Mr. Speaker, as you know, I absolutely always respect what we are debating on the floor of the House of Commons, but the debate on why Bill C-2, which is deeply flawed legislation, has been brought forward is very much related to the circumstance in which the government finds itself right now. Criminal inquiries into Conservative activities are taking place.
Even though the government knows this bill is bad, even though the bill certainly does not have the support of the population of my area and is primarily concerned with a 15-page document that wants to shut down InSite, and even though the government is attempting to change the channel, the reality is that this bill is on the floor of the House of Commons as a result of the criminal inquiries into Conservatives and the corruption we are seeing in the Conservative Party.
In my area, in Burnaby—New Westminster, I get half the vote. The other half of the population, which I support, have their rights, and many of them chose to vote Conservative in the last election, but I meet Conservatives every day who say that they did not vote for the criminal activities that we are seeing in the Conservative Party with the police inquiries. They did not vote for the corruption that they are seeing.
Rather than putting forward flawed legislation like Bill C-2, it would be much better for the government to work to lower the crime level in its caucus and in its party. I think that would be a very positive step.
When we look at the overall criminal justice system, what we see is mistake after mistake by the government. With all the police inquiries taking place right now, a limited number of police officers across the country are spending their time inquiring into criminal activity in the Conservative Party. That is worsened by the fact that the Conservatives never kept their key commitment in the last election and previous elections to actually put more police officers on the line.
We see the corruption and the criminal activity, and we see police officers having to spend their time inquiring into criminal activities of Conservatives rather than doing what they should do, which is protecting our communities. One would argue that they are protecting their communities from Conservatives, and perhaps that is a valid point, but I can say that the NDP will be protecting Canadians from Conservatives by booting them out of office in the 2015 election. That will be our objective.
It is not just the fact that what we are seeing is a lack of commitment to add more front-line police officers. It is not just the fact that police officers are now having to spend all of their time inquiring into the criminal activity of Conservatives. It is the disrespect with which police officers are being treated by the Conservative government that also concerns me.
That is why, rather than presenting Bill C-2, it would have been good for the government to actually put into place the NDP motion that was adopted just before the government came into power back in 2005. It was for a public safety officer compensation fund, and it was an NDP initiative. The Conservative MPs actually voted for it. That was back in 2005.
Every year since then, police officers and firefighters from across the country have come to Parliament Hill on an annual basis to ask one thing. They want to know when the government is going to put into place a public safety officer compensation fund so that when they die in the line of duty, their families will actually be taken care of.
I have spoken to police officers' families. I have spoken to firefighters' families. I have seen the devastation that happens when a member of their family who was a police officer or firefighter died in the line of duty. There is no compensation in so many cases. I have heard of families having to sell their homes. I have heard of families giving up thoughts of their children going off to school. That is all because Conservatives steadfastly and stubbornly refuse to bring in the public safety officer compensation fund.
We are not talking about a lot of money. It is a small payout for families who have lost a loved one, someone who has given their life for the country. Conservatives have really slapped the faces of police officers and firefighters by refusing to bring that in.
The NDP has always supported a public safety officer compensation fund similar to the one in the United States. In 2015, when we replace the government, we will be bringing in a public safety officer compensation fund so that those families will be taken care of. Canadians can be sure of that.
At the same time, there are crime prevention programs. That is another bill that we could have seen instead of Bill C-2. No government has cut back as much on crime prevention as the Conservative government.
We have seen the closure of crime prevention programs across the country because the government has refused to adequately fund crime prevention. It is a no-brainer. The reality is that for every $1 we put into crime prevention programs, we save $6 in policing costs, court costs and prison costs later on, yet the government has cut back on crime prevention programs. It is absurd.
Here are three of the things we could have seen instead of Bill C-2.
We could have seen actual enhancement of the number of front-line officers--
Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for his comments.
Manitoba is home to one of the largest Canadian Filipino communities, including in Selkirk—Interlake. Our hearts and prayers are with them and their families and the work they are on relief efforts in the Philippines.
We are fortunate that we have such a great Canadian Armed Forces. The members of the DART are first-class citizens of our country, the best of the best. They are over there representing us well.
Panay Island has had a fairly significant Canadian footprint over time because of the work of CEDA. There have been lots of projects done in the area. It is an island that is only about the size of Cape Breton Island, with over four million people. These people have a great need.
Our military is very happy to go there and support those four million people who have been so devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
One of the things that made it possible for us to get there quickly is our strategic lift. We purchased the C-17 Globemasters and now we can move troops and equipment very rapidly. We just proved that.
We were actually the second major country to go in there. We did not have logistical capabilities, like the United States, which is mainly focusing where the typhoon made landfall in Tacloban.
The United States has resources at Guam. It has a base in Okinawa, Japan. Both are only three or four hours away. The U.S. was able to move marines and equipment in.
We are moving equipment and personnel over 16,000 kilometres. It is an amazing accomplishment. We have a bigger presence there than the majority of countries.
[Member spoke in Filipino and provided the following translation:]
Long live the Philippines.
Mr. Chair, I think all of us as members of Parliament in the House of Commons join together to speak with Filipino Canadians from across the country, from coast to coast to coast and indeed with all those around the world who have been very concerned by the tragic events that took place just a few days ago.
I would like to particularly speak, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the community in Burnaby—New Westminster, the Filipino Canadians who are mobilizing across the Lower Mainland and many other residents in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia who are mobilizing right now to provide support.
This is the time given the fact that the aid needs to be delivered now to the victims of super Typhoon Haiyan. This is also the time, because the government is matching those funds, for the communities to mobilize.
We support the government in its rapid response to what the official opposition, NDP and so many Canadians across the country said needed to be done, an immediate response. The government has reacted promptly and this is extremely important.
We also know that this is a new class of super typhoon, and that Canada needs to engage with other countries. Once we have moved from burying the dead, feeding the hungry, giving aid to the injured and rebuilding the Philippines, internationally we have to work so that this type of super typhoon does not come again.
I would like to say again:
[Member spoke in Filipino and provided the following translation:]
Long live the Philippines.
I hope the member joins with me in this.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address a bill that has several significant parts, a bill the official opposition will be supporting to study at committee. It has the electrifying title of an act to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. While that might not seem all that gripping a title, the actual impacts and effects of the bill are significant and do mean something, particularly to the people I represent in northwestern British Columbia. Very specifically, these are the aspects around oil tanker traffic.
In northern British Columbia, a company out of Calgary called Enbridge is proposing the northern gateway pipeline. It is a pipeline that would stretch 1,100 kilometres from Alberta to B.C.'s coast at Kitimat. The company then proposes to put it into supertankers that would run the inside passage out Douglas Channel, make three hairpin turns on their way out to the open ocean, and then go on to, one presumes, China and the rest of Asia.
I specifically note China in this proposal, simply because the Chinese government has funded a large sum of the $100 million Enbridge has been using to promote its project. It is not an equity stake. It is just money given by the state-owned oil enterprise in China to promote a Canadian pipeline project. One wonders what the motivations are for companies, especially those state-owned by the Chinese government, to offer it up. It may be an administration that some admire, but others of us have some questions for it.
It seems to me that the aspect of this project that is worrisome to many of the people I represent, and this has been going on for a number of years, is the complete lack of social licence the company has been able to attain. That is, in part, aided, if I may use that term for such a scenario, by the Minister of Natural Resources, who has suggested that anyone who has concerns or questions about this project must be, in his words, a radical and a foreign-funded enemy of the state.
For a federal minister and a government to use such heated, overblown rhetoric, such offensive and abusive language, is obviously a desperate attempt to try to push a project that has failed time and time again to gain the social licence of the people who are along the route. It demonstrates a government that simply sees the Canadians who live along the proposed pipeline route, or who may be impacted by an oil spill from the supertankers implicated by the project, as simply in the way. They are seen not as citizens, not as people in the communities taking the most risk, but as a bothersome quotient for the government to simply bully and have removed.
Bill C-3 has some aspects that we, in the small measures that are made here, support. They deal particularly with liability for oil spills. The liability regime in Canada to this point has been incredibly weak. It is much weaker than the regime that exists in the United States and certainly is dramatically weaker than that which exists in Europe and many of our other trading partners.
If we look at the oil tanker accidents around the world, proving causal liability is one of the more difficult levels to attain in a court of law. Even when that is done, under Canadian law as it exists right now, the amount of damages the company is on the hook for is minimal.
The Canadian taxpayer is meant to pay the rest, and not just for the costs incurred in the actual emergency in deploying of the coast guard and other emergency services. For the eventual damages that would be awarded or given to the public, the companies are still restricted in their liability exposure. Who picks up the rest of the damages for the impact on fishing communities and other economies that are trying to exist? Never mind just the economic impact. There are the straight up environmental impacts. We see even in this bill an extension of the liability, but certainly nothing that would move toward full responsibility.
The companies themselves, Enbridge and others, which ship oil, have declared, perhaps to their credit, that they cannot guarantee that there will not be spills. The reason they cannot is that they have spilled so many times in the past.
There was a relatively recent incident in Michigan, near where your home riding is, Mr. Speaker, in Kalamazoo River, in which bitumen being shipped by Enbridge leaked out of a pipe. The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, which conducted the review afterward, showed that the company was “the Keystone Kops”. The spill had been noted and the emergency lights went off in Calgary. They were shut down on three separate occasions while the spill into this river continued to exist. It is a relatively small river, by British Columbia standards, and it is very slow-moving and warm, conditions that would be more ideal, if there is such a thing in terms of cleaning up an oil spill. Still, the company desperately struggled to attain anything close to a cleanup.
We now know from British Columbia's assessment and from the Auditor General of Canada, concerning the ability to clean up oil in the marine environment, that success would be deemed somewhere around the 5% rate. If there were a major oil spill, the company's expectations and those of the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for the amount of oil that would actually be recovered would be about 5% at best, because of the conditions that exist on B.C.'s north coast. It is recognized by anyone who has ever lived there or visited that we have a somewhat precarious set of environments in which it is difficult to gather back oil, particularly bitumen, which is the notion of many of the projects that the Conservative government is promoting.
This is the government's Wild West energy plan: to ship as much raw bitumen and material out of the oil sands as is humanly possible, thereby forgoing all of the economic benefits that would come with actually upgrading the oil, at least to a state where it would look like a more conventional oil that we have traditionally seen, and then upgrading again and refining that oil into products that consumers would actually use. These would be gas, diesel, and the rest of the products that come out of a refinery.
The challenge for us is that, on the environmental front, the Conservative government has been an obvious failure. The meetings going on right now in Poland with respect to climate change have Canada ahead of such environmental luminaries as Saudi Arabia, Iran and a third country, which escapes me. We are down in the pariah list when it comes to dealing with the impacts of carbon. There are very few behind us, and there are many, much poorer, countries ahead of us that are doing more to deal with climate change than the Conservative government has.
The government has completely abandoned even its own weakened targets, which is amazing. The Prime Minister's Office has to prepare better speaking notes for the new Minister of the Environment because on her way to Poland to these UN climate talks, she said that Canada is a leading voice for climate change and that it is doing its job. However, Environment Canada now says we will miss by a mile even the weak and very watered down targets that the government has set for Canada. We will be way above even those weak commitments we made to the global community.
With the increase in intensity of storms and natural disasters that are hitting, we know that these costs are real. We know the impacts of climate change that were predicted by climate scientists. We have said time and time again that we would see more dangerous impacts and more dangerous effects. We have yet to properly deal with and realize the impacts of a rising sea in the world and the impacts on those coastal communities on the Vancouver Lower Mainland, on our east coast and in the far north.
We know that these impacts are real and we know that these impacts are expensive. These impacts are destabilizing, and we have a government that refuses to even follow its own weak targets and projections. It then says to the industry and to the broader Canadian public that Canada is doing its part. That is hogwash. The government knows it. No one believes its spin. The fact is that it is more dangerous than just the typical lies and half truths we get from government, because this one has real generational impact.
On this particular bill, the government has gone to some half measures. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster attempted to expand the scope, because if we want to deal with certainty and the public interest when it comes to shipping oil or raw bitumen through tankers, we need to deal with the full scale of interests, bring liability rates up to the proper level that would be even a medium global standard and deal with the impacts of the cuts that the same government has made to our ability to deal with oil spills: the cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard; the shutting down of the Kitsilano base; the shutting down of the oil spill response centre in British Columbia.
Here is an ironic moment. We have a government that is out shelling for industry, pushing every pipeline it can find and saying we are going to have the best standards in the world, yet at the same time presenting a budget that we vote against, which shuts down the B.C. oil spill response centre, the very thing that is meant to reassure the public in the event of an accident, which is somewhat inevitable in the oil industry. The very centre that is charged with dealing with an oil spill response is the very centre that these guys thought they should shut down, and then say to the public, “Never mind, never worry”. It is a fact that the public paid attention to.
There was the shutting down of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, one of the busiest in the country, thereby increasing dramatically the response times for people in distress on the water when accidents occur. We have very heavy traffic around Vancouver, not just with tankers and cargo ships but with ferries and personal pleasure craft. However, with an increasingly busy marine environment, these guys said that shutting down the Coast Guard base was a good idea. Meanwhile, they have billions and billions to spend on pet projects and tax incentives, which do not work, for companies that are already in the massive profit range, so taken in full, it is no wonder that Canadians, particularly British Columbians, have lost complete faith in the current government's intention or its ability to deal with the impacts of heavy industry development.
The Conservatives have proposed their pipelines and they insult any Canadian who happens to have questions or concerns, which I think are natural. As Canadians, it is not only our right but our duty to hold government to account, which is what New Democrats do here as the official opposition to the government each and every day.
When we talk about defending our coasts, we are actually talking about defending Canadian values, such as the right to speech without being bullied by government and ministers of the crown and the right of first nation people to be duly consulted and accommodated, but the Conservative government treats that as an afterthought. When did constitutional requirements become an afterthought for the federal government of Canada?
First nations have had to go to court time and time again. There are various cases, many of them emanating from the first nations of northern British Columbia, such as the Haida case, the Delgamuukw case with the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitksan and many other cases that followed, to prove what we all know: first nations have rights and title to the land.
However, when it comes to the tanker traffic and the pipelines that are proposed, first nations are treated as if they were some sort of “special interest group”, as the current government calls them. They are not a special interest group. They are a group that is at the heart of this conversation, but they are treated with such disrespect.
The other day, I asked a first nation leader what specific things the federal government could do to help first nation communities across Canada. He asked me to please ask the Conservatives to stop suing them, because it is costing them millions upon millions of dollars in litigation to prove something that has been proven time and time again: that there is a duty owed to the first nations by the federal government to consult and accommodate. That is not up for debate. It is not up for some token that can be traded back and forth.
The government whip, who represents Vancouver Island North and deals with many first nations across Vancouver Island, knows that these responsibilities cannot simply be dismissed; or because there is some industrial imperative or some oil lobby that the government is cozying up to, it pushes those rights and titles out of the way. That is a fallacy and, ironically enough, it creates an enormous amount of uncertainty for the oil and gas sector, the industry to which the government spends so much of its time pandering.
The same Conservative government has sowed the seeds of doubt with the Canadian public by stripping away basic environmental protections, like the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Environmental Assessment Act has been weakened. Previously, the federal government enacted somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 environmental assessments a year. The Auditor General of Canada now tells us that those assessments will be reduced down to between 12 and 15 per year, under the Conservative government's stripping away of protections.
The Fisheries Act has been completely gutted. It was one of our foundational acts to protect what was considered an important economic generator for the country, as this habitat can be impacted by industrial development. The fish habitat was important to maintain our fisheries. There was no more important act in the Canadian law and jurisprudence, because it had been relied upon time and time again to hold industry to some level of account and make sure the projects it built did not leave massive legacies.
Last year, as my friend for Yukon would know, we Canadian taxpayers spent somewhere in the order of $150 million to clean up old abandoned orphaned mines that were leaking into the environment. That was $150 million just last year for no noticeable economic benefit. We had legislation in place at the time those mines were built, in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, that did not properly protect the environment; so we have learned that if we have the wrong guidelines for industry, most of industry will attempt to hold things to a higher standard than the government calls for, but some will not. Some will cut corners.
If a government allows them to do it, as the government does, the legacies will last for generations to come. The acid leaching of some of these mines is incredibly damaging to things we care about, like drinking water, like fisheries. We have a government that refuses to remember the lessons that were so hard learned and continue to be so expensive.
We come to this bill, Bill C-3, which is a small attempt of the government. We can see how much interest the government has in speaking to this bill. In the last Parliament, before the government killed the legislation, it had one speaker at second reading and made a few passing comments, and that was it. This is supposed to be a priority for the government. It makes no argument, no support for the legislation.
I do not know if there are going to be government speakers today. I look forward to hearing what Conservatives actually think and maybe to hearing it address some of the concerns of Canadians that exist regarding the legislation: that the scope is so narrow that it does not expand a full and proper liability; that it does not address all the other aspects of shipping oil by water, which exist and are realities and create uncertainty for industry.
If the public does not have confidence in the process, which it does not with the government running the show, then how will industry gain that social licence it so desperately needs, to actually create those jobs that the government is so keen to talk about?
We are all for promoting the resource sector. We have to do it under guidelines that promote the very best, not encourage the very worst. We see the government, time and time again, stripping away environmental protections, dismissing first nations' obligations, not holding and creating proper liability regimes; so that this creates no certainty for industry. This creates no confidence among the public.
Coming from a resource part of the world, I deal with many industries, which seek this social licence and community support for their projects. Their investors seek that same support. This has bottom-line impacts. Ask Enbridge how it is going, with the fake ads about shipping oil and how incredibly safe it is, when we know the facts are otherwise. The Conservatives simply cannot outspend the public will or cover over a bunch of lies with a bunch of ads in between hockey games and pretend that will somehow gain the social licence and support.
Enbridge has a partner in the government, which continually lowers the bar, waters down what few regulations we have to protect the environment, and then pretends we still have world-class standards. How can that be true? The government members will repeat it today, if they bother to speak at all, and say we have world-class standards. If they just spent the last six or seven years destroying aspects of environmental legislation, watering down and gutting the Fisheries Act, cutting Coast Guard funding, cutting funding to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, removing things and protections that Canadians relied upon, they still cannot have world-class, leading standards. That is simply not true.
Conservatives cannot have it both ways. If they cut all those protections for Canadians, then clearly they have not maintained any sense of having the basic understanding of what it is to develop industry.
Industry needs a couple of things. It needs a fair set of rules. It needs consistent application of those rules. It needs an investment climate that allows for investors to feel confidence in these major investments, because none of these projects that are entertained in this kind of bill are small. They start at a few billion dollars and go up from there, and they last a certain amount of time.
The Enbridge northern gateway predicts it would be around for 45 or 50 years, give or take. Under that regime, it would also have about 12,000 supertanker sailings through some of the more treacherous waters known around the world. There would be 12,000 sailings with weak protection and minimal ability to clean up in the event of a spill, as has been reported by the federal Auditor General and has been reported by a study by the British Columbia government. These are not the wild-eyed, wide-eyed environmentalists that Conservatives always like to point at.
We know for a fact that, time and time again, the government in its pandering to one small interest group, the oil sector, has actually weakened the argument for the oil sector's ability to actually promote projects. It has weakened the ability of industry to have the confidence of the Canadian public, which it needs to build the projects it wishes to build.
Why not take a step back for a moment and listen to some of the critics rather than trying to insult and bully them? Why not step back for a moment and develop a national strategy for our energy, as the Premier of Alberta and many other premiers across the country have asked for?
Industry has asked for it and the Canadian public has asked for it, yet the government sits on its hands and pretends that photo ops and spin are going to get the job done, along with bills that go only halfway. New Democrats will support the bill and try to improve the bill. We will allow Parliament to do its work and hear from witnesses and experts who know a lot more about this than anybody sitting over there.
Again, the government has a missed opportunity. It could do so much more both for industry and the public, and a failure on the government's part will do nothing for the Canadian economy and certainly nothing for the Canadian environment.
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has a little over 30 seconds.
That, in the opinion of the House, the Keystone XL pipeline would intensify the export of unprocessed raw bitumen and would export more than 40,000 well-paying Canadian jobs, and is therefore not in Canada’s best interest.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to this motion.
I would like to preface my remarks by talking a bit about my past. I used to work in one of the now closed oil refineries in this country, the Shellburn Refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia. As a result of having worked with oil, having had to clean out the oil tanks at the refinery as part of my job, I developed a healthy respect for that substance. When cleaning out oil tanks, people need oxygen tanks and full safety equipment. If the safety equipment malfunctions or the oxygen tanks run out, the worker is not around any more.
That degree of danger and a healthy respect for a substance that can bring some benefit but also some danger is something I would like to bring to the debate.
Just to start off, I would like say that we are talking today about Keystone and value-added jobs. We are also talking, though, about the government's lack of action on climate change and the environment. That is part of the ongoing narrative. As President Obama said so well when he was looking at Keystone, the Conservative government simply has to start taking environmental measures.
As we will see later on, Canada is beyond being a climate change laggard; we are among the worst of the 60 countries annually surveyed on climate change. We are in 58th place out of 61 countries. It shows an appalling lack of leadership and an appalling lack of responsibility on the part of the government.
There are environmental issues we will be bringing to the fore throughout the course of the day while we are debating this issue. There are also economic issues, which I will come back to in a moment, and of course, safety issues.
One of the things I will be pointing out in my 20 minutes is the fact that under the Conservatives, there is not only increasing danger in our railway system, which has been sadly and tragically underscored by the appalling devastation in Lac Mégantic, but in pipeline management, as well. Under the Conservative government, we have seen a steadily increasing number of pipeline leaks and pipeline spills. In fact, there has been a doubling over the last few years on the Conservatives' watch.
When we are talking about the issue of Keystone, we are talking about value-added jobs, of course, but we are also talking about a complete abdication of responsibility by the government on the environment, on climate change, and on pipeline safety. I think those are important issues to bring to the fore.
Earlier I referenced that I was refinery worker. I would also like to flag that on natural resources issues generally, the Conservative government has been appalling bad.
I represent the riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. Many of my friends went to high school in New Westminster, at the New Westminster Secondary School. After high school, my friends went into the softwood lumber industry. They worked at the three plants that existed there: Interfor, Canfor, and Western Forest Products in New Westminster. There were hundreds of well-paying jobs and thousands of indirect jobs that depended on the softwood industry.
All of that was eviscerated and evaporated overnight when the government irresponsibly signed the softwood lumber sellout. Now we have Conservatives laughing at the loss of jobs. I am sorry, but I think we should be standing up for the workers rather than having Conservatives laugh at the loss of jobs. Two thousand indirect jobs were lost as a result of the signature on that agreement. They may laugh at those families, many of whom I went to high school with. Those families had to cobble together a couple of part-time jobs.
The one hope they have is looking to 2015 and looking to the election of an NDP government that is actually going to take workers seriously.
I have seen first hand the devastation in my community wrought by the incredible irresponsibility of the government, signing an agreement it had not even read and did not even understand. The NDP certainly raised this issue consistently in the House.
I saw first-hand in the natural resources sector the loss of jobs, which eventually added up to about 60,000 manufacturing and value-added jobs lost in the softwood lumber industry following that agreement.
When we look at that, when we look at the actual loss of jobs in smelting and refining even in the mining industry, it is a source of real concern. Because the number of mining and quarrying jobs has gone up over the last few years, but Statistics Canada tells us that the number of jobs lost in the smelting and refining sector, when we are talking about mining, has gone far beyond any gain of jobs in mining and quarrying.
If we look at the lumber industry, at the mining industry and now at the energy industry, this has been a dismal period for working families. There is absolutely no doubt. We have to come back then to the issue of the energy industry. The Conservatives messed up the two other areas. Why would they be pushing Keystone, which results in a loss of value-added jobs?
I will start off by saying two undeniable facts and a third one that really impacts on Canadian working families.
The first undeniable fact is that under the current government we have lost half a million value-added and manufacturing jobs. That is a simple fact. It is undisputed. Even the Conservatives admit to it. They say they have given a few part-time service jobs so that must compensate. The reality is that half a million value-added and manufacturing jobs being lost on the watch of the Conservative government is undeniably a sign of failure.
Second, is our current account deficit. What we are doing increasingly is exporting raw materials and importing the value-added products and the manufacturing products from overseas. In 2011, that deficit on current accounts was $49 billion and it gets worse. Last year, it went to $62 billion. That is a record. We have never had a deficit that large in our nation's history. That is directly related to the government's failure on value-added jobs, its failure to understand that we need coherent policies and we need to put those policies in place to ensure that Canadians get to work.
The third point I would like to make and the third undeniable statistic is that the working families across this country, so many of whom are represented by NDP MPs in this Parliament, are now struggling under a record debt load. It is a burden that we have never seen in our history. It is actually highest in Alberta. Those working families struggling under a burden of massive debt because they have seen an erosion in real income at the same time as expenses continue to climb, that is something that is extremely germane to this debate. We are talking about Canadians over the last seven years getting poorer and poorer, and more and more in debt every year that the Conservatives are in power.
When we talk about value-added jobs, we are talking about something that has a profound impact on the quality of life of ordinary families right across this country.
Here we have the failure of the Conservative government in a whole range of sectors, a failure to create value-added jobs, failure to create manufacturing jobs, crippling debt loads and a current account deficit that is by far the worst that we have ever had in our history. What is the Conservative government's solution to all the problems it has inflicted on Canadians over the last seven years? Its solution seems to be to move to raw bitumen exports, and somehow that will address what has been the chronic mismanagement of the nation's economy for ordinary working people, families that simply are working with a lower quality of life than they had before.
Then we have to look at what the actual impacts are of this strategy for raw bitumen export. That brings us back to the issue of Keystone. In speaking about Keystone, I would like to start by citing some of the Albertans who have raised real concerns about what the impact of the Keystone pipeline is. We are talking about a pipeline that exports raw bitumen out of the country. What have some Albertans said about what this means in terms of good, well-paying, value-added jobs?
Former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, who certainly seemed to understand that issue, said the following. I will read the quote slowly because it is important to have it on the record:
...shipping raw bitumen is like scraping off the topsoil, selling it and then passing the farm on to the next generation.
He said that in 2006.
That is really what we are talking about here. We are not talking about creating value-added jobs. We are talking about scraping off that topsoil and then sending to the next generation a farm that has no topsoil left. We have basically gone through the resource. We have not gotten the value-added jobs that should be coming with that, and yet at the same time, we have a government that is absolutely obsessed with the idea that this is the only way for Canadians to prosper.
Obviously, if that type of approach has not worked in a whole range of other sectors, Ed Stelmach is absolutely bang on in saying that this is not an appropriate response from any government that wants to create well-meaning, value-added jobs.
Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the following about Keystone:
What we fear is that the consequence of this particular action will be to deny Albertans literally thousands of high-paying, long-term jobs in upgraders and refineries....
...[every] barrel of bitumen shipped down the Keystone pipeline or other similar proposed pipelines is a barrel of oil no longer available for value-added production and job creation here in [Canada].
Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, in other words, the president of a federation of workers who work in the energy industry, said that in December 2007.
Those are two Albertan voices saying, very clearly, that the idea of sending raw bitumen out of the country means that literally we are sending jobs out of the country. This is a matter of real concern.
As far as the figures given and the approach given by the current government, I would like to cite a few other voices.
Robyn Allan comes from western Canada, like myself. She is a well-known economist in western Canada, as well as the former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, who is well-known for her commentary on the energy sector. She said that:
Chopping local downstream expansion projects....
In other words, not having value added but looking to export raw bitumen.
...breaks the value-added chain. Canada's oil resources increasingly become a pool of raw crude waiting to be siphoned off along pipelines serving economic development and energy security needs of other nations. These nations are smart. They know controlling the supply chain mitigates the pain of rising oil prices.
If more bitumen upgrading was undertaken where it comes out of the ground, we wouldn't need as many new pipelines. She references that about 30% less capacity is required when we are moving upgraded bitumen, as opposed to exporting raw bitumen.
Studies have been done along the Keystone pipeline. Informetrica, in 2006, studied the issue of exports of raw bitumen and came to the following economic analysis. At a rate of 400,000 barrels per day of export of raw bitumen, 18,000 jobs are lost. Here is an indication, by Informetrica, that for every 100,000 barrels of raw bitumen that are exported, we are looking at 3,000 or 4,000 jobs that are lost, which could be there. The building trades could be there and the energy sector could be there, both in terms of upgraders and refineries as well.
We are not talking about figures such as those sometimes cited by our friends on the government side. They will throw out studies that are promptly dismissed, because unfortunately in each of those cases, when we look at the studies themselves, they are not credible. When we have the credible studies that show what the economic impacts are, we have simply not had any understanding from the Conservatives of what the impacts are of putting all the eggs in the basket of raw bitumen exports.
The Alberta Federation of Labour also did an economic analysis, which they submitted to the National Energy Board, on Keystone XL. It showed that, as a result of the raw bitumen exports going through Keystone XL, we would be losing at least 40,000 Canadian jobs. That is a considerable amount. When we think of the growth in the energy sector, the loss of 40,000 potential jobs is extremely significant for our economic future.
What we are seeing in study after study, whether it is done by Informetrica, Robyn Allan or the Alberta Federation of Labour, is that we are simply giving away a resource without putting in place the smart economic policies that allow for the value-added jobs that need to come with that resource. We can talk about the shut down of Interfor in New Westminster, B.C., and the subsequent export of raw logs that resulted, or the shutting down of smelting and refining of our minerals, losing more jobs than we have gained in the mining and quarrying sector. We can also talk about the export of raw bitumen, and losing as a result tens of thousands of potential jobs.
In every one of those cases, we are talking about ordinary families struggling to get by under phenomenally heavy debt loads that get worse every year as a result of the policies of our federal government. Rather than those families getting relief and an economic plan in place that would actually make sense to fully develop those resources and have value added, we see a government hell-bent on exporting those jobs. We have seen from a number of very credible observers and analyses that, obviously, there is an impact.
I would like to come back to the issue of climate change and pipeline safety because those issues are also germane to the debate that we are having today.
As I mentioned earlier, there is an annual evaluation of how Canada is doing called the “Climate Change Performance Index”. In 2013, out of 61 countries evaluated by the Climate Change Performance Index, where do members think Canada stood? Do members think Canada was in the top 20? Well, it was not. Was it in the top 30, 40, 50? No. We placed 58th under the current government.
Placing 58th out 61 countries in the 2013 Climate Change Performance Index is not an “F”, it is being thrown out of the program. It is lamentably bad. There were countries that did worse. There were three of them. Kyrgyzstan was 59th, Iran 60th and Saudi Arabia was 61st.
Obviously, if what we are seeing around the world are other countries taking climate change seriously, we have to get with the program. It is not just Canadians who feel that way.
President Obama referenced this in connection with Keystone. He said very clearly that Canada, being a climate change laggard, had to start taking very concrete action on climate change and the environment. President Obama could not have been more clear. Therefore, if Keystone is not approved, it is as a result of the failure of the Conservative government to take any sort of action on the environment and climate change. Being 58th in the world clearly shows that.
I also mentioned pipeline safety. We have seen a doubling of the number of spills across Canada, which is of increasing concern to Canadians.
We believe in our leader, the member for Outremont and Leader of the Opposition, who has said repeatedly that we need to put in place a national energy strategy. We need to ensure value-added production in this country. We need to ensure that we have the top level of pipeline safety, and take action on climate change, of course, but also take action on the environment. We need to start transitioning to clean energy.
There is a trillion-dollar market worldwide, which is going to double over the next decade. Canada gets very little of that. In fact, in very real terms, the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that are coming from clean energy simply are not reflected in the Canadian economy. Therefore, folks across the country who will be looking in 2015 for real leadership can look to the NDP to put in place that national energy strategy in co-operation with the provinces, which will bring those value-added jobs and clean-energy jobs for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House of Commons to speak on legislation and other matters. The bill on the disability tax credit, which I thank the member opposite for introducing, is a vivid reminder of how important our work is.
Persons with disabilities face many barriers or challenges to live full lives. We have real opportunities, as lawmakers, to make a difference in their participation in communities. There are obvious physical barriers to address for this sector. However, today we address equally important barriers, namely financial barriers. We have an opportunity in our tax laws to ensure fairness, justice and equality for persons with disabilities, who lose significant income that others might be able to earn more easily.
Before speaking directly on this legislation, let me recognize the good work done by our current critic for persons with disabilities, the member for Montcalm, and critic for the Canada Revenue Agency, the member for Victoria. They have been outstanding new members of our caucus and serve their constituencies and critic areas well.
I also have to pay tribute to the extraordinary work done on the disability tax credit by a former NDP critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He has been legendary, both in our caucus and in the persons with disabilities networks, for crossing the country to facilitate workshops on the disability tax credit. He has been holding disability tax credit workshops for nine years now in his own riding.
I recently read a comment from a person named George, acknowledging how informative these sessions were. George was grateful that he was able, with the retroactive feature, to secure a tax credit of over $13,000. There are thousands of Canadians who have benefited from these seminars.
My own riding staff in Nickel Belt have also done outstanding work, to inform people and then help them navigate the bureaucratic channels to receive their money. My office wants to make sure that every eligible Nickel Belt resident knows how to access this legitimate entitlement under the Income Tax Act.
As we know, many persons with disabilities struggle from cheque to cheque or find themselves below poverty levels. The disability tax credit can amount to up to $1,380 per year and can be claimed retroactively for up to 10 years. It is transferrable to spouses and other family members if the income of the relative with a disability or infirmity is too low. I will talk about some of these cases in a minute.
Our party has made it clear that we support this legislation at the third reading and report stage. We have noted, though, that a study is needed to improve recommendations about the consultants and other equally important issues.
Certainly it is necessary to establish limits on maximum fees charged by promoters. However, the biggest issues related to the disability tax credit are not addressed in this bill. The application process for the tax credit is not transparent and persons with disabilities have trouble obtaining it.
As a northern Ontario member of Parliament, in a vast riding, I know the cuts by the Conservative government to the Canada Revenue Agency have had a real impact on services offered to Canadians. Closures of Canada Revenue Agency offices across Canada discriminate against persons with disabilities who often need to meet with an advisor.
These issues have become clear when I have talked to people in my riding for whom my staff and I have tried to help secure a disability tax credit.
These people have a right to this money, but they are at a supreme disadvantage. My constituents tell me that without knowing how much money they will get, they have to sign an “authorization of representation” form to authorize consultants, such as National Benefit Authority, to represent them. They have all signed the “authorization or cancelling a representative” Canada Revenue Agency form, T1013, which gives permission to the NBA to access their Canada Revenue Agency account. They have to agree to pay a fee of as much as 30% of the money that the firm gets for the constituent.
The amount of the credit and the refund is complicated by whether the constituent has taxable income or might be transferred to a spouse.
When helped by my staff, people have shared how upset they were when they realized they could have come to my office in the first place, received the assistance and not had to pay the consultancy fees. In one case a woman was eligible for DTC in the amount of $4,800, but the firm took $1,600 which left her with $3,200. If she had not gone with the firm, she would have received the entire amount.
Some of these firms advertise in local newspapers, asking people with disabilities to go to them for help. People go, not knowing that they are being charged for their services. If they had only gone to the MP's office, they would received all of these services for free.
Another constituent who had been getting the DTC was disqualified without any real explanation and could not talk to a person at CRA. This is not right for anyone, but especially for the elderly or disabled. They want to talk to a person.
Many Canadians try to contact the CRA, but it is increasingly more difficult. They get a message on the telephone asking them to press one, press two, or “Sorry, you pressed the wrong number, so you have to call back“. This is as equally frustrating for people with disabilities as for seniors. This has become a real problem for so many folks trying to access help from the Canada Revenue Agency.
In the north, we have seen cuts to offices that now have fewer people, and since the decision in 2012 to have no direct dealing with people, there have been more and more frustrated constituents. The 1-800 and Internet services can be extremely frustrating, particularly for people who already face enough barriers in their lives.
Sometimes government offices advise people to visit my MP office for assistance. Imagine going to a government office and because of all of the cutbacks to Service Canada that the Conservative government has made, the people who work there will advise that they would get better and faster service at their MP's office.
The Government of Canada is missing in action. Imagine the Government of Canada not being in the business of serving Canadians, but downloading and off-loading to the offices of MPs. The government is missing in action in northern Ontario. Missing persons posters for the Government of Canada could be put up in post offices with what the Conservatives have done to government services.
Another problem is when a doctor refuses to complete the application. We have had three cases where people have been told by their doctor that they do not qualify and who would not complete the form. In one case the person had the DTC previously, but the doctor refused to complete the form. The person did not then feel comfortable going to another doctor.
Let me elaborate on the circumstances of this person. He had been collecting DTC for many years, but had to reapply and get the doctor to re-sign the forms. This gentleman, whom I know quite well, is obviously disabled. He has one arm shorter than the other and is blind in one eye. Yet the doctor figured he could get a job.
This is something that has to be done. I do not know why some doctors act this way. I think it should be up to the CRA, especially when a disabled person is already collecting DTC.
In 90% of the cases regarding DTC and CRA, people had to go back to their doctors for more information or clarification. Quite a few of the DTC cases went to the review level to provide additional information. This process can take up to one year before they receive any information.
Carmela Hutchison, president of the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada support the objectives of Bill C-462 and agree that persons with disabilities are fully entitled to protection from the unreasonable fees being charged by financial promoters.
We want real support for this program and better protection against financial abuse and therefore we want to impose restrictions on the fees charged by promoters to people with disabilities.
Let us get this right. Let us fix the problem with DTC. Let us simplify the application process to make it more accessible for persons with disabilities. Let us reverse cuts to the CRA and provide it with necessary resources to provide information sessions on the—
I am sure there was much in that preamble that had to do with government business.
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely important debate. This is not an academic debate. This is a debate that really strikes at the heart of issues that Canadians are living from coast to coast to coast, and the issue is transportation safety. We have seen over the last few months an unprecedented number of accidents and deaths, and I would attest that there is a growing level of public concern right across this country about the actions of the Conservative government that have led to a deterioration in transportation safety.
We welcome the new minister here. Hopefully this will be a big change, a turning of the page, from what has been a series of profoundly irresponsible actions. The reality is that the Conservative government has to take transportation safety seriously; it has not, and in fact has done the opposite: it has cut back on the fundamental safety systems that Canadians have relied on in the past to protect them.
There are some small baby steps in Bill C-3 that we will of course support. There are some housekeeping items that are long overdue. However, the reality is that the legislation would do nothing to change the fundamental framework that has been put in place by the government and that has put so many Canadians at risk.
I will be speaking later to some of the other modes of transportation safety that have been sadly eroded. We are all aware of the tragic and profoundly sad circumstances that we have seen over the past few months in rail transport safety. We are aware of the increasing number of pipeline spills across the country because of the irresponsibility of the Conservative government. However, I would like to address just for a moment the whole question of marine safety.
For 30 years British Columbians have protected the coast of British Columbia by putting in place a tanker moratorium on the north coast. That is why there has been a good safety record. It is not because of the actions of the current government or the actions of any other government; it is because provincially and federally British Columbians said very strongly that we did not want to see tankers thrown willy-nilly around the coast of British Columbia. That is why British Columbia's coast has been protected.
Now the government is pushing to eliminate that respected moratorium and is pushing a number of projects that undoubtedly will lead to increased tanker traffic on British Columbia's coast if they go through.
The question then is this: what is the government's credibility on issues of marine safety? I would submit to the House that if we look at the record of the government and what it has done over the past couple of years, we see that it has done more harm to the coast of British Columbia, more potential harm to British Columbia's pristine coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on B.C.'s coast being pristine, than any other government in our history.
Let us look at the record.
Just in the last few months we have seen the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has been a strong advocate on this issue. He has risen in the House of Commons to speak repeatedly on this issue, but he is not the only one. New Democratic MPs from British Columbia have risen repeatedly to speak on this issue. I myself have spoken on it. The member for Vancouver East has spoken on it. The member for Burnaby—Douglas, the member for Newton—North Delta, the member for Surrey North, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca have all spoken on this issue. We have seen NDP MPs from British Columbia repeatedly raise this issue, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam being the most forthright.
Despite the fact that parliamentarians have raised this issue, despite the fact that the provincial government raised it, despite the fact that municipalities such as the City of Vancouver have raised it repeatedly, the Conservative government said it was going to close off the Coast Guard station and did not care if people were put at risk.
This is profoundly irresponsible. If it were just perhaps that one Coast Guard station, rather than a pattern, then perhaps we could say there was some justification, but there are a lot of expenses by the Conservative government that I profoundly disagree with. They include flying limousines around the world, the tens of billions of dollars that it wants to throw into an untendered fighter jet contract, a billion dollars for a weekend meeting, $16 glasses of orange juice. Speaking as a former financial administrator, I can say that Conservative financial management is an oxymoron. The government has been absolutely appalling when it comes to financial management. It is beyond comprehension.
Even if the Conservatives could justify the closure of the Coast Guard station, let us look at what else they have closed, which has been a repeated slap in the face to British Columbians and all those concerned with the safety of our coasts and the tens of thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism that come from having a pristine coast. They also closed the Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre, which helped to facilitate and ensure safe transportation on the coast. They said we do not need that; let us throw it out.
Then the Conservatives decided to close the B.C. office for emergency oil spill responders. Conservatives will say there is a 1-800 number for an oil spill off the coast of British Columbia. It goes to some desk in Ottawa, but British Columbians need an immediate response. We need to feel safe about our coast, not with a 1-800 number going back to Ottawa that no one ever answers. That is the Conservatives' attempt to provide some damage control.
What else did they do? They actually closed a whole system of environmental emergency programs as well. This has been a systematic pattern of shutting down the safety mechanisms that were present on the coast of British Columbia. What they have done is simply to put British Columbia's whole coast at risk.
The then minister of natural resources decided that he would do a press conference in Vancouver to address the concerns raised by British Columbians throughout the province. It would show British Columbians just how good the Conservative government is at marine safety. He did his press conference. He even brought a rescue ship across the Salish Sea from Victoria. What happened? The rescue ship ran aground.
It just proves the point that we cannot trust Conservatives with the safety of the B.C. coast. However, we can trust New Democrats, and that is what British Columbians will do in 2015. That is for sure.
The Conservatives have shut down all of this. They had a debacle of a press conference that proved our point that transportation safety was being undermined. To date, although we have a new minister who we hope will address all the concerns being raised by British Columbians, we have not seen the fundamental problem being addressed.
When we look at the small steps in Bill C-3 that address in a housekeeping way some of the small things that obviously the Conservatives wanted to bring forward as a package to say they are saving the coast, we remain skeptical, although we certainly support the baby-step measures that are contained in it.
However, let us be clear about what the bottom line is for us. We believe that the Coast Guard closures need to be addressed, and that process can start by reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It would respond to the concerns raised for British Columbia. We would like the Conservatives to reopen the marine traffic communication centre in Vancouver. That would start to address issues of safety concerns along the coast of British Columbia. We would like them to reopen the B.C. office for emergency oil spills. They can keep their 1-800 line, but let us have people who can respond to oil spills in British Columbia. If they do that, it would start to restore some of the confidence that we have completely lost in the Conservative government.
We proposed all of that. Just a few months ago the official opposition, the NDP, sent a letter to the transport minister and said that we support the tiny steps contained in their legislation. We disagreed with the title of the “safe coasts”. They must be kidding. After all the Conservatives have done, they simply are not guaranteeing safe coasts in any way, shape, or form. We said they should start including these elements in the legislation, and then we would actually have legislation that would help to address public confidence.
That is what we have put forward. The Conservatives have steadfastly refused thus far, but we are going to take this issue into committee and will be offering these kinds of positive amendments on behalf of British Columbians.
We certainly hope that B.C. Conservative MPs will step up to the plate and help support British Columbians, that they will step forward and say, “For goodness sake, there is a fundamental problem here. British Columbians have completely lost confidence in the government on marine safety, so we will address that by voting for the NDP amendment”. That is what we are hoping to see. We can support this on second reading to bring it forward, but let us see some action from the government. Let us see some positive action that actually addresses the concerns that British Columbians are raising.
With Bill C-3, there is no doubt that we see the Conservatives spinning around the northern gateway pipeline. The northern gateway pipeline has been shown, in poll after poll, that 80% of British Columbians reject it. They reject it because they are concerned about destroying the moratorium for tankers on the north coast. They are concerned about the lack of tanker safety. They are concerned about what the impact will be with the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors. There are thousands of British Columbians who depend on a pristine coast. They are concerned about all that, and they have raised it repeatedly.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see a movie in Coquitlam, which is next to Burnaby—New Westminster. I am looking at the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam because I want to acknowledge that we are spending some money in his riding. Before the film came on, there was a paid advertisement from Enbridge for the northern gateway pipeline. This was a non-partisan movie crowd. We were all there to see the movie. We were not there as New Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals or people from any other political background. We were British Columbians who were out to see a movie, and Enbridge put on the ad. What was the reaction of the crowd? There were round boos. People were throwing popcorn at the screen. That shows the extent to which British Columbians reject the northern gateway pipeline. There will be 104 full-time, on-site positions created, but thousands of jobs are threatened by the northern gateway pipeline. That is why communities along the right of way, and British Columbians generally, have said no.
For the Conservative government to put forward Bill C-3 today, hoping that somehow that will change British Columbians minds about a project that does not provide any economic or environmental advantage, is simply wrong-headed. In fact, it will do the opposite. It threatens our environment and our economy. For the government to think that Bill C-3 will address those concerns is simply wrong.
British Columbians feel profoundly strong about our coast. Many of us gain our living from the coast. We will not accept a Conservative government that tries to ram through a project when it has so many negative environmental and economic repercussions.
For the Conservatives to think they can ram this project through is simply wrong-headed. I have said this publicly outside the House, and I will say it in the House as well. If the Conservative government tries to ram through the northern gateway pipeline over the objections of first nations, the communities and British Columbians, there will not be a single safe seat for the Conservative Party in British Columbia in the 2015 election. I can guarantee that. British Columbians will say no to the Conservative agenda, and they will say yes to having strong New Democrats representing British Columbia in the House of Commons.
With only a few minutes left, I want to touch on the other concerns that have been raised by Canadians across this country in regard to transportation safety. I am the energy and natural resources critic. My work as a former refinery worker is part of what I bring to that job. I have been in situations where, with an oxygen tank, I was cleaning out the oil drums at the Shelburn refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia. The reality is, I have a very healthy respect for the impact of petroleum products. They are very dangerous and they have to be handled carefully. I do not see the same due regard for safety being applied by Conservatives.
We see that in terms of pipeline safety. We have seen a clear deterioration in pipeline safety over the last few years on the Conservatives' watch. We have seen this in the number of pipeline spills, which have increased exponentially, by almost 200% over the last few years. That should bring cause to concern for any government that is concerned about safety measures. We are talking about marine safety, and the government is bringing forward very small baby steps. The concerns about pipeline safety are now front and centre, yet the government is doing nothing to address them.
This is a substance that we have to be very careful with. It kills. It destroys. There has to be a very strong and reinforced investigation and inspection process. We have to make sure, at all times, that we have the best safety equipment possible. That has not been the case with pipelines. It has not been the case with any sort of oil spill response. In fact, an audit that came at the beginning of the summer found that in 83% of the cases, oil spill response equipment is out of date. We see a situation where there is “a number of significant deficiencies in the program's preparedness capability”.
Whether we are talking about marine safety or pipeline safety, very serious concerns have been raised by Canadians. We are all aware of what has transpired over the last few months. There was the profoundly saddening tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. We have just seen the tragedy in Alberta. There have been various communities in the last few months that have been impacted in terms of rail transportation safety. I am not just talking about Gainford and Lac-Mégantic; I am talking about Sexsmith, Brampton, Calgary, Landis, Ottawa, Lloydminster, Gogama, Wanup, Okotoks and Jansen. We are talking about communities that have been impacted just in the last few months by the lack of serious regard for safety in the transportation sector.
These are unprecedented accidents that we have seen, and they are multiplying. We are seeing a government that simply does not have the due regard for safety that is required of any responsible government.
I have asked before, and I will ask the new Minister of Transport, that the Conservatives reverse all of the cuts, the irresponsible actions and the gutting of safety in the transportation sector. Whether we were talking about marine safety, pipeline safety or rail safety, they are all linked.
The official opposition has brought forward very constructive ideas. The NDP has said that there are things we could do now. Our transport critic, the member for Trinity—Spadina, brought forward a whole series of recommendations after the appalling tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. The government has not implemented them. We have brought forward a whole series of recommendations on marine safety. The government has refused to implement them. We have raised concerns about the lack of pipeline safety. The government has refused to act.
We are doing this on behalf of the populations of Canada. We are doing it on behalf of all of the communities that are suffering from the lack of due diligence and responsibility by the Conservative government. We have never seen a government that has been so reckless and irresponsible with our nation's public safety. We have seen an increase in the number of fatalities and incidents in a whole series of sectors.
Canadians want to see a change from the government. They want it to be responsible with the public's safety. If the government chooses to continue its reckless path, not only is it saddening and a tragedy, it also means that in 2015 New Democrats will be stepping forward with a safety agenda that we believe Canadians will support.
We ask the Conservatives to do the right thing. If they do not, we will. That rendezvous is in 2015.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-14, an act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, and as we are debating this at second reading, it still has to go to committee.
I have listened with interest to the debate in the House today. It appears that all parties will be supporting this bill. We are debating it in principle but, nevertheless, it is important for us to go through the bill to examine it, as we should all legislation, and then it will go to committee.
I want to begin by saying that these last few weeks in the House have been particularly difficult because the government has used time allocation, a form of closure, I think 47 times, if I am keeping the tab correctly. It is really quite incredible that so much legislation has been rushed through.
We serve our constituents in this place. We do our work in the constituency, but our role in this House is due diligence in examining legislation and going through it. Even if we are going to support it, we have to go through it. That is part of holding the government to account in our parliamentary democracy, so it is very disturbing that we see the pattern over and over again. It has become routine. Other colleagues in the House have commented earlier that bills are now pro forma. We are expected to have a couple of hours of debate and take a cursory look, and then there is a time allocation for going through committee, report stage, and third reading. It is all established by timelines.
As members well know, that is not the way to do parliamentary business.
I wanted to begin my remarks with that because, as someone who has been around here a few years, I have watched the erosion of parliamentary and democratic practice in this House.
I can almost hear the voice of Bill Blaikie in my head, the former member for Winnipeg—Transcona. He was one of those folks in this place who had the long-term memory to know what had changed over the years. When change happens incrementally, just a little snippet at a time, it is difficult to get that overview. I think it would be useful one day to have that overview and to actually look at how much certain practices have changed in the House, say, from 10 years ago or 20 years ago. I think we would all be quite shocked, actually, no matter what matter party we belong to.
In any event, we are debating this particular bill today.
I want to begin by saying, as others have remarked today, that the bill is long overdue. Canada has, really, an embarrassing record on corruption overseas, in terms of lack of legislation.
As many have pointed out today, Transparency International, a very credible organization that monitors corruption and bribery in terms of what happens in different places in the world, in its 2011 report, ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with regard to international bribery. It pointed out that we had little or no enforcement, based upon the very minimal legislation we had.
There is no question that this is absolutely long overdue. It begs this question. Why does it take so long?
We look at the legislative agenda and look at all of the little boutique bills that come through on the Criminal Code, when they do not need to happen. Why has it taken so many years for something as major as this, which would deal with crime and corruption? Why has it taken so many years for anything to come forward? Where is the balance here? Where are the priorities? We are sort of pulling apart the Criminal Code clause by clause and adding in more mandatory minimum sentences. We have had so many Conservative backbencher bills. Yet, with something as major as this, in terms of Canada's role in the international community, we are hauled on the carpet by an organization that monitors international bribery and corruption, which has said, “You guys have got a pretty bad record; in fact you're basically the worst of all of the highly industrialized countries”. This is an embarrassment.
Further, there have only been three convictions in the last number of years, in fact, since 1999, and two of those were in the last two years. This is a pretty appalling record.
Suffice it to say I am glad, at least, that we are debating this bill today. At least the bill would take some steps.
Just to focus for a moment on what this bill would do, for those who are watching the debate, there would be four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. One of them would be to increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from five to fourteen years. That is a fairly significant change.
The second change in the bill would eliminate an exception that had been in operation for what is called facilitation payments, where foreign officials are paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. I will come back to this, because there are some concerns about it. While we agree that this exception should be eliminated, we have to examine the impact of that, for example, on NGOs that are operating in extremely difficult circumstances in political environments that are very risky and where they have to provide payments to get essential emergency humanitarian goods through—for example, going through police checkpoints. One does have to find that balance.
Third, the bill would create a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. This is a very important change in terms of ensuring that transparency goes right the way down the line.
Finally, the bill would establish a nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act. What this means is that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences that are committed overseas. Again, that is a very important measure.
I want to say very clearly that New Democrats have long supported clear rules that require transparency and accountability by both Canadian individuals and corporations overseas. In fact, the NDP has had a number of bills in this regard. One of my colleagues, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, had Bill C-323, which would allow lawsuits in Canadian courts by non-Canadians for violations of international obligations. The member for Ottawa Centre had Bill C-486, which would require public due diligence by companies using minerals in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
These are very important issues for Canadians, because we know that the extraction industry in Canada and the way it operates overseas is a major business concern. The way those companies do business is something of great concern to Canadians in terms of ethical practices. We have seen many movements here in Canada, including NGOs, the labour movement and individual citizens who have made sure they became active on this issue.
I want to point out something about a bill we voted on not that long ago, Bill C-300, which was a Liberal member's bill. When I raised transparency in the debate, the Liberal member for Charlottetown who replied to me pointed to Bill C-300 as another attempt to bring about better transparency and corporate accountability in foreign practices.
What is really interesting, and I am sure many members here will remember, is that it was defeated in part because 13 Liberal members voted against it. I remember the bill when it came up. There was intense advocacy for the bill from major NGOs across the country. They did an incredible job. The bill itself was very reasonable. It laid out basic standards for practice. However, there was, of course, a lobby against the bill. It was really quite shocking that 13 Liberal members voting against the bill resulted in the bill being defeated by a mere 6 votes.
We actually did come close to having that bill go through the House of Commons. I know that many of the organizations and individuals that had supported the bill were quite shocked that it had been defeated and were hugely disappointed about the amount of energy, time and effort that had gone into it.
It was a wonderful example of how Canadians look beyond their own border, look globally to see what Canada is doing. They had paid great attention to the need for Canadian corporations, companies and businesses to be accountable, to engage in ethical practices and to ensure there is not bribery and exploitative practices taking place in terms of labour rights or the environment.
These are things Canadians are actually very concerned about. I always feel very inspired when I see these organizations and people, whether they are putting out petitions or sending us emails. People really care about what we do in other parts of the world. We care about whether or not people are being exploited.
Just a little while ago, my colleague from Ottawa Centre talked about the situation in Bangladesh. I saw the story too, last night on CBC, and it is gut-wrenching and it makes us want to jump up and ask what we have to do to make sure these kinds of terrible, appalling conditions no longer exist.
We are talking about thousands of people who lose their lives because they work in terrible conditions where safety is disregarded, where people are not paid decent wages. If we layer on top of that all of the bribery and corruption that goes on, this is a multi-billion dollar business in terms of corruption and unethical practices.
I do not think the bill before us would address all of that, so the other bills we have before the House, particularly from the NDP members that I mentioned, are critical to ensuring there is a comprehensive approach to the way we are dealing with this situation.
We do have some concerns about the bill, which I would like to put on the record. assuming that the bill does get referred to committee. Because the bill would amend the definition of a business to now include not-for-profit organizations, we believe that this should be studied very closely at committee, and obviously witnesses need to be brought in to look at the impact of this particular change on charitable and aid organizations. As I mentioned earlier, the reality is that those organizations do sometimes, out of sheer necessity, have to make payments to expedite or achieve delivery of very essential items and humanitarian goods. This is something that is out there in the real world.
The bill is really tackling corruption and bribery, from the point of view that money is being made, money is being put in people's pockets and officials at embassies and so on are being bribed. That is what we are trying to get at, so I think we have to be very careful that we do not, by consequence, lay down a rule that could actually have a negative impact on organizations that are legitimately and in good faith trying to do very important work in some of these global areas where there is political, military and civil conflict going on. To make sure that kind of aid is delivered in a proper way is very important. We are hoping this issue would be examined more closely at committee.
The second item we think needs further examination is that the committee should also study the consequences of establishing an indictable offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, because once 14 years is reached, it is actually the threshold at which conditional or absolute discharges of conditional sentences become impossible. It is obviously a much more serious penalty, and the committee, when it receives the bill, should examine that very carefully to make sure there is a balance in terms of our judicial system and conditional sentencing or the question of absolute discharges.
It is easy to make a blanket case, and again we have seen that so often with the Conservative government. It tends to make harsh, blanket rules that do not allow for discretion within our court system. Our court system has a history and a tradition of allowing judicial discretion, so judges can actually examine individual cases and the circumstances that warrant a harsher or a more lenient approach. That is what balance in the judicial system is about.
Therefore, one has to be very careful that in bringing forward new legislation we do not tip that balance and create a system that becomes so rigid that it becomes counterproductive. As the penalty is so harsh, people could end up pleading not guilty more frequently, or prosecutors may even be more reluctant to bring forward charges. There could be unintended consequences of having penalties that are so harsh. This is an issue that we think should be looked at in the bill. We support, in principle, the penalty being increased and the sentencing threshold being increased. However, we have to look more carefully at whether 14 years is the right cut-off.
Finally, in terms of changes that we think need to be looked at, there is the question of the rule on the facilitation payments that I spoke about earlier. We need to figure out how it impacts NGOs and non-profits. That issue would not be part of royal assent but rather would be under the consideration of cabinet, which is in the current text. That one aspect of the bill, if this bill were passed as is, would not go ahead with the rest of the bill. Therefore, that has to be examined. We need to know the reason that is being put aside. The discussion on the facilitation payments as they would impact NGOs might help inform that debate, but it is something we need to look at.
I also want to talk briefly about more current situations. We heard today from the member for Ottawa Centre, who updated the House on a communiqué he had received from the G8 that is currently taking place. It was quite interesting. He pointed out that in this communiqué the issues of corruption and transparency were quite prominent. His point was that we need to know that our own government is committed, not only to the words in these communiqués, but that it is actually going to follow up. I thought the member used a very good example when he spoke about international treaties that we sign for which there is no follow-up.
The example he used was Bill S-10 that was rushed through this House a few days ago, on cluster munitions. I was one of the people who spoke to that bill. The member pointed out very clearly in the debate on that bill that the NDP believes Bill S-10 would actually undermine the very international treaty that it is meant to be following up. The point is that when these communiqués come out and these commitments are made in places like the G8, we need to know they are actually going to be followed up. We need to know that those commitments mean something.
Again, we get back to this particular bill, Bill S-14, that has taken so long to come forward. Why has it taken so long? Why is there not a greater priority and emphasis on these kinds of bills? In the G8 communiqué, among the issues that were flagged, was the need to have greater transparency and a public registry.
The member for Ottawa Centre told us that one of the proposals is the need for a regime whereby companies would not be able to set up a shell company. Even if there is good legislation, if enforcement is to be taken on issues of bribery and corruption, it is very difficult. There could be a lack of political will, as I have just spoken about, or it could be that they are trying to figure out who the operatives are in a particular company. There is the idea of a public registry and the need for better transparency, as well as the notion that we should not allow elaborate legal complexities for the setting up of shell companies that in effect allow individuals and operatives to hide behind other entities. That makes it much more difficult to figure out who is doing what and where enforcement should be applied.
That is a very significant issue, and it is not covered in the bill, so it does show us that the bill does not go far enough. I think that was the member's point this morning.
Nevertheless, we are supporting the bill at second reading. We will pay great attention to it in committee. We will seek to improve the bill so that it lives up to its spirit and intent, which is ensuring that we tackle bribery and corruption by public officials in other countries.
Order, please. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
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.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his speech and his passion, which he always shows.
One thing he highlighted in his speech was the $29 billion purported to be offshore now. Here is some news that came out recently. Heinrich Kieber, the whistleblower who brought this forward in 2007, offered the information to the Conservative government. The information is now being used by the British and the Americans. They paid a fee to Mr. Kieber to get that information. That could have been used in 2007-08 and going forward to prevent that $29 billion growing to what it is today, which is a national embarrassment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to represent the most diverse part of all of Canada. I would like to present a petition today that has been signed by many residents of Burnaby—New Westminster, as well as other communities in the lower mainland with diverse origins, on the issue of remittances.
I would like to underscore the work of ACORN Canada in this regard . As the House may know, for many Canadians and new Canadian families, the remittance cost can be up to 25% of what they send overseas to their country of origin and to their families and friends in that country.
Today I am tabling a petition signed by many of my constituents, who are calling on the Government of Canada to take action and to cap remittance fees to only 5% of the overall remittance that is sent abroad. This is a way of ensuring that new Canadians and new Canadian families in ridings like mine can send remittances overseas without being gouged and charged unfairly.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from LaSalle—Émard.
I am pleased to speak to Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
In looking at this bill, and given the record of the government, I find myself yearning to have a companion bill introduced in the House that would be entitled, “an act to amend the corruption of domestic public officials act”. There is a whole host of things we could be dealing with.
In terms of domestic corruption, we could be trying to deal with $90,000 payments to senators made by officials in the Prime Minister's Office allegedly to cover up illegal activity. We could be investigating Canadian senators fraudulently claiming housing and living expenses. We could be looking into people like Arthur Porter, another Conservative and a former appointment made by the Prime Minister to the CSIS oversight board, who apparently helped himself to millions of taxpayer dollars in Montreal and fled to South America. We could be looking into Conservative candidates like Peter Penashue, who spent over the election limits and effectively bought his seat by cheating. We could be looking into robocalls where the Conservative database was used to commit election fraud. Then we watched the Conservative Party try to obscure things and fight against any attempt to bring transparency into that procedure.
There is domestic corruption of public officials galore with the Conservative government. I look forward to the government introducing a bill that would attack corruption and finally clean up politics in this House for Canadians, but unfortunately, that is not the bill before us. We are dealing with foreign public officials.
The NDP, being a party that stands for ethics and transparency in Canadian politics, is proud to support this bill for referral to committee.
This bill makes four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. First, it increases the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from 5 to 14 years. Second, it eliminates an exception for so-called facilitation payments—there is a euphemism if I have ever seen one—where a foreign official is paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. The government calls it a facilitation payment, but I call it a bribe. Third, the bill creates a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. Fourth, it establishes a nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act, such that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
Again, New Democrats have long supported clear rules requiring transparency and accountability by Canadian individuals and corporations overseas, which usually have been opposed by the Conservatives, unfortunately. This bill complements legislative efforts by New Democrat MPs to encourage responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices.
In Canada, our inability to enforce anti-corruption laws is a source of embarrassment to the country. We are pleased that the government is finally looking into these problems, but it is deplorable that it has taken so much time and that Canada had to be condemned and discredited before the government took any action.
Canadians want Canadian companies to be successful and responsible representatives of Canada. We want Canadian companies to have clear and consistent standards for international business. Enforced loophole-free regulations would create a level playing field for all companies while ensuring environmental, labour and human rights protection of which we all can be proud.
In a 2011 report, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all G7 countries with regarding to international bribery, with “little or no enforcement” of the scant legislation that exists. Since then the government has been responding to this national embarrassment. However, there have only been three convictions since 1999, two of which were in the last two years. I would like the government to get tough on corruption. When there have been only three convictions since 1999, that is hardly being tough.
By repealing the facilitations exception, this bill would bring Canada into line with the practices in 36 of 39 other OECD countries. However, while the rest of the bill would come into effect at royal assent, the rules on facilitation payments would take effect at an unknown future date at the will of cabinet.
The books and records rule is already being enforced in the United States at the civil level by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but Canada has no equivalent regulator. While criminal law achieves the same effect, we should be increasing our efforts in this regard.
This bill is particularly relevant to the extractive industry, where the NDP has been and remains the strongest advocate for accountability in the House. Examples include my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster's Bill C-323 as it then was, which would allow lawsuits in Canadian courts by non-Canadians for violations of international obligations; and my colleague from Ottawa Centre's Bill C-486, requiring public due diligence by companies using minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
I point out that the mining bill was opposed by the Conservative government and 13 Liberals failed to show up for the vote, which led to the narrow defeat of that bill by six votes. Again, Canadians can only count on the New Democrats to bring corporate social responsibility of Canadian mining companies into international normative standards in the House.
The political elites that profit from corruption, particularly in those countries and sectors where corruption is most problematic, consist mainly of men. At the same time, it is primarily women who lack government protection.
While we support the bill for referral to committee, we do have some concerns. It would amend the definition of a “business” to include not-for-profit organizations. The New Democrats believe this clause should be carefully studied at committee, in relation to its impact on charitable and aid organizations, which may, in the world we live in, have to make occasional payments in order to expedite or achieve delivery of essential assistance. We must take great care around that.
The committee should also study the consequences of establishing an indictable offence, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, as this is the threshold at which conditional or absolute discharges or conditional sentences become impossible.
Finally, the committee should study whether the rule on facilitation payment should take effect at the whim of cabinet, as is in the current text of the bill, rather than when ordered by Parliament.
Here are some key facts and figures to consider.
There have been three convictions, as I have mentioned, under Canada's foreign bribery law since it took effect in 1999: Hydro Kleen Group was fined $25,000 in 2005 for bribing a U.S. immigration officer at the Calgary airport; Niko Resources was fined $9.5 million in June 2011 because its subsidiary in Bangladesh paid for a vehicle and travel expenses for the former Blangladeshi state minister for energy and mineral resources; and, Griffiths Energy International was fined $10 million in January of this year, after it agreed to pay $2 million to the wife of Chad's ambassador to Canada and allowed her and two others to buy shares at discounted prices in exchange for supporting an oil and gas project in Chad.
We all are watching the newspapers as we see the difficulties that SNC-Lavalin has got itself into in terms of allegedly paying bribes to foreign officials to secure contracts abroad, in the millions of dollars.
The Transparency International Bribe Payers Index in 2011 ranked the oil and gas and mining industries as the fourth and fifth most likely sectors to issue bribes. This should be of great concern to Canadians because Canada is a world centre for mining and oil and gas industries and companies. These companies, among all sectors as stakeholders, should want to establish very clean, high-level regulations and rules regarding acceptable corporate conduct. Moreover, the mining and oil and gas industries are the second and third most likely to engage in grand bribery targeting of high-ranking officials and politicians. This makes a bill like Bill S-14 especially important in these sectors.
The fact that the government does not enforce the anti-corruption laws is a national shame. We are pleased that it is finally paying attention to these problems. It is nevertheless deplorable that it has taken so much time, and that Canada had to be condemned and discredited before the government took any action.
For business, for the environment and labour and for Canada's international reputation, we urge that this bill go through Parliament and I urge the Conservatives to make the amendments necessary to get the support of all parties in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.
It is always a pleasure to be in a full house. Everyone has flocked to the House of Commons to hear my speech tonight.
This bill is a start. Obviously, New Democrats recommend that the bill go to committee so it can be analyzed, witnesses can be brought in, some of the points ironed out, and hopefully make the bill stronger.
There are four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act contained in the bill. It increases the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from 5 to 14 years. It eliminates the exception for so-called facilitation payments where a foreign official is paid to expedite the execution of his or her responsibilities. It creates a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to conceal bribery of a foreign official. It establishes a national jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act, such that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
One of the issues the committee might want to look at is how this would affect various groups and NGOs overseas that are trying to function in a country in which corruption is everywhere. We have seen films in which people are trying to advance through checkpoints and through no fault of their own, they have to pay bribes at illegal roadblocks or whatever, in order to deliver the aid. This bill would certainly tighten up the reaction to that corruption. I am wondering how we would address that situation. Obviously, a strong message would have to be sent to the government of that particular country. I am sure the committee will be looking at that.
There are a couple of points I want to emphasize. One is that we have long supported clear rules requiring transparency and accountability by Canadian individuals and corporations overseas. This bill complements legislative efforts by NDP MPs to encourage responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices. We acknowledge that the lack of enforcement in Canada with respect to bribery can be considered, to an extent, a national embarrassment. We are pleased that the government is finally responding to this problem. It took a long time, but at least we are on the right track.
Most Canadians want our companies to be successful and responsible representatives of Canada. Canadian companies want clear and consistent standards for international business. In other words, why would we allow an official of a Canadian multinational to act differently in another country than we would allow here? That is what this bill is trying to enforce. We need to enforce loophole-free regulations that will create a level playing field for all companies while ensuring environmental, labour, and human rights protection of which we can all be proud in this country.
We have certain values and standards in this country when we deal with each other. We need to ensure that when we are doing business in other countries, we apply the same values and standards. That is one of the points this bill is driving at.
In a report released in 2011, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with respect to international bribery. I say this is disgraceful. The organization pointed out that Canada rarely, if ever, enforces its negligible anti-corruption legislation.
Since then, the government has started trying to address this national embarrassment. However, since 1999, there have only been three convictions, two of them in the past two years. When I read that, I was surprised. It seems that we should be in first place with regard to corruption and our fight against corruption.
By eliminating the facilitation payments exception, the bill will bring Canada’s practices in line with 36 of the 39 other OECD countries. That is a good idea.
However, while the rest of the bill comes into effect on royal assent, the rules on facilitation payments will come into effect at an unknown later date, as cabinet wishes.
I am wondering about this point and I hope we will discuss the bill’s mechanism in more detail in committee.
In the United States, the rule on accounting records is already used in civil matters by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Canada has no equivalent regulatory authority, but there is a similar rule in criminal law.
I would also like to point out that the bill is of particular importance for the mining industry, where the NDP has been and is still an ardent defender of accountability. I can cite, for instance, Bill C-323 from the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, which seeks to permit people who are not Canadian citizens to initiate tort claims based on violations of international obligations in Canadian courts.
Furthermore, I can cite Bill C-486 from the member for Ottawa Centre, I think, which requires companies that use minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to exercise due diligence.
The political elite that benefits from corruption, particularly in countries and industries where corruption is rife, is made up primarily of men, which is interesting. At the same time, it is primarily women who lack government protection.
We support this bill and we believe that it must be sent to committee to facilitate discussion, as I just mentioned.
The bill will amend the definition of the term “business” to include the non-profit organizations I mentioned earlier. At committee stage, members will have to study the impact of this provision on charitable organizations and humanitarian relief agencies, which can sometimes be required to make a payment to accelerate the provision of essential aid or to actually obtain aid, something that I also mentioned at the beginning of my speech.
The committee should also determine the impact of making these activities indictable offences that are subject to imprisonment of up to 14 years, because it is a threshold over which conditional discharges, absolute discharges and conditional sentences become impossible. Therefore, the committee really must determine whether 14 years of imprisonment is the right direction to take.
I am going to stop here, and I look forward to all the questions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that I have only 10 minutes. Given the many criticisms we have levied at the Conservatives for their incompetence on fiscal and budgetary matters and their inability to run a modern economy, I do not think 10 minutes will be enough. However, I know that my colleagues in the NDP caucus will be speaking to this as well, and we will be speaking as long as we can, because there are a variety of issues that need to be raised.
I would like to start by putting on the floor a fact the Minister of Finance is well aware of. The fiscal period returns filed with the Department of Finance, which is surely not a hotbed of social democrats, have been saying for 20 years running that the best governments for balancing budgets and paying down debt are NDP governments. The Minister of Finance knows this. He would never stand up and praise the NDP. However, he knows full well that the NDP is best at balancing budgets.
NDP governments are simply better than Conservative governments. I will not even talk about Liberal governments, because they are in last place. The reality is that we run a better health care system, pay more attention to the environment, do more for working families, and most importantly, are actually better at balancing budgets than the Conservatives are. That is why I think in 2015 we will see the first federal NDP federal government in Canadian history.
Talking about balancing budgets is one thing, but let us talk about the economic record of the government. We have had some Conservatives today stand up. They love to say that they have created hundreds of thousands of low-cost jobs for temporary foreign workers. That is the only thing they can point to as far progress and any sort of success for the Conservative government.
We think that is wrong-headed. The economic direction of the country should actually be to look at building high-paying jobs for Canadians. It is a different approach. However, when we look at the Conservatives' record, they have lost half a million well-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the manufacturing sector. Then they deposit a budget, which we are discussing tonight, Bill C-60, which, according to a legitimate, independent, impartial judge, the parliamentary budget officer, would cost Canadians 67,000 jobs.
The Conservatives are laughing at that. They are saying, “So what?” Ordinary working families actually care that the Conservatives have been so inept as to lose 67,000 jobs through their budgetary incompetence.
When we talk about the loss of high-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the manufacturing sector, something the Conservatives do not seem to understand, they reply that they are creating well-paying jobs in the Canadian Senate.
I think it is fair to say that on this side of the House, we do not even think the Senate should continue to exist. Like most Canadians, we believe that the Senate should be abolished and that the $100 million we put into it to bloat the expense claims of Conservative senators could better serve by providing support for working families in this country. That is what an NDP government would do, of course.
On other budgetary priorities of the Conservative government, we have had some very eloquent speeches tonight from the member for Manicouagan and the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who talked about the crisis we are seeing in northern housing. Yet Conservatives want to put money into the F-35s, even though the initial budgetary proposal of $9 billion bloated to $20 billion then $30 billion and now $40 billion-plus. No one knows on this side of the House how much this will eventually cost Canadians. There is not a single Conservative who is able to give us a precise number.
However, it is not just that. It is the Conservatives' other record.
The Conservatives have inflated the advertising budget in just one ministry by 7,000%. There is a 7,000% increase in advertising for Natural Resources Canada. It is as if they are opening their wallets, which actually belong to the Canadian taxpayers, and throwing money on the floor. It does not seem to matter when they are running ads. As the member for Ottawa Centre said so eloquently, it is for programs that do not even exist. They are just running and throwing money left, right and centre.
The Prime Minister flew at a cost of over $1 million to have his limousine over in India. We have seen Conservative cabinet ministers going from four-star hotels, because that was not good enough for them, into five-star hotels. It is simply unacceptable.
Conservative fiscal management is an oxymoron. What we have is Conservatives simply betraying their voters. This is what I hear most often. It is Conservative voters, people who voted Conservative in the last election, who tell me that they did not vote for this. They did not vote for the corruption, scandals and fiscal mismanagement. They did not vote to lose jobs. They did not vote for a threefold increase in temporary foreign workers when job training programs in Canada are going unfunded. They did not vote for all of that.
A time of reckoning is coming soon. Canadians are very upset at how the government has betrayed the commitments they ran on.
I want to say one more thing about the whole approach on the economy. We think it is just wrong-headed. We see what the Conservative government is doing putting all of its emphasis on exporting raw resources—raw bitumen, raw minerals and raw logs. When the Conservatives send raw materials out of the country, they are actually exporting Canadian jobs. They should not be proud of that. They should be ashamed of exporting Canadian jobs.
What we say is that we need the value-added here. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, after the softwood sellout was signed by the Conservatives, 2,000 full-time family-sustaining jobs were lost. Three plants went down. Canfor, Interfor and Western Forest Products went within weeks of the signature on that softwood sellout. Those jobs can only be re-established if we have a government that is determined to bring value-added manufacturing back to Canada.
Look at the green energy sector. There is a revolution happening worldwide. We are talking about $2 trillion in investments over the next decade and five million jobs worldwide in clean energy and renewable energy sources, but the Conservatives are saying, no. What they are going to do is continue to subsidize the very profitable oil and gas sectors by over $1 billion a year.
On this side of the House, we think that is wrong. On this side of the House, we actually think that we are seeing these countries, as the member for Burnaby—Douglas mentioned, investing in innovation, research and development and green jobs, and that is the future path Canada should be taking.
More and more Canadians believe in that vision as well. We are seeing more and more Canadians looking forward to 2015 when they can get this wrong-headed approach out and actually look with hope and inspiration to future prosperity in this country.
There is one last thing I wanted to mention. I come from a riding where the vast majority of my constituents are new Canadians. They have seen how mean-spirited Conservatives are when it comes to gutting the family reunification program and increasing costs for visitor visas. The families I represent, who want to come for funerals, weddings or the birth of a new child in the family, are stopped by Conservative incompetence in the immigration file. In fact, we have never had a time when it was tougher for families to get together just to visit.
However, we see in Bill C-60 that the Conservatives actually want a blank cheque from new Canadians for visitor visas for their families in their countries of origin when they come from India, China or the Philippines. When they come to Canada, the Conservatives are slapping them in the face and saying that now they are going to pay more. Not only are the Conservatives going to reject their applications; they are going to pay more for visitor visas and for student visas. When their family members want to come and visit them in Canada, they are going to have to pay more. As we know, in most cases, they are rejected.
That shows the height of disrespect for new Canadians in this country. On this side of the House, in the NDP caucus, we believe that new Canadians are first-class Canadians too. They deserve to have their family members come and visit them for these important family occasions and not be attacked by these mean-spirited Conservative taxes they impose for visitor visas, student visas and the like.
We believe that new Canadians should be treated with respect. What a concept.
For that and many other reasons, we are going to be voting against this mean-spirited budget, against the financial incompetence of the government and against the attacks that it is putting against Canadian families.
The electoral district of Burnaby--New Westminster (British Columbia) has a population of 118,713 with 80,110 registered voters and 190 polling divisions.
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