Weekly Committee Review – March 26 to 30, 2012

Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM)

The committee met once this week to hear Minister Jason Kenney discuss the main estimates for the fiscal year 2012 – 2013.

On Tuesday (March 27th), the Committee heard testimony from Minister Kenney that the main priority for his department during the last fiscal year was to eliminate the backlog of applications in the immigration system and the priority for the following year will be to introduce the biometrics program for all temporary resident visa applicants to ensure the continued integrity of our immigration system.

In the following weeks, the Committee will continue their study of enhancing security within Canada’s immigration system.


Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI)

This week, the committee discussed the development of a National Conservation Plan.  During in the in-camera potion of the meeting, the committee issued a news release calling for public participation in relation to study regarding the development of a national conservation plan.

In the public portion of the meeting, witnesses each outlined their recommendations for the National Conservation Plan.  All witnesses advocated for conservation at large-scale; the importance of connecting and consulting with landowners, impacted parties, and First Nations; a commitment to long-term funding; and incorporating the Aichi Targets from the Convention on Biological Diversity into any conservation plan.

It was recognized that a national conservation plan must take into consideration Canada’s diverse geography as well as its unique regional social, economic, and political perspectives.


Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO)

On March 28th, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) met in camera to pursue committee business.

It was agreed that the Committee start hearing witnesses from Federal Departments on the study on invasive species that pose a threat to the Great Lakes system, starting on Monday, April 2, 2012, and that Members should send in their list of potential witnesses to the Clerk

The in camera minutes of the meeting may be viewed here.

On March 26th, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (FOPO) met in camera to commence consideration of a draft report.

They then resumed in public to vote on two motions. Both votes were negatived 6 to 5.

The decisions made in public and in camera can be viewed in the Minutes.


Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE)

Both meetings this week were only one hour and only heard from one witness. On the 28th the committee went in camera to discuss committee business with the extra hour. On March 26th, the committee met with Carlo Dade, Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. He spoke to the committee about the value he has seen in private-public partnerships in the development of countries. Mr. Dade viewed the current partnerships positively and noted that it was extremely difficult for smaller companies to enter into the same types of arrangements with CIDA due to their lack of influence. He also spoke about the importance of diaspora communities and remittances in funding developing countries. Mr. Dade spoke very highly of such efforts and suggested that Canada spend more to study the effects and scale of diaspora communities within Canada.

On March 28th, the committee met with Dr. Sabrine Luning from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands via teleconference. Like many witnesses who have testified before committee recently she also spoke about the dangers of public private partnerships in blurring the line between local government responsibility and the role of the mining companies. Dr. Luning especially stressed how important it was for local governments and non-governmental organizations to take an active role in development goals, rather than leaving them to mining companies alone. After hearing from Dr. Luning the committee moved in camera to discuss the future business of the committee.


Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)

On March 26th, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) met pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) to study the motion adopted by the Committee on February 15, 2012. They also resumed the study of Fixing the Skills Gap: Addressing Existing Labour Shortages in High Demand Occupations and Understanding Labour Shortages: Addressing Barriers to Filling Low-Skilled Jobs.

The Minutes for the meeting can be found here.

On Wednesday, March 28th, the committee met in camera  to discuss matters of committee business. It was decided that in relation to the study of Fixing the Skills Gap: Addressing Existing Labour Shortages in High Demand Occupations and Understanding Labour Shortages: Addressing Barriers to Filling Low-Skilled Jobs, the Committee would propose a budget of $76,403. This would cover expenses for the Committee’s trip to Vancouver; British Columbia, Whitehorse; Yukon, Calgary; Alberta, Fort McMurray, and Estevan; Saskatchewan. At 3:45 p.m. the meeting resumed in public to continue its study, and heard witness statements. The Committee then adjourned.


Standing Committee on Health (HESA)

This week the Health committee began its examination of the role of government and industry in determining drug supply in Canada.  Drug shortages have increased by over 4 times the amount in 2006.  The government held an emergency debate in the House to determine what to do about this issue. 

On Tuesday , Pharmaceutical Associations stated that the reasons for the drug shortages are two-fold.  The first is that most contracts are only with a single supplier and therefore, when the supplier has an issue, shortages inevitably result.  The second issue is that the competitive market leads to decreased prices of drugs and is causing companies to leave the market because the companies are no longer competitive. 

On Thursday, medical coalitions and associations provided a different perspective.  They urged the federal government to take a role on this issue.  The federal government said that health care is a provincial matter and there is nothing they can do.  The opposition slammed the government for putting all the pressure on provinces by refusing to provide any support outside of transfers.


 Standing Committee on International Trade (CITT)

The Committee met twice this week, on March 27th and 29th, 2012, to discuss a free trade agreement with the Kingdom of Jordan. Witnesses included the Ambassador to Jordan who testified that a trade agreement with Jordan is in Canada’s best interests. The Committee has been studying the possibility of a free trade agreement for a few weeks now to gain a full understanding of how Canada and Jordan can strive with a collective agreement.


Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (JUST)

The Justice committee met twice this week to pursue its study of Bill C-217, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials).

On Tuesday, the committee heard from David Tilson, M.P, the sponsor of the bill.; John Eggenberger , Vice-President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association; Earl Page, veteran; and Terence Whitty of the Army Cadet League of Canada. All witnesses save one (Mr. Whitty) supported the means through the bill attempts to deter crimes committed with respect to war memorials and cenotaphs, namely, through the imposition of a thousand dollar fine and subsequent mandatory minimums of 60 and 90 days for second- and –third-time offences. After questioning the witnesses, the committee suspended and resumed sitting to pursue committee business related to budgetary expenses, and resumed consideration of the Main Estimates for 2012-2013. The Minutes can be found here.

On Thursday, the committee heard from Catherine Latimer of the John Howard Society and Leonard S. Russomanno, Criminal Defence Counsel, Webber Schroeder Goldstein Abergel. Both witnesses were heavily critical of the bill. The committee then commenced clause-by-clause study of the bill and adjourned to the call of the chair. The Minutes detailing the amendments advanced by the NDP and the Conservatives can be found here.


Standing Committee on Official Languages (LANG)

This week, the committee continued its Evaluation of the Roadmap: Improving Programs and Service Distribution. During the first meeting of the week, committee members heard testimonies from  two government agencies, the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services and the Federal Agency for the Economic Development of Southern Ontario, and two non-government agencies: Canadian Parents for French and Canadian Youth for French. The founder and Director of Canadian Youth for French, Justin Morrow, made a particularly touching presentation, as he explained to the committee his personal motivations for creating the organization. All the testimonies were interesting and informative. The Ministry of Public works reported that Canada’s federal government has the second largest translation bureau in the world and showed the committee a website they created to assist teachers and students, called the Language Portal of Canada.

Thursday the committee members again heard testimonies from four organizations, divided into two groups. For the first hour, committee members listened to representatives from the Association Canadienne d’Éducation du Langue Française and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. These groups provide pedagogic material for teachers. ACÉLF also organises exchanges for FLS students to go live in francophone communities and practice their French. In the second half of the meeting, the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers (website in French only) and the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers made their testimonies. These organisations work to promote bilingualism and provide resources for teachers and students. As with previous groups, these two organisations are working to promote the use of French outside of the classroom.

Cette semaine, le comité a continué l’Évaluation de la Feuille de Route : Amélioration des Programmes et de la Prestation des Services. Mardi, les membres du comité ont écouté les témoignages de quatre différents organismes. En premier, on avait le Ministère des Travaux Publics et Services Gouvernementaux, suivi par l’Agence Fédéral de Développement Économique pour le Sud de l’Ontario. Ensuite, Canadian Parents for French et Canadian Youth for French ont fait leurs témoignages aussi. Tous les témoignages étaient intéressants et instructives. Le bureau de la traduction fédérale est le deuxième plus grande au monde. Les représentants du ministère des travaux publics ont montré un site web, appeler le « portail, » qu’ils ont créé pour aider les étudiantes et étudiants.

Jeudi, on avait quatre autres organismes faire des témoignages. L’Association Canadienne d’Éducation de la Langue Française et le Fédération Canadienne des Enseignantes et Enseignants on présenté en premier. Dans la deuxième partie de la réunion, les membres des comités ont écouté les témoignages de l’Association Canadienne des Professeurs d’Immersion et l’Association Canadienne des Professeurs de Langue Seconde. Tous ces organismes fourni des matériaux pédagogique pour aider les enseignantes et enseignants et veulent promouvoir l’usage de la français hors de l’école (parmi les étudiant(e)s en particulier.


Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC)

The Committee met this week on March 29th, in a highly publicized manner to discuss issues of robocalling that occurred in the 41st election. Marc Mayrand, the Director of Elections Canada, gave a presentation to the Committee focused on how the Commissioner will conduct an investigation into the robocall allegations. It was discovered that 800 case files have been opened for 200 ridings.

This was a special topic for the Committee and will be addressed again in future committees. Mr. Mayrand and the Commissioner have been invited back to the committee for June when there will be more information to report.


Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA)

The committee met only once this week to continue their discussion of the delivery of front-line health and wellbeing services for Canadian veterans. The committee welcomed witnesses from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) via videoconferencing. Witnesses from various centers within the department gave an overview of the various services they offer and then answered committee members’ questions. 

The United States DVA offers services to some 20 million veterans and the department’s budget has grown for the past few years.

Of special note to committee members were the type of services that had no Canadian equivalent. For instance, the DVA utilizes mobile vet centres to provide early access and continuous services to veterans especially those who live in more remote areas. They also use mobile units to reach their homeless veteran population, providing them with toiletries, dental and medical evaluations and information on various DVA programs.

Committee members were also interested in the transition processes between the DND and the DVA, an area that various stakeholders in Canada believe needs improvements. The opposition committee members inquired about the direction of service delivery and the decision in the US to exempt the DVA from budget cuts. Witnesses explained that their various branches are focusing on providing more comprehensive and efficient services to their veterans and their growing budget is an indicator of such efforts.