Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2015-04-27 11:03 [p.13025]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to support private member's Bill C-624. This bill would change one verse only in the English lyrics of our national anthem. It would replace the words, “True patriot love in all thy sons command” with “True patriot love in all of us command”. That is with the intent of ensuring gender inclusiveness. The French version is not affected.
The New Democrats strongly support gender equality. The proposed legislation introduced by the member for Ottawa—Vanier reflects a long-standing goal which has been firmly supported over the years by initiatives by NDP MPs, including Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Svend Robinson, and most recently the member for Vancouver East. Since 1980, no less than nine bills have been tabled proposing this very change.
Tradition is certainly important, but Canadian values of gender equality and inclusiveness have moved beyond mere sentiments and are now principles firmly entrenched in Canadian law.
We join in singing our anthem to express a common love of our nation, its values, principles and accomplishments. When the English lyrics of our national anthem were written in 1908, women had not yet been granted the vote. Much has changed since with women finally recognized as legal persons granted the right to vote, the right to run for elected office, and with a majorly expanded military role.
I am proud to be a member of the caucus with the largest percentage of women. I am equally delighted that over 50% of the New Democrat candidates in the current Alberta election are women inspired to run by a strong and eloquent female leader.
While this symbolic change is important, we recognize that gender equality will only truly be actualized when governments address the gender gap in accessing education and employment opportunities through universally accessible child care, pay equity and a national strategy to end violence against women.
While the French lyrics of our anthem remain as written in 1880, the English version has changed many times. In 1913, the original neutral and inclusive version was altered from “dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command”. As our anthem was made official by statute, changes must now be made by Parliament.
In 2010, the Prime Minister committed in the throne speech that the anthem would be rewritten to make the language more inclusive, and then he reneged on this undertaking. Many calls have been made since to recognize the modern role of women in our anthem, including notably by Sally Goddard, the mother of the first female military member killed in Afghanistan.
Canada claims to be a world leader in terms of the proportion of women in its military and the areas in which they can serve. According to the Department of National Defence website, the Canadian Armed Forces are highly regarded as being at the forefront of military gender integration. According to the department, women can now enrol in any CAF occupation and professes that all career opportunities are based solely on rank, qualifications and merit, not gender.
Women have been involved in Canada's military service and have contributed to Canada's rich military history and heritage for more than 100 years, which of course makes it additionally reprehensible that we would have reverted to this discriminatory language. It may be a surprise to many Canadians that the largest number of women served during the Second World War and many performed non-traditional duties.
Since 1971, in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, the department has expanded employment opportunities for women in the military. With the passage of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, women's military roles were again majorly expanded. Presently, women serve on a number of global operations ranging across the spectrum from peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations, presumably in Nepal today where our deeply heartfelt feelings are with the people there, through to stability, security, and peace enforcement operations.
According to the Department of National Defence website:
Although the CAF do not keep track of the gender of deployed personnel, it is safe to assume that eligible women are likely to be serving on the majority of our missions.
The history of Canadian service women is an important part of our national military heritage and their achievements contribute to the full and equal inclusion of women in our society and national institutions.
Be they men or women, regardless of race, religion or culture, CAF members share a common goal—protecting the country, its interests, and values while also contributing to international peace and security.
Canada is a world leader in terms of the proportion of women in its military, and the areas in which they can serve. Among their allies, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are highly regarded as being at the forefront of military gender integration.
The Conservative member for Richmond Hill, in speaking to this bill, said that the government backed off on its announced change because its 2013 poll showed major opposition, yet a 2015 poll found 40% strongly supportive of the amendment and 18% somewhat supportive of making our anthem gender neutral. Only 13% expressed strong disapproval, a significant shift in opinion from two years back.
It is time that our national anthem reflected the true role served by Canadian women in building and protecting our nation.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2015-04-27 11:09 [p.13026]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this bill which is an act to amend the National Anthem Act with respect to gender. The bill proposes a simple change in the English lyrics only. It proposes that “True patriot love in all thy sons command” become “True patriot love in all of us command”, therefore replacing only two words, “thy sons” with “of us”.
There are all kinds of reasons that we would want to sing “in all of us command”. We love our country and all of its people. Our anthem is important to us, and we want to clearly include every Canadian. All of us are proud to sing O Canada, and O Canada should embrace all of us.
These two words that we want to reintroduce in O Canada are small, yet meaningful. We would ensure that more than 18 million Canadian women are included in our national anthem. After 1908, Judge Robert Stanley Weir amended his poem in 1913, 1914, and 1916. By 1913, he changed the second line of the poem to “True patriot love in all thy sons command”. Many believed the change was in response to the events leading up to the First World War, in which men and women from Canada proudly took part. We do honour the Canadian men who fought for liberty on those battlegrounds. We honour them and all who died. We honour them in our anthem. However, Canadian women also served in the First World War, not as soldiers, but in other functions, especially as nurses, and many died. We have commemorated them in Parliament's Hall of Honour; however, we have not commemorated them in our anthem.
In 1927, the 60th anniversary of Confederation, the government authorized Judge Weir's song for singing in schools and at public functions, but kept the second line from the 1913 version, not the original 1908 gender neutral version. Incidentally, other words were changed in 1927 and again in 1980, when it was enacted by Parliament. The National Anthem Act was introduced, passed and given royal assent on June 27, 1980. The speed with which this was done did not allow sufficient time to deal with the outstanding concerns, such as the lack of inclusiveness of the English version.
A lot has changed since we began commanding true patriot love from our native sons in 1913. Women were first granted the federal right to vote in 1918 by the government of Sir Robert Borden. Canada held its first federal election in which women were allowed to vote and run for office in 1921. It was the year that Agnes Macphail was elected to the House of Commons, making her Canada's first female member of Parliament.
There was the 1929 Persons Case, where the Famous Five succeeded in having women recognized as persons and thereby eligible for appointment to the Senate. A few months later, in 1930, Canada's first female senator, Cairine Wilson, was sworn in. Less than a minute into 1947, once the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect, the first born Canadian citizen, Nicole Cyr Mazerolle, a woman, joined us.
The Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston started admitting women as students in 1980. Now, women serve as soldiers and just recently a woman, Ms. Christine Whitecross, was promoted to the rank of major-general.
The adoption of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 has led to the gradual and rigorous implementation of equality between men and women, which the charter guarantees. We would be taking a very important symbolic step by ensuring that our anthem respected our charter.
Let us remember and celebrate the fact that our Canadian women won more medals than our men during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
In 2013, the Restore Our Anthem campaign was launched to change the English words from “thy sons” to “of us”. The list of the campaign's endorsers is impressive. Former prime minister Kim Campbell, internationally renowned author Margaret Atwood, Senator Nancy Ruth, and former senator Vivienne Poy have lent their support to this campaign. Hon. Belinda Stronach and Jacquelin Holzman, a former mayor of Ottawa, sing “all of us” already, as do I and a number of members of the House.
Even CFRA talk show host, Lowell Green, told the member for Ottawa—Vanier that he supports the change. Maureen McTeer, Canadian lawyer and author, wife of the Right Hon. Joe Clark, has sent the member a note supporting the initiative. Former MP and leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent, also confirmed his support, and former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is onside.
We have come a long way. The strides made by women in our society have been significant and should be fully recognized. Our anthem should not ignore the increasingly important contribution of 52% of our population. There are Canadians everywhere in this country in support of the change being advocated with this bill.
We know this because we have the numbers. The results from the survey of Mainstreet Technologies are very different from the numbers cited by the government's poll of October 2013, because accurate language is used. The questions and answers provided by more than 5,000 Canadians show solid support for a change in the lyrics from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”: 58% of Canadians approve or strongly approve this change, and only 19% disapprove or strongly disapprove; the margin of error is 1.35%, 19 times out of 20. The poll questions and results can be seen on
Last week, my hon. colleague from Ottawa—Vanier asked the government how it justified basing its position on the results of a question that misrepresented the current lyrics of O Canada. As usual, we were treated to a disrespectful non-answer.
The often-cited poll from Forum Research, in 2013, is the point of contention. When asking Canadians if they supported a departure from the existing lyrics, Forum got the original lyrics wrong. Even the Toronto Star, in reporting these numbers, did not catch the fact that the existing lyrics are “all thy sons command”, and not as was stated in the poll, “all her sons command”, as both organizations would have us believe. Wrongly, the Forum poll asked the sample of Canadians its view on changing the anthem from “all her sons command” to “all of us command”.
Today as we engage in the second hour of debate, and on the Wednesday April 29 vote on the bill, let us hope that a majority of MPs will vote to amend O Canada to include “all of us”. It is the right thing to do.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2015-04-27 11:17 [p.13027]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-624, an act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender).
The official lyrics are based on a poem written in 1908 by Justice Robert Stanley Weir. Although changes to the original poem were made prior to the adoption of the national anthem, it must be mentioned that no changes have been made to the English version since its adoption. Bill C-624 proposes to change the anthem by removing the words “thy sons” and inserting the words “of us” in the English version of the national anthem. This line was inserted in 1914 by Robert Stanley Weir, the original author, and has remained unchanged for a hundred years.
The lyrics to O Canada are symbolic. The anthem in its current form is important to Canadians. O Canada is not only a source of pride and a reflection of our nation, it is loved by Canadians as it is. It is part of our historical legacy.
As studies have shown, the anthem continues to be a sense of pride and belonging. A 2012 survey found that 78% of Canadians believe our national anthem is a great source of pride. Another poll conducted in the same year found that 74% of Canadians believe that our national anthem best reflects what Canada really is. The anthem is a very important Canadian symbol.
As more recent surveys have revealed, the majority of Canadians oppose changing the anthem to make it gender neutral. A 2013 study found that 65% of Canadians oppose the change, including 61% of women. Only 25% supported the change to gender neutrality.
The sponsor of the bill correctly mentioned that this poll used the phrase “her sons” instead of “thy sons”. While this is correct, his reasoning is that Canadians who were asked the question over the telephone instantly thought this was a reference to our queen and opposed the change. Considering that there was an oft-cited 2002 poll that showed only 5% of Canadians actually knew that our head of state was the queen, this line of reasoning shows the member is stretching this issue a little. The core question in the 2013 poll still asked Canadians if they wanted a gender neutral anthem, and 65% of Canadians said they did not. In fact, 61% of women in that survey said they did not want a gender neutral anthem.
Supporting the bill could send a message to Canadians that their opinions do not matter and that Parliament does not want to listen to them. O Canada is an anthem, and Parliament should not swap out its phrases without the support of all Canadians.
I strongly disagree with the NDP member for Vancouver East, who in our previous hour of debate said that O Canada was “offensive”. That is the word that she used. I would point out that the person who sits next to her, the Leader of the Opposition, has been quoted as saying:
I think that when you start tinkering with an institution like a national anthem that you're looking for problems [...] We seem to have agreed on the English and French versions as they are and I think that's probably a good thing.
I did not think I would stand up in the House and say that I agree with the Leader of the Opposition on too many things, but on this issue he has it right. He should share his concerns with the member for Vancouver East, who said in February that opposition to this anthem was “a no-brainer”.
It is outrageous, regardless of one's position as to whether it should be changed, that someone would be calling our Canadian national anthem “offensive”. It is a source of pride for Canadians across the country. In fact, her own leader called the anthem “wonderful”. He stated that the anthem should not be changed and that it is important to Canadians.
While the position of the member for Vancouver East on the anthem is hers to hold, she should apologize to the House and withdraw the remarks she made about our Canadian national anthem.
I cannot think of another country, in any type of parliament or house of representatives, that would have heard any member stand up to say that about their national anthem.
Our government is committed to recognizing women who have individually and collectively helped to build the strong, proud, and free Canada that we have today. Every year, commemorative events, such as the International Women's Day, Women's History Month, and important events such as the Governor General Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case, represent important occasions when all Canadians recognize the tremendous contributions that women make to all aspects of Canadian life. As an example, initiatives for the commemoration of World War I and World War II include recognizing the invaluable role that Canadian women played in our country's military efforts.
Canada recognizes and celebrates the instrumental role that Canadian women have played to build our great country during Women's History Month. During this month, we recognize the contribution of Canadian women and highlight their achievements in all areas of life: politics, sports, medicine, business, education, and it goes on. That is not to mention the vital accomplishments of the Famous Five: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby, women whose leadership in the fight for equality paved the way for future generations and whose statues stand just to the east of this building on Parliament Hill.
Our government has done much to help ensure that the many contributions and achievements of women are recognized and that their remarkable role in society is highlighted.
I do believe in gender equality, and so does everyone on both sides of the House. We recognize and highlight the incredible and numerous contributions that women have made to the building of our beloved country. However, I do not believe that changing our national anthem is the way to accomplish this, and neither do the majority of Canadians, including the majority of Canadian women.
Supporting the bill would also open the door to further proposals to changing the national anthem. It would open Pandora's box and weaken the anthem as a symbol. Given that Canadians have already spoken loudly and clearly on this issue, I will not support the bill.
I understand why the sponsor put the bill forward, and our government proposed a similar change in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. The reaction from Canadians was overwhelming. While some members of the opposition may claim from time to time that the government does not listen to what Canadians are saying, on this issue, immediately after learning of the reaction to the change in national anthem, we did react. Do not forget that this was shortly after our huge successes at the Olympics in Vancouver. There was sense of pride. The national anthem was sung many times across this country. There was reaction to the moderate change we had put forward, not unlike the one made by the member. It was a reaction that led us to understand that this is a sacred anthem that is enjoyed by Canadians and should not be subjected to any form of change.
The lyrics to O Canada are symbolic and deeply rooted in tradition. It is a great source of pride to Canadians. We have a responsibility to maintain and protect our national symbols. Our anthem is one of those symbols. Any form of change to an anthem that is memorized, known, and sung literally hundreds of times a day in our country, and it does not matter the geography, should not occur. All Canadian citizens understand, know, and love what our national anthem stands for. They understand the importance, significance, and the symbolism of not changing the anthem.
There are very few countries that delve into changing the symbol that is their national anthem. When we open the door to change, there are going to be those who line up, whether it be on this issue with respect to the anthem or another issue. I believe that the best way to maintain the symbolism and importance of the anthem is to keep it exactly the way it is. Everyone understands it. Everyone knows what it stands for, and everyone loves singing O Canada.
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-04-27 11:27 [p.13028]
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier will now have his five minutes of reply.
View Mauril Bélanger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mauril Bélanger Profile
2015-04-27 11:28 [p.13028]
Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what was said by the parliamentary secretary, and there are some errors in what he said.
He said that the anthem had not been changed in 100 years, which is correct, but it was changed from 1908 to 1914. The original version included “us”. Therefore, to say that the anthem has not changed in 100 years is not exactly accurate because it has been changed a number of times in those 100 years, the English version, that is. Therefore, he is not correct in saying that.
When we talk about our symbols, our symbols tend to evolve just as our society does, and I will provide two examples.
In 1921, King George V included the maple leaf in our coat of arms, which was not there before, because the maple leaf had become a symbol that Canadians respected. As well, in 1965 we changed our flag. There are two absolutely important symbols in our country and both have evolved to reflect the evolution in our society.
What the member fails to understand is that in the last 100 years there has been a significant evolution in the equality of genders in our society, including the 1982 charter, so on and so forth. Therefore, for him to say what he just did is not accurate, and to base it on a poll that has misrepresented the anthem is rather strange. The poll referred to in 2013 quoted “True patriot love in all her sons command”. The actual words are “thy sons”, not “her sons”. The polling firm that did it should live up to its mistake and if it was not a mistake, acknowledge its intent to misrepresent our anthem in a question put to Canadians.
The numbers that the government speaks of are faulty, and I hope my colleagues know now that if they actually follow the opinions of Canadians, they need to get it right. I too have commissioned a poll, which has been sent to most of my colleagues, and the results of this survey conducted by Mainstreet Technologies are very different because accurate language is used. The questions and answers provided by more than 5,000 Canadians show solid support for a change in the lyrics from “all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”. The poll shows that 58% approve or strongly approve and only 19% disapprove or strongly disapprove.
The other thing we need to know is that in 1980 the anthem was approved in one single day in both the House and the Senate, and there was a commitment made by the government of the day, a Liberal government—so I am rising beyond partisanship here because this is important—to review the anthem in the following session. The Hon. Ed Broadbent at the time and the late Walter Baker, who represented both parties, agreed with that and wanted it to include “all of us”. The Hon. Florence Bird in the Senate made the same comment and it was confirmed that the government would do that. It never happened.
Yes, we have had nine bills presented, but this is the first one upon which we will have a vote. I hope the members represent the true spirit of Canadians and the evolution of our society and vote in favour of this.
I will provide an example. Our parliamentary sensibilities are well ingrained about what happened on October 22, but the words that parliamentarians used the next day reflected the evolution of our society. Thirteen members stood in this place, including the Speaker, to congratulate the both men and women who so bravely came to our defence the day before. They were the hon. members for Papineau, Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Ahuntsic, Edmonton Centre, Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Brandon—Souris, Durham, Surrey North, Northumberland—Quinte West, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Yukon, the Speaker, and Burnaby—New Westminster.
I want to congratulate those members for so effectively transmitting our thanks to both the men and women of our security service. It is important to be inclusive. Let us not forget that in 1914 only men served as soldiers. That is no longer the case. Let us not also forget that it was only in 1980 that the House and the Senate started hiring women in our security forces. Let us be fair and include them in our anthem. Let us sing “all of us”.
I would like to conclude by thanking the members for their consideration of an inclusive national anthem and I look forward to obtaining their support for this much-overdue initiative.
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-04-27 11:34 [p.13029]
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-04-27 11:34 [p.13029]
It being 11:34 a.m., the House will stand suspended until noon. We will pick up government orders at that time.
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
View David McGuinty Profile
2015-04-27 12:00 [p.13029]
That the House: (a) recognize that (i) since 2006, the government has spent nearly $750 million dollars on advertising, (ii) a great deal of this has been partisan advertising that serves no public interest, (iii) this is an affront to taxpayers who work hard and expect that the government will treat their money with respect; and therefore (b) call on the government to submit all advertising to a third-party review process before it is approved, to ensure that it is an appropriate, proportional, and prudent expenditure of public funds.
He said: I appreciate being allowed to proceed this morning with this important Liberal Party of Canada opposition day motion. I am very pleased to lead off this debate today. It is a very important moment for us as parliamentarians from all political stripes in the House. The theme I will come back to in a few moments is that it is an opportunity for us to do right by Canadians and to improve in an area where there is a need to improve, an area where I believe all parliamentarians can come together to improve a particular expenditure system in the federal government.
I want to begin by thanking my leader, the member for Papineau, for his probity, his support, his commitment to transparency and his commitment to doing something better going forward. Despite the performance and practice of any previous government, we have before us an opportunity to improve the situation when it comes to this notion of government advertising and communication.
I want to take a moment to reread this motion so Canadians get the fullness of its embrace. It reads:
That the House: (a) recognize that (i) since 2006, the government has spent nearly $750 million dollars on advertising, (ii) a great deal of this has been partisan advertising that serves no public interest, (iii) this is an affront to taxpayers who work hard and expect that the government will treat their money with respect; and therefore (b) call on the government to submit all advertising to a third-party review process before it is approved, to ensure that it is an appropriate, proportional, and prudent expenditure of public funds.
I have always believed that all parliamentarians have an obligation to do everything they can to enhance trust and confidence in our democratic institutions and processes. The motion tabled here today would build on that simple yet powerful notion, and is predicated on a simple and powerful idea: respect for Canadians' tax dollars and, arguably, respect for Canadians' intelligence.
We learned just this month that the “Strong Proud Free” slogan that is currently bombarding Canadian television viewers is considered a cabinet confidence, and will be sealed from public scrutiny for 20 years. This tells us that cabinet is seized with communications, with outreach, with messaging, with its alignment with its own political priorities. If we ever needed confirmation that the government is seized with sloganeering, there is no better evidence available. Now we have an insane situation where not only is the sloganeering overt and public, but we are being told it is being overt, public and secret.
It is time to bring Canada's federal government advertising rules into the 21st century, and there is a solution. In addition to this motion, on October 24, 2013, I tabled my private member's bill, Bill C-544, the elimination of partisan government advertising act.
My bill amends the Auditor General Act to provide for the appointment of an advertising commissioner to oversee the use of public funds for advertisement. Just like in Ontario, public interest messaging and other essential government advertising will not be targeted. Appointing an advertising commissioner will enhance accountability toward all Canadians. My bill will be up for debate on June 2, and I hope that all parties will support it.
Over the last several years, in a spirit of non-partisanship, I have written to two consecutive finance ministers and offered them my bill to adopt as government policy as a low- or no-cost budget suggestion. Sadly, they have not taken up this constructive suggestion that would save the taxpayers millions of dollars while costing almost nothing to implement.
There is a crescendo of voices now calling for action.
I would like to quote the Toronto Star from earlier this month, April 5, 2015:
Using taxpayer money to lure Canadians to vote Conservative in the next federal election is a bit rich.... In Ontario, the Auditor-General’s office must approve all government advertising to ensure that it doesn’t promote a particular political party. The same should be done in Ottawa. The...government should follow Ontario’s lead—and rein in some of its advertising spending while it’s at it.... [The member for Ottawa South] who is sponsoring a private member’s bill that would establish independent oversight of federal advertising, argues the...government ads—with their Conservative blue colours and imagery—amount to “propaganda.” He’s right.... The...government needs independent oversight of its advertising spending. And it needs to cut it, just as rigorously as it has cut so many more worthy initiatives.... Now documents obtained by CTV News indicate [the Prime Minister] plans to spend $7.5 million in May alone to promote its so-called Economic Action Plan. The new ad campaign is timed to air just after the release of the April 21 budget, and the government isn’t apologizing for it.
The ads continue to waste “money that could be better spent on important services and programs. Money spent publicizing the economic action this year, for example, would have been better spent promoting rail safety, based upon the lessons learned from the Lac-Mégantic disaster.”
The final numbers in 2013-14 illustrate this all too well. In that fiscal year, the current government spent $42 million on economic action plan advertising versus $34 million on rail safety, and this at a time when the government is in full knowledge of the human resources constraints, the lack of inspectors, the challenges with the transportation of oil by rail, the safety risks going through our urban settings, and on and on. This is the kind of choice it has been making, using taxpayer dollars.
The government could have kept the federally funded national round table on the environment and the economy operating.
The government could have ensured that our local Veterans Affairs offices stayed open to ensure that our veterans were properly supported and served after their service.
I am not suggesting there is not a place for federal advertising, to inform Canadians of new government policies or for public service announcements. There is a role, a legitimate role, for that. For example, governments need to recruit staff; governments need to hold competitions for contractors who are bidding on procurement opportunities to retrofit a building, to maintain roadways, to provide support for temporary staff or furniture fit-ups; or, for example, most important, to inform Canadians about important health issues or crises, such as the SARS crisis that hit Canada some years ago or the H1N1 viral outbreak. These are legitimate uses of taxpayer dollars for advertising.
However, what we are seeing, what we have concluded, and what, most importantly, Canadians have concluded is that most of the ads being propagated by the government are designed to promote the Conservative Party of Canada, simply, in its crudest form, to buy votes.
The common look and feel, the colours, of the Conservative Party of Canada's political ads and government advertising is indisputable. Advertising executives know it, and they tell us that these are aligned with the Conservative Party's political ad buys. At its core, this kind of advertising undermines the rules of fair play in our democratic system.
We spend a lot of our time in this country assisting governments elsewhere, perhaps less than we should. I would certainly like to see more of it as an investment made by Canada. However, we do spend time supporting fledgling democracies and political parties around the world to show the way. Canada is the beacon. If one is looking to a model of democratic fair play, one should look to Canada.
The problem is that the use of public resources in the advertising sector is an attempt to condition the Canadian public. How? It is done by propagating overt and subliminal messages. Why? That is simple. It is to drive up the government's chances of electoral success. It knows it. It is shameless about it. It does not deny it.
Here is another voice in support of that very assertion. Errol Mendes, professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa and editor-in-chief of the National Journal of Constitutional Law, wrote in The Globe and Mail recently:
Now in government—and outside the electoral period— [the Prime Minister] has found a way for his government to flood the media with partisan propaganda to the tune of hundreds of millions of our dollars. If such democratic subterfuge has the same effect of unfairness before an election, then the [Conservative] government is clearly undermining the spirit of a rule of law critical to fair elections. He has, in effect, made the government a third party that is allowed to spend potentially millions of dollars, making the actual limits in the election period illusory to some extent. This deserves a profound rebuke by Canadians.
Professor Mendes does not go as far as reminding Canadians about the litigation undertaken by the Prime Minister, before he was prime minister, before the Supreme Court of Canada arguing that there should be no limits on third-party advertising during Canadian electoral cycles. He lost that case, but we can see now what is happening is by subterfuge, using Professor Mendes' words. By subterfuge, he is using public resources to do precisely what he tried to do with private resources before he became Prime Minister.
According to Public Works and Government Services Canada, federal spending is still out of control. The government spent more than $75 million on advertising in 2013-14.
The departments that spend the most are Employment and Social Development Canada, which spent $11.7 million to promote its training programs; Natural Resources Canada, which spent $11 million on a campaign to promote responsible resource development; and the Department of Finance, which spent $10.5 million advertising the economic action plan. That $72.5 million is 9% higher than the amount spent in the previous fiscal year.
With such dire needs across the country, with seniors who have to choose between buying medicine and buying groceries, not a single government member can look his or her voters in the eye and defend this reckless spending on propaganda.
Let me expand on this.
With so many needs in this country, with seniors deciding whether to fill their prescriptions or buy groceries, with wait times for surgeries lengthening, with kids with type 1 diabetes unable to afford insulin pumps, with exhausted front-line nurses and crumbling infrastructure, no member in this House of Commons in any party can look their constituents in the eyes and defend this continued wasteful spending on propaganda, not a single one.
The Ontario Liberal government gets it. It continues to lead the way on this important issue. In fact, on Thursday, Ontario budget 2015 was presented to the legislative assembly of Ontario, and it included the following. The Government of Ontario:
will propose amendments to the Government Advertising Act, 2004, that would modernize and broaden the scope of the Act to ensure greater transparency about how the government communicates through advertisements and improve the process by which government advertisements are reviewed.
Therefore, it can be done.
The proposed amendments support the government’s commitment to openness, transparency and accountability in the way government conducts business, including public advertising.
Informed by the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Province will also move to strengthen rules around election-related, third-party advertising to protect the public interest.
The Ottawa Citizen reported in September that the federal government is spending millions targeting Canadians with Facebook ads.
In the Liberal Party's call for a third-party review process, there is a need to ensure that all forms of advertising are caught: print, video, audio, billboards, pamphlets, Internet, and increasingly, social media. The Conservatives have gone so far as to use ad spots on the XBox video game system, which is unheard of in Canadian history, by any order of government.
According to the Ottawa Citizen:
The Tory government spends tens of millions annually on advertising and has been assailed for what opposition parties say is often a waste of taxpayer dollars on propaganda. Part of the advertising blitz has included spending millions of dollars on government ads during the NHL playoffs.
Canadians are not being fooled. They are growing weary of and hostile to all the economic action plan ads. Ask them about the billboards, and then ask them how they feel about $29 million being spent on almost 9,800 billboards around this country. The City of Ottawa, my home city, was forced to spend $50,000 to erect these billboards as a condition of getting infrastructure dollars.
What does $29 million buy? It could buy over 500 full-time public health nurses for one year, over 300 affordable housing units for Canadians desperately waiting for housing, or 15,000 doses of chemotherapy drugs at a time when Canadians are suffering on cancer treatment waiting lists. That is what $29 million could buy for Canadians at a time when they are in need.
In fact, as reported in The Globe and Mail, eight polls commissioned by the Department of Finance between 2009 and 2012 “suggest the TV, radio, print and Internet ads are starting to fizzle—and annoying some people”.
In the most recently released survey, respondents say that it is “propaganda” and “a waste of money”, while fewer people than ever are taking any action after viewing the ads. These are the government's own polls.
Perhaps the government should listen to the taxpayers of Canada and stop wasting their money on partisan advertising. Perhaps it should also stop advertising programs that do not even exist, which is the newest twist in the saga of the use of taxpayer dollars for political purposes.
In closing, there is an opportunity for all of us to improve the way we manage and allocate scarce taxpayer resources. This is a discrete, focused opportunity to make sure that any government of any political stripe today and in the future treats taxpayers' dollars with respect.
I urge all of my colleagues to support the Liberal Party of Canada's motion to wrestle this challenge to the ground and to do right by Canadians.
View Lois Brown Profile
View Lois Brown Profile
2015-04-27 12:20 [p.13032]
Mr. Speaker, I find it just a little rich that this motion is coming from the Liberal Party.
Let me read something to the House. It states:
This Inquiry has arisen as a result of the significant concerns raised in the Report of the Auditor General to the House of Commons with respect to the sponsorship program and advertising activities of the Government of Canada. According to her Report, there were failures of internal control systems, a lack of appropriate documentation justifying material expenditures of public money, the payment of large sums of money to private parties with no apparent value being received in return, a systematic disregard of the applicable rules including those contained in the Financial Administration Act, a lack of competition in the selection of advertising agencies, and a general bypassing of Parliament.
My question to my colleague is this: Did he never hear of the sponsorship program, and where on earth is the $40 million the Liberal Party owes to Canadian taxpayers? That is responsible control of Canadian taxpayer dollars, and the Liberals need to pay it back.
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
View David McGuinty Profile
2015-04-27 12:22 [p.13032]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development for that question. I do not think I can be nearly as negative as she can be. There is an opportunity here for her to step up. This is an opportunity for all of us in this House to rise above this kind of dialogue and actually do something that will do right by Canadians.
We have an opportunity to support a motion. The government can take the bill. The government can take other measures. It had a chance to put it in its budget. We are going forward.
It is 2015. Our job as parliamentarians is to try to improve things for Canadians. This motion will improve things for Canadians.
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
View Mathieu Ravignat Profile
2015-04-27 12:23 [p.13032]
Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not doubt the sincerity of my hon. colleague over there, but it is a little ironic that this is being proposed by the Liberal Party. I will provide a little history.
When the Liberals were in power, they used government advertising for partisan advantage as well. In the year 2000, when health care reform was a major plank in the Liberal Party's platform, the Liberal prime minister at the time, Jean Chrétien, spent almost $2 million of public money on a two-month TV advertising campaign to promote the need for the reform. When did the Liberal government run the ad? It was right in the middle of the playoffs.
We have two parties behaving badly on the dime of Canadians, which is completely unacceptable. Why does my hon. colleague think Canadians can trust them?
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
View David McGuinty Profile
2015-04-27 12:24 [p.13032]
Mr. Speaker, once again, it is important for all of us to look ahead. There is an opportunity here for all of us. For example, I could descend into the debate about NDP expenditures in different riding offices around the country, but that is not what we are here to do today. We are here to lift the debate up and take an opportunity in front of us to improve things for Canadians.
If my bill were ever passed in this House, and I offer up to the government that I am not proprietary about it, it would be an opportunity to bind any successive government, not just this government, going forward. Why would all parliamentarians want to come together to do that? It is because it is the right thing, and there is an opportunity for us to do so. This is about driving up confidence and trust in our democratic institutions and processes and the way we spend money, the scarce taxpayer resources sent to us every year by Canadians. That is the opportunity in front of us. That is why we are debating this motion. I think we can get it right for Canadians. We can certainly do it better than it has been done in the past.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2015-04-27 12:25 [p.13032]
Mr. Speaker, there is one kind of government advertising I would like to see a lot more of. I wonder if my friend could turn his attention to it.
In budget 2015, there is reference to some spending at some point, with details to follow, to promote Canadian tourism. I was shocked when I discovered that the current administration has cancelled all advertising to encourage people in the U.S. market, which is our single largest tourism market, to visit Canada. There has not been one penny spent by the current administration on encouraging our U.S. friends to come here for a holiday.
We have a tourism season coming up. The only advertising in the U.S. market has been in favour of the Keystone pipeline. It was a $200,000 ad. One single ad in the The New Yorker was $200,000 and was all about the Keystone pipeline, but there has been nothing about tourism.
While I completely agree with the point my friend has made about using taxpayer dollars for Conservative propaganda, I do want to see this House come together to support getting some ads in the U.S. market as soon as possible for this coming summer season.
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
View David McGuinty Profile
2015-04-27 12:26 [p.13033]
Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague. That is why I spoke about legitimate expenditures, with respect to how advertising can be accomplished in this country if it is run through a third party review process. This is about ensuring that there is a third party review process. In the case that I am proposing, it would be an advertising commissioner inside the Auditor General's office to make sure that these legitimate expenditures go forward.
There is a need to advertise for tourism. There is a need to advertise for investment. There is a need to advertise for procurement, jobs and recruitment. There is a need to advertise when we have public health crises. These are profoundly important responsibilities for any order of government, and certainly a federal one.
My colleague is right. We are not recruiting the way that we should be for tourism in the United States marketplace today. We are not recruiting for investment purposes the way that we should be in the United States and foreign markets into Canada.
There is a whole series of legitimate exceptions that would be able to go through a robust and neutral filter. What would not happen, if we had a proper third party review process, is common look and feel advertisements coming out with Conservative blue all over TV ads, aligned with Conservative blue ads of a political nature. There would be no red ads either, nor orange ads or political colour ads. That way, we could drive up confidence and trust in our system so that Canadians feel better about what the government is doing with their resources.
View Frank Valeriote Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Frank Valeriote Profile
2015-04-27 12:28 [p.13033]
Mr. Speaker, it was just about a year ago when one of the most egregious examples of government waste on advertising was displayed on television. A woman, Jenifer Migneault , was seen chasing the veterans minister, begging for help. She had quit her job to look after her husband, who was at home and suffering terribly from PTSD.
The very same day, the veterans minister admitted in committee that they had increased the budget by $4 million that spring to advertise a program on which they had spent only $290,000. They did it again in the fall of last year with another $5 million. That money could have easily kept open all nine veterans offices that they just summarily closed last year. I want to add that to the list that the member for Ottawa South had given to us as yet another example of the gravity of this situation.
I wonder if my colleague would like to comment further on that incident.
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