Order, please. The member for Timmins—James Bay has the floor. He may want to be judicious with his language to avoid prompting that type of reaction, but he still has the floor. He still has some time left and members need to come to order to allow him to finish putting the question.
With respect to government funding allocated within the constituency of Timmins—James Bay: (a) what is the total amount allocated in fiscal year 2013-2014, broken down by (i) department or agency, (ii) initiative, (iii) amount; and (b) what funding projects were approved under FedNor between 2011 and 2014 inclusively, and what was their value?
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, and speak on the issue of Bill C-46, the so-called pipeline safety act, the amendment to the National Energy Board Act. As I rise today, back home there is great concern in my region about the third derailment in this past month in our region. There were two tanker derailments in the small community of Gogama, one at Hornepayne. Twenty-nine cars carrying heavy crude went off the tracks. A number of them are still burning out of control in the Mattagami River right now. The Mattagami River runs from that part of northern Ontario right through the heart of the city of Timmins, through communities like Smooth Rock Falls up into the Missinaibi and the Moose rivers in James Bay. A huge drainage area of 37,000 kilometres is affected.
This heavy crude is burning in a fish habitat very close to the community of Mattagami First Nation and very close to Gogama. We need to look at these issues in terms of government policy. We saw the horrific tragedy at Lac-Mégantic this past summer and we saw the failed safety measures. We saw the promises that have been put in place allowing companies to look after themselves, that somehow Canadians would be better protected in this privatized world and that if we let corporations look after themselves without oversight, everything will be fine. Many good people in Lac-Mégantic died because of that.
If the train had derailed just a few kilometres from where it did, not into the river but into the community of Gogama, we could have had a repeat of Lac-Mégantic. For all of us across so much of Canada and across the north, our communities are built on the rail lines. Across the street from my house, the Ontario Northland carries its heavy duty sulphuric acid from the smelter in Rouyn-Noranda. In fact my street address is Mileage 104, on the railway line. We are so closely tied to the issues of safety.
I speak of that in terms of the huge economic impact the oil industry has on our country. It is a huge driver, but also we need to start addressing the growing environmental impact to make sure that there is a balance. There will be some people who say “we will not ship by rail anymore, let us get the pipelines through and once the pipelines are through, we will not have to worry anymore”. The problem is the lack of a long-term vision of the government where, as my colleague from Toronto—Danforth said, they only believe in the rip-and-ship philosophy.
There is something fundamentally, economically wrong when the vision of our national economy is to take raw bitumen out of the ground, ship it 2,000 kilometres to a port in Quebec so it can be shipped off to China or someplace else to be processed. That is an abomination. That is not an economic plan. The people who carry the risk are the people living along that pipeline because the government stripped all the environmental protection acts, stripped the Navigable Waters Act so that the need to have the shut-off valves along the rivers does not exist anymore.
We are told that somehow this is in all our interests. I see oil industry ads all over Ottawa say “It's your oil, it's our oil, let's do the right thing”. It is not our oil. It should be Canada's interest. No, it is our risk. The benefits are going to the Koch brothers in the U.S. They are going offshore. Ask any northerner at the pumps, for all the damage they suffered in the economy lately, when have they ever had a break on gas prices. We never had one.
We need to look at this. There are some good things in the bill about issues of liability. I ask people back home about the processes that are in place to protect the public. If I look at the National Energy Board, I do not feel much comfort. I guess if I were an oil lobbyist, I would feel great. If I were a big Suncor or Sunoco, I would think the National Energy Board is good. Energy east is a major project that is happening. The public has a right to participate because if we talk about moving bitumen through pipeline, there needs to be public buy-in and they have to understand what is at stake.
The National Energy Board needs to hear from the citizens about what is at stake. However, citizens do not get to write a letter to the National Energy Board. They have to get approval to write a letter in order to be able to write a letter. The National Energy Board does not accept unsolicited letters. People have to apply and then it will decide whether or not their opinion counts. That is not how to build public trust. That is not social licence. The National Energy Board will decide whether the letters will be posted or whether to outright refuse them.
Therefore, granting or refusing a project application impinges on whether or not there is a direct effect on the interests of the person, the degree of connection between the project and the person, the likelihood of severity of harm that a person is exposed to, and the frequency and duration of a person's use of an area near the project. I am trying to interpret what that means. Maybe if I live right on top of the pipeline I get to go to the hearings to say whether or not I like it. If I am like the citizens of Timmins, in the case of the Gogama derailment, if I am part of the larger population of 37,000 square kilometres who has been impacted by this present derailment and if it was a pipeline blowout, would any of those people be allowed to speak at the National Energy Board hearings?
The issue we are dealing with here with crude, with oil, are about a national vision that says that there is no point processing and upgrading in our own country where we can create value-added jobs and ensure the great gifts we have in terms of resources of oil, gas and mineral production. There is no national vision to upgrade, to make sure there is value added, so we are taking less out of the ground because we would see more in our economy. However, we are being told that somehow we should trust the pipeline agenda because the government has turned our country into a petrol state and, like all petrol states, it is corrupt. We see its attack on birdwatchers, on environmental organizations, on anyone who speaks up against its agenda.
We are supposed to believe that bitumen is just like oil, but it is not. I am looking at Bill C-46 that talks about a $1-billion liability, which was surpassed in terms of the damage that Enbridge did to the Kalamazoo River. It is still being ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to go back and fix the damage it did to the Kalamazoo River. It may not ever be able to fix the damage it did to the Kalamazoo River because it did not have the proper oversight.
I am thinking of a pipeline running through northern Ontario like the train that ran through Gogama. If there is a blowout and it is carrying bitumen, is there enough protection in this bill to offset the billions of dollars in damage that would accrue? If this northern gateway pipeline had ever gone through and it was blowing bitumen out through the B.C. mountains, how would anyone be able to get to that? When one drives up through the mountains in B.C., sometimes there are trucks at the bottom because it was too difficult to get down to the trucks that went off the edge. How would we be able to somehow get the bitumen off those rivers? That is why President Obama rejected Keystone, contrary to the demands of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party leaders. He said it was not in America's interests to take the risk without the benefit.
Therefore, I am looking at where we need to be as an economy. Our natural resources are vital to us but there has to be social licence. It has to be done safely and with the long-term implication that if companies will be moving products like bitumen out of the ground they are doing it in a safe way. They failed with our rail. We have had too many accidents and we need accountability there. However, if we are supposed to trust that this bill would protect us on pipelines, when we see the collusion of the oil interests and the Conservative government, I do not believe them for a moment and I do not think Canadians do either.
We are interested in this bill and want to bring it to committee, but there is a bigger issue with respect to environmental accountability that has to be addressed by this nation.
Mr. Speaker, I have been here for a good part of the day, listening to this debate, and I want to congratulate colleagues on their largely non-partisan debate. It is actually quite encouraging. I think that, for those who are watching, it is encouraging to see parliamentarians actually engage in an issue that is of deep significance to each and every one of us. I think that, frankly, over the course the day, we have done that in largely quite a respectful manner.
What brings us to this point, though, is the Supreme Court decision, which as my colleague just said, is only 18 days old and does put us under the gun, and the gun will explode one way or another on February 6, 2016. In my judgment, it is a carefully crafted judgment; it is also unanimous, it has a date, and it is also an exercise in deference to Parliament because the Supreme Court rightly thinks that Parliament is the appropriate place to craft a legislative response to its decision.
In that light, we have basically three alternatives before us.
We can do nothing. That is an alternative. The do-nothing alternative means that, in 12 months, we will have legal chaos, and I would extend that even to emotional chaos. I really do not think that Canadians would be very encouraged by their parliamentarians if in fact we did nothing over the next 12 months.
The next alternative is to ask for an extension. That is a perfectly legitimate response and has been raised by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, has been raised by the parliamentary secretary speaking on behalf of the government, and has been alluded to by the member from Winnipeg. That is, again, a second alternative and possibly an alternative that we might land on. However, I would not want to be the government lawyer on February 5, 2016, standing before the Supreme Court of Canada, asking for an extension. The first question out of the mouth of the Chief Justice would be to ask what we have done in the last 12 months. If in fact we have done nothing, then I would say that the Supreme Court would be very reluctant to grant the extension.
That basically drives us to the third conclusion, which is that we have to start doing something.
We have put forward to this chamber a motion to create a special committee to do something, because doing nothing or hoping like heck that somehow or another the Supreme Court would grant us an extension, in another year, are not reasonable alternatives in my judgment.
I think, because this is a decision that so uniquely affects 100% of the Canadian population, it behooves us to listen to what Canadians have to say, and so I adopt the reasoning of a former colleague and a good friend for many of us, Preston Manning, who outlined a nine-point process in The Globe and Mail just recently.
I will start where he ends. He says:
Let the people speak: The courts, the interest groups, the academics and the commentators have had a great deal to say on the pros and cons of physician-assisted suicide.
He is absolutely right.
Now it is especially important that our elected officials and legislators hear from rank-and-file Canadians.
Mr. Manning has put before us a challenge, as has the Supreme Court. I know Mr. Manning a bit, and I know his great respect for listening to what Canadians have to say.
In his article, he goes on to talk about when he was a member for Calgary Southwest and he actually convened a number of meetings with his own constituents.
His own constituents, by and large, were in favour of legislation involving physician-assisted dying. That was, frankly, contrary to his personal beliefs, so it was interesting for Mr. Manning to be in a situation in which his own constituents were asking him to promote legislation that was not consistent with his own views.
In the process, he outlined a number of areas where we need to be concerned.
His first point was that we need to be compassionate. I have heard various members over the course of the day talking about various personal situations. Those personal situations are deeply held views and range across the entire gamut of the human experience. The first point, if and when such a committee is composed, is that it be a committee that expresses itself in compassion.
The second point that Mr. Manning raises has to do with palliative care. I think it is a relevant point, and it has been raised as well by the member for Timmins—James Bay. I think we are a bit agnostic as to whether the motion needs to be amended to include reference to palliative care, but I know the Liberal Party would be open to such a suggestion.
However, our motion was drafted in response to what the Supreme Court said. I think a lot of air would go out of the balloon, for want of a better term, if the Government of Canada and all of the other legislatures in Canada responded to the committee report that the member for Guelph, the member for Timmins—James Bay, and the member for Kitchener—Conestoga put forward. If that response was there, then maybe there would not be as much animus in this debate.
The next point has to do with provincial legislation. I and quite a number of colleagues in the House have practised law. We have dealt, from time to time, with situations in which relatives are telling us one thing and the client is telling us something else. Even absent an impending death, or even outside of an impending death, there is conflict within families. I am not telling the House anything new. There is conflict within families, and the conflict frequently spills over into conflicts involving professionals. A clarification of living wills or in some other form through provincial legislation would be very helpful.
The next point has to do with the number of letters a lot of us are receiving with respect to doctors and where they find themselves in these difficult situations. A lot of doctors got into being doctors because they are very interested in preserving life and enhancing life, et cetera. They see physician-assisted dying as inconsistent with their own understanding of why they are doctors.
That needs to be clarified sooner rather than later, because a lot of doctors, if my correspondence is similar to anyone else's in this chamber, are very conflicted about where they stand without real legislation. If this Parliament does not act by February 6, 2016, to provide some clarification of the law, there will be a very difficult situation for our physician colleagues, who will not know where they stand in the administration of this whole matter.
Let me wind up there. Again I commend my colleagues for what I believe to be largely a respectful debate. I do think it is important that the people speak. I do think it is important that we get going on this. If we could start tomorrow morning, I would be happy about that. I am agnostic about whether it has to be a special committee, but my views are that it does have to be a special committee because all of the other committees' agendas are already filled.
I am conscious that we have essentially 12 weeks to get through this. It is possible. Where there is a will, there is a way, and I hope that tonight we will get that way.
Mr. Speaker, it is in indeed an honour to stand here in this specific debate as proposed by our party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and our caucus. As we have had many discussions about this in the past, I want to talk about this.
I have some experience with palliative care in my riding in central Newfoundland. It is always a painful experience for a lot of people here, and more so for others in the House who have spoken so powerfully about it, such as the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay did earlier, and has done so in the past.
For the record, I want to read the text of the motion to the House. For great part, it is mostly about the text of the motion, which talks about the Supreme Court ruling and how we have to deal with that. However, it is also a question of process and how we as members can deal with this situation.
I neglected to mention earlier, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
The text of the motion is, in part:
That (a) the House recognize that (i) the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”, (ii) the Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of its ruling for 12 months, (iii) the expected federal election and summer recess limit the remaining sitting days in 2015, (iv) Canadians expect Parliamentarians to take a leadership role on this issue and engage with it in an informed and respectful way, (v) a nonpartisan, deliberate and effective discussion took place on this issue in the Quebec National Assembly, (vi) Parliament has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court ruling...
Let me get to that for a moment, and talk about the special committee and the history behind this.
The unanimous decision by all nine Supreme Court justices, which took place on February 6, upheld an earlier ruling by a British Columbia judge who determined that laws outlawing physician-assisted dying contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In particular, the prohibitions unjustifiably violated section 7 of the charter. It states, “the life, liberty and security of the person”, and it does that in three specific ways: first, by forcing some people to commit suicide early out of fear of incapacity, such as the case in life; second, by denying those people decisions on their bodily integrity and medical care, and that goes to liberty; and three, by leaving people to endure intolerable suffering, which goes to security of the person.
Constitutionally, the court found that the prohibitions went disproportionately beyond their purpose, by capturing people who were not vulnerable to coercion in times of weakness. That has been a large part of the debate, which I will touch on a bit later. Many groups, interest groups and citizens, have already openly discussed this, not in an official forum, which we would like to see here and which is proposed within this motion, but through social media in particular and through many special interest groups and their fora.
The court stated that the prohibition of physician-assisted death was of no force or effect to the extent that two conditions were met. The first was that the person was a competent adult who clearly consented to dying. The second was that the person “...has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”.
This decision overturned the earlier Supreme Court decision that went back to Rodriguez v. British Columbia, or the Attorney General, in 1993. Everybody remembers the story of Sue Rodriguez and her fight on this issue, a valiant one at that.
The remedy was a declaration of invalidity that was suspended for 12 months. This remedy did not compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. There compels us to act as legislators by first discussing this issue within the parliamentary precinct. That is why we talk about this special committee to be struck in order to discuss this issue at length.
I do not think it specifies that we have to stick specifically to this position. It would be great if the committee could launch into discussions about a legislative framework, as my colleague from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, pointed out. He pointed out that we could talk about a legislative framework for this to discuss the palliative care strategy, which many people have discussed in this House, certainly in the past 10 years I have been here, and it should play a big role in this discussion.
There is a 12-month period into which we have to fit. Time is somewhat limited, of course, as I mentioned earlier. There is a scheduled federal election in the fall, which rules out that period of time, plus of course the summer recess. That gives us the days between now and the end of June. I certainly think this would be a golden opportunity for us.
Just by way of background, the terms euthanasia and physician-assisted death should not be used interchangeably, as euthanasia means terminating someone's life for compassionate reasons with or without consent. Physician-assisted death requires consent.
In a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll, 84% of people surveyed agreed that “[a] doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die”. That is a pretty comprehensive question to be asking the general public, and over 80% returned in favour of it.
However, that does not negate the fact that discussion needs to be had about how this will be implemented across the country; first, how we would adjust the Criminal Code to provide this, if this is what Canadians want, and as we study this.
I would just like to quote from an article. This is from the Canadian Medical Association. It put out a lot of material on this. Its stance, too, has softened over the past many years. I have spoken about this in my riding, to a gentlemen in my riding, Dr. John Haggie, who is a former president of the CMA. The CMA quotes several of the physicians who are close to the subject, whether it be physician-assisted dying or palliative care. For close to two years the association has been studying medical aid to dying as it is regulated in Europe and in five U.S. states.
The CMA has also held town hall meetings across Canada to canvass the feelings of the general public and doctors, and Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president, said in an interview:
We'd like to bring that expertise and reflect what we heard to the table, so that we can come up with a system that meticulously protects vulnerable people but one that provides access to medical aid in dying for those who need it.
That is from Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president. He talks about the forum that they have at their disposal; so they take this to the public, they have a discussion, and they would like to report back, but to report back to whom? This is a golden opportunity to bring this back to the committee that we are discussing in this motion today, a special legislative committee to look at this. It would be great to hear from the Canadian Medical Association, which has done so much work on this.
Here are just a few more quotes from this. Some doctors welcome the decision, including Dr. James Downar, a palliative care physician at Toronto's University Health Network who wrote a Canadian Medical Association journal commentary on physician-assisted death. That was in 2014.
Downar said it is critical that legislators involve stakeholders in crafting a process to ensure all Canadians have access to physicians who will assist them in dying if they meet prescribed conditions.
This is very important for the Canadian Medical Association:
Any process must also require doctors who have a conscientious objection to refer patients to a colleague who will medically assist them with dying.
Other palliative care physicians, however, are deeply concerned about the Supreme Court decision. It will negatively affect their relationship with their patients. Dr. Jessica Simon is one of them:
Our role is that we don't hasten the end of life, but we allow people to live as fully as they can before they die.
The intentional act of ending someone's life is not part of palliative medicine. She says:
I've never had a case where someone has had to die in order to relieve their suffering, because we have other tools at our disposal, including palliative sedation.
Whether we agree with these specific physicians is one thing, but we are saying today that these particular physicians need to be heard, to report back to our parliamentary system that we have here, and that is what this motion seeks to put in motion over the coming year.
Mr. Speaker, as always it is a great honour to rise in the House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. I am honoured to rise following my colleague from Vancouver East who has done so much work on health care and end-of-life issues.
I have been meeting across the country with people who are very concerned about the need for a national palliative care strategy. I just met with medical doctors, nurses, and people involved in the palliative care movement in Toronto, and there is a real deep concern following the Supreme Court decision and what it will mean for families and medical practitioners. These are very deep issues that we need to deal with. I think the concern is about a vacuum, a lack of leadership by Parliament to define these issues, that will very much put the medical community in a compromised position that it does not want to be in. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to address this.
First, I would like to thank the province of Quebec for its fair and balanced consultation process.
The government of the day held a fair consultation process with the various interested parties, and it led to a plan regarding the standards for end-of-life care everywhere in the province and a definition of the process surrounding the issue of euthanasia.
Therefore, it is possible to find a solution to this issue, and Quebec is a model.
What concerns me is that the government knew that the Carter decision was coming. The people in the end-of-life care movement knew that something was happening. I heard all the time, “What is the government going to do?”
In court, one has to mitigate one's damages. One has to be able to show the court that action is being taken. If one does not take action, the court will.
What has come out of the unanimous Carter decision is that the court, rather than defining the issue, has opened it up in a way that will probably make it much broader, probably broader than Quebec has gone, and probably much broader than Parliament would have gone. If we do not act in response, the courts will be expected to intervene again. There will be other challenges and we as a society will be put in a position of dealing with it, and who knows where we will end up in the process. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to deal with this.
The frustration is also that Parliament had a chance to act. We established in the House a commitment to a national palliative care and end-of-life strategy to work in consultation with the provinces and territories, recognizing their jurisdictions, and to work with the medical community, because there are models of good, quality palliative care out there. When Canadians know what is available, many of these fears about end of life become very different. However, the reality is that across the country there is a patchwork of services. Seventy per cent of Canadians do not have access to quality palliative care. Therefore, the other issue, the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia, draws a lot of attention in the media.
My concern about my Conservative colleagues is that if they do not act within this year, this issue could become much broader and much more difficult for parliamentarians to respond to. We have an opportunity.
I listened to the hon. members from the Liberal Party. I agree with them: Parliament can act and should act. We have a year. We knew this was coming. We can do this. My concern with the Liberal motion is that it is focused strictly on the Supreme Court ruling and not on the larger end-of-life issues that have to be part of the package.
Harvey Max Chochinov just wrote an excellent op-ed on this. He is an expert on palliative care. He is concerned that they will define through this, through Parliament, or through the courts the right to die but not the right to have access to quality palliative care. It would be a very unjust situation if we simply respond to the court ruling, which might affect 0.2% of the population. I am not diminishing those people, but 70% of the population does not have access to quality end-of-life care.
We have an opportunity right now. The Supreme Court has ruled that this has to be dealt with.
Let us put aside the usual bickering that goes on. We have a period where we can sit down, look at how to do this in a way that is just, that works with the provinces, and realizes that with the vast majority of our population aging, the issue of palliative, home care and hospice care is vitally important.
From a jurisdictional issue and from a planning issue, it is very important as 1% of Canadians use 30% of the health care budget. Many of those in that 1% are people in their final months of life. We are spending enormous amounts of money on end-of-life care, but it is being delivered in a patchwork of services. The stress on patients is enormous, the stress on families can be traumatic and there is the stress on the medical system.
If we talk to people involved in quality palliative care, they will say that once a person is identified in a palliative program, there are no more midnight trips to the emergency ward with a loved one, trying to find a bed, not knowing what to do. It is an incredible stress on families. We have seen really good models in Brantford, Sudbury and Saskatoon. Those models can be replicated in other parts of the country.
I am very concerned that we are standing between a political vacuum on one hand and a committee motion on the other. Again, I commend my colleagues for bringing it forward, but if the motion does not address the issue of palliative care, then I have a problem. I have a problem saying that we are simply going to address the Supreme Court decision and we are walking away on the rest of it. That is problematic for Canadian society.
Some of my colleagues from other parties have said that Canadians are out on this issue. They expect us to show leadership on it. They expect us to show a level of maturity in recognizing that as parliamentarians we are entrusted with certain things. If we do not live up to that standard, the Supreme Court will act for us. I believe the Supreme Court has a fundamental role to play.
The Supreme Court has told Parliament to get its act together, to do it within the course of this year or it will be devolved either to the provinces or we will see further court challenges. Once the courts recognize that Parliament is not willing to act, I think they will start to interpret this ruling in a much broader fashion. I am not sure that is where the Canadian public wants us to go with this.
We have an opportunity right now, and it is an important opportunity, on the issue of end-of-life care. We stood in the House just five months ago, talked about palliative care and we committed to it. Since then, there has been zero action from the federal government. How does that look when the Supreme Court sees that the federal government has done nothing on this?
We have an opportunity. The federal government is mandated by Parliament to start that process with the provinces and territories to establish quality palliative care. The federal government also has a massive role to play in the delivery of health care in first nation communities, which have very little access to quality palliative care, in the military with our veterans, and in the prisons.
The federal government also has a national role to play in health care, to say that we can establish funding that the provinces can access for training. One of the big concerns that has been raised in the palliative care community is that if this moves within a year, the decisions on life and death will be handed over general practitioners who do not have the expertise in palliative and end-of-life issues. We will have to deal with very complex issues in a vacuum, without the support.
The federal government could work with the provinces and establish those norms, those standards and establish training so we could do this in a just and fair way. We could do this in a way that all Canadians would recognize, regardless of their beliefs on this issue. We all share very complicated beliefs. The quality of the lives of citizens, regardless of their station in life and as they face their final few months, has to be considered, a total value that we as Canadians and parliamentarians are willing to embrace.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
I am very pleased to participate in this debate today. I want to begin my remarks by reflecting on the importance of this issue and on it really being a non-partisan issue.
I want to thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for the bills he has presented in the House. I know that there are also two members in the Senate, from two different parties, a former Liberal and a Conservative, who have presented a bill. I think it reflects the deep feeling that individual members of Parliament have on the issue of medically assisted dying.
In fact, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and I attended a forum in Calgary in August of last year. We did a forum together with Dying with Dignity Canada and other organizations. People were a bit taken aback that a Conservative member and an NDP member would be at the same meeting talking about the same issue. Yet I think it was a good discussion, and we shared very similar viewpoints on what needed to be done.
I also want to remember the incredible work that was done by a former member of Parliament, who is well known to us, Svend Robinson. He rose on many occasions in this House and spoke about medically assisted dying. In fact, he was one of the key people who worked with and helped Sue Rodriguez in her battle, both legal and medical. She had tremendous courage. Svend was someone who was by her side to support and assist her. He never gave up on that issue.
I also remember Francine Lalonde, who was a wonderful member of Parliament from the Bloc Québécois. She brought forward a private member's bill in the House on medically assisted dying. I voted for the bill. In fact, I voted twice for it, because she brought it back again. Ms. Lalonde has since passed away, but she was a tremendous advocate on this issue. We again thank her for her work.
Right there, members can see that this is a very non-partisan issue. I think it reflects the feelings on this issue in Canadian society.
I also want to pay tribute to my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for the hard work he has done on palliative care, because it is part of the debate in terms of ensuring that there is a continuum of care. To me, the issue of palliative care and medically assisted dying are not things that are mutually exclusive, where it is either/or. It is something that is part of a process and a choice people need to have. We need to have much better access to palliative care in this country.
Even with the passage of Motion No. 456 by the member for Timmins—James Bay and the debate that took place in this House, the fact is that we have made very little progress. I think there are some very serious questions as to why we have not seen the follow-through from the government, whose members actually voted for the motion.
I also want to point out the organizations in this country, such as Dying with Dignity Canada, and others. They have done incredible work, not just on the legal front but also in education and working with local communities and people who are interested in this issue.
I did a forum in Vancouver with Dying with Dignity Canada about six weeks ago. It was a very interesting meeting. There was a diversity of people who came to the meeting. We had presentations. This was before the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It was a serious discussion that reflected the seriousness with which people look at this issue. What really stood out for me was that people were very clear that this is an issue about consent and choice and that the state, and I think it is very well reflected in the Supreme Court decision, should not be in the position of making a decision for adults in terms of what they decide to do about the end of their lives, the care they have, or when they need to end their lives based on their unique and particular circumstances.
I passionately believe that members of Parliament can be opposed to medically assisted dying, but can still support the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada and the premise that this is about an individual's decision. That is not something that I or anyone else in this place should be able to pass judgement on.
I do believe that we have an incredible responsibility to follow up the decision by the Supreme Court, which was unanimous, to make sure that we do not drop the ball and we do not somehow push this somewhere to the back, because we consider it to be controversial, or for some other reason. This is an issue about here and now. This is about people now who are suffering and who have very compelling situations where they need to be able to make a decision about their own life and what happens. For that reason, I thank the Liberal members who brought the motion forward today.
I agree with the last person who intervened. If we do not start now, then when will we? I have heard arguments that there will not be enough time and that an election is forthcoming. We can always come up with 1,001 reasons why this is not the appropriate time or why we should not begin our work now. I can think of one compelling reason why we should start now, which is that for some people time is running out. Unless we do our job, we are completely abdicating the responsibility that has been given to us by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Like my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I wish that we were not following on the heels of the Supreme Court of Canada. I wish that we, as Parliament, had been able to arrive at this in our own way and through our own process, as happened in Quebec. The process there was really quite incredible. They went through the proper consultations and eventually came forward with their legislation.
There is a vacuum now. Unless we begin today or next week, we are letting down an awful lot of people. We are copping out, and we cannot afford to cop out on this issue.
Maybe this special committee is not perfect. Maybe someone thinks that it should be slightly different. I certainly agree with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay that we wish it included the issue of palliative care in a more formal way. Should this motion pass, we will do our best to ensure that these issues are also covered.
However, the fact is that this is the motion before us today and that we will be voting on today. I cannot see any reason why we would not support it, because it is about a process. It is about us as parliamentarians doing our job to uphold this very historic landmark decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the name of Sue Rodriguez and all the people who have suffered and brought forward the current legal action and sacrificed so much, I really feel that we are compelled to take action here. It will be very disappointing if we do not meet that goal and if we do not meet that responsibility and we somehow just slough it off and say there is this excuse and that excuse. There are no more excuses.
This is a day for us to recognize what we are here to do as members of Parliament for our constituents. It is a day for us to get above partisan politics. In that way, I find the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada very affirming. It affirms what we need to do. Let us make sure that we take it up and affirm our responsibility to work with each other and set up a process to ensure that this consultation does take place, so that within a year, we can do the job that has been set out for us.
Bruce Carson is another well-known criminal, Mr. Speaker.
Arthur Porter was the man who the Conservatives say was able to oversee CSIS, as they allow it all manner of extra rules that have not been in place before. This is not to say that we do not necessarily need more tools to go after terrorism, but we need the rule of law. To them, that is needless red tape.
Who else was overseeing CSIS? It was the northern gateway lobbyist. What was the lobbyist's name? Chuck Strahl. Chuck Strahl gets parachuted in because he is a party favourite and does not tell anybody he is an Enbridge lobbyist. They have northern gateway, so all the Conservatives are standing and denouncing these terrorists, who as far as I could tell were just ordinary citizens of British Columbia. Was Chuck Strahl getting briefed on the northern gateway, the supposed threat, while he was overseeing CSIS? These are questions. This is the government's idea of red tape.
Getting back to this bill, we see Conservatives stand to speak about red tape all the time, but they do not deliver. I ran a small business for 10 years, and one of the biggest issues of red tape I had to deal with was the Conservatives' beauty of GST-HST, where they had moved the burden from the large corporate bodies down to individuals and small companies. I know that as the economy is tanking and people are trying to get back into the workplace and find other work, HST has to be collected starting at $30,000. That was the rule back in the 1990s.
If a man has lost his job or his wife is wanting to get back into the workforce to do some consulting, hairdressing, web design, or the husband wants to do web design, these are micro businesses that can be grown into small business that may start to employ people, but they have to start paying the HST at $30,000. People really cannot do much at $30,000. I know people who told me they wanted to start small businesses, but if they were only making $32,000 or $33,000, the administrative burden of dealing with the HST actually was not worth it. It simply was not worth going back into the workforce to do that.
A reasonable government would raise the minimum on HST, say, to $50,000 over 20 years, from the 1990s to today. That would be a reasonable move. People could get themselves established. They could find out whether their home project could become viable, whether it is making stained glass, crocheting, or whatever, and then a small business gets established.
With the New Democrats' idea of helping small business, one of the big issues we have been pushing is credit card fees. Talk about needless impediments to small business. Ask any small business owner, such as a taxi cab driver or someone running a small restaurant, about the credit card fees. We will never see the Conservatives deal with this.
Not to speak ill of the dead, but I remember when Jim Flaherty stood and said he was going to go to the banks and deal with all of this. He came back like a chastened altar boy. He was just going to leave it to them.
This is where regulation is important. These sectors of the economy have to be regulated because, if basic rules are not in place, people get ripped off. Government needs to ensure regulation on the credit cards. One of the other things was that they deregulated cable and phone rates. We have among the highest cell phone rates in the world, but they believe that, if they just leave it to business, it will do it. We believe that certain regulations are important, to protect the market and to protect the ability of consumers to have fair play.
In terms of supporting small business, we would say in a time of economic uncertainty, when the Conservatives have literally bet the entire Canadian house on Fort Mac, that we need to ensure that small business can innovate and do its job. Let us drop the tax rate from 11% to 10% to 9%, because we know this money would go directly back into the economy.
Small business reinvests that money all the time, whereas the current government put in large corporate across-the-board tax cuts, believing the theory of trickle down. We know the only real thing that does trickle down in economics, and it is not money. The Conservatives cut that tax rate on the large corporations, and any economist will say that we have dead money. It is money that the large corporations have taken out, that they are giving in CEO bonuses or putting offshore, that they are not reinvesting. If the Conservatives are going to work with business, they should offer an incentive for innovation. An innovation tax credit makes sense. What we are dealing with here is a bill that would offer nothing to small business, except the false image that they are going to deal with the needless regulations.
I think back to when I was documenting the life of people in my region in terms of the hard-rock mining industry. If they go underground in Stobie Mine in Sudbury, or go underground in Timmins, wherever they walk there will be signs that say not to put one's hands here or not to stand there. An old miner said to me one day that every one of those signs and regulations was paid for in blood. They would only put up a sign telling them not to do something if someone had been seriously injured, not just once but usually two or three or four times, or killed. Those regulations were important. We saw in the mining sector again and again this effort of self-regulation. Allowing companies to do it does not work. There are certain regulations that are important.
How do we deal with the issues of meaningless red tape, contradictory red tape, red tape that has become redundant as the years go on? I would put it back to my colleagues on the government side that this is where they have to ensure a standard that the ministers are going to meet. That is ministerial responsibility. It used to be in the ministerial code. They quietly took out ministerial responsibility. I find that staggering. It is as if they did not want to be on the hook for promoting incompetence. If they are competent, then they will be overseeing their department and regularly bringing forward recommendations of where regulations need to be removed and replaced with ones that work.
What we are dealing with here is just another shadow bill. It is shadow boxing with the economy, when the real issue we are facing is that the Conservatives have stripped the fiscal capacity of this country to the bare bone. The Conservatives do not know what the numbers are. We are getting contradictory numbers in terms of this budget: if they are going to be doing cuts, if they are going to be going into the contingency fund. The Conservatives do not seem to know. They are playing games with the economy, which is not the kind of message for a G7 nation to send.
At a time when we are seeing increasing economic uncertainty in Canada's west, we need to be able to tell small business people that we are going to work with them to kick-start the economy so we can balance the economy and get off this one-industry-only obsession and ensure we have a diversified economy. That is where the New Democrats are coming down on the issue. We would drop the small-business tax rate from 11% to 10% to 9%. The New Democrats would ensure that, when business people make a capital investment, they can write it off quicker. That would help manufacturing.
Some of these ideas have been in previous budgets. The Conservatives and the Liberals have had similar things in the past. However, they have given them up; they are not interested and they have moved on. We say these are the kinds of incentives that we need now, at a time of economic uncertainty.
I am, as always, proud to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay, but less proud to have to deal with bills that simply do not address the needs of Canadians.
The electoral district of Timmins--James Bay (Ontario) has a population of 80,791 with 59,876 registered voters and 181 polling divisions.
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