Mr. Chair, it is my honour to join my colleagues on both sides of the House in this take note debate. It is an important debate, as all of my colleagues in the House tonight have stated.
As we stand here speaking and declaring our support for the people of Ukraine, they are being violently arrested and thrown in jail for simply expressing their free opinion, an opinion they have fought long and hard for.
It is my privilege to represent a good number of Ukrainian Canadians not only in my constituency of Edmonton—Strathcona but right across Alberta. As all my colleagues know, many of the members of the provincial legislature, including former premiers, are of Ukrainian descent.
There is a long-standing, deep-seeded respect and admiration for the people of the Ukraine and those who have escaped very difficult circumstances to re-establish themselves in Canada. Therefore, there is this long-standing support for their friends and family who were left behind and a continued support for Ukraine to become an open and free democratic nation.
Last year I had the privilege of taking two trips to Ukraine. The first was with the foreign affairs committee. With the national election coming forward, we went to Ukraine to look into complaints of erosion of the rule of law and democracy. We found very serious evidence of erosion in both circumstances. There was no longer freedom of the press. Those who were free journalists were now reduced to simply online reporting, if they were reporting. There was absolutely none of the traditional free media and press. If there was free press, the citizens were so poor that they could not afford it and could only rely on the government-controlled media.
We met with representatives of human rights organizations and civil society, some of whom were simply fighting to get access to the records of the Holodomor, which were being locked away from them, fighting simply to recognize their history of a thousand years of struggle to be a free and independent nation and to ensure the youth of Ukraine understood the repression they had previously existed under so they would understand why it was so critical to fight for a free and democratic government.
As my colleagues have mentioned, I also had the great privilege of having youthful interns in my office. Each one of them have been astounded at the freedom we experience on this Hill. They could not believe that as elected representatives we did not have bodyguards. They could not believe that as simple student interns they could wander about freely and talk to elected representatives, staff and officials in the House of Commons. That is a real wake-up call to us because we take our freedoms for granted, until we run into people who do not experience that at home, irrespective of what their constitution extends to them.
Tonight I want to give credit to my incredible legislative assistant. She has spent a lot of time in Ukraine in successive elections as a long-time monitor. I could not find a more stalwart defender of the rights of Ukrainians. I want to give her the courtesy of respect she deserves for speaking up daily for the people of Ukraine.
I know my Ukrainian Canadian constituents and those across Alberta are tuning in and watching this right now. They value the fact that we are taking the time, even though the House has shut down for the season, to stand in defence of their friends and relatives in Ukraine and the rights that we share here. I have been reminded that there is a time difference as we speak, but today representatives of both sides of the House attended the funeral for Nelson Mandela, who was the global champion for human rights and freedoms.
Today is the 65th anniversary of the international human rights declaration. As we speak here today, the people of Ukraine are being attacked with bludgeons simply because they are standing up and defending their free right to trade and associate with people of other countries with which they would prefer to associate.
I want to share the words of the Ukrainian World Congress, which has reminded us of the words of Mr. Mandela, which are appropriate today.
Mr. Mandela stated, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. That is a good message to us. It is fine that we are free, but we have a responsibility to also speak for others who are still struggling out of those chains.
In a statement issued on December 10, the Ukrainian World Congress stated:
On this day, when we annually vow to reaffirm the dignity and protect the human rights of all citizens, the Ukrainian World Congress appeals to the international community to support the people of Ukraine in their fight for the freedom to chart their course without fear of reprisals or persecution—the foundation of a democratic society...
I do not think the point could have been made any more strongly.
My staff member is very academic and learned and has read deeply on Ukraine. In fact, my most recent Ukrainian intern left me, as a gift, a thick tome on the history of Ukraine and I just did not have time tonight to completely go through it. However, I am reminded that this wonderful nation has struggled for over 1,000 years.
The people of Ukraine have come out of repression after repression, first under Russia and then other nations, then under the Soviet Union. They certainly suffered under Stalin. I had the privilege of participating this year in two Holodomor memorials, one here on the Hill and one in Edmonton. It is a great privilege to be asked to participate.
The Ukrainians are a people who are desperately seeking support to become a democratic nation and at every turn they think they are finally going to be free. In 1990, Ukraine's sovereignty was proclaimed. Then they signed onto their constitution, which guarantees them human rights and dignity, the same kind of human rights that we appreciate in Canada. Then 93% of Ukrainian citizens voted for an independent Ukraine and chose their first democratically elected president.
However, then in 2004 when there was evidence of electoral fraud, they took to the streets in their own Orange Revolution. In our party we have had our orange revolution. They had theirs and so we are brethren in loving the colour orange, as my colleague here wears proudly the scarf from the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. Still they suffer and they struggle.
When I participated in the monitoring of the election last fall, I was stunned at the turnout. I asked to be in the city of Lviv, because it is such an extraordinarily beautiful old city on the western edge of Ukraine. We went to many places, including a prison and a mental hospital and they were lining up to vote. Then we went out to the suburbs and there were families coming with their baby carriages and they were bringing seniors in wheelchairs. They wanted to participate in a democratic nation. Then of course there were problems again, and we have run-up elections going on as we speak. One has to question how fair these elections will be, given what is happening on the streets of Ukraine. Still, I presume they will come out.
Now we have a president who has espoused that he wishes to enter into friendship with Canada and with our friends and colleagues in the European community and at the last minute pulls out of those negotiations under pressure, we understand, from Russia. Deservedly and understandably, the people of Ukraine, who wish to align with the European community and consider themselves Europeans, have taken to the streets.
What is the response by the government of Ukraine? It responds with bludgeons, arresting people, beating up people, throwing them in jail. We know from our experience in Ukraine. We met with the lawyers and family for at least three of the opposition members who are still jailed. They simply do not have fair representation. They are just simply held and detained. There still is no democracy.
It is important for us to recognize that we continue to try to work with Ukraine, that we continue to try to provide aid building civil society, but we need to recognize that moments like this occur and that we are simply not giving enough support. There is cause. Our House is closing for the season and it is incumbent upon the government because it continues to be the voice for Canadians. We will stand with the government and hope that it will take stronger action.
In closing, I want to share some of the words from the youth of Edmonton. The Ukrainian youth have been taking to the streets as well and Ukrainian students are studying in Edmonton.
They tell the House that 300,000 of the Ukrainian community in Alberta are united with the millions of Ukrainians in the diaspora. They want to ensure the safety of their peaceful demonstrations in Kiev and they are vigilantly preserved until they themselves choose to disperse.
They urge the Government of Canada, all western governments and western media to understand what they are seeing and hearing and to understand much of the street fighting is purposefully instigated by provocateurs.
Clearly they are in touch with their friends and family in Kiev and this is what they are reporting. They are calling for peaceful, safe resolve of the issues. They are calling on Canada to speak to the United States and have the President of the United States also speak out.
Perhaps in questions I can also share the words of some of the other Edmontonians who wish to share with the House their feelings on what is going on.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the terrific member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. It is a great honour to share my time with him.
We have been talking a lot about the bill. At the end of my comments, I will talk about some of the concerns I have about how this bill has been put together by the government and the concerns that we have heard from my colleagues about other aspects of the bill that have been included.
What I would like to talk about is what most of us have shared in the House: our concerns about cyberbullying and the influence of the Internet as a tool used by those who want to frighten, abuse and intimidate people.
Three names come to mind in recent past. We have lost the lives of some very vulnerable young people. Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and, in Ottawa and indirectly related to the issue we are talking about, Jamie Hubley. These are names that brought this issue to the forefront and I want to mention their names because it was really quite something when we lost these young people. There was an outpouring of sentiment, but it also caused legislators like us to reflect on what we could do. That is very profound, because, as we know, that does not always happen. It was a moment where we saw members of Parliament and members of provincial legislatures try to look at how we could deal with this issue.
I would like to take it and relate it to what my friend from Edmonton—Strathcona was talking about. Let us take another look at this, beyond the scope of this law, and talk about the issue a bit more. We need to look at the fact that it is not just the Internet.
Before I was elected as a member of Parliament, I was a teacher. On many occasions, I had to deal with young people who were very isolated. They were people who came to me because they were feeling vulnerable. There were a number of cases where I had students who were contemplating suicide. Because they had no one else to turn to, as a teacher, I ended up being the person who they dealt with.
It always took me by surprise how few resources there were for young people to turn and get help. That is something we can work on with the provincial governments, providing people with assistance. It is not just about the Internet. It is about the fact that people are isolated. When I was teaching, there was certainly a concern about how the Internet was being used. Now we have social networking, which is part of the issue we are talking about now. It is interesting. There is a paradox. This young generation is the most connected generation in the history of the world. My sons can Skype with someone on the other side of the world and connect with people. The paradox is that we have the most connected generation, but we also see some of the most isolated young people ever.
As we have heard many times, the technology is such that people can go inward if they are in a cycle of depression, if they feel isolated, or if people are intimidating or bullying them. They can just go into the virtual world. Mr. Speaker, you are a parent. You know that the virtual world is fraught with all sorts of danger and concerns. We need to address that. As others have said, and we agree with them, the bill is about making some changes in the Criminal Code, but it does not solve the problem. We have to look at prevention as well.
When I was teaching, I worked with the Media Awareness Network. It is a fantastic not-for-profit group that deals with media literacy. I was able to avail myself of its resources when I was in the classroom. What we did was talk with young people about the messages they were getting in the media, now on the Internet and social networking sites, with which they were bombarded.
They are being bombarded with messages about how they should behave, what they should do and what they should buy. For young women, in particular, it is about how they should look. They are being pushed to consume things or buy things to somehow become a better person, when we know that the essence of someone's personality is about the values they carry and the influences they have to make them better people, not how they look, what they buy or what they consume.
I look at the curriculum in our schools, the resources for young people and it is not enough. We can do our jobs as parents, but let us be frank about this. When kids reach adolescence, they actually turn away from their parents and are more influenced by their peers. In this virtual world that has been created through the Internet and technology, with Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, there are obvious temptations for people to reach out to others to essentially give them confidence in who they are. This is where we saw the problems for the people I mentioned, like Amanda Todd.
Just recently, we heard from Amanda Todd's mother, who was speaking about media awareness, I believe it was last week in Winnipeg. What she was saying to parents, educators and everyone was that we needed to connect with each other to help our young people. Yes, we need to ensure we know what our young people are accessing on the Internet, on Facebook, et cetera, but we also need to have that human dimension. That is where we need to see our schools and our communities reaching out to people to bring them in and for those who are feeling vulnerable, to offer opportunities for them to share with us what their anxieties are.
I have talked to numerous educators. My wife is a teacher as well. What we have noticed lately is that there is much more anxiety among young people now than there ever was. Again, it is connected to how people are connected. They are feeling bombarded by Facebook, with Twitter and texting, where people who want to lash out or isolate someone can do it without really facing someone. That is the whole problem here. It is the anonymity.
Therefore, there are a lot of anxious young people. We see this in the skyrocketing number of them who are being identified with anxiety disorder. This is, frankly, what we should be looking at because once people are feeling anxious and they turn to social media to find friends and community in a virtual world, we then see where they can really descend into chaos. We see luring happening there. We see people who try to pretend to be friends draw people in and then abuse them.
If we are going to understand the issue that we are talking about today, we need to go beyond just changes to the Criminal Code, which of course we support.
Let us see the federal government work with our partners at the provincial level to come up with really smart media awareness programs that are well resourced, and I mentioned the Media Awareness Network is a terrific resource, if we are to help young people be aware and be literate when it comes to what they are confronted with on line.
This is not about the government doing it for them. Let me be clear about that. This is about the government resourcing groups that are already working on these issues. It means that we all take this issue with a lot more depth than just saying we will change the Criminal Code and that will somehow fix it. It means we have to look to those who are victimized.
I will just underline a couple of groups that are obviously important here. I think of trans-youth and gay and lesbian youth. I think of those who are different because of the way they look, or the fact that they may be introverted. We need to reach out to them.
I wish Bill C-13 was just about that. I wish the government had not brought in these other measures, which we have some concerns with about privacy that have been noted.
What I want to finish off with is, let this not be the end of this issue. Let us look at how we can better reach out to young people. Finally, a smart suggestion would be to reach out and listen to young people, because they will have as many ideas as we have on how to help young people who are so isolated.
My final recommendation would be for the government to work with the provinces to actually create spaces to hear from young people, for them to make recommendations on how to combat cyberbullying, as we call it, but deep isolation. Therefore, at the end of the day, we can say that we have been able to help prevent these horrific, tragic deaths we have seen, in the names of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd and Jamie Hubley.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, The Environment; and the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Rail Transportation.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.
Mr. Speaker, the member talked about cutbacks to community colleges, which obviously affects tradespersons.
I have been sitting on the natural resources committee for a couple of years, and every time companies appear at committee, their biggest complaint is that they have no tradespeople, such as electricians, welders, machinists, and mechanics. It has become obvious to me that Conservative members on the natural resources committee have not been listening to what these people are saying.
Could the member for Edmonton—Strathcona please tell me why she thinks these members are not listening to what people are saying at the natural resources committee?
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak to the latest tabled omnibus budget bill on behalf of the constituents of Edmonton—Strathcona.
I think many across western Canada will be discouraged that not much debate on this bill is being allowed because of closure, once again. What is of particular concern to those of us in the official opposition, and which I know will be shared by my constituents, is the fact that once again, we have a large omnibus budget bill, over 300 pages, that includes many policy and legal changes that merit discussion before the appropriate committee, an opportunity for Canadians and the appropriate experts to come forward and testify, and frankly, an opportunity to question the appropriate ministers.
Here we have many policy matters, including, for example, changes to appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada. Where are we are supposed to direct our questions? It is to the Minister of Finance. This is a complete perversion, frankly, of the proceedings in the House of Commons.
Once again, we are calling for this to end. We have requested many changes, but the government seems to persist and does not want debate. It does not want the engagement of Canadians in these important matters. We are doing our best to try to hold the government accountable on spending. That is our constitutional responsibility.
Before I speak to some of the matters in the bill, and because of limited time I will have to pick and choose, I would like to mention the things we do not find in the budget bill.
First and foremost, we see nothing toward addressing the inequities our indigenous Canadians have suffered over far too many decades. There is no mention of new dollars to end the 2% cap on first nations education and services. There is no additional money to expedite specific and comprehensive land claims. I find this dumbfounding. Banks have called for action on this. First nations have called for this. Provincial premiers have called for the government to step up to the plate with additional staffing and resources to expedite the land claims, including along the path of the proposed gateway pipeline. What do we see in this budget? There is absolutely nothing to expedite that process.
We have heard concerns from those who have already signed on to comprehensive land claims. Where is the money to finally deliver on the commitments made under those claims? Those Canadians would like to participate in the economy the Conservative government lauds, but they are not able to move forward and participate in the economy, because they are struggling just to get by.
There is no additional money for an inquiry into missing and murdered women, despite the pleas from indigenous families across this country. It is just a travesty that there is still no money for this inquiry, which even the UN is calling for.
There is no commitment of additional moneys that will likely be needed to complete the truth and reconciliation review and the release of data.
There is no money for our universities and technical schools in crisis, even in Alberta. We face the travesty of deep cuts to our universities and technical colleges at a time when, supposedly, the current government supports training so that all Canadians can participate in this burgeoning resource economy. However, they are being sliced. Where is the federal government? It could be helping with that. Where is the new money to reduce tuition so that all Canadians can have access to advanced education?
There is a lot of talk about helping consumers. What is the highest cost most Canadian families face? It is their electricity and power bills. Canadians have pleaded to bring back the incentive and support for home energy retrofits and retrofits for small and medium businesses so that they can compete. There is nothing in this budget to assist those consumers.
On pensions, despite the fact that almost all premiers now are onside to beef up the Canada Pension Plan, which unions are behind, as are the majority of Canadians, there is nothing in this budget.
Agriculture is one that really saddens me. Every time we stand up to speak, we get all of this talk back about the glories of how all Canadians are going to be able to benefit from CETA, the proposed new trade agreement with Europe. Yet the Conservative government, in its wisdom, killed an 80-year-old program that gave assistance to small and medium farmers in the Prairies. The program had provided special research to make sure that on these sensitive lands, one could farm sustainably.
There were community pastures where small and medium farmers could graze their cattle. It was a successful program for both enabling the sustainability of the pastures and for these important members of our economy to continue contributing their tax dollars.
What did the government do? The government shut down those programs. Not only did it shut them down, it sold off the bulls that were provided to provide for more cattle. The government would not even provide feed during the interim period until the farmers could get away from the harvest and put bids on the bulls. I met with many of those farmers this summer who told me that they are being forced to sell off their herds. How is that helping Canadian farmers contribute to the economy and potentially benefit from this trade agreement?
Those are just some of the many matters missing from the budget bill, which supposedly would help all Canadians participate in the economy.
I would like to speak to Division 7 of Part 3, on disposal of the Dominion Coal Blocks. These lands in British Columbia have been the subject of a lot of controversy lately. There is an agreement on these lands between the Government of British Columbia and six first nations in British Columbia. Those first nations want to undertake forestry activities and have economic opportunity.
It is the understanding that some of these lands will not be sold off for metallurgical coal, to be shipped to China, or for coal gas methane. Instead, some of these lands are supposed to be protected for a future Flathead national park or wildlife preserve.
I am looking forward to some clarification in the House as to first, the first nations that will be directly impacted by these decisions, and second, the citizenry who have been negotiating in good faith with the government on setting aside these lands for the benefit of all Canadians.
The second issue I want to speak to is the phase-out of accelerated capital costs in mining. I simply have a question I look forward to having answered by one of the members of the government. The government says that it wants to incent and encourage mining entrepreneurs to create jobs and income in Canada, particularly in the north. I am looking forward to an explanation as to why these particular accelerated capital costs are being phased out. The government has committed, through the G8, to phase out and reduce its incentives and benefits to the fossil fuel industry, but I remain puzzled by this. Our party supports the mining sector, and we look forward to having an explanation for that one.
The third area is the Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts Act. Very simply, the government is shutting down a fund established in negotiations with all of the communities along the Mackenzie whereby they could be compensated for any impacts that were social or economic in nature. It was a fund that was specifically apportioned to individual communities. I look forward to an explanation as to why, unilaterally, the government has chosen to shut down that fund, to put those moneys into general revenues, and to give the minister total discretion in how to disburse those funds. It does not sound like co-operative federalism with the Northwest Territories and the people of the north.
The final matter I would like to speak to is with respect to the changes to worker health and safety. It is deeply distressing that there has been a decision to take away the issue of defining dangerous work from a definition that has been provided in legislation. It provides a broad scope of work that a worker may consider dangerous. The worker then, under legislation, has the right to refuse to work. Instead, the government is assigning total power to the discretion of the minister to narrow that down. Why is there that great concern? It is because the government has been prosecuted and convicted of violating its own health and safety laws and is awaiting sentencing of up to $100,000 and probation. Is this the way the government responds to its atrocious actions in failing to have basic health and safety protections in place for Canadian federal workers?
Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona is a very courageous voice in the House of Commons. She stands up for Albertan families and is the best member for Alberta bar none. There is no doubt about that. She is an amazing member of Parliament, one of the best in Canada, as well.
She makes a very important point that for many in the corporate sector, with tens of billions of dollars flowing offshore, tax freedom day is actually December 31st. They do not pay any taxes and the Conservatives are saying that is okay and if they owe a lot of money, they do not have to worry. The Conservatives will just let them get by. If they want to spend tens of billions of dollars in tax havens, they do not have to worry, because the Conservatives will let them get by. However, if a single mother in Burnaby—New Westminster gets behind on her taxes, not only will she have to pay her taxes, which would be fine for anybody across the country, she will have the Conservatives denigrating, attacking and disrespecting her.
They are the two-faced Conservatives. On the one hand, for ordinary families, the Conservatives going to make sure that they pay. On the other hand, if they are in the corporate sector and they want to send tens of billions of dollars offshore, the Conservatives say that is just fine and dandy. That is why they will be defeated in 2015. Canadians see that hypocrisy.
Agreed and so ordered. The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
Before we get on to the hon. member for Winnipeg North on resuming debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou, Health; the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Employment.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Chair, I share the opposition members' enthusiasm for the minister's performance here tonight. It has been great. We want to thank he minister for sharing his evening with us in such an effective way.
I also would like to acknowledge Mr. Dupont and Mr. Arora for the time that they have spent here tonight and the expertise that they bring on this file as well, and I know there are other people who have worked hard to present the natural resources case for this country.
I also want to acknowledge my colleagues who have spent the evening here with us. Most of them have spoken and have spoken extremely well. I think of the chair of the natural resources committee; the member for Vegreville—Wainwright; my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac; my friend from Wetaskiwin, who spoke a bit earlier; the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt; the member for Yukon, who even sent a “hi” out to his mother there; and the member for Calgary Centre, who spoke so effectively.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Blackstrap, who has been here with us all night tonight because resources are important to Saskatchewan. She is an important member of the cabinet and an important member from Saskatchewan. It is great that she was able to be with us as well.
We have been talking about numbers all night tonight, and there are some numbers that I find a bit disquieting and intriguing. We have talked about the 630,000 jobs that are projected to be created by the oil sands over the next 25 years and the hundreds of thousands of other jobs that are going to be created by the resources sector across this country. Unfortunately, again tonight it seems that we have heard the New Democrats say one more time that they want to say no to those jobs.
It bothers me, when I come from a resource-based province, to hear that kind of thing. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that they oppose everything about natural resources. We heard the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, from Alberta, the province where the oil sands are so important, who came in here and opposed oil sands. We heard my colleague from Calgary Centre talk about the Kearl project and how those greenhouse gas emissions now are similar to what is being produced from regular oil production. Certainly the opposition members should be welcoming that news, but they do not seem to be willing to do so.
We have heard in the past how they have opposed offshore. They do not like offshore and the development of offshore. We hear how they do not like pipelines. Some of them do not like pipelines and some of them seem to. They keep changing their position. I had to appreciate my colleague this afternoon in what seemed to be grudging support for the west-to-east pipeline, although last week his leader changed his own position on that, so we wish them luck in trying to convince their leader that he actually needs to represent all of Canada and just not small interest groups in particular areas across this country.
We are concerned, as I read in a quote a bit earlier, that the NDP opposes all things nuclear. The New Democrats' leader was straightforward about that here in the House. He said that they are just going to oppose it. I can hear my colleague across the way saying that they of course oppose that, that they certainly do oppose that.
There is shale gas, the latest and greatest development around the world that is going to change the way energy is produced and used on this globe, and the New Democrats again come up dead against it.
We also see their opposition in so many ways to mining across this country. My colleague from Yukon and other colleagues from the north are particularly concerned about their opposition up there as they try to develop their economies and begin to get some of the same advantages that the rest of us have.
It was interesting to hear about the impact that the development of natural resources will have on our aboriginal communities. Those of us from the west, and particularly from Saskatchewan, know that we need to get our young aboriginal people involved in the economy and that probably the quickest and best way to do that is through the resource sector. It pains me to have to ask again why the New Democrats stand so strongly against that when it is so important in so much of our country.
At the natural resources committee today we were excited to hear from some folks from Montreal who were talking about the importance of the west-to-east pipeline and the re-reversal of that pipeline so that it can create opportunities in Quebec and further east, as far east as my colleague from New Brunswick. He looks forward to having some of those opportunities as well.
I wanted to talk about the New Democrats' great commitment to the carbon tax and the $20 billion that it would take out of Canadians' pockets. We have not mentioned much about that tonight, and they certainly do not want to bring it up anymore.
However, we look forward to continuing to be the government in this country, continuing to develop resources across this country, continuing under the great leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources, and being able to do that in spite of what the New Democrats want to do to our resource communities, our resource jobs and so much of our resource-based economy.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the opposition day motion with really a sense of sadness, sadness because as the finance critic for the official opposition, I have sadly had a front row seat in watching the greater opacity, the greater lack of information by the government when it comes to financial matters. From its omnibus bills to its time allocations to its silencing of opposition testimony, it has become frankly a bit of a chill in Ottawa.
Now I think we get a sense of why some of that is. What we are debating now with this opposition day motion by our party, the NDP, is the misplacing of $3.1 billion contributed to the coffers of Ottawa by Canadians across the country. It is not just any amount of money. This money was put in the hands of the government in trust to be spent on public security and anti-terrorism measures. The fact that the government cannot account for this money, as witnessed by the Auditor General in his recent report, is frankly shocking, but it is in keeping with the general lack of reporting, the lack of transparency by the government.
It is a government that forced the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which was a position created in fact by the Conservatives and an officer who was put in place by them, Kevin Page, to go to court to try to get some of the information from budget 2012 in terms of how government was spending and which departments, programs and services were being cut by the government. Now we find that even the government does not seem to understand, or know, or be able to find monies that were put in its trust and for which it would be responsible.
Before I continue, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
The motion we are debating today is really calling on the government to issue documents from 2001 to the present, to account for this money on natural security. That is when these funds were initially allocated and that this public security initiative was created. What we are calling for is all of the public security and anti-terrorism annual reports that were submitted to the Treasury Board Secretariat, all the Treasury Board submissions made as part of the anti-terrorism initiative, all the departmental evaluations of the initiative, all the Treasury Board database information established to monitor the funding, all of these records be public and made available to the House, in both official languages, by June 17.
That is all we are asking for, that this basic information about the dollars given to Ottawa by Canadians across the country for a very serious purpose, the anti-terrorism public safety initiative, that this money be made available and that the Auditor General be given the necessary resources to perform an in-depth forensic audit to find the $3.1 billion that is unaccounted for by the government.
At the same time as this money has gone astray, no one can find out where it is. Under budget 2012, the government has made significant cuts to public safety. A total of $687.9 million will be cut from public safety by 2015. To outline some of these cuts, $143 million to the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, will mean the elimination of 626 full-time equivalents, including about 325 front line officers. A further 100 positions may be affected in the CBSA.
To put this into perspective, I come from the city of Toronto, the largest city in the country. Like other communities across the country, we have concerns about handguns that are illegally smuggled into our country and fall into the hands of youth, especially, as well as others. Far too many young people in our communities have died because of the illegal use of handguns that were smuggled into the country.
To think that the Conservative government would cut over 600 border security guards from patrolling our borders and at the same time it cannot account for if, whether or how it spent $3.1 billion is frankly shocking and I know it is unacceptable to the constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park and to Canadians right across the country.
The government is also cutting intelligence agents from the CBSA and sniffer dog units. Under budget 2012, it scrapped the Inspector General of CSIS, who was put in place to ensure accountability there. The government is also cutting almost $200 million from the RCMP. While it is making what I would call reckless cuts to public safety measures, at the same time it seems to have misplaced over $3 billion that was allocated to protect our public safety.
While we are hearing a lot of stonewalling from the other side on this issue, what we are calling for with this motion is for the government to stop playing politics with our public safety and our hard-earned tax dollars and just give the Auditor General the information that he needs to fully account for where this money has gone.
Was it properly spent or improperly spent? Let the Conservatives give us the documents so all Canadians can find out what happened to the money. That is all we are asking for. It is very simple and straightforward.
We are hearing a lot of stonewalling on the other side of the House. We are hearing that the Auditor General did not find that any money was misappropriated. He did not find that any money was misappropriated because there were no documents saying where the money was. There were no documents to tell if it had been spent, not been spent, if it had been turned back into a previous budget, put forward into a future budget or spent on public security. Did it go to the President of the Treasury Board's gazebo? Did it go to a fake lake in Toronto?
We do not know where this money went. It could be lost in loose change down sofas across the country. We have no idea. However, there are clearly some serious spending problems with the government and with the public safety and anti-terrorism initiative because the money was not monitored properly, may not have been spent properly and clearly has not been properly accounted for.
The Auditor General needs the documents to be able to track the money and to find out on behalf of hard-working Canadians. They do not get to say "I just lost a third of the money I was supposed to report" when it comes to tax time. They have to account for every penny. Therefore, the Auditor General has to get the documents he needs to properly account for $3.1 billion in missing funds.
We urge the government and all members in the House to support this New Democrat opposition day motion to give the Auditor General the information he needs and do the job we were elected to do on behalf of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I want to first of all thank my colleague for her comments, and frankly for her amazing tribute to Raymond Taavel. I also want to thank her for the amazing tribute to her community of Halifax, the resilience of her community, the love for her community, the strength of her community, all of which we do not celebrate enough in this House when we talk about issues within our own riding boundaries.
I want her to know that the tragic death of Raymond Taavel was felt not just in Halifax, but indeed right across the country. I remember reading the story in the Hamilton Spectator. It touched a nerve. It left all of us feeling the loss, but also feeling the need to take concrete action.
I have to admit we were perhaps a little helpless in knowing exactly what needed to be done. I think there is an opportunity before us now to take that action. However, I think my colleague from Halifax is absolutely right; we cannot take that action in haste.
This is not an easy problem. It is a complex one. As my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona has pointed out, we do need to hear from organizations like the Elizabeth Fry Society, and we need to hear from the John Howard Society. I would suggest that we also need to hear from our provincial partners.All too often in this House we march on as if the federal government were the only government that mattered. Consultation with our provincial partners, and in some instances municipal partners, seems to have become a bad thing somehow.
I think we would move forward in a much more positive way if we were to work collaboratively with other orders of government, and if we work together, in this case, with health experts.
I wonder whether my colleague could comment on whether she thinks the Nova Scotia government in particular might not have some very important things to say, as we continue collectively to want to pay tribute by doing the right thing now. They too shared the tragic loss of Raymond.
Mr. Speaker, in general we support this change to the Criminal Code. We support it at least going to second reading. It deals with the very real and perceived threats to the public that come from the not criminally responsible declaration by judges.
I say “perceived threats”, because part of what is driving this attempt to amend the law is to play upon the fears of Canadians. We think that should be left out of the debate. The other side is very good at playing upon Canadians' fear of crime, and fears generally. However, we need to look at this legislation in a clear and thoughtful way.
We need to look at this legislation and determine whether it is achieving a good public policy goal. Is it achieving it in a way that will not be a burden on the public or the provinces or the victims of crime? That is one of the very serious concerns we have about this legislation; it may in fact be a burden on portions of the criminal justice system, including the provinces.
As a review of what the system is now, there is a very small percentage of accused, and I am not saying criminals, who are actually found not criminally responsible in the course of their trial. We are told it is something like one in 100,000 individuals who are accused—not members of the public, but accused—and found not criminally responsible. That is an extremely tiny percentage. The Conservatives are spending a lot of time and effort in dealing with some perceived notions, some of which were created by recent events in the news and some of which are just general fears by Canadians. That very small percentage needs to be brought to the attention of both sides of the House.
By the way, Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time.
There are two basic definitions for individuals who are accused. Sometimes they are found unfit to stand trial, in which case we wait until they are fit to stand trial. Once they are at trial, if that individual was not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder at the time of committing the crime, that person can be, and sometimes is, declared not criminally responsible at the time of committing a crime. Therefore, rather than a prosecution, they are shifted into the mental health system.
The mental health system includes a review board. It includes judges. It includes mental health professionals. The mental health system, the review board and the judges determine when a person is not criminally responsible, at what point that individual is no longer a threat to society. If they are no longer a threat to society, at that point they can be given either a conditional or an actual discharge. They can also be sent to hospital, to be held and restrained in hospital, like a jail. We are aware of lots of them. It is those individuals the bill is attempting to deal with.
As I said, only one in 100,000 accused are actually not criminally responsible, and a smaller percentage are those individuals who end up in a hospital setting or in a mental health process.
The changes that are being proposed are by and large welcome, but they need discussion and analysis. We need the mental health and the criminal justice professionals in this country to advise us on whether these provisions would create unintended consequences or injustices in the system.
For example, one of the changes is that the review board must now move its analysis of not criminally responsible individuals and take public safety as their paramount consideration.
Is that a good thing, or is it now skewing, changing, or putting fetters, as the member for Edmonton—Strathcona said earlier, on the justice system? Is it in fact restricting the ability of an individual judge or the review board to consider matters fairly and reasonably?
We need more counsel. We need more advice from both the criminal justice system and the medical profession as to whether or not that is going to change the outcomes in a meaningful way that is more protective of the public. I do not know the answer to that question; it certainly sounds like it on the face of it, but maybe that change will in fact cause other problems.
The bigger change to this bill is the creation of a definition of “high risk”, which will now add to the panoply of definitions by which a significant threat to the safety of the public could be attached to an individual. Again, what is the purpose of this change? What is the end result of that change? It may be a good thing, but we need more advice, more counsel, and we need not to do it from a surfeit of fear.
We need to not take this new definition out of the context of what this law is attempting to provide in the first place. It is attempting to provide a system that not only protects the public generally but also provides the mechanisms and means to rehabilitate.
For criminals in the criminal justice system who are not found to be not criminally responsible—in other words, those who are criminally responsible—the purpose of the justice system is to make them into better citizens, but we find that the recidivism rate amongst those who are in that system is between 41% and 44%, so we are not doing a very good job of protecting the public with the regular criminal justice system.
In the not criminally responsible justice system, the recidivism rate is around 2.5% to 3%, so we are doing a good job there. We are finding that if individuals with a mental disorder are properly treated, those individuals can return to be productive members of Canadian society, which is what we ultimately want.
We need to examine both halves of the justice system, and whether or not we are actually doing a good job in it.
The third major part of this legislation is to indicate that victims are now to be a major part of the regime. The victims themselves have already suffered at the hands of the perpetrator, at the hands of the person not criminally responsible. With good intent, we are asking that the victims be notified when those individuals are discharged. The individuals who are being discharged could have a non-communication order attached to them if they are not allowed to deal with the victims. In addition, the safety of the victims needs to be taken into account when a decision is made about the release of an individual back into the public.
We think that portion of the bill needs a lot of attention. We agree that victims are by far the paramount consideration in any justice system legislation, but we do not spend enough time now looking after victims. I doubt that there is enough time, effort and money in the mental health resources of the provinces to give the victims of serious crime the help they need in getting over it. We should be looking at that as well.
We also understand that this is a very difficult issue for victims. What if victims do not want to have any reminders whatsoever of this individual? Do we put them in an awkward position of having to say “No, I do not want to be reminded”? They would actually have to be asked if they wanted to be reminded, and then they have to refuse to be reminded.
It is a very difficult position for the victims to be in. The victims would be in a position where they were not necessarily receiving the appropriate attention and help from the provincial medical system, but those victims would be asked for their opinion on this, and it might in fact be difficult for them.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. I am delighted that she asked to have an adjournment debate on this topic.
As part of enhancing the integrity of the real property and procurement process, Public Works and Government Services Canada is constantly reviewing and strengthening its measures to improve integrity.
In 2007, as part of the Federal Accountability Act and the federal accountability action plan, Public Works and Government Services Canada added a code of conduct for procurement to its RFP documents. The department also added measures to render suppliers ineligible to bid on procurement contracts if they have been convicted of fraud or if they have paid a contingency fee to a person to whom the Lobbying Act applies.
In 2010, Public Works and Government Services Canada added an offence to its list of measures regarding integrity, thereby rendering suppliers ineligible to bid on procurement contracts if they have been convicted of corruption, collusion, bid rigging or any other anti-competitive activity.
In July 2012, Public Works and Government Services Canada implemented additional measures to strengthen the integrity of its real property and procurement operations.
As a result of these measures, the department is strengthening due diligence, reducing the risk of fraud and improving its ability to manage risk.
Allow me to summarize. We have already put in place provisions allowing us to render ineligible bidders found guilty of one of the following offences: fraud against the government under the Criminal Code of Canada; fraud under the Financial Administration Act; corruption, collusion, bid rigging or any other anti-competitive activity under the Competition Act; and the payment of contingency fees to individuals covered by the Lobbying Act.
On July 11, 2012, Public Works and Government Services Canada extended the application of integrity provisions to its real property transactions, such as leasing contracts, and added six new offences that would render suppliers ineligible to do business with the department: money laundering, involvement in organized crime, income and excise tax evasion, bribery of foreign public officials and drug trafficking.
These measures came into force when announced and apply to all future PWGSC solicitations and real property transactions, which include leasing agreements, letting of space, and acquisition and disposal of crown assets. These measures will also allow the department to terminate contracts and leases with companies or individuals that are convicted before the end of their contract or lease.
We are very proud of the efforts made by our department to ensure accountability and integrity in the way we do business.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona. I am delighted that she asked to have an adjournment debate on this topic.
As part of enhancing the integrity of the real property and procurement process, Public Works and Government Services Canada is constantly reviewing and strengthening its measures to improve integrity.
In 2007, as part of the Federal Accountability Act and the federal accountability action plan, Public Works and Government Services Canada added a code of conduct for procurement to its RFP documents as well as measures to render suppliers ineligible to bid on procurement contracts if they have been convicted of fraud or if they have paid a contingency fee to a person to whom the Lobbying Act applies.
In 2010, Public Works and Government Services Canada added an offence to its list of measures regarding integrity, thereby rendering suppliers ineligible to bid on procurement contracts if they have been convicted of corruption, collusion, bid-rigging or any other anti-competitive activity.
In July 2012, Public Works and Government Services Canada implemented additional measures to strengthen the integrity of its real property and procurement operations. As a result of these measures, the department is strengthening due diligence, reducing the risk of fraud and improving its ability to manage risk.
Allow me to summarize. We have already put in place provisions allowing us to render ineligible bidders found guilty of one of the following offences: fraud against the government under the Criminal Code of Canada; fraud under the Financial Administration Act; corruption, collusion, bid-rigging or any other anti-competitive activity under the Competition Act; and the payment of contingency fees to a person to whom the Lobbying Act applies.
On July 11, 2012, Public Works and Government Services Canada extended the application of integrity provisions to its real property transactions, such as leasing contracts, and added six additional offences that would render suppliers ineligible to do business with departments: money laundering, participation in the activities of criminal organizations, income and excise tax evasion, bribing a foreign public official and drug trafficking.
These measures went into effect when announced and apply to all future PWGSC solicitations and real property transactions, which include leasing agreements, letting of space and acquisition and disposal of Crown-owned assets.
These measures will also allow the department to terminate contracts and leases with companies or individuals that are convicted before the end of their contract or lease.
Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Public Works and Government Services; the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, International Cooperation; and the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, Citizenship and Immigration.
The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou for questions and comments.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Government Contracts; the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Ahuntsic, Public Safety.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
The electoral district of Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta) has a population of 99,267 with 75,254 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
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