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.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for his very thoughtful comments and for tabling the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. I know that he has done a lot of work on this issue with his two private members' bill that he spoke about, as well as the bills in the Senate.
I think the member's point is well taken that we need to ensure that there is a parliamentary process that is non-partisan. It is too bad that it did not happen earlier, but now we have the Supreme Court decision, and it is critical that it be followed up in a timely way and that we not just let the year go by.
I would like to ask the member how he sees that process unfolding. We have a motion before us today that would set up a special committee that would do consultation. I wonder if he would tell us whether or not he thinks that is the general direction we should go to make sure that Parliament itself is engaged with this issue.
Mr. Speaker, as we know, palliative care, for the most part, is provincial jurisdiction. We also know that from a federal point of view, we are looking now at the euthanasia issue and palliative care to open this dialogue all across the country. How we get to the bottom of all this? I think we would all agree that there should be collaboration, getting as many Canadians as we can to give us feedback about where they are coming from and what they believe, before we go to a committee. I know that will eventually happen; we have to do that. We need to search far and wide because this is a very important issue.
As parliamentarians, we all need to do our part in reaching out, in a non-partisan way. This is a very personal, very important issue in our country today.
I dearly care for the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and appreciate his points of view in many ways. Far and wide collaboration, reaching out to every Canadian, and doing it in a very meaningful way by using the Internet and eventually a committee to really do a good job is of paramount importance to the well-being of those who are reaching their end of life right now.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to such an important issue. I will be splitting my time with the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
As members know, I have been long-time friends with the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia. I am so glad he is here in Parliament today, because he is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with, and it is just a pleasure to speak to this.
When we speak about this very important issue, I am certain there is not one of us here in the chamber or listening to any speeches today who is untouched by concern about family or friends facing serious health issues, now and in the past. We are concerned about their quality of life and their happiness, and also about their ability to have timely access to the high quality care they may need, especially in the last days, weeks or months of life.
Compassionate end-of-life care affects every citizen in the nation, yet we do not know about the options that are there for them and, eventually, for ourselves. My hat goes off to all palliative caregivers and people who directly work with those who are at the end of their lives. It is a very important time.
When we think of palliative care, we often think of it only as a type of medical care focused on managing pain and symptoms, but it is much more than that. Another way to think about it is that palliative care helps patients to achieve the best quality of life right up to the end. It focuses not only on the concerns of the patients, but on their families, often using a team approach. It has issues with paying close attention to managing pain, depression or confusion, and it is very mindful of patient dignity. After someone has passed on, family members may need support as they grieve the loss of the loved one.
This is a very important issue. We all have expiry dates and all of us will one day face this issue, yet numerous barriers remain. As far as we have come collectively, we still live with the stigma associated with the end of life. A recent poll conducted by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association said that 45% of respondents had great fear of death. Society is now starting to acknowledge the end of life as a natural part of life, but it will still take some time before the majority comes around to this kind of thinking. Work has to be done there.
This morning, as I listened to the member for Mississauga—Erindale, I thought his speech was one of the most thoughtful speeches, well thought out because he touched on this. He also touched very personally upon what happened in his personal life. Society and all of us as parliamentarians have started to acknowledge end of life as natural part of life, but it will still take some time to understand all of the ramifications about it.
There is also the issue that is fundamental to public awareness, which is that palliative care is strongly associated with the end of life, but it is not uncommon for the term “palliative care” to be stigmatized.
At the end of her life, my youngest sister had heart problems. She had wonderful palliative care toward the end. It was very sensitive to us. She passed on at a young age, and this palliative care was a critical in helping her pass on without a lot of pain but with a lot of support around her.
Palliative care units are often perceived as places as death, but in our case when my younger sister passed on, it was also a place of supreme caring, love and compassion. We were very supported, and I know a lot of people have been, but there are real issues when people are seriously ill. There are real fears. Sometimes people resist a referral to palliative care services, and then afterward ask why they did not do it sooner.
However, if people do not know about palliative care and other end-of-life care options, there is a fundamental obstacle to requesting it and accessing it. It is something that has to be discussed with a doctor. People might think that palliative and end-of-life care can be provided in a limited number of settings like hospitals and nursing homes, but that is not the case. Palliative care can be provided anywhere, at home, in a hospice, in a hospital, in a nursing home. The best place for palliative care is the place that best matches the patient's needs. Many health care providers continue to build palliative care teams.
In the case of this issue, when we just have 12 months to come up with a possible solution, we have the Internet, as the member for Mississauga—Erindale said this morning. We have many ways of communicating. This is a very important issue, an issue in my view that does not rest on one specialized committee. It rests on Canadians to give their feedback to Parliament. It rests on Canadians to have this open discussion. It rests on Canadians to learn more about it.
Interestingly, in the Netherlands for instance, Professor Theo Boer, was on a regional team that looked at euthanasia. He was very much in favour of euthanasia in 2007. He said:
I wrote that ‘there doesn’t need to be a slippery slope when it comes to euthanasia...But we were wrong--terribly wrong, in fact. In hindsight, the stabilization in the numbers was just a temporary pause.
He said that before the House of Lords. Then again later on, he said, “I used to be a supporter of” the Dutch law on euthanasia “But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a different view.” In April 2001, it became law in the Netherlands.
However, in 2014 Professor Boer said, “don’t go there. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.”
My question would, did they it too quickly? Did they not have extensive collaboration all across the country? I do not know, but in Canada we are a leader on many fronts and I know parliamentarians on all sides of the House are very concerned about this. As was said earlier in the House, we need to work together in a collaborative manner and not make demands that a special committee be compiled, and there we go. It is more than a special committee. It touches the lives of every man, woman and child in our country. It is deeply emotional. It is something that is deeply personal.
Professor Boer was totally in favour of it and examined it. When the law was put through in the Netherlands, all of a sudden he said that it should stop, that it should not do that. He said:
You must realize that a growing number of the Dutch are saying: for me going to a care institution would equate with unbearable suffering. I’m worried about that. Care facilities are not getting any better.
Have we examined all the care facilities? Have we examined everything that needs to be done to ease the end-of-life issues for anyone, young and old? No, we have not. This discussion has not been opened to the degree that it should. People might say that if a care facility is the reason for people to get euthanasia, then we should do something about care facilities.
Professor Boer went on to say:
If we don’t have the means to do that, then I’m afraid that in 2030 a large number of euthanasias will be performed because people are in deadly fear of the care facility
Toward the end of life, an awful lot of people have issues with fear. If they do not have family around, then they get very depressed. All of these things were mentioned this morning, and I will not repeat them because the member for Mississauga—Erindale has done that.
I encourage all members of Parliament to take their time and not rush this. It is a very important issue.
Mr. Speaker, it is rare for a motion to contain its own purpose and justification as clearly as the motion before us today.
The motion moved by the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau, calls for a special House committee to be appointed to consider the February 6, 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court, which stated that in certain specific circumstances, a prohibition on physician-assisted death violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave Parliament 12 months to amend the law accordingly. This means that a new legal framework must be put in place by February 6, 2016, at the latest, or else physician-assisted death will become legal, without the necessary guidelines and parameters set out in legislation. As a result of the summer recess and the upcoming general election, we have just 12 weeks of sitting time before February 6, 2016.
Canadians expect parliamentarians to fulfill their responsibility as legislators and hold this important discussion in a calm and reasoned way, rather than in haste. That is why we need to get started on this right now. This 12-member committee, including seven government members, four official opposition members and one Liberal Party member, should begin its work in March and report to the House no later than July 31, 2015.
That would give the committee time to properly consult legal, medical and other experts, as well as the general public. The committee would be able to travel both within and outside Canada, accompanied by the necessary staff. It would be able to make recommendations on how to give effect to the Supreme Court's decision with a view to establishing a legal framework that is consistent with the Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadians' priorities.
Let us summarize the court's decision. Right now, under section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, anyone who aids or abets a person to commit suicide commits a criminal offence. Under section 14 of the Criminal Code, no person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him. Together, these provisions prohibit Canadians from providing or receiving assistance in dying.
It is precisely these provisions—section 241(b) and section 14 of the Criminal Code—that the Supreme Court has indicated violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
The prohibitions unjustifiably violate section 7 of the charter in three ways, according to the court. First, they violate the right to life by forcing some people to commit suicide early out of fear of incapacity. Second, they violate the right to liberty by denying people the right to make decisions on their own bodily integrity and medical care. Third, they violate the security of a person by leaving people to endure intolerable suffering.
The court was very clear about the legislator's duty.
It is for Parliament and the provincial legislatures to respond, should they so choose, set out in these reasons.
The court describes these parameters in paragraph 127 as follows:
…[physician-assisted dying applies only to] a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition…that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
The parameters are there: a competent adult person who clearly consents and who has a grievous and irremediable medical condition causing enduring and intolerable suffering.
The court also gives parliamentarians the responsibility of establishing how the charter rights of patients and physicians will be reconciled and notes that a physician's decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience.
The court clearly stated that the task of setting these parameters fell to both levels of government, since both the Criminal Code and health are constitutional jurisdictions.
Federal MPs have responsibilities here. We cannot hide from it. The judges did their work, and now it is our turn to do ours. We need to get started right away.
The judges are not the only ones reminding us of our responsibilities. The Canadian Medical Association wants the law to clearly lay down the legal framework within which a doctor can participate in physician-assisted dying, and the association has emphasized the importance of improving palliative care in Canada. It issued a news release about that today and expressed support for the motion by the member for Papineau. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities wants the law to establish clear guidelines to prevent abuses. Canadians in general want the best possible legislative framework.
There is no doubt that medical aid in dying is a complex and highly emotional issue, but if legislators had to resolve only simple problems, that would be too easy. It is our role to take a close look at public policy issues no matter how difficult they are.
That is why it makes no sense that the Conservative government announced its intention to vote against the motion by the member for Papineau. I would ask my Conservative colleagues to reconsider that decision. The government says that it would rather undertake a different consultation process, but it did not provide any details. That seems like a cop-out.
Why would our Conservative colleagues lack such courage? After all, the special committee we are calling for could draw on a considerable number of studies, insights, foreign examples, and expertise, including the legislative work done by our colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and by our Senate colleagues.
This committee would benefit especially from the endless goodwill of Canadians. They would all support us throughout this process. We could move forward with confidence.
Just look at what was accomplished by our colleagues at the National Assembly of Quebec. Following an exemplary non-partisan process, they ended up voting together on legislation on physician-assisted death that can be used as a benchmark for establishing what works at the federal level.
In sum, because Parliament has limited time to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to strike down the ban on physician-assisted death, in order to thoroughly and comprehensively consult with Canadians and experts on this complex and emotional issue, this House must act responsibly by immediately striking a special committee of the House.
This committee would immediately begin consulting with Canadians and experts on strengthening end-of-life care and support, including palliative care, with the aim to have enacted a charter-compliant legal framework before February 6, 2016.
That is what Canadians expect from us, their members of Parliament. That is what they deserve to get from us. That is why we must vote in favour of the motion moved by the hon. member for Papineau.
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 non-partisan, 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; and (b) a special committee be appointed to consider the ruling of the Supreme Court; that the committee consult with experts and with Canadians, and make recommendations for a legislative framework that will respect the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the priorities of Canadians; that the committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair is from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the recognized opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada, subject to the usual authorization from the House; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than March 11, 2015; that the quorum of the committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee report no later than July 31, 2015, provided that, if the committee has ready its report at any time the House stands adjourned, when that report is deposited with the Clerk of the House, it shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Charlottetown.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark judgment, striking down the ban on physician-assisted death. Its decision was not only unanimous; it was unambiguous. For adults who are mentally competent but suffering grievous and irremediable medical conditions, the court ruled that the current prohibition in the Criminal Code infringes the right to life, liberty, and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
The court has ruled, and now it is up to us, as legislators, to act.
Death, and all the ways it affects our lives, is not an easy topic to discuss. In recent weeks, I have had several sensitive conversations with individuals who applaud the court's decision and with individuals who condemn it. Our responsibility is to create new legislation, even though the process may be difficult and may make some people uncomfortable. We are here to speak for our constituents. We must have the debate, despite how difficult it might be. We must make difficult decisions, and Canadians are aware of this.
The Supreme Court—perhaps taking into account the contentious nature of this process—judiciously set a deadline and gave us one year to draft legislation on physician-assisted death. Given this is such a deeply personal and controversial issue, one year is hardly enough. We are not talking here about an insignificant amendment to a minor law. When Quebec decided to begin drafting its own legislation on physician-assisted death, there were four and a half years between creating a new multi-party committee and passing the legislation. During those four and a half years, one full year was spent on holding hearings and public consultations, as well as proposing and debating amendments.
It took four and a half years in the Quebec National Assembly, including one full year of consultations and debate. The Supreme Court has given us 12 months, which is reasonable, but with the summer recess and the fall election, that gives barely more than 12 sitting weeks for us parliamentarians. That gives us enough time to do this, but no time to waste.
Today, we are putting forward a motion that calls on the House of Commons to take immediate action. We are asking that:
...a special committee be appointed to consider the ruling of the Supreme Court; that the committee consult with experts and with Canadians, and make recommendations for a legislative framework that will respect the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the priorities of Canadians;
As the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia has noted, the Supreme Court's decision has given us a clear path to move forward quickly but thoughtfully. There is no advantage to delaying debate. Indeed, given the timeline offered by the Supreme Court, if the House has any intention of addressing this issue before the next election, those consultations must begin immediately.
When I asked the Prime Minister about this last week, he said in the House of Commons that physician-assisted death is a sensitive topic for many Canadians, and there are strong opinions on both sides. That is fair. I have a strong opinion. It is based on my personal experience, when I sat by my father in his final moments of life. I know that we must respect personal freedoms and choice while ensuring as a society that the most vulnerable among us are protected.
I believe that the Supreme Court made the right decision and that our laws must be consistent with its ruling because that is the right thing to do. That is my opinion, anyway. We have to hear what others have to say about this.
Last week, the Prime Minister himself indicated that he agreed. He said that we will “hold broad consultations on all aspects of this difficult issue”. Today, we can begin to keep that promise.
Quebec's experience shows us, reassuringly, that respectful and responsible deliberation is possible. It reminds us that when political parties set aside their differences in service of the public good, co-operation can follow. Consensus can be found, even on an issue as complex and sensitive as end-of-life care.
If we do nothing, if we do not get this important national debate under way soon, Canada will find itself without any laws governing physician-assisted death. That kind of legislative vacuum serves no one: not people who are suffering, not their anxious family members, and not the compassionate physicians who offer them care.
In the legal challenges leading up to the Supreme Court decision, one thing was constant: no one wanted to break the law. What they were asking for, and what the Supreme Court has now compelled us to provide, is a law that spells out the limitations on physician assistance to Canadians who wish to die with dignity.
The Supreme Court ruling applies to competent adults whose enduring suffering is intolerable and who clearly consent to physician-assisted death. Even within the scope of these provisions, Canadians have diverging opinions, as the Prime Minister remarked. Canadians have firmly held values. Whether those values are based on religious convictions, personal experience or professional experience, these voices deserve to be heard. In order for us to have a respectful and responsible discussion on this important issue, we need to have enough time to hear from Canadians and listen to people who are concerned by this legislative measure, their families and medical and legal experts. Part of this ruling calls for an honest look at the quality of care already being provided. Do Canadians who are suffering feel adequately supported by their community? Do they have equitable access to quality palliative care?
We need to have a national conversation on dying with dignity. That conversation needs to include how we care with empathy and respect for those who are suffering at the end of their lives.
The court provided a deadline. It is our job to take it seriously, to act quickly but thoughtfully, and to live up to our shared responsibilities as legislators. I ask every member to reflect on that responsibility today and to support this motion, this process. The court has spoken; Canada and Canadians await our response.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak about the very great partnerships that our federal government has developed and how they have contributed, and continue to contribute, to making our country, Canada, one of the best countries in which to live.
Infrastructure is the backbone of our communities. It supports economic growth and a better quality of life because it provides Canadians with the essentials they need, transportation, clean water, recreation and cultural facilities, to carry out a safe, healthy and productive life. Public infrastructure has always been, and will continue to be, a key driver of Canada's success as a nation. Whether it is investments in highways, water treatment technology or airports, these investments help our industries reach global markets, protect our environment and support our cities and our communities. Investment in quality public infrastructure builds strong communities, but it cannot be done by one single order of government.
I remind members of Helen Keller's words of wisdom. She said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. This, I believe, is how progress is achieved, meeting challenges through co-operation across all levels of government.
As the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities, I am very proud of the achievements that have been made possible through the steady collaboration with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners. In Canada, the vast majority of core public infrastructure is in fact owned by municipalities, provinces and territories, with the balance, less than one-tenth, owned by the federal government. This means that provinces, territories and municipalities are ultimately responsible for building, expanding, maintaining, rehabilitating and operating almost all of Canada's public infrastructure. As a result, provinces, territories and municipalities are also best positioned to identify local and regional needs and priorities.
In order to provide a better quality of life for Canadians, to maintain a competitive edge over other G7 countries and to keep our economy on track, we are making record investments in public infrastructure. We are doing so through the $53 billion new building Canada plan, which provides the necessary funding to other levels of government for their critical projects and initiatives. While these funds are used to fund priorities identified by provinces, territories and municipalities, these projects could not proceed without federal collaboration and contributions.
In recent years, Canadians have seen the benefits of partnership and the historic infrastructure investments that the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments have been making under the leadership of our great Prime Minister.
When the original building Canada plan was launched in 2007, it marked a new era for infrastructure partnership funding, and a new relationship among all orders of government. The plan was the result of engagement and discussions with provinces and territories, as well as the municipal sector. The intent was to identify an approach to provide federal funding for provincial, territorial and municipal public infrastructure in a way that was more predictable and long term in nature. In fact, the development of the plan itself, in 2006, clearly set the tone for a new approach to public infrastructure, a much better approach.
Our Conservative government consulted with all provinces and territories and a number of municipal associations with the purpose of putting federal funding on a predictable long-term track. This series of meetings at all levels resulted in a coordinated suite of infrastructure programs that recognize provincial-territorial jurisdiction for municipalities, as well as the diverse needs and opportunities across Canada. This collaborative approach laid the groundwork for a fast and efficient response to the global economic slowdown in 2009.
Budget 2009 announced the acceleration of existing infrastructure funding under the building Canada plan, as well as new infrastructure funding over two years, in order to stimulate economic growth and employment, while also supporting Canada's long-term productivity.
Strong and effective partnerships with provincial, territorial and municipal governments were essential to the success of the economic action plan's infrastructure elements. A concerted national effort was made to overcome the challenges of developing and rolling out this funding in a very short period of time.
There have been literally thousands of projects funded across the country. Regardless of their size or scope, they all improved the quality of life in the communities in which they were built. At the end of the day, this is what Canadians care about most, and this is something of which we can all be very proud.
The results of the economic action plan are a testament to the high degree of co-operation that was shown by all levels of government across Canada under the leadership of our Prime Minister. It is based on this level of co-operation and success that our government forged ahead with the new building Canada plan, which is currently under way.
In budget 2011, our government committed to developing a long-term plan for public infrastructure that would extend beyond the expiry of the building Canada plan in 2014. To meet this commitment, we engaged provinces, territories, municipalities and other infrastructure stakeholders to shape a new plan. This involved taking stock of our achievements and lessons learned, identifying priorities for the future, and building the knowledge required to address Canada's future infrastructure needs.
As part of this engagement, in the summer of 2012, the then-minister of state, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, and the minister of infrastructure both chaired regional round tables with our provincial and territorial counterparts, where they met with close to 150 provincial, territorial, regional, municipal and private sector stakeholders from across the country to discuss the development of our new plan.
Over the course of 2012 and 2013, Infrastructure Canada officials also met with provinces, territories, municipalities and other stakeholder groups to discuss the development of the new plan. During this process, we took note of a great variety of ideas and opinions. However, a few key themes emerged, namely: the need to build on the success of past programs; the need for long-term, stable and flexible funding; the need for infrastructure programs that support economic growth; and the need to identify a role for the private sector.
These consultations had a real impact on the development of the new plan, and we could not have done it without the feedback from our partners.
Let me explain the results of this collaborative work.
Our partners indicated that infrastructure funding programs needed improvements, so we improved them. In order to provide the flexibility that the provinces, territories and municipalities asked for, categories under the new plan were realigned to give our partners the freedom to decide where they needed their funding to go. Predictability was a major request. The new building Canada plan is a 10-year plan. Our partners requested that processes be more efficient. We reorganized our processes to streamline both funding applications and expense claims.
Not only have we heard our partners, but we acted upon what we heard, and the new plan speaks for itself. The overall federal investment in infrastructure will be more than $75 billion in the next 10 years. At the heart of these investments is, of course, the new building Canada plan.
The new building Canada plan provides $53 billion for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. Most important, our plan is set for 10 years so our partners can focus on delivering infrastructure for Canadians over the long term.
The plan includes the $14 billion building Canada fund which has two parts: a national infrastructure component and the provincial-territorial infrastructure component.
The national infrastructure component will support investments for major economic projects of national significance, in particular, those that support job creation, economic growth and productivity. It focuses on highways, public transit, disaster mitigation, and gateway and trade corridor infrastructure, which are very important for our country.
The provincial-territorial infrastructure component supports projects of national, regional and local significance such as highways, public transit, drinking water, waste water, connectivity and broadband, and innovation, for example.
In addition, we have also provided another $1.25 billion over five years to renew the P3 Canada fund. The renewal of the P3 Canada fund will continue to support innovative ways to build infrastructure projects in the country. Public-private partnerships can achieve greater savings and efficiency in the delivery of much needed infrastructure projects, which will provide better value for Canadian taxpayers.
Let us not forget that in Canada, as I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of core public infrastructure is indeed owned by municipalities, provinces and territories, with the balance, less than one-tenth, owned by the federal government.
The biggest part of our plan is the community improvement fund, which includes $21.8 billion for the gas tax fund transfer. This is permanent, stable, predictable funding. There is another change, one that has been repeatedly asked for by municipal leaders, a change that will keep it growing. The gas tax fund transfer is now indexed so municipalities will not be penalized as inflation grows.
The program is also more flexible than ever before. It will continue to support community infrastructure projects such as roads, public transit and recreational facilities, and we have doubled the number of eligible categories. Gas tax transfers will now also support projects in categories such as culture, tourism, sport and recreation, disaster mitigation, broadband communication systems and local and regional airports.
We have a flexible plan that lets local councils set their own local priorities. For example, many cities have focused on transit. Thus far, more than one-quarter of the gas tax fund has been directed to public transit projects. That is $2 billion in transit funding since 2006 from just one program.
In five of Canada's largest cities, all or nearly all of the gas tax transferred goes toward public transit. We did not decide to invest there, municipalities did, but we ensured it was an eligible category based on our discussions with our municipal partners.
Other municipalities have other priorities that also fit within the parameters of the programs we have collectively built together.
That is how we do business. We consult our partners and we are in constant contact with them. More than one-quarter of the federal gas tax fund has been invested in local roads and bridges to date, while 16% of the gas tax fund has gone to water and over 10% has been used for waste water.
Across Canada, local councils are making the right choices for their communities, and we are happy to help them make this important progress. Let us not forget that provinces, territories and municipalities are ultimately responsible for building, expanding, maintaining, rehabilitating and operating almost all of Canada's public infrastructure. As a result, provinces, territories and municipalities are also best positioned to identify their own investments for local and regional needs and priorities.
Let us recap. The municipalities asked for more flexibility. Let us look at those 18 gas tax fund categories. They asked for a long-term plan: the plan is a decade long. They asked for more funding: we gave them $53 billion over the next decade. They asked us to index the gas tax fund: indexing is in the new plan.
We did not waste any time implementing this new plan with our partners either. Important projects worth more than an estimated $5 billion in total project costs have already been approved and identified for funding under the new building Canada fund. These projects contribute to getting goods to market, to connecting people and businesses with the world, and to reducing gridlock on our roads and highways, which in turn boosts our productivity and competitiveness. This includes projects such as the Valley Line stage one light rail transit expansion in Edmonton, water and wastewater projects across Manitoba, improvements to Nova Scotia's 100 series highway systems, and our recently announced funding for key upgrades to the Port of Montreal.
This spirit of co-operation has taken us a long way and will be even more essential as we go forward. We worked shoulder-to-shoulder to develop a long-term infrastructure plan that meets the needs of Canadian citizens from coast to coast. Now we are working together with the provinces and municipalities to implement that plan.
Going forward, strong partnerships will remain key to continued investments and world-class modern infrastructure across Canada. Through these investments, and in partnership with the provinces, territories, and municipalities, we are delivering results, not just talking, as the opposition does. We are delivering results that matter to Canadians, such as a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and a more prosperous and vibrant Canada with more prosperous and vibrant communities.
We look forward to this continued collaboration, to continued action, and to continued results.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is not my friend, he is my brother, my brother from another mother. He is my brother in the cause of peace, prosperity, and freedom, my Conservative brother from Winnipeg.
What we have seen is discussions in this place are becoming absurd. The opposition does not want the legislative process. Part of the legislative process is having a vote, standing up and being counted.
If the opposition members disagree or are not thrilled with a piece of legislation, they just do not want a vote to ever happen. They are so convinced that they are right on every issue that they feel that if they can just drag it out, eventually people will see the wisdom of their views.
If opposition members want to debate something consequential, they could say, “Let us work with the government. We will have less debate on this bill and more debate on that bill. This one has had really good committee hearings. It has been robust.” Unfortunately, that is not what we have seen.
I would be very pleased to say to the member from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia that we could talk about other issues after this debate.
Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise to inform this House of the passing of a truly incredible individual and a personal friend, Marlin Styner.
In 1981, at the age of 18, Marlin became a quadriplegic when the vehicle he was riding in struck a cow. Marlin became a leader in our community with his message that success is not determined by physical strength or appearance but rather by our attitude and the boundaries we set for ourselves in our own minds. This attitude opened doors for Marlin and for other disabled people throughout our province.
The business administration diploma he received at RDC was the start of an incredible journey that proved his point about boundaries. He received the mayor's special recognition award for humanitarianism and held the position as chair of the Alberta Premier's Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
On behalf of my family and colleagues in this House, particularly the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I extend our deepest sympathies to Marlin's wife Diane and those loved ones who have always surrounded them both.
I appreciate the member's point of order. Members normally address their comments and speeches to the Chair and not to other members.
I would ask the hon. member to direct his comments through the Chair, as members normally do.
The hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
I think this issue pertains to the debate; this likely does not constitute a point of order. There will be time provided for questions and comments at the end of the member's speech. Perhaps the hon. member could raise his question then.
The hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
I am sure the House appreciates the notice that was given on behalf of the government House leader.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
Order. The hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Chair, I must admit that until last Friday, I may have been one of those people who, as my colleague referred to earlier, knew very little about the Central African Republic conflict. I knew something of it, but not what I should have. I still do not claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination.
Last Friday, along with the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I had the honour of meeting with the ambassador of the Central African Republic, who is stationed in Washington but is duly accredited both to the U.S. and Canada. I observed in this gentleman a very deeply concerned individual. He is concerned for the health and welfare of his country and is honestly seeking assistance in terms of moral support and understanding from the international community. As was alluded to earlier, this is somewhat of a forgotten war.
With that preamble, I would like to comment on some of the issues we are currently aware of as they relate to the Central African Republic.
The situation in the Central African Republic is deeply disturbing. I welcome this opportunity to contribute to the House deliberations today by focusing on the security response.
The Central African Republic has had a particularly troubled history since gaining its independence from France in 1960. Yet, despite poverty, military coups and dictatorships in the Central African Republic, relations have traditionally been peaceful between the country's two largest religious communities, Christians and Muslims.
To be sure, despite the absence of conflict between religious communities, all was not peaceful in the CAR. There were conflicts for access to resources and land between the various communities. These conflicts were based on opportunity, on survival, and on ensuring one's community and one's family would have access to the necessary resources described.
Things changed in March 2013 with the overthrow of Central African Republic President Bozizé, by a loose coalition of mainly Muslim rebel groups known as Seleka. Seleka fighters quickly became infamous for the atrocities and exactions they committed on the people of the CAR, particularly on Christian communities. Seleka's own leader, then President Djotodia, bowed to international pressure and officially disbanded Seleka in September 2013. Despite this, former Seleka fighters continued their abuse of the civilian population of the CAR.
In response, some communities formed self-defence groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups took the fight directly to Seleka, while others instead chose to retaliate against innocent Muslim civilians. These Muslims retaliated too. As we can see, a vicious spiral was now at work in the CAR. At any moment, someone could be targeted by a sudden outbreak of mob violence, in turn provoking more revenge killings and suffering in the country.
Now we see a rise in the violence in the CAR, and vigilante violence between neighbours of different faiths have become all too common a sight. Fighting is ongoing in several regions of the country. This is not a conflict over religious beliefs. Rather, it is a cycle of fear and retribution between communities who feel they have nothing left to lose.
Canada has strongly condemned this violence. The Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on December 4, 2013, calling for an immediate end to the violence against civilian populations of all faiths. Last Friday, February 7, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Canada's Ambassador of Religious Freedom issued a joint statement calling for an end to the cycle of violence in the CAR.
This conflict is not a conflict of religious beliefs. There is no right side or wrong side, only an ever-increasing number of victims.
Canada strongly condemns all perpetrators of violence against the civilian population in the CAR. We have not been alone in this. All of our partners have joined in unanimously condemning these massacres and egregious human rights abuses.
As the security situation in the CAR unravelled, an international response was prepared. It became clear that African countries in the region wanted to take the lead in resolving this crisis and in providing for their own security and that of their own continent. In this regard, Canada commends the strong leadership demonstrated by the African Union and its member states, as well as by France in undertaking political and security initiatives to address this crisis.
In December 2013, the United Nations approved the deployment of the African Union international support mission to the CAR, called MISCA, supported by French forces. African troops from nearby countries, such as Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, and more recently Burundi and Rwanda, deployed through the country to restore security and protect CAR citizens. The UN Security Council, deeply concerned by the growing violence against civilians, set up a UN trust fund to allow the international community to finance MISCA.
Canada moved swiftly to support MISCA. On December 15, 2013, the government announced a $5-million contribution to support MISCA's efforts to restore peace and stability in the CAR through this UN trust fund. Canada's contribution will help to feed, equip and support African Union troops so they can restore security, prevent more violence and protect all communities in the country. The trust fund will also help to pay for outreach activities so that opposing communities can find common ground and a way forward after the conflict is over.
Unfortunately, the conflict in the CAR has worsened in early 2014. MISCA and French forces, just over 6,000 troops in total, are overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. Often they cannot reach hot spots or patrol outside of urban areas. In response, on January 28, the UN Security Council strengthened the role of the UN peacekeeping office in the CAR so it could offer better support to the CAR government. The UN also approved the deployment of a 600-strong European Union mission to assist MISCA in France and extended sanctions against those who engage in or support acts that undermine peace and stability in the CAR.
Canada appreciates the important contribution made by the African countries of MISCA and for the French and EU forces that support them. We sincerely hope these efforts, which our contribution supports, will make a difference on the ground and deliver security back to the people of the CAR.
On January 20, 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was selected as CAR's new transitional president. A few days later she announced the formation of her transitional government. Canada is encouraged by this development as a first step toward restoring constitutional order, fostering the rule of law and establishing a truly democratic process in the CAR. These will be arduous tasks for this new government, and the international community must support it in this goal, as well as in its goal to hold free and democratic elections as soon as conditions allow.
The considerable efforts by the international community to stabilize the country, protect civilians and address the urgent needs of the population deserve recognition. Canada will also do its part for reconciliation between communities in the CAR. I know that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is exploring opportunities for Canada to support projects aimed at facilitating dialogue and reconciliation between communities in the CAR, once the violence subsides enough for this to become possible. This will not be easy for as long as insecurity prevails in the country.
Together with its partners, Canada will continue to assist all the people of the Central African Republic as they strive to overcome this violence in order to rebuild their country, their communities and their livelihoods. We will not abandon them. It is the right thing to do.
My colleague from Ottawa Centre knows that it is a big fat goose egg. It is zero. If the Conservatives would walk the talk and put their money where their mouth is and do a favour for small businesses, they would eliminate the small business tax.
It is another illusion. It is a facade.
My colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I think, supports the idea of eliminating the small business tax. He has seen the benefit in the province of Manitoba, which we call home.
The Conservatives are cutting, hacking, and slashing the big corporate tax rate for businesses that do not need a tax break. The banks and the big oil companies are the only ones that really benefit. It is only profitable businesses that would benefit from having their income tax lowered. A business that is not showing any income and that needs the support gets nothing from it, yet the Conservatives do nothing for the small businessperson.
We could have celebrated. If the Conservatives had wanted to put a 71st detail into this budget implementation act to eliminate the business tax, they would have had the support of the NDP. However, it is disingenuous and it is misleading to lump fiscal details in with non-fiscal details in a bill that is supposed to be limited to just that.
How did we end up dealing with the selection of Supreme Court justices in the context of the budget implementation act? That alone is a subject that warrants a great deal of consideration by Parliament and by committee. We would want to deal with that at great length.
What about the selection process for new economic immigrants? We have an immigration issue finding its way into this bill. There is simply no time.
The Mackenzie gas project impacts fund act is the name of the bill that I was groping for earlier.
I see that I am almost out of time. That will be the whole sum total of time that I am going to have, as the member for Winnipeg Centre, representing 100,000-some Canadians, to comment on or provide scrutiny of, or oversight to, over 70 pieces of legislation. It is a travesty.
I do not want anybody in Canada who might be watching this to think that this is normal. There is nothing normal about this abuse of the democratic process that has found its way into these so-called omnibus bills. It is completely undemocratic and contrary to all of the principles of democracy. It offends the very sensibilities of anyone who considers themselves a democrat.
The New Democratic Party will allow proper oversight and scrutiny of the legislation that we introduce in 2015.
The electoral district of Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia (Manitoba) has a population of 81,469 with 63,508 registered voters and 171 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.