Mr. Speaker, I have heard from many families in my riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar who are pleased with our fantastic new family tax cut plan and benefits.
Every single family in my riding and across Canada will benefit by an average of over $1,100 per year. Parents in Canada will now receive almost $2,000 per child and $720 for older children.
While our plan will help 100% of families with kids, the NDP plan would help only 10% of families. The Liberal leader has pledged to reverse our tax cuts and threatens to do exactly what Liberal Party elites always do: raise taxes for ordinary Canadians.
Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, who will take this money away from Canadian families and put it into the pockets of big bureaucracy, our Conservative government believes Canadians should keep more of their hard-earned money, and with our family tax cut plan and benefits, we are proud to be doing just that.
Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-628, introduced by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
Bill C-628 would exclude supertankers from the inland waters around Haida Gwaii, an area of significance to our whole province and an area that I know well from having been an environment minister who travelled up and down the coast in boats and small planes and from having been a tree planter and reforestation contractor who worked in these areas.
I have seen first-hand the teeming wildlife and the quality and fragility of the ecosystems in that area. As the House well knows, Canada's quality of life is closely connected with the health of our oceans and our ecosystems. Those ecosystems and that coast are integral not only to our livelihood and way of life but also to Canada's economy. Nowhere is this relationship more important than on British Columbia's north coast.
I join the vast majority of British Columbians, including dozens of first nations communities on the coast and in the interior, who are of the view that transporting oil by pipeline through the proposed route to the head of Douglas Channel and transporting oil by supertankers in turbulent and hazardous waters pose unacceptable risks to the environment, the communities, and the businesses that depend on that environment and to all Canadians who share pride in the common heritage of this very special place.
I am pleased to support the bill, which is modelled after my own bills, both Bill C-437 as well as Bill C-606 from a previous Parliament. I had the privilege of being in the order of precedence in 2011, after having travelled the area a number of years earlier, as the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has described having done.
In 2010, I had the privilege of travelling from the southern tip of Vancouver Island up to Kitimat and to communities from one end to the other on our north coast, consulting with people and hearing their views and the strong support that inspired me to put this bill in the order of precedence. Unfortunately, it died an early death because of the early election call in 2011, just short of the fixed election dates that are in law in our country.
I am happy to see the House have the opportunity to address this bill again. I think I mentioned in my question earlier in this debate that the bill is substantially based on mine and consists essentially of Canada Shipping Act changes. I did not hear that there were any differences from my previous bill in the substantive part of this bill.
Then there are two aspirational sections in the National Energy Board Act, both of which are eminently reasonable. They ask the National Energy Board to ensure that consultations have taken place and to report on them in their consideration of a project. They also set out that the National Energy Board should consider the impact on employment in upgraders and refineries and in the petrochemical industry. Of course the Liberal Party is very supportive of the idea of consultation and is supportive of having local employment from our natural resources, so those are instructions to consider important issues.
I appreciate that the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has built on the work that I and many others before me have done to protect this area. In fact, it was a long-standing policy of Liberal governments from the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau not to allow tanker traffic in the inside passage between Haida Gwaii and the central and north coast of Canada. That long-standing policy put the environment into the centre of the consideration, and our economy flourished notwithstanding, so it is not essential to risk oil spills in this area in order to have a thriving economy.
In fact, our contention is that the economy of the coast is important as well, and that would be at risk. There is a strongly expressed consensus among the communities of the province of British Columbia, and especially first nations and coastal first nations—like the Haisla, the Haida, the Heiltsuk, the Gitga’at, the Lax Kw'alaams—whose heritage is tied into the ecology of shellfish collection, of salmon, of an abundance of sea products, and simply the ability to be able to continue having some of their traditional practices. It is so important for coastal first nations, and I want to acknowledge them for having been strong voices for many years in support of banning tanker traffic in those inland waters.
The Conservative government has unfortunately undermined a very fundamental principle of our country's and our government's ability to balance the various interests and activities that come before it. What the Conservatives have done is undermine the environmental regulatory framework. What that has accomplished for the current government is to block many of the projects that it aspired to complete, because of the erosion of trust by the public in anything that the Conservatives have to say.
I heard the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar talk about public trust in the current government. I want to point out that every time a member from the Conservative Party says that a member did not vote for this, that, and the other, the public should remember that the omnibus bills and many of the other bills are designed exactly to put some positive changes into some very political, ideological legislation. We call them poison-pill changes; they make it impossible for opposition members to support them, just for the very purpose of the Conservative members being able to later say that they did not vote for this, that, and the other. That is actually code for the Conservatives undermining our democracy with the way they put forward legislation, especially these omnibus bills. I want any members of the public reading this to recognize that code the next time they hear it, because they will hear it every day in the House, used as a tool, which undermines the public's trust in the Conservatives because of their anti-democratic processes.
Turning back to the bill, I want to note that B.C.'s north coast is the home to the Great Bear rainforest and some of the world's most diverse ecosystems, which include 27 species of marine mammals, 120 species of coastal birds, and 2,500 individual salmon runs. This also is an area of the coast of British Columbia that is home to 55,000 coastal jobs, and many of these jobs would be at risk should there be an oil spill. Oil spills happen, whether due to technological or human failure. We know that they happen. Should that happen, our coast would never be the same.
Regarding this particular pipeline project that this bill is addressing, which is the pipeline to Kitimat, rather than having learned the lesson of their failures of consultation and their failures in undermining the regulatory process, the Conservatives have compounded them since then by making changes to the National Energy Board to further limit consultation, further squeeze the time that people are being given to have comment, and further de-legitimize any of the projects in British Columbia that the National Energy Board is contemplating. That will then live on in public mistrust of other projects that the Conservative government is trying to put forward.
My hope, in closing, is that the Conservative Party members of Parliament from British Columbia will join us to vote for this bill because their constituents want them to do that. Their constituents are solidly behind this kind of protection of the area around Haida Gwaii from the potential for oil spill, and the Conservatives' constituents in British Columbia are for proper environmental regulation, for communities granting permission for these major invasive projects before they push them through with the National Energy Board.
I invite the Conservative members to consider that and join us in supporting this bill so it will pass. I would like to congratulate the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his initiative in putting this forward.
Mr. Speaker, over the past number of weeks, I have had the privilege of attending many great community events in my riding and the surrounding area. For example, I attended the closing ceremonies and banquets of the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs' annual conference, hosted by the Saskatoon Fire Department. I also attended the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan's 29th annual vegetarian banquet, where attendees heard from guest of honour Admiral Nirmal Verma, High Commissioner of India.
I also attended Ducks Unlimited's annual fundraising banquet in Humboldt, as well as the Mark of Excellence Awards, hosted by the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce. Touring the new long-term care facility, Rose Villa, in Rosetown and attending the Biggar Wildlife Federation/Bear Hills Range annual awards night were both highlights as well.
It is an honour to represent this diverse riding and the people who make Saskatchewan the great province it is today.
Mr. Speaker, our time in our ridings over the past seven weeks was a great opportunity to reconnect with family, friends, and constituents. Prior to the Christmas holiday, I had the pleasure of hosting Christmas open houses in Saskatoon, Rosetown, and Biggar.
After a great Christmas and New Year's celebration with family, I started my annual New Year tour of the riding. I met with folks in Rosetown, Fiske, Ruthilda, Biggar, Sonningdale, Harris, Delisle, and Saskatoon, and, after weather delays, met with folks in Grandora, Asquith, Vanscoy, Sovereign, Stranraer, and Herschel.
It was good to see so many constituents and to catch up on what is happening in these great communities.
I also had the pleasure of making two announcements on behalf our hard-working Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food providing important funding for research that will benefit Canada's livestock and crop sectors.
It is truly an honour to represent the constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar's speech was well researched and demonstrates why she is such an effective member of Parliament. I want to comment on a number of elements of her speech.
She talked about the immediate dismissal of President Obama's scientists by the New Democrats. They did not even bother reading the state department's report on science; they just immediately rejected it. It is almost like they are deniers of science. The lack of trust the New Democrats have shown in President Obama and his scientists is of deep concern.
I am also stunned that the New Democrats are prepared to dismiss, out of hand, the teamsters, the building trades council and to dismiss the wisdom of Buzz Hargrove when it comes to this issue. When this government brought out an environment policy, Buzz Hargrove supported it. The New Democrats want to dismiss these Canadians as second rate and do not want anything to do with them.
The last point I want to comment on is that the New Democrats want to propose more refineries in Canada. This would cause emissions to skyrocket in our country. They support a carbon tax on increased emissions. I guess they could get more tax revenue that way.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.
I want to take a few minutes as I begin to speak on Bill S-2, the bill that would give real matrimonial property rights to aboriginal women and men living on reserves, and talk a little about why this bill is so important to me personally.
I get very emotional whenever I stand to speak about this. I feel very passionate about it. My granddaughter, Arcaydia Faith, is a baby girl of just over a year old, and she is of aboriginal descent. My son's girlfriend, a beautiful young aboriginal woman named Tamara, is a status Indian. When I look at my granddaughter, Arcaydia, and I look at her beautiful mother, Tamara, who together with my son are trying to build their lives, and I realize that my granddaughter and her mother do not have the same rights as I do as a Canadian woman just because they are born as status Indian women, it saddens and troubles me, and it literally breaks my heart.
It breaks my heart not just for these two aboriginal women who are part of my family but, more importantly, for the tens of thousands of aboriginal women and, frankly, men who are victimized over and over again because of who they are and because of their Canadian status.
When I speak about this issue and when I hear the opposition say it is not aboriginal women talking about aboriginal rights, as Canadians we do not accept that argument anymore. We are here, standing up for those who nobody else will stand up for.
On this side of the House we are standing up for them, and as a grandmother and as a mother, I am standing up for my aboriginal granddaughter and her mother. I am very proud to do so. I will do it for as long as I can, until we see the same rights that are afforded to every other Canadian afforded to aboriginal people.
As well, I want to say this does trouble me. I have a lot of respect for many of the opposition members who I believe are here for very solid and good reasons, but it does sadden me deeply when they oppose this legislation. I think if they looked at themselves in the mirror, they would know they do not have any good reason to oppose it.
I will also say I am very disappointed there has not been more coverage of this issue in the media. I do panels, almost on a weekly basis. I do news panels on the RCMP. I do news panels on prisoners and all kinds of very interesting topics. Why are we not doing panels and why are we not talking about Bill S-2 and the rights of aboriginal women?
We should be talking about this day and night for the next several weeks. We should have been talking about this. I am troubled. I think it begs the question that maybe we all have to look in the mirror. Why is it that aboriginal women in this country deserve to be virtually ignored not only by the media but sadly also by the opposition who I believe are here for the right reasons?
I challenge the opposition members to stand up and have the courage to maybe vote against their leader, maybe vote against their party, and do the right thing and support aboriginal women and the rights of aboriginal women on reserve.
I do want to take few moments to talk about what our government has done in terms of consultation. I think it is important that we look at the statistics on what aboriginal women face.
Approximately 15% of aboriginal women in 2009, in a marriage or with a common-law partner, reported that they had experienced spousal violence in the 5 previous years. This is a very serious and relevant issue. Of those who had been victimized, 58% reported that they had sustained an injury, compared to 41% of non-aboriginal women. Further, 48% reported that they had been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a weapon, and 52% of aboriginal women reported they felt threatened and feared for their lives.
Bill S-2 is designed to address this very real need in first nations communities for fair matrimonial rights and interests. It proposes not only to protect today's victims but also to prevent similar injustices from occurring in the future.
Bill S-2 and its implementation plan have been meticulously developed to take into account the realities of life on first nations reserves. For example, due to the remoteness of many first nations communities, the regulations under this legislation would enable an individual to secure an emergency protection order by telephone, email or fax.
Right now they could be crying for help, they could be phoning, and there is no protection order for them. Not only would this bill bring in the ability for a protection order, but it could actually be acquired by telephone, email or fax for emergency protection. Bill S-2 would also authorize a peace officer or other appropriate person to apply on behalf of a spouse or common-law partner, again providing that support that is so needed in times of crisis.
In addition, the government plans to support the implementation of the legislation through education and training. Front-line police officers would be given tools, policies and training to effectively enforce relevant laws governing matrimonial property rights. Education material and opportunities are also planned for provincial and territorial superior court judges. This would provide judges with a clear understanding of relevant on-reserve social issues, along with Bill S-2 and first nation laws.
There is a two-part phased-in approach proposed for the implementation of Bill S-2. The first part would allow courts to apply first nations' laws. This is very important and something that we recognize. The second part is a provisional federal regime that would apply to those communities that have yet to develop laws related to matrimonial rights and interests. The federal regime would not take effect until 12 months after Bill S-2 becomes law. The end result, however, would be that laws that protect the matrimonial rights and interests of all Canadians, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, regardless of where they live, would occur.
Some first nations currently deal with family violence issues by bringing an independent third party into the household to help resolve disputes, and their laws would continue this process. First nations would be free to create laws that align with their traditions and cultures. Laws developed under the mechanism proposed in Bill S-2 must satisfy only a few criteria. They must be endorsed by a majority of members in a free and open referendum, and they must respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I do not think anyone could argue that aboriginal people should not have the same rights that we enjoy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or under the Canadian Human Rights Act. To suggest the opposite, some would say is not only unfair but extremely discriminatory.
To support this empowering and culturally sensitive approach, our government would fund the creation of a centre of excellence for matrimonial real property. With the centre of excellence, first nation communities would have support and resources as they draft their own regimes. During its life cycle the centre of excellence would become an important resource to synthesize important tools, communications and research activities, and assist first nation communities and organizations in the development and application of the new legislation.
In addition to its critical role as a central resource, the centre of excellence would be supported by an advisory committee comprised of key stakeholders, such as the Government of Canada, aboriginal organizations, non-governmental organizations and centre of excellence staff. The committee would provide non-binding guidance on the direction of the centre in such areas as research and implementation related activities.
By endorsing Bill S-2 we could close this deplorable legislative gap and start the real and necessary work required to prevent the gap from claiming new victims, while putting an end to the pain and suffering that countless children and women are currently experiencing. It is time that all Canadians, regardless of where they happen to live, have access to a process to help them receive protection from domestic violence and abuse.
Clearly, Bill S-2 would provide first nations women with rights and protections in situations of domestic abuse. It is an essential part of any effective solution of violence against women and children. We talk about that so much in the House, whether it is murdered or missing aboriginal women, or violence against women and young girls in other parts of Canada. This is a very direct thing that we can do to help women on reserve.
I hear words like “we need to consult” and “culturally appropriate” and “treaty rights”. All of those things are extremely important, but imagine a young aboriginal woman having someone look her in the eye and say, “You don't have the same rights as every other Canadian because of who you are, because of your ethnicity, because you were born a status Indian and in Canada we are not going to protect that”.
That is what the opposition is saying. I ask them to reconsider and to pass this. We are going to do everything we can to pass the bill. I think we have the votes to do it, but more importantly, what a wonderful strong message it would send to aboriginal women if the opposition stood together with us and as one Parliament of Canada we support it and say, “Aboriginal women, we are here for you. We will not turn our backs on you, no matter what opposition we have”. I ask the opposition to do that.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak today on Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act.
I would like to begin by thanking the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance for their hard work on behalf of all Canadians.
I have been engaging my constituents in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on what course of action our government needs to take to promote long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Their message is consistent and clear. Canadians are reasonable people; they expect a pragmatic government that is a cautious steward of our economy, a careful caretaker of our natural resources and one that focuses on job creation to ensure that every Canadian can have a job and succeed. They want low taxes and quality services.
As a parent and a grandparent, I want Canada to be the best place to live, work, raise a family and retire. I want every Canadian to be able to take advantage of all our great country has to offer.
Budget 2013 is good news for Saskatchewan and for Canada. The budget would invest in the success of Canadians. It would invest in our infrastructure and it would invest in our strong and resilient communities. It is a plan for a successful and prosperous future. The budget focuses on the priorities of Canadian families, Canada's young people, Canadian students, Canada's job creators and Canada's job seekers.
I would like to highlight how the budget would help Saskatchewan's families, our businesses and our communities. Allow me to state the obvious. Our most valuable asset as a country is our people. As a government, we have a responsibility to make sure every person has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Right now in Canada, there is a clear mismatch between the jobs available and the skills held by job seekers in Canada.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the current skills shortage as the number one obstacle to success for its members. There are too many jobs that go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. If unaddressed, this labour mismatch has the potential to disrupt our economy and our prosperity. In fact, Saskatchewan's economy has been on such a positive expansionary phase that we are now facing labour shortages in many sectors.
I would like to talk about four areas of focus in the budget that would help Saskatchewan get the skilled workers it needs and allow us to fulfill the very potential that our first settlers saw when they came to the Prairies.
The centrepiece of economic action plan 2013 is the Canada job grant. The job grant would transform the way Canadians receive training by providing up to $15,000 per person to help ensure Canadians are able to access the training they need to get jobs in high-demand fields. The Canada job grant would take skills training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong, in the hands of employers with unfilled jobs and Canadians who want to work.
Second, economic action plan 2013 would follow through on budget 2012's commitment to increase women's participation in non-traditional occupations. Women now represent close to half of Canada's workforce, yet as a group they continue to be under-represented in areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, the very same fields in which we are experiencing labour shortages.
Our government, and especially my colleague, the Minister for the Status of Women, has taken a keen interest in this matter as it makes strong economic and business sense to have both men and women equally active in the workforce. It goes without saying that countries with strong labour force participation from both men and women typically have stronger and more durable economies. I am pleased that our government is delivering on our commitment to increase opportunities for women's participation in non-traditional occupations and keep our economy strong.
Third, Canada's young aboriginal population has tremendous potential for long-term success and prosperity, but remains under-represented in both the labour market and in post-secondary institutions. Since 2006, our government has made innovative investments to address these challenges, including efforts to strengthen on-reserve elementary and secondary education and skills training programming for aboriginal people.
Building on these actions, economic action plan 2013 would introduce a number of practical steps. The skills and partnership fund would provide project-specific funding to aboriginal organizations in an effort to improve labour market outcomes for aboriginal people.
The first nations job fund, totalling $109 million over five years, would fund the provision of personalized job training on reserves. Budget 2013 would also invest $10 million over two years for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for more than 2,000 first nations and Inuit students annually. This would be delivered by Indspire, Canada's largest indigenous-led charity, which has a stellar track record of success.
Fourth, this government, under the tireless leadership of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has made significant progress implementing long-overdue reforms to Canada's immigration system, with the focus on attracting talented newcomers with the skills and experience our economy requires. Earlier this year, our government opened up a new skilled trades immigration stream that will facilitate the entry of immigrants who have the skills needed to immediately find a job and begin contributing to our economy.
What I have outlined are just some of the many new steps our government is taking to address the labour mismatch that exists in Canada.
Our government knows that low taxes and a skilled workforce keep our economy growing, but as an exporter nation, we need to continue to work to open up new markets for Canadian companies to sell their goods. For the first time in our history, we are aggressively diversifying our markets and making it easier for business to trade with emerging markets.
Since coming into office, we have signed nine free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, Panama, Korea and Jordan, and we are currently working on free trade agreements with the European Union, Japan and China, just to name a few.
This pro-trade agenda is working for Saskatchewan. Earlier this year Statistics Canada announced that Saskatchewan had become Canada's fourth largest exporter of goods. Saskatchewan exports grew by over 10% last year, to reach $32.6 billion, and have more than tripled over the past decade. My home province's exports were also quite diversified. One-third of exports were agricultural products, one-third were energy products and the remaining were manufacturing and services.
This government is also putting in place the infrastructure Canada needs. For years, provincial and municipal governments, who are responsible for the majority of infrastructure in Canada, have been asking the federal government for a long-term plan to address these needs. This budget would invest over $70 billion in new infrastructure funding over 10 years in support of local and economic infrastructure projects.
This is the longest and largest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history and is something I know every municipality in my riding, from Saskatoon to Sunningdale, would benefit from.
However, this budget is not just about the present. It is also about the future. Budget 2013 would keep Canada on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015. In fact, the deficit has been cut in half over the past two years, and Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7.
We have done so well maintaining and building on critical services. We are also keeping taxes low for Canadians and for Canadian businesses. Canada's federal corporate tax right now sits at 15%, down from 21%, and the federal sales tax now sits at 5%, down from 7% when our government took office.
An average family now pays $3,100 less in taxes than when we took office in 2006, and Canadians now have the lowest tax burden in more than 50 years. That is something that everyone in the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar appreciates.
Our government's plan is working, not only for Saskatchewan but for all of Canada. Our government's goal is to make Canada the best place in the world to live, raise a family, work or start a business.
Bill C-60 would keep Canada on track for long-term prosperity, and I would encourage all members of this House to support it.
Before we resume debate with the hon. member from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, I just want to remind all hon. members that references to colleagues by their given names is not acceptable in the House.
The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. Could the member tell the Chair how she will be using her 15-minute time slot?
Mr. Speaker, before I start today, I would like to say that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.
I fully support Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, and I encourage my hon. colleagues to endorse the proposed legislation.
Bill S-8 is an important piece of a larger initiative that will have a tangible, practical and positive impact on a long-standing problem: unsafe drinking water in first nations communities.
More than seven years ago, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development conducted an in-depth study of first nations drinking water. The report concluded that a large part of the problem is that responsibility for the various tasks involved in the treatment and delivery of drinking water on first nation lands is shared among many groups.
Here is a definitive statement from the report:
Until a regulatory regime is established that is comparable with the one that is in place in the provinces, INAC and Health Canada cannot ensure that First Nations people living on reserves will have continuing access to safe drinking water.
The same conclusion was reached in every other authoritative report on the matter, including most recently in the National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems, published in July 2011.
The national assessment was the most rigorous, comprehensive and independent evaluation of on-reserve water and waste water systems ever undertaken by a federal government. The report is full of valuable information that can help point the way toward further progress. It highlights the variations in the quality of drinking water in first nations communities and the diverse reasons for successes and challenges. The report also recommends the “establishment of a regulatory framework for water and waste water systems”.
Bill S-8 alone, of course, will not ensure access to safe drinking water in first nations communities, but it would create a legislative framework to enable the government, together with first nations and other stakeholders, to develop enforceable standards, the chains of accountability that are absolutely necessary to support progress.
Let me remind the House of the tragic examples of water contamination in communities across the country.
In North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 2001, over 7,000 people became sick because there had been a failure to properly treat the drinking water. I too drank the water and was also sick at that time.
In Walkerton, Ontario, in 2000, seven citizens died and more than 2,500 became sick. In the aftermath of the Walkerton tragedy, the Ontario government developed one of the most stringent drinking water regulatory regimes in Canada.
In order to avoid a tragedy like Walkerton happening in first nations communities, we need regulations. This is what Bill S-8 would enable the government and first nations to do.
To address the other factors that contribute to unsafe drinking water, this government, in partnership with first nations and first nation organizations, has taken a long list of actions. From 2006 to 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested approximately $3 billion, including $330.8 million in economic action plan 2012, in water and waste water infrastructure in first nations.
These investments supported more than 400 projects, such as the construction and upgrade of treatment systems, the protection of water sources and the installation of piping networks and holding tanks. More than 40 projects were completed last year alone. Actions were also taken to train and certify hundreds of operators and to publish and distribute treatment protocols and operational guidelines.
The combined effect of these actions has been significant, but much more remains to be done.
The establishment of regulatory regimes would support further progress in a number of ways. Practically speaking, Bill S-8 would enable the development of regulations to protect sources of drinking water located on first nations lands from contamination. The regulations stemming from Bill S-8 would help strengthen oversight and clearly lay out the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, including private companies operating drinking water and waste water systems on first nations lands.
During the discussions that took place over the last six years to develop this legislation, numerous first nation public works specialists expressed the need to have tools to do their work properly and to have access to appropriate safeguards to provide clean, safe and reliable drinking water to fellow community members. While protocols and guidelines exist to help operators in first nations communities, these documents lay out no enforceable standards. Regulations will offer a mechanism by which standards will be clearly stated, realistic and tailored to the circumstances of first nations. They will also provide a mechanism through which an enforcement body can support the work of these operators and guide them in their important work.
This government recognizes that partnership can be a powerful force, and the process to develop regulations will be key in bringing this commitment to reality.
Incorporation by reference of provincial and territorial drinking water legislation, with the adaptations to reflect the needs and circumstances of first nations communities, will foster collaboration in many ways.
First, regulatory development will enable the government and first nations to work together to develop the regulations that are essential to the health and safety of first nations children, women and men.
Second, incorporation by reference with adaptations will allow for comparable standards to be established between on- and off-reserve communities. Future regulations would extend the possibility of first nations, provinces, territories and municipalities working together to deliver safe drinking water and waste water services on first nations lands, exchange best practices and possibly strengthen partnerships that are already in place.
For instance, first nations and neighbouring municipalities sometimes share drinking water services through municipal-type service agreements, as in British Columbia, where the community of Kwakiutl receives drinking water from the neighbouring town of Port Hardy. We hope that having comparable standards on and off reserve would facilitate these partnerships.
Bill S-8 and future regulations would help support first nations communities by bringing their drinking water and waste water services to a level and quality of service comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians living in communities of similar size and location.
The bill is a crucial component of this government's numerous actions over the years to improve the safety of drinking water on reserve. It would have a significant and tangible impact on first nations communities.
Ultimately, Bill S-8 would enable first nations to work with federal and regional officials to develop regimes tailored to their circumstances while respecting science-based standards for health and safety.
I urge my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill S-8.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to first of all thank the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for her dedication to aboriginal women everywhere.
Our government has introduced legislation to protect thousands of first nations women and children. This bill will allow judges to enforce emergency protection orders for the safety of the woman and the child. Unfortunately, the member for St. Paul's' comments are consistent with the position of the Liberal Party, which voted against these protections.
Opposition leaders should be ashamed, and they should apologize for instructing their caucuses to vote against these protections.
Mr. Speaker, this January I went on my fourth annual New Year's riding tour and visited 26 communities in six days.
In communities such as Fiske, Ruthilda, Delisle, Asquith and Saskatoon, to name but a few, in local restaurants, post offices and new horizons centres, I met with dozens of constituents. I heard how pleased they are that Saskatchewan farmers finally have marketing freedom for wheat and barley, and that the long gun registry has finally been destroyed.
Their message to me was clear. They want our government to keep taxes low, continue to open new markets for our goods and keep cutting unnecessary red tape, such as the changes we made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
I would like to thank everyone who came out to share their thoughts and concerns with me and made this the most successful winter tour to date.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by wishing all of my colleagues a prosperous New Year.
Last month, our government announced an investment in a public-private partnership with the City of Saskatoon to support the construction of both a transit facility and a permanent snow storage decontamination facility in my riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. This investment will help the City of Saskatoon realize a long-term goal by replacing an aging facility with a state-of-the-art one located outside the downtown core and close to the new Circle Drive bridge.
I want to congratulate the City of Saskatoon on this initiative, as it will improve the quality of life for residents who live in or near the downtown core as well as improve the city's ability to deploy its vehicles across the city. I am proud to be a member of a Conservative government that is building the infrastructure necessary for a stronger, more prosperous Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Canada.
Mr. Speaker, two years ago, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar introduced her private member's bill, Bill C-575, to increase financial transparency and accountability for first nations across Canada.
This legislation is long overdue and I am pleased that the government is now taking the appropriate action by moving time allocation on the bill to ensure that first nations have access to the basic financial information of their elected officials.
The opposition has been trying to argue that there has been no consultation on the bill. As stated earlier, it is exactly because of the complaints of first nations members that this legislation has been introduced.
Could the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development comment further on why this legislation is so important to first nations?
Mr. Speaker, I note that my colleague was not here during the last Parliament so she did witness the private member's bill being brought forward by the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, when considerable consultation took place with first nations about these very issues.
I find it quite ironic that the member would stand in the House and ask for transparency from one level of government but not from what is effectively another level of government.
What kind of transparency would the member look for if she were setting something up, because we do ask for transparency when government money or taxpayers' dollars are put forward to another level of government and when every province and every municipality now puts all their statements online? I can go to my municipalities and ask them to present to me their audited statements and they are responsible for providing them to me as a taxpayer. My question for the member is, what does transparency look like?
Mr. Speaker, he needs to stop waving that cardboard sword or he is going to hurt somebody over there.
We all knew the Conservatives were under investigation for voter suppression in Don Valley East, Nipissing—Timiskaming, Elmwood—Transcona, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Vancouver Island North and Yukon. It is a veritable who's who of the no-names on the Conservative backbench. Now court affidavits show that a Conservative-paid phone bank deliberately sent people to the wrong polls on election day. This was a coordinated scheme that goes all the way back to Conservative Party headquarters.
When will the Conservatives get serious about dealing with election fraud on election day?
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague who is again supporting this bill. She brought it forward as a private member's bill and now we see it as a government bill.
I know the hon. member's constituency is similar to mine in that she represents many first nations communities. Like her riding, many people in my riding from first nations communities have asked me if I might be able to assist them in getting some of the information that is prescribed in this bill. I am happy to supply the list to hon. colleagues across the way who are looking for people who absolutely want to see this information. People are contacting my office on a weekly basis looking for assistance with this.
The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan suggested that there were already existing authorities in place to allow first nations members to access this information. Does my colleague from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar know whether those authorities have been able to provide the information for her first nations members? I certainly have been unable to get the information for the folks in my riding.
The electoral district of Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar (Saskatchewan) has a population of 69,547 with 49,314 registered voters and 141 polling divisions.
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