March 24, 2011

CPC

Joy Smith

Conservative

Mrs. Joy Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for bringing this issue to the House of Commons again.

I listened very carefully to what my colleague had to say. We did share some time on the status of women committee on this issue. I appreciated her input at that time.

I was disappointed when my own bill came forward that the Bloc as a whole voted against it. I do feel very strongly that there was some pressure on the member not to participate, but I do not know that for sure.

This is a horrendous issue in this country right now. In reference to the man who was the first criminal convicted of human trafficking, his name was Imani Nakpamgi. I worked with his victim very closely. She was 15.5 years old when she was initially trafficked.

What would the member consider the most important thing for these victims to be able to recuperate?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Maria Mourani

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Maria Mourani

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I know that human trafficking is a major concern for her as well. I would like to explain that the Bloc Québécois voted against her bill not because it is against the principle of increased sentencing, but because it does not agree with minimum sentencing.

I have spoken with certain police officers and asked them whether minimum sentences worked. They told me they did not. When it is time for plea bargaining, the lawyers do everything they can to get charges that carry minimum sentences dropped. Unfortunately, this serves no purpose and prevents the judge from making an informed decision.

What I can say to my colleague is that this bill is a good bill. I hope that she is not overwhelmed by her disappointment and that she is able to move forward with this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Daniel Petit

Conservative

Mr. Daniel Petit (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on private member's Bill C-612, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons). I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for this initiative, which seeks to deter people from committing these crimes and to ensure that those who profit from them are punished accordingly. I believe that we all agree that these objectives deserve our support. In fact, thanks to the hard work of the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul, there is now a minimum sentence in the Criminal Code for those found guilty of trafficking in persons under the age of 18, an initiative that was supported by all opposition parties except the Bloc. It is a shame for this party and a sad day for Quebec's children.

Although we support the good intentions of the bill, I believe that, in its current form, it could prevent the desired objectives from being attained. I will spend my time pointing out some of the problems with the bill, but I will do so in a constructive manner and in the hope of making it as sound and effective as possible. In my opinion, changes need to be made to fill in the gaps in current criminal law and provide sufficient legal clarification so that such changes are useful to police and prosecutors. In the end, it would allow the member to attain her objectives of deterring and punishing this crime.

Human trafficking is a problem that comes up often. It garners a lot of attention from the public, media, police and legislators across the country and around the world. I believe that this interest stems from the fundamental human concern we have for one another and from the fact that we all recognize that no one should be treated as merchandise that can be bought and sold for profit. It is a form of modern slavery. Despite the attention that this crime garners, we are only just starting to comprehend the nature and scope of this crime in Canada and abroad. We do know, however, that women and children are disproportionately victimized by this crime.

According to the United Nations, in 2009, 66% and 13% of the victims were women and girls, respectively, compared with 12% for men and 9% for boys. The United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people are victims of human trafficking every year. And this crime is clearly very profitable. The United Nations estimates that this crime nets nearly $32 billion each year for the offenders.

Police investigations and prosecutions in Canada provide us with useful, albeit incomplete, information about human trafficking. These cases have demonstrated that the majority of victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. But there are also cases of trafficking for forced labour. Most of the victims were women and the majority of these human trafficking cases took place here in Canada.

In December 2010, RCMP statistics showed that there were at least 36 cases involving human trafficking before our courts. That is an encouraging number because it shows that the criminal justice system is becoming more comfortable with the relatively new offences involving human trafficking.

In light of this, we must ensure that we do not inadvertently make our laws less effective. I am concerned that certain proposals that have been put forth could do just that. And in that context, I would like to speak to the content of this bill.

First, it would grant the extraterritorial power to bring legal action in Canada against Canadians or permanent residents who commit offences related to adult trafficking abroad. This seems logical to me and I know that extending jurisdiction in this matter is encouraged under the relevant international law. In fact, other countries have taken measures in this regard, including the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

I believe—and I am asking members to think about this—that this type of amendment should have been extended to offences involving the trafficking of children, which fall under section 279.011 of the Criminal Code. This offence was enacted last year further to private member's Bill C-268, which was introduced and sponsored by the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul. The addition of a human trafficking offence involving both adults and children would allow us to ensure that Canadian laws and, of course, this bill, are consistent, as well as to take legal action no matter what the age of the victim.

I also support the bill's proposal to the effect that human trafficking offences should result in the reversal of the onus of proof in cases related to proceeds of crime. The existing regime limits this possibility to serious offences involving organized crime and other serious drug offences that are directly related to organized crime. We know that members of organized crime groups also participate in human trafficking. This amendment would target financial incentives and make this type of crime less appealing to criminal organizations.

This bill also proposes a “presumption” that appears to be an attempt to make prosecution easier. In cases involving adults, this presumption would require the court to find that the accused is exploiting a victim if he lives with a person who is exploited or is habitually in the company of or harbours a person who is exploited.

Presumptions help prosecutors prove an element of the offence by establishing a fact. However, as it is written, I do not think that the presumption achieves its goal. That said, I think that the goal could be achieved if the proposal could be amended to ensure that it produces the desired results and that it is compatible with the existing presumptions in the Criminal Code. I urge hon. members to think about the need to make such amendments to the bill.

Furthermore, I am concerned about a number of amendments this bill proposes to section 212 of the Criminal Code, which is commonly known as the procuring provision. Two amendments are proposed. The first would require that individuals found guilty of this offence must serve their sentences consecutively to any other punishment they have received. The second would apply reverse onus to this offence in cases related to the proceeds of crime.

As the House surely knows, our government is currently defending the constitutional validity of certain provisions regarding prostitution. Therefore, I think it would be ill-advised to make more amendments to these provisions before a ruling is made.

I would like to tell the member that I am absolutely willing to work with her to strengthen this bill in order to hold traffickers responsible for their horrendous crimes.

However, I am outraged that the Bloc has introduced this bill, since it knows that it wants to defeat the government. This is a case of opportunism. That party is trying to pretend that it defends victims, when all it does is defend the rights of criminals.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Marlene Jennings

Liberal

Hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ahuntsic for introducing this bill, for having put so much effort into creating it and for introducing it here in the House. I am very proud to have the opportunity to speak to this bill during the first hour of debate at second reading.

On behalf of my party, I would like to say right away that I intend to recommend to my caucus that we support this bill when the time comes to vote to send it to committee, with the hope that there is one some day. If this bill dies on the order paper, I hope it will be introduced again in a future Parliament, so that it may be revived and find its way before a standing committee of the House.

I will not repeat the bill's objective. I believe the hon. member for Ahuntsic described it very well, as did the parliamentary secretary, although he concluded his speech with an absurd remark. Until then, I found his speech rather interesting. I thought the points he raised in such a thoughtful, serious manner were interesting and worthy of our attention. It is unfortunate that he chose to resort to petty politics and to attack the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc has a role to play, just like the Liberal Party of Canada or the NDP, in ensuring democracy in the House of Commons, in the Parliament of Canada. Our Parliament is the pillar of democracy in Canada.

We have watched this government, this Conservative government, attack our institutions one by one, finally arriving at the last bastion, Parliament. The Conservatives arrived at its doors and attacked with contempt of Parliament. I do not wish to stray too far from my speech, but I believe this is pertinent.

It is regrettable that we have a Conservative government that has not developed a national strategy on human trafficking in Canada. It is regrettable that they have left it up to private members to try to amend the Criminal Code, address its shortcomings with respect to human trafficking in Canada and trafficking committed elsewhere by Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and ensure that perpetrators are charged, brought before the courts, prosecuted and held accountable.

It is regrettable that this Conservative government has not taken this issue seriously and that it has left it up to private members to try to address the shortcomings of our system.

I congratulate the Bloc member for Ahuntsic. I would also like to say well done to the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

The member made an attempt as well to try to close the gaps in Canada's legislation dealing with human trafficking. It is simply unacceptable that a government, like the Conservative regime, does not take this issue seriously. It does not see it as a priority to be dealt with in order to ensure that our legislative framework, our laws, deal with this issue with the gravity, the seriousness, and the severity with which it should be dealt with. The government has left it to simple MPs to attempt, through the laborious process of private members' bills, to fix the problem.

I find it shameful that the government has done nothing on this. I find it shameful that its own member had to come up with her own national strategy on human trafficking because her own government did not act and still has yet to act on the issue. It is shameful.

There are a number of issues which are of concern, such as the issue of the reversal of the presumption of innocence. I understand provisions already exist in the Criminal Code for other criminal offences on reversal. We look forward to examining this in committee should it get to committee, which is quite doubtful.

We also have a concern that by stipulating the sentences would be served consecutively to any other sentence removes judicial discretion. We prefer to see judicial discretion and, if necessary, if we find judges are not exercising their discretion in a manner that achieves the objective intended by the law, then we amend and put in criteria that the judge has to take into account in exercising his or her discretion.

Therefore, we would afford the opportunity to look at that. We are looking forward to hearing from expert witnesses, including the Quebec Bar Association.

I would like to give a bit of history on the Liberal position.

In 2009, in Volume III of the Pink Book, the Liberal women's caucus recommended that a national strategy be developed in partnership with the provinces and territories to prevent the trafficking of girls and women. As recommended by the Liberal women's caucus, this strategy would incorporate measures related to prevention, protection and justice, and increased funding to support victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women studied the issue of human trafficking in 2007. It released a report entitled, Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation, which could also form the basis for a comprehensive national action plan.

It is simply unacceptable that, under the Conservative government, Canada is one of the few countries that does not have a national strategy to prevent human trafficking.

The Liberal Party has been calling on the Conservative government to act for the past three years. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women has been asking for that as have the other opposition parties. I know the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul has also been calling for that.

Should this Parliament continue, which I doubt, and a vote happens at second reading, I call on each and every member of the House to support sending the bill to committee.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I join with my colleagues from the Liberals and Conservatives in congratulating the member for Ahuntsic for her work on the bill.

It is obvious from the speeches we have heard so far that all parties are aware of the serious nature of human trafficking. I was just speaking to my colleague and we were wondering when we began to identify this.

From my own practice as a lawyer in the Windsor area, we began identifying it as early as the mid-eighties, seeing the biker gangs, in particular, trafficking women, ostensibly as exotic dancers, but often times doubling as prostitutes. Those women had very little control over their lives, all of it being controlled and enforced by the bikers. That was both domestic and international, because we had them moving back and forth between Windsor and Detroit. We have known about this for quite some time.

I want to echo the comments by my colleague from the Liberal Party that it really is a shame. We have seen the quite excellent work and the passion that the Conservative member for Kildonan—St. Paul has brought to this issue, both in the House and on the Hill and in the country as a whole. However, she has not had basically any support from her own government or party.

The bill that went through under her name earlier last year was a step forward. It addressed one part of this problem. Without taking, in any way, away from the work that was done, it was a relatively small part of the overall problem. It addressed it and it was a way of dealing with it. However, we need a much more comprehensive response to this, both in changes to the Criminal Code, some of which were seen in the bill presented by the Bloc member, but much more than that. In my own opinion, we also need much more practical resources being put into this battle. By that I mean greater police forces to do the investigation and additional prosecutors specifically trained in dealing with this issue.

It is a slavery issue. There is no other word to accurately describe it in the common vernacular. This is slavery. Violence is used on a regular basis, both physical, direct to the victims, and threats to them and their families. Quite significant resources need to be put into play above and beyond the amendments we need to the Criminal Code to make it easier for our prosecutors, in particular, to prosecute these offences, especially going after the gangs.

Because I do not want to take up a lot of time today, I will address the bill itself. Generally the NDP would be supportive of this. Even though it is a private member's bill, I can say that on behalf of my party. I do have a couple of reservations about it. I think the issue around the presumption, around the exploitation issue, is open to a challenge. Because of the way it is worded, which is quite excellently, I hope we would survive that charter challenge. The challenge would be around whether it were specific enough to be clear what the offence would be. It will be interesting to see if we can get that through. I am optimistic we will, but I would expect we will have a challenge.

The other one that may be a greater problem in terms of its consequences, its usefulness, is the issue of how we would treat consecutive sentencing. The Supreme Court of Canada has been very hard, as have most of our courts across the country, on enforcing the concept of proportionality in sentencing. Even though we would say that a person committed this offence, assaulted the victim and also exploited her, because it is almost always a women that is being exploited, which would be two different charges, we would give the person a certain length of sentence for the assault but the exploitation would be consecutive.

Even if we do that, I am not convinced the outcome would be much longer sentences. The courts would refer to the proportionality principle, which would say that in total they want the person to be in custody for this length of time. Therefore, the two sentences in total, even though they are consecutive, may not be any longer than the first one would have been with the second one served concurrently. I am not sure we will see much change.

I will finish with again congratulating the member for having done this work. I just wish the government would take a holistic view to this problem and get at it both in terms of amendments to the code through this chamber and also at the street level where we need more police and more prosecutors to really get at this effectively.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Serge Ménard

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Ahuntsic introduced Bill C-612 after holding a number of consultations and having the legal rules explained—since this is not her primary profession—that need to be respected in order for her proposed improvements to have a legal impact and to make clarifications. When a private member's bill is introduced it is not enough to have good intentions. Such bills need to be translated into legal language that will have consequences.

That is where another hon. member went wrong. Her definition of human trafficking was so broad that it ended up only covering exploitation. It was clear that the Supreme Court would have rejected it because of the minimum sentence. It would have used the same reasoning as it did in the Smith case in the 1980s. In that famous case, the Supreme Court studied the minimum sentence of seven years in prison for importing narcotics. It found that the definition was so broad that even the smallest amount of imported marijuana would be punishable by a minimum sentence of seven years in prison. It found that to be unreasonable and declared that minimum sentence unconstitutional; it has not be reinstated since.

If a minimum sentence were established for simple exploitation, without regard for the duration, the type of exploitation or its extent, the Supreme Court would uphold the same reasoning. I have defended it without using authority as argument. Here we should naturally be concerned with applying the charter, which outlines the principles of justice we should all share. The charter in this case has made Parliament a little irresponsible. In this case, the changes are useful and it is clear that they were made following consultations with people who apply them. They fill the gaps that were hindering enforcement.

The first change has to do with jurisdiction. It is rare for Canada to claim, as France does, to oversee the conduct of all individuals on Earth. France claims that, no matter where an offence is committed, France has jurisdiction over it. Canada has applied its jurisdiction in a certain number of cases that were perfectly justified and it did so again recently. Canada assumes extraterritorial jurisdiction for crimes having to do with sexual exploitation abroad. That is the first amendment being proposed in clause 1.

Next, consecutive sentences are added. I would like to respond to the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine by saying that, even when consecutive sentences are imposed, judges retain their discretion. Consecutive sentences have a certain amount of importance in this situation. Very often, the pimp lives with his victims. He sexually abuses them and changes victims regularly. His victims will not file a complaint about their situation. Nevertheless, the police can establish that the person is being exploited. Very often, the pimp who is living with the victim is the one who is exploiting her. A presumption is therefore created.

The presumption is created based on observations made by police.

I would like to come back to the consecutive nature of the sentence. The judge retains his or her discretion. Most of the time, the pimp leads a life of crime and has committed many other offences. When he is arrested, he will likely face a number of charges. Sexual exploitation of women, particularly if they are also young, is an offence that must be clearly indicated and he must understand that a specific sentence will be imposed for that offence. The sentence for this offence should not be buried under the other sentences he may have to serve, for example, if he has stolen goods in his home, if he is in possession of drugs, if he is in possession of a large quantity of drugs, if he has been trafficking in drugs. No. He must understand that the sentence being imposed on him is for the sexual exploitation of the woman. This does not take away from judges' discretion, but requires them to specify which punishments are for which crimes in a given case.

Indeed, one of the major shortcomings we found with Bill C-268, which was introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, is that the definition of “exploitation” was too broad. I would like to remind the members of the wording of that bill:

Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence...

I took the time to read the entire clause, but the most important word is “or” because it indicates that any one of these acts is a crime. It does not say “recruits, transports, and transfers, and receives, and holds, and conceals”. It could be any of those.

The word “harbours” is in there. We know that organized crime is often behind such exploitation, and they have groups of prostitutes. The girls are taken quite young and are sometimes taken from a foreign country. Consider a girl who starts at the age of 17 and a half. After eight months, when she is 18 and has an apartment, she is told that another girl will arrive the following day and they ask her to take this new girl in until she can find her own place. Or maybe they ask if she can stay there and the two could become friends. So the girl who is 18 years and 2 months old is harbouring the girl who is 17 years and 6 months old for the purpose of exploitation and for the organization. Does that warrant a five-year prison term? No judge would want to hand down that sentence. In all the cases the member who introduced this bill was worried about, I am sure that the judges would have given a five-year sentence, but there are clearly exceptions to be made.

There is another issue. It is clear that each of these acts—recruiting, transporting, transferring—must be for the purpose of exploiting a person. But what is exploitation? It is defined in the act, a bit further down:

...a person exploits another person if they

a) cause them to provide, or offer to provide, labour or a service by engaging in conduct that, in all the circumstances, could reasonably be expected to cause the other person to believe that their safety or the safety of a person known to them would be threatened if they failed to provide, or offer to provide, the labour or service.

In short, I would say that that is a form of intimidation.

But this is a matter of providing labour. For how long? Sometimes, when I go into a convenience store, I get the impression that some young people are very young. How did they come to be working at 11 p.m. when they are only 15 or 16 years old? Did someone make them feel that they should do it? The definition was too broad and that is why, I am sure, it will be declared contrary to the charter.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Jim Maloway

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that I only have two or three minutes left, so I am going to have to compress my comments.

I first want to congratulate the member for her bill, Bill C-612. I think it is a very important bill. I want to also recognize the member for Kildonan—St. Paul for her work with her bill.

Just so that the members know, human trafficking is the third largest grossing sector of organized crime, after drugs and arms. Therefore, it is very important that the member has dealt with some specific changes to the Criminal Code. However, the one that I would like to point out that impresses me the most is the fact that the bill would allow for the confiscation of any proceeds of crime related to the commission of the offences of procuring and trafficking in persons.

That is important. We see this happening in my home province of Manitoba as well, where we passed legislation that confiscates the proceeds of crime. If we can seize the houses, the bank accounts, and the money from criminals who are dealing in drugs and dealing in this type of activity, or any criminal activity, we can take away their reason for doing the activity in the first place. That is a very important part of the process here.

I believe I will have more time in the second hour, so I will deal with other issues then. However, just in the off chance that I am not returned in the election, I want to say that I have enjoyed working with all 308 members in the House here and I want to wish all 308 the best in all their future endeavours.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have eight minutes should this bill come back for the second hour of debate.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 is deemed to have been moved.


LIB

Alexandra Mendes

Liberal

Mrs. Alexandra Mendes (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, on Monday I asked the government to commit to replacing the Champlain Bridge in Montreal. All I received by way of an answer from the minister of state was empty words, coming from a government that has washed its hands of its responsibility for the busiest bridge in Canada.

The Champlain Bridge is a critical artery, not only for my constituents, but also for all the people on the island of Montreal, in Quebec, and even in eastern Canada. It is a highway upon which a major part of our economy depends.

We know that the bridge is reaching the end of its useful life and we also know that a feasibility study will soon be conducted. The federal and provincial governments will be advised of the results and then the recommendations will be made public. The government must understand the importance of making the Champlain Bridge a priority. I know that the pitiful state of the bridge concerns everyone who uses it and that South Shore residents are tired of waiting for a permanent solution. We do not want a band-aid solution like the one proposed to us by a candidate and senator on March 18.

I was profoundly shocked by the cynicism and opportunism of the current government with regard to the serious problems that threaten our Champlain Bridge.

We can no longer believe that a few million dollars, spread out over three years, will be sufficient to address the fundamental issue in a sustainable manner. The government must take extraordinary efforts right away to find a real long-term solution by replacing the current structure of the Champlain Bridge.

For as long as studies have been piling up over the past few years, the government had an obligation to find a solution, not an oversized band-aid.

I am flabbergasted that the government has refused to make a firm commitment regarding the necessary federal investments to ensure the sustainability of the Champlain Bridge.

I would remind the House that in budget 2009, the government announced funding to repair the bridge and said that the work would extend the life of the bridge by 20 to 25 years. In February 2011, the current Minister of Transport told La Presse that the bridge would be good for the next 10 years. In barely two years, the bridge's lifespan was reduced by 10 to 15 years.

Such scorn is worrisome, and the government's refusal to give us all the pertinent information is even more worrisome. Why does the government not consider the Champlain Bridge a priority infrastructure project? I am astonished that this regime refuses to make a firm commitment regarding the federal investments needed to ensure the durability, and more importantly, the safety of the Champlain Bridge.

Why does this government not regard the bridge as the top priority for the Montreal region? What is it waiting for to ask Transport Canada and Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated to come up with an appropriate, long-term solution as soon as possible?

I know that the results of the other feasibility study will be released shortly, but if we rely on the timeline the government has given us, we are running out of time to find a solution. Furthermore, my constituents are sick and tired of hearing about more studies. How many have been done? The time to act is now. We need a new bridge, and construction must begin as soon as possible.

If the government is serious about being transparent on this issue, why does the minister refuse to table the diagnostic tests conducted on the bridge? At least we would be able to have a clearer picture of the problems. Will it take a major catastrophe for the government to act and finally make the replacement of the Champlain Bridge a real priority?

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, this Conservative government is taking the issue very seriously, which is something different to what the past Liberal government did.

The member is a member of a Liberal Party and I would suggest that she could possibly have had more influence with that particular party when it was in government. It could have done something to solve this. It is like many things. We came across many Liberal government issues that just were not done. This is no different.

We recognize that the Champlain Bridge is actually the busiest bridge in Canada, as each year some 60 million vehicles pass over it. It is actually used to carry approximately $20 billion worth of trade. We do indeed recognize the importance of that bridge to the economy and to the economic conditions of the area. As a result of that, we have been taking very serious steps on this, something different from what was done by the previous Liberal government. We understand that the Champlain Bridge is absolutely essential to the Montreal area and, of course, its commuters. It is an integral part of what the continental gateway corridor speaks to.

We in this government understand that it is very important to invest in all corridors across this country, which is why we have seen a huge investment in the Windsor Bridge in the Windsor-Detroit corridor. We recognize that the goods that come from Montreal do not just stop outside of Montreal. Many of them actually go down to the United States and have to go through the Windsor corridor as well.

It is necessary to look at this as a system of corridors, which is what we are doing. We are making the best decisions for Canada and for Quebec in relation to this particular bridge. This bridge was built in 1962 and it is, quite frankly, reaching the end of its life expectancy. It now carries more traffic, in particular more commercial traffic, which is so good for the economy there, than it was ever envisioned for it to do when it was first built.

All aging infrastructure requires repair. It is no different for this particular bridge, and the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated understand that. It is the owner and operator of those bridges. It takes these needs very seriously. There are regular inspections of the bridge by independent private sector engineers and their observations and recommendations are used to create the work plan for the repairs of the bridge.

There is no political interference in this. It is all about the safety, security and good commerce that is necessary to keep the people of Montreal content and happy and to keep them flowing.

As this has connectivity to other parts of Canada, it is very important that we work on this systematically and with the best approach, keeping in mind what is best for the people of Montreal.

The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated has actually implemented these carefully designed work plans to ensure that this absolutely crucial and vital asset remains operational and safe for all its users.

In 2009, this government, the federal government, provided funding of $212 million over 10 years. There is nothing insubstantial about that. In fact, it is quite a bit more than was allocated by the previous Liberal government, and certainly for the implementation of a major repair program that is absolutely crucial and necessary. It will actually result in the strengthening of many components of the bridge and those things that are identified as necessary by those independent contractors and engineers.

The program has been in place for two years and the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated has assured us that it is very successful and is continuing to contribute to the safety of the bridge, the ongoing conditions of the bridge and the success of the use of that bridge.

Indeed we are acting and we are doing what is necessary to keep traffic flowing and to keep people safe.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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LIB

Alexandra Mendes

Liberal

Mrs. Alexandra Mendes

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is trying to accuse us of doing nothing about the bridge. The entire span of the bridge was almost completely refurbished in 1999, 2000 and 2001, causing a fair number of headaches and nightmares for people travelling between Montreal and the south shore. It is a bit rich to accuse us of having done nothing when we were in power.

The work was done. The bridge has had much heavier use than it was built for. This is one of the reasons why a number of studies have been carried out in past years. I believe we have arrived at the point where we have the studies. We have everything we need to set out a long-term plan. I believe that everyone who has studied the issue agrees that a new bridge should be built.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

Mr. Speaker, clearly the people in Quebec understand that when the Liberals were in power they did absolutely nothing for them. They lined their own pockets and did what was necessary to help their friends remain happy.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter

That is not true and you know it. There are four Conservatives charged right now.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
Permalink
CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

People can listen to the member for Malpeque across the way but it does not change anything.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie had a question and it is important that we let the parliamentary secretary answer that question.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we know that when the Liberals came to power they did absolutely nothing for the people of Quebec except line the pockets of their friends and continue to try to keep them in power and in the organization.

We know the Bloc members can do absolutely nothing for the people of Quebec ever because they will never form government. All they can do is be obscene on the other side of the House and vote against everything.

It is only the members of Parliament from the Conservative Party who deliver the goods to Quebeckers. We will ensure that the Champlain Bridge is safe, and if there is a need to build a new bridge we will do that.

We will keep Canadians safe and secure, we will keep the people of Quebec happy and content and we will do it all in fairness.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Champlain Bridge
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LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, last December 3, I put a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on the crisis facing the hog and pork sector. The question arose on behalf of 900 beef and hog farmers who attended a conference in Stratford, Ontario, as well as the rest of the hog and beef producers across Canada who made it clear that the government's safety nets were not working.

As usual, the government responded by claiming, “What crisis?”.

Here are some of the facts that I am sure the government will deny.

I will begin with a quote from page six of the main estimates just tabled a couple of weeks ago. It reads:

The Main Estimates.... ...contains detailed information on the spending plans and authorities being sought by each department and agency.

According to the President of the Treasury Board, the main estimates outline more than $10 billion in reduced spending for this year. He apparently was proud of that statement.

How he could be proud is a wonder to me. Cutting programs that matter to people, to communities and to primary industries in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations in Canada, to the oil and gas industry in particular, buy untendered jets and pay for U.S.-style prisons is just unbelievable to me when our primary industries are in difficulty.

For Agriculture Canada, the government has tabled a plan that will implement, and I am reading from page 47 of the main estimates, “a decrease in net spending of $418.6 million”.

While federal programs basically forced farmers to take on more debt, $64 billion in fact, the federal Conservative government is cutting back on farm spending so it can increase tax breaks for the most wealthy in the country. That is just unacceptable.

For farmers on Prince Edward Island, the Conservatives have clearly failed them. The $418 million of cuts in the estimates, cuts to business risk management for our hog and beef farmers, who are the core of our agricultural industry, is very serious. Does the government just not care about primary producers?

For consumers on Prince Edward Island and in the rest of Canada, there were cuts of 35%, $53 million, for food safety and biosecurity risk management, programs that assisted farmers in developing the best on-farm food safety programs possible. Does the government not care about food safety?

When the government should be investing more in public research, innovation and value-added visioning for the future, the Conservative regime cut science, innovation and adaptation by some 38%, $150 million. The government should be responding with more research, not less.

For the primary industry of fisheries on Prince Edward Island, the estimates for small craft harbours were cut 44% and the budget slashes DFO by an additional $84.8 million over three years. Does the government just not care about the primary industries?

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture and Agri-Food
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to this member for some period of time now, almost seven years, and I can say with assurance that he is the king of sucking and blowing. He says that he is going to stand up for farmers, but when it comes time to vote, he votes against them.

Maybe the people of P.E.I. should ask themselves, why is this poster child for the Canadian Wheat Board? It does not affect P.E.I. farmers; it affects Canadian farmers. Why he does he want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board? He does not listen to farmers. He only listens to himself and uses political opportunism when he can. He wants an election that nobody wants in Canada. Why? It is political opportunism.

Unlike the Liberal Party and its reckless coalition, our Conservative government will always put farmers first. That is why we are represented in almost every rural seat across this country, not just in the last election or the one before but the election before that and some time before that. Clearly, budget 2011 once again continues to promote our commitment to Canadian agriculture. The member should actually take some time to read it.

Our Conservative government has, for instance, allocated $50 million over two years to promote research and innovation through the agri-food innovation fund. This investment would help farmers become even more competitive on the world stage, which is important and we recognize that importance. Why will the member for Malpeque and his party not support this budget? It is because they do not stand up for farmers. They only stand up for themselves.

Clearly, over the next two years we have allocated $24 million to help control disease in the hog industry, so that it can respond quickly to ensure animal health. We have also allocated $17 million to fight plum pox that is affecting fruit trees in the Niagara region. Both of these investments clearly build upon the government's commitment to fight disease in the area of animal and plant health. Why will the member for Malpeque and his party not support this budget? It is clear the Liberals are only out for themselves. It is political opportunism. They are not interested in supporting the people of Canada or standing up for farmers. It is this Conservative government that does that.

Our Conservative government has actually allocated $100 million to ensure that the food Canadians eat is safe. What could be more important to Canadians? Nothing. The investment would go toward enhancing food safety by ensuring our inspectors have the tools and training to get the job done.

This funding actually builds upon previous announcements and measures that our Conservative government, not the previous Liberal government but our Conservative government, has taken with regard to food safety. It was not done by the previous Liberal government. The people of P.E.I. should ask themselves why they sent somebody here who stands up against farmers.

That is my question for him. Why is it that every chance he has to stand up, represent farmers, support this government, and its great initiatives for farmers across this country he stands in his place against farmers? He should be ashamed of himself.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture and Agri-Food
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LIB

Wayne Easter

Liberal

Hon. Wayne Easter

Mr. Speaker, I just have to ask, why does the parliamentary secretary provide such misinformation? He is right in terms of $50 million being added in the budget for innovation, but what he fails to tell us is that on page 46 of the estimates, where the cuts really are, under “Science, Innovation and Adoption” there was $150 million cut. Really, there is $125 million less in science and innovation for next year. The parliamentary secretary spins a line, but we should look at the facts in the documents.

To make matters worse as to where the government is really at, the budget even cuts regional development in Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada. It is slashing the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency by $31.9 million over three years. Does the Prime Minister just not care about Prince Edward Islanders and Atlantic Canadians?

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture and Agri-Food
Permalink

March 24, 2011