Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act

An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Reg Alcock  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

March 13th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

I think we did see that in the case of what happened with Minister Lunn.

We're coming to the end of our time, but I want to say that the important thing I take out of this, I think, is not to say “Thank you, take care”, and off into the sunset we all go. Instead, it is to say that the main recommendations that you put forward have not been implemented.

While we did get Bill C-2, which was essentially a retooling of Bill C-11 from the previous government, the reality is that the main recommendations you have put forward have not been adopted. I think one thing we have to do as a committee is ensure that this happens.

To talk about other guidelines.... And this comes back to your point about committee. I think committee does play an essential role in being able to hold government to account, asking questions that maybe governments don't want to have asked. What we saw in the in-and-out scandal, what we saw in the Cadman affair, was the use of guidelines put out by the Prime Minister's Office on how to disrupt committee meetings, on how to use procedural rules to frustrate committees from asking questions that they want to have asked.

So the dilemma we're faced with in committee is that if the government decides they don't want to deal with something the opposition wants to ask about, they simply leave the room, or the chair disappears into the night, or they close the doors, or they don't show up.

I wonder if you have any recommendations there. Certainly the committee should be master of its own will. Opposition parties, I'm sure you would agree, must be able to ask these questions.

Do you have any ideas on how we could get around these procedural games that have been put forward in this playbook that has been advanced?

March 13th, 2008 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

To be fair, before I let anybody else continue, there was a piece of legislation that had passed under the Liberals, Bill C-11. Bill C-2, their accountability bill, amended some provisions of that and added to that, but they didn't invent the whole thing.

I just thought I'd square the circle.

February 6th, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
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President of the Treasury Board

Vic Toews

Thank you.

The issue of Bill C-11, or the whistle-blower's legislation, I think is important. In speaking with my staff about that particular legislation, I understand there still has to be some consultation with stakeholders, including trade unions and management individuals. We are committed to moving that through as quickly as possible, but I don't want to unilaterally impose a program or a framework that the trade unions, for example, are not happy with. There needs to be that consultation, and I've discussed that particular issue with the secretary.

In terms of the cost, I can't say off the top of my head what that cost is, but perhaps the secretary can advise us.

Emergency Management Act
Government Orders

December 11th, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate today in the debate on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

The bill specifically asks for:

“...the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts”.

This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.

Canadians want assurances that the impact of emergencies will be minimized, that assistance will be available and disruptive effects will be limited and short-lived. To address these issues, the bill is pursuing the commitments under the national security policy, notably the review of the statutory framework for emergency management activities.

The purpose of this new act is to strengthen the readiness of the Government of Canada to prepare for, mitigate the impact of and respond to all hazards in Canada. It recognizes that emergency management is an evolving risk environment that requires a collective and a concerted approach between all jurisdictions, including the private sector and non-governmental authorities.

In summary, the bill would strengthen our readiness to mitigate the impact of and prevent or prepare for and respond to all hazards. It should be noted that the bill actually replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to the bill introduced in 2005 by the previous Liberal government, namely Bill C-78. Accordingly, I would like to say at the outset that the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill, but there are some areas of question which we believe would be important for committee to address.

The Liberal Party certainly welcomes the reintroduction of the emergency management bill. The bill builds on our record on security since 9/11: first, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; second, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and third, the establishment of a national 24/7 government operation centre to coordinate federal emergency response.

I would like to give some background here. The bill would strengthen the capability of the government to prepare for, manage, mitigate and respond to all types of emergencies. This will become an interesting question because emergencies mean different things to different people. It would establish clear lines of authority and responsibility in collaboration with the provinces and municipalities. The bill would also facilitate information sharing between government and the private sector and with regard to the protection of critical infrastructure.

The bill replaces, as I stated, the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988, while preserving its basic provisions in the civil emergency planning and preparedness as a key government responsibility; that delineates responsibilities between the public safety minister and cabinet colleagues; that makes provision for federal-provincial cooperation; and finally, that makes provision for post-disaster financial assistance to provinces. The issue with regard to the provinces is also an important one because of the jurisdictional responsibilities and the need for coordination of course.

The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management by: first, coordinating federal response to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is an important element that also includes matters that relate to and may have occurred within the United States but may have an impact on Canada.

Second, it establishes standardized elements for the Government of Canada emergency plans. Third, it monitors and evaluates emergency management plans for federal institutions. Fourth, it enhances cooperation with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. In our experience, harmonizing those common standards will certainly be a tough situation, as it always is.

With regard to the bill more specifically, clause 2 defines emergency management as “the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies”.

Clause 3 establishes a national leadership role for the Minister of Public Safety in relation to emergency management.

Subclause 4(1) outlines the minister's responsibilities in fulfilling that national leadership role and it includes a broad variety of responsibilities. Paragraphs 4(1)(a), (b) and (c) include coordinating functions in development, testing, implementation and evaluation of government emergency management plans. Paragraphs 4(1)(d) and (e) include monitoring potential and actual emergencies and coordinating of the government response. Paragraphs 4(1)(f), (g), (h) and (i) include coordinating emergency arrangements and responses with the provinces. Paragraph 4(1)(j) includes providing financial assistance to a province if requested. Paragraph 4(1)(l) includes providing the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency.

Clause 6 outlines the general responsibility of each minister, and there are other ministries that are involved outside the Minister of Public Safety, to ensure his or her department prepares emergency management plans and sets out common standards of those plans.

Clause 7 grants the governor in council powers to make orders or regulations with respect to emergency management plans, to use federal resources in response to civil emergencies, to provide financial assistance to provinces and to declare a provincial emergency of concern to the federal government. Certainly that is an area of sensitivity that has to be properly addressed.

Clauses 8 to 10 amend the Access to Information Act to permit the government to refuse to disclose private sector information supplied in confidence to the government with respect to emergency management plans. A public interest override is included.

The bill covers a pretty broad range of responsibilities that I might look at a little later in my comments, but I wanted to touch on some of the areas that have come up already with regard to concern within the bill that we would want to look most carefully at.

The bill would allow the federal government to refocus or better coordinate the organization of its response to emergencies. This is not in contention, but we should note that there is a difference between what is called an emergency and what we might regard as a security related incident.

An emergency may be as a result of a natural disaster, whereas a security related incident might be something along the lines of a terrorist attack, for instance. They are not always the same. Most of what the bill would deal with are emergencies involving natural disasters with some component of man-made contribution in it. Being able to assess whether or not we have adequately covered those situations certainly was a matter of interest and concern.

I am a little concerned personally why it took so long for the government to get the bill to us. As I indicated, it was a bill that was substantively before the House in the last Parliament and here we are some time later, but moving on, in reality, emergencies and natural disasters have evolved and become more complex. We simply need a government minister, aside from the Minister of National Defence who historically would have been the lead minister to take charge in these matters, who would coordinate these things. That would be the federal Minister of Public Safety. That is one thing this bill does that is different from the previous bill.

The second thing we are promoting is the imposition of protection for private information of third parties in the hands of government. As I indicated, the bill provides for a related amendment to subsection 20(1) of the Access to Information Act by adding an additional paragraph to give effect to these provisions.

There also are five or six subsections of the act which would be affected. Those ostensibly relate to the circumstance where information is provided to the minister by persons who would otherwise be covered under the Access to Information Act and that their information which is given is going to be exempt. In other words, if it is given with regard to a situation where there is an emergency as defined, that information would be kept private.

The other area of the bill in which there is an amendment has to do with Bill C-2 which has just been passed by the House after receiving some important changes. It was the first full bill that was introduced by the government and I can recall that there was a lot of concern about the haste in which Bill C-2 had been drafted. It contains amendments to a wide range of legislative areas. As well, it puts a significant onus on the public service to establish a broad range of management procedures, all in the realm of ensuring that accountability is kept in place.

The other thing it does which is interesting and has come up a few times, is in Bill C-2, there are some amendments to Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill, which received royal assent in the last Parliament. It received the unanimous support of all parties. We now find ourselves with another important bill which ostensibly arose out of the case of George Radwanski, the former privacy commissioner, who for a variety of reasons was put in a situation where he resigned his position and indeed suffered some consequences as a result of his actions which I will not go into.

Bill C-12 contains a coordinating amendment to Bill C-2 that should Bill C-2 have received royal assent, this amendment included in Bill C-12 will be made to that bill.

The bill repeals the Emergency Preparedness Act, chapter 6 of the fourth supplement to the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985.

The last clause in the bill is the coming into force clause. It is something on which I have commented before as the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. We have embarked on a review. In fact at the last meeting we actually were looking at the Fisheries Act and some regulations that were necessary. This item has been outstanding for 23 years. All of the people at the table certainly were not here when it started and I suspect if we do not do something about it, there are going to be new people at the table when it ultimately gets resolved, if ever.

We also had a private member's bill dealing with the repeal of acts which had received royal assent, either entire acts or acts which included amendments to other acts which had received royal assent but had not been proclaimed within 10 years. It has some provisions whereby it could be saved during the last year. That report would be tabled in the House identifying the bills that are coming up to their 10th anniversary and would allow the government of the day to make some decisions as to whether or not it is going to act on triggering those changes.

This bill also includes coming into force. Clause 14 says, “This Act other than section 12 comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council”. What that means is that cabinet is going to decide when the provisions of this particular bill come into play. This is the kind of provision which gives rise to the problem of things lingering for an extensive period of time. I am not entirely sure why there is not a specified date or some sort of horizon period. This is a very important bill. It is a bill that I would have liked to see introduced much earlier. This bill which deals with public protection and safety is very important to Canadians.

There is a proviso in the bill which caught my attention. Under “Minister's responsibilities”, subclause 4(2) states:

The Minister has any other responsibilities in relation to emergency management that the Governor in Council may specify.

This may cause some difficulty, although I am not sure and we will have to wait until we can get an opinion on it. The bill is purported to include all of the provisions and responsibilities, but that subclause includes anything else we think we should do. Those things would presumably happen through regulation or governor in council and not be available to the House to consider.

This would appear to give the government of the day a free hand in terms of adding to the bill things which probably should be included in the statutes themselves with regard to better defining this. When there is a blanket responsibility, anything else that the governor in council may specify is basically carte blanche.

We have talked often in the scrutiny of regulations committee about whether a particular regulation or change to a bill in fact has an enabling provision in the act. This has a blanket enabling provision, which means that theoretically almost anything could happen through a governor in council order. That is a matter which may very well come up if not here, then certainly in the other place.

There is another item I want to mention with regard to issues which have come up. Subclause 7(c) allows the government to make regulation to declare a provincial emergency to be of concern to the federal government. It appears that the intention of the bill is to put the federal responsibility on what would be a provincial emergency. When people look at this they are going to want to explore it a little further because of the coordinating requirements.

There is another clause in the bill which deals with making regulations, as I indicated, on the issue of whether we have any statutory jurisdiction in the United States of America. Of course, we do not have any statutory jurisdiction. That would involve an extraterritorial application of our laws. However, it does not prevent us from developing an emergency management plan. The point is that it may involve the spending of money and resources in the United States. That is a matter which gets us very much involved.

Clause 7 of the bill creates the authority to make regulation. It seems to indicate that it anticipates spending money in the United States of America. For example, subclause 7(b) talks about regulations respecting the use of federal civil resources in response to civil emergencies. The question becomes whether that includes assistance in response to United States emergencies. If we respond to an emergency management plan that we have developed with the U.S., are we talking just about the border or are we talking about Laredo or some other area, maybe even Hawaii? There are some interesting questions to which I still do not know whether we have the answers.

I am suggesting there are some technical issues and if it is intended that the minister or governor in council make regulations about joint emergency management plans, that should also be set out in the statute. I am not sure whether that is the case.

All in all, the fundamental elements of the bill appear to be consistent with the bill in the previous Parliament of the Liberal government. The Liberal caucus will be supporting the bill.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2006 / 10:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging my colleague, Benoît Sauvageau. I worked with him on Bill C-2 and assisted him throughout the process. I want to make sure everyone knows what extraordinary work he did. We must all recognize that.

All parties in this House worked very hard on this. Never before has a committee sat for so many hours and so many days in so few weeks to produce a bill of great importance about accountability.

We all gained something; some of us lost something. Some of the things we wanted to see in the bill are not there, but I want to emphasize that we did gain some ground.

Among other things, we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, succeeded in getting an independent appointment process for Elections Canada returning officers. This is very important. Such a process has already been in place in Quebec for a number of years, and now we have it at the federal level.

In fact, consultation has already been undertaken to find out if returning officers in each riding were competent, if their work was well done, if there was any partisanship, and if they had the necessary qualifications to do the job. All parliamentarians were consulted and a report was tabled. That was a huge step forward. I would like to congratulate the committee on its support for this part of the bill.

We also succeeded in eliminating rewards for whistleblowers. We found that proposal completely unacceptable. It might even have prompted some people to make false accusations in order to receive the reward. That provision was removed from the bill. I would like to thank the secretary of the Treasury Board because we discussed this and he agreed to make the change.

The parties worked together on this, in a fairly respectful manner. We also obtained the assurance that this legislation will be reviewed in five years. Typically, legislation is reviewed every 10 years. We asked that this be reviewed after five years, because the legislation is so complex that we are not entirely sure how it will be implemented. It affects so many other acts that our concern regarding the implementation of Bill C-2 has to do with the time frame and costs of its implementation.

As we know, this bill amends several other acts, but we do not know how long this will all take. Over time, we will see how this bill moves forward.

We needed an accountability act. Given the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery Commission, this House needed legislation to ensure the probity of parliamentarians. We are all honest people. We all want to represent our constituents well. There can be temptations, however, through bad influences, to act dishonestly. We saw this with the sponsorship scandal. Bill C-2 corrects part of the problem.

However, we deplore the Conservative government's decision to give in to the ultimatum given by the Senate, in order to stop the constant back and forth between the House of Commons and the Senate, and to ensure that Bill C-2 is passed quickly.

We rejected the idea of a separate Senate ethics officer, because such an officer would not be as effective as Bill C-2 could have allowed. However, as I mentioned, there has been some give and take.

The Bloc Québécois made concessions and compromises; the Liberal Party made compromises; the NDP did so as well, and the government made many compromises, to our great surprise. We always said that we would not delay the committee's work unduly, and we kept our promise by making solid proposals. But we regret that many people who would have liked to testify and submit briefs to the committee were unable to do so because of impossible time constraints. They were given barely 24 hours to write a brief and come to testify. It is very unfortunate that witnesses often had just two minutes to speak. This is unreasonable, and the work suffered as a result. When seven or eight witnesses take the time to travel together and only one or two have the chance to testify before the committee for two minutes, and when the question period is also limited to two or three minutes, this does not promote very good relations. In that sense, it was very difficult.

Many Quebeckers would have liked to testify before the committee, but were unable to do so. However, some people later testified before the Senate committee, which was a good thing. But it was also difficult in the Senate, because the hearing process moved along very quickly there as well. A bill was needed and, in my opinion, it will be passed on division. We will monitor the application of the legislation very closely, because it affects many other existing laws and makes significant changes.

We do not know whether it will be possible to make improvements to certain laws. It may be that a bill to amend each law will have to be introduced in the House of Commons. But we do not know how much time, energy and money that will involve. We hope that there will be as much collegiality among the parties and that the work will be as well done as when Bill C-2 was drafted. As I said at the start, we never held up the process. We will therefore support the bill, but we hope that this bill will truly make a difference and not just be a bogus bill.

Do hon. members recall Bill C-11, Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act? From the outset, we called for Bill C-11 to be implemented immediately since it was ready, having gone through the Senate and received royal assent. Still, approval was denied supposedly because Bill C-2 was about to be introduced. Nine months were wasted with that. Because they had no protection, whistleblowers were not able to make the disclosures they wanted to make or should have made. Moreover, Bill C-11 was not in conflict with Bill C-2, not at all. In fact, once Bill C-2 was in effect, Bill C-11 would have been complementary.

We in the Bloc Québécois cannot understand why the government would not implement Bill C-11. It would not have cost the government anything, yet protection would have been afforded to whistleblowers, allowing them to start immediately doing their jobs. Of course, that is unfortunate, but now we are at the stage of implementing Bill C-2. This will ensure that we can count on our civil servants being able to do their jobs. If disclosures have to be made, they will be made honestly. That is actually a job requirement. They will not get paid for making disclosures. That would be unthinkable. It is the duty of civil servants to report on what is not working in their departments and on any wrongdoers who are up to no good. This marks an important victory for us.

I thank all my colleagues on the legislative committee on Bill C-2, both from the government side and the opposition. I think we did good work together, and my wish is that the legislation will be effective and will come into force as soon as possible.

Bank Act
Government Orders

December 7th, 2006 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

That is a good thing. The President of the Treasury Board is a trusting person, I am sure.

As I said, some amendments in Bill C-2 of this Parliament amend a bill that was passed in the last Parliament, which has not been put into force yet. It is kind of reverse order. One would think that Bill C-11 would be in place and then Bill C-2 would be passed.

I could talk for some time about Bill C-11 and why it would have been important to have it in place because there is so much work to do before it gets up to speed and is operating efficiently. We could have had more accountability within the public service and the Government of Canada had it been in force when the Conservative Party took office. However, that is the Conservatives' choice. I do not think they really wanted to have too many people with the protection to blow the whistle on a government that was not doing things properly.

Before Bill C-2 gets royal assent and comes into force, Bill C-11 must be proclaimed. Because Bill C-2 amends Bill C-11, Bill C-11 must exist in law before Bill C-2 can be proclaimed.

I am glad to hear that Bill C-2 is now in the last stages of becoming law and is ready to receive the go ahead in terms of coming into force, which means that Bill C-11 also would be proclaimed and be in force. We will see the beginning of the establishment of the human infrastructure of an effective accountability mechanism and protection for our public servants.

I thought it was important to raise with members that we are now considering a bill which has a very large number of amendments. Today in the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations which I chair, we addressed an issue where a regulation has been bouncing back and forth. It passed in this place, but on review it was found to have a flaw. We sent it back to the department saying that it should be fixed. The first piece of correspondence on that matter actually took place 23 years ago. A problem in a regulation was cited 23 years ago. The departments are still bouncing back and forth as to who is to blame and why it cannot be done.

Bank Act
Government Orders

December 7th, 2006 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-37. I found it very difficult to deal with the bill. First, the bill in itself is probably one of the larger bills I have ever seen in this place. It is some 237 pages long.

It is an omnibus bill of sorts, which means it provides a variety of amendments, technical and otherwise, to a wide range of bills. When people read the bill, they cannot understand what the provisions in it mean unless they have the bill to be amended beside them so they can see the provisions that are already in place and understand the context in which they relate to that bill.

I know the members know, but Canadians should know that when we get bills such as this, members, who are involved in the finance committee, have to rely on the work and due diligence of others to make absolutely sure the provisions are there. In fact, it is probably the most extreme example that I could cite.

I have a problem with the bill because it covers so many things. I suspect that if any government ever wanted to do anything to amend certain acts, this certainly would be the way to do it, to put through a bill in excess of some 230 pages, which affects maybe 20 or 30 different existing pieces of legislation.

In order to give people an idea, the summary to Bill C-37 indicates that it is an enactment that amends a number of acts governing financial institutions. At least it is in a pocket that we understand.

The bill also amends legislation related to the regulation of financial institutions. This place has been seized over the years with legislation related to financial institutions, particularly as it relates to bank mergers and the lines of business banks can get into. I must admit it conjures up some memories of clichés that some members would use in their speeches during some of the debates about banks being terribly bad. However, most people would say that their bank branches are pretty good.

The notable pieces of legislation that are being amended are the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act and the Trust and Loan Companies Act. All of the amendments are aimed at achieving three objectives: first, enhancing the interests of consumers; second, increasing legislative and regulatory efficiency; and third, adapting those acts to new developments. These sound a little comprehensive, but they are envelopes under which these particular amendments could be placed. There are also amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act to provide for the introduction of electronic cheque imaging.

There are also technical amendments, which cover a broad range of acts: the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act, and I could go on. There are at least 20 of them.

I think maybe I have made my point, that ordinary members of Parliament, who are not involved in the finance committee and maybe do not have some of the background and training, will have a very difficult time. A number of votes are taken on bills like this, whether it be at second reading, committee stage amendments, report stage, third reading. I think Canadians will ask themselves this. If this is so cumbersome, if there are 230-some odd pages, if there are virtually hundreds and hundreds of amendments to dozens of acts, how can a member of Parliament, with all the responsibilities, make an informed decision and cast a vote reflective of the due diligence that has been done?

How that happens here is probably the same way it happens in real life.

I can recall being the vice-chairman of the board of the Mississauga Hospital. Under the Ontario hospitals act, the board of directors is responsible for every aspect of the administration and operation of the hospital.

I remember giving a seminar on trustees of hospitals. As I recall, the title was “Hospital Trustee: Mission Impossible”. It is impossible because we can not possibly expect volunteer members of a board of directors to be fully informed about the day to day activities of the hospital, to take full responsibilities for what the doctors, nurses and administrative people do and, if anything goes wrong, to be personally responsible for those.

What happens is the responsibilities of the board are seconded or delegated to other persons. Therefore, for the board's responsibilities, as is the case for members of Parliament, there is a delegation or a secondment of those responsibilities to others who specifically spend their time on them. They perhaps have the specific expertise and the support personnel, either within their offices or from parliamentary offices, to do the necessary due diligence, to do the checking, to ask the questions, to hear witnesses and to make some ascertainment as to the propriety of the amendments being made.

We have in this chamber always the presumption of honesty. We certainly have that as well in our committees as we bring witnesses forward. It is a process which the members of Parliament rely on their best judgment to ascertain that witnesses who appear before the committee are appropriate witnesses, that they cover the necessary areas and that they get the proper representations from the departmental officials who are responsible for having drafted this.

We also have the support of the Library of Parliament, which does some excellent legislative summaries to the extent that it can. In this regard, I suspect the legislative summary for a bill this size might very well be five times larger, maybe about 1,000 pages, but we have the resources available to us of the Library of Parliament to assist us in specific areas.

It is an onerous task. I do not purport to be fully knowledgeable and able to come here and argue the case of why members should vote for a particular clause in a particular bill that is to be amended, whether it be technical or otherwise. However, the job does get done and it gets done through a process of secondment, provided the committee is doing its work and provided the officials have done their work.

I must admit Canadians should be assured, and I wish they would get a better chance to see it, that the work done in committee is probably the most productive work that members of Parliament do. The work in committees is excellent. The quality and level of questioning of witnesses is excellent in terms of discharging the responsibility of due diligence or doing the detail with regard to the legislation before this place.

Being a legislator is an important responsibility. One of the things that I note in the bill is right at the very end. It is coincidental, but I just gave a speech a couple of days ago on a private member's bill that had to do with repealing acts that had received royal assent. They had gone through the entire legislative process of being tabled at first reading, debated at second, went to committee, committee stage amendments, report stage amendments back to the House, third reading, passed on to the other place and then went through an almost identical process and then received royal assent.

The public would think that when the bill receives royal asset it is law. It is not law until it is proclaimed. It must be in force.

The private member's bill I referred to was started in the Senate by Senator Tommy Banks. It was the third iteration of a bill that has been around since about 2002. It has to do with repealing legislation that has received royal assent but has not been proclaimed and put into force, and therefore is not active law in Canada.

I note the final provision of the bill found on page 237 entitled, “Order in Council” under the subtitle of “Coming Into Force”. It reads:

The provisions of this Act, or the provisions of any Act enacted by this Act, come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

This appears from time to time in bills. It means there is no set date as to when the provisions of this bill will be put into place. Often that happens because other things must occur before the provisions of the amendments within the bill could be operative. It is almost like once we pass this, before we put it in force, certain other things have to happen. Once they have happened, then the governor in council, which is basically the cabinet, sets a date fixing that certain provisions of this act would come into force.

As an aside, in most of the cases bills would generally say that the act would come into force on the date on which it received royal assent. That is fairly straightforward. There are others which have provisos that the in force date will be on a specified date, for instance, January 1, 2007.

In the reproductive technologies bill, I believe there two key areas. One is called prohibited acts under the bill. The other is controlled activities. The prohibited acts were all in force on royal assent. The controlled activities were subject to being in force by a date set by order in council. The reason for that was the controlled activities required the establishment of a board of management that would do certain things. Until that was set up, the provisions of that could not go forward.

Another example is Bill C-11 from the last Parliament, the whistleblower legislation. This legislation received royal assent in November of last year. The legislation provides protection to civil servants who have allegations of wrongdoing within the public service or anybody who is within the definition of a public servant. The bill is not in force yet.

In this Parliament we have Bill C-2, and this can get complicated in non-financial bills. Bill C-2 prescribes amendments to Bill C-11.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

December 5th, 2006 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that we support the principle underlying this bill. As my colleague said earlier, 57 bills gathering dust is a lot.

I would like to go back to Bill C-11, The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. As you may recall, during our study of Bill C-2, the Bloc Québécois asked that Bill C-11 be withdrawn immediately. If the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act had been enacted and implemented while we were studying Bill C-2, we would have been able to take the time we needed to study it thoroughly. If Bill C-11 had been passed before, we could have been certain that that much at least had been done rather than wait for Bill C-2 to be passed.

Bill C-2 is currently before the Senate. We do not know when it will be returned to the House of Commons. The Christmas break is approaching and we will not resume until January. It is unlikely that Bill C-2 will be adopted or withdrawn before that, and we will still have the problem of Bill C-11, which is ready and has received royal assent, but is not yet enacted. It is just one of many bills that are gathering dust on the shelf.

On the other hand, we will probably have to revise some bills, because they have been left on the shelf too long. Amendments may be needed. There will also likely be jurisdiction issues, because certain provinces, such as Quebec, have already established measures concerning some bills. We must therefore ensure that there is no duplication and that our jurisdictions are respected. Certain important changes may have already been made, which could undermine or duplicate existing legislation.

As I said, we support this bill. However, we would like to see it go to committee. We believe three amendments are important, and I will list them. We think that they will strengthen Bill S-202.

First of all, we think that the discretionary period for enacting a bill passed by Parliament could be shortened from ten years to five years. We would like to see this amended because we find ten years simply too long. We see this when we are studying a bill in committee. Indeed, most of our existing legislation is revised every five or ten years anyway. As we all know, if this measure is not in place, this could lead to some major changes. Things change with time. We must review our legislation, make it better and more modern. Furthermore, things happen outside this House. Other legislative assemblies, including the National Assembly in Quebec and other parliaments, all carry out their own measures, which could lead to amendments to one of our 57 bills.

We would also like to require the government to explain to Parliament the reasons why it does not intend to implement legislation that has received royal assent. This is unimaginable, when witnesses have been called to appear and people have worked on a bill, sometimes for as much as two years. I remember that when we revised the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, it took us two and a half years. It would make no sense to wait 10 years before looking at it again. The government therefore should report to Parliament and explain why it has decided to give royal assent to legislation but then has opted to shelve it instead of implementing it.

This also does not reflect well on parliamentarians. People say that we pass legislation but then shelve it. They find the system very cumbersome, very slow and very long. When legislation receives royal assent, the government has to be able to implement it as soon as possible.

It starts in Parliament, then is referred to a committee, where it is amended before going to the Senate, where more witnesses are called. It goes through all the steps needed to receive royal assent, then it is shelved. This makes no sense to us.

The third amendment we would like to make pertains to clause 3 and reflects the fact that members of the Senate are not elected. We therefore propose to amend clause 3, which reads as follows:

3. Every Act or provision listed in the annual report is repealed on December 31 of the year in which the report is laid unless it comes into force on or before that December 31 or during that year either House of Parliament adopts a resolution that the Act or provision not be repealed.

We would like to replace this clause with the following:

3. Every Act or provision listed in the annual report is repealed on December 31 of the year in which the report is laid unless it comes into force on or before that December 31 or during that year the House of Commons adopts a resolution that the Act or provision not be repealed.

These are amendments that the committee could discuss. It could look at whether it is possible to find common ground.

In general, Bill S-202 is good because these changes are needed. We cannot allow very important bills to be shelved.

I find that Bill C-11 was extremely important and there are currently people who will not disclose any wrongdoing as long as we have not resolved the problem with Bill C-2. Repealing Bill C-11 would not have taken any effort. The legislation was ready. We could have just continued with Bill C-2. The one was not in competition with the other. They were based on each other, in any event. I still do not understand why the government refused to implement Bill C-11, which was shelved.

I also wonder what becomes of these bills afterward. Bill C-2 will likely be passed eventually. I imagine it will come back from the Senate and we will pass it. However, what will become of Bill C-11? What happens to bills that are shelved? Will Bill C-11 become obsolete and have to be repealed? We have to ask these questions.

We will therefore support Bill S-202, but the reservations I expressed must be taken into account. I think that five years is better than 10 years. When we study some acts after 10 years, there are so many changes and amendments to make that it can take two or three years to go through committee. I saw it happen with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I also saw it happen with Part II of the Canada Labour Code. We spent months and months amending Part II, which had not been reviewed for 15 years. We have to set limits so that, as we asked with Bill C-2, the act can be reviewed every five years to assess its effectiveness. We will strike a committee to determine whether it is working well. If it is not, we need the power to amend it quickly and ensure it does work well.

The Bloc Québécois supports sending Bill S-202 to committee, where members will discuss its application with witnesses.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

December 5th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

moved that Bill S-202, An Act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite an honour to present Bill S-202 to the House.

The members may wonder why it is an S bill. This bill was tabled in the other place by Senator Tommy Banks. It went through all stages of the legislative process, a very rigorous process. It has passed in the other place and is now referred to the House of Commons for consideration. It is now brought to the order paper and is before us like any other private member's bill. We are at second reading and we will go through the normal process that we otherwise would. I wanted members to be aware of that, and certainly the public.

I find Bill S-202 to be a very constructive bill. Its short title is called the statutes repeal act. It is an act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent.

The public may wonder how both the House of Commons and the other place can do all of our work, do all the due diligence, get the bill passed and get royal assent, yet the bill is not be put in force. In other words, it is not active law. It sits in limbo until a subsequent government decides to proclaim the bill and put it into force, and there are some reasons for that. However, two full bills, which are over 10 years old, have received royal assent, but they have not been proclaimed. About 57 other pieces of legislation, which are amendments to other acts, are also over 10 years old and they still have not been proclaimed in Parliament by the government of the day.

We have to ask ourselves if we should have a procedure in which we can effectively create a sunset clause, with reasonable provisions. Should there be good reason for a bill not being proclaimed, or not being put into force, there will be an opportunity to do that without frustrating all of the work that has been done.

In checking the work already done already, I must admit this is a lot more complicated than members may think. There are a lot of constitutional and procedural questions and a lot of questions about what happens if a provincial jurisdiction has enacted similar provisions, but the Government of Canada has not. For example, if we repeal provisions, will that affect the provincial jurisdiction and the application of the law? There were some excellent questions on behalf of all hon. senators who participated in the debate.

Bill S-202 received third reading in the Senate on the June 22. The bill could prevent legislation, which has received royal assent but has not been brought into force, from sitting on the books indefinitely. The bill would not apply to acts which come into force upon royal assent, which means they would automatically come into force, or acts that come into force on a day specified within the legislation.

We often have the case where it says in the bill that it will come into force upon receiving royal assent, or that the bill will come into force, or active law, on a date indicated in that bill. However, there are bills that do not say that. They in fact have a coming into force clause; that is they will come into force when the government says they will, or an unspecified time.

Unless either the House of Commons or the Senate takes action, the bill would cause these acts to automatically be repealed if they have not been brought into force within 10 years of receiving royal assent. There are exceptions for provisions that have been amended before the bill comes into force. For instance, if there has been some action on that bill within the last 10 year period, there are provisos that this 10 year period would be extended for 10 years beyond when an amendment had been made.

According to testimony in the Senate, the Department of Justice was very active. As I have said, there are only two statutes that are affected by Bill S-202 in their entirety. They are the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, which passed in the early 1980s, and the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act from 1991. However, there is individual legislation amending the other pieces of legislation. I have examples of some 57 other acts that would be affected by this, but I will not to read them into the record. I am happy to provide hon. members with copies of them. It is in the Senate record should members like to look at some of those.

The short title of the bill is the statutes repeal act. Clause 2 says that the justice minister must within the first five days that the chamber sits in any calendar year give a report to the House of Commons and the Senate. The report must list every act or provision of an act that received royal assent more than nine years before December 31 of the previous year that has not come into force. In other words, on day one of the 10th year, we would have a report to both Houses of Parliament. This means the government of the day would have virtually a full year to determine whether it better take some action, or make some changes, or supercede it, or repeal it or somehow address it. If it does not, then this bill would in fact trigger.

Clause 3 states that any act or provision, which was listed in the annual report and has still not come into force by the end of the 10th year, would be repealed as of December 31 of that year unless either chamber adopted a resolution that the act or provision would not be repealed.

Clause 5 provides that any provision that was not in force and would have been repealed under the prevailing procedure would not be repealed if it had been amended at any time during the previous nine years. Ten years after that amendment, the provisions of the bill would apply if the amendment itself was not brought into force. If there is no action on a bill or an amendment to a bill within 10 years of it receiving passage in both Houses, then the cards fall and it would be repealed.

Bill S-202 has had three predecessor bills in its life. The original hearings were back in 2002. Senator Banks confirmed that the intent of the bill was not to impair government flexibility, and that is important to note, but to ensure that any act or provision that had not come into force within 10 years after being given royal assent was revisited. That is the important aspect of Bill S-202. It would provide a period during which we would have to look at it and find out whether action was necessary one way or another. Failing that, the act or the provision would automatically be repealed.

There are four options now with the possibility of a resolution in either House for stalling the appeal.

First, some provisions that are more than nine or ten years old may have been recently amended, for example, to correct an anomaly or problem. Is the intent of the bill that a provision that Parliament has recently considered be automatically repealed? The intent is not to do that. It is to ensure that there is some activity. As the senator has pointed out, there has to be some sort of sunset provision.

Second, what happens with a provision that is partially in force or in force in some but not all provinces? The Contraventions Act, for example, requires negotiations with a province before it can be brought into force in that province. The question really is, would such acts be partially repealed with respect to provinces where they were not in force?

The third option is with respect to international treaties. They may require implementing legislation and there could be a 10 year time lapse before international ratification was actually complete. The question would then be, how would the bill deal with this situation?

Fourth, justice officials were also concerned that the bill would cause an automatic repeal with no provision for publication of the statutes or provisions repealed.

I want to assure members that Bill S-202 has addressed all of those concerns. It has done so through changes providing: first, that a resolution adopted by either chamber operates to ensure that the provision is not repealed; second, that amendments to a provision before a bill comes into force to extend the period for another 10 years; and third, that all repealed acts or provisions must be listed in the Canada Gazette.

The bottom line is Bill S-202 does in fact respond to the questions that have been raised by justice officials and others with regard to us getting ourselves into a situation where we may cause some unintended consequences. The conclusion is that is not the case.

The senators who examined the bill also raised concern with Bill S-202. Could the repeal of a list of provisions be done by motions involving a senate and/or the House of Commons or is some form of assent or approval by the Queen's representative also required?

Section 17 of the Constitution Act states that the legislative power rests in the Parliament composed of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons. Senators felt it might be preferable if the legislation contained some recognition of the Crown. This is where the Senate gets into some aspects, which I do not often hear in this place, with regard to the constitutionality.

Justice officials were of the view that the bill itself was the legislative mandate required for the repeals and that the process in the bill was analogous to a sunset clause, which provided for the repeal at a specific time. The officials also referred to section 2.2 of the Interpretation Act, which provided for a deemed repeal in the case of provisions that were spent or no longer operative. Thus Parliament can anticipate a repeal that takes place some time later, but according to the rules established by Parliament itself.

In the case at hand, the rules would be established by Bill S-202. In other words, the bill would provide the mechanisms in which we could deal with this problem. In the view of the justice officials, this would overcome any constitutional difficulties with the repeals triggered by the bill. As I said, there are some 57 acts which are affected, but I will not go there.

To summarize, the only way this really comes up is if the legislation says that bill will come into force on a date to be specified by order in council, that is by the cabinet. When there is no specified date or it does not say it come into force on royal assent, then somebody has to do something down the road to trigger it.

There are a number of instances where there is good reason why we would not want to make it come into force immediately. There are transitional provisions and things to get prepared for it coming into to force. We understand that when we bring in new legislation, there are or can be consequences to a broad range of stakeholders. Therefore, the form of having an enforced clause sometimes is desirable and necessary.

In the case before us now, the Senate has discovered there are bills, having gone through all of the process in both Houses, sitting collecting dust in limbo. Also some 57 other acts have all kinds of interesting amendments. I cannot imagine what those people, who thought these were important at the time, are feeling. I am getting a little worried about the whistleblower legislation, Bill C-11. It has been over a year now, in the last week of the last Parliament.

When we have done the work, when Parliament has passed it, all Houses, when it has royal assent, we want to know it has happened. If it does not happen, maybe the House has to consider another amendment, something to the effect that if a bill does not get royal assent within a reasonable period of time, reasons should be given. That is accountability.

I thank Senator Banks for all of his hard work. I commend the senators for their due diligence on this. I have satisfied myself that they have asked all the important questions and considered, as part of their review, the important questions of the day. They have referred us a bill which is in very good shape.

I ask all hon. members to support Bill S-202.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 21st, 2006 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two things. First, I am not upset. Second, I know the member is flabbergasted.

I am sorry that the member did not hear all of my speech, but in the very first sentence I said that I supported the accountability act, and I have all along. Then I went into a complete description of the difficulty that an ordinary member of Parliament would have in dealing with this extensive bill. Let me give the member another example.

I have raised this point in the House a couple of times already. It has to do with Bill C-11, the whistleblower bill, which received royal assent in the last Parliament but was not proclaimed. I was going to get to that in my speech. It was not proclaimed so it is not enforceable.

There are amendments in Bill C-2 which would change the whistleblower bill, but the whistleblower bill would have to be proclaimed and then Bill C-2 would be proclaimed once it got through the rest of the process, so that in combination it is where the government would like to have it. I understand that.

I am not sure if that would even meet the member's requirement for accountability simply because the whistleblower bill is important. It creates an officer of Parliament. It creates protection for public servants who come forward and disclose alleged wrongdoing by the government or government departments.

That bill should have been proclaimed. If the government had problems with it, it should have had a separate bill to make amendments to it so that we could, even by now, have had it fully in place. We could have had the protection for public servants that they do not enjoy today. It has been a waste of time. I do not believe that even that action or inaction has been fully accountable by the government.

I raised a number of those examples, but I would be happy to speak with the member about any aspect of the bill, including another bill that he referred to on the softwood deal, which I opposed and opposed and opposed.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 21st, 2006 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-2, the federal accountability act.

First, I do not think there is any member in this place who does not share a common objective, which I believe the President of the Treasury Board said in his opening speech on April 25 of this year at the lead speech on second reading. He said, “Our goal, our commitment, simply put, is to make government more accountable”.

On this basis, I believe Bill C-2 had that goal as its fundamental principle and, as such, it received the unanimous support of all parties at second reading and through the rest of the process. I am sure all hon. members will support the bill.

However, members will know that there have been a lot of discussions over a great period of time about how the bill was done. There were concerns when the bill was first tabled. The government put forward a very significant document. I do not believe there is any other bill, which I have had to work on as a parliamentarian, that touches so many other acts. It is an omnibus bill.

The bill touches a very large number of acts and it is difficult to read. We cannot start at the beginning, go through and see the story, the lead up, the plot, the end of it and everybody lives happily ever after. It is not like that. Every section of it refers to amending some other piece of existing legislation. There are also some transitional positions, et cetera, but in the main we are basically amending a very large number of other legislation.

When we looked at Bill C-2, we had something over 200 pages. Then we were told at the outset that the government wanted it passed. I believe April 25 was the first debate, and it wanted it passed by the summer.

It begs the question about how parliamentarians discharge their responsibilities. In the prayer we start the House with every day we say that we make good laws and wise decisions. It is not possible to have done this bill justice in such a short time and yet it was at the government's insistence that we push this matter because it wanted the bill passed by the summer. It is now November.

There have been a lot of questions about whether someone has been delaying the process, whether it be in the House or in the Senate. Parliamentarians not only have the right but they have the duty to do the job as they see fit, to make good laws and wise decisions. I do not think any member of Parliament, except those possibly who were on the special legislative committee to deal with Bill C-2, had the opportunity and the time to get into the detail. However, we all had an opportunity to look at aspects of the bill in which we may have had some background.

Canadians should understand, when parliamentarians rise to vote on Bill C-2 tonight on the subamendment, on the amendment, on the concurrence and on the passage of the bill to be sent back to the Senate, that members of Parliament have had to rely on many other people in this chamber who have done the work in a great bit of detail.

I wanted to make that point because we have, with a very large bill, a situation where members of Parliament have been asked to rely on the work of others in order for them to make an informed decision. It is very difficult, and I have some reservation about some of the areas of the bill. However, because there was an alliance formed by the government and another party, the amount of time that was available for the debate and to consider amendments, even at report stage, was truncated substantially. There was a forced position. In fact, we did not even have a final vote before it went to the Senate. Basically, we deemed that the question was put and deemed that it was passed. There was no recorded division on it.

It suggests to me, and I am sure it suggests to those observers who watch the legislative process, that when a bill is put together in such haste, there will be mistakes. I do not think anyone in this place will deny the fact that there were mistakes made in the bill that Parliament passed and referred to the Senate.

In fact, the President of the Treasury Board, in dealing with the work of the Senate, estimated that there were about 154 amendments proposed by senators. The Senate is composed of Liberal and Conservative senators, and 42 of those amendments came from Conservative senators. Of the 150-some odd amendments, the President of the Treasury Board accepted, without debate, without further consideration, 57 amendments.

The fact is the President of the Treasury Board, who is the minister responsible for Bill C-2, accepted some 57 amendments proposed by the Senate to make this a better bill. For that to happen, I think the Senate demonstrated that it did the job it was put there to do.

The Senate reviewed the legislation. It came up with changes, and we are still considering other amendments. The President of the Treasury Board has laid out, and the members can see, some of the brief reasons why some of the other proposed amendments are not acceptable to the government. That is his job. I believe this debate will find there are still a couple of items that yet remain unresolved.

In the main, I think all members of Parliament understand that Bill C-2 will pass the House and go back to the Senate. I want to advise members that the Senate has already made some consideration as to what happens when it goes back to the Senate. It has decided to have the bill immediately referred back to its legislative committee to advise the Senate on the appropriate course of action to take. The Senate is ready and waiting for this bill.

I am hopeful we will see Bill C-2 pass at all stages, get it through the Senate and receive royal assent prior to the House rising. The proclamation of the bill is up to the government.

I want to make one explanation. Even though a bill passes through the House of Commons and the Senate and receives royal assent, it is not in force. It is law but it is not in force until it is proclaimed. I raise that because we have the same issue with regard to another bill, Bill C-11, the whistleblower legislation, which passed and received royal assent in the last Parliament, and I will comment on that bill.

Bill C-2 is about accountability. I think we know that we have the support of all hon. members in the House to make the bill as good as possible, to ensure that it passes and that we get some of the important provisions started. Much of the legislation will require a lot of changes within the public service of Canada, within the administration of political parties and within all these acts. The Chief Electoral Officer will to have quite a job to do.

A week ago Friday, I was pleased to participate as a panellist at a special conference in Ottawa on the subject matter of accountability, with specific reference to Bill C-2. It was a four day conference and I followed some of it. I found out that many of the panellists and presenters were law scholars, professors from universities and experts on various aspects of law such as access to information. Members of Parliament and senators participated as well.

I found it fascinating that a debate was going on as to what we meant by accountability. It was interesting how different speakers had different definitions for accountability. Having recognized that, I went to the dictionary to find out what a lay dictionary would say about someone who is accountable. If we look up the word “accountable”, accountability is a form of usage. It basically said that accountability has to do with someone who is required to explain or justify his or her actions or decisions. That was the short definition of “accountable”.

As a chartered accountant, I worked a lot on public financing. There is a document called a prospectus which goes out to potential investors to give them all the information they need to make an informed decision about whether they want to invest in an offering. One of the principles in terms of requirements of a prospectus, which is very important, is that it give true, full and plain disclosure.

With that as background, I spoke at this conference and defined, for our purposes, accountability as a government or as anyone explaining and/or justifying their actions or decisions with true, full and plain disclosure. We can see all of a sudden that the definition is building because someone can be accountable to different degrees. We can be accountable by giving some part of a true, full and plain disclosure but the degree to which one is accountable comes into question.

I went on that theme but also wanted to look at some examples. A very simple example was in the throne speech that the government presented at the beginning of this Parliament. The Minister of Finance announced that there would be a decrease in taxes to 15.5% on the first marginal tax rate. In fact, the tax rate actually went up. It had been reduced in the last Parliament to 15% and the throne speech increased the tax rate on the first marginal bracket to 15.5%. It was an increase in taxes for Canadians.

The finance minister subsequently explained that the change in the tax rate by the previous government from 16% down to 15% was only in a ways and means motion that had not yet passed in the House. Mr. Speaker, you will know that when a finance minister announces changes, like what was done with the income trust, those things are all of a sudden in effect. Subsequently, as Parliament gets a chance to review and vote on the ways and means motion, it will formally ratify it but, if it should be defeated, we cannot go back retroactively. Therefore, the rate that was announced by the previous government was 15% and the tax returns of Canadians for the 2005 tax year showed an initial tax rate of 15%.

Had Parliament continued and not been interrupted by an election, the ways and means motion would have been voted on. Had it been defeated, the tax rate would have reverted to 16% but only from the date of the vote in Parliament that defeated the ways and means motion.

The finance minister said that since it did not pass in Parliament, as far as he was concerned the rate was still 16% and he reduced it to 15.5%. It is wordsmithing. It is semantics. There is no question that Canadians paid a tax rate of 15% on their 2005 return but the government in its throne speech and in the budget that was passed increased that tax rate to 15.5%.

Now we need to ask whether the government was accountable. Was it accountable to Canadians? The Conservatives said that they had decreased taxes but they in fact increased the taxes. When we go through that explanation, we do not get the chance to explain it to everyone and I am not sure everyone would understand. I am not even sure anyone will understand what I just said.

However, we need to apply the definition of accountability, which is explaining or justifying our actions or decisions in true full and plain disclosure, but this was not done. On that item the government was not fully accountable. It was sort of accountable but with an explanation or a qualification. It was not pure and true accountability.

With regard to income trusts, the government made a promise during the election campaign. At that point, the Conservative Party, wanting to form a government, was not accountable. Do members know why? It was because the making of a promise not to raise taxes on income trusts was interfering in the marketplace and any finance minister knows that the predictability and stability of the marketplace is the responsibility of a finance minister not to impact the marketplace unduly, not to jaundice or bias it so that there is no government interference in the financial markets.

The first decision to make that promise was to give some assurances, which would have affected the decision of investors. When they saw that as part of the Conservatives' platform, they decided that if those people were elected they would make that happen. If we look at the numbers on income trusts, more Canadians buy into income trusts because it offers a substantial opportunity for high return and a regular cashflow, which many seniors like because it allows them to emulate a pension plan.

The first promise not to tax income trusts was unaccountable but the second one was the broken promise, the so-called double-cross, which was to all of a sudden tax income trusts. The ethical question comes up about whether a government is responsible for keeping its promises or, if it must break its promises, to at least explain and justify them in true, full and plain disclosure. However, that did not happen. In fact, the implications to the marketplace were clear. It was the mother of all free falls in the financial markets. Thirty-five billion dollars of the wealth of Canadians was wiped out in a day and half.

The government made two mistakes. The first one was interfering in the marketplace by making such a promise. The second one was breaking the promise, notwithstanding that there was some argument that the problem had to be dealt with. Even today the Canadian Association of Income Funds is providing analyses that refute the fact that there is a significant disparity between the tax treatment of income trusts and of dividend paying corporations.

On the question of accountability, it would have been a greater degree of accountability had the announcement of that decision been taken, say, on a Friday. At least the people who would be impacted would have had the opportunity to do something before the opening of the market on Monday. Instead, the government made the announcement mid-week and Canadians did not have an opportunity to consider the change and many people lost money. Was there accountability there? I would say not.

I wish I had more time to talk to hon. members about some of the aspects of the bill. I have problems with some areas. I wish the access to information provisions were stronger, as recommended by the former commissioner, Mr. Reid. There are some other matters that I believe we can deal with at a future time, so that is not critical.

On the whole, we are moving in the right direction and I congratulate all hon. members for doing as good a job as possible in the time allotted.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 20th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the concern I would have is if the government proclaimed Bill C-11 and Bill C-2 was not passed, we would end up with Bill C-11 on the books. What I am saying to the member very directly is that Bill C-11 was flawed. Procedurally the member is correct in terms of the sequence that needs to happen and could happen.

What is in front of us right now is a bill that was passed here as amended and sent to the other place where it was meddled with. Quite frankly in some cases it was gutted and the whole orientation of the bill was changed and sent back to us.

For those who would blow the whistle it is small comfort to them that the intent of the other place was to improve it. At the end of the day what we have to look at is those markers that I mentioned before. The rules have to be clarified. The public interest has to be established. In the case of whistleblowers, having Bill C-11 proclaimed and then having Bill C-2 come into play could happen.

The concern I would have is if Bill C-11 were proclaimed and Bill C-2 did not pass, we would have a substandard whistleblower act. That is not good enough for the women and men who work in the public service.

Another side to that is that we need to extend the whistleblower legislation beyond crown corporations and governments. We need to talk about people who receive public dollars who are doing research. We have heard stories of people who are doing research in universities who are trying to follow the public interest and do the public service by blowing the whistle and they are not covered by the bill. We need to take a look at that after the bill is passed and perhaps amend it down the road. I suppose that is for another day but for now, we should pass this bill. Then we could get on to getting really decent whistleblower protection for the women and men in the public service.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 20th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments on this, but I still need to get some clarification. If Bill C-2 is going to make amendments to Bill C-11 to make it better, Bill C-11 still has to be proclaimed before Bill C-2 is proclaimed. We have to have an act that is actually in force and in law before Bill C-2.

If the member wants Bill C-2 to be in place and passed before we rise on December 15, should not Bill C-11 be proclaimed so that we can get the process moving? Everyone would understand the rules of the game under which they would be operating. It just is not clear enough to the public service whether or not the provisions in Bill C-11 as amended by Bill C-2 are going to be in place.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 20th, 2006 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very succinct. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many people with whom I worked before being elected to this place, Bill C-11 is substandard. I am delighted it was not proclaimed. I can name people who pushed to ensure that it did not see the light of day because they wanted a better bill. To be quite direct about it, it is yet another reason to get this bill through the House, back to the Senate, get the bill passed and stop the ping-pong between the two places.

Bill C-2 would change the whistleblower legislation to ensure there would be a more comprehensive way for people to report misdeeds and that they would not go into a process where they would have to wait for long periods of time. That is exactly what Bill C-11 would have done.

I was on the committee and supported the changes. It was helpful to make amendments to ensure they would have a choice. If people were to blow the whistle now, they would have the choices that were in Bill C-11 and additional ones, if they chose to use them. That is really important. This is cutting edge and if Bill C-11 had been proclaimed then, the government of the day would have had the excuse of saying it wanted to see it operate for a while.

Speak to people who have actually blown the whistle, like Dr. Chopra. Ask what he thinks of it. He would tell us, because I have talked with him, that Bill C-11 is substandard. It does not meet the test. He is delighted this is coming forward.

The final thing is to pressure the government to clean up all those cases before Bill C-2 is proclaimed and enacted. I have asked the government to do that and I hope it does it soon. People's careers have been destroyed, like Dr. Chopra, for doing nothing more than standing up and doing the right thing in the interest of Canadians.

Federal Accountability Act
Government Orders

November 20th, 2006 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member spent a bit of time talking about the whistleblower act, Bill C-11, which came up two Parliaments ago. It was worked on for about a year and all last Parliament.

As a consequence of the work of the government operations and estimates committee, the bill was virtually rewritten. One of the changes was to create a new position, a new public integrity officer of Parliament, who would be in the same vein as the Auditor General or the Privacy Commissioner, et cetera. That bill was unanimously passed by all parties in committee with all of those changes. It came to the House, was fully debated and unanimously passed by all parties in this place. In fact, on the second last day of the last Parliament, it received royal assent.

That bill is extremely important to the whole accountability mechanism. It provides protection for the public service, for those who feel they have information about some alleged wrongdoings or other reprisals, as defined in the bill, to come forward to get explanations to this watchdog who will report to Parliament. It is a very important bill.

I understand Bill C-2 proposed some amendments to the whistleblower bill. What I want to understand, and maybe the member can help, is that Bill C-11, although it received royal assent in the last Parliament, has not been proclaimed. This means that although it is law, it is not in force yet. All the work has been done by Parliament and passed by both Houses and given royal assent, but it is still not operative. We still do not have a process of bringing in this new officer of Parliament. We still do not have the directions to all the crown corporations and agencies that will be swept in under this because it has not been proclaimed. The government has been in office for several months and it still has not been proclaimed. It is important.

Could the member try to explain to the House and to Canadians why Bill C-11 has not been proclaimed so we can have accountability, openness and transparency now?