The subamendment is admissible.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak to and declare my support for Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act.
The proposed legislation is based on a thorough review of the considerable amount of evidence available, including numerous reports and studies and testimony provided to parliamentary committees.
I believe that anyone who consulted this material would reach the inescapable conclusion that Bill S-8 must be enacted for Canada to make lasting progress on the issue of safe drinking water in first nations communities.
It is my hope that Canadians do not base their opinions of Bill S-8 on other sources of information, such as the popular media or views expressed by various interest and advocacy groups. Unfortunately, some of these sources present false or misleading information.
In my remarks today, I will identify and disprove many common myths about Bill S-8. The first myth is that the Government of Canada did not consult first nations prior to introducing Bill S-8. This could not be further from the truth. When we examine the facts, we will see that an extensive engagement and consultation process has been under way for more than seven years. Furthermore, this effort would only continue once Bill S-8 has passed, as government and first nations officials would work together to design and implement regulations.
Here are the relevant facts. In 2006, our government, working with the Assembly of First Nations, established an expert panel to hold public hearings to examine potential regulatory options. More than 110 individuals presented to the panel. Another two dozen submitted written reports. Almost all of the submissions and presentations came from first nations groups.
In April 2007, we held a joint workshop together with the Assembly of First Nations and its technical water expert group to engage in the proposed options for regulations and identify any challenges or issues.
In early 2009, we conducted a series of 13 engagement sessions with first nations communities and organizations and with provincial and territorial groups. Of the approximately 700 participants, more than 540 were members of first nations.
In September 2009, government officials met with first nations chiefs and organizations to discuss some of the specific issues raised during the engagement sessions. Starting in October 2010, a series of without prejudice discussions continued for another full year with first nations organizations, and that collaboration continues today. Clearly, consultation has taken place.
A second pervasive myth about Bill S-8 is that it would negatively impact aboriginal and treaty rights. The truth is, however, that this is not the case. Bill S-8 includes a carefully crafted non-derogation clause. In essence, the non-derogation clause included in Bill S-8 would not prevent the government from justifying a derogation or abrogation of aboriginal treaty rights if it is necessary to ensure safety of first nations drinking water.
We believe this clause effectively balances the need to respect aboriginal treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the need to protect human health.
A third myth is that the Government of Canada would not provide first nations with the money needed to abide by new regulations governing water. Once again, this is absolutely false. Between 2006 and 2014, our government will have invested approximately $3 billion in water and waste water infrastructure in first nations communities.
Last year's economic action plan alone committed $330.8 million over two years to build and renovate on-reserve water infrastructure, and our government has reiterated on multiple occasions in this House, before committee and in writing to every chief in Canada our commitment to provide ongoing financial support for drinking water.
Instead of focusing on what Bill S-8 would not do, members should focus more on what it would do. The bill proposes to finally create a mechanism to develop regulations in collaboration with first nations. Until regulations are drafted, it is impossible to know exactly how much money first nations would need to be able to comply with them. This is precisely why strong collaboration is central to this government's strategy to ensure safe drinking water for first nations.
Our government would continue to provide funding for first nations for their need to participate in a process to design, implement and comply with regulations.
Another myth put forward is that Bill S-8 would incorporate provincial and territorial regulations without adaptations and would give authority to the provincial or territorial governments.
Once again, this is false. Building on and adapting to provincial and territorial regulatory frameworks would not give provinces or territories control over drinking water and waste water systems on first nations lands. Rather it would produce federal regulations that are comparable to provincial-territorial regulations and provide first nations communities and municipalities with opportunities to work together in areas such as training and new technologies.
Adapting provincial and territorial regulations would ensure comparability with existing, well-understood regulations, thus increasing certainty about regulatory standards for users and operators of drinking water and waste water systems. This would allow the government and first nations to use existing provincial and territorial water regulations as a starting point to identify areas that could be used as federal regulations and to adapt them according to the needs of first nations.
Bill S-8 would lead to the establishment of a series of regional regulatory regimes. Each of these regimes would be based on relevant provincial or territorial regulations, but the regulations would be adapted to meet the particular needs and circumstances of first nations communities and would be developed and finalized with first nations.
Closely tied to this myth is another misconception that Bill S-8 would impose provincial or territorial jurisdiction on first nations. In reality, there is nothing in Bill S-8 that would give provinces or territories control over drinking water and waste water systems on first nations lands. The proposed legislation would create federal regimes that use provincial or territorial regulations as a template. That would inspire opportunities for collaboration among first nations and neighbouring communities and municipalities.
Some critics contend that first nations would have no input into what the regulations developed under Bill S-8 would contain. The truth is exactly the opposite. First nations would have a great deal of input into the development of regulations. Our government would work in partnership with first nations and other groups, such as provincial agencies, to develop federal regulations and standards. The regulations would be based on meeting the real-world challenges of providing safe drinking water in a particular region. This approach works. The Atlantic Policy Congress has already been working with government officials on regulatory development. These collaborations will be the foundation of regulations developed under Bill S-8.
The next myth is that Bill S-8 would somehow prevent first nations from initiating and enacting their own regulations, policies and laws on drinking water. There is nothing in Bill S-8 that would take away a first nation's authority to create bylaws under paragraph 81(1)(l) of the Indian Act. In fact, it is possible that a first nation's bylaw could supersede regulations created under Bill S-8. This would occur if the first nation's bylaw established a comparable or superior level of health and safety. Bill S-8 would also allow for the use of existing first nations bylaws, if appropriate.
Finally, there is the myth that Bill S-8 would somehow expose first nations to liability issues. However, regulations developed from this proposed act could add protections against liability by establishing what the limits on liability would be for all parties involved, including first nations. Regulations would define the roles and legal responsibilities of all parties, and in the process, clarify responsibilities related to drinking water. The best options would be developed to address the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders by region, because as was said previously by my friend from Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, there is no one-size-fits-all or cookie-cutter approach. We have 631 first nations, and many of them have unique circumstances.
I call on opposition members to start listening to the facts on Bill S-8. I could say that they are hard of hearing, but that would not be true. I would say that they are probably hard of listening. We would like them to listen to the facts on Bill S-8 rather than to the many myths. If they do this, I am confident that they will not be able to vote against Bill S-8—hope springs eternal—and will finally agree that first nations deserve safe drinking water.
moved that Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for seconding this motion.
I am honoured to stand here and speak on my new Bill C-489, which is also called the “safe at home bill”. I do so on behalf of my constituents in Langley and other young victims who have lived in fear of their offenders. I am in awe of their bravery and courage to fight for the rights of future victims.
In my riding of Langley, two brave families lived in constant turmoil when the sex offenders of their children were permitted to serve house arrest in their neighbourhoods. In one case, the sex offender served a sentence right across the street from the victim, and in the other case, right next door. That is outrageous.
Neither child felt safe in their home or their neighbourhood, which is the very place where they should feel the safest. Their doors were locked and the blinds were kept closed. Every time they saw the sex offender the entire family was re-victimized. The families lived in continual turmoil as they watched the offenders possibly looking for an opportunity to reoffend or hurt somebody else. Their homes in the neighbourhoods that they had loved were now places they dreaded because their attackers were there. One family could not take the stress any more, which forced them to move out of the neighbourhood they had spent so many years loving.
One mother came to my office and asked me, “Why should we have to move from our home when we are the victims?” That is a good question. Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their home, and victims of sexual assault should be no exception.
This is why I brought forward Bill C-489, which I believe meets these important concerns head-on. If passed, the bill would help to ensure the safety of victims and witnesses from convicted offenders. It would enhance the level of confidence that victims have in the justice system as well as help them feel that the justice system is hearing and responding to their concerns. The bill would achieve these objectives by proposing a number of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Bill C-489 would prevent offenders, when released from prison, from contacting victims or witnesses. Specifically, the bill proposes that when an offender is convicted of a child sexual offence, the sentencing court would be required to consider imposing a specific geographic restriction of two kilometres from any dwelling in which the offender knows or ought to know that a victim may be present as well as a condition prohibiting the offender from being alone in any private vehicle with a child under the age of 16. Efforts to prevent contact between offenders and their victims should serve to increase public safety and victims' confidence in the sentencing process.
The bill would also require courts to impose conditions in all probation orders and conditional sentencing orders prohibiting an offender from communicating with any victim or witness, or from going to any place identified in the order. Although these conditions would be mandatory, the court could decide not to impose them if the victim or witness consented or if the court found exceptional circumstances, in which case written reasons would be required to explain the findings. I believe this would enhance public safety and confidence in the justice system by helping to ensure that victims and witnesses would not be contacted by offenders upon their release into the community except in exceptional circumstances or where the individual consents.
The bill also proposes to amend recognizance or peace bonds against individuals when there is a reasonable fear that they may commit a future child sex offence.
Specifically, the bill proposes to amend Section 810.1, peace bonds, to require a court to consider imposing conditions prohibiting the defendant from contacting any individual or going to any place named in the recognizance. As with the proposed probation and conditional sentence order amendments, the court could choose not to impose the conditions in the peace bond where there is consent of the individual or where the court finds exceptional circumstances. This amendment would also lead to enhanced public safety for victims and witnesses.
Lastly, Bill C-489 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or the CCRA, to require decision-makers under that act to consider similar conditions. I would like to consider this amendment a bit more fully.
Currently under the CCRA, Parole Board of Canada tribunals and correctional officials are authorized to impose conditions on an offender when the individual is being released into the community under parole, stat release or temporary absence orders. This type of gradual and supervised conditional release into the community prior to the expiration of sentence is intended to help ensure public safety and successful reintegration of the offender into society. This is especially true where the offender has been imprisoned for many years and will have difficulty re-entering society without a carefully planned and monitored release strategy that includes tailored conditions and specialized programs that the offender must abide by at all times.
According to the 2012 Conditional Services of Canada annual report, there are currently about 22,000 offenders under the authority of the federal corrections system. About two-thirds of these offenders were convicted of a violent or sexual offence. About 38%, almost 9,000 offenders, are at any given time under active supervision in the community by corrections officers. All 9,000 of those offenders are required to abide by a mix of mandatory and discretionary conditions imposed by the authority of the CCRA. If offenders breach their conditions, they are subject to disciplinary measures, including having their conditional release revoked and being required to serve out the remainder of their sentence in prison. As the CCRA is currently structured, Section 133 provides the authority of the Parole Board of Canada, for example, to impose at its discretion any type of condition that meets the two objectives of conditional release. The first and primary consideration is public safety.
The second consideration is the successful reintegration of the offender into the community. Section 133 also references the regulations of the CCRA regarding mandatory conditions of release. Under this legislative authority, Section 161 of the regulations prescribes a number of specific conditions that must be imposed for all offenders in the community under conditional release, such as reporting as required to their parole officer, not possessing any weapons and reporting any changes in their address or employment, among other things.
While it is not uncommon for the Parole Board of Canada under the current regime to exercise its discretion to impose conditions prohibiting contact between offenders and victims when released, the point is that these are not mandatory conditions nor are these conditions that the Parole Board of Canada is required to consider under the current Section 133. I spoke earlier about the two cases in my riding of Langley where the victims and their families felt that their welfare had not been taken into account when these decisions were made by the Parole Board of Canada.
One of the objectives of Bill C-489 is to respond to these types of concerns. It proposes new mandatory conditions prohibiting the offender from communicating with any identified victims or witnesses and from going to a place identified in the condition. This objective is entirely consistent with the government's initiatives that have provided a greater emphasis on safer communities in general and victims in particular.
As with the bill's other proposed amendments, the releasing authority would not have to impose the condition if there were exceptional circumstances or if the identified individual consented. These two exceptions would ensure that the provision is flexible enough to accommodate the types of circumstances that would undoubtedly occur in practice.
Where the releasing authority does find that exceptional circumstances do exist, reasons for making that finding must be provided in writing explaining how it came to that conclusion. I believe this requirement would ensure that victims and witnesses better understand the Parole Board's decisions.
I expect that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will want to fully consider this bill and its operational impacts to ensure that it operates as intended and that its objectives are fully achieved.
Public confidence in our justice system is important. It pains me to hear from victims of crime that they have to speak out to say that they have been forgotten and that the justice system does not consider how sentencing affects them. This is a gap that Bill C-489 seeks to address and I believe it hits the mark.
I hope by tabling this bill that this House and this government will act to enhance public safety by holding criminals accountable, by enhancing the voice of the victims and by making victims feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods. I ask for support from the hon. members in the House in helping to get the bill passed into law so that young victims and their families can feel safe at home and in their neighbourhoods.
Order, please. The time for government orders has expired, and as such, comments and questions for the hon. member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon will take place after question period.
The hon. member for Ahuntsic.
Mr. Speaker, once again, a Liberal candidate from Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon wrote a letter to the editor saying that she relied on First Contact and that First Contact uses patented technology based in the United States. We see that candidates who were running for the Liberal Party used this very company to do voter contact information for them.
The Liberals are saying that misleading calls went into Vancouver by callers claiming to be from the Liberal Party. It is pretty clear that they were in fact calling on behalf of the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party hired this company to do it.
Mr. Speaker, in a letter to the editor, written by Diane Janzen, a Liberal candidate in Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, she indicated that First Contact relies on patented technology. The patent and server are based in the U.S.
I read a story just a few minutes ago out of the riding of Northumberland—Quinte West about an individual who had received numerous annoying phone calls from a caller indicating the call was on behalf of Liberal candidate Kim Rudd. Kim Rudd, in fact, paid $11,300 to First Contact to conduct research work in that riding. It turns out—
Mr. Speaker, in a letter to the editor, Diane Janzen, the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, indicated that they used First Contact and “First Contact relies on patented technology....The patent and the server are based in the U.S.”
We have heard a number of people come forward and suggest that there were calls made, and that these calls were made on behalf of the Liberal Party and that those calls originated in the U.S. In fact, we heard such a statement about Ottawa West—Nepean yesterday. What we can say is that Anita Vandenbeld paid $21,000 to First Contact to make calls for her campaign.
If they said they were calling on behalf of the Liberal Party and asked for these things, they were.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for his insightful remarks. I also extend my thanks to the leader of the Liberal Party for bringing this motion forward today and to the member for Halifax for her work on suicide prevention and for tabling a private member's bill in regard to that.
It is important that we, as a Parliament, are the leaders in doing all that we can to end the silence around this very tragic epidemic. We need to do what we can to reduce the stigma of those families who have been the victims of suicide. On this side of the House, we are committed to doing all that we can.
Last Thursday, I had the honour of tabling in this chamber my private member's bill, which deals with this very issue, Bill C-300.
We have a lot of good work already being done by hundreds of community groups throughout Canada, and most of these, if not all, are volunteer groups. We have the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. It has done amazing work over the years developing its blueprint. I congratulate the association on its efforts. It works with very little encouragement from other levels of government, but it has done amazing work for us.
We have the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention. In my own area, we have the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, which has done just amazing work in the Waterloo region. Just recently I had the honour being in my colleague's riding, the Minister of State for Science and Technology , for a golf tournament that was raising funds to raise awareness of suicide prevention issues. I thank them for that good work.
Another agency with which I have had the honour of working over the last two years is called Your Life Counts. This is a group of people who voluntarily do work on the Internet. They provide Internet resources to young people especially who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and struggling with issues in life that are difficult for them to handle, challenges that face all of our youth. They are doing good work in providing that Internet access but they do not end just simply with the Internet access. They then offer personal services to people who contact them.
I will highlight another story, which we have all heard numerous times today, for those who may not have been here earlier. The story is about my colleague, Dave Batters, who tragically ended his life a few years ago. I congratulate his family for the great work they are doing in bringing awareness to this issue. I have had contact with Denise Batters since we started this initiative. She draws our attention to the YouTube video that highlights some ways that we can raise awareness around this issue.
Those groups have worked hard on our behalf and all they are asking for is some federal coordination, some federal leadership, and that is exactly the motivation for my private member's bill.
I will not read the entire bill but I would like to highlight some of the actions that my bill would ask for.
The bill would formally define suicide as a public health issue and a health and safety priority. It would improve public awareness of suicide and its related issues. It would make statistics publicly accessible, promote collaboration and knowledge exchange. I think this is one of the things we have heard many times today. If we could exchange the best practices that are already being implemented across our country, we could do so much more.
The bill would define and share the best practices and get the research that is being done out of the classroom, so to speak, and into the hands of those who are actually doing the work on the ground.
Finally, there would be a responsibility on the part of the government agency to report back regularly to Canadians.
The number of suicides in Canada is a great tragedy. We have heard many personal stories today. We have heard the story of the Richardson family. Many of us will remember the story of the Kajouji family here in Ottawa who lost their daughter. This particular suicide was done at the hands of an Internet predator who used the Internet to actually encourage suicide.
My motion in the fall of 2009 was to encourage our government to implement within the Criminal Code clarity as to the penalties for those who would encourage suicide. We already know that encouraging someone to commit suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. What was not clear is whether that included technologies such as Internet and computer system. That was my motivation for that motion.
It is estimated that there are 10 suicides a day in Canada. If we take that on a monthly basis, that is the equivalent of a large airliner going down every month and every person in that airliner dying. If that were happening, I think there would be a huge call for action. That is exactly what we are hearing today with this motion. That is the motivation for my private member's bill. It is my hope that, through these initiatives and others, we will actually see some action on these issues.
I just want to read the motion for those who may be watching because it is important to get the entire context of what is said here.
That the House agree that suicide is more than a personal tragedy, but is also a serious public health issue and public policy priority; and, further, that the House urge the government to work cooperatively with the provinces, territories, representative organizations from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, and other stakeholders to establish and fund a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which among other measures would promote a comprehensive and evidence-driven approach to deal with this terrible loss of life.
At this point I will stop for a moment and offer my heartfelt condolences and sympathies to those who have had to deal with this tragedy. It has been mentioned many times in this chamber today that there is not one person who has not in some way been touched this tragedy, some closer than others, some immediate family members and others close friends and colleagues.
The grief that people experience when they lose a loved one who is close to them can only be described by the people who going through that grief. My family and I have had our own share of grief over these past five months. In fact, it is five months ago today that Betty passed away. I can say that the grief is real but I cannot imagine how much more profound that grief must be for those who are left with the question and the additional emotional burden of wondering what they could have done, what they should have done or why they did not see the signs, all of those questions that I assume must come crashing in on them.
I think part of our overall approach to this issue needs to include, at some point, ways and means in which we can encourage communities with resources as to how they can walk alongside those who have experienced this tragedy.
I indicated earlier today that one of my favourite quotes as it relates to suicide prevention is the quote by Margaret Somerville, the famous ethicist from McGill University. She says:
Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies....
I think that capsulizes what we are looking at here. We are trying to find ways to give hope, hope to people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts, for sure, needs to be our motivation, but also hope for those who are working on the ground and who have been struggling as volunteers without adequate resources, as they struggle with their efforts.
Any of the investments that we make in trying to move this ahead need to keep at the heart of it the hope that we are trying to give to people.
I will conclude with some of the statistics that I think will shock us into action in terms of the number of Canadians each year who are losing their lives to suicide. It is roughly 4,000 a year. Among our aboriginal population, t estimates show that it is five to seven times beyond that, and that is just counting the suicides. It does not counting those who may have tried to commit suicide and their emotional trauma.
At the heart of what we are trying to do here is to extend that hope to people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and to provide the framework that will actually help those organizations on the ground that are trying to continue the good work they have started.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of sitting on the health committee with the hon. member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon. I appreciate all the support he shows for health issues for Canadians, especially the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Given that the federal government has already made huge investments, particularly with the first nations and Inuit mental health and addiction programs, from mental health promotion to addictions prevention, crisis counselling, treatment and after care services, I am wondering if my colleague could respond as to why the government should continue targeting aboriginal people, particularly aboriginal youth.
As it turns out, that is just a continuing debate issue.
We will resume debate with the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the new member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon.
I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your ascension to the speakership, as well as your colleagues. I know you will serve this House very well.
I also want to thank the constituents of Edmonton—Leduc for electing me to this chamber for a fifth time.
I would like to congratulate all re-elected and newly elected MPs. It is certainly a very different chamber from what it was before the election. It shows, in fact, that elections matter, that votes matter, that voters can fundamentally alter the political reality and the leadership of political parties in this place, as they have done. It also shows that we should always treasure the form of government we have. Our form of government is obviously, as Winston Churchill said, not perfect, but we should embrace the positive aspects of our political system and the results it delivers.
I also want to acknowledge all of those who put their names forward in the last election, in my constituency and across the country, who were not successful. It takes courage, that virtue which Aristotle said was the greatest virtue, to put their name forward, knock on doors, go out there and participate in forums. I want to commend all of those people who put their names forward.
Lastly I would like to recognize all those who volunteer, those Canadians who give their time and efforts to volunteer for their candidate and party. They deserve our recognition as well.
Today we are debating the budget introduced earlier this week by the hon. Minister of Finance, which is substantially the same document that our government presented in March of this year. During the election, we explicitly promised to reintroduce this budget if re-elected, which is exactly what we have done.
What does this budget do? First of all, it continues to support job creation. We have created 540,000 jobs since July 2009, an outstanding figure when compared to other industrialized countries.
How does it do this? It provides a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring by this vital sector, something that was very strongly put forward and endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
It extends the work-sharing program and the targeted initiative for older workers to help Canadians in some of the hardest hits areas stay in the workforce. This has helped companies like Argus in my constituency in the Nisku area. It had experienced a sharp downtown, but the measures I mentioned allowed it to keep employees. Because it kept these people and did not lose them and is now experiencing more growth, it can fulfill the increased orders. This was a very good program that we are continuing.
The third point I want to mention in this area is our support for the manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for an additional two years. This was first put forward in an industry committee report in February 2007. It was put in the budget of March 2007. It has been extended until this point and, obviously, will be extended for another two years once the budget passes. It is a credit to the committee that I had the privilege of chairing.
Mr. Speaker, I know you spent some time on that committee. All four parties endorsed that measure, and I hope they all endorse this measure and this specific budget.
The last thing in this area is providing renewed funding of almost $100 million over two years for research, development and demonstrations of clean energy and energy efficiency.
The second thing we do in this budget is preserve Canada's fiscal advantage. We reaffirm our plan to eliminate deficits a year earlier than previously projected without raising taxes, without cutting transfers to persons, seniors and families, and without cutting transfers to provinces for things like health care, education and social services. In fact, transfers to provinces for health care will increase by 6% per year and by 3% a year for education and social services.
This hit home very strongly during the recent election campaign. People said they wanted the government to balance the budget as quickly as possible, but they wanted to see essential programs, like health care and education, maintained going forward.
We should recognize that the deficit in 2010-11 is projected to be 25% lower than it was in the previous fiscal year and to shrink again by more than 25% in the next year. This is very good news. We are on track to meet our targets and we should continue to do so.
The third area I want to talk about is strengthening our families and communities. Obviously in this House there has been great discussion about how we help these low income seniors. We are proposing to enhance the guaranteed income supplement for low income seniors by $300 million, providing additional yearly benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.
The second thing is to introduce a family caregiver tax credit of up to $2,000.
The third thing is providing nearly $870 million over two years to address climate change and air quality, including the extension of the eco-energy retrofit program, which will help homeowners. It is a very popular program and we have proposed extending it by a year.
I want to talk about an area of passion for me personally, that of research and development and innovation. I had the experience, as I mentioned, of serving on the industry committee and meeting a lot of the scientists and creators across this country, who are absolutely inspiring.
This budget continues our efforts along these lines by investing in innovation and the economy of tomorrow. It provides $80 million in new funding over three years through the industrial research assistance program. The IRAP program under the National Research Council, in my view, is one of the best government programs in targeting resources towards small- and medium-size businesses to improve their efficiency so that they can grow. One of Canada's fundamental challenges going forward is how we get those small- and medium-size businesses to grow and become larger businesses. It is exactly why we are investing in the IRAP program.
Another thing we are doing is establishing 10 new Canada excellence research chairs. I should point out that I am very proud of the university in my city of Edmonton. The University of Alberta has already been successful at obtaining four Canada excellence research chairs. The university president had a function here in Ottawa in February, where she had all the excellence research chairs from across the country present their ideas and research. It was absolutely fascinating. Our government is obviously adding to this program in this budget, which is an excellent initiative.
We are increasing the budgets of the three federal granting councils by $47 million annually. This was requested by the Association of Universities and Colleges and by researchers across the country, who were saying that we still needed to fund basic research and the three granting councils at an even better rate.
The next story I want to talk about is our support for students. Since 2006, we have supported students in a number of ways. We have created the Canada student grant program. It is providing up to $250 per month of assistance to low income students and up to $100 per month to middle income students.
We have also provided $140 million per year to encourage more young Canadians to pursue apprenticeships, including the new apprenticeship incentive grant and apprenticeship completion grant. I do want to recognize Sam Shaw from the city of Edmonton. He was president of NAIT, which trains the highest proportion of apprentices across this country and does a fantastic job in doing so.
Where we are going from here with this plan is to talk about student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas. Practising family physicians will be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses will be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.
We are also supporting Canadian students abroad. Many student groups have approached us as members of Parliament for this. We are reducing the 13-week minimum duration requirement to 3 consecutive weeks with respect to the education and textbook tax credit. We are doubling the in-study income exemption and we are reducing the in-study interest rate for part-time Canadian student loan recipients.
I want to touch briefly on my own province of Alberta. The budget demonstrates strong federal government support for provinces like Alberta, including transfers for vital areas like health care, education and social services. In fact, we have increased transfers to the Province of Alberta since 2005 by nearly 50%, totalling nearly $3.4 billion. This is outstanding, allowing provinces to address their health care, education and social service needs.
I ask all parliamentarians to endorse this plan. It is a prudent plan. It is a plan that has been endorsed by economic organizations the world over.
Relatively speaking, our country has done very well. We understand that there are some challenges out there and a significant amount of risk, if we look at the tragedy that occurred in Japan, the European debt situation, and the U.S. economy and fiscal situation being weaker than expected. That is why we need a prudent plan going forward, and that is exactly what this budget is.
That is why I am asking members of Parliament to endorse this budget.
Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to rise today in support of the motion from the hon. member for
The motion asks the House to take a long, hard look at the Criminal Records Act with an eye to strengthening it in order to ensure that the National Parole Board puts the public's safety first in all its decisions.
None of us need to be reminded as to why this is so important in today's world. Putting safety first, of course, is something that our government has committed to do ever since we were first elected in 2006. We have done it in a number of ways. We have given police and law enforcement officials the tools and resources they need to do their job. We have done it by getting tough on crime and offenders. We have passed legislation to stiffen sentences for people convicted of drive-by shootings and murders connected to organized crime. We have passed the Tacking Violent Crime Act to better protect 14 to 16 year olds for the first time from sexual predators. We have recently introduced measures to further protect our children and help victims by strengthening the national sex offender registry and the national DNA data bank.
We will also be pressing onward over the coming months with other important initiatives, including ending house arrest for serious crimes, and repealing the faint hope clause to spare victims from having to relive their terrible experiences.
We have also introduced legislation to keep violent and repeat young offenders off the streets while they are awaiting trial and ensure the courts consider appropriate sentences for youth convicted of the most serious and violent crimes.
All of those measures are designed to do one thing: to ensure that Canadians are safe in their own homes and in their own communities.
As our recent Speech from the Throne notes:
For many Canadians, there can be no greater accomplishment than to provide for their children, to contribute to the local community, and to live in a safe and secure country.
Our government shares and supports these aspirations, which is one reason that this motion is before us today and, as parliamentarians, it should be for all of our attention.
The way the pardon system currently works means that the majority of applicants are granted one after a certain waiting period provided they are not convicted of another crime, and, in the case of indictable offences or serious offences, can demonstrate to the National Parole Board that they are of good conduct.
The idea behind the waiting period and the need for an offender to remain conviction-free or show they are of good conduct is sound enough. However, we want to ensure that each offender who applies for a pardon has committed to living in society as a law-abiding citizen. That is one safeguard in the present system that plays a role in protecting public safety. The question we must ask ourselves today is whether that is enough.
Hon. members will know that another key safeguard within the present system originated with the hon. member for
It took a lot to get this measure passed, including the co-operation of the government of the day, which saw the value in my colleague's bill and introduced its own legislation to implement this important safeguard. This measure came into force in August 2000, thanks, in large part, to the commitment of the hon. member for
In 2006, our government implemented a review of the pardon system and put in place further safeguards with regard to sex offenders based on what was known at that time.
In particular, the National Parole Board enacted new measures calling on two board members instead of one to approve or reject applications from sex offenders. In addition, measures were put in place to ensure that the board undertook more rigorous consultations with police in the cases of sex offenders in order to determine if there were any recent and relevant information available on the offender.
Our government has therefore always been committed to putting public safety considerations at the centre of the pardon system in the country, but we can and will do more based on what we know today. This is not a case of simply responding to sensational headlines. It is a case of looking at the present system, evaluating it and asking ourselves whether it responds to the needs of Canadians, given that a serial sex offender can apparently receive a pardon under the same legislative rules and as readily as anyone who has committed a less serious offence.
Is that right? Obviously, we believe not. All of us need to ask ourselves what more we can do to ensure that public safety considerations are front and centre in decisions made by the National Parole Board, as they should be for all aspects of our criminal justice system. The way the current system is set up means that we can and do differentiate in a limited way. Offenders convicted for life or an indeterminate sentence, for example, cannot apply for a pardon, while other offenders serving shorter sentences can.
What we perhaps also need to look at is whether, in the interest of public safety, we should also differentiate between offenders who commit certain crimes over an extended period of time and those who may have committed an offence only once. There is quite a difference. That is one thing we need to look at.
We need to ask whether the National Parole Board needs more discretion to look at the pattern of conduct or to look at the offences themselves, if there were more than one, as well as the potential impact on victims. We need to ask whether these and many other safeguards are sufficient. Are these all important issues to address over the coming weeks? I would certainly hope so.
I therefore look forward to working with all hon. members and especially the mover of this bill to strengthen the system of pardons in this country. I urge all members to support the motion put before us today by the hon. member, who has demonstrated quite clearly that this is a motion that is not only true to the heart and soul but also true to the essence of fairness and safety in this country.
The electoral district of Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon (British Columbia) has a population of 112,118 with 81,677 registered voters and 211 polling divisions.
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