Bill C-22 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Irwin Cotler Liberal
Not active, as of April 20, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)
Private Members' Business
April 4th, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.
Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, true to its reputation, the Bloc Québécois carefully read Bill S-203 when it was before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It listened with interest to the various witnesses and is well aware of the limitations of Bill S-203.
We are aware of the importance of properly protecting animals from cruelty, so we proposed a series of amendments to improve Bill S-203. Among our proposals was the idea of introducing a clear definition of what an animal is. We also sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals. We also wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove. Finally, we also proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight. Unfortunately all the Bloc's proposed amendments were rejected and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed on February 14, 2008, to report the bill without amendments.
That is not stopping the Bloc Québécois from supporting Bill S-203 in that it is, in fact, a small but real step in the right direction and does not prevent the possible study and adoption of a more complete bill in line with Bill C-50.
The Bloc Québécois does oppose the amendments proposed at report stage by the NDP. These amendments seek nothing less than to kill the bill. Their first amendment would remove the title and their second amendment would remove the rest. The NDP's logic in all this is especially twisted. Instead of voting in favour of an improvement to the legislation, even though we know a lot remains to be done—it is true—the NDP prefers the status quo that it nonetheless vehemently criticizes. Where is the logic in that?
If the NDP truly had animal protection at heart, it would act differently. It would follow the Bloc Québécois' example and act responsibly. Although the Bloc Québécois is aware of the limitations of Bill S-203, it finds that this bill is a small but real step in the right direction, and does not hinder the possible study and adoption of another bill I will speak about shortly. The Bloc Québécois is making no secret of this. It is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions and will seriously study this matter again, unlike our colleagues, apparently.
Introduced by the Senate, Bill S-203 is the result of a long legislative process. Indeed, in recent years, six bills were introduced by the Liberal government of the day, specifically, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-15B, Bill C-17, Bill C-22 and Bill C-50. To those we can add those proposed by the Senate, namely, Bill S-24 and Bill S-213, the two predecessors of Bill S-203.
All those bills sought to modify the offences set out in the part of the Criminal Code that deals with cruelty to animals. Some of the bills went even further, however, and proposed real reforms to this bill. The Bloc was particularly in favour of the principle of Bill C-50, which would have created a new section in the Criminal Code to address cruelty to animals, removing this topic from the sections of the code that deal with property.
However, since that reform raised a number of problems, Bill S-24 was introduced in the meantime, to allow much more modest changes. Bill S-203 is a copy of Bill S-213, which was itself a copy of Bill S-24—I hope people are able to follow me.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill S-203, even though we are aware that it does not go far enough. But it is better than nothing. Such a bill will send a message to anyone who mistreats animals. Protecting animals against certain despicable actions will always remain a concern of the Bloc Québécois. The current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed.
The bill does not jeopardize legitimate activities involving animal death, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing. This bill, however, is less comprehensive and therefore does not replace Bill C-373, which is a revival of Bill C-50. However, we are not here to discuss that bill today.
The bill amends the Criminal Code to increase the maximum sentences in cases of cruelty to animals. For prosecution by indictment, the maximum sentence is five years. For summary convictions, sentences can range from six to 18 months, along with a possible $10,000 fine.
In the past, judges could prohibit those found guilty from owning or residing with animals for up to two years. Now that ban can be for life. The judge can now require the offender to reimburse costs arising from his or her actions.
Obviously, the bill does not solve all of the existing problems. As I said earlier, this is a baby step, but these new penalties will provide better protection for animals until such time as animal cruelty provisions can be reformed significantly.
By increasing the penalties, we are sending a message to criminals as well as to the judges who have to take this into account in sentencing. The seriousness of a crime is determined in part by the maximum penalty that can be imposed on an offender.
We are also hoping that by making the ban on owning animals indefinite, we will be able to prevent some animal abuse from taking place.
The bill we are considering this afternoon has three major advantages. First, it corrects an anachronism. When the Criminal Code was first drafted back in the 19th century, society did not regard animals the way it does now. The relationships between people and animals have changed, so it makes sense for the Criminal Code to reflect that. Everyone agrees that the current penalties are not severe enough. Bill S-203 goes a little way toward correcting the old-fashioned, weak penalties. The old penalties were based on how people interacted with animals in the 19th century.
The second good thing about this bill is the fact that, as penalties become more severe, there is a good chance that the courts will become stricter with those who are found guilty of crimes against animals, such as mutilation, slaughter, neglect, abandonment, or failure to feed them.
This bill would change the minimum sentence. From now on, if a case is tried as an indictable offence, the minimum sentence will be five years in jail. The fine will go up to $10,000. As it happens, both of these provisions are in the member for Ajax—Pickering's bill, Bill C-373.
There is another excellent change. Henceforth, a court may ban an animal owner for life—or I should say a former owner—from having an animal in his possession. Bill S-203 will now allow a court to impose a prohibition order for life on this owner, whereas the current legislation provides for a two-year prohibition.
The third and last advantage of this bill is that it provides for restitution mechanisms through which the courts can order an individual to pay the costs if an animal has been taken in by an animal welfare organization, for example. Individuals who committed offences of negligence or intentional cruelty could be forced to pay the organizations that have taken in mistreated animals.
These three benefits alone represent a considerable improvement and warrant our support of this bill.
A number of our constituents have written to us comparing this Senate bill and the bill introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering to be debated later. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of a step in the right direction rather than sticking with the status quo denounced by all. In other words, it is better than nothing.
February 14th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
What we are doing here is moving the legislation that was passed in 1892--so back in the 19th century--into the 21st century. In that regard it was interesting to hear the Minister of Justice, who was in front of the Senate two weeks ago, making exactly the same argument about the need to update legislation that's over 100 years old. I think the points he made at that time, and it was particularly around the age of consent, were very well taken. That part of the bill was one I strongly supported, and I still do.
By the same argument, that same sentiment applies to Bill S-203, and in particular the amendments I'm proposing here. We're moving away from an attitude we had as a society, and the way we treated animals at that period of time, to the way we want them treated and expect all of our citizens will treat them at this period of time.
Mr. Chair, I'm cognizant of the time. The amendment deals with a definition of moving animal.... The sections right now, 444 up to 447, are a treatment of animals as property. We're in effect reallocating that attitude of them as sentient beings. So the first thing we're doing is to move that “animal” be “a vertebrate, other than a human being”, as the definition for animal. That gets repeated in the balance of the amendments.
Mr. Chair, in that regard we're attempting to move away completely from the concept of animal as property to animal as a sentient being. You heard again today the importance of that type of approach in terms of treating people who obviously have serious psychiatric, emotional, psychological problems, and who show clear signs of violence by mistreating, abusing, or killing animals. By shifting that definition completely away from property to one of sentience, it's part of the way we, as a society and as a legislature, are addressing that issue. I think that part needs to be said, and it needs to be emphasized. So that's proposed section 444.
With respect to proposed section 445, we heard today from WSPA in terms of not being able to charge people for abusing animals on the basis of our inability to show a clear intent--one could say an almost absolute intent. With the concept of mens rea, the concept of intent in our criminal law is very clear. But the way the current sections of the code are written, and more importantly, Mr. Chair, the way they've been interpreted, is that we need to introduce a broader concept. So these offences would be not only wilful ones but also reckless ones.
I think of some of the cases I handled as a defence counsel with respect to animals being allowed to starve and no one being convicted of that, even though it was obvious that the animals were abused by neglect rather than physically abused by using instruments to torture them. In proposed section 445, we're moving away from pure absolute intent to bringing in the concept of recklessness. I want to say to the committee that that concept is not simple negligence; that concept of recklessness is a higher standard, but it is less than the absolute wilfulness that is in the existing one.
Mr. Chair, we go on in that section to deal with a whole bunch of specific types of conduct that would become offences. I'm assuming members have read this. I think the expansion of the poisoning section is important. That's proposed paragraph 445(1)(d). Again, it broadens what is in the existing code.
I think we've all been particularly sensitized to the whole concept of using animals to engage in fighting because of the recent conviction of Mr. Vick in the United States, and 445(1)(e) broadens it to the point of encouraging, promoting, arranging, assisting, and receiving money for the fighting or baiting of animals. It covers, as best we can see, all of the possible conduct that goes on in that activity now and makes it a very clear criminal offence.
The next one, under proposed paragraph (f), is specifically dealing with the issue of the cockpit. We've got a problem in the existing part of the code because there are provisions on cockpit fighting but it's it's very narrow as to what is a cockpit. What we've done here is we've kept “cockpit”, and then we've added “or any other arena” to the wording that's already in the code .
I'm told by a number of the animal welfare groups that one of the common areas where they carry on cock fighting is a temporary site in underground parking garages, and that clearly would not be an offence under the existing sections of the Criminal Code. That allows us to get at that kind of conduct, because right now--at least from what we're hearing from the animal welfare people--it is the most common arena. So it'll now be covered.
The next section's pretty straightforward. It's a continuation to make sure we catch all of those.
Then in subsection 445(2), which is in Bill S-203 now, so it would be replacing that, we just had some discussion on this in response to Mr. Bagnell's question about changing from simply what has traditionally been an offence treated as a summary conviction offence to a hybrid offence that'll either be a summary conviction or indictable, generally speaking, based on the seriousness of the conduct. Also, the indictable offence would be used much more often if there's a repeat offence, but at the prosecutor's discretion.
We are then moving to more of the negligence part of it in proposed section 446, which covers the negligent causing of unnecessary pain. This test is again a somewhat lower standard. It really is addressing this primarily to the owners of animals or those serving as their designate or delegate in terms of controlling an animal. So we're introducing a new test that would incorporate the concept of negligence.
I think the easiest analogy--although I'm somewhat reluctant to use it--is the type of cases that we have currently in our child abuse regime, where you've got assault by the custodial parent or other caregivers and a separate offence for neglect, and that concept has now been incorporated into 446.
In subsection 446(2), we're in effect defining “negligently”. This is of concern because of the farmers, the trappers, the fishers, and the hunters. “Negligently” is being categorized, I think, quite clearly. If you go back to the negotiations we had in running up to both Bill C-50 and Bill C-22, which was the precursor of Bill C-50--that was the bill that went to the Senate and was rejected--there were a great deal of negotiations around that standard because it was, I think, a very sincere concern by the groups who raise animals or hunt or fish.
So “negligent” means “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use”.
That's a standard that's well established in each one of those sectors, whether it's farming, fishing, or hunting. If you move markedly from that standard, you are eligible to be convicted for negligently causing harm to, or the death of, an animal.
Part of the scaremongering that has gone on in regard to this legislation has turned on the prospect of the stereotypical animal rights person using this proposed section 446 to bring private prosecutions against farmers, fishers, hunters, and people who do research with animals. But each one of those sectors of the economy have long-established standards. So all that has to be done is to establish that they have met that standard.
It's important to realize that this is not going to produce a tidal wave of charges. I don't want to give the fearmongers any openings on this point. Right across the country, because of amendments to the Criminal Code, private prosecution is extremely limited. It has to be approved by the local prosecutor, in the form of the Attorney General. So there are strict limitations and controls. If a private prosecution is attempted, the prosecutor will allow it only if the conduct in question falls below the established standard. If it does not, the attempt will be disallowed.
So I think we have a very tight mechanism within our criminal justice system—in the definition, the standards that have been set in the various sectors, and in the ability of our prosecutors, in the form of the Attorney General, to prevent malicious or frivolous private prosecutions from getting into the courtroom.
It's a valid concern. Over the years, I have had any number of clients who had to defend themselves from government action that had no reasonable chance of prosecution. Quite frankly, the risk of this is greater from our government agencies than from private prosecutors. But in any event, I think we've shut that door as tight as possible, and I don't think we're going to see any tidal wave of prosecutions.
In proposed subsection 446(3) it's the same thing. These offences would be treated as either summary or indictable offences, with the prosecutor deciding which one.
In proposed section 447, we're expanding the authority to impose penalties in addition to incarceration or fines. These are incorporated in part in the existing Bill S-203, but there are some additional ones here. In effect, they're giving the prosecutor, and of course the court, the authority to order that a convicted person can no longer have animals under his control. There can be an order made, which is already in existing Bill S-203, to order the convicted perpetrator to compensate the agency that took care of the animals. I think those are the two points.
In proposed section 447.1, there are defences. These are common law defences and they are not being affected at all. They would still be allowed.
In my criminal law course during my first year of law school, I remember being given an example of somebody being charged with shooting a deer out of season. But it turned out, when it came before the court, that the deer was actually attacking the man who shot it. The defence raised was a common law defence--it wasn't in the statute, this was a provincial statute--of self-defence, in effect. The person, of course, was acquitted. It's those kinds of defences that are in subsection 429(2). Those defences continue to be in existence. They will not be impacted by either the recklessness clauses or the negligence clauses. Those defences will still exist.
This was one of the feints we got from the Senate sending back Bill C-22 , because we didn't put the non-derogation clause in.
It was interesting at that time, Mr. Chairman...and I feel like an historian telling these stories. But the reality was that we were just beginning to consistently put the non-derogation clause into legislation. There was all sorts of environmental legislation going through at that time, and I can recall that we began putting it in at that period of time, but we had not done it in Bill C-22 because when it went through the House of Commons, we had not started putting it into the legislation.
Anyway, that was one of the excuses the Senate had for sending it back. It wasn't their real opposition to the legislation. But that is now incorporated. It was in Bill C-50 and is now in this amendment as well.
In proposed section 447.3, we're simply being clear that we also want special provisions. Mr. Chair, this came from our police forces across the country, where animals were being targeted. These are animals police officers use--horses and dogs--and they were being specifically targeted. For instance, we had drug houses that were booby trapped specifically to get dogs, including poisoning, but also booby trapped generally with other types of obstructions that would kill an animal--a dog--rather than a human being. So we heard that. We heard that in a number of demonstrations where horses were being used by police officers, the horse was being targeted by demonstrators trying to get at police officers.
So we have built in specific provisions for that. We heard from a number of police forces across the country in that regard.
The final proposed subsection 447.3(4) does, as is the case in the other sections, make specific provisions that provide for the cost of treating the animal to be taken over by the perpetrator of the conduct, who has now been convicted.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Private Members' Business
February 26th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to congratulate the member for Miramichi on sponsoring the bill introduced by the hon. senator, who was a member of this House and a colleague of mine when I was elected in 1993.
Everyone knows that the debate on cruelty to animals goes back a long way. Six other bills have been introduced in six years: Bills C-10, C-10B, C-15B, C-17, C-22 and, lastly, C-50, the most recent bill, which was introduced during the last Parliament.
Six bills have been brought before Parliament. The bill we are discussing this morning is the seventh. What is more, the member for Ajax—Pickering has introduced an eighth bill. All this has us thinking about the type of legislation we want.
One thing is certain: the status quo is not an option. It is unbelievable that, with one exception, the Criminal Code provisions on cruelty to animals have not been reviewed since 1892.
The situation can be summarized as follows: the punishment for people found guilty of wounding, neglecting, abusing, maiming or killing animals cannot exceed six months in prison or a $2,000 fine, except in cases where cattle are wilfully killed.
Certainly, the bill we are discussing this morning has merits. But it can be improved. I want to be very clear, for those who are watching. The Bloc Québécois will support the Senate bill, Bill S-213. And we also hope that this House will support Bill C-373, introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering.
The bill before us this morning has three main points in its favour. First, it corrects the outdated sanctions, which are far too mild. These sanctions pertain to people's relationship with animals in the 19th century, when the Criminal Code was conceived.
This bill will make courts more likely to impose stricter sentences on those who commit offences against animals, that is, those who are convicted of misconduct against animals, such as mutilation, killing, negligence, abandonment or refusing to feed animals.
The minimum sentence, when prosecuted by indictment, will be five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The Bloc is pleased with that provision of the bill. That provision can also be found in Bill C-373, introduced by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.
This bill also corrects the existing anomaly that a court—through a prohibition order, which courts may impose —can prohibit the owner of an animal from having an animal in his or her possession for a maximum of two years. The bill before us today gives the courts the power to impose such a prohibition order for the owner's entire lifetime.
The third benefit of this bill is that it allows for restitution mechanisms through which the courts can order an individual to pay the costs if an animal has been taken in by an animal welfare organization, for example. A court could therefore order restitution and individuals who committed offences of negligence or intentional cruelty could be forced to pay the organizations that have taken in mistreated animals.
These three benefits alone represent a considerable improvement to the state of the law and warrant our support of this bill.
A number of our constituents have written to us comparing Bill S-213 from the Senate and the bill introduced by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering that I hope will be debated later. If memory serves me correctly, the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering is 124th or 126th on the list. The political situation being what it is, Parliament may dissolve. We hope not, even though the Bloc Québécois is confident about the future.
In the event that Parliament dissolves before the bill by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering is debated, we propose that this House fall back on the bill from the Senate. In any event, the short-term gain would be the possibility of increasing maximum penalties for those found guilty of mistreating animals.
I want to be very clear. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill. We would also want Bill C-373 to be passed, and for our constituents to know that these bills are not incompatible or mutually exclusive. The following three provisions are not incompatible with Bill C-373: increasing the penalties for animal cruelty offences; extending orders of prohibition on owning an animal; and implementing restitution mechanisms for individuals to compensate animal protection organizations. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support both bills.
Before explaining why this House should vote in favour of Bill C-373, I want to say that I know that my caucus colleagues and other parliamentarians in this House have always been concerned, when we have debated previous bills on protecting animals and on cruelty toward animals, about ensuring the ancestral rights of the first nations under section 35 of the Constitution, so as not to compromise legitimate hunting and fishing activities, and about legitimate research activities that may involve doing research on animals.
No one wants this House to adopt measures that would end up penalizing hunters and fishers. Senate Bill S-213 provides guarantees in this regard that may not be as attractive as those found in Bill C-373. Clause 3 of Bill C-373 sponsored by our colleague for Ajax—Pickering clearly states that, if the bill is adopted:
3. Subsection 429(2) of the Act is replaced by the following:
(2) No person shall be convicted of an offence under sections 430 to 443 where he proves that he acted with legal justification or excuse and with colour of right.
This means that a hunter or fisher cannot be prosecuted for such activity if it is deemed an aboriginal right or if he or she has a hunting or fishing licence, and this activity is recognized by the legislator. I say this because I am convinced that several parliamentarians in this House have heard representations on the balance that must be maintained between our desire to protect animals against cruelty and the right of hunters, fishers and aboriginal peoples to carry out activities that are recognized in law.
The bill introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering clearly sets out this guarantee. In conclusion, we hope to amend the Criminal Code insofar as these provisions are concerned. We recognize the three major benefits of this bill and we hope that the House will also adopt Bill C-373. These two bills are a winning combination.
Cruelty to Animals
Statements By Members
April 29th, 2004 / 1:55 p.m.
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Mr. Speaker, the animal cruelty legislation introduced years ago in another Parliament is now Bill C-22. In its previous form, it passed through this House to the Senate, where the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs proposed several amendments.
After years of debate, this important legislation is still stuck in the Senate. This is legislation that is important to all those who care about animals. It is equally important to those who own pets as it is to farmers who care for their livestock.
This is not draconian legislation. It simply brings old provisions designed to protect animals into the 21st century. Enough is enough.
I urge the Senate to return this legislation to the House of Commons for immediate passage into law.
April 29th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to take part in this debate on Bill C-9. As I was saying yesterday, I do so with the belief that, to some extent, we are contributing not only to the north-south dialogue, but we are clearly making history, since this bill was passed unanimously and therefore received extremely strong and continuous support from all parties.
As members know, all the parties committed to working together to ensure speedy passage of the bill, in hopes that the other place will do likewise. However, we know this is another matter entirely.
Bill C-9 addresses the important issue of the contribution of companies manufacturing pharmaceutical products. My caucus colleagues know that, for about ten years now, I have taken an interest in the actions of drug companies, both the generic products industry and the innovative drug industry. I am extremely proud to say that I do not think I have ever been too critical, as the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes knows.
Today, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to the innovative drug industry, which has assumed its responsibilities. Let us take a closer look at this issue.
In 1989, the Conservatives, under Brian Mulroney, ended the compulsory licensing program. In other words, it was possible, before Bill C-22, which became Bill C-91 under the Conservatives, to obtain a licence from a company with a monopoly. This licence was granted to a generic drug company, which had to pay royalties to be able to produce and reproduce the drug.
We must not forget that, back then, the term of a patent was ten years. What is a patent? I think that the President of the Privy Council has doubtless thought about this. A patent is important because it is a social contract. The President of the Privy Council will agree with me that it is a social contract by which society gives exclusive right to the protection and production of an invention or pharmaceutical product.
Furthermore, 18 months after the patent is filed, a full description of the invention is made public. There are, however, three criteria that must also be met. There are three criteria for patentability, at least in Canada.
First, the invention must be new. A search is conducted worldwide, not just in North America. The Commissioner of Patents conducts an international search to ensure that it is a new invention.
Second, the invention must show ingenuity.
Third, the invention should be useful.
If these three conditions are met, a patent is granted, and it provides trade exclusivity and complete protection. Copying the invention or chemical process is against the law, and there can be counterfeit charges. This is an extremely strict system.
In matters of copyright, we have case law and judicial mechanisms, since extremely important trade issues underlie the whole concept of copyright.
In 1989, the Conservatives did away with compulsory licensing. From then on, Canada was in line with what was being done in other countries. That was very important for Montreal, since the biotechnology industry is concentrated there. The Conservatives set the patent protection at 20 years, once the patent has been granted by the commissioner and the three conditions—new, useful and not obvious—have been met. Patent protection is then provided.
However, when Bills C-22 and C-91 were enacted, they also had provisions forbidding the export of drugs. It was illegal to export drugs, and sanctions could be imposed.
Since 1989, another factor has been added, and this is intellectual property rights. Governments signed what has been called the TRIPS agreement.
Moreover, two years ago a bill was passed to harmonize all Canadian patents. Some were still in the 10-year system, others 20. There was a challenge by the U.S. under the TRIPS agreement, and the mandatory arbitration went against Canada.
A noteworthy point about the WTO is that the relative clout of the countries has no importance. There are dispute settlement mechanisms in place that allow a country like Costa Rica to win out over the United States. Canada lost and so it has to harmonize all of its patents to the 20-year period.
Today we have a bill before us that will make it possible to export drugs, but not to export them just anywhere, just to designated importing countries listed in the schedule to the bill. Basically, these are the developing countries.
The list was incomplete in the first version of the bill, and the Minister of Industry has revised it. To all intents and purposes, the countries able to import drugs fall into the category classified as developing countries.
How will this be possible? Countries wishing to obtain drugs issue a call for tenders on a web site, so the competition is international, of course. Canadian companies will be competing with others in the U.S. and Europe.
When a company wants to compete in order to supply drugs to a third world country, there are two things in the bill that govern this. First, generic companies will be able to obtain the contract. Initially the bill contained what was termed the right of first refusal. This meant that companies holding a patent could, even if the contract had been negotiated by the generic companies, be the first supplier because they were the patent holders.
All of the international cooperative bodies criticized this bill, from Development and Peace to Doctors without Borders. All those involved in delivering humanitarian aid said that this was impossible, that if this right of first refusal were maintained there would be a dissuasive effect on the generic companies which might want to negotiate contracts.
At least in this one instance, though far from a regular occurrence, the government did heed the stakeholders in committee, and the right of first refusal was done away with.
The supply of drugs is not a trivial issue. Just think that, every year, 10 million children die from diseases relating to malnutrition which could have been avoided. Every year, one million people, most of them children under the age of five, die of malaria. Every day, over 8,000 people in the world die of AIDS. We know that the HIV-AIDS epidemic is concentrated in certain parts of the world, particularly in African countries.
Why are these figures important? Because, for each of the diseases that I mentioned, there is a drug available. However, if this drug is not accessible at a lower cost to countries that are facing these epidemics, we will not be able to fight these epidemics.
Even if Canada, through cooperation agencies such as CIDA, allocated $100 million per year for the development of third world countries, if the nationals of these countries are not themselves active, productive and healthy citizens who can make a commitment to help build and improve their country and their economy, these developing countries have a major problem on their hands.
We need legislation that will allow third world countries to have access to drugs at a lower cost. The way drugs are being produced—and that includes the factory price and the distribution to retailers—it is clear that the system is not competitive.
Of course, in Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board was established when the Conservatives passed Bill C-91. The board is a quasi-judicial tribunal. Let me give an example. When Merck Frosst produces a drug, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board monitors the situation to ensure that, once the drug leaves the factory and is distributed to wholesalers and retailers, the price charged is not prohibitive or exorbitant. We have a price index to determine if prices are excessive. If they are, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board may ask the company to refund the overcharged amount. Such a measure has been taken in a number of cases.
When it comes to exporting drugs from Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board has no jurisdiction. It was up to the international community to amend agreements on intellectual property rights and trade in order to make these drugs accessible at a better price, a cheaper price. This raised a number of issues.
I think that everyone in this House understands how this works. A voluntary licence is issued by the patent holder. If the latter refuses to issue the licence, the patent commissioner may issue an order. The agreement amended in August 2003 does not require the patent holder to transfer their drug.
A royalty of roughly 2% of the commercial value of the product has to be paid out. This is not a donation. Companies that hold the patents will receive royalties for the person or company that obtained this voluntary licence. If there is disagreement on the royalty or the terms of the licence transfer—which initially has to be voluntary—the patent commissioner can be asked to rule and the licence, which was to be voluntary, will become mandatory.
Concerns were raised during the work at committee on how NGOs fit into this. For example, there is Doctors Without Borders, and Development and Peace, which are Canadian NGOs working in third world countries. Some NGOs, if not all, would have liked to be able to negotiate directly with the manufacturer. Obviously, thought needed to be given to this. There was a risk of interfering in national sovereignty.
Governments are subject to international law. In major international conventions, government means something. One of the first conventions provided a definition of sovereignty. That word simply rolls off my tongue. Sovereignty was defined in 1934 at Montevideo. It was said that a government has five characteristics: a functioning government; a permanent population, of course; control over a territory, which is increasingly being described as a defined territory; the capacity to recognize citizenship; and, of course, international relations.
Once a government or administration is in office, it is responsible for the delivery of health care. I understand the industry minister has amended the bill to ensure not that NGOs can directly negotiate with the manufacturers but that they can be involved in the negotiations since they have the ultimate responsibility for service delivery. That is one of the responsibilities governments have.
Parliamentarians also wanted to ensure that the additional pharmaceuticals needed to supply third world countries are manufactured in a manner that distinguishes them from the products sold on the domestic market. Under the bill, pharmaceuticals for export would be differentiated through different colours and different labels.
This is an extremely humane and responsible piece of legislation. I want to say a few words about the companies grouped under Rx&D. I remember having breakfast at the parliamentary restaurant with representatives of that organization, along with our industry critic, the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, and also, of course, our international trade critic, the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières, who has a long-standing interest in the third world, also joined us. I even recall that he asked very relevant questions. He was most interested in Africa.
We understand, of course, that pharmaceuticals would not only be exported to Africa. They could also be exported to Central and South America. However, I remember how much emphasis the member for Trois-Rivières put on Africa.
We wanted to ensure that the member companies of Rx&D would co-operate. It is clear that if the companies had not been interested in issuing voluntary licences, we would have found ourselves in a very embarrassing situation. Various arbitration mechanisms would have led to compulsory licensing. The commissioner of patents would have had to intervene and it is clear that it would have caused undue delay.
I must say that the innovative companies have behaved very responsibly in this matter. I hope that this sense of responsibility is reflected in the various domestic debates we shall have.
Perhaps I could take a few moments to talk about what is going on in Canada with respect to the price of pharmaceuticals, even though I know this is about the international level. Members are aware that it is the largest expense in all health care systems. In fact, each year in Canada, a total of $120 billion is spent on health. The fastest growing budgetary item in that area is the cost of drugs; the hon. member Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik knows this because he has sat on various regional health boards.
I had proposed a number of solutions to my caucus, in order to fight the rising cost of pharmaceuticals. In fact, the cost of medicine is rising at a faster rate than costs in the health care system in general. On average, health care costs in Canada, in each province, are rising by 5% per year, but the cost of medicine is rising more than that.
I shall conclude by saying that we are going to support the speedy passage of Bill C-9, because it is a good bill for third world countries, for our international obligations, and for the north-south dialogue.
I salute the innovative companies that have shouldered their responsibilities. I congratulate all members of this House—in particular, the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques—who have worked very hard in committee. I hope the other place will enjoy the same kind of energy that has characterized this House's work on Bill C-9.
March 8th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 9th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, the motion seeks to reinstate bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session of Parliament ended.
As all of us know, the goal of the motion is a simple one: to spare members the burden of having to repeat work on bills that got as far as the committee stage in the last session.
This is especially commendable given the numerous pressures MPs are under and the limited resources available to us.
What features are contained in the motion? Simply put, under the motion a minister would be able to request during 30 sitting days after the motion's adoption the reinstatement of a bill that had reached at least the committee stage when the last session ended. Should the Speaker be satisfied that the bill is the same as in the previous session, the bill would be reinstated at the same stage as before.
Thus during this session we can skip all the stages of debate that have been completed so far. The work of the committees that are considering the bills would consequently be preserved. In short, this is a very appealing option.
Parliament relies heavily upon precedents which means we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure new measures are consistent with past practices. Is this motion in keeping with the longstanding practices of the House? It is in fact a practice we have had for over three decades.
On a number of occasions reinstatement motions have been adopted by consent and without debate. It is clear that today's motion is well within the bounds of accepted parliamentary practice. This is supported by Marleau and Montpetit's authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure which discusses this issue in some detail. While they recognize that as a general principle prorogation of a session means that all bills that have not yet received royal assent die on the Order Paper and must be reintroduced in the new session, they also recognize that “bills have been reinstated by motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session; committee work has similarly been revived”.
One point that needs clarification is that this motion allows the government the flexibility to reintroduce certain bills. It does not require the government to reintroduce all bills that were on the Order Paper at a certain stage when Parliament prorogued. Let me give an example of some bills which the government would have the flexibility to reinstate if it so chose.
One is Bill C-7 on the administration and accountability of Indian bands. The new government has indicated it would like to revisit that whole question of governance but nonetheless, this motion would give the government the flexibility to reintroduce that bill should it so choose.
Another one is Bill C-10B on cruelty to animals which has received a lot of attention in my riding. Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction, as an example had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate and a great deal of the work that had been done here in the House of Commons would have to be redone. Bill C-17 on public safety was another bill that had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate.
Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, is another bill that the government if this motion passes will be able to reintroduce if it so chooses. Bill C-19, first nations fiscal management, was at report stage. Bill C-20, protection of children, was at report stage. Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, registration of information relating to sex offenders, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-27 on airport authorities was at second reading when the House prorogued.
Bill C-32, Criminal Code amendments, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, was at report stage when we prorogued. Bill C-34, ethics, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate where it had been amended.
These are bills that have gone through a lengthy debate and process within the House of Commons and some already within the Senate.
Bill C-35, remuneration of military judges, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-36, Archives of Canada, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage and second reading. Bill C-40, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was at first reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-43, the fisheries act, was at first reading when the House prorogued.
Bill C-46, the capital markets fraud bill, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. This is a bill that will help the government deal with the kind of corporate fraud that we have seen with Enron and many other examples. We want to make sure that our government has the ability to deal with these types of issues so that investors are protected from the fraudulent activities of the management of various companies and their directors.
Bill C-49, the electoral boundaries act had passed third reading and was in the Senate.
Bill C-51, the Canada Elections Act, and Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act, were at second reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-53, the riding name changes, had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate. Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act was in committee as was Bill C-56, the Food and Drugs Act, when the House prorogued. Bill C-57, the westbank first nation self-government act was also in committee.
There was a lot of work involved in getting these bills to this stage. The government is not necessarily committing to reintroducing all these bills, but we want the flexibility to reintroduce those bills which we support and not have to reinvent the wheel.
The amendment put forward by the member for Yorkton--Melville indicates that there are a number of bills that, given the government's flexibility, he would not like to have reinstated. That includes Bill C-7, the bill dealing with the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Our government may want to revisit that bill.
The member for Yorkton--Melville has said that Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction bill, should be left alone as well. He names a number of other bills such as Bill C-19, Bill C-20, Bill C-22, Bill C-26, Bill C-34, Bill C-35, Bill C-36, Bill C-38.
I should point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-13 for example, passed third reading and was in the Senate.The member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over with that bill.
He said that Bill C-34, the ethics legislation, should not be reinstated, yet that bill had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate where it had been amended. We all know about that bill.
He said that we should start all over again with regard to Bill C-35, remuneration for military judges legislation. That bill had passed third reading and was in the Senate,.
I do not know what is so contentious with regard to Bill C-36, the archives of Canada legislation, but the member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over again with that bill. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage.
A lot of work has already been done in this chamber and in the other place on bills that, without the passage of this motion, would have to be started all over again. There is a long list of precedents for reinstating government bills and reviving committee work.
For example, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986, the members of this House gave their unanimous consent to a motion to reinstate bills from a previous session.
In 1977 and 1982 members amended the Standing Orders to allow Parliament to carry over legislation to the next session. All of which testifies to the longstanding practice of the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as was the case in the previous session, which is precisely what the motion calls for.
It is interesting to note, and I have some personal interaction with this particular idea, that the procedure proposed in the motion is similar, in fact it is identical, to that which exists in the Standing Orders for private members' bills which the House adopted in 1998.
I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, that unanimously passed all stages in the House, was in the Senate, had passed first reading in the Senate and had been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. Then we prorogued. Without this particular feature, I would have had to start all over again in the House of Commons after two to three years of work and a bill that had passed unanimously at all stages in the House of Commons.
With this particular Standing Order, the bill is already on the floor of the Senate. We did not have to reinvent the wheel here in the House of Commons. I am hopeful that it will be passed to the Standing Committee on National Finance shortly and then onwards from there.
We say that those rules are good for private member's bills, in fact they have the support of the House because they are now part of the Standing Orders. We say, on the one hand for private members' business, it is all right to reinstate these bills, but for the government's business it is not, this is a whole new thing.
The member opposite said that if we have a new government then why do we not have new ideas. I can assure the member that if he read the throne speech, and if he looked at the new democratic deficit paper, this is just the start. He will see that the government will be operated very differently.
However, having said that, there is no problem in my judgment to reintroduce those bills that make sense. There has been a lot of work done already. With this motion, the government would have the flexibility to deal with these bills that have been passed, where there is consent of the House, and send them to the Senate.
It is interesting to note that in 1977, a private member's bill was reinstated after Parliament was dissolved.
All of which inevitably leads us to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that if it is reasonable to reinstate private members' bills at the same stage, surely we have the common sense in this chamber to say that it is reasonable to follow the same procedure with respect to government bills.
What would be different about government bills? If we have adopted the procedure in the House for private members' business, why would we want different rules for government business, unless we are out to score political points or be partisan in our debate?
I should point out that this practice of reinstating bills is also practised in other mature democracies that have ruled in favour of bringing legislation forward from one session to another.
I think of the parliament in the United Kingdom from which many of our own parliamentary practices originally came. It has reinstatement motions to allow government bills to carry over from one session to the next.
The official opposition has told the media that it would oppose the motion for the sole purpose of delaying bills from the last session. This is patently unfair and contrary to House practices. The attitude shows it has little regard for the work of the House and for Canadian taxpayers. Opposition members will ask members of the House, at great cost to the public treasury, to come back and re-debate bills that have already passed this chamber and are in the Senate in many cases.
The bills that will be reinstated would include the legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries which was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.
We talk about dealing with western alienation. This particular legislation would allow more seats for British Columbia and Alberta. This is the way to proceed. Why would we want to delay that bill? Why would we want to have the debate all over again on something that is patently obvious.
We take the census and figure it all out, and draw the boundaries. This is not rocket science. This is done by Elections Canada. It redefines the boundaries. It recognizes that Canada is a growing country, that different areas are growing more quickly than others, and it redefines the boundaries.
If we have that bill when the next election is called, Alberta and British Columbia will have a bigger voice. I think Ontario would receive more seats as well. I am sure that there could be an amendment that could be put forward to deal with Nova Scotia perhaps.
There is the legislation to create an independent ethics commissioner and a Senate ethics officer, something that the members opposite have argued for vociferously for months, perhaps years. This bill could be reinstated very simply by agreeing and adopting this motion. We could have an independent ethics commissioner for the House and a Senate ethics officer.
The motion should have the support of the House. It is the practice in most mature democratic countries.
In conclusion, we need to be clear that adoption of the motion does not mean that all the bills that were on the Order Paper when we prorogued would automatically come back. It means that the government would have the flexibility to pick those bills that, in its wisdom and judgment, it sees fit to bring back. That would allow us not to have to reinvent the wheel and re-debate those bills that have the support of the chamber. Many of them also have the support of the Senate, at least at first reading stage.
The motion before us today does not represent a break with our parliamentary traditions. In fact, it is very much a part of our parliamentary traditions and it is entirely consistent with the practice of the House dating back to 1970.
Moreover, the measures described in the motion would greatly contribute to freeing up the members so that they can focus on the important task of developing new initiatives for promoting the well-being of Canadians.
With this in mind, I certainly intend to support this motion. I would urge other members to support it so we can get on with the business of the House, the important business and legislation that can be brought forward and reinstated and not have to be re-debated.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 9th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to debate the motion regarding the reinstatement of past bills in the House.
This is a very serious issue. The government is to be a new government with a new vision. It is supposed to be coming up with new ideas; however, it is asking the House to reintroduce bills from the previous session. As we know, the government has been recycling these bills.
Before I begin my arguments, I would like to say that there have been precedents in the past where previous governments have introduced bills at their previous stage. In 1970, 1972, 1979 and many times before, bills were re-introduced. Motions have been introduced in the House to reinstate previous bills into a new session of Parliament after prorogation.
What was the need to prorogue the House? It was because of mismanagement by the Liberals of their own affairs. They had the leadership contest in the previous session. They mistimed their own leadership contest. When the new leader came into power, he was supposed to have a new vision and new ideas for Parliament.
I accept that it is the practice for the government to reinstate bills in a new session. Marleau and Montpetit cite a number of precedents that have happened in the past. In 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986 the House gave unanimous consent to motions to reinstate bills. In 1977 and 1982 the House adopted amendments to the Standing Orders to carry over legislation to the next session. There were motions in the House in 1991 and 1996, and since I arrived in the House in 1997, we have had similar motions for reinstatement in 1999 and 2002.
The reinstatement of bills expedites House business at the beginning of a new session. Bills that have already been studied can be reinstated to the point they had reached in a previous session. The House and members of committees do not have to waste their time and resources on questions that have already been settled.
Having said that, I still cannot help but find it ironic that we are here today considering the reinstatement of bills from the last session. After all, it was just one week ago today that the Governor General read the Speech from the Throne. I find one sentence in the throne speech particularly interesting in light of what we are considering today. It states:
This Speech from the Throne marks the start of a new government; a new agenda--
What new agenda was she speaking of? The throne speech contained a laundry list of promises, but nearly every one can be found in previous speeches from the throne by the same Liberal government. In fact, the core of last week's throne speech can be gleaned from the Liberal's 1993 red book. Needless to say, there is not much new about decade old promises.
The same government has been talking about restoring the public's faith in the management of government ever since it took over the reins of power in 1993. In that time it has done absolutely nothing but further erode the trust that Canadians have in their government by moving from one boondoggle to the next.
Does the government honestly think that keeping details of federal contracts given to Barbados shipping conglomerates hidden from the public will restore faith in government?
Need I say anything about the renewed promises for an independent ethics commissioner? I will believe that one when I see it.
By seeking to reinstate bills from the last session the Prime Minister is undermining all claims about being new. If the government was truly new, truly different from its predecessor, the Prime Minister could have chosen from three options.
First, he could have begun this session with a clean slate, introducing his own legislation that reflects his own priorities. That would have made perfect sense. Any government that is truly new would want to set out its own course and not reach back and steal the agenda of its predecessor.
Second, if the incoming Prime Minister did not have his own priorities, then he could have at least taken the existing bills of the last session and incorporated some of the constructive changes that have been proposed by members in this chamber, both from the official opposition as well as from other backbench members of Parliament. While this choice would not reflect any new ideas on the Prime Minister's part, it would at least mesh with his stated desire to give added power to backbench MPs. However, I am not holding my breath and waiting for this to occur either.
The Prime Minister's third option is to reinstate bills from the previous session with his own amendments.
However, the Prime Minister has chosen none of these options. He has instead decided to proceed from where Mr. Chrétien left off. In doing so, he ends all pretensions of being different or new in any way and continues with Mr. Chrétien's agenda in the same direction.
The important question is, why did the Liberals prorogue Parliament and waste all the work that was done in the House? In the process, why did the government keep the House adjourned for so long?
We are dealing with a tired, weak and worn out government, bereft of new ideas. There are a number of bills that the government is now trying to bring forward that we would seriously like to see dropped. If that were done, then probably there could be some agreement reached on the reinstatement motion.
Let us pause for a few minutes to consider some of the legislation, that died on the Order Paper when the government prorogued Parliament last fall, that I would like to exclude from this reinstatement motion. Let us begin with Bill C-34 which would, among other things, fulfill the Liberals' decade old promise to put in place an ethics commissioner who reports to Parliament.
The current ethics counsellor has no independence or investigative powers. He is completely controlled by the Prime Minister and reports in private to the Prime Minister about conflicts involving ministers. Mr. Wilson rubber stamps almost everything the Liberals do as ethical. The proposed new ethics commissioner would be more independent, although not nearly as independent as he could be. We are also getting an independent ethics officer to oversee the conduct of senators. The Prime Minister would retain the power to appoint both, after consultation with the opposition leaders. However, each choice would have to be ratified by a vote in the respective chamber.
The new commissioners would not be truly independent if only a majority vote by government members is required to ratify the appointments. Opposition approval should be required. This bill is primarily a public relations exercise. The Liberals want to go into next spring's election saying that they have done something. It will not work.
Let us consider why we need an ethics commissioner in the first place. It is because we cannot trust the government to police its own members. If the Liberals had passed this bill after their election in 1993, could the scandals and corruption of the last decade been avoided?
Would it have prevented the questionable contracting activities of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano? Would it have prevented his successor from accepting personal favours from a departmental contractor? Would it have prevented the former defence minister from giving an untendered contract to his girlfriend, or the former solicitor general from lobbying his own officials to award millions in grants to a college led by his brother? Would this bill have prevented the Liberals from ignoring the Auditor General's charge that they had misstated the government's financial position by $800 million in 1996 and by $2.5 billion in 1997? Would it have prevented the government from interfering with the Somalia inquiry, when its efforts to get to the bottom of document destruction at national defence threatened to expose people at the top? Would it have prevented the government from attempting to obstruct the Krever inquiry into the tainted blood scandal, when it threatened to expose culpability on the part of the Liberals? Would the bill have prevented the systematic misuse of taxpayers' dollars for partisan purposes in the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC? I do not think so.
There is Bill C-38, the government's misguided attempt to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. This legislation would do nothing to save our communities from the ravages of marijuana or the violence and crime that accompanies it. Rather, the bill would take us one step closer to the legalization of marijuana.
With this bill the Liberals are sending out the wrong message to Canadians, and particularly to young Canadians. Decriminalization makes it sound like it is okay to smoke pot. However, it is not okay. Studies show marijuana is four times more deadly than tobacco, whose use the government already spends hundreds of millions of dollars to discourage.
As for the increase in penalties for grow op owners, these are long overdue, but are meaningless if not enforced by the courts. The current law is not being applied. Grow op operators are sometimes receiving seven convictions without ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. What is the good in increasing maximum penalties if the courts are unwilling to hand out even weak sentences? What is really needed is minimum sentencing that will make people think twice before breaking the law. This bill should never be reintroduced as is. It seriously needs to be reconsidered.
Then there is Bill C-22 that proposes amendments to the Divorce Act. The assumption of shared parenting should be built into the Divorce Act. Shared custody encourages the real involvement of both parents in their children's lives.
On the other hand, we have Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts. Among other things, the bill would make it a Criminal Code offence to set a deadly trap in a place used for a criminal purpose. This would protect first responders, that is, firefighters, police, et cetera, whose lives could be endangered by entering such a place in the performance of their duties. I strongly support the bill because it deals with issues I have been pursuing for a number of years.
In fact, I introduced a motion in the House that was debated but rejected by the Liberals. What happened after that was that they stole the idea and put it into their own bill, Bill C-32. I do not understand why a motion introduced by an opposition MP was not good enough for passing in the House but the contents of the motion were good enough to be stolen and put into Bill C-32. That is the partisan nature of this place. However if any idea is good it should not matter whether it comes from the opposition or the Liberals.
In 2001 I introduced that motion and the Liberals rejected it, but we need to look at the issue seriously. There were 13,724 arson fires in Canada in 2002. I was alarmed to learn that over 30% of the fires in my home community of Surrey were as a result of arson. A very high percentage of them contained booby traps. There have been arson fires in schools and fiery explosions in residential neighbourhoods that have threatened the safety of citizens.
These fires are disturbing. Some were caused purely by mischief but many were set with more sinister intentions of covering up illegal activities, such as marijuana growing or methamphetamine labs. At other times, firefighters respond to calls only to find the premises booby-trapped with crossbows, propane canisters ready to explode, cutaway floor boards or other serious but intentional hazards. These malicious devices are intended to kill or injure anyone who interferes with the drug operation, including the firefighters. Firefighters in Surrey are especially at risk considering the growing number of marijuana grow operations that plague the city.
Bill C-32 is one bill that I would be pleased to see reinstated. Firefighters and other first responders have been waiting too long for this important legislation. However the government has been dragging its heels on the bill. It should be ashamed for delaying the bill for so long.
There is a history of precedents testifying to the long-standing practice in the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as this motion proposes. However if the Prime Minister truly believes that he heads a new government, he cannot call upon previous precedents where in every other instance there was no change in government.
The Prime Minister tries so hard to portray the government as new. Yes, the leader has changed, as have a few of his minions. The former lieutenant is now the commander but it is still the same old government making the same old promises.
By my count, the Speech from the Throne contained 31 uses of the word “new”. There were probably more. This was part of a feeble attempt to convince Canadians that they now have a new government. However all the “new” in the speech could not hide the fact that it was an old message. The Prime Minister wants to have his cake and eat it too.
The hon. House leader on Friday spoke of how a reinstatement motion avoids wasting Parliament's time and resources. His government should have thought about that before needlessly proroguing Parliament in the first place.
The government's plan to reinstate legislation from a previous session is further evidence, as if any more were required, that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. The new Prime Minister is continuing yet another practice of his predecessors. It is cynical practice and it manipulates the rules for electoral gain. Canadians will not be impressed.
The government's plan to reinstate legislation from the previous session is further evidence that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. They have been wasting the time of the House. We know the election will be called and nothing much will be accomplished. We have before us a tired government with a tired agenda that is interested in little more than remaining in office.
Reinstatement of Government Bills
February 6th, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by taking one of the points that was just made at the end of House leader's remarks in introducing this.
He said that this motion serves the interests of the House. There are bills that the government is bringing back that serve the interests of only the Liberal Party.
One of the bills he talked about had to do with the amendments to the Canada Elections Act and he said how important it was for Alberta, B.C. and Ontario to get these extra seats. However that bill contains a very undemocratic provision that does not serve the interests of Canadians, nor does it serve the interests of many members in the House of Commons. The provision is to have all the amendments apply on an earlier date. Rather than comply with the law of Canada and have these amendments take place on August 18, they are trying to bring it back and have the amendment apply on April 1. They want to ram this bill through the House and through the Senate in order to call an early election.
The primary purpose of that bill is to undermine and try to derail any ability to organize properly for a federal election; for our political party to get its policy convention and all of its statements in place. That is why they are trying to do what they are doing today. That is a very undemocratic measure and we in this place should strongly object to what the government is doing.
The Prime Minister claims to have formed a new government, yet with this motion he is claiming the privileges of being the former government of Jean Chrétien. He is bringing in everything that the former prime minister failed to get through here. Procedurally speaking, the Prime Minister wants to be seen, as most Canadians see his government, as the old Chrétien government, and that is exactly what he is doing by his actions today.
While we in opposition would agree with that definition, that they are an old government, we will argue that they should come up with their own legislation and portray themselves as new and show Canadians clearly what they stand for. This will not happen before April 1 because we will be debating old legislation. We will not be debating new ideas that the Prime Minister brings in. That should be abundantly obvious by what is happening here today.
I accept that there is a well-established practice for government to re-introduce a reinstatement motion in a new session, however it has not been established that a so-called new government in a new session can reinstate bills from the previous government. If this government claims to be new, what it is doing would definitely disprove that.
I have examined all the precedents and I could not find one example of a new government reinstating bills from a previous session. From Journals of October 21, 1970, at page 46, it was recorded that the House adopted a reinstatement motion. The prime minister was Pierre Trudeau and the motion reinstated bills of Mr. Trudeau's government from the previous session.
On May 9, 1972, at page 281 of Journals , we have another motion adopted and, once again, Pierre Trudeau being the prime minister in that session and the previous session.
On March 8, 1974, pages 25 and 26, there was a reinstatement motion that was adopted. It was the same circumstances as May 9, 1972.
On October 3, 1986, at pages 47 and 48, Mr. Mulroney's government introduced a reinstatement motion reinstating bills of the Mulroney government from the previous session. However it was the same government.
On March 4, 1996, at pages 34 and 35, and 39 to 41 of the Journals , Jean Chrétien's government reinstated government bills of the Chrétien government from the previous session.
Then we had November 12, 2003 and the government of Jean Chrétien once again successfully reinstating bills from a previous session, although he ran into a bit of a problem with his attempt to reinstate other business resulting in a Speaker's ruling that divided the motion into three parts.
Many arguments have been made against the practice whereby a prime minister reinstates his government bills from a previous session. It goes against the practice, consequences and reasons for a government to prorogue. It contradicts the notion of beginning a session with fresh ideas and a new direction. It contradicts the idea that a new government should have new legislation and bring in new ideas that we can debate.
Does the Prime Minister not do what a new government should do because he does not want Canadians to know what he stands for? Does he want to keep us guessing, making one statement one day and a different statement another day, backtracking on all kinds of things, and not introducing some meaningful legislation for us to debate that would indicate the direction his government is going to go? Is that the reason we do not have new legislation introduced?
What we are talking about here today is far worse than what I have been saying, I would argue procedurally unacceptable. The current Prime Minister is attempting to reinstate bills of another prime minister from a previous session and has the audacity to call this a new government.
When the Prime Minister promised democratic reform and made a commitment to do things differently, we thought he meant to improve how Parliament functions. So far the Prime Minister has behaved less democratically than his predecessors, something most of us thought would be impossible but it is happening before our eyes.
You know very well, Mr. Speaker, that I have been dealing with the Firearms Act for nigh on 10 years. Back in 1994 I began tracking a piece of legislation that I thought would long since be gone. However, now this Prime Minister is using a tactic that the previous prime minister used in keeping that legislation in place. He has stated quite clearly that this is not going to be a free vote in Parliament. He has stated quite clearly that this vote on the gun registry funding will be a vote on confidence in his government.
How can a new Prime Minister, who says that all his legislation and all his programs will pass seven tests before they will be continued, reintroduce a whole bunch of bills? How can he continue with a Firearms Act that breaks all seven of those tests that he has put forward? They are good tests. Do not get me wrong. I agree with him. I believe all legislation should be put that way. However, why bring in the tests if at the first opportunity they have to test them and put something before them, say “except for the Firearms Act”, but it will apply to all other legislation and programs before the House? Obviously democracy is not operating the way we have been given the impression it should operate.
On May 12 and May 16, 2003, a former government House leader raised the issue of parliamentary privilege, exempting members from being called as witnesses in any court. I raised this earlier with you, Mr. Speaker. The issue raised in that case was whether the prime minister could claim parliamentary privilege to provide legal protection, and I went through a whole bunch of arguments. Let me read at this point the ruling from the Canadian Court of Appeal. It stated:
--the parliamentary privilege of a Member of Parliament not to attend as a witness in a civil action applies throughout a session of Parliament, and extends 40 days after the prorogation or dissolution of Parliament and 40 days before the commencement of a new session.
That clearly is just being disregarded in this case.
I would just like to go through some of the bills that we would like to exclude from this reinstatement, for example, Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands and to make related amendments to other acts. We would like to see that bill not included.
As well, we would like to see Bill C-19, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands and to make related amendments to other acts, excluded.
We would like to see Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, excluded from this list.
Bill C-22, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcements Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other acts in consequence, we do not want included.
Then we have Bill C-26, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. We would like that excluded.
Bill C-38, an act to amend the contraventions Act and the controlled drugs and substances act, should be excluded.
Then we have in the Senate Bill C-13, the human reproductive technologies act. Canadians have huge concerns with that. That is something that should not be reinstated clearly.
Bill C-34 is an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act. That provides for an ethics commissioner, a Senate ethics officer and other acts in consequence. This Prime Minister has made a lot of to-do about that bill. He talks about the need for an ethics commissioner and then the previous government brings forth legislation that applies to only backbench MPs and does not apply to the cabinet. The problems that we have observed here in Ottawa do not pertain to backbench MPs. They pertain to those who have the responsibility in the cabinet.
We have Bill C-35, an act to amend the National Defence Act (remuneration of military judges). It should not be brought back.
Bill C-36 is an act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain other acts in consequence. We have huge concerns with all of these.
With regard to these, I would like to propose an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by adding:
“excluding the following bills:
I have listed them, but I will read them again for the purposes of this amendment:
C-7, An Act respecting the leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts.
I made an error in my first listing and I will correct that now.
C-19, An Act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Financial Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts;
C-20, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act;
C-22, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcements Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other Acts in consequence;
C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts;
C-38, An Act to amend the contraventions act and the controlled drugs and substances act;
Again for that one, Canadians have a lot of concerns.
C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction;
C-34, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other Acts in consequence;
C-35, an act to amend the National Defence Act (remuneration of military judges);
C-36, An Act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain Acts in consequence.”