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40th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 068

CONTENTS

Wednesday, September 22, 2010





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 145 
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NUMBER 068 
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3rd SESSION 
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40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 2 p.m.

Prayers


[Satements by members]

  (1400)  

[English]

The Speaker:  
    It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.
    [Members sang the national anthem]

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Ukraine

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, 19 years ago Ukrainians overwhelmingly chose to return to the status of an independent nation. Canada was the first western nation to recognize newly sovereign Ukraine.
    Today the ambassador of Ukraine is hosting a celebration of this monumental achievement, the rebirth of democracy in Ukraine.
    We too celebrate the ties that bind Canada and Ukraine, including the more than one million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage.
    As a member of Parliament I have travelled to Ukraine to officially observe presidential and parliamentary elections. I have seen how the people of Ukraine have surely and steadily strengthened their democratic institutions.
    Canada continues to support those who strive to achieve the freedoms brought about by their desire for democracy.
    Congratulations to the people of Ukraine for their great accomplishment 19 years ago and for their enduring determination to embrace their future within the world of democratic nations.

Baseball

Hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to celebrate the achievements of the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Major and Junior Lynx baseball teams.
    The Major Lynx team won the provincial championship this past summer after defeating archrival Valleyfield in a hard fought victory on our home turf in NDG. The team then went on to proudly represent the province of Quebec in the 2010 Canadian Little League Championship in Ancaster, Ontario.
    The very same weekend in Brossard, the NDG Junior Lynx also won the provincial championship. In the final game, the NDG Lynx defeated Drummondville 16 to 0. The Junior Lynx then went on to the Canadian Championship in Lethbridge, Alberta.
    Let us celebrate the volunteer coaches and all players for their outstanding performance and sportsmanship.
    It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the two teams and to say “Go Lynx Go”.

[Translation]

Watershed Awards

Ms. Monique Guay (Rivière-du-Nord, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, on May 29, the City of Saint-Jérôme won the first Watershed Award for its Schulz Park Detention Pond. This award is handed out to municipalities that have taken proactive measures to reduce their vulnerability to flooding and water damage.
    Originally, the Schulz Park project would have destroyed the existing natural environment in order to construct a detention pond. But the project was modified to highlight the site's environmental significance and to integrate it into the recreational park. In addition, this new project helps prevent overflow in the storm sewer system. This project is consistent with the City of Saint-Jérôme's desire to promote residential development in a sustainable development context.
    I am proud to highlight the wonderful initiative of the City of Saint-Jérôme that helped the city win this award.

[English]

Terry Fox Run

Mr. Malcolm Allen (Welland, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday was the 30th annual Terry Fox run for cancer. All of us have been touched by cancer in some way. Over 173,000 new patients will be diagnosed in Canada this year alone.
    Two years ago Wellanders were not sure if the local event would continue due to the lack of volunteers and organizers.
    Terry's mission of finding a cure for cancer, however, was not something Welland resident Shannon Bisson was willing to let die. She refused to let Terry's legacy disappear and took over as the organizer.
    Shannon was inspired not only by Terry but by her mother Katherine Nadeau who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and who continues to win her battle thanks to research and subsequent new treatments being offered at the Welland Hospital.
    Not only has the Terry Fox run continued in Welland but participation has increased over the past two years thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of both volunteers and participants, participants like Lily Jasinskas and Tracy McDonald who ran and walked for several family members they lost due to cancer.
    I would like all parties to join me in thanking all those volunteers and participants across Canada who work so hard to create a future without cancer.

  (1405)  

Sindi Hawkins

Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday former Kelowna area MLA and provincial cabinet minister Sindi Hawkins passed away after a courageous fight with cancer. She was only 52. This was her second battle with leukemia, which she first contracted in 2004.
    I had the opportunity to work alongside Sindi in the community. I know she selflessly dedicated her life to helping others as a nurse, a lawyer, an MLA, and an advocate to raise awareness for cancer.
    She was the MLA for Okanagan-West and Kelowna-Mission from 1996 to 2009. She also served as deputy speaker, minister of state for intergovernmental relations, and as minister of health planning.
    In her honour the province of British Columbia has announced it will rename the BC Cancer Agency's Centre for the Southern Interior. In the words of Premier Campbell, the centre will be “a lasting legacy of her kindness, her passion for helping others and her generosity of spirit”.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. I would like to thank Sindi, who has gone too soon.

Hurricane Igor

Ms. Siobhan Coady (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, many people have now seen the path of destruction left across Newfoundland and Labrador by hurricane Igor. With many towns having declared a state of emergency, this is the worst storm to hit the province in recent memory.
    I have been in contact with municipal leaders in my riding, and although they are still in the process of assessing the damage, the damage caused has been significant. Igor's wrath is nothing short of devastating.
    Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have suffered severe property damage. Hundreds of homes have been flooded. Many hospitals and other buildings have been evacuated. Thousands of people are still without power and tragically, there has been a life lost.
    At this time, it is crucial that government act as quickly as possible on this urgent situation. The federal government must show leadership and timely support. Families, businesses and communities need help now.
    I ask that all members of this House join me in recognizing the hard work that has been done by dedicated emergency personnel, public servants, and those working to restore services in the province. They are all helping us clean up after a very serious problem.

Mental Health

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, often in this place, Canadian corporations are mentioned, but too often we forget to thank them for the good that they do in our society or note how much they give back.
    Yesterday I was thrilled to learn that Bell Canada is investing $50 million to help address mental health issues across Canada. This represents the largest ever investment by a Canadian corporation in support of mental health and it will fund a wide range of initiatives over the next five years.
    These programs will increase public awareness and help destigmatize mental illness. They will support community care and access, additional research, and help develop better workplace programs for all Canadians.
    Mental illness is a leading cause of disability among our fellow citizens and through Bell's leadership, investment and work with major centres of excellence from coast to coast, the well-being of many Canadians who are impacted, either directly or indirectly, by mental illness will be greatly improved.
    I invite my colleagues here in the House to join me in congratulating Bell Canada for its efforts in this very worthy cause.

[Translation]

International Canoe Classic in Mauricie

Mr. Jean-Yves Laforest (Saint-Maurice—Champlain, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the internationally renowned sporting and cultural event known as the Classique internationale de canots de la Mauricie has been part of the Mauricie region's heritage for 77 years. This competition gives us the opportunity to welcome canoeists from all over and charm them with our hospitality and the astounding scenery all along the majestic Saint-Maurice River.
    This 77th edition was a very special one for me as I was proud to be named the honorary president of the event. I would like to call attention to the excellent work of Jacques Bellemare, director general, and Daniel Héroux, president, as well as officers from the Sûreté du Québec who ensured the safety of the canoeists and the public with true professionalism. I must also mention the hundreds of dedicated volunteers who make this event a success year after year.
    However, I am disappointed by the overly strict criteria of the federal programs that keep an event such as this one, which combines sport and culture so wonderfully, from receiving the financial support that would be immensely helpful.

  (1410)  

[English]

Firearms Registry

Mr. Dave MacKenzie (Oxford, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve a member of Parliament who consistently represents them when it really counts.
     The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has strongly opposed the long gun registry. His constituents voted for him knowing he was clearly in favour of scrapping the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
    Now, on the day of the vote, the member has changed his mind. But what has really changed? The registry is still wasteful and inefficient. The registry still targets law-abiding hunters.
    The fact is that the only thing that has changed is the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore's desire to serve his party leader before the hard-working, law-abiding people of Sackville--Eastern Shore.
    I call on the member to do the right thing by his constituents and vote to kill this Liberal boondoggle.

[Translation]

Chile

Mr. Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention a very special anniversary today, marking Chile's 200 years of independence.

[English]

    This is an important moment in the history of a country that is a great ally, a country with which we maintain a great relationship, a country that Canada can call a friend.

[Translation]

    Like many other countries, Chile has been through difficult moments in its history, but each time, it has been able to rise again with courage and determination. Today it is a great democracy with a strong economy open to the world.

[English]

    Today Chile is rising from yet another challenge, last February's earthquake.

[Translation]

    And we know that Chileans are a proud and brave people; the miners trapped in the Copiapo mine have shown us that.

[English]

    This situation continues to touch hearts all over the world.

[Translation]

    As chair of the Canada-Chile Parliamentary committee and on behalf of all my colleagues in this House, I would like to salute the Chilean government and people.
    Happy 200th anniversary. ¡Que viva Chile!

[English]

National Defence

Mr. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, our government's investment in the F-35 is a win-win for the Canadian Forces and the Canadian economy. The forces will be replacing an aircraft that will soon have reached the end of its lifespan, and Canadians will benefit from well-paying jobs for decades to come.
    Canada's first-rate aerospace industry will have direct access to bid on building and maintenance contracts for up to 5,000 aircraft. In fact, just days after our government's announcement, Avcorp in British Columbia signed a wing tip contract that could be worth up to $500 million.
    Communities across Canada will see direct economic benefits and the Canadian Forces have assured us that this will help ensure our aircrew come home safely from its challenging and dangerous missions.
    Liberal defence policy is what got us into Afghanistan in Volkswagen jeeps. This is no time to play politics. We urge the Liberal Party to quit playing games with this essential program, stop ignoring the facts, support our troops, support Canadian jobs and get behind a project that will benefit all Canadians.

Hurricane Igor

Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador was just hit with the devastation of hurricane Igor, with record rainfalls and winds in excess of 170 kilometres per hour. Sadly, one death has occurred. An 80-year-old gentleman was washed out to sea. We share in his family's sorrow.
    The storm caused severe damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges, municipal water supplies and has downed power and telecommunications lines. We have seen the pictures of flooding and severe damage and whole communities, including the 20,000 people of the Burin Peninsula who have had their road connection severed. Cleanup and repair by households and the provincial and municipal governments will take weeks and months.
     I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister's timely assurance to Premier Danny Williams that the federal government will assist in relief through the existing disaster financial assistance arrangements. However, more assistance may be required after a full assessment.
    It is one more reason for the Prime Minister to rethink the arbitrary deadline to complete infrastructure projects under the stimulus program. Unless this happens, millions of dollars in federal stimulus assistance will be lost to communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Canada.

Firearms Registry

Ms. Candice Hoeppner (Portage—Lisgar, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, today is decision day for opposition MPs. They will need to decide if they will stand up for their constituents or if they will bend to their leader's wishes.
    It is time to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry that has wasted over $1 billion. We know that the long gun registry does nothing to reduce crime and we believe that taxpayer dollars should be supporting measures that actually work.
    The Liberal boondoggle has gone 500 times over budget and Canadians deserve value for their hard-earned money.
    Today opposition MPs will have a choice. Will they stand with their constituents, law-abiding farmers and hunters unfairly targeted by the wasteful long gun registry, or will they follow the Liberal leader and his coalition partners who are determined to maintain the registry regardless of the cost? Shame.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Firearms Registry

Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, for the past few weeks, the member for Portage—Lisgar, who is sponsoring the bill to eliminate the gun registry, has been urging members to listen to their constituents and vote accordingly.
    The Conservative members from Quebec have been doing exactly the opposite by rejecting the Quebec consensus despite the fact that Quebec has the highest rate of support for keeping the gun registry. Just before a critical vote, the Quebec public safety minister formally asked them to align with the consensus, and this morning, the National Assembly passed a fourth motion in favour of maintaining the gun registry.
    Several other groups support the registry, including Quebec's public health directors, the Quebec bar, families of victims of the Polytechnique and Dawson massacres, the Fédération des policiers et des policières municipaux du Québec, and the AFEAS, to name but a few.
    The Conservative members from Quebec should act in accordance with what the majority of Quebeckers want and vote to maintain the gun registry. They should reject their party's servile ideology and stop being their leader's yes men and women.

[English]

Hurricane Igor

Mr. Scott Andrews (Avalon, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday many Newfoundlanders experienced the worst storm in history during hurricane Igor. Residents saw extensive property damage and power outages. Access to some communities has been washed out, and the most devastating of all is the loss of life.
    We are known to be tough and resilient, but I can assure the House that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be challenged in the days and weeks ahead. My thoughts and prayers are with our constituents, municipal leaders, local firefighters and emergency responders in our communities.
    Some 30 communities have declared a state of emergency and the initial photos and communications from many communities are very distressing. Families are helping families and friends are helping friends, because that is what we do back home.
    While the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will take the lead, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will need their federal government to assist on a very timely basis. We know they need help and they need help now.
    I am sure I speak on behalf of all members of the House as we remember those who have experienced loss and upheaval in their lives and extend our prayers as they deal with the rebuilding process.

[Translation]

Firearms Registry

Mr. André Arthur (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, Ind.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I was not able to speak to Bill C-391 yesterday and although I wish I had more time, I will try to say everything I have to say in the next few seconds.
    I have no reservations about voting to eliminate the long gun registry, and whether those who claim there is a consensus in Quebec like it or not, I will do so after having met with hundreds of people during the four days I spent at Expo Donnacona. Hundreds of people took the time to answer my question and told me the registry should be eliminated.
    As members vote on this bill here today, I hope they will remember that the legislation was passed using political manipulation after the tragedy at the École Polytechnique.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

The Economy

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, first, the thoughts of everybody on this side of the House, and I am sure the entire House, are for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as they recover from hurricane Igor.
    Yesterday the Minister of Finance delivered a wild partisan rant. I assume the Prime Minister approved this speech, because, after all, he makes the rules. However, what I want to know is whether the Prime Minister understands that this was a classic example of the politics of fear, division, envy and resentment at a time when Canadians need to hear a message of hope and unity.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I spoke with Premier Williams yesterday and I know the Minister of National Defence spoke with him yesterday and today regarding the state of emergency in many Newfoundland and Labrador communities and the situation there. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, in particular the family of the individual who is missing. The federal government has indicated that it will be ready to assist with any measures that are appropriate or necessary.
    As for the government's economic policy, we are providing hope and opportunity through the economic action plan and stand strongly against the tax and spend policies of the Liberal Party.

  (1420)  

[Translation]

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance delivered a wild partisan rant. He hid the truth that lies behind his government's record: waste, mismanagement and tax increases for next summer.
    When will the Prime Minister put an end to the politics of division and fear generated by the Minister of Finance?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, every day, the Leader of the Opposition delivers partisan rants in the House of Commons. We disagree with this policy. The Leader of the Opposition wants to increase all taxes, the GST, corporate tax and income tax. In fact, the Liberal Party has voted against every measure to lower taxes adopted by this government.
    That is his own policy and he should be prepared to defend it.

[English]

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance yesterday used an extraordinary phrase to describe the real preoccupations of Canadians. Canadians are concerned with child care, with pensions, with the problem of getting student loans and the Minister of Finance dismissed all of that as warm and fuzzy.
    Since when did compassion, decency and a commitment to equality become warm and fuzzy in the country?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition cannot pretend to be concerned about those things when the real effect of the things he proposes are deep and high tax increases on the Canadian economy.
    Whether it is the GST that he has advocated raising, whether it is business taxes that he has advocated raising, whether it is an iPod tax, for goodness' sake, that he has advocated putting on Canadians, these policies are wrong for the Canadian people. He should have been doing what we have been doing, which is ensuring there are projects across the country that will help the Canadian people.

[Translation]

Firearms Registry

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister prefers to make up opposition policy rather than comment on the opposition's real policy. He makes up all kinds of things.
    The Prime Minister is trying to divide Canadians not only on the economy but also on the gun registry. The police are in favour of keeping the registry, as are doctors and victims.
    Why is the government determined to divide Canadians on this issue instead of bringing Canadians together?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Liberal Party is trying to suggest that Canadians in the regions are against gun control. On the contrary, our rural constituents support the vast majority of gun control measures, but they do not support measures that target law-abiding duck hunters and farmers. People in the regions are asking for respect from their Parliament and their representatives. Our party respects Canada's regions.

  (1425)  

[English]

Hon. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the registry helps protect women against domestic violence. The Prime Minister should remind the member for Portage—Lisgar that domestic violence is a crime.
    We maintain that the registry is essential to protecting women in the domestic sphere. Why will the Prime Minister not work with the opposition to save the gun registry and improve it for the benefit of all Canadians?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the registry does no such thing. What is interesting is that when we bring in measures to actually deal with things like domestic violence, to deal with that kind of crime, the opposition opposes us over and over again.
    Unfortunately, it is only interested in targeting its efforts against law-abiding citizens. The vast majority of gun owners in this country support responsible gun control. What they do not support is a registry that is costly, ineffective and targeted against them instead of real criminals. We will continue fighting to abolish it.

[Translation]

The Economy

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the Canadian Club of Ottawa, the Minister of Finance gave a partisan, alarmist, even ridiculous speech. Specifically, he predicted the loss of 400,000 jobs if a coalition of the three opposition parties were elected.
    Instead of having his finance minister invent doomsday scenarios, why does the Prime Minister not deal with the real issues, such as the real economic crisis we are going through? Why does he not implement a real recovery plan that would help the forestry industry, which is experiencing real problems?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, this government has been taking action on the Canadian economy and the economic crisis for more than two years. That is why Canada has outperformed other nations. We are helping the unemployed and the affected industries, we are funding projects in the municipalities, and we are lowering taxes. The Bloc Québécois voted against all these measures for Canadians.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, he is helping the unemployed by taking $20 billion out of their pockets. He is helping the forestry industry by doing nothing. Come on. If the Prime Minister was serious, he would ask his Minister of Finance to stop using scare tactics and extend the deadline for infrastructure projects.
    Does the Prime Minister realize that his inflexibility in this matter is a threat to one third of the infrastructure projects in Quebec, which are creating jobs and keeping the economy going? It seems to me that, in the midst of an economic crisis, that is more important than an absurd speech to the Canadian Club.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we are working with our partners—the provinces, municipalities, the private sector, universities and colleges—to ensure that these projects are completed. It is interesting to note that the Bloc Québécois is attacking the project deadline even though it opposed the program. That is a completely irresponsible position during a recession. The people of Quebec do not need such a party.

Infrastructure

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the March 31, 2011 deadline is jeopardizing numerous infrastructure projects. For example, some municipalities have had to interrupt their work for lack of materials, notably pipes. They cannot continue their work; there are no pipes. That is the case in Lachute, St-Eustache and Beauharnois.
    Does the government realize that maintaining the March 31, 2011 deadline is putting numerous projects in jeopardy and potentially depriving Quebec of several hundred jobs as well as major municipal infrastructure?

  (1430)  

[English]

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the infrastructure stimulus funding, which was part of the economic action plan, was timely and targeted, but it was temporary. It had to be done by March 31. Everyone who signed an agreement with the federal government or other participants signed on that they could get the job done by March 31. Thankfully, of course, those projects are getting done across the country. Some 93% of the projects are well under way.
    We continue to work with the provinces and proponents on individual projects to see if we can re-scope and work with them. We are getting good work and good co-operation in Quebec and we hope to see all of those projects concluded by March 31.

[Translation]

Mrs. Josée Beaudin (Saint-Lambert, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the deadline, artificially set by the government, is having other negative effects. For example, in order to complete projects by March 31, municipalities are having to pay overtime. That is the case for the recreation centre in Saint-Lambert. The federal government's lack of flexibility means that we are paying more than is necessary for our public infrastructure.
    Why is the government insisting on maintaining the March 31 deadline?

[English]

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I can say that everyone who signed an agreement on any of these construction projects signed on that they could get it done by March 31.
    Whether we are talking recreation centres or other needed infrastructure throughout Quebec, the Bloc votes against all of it. What is interesting is that every time there is an announcement about infrastructure spending in Quebec, every time we put up one of those signs that the Bloc hates so much, it tells us to take down the sign because it is a sign of prosperity, hope and unity between us and Canada.

The Economy

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, this government says that we are somehow in the home stretch of the recovery but there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians limping on the sidelines right now. That is because they are facing a loss of a quarter of a million full-time jobs and they are forced into part-time work that simply does not pay the bills. It is not an economic recovery until those people are back in full-time family-supporting jobs.
    Is the Prime Minister willing to peek out from behind his billboards long enough to come out with a plan that will create full-time work that will give us a full middle-class recovery?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is important to note to begin with that the Canadian economy has net created over 400,000 jobs in the past year, one of the best performances anywhere in the world.
    I am the first to say, and have said repeatedly, that our economy has not yet fully recovered. We need to see further progress in the labour market. However, the way to do that is to support the actions being taken by this government to get projects rolling and also to build the long-term base of the Canadian economy.
    If the leader of the NDP is worried about those things and interested in those things, he should start supporting what the government is doing for the economy.

[Translation]

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, part-time jobs are not a true sign of economic recovery, and the Prime Minister should know that.
    The Conservatives are once again attacking the middle class, small-business owners, local businesses and entrepreneurs by increasing employment insurance premiums for employers and employees.
    Since the recovery is stalling and people are still looking for stable jobs, will the government work with us to create permanent jobs for people?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian economy has created over 400,000 jobs in the past year. That is one of the best performances in the developed world during this economic crisis. The recovery has started, but it is not over. We need to see further progress in the labour market. That is essential.
    The way to do that is to support the actions being taken by this government to protect the Canadian economy, to protect our industries and to create jobs. I encourage the NDP not to vote against these measures as it has done in the past.

[English]

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the government will bring all those projects to a dead halt in six months. That is wrong. What we need is an extension of stimulus here to create work.
    I would like to turn to another very troubling report that we read about today. Sean Bruyea, an advocate on behalf of veterans, a veteran himself who served this country, found out that the Conservatives have been rooting around in his private medical records. That is contrary not to only decency but to the law. We found that the Minister of Veterans Affairs was trying to find out about medical appointments.
    Will the minister stand in his place and apologize today?

  (1435)  

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, let us be clear about the facts. It appears that certain private information regarding this individual had been widely circulating in the bureaucracy and, by the way, before this government came to office.
    That is completely unacceptable. Canadians take the privacy laws extremely seriously, especially for those who have served our country in uniform.
    I understand the Privacy Commissioner is looking into matters such as this. The Privacy Commissioner will receive nothing but the full co-operation of this government to ensure that these kinds of things do not happen again.

Government Spending

Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians certainly question the decisions of the government to borrow and spend $16 billion on untendered stealth fighters and over $1 billion on a weekend photo op. It wants to spend $10 billion on prisons for unreported crimes. Now it is reviewing a program designed to improve access for people with disabilities, a fund that has almost $100 million less in it than what the government spent on government propaganda.
    While this review is being conducted, will the minister promise to evaluate all the evidence, including the evidence that indicates that over 90% of this fund has gone to Conservative ridings?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we introduced the enabling accessibility fund to overcome something that the Liberals had not done for years and years and that is to remove barriers for the disabled right across this country. We have done that and are doing that. We are opening up churches and municipal buildings. We are investing in federal buildings and making them accessible so that the disabled have access.
    We have extended that program. There is a review going on. The review will not be completed until after the program is completed. Meanwhile, we want to ensure that Canadians who are disabled have the access to the services and the opportunities that all other Canadians have.
Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, we have to ask what is happening over there.
    The choices that the government makes: $1 billion for G20 photo ops and $45 million over two years for people with disabilities. It cancelled the PALS disability survey and then the long form census which disability groups need desperately to serve their clients.
    What kind of choice is that? That is a choice that puts ideology ahead of evidence. How can the Canadian government spend $1 billion on a photo op and then have the nerve to review spending on a program for people with disabilities?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's hypocrisy is breathtaking. He is criticizing us for opening doors for the disabled, doors that the Liberal government had kept shut for years.
    Through the enabling accessibility fund, there are over 300 projects across this country that are making government facilities and municipal facilities available to the disabled, including Iona Presbyterian Church in the member's riding. If it were up to the member, those doors would not be open.

Veterans Affairs

Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs whether his plan would be retroactive to 2006 or whether it would leave behind our veterans who were injured in the last four years.
    The minister wriggled around the question. Our veterans deserve better than that. After all, they have risked their lives for Canada.
     Yes or no, will the plan be retroactive to 2006 or will it exclude the veterans who have returned from the battlefields in the last four years?

[Translation]

Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, we made an important announcement this week of an additional $2 billion to support our veterans, our modern-day veterans, particularly those who are returning from Afghanistan with serious injuries.
    Additional funds will be granted to them. Those who can no longer work will receive $1,000 a month for life, in addition to the amounts they are already receiving. Also, those who are at the lower end of the income scale will receive a minimum, while in rehabilitation, which will correspond to—

  (1440)  

The Speaker:  
    The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.
Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the minister should have shown some compassion a long time ago. But let us move on.
    The article that was published yesterday regarding the release of personal information, including the medical file, of a veteran—an ordinary Canadian citizen—who has criticized the government has shocked Canadians. This invasion of privacy could constitute a criminal offence.
    Can the minister explain what would justify his government interfering like this in a citizen's private life?
Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, as I am sure hon. members will understand, I cannot discuss a specific case that is before the courts. However, Veterans Affairs Canada is of course subject to and must comply with the Privacy Act. I would remind the House that privacy is a fundamental right for all Canadians, including our veterans, and any violations are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Infrastructure

Mrs. Carole Lavallée (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the March 31 deadline for infrastructure projects is jeopardizing the completion of the arts and culture building planned for 2-22 Ste-Catherine Street in Montreal's Quartier des spectacles. The project was delayed by four months because of administrative red tape in Ottawa. Now the Conservative government is threatening to hold back the funds promised if the project is not completed by March 31.
    Instead of disappointing everyone and using scare tactics at the Canadian Club, do the Minister of Finance and the Conservative government not agree that it would be better to tackle the real problems facing Quebeckers and to start by extending the March 31 deadline?

[English]

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, there seems to be constant chatter about extending the deadline. What we would like to have from the Bloc is some co-operation, perhaps when votes come around or when important situations come up in the House, that actually supports these infrastructure projects.
    For example, the other day for the first time in 24 years a Prime Minister of this country was in Port of Sept- Iles, and this was what the director general of the Port of Sept-Iles said.

[Translation]

    “Many thanks for the support of your government through its infrastructure stimulus program, which has made these strategic investments possible, in order to support the economic growth of the north shore and the rest of Canada.”
Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the construction of the new exhibition facility in Rouyn-Noranda is being jeopardized because of the March 31, 2011, deadline. Although a regional call for tenders would have been sufficient, the federal government demanded a national tendering process, which delayed the beginning of the work. In addition, because of the early frost in Abitibi, it will soon be impossible to do some of the excavation work.
    Will the government finally admit that its March 31 deadline makes no sense, because as well as increasing infrastructure costs, it is also jeopardizing jobs—
The Speaker:  
    The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

[English]

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I can tell why my seatmate had such fun listening to the Bloc members as they complained about too much infrastructure in their province and in their ridings.
    We continue to work with the Government of Quebec and the Montreal government. We are working together on specific projects. We work together with them to scope the projects properly. We work with them on specific things that we can do together to make sure these projects get done.
    Whether it is cultural infrastructure, port infrastructure, or whatever we are working on, it is creating jobs across the country

[Translation]

Firearms Registry

Mrs. Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, Conservative members from Quebec think that their ideological agenda is more important than protecting people. They have ignored all appeals. Yesterday, the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution once again asking federal members from Quebec to maintain the gun registry.
    Will the Conservative members from Quebec heed this appeal, or will they insist on voting to dismantle the gun registry?

[English]

Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, let me be clear for the member.
    While we support the licensing aspect and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons, we do not support the wasteful long gun registry.
    There is a deliberate campaign of misinformation by Bloc members in respect of what we support. The member for Malpeque, as well, has participated in a deliberate campaign of misinformation after he promised his constituents that he would vote in favour of scrapping the long gun registry. Now he has flipped.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

Mrs. Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am astounded by the Conservatives' hypocrisy. Across Canada, they have been urging Liberals and New Democrats to respect what voters want. At the same time, Conservative members from Quebec are preparing to vote in favour of scrapping the gun registry despite the unanimous opinion of the National Assembly and the vast majority of Quebeckers.
    Why will the Conservative members from Quebec not vote in accordance with what their constituents want, which is to maintain the gun registry as is?

[English]

Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, what the members of the Quebec caucus of the Conservative Party, indeed all Conservative members, want to see is effective gun control that targets criminals and does not target law-abiding citizens, law-abiding hunters, and sports people.
    We are concerned about crime on the streets, not simply registering long guns. That does not address the issue of crime at all.
    I wish that for once the Bloc would actually support measures that stifle crime and not lawful gun-owners.

[Translation]

Mrs. Lise Zarac (LaSalle—Émard, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister went to New York to talk about maternal health, then he returned to Ottawa to vote against keeping moms safe. That is hypocrisy. He knows perfectly well that 70% of the victims of long gun shootings are women.
    If the Prime Minister really cares about women's health and safety, will he work with us to improve and save the registry, which is what women's groups in Canada want?

[English]

Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, unlike the Liberal Party, this government will continue to put the rights of victims over those of criminals. We are proud of the progress that we have made in giving victims both a greater voice and greater access to services. We will continue to correct the failed Liberal record. Our opposition to the long gun registry is clear. We know that criminalizing farmers and duck hunters does not increase public safety, nor does it protect victims.

[Translation]

Mrs. Lise Zarac (LaSalle—Émard, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister really cared about women's well-being, he would not have ousted the RCMP Chief Superintendent, Marty Cheliak, and he would not ignore the opinion of police officers, nurses, women's groups and his own victims' ombudsman.
    Last spring, the Prime Minister engaged in divisive politics at African women's expense. Today, he is doing the same thing at Canadian women's expense. Why?

[English]

Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader has whipped his members to support the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry by promising to implement unconstitutional amendments to Bill C-391.
    We hope that the Liberals who voted for Bill C-391 will not deceive their constituents by changing their votes merely to satisfy the Liberal leader. Think of the victims. Don't think of the agenda of the Liberal leader.
Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, they speak of victims' rights. Yet yesterday, Sue O'Sullivan, the Prime Minister's appointed victims ombudsman, said that “the majority of victims' groups [they] have spoken to have made it clear: Canada should maintain its long gun registry”.
    It is the same message we have heard from victims, police, nurses, and women's groups.
    Why can the Conservatives not work with them to improve the registry, to make it less burdensome for honest farmers and hunters, yet still a useful tool for fighting crime?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, to think that member would even speak about protecting victims, after that member stood up and gutted Bill C-9 on the issue of conditional sentences. Apparently, she would rather see criminals out on the street than behind bars. As for protecting law-abiding citizens, we have nothing to answer to that member for. We do not support the wasteful long gun registry. We support measures that protect victims.

  (1450)  

Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, that is a shameful response.
    The member for Portage—Lisgar said yesterday that the “only defence of [the gun registry] is domestic violence and suicide cases. Nobody is even saying that it stops crime anymore”.
     Shockingly, the Prime Minister appears to agree with her, based on his comments earlier today.
    Can the Minister of Public Safety confirm that the current government still considers domestic violence a heinous crime and commit to fighting it by maintaining the gun registry?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, that question is beneath contempt.
    Let me be clear. While we support the licensing of people and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons, we do not support the wasteful long gun registry. We support initiatives that in fact target violent, dangerous criminals who prey upon innocent people. The member should reflect upon her record of gutting effective legislation in this House, as should the Liberal caucus .
Mr. Scott Armstrong (Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the decision facing MPs on the long gun registry is crystal clear. MPs can either support the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry or vote to scrap it.
    The member for Churchill has stated, “A lot of people in northern Manitoba feel the gun registry does not work for us”.
    Could the Minister of Public Safety update this House on the long gun registry and why it is important that all members of Parliament, including the member for Churchill, vote with their constituents on this issue?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for this question and for his efforts on this file.
    The hard-working, law-abiding gun owners of Manitoba and Canada know that the long gun registry does not work. I would call upon the member for Churchill to stand in this House and, instead of voting with her downtown Toronto leader, represent her constituents in rural Manitoba, as her father does in the Manitoba legislature, where he has consistently spoken out against the long gun registry, together with the NDP in that province who do not support the long gun registry.

[Translation]

HST

Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, today is the first day of fall, which means that colder temperatures are around the corner. That is bad news for people in northern Ontario. This year, their heating bills will go up by 8% because the Conservative government's HST will now apply to heating. This sends a chill up our spines.
    Will the Minister of Finance work with the NDP and ask Ontario to withdraw its application of the HST to basic needs such as heating and gasoline?

[English]

Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the implementation of the HST is a provincial responsibility, and I would invite the member to take it up with her party's provincial representatives.

Seniors

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, winter is coming fast and the senior citizens of northern Ontario are now having to pay HST on their outrageous fuel costs, thanks to this government. Day after day, I meet seniors who are falling below the poverty line, seniors who cannot afford to live in their homes, seniors who are travelling hundreds of kilometres to get medical treatment because there are no local doctors. This government has turned its back on rural Canadians.
     I would like to ask the minister why he is blowing billions of dollars on prisons and fighter jets while telling the seniors of northern Canada that the cupboard is bare.
Hon. John Baird (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I think people in the member's constituency will rightly see this for what it is, an attempt to change the channel.
    I have a brochure that the member put out, a householder he sent to his constituents, "Fighting for the North - Working for you”. In it he says, “Promise made: promise kept. [MP] fulfills commitment to vote down the long gun registry”.
    The member has a chance. He can stand with his constituents. He can stand with his principles and he can do the right thing at 5:30 today.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

National Defence

Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, the largest military contract in Canadian history, the F-35 fighter jet contract, will not be subject to the industrial and regional benefits policy. That is unprecedented. The Conservative government has given up and seems unable to defend the interests of the aerospace industry, which is primarily located in Quebec.
    Why is the Conservative government asking taxpayers to foot the $16 billion bill without ensuring that the Canadian and Quebec aerospace industry receives its fair share of contracts?
Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, by purchasing the new F-35 jets, we have gone with the best aircraft on the market. For such military bases as Cold Lake and Bagotville, it is an important acquisition that represents a long-term future for these two bases.
    Furthermore, it will create jobs and have economic spinoffs across the country, and for companies in the aerospace industry as well. It is a good decision by our government and it will create jobs.

Shipbuilding Industry

Mr. Robert Bouchard (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives begin the process of selecting two shipyards to build ships for the government, they are still demanding that the Davie yard come to an agreement with its creditors before it can have a chance at its share of the $35 billion in contracts that have been announced. This is a chicken-and-egg dilemma: without an agreement, there will be no contracts, but without contracts, there will be no agreement.
    Will the government and the member for Lévis—Bellechasse ensure that Davie can bid without requiring a prior agreement with creditors?

[English]

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the reason this government announced a competitive process for the greatest shipbuilding contract since the second world war is that we want the competition.
    Certainly it is up to each of the potential bidders to fulfill the terms in order to be validated for entry into that competition, and that includes shipyards in the west, shipyards in the east, and shipyards in Quebec.

Census

Mr. Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' ideological census cuts are harming vulnerable Canadians. Nurses say that the changes will compromise programs vital to pandemic planning, such as for H1N1. The United Way says that it will prevent it from adequately targeting help to our neediest Canadians.
    Will the minister listen to the groups and restore the long form census instead of tossing aside the reliable information they need to make the best decisions to allow them to do their jobs?
Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have said it before and I will say it again in this House: It is amazing how quickly members of that party are willing to cast aside citizens' rights and freedom from intrusive and coercive questions. They are quite happy to do that, quite quickly.
    Speaking of principles, the hon. member promised his constituents that he would vote against the long gun registry. He has flip-flopped on that issue because of the pressure of the Liberal leader, and shame on him. He will answer to his constituents in due course.

[Translation]

Mr. Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, that is not really an answer, but I will try again.
    The Canadian Medical Association stated that scrapping the census would deprive health researchers of essential information.
    The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada stated that French-language services will be severely affected.
    When will the minister stop ignoring the facts and reinstate the long-form census?
Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we do not think it is appropriate to force Canadians to provide private, personal information under threat of sanctions.
    Our approach is reasonable and fair for all Canadians. We have struck a balance between collecting necessary information and respecting Canadians' privacy.
    Our position is reasonable and fair.

  (1500)  

Foreign Investments

Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the companies that make use of our natural resources are strategic businesses. We cannot give foreign interests carte blanche when they want to take over our companies, as was the case with Vale Inco and Xstrata. It is time for transparency concerning foreign investments.
    Will the government work with us to ensure that the primary beneficiaries of the exploitation of our natural resources are first and foremost the people who live and work in these regions?
Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, there is a process that must be followed in order to carry out these studies in an independent fashion. There will be an answer in the future.

[English]

    However, with this question coming from that member, it is very interesting what the NDP is doing today. They are trying to change the channel and switch the debate from the fact that they are breaking a covenant with their own constituents. They promised to vote down the long gun registry. They are doing the opposite. Their constituents will have their votes in their hands in due course.

Credit Card Industry

Mr. Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, what that minister has incorrect is that we are actually trying to turn the TV on so that they can see what is going on in northern Ontario.
    The beginning of September marked back to school for kids across the country. With purchases of new clothes, binders, books, and other basics, the credit card bills are now coming due, and parents are struggling to pay. The Conservatives keep promising protection from credit card gouging, yet as the deadlines come and go, they keep siding with the banks. The people of Sudbury are tired of the government ignoring their day-to-day issues.
    When will the Conservatives stop playing wedge politics and stand up for what really matters in northern Ontario?
Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC):  
    I do not know where the hon. member has been, Mr. Speaker. If he would turn his TV on, he would see two things. First is that we developed a credit card code of conduct that is being honoured throughout the industry, with wide acceptance, including by the major consumer groups in Canada that have dealt with this issue. Second is that his constituents are very unhappy with his intention to flip-flop on his vote on the long gun registry.

National Defence

Mr. Gary Schellenberger (Perth—Wellington, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, our government's investment in the F-35 is a win-win for the Canadian Forces and the Canadian economy. In fact, Canadian companies are already benefiting from this vital project, and these early benefits are only the beginning.
    Can the Minister of National Defence please tell the House the importance of this investment, not just to the Canadian aerospace industry but to the entire Canadian economy?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Perth—Wellington knows that in addition to the Canadian Forces getting a spectacular fifth-generation aircraft in the F-35, the Canadian aerospace industry will receive huge benefits. Because of the $9 billion investment in our 65 aircraft, the Canadian industry will have the ability to compete for contracts on up to 5,000 aircraft. This means good paying jobs for Canadians right across the country, and the air force will be flying a plane for the next 40 years to ensure mission success.
    Let us get behind the air force. Let us get behind Canadian industry and support this project.

Hurricane Igor

Mr. Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday's hurricane Igor left a wide path of destruction throughout Newfoundland, destruction to highways, power lines, and personal property. Power is still off for many, even at this very hour.
    There is devastation in many communities on the Eastport and Bonavista peninsulas, in Gambo, in Glovertown, and in Bonavista North, just to name a few. In particular, the small community of Terra Nova had its one access road washed out, and the community is completely isolated, with no power and no access to any services, including medical.
    Can the minister please update us on what actions the government is taking at this desperate time of need?
Hon. Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we in fact extend our deep-felt sympathy to those affected by this tragedy.
    Canadians expect that the federal government's response to an emergency will be seamless and that key decisions can be made quickly and effectively when disaster strikes. We work very closely with the provincial officials who are on the front lines along with the municipal officials, and we are there, in fact, to support them financially through the agreements that have been made.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

Government Spending

Mr. Pascal-Pierre Paillé (Louis-Hébert, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, on March 5, 2001, a press release was issued announcing funding for a number of projects to support Toronto's bid for the Olympic Games, which ultimately failed. The total cost of revitalizing the area was $1.5 billion, including $500 million from the federal government. Who signed this joint press release on behalf of the Government of Ontario? The current Minister of Finance.
    Can he explain why what is good for Toronto is not good for Quebec City, which is still waiting for a commitment from the federal government on its multi-purpose amphitheatre?
Hon. John Baird (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I must correct the hon. member across the way. The Government of Canada gave $500 million to revitalize Toronto's waterfront, which is a separate matter from the Olympic Games portfolio. If Quebec City ever has the honour of representing Canada as an Olympic city, the government will be quite proud to support it strongly, as it did for Calgary and Vancouver.

[English]

Points of Order

Oral Questions 

[Points of Order]
Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I asked a question of the Minister of Human Resources, and in her response she referred to me by saying “the hon. member's hypocrisy”. The minister and I have been around here a few years. We were elected together in 2004. I am sure that she knows that this is unparliamentary language. In the spirit of co-operation, rather than make a big deal out of it, I wonder if she might want to withdraw that comment.
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, if I did inadvertently offend anyone, I do apologize.
The Speaker:  
    I consider that matter closed.
    The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar, and I will hear her now on her question of privilege.

Privilege

Remarks Regarding Member for Portage--Lisgar  

[Privilege]
Ms. Candice Hoeppner (Portage—Lisgar, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege resulting from the outrageous and disturbing remarks made by Mike O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition. It was recorded in the National Post today that Mr. O'Shaughnessy wrote in an email distributed to reporters that I “think it is okay to get rid of the life-saving gun registry, because in her mind”, referring to me, “domestic violence committed with a firearm is not a criminal activity”.
    There are two issues here, one relating to using House of Commons resources to transmit inaccurate information about a member, and one relating to a slur upon my reputation, so grave that I must raise this in the House as a question of privilege.
    On March 16, 1983, Mr. Mackasey raised a question of privilege in order to denounce accusations made in a series of articles appearing in the Montreal Gazette. On March 22, 1983, on page 24027 of Hansard, the Speaker ruled that he had a prima facie question of privilege. The reasons given by the Speaker are on page 29 of Jeanne Sauvé's Selected Decisions which states:
    Not only do defamatory allegations about Members place the entire institution of Parliament under a cloud, they also prevent Members from performing their duties as long as the matter remains unresolved, since, as one authority states, such allegations bring Members into "hatred, contempt or ridicule". Moreover, authorities and precedents agree that even though a Member can "seek a remedy in the courts, he cannot function effectively as a Member while this slur upon his reputation remains." Since there is no way of knowing how long litigation would take, the Member must be allowed to re-establish his reputation as speedily as possible by referring the matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.
    To suggest that I would somehow condone domestic violence is offensive and way beyond the standard even for political debate.
    On page 214 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, there is a reference to reflections on members. It says, “The House of Commons is prepared to find contempt in respect of utterances within the category of libel and slander and also in respect of utterances which do not meet that standard. As put by Bourinot, 'any scandalous and libellous reflection on the proceedings of the House is a breach of the privileges of Parliament...and libels upon members individually'”.
    I would also refer you, Mr. Speaker, to a Speaker's ruling on October 29, 1980 at page 4213 of Hansard. The Speaker said:
...in the context of contempt, it seems that to amount of contempt, representations or statements about...members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper and import a ring of deceit.
    The comments were made by the spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition who, according to the House of Commons database, is employed by the Liberal Party's research bureau and therefore his salary and his email account, from which he made this libellous comments, are provided through the House of Commons. They are not only incorrect, but his statement was politically motivated and was a deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation in a way, as I stated earlier, that is way beyond the standard.
    I will now address the other point regarding the use of House of Commons resources to transmit inaccurate information about me.
    There was a prima facie finding on November 19, 2009 regarding the use of House of Commons resources to present inaccurate information about a member of Parliament. In a mailing sent to some of the constituents of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, you concluded that the mailing contained information that was found to be factually wrong regarding his position on the long gun registry, as well as on his voting record on that matter. Of course, it turns out that today that mailing would have been correct, but at the time, it was viewed by the Speaker to be inaccurate.
    I trust, Mr. Speaker, that you do not and will not view the statements made by the spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition to be accurate. In your ruling you stated:
    The situation before us today is analogous to the 2005 in which a similar mailing was sent to the constituency of the hon. member for Windsor West. That mailing had the effect of distorting the member's voting record, again on the gun registry and thereby misinforming his constituents. In finding a prima facie case of privilege, on April 18, 2005, Debates, page 5215, I stated: “This may well have affected his ability to function and may have had the effect of unjustly damaging his reputation with voters in his riding”.
    I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you find that there is a prima facie question of privilege on the matter of using House of Commons resources to transmit inaccurate information about a member and on the matter of the attack upon my reputation.

  (1510)  

Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concerns raised by the member for Portage—Lisgar. I think it is important for all of us to remember that the public discourse around the issue that is going to be voted on later this evening has been hot, it has been confrontational sometimes, and I think for many Canadians, unfortunate because they would rather see that discourse elevated to a higher level.
    I would like to say, however, that if the member is going to read the second part of the press release put out by a member of the Liberal opposition staff, then it really is in the interest of full disclosure and the benefit of the House to read the first part as well.
    What we have is a situation where I think the member is being merely argumentative. Without giving the full disclosure of the quote, I think to a certain extent, and perhaps not deliberately, it is misleading for the House in terms of what exactly has been said. Therefore, to clarify the record, Mr. Speaker, and for your consideration, I would like to read into the record two things.
    First, I would like to read in the verbatim quotation from the member for Portage—Lisgar on CBC Radio yesterday morning. This is exactly what the member said, “When people uh, who are uh, using guns for illegal purposes, right now the defence of the registry has been reduced basically to a partial tool that some police use but say they can't depend on it and the only defence of it right now is in domestic violence and suicide cases. No one is even saying that it solves crime anymore. I mean, I am kind of watching with interest the pro argument that is made, it doesn't even have to do with stopping crime in the sense of, uh, you know, criminal activity. It has to do with domestic violence and suicide cases”.
    I think it would be acceptable for a reasonable listener to interpret that the member is raising concerns about whether or not domestic violence and suicide cases actually constitute a form of criminal activity.
    I would also like to read into the record the actual wording of the release put out to the Press Gallery this morning. This is exactly what the release says, again for the record and for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps also for the member's consideration.
    This morning, Conservative Party MP [for Portage—Lisgar] said on CBC radio:
“The only defence of [the gun registry] is domestic violence and suicide cases. Nobody is even saying it stops crime any more”.
    Here in highlighted form the release goes on to say:
    It doesn't have to do with [stopping criminal activity], it has to do with domestic violence.
    That is the quote that was distributed that the member omitted to reference here today.
    It goes on to say that the member for Portage—Lisgar thinks it is okay to get rid of the life-saving gun registry because in her mind domestic violence committed with a firearm is not a criminal activity. Even though--
    An hon. member: Nonsense.
    Some hon. members: Shame, shame.

  (1515)  

The Speaker:  
    Order. The hon. House leader for the official opposition has the floor.
Mr. David McGuinty:  
    Let me pick up where I left off, Mr. Speaker. “The member for Portage—Lisgar thinks it is okay to get rid of the life-saving gun registry because in her mind domestic violence committed with a firearm is not a criminal activity”.
    The release goes on to say:
...even though long-guns are involved in 70% of gun related deaths, the victims of which are overwhelmingly women.
    That is the end of the release, Mr. Speaker, which I would like to put for your consideration and the member's, having raised a question of privilege. However, from our perspective, this is not necessarily a question of privilege as much as it is a matter of public discourse and a matter of debate.

[Translation]

The Speaker:  
    Does the hon. member for Louis-Hébert wish to speak to the same question of privilege?
Mr. Pascal-Pierre Paillé:  
    No, Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. I would like—
The Speaker:  
    That is a different point of order.
    Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons wish to speak to the same question?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, on the same point, I noticed that after question period the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour stood up and expressed concern about a word that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development used. In the interest of raising the discourse in this place and trying to raise the bar this fall from what had become a rather raucous session in the spring, the Minister of Human Resources immediately stood up. She did not even wait to hear whether it was actually ruled as a point of order by you, Mr. Speaker. She did the right thing.
    I would hope that no member of the House, and certainly not the member for Portage—Lisgar, but no Liberal member, no NDP member, no Bloc member and no government member would actually believe that the member for Portage--Lisgar, or for that matter any member, would believe that the serious problem, the serious concern in virtually every community in this country of domestic violence is not a crime. It is not just a serious crime, but it is a heinous crime.
    I think the member spoke very eloquently, with a great amount of precedent. We will get your judgment on the question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, but I think it would be in the best interests, if we want to raise the discourse in this place, for the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of his party and on behalf of his staff, one, to take full responsibility, and two, to do the right thing and offer a sincere apology to the member for Portage—Lisgar.

[Translation]

Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, in an effort to help your deliberations on such a delicate matter, in addition to the plea made by the House Leader of the Official Opposition, I would like to suggest that you read the only objective document, because opinions, arguments and facts can help you. This document is entitled RCMP Canadian Firearms Program—Program Evaluation. It was published in February 2010, and is widely available, though the government would have liked to have hidden it.
    On page 22 of the document, there is a chart entitled “Victims of Spousal Homicide Committed with Firearm by type of Firearm”—that is the topic we are discussing—and there was a decrease in the number of spousal homicides during the reference period, 1996 to 2007. In the beginning, there was an average of 20 such homicides per year, and that number decreased to an average of 6 at the end of the study.
    I should point out that when we look at the last reference year, we can see that 100% of the victims of crimes committed with handguns, rifles, shotguns, and other types of weapons were women. That is right: 100% of the victims were women. So, the registry has produced concrete results in reducing the number of women killed. That is what this report shows.
    Mr. Speaker, to add a little context, I would also like to point out a bill that was passed after 10 years of fighting in the House, a bill called the Westray bill, named after the mine where a number of miners were killed. With this bill, the House, the Canadian Parliament, reflecting the will of the Canadian people, made it very clear that if an organization has knowledge and is reasonably well informed of a danger, it can be held criminally liable.
    I believe this should be taken under consideration, Mr. Speaker.

  (1520)  

The Speaker:  
    I appreciate hearing from hon. members on this matter. I will consider their suggestions and arguments and come back to the House with my decision later.
    The hon. member for Louis-Hébert on a point of order.
Mr. Pascal-Pierre Paillé:  
    Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to table the March 5, 2001, press release to clarify the substance of my question.
The Speaker:  
    Does the hon. member for Louis-Hébert have the unanimous consent of the House to table the document?
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no unanimous consent.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[Translation]

Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report entitled “Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan—Quarterly Report to Parliament for the Period of April 1 to June 30, 2010.”

[English]

Export Development Canada

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Minister of International Trade, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the application of the Alternative Fuels Act to the operations of Export Development Canada during the fiscal year 2009-10. I ask that this report be referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

[Translation]

Canadian Commercial Corporation

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Minister of International Trade, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2009-10 Annual Report of the Canadian Commercial Corporation. I ask that the report be referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

[English]

Global Centre for Pluralism

Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Global Centre for Pluralism 2009-10 annual report and a summary of the Global Centre for Pluralism corporate plan for 2010.

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Industry, Science and Technology  

Hon. Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to submit, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, concerning its study on the long-form census.

  (1525)  

[English]

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

Hon. John Duncan (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill S-4, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.

     (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act

Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of Justice, CPC)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act.

     (Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Petitions

Aboriginal Affairs  

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to table a petition signed by many women across this country concerning the funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative.
    This petition calls upon the government to ensure that the Native Women's Association of Canada receives sufficient funds to continue its important work protecting first nations, Métis and Inuit women against violence in their communities.
    We know that the government announced $10 million in its budget, but so far we have not seen an allocation of that money to the Native Women's Association, so this petition is very timely and important.

Canadian Forces  

Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to table two petitions on behalf of constituents. The first petition requests Parliament to call a halt to recruitment activities of Canadian Forces in schools.

Public Transit Safety  

Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the second petition requests the Minister of Justice to amend the Criminal Code to recognize the instances of violence on public transit and school buses, and a variety of transit operators' concerns, so that they can be recognized in the Criminal Code the same as peace officers.

Harmonized Sales Tax  

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions.
    The first petition is from people in Smithers and Fraser Lake, Northwestern British Columbia, calling upon the federal government to rescind their damaging harmonized sales tax and to no longer continue to bribe provinces with taxpayers' money to increase taxes on those same taxpayers.

Tibet  

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the second petition has several hundred names from Telkwa, British Columbia and surrounding communities discussing the issue of Tibetans being detained by the Chinese government.

KAIROS  

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the next petition concerns KAIROS funding.
    As many members in this House and Canadians will know, the federal government decided to pull many millions of dollars from the funding of KAIROS, which is a multi-faith aid group that works in foreign countries around the world alleviating poverty. It is an absolute shame that the government has rescinded its funding.

Canada Post  

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the final petition, signed by a number of petitioners from Terrace, British Columbia area, is calling upon the government to ensure that Canada Post does not continue to close post offices in rural Canada as it has been doing, and to improve services not diminish them for rural Canadians right across Canada, coast to coast to coast.

Middle East  

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I, too, have several petitions.
    The first petition is signed by thousands of London residents who are still very concerned by the May 31 raid by Israeli forces on six humanitarian aid ships, part of the freedom flotilla to Gaza, in which nine of the volunteers onboard one of the ships were killed. These petitioners are very concerned that Canada has been virtually silent in regard to this attack.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to condemn Israel's lethal assault on the freedom flotilla in international waters, insist on thorough and independent international investigations into the tragedy, and call upon the Government of Canada to put pressure on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza.

  (1530)  

Aboriginal Affairs  

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, second, the Native Women's Association of Canada, as part of its Sisters in Spirit campaign, has identified 582 missing and murdered aboriginal women whose cases go back as far as 1970. Its research has convinced NWAC that violence against aboriginal women must be investigated and must certainly stop.
    The petitioners call upon the Parliament of Canada to ensure that NWAC receives sufficient funding to continue its important work, protecting women through its Sisters in Spirit initiative, and to invest in initiatives recommended by NWAC to help prevent more women from disappearing.

Pensions  

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the next petition calls upon the Parliament of Canada to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to protect the rights of all Canadian employees and to ensure that employees laid off by a company, who are receiving a pension or long-term disability benefits during bankruptcy proceedings, obtain preferred creditor status over other unsecured creditors, and to amend the Investment Canada Act to ensure employee-related claims are paid from proceeds of Canadian asset sales before funds are permitted to leave the country.

Canada Post  

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, finally, I have a petition signed by our postal workers and people in the community who are concerned that the federal government is allowing Canada Post to close public post offices in spite of the moratorium on these closures. They are concerned that they are compelled to inform people of these closures and do not have adequate time to do this.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to instruct Canada Post to maintain and improve its network of post offices, to consult with the public, and to develop a uniform and democratic process for making changes to the network.

Multiple Sclerosis  

Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions here, both of which are about equal access to CCSVI treatment for Canadians living with multiple sclerosis. They are petitioners from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
    The petitioners are calling upon the federal government to take leadership on CCSVI. Specifically, they are asking for broader participation of MS sufferers in pilot testing and treatment by providing fast-track funding for surveillance, research and dissemination of findings.

Affordable Housing  

Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition here concerning a national housing strategy.
    The petitioners from Nova Scotia are asking for swift passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians. The petitioners and I look forward to the minister's answers.

Multiple Sclerosis  

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions.
    The first one deals with chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or more commonly known as liberation therapy, dealing with the conditions of people suffering from MS and the possibility that with some quick research, a new procedure could be implemented across the country to alleviate a number of the symptoms of patients suffering from that. I have about 125 signatures from both Ontario and British Columbia.

Animal Welfare  

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is one calling upon the Government of Canada to sign the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. Again I have, from various parts of Canada but mostly from my riding and the county of Essex, about 50 to 75 signatures in support of that petition.

Employment Insurance  

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the next petition deals with reform to the employment insurance legislation and regime. There are a number of points in the petition on specific reforms that the petitioners are looking for, a number of which have been supported by the Canadian Labour Congress as part of its campaign for reform in that area. Again, there are about 50 signatures from my riding and in the city of Windsor more generally.

Child Pornography  

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the final petition is with regard to the use of the Internet for the purpose of spreading child pornography. In this case, I have going onwards of several hundred, perhaps as many as 500, signatures from all over Canada with regard to this.
    The petitioners have been sending these petitions in to me as justice critic for my party, but they are calling upon the government to investigate the use of the Internet for the purposes of the distribution of child pornography and to do whatever can be done to reduce the use of that medium for that purpose.
    It is obviously a cause that all of us would be supportive of, and I know there is legislation pending in regard to that, but I would urge all parliamentarians to be thinking of this issue as expressed by the people who have signed this petition.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 18 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 18--
Hon. John McCallum:
     With respect to the second year of the Treasury Board’s four-year cycle to review program spending and performance across the government and ensure value for money: (a) which 21 departments and agencies participated in the exercise and how much did each department or agency contribute towards the (i) $349 million identified for 2009-2010, (ii) $449 million identified for 2010–2011, (iii) $586 million identified for 2011–2012; and (b) for each of the participating departments and agencies, among what programs or services were the savings identified and in what amounts?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

Mr. Tom Lukiwski:  
    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed:
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Motions for Papers

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
     Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.
    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed

  (1535)  

Points of Order

Use of Exhibits and Props  

[Points of Order]
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to bring this to your attention.
    I noticed that during question period and now moving to orders of the day, the members for both Vancouver Centre and Halifax West are wearing campaign-style buttons. As you know, Mr. Speaker, in chapter 13 of O'Brien and Bosc, starting on page 612, it does state:
    While political buttons and lapel pins have not been considered exhibits as long as they do not cause disorder, the Speaker has interrupted a division to request that certain Members remove “props” from their lapels.
    That was back in June, September and October of 1995.
     This is clearly stating their positions on a division that is going to be taking place later today. I would ask that you would rule that all of these types of campaign-style buttons and props be removed from the House, so that we can have an orderly conduct of the division to be recorded later this afternoon.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    As the hon. member has cited, on page 612 it does say that lapel pins and political buttons have not been considered exhibits. We are not yet at a recorded division, so I will certainly take that under advisement and certainly if anything does cause disorder, the Speaker will endeavour to solve that problem.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act

    The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act.
     I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will vote to send Bill C-35 to committee for further study. Our party has decided to give the bill a chance, to see if we can improve it in committee. Those watching us at home are trying to understand how the House of Commons and its committees work. We now have the opportunity to explain that the bills introduced here can always be improved in committee. After we hear from witnesses and examine the evidence they have given, we can propose amendments to the bill, which are voted on by the committee members and then reported back to the House of Commons.
    We have noted that too many immigration consultants have been acting fraudulently and getting away with it. After all these years, the federal government still has not managed to effectively regulate this area. The failure of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants is irrefutable proof of that.
    We believe that the committee should examine the issue to determine whether a new regulatory body is needed, one that is better monitored and can crack down harder on corrupt consultants who provide services related to federal immigration programs.
    Since the regulating of professions falls under Quebec and provincial jurisdictions, the Bloc Québécois is worried that a federal act to create and establish an organization to regulate immigration consultants will interfere in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. This is important. Every day, Bloc Québécois members, who have been elected by the people of Quebec, proudly stand up in this House to defend the interests and values of Quebeckers. An example of those values is respect for our jurisdictions. How professions are regulated is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois will make sure that the government understands this in committee.
    The Quebec government demonstrated its jurisdictional authority by passing a regulation concerning immigration consultants. This regulation will come into effect on November 4, 2010. Quebec is often at the forefront of numerous initiatives that are then borrowed by other Canadian provinces. We have always said that when Quebec is its own country—and we hope that will happen sooner rather than later—it will have good neighbours and good relationships with those neighbours. It will continue to create exemplary legislation, as it is doing now, that can be emulated by Canada.
    We hope that the Government of Canada will learn from the Government of Quebec. To do this, the federal government must recognize Quebec's jurisdiction as well as that of the provinces so that it is clear that crooked immigration consultants will be replaced by a professional body. This body will then be regulated by Quebec since this falls under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.
    On June 9, 2008, the Bloc Québécois convinced the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to pass a recommendation that Quebec immigration consultants be officially recognized under Quebec laws instead of being forced to join the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.
    The Bloc Québécois is always true to itself. Our excellent critic, the member for Jeanne-Le Ber, did a wonderful job making the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration understand that it is important that the Canadian government officially recognize Quebec's immigration consultants, who will be governed by a regulation as of November 4, 2010.
    Even though Bill C-35 would better regulate consultants who deal with immigration matters that come under federal jurisdiction, the Bloc Québécois has serious concerns about the power the minister is giving himself to be able to designate a regulatory body in federal legislation. Overlapping jurisdictions never works well, needless to say.

  (1540)  

    This was particularly evident in recent months, even for over a year. The federal government decided to interfere in the securities market by establishing a national securities commission. And yet Quebec has its own securities commission as do the other provinces. The Canadian system was recognized for having weathered the recent economic crisis—a financial crisis that hit stock exchanges around the world— better than others.
    Naturally, it is still rather difficult to understand that, once again, the federal government wants to replace something that works with a centralized, national body even though the effectiveness of the Canadian system has been acknowledged internationally. The passport system allowed every province, Quebec as well as the other provinces, to have their own securities commissions. This provided security during the stock exchange crisis.
    Even though the Minister of Finance is practically hoarse from ranting that it is a voluntary system, he knows very well that corporations will be encouraged directly to join the Canada-wide system.
    The federal government is always trying to chip away at the powers of Quebec and the provinces. That is fine if it does not bother the provinces; however, we notice that Alberta also has a great deal of difficulty with this. It seems to want to stand its ground, which seldom happens. It usually bows down to the federal government. However, in this case, Alberta seems to want to oppose the national securities commission.
    Once again the Bloc Québécois will be vigilant. Above all it does not want Bill C-35, the so-called Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act, to infringe on provincial jurisdictions. In fact, as I was saying earlier, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants is a dismal failure. Clearly, Quebec and the provinces should be allowed to provide good, effective oversight of immigration consultants.
    What is more, our party is of the opinion that there should be closer consideration of the committee aspect. Our concern is that Bill C-35 would require information to be communicated between members of the Barreau du Québec or the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the federal government. We have to take a closer look at this aspect of the bill in order to ensure that it does not conflict with Quebec's laws and to maintain the integrity of the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
    As a notary by training, I can provide a little lesson in law. As hon. members know, in Quebec notaries are jurists who specialize in the contractual aspect of business and individual relationships. That is the objective. The Civil Code of Quebec is based on the Napoleonic code. That is a particularity of Quebec. I am always surprised to see colleagues who are notaries with a federalist bent, when the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the notary profession are a true reflection of this diversity, this difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada. We are the only province to have a chamber of notaries and notarial training. This training is obviously French-based. Notaries are highly respected professionals in France. Again, because the Civil Code of Quebec stems from the Napoleonic code, the notary profession is a direct link to these ancestral laws that Quebec held onto, which is not what happened in the rest of Canada. The rest of Canada has the common law, while Quebec has the civil code.

  (1545)  

    If it is decided that the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des notaires du Québec are to report to the federal government, we must ensure that Quebec's rights and jurisdictions are respected. That is the objective. As for the Chambre des notaires du Québec, we all agree that the federal government has no knowledge of or jurisdiction in the matter.
    In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to the federal government encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction in any way. It will ensure that Bill C-35 does not give the minister any power he is not entitled to.
    We are talking about immigration consultants. One interesting way of reducing the number of crooked consultants would be to transfer part of these powers to Quebec lawyers or notaries or to lawyers in the rest of Canada who are regulated by professional codes.
    If we consider what is happening the field of law, there are a few lawyers and notaries who have been caught. However, since there is a process to follow and an established structure, they were disbarred and can no longer practice. That is not the case with the federal structure, which is why the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, which was somewhat regulated, was a failure. It was not a recognized profession.
    There needs to be a new way of training consultants. They should report to the Chambre des notaires du Québec, the Barreau du Québec or other provincial bars. It would be an interesting path to take.
    These professions are governed by Quebec's professional code. Members of the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Barreau du Québec are governed by Quebec's professional code. We have to make sure that any new power granted to a professional association respects Quebec's jurisdiction and that of the provinces.
    I would like to go over some background to Bill C-35. On June 8, 2010, the government introduced Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I will give an overview of the bill now.
     The minister will be able to designate a governing body to regulate and oversee consultants' activities; this organization will replace the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.
    Only consultants approved by this body or members of a provincial bar or the Chambre des notaires du Québec will be allowed to charge fees for immigration advice, with some exceptions: students-at-law acting under the supervision of a member and entities and persons acting on their own behalf in accordance with an agreement with the government, such as visa application centres and other service providers.
    All individuals who “knowingly represent or advise a person for consideration—or offer to do so—in connection with a proceeding or application under this Act” are guilty of a criminal offence punishable by two years in prison, a $50,000 fine or both. This offence already exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Consultants have to be recognized by an organization. If they knowingly advise people, they will be committing a criminal offence.
    The law provides for information exchange between different levels of government. The designated organization will have to supply information set out in regulations to allow the minister to determine whether the organization governs its members in the public interest.
    Regulations will govern information sharing by enabling the department to disclose professional or ethical information about members of provincial bar associations to the designated organization or to the person responsible for investigating a consultant's conduct.

  (1550)  

    We must ensure that discussions between the federal government and the members of the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des notaires du Québec respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces at all times.
    On August 30, 2010, the government published a call for submissions from applicants interested in becoming the regulatory body for immigration consultants.
    I should point out that in this bill to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the provisions apply to persons who are the subject of proceedings or applications pertaining to immigration and refugee matters, not citizenship matters. The Citizenship Act does not provide for the same regulatory powers as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, Bill C-37, introduced last spring, would provide regulations, in particular, by increasing penalties for consultants who fraudulently help individuals obtain citizenship.
    Bill C-35 and Bill C-37 amend different acts.
    In short, Bill-35 expands the range of activities governed by the act. In current federal regulations, the government can only take action when the application is submitted or at the beginning of a proceeding. Under Bill-35, the authorized representative commits an offence if he represents or advises a person for consideration in connection with a proceeding or application under that act, or offers to do so. This addition would make it possible to regulate—and punish, if an offence occurs—all forms of representation and advice at any stage, including that provided by unauthorized consultants, who might be involved before an immigration application is submitted.
    All those who solicit work, that is crooked consultants, ask for payment in return for helping people with immigration proceedings.
    We have seen some abuses—and the media have certainly jumped on them. Some people have been swindled out of a lot of money, sometimes the only savings they had, when seeking permission to immigrate to Quebec and Canada. I believe we must intervene.
    The Bloc Quebecois wants to point out that Quebec also has powers in the area of immigration. All we want is for Quebec and provincial jurisdictions to be respected. Earlier I gave the example of securities commissions. The government wants to centralize exclusively provincial powers into a Canada-wide federal organization. That is what is going on with securities. Yet that system is what got us through the crisis. The Prime Minister keeps telling us over and over again that Canada has come out of the crisis exceptionally well, better than any other country in the world, as we heard again today in question period. It is not necessarily thanks to the Conservatives. It was a financial crisis, primarily a stock market crisis. It was thanks to our financial system and the fact that our banks were not allowed to merge.
    I was one of those who opposed the Canadian bank mergers, so that they could not turn around and acquire American banks and contaminate all of the investments made by our citizens. That is one of the reasons we were able to get through this crisis relatively well. Furthermore, the stock market system allowed each province to have its own securities commission. When we have 10 such bodies, we can monitor things better than if we have only one. However, it is difficult, because the federal government is always trying to take powers away from the provinces. We will ensure that Bill C-35 does not have this unfortunate tendency to take power from Quebec and the provinces, in this case concerning immigration, and in particular, power over crooked consultants. Quebec is ready to take charge in this important area, since we already have legislation that is about to come into force on November 4, 2010. If all other Canadian provinces were to do the same, all of our immigrants would be better protected.

  (1555)  

[English]

Mr. Robert Oliphant (Don Valley West, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak today to Bill C-35, a bill which I prefer to call an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a more formal name than that which it has been given by the minister. Even though I think part of the bill is meant to be a cracking down on crooked consultants, the bill actually has more than that purpose.
     I want to discuss for a few moments today some of the important concerns that I have regarding the bill.
     I understand that our caucus will be supporting the bill at second reading so we will have a chance to amend it and improve it at committee. I hope we can take seriously the considerations of all members, including those members from Quebec who have some jurisdictional concerns. Other concerns have been raised regarding the resources that are required to make these particular amendments effective.
    It would seem to me that the bill needs to deal with two particular problems. One is the consumer protection portion of the bill with all of the concerns that everyone in the House knows about, which are immigrants, potential immigrants and people seeking help with the department being abused by scoundrels in the business who are much less than honourable.
    The danger there is not only the effect that has on potential immigrants or those with immigration questions, but also on bona fide, excellent consultants who are doing their work honourably and effectively and are being tarnished with the same brush. Therefore, there is that concern around the consumer protection issue of this.
    There are also concerns around the governance issues that we have seen over the last number of years since the institution of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. I do not think I am the only member who has been approached by individual consultants as well as members of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants in a formal way to express concerns about the procedures, transparency and governance issues by the society itself.
    I am hoping that we can address that. The concern I have is the reluctance of the government to actually put in a statutory, regulatory body that has teeth, resources and effectiveness in doing this regulatory work.
    I come at that from my experience as a member of a regulatory body at the provincial level and that was as a member of the Board of Funeral Services in the Ontario jurisdiction. That body was responsible for the licensing of funeral establishments as well as the licensing of professionals. It was one of the many professional boards that was a regulatory body for an independent profession.
    I am hoping the government can look at ways that we can apply some of what has been learned from some of the provincial bodies to this federal body.
    I have searched for other examples of professional bodies at the federal level that are regulated federally and I could not find any. Perhaps I will get some help on that because I have just started that search to see if there are any precedents. Failing that, however, I looked at the provincial precedent and it seems to me that a provincial regulatory body has several things that it needs to do. It licenses and certifies professionals and ensures their training is adequate. It maintains that training regime by having continuing education requirements and opportunities. It licenses the establishments or the businesses that may employ those licensed professionals. It provides public education for consumers to know their rights to ensure that they are actually involved in the process. It also has a rigorous complaints process as well as a disciplinary process that is effective and has some teeth to it so that consumers know they can make a complaint and have it actually acted upon by that professional body.
    Those are statutory bodies. They are not merely dreamt up by the minister and accountable to the minister. They are arm's length, functional, regulatory bodies that are meant to ensure that we have consumer protection and we have professionals who are acting in the best interest of all Canadians and potential new Canadians.
    My concern is that this bill will not be as arm's length because it is a creation of the minister as opposed to a statute. I think that has some concern for us in the ongoing way that this will unfold.

  (1600)  

    When we look at the issue, it seems to me that we have been hearing these concerns for a number of years. I will take as much blame as I need to from this side of the House for not having effectively established a body that was meant to regulate this profession. However, we have learned. The current board has improved somewhat but I am still concerned that it does not have an arm's length relationship with the training board, the Canadian Migration Institute, and that has implications with respect to the same people who are on the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, which is the regulatory body.
    This is a small profession with somewhere between 1,800 to 6,000 professional consultants working on immigration procedures. While that may sound like a lot, it is not a large body to actually ensure that the training opportunities are there and that they are kept current. The department will need to provide some more resources to ensure that our consultants are part of the public good. That is missing in this legislation. The very training and licensing functions need to be absolutely clarified in the legislation to have an expectation, as well as the membership of this body.
    I am also concerned about the way the government is proposing we establish this board. Normally a board would be established by statute with a certain number of members who are part of the profession and then some members from the public. I was a public member of the funeral board in Ontario. The majority were actually licensed members of the profession with a smaller number being interested, hopefully competent members of the public, to ensure that the public interest was broadly defined. That is also missing in this legislation.
    It seems to me that the government is kind of privatizing this by issuing out a request for people to bid on becoming the regulatory body. This is unprecedented for me. I do not understand why the government would put out a request for proposals, privatizing a regulatory function, and opening it up to the most successful bidder, including one that people already have concerns about, which is the existing body. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could answer this for me because I have concerns about understanding how that is done. It would seem to me that this should be a statutory body with a clear mandate from the Parliament of Canada, arm's length from the government, with a relationship with the department for transparency. Members of that board should be appointed by order in council. That would be my desire for this as part of a regulatory body.
    The hon. members of the Bloc Québécois have offered some concerns about jurisdictional issues. That would also be a concern to me because other provinces are beginning to have more involvement in the immigration selection process and therefore we will need to be concerned about how the provinces are regulating the profession as well.
    Underneath some of this concern is not only unscrupulous consultants. They are a concern and we know about them. It is not only governance on the current board and transparency and accountability to the members of the association for the betterment of consumer protection, but also a basic understanding that some of these consultants are finding work because the department is failing in its job.
    Those of us who have large multicultural ridings know that half our work in our constituency offices is related to immigration procedures. Actually, we have underpaid immigration consultants working in our offices, and that is a great concern for me.
    The great concern for me is that the system is broken, it is not working. We have queues of up to seven years. People are applying for citizenship and they are not getting hearings in our high commissions and our embassies around the world because our embassies and high commissions are understaffed. The department is understaffed with officials to review cases. We have backlogs with respect to security issues, which we want to have done effectively. We want immigrants coming to Canada to have been cleared for security reasons. We obviously want them to be effective in the workforce and to be part of the Canadian mosaic. That is the goal of our immigration system.
    However, as long as we have procedures that are not effective, inefficient and keep people waiting a long time, we are creating a market for immigration consultants that perhaps should not be there. If there is that market, then we want it to be a regulated profession with an arm's length, effective body with the resources in it to ensure that the Canadian consumer, the potential Canadian immigrant, is well served, is effective and will be part of a Canadian society for which we can be proud.

  (1605)  

Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his input into this process and also his confirmation that in fact his party will be in support of getting the bill to committee to obviously look into some of the issues that he has identified today, but I am a little unsure about his concern, at least at this point, with respect to his point about statutory.
    The way it exists now is not nearly how it is going to exist after Bill C-35 is passed in terms of the regulatory board, so I am a little unsure as to what his concern is with respect to statutory, because this will be a board that obviously reports directly to the ministry and to the minister and will be given authority to do so. It will be given authority to actually regulate the industry and its position will become permanent based on that organization applying to the ministry, and a number of organizations obviously will. The organization chosen to be the overseer will in fact become the regulatory body.
    So I am not quite sure what his concern is, but I would suggest that it certainly is something the committee will be studying once we get the bill through second reading and get it to committee.
Mr. Robert Oliphant:  
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comment, but I am not alone in raising this concern about the difference between a statutory body with a stand-alone piece of legislation and an action by the minister. These are quite separate and I am not alone in raising this concern.
    Many stakeholders have raised this concern. In fact, when the House of Commons committee on immigration looked at this issue, it was one of the recommendations: that we actually have an effective body that is established by statute.
    There is a difference in reporting to the minister as opposed to reporting to Parliament or to being accountable in that way. Members of the board actually being order in council appointments is quite different from being at the whim of the minister. I am willing to watch this. I want to look at the legislation in depth and hear from witnesses to try to play this out to see what will happen.
    I have never heard of anything like this. One does not ask for bids on who is going to be Law Society of Upper Canada. If we are going to regulate the legal profession, say, in a province like Ontario, we do not put out bids for who is going to do that job best, or the College of Physicians and Surgeons, or the College of Teachers, or accountants or any other profession. One does not ask for bids on who is going to regulate them. One actually establishes a board and makes it effective.

  (1610)  

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, in Windsor West there is a significant immigration element and a number of terrible situations have taken place. People have been exploited quite significantly, and what is sad is that sometimes it is the first experience people have getting assistance when they come to Canada. Unfortunately, sometimes they have gone to these consultants or even lawyers who have charged significant fees, and the lawyers and consultants sometimes contact my office to get assistance in doing the work. It is unacceptable.
    I would like to know from my colleague, is he looking at this in terms of creating a penalty system? I hope there are going to be some strong incentives to crack down. In fact, in Windsor the consultants have billboards and different types of advertisements around the immigration centres so that people are attracted to them immediately. I am hoping we are going to look at issues such as that in terms of advertising and the ethics surrounding that.
    This is an important opportunity to fix it. A lot of women and children get taken advantage of in the system, as well as men. With English as a second language, people sometimes do not know all the ins and outs of it or about the services they can get from constituency offices. I am lucky to have Karen Boyce, who works pretty well full time for me on immigration matters and can solve some of the problems that some of these consultants are getting away with charging hundreds of dollars for, which unnecessarily sets immigrants back when they first come to Canada, especially when their incomes are very modest, to say the least.
    I would like to ask my friend what he would like to do with regard to penalties or having some enforcement mechanism. It needs to be sent as a message to some of the worst of the offenders.
Mr. Robert Oliphant (Don Valley West, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor West for those comments. I think we probably have similar experiences in our constituency office.
    Since he thanked his staff, I would like to thank Mazhar Shafiq, Angela Bonfanti and Steven Serajeddini, who spend much time in my office responding to those concerns, often doing hours and hours of work sometimes fixing problems created by lawyers and by immigration consultants, which is a concern to me.
    I think the member is absolutely correct that this is an issue. There is a problem here because the board, or the society, or the agency is going to have to have teeth to take on people who are not members of the association. This is a critical concern. We are going to have to find a way to make sure that there are sanctions for people operating outside the law, that there are penalties that are strong and will act as a deterrent, and that we will safeguard the public interest. These are all things that we will be watching for at committee in trying to ensure that this is an effective piece of consumer protection legislation as well as bringing honour to the way Canadians become citizens and enjoy their citizenship.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate on Bill C-35 on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Winnipeg Centre. As a representative from that inner-city core area riding, I can say that the issue of immigration is top of mind and foremost on the minds of many of my constituents, as many are new Canadians or recent immigrants to this country and many still need settlement services and other immigration services whether they are sponsoring family members or seeking a visitor's visa for a family member to come to this country for a wedding, et cetera.
     I want to begin on a comment by my colleague from Don Valley West who quite accurately pointed out, and I will paraphrase him, that the rise in the immigration consultant industry is directly proportionate to the deterioration of our immigration system and the services that people used to be able to get free of charge from their government. They are now increasingly frustrated with backlogs, bureaucracy and incomprehensible delays to the point where they more often than not, and more and more frequently, wind up at their MP's office seeking some kind of relief from what seems to be an incomprehensible immigration system. So I agree with my Liberal colleague that the reason we are wrestling with this matter today and the reason we have had such a burgeoning new industry of unscrupulous immigration consultants is because desperate people are taking desperate measures trying to get access to basic services that used to be quite accessible in this country.
    We should begin our study of the bill with the knowledge that there has been a catastrophic failure in the immigration system, backlogs of years and years at a time. For a country that was built on immigration and seeks and relies on immigration for any growth whatsoever, we should take note that we were at zero population growth years ago. Without immigration we would be shrinking. I sat on the immigration committee when we did a study that projected where Canada would be without immigration. Within 50 years without immigration, if we just continued at our zero population growth, we would be 18 million people. In that same period of time, the city of Minneapolis would be 18 million people because its country is growing. So the whole population of Canada would be equal to the city of Minneapolis in the year 2050 without immigration. I share that only to illustrate the point of how vitally important it is.
    In the province of Manitoba we have taken great measures to attract more immigration. I am happy to report that we are now up to 12,000 to 14,000 new immigrants per year in a province of 1,000,000 people. Almost all of them come to my riding first because my riding is the inner-city core area of Winnipeg where there is affordable housing, not great housing, frankly. There is a great problem with insufficient housing for these new arrivals, but it is where they start out. So an awful lot of them come to my office with their immigration problems.
    I have declared publicly that my office is an immigration consultant-free zone. They are not allowed over the threshold of my office. I will not have them. I will not breathe the same air as them. I will not let my constituents be robbed by them. They will not get in my office. That is how fed up we are with them. I have stories, Mr. Speaker, that would curl your hair about some of the rip-offs associated with this.
    I have had examples where an applicant seeking a simple visa was charged $3,000 on the promise that he would get a letter from the member of Parliament to assist his visa. This is what we learned after the fact. The guy was selling access to my office, and this is why I declared an absolute moratorium, a no-go zone. They are not welcome and not allowed in. But people are desperate. They are frustrated and vulnerable. There are all kinds of barriers, first of all, in terms of language or unfamiliarity with the culture, or inaccessibility to the bureaucracy.

  (1615)  

    In some places the exploitation takes place by members of their own communities who have those language skills and the misinformation begins there. However, the need for control and regulation is so blatantly paramount and obvious that I welcome Bill C-35 and its attempt to deal with crooked immigration consultants. I do not think that is the formal name of the bill, but the way we have it in our speaking notes is Bill C-35, an act to deal with crooked immigration consultants. I do not think that is overstating things at all. When the Minister of Immigration introduced the bill, he used words like loathsome, bottom feeders, reprehensible. I share those views and then some.
    I travelled with a former minister of immigration to Hong Kong and Beijing and to some of the foreign missions, the Canadian foreign embassies that deal with great volumes of immigration. Part of the problem with the illegal or crooked immigration consultants is abroad where hopefuls line up at those foreign missions.
    I talked about the problem with access, the waiting lists and the backlog. There are people who sleep night after night in front of our immigration offices at foreign missions just to get in the door to get the paperwork necessary to apply for some access to our country. The need and the demand far outstrips our legitimate ability to cope with it.
     I am not saying that coming to Canada is a right, that everyone should have instant access to come here. I am saying our intake process is so flawed and in some way, sometimes, and I am not saying this to cast aspersions on the staff of our foreign missions, the intake process at that end is corrupted and is vulnerable to foreign consultants operating in those countries. We know it for a fact. We have seen the billboards in the Philippines, “We can get you into Canada”. Even the Government of Canada trademark logo is abused. It is advertised in this way, “For a nominal fee, we can get you into Canada”, and the Government of Canada's logo is at the bottom of the billboard. It is not put there by the Government of Canada. The phone number is some immigration consultant who will probably sell a person a pile of documents that other people can access free of charge, online or by coming down to the Canadian Embassy or High Commission.
    That is the extent of the problem. It cannot be underestimated, but it does compromise and, I think in a way, calls into question the legitimacy of our immigration system if a significant proportion of applicants get access to the documents or get access to visitors visas or whatever, using what I believe is a corrupt process, and that is the fraudulent measures which many of these immigration consultants employ.
    I note there is a bunch of recommendations from the immigration committee when it studied this issue. I have to point out that there are great gaps in between what was recommended by the all parliamentary committee and the measures the government has chosen to put into Bill C-35. I am sure some of those shortcomings will be addressed when the bill gets to committee. I am sure the opposition parties at least will make note that recommendation 4, for instance, of the report is not found in Bill C-35. I am not pointing this out as criticism, even. I look forward to perhaps amending the bill so it does satisfy some of the legitimate concerns that were raised by all parties at the committee process.
    MPs offices have become de facto immigration offices. Every speaker that has stood has talked about the full time staffers that they have in their offices who do nothing but deal with immigration problems. We have immigration clinics on Mondays and Wednesdays when the office is just full of people.

  (1620)  

    The waves of immigration coming to my part of Canada now are coming from parts of the world where language is a problem and cultural barriers are a huge problem. Most of the new arrivals now are coming from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, war-torn countries that are not stable. They are not used to dealing with a normal bureaucracy and they do not have, frankly, the skills, the training or the tools.
    Part of what needs to be addressed, in the context of trying to stamp out crooked immigration consultants, is to deal with the root cause of the problem, which is people without the requisite skills getting access to the bureaucracy and a bureaucracy that is unnecessarily complex and in some sense virtually broken.
    A lot more could be spent on settlement services and helping new arrivals cope with the bureaucracy through guidance, through language training and through better access to advocates. I know the Refugee Council of Canada is swamped with work. It simply cannot give adequate representation of advocacy for all the people who come in.
    On that subject, let me point out that we are very concerned about the way the new arrivals on the boat full of Tamil refugees are being treated. The government seems to be sniffing around and contemplating the idea that people who arrive as a group should be treated differently somehow from people who arrive as individuals. I put it to my colleagues from the Conservative Party, it is a slippery slope to apply the rights of the refugee and immigration act differently to people just because they arrived en masse. Each should be treated as if they set foot on Canadian shores as individuals. That is not exactly in keeping will Bill C-35, but it is along the same lines.
    The shortcomings of the immigration system are also clearly illustrated in western Canada. We consider Winnipeg to be part of western Canada, notwithstanding the CFL has us lumped in the eastern conference. We are bitter about this, but I will not dwell on it here today.
    However, labour brokers are second only to the immigration consultants, and some of them do both. These labour brokers, who are undermining the entire construction industry of western Canada, are often labour consultants, as well, who charge a fee and then get temporary foreign workers.
    This is where the current government of the day is at fault. These temporary foreign worker permits are given away like free baubles with a purchase of gas to where crooked labour brokers, who are immigration consultants at the same time. They go to genuine contractors and tell them that they do not have to pay $30 an hour for a labourer because they have 30 guys on temporary foreign worker permits. They tell them to lay off all their Canadian workers and they will put temporary foreign workers on the job, which will save them a fortune because the workers will not give them any trouble. If they do, they will be kicked out of the country.
    This is epidemic across western Canada and it is undermining the entire construction industry. We have non-union contractors complaining en masse. I meet with those contractors and they complain to me that they are being destabilized.
    I would welcome the opportunity to share the facts I have with the parliamentary secretary because he would be shocked at what is happening all across western Canada with these labour brokers.
    We just built the Winnipeg international airport. Where did the tradesmen came from? Lebanon. The last job they had was in Latvia. The whole kit and caboodle of them were packed up by the same labour broker who got temporary foreign worker permits to bring them to Winnipeg to build the new Winnipeg international airport, while 100 unemployed carpenters were shaking the fence, trying to get in because they were unemployed. People would not believe what is going on out there. The parliamentary secretary could use a tour through some of those problem areas, too.
     We have to crack down on a lot of these aspects of a broken immigration system. It may have been a good idea to fill legitimate job shortages with temporary foreign workers three and four years ago, when there was a surplus of work. We are in the middle of a recession and we are still bringing in 50,000 temporary foreign workers who take legitimate jobs away from Canadians, and these are not immigrants. These are foreign nationals who leave the country with those pay cheques. How does that benefit anybody? It is madness and it goes hand in glove with the immigration consultants who are milking the system by charging vulnerable people exorbitant amounts of money for services that should be readily available to them through a well functioning bureaucracy.

  (1625)  

    Not all people helping immigrants are charlatans. We should start from that basic premise as well. There are legitimate consultants and immigration lawyers who are serving a valuable function within the system, but they too will tell us that the system is not what it used to be.
    We have never achieved our immigration goals of 1% of the population per year. The closest we ever came was in the Brian Mulroney years, when we let in 220,000 or 230,000. We are close to that level today. There is a myth that in the grand old days of the Liberal government, more people were let in. In actual fact, in many of the Trudeau years, 90,000 or 100,000 a year was the norm. I do not know where this myth came from, that it was the Liberals who threw open the doors to Canada. In the Mulroney years, more were let in, and we have only just come to that level once or twice in recent years. We are still nowhere near the 1% per year that has been set as a realistic target of we can absorb and what we need. That would be about 300,000 per year.
    We are the lucky ones when people choose to come to our country. There is competition around the world for immigrants and for economic migrants, et cetera. We are out there actively trying to attract people to come to Canada. That is the stated policy, but our actions seem to contradict our own stated policy because we throw up hurdles and barriers to the point where people are frustrated and stymied. People who are qualified and would make legitimate immigrants look at their options around the world. They look at what it takes to move to Canada, to Australia and to the United States. Not all of them choose Canada because it is difficult to move here.
    I recently helped a nurse specialist move here from Australia. She was trained in New Zealand. We need these advanced practice nurses in our country. It took 18 months, and that was after the job offer. We really do have problems to the point where it is no wonder people will look to anyone who can provide them with assistance to try to get through the quagmire of the bureaucracy of our immigration system.
    I remember when we were at the Canadian embassy in China. We were in Fuzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. They showed us some of the clever forgeries on immigration documents. They can reproduce almost anything and these forged documents are often what are selling for a premium price in terms of getting access to Canada.
     I do not think we catch them all. There is more work we could do to enforce the system. I am not suggesting making it more difficult, because it is difficult enough as it is. However, there are checks and balances that we are leaving unchecked and unbalanced in terms of legitimate, honest people trying to get in and also the fraudulent examples that are being coached and guided by these expensive immigration consultants operating at home and abroad.
    While we are busy working to fix the system, the one thing we could do is provide more assistance in our immigration offices in our country and take some of the burden and pressure off MPs offices. It is not really our jobs as members of Parliament to run an immigration office, yet that is what many of us end up doing about two-thirds of our time. Granted, we help a lot of nice people weave their way through the quagmire.

  (1630)  

    The way the Liberals balanced the budget in the 1990s and the early 2000s was by cutting and hacking and slashing the civil service by 30%. First one trims the fat, but when the fat is already trimmed, some cuts do not heal. Some of these cuts have not healed. The government cannot cut the civil service by 30%, increase its volume of work by 30%, and then not have something fall apart and break.
    What happened here was that the government left a gaping hole in service in that immigration department. That void, that vacuum, is being filled by an unscrupulous mini-industry of immigration consultants.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    Before we go on to questions and comments, 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 Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Arts and Culture; the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Etobicoke North, Health.
    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Scarborough Centre.
Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the member for Winnipeg Centre.
    Before I ask him a question, I just want to make a comment. He said that when the Liberals took office in 1993, we slashed and cut, and so on. I am not going to deny that we fined-tuned the system. However, compared to now, it took less time to process those immigration applications. He was not a member at that time. I was a member. I was elected in 1993. Processing an application was much faster at that time than it is today.
    We did reduce staff. We did fine-tune. Nobody denies that. The country was almost unofficially bankrupt.
    The member talked about immigrants coming in and about part-time workers. He talked about money going out. He talked about refugees. He talked about competing for immigrants. I was a little bit confused. I know that we need to fix the immigration consultant process, but can he clarify for me whether he is for the one per cent of our population immigration policy for bringing immigrants to Canada, or is he against it? I was just not clear on that.

  (1635)  

Mr. Pat Martin:  
    Mr. Speaker, let me be perfectly clear. I am very much in favour of the 1% per year target. I believe that we need to strive for more immigration, and we need to compete internationally so that more people choose Canada as their destination.
    One per cent of our population per year would be about 330,000 per year. We have come nowhere near that. My first choice would be that we do.
    I will comment briefly on my colleague's opening remarks. In 1993, when the Liberals took over, maybe it was faster to process an immigration file, but by the time they had finished gutting the immigration system and had laid off one-third of the civil service, trying to process anything became a nightmare. That is when the burden fell to MPs' offices to become de facto immigration offices.
Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the member's comments. He is always very good at keeping my attention, presenting an interesting dialogue, and offering up some good points for debate.
    The member did not speak as much as I would have hoped about the purpose and intent of the bill and the fact that his party has indicated that it is in fact going to be supporting this bill to get it through second reading and to committee.
    I want to comment on a couple of things and ask for clarification. He alluded to the temporary foreign worker program as somehow being a problem with respect to this piece of legislation. I am not sure how. I have been across this country, from province to province to province. There are large companies, but mostly small businesses. In fact, he need not to look further than two seats behind him, to the member for Welland, whose riding encompasses a great deal of agriculture. These small companies need to have temporary workers to assist them to actually stay in business.
    The member needs to understand how these companies work. I do not know whether the member has misunderstood or is unaware of how the temporary foreign worker program assists Canadian after Canadian company to stay in business and provide goods for this country.
Mr. Pat Martin:  
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to clarify my remarks. Maybe I was not clear in the connection I was making between the unscrupulous immigration consultants and the temporary foreign worker program.
     We know of and hear of examples of these immigration consultants advertising overseas, and in some cases in Mexico, on this continent, that for a fee they can get people into Canada as temporary foreign workers. These people pay quite a large fee up front to the labour broker, but then they are disappointed when they arrive and find that either no such jobs exists or that the terms and conditions are far less than promised. That is the problem I was trying to illustrate.
    In that context, I raised another issue, which is that these labour brokers in the construction industry—not at Tim Hortons but in the construction industry—are undermining and debasing the industry. They are bringing teams of these temporary foreign workers, who are being paid peanuts, and are displacing crews of Canadian construction workers.
    The charge-out rate for these guys is about $25 an hour total, all included. The charge-out rate for a unionized tradesperson can be as high as $40 to $45 per hour. So there is a 25% or 50% advantage for using temporary foreign workers instead of legitimate Canadian tradespeople on these jobs.

  (1640)  

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Winnipeg Centre for raising some important issues on the problems there have been with immigration consultants. I want to come back to the issue of temporary foreign workers, live-in caregivers, and farm workers.
    What we know is that either immigration consultants or labour brokers often misrepresent what is going to happen to these workers when they come to Canada. Then we find out that when these people actually get to Canada, after this misrepresentation, the labour laws of this country are not upheld. I know that in my own riding, we have had farm workers who, when they complained, were immediately given a plane ticket back home. Not only do we have this issue of the problems with these labour brokers and these immigration consultants who are, quite frankly, ripping off people who are least able to afford to be ripped off, but then when they come here, they are not protected.
    I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that not only do we have to clean up the issue of the immigration consultants and the labour brokers, but we also have to look at how these workers are protected by the labour laws in this country once they come into Canada.
Mr. Pat Martin:  
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for those legitimate points.
    It is true that temporary foreign workers find themselves in a grey area when it comes to their rights, and they are extremely vulnerable to the whims of the employers. If they complain that they are sleeping 12 to a hotel room, as we have heard, if they complain that they are being paid $10 an hour cash instead of the $25 an hour they were promised as tradespeople, they are simply sent home.
     Again, there are unemployed Canadians standing at the gate wishing that they had their old jobs back. I am talking about big projects. I am talking about high-rises. I am talking about schools. I am talking about airports. It used to be skilled, qualified Canadians with journeyman carpenters tickets in their pockets building those projects. Now a team of Mexicans, who were brought up here under false pretenses and are treated like galley slaves, are building Canada. To whose benefit is that? Why are we letting in 200,000 people a year, 50,000 for the construction industry alone? Tim Hortons gobbles up a lot of temporary foreign workers.
     There are an awful lot of unemployed construction workers in western Canada who have been put out of work because of this government's propensity to allow temporary foreign workers, willy-nilly, anytime anybody asks for them. The room for abuse at both ends of this process is enormous. The Mexican worker is being sold a bill of goods that says that there is a job in Canada that pays $25 Canadian an hour with a good place to live while they are working. They arrive here, and they get $10 or $15 an hour and sleep 10 to a hotel room, and they are taking jobs away from us. If this bill will stop that from happening, it has my vote.
Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to add by voice on Bill C-35, the cracking down on crooked consultants act.
    The only thing I would add is the word “immigration” consultants. I think that clarifies it.
    It has been stated by my party that we will be supporting the bill at second reading to send it to committee. That is where we are going to be able to do a lot of fine tuning. From what I have read in some of the notes, this bill needs a lot of fine tuning. I will cover some of the areas where I think we need to address some of these concerns.
    Immigration, as mentioned by many other members, is really the foundation of our country. I remember speaking at Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate in my riding many years ago. We talked about immigration. As I said to the audience, young men and women, when we look at every one of our family trees, at some point in time one of our ancestors, whether it be our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, arrived on these friendly shores from somewhere, aside from our first nations people.
    It has been a great mix. It has been the formula for making this country one of the best countries in the world to live. If anything, some years ago, for seven consecutive years, Canada was recognized as the number one country in the world. I believe that we are number two now.
    Nevertheless, there have been problems. Policies, such as our immigration policy, are evolving. The member from Winnipeg Centre talked earlier about today's immigration problems. The immigration of today is different from the immigration of 20,30,50, and 60 years ago. Fifty years ago we did not have a temporary workers program, for example. We did not have such an extensive refugee program. We did not have a board, per se.
    If we look at the trends of yesterday, we would look at vast numbers of family reunification, such as war brides, for example. Things have changed.
    I am glad that this is coming forward. Many years ago, as I mentioned earlier, when I was elected, in 1993, I had a private member's initiative that addressed some of these issues that came from an industry that I was in, which was the executive search consulting business. I related the rules and regulations that governed that industry to the immigration consultant industry.
    Let me provide some examples. In order to operate our business, we had to be licensed by the provincial government, and we had to be bonded. There were guidelines, and there were specific rules and regulations that we had to abide by. If we violated those regulations, that licence came right off the wall, preventing us from earning a living and preventing us from running our companies.
    What I think needs to be done here is a clear definition, clear guidelines, and clear rules but also clear, stiff penalties. In addition to that, we need to have a mechanism to enforce those penalties. Otherwise, it all goes for naught.
    I am concerned, though. This piece of legislation talks about the creation of a body that will be reporting to the minister. I do not agree with that. I think that is wrong.
    The minister has nothing to say about running this body. It should be a totally independent, arm's-length body, with rules and guidelines as set out by legislation. It is not for the minister to interfere in any way, shape, or form. That is not how it works.
    In the case of these immigration consultants, let me also point out that it is not just a federal piece of legislation that is going to help us resolve some of these issues. We have to work with the provinces. It affects them too. It is a two-way street.
    On that issue, let me just go off track for a moment and point out that in our province of Ontario, we have a minister of citizenship and immigration. We can understand a minister of immigration, because provinces, too, have their own immigration procedures and policies.

  (1645)  

    The Liberal government allowed provinces to provide immigration facilities according to their needs. They were able to identify their specific needs and recruit as required. But what is puzzling is the fact that provinces do not give citizenship. It is my understanding that the federal government provides citizenship. I would ask the provinces to maybe look at that.
    The intent of the legislation is positive, and if properly amended may still produce some good public policy. That is why we are supporting it. We see a lot of good work and a lot of goodwill around the committee table.
    I remember former immigration minister Elinor Caplan; I can mention her by name because she is no longer a member. She was a good immigration minister. The member for Winnipeg Centre talked about the abuse that goes on abroad. He is right. Minister Caplan spent her time visiting our embassies and our high commissions in different parts of the world because we in Canada had observed that abuse was going on. Did we address it? We did. Did we improve the situation? We did. Did the problem go back offline again? Unfortunately it did.
    Former minister Lucienne Robillard was also a good minister of immigration.
    Some of these areas that we are talking about today, like enforcement and regulations and the body that was formed, all came from committee work, all came from consultation.
     I remember having the minister in my office in Scarborough Centre many years ago. The local communities expressed a lot of concerns. As a result, the independent consultant body was created. It remains in existence today.
    The member for York West did a great job in her time as a minister of immigration. But the numbers were growing each year, the 1% that the member for Winnipeg Centre talked about. It is great to achieve. The member was also right that there is a lot of competition going on out there today in a lot of these countries.
    I remember being at the European Parliament many years ago when it was talking about its difficulty in attracting skilled labour. We had a problem here in Canada just a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Canada, maybe not as much as other countries, had experienced some difficult times. We could not get enough people, so we had to bring them in from Mexico, the Philippines, and other countries.
    I have a policy in my office. I refrain from dealing with an immigration file that is in the hands of a lawyer or a consultant, because I too, along with many of my colleagues on the Liberal side, have heard of the abuse that goes on. We have heard about this over the past couple of days in debate. Let me give the House an example.
    A person wants to bring in his wife and children and all of a sudden he is approached by some so-called immigration consultant, who comes to our offices and seeks information. Unfortunately, the applicant is ignorant, and I use that word in a good sense, meaning that he does not know that he can approach a member of Parliament and seek help.
    We also heard earlier today about how our offices have become inundated with a lot of these files because these individuals reach out to us. We have an obligation as their representatives to address their concerns as best we can.
    My colleague from Don Valley West told us about staff being tied up on these issues. All of a sudden they have to squeeze time here and there, maybe to address a pension issue, a disability issue, a passport issue, or whatever. If we are going to take on all of these responsibilities, and we have no objection to doing so, maybe we should be looking at the budgets of members of Parliament so that we can dedicate staff to address these concerns.
    Our birth rate in Canada is not that high, and it is down in many other countries as well. If we are going to grow and sustain the social safety net that Canada is so recognized for, then we need immigration. We need input.

  (1650)  

    Let me get back for a moment to this board. That is my greatest concern in this piece of legislation.
    When I read in the documents that this board would be reporting to the ministry and the minister, that caused a lot of concern for me, and I am sure many of my constituents and others felt the same way. The minister has every responsibility to try to bring forth legislation, send it to committee, have the members of the committee bring in witnesses, seek input and guidance, and work to fine-tune this legislation. Surely to God, the minister has no business having this board report to him. It should be totally independent and at arm's length. Should people have to compete to be selected to run this board? No.
    Let me simplify it. Anybody who wants to work as an immigration consultant, which I do not think is the exclusive business of lawyers, should have the proper training, a proper course to go by. They should make themselves aware of the legislation, seek a proper licence from the ministry and the province, because it is a business. They would charge a fee for service according to specific guidelines, and then there would be a board to make sure that these guidelines are followed, to ensure that immigration consultants do not violate the rules that the ministry and the board set down.
    The moment those rules are violated, these individuals should be penalized with stiff, enforceable sentences. The worst-case scenario is to yank their licences off the wall and shut them down, period. It would be a totally independent mechanism. That is how I suggest this system should operate.
    When the member for Bourassa was the minister of immigration, he moved into that area and made a quantum leap forward. Almost every minister under a Liberal government, let me point out very proudly, moved this file forward in a positive manner. Never have I seen a perfect piece of legislation. We do the best we can today, and if something unfolds three or five years down the road, then we have to make adjustments. That is exactly what was happening under a Liberal administration.
    When the cuts were made, I agreed with the member for Winnipeg Centre that trimming needed to be done, but I pointed out then, and I will point out again today, that the system was working better. Somehow it was working better.
    What I found unacceptable, and I am sure my colleagues on the Liberal side would agree, is this: when a constituent said that he or she was having a family wedding, or that a family member had passed away, or that he or she had not seen a brother, a sister, or parents for a long time, and the constituent wanted to sponsor these people to come over for a holiday, the way these applications were being put in abroad and assessed was problematic.
    Let me provide a scenario. Somebody from country A goes into one of our offices. The person is as nervous as can be, forgets maybe to add one word, and all of a sudden that person is denied. I believe the Immigration Act has to change to address the way our offices work abroad. Do the offices want to give members of Parliament a little more? Fine, they can set guidelines. Maybe they should take it totally away from us, but that is taking a service away that MPs get voted in to perform, namely, to serve their constituents.
    I encourage the minister to look at how we can work with our offices abroad. I am sure the minister's intent in addressing this horrible situation is to address the abuse that has gone on throughout the years. I personally have heard horror stories and I will provide an example.
    An Albanian mother and daughter some years ago approached me from St. Irene's, the church that my dad built, and my dad told me I had to help this family. They were not even in my riding, but they came to see me. The story I heard raised what little hair I had left.

  (1655)  

    This mother and daughter were working three jobs, day and night, cleaning, doing anything they could. They were using a lot of their earnings to pay a person who was like a paralegal, nothing wrong with the profession, but she portrayed herself as an immigration consultant. Meanwhile for four or five years it dragged on until, by God's will and some good fortune, they came to my office and we addressed their concern. It really was a simple issue. It was a matter of communication, getting paper documentation for them. Today, several years down the road, they are a happy family. They are working for themselves. They are contributing to our system and glad to say they are Canadian citizens. There are many other examples that I could talk about.
    The Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants is a good idea. It is a body that could be empowered with more tools to oversee the enforcement of the legislation. That is as a result of input from a Liberal government. Was it the right thing? Maybe it was the right thing at the time. Maybe today, four or five years down the road, it needs to be changed. Circumstances have changed.
    However, I do not believe a competition has to be put out, that a board has to be established that reports to the minister. Members and the audience will say I have said this twice, but I am saying it again because I see great danger in reporting to the minister. In essence, the minister would have absolute say, period. The minister could do anything he wanted. We know he can do anything he wants as a minister, but surely this is not transparent. The board should be able to work totally independently.
    There was a comment made that lawyers should be looking after these immigration files, as they know better and there is technical data, and so on. With the greatest respect to the profession, I do not think that is the only way to go. An individual could approach a lawyer if he wished to, but if an immigration consultant is properly trained, then he or she should be able to do the work properly. If proper guidelines are set, then we as members of Parliament might feel much more comfortable in dealing with these people.
    I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues on the Liberal side. We hesitate to deal with these so-called immigration consultants, primarily because of the horror stories that we have not only heard but also, in essence, experienced. It is not a matter of $100 or $500. It is thousands of dollars. It is shameful. It is unacceptable when these people come here wanting to start a new life and get taken for a ride. It is unacceptable when an individual in another country who wishes to immigrate to Canada walks into one of our offices and is not even given an interview. That is another area the minister has to look at. Sometimes a person cannot even get in the door of one of our offices or embassies and the application is turned down.
    There are offices in our embassy in one specific country where the moment the applicant comes out the door the so-called consultant says the person will be given one-stop shopping, guaranteed. The person is promised a ticket and a visa for a fee. That is unacceptable. Those are some of the areas the minister also has to address.
    In closing, on behalf of the Liberal Party and our critic, we will support sending the bill to committee. That is where a lot of good work will be done, where good input will be provided. We will bring in witnesses and seek their guidance, and at the end of the day we will come up with a piece of legislation that will help our country continue to grow and grow properly.

  (1700)  

Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the dialogue by the member and certainly the ending of his speech where he indicated that the opposition party, the Liberal Party, will be supporting the bill at second reading to move it to committee.
    I have heard now from two members of the Liberal Party today on the bill with respect to the issue of the regulatory body that will exist. There is a bit of a misunderstanding here. This would be a self-regulating body. While we have spoken this afternoon about the difficulties we face with fraudulent consultants, rip-off artists and all of the other names that we use to describe these individuals who take advantage of other human beings, we also have a number of people in this industry who are legitimate. They would like the opportunity to self-govern and to ensure there is no place for those who are not in this business to help people but only to hurt people and for their own financial advantage. This will not be a regulatory body with the same sort of statutes as some of the provinces use with their agencies or regulatory bodies, depending on the profession, but it will be one that is set in place and it will be a self-regulatory one.
    Part of the problem of getting into creating statutes is that we end up creating bodies that are costly. There are many bureaucracies that exist for years upon years and end up costing the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars. We do not want that. We want a very simple straightforward piece of legislation in this process that will do what its title says, which is to ensure that crooked consultants no longer have a place in this country to do business.

  (1705)  

Mr. John Cannis:  
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of the parliamentary secretary. I will take his word for it because all of that will be judged when the bill goes before committee.
    There is no reason that an organization must compete to be selected to be this regulatory body. The legislation and the guidelines are in place. It is like when we bring forward an amendment to the Criminal Code. Canadians know exactly what the do's and do not's are.
    Once this legislation spells out the do's and do not's clearly, with no ambiguity of what a consultant can and cannot do, then why do we need to put out a bidding process for a board to be selected to oversee this? Of course, the minister will have the final say over this. This is absolute and total control in my mind.
    However, I will give the parliamentary secretary the benefit of the doubt and, when it goes before committee, we will see where it goes.
Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the immigration committee studied this issue at length, travelled across the country and discovered that the existing group that the hon. member was talking about had lots of difficulties. I spoke about those problems yesterday, and I can highlight a few more, but it is certainly in the immigration committee's report that was before the House and which Parliament adopted in November last year.
    One of the issues we have is that the legislation that was created by a former Liberal government is deeply flawed. It actually allows people with no licence to practise. Why would people belong to an organization if they can practise anyway? As a result, half of the people are licensed and the other half are not. There must be legislative change because this is a huge loophole, which means that we have a body that has absolutely no power.
    The member talked about the provincial government, and there are lots of provincial nominee programs. How does the member see that this new body would end up working with the provincial governments so that we can ensure that any applications, whether they are through the provincial nominee program or the federal program, are only done through regulated immigration consultants?
Mr. John Cannis:  
    Mr. Speaker, when I referred to the province, I was referring to the actual duties of the immigration consultant, a consultant who is properly trained, properly prepared to take on an immigration file, whether he works on a provincial side or a federal side, and follows specific guidelines clearly knowing what the repercussions would be should he or she violate the rights of that individual and the law as it is.
    However, I will get back to the member who said that the Liberals did nothing. It was as a result of the Liberal initiatives that the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants was formed. It was what I was referring to earlier. Any piece of legislation, in this case immigration legislation, 15 years ago was different than it was 10 years ago or what it is today and, I can guarantee the member, will be different 10 years from now. Parliaments exist to address circumstances as they change.
    The member spoke extensively to the RCMP being the enforcement mechanism. We do not need the RCMP to look into this. We need rules that consultants will adhere to and, if they do not, we simply remove their licence and they will not be allowed to work. Should they work illegally, then we add and enforce the penalties, which would solve that kind problem.

  (1710)  

Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments of my hon. colleague for Scarborough Centre. He said, “with greatest respect to lawyers, it should not just be lawyers”. On behalf of the lawyers, I appreciate his comment and I agree with him. There are certainly lawyers who work in the immigration field and have a great knowledge of the immigration regulations and the laws that apply, but there are other people who are in fact very knowledgeable.
     He is also right that the whole industry of immigration consultants is one that has changed and developed a great deal in the last 15 years. He is also right that it is time to regulate this area and take strong action because it is something that many of us, if not all of us in this House, find to be a concern. People come to us and we discover perhaps that in some cases someone unscrupulous was dealing with them. In other cases, we find people who are really knowledgeable, know what they are doing and do a good job. It does not need to be a lawyer but it does need to be someone who is well trained. It is important that we ensure that people working in this field are well trained and have the appropriate qualifications.
    I am sure my colleague would like to comment on that some more.
Mr. John Cannis:  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify something for my good friend from Halifax West. I was not saying that lawyers do not do a good job. They do an excellent job. I was not saying that lawyers should not engage. I was simply saying that it does not necessarily take lawyers to work on these files. Lawyers can work on these files but so can properly, and I stress properly, trained immigration consultants who know the legislation.
    Lawyers can earn some money as well and immigration consultants can earn some money as long as it is done legitimately, without ripping people off.
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal (Newton—North Delta, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today in the House to speak to Bill C-35 which is set to bring long overdue regulations to the industry of immigration consultants in Canada. This is very important legislation for my constituents of Newton—North Delta and one that inspires great personal interest for me, as well.
    When we talk about the immigration process in Canada, the discussion represents a range of issues much larger than forms, applications and interviews. What we are ultimately talking about are the hopes and dreams of people looking to come to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families.
    As an immigrant to Canada over 25 years ago, I can personally recall how emotional it was to step onto Canadian soil with desire, determination and the will to succeed. So, when I hear off cases where people filled with this spirit of optimism have been taken advantage of and bilked of thousands of dollars, it makes me very angry.
    I will now talk about the current situation and how ghost immigration consultants, as they have been labelled, operate with impugnity.
    These particular individuals are known as ghosts within the industry because all their activities take place before the submission of an immigration application, keeping them off the radar and unregulated. Their names never show up on the documentation and oftentimes, these consultants do not even bother to show up at the hearings even though they have already pocketed the fees they have charged in advance.
    The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in its current form, has no ability to crack down on the pre-application stage, and this is where immigration applicants become victims in the hands of those who provide bad advice and offer false promises. Sometimes these false promises include fast-track approvals and high-paying jobs. Sometimes applicants are not even eligible for a visa but are told differently by their consultants. These consultants sometimes advise applicants to lie about their past or to fill out their forms improperly so that they are charged with misrepresentation later on.
    Ultimately, all of these ghost consultants, more often than not, lead to two outcomes: the rejection of the application and the loss of thousands of dollars of an applicant's hard-earned money. This is a phenomena that has been going on for decades in Canada and the most recent developments to correct the industry's problems have not been effective.
    The establishment of an advisory committee by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration in 2002 led to a set of corrective options. However, the creation of a self-regulatory body to regulate immigration consultants in the fall of 2003, namely, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants or CSIC, has not provided an adequate solution to the problem that arises from the acts of these consultants I am talking about. In fact, some might argue that the conditions within the industry have continued to deteriorate over the past seven years. The problem with the CSIC is that it really has no teeth or enforcement capacity to take the proper measures to crack down.

  (1715)  

    It also became clear in the standing committee's hearings surrounding the proposed changes that CSIC clearly does not have the confidence of immigration consultants right across the country.
    Furthermore, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has little ability to disclose information on those who provide unethical or unprofessional representation or advice.
    Bill C-35 represents a series of very positive steps because of the sweeping changes they will bring to this unregulated industry. The bill is proposing that a new entity be established that has the ability to properly license its members; to regulate, conduct and look into the complaints; and to have the government intimately involved in its affairs to ensure that investigations occur and the necessary disciplinary actions are taken.
    It is about time that providing professional immigration consultation without the proper authorization and certification is a criminal offence.
     It can only be done by looking at the examples of other self-regulatory bodies as earlier speakers have pointed out, such as the associations for lawyers. I personally belong to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia. I am also a member of the Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors that regulates us and disciplines us if we do not perform according to the standards and guidelines it has set.
    It is about time that we bring in an association that would regulate those consultants so the prospective immigrants to this country are not ripped off. It is about time that the industry had a governing body that all consultants could participate in, where being a member of that society would only let them practice in that way.
    It is also time for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to have an ability and oversight to step in and take the appropriate steps to ensure that this new governing body is improving the industry and the conduct of those calling themselves professionals.
    While I support Bill C-35 at this stage, I also want to make a note about the current state of the immigration system in our country because the blame for these unscrupulous practices must also fall on the government.
    I want to cite a column written in the Toronto Star by Allan Thompson on July 17 of this year. Thompson correctly pointed out that in introducing this legislation, the minister:
--comes across a bit like a doctor, cracking down on the symptoms of an illness, rather than treating the illness itself.
    He went on to state that:
--because many of those people are ill-served by the system itself. Because they lack information or the ability to access a confusing and opaque system, many of these anxious applicants turn to unscrupulous consultants--
    This is a topic that I have been speaking about for many years. The immigration system as a whole is not user-friendly.

  (1720)  

    I can give perfect examples in my office or any other MP who has an immigration population in their riding. Our staff are working around the clock to deal with the system. There are no clear guidelines from the minister to the overseas officers that are deployed there. The people who want to come to Canada are on a point-based system. There are 29 new categories that the minister brought in. If they do not fall in the 20,000 applications then they have to receive a market labour opinion that says they have to raise employment in Canada via these consultants who are charging thousands and thousands of dollars to get them that letter and that approval.
    Also there is a backlog that has only grown larger since the government has come to power. Severe funding shortfalls prevent adequate numbers of staff both here domestically and internationally.
    Immigration applicants are treated as little more than numbers that can be picked, chosen, and often discarded because of the abundance of applications. Information is difficult to navigate both in terms of ease of access, linguistic diversity, and response time for inquiries.
    Even on the temporary resident visas that people are applying for every day, we hear from the officers overseas that they have to give proof of relationships in one day. The second month they will see the information about all the siblings that are living in this country. Every day the list is growing and there is nowhere to find on the government website all this information that would be helpful for those individuals when they are filling out the application that could also help when these people are being ripped off by these consultants.
    For many other reasons the system is failing and pushing anxious applicants and their families into the hands of those who are looking to abuse their trust and exploit their vulnerability.
    To conclude, I want to endorse Bill C-35 as a vital step forward in ensuring that the people are treated fairly when it comes to receiving help for their immigration applications, but I also want to stress that if we empower those tasked with administering our system with support, resources and guidance, then the system would naturally provide the best defence against the kinds of individuals that Bill C-35 is looking to protect us from.

  (1725)  

Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the hon. member. He spoke about the incredible frustration that new immigrants experience. I was wondering if he could give concrete examples of the type of frustrations that lead people to use these charlatans, these ghost consultants, just to show the terrible anguish that new immigrants are going through when they try to land themselves here in Canada.
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal:  
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre for all the good work that he is doing for all those immigrants who are living not only in his riding. In fact, he has talked to me about issues concerning those people from coast to coast to coast. He has brought up a very good question.
    A perfect example is the new list of 29 categories that this minister has brought in. Only 20,000 people can qualify under the point system to get in, while others, in order to qualify under the unlimited scheme, need an employment arranged form. That is where the exploitation happens.
    The other thing is that when the temporary workers come in, they are promised $25 an hour because they are needy. They are told that if they work two years they will be given permanent status, which is not true. Then they keep working probably at $5 or $10 an hour cash.
    There have been many people who have come to my riding and I have had an opportunity to help them. I can quote an enormous number of examples.
    We must ensure that we bring in a body that is statutorily regulated, that is self-governing like any other professional body, and will ensure that it takes care of those individuals so that the prospective immigrants are not ripped off by those consultants time and time again.
Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, would the member think that going out for a proposal call to try to find an oversight body that was objective and up front is going to take too long? Would it not be better to look at the regulatory changes that have come about as a result of what the committee has heard and implement immediately a statutory body that would have the teeth to regulate in a professional and up front manner?
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal:  
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree more with the hon. member. This is exactly the way to go. We cannot ask for bids to have a body that will regulate this based on the money that we pay it. I know there are lawyers sitting right next to me, the engineers and accountants. We have those associations. We have--
    The Deputy Speaker: Order. I will have to stop the member there.

  (1730)  

Combating Terrorism Act

    The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-17.
    Call in the members.

  (1755)  

[Translation]

     (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 87)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Aglukkaq
Albrecht
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Andrews
Armstrong
Arthur
Ashfield
Bagnell
Bains
Baird
Bélanger
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Block
Boucher
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Byrne
Cadman
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannis
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casson
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coady
Coderre
Cotler
Crombie
Cummins
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
Day
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Dreeshen
Dryden
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dykstra
Easter
Eyking
Fast
Finley
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Foote
Fry
Galipeau
Gallant
Garneau
Généreux
Glover
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guarnieri
Guergis
Hall Findlay
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hiebert
Hill
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
Holland
Ignatieff
Jean
Jennings
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Kania
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kennedy
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lee
Lemieux
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Mayes
McCallum
McColeman
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLeod
McTeague
Mendes
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill-Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliphant
Pacetti
Paradis
Patry
Payne
Pearson
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rae
Raitt
Rajotte
Ratansi
Rathgeber
Regan
Reid
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Rodriguez
Rota
Russell
Savage
Saxton
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Sgro
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Silva
Simms
Simson
Smith
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Thompson
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Trudeau
Tweed
Uppal
Valeriote
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Volpe
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilfert
Wong
Woodworth
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich
Young
Zarac

Total: -- 220

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
André
Angus
Ashton
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Beaudin
Bellavance
Bevington
Bigras
Blais
Bonsant
Bouchard
Bourgeois
Brunelle
Cardin
Carrier
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crowder
Cullen
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Desnoyers
Dewar
Donnelly
Dorion
Duceppe
Dufour
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Faille
Freeman
Gagnon
Gaudet
Godin
Gravelle
Guay
Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hughes
Hyer
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Leslie
Lessard
Lévesque
Malo
Maloway
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
Ménard
Mourani
Mulcair
Nadeau
Ouellet
Paillé (Hochelaga)
Paillé (Louis-Hébert)
Paquette
Plamondon
Pomerleau
Rafferty
Roy
Savoie
Siksay
St-Cyr
Stoffer
Thi Lac
Thibeault
Vincent

Total: -- 84

PAIRED

Nil

The Speaker:  
    I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

    (Bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)


Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

Committees of the House

Public Safety and National Security  

[English]

    The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion.
The Speaker:  
    The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning the recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry).

  (1805)  

[Translation]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 88)

YEAS

Members

Allen (Welland)
André
Andrews
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Bagnell
Bains
Beaudin
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Bigras
Blais
Bonsant
Bouchard
Bourgeois
Brison
Brunelle
Byrne
Cannis
Cardin
Carrier
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Coady
Coderre
Comartin
Cotler
Crombie
Crowder
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Desnoyers
Dewar
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Donnelly
Dorion
Dosanjh
Dryden
Duceppe
Dufour
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Easter
Eyking
Faille
Folco
Foote
Freeman
Fry
Gagnon
Garneau
Gaudet
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Guarnieri
Guay
Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord)
Hall Findlay
Harris (St. John's East)
Holland
Hughes
Ignatieff
Jennings
Julian
Kania
Karygiannis
Kennedy
Laforest
Laframboise
Lalonde
Lavallée
Layton
LeBlanc
Lee
Lemay
Leslie
Lessard
Lévesque
MacAulay
Malhi
Malo
Marston
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
McCallum
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McTeague
Ménard
Mendes
Minna
Mourani
Mulcair
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Nadeau
Neville
Oliphant
Ouellet
Pacetti
Paillé (Hochelaga)
Paillé (Louis-Hébert)
Paquette
Patry
Pearson
Plamondon
Pomerleau
Proulx
Rae
Ratansi
Regan
Rodriguez
Rota
Roy
Russell
Savage
Savoie
Scarpaleggia
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simms
Simson
St-Cyr
Stoffer
Szabo
Thi Lac
Thibeault
Tonks
Trudeau
Valeriote
Vincent
Volpe
Wilfert
Wrzesnewskyj
Zarac

Total: -- 153

NAYS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Aglukkaq
Albrecht
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Arthur
Ashfield
Ashton
Baird
Benoit
Bernier
Bevington
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Block
Boucher
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Cadman
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casson
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Cullen
Cummins
Davidson
Day
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fast
Finley
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Généreux
Glover
Goldring
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guergis
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hiebert
Hill
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
Hyer
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Lemieux
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Maloway
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill-Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Paradis
Payne
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Rafferty
Raitt
Rajotte
Rathgeber
Reid
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Saxton
Scheer
Schellenberger
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Thompson
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Uppal
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young

Total: -- 151

PAIRED

Nil

The Speaker:  
    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

    It being 6:08 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

[Translation]

Employment Insurance Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-308, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
The Speaker:  
    There being no amendment motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

  (1810)  

Mr. Yves Lessard (Chambly—Borduas, BQ)  
     moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.
The Speaker:  
     Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 98, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

[English]

    Under the circumstances, is it agreed that we call it 6:30 p.m.?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Adjournment Proceedings

[Adjournment Proceedings ]
    A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

[Translation]

Arts and Culture  

Mrs. Carole Lavallée (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to be back in the late show once again. As you know, I have often taken part because we never get good answers to the questions we ask in the House. Question period is aptly named; it certainly is not answer period.
    On April 20, I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage a question in the House because he had stated the day before that only ADISQ was in favour of a royalty on MP3s. Everyone knows that an MP3 royalty is not a tax. It is money paid to a collective society that distributes rights, and that money is redistributed to artists according to a complex but fair formula.
    Members of all of our households have purchased CDs and made copies for our MP3 players. We used to burn copies on blank CDs to play in our cars, and long before that, we made copies on four-track cassettes. These days, we are making fewer and fewer copies on four-track cassettes and CDs.
    The current law, a descendant of the long-ago Bill C-42, recognizes the principle of private copying. We know that people make copies for themselves, and that is why royalties exist. They compensate for the shortfall in copyright revenue that artists might receive. They do not exist to legalize copying for any purpose or in any way whatsoever. Their purpose is not to market copies—anything but. They exist so that consumers do not feel like thieves every time they make a personal copy to listen to on their computer or MP3 player.
    Of course we cannot purchase as many original CDs by a single artist as we have devices in our homes. The principle of private copying allows a family that purchases a CD to copy it to various media. Naturally, when the current legislation was passed in 1995, MP3 players did not exist. They do now. We are asking, have asked and will continue to ask the government, in the next few weeks, months and over the course of the year, when discussing Bill C-32, to update the legislative provisions for private copying by ensuring that not only will there be a levy on CDs, not only will there be a levy on cassettes, but there will also be a levy on MP3 players such as iPods. Nothing more, nothing less.
    I know that in a few minutes my Conservative colleague will reply that it will cost $75 per device. An amount has never been set but it is obvious that this is a reasonable amount. We pay 29¢ in royalties on all blank cassettes and CDs. That is not a tax. We said it before and we will say it again. It is not in any way a tax. A tax is paid to government but in this case the payment goes to the artists. It is quite simply a royalty paid to artists. We already do this when we purchase an original CD of a musical work because a portion of the money is paid to the artist for copyright.
    That was the purpose of my question.

  (1815)  

Hon. James Moore (Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, CPC):  
    Madam Speaker, I was not really prepared to discuss this question from my Bloc Québécois colleague, but we are here to discuss the important matter of the firearms registry. I will take this opportunity to point out that our government is against a new tax, which goes against the interests of consumers, on iPods, BlackBerrys, computers, automobiles, laptops and anything else that is capable of playing music. But that is what the Bloc Québécois is proposing.
    I understand the concerns she has raised about copyright, and that is why our government introduced Bill C-32, which would modernize our country's copyright laws. We conducted unprecedented consultations to ensure that everyone was involved in the copyright debate. As a result of our consultations, we introduced Bill C-32, a very responsible bill for both consumers and artists.
    What we are talking about here is the fact that the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois want to impose a huge new tax on consumers. The last time that the Bloc Québécois spoke here, the last time that this tax was proposed, it was a new $75 tax on every iPod, BlackBerry, computer and laptop, on anything that is capable of playing music.

[English]

    This idea of imposing a new tax on iPods and MP3 players is not a new idea because there are very few new ideas, unfortunately, that come from the opposition on the issues of copyright and taxes. However, this idea is really toxic and, frankly, really dumb. This would punish consumers if we were to put in place a tax of up to $75 on iPods, Blackberries, cell phones, laptops, computers, memory sticks and automobiles, anything that is capable of playing digital music.
     I understand the idea of modernizing the private copying levy and I understand the desire, but every time the opposition has come up with an idea with regard to this, I can say, as we have looked at this issue and we have struggled with this issue, that it gets very tricky.
    This simplistic idea that has been put forward by the opposition, the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberal Party, with regard to a new iPod tax is incredibly shortsighted and it is an incredibly bad idea for consumers. It is not the way to go. We have artist after artist who has come forward and said that this is not the way to go.
     We will go forward as a government will Bill C-32, the modernizing copyright legislation. We are prepared to work with the opposition parties to ensure the legislation is in the interest of consumers and in the interest of creators. We will not support an amendment to our copyright bill that puts in place a massive new tax on consumers. We will not support that. It will not happen.
     However, we are more than prepared to take forward reasonable ideas to ensure that artists' creations are protected and to ensure that just compensation and the framework for that, through effective copyright legislation, goes forward. We also want to ensure that the legislation takes care of what is in the best interests of consumers.
    This idea from the Bloc Québécois is a massive tax increase on consumers. It does not achieve the balance that we want to achieve, which is in the interest of consumers and creators, and we will block every effort by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to put forward any tax on consumers that will punish consumers and do nothing that is in the long-term interest of creators.

[Translation]

Mrs. Carole Lavallée:  
    Madam Speaker, obviously artists and creators want to be protected, but they also want to be paid. We are talking about their income here. This is not a tax. It will not cost $75. Those statements are all part of the minister's disinformation. I find that sad.
    I also find it sad that he is calling this a dumb idea, because it is supported by ACTRA, SOCAN, SODRAC, the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec and the Guilde des musiciens, as well as ADISQ, the CPCC, Artisti and even the Union des consommateurs.
    This is not dumb; it has been thought out, and this levy already exists in the current legislation. It applies to four-track cassettes and blank CDs, and now we are asking that the law be updated to include MP3 players such as iPods. It will obviously not be as catastrophic, scary or terrible as the minister is making it out to be. I want to thank him for engaging in this debate, by the way. It is not that at all. No one has said anything about $75, other than the minister.

  (1820)  

Hon. James Moore:  
    Madam Speaker, I understand the concern raised by my hon. colleague, but the problem is that, frankly, she does not understand the technology.

[English]

    Music in the future will not be listened to simply on MP3s. This is a band-aid solution, it is very shortsighted and it is about purchasing votes. It is nonsense.
    What we need is a thoughtful approach to copyright reform that is in the best interest of creators and consumers. Has she ever heard of Rhapsody? Has she ever heard of the idea of streaming digital online music and what that means for creators and that universe? Does she understand that? That is the way the future is going.
    It is not about MP3s. MP3s can be played, streamed, uploaded and synced into automobiles and onto planes. There are all sorts of uses of MP3 files. Music is happening in a digital way, in ways that are far beyond the scope of the amendments that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have come up with. They, frankly, do not understand the technology and have no sense of understanding of where the technology is going with regard to consumers' interests and supporting a digital universe in the future.
    Our copyright bill is balanced and effective for consumers and for creators. Again, we will vote against any new tax on consumers that is not necessary.

Aboriginal Affairs  

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, in May, I raised a question with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages dealing with the state of aboriginal languages in this country. The context for this is within article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which talks about the revitalization of indigenous languages.
    When I raised this question in May, I indicated that there was a very short window. This was as a result of a report that had come out in British Columbia where first nations languages are in deep trouble. The estimate was that the majority of these languages could be lost within six years.
    The minister, in his response, had indicated that meetings were going on and that there was immediate action. Sadly, however, we have not seen any immediate action on this.
    I want to refer to the report entitled, “Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2010”. A section in the report talks about why it is important when languages are lost. It indicates that, “Language loss is part of the loss of whole cultures and knowledge systems”; that, “The loss of a language means the loss of thousands of years worth of cultural nuances, rituals and practices”; that, “Language is an expression of a peoples’ identity”; that, “The loss of language is directly related to the troubling health issues many First Nations are facing today”; and that “Knowledge of one’s language is related to physical, mental and spiritual health”.
     It goes on to say that, “Each language encompasses immense cultural, historical, scientific, and ecological knowledge”.
    What we have seen over a number of years is increasing cuts. What an organization called the first nations language program is calling for is a reinstatement of the $160 million that was originally assigned to protecting our first nations languages.
     When will the government commit to adequate long-term funding and support the opportunities facing Canada's aboriginal communities to sustain their ancestral languages and the cultural values and identities reflected in their linguistic heritage?
    What we would like to hear today is a concrete answer about when that long-term stable funding will be reinstituted so that these language speakers can support the programs and initiatives within their own communities to ensure the survival of these very important languages that are critical to the survival of the cultural and the indigenous identities.
Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address this question not only because it is an important issue but because I am a very proud Métis woman, the only Métis woman in the House of Commons.
    I find it very rich that the member, who has brought this forward today, stands here and pretends to care about aboriginal survival. We just had a vote that was intricately important to the survival of the aboriginal people. We are going to protect their languages and I am going to tell her how our government is doing that because I am proud to be part of a government that actually does something and does not just talk about it.
    If we are going to protect the languages of aboriginal people, we must protect their traditions and way of life, which includes using long guns to hunt and provide for their families. Unfortunately, the NDP cares nothing about what the aboriginal people want. It cares only about making political points in the House.
    Unfortunately, I find it very rich today that I am answering the member who voted against the traditions of aboriginal people of hunting and providing for their families by voting against our bill, the bill sponsored by the member for Portage—Lisgar, to abolish the long gun registry.
    Let us get into the facts of the matter because it is this government that has six aboriginals in its caucus. There are none in the New Democratic Party. Let us discuss some of the facts about aboriginal languages.
    UNESCO identifies 86 aboriginal languages that are still spoken in Canada and many, of course, are in danger of disappearing. Ten languages have become extinct in the past century and only one in five aboriginal peoples say that they can speak their first language. Only three aboriginal languages are currently considered viable and account for over half of all aboriginal first-language speakers in Canada.
    What kind of funding exists? Funding from the aboriginal peoples program consists of $5 million a year through the aboriginal languages initiative for community language projects, $8 million a year through northern aboriginal broadcasting for the production and broadcasting of aboriginal programming, and $3 million through territorial language accords with territorial governments.
    The Government of Canada introduced the aboriginal languages initiative in 1998 and it supports 200 to 250 community-based projects for the preservation and revitalization of first nations, Inuit and Métis languages. Projects include: language nests for preschool children, master apprentice programs, the documenting and archiving of languages, community language classes offered outside regular K to 12 schooling, development and production of language learning materials and resources, and culture and language immersion camps where language is learned within the context of traditional on-the-land activities such as music and storytelling.
    Support is provided to northern aboriginal communication societies for television and radio programming in aboriginal languages with a further $2.5 million to the Canadian Television Fund to support aboriginal language television programming. Territorial language accords with territorial governments provide government services available in aboriginal languages and for community initiatives.
    Indian and Northern Affairs Canada supports a network of Inuit and reserve-based first nations cultural educational centres, which provide community-based language and cultural services to a majority of first nations in Canada and Inuit organizations across the north.
    We are going to get another minute in a moment and I will tell everyone about some more efforts that this government has made that most of the time the NDP votes against.

  (1825)  

Ms. Jean Crowder:  
    Madam Speaker, clearly, in the parliamentary secretary's own words, with the declining language speakers in this country what we are doing is simply not enough. In fact, the $5 million that are currently allocated are divided up among 10 provinces and thousands of communities. The money going into these communities simply is not enough to ensure the stability of these languages and, in fact, the Department of Canadian Heritage takes a 10% administration fee off the top of that money.
    I would like to know, when is the government going to reinstate the $160 million that was actually allocated 10 years ago and build on some of the successes that are already happening in those communities? Less than 5.1% of the speakers in B.C. are fluent. We are watching as the elders pass on that the language fluency is being lost.
    When will the government commit stable, long-term, adequate, and I emphasize adequate, funding to ensure that we can build on the successes and support the language speakers who are still alive?
Mrs. Shelly Glover:  
    Madam Speaker, once again, we hear from a member of the NDP, asking for things that I am not sure its members are willing to even vote for, because every time we put forward measures that will help aboriginal people, they continue to vote against them.
    Here is another example of how we are trying our very best to move forward to protect languages for aboriginal peoples. Under Health Canada, the aboriginal head start program enhances the development and school readiness of first nations, Inuit and Métis children living in urban centres, large northern communities and on reserves. One of aboriginal head start's six program components addresses culture and language needs and prepares young aboriginal children for their school years.
     I trust the information that I have brought here today to help protect these aboriginal languages. Absolutely this is a priority. That is why our government has invested in protecting these languages, but we will invest in more than just language for aboriginal people. We will invest in their safety, in their security. We will invest in making sure they can hunt with their traditional hunting rights, and unfortunately, the NDP chooses every time to vote against our efforts to protect those.

  (1830)  

Health 

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.):  
    Madam Speaker, Canadians living with multiple sclerosis are fighting their disease and fighting for clinical trials for the new liberation procedure for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI.
    We had a parliamentary subcommittee on neurological disease that heard four hours of testimony from the leading researchers in the world on CCSVI, including Dr. Zamboni, who pioneered the liberation procedure, and Dr. Simka, who has undertaken the most procedures globally. These researchers indicated that, according to their initial studies, both the diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI were deemed to be safe and have resulted in significant improvements in the quality of life of many MS patients.
    Instead of listening to the leading researchers internationally, the government chose to accept the recommendations of a panel, held behind closed doors with no minutes. Why were only nine papers reviewed? Why were no leading experts called for their expertise? Where was the scientific rigour in making sure panellists were not biased?
    At the end of July, I travelled to New York to learn the latest science at an international symposium for CCSVI. Researchers from Bulgaria, Italy, Kuwait and the United States were all presenting similar results, namely that 87% to 90% of MS patients show venous abnormality. Of the 400 cases reviewed by Canada's Dr. McDonald, 90% show a venous problem.
    We need evidence-based medicine in Canada. The question I have is why have we not been collecting it? There are two ways to collect evidence and we have been calling for both: clinical trials and a registry. When I spoke to a high-ranking official in July, I was told a registry was not possible because “we have no idea what is being done overseas”. I explained that it was not exactly true. For example, in Poland, each patient is seen by a neurologist and has an MRV, a Doppler scan, and an eye test. Before-and-after liberation photos are taken, and during the actual procedure there is video. Finally, a long, complicated form is filled out, including EDSS scores.
    It seems to me as a scientist that there is data to be collected.
    I would like to identify some incongruities. Over the last four decades, only 7% to 20% of surgeries performed in hospitals have ever been double-blind tested, yet detractors of the liberation theory are insisting on sham surgeries in some of society's most vulnerable.
    Often in medicine, when a treatment shows promise, it is fast-tracked. A recent example is a new device that can suck out stroke-causing blood clots. Very quickly, 27 patients across 10 hospitals were rescued from strokes by the device.
    Over 1,500 liberation procedures have been performed worldwide, yet we are told there is not enough evidence for clinical trials in Canada.
    As an example from MS, a few years ago a drug that was known to cause a fatal brain infection was fast-tracked, and 68 people have acquired the infection and 14 have died. Yet there is the hesitation to undertake clinical trials for angioplasty, a procedure undertaken daily in hospitals across this country.
    I am in touch with over 1,000 MS patients across this country. I have a list of over 150 people who have been liberated. One toddler said, “My mommy's not broken anymore”. One woman who was a quadriplegic is now writing.
    I am also in contact with physicians who themselves have been liberated. As one explained, “My province allowed me to practise for decades, but after liberation, I cannot even get a hearing”. He questions, “If we had collected the evidence in a registry for the last many months, would we still be calling this anecdotal stories?”
Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  
    Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge as well that MS is a devastating condition. It affects young adults in their prime and it causes disability and distress. My heart truly goes out to all those who suffer from MS.
    Our government does recognize the importance of better understanding neurological conditions, such as MS, and how they affect Canadians. Reliable information is the basis for effective programs and policies that will meet the needs of people with MS, their families and caregivers.
    In June 2009 the Minister of Health announced an investment of $15 million over four years to support a national study on neurological diseases. This study will fill gaps in information on the extent of neurological diseases and their impact on Canadians and is being co-led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Neurological Health Charities of Canada.
    The Neurological Health Charities of Canada is a collective of 18 charities, including the MS Society of Canada, coming together to improve the quality of life for all persons with chronic brain disorders and their caregivers. Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are also partners in this important work.
    The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is committed to advancing our knowledge of multiple sclerosis and accelerating relevant research on innovation to prevent, diagnose and treat this devastating disease. A few months ago, the minister asked Dr. Alain Beaudet, the president of CIHR, to provide advice on how to advance research in this important area.
    On August 26, CIHR, in collaboration with the MS Society of Canada, convened a meeting of leading North American experts to review evidence, including current international efforts and knowledge gaps. An emphasis was placed on the potential links between chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency and MS.
    There was unanimous agreement from the scientific experts that it would be premature at this time to support pan-Canadian clinical trials on the Zamboni procedure. As such, Dr. Beaudet recommended that we wait for the results of seven clinical diagnostic trials, which are currently underway, co-funded by the Canadian and U.S. MS Societies. That is what they would like to do before making a decision on whether to support therapeutic clinical trials on the Zamboni procedure. Of the seven studies, four are Canadian and three are being conducted in the U.S.
    If these seven studies show a link between blocked veins and MS, we then can ethically justify the risks involved with further investigating the procedure itself. We expect preliminary reports from these studies in less than a year. In the meantime, CIHR is bringing together experts to start looking at designing a clinical trial.
    As the House knows, in helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, the federal government must work closely with the provinces and territories which are responsible for the delivery of health care in their jurisdictions.
    The Minister of Health remains in close contact with her counterparts in the territories and provinces on a wide range of critical health issues. In fact, she just returned from the annual health ministers' meeting on September 14 in St. John's where she asked Dr. Alain Beaudet, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, to provide an update on current MS research in Canada.
    Canada is a world leader in MS research and will continue to lead the way. Anyone who has heard a first account of what an MS patient goes through on a day-to-day basis understands the urgency of moving forward. We will continue to give this important issue the attention it deserves.
    We are all committed to a health care system that is evidence-based and, as such, we must allow this research to progress so that physician associations, medical experts and provinces and territories have the necessary evidence so they can form decisions that are educated.

  (1835)  

Ms. Kirsty Duncan:  
    Madam Speaker, there is no treatment arm to those clinical trials.
    It is becoming increasingly evident that liberation can alleviate some symptoms. MS patients who have had the liberation procedure seem to experience an improvement in brain fog, fatigue and circulation and, over time, some report a marked improvement in the quality of life.
    Time is brain. Any delay in clinical trials possibly means more damage. The earlier MS is caught the better the prognosis. For some patients a delay of a matter of months may mean the difference between working and not working, walking and not walking, living on their own or in care, or living and not. This past week we lost another MS patient, 34 years old, with a five-year-old child.
    Why the refusal to listen to CCSVI experts? Why the refusal to collect evidence? Why the refusal to lead when five provinces were calling for clinical trials? Why the delay?

  (1840)  

Mrs. Shelly Glover:  
    Madam Speaker, once again, I want to thank my colleague opposite for addressing this. It is an important issue on which we all agree here in the House.
    The federal government and the provinces and territories are speaking with one voice on MS. The media has been reporting different things, but let us be clear. We all agree that clinical trial will happen in Canada if and when the research supports it, and if the research supports it, funding will be available as well.
    We are moving as quickly as possible, based upon the best available science. If the experts advise in favour of clinical trials, our government, working with the MS Society and the provinces and territories, will ensure that they are funded.
    Once again, my heart goes out to all those who suffer from this disabling disease. We are going to continue to talk about this. It is a priority.

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
     (The House adjourned at 6:41 p.m.)
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