Mr. Speaker, in July 2008, just outside of Portage la Prairie, Tim McLean was brutally murdered on a bus by Vince Li, who was later deemed not criminally responsible.
As members can imagine, this is something that is very important in my riding of Portage—Lisgar and in the province of Manitoba, as well as for Canadians across the country.
I want to ask my hon. colleague if he could talk a little about what this bill would do for victims and for their families. I am thinking of Tim's mom, Carol de Delley, who I have talked to many times. She has worked tirelessly. She is not only dealing with her horrendous grief, which never ends, for what her son had to endure and how her son died, but is also going through all of the fallout from it, with Vince Li going through different appeal processes and now being given passes.
I wonder if my colleague could talk very specifically about victims, and how this bill can help support them while not assigning blame to somebody who has been deemed not criminally responsible.
Mr. Speaker, in 1913, E. Ward Jones and deputy minister of agriculture, George Black, started the first 4-H Boys and Girls Club in Canada. The club started in Roland, Manitoba, which is located in my riding of Portage—Lisgar.
Roland was the first 4-H head, heart, hands, health club in Canada. Today there are 160 clubs in Manitoba, more than 2,200 members and 23,000 youth involved in 4-H in Canada .
For 100 years, 4-H programming in rural communities has been helping youth to build confidence and learn skills in agriculture, homemaking, public speaking and leadership. Today when members look at their community, they will find many rural leaders who had their start in the 4-H program.
The 4-H leaders volunteer their time to the organization because they believe in its value and want to continue its traditions.
As we all join together to congratulate 4-H Canada in its 100th year anniversary, let us all try to remember its motto and “learn to do by doing”.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise in the House to talk about the hon. member's motion. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar.
The motion before us relates to the reporting of the public security and anti-terrorism initiative funds, as examined by the Auditor General in chapter 8 in the spring 2013 report.
Let us turn our attention instead to what really matters: the work done every day to keep Canadians safe and secure while encouraging economic growth, development and job creation. In fact, let us take a very recent example. In the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombings, officials with the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection were in contact to coordinate efforts to protect public safety on both sides of the border. This example speaks to the strength of our relationship with the United States overall.
Our American friends and neighbours know that they can count on us to be a stalwart partner in protecting safety and security for both of our countries. We are more than trading partners; we are friends and neighbours. When our nations are under attack, we stand together defending our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Providing the level of security we need in today's complex threats environment is a significant undertaking. Doing so without encumbering the biggest and most important bilateral trade relationship in the world makes the challenge even greater. With our government's efforts here in Canada, and in collaboration with our partners in the United States, it is clear that we are making substantial progress toward our goals. We continue to move forward with the implementation of the beyond the border action plan and in developing and implementing new measures to strengthen our mutual security while fostering the economic relationship between Canada and the United States.
We are moving forward with our commitment to the integrated cargo security strategy. We are continuing to harmonize standards and test new approaches to further ease congestion at the border. Last October, we launched a pilot project for marine cargo arriving at the port of Prince Rupert in B.C. Cargo cleared for entry into Canada is simultaneously cleared for entry into the United States. Cleared once: accepted twice. We expect to launch a second pilot for incoming cargo at the Port of Montreal in the upcoming months.
In March 2013, Secretary Napolitano and the Minister of Public Safety signed a memorandum of understanding clearing the way for a pilot project in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection will conduct cargo pre-inspection of U.S.-bound trucks in Canada. In addition, the pre-load air cargo targeting pilot has been under way since last fall. An expanded version of the free and secure trade program is being tested at the Blue Water Bridge at the crossing in Sarnia. If the pilot is successful, we could see this implemented on a permanent basis at all three ports where the free and secure trade program is now in place.
We are also installing new wait-time technology at key ports to enable more effective logistics planning. In British Columbia, NEXUS lanes opened in Douglas and Abbotsford last November. We opened an additional lane to better manage peak-period traffic at the Surrey/Blaine crossing in February. In Ontario, a third NEXUS lane was opened at both the Peace Bridge and Fort Erie crossings.
We continue to promote membership in NEXUS, and we now have over 800,000 members. NEXUS itself was created as part of the public security and anti-terrorism initiative. Expanding our trusted trader and trusted traveller programs, reducing paperwork and expanding pre-clearance programs are all integral to making the border more efficient and supporting economic growth in both of our countries.
Increasingly, we see businesses on both sides of the border building products together and working to produce and assemble parts and components. We are also addressing these threats to our joint security and economic well-being.
In March, our government introduced new legislation to address the growing problem of counterfeit goods. This legislation gives new authority to police and customs officials to seize and destroy shipments of counterfeit and pirated products. It will also establish new criminal provisions for copyright and trademark infringements. It will help ensure that businesses in Canada and the United States enjoy similar protection from counterfeiters. This is a global problem, and we continue to work with our partners in the United States and with our allies around the world to identify and respond to these kinds of threats.
As close as we are, Canada and the United States are independent countries, with their own sovereign interests, which we will continue to pursue in our own ways. There are, however, areas in which our sovereign interests coincide, such as preserving and growing our economic relationship and protecting the peace and security we enjoy. We cannot do these things effectively if we act unilaterally. The connections are too many and too complex, so we are compelled to work together.
The beyond the border action plan is a commitment to do just that on these key items. We are developing and implementing innovative measures that enhance our joint security while ensuring that the legitimate flow of goods, services and people across our shared border is as efficient as possible. We are making real progress toward those goals, and with the continued support of organizations such as the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance, we will continue to get the results we want and need.
Much good work is being done to ensure the well-being of Canadians. The programs conducted under the auspices of the public security and anti-terrorism initiative represented the beginning of a new focus on the safety and security of our fellow citizens. In fact, the audit conducted by the Auditor General found that the overwhelming majority of spending reported by departments was evaluated and was consistent with the objectives of the public security and anti-terrorism initiative.
Where the Auditor General had concerns, they were about the clarity and categorization of reporting between government departments over the period of not just one year, but from 2001 to 2009. The Auditor General has provided recommendations to help improve the reporting process. We on this side agree with those recommendations. The Treasury Board Secretariat agrees with those recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that the NDP members continually stand in the House and try to deny their plans for a $21 billion job-killing carbon tax. Why will they not just come clean? We can all see it stated on page 4 of their party platform. It clearly states that the NDP will impose a carbon tax on all Canadians.
My riding of Portage—Lisgar is not buying their denials, nor are the rest of Canadians, especially when we all see that the NDP carbon tax will raise the price of everything for Canadians, including gas, groceries, electricity and the Christmas trees we will be buying over the next few weeks. Everything we purchase will go up because of the NDP carbon tax.
Our government has a low-tax plan for jobs, growth and prosperity. Our plan is working. I can assure the House that all of us on this side of the House will continue to oppose the NDP job-killing carbon tax. We will stand up for jobs, prosperity and success for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, as we all prepare for possible boundary changes in our ridings, I would like to bring the attention of this House to a location of immense importance in western Canada.
The prime meridian sits on a small plot of land in the northeast corner of my riding of Portage—Lisgar. This is where, beginning 1872, the dominion surveyor measured, mile by mile, on all points of the compass, over 200 million acres of land from Manitoba to British Columbia.
Immigrants and settlers moved onto the land and words section, half-section and quarter-section came into our vocabulary. Our roads, our farms, our towns and villages all designated from this one simple beginning.
The measure of any great nation is the strength of its history and the character of its people. The prime meridian is an important starting point for the western Canada we know and love. Today, a cairn marks this historic spot in my riding and preserves its history for centuries to come.
Mr. Speaker, I will proudly be sharing my time with the member for Sudbury.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I have been listening to the debate this morning, starting off with the Minister for Status of Women, who kicked it off. My analysis of what I have heard so far is that the minister and the Conservative members of the House, who stood to speak to the bill, are being paternalistic. Members may wonder how that can be as they are women. It is still possible for women to be paternalistic. That is what we are hearing in the House.
The minister made a comment in one of her answers about the opposition saying that we should consult, consult, consult, that we have had enough with consultation and it was time for action. What does it mean if the government consults when it actually does not take those recommendations? Is that actually consultation? I do not think it is. It is bogus consultation to gather everybody in a room together, nod thoughtfully, with the appropriate tsks and yeses, and then totally ignore everything that was said.
The Conservatives have put together a bill that is not based on consultation. They stand here all sanctimonious saying that the opposition will not stand up for women, aboriginal women and first nations people. We are standing up for women. That is what I am doing right now. I am standing up for human rights in Canada. What the Conservatives did is not consultation. It is disrespectful and paternalistic.
The intention of the bill is to give equal property rights to both spouses in the event of separation. We know that same sex marriages are legal in Canada, that is something I am really proud of, but in the majority of cases we are talking about on reserve and, in this case, historically that is generally a man and a woman. What the bill tries to do is effect equal property rights distribution. However, we do not believe it can be implemented for lots reasons, many of which have been enumerated by first nations stakeholders.
Parliament has heard these concerns time and time again, but the Conservatives keep ignoring them. Imposing provincial legislation on first nations without their consent is ethically and practically problematic. It ignores their inherent rights and sovereignty.
If I were drafting a bill about matrimonial property rights on reserve, who would I consult? I would probably consult widely, but put a lot of weight on any testimony or any opinion that the Native Women's Association had, as well as the Assembly of First Nations.
The Native Women's Association and the Assembly of First Nations both demand better legislation because the consequences of passing this legislation are so dire. Therefore, we oppose this bill, along with those two key groups and many experts across the country.
I mentioned that the Conservatives were ignoring that consultation. What exactly are they ignoring? The Assembly of First Nations facilitated a dialogue around matrimonial property rights and found the following three broad principles that would be key to addressing matrimonial property rights on reserve: first, recognition of first nations jurisdiction; second, access to justice, dispute resolution and remedies; and third, addressing underlying issues such as access to housing and economic security. That is what came out of the AFN-facilitated dialogue. Bill S-2 does not deal in a meaningful way with any of those issues.
What else do we know the Conservatives are ignoring? There is a 2004 Senate report called "Still Waiting”, which highlighted the need for action on matrimonial property rights. It also recommended that the issue be referred to the aboriginal affairs committee.
We have heard lots of folks in the House talk about the fact that this will go to the status of women committee and not the aboriginal affairs committee. There is another solid recommendation that has been ignored.
We also had an aboriginal affairs committee report in 2005 called “Walking Arm-in-Arm”. This was the first study to consult with the Native Women's Association and the AFN, along with other first nation stakeholders. That is a positive step.
These were their recommendations: first, that the Native Women's Association of Canada and Assembly of First Nations be consulted in order to draft legislation, or Indian Act amendments; second, provide funds to help first nations draft their own matrimonial property rights codes; third, legislation should not apply to first nations that draft their own codes; fourth, amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to apply on reserves; and fifth, stress that all recommendations be Canada's recognition of first nations' inherent right of self-governance.
Not all of these recommendations are being taken into account in Bill S-2. That is what is being ignored. The bill is an insincere and overly simplistic attempt to rectify what is really a complex problem that is brought about by the Indian Act.
I am not, contrary to the minister's accusation, saying to continue to consult and consult needlessly. I am saying that we should listen to the consultation, take the ideas that came from it and use them, because it would be impossible to implement Bill S-2. It looks nice on paper, but it would be impossible to implement because of a lack of financial resources to support first nations governments to actually implement the law. It would be impossible to implement because of a lack of funding for lawyers and legal advice. It would be impossible to implement because of a lack of funding to account for limited geographic access to provincial courts. It would be impossible to implement the bill because of a lack of on-reserve housing and land mass that would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on the reserve.
What does it mean when it is printed on paper and is passed and enacted? What does it mean if we cannot realize these rights in first nations communities?
We have heard from a number of my colleagues, and I agree with them. The NDP will not support any changes to matrimonial property legislation that are not accompanied by non-legislative remedies to serious problems. That would include ending violence against aboriginal women, addressing the housing crisis on reserves and ending systematic funding discrimination against first nation children. Those are the key things that need to be present if we are to look at the issue of matrimonial property rights.
I have stood in the House and listened to the debate. I have listened to the heckles from the sideline. I have listened to the member from Portage—Lisgar saying that we should be hanging our heads in shame over here. I have listened to her heckle from the other side saying that it is really important to recognize aboriginal rights and that we should be ashamed of ourselves for standing in the way of that. Well, if she will not listen to opposition members, if she refuses to do that, maybe at the very least she will listen to Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association and AFN grand chief candidate. She said:
It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which requires the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these Bills will create further financial hardships on First Nations communities.
While no one will argue against the fact that solutions must be found on the issue of gender discrimination in regards to MRP or that we must work together to find ways to help First Nations communities to have access to safe drinking water. Sharing equal responsibility requires the means to effectively implement measures that do not create further burden upon communities; financial or otherwise.
Should Ms. Gabriel hang her head in shame? Should she be ashamed for refusing to acknowledge women's rights?
Maybe the Conservatives will listen to Dr. Pam Palmater, who is a practising lawyer and professor of aboriginal law at Ryerson and a member of the Mi'kmaq Nation on the east coast. She talked quite a bit in committee about why the legislation was bad, why it should not be brought forward and why it should not be passed. Should Dr. Palmater be hanging her head in shame for not standing up for first nation women's rights? I hardly think so.
If the Conservatives refuse to listen to the opposition on this, at the very least they should have the respect to listen to the men and women who testified at committee, who have spoken out loud and clear on this issue and who are the real experts about how this will play out in their communities.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the chance to speak to the motion that has been put before us today by the member for Wascana.
The motion covers a lot of ground with implications for the Department of Public Safety, Industry Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Part (a) of the motion, which falls under the purview of Public Safety Canada, calls for the creation of a national public safety officer compensation benefit to help the families of firefighters and other public safety officers, which is not defined, who are killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.
Part (b) requests that firefighters and other public safety officers be provided with priority access to vaccines and other drugs in cases of public health emergencies. This would fall within the responsibility of the provinces and territories for implementation. One of my colleagues will be addressing this point in more detail.
Parts (c) and (d), which fall within the focus of Industry Canada, call for changes to the national building code, including specifying firefighter safety as an objective of the code and reviewing the code to identify urgent safety issues for firefighters.
I will focus my remarks today on the public safety aspect, namely that of creating a public safety officer compensation benefit.
Our government has been a strong advocate for our first responders and particularly for our firefighters. All of us in the House agree that our firefighters deserve our respect and support as do our police officers, paramedics and all other emergency and first responders.
Sacrifice, bravery and courage are the words that come to mind when we think of these people. Every shift, they make a conscious choice to save lives, protect their communities, make a difference and put their own lives at risk. When the beeper goes off, when the fire alarm sounds, there is no hesitation. Day or night, firefighters are willing and ready to go to work.
They know that they can face moments of extreme danger where the lives of citizens, their colleagues and certainly their own are at risk. They also experience great moments of pride when they rescue someone and they know that the work they have done has made a huge difference. Firefighters have the mental toughness and courage that is required in these moments, and when they put themselves in harm's way for the rest of us we all stand in gratitude.
We respect their courage and their professionalism. Our government has proudly supported the work of our firefighters along with all of our public safety officers through a variety of initiatives and programs since 2006. For example, in budget 2007, we included a contribution of $2.5 million over five years to the International Association of Fire Fighters to support and implement hazardous material training. This is a worthy investment that has provided thousands of hours of haz-mat training to firefighters and many other first responders right across Canada.
We are very proud that in budget 2011 our government introduced a volunteer firefighters tax credit to support volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service for their communities. There are more than 85,000 volunteer firefighters across this country serving in both urban and rural settings. In my riding of Portage—Lisgar, there is no way our communities could be protected if it were not for the volunteer efforts of firefighters, brave men and women who volunteer their time.
Our government has been listening to firefighters. We listened to their concerns and that is why we introduced the volunteer firefighters tax credit. The credit recognizes and supports the critical role that these volunteers play in all of our communities.
We also support first responders through the development of national policies and by supporting consensus-based national code development processes and response systems and standards. For example, our government actively participated in the development of the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives resilience strategy and action plan for Canada, which was launched in January 2011. This plan sets out clear guidelines for policy and decision-makers at all levels of government on how to better prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from any CBRNE event. These guidelines ultimately protect our first responders, including our firefighters.
We also launched the communications interoperability strategy and action plan for Canada in January 2011. The goal of this action plan is straightforward. It is something that first responders have been asking us for and we are listening. The goal is to help first responders respond rapidly to any emergency by allowing them to communicate more effectively and efficiently across jurisdictions. As part of this, Public Safety Canada and the first responder community have urged Industry Canada to set aside dedicated bandwidth for public safety use in the 700 megahertz spectrum auction.
This past June, we announced that an initial 10 megahertz has been secured for this use and this news was widely applauded across the first responder community. We are proud that we have helped to push this issue forward. We are proud that as we work in collaboration with our first responders and firefighters we are getting results for them.
Our government is firmly committed to supporting our firefighters and indeed all of our public safety officers. However, we are also committed to respecting Canada's Constitution and the various authorities that fall within the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. The Liberal Party argued in 2005 that many of the measures that the member for Wascana is proposing today in his private member's motion are more relevant to provincial areas of responsibility. As he must be aware, the creation of a public safety officer compensation benefit is one of them.
As hon. members likely know very well, provinces and territories already have a legal framework in place for occupational health, safety and workers' compensation to provide benefits to the families of workers who are injured or killed on the job. In the United States, labour laws are the jurisdiction of the federal government. In Canada, that jurisdiction lies with the provinces. In many cases, benefits received under these workers' compensation programs are supplemented through collective agreements or group insurance plans that provide compensation for losses incurred due to workplace accidents or death.
Our Conservative government stands up for our front-line public safety officers, especially firefighters. However, in the current climate of fiscal restraint, and with the broad definition of “public safety officers” making an amount pretty well impossible to determine, establishing a fund in excess of $60 million would not be feasible.
It is very interesting that when the member for Wascana was minister of finance he realized this fact, which is why he voted against it in 2005. When he talks about changing circumstances, we are in a time of even greater financial restraint and economic uncertainty. I am very surprised that he is changing his mind without credible reasons. It is important that he stand and speak more clearly on why he voted against this in 2005 and why he now finds it expedient to introduce the motion.
Our government will not be supporting M-388. As is evident by what we have done in the past and what we continue to do, we support our firefighters with tangible efforts that help them do their jobs and that recognize the volunteer work they do. However, we will not go into jurisdictions that are not ours. We will be consistent with our federal jurisdiction and federal responsibilities. The proposed changes found within the motion would be more relevant to provincial jurisdictions and that is why we will not support changes to the areas that would fall under the authority of provincial and territorial governments.
I therefore respectfully ask that all members would oppose the motion. Let us continue to work for firefighters and first responders, but the motion is not the way to do it.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform you, my colleagues and my constituents that I have decided to return to my birth name, Candice Bergen. This change will take place as soon as this statement concludes. I realize that many will associate that name with a popular actress, but it is in fact the name that my parents gave me and I am extremely proud and honoured to resume using the name Bergen, a name that it has a deep history and strong ties in my riding of Portage—Lisgar.
I am so grateful for the strong support I received from my constituents during election time and between elections, and I am very honoured to be referred to as their member here in the chamber. Although my last name is changing, I can assure my constituents I will continue to serve and represent them here in Ottawa and work for their families in the riding and for their interests.
If members hear on the Hill that Candice Bergen is here, it is not Murphy Brown people will be referring to. It will be me.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate so much this opportunity to highlight some of the very important initiatives in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and to underline why we cannot let the NDP and the opposition more generally delay and defeat this important legislation.
Over the last few weeks we have seen the extreme left-wing ideology of the opposition members, not only in terms of their negative attitude toward such an important industry in Canada as our energy sector, but also most recently in the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the leader of the third party, in their ridiculous idea of pumping millions and billions of dollars of good money after bad into Europe. Canadians are seeing the reality and the left-wing socialist ideology behind both opposition parties.
Let me begin by reassuring Canadians that unlike the NDP opposition, our Conservative government is focused on the economy, jobs and growth. While the opposition is looking at delay and conducting partisan games, we are focused on implementing economic policies that increase the prosperity and the well-being of Canadians.
Let me quote a recent Toronto Sun editorial for the benefit of the House. This is about what Canadians are saying about the NDP and the opposition delaying tactics. It states: “As Europe stands poised on the brink of a disastrous economic wildfire that could blacken the world, NDP leader['s] hypocrisy and self-obsession is in full flame....vowing to delay the passing of [the budget] by playing silly...with amendments and procedure.... This is nothing but grandstanding.... Right now, there is only one enemy in our fight to protect Canada from the repercussions of Europe's burning. And it's [the NDP leader].... This is inarguable.”
Indeed, since 2006, our government has supported the security and prosperity of Canadians and promoted business and investment to create jobs. When the global financial and economic crisis struck, these underlying strengths helped Canada to avoid a deep and long-lasting recession. Our government's sound fiscal position prior to the crisis provided the flexibility to launch the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan, which was timely, targeted and temporary in order to have maximum impact. This plan was one of the strongest responses to the global recession among the Group of Seven countries. The broad-based business tax reductions are reducing the costs of operating in Canada, making investment here more attractive, thereby encouraging firms to invest more in all sectors of the Canadian economy. This is increasing wages, creating jobs and raising the standard of living for Canadians. Along with our strong fiscal position, the solid banking system, and sound monetary policy, we believe that this approach to encouraging investment is the best way to improve the productivity of our businesses and indeed the prosperity of all Canadians.
However, we also have been clear. We believe that all Canadians should pay their fair share of taxes and not use loopholes to avoid their taxes. That is why our government has closed over 40 tax loopholes in recent years to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system. The jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act takes further action on this front by modifying the penalty for making unreported tax shelter sales, to better match the penalty to the purported tax savings of the unreported tax shelter.
We understand that taxpayers willingly and honestly provide a portion of their hard-earned income to fund health care, social programs and other vital services that benefit all Canadians, demanding only in return that governments manage their tax dollars wisely and that their taxes be kept low. For our government, this is a solemn responsibility that we take very seriously. We understand fully that sustaining a voluntary tax system rests on the foundation of tax fairness.
In that context, and as part of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, I would like to spotlight the improvements that we are making to enhancing transparency and accountability for charities. I think I can speak on behalf of my riding of Portage—Lisgar as one of the highest givers to charities. It is also one of the strongest Conservative ridings in the country, voting with a 76% plurality. It is quite interesting that in a very strong Conservative riding, Conservatives are willing to give back and willing to give to charity. They are not looking to the government and they are not looking to taxpayers to give to charities: they take out of their own pocketbooks. I would challenge socialists and NDPers to do the same thing.
Our government recognizes the invaluable role that charities play in communities across Canada. Canada has one of the largest charitable and non-profit sectors in the world, with more than 160,000 charities and non-profit organizations that help address some of the most daunting challenges that Canada faces.
Tax support for registered charities in Canada is considered to be among the most generous in the world, and that is important because there are so many great charities in Canada that do excellent work and they do that excellent work because of the generosity of Canadians.
Registered charities are exempt from tax on their income and may issue official donation receipts for gifts received. In turn, donors can use those receipts to reduce their taxes by claiming a charitable donation tax credit for individuals or charitable donations tax deduction for corporations.
In 2011, federal tax assistance for the charitable sector was nearly $3 billion. However, when Canadians give their hard-earned dollars to a charity they need to be confident that their donation is being put to good use.
Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities. There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources. Accordingly, to enhance charities' compliance with the rules with respect to political activities, economic action plan 2012 proposes that the CRA enhance its education and compliance activities with respect to political activities by charities. The plan also proposes to improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources.
In addition, the plan proposes that the Income Tax Act be amended to restrict the extent to which charities may fund the political activities of other qualified donors, and again, an important aspect of our charitable donation system. Canadian taxpayers want to ensure that when they are giving these funds that they are not going toward political activity. It also proposes that new sanctions be introduced for charities that exceed the limit on political activities or that fail to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with complete and accurate information with respect to any aspect of their annual return.
These measures will help reassure Canadians that they can give with confidence knowing that donations of their hard-earned dollars are used to support legitimate charities.
Amazingly enough, even Toronto Star columnist, Thomas Walkom, who is no friend of our Conservative government, has voiced support for this provision. He said:
When [the] Prime Minister...says charities that engage in too much politicking should be denied tax subsidies, he’s right.
There’s no good reason why environmental groups that oppose oil pipelines should be able to finance their activities, in part, on the backs of the general taxpayer.
When passed, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act will take action to provide tax relief for numerous health care services, drugs and medical devices. This is good news for Canadians across the country. This will reflect the evolving nature of the health care sector and better meet the health care needs of Canadians.
Specifically, today's legislation before us seeks to exempt from the GST pharmacists' professional services, other than their prescription drug dispensing services, as well as expand the list of medical devices eligible for tax relief under the GST and income tax systems to include blood coagulation monitors.
In my time allotted today I have had the opportunity to touch on just a few of the very important tax measures that are in the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. I would encourage all members of the House to read the legislation and give it the support it deserves.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.
I want to begin by saying how proud I am of our government. I am so pleased to represent the people of Portage—Lisgar in the Conservative government and see the way we have reacted and responded over the last several years to a very tough recession that impacted the entire world. Our government responded with sound and responsible fiscal management, stimulus when it was needed and restraint when it was needed. I am very proud to see this next phase of Canada's economic action plan 2012 and to be able to support Bill C-38.
Our government has been clear that the economy and jobs are our top priority and remain the top priority of this government because they are Canadians' top priority. Several of my hon. colleagues have spoken on this legislation and the importance of taking action to support the economy now and over the long term while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets. I would like to spend a bit of my time today discussing the components of Bill C-38, highlighting our government's commitment to small businesses and job creation for sustainable long-term prosperity.
As well, I want to take a few moments to speak on the parts of this bill that pertain to the public safety of Canada. I am sure that all hon. members in the House agree that jobs and the economy are the top priority for Canadians, and that is why it remains the top priority for this government. This is why we are addressing short-term labour market challenges and meeting long-term market needs.
Small businesses are significant job creators in Canada, and our government recognizes the importance of this as well as the challenges they face. That is why economic action plan 2012 proposes $205 million to extend the small business hiring credit for one year. This means that a temporary credit of up to $1,000 will be available to approximately 536,000 employers. In my riding of Portage—Lisgar, as well as across the country, small businesses play an important role in creating jobs and keeping our economy growing, and it is very important that our government continues to support small businesses.
This economic action plan will help further unleash the potential of Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in the modern economy, benefiting all Canadians for generations to come. Just last month in my riding of Portage—Lisgar, our government gave a $2.5 million repayable loan for infrastructure development to Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products Inc., located in Portage—Lisgar.
I am very proud to announce that this investment will benefit not only local growers and producers but the entire region because it will allow producers to use more of their harvested crops. Many times the crops are odd shapes and sizes and cannot always be used for direct sale, and about 40% of produce is not used. Canadian Prairie Garden Puree makes that produce into a puree and it is able to sell it. It uses an excellent patent program, and I am very proud that our government is able to partner with this company to create jobs and support producers.The loan will allow creation of a number of jobs in the region, while ensuring the company operates more economically and leaves a small environmental footprint.
This project is the first project funded by the agricultural innovation program, an excellent program, which was a $50 million initiative announced as part of Canada's economic action plan. The agricultural innovation program is part of the government's commitment to help Canadian producers benefit from cutting-edge science and technology. This is what our producers have been asking for. They have asked our government to expand trade but also help with research and development because the best produce in the world is grown right here in Canada. I am proud that our government is responding to the needs of Canadian producers. This program boosts the development and commercialization of innovative new products, technologies and processes for the agricultural sector while aiding in the sector's ability to secure opportunities in domestic and global markets.
I have mentioned a few examples of how our government is helping sustain a business environment that encourages innovation by supporting financing opportunities for businesses with the potential to become globally competitive, while creating a regulatory environment that promotes competition, business investment and economic growth.
In addition to strengthening our economy and building on our government's strong track record of job creation, Bill C-38 contains some very important provisions that would further enhance our ability to keep our streets and communities safer for all Canadians, while also improving the way government operates.
Bill C-38 contains provisions that would help us crack down on organized crime groups, gang members and other thugs who often earn a major portion of their illegal income by smuggling contraband goods, such as guns and drugs, or by smuggling illegal migrants across our border with the United States.
The relevant provisions would implement the Canada-United States framework agreement on integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operations, and a key feature of those operations would be authorized, specially-trained and designated Canadian and U.S. law enforcement officers to work together to enforce the law on both sides of our shared border.
This is an excellent pilot project. It shows the great co-operation we have had and continue to have with our partners who are guarding the U.S. border. Again, even in my riding of Portage—Lisgar, I have seen firsthand the wonderful work and the great co-operation that is happening with CBSA as well as the U.S. border officials.
Integrated cross-border law enforcement operations move beyond the existing and traditional co-operative partnership approach to conducting border law enforcement activities. They would involve specially-trained and appointed Canadian and United States law enforcement officers working in integrated teams, transiting back and forth across the border to deal with cross-border criminality while still respecting the sovereignty of both Canada and the United States.
In Canadian territory these teams would enforce Canadian law, and in U.S. territory they would enforce U.S. law, while under the direction and control of a designated officer from the host country. What that means is that organized crime would no longer be able to exploit the border to evade arrest and prosecution. Instead, law enforcement would be able to continue to pursue and arrest criminals, regardless of which side of the border they are on.
This is something Canadians have asked us to do. They want to make sure our borders are secure while, at the same time, we have a strong working relationship with our United States partners. We want to make sure legitimate goods, travel and trade can occur across our borders, but we want to eliminate illegal activity. This is just another fantastic initiative that would strengthen the relationship we already have.
In addition to these measures to protect the safety and security of Canadians, Bill C-38 introduces measures to streamline and improve the way several public safety portfolio agencies operate while, thankfully, eliminating duplication and waste and saving taxpayer dollars.
First and foremost, the legislation before us today would consolidate the responsibility for reviewing the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, into a single arm's-length organization: the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC. Such a move would save taxpayer dollars while ensuring oversight of CSIS continues. The unique responsibilities of the Office of the Inspector General would now be merged into the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which would continue to report to Parliament on the activities of CSIS.
Bill C-38 would also make changes to the process for conducting certain reviews of conditional release decisions. This would include the elimination of mandatory hearings for reviews of cases following a suspension, revocation or termination of parole or statutory release.
Specifically, Bill C-38 would, in most cases, replace these panel hearings with an administrative file review of decisions where there has been a suspension, revocation or termination of an offender's parole or statutory release.
In these cases, offenders would still be allowed to make written submissions to the Parole Board. The Parole Board would continue to be required to conduct this review through a panel hearing for decisions related to cancellation, and the board would continue to have the discretion to conduct in-person hearings, in any case. What we would, therefore, be doing is maintaining current procedural safeguards while, again, streamlining the way reviews are conducted.
I will conclude by saying, once again, that Canadians have asked this government to respond to the economic crisis responsibly. I ask all members to support this important bill.
Mr. Speaker, today I congratulate two exceptional hockey teams from my riding of Portage—Lisgar.
The Pembina Valley Hawks girls' hockey team won the western female midget hockey championship and went on to win the nationals at the Esso Cup in Charlottetown, P.E.I., just one week ago.
This victory marks Manitoba's first national midget women's title since 2009. The team did a great job.
Congratulations also to the Portage Terriers who, for the fourth time in the last five years, are champions of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Having recently played in the Anavet Cup against Saskatchewan's Humboldt Broncos, the Portage Terriers will move on to show those Broncos who is really the best in the west by clobbering them on their home turf.
In fact, they kicked off the RBC Cup last night with a huge win. These talented youth are reminders of the pride and spirit of our community and of the love of hockey that defines Canadians.
Good luck to the Portage Terriers, and congratulations to both teams.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak against Motion No. 312.
Motion No. 312 calls for the creation of a special committee that would evaluate subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code, which currently states:
A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother....
The motion asks for a special committee of parliamentarians to review the legal definition of personhood in Canada.
The definition of fetal personhood, under related Supreme Court jurisprudence, is closely linked to the legal status of abortion. Therefore, the Liberal Party does not support any legislative action that would reopen the debate on abortion or might criminalize abortion. If passed, Motion No. 312 can reverse the hard-earned rights of women by restricting their access to safe and legal abortions. The Liberal Party will oppose this motion.
During the 2011 election campaign, the Prime Minister promised that his party would not change the laws on abortion. He said, and I quote, “As long as I am Prime Minister, we will not reopen the debate on abortion. We will leave the law as it stands.”
The Conservative Party has a troubling history on the issue of election promises. We may recall that in 2004 the leader of the opposition, now the Prime Minister, noted that the death penalty and abortion were not issues for the first Conservative government, yet in November 2007, halfway through the Conservative Party's first term in government, he broke that promise when his party refused to seek clemency for Ronald Allen Smith, a Canadian on death row in the United States. By refusing to seek clemency for Mr. Smith, the Conservative Party reversed the long-standing practice of seeking clemency for Canadians on death row abroad. The Prime Minister and his government were also in contravention of the United Nations convention to abolish the death penalty, to which Canada is a signatory.
With Motion No. 312, the party is now reversing the Prime Minister's promise not to reopen the debate on abortion and to leave the law as it stands. It is clear that the government obviously cannot be trusted to keep its word on any questions of fundamental justice.
By allowing this motion to stand, the Prime Minister can tell Canadians that the neutral stance of this motion on legal personhood does not open up the issue of abortion, that it is merely asking for a clarification on the definition of personhood and whether the law, as defined in subsection 223(1), is outdated. This is shameful. The government is being disingenuous, and so is the Prime Minister, obviously thinking that Canadians are simpletons.
The discrepancy between the opinions of the member for Kitchener Centre and what he said in the House today and the neutral stance of his motion should be noted by the House. Today, on April 26, in the Metro Ottawa, the member for Kitchener said that this motion opens up the abortion question. He said, “If we reach a conclusion on when a child becomes a human being, then all of the other issues that are so complicated about abortion can be discussed with that honest conclusion as a bedrock foundation”.
We are being disingenuous in the House when the hon. member stands up and makes a speech saying that this is being honest and this is about a neutral motion. It is not being honest and it is not about a neutral motion. That is a cause for concern for us in the House, because if the intention of the member for Kitchener Centre had been honest, he had choices. He says that subsection 223(1) is outdated. If he believed the Criminal Code is outdated, he had the choice to directly amend the Criminal Code and propose a bill to do so, but he did not do that. The member said that section 223(1) is unjust because the definition of personhood in that subsection does not include the fetus. If he believed that the section was unjust, then he could have brought forward a bill to redefine personhood directly.
The Prime Minister should not have given the member the back door and the opportunity to waste the time of the House to use Motion No. 312 as a back door to recriminalize abortion. However, again, the history of the Prime Minister and the government is to always use a back door for contentious issues.
One can recall the private member's bill on gun registry from the member for Portage—Lisgar. It was an issue the Prime Minister had said he would not deal with, and there we had a private member. Then we had the private member's bill from Ken Epp, who is no longer in the House, about the unborn victims of crime, which was again about abortion.
We see this backdoor trial balloon by which contentious issues would be floated forward to see what the public would say, and if it became too hot to handle, it would be withdrawn or it would be voted against by the government. We are seeing this same kind of dishonest, disingenuous behaviour in this House in that now we see that the committee will be asked to look at medical evidence of fetal personhood.
In fact, medical evidence speaks to the viability of the fetus and how long the fetus can exist outside the maternal environment. That is defined very clearly. We do not need a committee to see what the viability of the fetus is—how long it can live outside the fetal environmental, the times, the ages, et cetera. It is all very clear, internationally and nationally. It means that if the fetus is born before viability, it will only exist with a great deal of technology to help it to do so.
What is surreptitious about this bill is that the medical definition of “fetal viability” does not define personhood. Nowhere does it and nowhere can it, because the Supreme Court is very clear as it ruled unanimously in the case of Tremblay v. Daigle. It stated:
The task of properly classifying a foetus in law and in science are different pursuits. Ascribing personhood to a foetus in law is a fundamentally normative task. It results in the recognition of rights and duties—a matter which falls outside the concerns of scientific classification.
This is echoed again in the 1999 Supreme Court decision, Dobson (Litigation Guardian of) v. Dobson, in which Justice Cory, writing for the majority, asserted that
the Court should not impose a duty of care upon a pregnant woman toward her foetus or subsequently born child. To do so would result in very extensive and unacceptable intrusions into the bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy rights of women.
I want to draw a couple of scenarios.
Let us imagine that this committee is formed. Let us imagine that this committee redefines “personhood” as it is now said and goes against all of the Supreme Court rulings to date. What is going to happen? The age of medical fetal viability, we now know, is very clearly stated at 20 weeks; after 20 weeks, are the government and the state going to put a woman in jail if she does not wish to maintain that pregnancy within her person? Are they going to put her in jail and force her to keep this child until term? That outcome is not only ludicrous but also goes against every human right we can think of. It is shades of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale all over again. This is absolutely unacceptable to even imagine.
So that is what is going to be proposed. Are we going to force a woman? A child has to be carried and is in the woman's body until it comes out of the woman's body. It is totally dependent on the maternal body to keep it alive. Are we going to do this? Are we going to lock women up and force them to carry a child to term?
The Constitution speaks very clearly on the woman and the security of her person. The Constitution and the Charter are the umbrella under which all laws are written and interpreted in this country. The Supreme Court declared in 1998 the entirety of the country's abortion law to be unconstitutional, noting that
Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations...asserts that the woman's capacity to reproduce is to be subject, not to her own control, but to that of the state.
Essentially, therefore, it is a breach of the woman's rights to security of the person.
We have seen over and over that the Supreme Court has shown that the security of the person is paramount and is above every other piece of law, and because, as it is said, that the woman's capacity to reproduce cannot be subject to anyone's control but her own, it is a breach of the woman's right to security of the person. That kind of idea, as seen Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, would be absolutely ludicrous right now.
However, would we want to look at the issue of whether the government believes it can then tell physicians what they can or cannot do?
Our own government has said recently, on the issue of CCSVI, that the government should not be dictating guidelines to the medical profession, so then what is the use of this debate in the first place, if nothing that comes out of debate is going to be anything but unconstitutional?
Today we see committee budgets cut by 30%, yet we want to waste the government's time and everyone's time and recreate a committee to do something that is, at the end of the day, totally untenable and unconstitutional.
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today on behalf of my constituents of Portage—Lisgar.
Both petitions state that Canada is the only western nation, along with North Korea, to have no laws protecting unborn children.
The petitioners call on the House of Commons to enact legislation that would extend protection to unborn children in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, today I congratulate the Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores. This year they are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
In 1972, the first shop opened in Altona, located in my riding of Portage—Lisgar. Since then MCC thrift stores have become a household name in many communities, where residents can donate and shop for new or used items.
Over the past 40 years, MCC has opened stores in Manitoba, as well as 40 more in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. These stores are run by dedicated volunteers who sort, price and sell the items while being a friendly face in their community.
Proceeds from these thrift stores are used locally and globally, and have gone to support relief projects that include disaster relief and sustainable community development. Last year the 16 stores in Manitoba raised just over $2.5 million in donations.
We congratulate the MCC thrift stores on their milestone. I wish them many more years of success.
The electoral district of Portage--Lisgar (Manitoba) has a population of 85,653 with 60,246 registered voters and 196 polling divisions.
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