarnia--Lambton (Ontario) has a population of 105,360 with 79,371 registered voters and 210 polling divisions.
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