Mr. Speaker, as a former president of Rowing Canada Aviron and a board member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, I rise today to speak to the importance of health and fitness.
Fitness and active choices can easily be integrated into our day. It is for this reason I am proud of organizations such as Sport Matters, which promote healthy living and the value of sport and physical activity. I am particularly pleased that Sport Matters supports all forms of athletics, from the playground to the podium. It values recreational activities just as much as the gruelling fitness regimens of elite athletes. Having seen young school children grow and develop into Olympians who represent Canada on the world stage, I know the importance of fitness at all levels.
I wish to also acknowledge my colleague, the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and his Bill C-443, national health and fitness day act. His legislation will serve to ensure a day for all Canadians to be reminded of the importance of health and fitness.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of hundreds of constituents in the riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country who condemn what they call a reprehensible practice, which targets baby girls for female gendercide.
It is particularly important, given that the motion introduced by the member for Langley may not be heard in the House, that their voices be heard on the matter.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday's budget was a triumph for small businesses, for workers and for Canadians, including those in the beautiful riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
The minister announced a Canada job grant that will better align skills with that which employers need and with the jobs that are readily available. Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of HRSDC give us some indication of what responses the minister has had to the Canada job grant?
Order, please. The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Mr. Speaker, parliamentarians from all corners of the House have recently eclipsed the sometimes adversarial nature of the House by supporting the parliamentary fitness initiative.
Today we witnessed the first ever National Life Jacket and Swim Day on the Hill and the members for Etobicoke North and Sackville—Eastern Shore and others joined me in trying to bring about national health and fitness day, involving local governments across Canada.
To that end, I seek the unanimous support of the House for a motion to enable a fellow Conservative and I to swap positions in the order of precedence, specifically: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the hon. member for Fundy Royal exchange positions in the list for the consideration of private members' bills with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his very well thought out presentation and intervention tonight on this, the fourth anniversary of the wrongful imprisonment of several Baha'i leaders in Iran.
This week we are seeing not only this take note debate on the human rights failures of Iran, but also the Subcommittee on International Human Rights is having its hearings this week, talking about the violations of what is happening in Iran.
I am proud to be part of an organization called the Canadian Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Democracy, which is meeting on Wednesday night to again look at what is happening, why the regime, led by President Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs, and how the ayatollah and President Ahmadinejad are working to continue to erode stability in the Middle East, to take away the individual rights and freedoms of people of Iran and to ensure they are a continued irritant to what happens on the world stage from the standpoint of peace, democracy and human rights.
We always hear about the nuclear ambitions. Today there is again more reports on the ambitions of Iranians to expand their nuclear arsenal, that it is beyond just ballistic missiles now, that they have enrichment of nuclear energy that can be used in smaller bombs and can be transported by all sorts of different methods around the world.
The member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country talked about the sanctions and how important it was that Canada had been on the leading front of bringing about sanctions. Could he talk about those sanctions, especially on the issue of oil and energy which is 85% of the Iranian government's revenue, and how important it is to shut down that capability which feeds its nuclear ambitions.
I am going to stop the hon. member there as he has gone over his time. At this time we will open up the floor for questions and comments.
The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Order, please. I must give the hon. member time to respond.
The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Order, please. The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his accolades.
I have done business both in Canada and internationally. From the employer's standpoint, in order to provide working income for staff and to expand the company's market and to make sure that the business is a going concern, there are a number of factors contributing to that. First is a stable environment, and second a low cost tax regime, and third the ability to access capital. From that base the employer then builds a business.
Employees are key to any corporation. Money is easy to borrow. Employers never exploit their employees, at least not in the five or seven companies that I have built, so it is key that we ensure that we retain those employees. To retain those employees we need to offer them the employment security they need in order to work for a long time in our corporations.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the constituents of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for sending someone, for whom I have a very high regard, to this House. I cannot think of any better member, more hard-working, more intelligent or more serious.
My colleague gave us a very good description of a lot of the infrastructure investments that were made in phase one and, indeed, those have been made in my riding of Kitchener Centre with aquatic facilities and so on.
In Kitchener Centre, my constituents are very much aware that we now have to put the brakes on. We cannot go on with big spending policies. We need to pay down the deficit. I wonder if my colleague has had similar discussions with the people of his riding.
Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to speak to the budget, which is currently being discussed by my colleagues on both sides of the House.
I would like to take the liberty of putting this new budget into context, so that its vision of where we are heading becomes clearer.
Many members of the House have spoken in the chamber about the budget. One unique perspective I would like to add is how the budget reflects the specific needs of communities, such as the one I have the honour to represent.
On that note, I would like to thank the constituents of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country, commonly known as the most beautiful place on earth, for honouring me with the privilege of serving them a second time.
I also want to thank local leaders, including the mayors, the MLAs, the first nations chiefs and others who have worked so closely with me to generate the results achieved under the first phase of the economic action plan, which concentrated on economic stimulus and prepared the groundwork for the phase we are now debating in the House, the low tax plan for jobs and growth.
Together, we showed in the first phase of the economic action plan that we can achieve anything as a community. We Canadians are diverse, industrious and entrepreneurial, and the people I represent showed skills of communication and collaboration that allowed us together to initiate and complete over 120 projects under the first phase of the economic action plan.
The member for Burnaby—New Westminster said earlier today in question period that he yearned for open, transparent and honest public consultation. That is what we saw in the first phase of the economic action plan.
Time after time, we saw the magic of priorities driven by each local community in the riding I represent, including Squamish, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, Powell River, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Bowen Island and Lions Bay. The steps to strengthen cultural identity, develop critical infrastructure and invest in the health and safety of all of our communities were steps that we saw adroitly taken. Most important, we created jobs, including many of the 560,000 new jobs created under Canada's economic action plan since July 2009.
This is a plan that has put our country atop the world for our economic recovery. Why? Because our government worked closely with each local community.
What did we achieve in Squamish? We achieved support for the West Coast Railway Museum, for small craft harbours, for sewer and water main upgrades, for biking and hiking trails and for seniors' housing units.
What did we achieve in Whistler? We achieved support for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and for Whistler Crankworx, the great biking festival; for the Whistler Public Library; for the arts council; for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and for upgrades to Highway 99.
What did we achieve on the Sunshine Coast? Support for the pulp and paper industry, for public transit lines, for an improved Pender Harbour authority, for fitness centres, aquatic centres and highway improvements.
What did we achieve in Powell River? Support for the pulp and paper industry yet again, green energy hydro projects, harbour upgrades, water system upgrades and for sports facilities.
What did we achieve for the North Shore, for West and North Vancouver? We achieved a replacement of the ageing Blue Bridge; the provision of new bus lanes, which we commissioned only last weekend; upgrades to water and sewage facilities; a new artificial turf field, a spirit trail and other community amenities.
The magic that applies to all of these projects is not only that they generated jobs and stimulated the economy, but even more important that they came about as priorities generated by each community, borne of close communication and collaboration among all levels of government.
As we contemplate the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, the budget before us, Canadians are pleased to see once again their priorities reflected in the budget.
Uniformly, during the election campaign and throughout my first term in office, I heard members of my communities articulate three economic priorities for our government: first, to increase jobs; second, to support those in our communities who needed it most; and third, to respect our environment and, in doing so, drive the economy. I am proud to say that the low tax plan for jobs and growth embraces all of these priorities.
First, the budget before us will create more jobs. Notable is the hiring credit, which this year will encourage our riding's many small business owners to hire new employees and small business people across the country to do the same. On the international scene, our government continues to invest in the most successful Asia-Pacific Gateway project.
Second, our government is committed to supporting those in our communities who need it most. For our ridings' eligible seniors, starting in 2012 the low tax plan for jobs and growth will offer an annual benefit of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples above what is currently offered.
For families with disabled family members, our government introduced and strengthened the registered disability savings plan. For our ridings' many students, our government plans this year to strengthen RESPs. We also plan to improve the Canada student grants program and the textbook tax credit. Our government will furthermore exempt scholarship and bursary income from students' taxable incomes, saving students thousands of dollars each year.
For families with children, programs, such as the universal child care benefit introduced in 2006, continue to offer greater choice in care by providing $100 per month for each child under six years old. I am particularly proud that our government has established a 15% volunteer firefighter tax credit, a measure for which I advocated on behalf of firefighters in our ridings. This credit will support the heroic men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to save the lives of friends and neighbours.
Third, our government is paving the way in making environmental sustainability a hallmark of our economic growth. The 2009 economic action plan provided $1 billion through the pulp and paper green transformation program, which assisted local employers in the riding I represent, such as those in Powell River and on the Sunshine Coast.
This year our government will build on that investment in our low tax plan for jobs and growth by contributing a further $97 million over two years for research and development of cleaner energy technologies. Such initiatives promise to help the people of our riding responsibly to enjoy the abundance for which we Canadians are famous.
These are concrete plans every Canadian can understand. We are on track, reflecting their priorities using taxpayers' dollars responsibly, creating jobs, helping people who most need the help and ensuring we act as efficient stewards of our most wonderful environment.
We are doing all of this without increasing taxes or cutting social services. We are doing all of this while wrestling the deficit to zero by 2014. We are doing all of this as a community. We, in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, join together with all Canadians proving time and again that no good thing is impossible. We are doing all of these things together. Our government is serving Canadians for today, for tomorrow and for future generations.
Mr. Speaker, I do want to take this opportunity to also state that I was at that meeting and the NDP did in fact vote for our bill. Regardless of what has been said here, the facts remain. The truth is that the NDP voted for the bill in committee and have now flip-flopped for whatever reason they want to provide. That is up to them.
I would like to share my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
I sincerely thank the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for quickly studying and passing this important bill. As hon. members know, the Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act includes a number of measures from the 2011 budget and is a key part of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that keeps taxes low to stimulate growth and jobs. Our economic growth shows that Canada's economic action plan is working and that the Conservative government is on the right track with our economic recovery.
Let us look at the facts: Canada's economy has seen seven consecutive quarters of growth. Since July 2009, we have created almost 560,000 net new jobs, 80% of which are full time. Canada's unemployment rate is considerably lower than that of the United States, something we have not seen in over 30 years. Little wonder that countless independent experts and observers have been near unanimous in their praise for Canada's economy. For example, Claude Picher, an economic and financial columnist for La Presse, said:
It is true that all of Canada's economic indicators are quite positive when compared with other G7 countries. Canada has weathered the recession better than the others. It is certainly the G7 champion in terms of economic growth and job creation.
However, too many Canadians are still looking for work, and the global economic recovery remains fragile. The financial difficulties of some European countries, such as Greece, attest to the fact that there are still international issues that could affect us. That is why protecting the economy has been and will remain our government's top priority. And that includes implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
The supporting vulnerable seniors and strengthening Canada's economy act contains many important measures that will not only support our economic recovery but also help everyday Canadians, especially seniors, such as: assisting Canada's most in need seniors with a significant boost to the guaranteed income supplement; supporting health care and social programs at the provincial level with nearly $1 billion in payments to provinces eligible for the temporary total transfer protections extension to 2011-12; encouraging young entrepreneurs with $20 million to help the Canadian Youth Business Foundation; enhancing federal support for part-time students; improving the registered disability savings plan; supporting Canada's veterans with tax relief for the Royal Canadian Legion; maintaining Canada's leadership in genomics research with $65 million for Genome Canada; reinforcing the stability of Canada's housing market with increased government oversight of the mortgage insurance industry; and much more.
I think all parliamentarians recognize that Canada's seniors sacrificed a lot to build this great country and I believe we all want a strong support system for their retirement. That is why our Conservative government has taken significant action since 2006 to improve the quality of life of Canadian seniors.
The measures taken include providing seniors and pensioners with over $2 billion in annual tax relief and creating a minister of state for seniors to ensure they have a dedicated voice in government to address their issues.
However, there is always more to be done. Unfortunately, there are still too many seniors with fixed incomes experiencing financial difficulties. Many of these low-income seniors are widowers who made sacrifices of themselves to stay home, to raise their families and better their communities. As a result of that, they do not have a pension income.
To show our appreciation to these seniors and assist them, our Conservative government is proposing to provide an additional GIS top up annually of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This would represent the single biggest increase to the GIS in over 25 long years. The new GIS top up will help over 680,000 of Canada's poorest and most vulnerable seniors starting July 1, providing them with improved financial peace of mind.
It is little wonder that the Service Employees International Union, representing front-line health care providers and other service industry workers, applauded the GIS increase as, “A win for every senior living in poverty in Canada”.
I want to be crystal clear with all elected members in this House and all appointed senators in the Senate when I say that Canada's most vulnerable and poorest seniors are absolutely counting on the GIS top up and they need this bill passed quickly to allow it to come into effect on July 1, 2011, as promised.
I have heard some in Parliament smugly dismiss the GIS top up as only an extra few dollars a year. I challenge those parliamentarians to say that to the countless widows and seniors who are counting on the monthly GIS top up to make ends meet. I challenge members to ask those poor seniors, who do not have the luxuries we as parliamentarians enjoy, if those extra few dollars will make a difference to them as they worry day by day about how they will pay for their rent and food.
I know the answer because I have actually asked them. They need this money and it will make a world of difference for many of them. They are depending on us to ease their financial burden and the hundreds of dollars they will collect from the government's proposed GIS top up are absolutely crucial to their future.
I ask all parliamentarians, both here and in the Senate, to please put partisanship antics aside, do the right thing and pass this bill before we rise. Royal assent must be ensured to allow the increased GIS cheques to start going out July 1. Let us give these vulnerable seniors the dignity and respect they deserve.
I also implore my colleagues to consider another important measure in this bill that has the potential to change lives substantially. Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting Canada's research leadership in genomics.
Genomics is the science of studying the genome or blueprint contained in the DNA of a human or other species, along with what happens when certain genes interact with each other and the environment. Genomics research is helping Canadians make scientific breakthroughs and advances in important areas, such as health, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and the environment.
To date, the government has provided over $900 million to Genome Canada. This support has helped establish Canada as a world leader in genomics research, including in the areas of cancer, infectious and rare genetic diseases, adverse drug reactions and crop sciences. What is more, Genome Canada-funded research has contributed to the development and training of thousands of highly skilled individuals and the creation of more than 20 new companies.
I am proud to note that Genome Canada has a centre in my hometown of Winnipeg as well as centres in Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto. The additional $65 million for Genome Canada proposed in today's legislation would launch a new competition in the area of human health, while also covering ongoing operating costs.
Genome Canada President Dr. Pierre Meulien has expressed his appreciation for this new financial support, noting:
--it provides the means necessary to continue advancing our genomics...It also reiterates the government’s interest and priority in cultivating a genomics enterprise in Canada--
These are just two of the many important measures we are proposing in the Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada’s Economy Act. These measures will help Canadian families, particularly the most vulnerable ones. This bill is an essential part of implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, which will ensure that our economy recovers for the benefit of all Canadians, today and in the years to come. For these reasons, I once again call upon the House to support this bill promptly and without delay.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the people of Powell River and all others in the magnificent riding that I represent.
Maclean's magazine recently honoured Catalyst Paper Corporation of Powell River as one of Canada's 50 most socially responsible companies and Corporate Knights magazine named Catalyst one of Canada's 20 best corporate citizens.
I am honoured to have been re-elected to represent the great riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. There we will find some of Canada's most innovative and hard-working people whose efforts benefit not only our community, but also those of Canadians across the nation.
I would also like to salute the city of Powell River, which yesterday received the prestigious 2011 Willis Award for Innovation for its pioneering partnership with Catalyst.
In this global economic crisis, Powell River has worked closely with Catalyst, easing the company's taxes and keeping Canadians at work.
The people of Powell River and Catalyst exemplify the winning spirit of Canadian entrepreneurs. It is Canadians like them who have made our economic action plan a world-leading success.
Mr. Chair, as the government liaison to the Iranian and Persian community, I am proud to rise today in the chamber to take part in this emergency debate on the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran.
Canadians care deeply about the freedoms of people around the world. Our Conservative government has expressed these concerns in three ways: we care, we listen and we act. Let me illustrate how our government cares, listens and acts.
Tonight's debate represents a powerful and tangible expression of our democratic rights here in Canada, rights that have for too long been denied to the people of Iran. In lending our voices in support of reform and democracy in Iran, we embolden the cause of freedom and stand in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.
One may ask why we here in Canada should care about the plight of the citizens of a country on the other side of the planet. Some might ask if the crisis in Iran is not best left to its own citizens. This is a fair question. Certainly the people of Iran have a basic right to self-determination. However, I also know that Canadians are possessed of a great capacity for compassion. To quote one of the last century's greatest freedom fighters from our neighbours to the south, Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
It is never too early to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. I am reminded of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian pastor imprisoned by Hitler, who said: “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
No, we Canadians cannot ignore the oppression by the Iranian regime just because Iran seems so far away. Though Iran is far away, the plight of the people of Iran matters to the conscience of this nation. The flagrant violation of Iranians' basic human rights is intolerable to the people and Government of Canada.
That is why our government has taken a principled and consistent stand against the Iranian regime. For the last eight years, Canada has led in sponsoring and passing resolutions at the United Nations condemning the Iranian regime for its abuses. We have strengthened our assistance to those Canadians who have been targeted by this regime and we have been unequivocal in our opposition to the abuses of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I am proud to be a Canadian and I am proud to have a government that cares. We are a government that cares; but if Canada only cared and did not listen, we would not be able to help. Ours is a government that listens. As the member of Parliament for the beautiful riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, I have the tremendous privilege to represent one of the largest Persian and Iranian community in Canada.
Since I was first elected to the chamber in 2008, I have had the opportunity to participate in countless events that highlight the contributions of this community to Canada, from the annual fire festival of the Persian new year, Nowruz, to other cultural events. I have participated in several meetings with members of the Iranian and Persian community and ministers of our government. I have worked on community projects with members of that community and attended local round tables and town hall meetings with them.
On the north shore of Vancouver, Nowruz celebrations have become a yearly highlight, not just for Iranian Canadians but also for Canadians of all backgrounds. Attendance records continue to be broken year after year as Canadians seize these wonderful opportunities to learn about and celebrate the contributions of Iranian Canadians to Canadian society.
Last year, I had the honour of organizing and hosting the visit of Dr. Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one of Iran's most inspiring human rights activists. All across our country, Canadians had the chance to listen to and read about the incredible and often painful story of a woman who has risked everything, including her own life, to bring light and justice to people who have none.
While in Canada, Dr. Ebadi had the chance to meet with our Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. She also testified before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights.
Ours is a government that listens to many voices in the Persian and Iranian community. Canadians do not turn a deaf ear to the needs of oppressed people anywhere else. We are a people and a government that act. We are appalled by the oppression of the Iranian people by the Islamic regime. Even as I stand before everyone this evening, our Canadian government stands before the world for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
We have joined our voice with the growing global chorus calling for the end of Iran's secretive nuclear arms regime. We call for the ongoing independent inspection of its nuclear facilities. The Government of Canada opposes in the strongest terms the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Iranian republic. We are working with the global community to ensure that the spectre of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons never becomes a reality.
Our government supports UN Security Council resolutions to impose restrictions on the Iranian government. We act in concert with our international allies, but because we care and because we listen, we also act in accordance with the special needs of our Iranian-Canadian community. Therefore, in July of last year, our government announced our own made-in-Canada sanctions against the Islamic regime.
Far too often, with the best intentions, a government imposes economic sanctions on another country, but instead of pressuring the foreign government, the sanctions turn out to hurt the very citizens the government is trying to protect. That is why the Canadian government, a government that cares, listened to Canadians of Iranian background and then acted last year, announcing our sanctions and other provisions under the Special Economic Measures Act.
These targeted measures are designed to hamper attempts by Iran to develop nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs, as well as to persuade it to agree to constructive discussions with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
I repeat, our government cares, our government listens and our government acts.
By using sanctions that put pressure specifically on those responsible for injustice, our government has targeted members of the regime while minimizing harm to the innocent citizens of Iran. It can never be said enough that our government condemns the abuses of the Iranian government but stands proudly and resolutely behind the Iranian people.
Across the Middle East, we are witnessing the advent of incredible change. From Tunisia to Jordan, Bahrain to Egypt, the chorus of voices has never been stronger, a chorus united together for change. The same refrain has been taken up in Iran and its echoes can be heard around the world.
I am proud and humbled to stand here in this chamber, the heart of our Canadian democracy. I am proud to stand united with members of all the parties in this, our plea for freedom. I am proud to lend my voice to that chorus.
History is made in moments such as these. We must never fail to seize such an opportunity and to stand for what we know is right.
Let justice and democracy flow like a mighty river.
[Member spoke in Farsi]
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
Last evening at the moment of the unanimous passing at third reading of Bill C-475, the private member's bill initiated by the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, a bill which will significantly help police and our courts protect Canada's young people from the dangers of street drugs and notably methamphetamines, in this wonderful moment for Canada, I inadvertently broke a rule of the House in taking the member's picture as members of the House congratulated him. This was to present to him at a later date, perhaps at his retirement 20 years from now.
The Conservative members, including myself, are so proud to have him as a member of our caucus, a member who dedicated himself to this cause.
I note that in the last six months there have been two important occasions when many members took pictures in the House, first, when the Olympic athletes visited with the flame in December, and more recently when they visited the House again.
As well, I thought the House was adjourned at the time.
Nevertheless, I accept the point of order and I apologize for my inadvertent breach.
The electoral district of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country (British Columbia) has a population of 129,241 with 95,764 registered voters and 245 polling divisions.
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