Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate because it is of extreme importance to all of us. The previous member just said how important it is and I would agree with him, although there will be some areas, I suspect, where we may not be in so much agreement.
Today I will focus my remarks on offender accountability, a key part of Bill C-26, the tougher penalties for child predators act. Indeed, our government has always placed considerable focus on improving our criminal justice system in order to shift more accountability onto offenders. The fact is that most offenders will eventually be returned to the community after incarceration. As such, our correctional system is set up to provide offenders with proper treatment and support, as required, to help them work through rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into the community.
The Correctional Service of Canada has a comprehensive program in place that helps guide offenders toward the right pathway to address the needs that led to criminal behaviour, including programs that address substance abuse, violent behaviour, sexual offences and mental health issues, among many others. Ultimately, the bulk of responsibility for successful rehabilitation and reintegration must rest with the offender.
Our government has made a number of changes to respond to the concerns of victims. In particular, in 2012, the Safe Streets and Communities Act put in place a number of measures that focus on offender accountability by expressly requiring in legislation that every offender has a correctional plan. We have created an environment in which offender accountability is placed at the forefront.
From the moment offenders enter the federal correction system, it is made clear that they must follow a well-defined correctional plan that includes expectations for behaviour, as well as objectives for the program participation and for meeting court-ordered obligations such as restitution to victims or child support. This is done in collaboration with offenders, so they take part in building that program.
Before I go any further, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
We have also modernized the current disciplinary system, creating new disciplinary offences for disrespectful and intimidating behaviour either toward staff or inmates. Once outside the institution, offenders are also expected to continue on the right path.
Peace officers can now arrest, without warrant, an offender who they believe to be in breach of a condition related to the offender's conditional release and offenders who receive a new custodial sentence automatically have their parole or statutory release suspended. We have recently taken further steps to assist in offender rehabilitation by supporting amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act regarding vexatious complaints. We now have a process in place that promotes offender accountability by encouraging inmates to resolve problems through appropriate means rather than burdening the complaint and grievance system with frivolous complaints.
We have introduced the drug-free prisons act, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide the Parole Board of Canada with additional legislative tools to ensure that parole applicants who failed drug tests would be denied parole. Addressing offender behaviour while individuals are incarcerated is critical.
We have also reinstated the accountability of offenders act, legislation that, if passed, will require offenders to pay off any debts they owe to society before receiving any monetary award resulting from legal action against the Crown. Just as important is making it clear that offenders must continue to address their needs and make proper choices once they are released from penitentiary.
The parole system is set up to help offenders do just this, using the appropriate checks and balances and oversight of offenders, depending on their criminal history and risk to society. While we have taken action to strengthen the conditional release system, some gaps remain that need to be addressed. It is critical, particularly when we consider the risk to our children, that we ensure a child sex offender cannot find a loophole in the law that gives him or her an opportunity to commit another such devastating crime.
That brings me to the legislation at hand.
A key tool we have to ensure police are aware of the location and other information on convicted sexual offenders is the national sex offender registry. Administered by the RCMP and accessible by police forces across the country, the registry contains vital information about convicted sex offenders, such as name and address, where they work, their physical description, and absences from their residence for seven days or more.
A number of amendments to the Sex Offender Information Registration Act came into force in 2011 to ensure that the registry is a proactive law enforcement tool that contains the names of all registered sex offenders.
While it is an important law enforcement tool, there are some gaps found within the act that need to be addressed. Specifically, the rules surrounding travel notification must be tightened as they relate to international travel of registered sex offenders who have committed a sexual offence against a child.
As we have heard, Bill C-26 would accomplish this in a number of ways. It would require offenders who have been convicted of child sex offences to report trips of any duration outside of Canada, as well as to provide information about the exact dates of travel and where they plan to stay while abroad. All other registered sex offenders would be required to report all addresses or locations in which they expect to stay, as well as expected dates of departure and return for trips of seven days or more within or outside Canada.
It would allow for information-sharing between the Canada Border Services Agency and officials with the national sex offender registry. This would add a safeguard measure at our borders to ensure offenders are following notification procedures and registration requirements. Further, it could help make investigations of crimes of a sexual nature possible.
The bill would also create a new stand-alone legislation that would create a national database that would be accessible to the general public. That database would contain information about high-risk child sex offenders who have been the subject of public notification in a province or territory.
There are also several amendments proposed to the Criminal Code that would increase penalties for child sex offenders and, particularly relevant to our push for more offender accountability, they would ensure that any crime committed while an offender is on parole, on unescorted temporary absence, on statutory release, or under a conditional sentence order would be considered an aggravating factor in the determination of a sentence for a new crime.
All told, these proposed measures would create a much stronger system that would place another level of accountability on convicted sex offenders; a system in which offenders would live with the knowledge that border services officers would be alerted to high-risk child sex offenders who travel abroad; a system in which high-risk child sex offenders know that any public notifications released about them in a specific province would now be available to the general public right across the country.
All of these measures would serve to emphasize to offenders the importance of following all conditions and making the right decision in order to remain in the community.
They would also build in another layer of safety and security for citizens who worry about registered sex offenders living and working in their communities and travelling throughout the country, as well as abroad.
I am proud to support these efforts and I ask all members in this House to join with me in giving the legislation a swift passage.
Mr. Speaker, I am taking this occasion to rise on this bill, titled the reform act, 2014. I would like to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for presenting us with the occasion to debate that very subject before this chamber. This debate allows us to highlight the important improvements we have witnessed under this Prime Minister and this government in the area of democratic reform.
I understand that in politics, one of the idiosyncrasies with which we must be faced is that sometimes narrative departs a long way from the facts. People have a tendency to confuse, for example, strength with centralization, competence with control, and so it is when many critics in the public sphere judge the degree of central power in the various parties that are in the House today.
I think we should examine the facts to see how the parties actually add up on this very question. Let me examine some of those empirical facts.
The Globe and Mail published an analysis of 162,000 votes cast on the floor of this House of Commons by individual MPs. It found that during a two-year period, between June 2, 2011, and January 28, 2013, the Liberal Party voted as a unanimous block 90% of the time, with no difference of opinion whatsoever.
The Conservative Party had independent votes; that is, members of the caucus voted differently than the leadership in one in four votes on the floor of the House of Commons.
The NDP whipped 100% of its MPs 100% of the time. That is to say, in that two-year period, there was literally not one MP who dared disagree with their leader even once, which is an exceptional statement of the centralization of powers that has occurred in the NDP.
We move to the subject of the Senate. I think all of us are frustrated with the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on that question. However, it is important to note what was at stake. The reference to the Supreme Court on the question of the Senate was actually very ironic.
I am not aware of another occasion in our history when a Prime Minister has gone to court to ask judges to take powers away from him. He actually went to the court and asked the court to allow him to give the people authority over who would represent them in the Senate. He agreed that if provinces held elections, he would respect the outcome and he would oblige himself to do so in federal statutory law.
Equally ironic was that it was the courts that actually refused to let him give away the powers he wanted to cede, but no less, it is interesting to note that he wanted to cede them in the first place, an action and a motive that is not normally part of the constitution of any leader of government, but with this Prime Minister it is, as I will further elaborate when I come to our position on this particular bill.
On the question of private members' bills in general, I should note that under this Parliament, with a majority Conservative government, and this Prime Minister, we actually have had more private members' bills passed into law than at any time since 1972. In that Parliament, many of the bills were just name changes to constituencies.
In terms of legislating, this Parliament, under a majority Conservative government, led by this Prime Minister, has had more backbenchers enact legislation than at any time in history.
Some have become cynical about this fact and have said that it is actually just the government putting private members up to passing legislation. They offer no proof of that except that the government actually voted for the legislation.
There is the Catch-22. If the government had voted against this backbench legislation, they would say that the government was blocking it, but with the government having voted for it, they now say that it cannot be that independent if the government supported it at the end of the day. Members will see that with these critics, there is no winning.
However, Canadians are winning. They are winning because of the democratic action of members of this House, such as the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who was able to introduce legislation to protect vulnerable people from human trafficking, and the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, who was able to amend legislation from the Prohibition era that prevented Canadians from transporting wines and other spirits across borders. The legislation now allows Canadians to actually drink Canadian-produced wines and beers. We also had the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, who succeeded in passing suicide prevention legislation through the House of Commons. This was serious, substantive legislation passed by backbench MPs under this government.
We now have another bill before the House of Commons, the reform act. That bill would address the 45-year-old requirement in law that a leader sign off on the candidacy of every single person who is on the ballot for the party. Since 1970, it has been a requirement in law that a party leader sign off on every candidate. Without that signature, one cannot be a candidate. Even parties that would prefer to have another form of approval for their candidates cannot do so, because the statutory law in paragraph 67(4)(c) bans them from doing it.
When my friend in the Liberal Party, whom I congratulate on giving his maiden speech, said that these matters should not be codified in law, I point out the fact that they already are codified in law in this instance. That statute forces parties to give leaders veto power over their candidates, even if the party constitution disagrees. The treasured party autonomy of which he is in pursuit does not exist in the current law.
The member for Wellington—Halton Hills seeks to change that by removing this veto power from the leaders and allowing parties to select any officer or officers they think fit to approve their candidacies.
I suspect the Liberal Party would oppose that idea. The leader of their party has abused that power in order to prevent numerous people from running for the Liberal Party. Just today, six former MPs for the Liberal Party spoke out against their leader and said that he was abusing his veto power to impose his ideology on every single candidate who runs for the Liberals. He has further had preferences for friends whom he wanted to have on the ballot for his party. He has basically used the legal authority embedded in the Elections Act to hand nominations to those friends at the expense of other people who would probably have more merit and be able to win the nominations if they were held democratically.
In our party, that decision is left to local party members, the grassroots. In practice, our leader has not used his whip, his legal power, in an abusive manner.
Furthermore, in another instance of this Prime Minister acting in a manner more democratic than any of his predecessors, he becomes the first leader in half a century to declare his support for the removal of the legal veto power of party leaders over candidates. Once again, that speaks to his willingness to cede power to the Canadian people and to grassroots political participants so that they can exercise their own will. That gesture on behalf of our Prime Minister demonstrates that he is ahead of his predecessors on the question of democratic reform and certainly ahead of his competitors in the House of Commons.
The member who brought forward this legislation has congratulated the Prime Minister for creating a space in which this kind of debate can occur. The member is absolutely right that there is no other party, no other caucus, under no other leader, in which this kind of debate would ever have been permitted, because only on this side of the House and under this Prime Minister can we openly discuss the nature of our democracy and propose substantive reforms to improve it.
For that I thank our Prime Minister. I look forward to continuing this debate.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure for me today to stand to support and talk to the House about Vanessa's law.
As my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla mentioned, this bill requires the reporting of serious adverse drug reactions to ensure that doctors and patients are aware of new risks, and introduces new tough fines for companies that put Canadians at risk. I encourage all members to support the bill's referral to committee so some progress can made on the important issue of drug safety and work toward better protections for Canadian patients.
I will focus my remarks on the importance of mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and also medical device incidents by health care institutions and how this would improve our ability to respond to safety issues that would help keep Canadians safe.
As members of the House can appreciate, drugs can not only have beneficial effects for patients, but can sometimes have unintended and unwanted side effects. These side effects, better known as adverse drug reactions, can sometimes represent very serious medical risks. What are termed serious adverse drug reactions in the bill are ones that require hospitalization and are often life threatening or result in permanent disability.
Adverse reactions to medications are estimated to amount up to 25% of emergency room visits and hospital admissions, an amazing number that would likely shock most of us. That is why I find it so appropriate that the bill has been entitled Vanessa's law, in memory of the member for Oakville's late daughter, who tragically died of a heart attack while on prescription drugs that were later deemed not safe and then removed from the market.
The bill would make it a requirement for certain health care institutions to provide Health Canada with serious adverse drug reactions or medical device incidents. This information would allow Health Canada to take steps to prevent further harm related to these products. As I mentioned, although a significant number of Canadians are admitted to hospitals each year for serious drug reactions, again 25%, this important information about drugs and medical devices does not always reach Health Canada. This is a serious concern and one that legislators can actually help address.
Our country has one of the most rigorous drug approval systems in the world. Before a drug reaches the marketplace, the department reviews it for safety, quality and effectiveness. This review is generally based on scientific data that is attained through previous studies and observed in clinical testing.
Clinical testing is an important part in the development of drugs and medical devices, and we have every reason to have the confidence in the science. However, studying drugs before they are put on the market cannot tell us everything about these products. When a drug or medical device is introduced to the real world, it may produce different results from those that were observed in a controlled clinical trial setting. In fact, some serious issues may only become known after a medical device or drug is actually on the market.
It is therefore critical that we continue to monitor the use of drugs and medical devices in the marketplace and that information on serious adverse reactions are reported to Health Canada in a timely manner. Under current law, and this is interesting, only manufacturers and sponsors of clinical trials must report serious adverse reactions. However, they do not receive reports on some of the serious adverse reactions and cannot report incidents to the department if they do not know about them.
I will give credit where credit is due. Adverse drug reactions reported to Health Canada have been on the rise over the past five years. Unfortunately, despite these improvements, it is estimated that less than 10% of adverse drug reactions are actually reported. This underreporting of important safety information is a serious concern as it limits Health Canada's ability to identify at an early stage the potential safety issues with a product and to take timely action to prevent additional patient harm.
Some positive steps have already been taken to address underreporting by educating health care professionals on the value of reporting and how to properly report to Health Canada. Pre-emptive steps have also been taken to introduce new simplified forms and electronic forms to report. Devoting health care resources needlessly to an overly complex system creates a problem in itself and nipping this in the bud is simply good policy. In addition, Health Canada has worked with standard-setting bodies such as Accreditation Canada to assist health care institutions to standardize their process for reporting. Although this has helped, it is still not enough. We need to do better.
With Vanessa's Law, we will strengthen serious adverse drug reaction and medical device incident reporting, as well as provide the tools needed to respond to unsafe drugs.
Let me give a few examples to illustrate how this safety information can benefit patients and how the bill would support these measures.
When Health Canada receives important information about a certain medical device or drug, it will take the necessary steps to prevent future harm. Health Canada could alert health care professionals to any new harms and how they could be mitigated, or require the manufacturer to change the labelling to add a warning.
We know that many serious adverse drug reactions are preventable. Taking action to prevent these harms will free up valuable hospital resources, through addressing threats to health and safety before hospitalization is required.
As alluded to earlier, we are well aware of how busy health care institutions have become and we do not intend to impose any unnecessary burden on an already strained health care system. That is why we are strongly committed to further consultations with health care institutions, as well as with provincial and territorial governments.
There is a clear commitment in the bill to developing regulations that will set out what information is required, how it is reported and which health care institutions will be required to report.
Only those health care institutions that are best positioned to improve the quantity and quality of reporting would be required to report. Only useful safety information about a drug or medical device will be gathered in ways that are efficient and within time frames that are meaningful. Again, all with a view to ensure the least burdensome way to get the safety information that is needed.
Further, it is an expressed commitment in the bill that reported requirements will take into account existing information management systems with the view to not imposing any unnecessary administrative burden. This will lead to the development of a meaningful reporting system that is not only focused on increasing the quantity of data, but also in gathering quality data.
It is important for Health Canada to continue to monitor drugs and medical devices once they are on the market. The information that health care institutions will provide on serious adverse drug reactions will allow Health Canada to assess the balance between the benefits and the risks of a drug while it is on the market. More important, it will support timely identification of safety issues and early action to prevent future harm.
Our government's priority is the health and safety of Canadians families. Strengthening the reporting requirements for drugs and medical devices will better protect Canadians and their families from preventable harm.
These important measures need to be taken, and I hope Vanessa's Law will receive support from all parties so that all of us as a country can take action for better protection of Canadians.
I am thankful for the time allotted for me to speak to such an important bill and I look forward to questions.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to BIA no. 1 today. We all know that the budget was introduced a number of months ago now, and there are two process whereby we turn our budget into legislation. Today what we are talking about is the first very important piece of legislation.
When I spoke to the budget a number of months ago, I talked about how we had a plan that started when we first took government in 2006. It was a plan that saw us through the global recession, and we saw how the finance minister followed this plan and was leading us into some of the best positions in the G7, including the best net debt-to-GDP ratio and the best job growth rate. We are incredibly proud of the plan that we had, which saw us through a very difficult time and coming back to a balanced budget.
That speaks to the three broad themes of this budget: returning to balance, supporting jobs and growth, and supporting families and communities. I will speak to these three themes and perhaps give some small examples that represent those themes, but first I want to make a general statement.
We hear the New Democrats frequently comment about the number of pages. I am not sure if they have challenges and do not want to read those 359 pages, but it is important to recognize that legislatively it sometimes takes a lot of pages to make a little change.
For example, making MP pensions fairer for Canadians was a small change, but it took about 20 pages of legislation to actually do that. I do not think we should be judging a budget document, a plan, in terms of its number of pages.
The other point I would like to make is that I certainly believe that if the NDP, God forbid, ever had the opportunity to present a budget, given all its national plans and tax raises, it would probably fill a bookshelf with national strategy, national strategy, tax increase, tax increase. That is one piece that we need to look at.
Of course, we know that the Liberals would probably have about one page. They know that budgets balance themselves, so one page would probably be sufficient for any budget that the Liberals might decide to present.
Our government realizes that crafting a plan is a multi-year, multi-faceted process, and it requires measures that are both large and small.
First I would like to target why it is important that we return to a balanced budget.
We know that we cannot leave debt for our children and grandchildren. It would not be fair. We would not do it as a family member and we should not be doing it as a country. We also know that when we have a good fiscal position, our debt repayment is low, which means we have more money for health care, hospitals, and all the many things that Canadians feel would add value for infrastructure. When we are not paying a lot of money in debt repayment, we have additional funds to focus in those areas. We know that it gives us the ability to keep taxes low and gives us the opportunity for flexibility and stability.
When we first took government, economic times were good. We paid down $37 billion in debt. We had to provide some economic stimulus during the years, but we are on track to be back to a balanced budget by 2015-16.
Certainly if we look around the world and compare Canada with other countries, we can be incredibly proud. How do we do that? We do it in two ways. We do it on the revenue side. We do it by creating an environment where small and large businesses can thrive and survive and create that economic benefit. We do it through our aggressive trade plan and our trade agreements, such as the South Korean and the European free trade agreements, just to name a couple.
In the province of British Columbia, my cattlemen in B.C. are absolutely thrilled with the aggressive measures we have taken in terms of what is going to open up new markets for them. They have gone through an incredibly difficult time and they see huge opportunities. It was said by the cattlemen that they now have 500 million hungry customers waiting for them, so creating the environment for revenue is really important. Ensuring that the people pay their fair share of taxes by closing tax loopholes is another part of taking care of the revenue side.
The expenditure side is another important area. Again, we are looking at the expenditure side very carefully. We are making sure that the money the government spends is very thoughtful money. We are making sure that there is value for dollars, and we have undertaken a number of measures to make sure that compensation is fair.
That was a look at the return to balanced budgets and the importance of returning to balanced budgets.
Now I have just a few comments about some measures for supporting jobs and growth. I will look at one, which is a very tiny measure. We know that in British Columbia, we have a fabulous wine industry. The member for Okanagan—Coquihalla has a private member's bill to make changes to the importation of intoxicating liquor so that if people are visiting British Columbia from Ontario, they can go to one of those wineries and pick up a bottle from Quails' Gate or another winery and take it across the border. It would really open up the market. Amazingly, in Canada, the ability for interprovincial trade has been constrained for our wine industry.
In this bill we have given craft brewers and artisan distillers the same opportunities to open up their markets. I will give an example. I used to be the mayor of Pemberton. Pemberton is well known for its seed potatoes and it is known for its pristine glacier waters.
I can remember, when I was there, that for many years people would muse that someone should make vodka in Pemberton. They had potatoes and fantastic water. What a great combination.
Entrepreneurs are out there. It did not happen when I was there, but a family moved to Pemberton, and they had the same thought. They created a new business venture, Pemberton Distillery, and they make Schramm vodka. It was a small entrepreneur setting up a business. What we are doing is opening up their opportunity to sell their product.
When that kind of environment is created across the country, what we are doing is creating success for our small and medium-sized businesses. Again, it is a small measure, but it is incredibly important in terms of what the opportunities will be.
There is another area we are looking at supporting for opportunities, jobs, and growth. Last week, the Premier of British Columbia was in Ottawa. She was speaking about skilled trades shortages. She was speaking about their goal, which is coming to fruition, of having a robust LNG industry in British Columbia. She was talking about needing the manpower to fill the jobs that are going to be created.
We did identify, and I know that it is not across the country, that there are definitely skills shortages. We have a need for apprenticeship support. We have done a lot in terms of the apprenticeship program.
If we look at someone who perhaps is going back into an apprenticeship, he might have a wife and a family. We announced support in this latest budget such that registered Red Seal programs will have access to $100 million in interest-free loans. That is $4,000 per individual per session. That can make the difference for people going back, getting their Red Seal, and opening up their opportunities in terms of the new available jobs throughout British Columbia and Alberta, and of course, across the country. Again, it is important support that is going to hopefully help generate the people we need into the future.
Finally, every one of us, in our offices, have cases that touch us. I had a case of a couple who were not able to have children of their own. They had waited many years and were able to adopt a child. This child was in another country. Of course, sometimes babies do not come according to plan. The baby was born prematurely. The family had to travel to this country to spend time with their newborn. The expenses to spend that time before they were able to bring their newborn back home were extraordinary.
The $15,000 tax credit they could have to support their adoption expenses would make a phenomenal difference.
The crafting of this budget was done with input from Canadians across this country. We see many measures that we know we submitted or that our colleagues submitted. It is a plan to move Canada forward, and it is a plan to return to balanced budgets and a successful, prosperous future.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague talk with great thoughtfulness about an issue that touches us all in the House. It talks to the very integrity of the House. When a mistake is made and an apology is given, we have a choice. Do we accept that apology in good faith and in the spirit it was intended or do we not?
My Cape Breton mom used to say that to err is human but to forgive is divine. When one offers a sincere apology, we have a choice. We can either say that we are prepared to accept that apology or not. I felt that the member's apology was sincere.
I have heard members opposite try to find different ways to challenge the question. Was it a genuine apology, or did the initial comments have intent behind them? The way I look at it is that if the member in question had said nothing, we would not have known. In good faith, the member stood up and made that apology.
My colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla gave an eloquent statement today. He gave his formal comments with a great degree of compassion and heart, which is something we could all learn.
At what point do we say that one can make an error but be forgiven and be understood by the House to be forgiven? Where do we draw the line where we say no, under no circumstances is the House ever prepared to do that? It is easy to be mean and ill-intended. At what point do we take people at face value and in good faith? Could my colleague respond to that with his thoughts, please?
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
It is a great privilege for me to stand in this House today and speak to economic action plan 2014, which is appropriately titled “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”.
Our Conservative government has one of the best track records for economic growth and management of national debt in the developed world. We are the envy of many nations around the world who wonder how it is that Canada has done so well.
I think there are a variety of reasons for this, but first and foremost, the leadership and sound fiscal management that our Prime Minister has shown throughout his time in office has had a major impact. I continue to be very proud of the Prime Minister and his efforts. I know of no other leader who has shown such tenacity in making sure that our beloved Canada stays on the right track and eliminates the deficit as promised. In a related subject, I would like to thank our extremely hard-working Minister of Finance. With his economic action plan 2014, he has delivered his tenth budget. The minister continues to do excellent work for Canadians, and we are looking forward to his continuing guidance and leadership as well.
With these things said, this is yet another good plan for Canadians. This is a budget that Canadians can be proud of. This plan will get us back on track and in the black, as promised. Canada will be deficit-free at the federal level by next year, which is the icing on the cake.
This budget is great for the people of my home province of Alberta, as well as the people in my riding of Medicine Hat, which I am so very proud to represent in Ottawa. This budget is indeed good news for my constituents. There are a number of initiatives that will be beneficial to them, and I appreciate the opportunity to enumerate some of those in the time I have today.
I think one of the bigger pieces that applies is with respect to first nations education. I was pleased to attend the announcement last week, near Lethbridge, of the first nations control of first nations education bill, with the Prime Minister and my colleagues. This positive step forward is being highly praised. It is one of those cases where the consultation process worked very well to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all sides.
This bill will mean that first nations students from kindergarten to grade 12 on reserve will have access to accountable and higher education. I am pleased that our government has decided to move forward with these important reforms.
With the economic action plan, we are pledging to reduce the regulatory burden. We will do this through the red tape reduction plan so that small and medium-sized businesses can save time and money. I know that a number of initiatives to reduce red tape have been implemented and have been a boon to small business owners in the Medicine Hat riding. These are things like the one-for-one rule, which means that for every new regulatory burden that is placed on small business, one must be removed.
Another important piece of the budget that will increase economic activity in my riding is a plan to reduce barriers within Canada. This will help local businesses that may be considering markets. One of the best markets is right here at home, and we need to do everything we can in our power as federal legislators to ensure we are not obstructing trade within our own country.
We have already made some progress on this file, with multi-party support. I make reference to the highly praised legislation that was introduced and worked on tirelessly by my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla. Thanks to his efforts, the federal restrictions on having wine delivered from other provinces have been removed, and now the ball is in the province's court to act. Our government will continue with these initiatives to foster internal trade between provinces.
With respect to support for farmers, we will continue to hold the best interests of farmers at heart as we craft public policy. I know that many of my farmers are more than satisfied with our government's record on delivering results for people in the agriculture sector. I know that many wheat producers are very pleased that our government got rid of the single-desk at the Canadian Wheat Board. They now have the same rights as wheat and barley farmers in all provinces east of Manitoba.
We will continue to support them with programs, such as the new pilot price insurance program for cattle and hog producers in western Canada. I know that many of my hog producers remember the crisis of the late nineties and early 2000 in their industry. Indeed, that was a dark hour. However, they are resilient folk and they stuck through the lean times. This pilot project will offer insurance against unexpected price declines within a production cycle.
We will also support farmers by extending the tax deferral for livestock to include bees, and all horses over 12 months, that are kept for breeding when sold due to drought or excess moisture.
With respect to the review process for pipeline projects, we will provide $28 million to the National Energy Board to ensure that project applications are reviewed in a comprehensive and timely manner. This is going to be important to my constituents, and indeed all Albertans. As we are aware, Alberta is the energy heartland of Canada. We need to ensure there is a fair process that is implemented within an appropriate amount of time.
We will be taking steps with economic action plan 2014 to strengthen our justice system. In Alberta, we would create two new positions on the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in order to ensure justice in our communities.
Economic action plan 2014 also supports the implementation of a long-awaited victims' bill of rights. Our government has always stood up for the rights of victims of crime when other parties have failed to do so. I am so very proud of our commitment to supporting victims with economic action plan 2014. We have also pledged $8.1 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to create a DNA-based missing persons index. Once created, it would help bring closure to the families of missing persons through DNA matching.
We are committed to investing over $150 million over the next five years to enhance the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's food safety programs to ensure that Canada's food supply is safe. I know that will speak to many of the meat packers that rely on that industry in my riding. It also reaffirms our government's commitment to ensure that Canada continues to have one of the highest-rated food safety systems in the world.
With this new funding, the CFIA expects to hire 200 new inspectors and other staff, develop programs that would minimize food safety risks, and enhance Canada's capacity to prevent unsafe food from entering Canada, which would offer better protection for consumers.
One program that has been popular in the Medicine Hat riding is the new horizons for seniors program, which allows more seniors to be active in their community. We would be allocating another $5 million through this economic action plan.
One of the major initiatives announced in this plan is new tax relief for search and rescue workers. We introducing the search and rescue volunteers tax credit in recognition of the important role played by those who put themselves at risk for the security and safety of our communities. I know there are some folks back in my riding who are very active in search and rescue efforts when needed. I think they would definitely take advantage of this tax credit. I hope they will.
We experienced some very heavy flooding last year in Alberta, as is well documented. With this economic action plan, our government would provide up to $200 million to establish a national disaster mitigation program to better protect Canadians and their communities from natural disasters.
For Alberta, total major transfers would be $5.2 billion in 2014-15, including $3.7 billion through the Canada health transfer, which would be an increase of 129% since 2005-06, under the previous Liberal administration. It would also include $1.5 billion through the Canada social transfer, which would be an increase of almost 148% since 2005-06.
Our budget has a major component that focuses on training. We would create the Canada apprenticeship loan, which would provide apprentices in red seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans.
We would also be investing $75 million targeted for older workers.
A topic of interest, especially as of late, has been our continued commitment to our Canadian veterans. I know there has been a certain amount of misinformation out there and I want to ensure that the record is set straight. Our government has invested billions of dollars on programs for our veterans since we came into office in 2006. In the 2012-13 year alone, we spent approximately $3.1 billion in direct support for our veterans and their families.
In economic action plan 2014, we would be implementing our priority hiring of veterans strategy. Essentially, in recognition of their service to Canada, our Conservative government is proposing to enhance employment opportunities in the federal public service for medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel by creating a statutory hiring priority in the Public Service Employment Act. This would mean there would be a statutory hiring priority for armed forces personnel who are medically released for service-related reasons.
There is a large Canadian Forces base in my riding, CFB Suffield. I am proud that our government is continuing to stand up for our veterans and for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Our government has put Canada on a sound financial footing and continues to ensure that we stay on top as we work to pull our great country out of the great recession. Our record thus far speaks for itself: over one million net new jobs created, many of those in the private sector; low debt-to-GDP ratio; and relatively low unemployment. We have lowered taxes by putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.
With this in mind, I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak to the bill.
I want to share with the House how the bill came about. About two years ago, a constituent visited me in my office. She was a mom and she told me the story about her daughter who had been sexually assaulted by the neighbour right across the street. That was a horrific experience for the whole family. Then the horror continued as the courts permitted the offender to serve a large portion of the sentence at home.
The family lived in terror, keeping its blinds closed. The members of the family were afraid to go out because they might have seen the offender. Every time they would return to their neighbourhood and home, a home that should be safe in a neighbourhood they loved, from work or school, the whole family, the mother, the father, the siblings would have this horrible feeling in their gut of whether they would see this person and how would they respond to the person.
It was a very friendly, close-knit neighbourhood, with neighbourhood barbecues on the street, and that all ended when the courts provided the offender the opportunity to serve the sentence at home, which was right across the street from the victim.
I appreciate my colleagues across the way expressing concern that this may be a knee-jerk reaction. I can assure them this is not. Shortly after reviewing this horrific story, I contacted other members, including the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. I knew of his legal experience. Through the consultation process, even talking to members across the way, Bill C-489 was developed.
I thank all members of the House for indicating support for the bill to go to the next step, the justice committee. It is important we develop something that will consider the victims and the impact of sentencing on the victims, and I believe the bill does that.
I thank the legal experts from private members' business. I thank the Minister of Justice and the minister's staff, particularly Dominic. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, the member for Brampton West, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, the opposition members and the critics. I would not have been able to move forward without their help.
The duty of each of us is to make Parliament work. We are doing that with Bill C-489. I look forward to critiquing it, amending it, so it makes it even safer.
On behalf of all Canadians, I thank all members of Parliament as we work to make all Canadian homes safer.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in support of the private member's bill proposed by the member for Selkirk—Interlake this evening.
Bill C-478, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act, addresses a critical flaw in the current parole process, the revictimization of victims and their families, most particularly when it comes to the most heinous of crimes of murder, abduction, and sexual assault. These are the most heinous of crimes.
Four weeks ago when I stood to speak to my own private member's bill which deals with fairness for victims of violent offenders, I spoke about my experiences when I attended the Parole Board of Canada hearings with two constituents and their extended families in 2010 and 2011. To say it was an experience of raw emotion would be a vast understatement. I do not think words can accurately describe the range of emotions that existed in that room. There was the anger and frustration, the injustice and fatigue of having to go through the process once again. More than anything else, there was the overwhelming grief, sorrow, and pain of loss.
While I can only draw on what I saw on those two separate occasions, what I saw told me very clearly that a loss or losses which occurred three decades previous seems like only yesterday to a victim or a victim's family.
I met the week before last with the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Ms. Sue O'Sullivan. She agrees it is a revictimization inflicted by the parole process and is most disheartening according to the countless victims her office has interacted with to date.
In July, my constituents will be attending the next Parole Board of Canada hearing of the murderer of their sister, niece and nephew, and I will once again accompany them to observe the process. However, I have no doubt that the day will trigger all the emotions again, and my constituent will weep openly from the moment she begins to read her victim impact statement. I suspect she and her parents are already experiencing periods of great sadness and anxiety in anticipation of that day.
I talk about what I saw in those Parole Board hearings once again in this debate on Bill C-478 because I think it illustrates the issue of revictimization. Just as my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla had a very painful personal experience with a victim's family with respect to a murderous crime, so have I. Our stories are representative of thousands of victims and families, and this grows substantially every year.
The triple murder was the subject of the Parole Board hearings I attended with my constituents, fortunately not matters that included abduction and sexual assault. I can only imagine how much more emotionally taxing that would be on the families. I can only imagine it would be exponential no doubt.
In the specific types of cases that Bill C-478 addresses, those of abduction, sexual assault, and murder, the parole process is particularly cruel because it is unnecessary. The criminals who commit those types of crimes are never granted parole. They are so sadistic that the intent of the law is to lock them up for life to keep them off the streets.
Whether it is Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, or Clifford Olson, we as a society know that parole will never and must never happen. However, under the current law, the Parole Board of Canada must hold a parole hearing for these depraved murderers every two years after the 25-year parole ineligibility period has expired.
Clifford Olson, though now dead, was never going to get out of jail, nor should he. Yet the families whose lives he changed forever had to face him every two years. They would be doing that today still, if not for his death. That is beyond cruel because it is completely unnecessary.
If we pass Bill C-478, the judge and the jury will have the discretion to extend the parole ineligibility period from 25 years to 40 years. That does not mean they will automatically choose the period of 40 years, but it will give the judge, as a professional determining the sentence for the crime, the tools to do so if she or he feels that should be the case in the best interests of society; if she or he feels it is warranted, given the inherent evil that would drive an offender to commit such a crime; if she or he feels this will spare the families of the victim, or in all too many types of cases, the victims from being victimized again and again.
As has been noted already in this debate, 40 years is what the maximum parole ineligibility period would be if each of the three crimes of abduction, sexual assault, and murder were treated consecutively; that is, 25 years for murder, 10 years maximum for abduction, and 4.6 years maximum for sexual assault.
The problem is clear and the solution proposed by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake in Bill C-478 is straightforward. It prevents further pain and suffering and it is just. I applaud him for bringing this bill forward.
As I have said many times before, I believe one of the fundamental responsibilities of the state is to keep its citizens safe. Those who abduct innocent victims for sex and then murder them have committed an unspeakable crime. We cannot give the families back their son or daughter, husband or wife, cousin, niece or nephew, but we can prevent them from being revictimized by the process.
Before closing, please allow me to reiterate some of the comments from victims that I referred to a few weeks ago, because it is the voice of those victimized that has been missing from this debate in the past, and it is what we must listen to in consideration of Bill C-478.
This was stated in the Toronto Star on April 9, 2007:
“Families have already been victimized once. They shouldn't have to be victimized every two years. Having to face a loved one's killer and to read what he did to her and how her death has affected our lives is something nobody should ever have to do once, never mind twice.”
In reference to the Clifford Olson case, which I spoke about already this afternoon, a journalist in the Vancouver Province said:
Olson, 70, who seems to take pleasure in revictimizing the families of those he killed, is automatically eligible for parole every two years until the day he dies.
In that same newspaper, the mother of one of Olson's victims put it quite simply:
“To have to relive this [parole hearing] every two years, it's so inhumane. It really is.”
Let us not forget those words as we continue to consider Bill C-478 and its efforts to prevent those unnecessary hearings in cases that really are the worst of the worst.
I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to Bill C-478. I thank my colleague for putting the bill forward. I hope that all members of this House, after thinking it through and understanding clearly what this means, will vote for Bill C-478.
The time for government orders has expired.
Statements by members, the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
The hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that colleagues have pointed out a number of times tonight is the potential to change things and then expect folks to understand them or know about them and perhaps have illegal implications. That is what stands out for folks as well as ensuring it is in both official languages. It becomes a dilemma for people who have to follow a regulation under the penalty of perhaps the law not knowing that it has actually changed. They may be living under a regulation that no longer exists.
My colleague for Okanagan—Coquihalla talked about where the number 170 came from. When the Minister of Justice came before the committee he said that since 2006, he found that the express authorization of Parliament had not been given to changes 170 times. Therefore, the number 170 comes from the Minister of Justice, from the Conservative government. He gave the committee that number.
I know the hon. member for Niagara Falls quite well, and I know him to be a very honourable man. Therefore, when he said that it happened 170 times, I believe him, quite frankly. Albeit, there may have been some confusion around some different thing, and there were issues around this happening. However, we need a process that actually works, and that is what this debate is about.
We want the bill to go to committee to be studied in an appropriate way. If changes need to be made to it, which we think there should be, then those changes will be made. Indeed, it will come back as better legislation. If not, I guess we will vote and figure out where it goes. Ultimately, it is about trying to work the legislation.
I hope my friends on the other side would see this in the sense that we should study the bill and make it better. At the end of the day, we are entrusted to make better legislation. When we say that we want the bill to go to committee to look at it, debate it, have witnesses and propose amendments to make it better legislation, surely the government wants us to do that.
In fact, I know it does because I heard the Prime Minister say so many time since I came to this place in 2008. I am paraphrasing but the Prime Minister would look across the way to us and say “give us your good ideas”. Well, we are going to give our good ideas. The Prime Minister asked for them and we are about to give them. Hopefully the Conservatives will see they are good ideas and accept them.
Mr. Speaker, I would certainly roll up my sleeves, in fact, I will roll them up now, but I do not think the Speaker will let me take my jacket off, since that is in the House rules.
The issue is clearly one of who wants to look at this. As I said earlier in my remarks, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla actually does. There is no question that he truly finds great passion in this, and I commend him for that.
There is not a lot of folks in the House who would actually want to sit on that committee. If I asked volunteers to put their hands up if they really wanted to go on that committee, I would probably not find too many hands. There is a couple and a couple more.
For my colleague, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, he ought to write those names down. Then the next time you need a sub in, you should ask those folks who put their hand up to come and help you out—
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate, although at times it can seem rather obtuse and obscure. There are all kinds of adjectives, I suppose, to describe it from the perspective of even parliamentarians who may not be as well versed as my colleague from Hamilton Mountain around the idea of regulatory change and what those regulatory statutes actually mean.
As someone who used to be a municipal councillor, I know all too well that when we pass things like a safe water act, for instance, in the province of Ontario, when the act comes to municipalities, it is not the act that scares us but the regulations. When the act comes down, it is about two and a half to three pages, and then the book comes, and it is sometimes really quite thick with the regulations that one now has to put into force or enact or find a way to do. It is those pieces that ultimately make that piece of legislation work and that form the backbone of the legislation, if you will. In fact, it would be the nuts and bolts. That is how it makes all of these things work.
Many of us in this place, I would suggest, know that we pass legislation and debate it in this place, but then off it goes somewhere else where the regulations that go behind the legislation to give it teeth or put meat on the bones are put in place, so it can go forward and actually mean something.
The regulations get drafted in different ways and it all becomes part of that bigger piece that the general public would see as that maze of government bureaucracy they say they deal with. They do not actually necessarily deal with the act specifically; they deal with the specific regulations, nine times out of ten. When they come to our office to complain about something, it is the regulation of the particular act they are complaining about, not the act that may have been passed in this House.
What I found quite astounding was the number of regulations. We are literally talking about thousands. At the moment there are at the federal level approximately 3,000 regulations comprising 30,000 pages of text.
For folks to wade through that material to find out what the regulations are that might impact them in whatever sphere of life they are in, whether it be business or other things they are partaking in as a general part of their lives, is quite a daunting task when they come up against something and they try to figure it out.
We find, to give it some sense of context, there are about 450 statutes of 13,000 pages. Again, the acts themselves that we pass here are such minor pieces of the overall legislation when the regulations are finally written and enacted and put behind it. That speaks to the volume of material that folks would have to navigate to try to figure out what they need to know, what they do not need to know and what their obligations and their rights are, because obviously regulations give us certain rights as well as obligations.
What if some folks breached one of the regulations? They need to understand the regulation because, as a traffic officer explained to me when I used to sit on a municipal police association board, going through a stop sign and saying we did not see it is not a defence. Ignorance of the law is no defence. If we did not see the traffic signal and just kept driving, that is not a defence. The same thing happens with regulations. The fact that we do not know about them is not a defence, because there is an obligation for us to know and understand them. It also gives us the right under the regulations to do certain things, whatever that happens to be, based on the regulations.
Ultimately it is a dual piece of rights and obligations. One needs to find a way to understand them, but to understand them, we have to be able to find them. When we talk about this incorporation, whether it be a static piece or an ambulatory piece, and lots of folks have gone through definitions of what are they, what they are not, and how they would change, how do those folks who actually look at them know that they have changed and say that they will act accordingly?
I know that I need to put x number of green books on a table, as they are in front of me here in the House, followed by three white books at the end. That is the regulation. Then somebody changes them, because it is an ambulatory piece of regulation. It is not static. We can take the three white books off the table and add two orange ones. New Democrats like orange, so we are going to put two orange ones down. Then we test everybody by asking them if they know how many green books are on the table and whether the three white ones are at the end. They would say yes, but they would fail, because we put two orange ones there. That means that they are out of office now, because they voted wrong, and the orange ones are going on the other side, which will probably happen in 2015, quite frankly. There was a change that nobody really knew about, and it was as simple as moving three books and putting two orange ones there.
What if we were to do that to food safety regulations? We have reciprocal agreements with our largest trading partner, the United States, and we have them with other countries around the world. They stand us well in a lot of different ways. We understand that we have a robust safety system in the agriculture sector at the producer level and when it comes to food processing and food handling. We accept that the United States also has a robust system. We accept as quid pro quo that what they do and what we do is good. We accept their standards and they accepts ours.
We get into this idea that we can change the regulations. Canada has regulations on our side and the United States has regulations on their side. We have similar regulations with our other trading partners. What if folks start changing food safety regulations? Most folks would say that they trust our American trading partner. They say that we do not have to worry about it. That country makes some changes that are probably okay and we will be fine. What happens if it is a country that is less trustworthy? I will not point the finger at any one country, but lots of us could identify a country where some of its food products have been less than safe, whether that be melamine in milk or other things that have happened.
What happens if those countries change a regulation and we change our regulation as well? Have we done our consumers justice by ensuring that the system is safe? We said that it was safe, and we changed the regulation, because it was an ambulatory regulation. We allowed it to be changed, because someone else changed it. We initially accepted a system that accepts other country's regulations. They changed one and we just accepted it, because we can do that now. No checks and balances are in place to make sure that we do not do that.
My colleague from Hamilton Mountain asked a question of my colleague from York South—Weston. We already know that a number of regulatory changes have been made, even though there was no authority to make them. I think she said that there were 170. It was not once or twice. My colleagues on the other side who sit with her on that committee also know that this is the case. They heard the testimony. It was not an issue of somebody slipping up and forgetting. One hundred and seventy times is a pattern. That is not a mistake. That is not a matter of somebody forgetting and forgetting to call the minister. The House should have looked at the information. It should have gone through the process and it should have had its due course. It does not seem as if that is right.
If we are now, as my colleague has said, changing legislation to cover off that period, and those 170 plus go forward, how do we ensure the rights of this House and of parliamentarians to do the job people want us to do? Our role is not just overseeing the public purse to hold government to account. If regulatory changes are coming down from different boards or agencies within the federal government's domain, then surely we should have the right to ensure that we have input.
My colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla spoke quite eloquently about the idea that this is a non-partisan committee. It is made up of all kinds of folks who do not actually vote. It has a sense of building consensus. I am not too sure that the legislation says that. What happens if it becomes the executive that takes on that role and the rest of us do not have an oversight role? We are looking for answers to some of those questions.
That is why we want to send it to committee and look at amendments. Even though my friends across the way may not be happy about it, we want to send it to committee to try to make it better. They would be pleased with that rather than upset by the fact that we may not be saying the nicest of things about it. One would think that it is what they would want us to do, even though we are pointing out what we do not think works well. We will help them out, unlike my friends down at the end who do not want to vote to send it to committee and do not want to study it. That is their choice. Earlier I heard something about an open mind. I guess it is a closed mind on this particular issue, but that is the way it goes. They have decided against it, and that is okay. That is the great choice with democracy. One gets to decide whether to say yes or no. In this case, we will vote to send it to committee and study it. Ultimately, it is about democracy. It is about our right to have a say and have input with respect to legislation and its regulations.
As I said at the beginning, the regulations are quite often more important to people than the bill. Ironically, quite often, we get tied up looking at the bill. It is very important, no question. I would never want to suggest to the drafters of the legislation that somehow it is not important. There might be some parts of the legislation that the other side drafts that we would not find important or would vote against, and have. Budgets come to mind. However, regulations clearly have an impact on people's lives and that is what they run up against quite often, not the specifics of an act. That is where folks have difficulty.
I recognize that the other place exists, at least for now. If Canadians were allowed to vote probably over 70% would vote. We know that there is a constitutional requirement to have seven provinces and 50% of the population and so forth. We all know that. However, if we asked Canadians tomorrow if they wanted that place, they would want to get rid of it. My friends down at the far end still want to defend it in some sort of beleaguered way, since their leader said just two weeks ago that they just need better guys in there, not better people, which would include women. I can see where he is coming from when it comes to that. I certainly can tell him that I know a lot of women who were not pleased when he said that.
Bill S-12 started in the other place. One of my colleagues earlier talked about bills starting there or here, but they always have to come here. In my view, they all ought to start right here. There should be no bills starting with an “S”. They should all start with a “C”, and we should deal with them. This is the people's House. We will pass them if indeed that is the will of the people's House. We do not need the Senate to either rubber-stamp bills or throw them out. That is what they did to my good friend and leader Jack Layton. It did not even take the time to look at the bill. It tossed it aside. That is not democracy when the Senate tosses aside a bill that this House has passed twice.
If that is their attitude, not to mention the latest shenanigans that have gone on over their expenses, then it is time for them to go. It is long overdue. The time is long since past.
I said something months ago in the debate on what was the Senate reform bill, which seems to have disappeared. It has gone off to the Senate now, it seems. At the time I said this to my colleagues across the way, it just happened that one of Canada's favourite coffee houses, Tim Hortons, was having its roll up the rim contest at the same time as we were debating. I was standing right here, as a matter of fact, and I said, “Mr. Speaker, it is time to roll up the red carpet”, just like we roll up the rim.
Canadians will be the winners when we roll up the red carpet. Every single Canadian would not have to worry about rolling up the rim and maybe winning a donut or a coffee or a car. Not everybody gets one; I have rolled up many a rim and not gotten too many winning roll-ups, I must admit. However, without a doubt every Canadian would win if we rolled up the red carpet.
We would roll up that red carpet and wish them all well. I would be the first to stand in line, shake all their hands and wish them well. I would not have a problem doing that and I would do it with a smile on my face and a sincere thanks to many of them.
There are many good folks down there. Hugh Segal is a prime example. I think Senator Hugh Segal is a remarkable individual, a remarkable Canadian who does remarkable work. Unfortunately, it is time for Senator Segal to go.
Senator Kirby was a remarkable man down there as well, and he did remarkable work. He left on his own. Romeo Dallaire is also in the Senate. There are a great number of them. We have identified three, but over the years there have been a good number of them. We have given three examples; finding three is not bad for New Democrats.
However, we cannot find a New Democrat down there, probably because they do not want to go there.
I see my friends down at the end are a little restless. Clearly they are worried about the appointment that is never going to come, so the hour must be getting late. It truly must.
I would invite my colleagues down the way to come with me. In fact I invited my colleague from Winnipeg North last fall. He probably does not remember, but I invited him to come with me. Let me try to quote myself again. I invited my colleague to come arm in arm with me to walk down the hall together, roll up the red carpet, wish them a Merry Christmas and send them on their way, never to return. It is not Christmastime, but we could wish them happy holidays and ask them to not ever come back.
Oddly enough, if we had had regulations and had done it the way that this government suggested and that place was regulated, we could just have changed the regulations and gotten rid of them all. Unfortunately, we do not.
I have less than two minutes left. I really want to thank my colleague on the other side. I say this with great sincerity, because he has been the person who is really keen on this legislation. He has been up asking questions and he debated earlier. I give credit to the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla. He actually answers.
He and I also have an affinity for wine. We have the two greatest wine regions in the country, Niagara being the finest and his being after that.
However, what I would like to say is that there are a whole pile of others on the other side who really have not been bothering with the legislation. They do not seem to want to bother with the legislation, so let me just say this to them: I would love to give them the opportunity to discuss their own bill. Therefore, I move:
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla for the question and I particularly thank him for the tone. Often we get into evening debates and things can get a little bit sharp-edged around here and elbows could come up. I appreciate the tone and I appreciate the question.
I would first say to the hon. member that, when members are on the government side, they always suggest everything is non-partisan, and they often see it that way, but when members are on the opposition benches, they are not as quick to say it is non-partisan so it could only be good. I just offer up that different perspective.
I would also mention to him that the co-chair of the current committee, my colleague from Hamilton Mountain, of whom I am very proud, said in relation to the bill:
The Conservatives have used ambulatory incorporation by reference—
which goes along with the static and the reference to legal terms
—170 times since 2006. Bill S-12 is essentially designed to give the government legal cover after the fact for its prior and ongoing illegal activities. Put differently and more specifically, proposed section 18.7 would retroactively validate a large number of provisions that were made without lawful authority.
It seems to me, if nothing else, a question like this coming from one of the co-chairs deserves to be answered.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, and I have for him the same question I asked the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, to which I did not really get an answer.
As the deputy critic for persons with disabilities, I like to look at proposed legislation through a disability lens, and I think the word “accessible” has a different meaning from the one the bill is proposing. On behalf of persons with disabilities, I would like to know whether the government intends the word “accessible” to include accessibility for persons with visual impairments who need Braille copy, persons with hearing impairments, et cetera.
On the face of it, this has a different meaning from just being able to access the legislation or the regulation as an ordinary Canadian. Therefore I would like to know, from the government's perspective, if the word “accessible” is inclusive of persons who have disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here this evening with everyone to discuss Bill S-12 on existing rules for many products and on very specific and even very technical issues.
I will make most of my comments in English and I will try to understand not only the substance of this Senate bill, but also the future process for Canadians who will be affected by this statute.
In general, an important distinction to make is that the official opposition, through the good work of our member for Gatineau, will support the bill through to second reading and study at committee.
Some have called the bill a technical housekeeping bill. It attempts to bring together a number of different ideas and allows for certain powers that are meant to help the Canadian economy, regulatory authorities and government to have some sort of consistent standards.
We heard from my friend from Saanich earlier that there may be some concerns as to the supremacy of Parliament to continue to make standards that fit with our traditions and our cultural institutions.
We have also raised some significant questions that bear consideration at committee as to what “accessibility” will actually mean once this bill becomes law, as it seems it might. We never would want to say a piece of legislation is not of great urgency, but this is one of the pieces of legislation that the government saw fit to begin the midnight sittings.
I know all my hon. colleagues across the way love midnight sittings and are keen for them. They are chest-thumping right now as I speak and it is the more the merrier. Maybe we could see the clock at 11:50 p.m., if there were some sort of consideration to this.
The important thing in looking at the way the bill has come together is that the source has to be mentioned. There may be some openness to my earlier suggestion. We may or may not test the room a little later.
However, the source of this bill is important, as it is comes from the Senate. There is a lot going on in the Senate right now. It is not focused like a laser. The NDP and Canadians might argue that it is having some institutional challenges. Therefore, while the bill itself might seem somewhat innocuous and neutral in tone, its source is given new suspicion because Canada's so-called chamber of sober second thought might not be so sober these days and might not be giving much second thought to things because of the preoccupation of accounting practices and the recent involvement of the Prime Minister's Office in trying to manage certain problems for the government.
The government uses private members' legislation quite frequently to move what are obviously parts of the government agenda. Rather than using the many tools available to it, it goes through a back door, through the private members' bill route.
The government is also increasingly uses the Senate to introduce bills that fit into the government's particular mandate, and the scrutiny, if one can call it that, that goes on in the Senate is obviously much less. The amount of oversight from the public and the amount of openness from the red chamber is greatly diminished.
While this is a technical bill, its implications actually have a great effect on the everyday lives of people and the businesses and people who we seek to represent. It sets out the rules and how rules will then be incorporated from regulations and standards.
With respect to my friend from Okanagan—Coquihalla, over a number of elections there has been much turnover in this place. We sometimes lament that because we lose that institutional knowledge from time to time, the wisdom and experience. However, it also brings in new energy and excitement for particular committees, of which there is little to be found. I am glad we found a new member from British Columbia who brings the rigour and excitement to the regulations and standards committee, a committee wherein sometimes it is a straw-drawing exercise as to who ends up there, yet it is fundamentally important.
The committee is not often fought over, not the way one would usually fight over appointments to committee, but the scrutiny of regulations committee is a vital committee to a lot of businesses that rely on this. There might not be a wide audience for this debate tonight because it is a niche market one might say. However, those who are interested are extremely interested in what Parliament will do with this legislation and that we get it right.
What is important and at the heart of the matter is a bill originating from the unaccountable, unelected and now under investigation Senate causes us to pay a bit more attention. We want to ensure that the way this legislation was put together was done right and that somebody with some seriousness was involved in its creation. This legislation has some iterations, so we will give it the serious consideration it deserves because of the impacts about which I talked.
We mentioned in the earlier discussion this evening what regulations one might extrapolate from this, such as safety equipment, sports equipment, medical equipment. If regulations drawn up in some dusty civil servant's office are done poorly and then complied with, then those regulations come to life and have some effects and in some cases very serious effects.
I had the opportunity to move a piece of private members' business in my first term here. I was early up in the lottery and moved a bill to remove a type of chemical toxin out of a product that was a softener for plastics. Lo and behold, the bill had wide appeal because it was a known carcinogen, it was an endocrine disrupter and it affected children particularly. The bill received unanimous support of the House, passed through the House, but died in the Senate now that I recall the full story.
Going through the process of seeing the legislation through, it was the regulations that industry suddenly became very excited about and it started making patently outrageous claims, as was proven in the end, because it was worried about harmonization.
The chemical we were talking about was meant to soften plastic, as I said, and it was used in the production of blood collection bags and the tubes that connected them to the patient. There was a hue and cry from the Canadian industry that said if my bill were to pass and this chemical were removed, there were no alternatives. The comment from Industry was that people would die on the operating tables in Canada because of the bill. It was a pretty strong claim and it left a number of members of Parliament wondering if they would be committing murder by voting for my bill.
Then we found out, through regulations and standards, that the Americans had already moved toward eliminating this known carcinogen and that the Europeans had been for a number of years well in advance of Canada in taking known carcinogens out of the industrial system. In the end, one could only describe it as some sort of apathy and laziness on the part of Canadian industry, which had simply not been forced or required to move to the international standard in the production of these blood bags and the tubes that connected them to patients.
It was a strange moment because it became so technical. We started with a good principle that was supported by the House, but the whole debate boiled down to and hung in the balance over some regulation and standard that we as parliamentarians had little to no knowledge of it. Most of us do not come to this place with the experience and enthusiasm of my friend from Okanagan—Coquihalla, certainly not so specific a knowledge as to know whether this chemical was required.
Needless to say, we brought in some witnesses from Europe and the United States and they corrected our Canadian industry. Our industy quickly replaced the known carcinogen and replaced it with something much more innocuous and nobody died. A few less people might have had their endocrines disrupted and maybe a bit less cancer was caused.
If this is a housekeeping bill, which it appears to be in some ways, then what happens at committee becomes quite important. As members of Parliament, we do not have the wherewithal or the particular expertise to know whether this form of regulation should be moved and whether it is static or dynamic or whether it is good for this circumstance or that. We are going to rely on expert witnesses.
We just recently had the Library of Parliament conduct a study for the official opposition. We asked the library a very simple and specific question. Of all the legislation that had been moved through the House since the Conservatives came to power and until now, not in a majority but the previous minority Parliament, of all the amendments that had been moved by any member of the opposition, what per cent had been rejected?
I thought it would be high, but I did not realize that it would be this high: 99.3% of all amendments were rejected. Some members on the other side, on the blue team, might claim that 99.3% of the amendments were terrible. I see a few votes. I hesitated to ask the question.
We need to understand where amendments come from and the process for a bill. Oftentimes, committee members rely on the testimony of the witnesses in front of us, because 99% of the time, they know more than we do. What we do as MPs is try to weigh the testimony in front of us and understand what is the most credible and what is backed up by the most evidence. We then move that into an amendment and work with the Library of Parliament to construct an amendment that would improve the bill.
If that is how the legislative process is meant to work, then clearly, if virtually 100% of all the amendments proposed and worked on by the New Democrats and the Liberals are being rejected out of hand, the process, for political reasons, is not working very well. It is no great disservice to us in the opposition alone. However, it is a disservice to the members of the Canadian public who sent us here, because we are choosing some sort of political expediency rather than accepting the idea that maybe the legislation as crafted the first time is not perfect. For a bill as technical as this one, I would hope that because it does not stir as many of those ideological and partisan motivations, the government members on the committee, who form a majority, will be open to amendments, regardless of who moves them.
If we have said that the thing is important for industry and important for the consumers who rely on the products, then certainly getting the legislation right is also important. It is important that we hand over powers to move these static and dynamic regulations up through standards, that we not duplicate the process and that we do that well. However, we should not do some sort of roughshod approach to regulations in general because sometimes, and I would suggest that this comes more from my colleagues across the way than it does from our side, in the political dynamic, all rules and regulations are treated as always bad, always inefficient and always cumbersome. Of course, that is not true. Of course, a society without rules and regulations to guide the manufacturing of products and the cleanliness of the water we seek to drink and the safety of our roads would be chaotic.
It may often be politically appealing to suggest that the problem with our economy right now is red tape. I ran a small business before getting into politics, and there were some things I encountered that made no sense. There was heavy duplication or having to answer questions that had nothing to do with the business I was running. However, I understood the general purpose and intent, which was to ensure that it was not caveat emptor only that guided and protected the consumer. It was not simply a case of picking up that package of hamburger or that new car off the lot. If the regulations are not going to protect people, and government is not going to play that role, then it is simply one's own wherewithal and the interest of the producer to always hold to higher standards. Most producers and manufacturers do, and some do not.
I represent a riding that has a large agricultural base. I can sit with the farmers and ranchers in my area, particularly on the ranching side, and they will say the same thing: they need good, solid, clear regulations. Business people often talk about clarity. They want to talk about certainty. They want to know what the rules are so that they can anticipate and make the investments they need to make over the long term so that their businesses are healthy and they can hire more people. What they do not like is uncertainty or rules that change for political reasons or some blowing-in-the-wind, weather-vane approach to the rules that guide us. Business hates that, particularly the larger they get and when they are more capital-intensive businesses.
I am now thinking of what has gone on with the Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, which are regulations to guide industry and people to make sure that we try to balance that natural tension between the environment and the economy to ensure that while we are creating prosperity and wealth, we are not downgrading and degrading our natural ecosystem and environment, because over time, we know where that leads. We have enough examples in the world to understand that. However, I do not think, when it comes to climate change, we are taking it at all seriously in this place and perhaps in other Parliaments as well.
The government took a memo from industry, particularly from the oil and gas lobby recently, prior to last summer. The memo included 12 recommendations, requests for changes to the Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, principally. The government moved all 12 through, but not through open debate here in the House. It moved them through omnibus legislation.
I talked to some of the industry reps about this. They had no idea they were going to get all 12 accepted. They were more in a negotiating position. They were offering up their first volley and would get something less back and would negotiate down. They were a bit shocked. The downside for industry, and I would suggest the downside for the government, is that it has eroded the faith of the public as to whether those laws are in place to protect our fisheries and our environment and whether they are strong enough. There are new doubts and aspersions cast upon the oil and gas industry writ large, the good actors and the bad. The companies that keep a good safety record and the ones that do not are all painted with the same brush. That is unfortunate for industry. That creates more uncertainty.
In the attempt to smooth over those rough edges of regulations and standards, the government ended up poisoning the conversation for many Canadians who have natural and normal considerations and concerns when talking about a large-scale development, be it the oil sands or a pipeline out of a particular place or a large mine. That does not seem right to me, and it is not balanced. It has actually drawn back the conversation a number of years, when we have spent decades building up strong and healthy protections for the environment, and almost a century for our fisheries, and they are now gone. Canadians then have to turn to other means and other understandings and conversations, because their voices are going to be heard. Whether Conservatives try to shut us down or not, it is going to happen.
In terms of this legislation and what we do when we get it to committee, it is going to be absolutely critical that the government play nice in allowing witnesses from sometimes both sides of an issue. There may be consumer protection groups, civil liberties groups and accessibility groups, as my friend from Toronto raised earlier, that may have some questions. When we talk about accessible, let us define it.
Official languages groups, I think, will absolutely be interested in this, because generally speaking, and my friend from British Columbia will verify this, international standards are written in the so-called language of business: English. While we are guided by laws in this land that should protect both official languages, there is a bit of a rub. If a consumer or an industry in a francophone community seeks to get a regulation with some clarity, are they going to pay for the translation to understand that? Is the Quebec government going to have concerns? I imagine that it will. It may be well and good to say that we have rules and laws on the books already to protect official languages, but those laws are not being applied.
There is no end to the examples from this government. Just look at the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre. Today, the government was asked what it intends to do since the Commissioner of Official Languages said that there could be a serious problem for people who end up in trouble on the water. He said that what is in place is inadequate. The government is saying there is no problem.
However, there is a problem when a francophone on a boat has to communicate with an anglophone at a marine rescue sub-centre who knows only two or three words of French. This is unacceptable and against the law, but so it is and so it shall remain unless the government changes its policies. It is imperative that it do so.
It is not good enough to say that we have many laws to protect our two official languages. That may or may not be true. We will see what happens in committee.
I could provide a number of examples of committees where the NDP supported a bill for which the testimony and all the proposed amendments were rejected by the government. The NDP then had to vote against the bill because it was not very good. The government says that the NDP votes against everything, but that is not true. We simply want better.
The consumer confidence impact of the bill is also quite important. Canadian products are known the world over for quality and innovation. We have been on the leading edge of some of the greatest inventions and innovations in history. Yet we have seen a steady moving away from that basic science, which is concerning, both to those in industry and those in science. It is not in every case that scientists sit down in the laboratory and know the product they are going to achieve in the marketplace. That is not the way science often works. There is a litany of examples of things that we now rely upon, such as the computer, the BlackBerry or the automobile that did not start off as inventions. They started off as basic science and understanding. That needs to still be there.
As international trade is so important to Canada as a trading nation, we need to get these international standards aligned properly and make sure that the regulations and standards we design are able to fit yet do not diminish us as a nation. This is important. Everyone should agree that in the pursuit of that trade, we do not diminish ourselves and say that we will accept lower standards for health and safety or for the quality of the products we have. That would be contrary to the aspects of good and fair trade.
In this bill, we have a number of things that are important. Yet it will probably be at the committee stage when we will see the willingness of the government to do what good governments do, which is work with the opposition to make things better. There is no chance, it is just impossible to imagine, that the first incarnation of this bill was written perfectly without a comma or period out of place and without a word that needs to be taken away or added.
The New Democrats will be there to study the bill vigorously at committee and ensure that it is the best piece of legislation possible.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the debate. I certainly was listening carefully to the comments of the previous speakers and I have some comments to make about what has been said.
Last week I said in a scrum that if the Minister of Finance was William Tell, I am very glad that I did not have an apple on my head.
I would like to document the gross inaccuracy of the predictions that have been made by the minister before the members opposite start congratulating themselves too much on their alleged record of economic management. Let us have a look at that record.
In 2006, in his first budget, the Minister of Finance predicted 3% growth. The actual growth was 2.8%. In 2007 he predicted 2.3%. He missed that target as well. In 2008 he predicted 1.7% growth and actual growth was 0.7%. In 2009 the minister had to admit that there was going to be a contraction in the economy of 0.8%. The actual contraction was 2.8%. In 2011 he predicted 2.9% growth and the actual growth was 2.5%. Last year he predicted 2.1% growth and the actual was roughly 1.8%.
If the annual real GDP growth experienced under every prime minister were averaged, only one prime minister in the living memory of some members, R.B. Bennett, had a worse economic growth record than that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's average annual growth during the time of his prime ministership has been 1.4% over his seven years.
When the Minister of Finance announced the economic action plan in budget 2009, he promised a temporary deficit that would be eliminated in 2013-14, which by the way, begins six days from now. Instead, we have an $18.7-billion deficit predicted for 2013-14. Based on his previous record, that is not going to be an easy target to reach.
I want to go back over the ground because members keep saying “Let's pretend we don't have a memory of any of these things”. The problem is we do have a memory and we do have a record.
In 2008 the minister predicted a surplus of $2.3 billion. That became a deficit of $5.8 billion, an $8.1-billion difference. In 2009 he predicted a deficit of $33.7 billion, which became a deficit of $55.6 billion, a $21.9-billion difference. In 2012 he predicted a deficit of $21.1 billion, which has become a deficit of $25.9 billion, a $4.8 billion-difference.
Perhaps the most famous inaccuracy of the Minister of Finance, and the bow and arrow is looking a bit shaky in his hands right now, was the 2008 fall economic update, which is perhaps his most infamous economic prediction. We all remember that because it was the one where he predicted no recession for Canada, a series of future budget balances that came in at a $0.1-billion surplus and the balance would be achieved from the future sale of government assets.
It is worth recalling that we reached our lowest point in terms of our debt at $458 billion six years ago. This budget predicts that by the end of this fiscal year it will be $627 billion, an increase of $169 billion.
This is the same Minister of Finance who, as he is delivering his budget speech, stands up and waxes full of pieties saying governments cannot spend their way out of a recession and then, looking meaningfully over at the opposition, says some people might disagree with this statement, but nevertheless the government is standing by its record of economic management and fiscal prudence. A $170-billion increase in the national debt and the government has the nerve to say that it is some kind of an example of fiscal prudence. It is preposterous.
It is also preposterous to say that it is a government that has somehow embraced restraint. Program spending has gone from $175 billion in 2005-06 to $253 billion today, which is a 45% increase. That is far greater than the rate of inflation and the rate of growth in the real economy.
Let us look at the fact that Canada is a federation. One cannot just take the federal programs and the federal approach in isolation. What I would like to see in this budget is not only a statement of the federal government's plans and hopes for the future, which is allegedly what we had in the budget statement. I, and I think most Canadians, would like to see how the federation is doing. How are Canadians doing? Where is the unemployment rate? Where is the job-creation rate? How indebted are Canadians? Have they fallen behind or are they moving ahead? How are the provinces doing? How are the municipalities doing?
Let us look at simple facts. Since 2007-08, the provincial debt, the debt of all the provinces, has gone from $321 billion to $534 billion, which is a $230-billion increase. This year, 2012-13, only Saskatchewan and the three territories that are largely supported by the federal government are now expected to run a surplus. Therefore, when we look at the actual condition of the federation, it is far more serious than the government is prepared to tell us. It is far more problematic than the government is prepared to admit.
However, we have a government that nevertheless is eager to pat itself on the back. I heard this in the statements of my colleagues for Leeds—Grenville and Okanagan—Coquihalla, who said that this was such a wonderful budget because for the first time in 40 years the government had identified the skills challenge as a problem facing Canada. What?
This is not the first time in 40 years that a problem with job training has been identified. There is obviously a problem. Everyone is well aware of this and recognizes the problem. However, acknowledging that there is a problem and proposing a solution are two completely different things.
Let us take a moment to talk about job training. Six years ago, the government signed a number of agreements with the provinces whereby it handed over complete authority for training to the provinces. The government gave them money and told them to do their best to solve the job training problem.
It seems that the Prime Minister became angry recently when he learned that there was a problem. He was the last to notice and to realize what was happening.
The Prime Minister went slightly overboard six years ago. Now he is getting back to work and is saying that he has a solution. He has announced that the government will allow young students and workers to receive $15,000. The government will take care of all the advertising for this wonderful program and will take back responsibility for training.
The Prime Minister said that his government would solve this problem that no one else had addressed before. What an exaggeration, what arrogance on the part of the federal government and the Conservative Party.
The provinces had actually started working on it. Not everyone wanted the government to create a $15,000 program because the Prime Minister would then announce that everyone—including the federal and provincial governments and the private sector—would have to contribute $5,000.
Today, the Prime Minister is saying that he is prepared to sit down and to negotiate with the provinces. It is not a good idea to announce a program before you have conducted negotiations. In fact, that is contrary to what should be done. Better yet, the government should say that it has things to discuss with the provinces and that it wants to do that.
They had an opportunity. Just six months ago, the premiers made an unprecedented decision to tell the Prime Minister that they would like to have a meeting to discuss the economy. They wanted to have a chance to discuss the issues that concern them and concern the government, because running a modern economy or running a federation is not the exclusive property of the Government of Canada. It is not the exclusive jurisdiction of the Conservative Party. It is a concern of every political party, a concern of every region, and a concern of every government.
The Prime Minister declined. The Prime Minister of Canada refused to attend. If we compare Canada to every other federation in the world, no other federation would be in a situation in which the leader of its federal government would refuse to sit down with the premiers who had specifically asked for a meeting to discuss the economy. It is unbelievable.
After the last 48 hours, I have a suggestion for the premiers: they should rent themselves panda costumes and get together and tell the Prime Minister there is going to be a fantastic photo opportunity. They will not even be behind glass. They will be out in public and willing to sit down. That is the only way I think we can get this Prime Minister to sit down and talk to the premiers.
Instead of having a meeting and a serious discussion, what does the Government of Canada do? On health care, the Minister of Finance walked into a luncheon meeting of the ministers of finance and said, “I am too busy to have lunch. By the way, I want to tell you what the transfers for health care are going to be for the next 10 years.”
The member for Peterborough is saying “Hear, hear”. Maybe that goes down well where he comes from, but having sat at a premiers' table and at a ministers of finance table, I can say it is ridiculous to have a federal government walk in and in five minutes describe what the program for transfers is going to be.
There has to be a discussion. The government cannot have a take it or leave it approach. The take it or leave it approach is even being rejected by the members of the Conservative Party opposite.
Even now, even at this late hour in the life of the government, we are beginning to see signs of life, signs of people wanting to speak up, signs of members of the blue army chorus saying they want to wear something different and come out today and have a voice of their own. However, even that is being stamped down by the leadership of the Conservative Party.
This budget does so much less than what it pretends to do. In the dialogue between the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla and the member for Peterborough, the member for Peterborough was saying, “Isn't it a wonderful thing? We have discovered that if you reduce tariffs, it is going to have a positive effect on the economy.”
The Conservatives raised tariff revenues for the federal government in this budget by $300 million, but the two items upon which they reduced them magically leaped out—magically.
John Ivison from the National Post magically picked the items out of all the possibilities of items that the government would either reduce or increase, and he said that the reporters from The Globe and Mail had the same magic information. How did that happen? How would they have suddenly landed on baby clothes and hockey equipment? Of all the items that are there, those are the items they picked.
I do not think so. I do not think it was a lucky guess. I know my friends in the New Democratic Party have written to the RCMP and are going to launch an investigation. I wish the investigators well in their search for this difficult piece of information.
The government has raised tariffs by $300 million. I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to the Minister of Finance talking to our Asian friends and saying, “We really want to lower tariffs and we really want to engage with you in the Pacific negotiations, but by the way, we are taking a $300-million cash grab before we sit down and have a serious discussion about tariffs.”
It is ridiculous. The range of things the government is doing, not to improve the budget but to simply sell the budget, is unbelievable to me.
I have to hand it to the government. It knows how to orchestrate leaks. It knows how to feed little pieces of gruel to the press the week before and say, "Here is a little item. You might want to nibble on this. You might want to nibble on that." Suddenly and magically, the press knew that skills training and infrastructure were going to be the focus of the budget. Every single speech given by a member opposite, dutifully prepared by the Prime Minister's Office, expressed it.
That is what we know. We know the Conservatives know how to orchestrate. We know that after they have orchestrated, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso would have said, they also know how to sell.
He is not even here to listen to what I have to say. This is what happens to an interim leader. He says to mention his riding, but when I go to the length and trouble of bringing him into the story, he walks out. I cannot understand it.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Government Contracts; the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Ahuntsic, Public Safety.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
The electoral district of Okanagan--Coquihalla (British Columbia) has a population of 107,316 with 83,242 registered voters and 203 polling divisions.
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