Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Okanagan—Shuswap and his family for the work that they have done in this area. Canada remains committed in the fight against Ebola and remains there for the global response.
I am pleased to inform the House that Canada is investing, as of this morning, an additional $30 million for our humanitarian partners in the region. This will include the Red Cross and many others to improve treatment, health care, nutrition, and of course, save lives.
Preventing further transmission of the Ebola virus is essential in controlling the current outbreak. We will continue to explore ways to support health care workers on the front lines.
The author of the bill, the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap, will now have his five minutes of reply.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for bringing this bill forward. As he mentioned, this was a bill that I introduced in the first session of this Parliament and because of my appointment as parliamentary secretary, my bill had to be withdrawn, although it did make it to committee. Therefore, I would hope that members will expedite this process so we can get this to committee, where it was a year ago.
Sitting here listening especially to the Liberal member really was disappointing. At no point did he mention the victims, not once. It comes back to this whole ideology of the Liberals about hugging the thug, about trying to protect the criminals rather than protecting Canadians and those victims.
The title of the bill is “respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act”. It is work that I started some time ago, and I am very happy that my friend from Okanagan—Shuswap has taken on this task in the House to ensure that families do not have to go through unnecessary Parole Board hearings and be re-victimized time and time again. Let us ensure we have our hearts in the right place, that they are with the families that have already lost their loved ones and now have to relive the horror of the most heinous criminals who have not only murdered their child or family member, but may have abducted and sexually assaulted them.
The bill would amend section 745 of the Criminal Code. I have to stress that Bill C-587 is about empowering our courts with the ability to increase parole ineligibility when sentencing individuals who have abducted, sexually assaulted and killed our innocent and often most vulnerable Canadians from the current 25 years up to a maximum of 40 years. It is at the discretion of the courts. They make the decisions on whether to take it up any higher.
The bill is not about creating stiffer penalties for these sadistic murderers. These depraved convicts do not qualify for parole. We have already mentioned that. The worst case criminals who are in prison, these half dozen individuals who have been alluded to, never make parole. They never ever get out of jail. However, the reality is that families still have to go, every two years, starting at year 23, to hear the tragedy of their child or loved one being abducted, kidnapped, raped, sometimes tortured, and then murdered. We want to put an end to that. The bill is about saving the families of victims from having to go through this agony of attending these unnecessary and traumatic experiences at Parole Board hearings.
Again, we have said that this is not about mandatory minimums. This is about empowering judges and juries in coming to reasonable decisions on parole ineligibility.
Let us talk about this. Is this constitutional? Does it comply with the charter? The fundamental principle of sentencing is that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The seriousness of the offence as set out in the bill would ensure that parole ineligibility, period, would only be applied in cases where the murderer's moral blame worthiness would be very high for abduction, sexual assault and murder. This would allow for judicial discretion and would ensure charter compliance because it would not be mandatory minimums.
This goes back to Bill C-48, which used the same principle, protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts by multiple murderers act. It is important to note that the NDP supported that bill back in 2011. That, in itself, is noteworthy. If it was okay to support it in Bill C-48 back in 2011, I would hope the NDP would support that same principle when it applies to these most heinous criminals.
Jim Maloway, who was the NDP member at that time for Elmwood—Transcona said:
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to what is now is Bill C-48 [...]. I essentially support the bill, which our critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has already indicated that our party supports. In fact, all opposition parties support the bill. [...]
I guess one of the good things about the bill is that it does leave discretion to the judge, which opposition members have been consistent in supporting in the past. Perhaps the government recognized that by allowing the judge discretion it made it certain that the bill would actually go somewhere in the House.
The compliance section that we are concerned about is section 12 of the Charter, and by going the route that is presented in Bill C-587, providing that judicial discretion makes it charter compliant. That is key.
As we are saying, this is about the most heinous and horrendous individuals we have in Canada. We are talking about Robert Pickton, Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams, Michael Rafferty, Terri-Lynne McClintic, Clifford Olson, Donald Armstrong, James Dobson, David Shearing and, just recently, Luka Magnotta. These individuals are repulsive in our society. They have committed the most tragic criminal acts on an individual that people could ever imagine. Yet, there is argument coming forward that they should only have to sit there for 25 years. We know that they sit there longer because they never ever make parole eligibility. They are never put back into society.
In the sentencing of David Threinen, in 1975, Justice Hughes, who was the judge at the time, stated he should “never again should he be on the streets and roadways of our country”.
If judges already see how repulsive and dangerous these offenders are, then they need to make sure that they are never released back into society.
When we look at Robert Pickton, he was convicted of multiple murder charges, 25 counts, but unfortunately they were only second degree murder charges. That means 10 years. In 10 years, he can start attending his parole board hearings. He will probably never be released, but that means that 25 families are going to be reading victim impact statements at parole board hearings every two years, in a matter of a couple of years from now. That is sickening.
One of the reasons I was thinking about this case is that a few years ago I was in my riding listening to the Tori Stafford case. She was the little girl who was abducted, raped, and murdered. It broke my heart. It involved Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic. After they stole her from school and sexually assaulted her, they killed her with a hammer. Terri-Lynne McClintic got a life sentence, in 2010. Michael Rafferty got his life sentence. Tori Stafford's family, in 25 years, should not have to start reliving that murder, that abduction, that sexual assault, every two years from there on in.
We talked about Russell Williams, who abducted, raped, and murdered Jessica Lloyd and Marie-France Comeau. We talked about Clifford Olson.
I have to thank Sharon Rosenfeldt. I got involved with her and her organization, Victims of Violence. She supported the bill right from the beginning. Her son Daryn was murdered. My friend has already talked about how Daryn was killed and how they were retraumatized.
I also have to thank Susan Ashley, who also provided me with support and ideas for the bill, and Yvonne Harvey, from the Canadian Parents of Murdered Children, for their work on this bill as well, and ensuring that Canadians are aware that this was coming forward.
Finally, I want to thank Senator Boisvenu, who founded the organization Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association because of his own person loss, for his support in ensuring that the bill will go forward on the Senate side.
Again, I would ask that members of this House to support the bill and get it to committee so it can be given the proper study.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to take the time that you have generously given to me to say two words that we do not hear often enough in this chamber: “thank you”.
It is with humility that I would like to thank the members of Parliament and the House of Commons staff for all their kind words of encouragement over the past few weeks and months.
I wish to say a very special thank you to the members for Barrie, Brant, Burlington, Don Valley East, Kitchener—Conestoga—right here behind me—Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Mississauga South, Okanagan—Shuswap, Sarnia—Lambton, my seatmate, Saskatoon—Humboldt, Scarborough Centre, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, Vancouver South, Willowdale, and Winnipeg South Centre, and to the very dedicated vice-chair of the veterans affairs committee for carrying my duty in this chamber and in committee.
Also, thank you to the citizens of Orleans and my friends and family for their visits, their encouraging words and their prayers. Their support and assistance has helped me to feel better and to get better. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Even in the most difficult times, I made an effort to be in this House and to vote, as it is our duty to do. Voting is a fundamental Canadian right. It is a symbol of our identity. It is the oxygen that keeps our democracy alive.
In many countries, much blood has been spilled and many diplomatic efforts have been made to establish democracy and the right to vote. It is our way of saying yes or saying no to the type of society that we want to build. Canada is a model of modern democracy around the world.
Developing democracies call on Canadians when they want to ensure that their elections are free and fair. Our sense of duty and our expertise give us international credibility in election monitoring.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency, with the assistance of CANADEM, deployed more than 800 Canadian election observers in bilateral missions and 30 multilateral missions in more than 20 countries.
These observers went to Haiti, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Senegal, and many other nations.
Because I participated in one of these missions, I have a keen interest in this subject.
In 2004, I was assigned by CANADEM to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to co-chair a team of international observers during the rerun of the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine. The other co-chair was a Swiss engineer. We were sent to Dnipropetrovsk.
It was an exhilarating experience. I was able to see first-hand that Canada is synonymous with democracy and freedom. However, that which does not evolve is doomed to disappear. We can continue to be proud. We can continue to improve things.
We will continue to be a model of democracy around the world only if we allow democracy to evolve. The separation of powers is a basic component of our system.
Consistent with separating the administration of the law and its enforcement, the fair elections act proposes that the commissioner be under the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In a hockey game, would we ask the owner of the Ottawa Senators to referee a game between the Sens and the Canadiens?
Our Minister of State for Democratic Reform said it well: the referee should not be wearing a team jersey.
Canada's government, which I support in this House, proposes that greater independence be given to the person with the power to conduct investigations and enforce the law.
The fair elections act will make our legislation more stringent, clearer and easier to follow.
It would protect Canadian voters from fraudulent and misleading calls by setting up a mandatory public registry. We want to establish a new public registry for mass calling.
Telephone service providers involved in voter contact calling services, and any individual or group that uses these providers would have to register with the CRTC.
We also propose that the fines for preventing or trying to prevent someone from voting be 10 times higher. Under this legislation, anyone convicted of impersonating an election official would face a jail term. These penalties would be more severe for individuals who deceive people out of their votes.
According to the Neufeld report, identity vouching procedures are complicated and have a 25% error rate. That is one in four. This problem is threatening our democracy, and we must take action, and so we propose to put an end to vouching.
The fair elections act would also require Elections Canada to tell Canadians which pieces of identification will be accepted at the polling station so that they know what to bring with them.
Thirty-nine different pieces of ID can be used to prove a voter's identity.
In addition, the voter information card would no longer be considered valid identification.
Elections Canada must also inform voters which pieces of ID are valid and would be accepted at the polling station. These cards contain incorrect information one out of six times.
The show Infoman highlighted the problems with voter information cards during a segment called the “Elections Canada two-for-one special”.
To prevent the more powerful elements in our society from drowning out citizens’ voices, we would ban the use of loans to sidestep donation regulations.
Some people have used unpaid loans to evade donation limits and make larger donations.
As elected representatives, we must stay clear of this type of pressure.
That is why we insist on standardized and transparent reporting for political loans.
In addition, candidates and political parties that have exceeded the ceiling on election expenses, would see their reimbursements reduced, and we would maintain a total ban on loans by unions and businesses.
I am pleased to say that Marc Mayrand, the current Chief Electoral Officer, lives in Orleans, as does his predecessor, Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
While Mr. Mayrand does not seem to support this brilliant bill produced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, his predecessor appears to. Mr. Kingsley gave it an A minus, indicating that it is a good bill.
When I received an A minus, I did not ask for a rewrite—
The hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.
moved that Bill C-201, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the time has finally come to debate Bill C-201, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons). It is the very first bill I introduced in this chamber after being elected in January 2006 and it is a bill that is near and dear to my heart.
However, my wait is nothing compared with the wait experienced by the workers who are at the heart of my bill. The Canadian building and construction trades have been lobbying for this legislation for over 35 years. Their tenacity on this file is remarkable and ought to be indicative to the government that this issue matters deeply to the very people who have literally built our country.
In fact, I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank Bob Blakely, the chief operating officer of the Canadian Building Trades Unions, for his personal commitment to this bill and for never ceasing to fight for the best interests of his members. Bob knows only too well what a bumpy road it has been to get to this point today.
Both Liberal and Conservative governments have made promises to the building trades in the past about concrete action to come. However, those games of political footsie led exactly nowhere.
It is time for the games to stop and for all members in the House to stand up and be counted. Lip service is no longer good enough. I am delighted to give members the opportunity to clarify their positions in the coming vote on my bill.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that you follow American politics closely, so you will remember former Speaker Tip O'Neill coining the phrase “all politics is local”. It is the principle that a politician's success is directly tied to his or her ability to understand and influence the issues of constituents.
While that certainly encapsulates the genesis of bill that we are debating today, I introduced it because of the amazing education and awareness-raising efforts of the members of the Building and Construction Trades Council in my hometown of Hamilton.
In particular, I want to single out the leadership of business manager Joe Beattie, who invited me to meet with the building trades about this issue before I was even elected.
We can see that the Hamilton building trades are not just savvy lobbyists, they are also clairvoyant. They knew I would eventually get elected, even before I believed it myself.
The case that was put to me by Joe, along with the members of Carpenters Local 18, UA Local 67 and Sheetmetal Workers Local 537, made sense then, and it still makes sense now. It makes sense for workers, who would benefit from a reduction in their temporary relocation costs and a reduction in time spent unemployed. It makes sense for employers which will benefit from access to larger pools of qualified workers and reduced costs relating to participation in programs such as the temporary foreign workers program. It makes sense for the government, because it would benefit from increased long-term income tax revenues and reduced dependence on costly social programs.
However, let me not put the cart before the horse. Let us start at the beginning and look at the issue that my bill is seeking to address, the specific remedy that it offers and the opportunity that it represents for the government and all members of the House.
Right now, there are two major human resource challenges facing Canada's construction industry: regional labour shortages and barriers to labour mobility.
The 2011 edition of the Construction Sector Council's “Construction Looking Forward” report suggests that to replace retiring workers and maintain productivity, construction employers, collectively, must hire more than 320,000 new workers between now and 2019. While training programs and recruitment from non-traditional labour sources are part of the solution, they will not be enough to ameliorate the significant labour shortages that are projected for the decade ahead.
Compounding this problem is the unevenness of demand for construction workers. Some regions of the country, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, are expected to face significant worker shortages until next year. Others, such as Ontario, will offer fewer work opportunities in the short term, but many more between 2015 and 2019. A third group, including Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta, will offer consistently high numbers throughout the forecast period.
With the demand for labour thus high in some parts of the country and lower in others, it would be in everyone's best interest to facilitate the mobility of unemployed workers from one part of the country to job openings in another.
This would be an easy problem to solve if construction jobs were permanent, but they are not. Construction is a transitory business. When a hospital, a mall or, for that matter, a Pan Am stadium is built, the job is done. Work can last for days, weeks or months, but the bottom line is that it is not permanent and no worker can fairly be expected to move his or her family to a new city every time the workplace changes, and therein lies the rub.
Under current rules, construction workers often incur large personal expenses to accept jobs in other parts of the province or country because neither their travel nor accommodation expenses are tax deductible under the Income Tax Act. As a result, these costs create a huge disincentive for workers to accept work in those parts of the country that are experiencing skills shortages.
Figures compiled on behalf of the building and construction trades department of the AFL-CIO suggest that the average mobile worker spends approximately $3,500 of his or her own money to temporarily relocate. That is a significant barrier to the appeal of working mobile. Without wanting to be too cute, I ask my hon. colleagues to imagine what would happen in this place if we told members tomorrow that they could no longer get financial assistance for their secondary residence here in Ottawa while they are here on the job, or for their travel for that matter.
If that is not enough to spur us on to creating fairness for the building trades, let me just remind members that this House already acknowledged that transitory workers merit financial support, and budget 2008 provided a tax break to truck drivers to assist with mobility challenges in that industry. I am calling on us to do the right thing here today and create a labour mobility tax credit for the building and construction industry too. Specifically, my bill would allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income, so they can secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres from their home. Adopting this bill would remove one of the largest stated barriers to labour mobility in our country and would pave the road for workers to move freely between regions of the country where their skills are in demand. For me, this is absolutely the right thing to do, and I do not believe that this issue has to be partisan. In fact, I know it is not.
Let me remind members than in April 2008, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities supported my bill in intent if not by name. The two germane recommendations were numbers 1.6 and 1.7. Recommendation number 1.6 reads:
The Committee recommends that the federal government examine the moving expenses provision of the Income Tax Act with a view to extending this provision to individuals who must leave their principal residence to work on a temporary basis, provided their principal residence is retained.
Recommendation number 1.7 says:
The Committee recommends that the federal government provide funding to assist individuals who agree to relocate to enter employment in occupations experiencing skills shortages.
Both of those recommendations are spot-on.
Yes, these recommendations were adopted during a minority Parliament, so it may be assumed that the government members did not actually support them. However, let me provide further evidence to the contrary. Before the Standing Committee on Finance on November 19, 2012, the Conservative member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca responded to a presentation by a representative of the building trades by saying, “...I've been advocating since 2005 for a tax credit on travel and mobility”.
Just a month later, another report by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities made this its 30th recommendation. It stated:
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada study the anticipated cost of introducing new fiscal measures that would help people who find jobs far away from where they live, for example a tax credit for travel and lodging if a person must work more than 80 kilometres from his or her residence, and that it study the potential impact of such measures on labour mobility and labour shortages.
This time, the government had the majority of members on the committee, so that recommendation would not have passed without the support of the Conservatives.
I want to publicly thank the Conservatives who were members of the committee at that time. They are the members for Mississauga—Streetsville, Don Valley East, Okanagan—Shuswap, Brant and Calgary Northeast, and the member for Simcoe—Grey, who is now Canada's Minister of Labour. I know that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, in particular, understands this issue and has been advocating for it inside his own caucus. Also, I hope the Minister of Labour is using her new clout to assist his efforts in every possible way. Since she has repeatedly mentioned her own family roots in Alberta's construction industry, I trust that she understands what is at stake here.
Certainly, all of the opposition members on the committee got it right away. I was but one member of that committee, and I was proud to note that my NDP colleagues at HUMA, the members for Hochelaga, Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup and St. John's South—Mount Pearl, have always stood four-square behind the building trades in their communities and immediately expressed their support for my bill.
I am also cautiously optimistic that my Liberal colleague from Cape Breton—Canso will see fit to vote for it, although truthfully I am not sure which side he was on when the issue was being discussed when the Liberals were in government, during their 13 years in office. What I do know is that in opposition he has been nothing but supportive, and I want to thank him for that.
This issue does have broad-based support. What is stopping it from becoming law? At one point both the Minister of Finance and the former Minister of Labour were concerned about how much my proposed tax credit would cost. They were not entirely convinced by the admittedly rough initial calculations, which showed that it would be revenue neutral, since the cost of the tax credit would be more than offset by savings in employment insurance payments that would no longer have to be made as unemployed Canadians went to work in other parts of the country.
However, the building trades took the minister's concern seriously and had the projections related to my bill audited by Hendry Warren. The audited numbers were given to every member of this House during the last building trades lobby day, and I trust that everyone will have familiarized themselves with the costing of my proposal. However, let us take a quick look at the numbers again just to make absolutely certain that we are all on the same page.
Hendry Warren estimated that there are 1.6 million construction workers in Canada. An estimated 10% of them travel each year. At an average cost of $3,500 per worker per year, a 15% tax credit would cost the government $525 per mobile worker per year, for a total cost of $84 million.
Working with the same number of 160,000 travelling skilled trades workers whose average weekly employment insurance benefit would be $393 per week for an average period of unemployment of four weeks if they were not working means that the government would pay $251 million in EI benefits per year. That means that the tax credit proposal in my bill would actually save the government $167 million per year.
Let me repeat that, Mr. Speaker, because these numbers will be germane in your consideration of whether my bill will ultimately require a royal recommendation. Far from being an expenditure, my bill would actually save the government $167 million each and every year, and that is just premised on savings on EI.
As the audited statement makes clear, when savings from all social programs are taken into account along with increased long-term income tax revenues from employment, the labour mobility tax credit is more likely to yield a return on the government's investment of nearly five to one. We would think the Minister of Finance would be doing a happy dance at the prospect of such a windfall.
The bill really is a win, win, win. As I said at the outset, workers win because the travel and accommodation costs would no longer be a barrier to accepting decent jobs for decent wages in other regions of the country; employers win because they would have access to larger pools of qualified workers without needing to resort to the costly temporary foreign workers program; the government wins by having taken a concrete step toward addressing regional skilled labour shortages, all the while reducing dependence on costly social programs and actually boosting long-term income tax revenues. It does not get much better than that.
Let me conclude by bringing this discussion full circle. I want to end where I began.
Locally and nationally, the building and construction trades have lobbied for the bill for over 35 years. They represent an industry that is critical to our economy. In fact, construction is Canada's largest private sector industry. Its direct impact is immense. Construction accounts for 12% of Canada's GDP.
The industry has more than 260,000 businesses, employing more than a million Canadians. It is responsible for installing, repairing, and renovating more than $150 billion worth of infrastructure every single year. It is a threshold industry on which everything else is based.
In a very real sense, the building and construction trades have built our country. It is time for us to shore up their work. It is time for us to heed their call for action. It is time for us to provide them with a tax credit for travel and accommodation expenses when they accept work more than 80 kilometres away from their home. It is time to pass my bill.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for his tireless efforts in standing up for our Canadian beef and pork producers. Today our government is launching the next phase of our fight against discriminatory county of origin labelling rules. Our government, with the full support and active engagement of Canadian industry, has fought against unfair treatment since the very beginning. Canada's beef and pork exporters can count on our government to continue to stand up for their interests.
Mr. Speaker, I heard the comments by the hon. member and his colleague from Okanagan—Shuswap and I have to say that both members actually made the case for the very recommendation by the commission that looked into the Air India incident.
My understanding is that there was only one recommendation for amendments to the federal witness protection program made by the commission: to create the national security witness protection coordinator. Why? It was because a number of witnesses in the Air India inquiry refused to testify because they did not feel they were going to be adequately protected. This protection coordinator's mandate would include providing confidential support, psychological and legal advice, independent confidential arbitration disputes and acting as an advocate for witnesses.
The member said that the government has made comprehensive amendments and yet it chose not to implement the single amendment recommended by the commission. I wonder if he could speak to that.
Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the debate with interest and my colleague from Okanagan—Shuswap commented that there may be some justification that it is perhaps better that young people do not go to university and go straight into trades instead.
My view is that it is best if all young people have a chance to graduate from high school and are then able to make the choice of whether to go into trades or to university.
Therefore, I would ask my colleague this. There is an underfunding of aboriginal people on reserve compared to the provincial and territorial funding for young people in small communities. That results in an unfortunate high level of young people on reserve who do not graduate from high school and perhaps do not go into technical training or university. Should that not be addressed by his government so that equitable funding is provided for aboriginal people on reserve?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Okanagan—Shuswap for that great question and also for his hard work in promoting Canadian interests around the world.
Sadly, the NDP has an appalling record on trade. This is a party whose idea of trade promotion is to lead an anti-trade mission to Washington, D.C., to lobby against Canadian jobs and attack Canada's exporters. Despite the antics of the NDP, our government is delivering for Canadians. Today, Statistics Canada reported that in March, Canada's merchandise exports increased by 5%. While the NDP disparages Canada on the international stage, we are opening up new markets for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap for reminding us of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
In April 1917 Canadians from all over the country came together and accomplished what had been thought impossible, the capture of Vimy Ridge. It was the birth of our nation.
This afternoon I was pleased to join the Minister of Finance at the official issuing of the new $20 polymer banknote. This note depicts the magnificent Vimy Memorial in France and honours the ultimate sacrifice of Canada's fallen.
Our government will continue to ensure that the service of our veterans is well remembered.
Before we resume debate, I would like to remind all hon. members, when they have the floor, to make their comments directly to the Chair, and for those who do not have the floor to give respect to their colleagues when they have the opportunity to speak.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again today to speak to my motion, Motion No. 319 regarding childhood nutrition. This motion is important to me, and I realize it is important to members from all corners of the House.
I want to thank the members who have participated in this debate, including the hon. members for Mississauga South, Don Valley East, Okanagan—Shuswap, Beauharnois—Salaberry, Halifax West, Beaches—East York, Etobicoke North.
The member for Berthier—Maskinongé made a particularly eloquent speech. I also thank the members for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
The member for Vancouver Centre had a bit of an angry tinge in her speech and blamed the government for doing nothing. I thought that was pretty rich coming from a member who has been here for nearly 20 years. She had good statistics on the increase in childhood obesity. Unfortunately, she did not mention that the increase in childhood obesity happened mostly on her watch, especially as she is a physician.
Canada is facing this problem, which, over time, has become an epidemic. We can no longer turn a blind eye to it, but instead we must begin an open discussion on childhood obesity.
Over the past 25 years, rates of obesity and overweight have nearly tripled.
The reality is startling. Today, over one in four children in Canada is overweight or obese.
Children who are obese are at increased risk of being overweight or obese as adults.
Childhood obesity is now a challenge to the health of Canadians and the Canadian economy.
We know that childhood obesity increases the risk of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. We are seeing more and more of these chronic conditions in Canada and worldwide. Chronic disease has a devastating impact on individuals and families.
In addition, it is estimated that health care costs directly related to obesity are as high as $6 billion per year.
Reversing the trend is a complex challenge.
Several factors are at play and may be contributing to the increasing rate of overweight and obesity. For example, biological, behavioural, social, psychological, technical, environmental, economic and cultural factors may tip the balance toward obesity.
That is why many sectors of society have a role to play in promoting healthy weight.
As members can see, Motion No. 319 is about encouraging the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth, building on Curbing Childhood Obesity, the federal-provincial-territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. It encourages dialogue across sectors and also among individuals and organizations to address the factors that lead to obesity.
Engagement and collaboration are essential to mobilizing action to promote healthy weight, so they are fundamental to this motion.
It encourages the federal government to continue to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles as well as engagement and collaboration in the promotion of healthy weights. Our children need to live, learn and play in health-promoting and supportive environments where healthy choices are the easy choice. The federal government is on the right path. It has undertaken a number of significant initiatives in collaboration with others to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.
I encourage all members to support this motion so that our children can live in a world where good health and good lifestyle habits are a priority.
I thank the hon. members on both sides of the House for supporting this motion.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth; (b) encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food; (c) encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight; and (d) consider the federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weight entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity”, that resulted from the endorsement of the “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” by the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health and Health promotion/Healthy Living, as the basis for action to address obesity, particularly in children, promoting physical activity and making healthy food choices.
Madam Speaker, first I will thank my seatmate and friend, the dedicated member for Okanagan—Shuswap, for being the seconder of this motion on a topic that is dear to me and to the good and wise people I represent in this place.
I am very pleased to address this House and all Canadians on this day, my 2,301st day as the servant of Ottawa–Orléans, in order to raise an issue of paramount importance to the future of our fine country: child nutrition.
“Youth is the smile of the future in the presence of an unknown quantity, which is itself”, wrote legendary poet and playwright Victor Hugo in his masterpiece, Les Misérables.
In his famous poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, the English poet and playwright, Robert Browning, wrote:
Therefore I summon age To grant youth's heritage,
In the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of a worrisome phenomenon: more and more children and young people with a weight problem.
In 1953, when Madame Jeannette Dupuis-Desjarlais was my grade 1 teacher, very few of my classmates were chubby. That is no longer the case.
Twenty-five years later, when I served on the Ottawa-Carleton health council, the trend we are seeing today was already apparent.
I believe it is important for us to pay special attention to this problem, which affects all of us, and for us to begin discussion among parliamentarians. It deserves a national discussion.
This is why I am pleased to speak today to my private member's motion, Motion No. 319. It addresses the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth. It encourages the federal government to continue to work in areas that are aligned with current priorities and activities following from curbing child obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. I do not know why they have long titles like that.
Canada is facing an obesity epidemic, mainly in children and young adults. The rate of obesity in children and young persons has almost tripled in the past 25 years.
More than one in four children and young persons in Canada are overweight or obese: one in four.
These rates are even higher in aboriginal communities.
The Public Health Agency of Canada warns that childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity later in life, as well as the early onset of a number of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and all kinds of others that we cannot even pronounce.
The repercussions of what can be called the obesity epidemic threaten both the health and the economy of our country and because, as I have just shown, the weight problem among young people has worsened in the past decades, Canada's future could suffer.
Links have been established between obesity and the incidence of asthma, gall bladder disorders, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, cardiovascular illnesses and certain types of cancer, including colon, kidney, breast, endometrial, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.
We have to invest in the future of our children. It is critical that we ensure that everyone understands the importance of promoting and maintaining a healthy weight in the early years.
In the May 8, 2012 edition of the Journal de Montréal, journalist Héloïse Archambault wrote about how young persons, particularly young women, attempt to lose weight. In her article on teenagers who want to be thin, she quotes Jacinthe Côté, a psychology professor at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and the author of a study on how young persons try to lose weight.
Her alarming observations are a concern. According to the study, while three out of four young women between the ages of four and eighteen are unhappy with their figure, what they do in an attempt to become thin is frightening.
The most popular weight-loss method include, for nearly 45% of young women, skipping meals. More than one in five young women decide not to eat all day. Dieting, starting to smoke or going back to smoking, taking appetite suppressants or laxatives and vomiting after meals are also among the attempted solutions.
By taking such drastic measures, these young women are jeopardizing part of their future. Is that the sort of approach we want our young people to take in order to lose weight?
The situation is an economic burden on Canada and if nothing is done, it will become increasingly problematic.
The direct health care costs of overweight and obesity have been estimated at $6 billion a year and the indirect costs are roughly an additional $1.1 billion per year in Canada. I am sure that the various levels of government have other uses for what is, on its face, taxpayer money.
Canada is not alone in this situation. Many developed countries are facing similar obesity trends. This is one of the reasons we are seeing renewed momentum to address chronic diseases, including risk factors such as overweight and obesity, on a global scale.
Last September, for example, Canada participated in a United Nations meeting on chronic diseases. At that meeting there was clear recognition that obesity is a global health problem, and countries agreed to make it a priority. While it is not the role of government to force people to adopt particular lifestyles, the government must endeavour to raise Canadians’ awareness of this situation and must become involved in the search for solutions.
In this search for solutions, the government is already moving forward.
Families that register their children in physical activity programs are entitled to a $500 income tax credit each year. The government also funds Participaction, an agency that helps Canadians adopt healthy lifestyles through physical activity and sport. One year ago today, this highly beneficial agency honoured two young constituents from Ottawa—Orléans.
Alexis and Loïc Gagnon-Clément, two brothers studying at Garneau high school and St. Joseph elementary school respectively in Orléans, were the winners of the Dare2Move Your Own Generation Teen Challenge.
In this contest, ParticipACTION invited young people across Canada to produce a short video to educate young Canadians about the inactivity crisis. In the winning video, Loïc plays the role of an obese tweenie, using humour to illustrate times when physical inactivity is a drag.
After the scenarios, the two students present scary statistics about the health of Canadian young persons.
This is exactly the kind of program the government should be encouraging.
My motion is meant to encourage this dialogue among all the sectors, particularly health care, the economy, the environment and education. It also encourages individuals, families, industry, NGOs and governments across the country to take action and to raise awareness.
First, this motion encourages the federal government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, the industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.
This motion also calls on the federal government to encourage discussions that address the factors leading to obesity.
For example, we must expand the dialogue to include key areas for action in order to promote strategies for building social and physical environments that encourage physical activity and promote healthy eating and access to nutritious foods.
My motion calls on the federal government to encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of healthy weights.
We know that engagement and collaboration are fundamental aspects of mobilizing action.
This brings me to the final element of my motion.
The fourth part of this motion urges the federal government to use this framework as the basis for action plans to address obesity, particularly in children, and to promote active living and healthy food choices. This will ensure that governments continue to work together in three specific areas: first, to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles; second, to create favourable environments; and third, to promote multi-sector partnerships.
Canada is sending a clear message to the rest of the world that everyone has a part to play in healthy weights.
Members may know that in January 2010, I started a gym fitness and nutrition program. My goal is to be in good shape for the years to come.
Getting started at my age is not easy. I still have a lot to learn about healthy eating. Habits are hard to break, especially for people in their sixties.
In rising in the House to speak to members today, I earnestly hope that the Canada of the future, which this motion addresses, will have the means to make wiser choices than I did. While it is true that it is never too late to change one's habits, efforts are a lot easier to muster with the energy of youth.
In walking the walk—not just talking the talk—I am going to take Canada’s Food Guide in hand as my pilgrim’s staff and visit schools in the constituency of Ottawa–Orléans that I serve, to take part in the promotion and discussion projects described in the motion I have moved in this House.
Over the next few weeks, all the schools in the constituency of Ottawa—Orléans, from St. Peter High School to Gisèle-Lalonde, by way of Cairine Wilson, will be invited to take part in this activity that I propose. I invite all hon. members, regardless of political stripe, to do the same.
Obesity is a complex phenomenon, and addressing its causes is a long-term goal that will require not only changes in individual behaviour, but also innovative action by governments, industry, non-governmental organizations and other partners.
We each have a role to play.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the employees of Health Canada for their support in this project.
I would also like to thank my staff for their support: Lynne Bernard, Andrej Sakic, Gina Vilsaint, Amanda Weir, Colette Yelle and my executive assistant, Brian Michaud.
I hope all members of the House will support my motion and take part in these discussions and awareness projects to further the important cause of child nutrition.
Young people are our future. Let us not allow this dark cloud to loom over them.
I thank you, Madam Speaker, for your kind attention and assure you that I shall take questions from my colleagues with the same respect.
The electoral district of Okanagan--Shuswap (British Columbia) has a population of 116,236 with 89,400 registered voters and 242 polling divisions.
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