An Act respecting the Administration of Oaths of Office

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill, the first introduced in any session, is a formal tradition rather than proposed legislation. (It has nothing to do with oaths of office. The Senate equivalent is called An Act relating to Railways and—you guessed it!—in no way relates to railways.)

Sponsor

Stephen Harper  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 16, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament.

May 26th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Ian Russell President and Chief Executive Officer, Investment Industry Association of Canada

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Ian Russell. I've come before the committee many times, but this is the first time I've been here in my capacity as president and chief executive officer of the Investment Industry Association of Canada to talk to you on the singular subject of tax-free savings accounts, or TFSAs. With me today is my colleague Barbara Amsden, who will be helpful to me in responding to a number of the questions that may come from the committee.

The IIAC is one of Canada's oldest and youngest associations. It was founded in 1916 as the Investment Dealers Association, which began as a trade association that over the next 90 years became increasingly a self-regulatory body. From 1996 to 2006, the IDA grew rapidly as a regulator, tripling in size. In April 2006 the organization separated its dual mandate, creating a single self-regulatory organization and a trade association.

The Investment Industry Association is the trade association for the Canadian securities industry. In that capacity we've been able to lobby effectively or advocate on behalf of our members, some 210 firms in the Canadian investment industry, for improvements in regulatory and tax policy to strengthen the capital markets in the Canadian economy and to meet the government's objective of productivity improvements. We've been better able to publicize what our industry does to promote the savings investment process and encourage capital formation.

As I said, we have 210 members. They range from very large, national, full-service investment dealers to small boutique operations, which operate as an institution with an institutional focus, and also as a regional focus, in all parts of the country.

The role of the Investment Industry Association of Canada is to promote the growth and development of the Canadian investment sector. The IIAC represents a strong and proactive voice that seeks to represent the interests of the investment sector and all market participants. Our corporate members range from regional companies employing few persons to major corporations that employ thousands of Canadians. Our members assist Canadian investors in building and protecting their capital to ensure their financial future and that of their families.

For our members to successfully begin offering TFSAs and to promote further savings by Canadians, we believe it is in the best interests of investors, governments, and TFSA providers that TFSAs be made as simple as possible to introduce and manage, and to this end that they be as similar as possible to and able to leverage the current RRSP framework.

A great deal of work needs to be done by our members between now and the January 1, 2009 start-up date. Technology changes don't just occur at the push of a button. We hope to have your help with legislative changes, as well as the help of the Department of Finance and the CRA on regulatory and administrative matters, to ensure a smooth launch and an excellent good-news story for the front pages of the first newspaper editions of the new year.

With your permission, I won't read the rest of my remarks, but I will touch on four problems and amendments that we suggest.

First, Bill C-50 limits TFSA offerings to a trust annuity contract or deposit, and excludes securities accounts. Interest and annuity rates have dropped since the early nineties, and more and more Canadians now rely on investments, rather than just term deposits and annuities, to finance their retirement. Requiring that brokers still resort to the trust structure of using third-party trustees to offer TFSAs adds costs and inefficiencies, and we believe it is really unnecessary.

Second, the CRA proposes more frequent reporting than for RRSPs, but based on the RRSP example, we believe this is not cost-justified, as material over-contributions to RRSPs are proportionately small, excess amounts are usually low, and penalties can be imposed to dissuade over-contributions. As for RRSPs, an annual report with contributions and withdrawals will enable the CRA to identify over-contributions, even if those are withdrawn in the same year in an effort to unfairly take advantage of the tax system.

Third, the treatment of TFSAs upon the death of the TFSA holder differs from that of RRSPs. Income or capital gains on the TFSA become immediately taxable at the time the holder dies, in contrast to RRSPs, where there is an exempt or transitional period after death, which allows for a period to learn of the holder's death and a process for deeming the disposition of assets and for resetting costs at fair market value, and various other points. As we know, the death of a family member means a difficult time for everyone, and treating RRSPs and TFSAs differently will lead to additional complications and frustrations at a time when complexity and administrative complications are particularly difficult for the bereaved.

Fourth, on implementation, Bill C-50 provides that qualifying TFSA arrangements must be entered into after 2008. This would prevent the opening of accounts with a zero balance earlier and would lead to a rush following the new year. Our members are already getting calls about opening TFSAs. This risks negative publicity for TFSA providers and the government, if there is congestion at the beginning of the year.

So we are requesting four legislative changes.

First, we recommend amending the legislation to allow brokers to offer TFSAs directly under an account agreement, and not just as a trust.

Second, for efficiency and cost-effectiveness—while leaving CRA's ability to manage the integrity of the tax base undiminished—we ask or recommend that you amend the legislation to require annual transaction-related reporting by TFSA providers to the CRA without a requirement for reporting transfers between the accounts of the same TFSA holder. This government is committed to reducing the regulatory burden and not adding to it. We believe that more frequent reporting will in fact cause more problems for investors and intermediaries than necessary.

Third, for simplicity, and given little risk to the tax base, we propose an amendment to standardize and simplify processing on the death of the holder, treating TFSAs like RRSPs, or in the same manner.

Fourth, for smooth implementation, we recommend that you allow TFSA providers to open accounts before the new year while still preventing contributions or transfers until January 1.

So those are the recommendations that we have before you, Mr. Chairman.

May 8th, 2008 / 9:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Bevan, one of the things that was discussed in the Fisheries Act--and maybe you can add some more detail to this--was that the 15-year clause in the new Bill C-32, which was also in Bill C-45, talked about how it is possible to secure financing.

Because I'm having a heck of a time trying to wrap my head around this one, could you explain where the length of time is strengthened, such that it allows the ability to easily finance for bigger operations, say?

May 6th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Chairperson, Task Force on Financing of Employment Insurance, Canadian Institute of Actuaries

Bruno Gagnon

We proposed $15 billion. We came to $15 billion as being the excess cost of higher unemployment during a recession over the average cost of the program. That's approximately how we came to $15 billion.

By the way, I think we support all the transparency features that are in Bill C-50. It's a great step forward. On the other hand, I think we might all gain by looking at the $54 billion and seeing it as something that is twofold. It contains what I would call the actuarial reserve. That's approximately $15 billion. That's the money needed to stabilize the program over the long run. Then it contains $39 billion, or whatever. That is the result of a decision made several years ago, a decision not to charge the premium rate recommended by the chief actuary. This was a totally different decision. From my point of view, it's a totally different issue. So within the $54 billion we're dealing with two different concepts.

May 6th, 2008 / 8:05 a.m.
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St. John's South—Mount Pearl
Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, everyone. Bonjour, mes amis.

Certainly we're pleased to be back. I'm glad you mentioned the staff. You've had them here more often than you've had me.

When I hear some of my colleagues talk about their experiences before committee, and certainly their officials, quite often coming to a committee can be pretty onerous. Our department has always felt very comfortable coming here. We try to give you what information we can, or provide it to you. I must say that all of us have been treated in the type of manner you would expect from a group like this. I've been part of it for a number of years. It helps to get the job done, so I thank you for that.

With me today are some familiar faces: Claire Dansereau, my department's associate deputy minister; George Da Pont, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard; Cal Hegge, the assistant deputy minister of human resources and corporate services; and of course, no stranger to you at all, David Bevan, my ADM of fisheries and aquaculture management.

I've know you've met them several times regarding main estimates for this year's budget. I trust the discussions were helpful to you.

Today I'd like to begin by taking a step back from the details of the main estimates to provide a broader perspective of the financial picture over the past couple of years, which will hopefully give us a bit of a background for discussion. Following that, I'd like to discuss matters of collaborative arrangements between fish harvesters and the department, and I will finish up by making a statement about the coast guard.

I'm proud of the investments we've made to support Canada's fisheries and better manage our oceans. Since 2006, and leading up to this year's federal budget, our government has committed about $860 million to help Canada's fishing communities. We've increased DFO's budget by just under $100 million a year in permanent funding. We have introduced, and then improved, the first capital gains tax relief for our fish harvesters. All of you are the beneficiaries of that, because I'm sure you take credit for it. We financed the health of the oceans initiative for cleaner waters. We've reinvested in science and funded integrated commercial fishery plans on both coasts. We've put funding in place to renew the coast guard fleet, and we have improved habitat conservation and protection. And we have stepped up fisheries enforcement.

Bill C-32, a modernized fisheries act, will soon be at second reading in the House of Commons. I hope I can count on your cooperation to move it into committee, where you can do whatever work you want. There was some talk about us perhaps trying to limit the committee. I assure you that once it's in your hands, you will be the masters of it. There will be no interference from us whatsoever.

This extremely important piece of legislation follows extensive discussions over the past several years, with provinces, territories, as well as fishing interests, aboriginal groups, stakeholders, and others. Since tabling Bill C-45 in December 2006, people have had access to the bill. We have held numerous meetings with stakeholders to explain the content of the proposed legislation. As a result, almost 400 people and organizations provided us with feedback and suggested changes to the text. We listened. Where there was general agreement, we took action and modified the text. A lot of the major changes were your own suggestions on clarification and others. In terms of suggestions where there was no agreement, we will need to discuss that at committee stage.

I truly hope I can count on your support and cooperation during the committee stage to make this the best bill possible. I know from my own experience that the committee can do excellent work on this bill, just as it did on Bill S-215, an act to protect heritage lighthouses.

In terms of the bill, I say do your deliberations and make whatever changes are necessary. We want the best bill possible. And if we can't deliver that, we have a chance to vote for it in the House. Are we going to get perfection? Probably not; you never will. Is it better than what we have and as good as we can get under the circumstances? If it is, we should pass it. If it's not, then I'll live by your decision.

Together we can modernize this legislation, for industry, stakeholders, and Canadians. I call on all of you, in your duty as parliamentarians, to do just that.

This past February, with economic uncertainty around the world, we called for a prudent federal budget. We still found room to make key investments in Canada's fisheries. We committed $22 million over the first two years to help develop a more competitive and sustainable aquaculture sector. We have $70 million over five years, which has been accepted very positively by the aquaculture industry and the provinces involved. We devoted $10 million over two years to help fix up harbours. This is for community ownership. As you know, there was a commitment of $45 million to do that, so we can divest ourselves of harbours that are eating up the money you need to spend on your own wharves and breakwaters, etc.

Our government has also committed $8 million over the next two years to build a commercial harbour in Nunavut, one of several needed if we're going to see Nunavut benefit from its resources. It's going to be expensive, but it's needed in order for them to properly manage the resource and benefit from it.

The budget also set aside $720 million for a new polar class icebreaker. That's on top of the $750 million last year for a number of coast guard midshore patrol vessels. This vessel will have a far greater capability than the one it's replacing, by the way. As well as icebreaking, it will support a range of DFO programs and services like fisheries management activities, fishery science, and it will also help maintain Canada's presence in the north.

The government also devoted $20 million over the next two years to complete required mapping of the Arctic and Atlantic seabeds. This is a sovereignty issue, and it supports our claims to the outer limits of Canada's continental shelf. This funding is not from our department exclusively, but it will certainly help us manage, protect, and develop northern fisheries, while helping Canada stake its rightful claim to our northern continental shelf.

As I mentioned, my second topic concerns the matter of collaborative arrangements between fish harvesters and the department regarding the use of fish. You recently received my department's response to your follow-up questions on collaborative arrangements. You will recall the Larocque and APPFA decisions made in 2006. The issue was whether collaborative arrangements put in place years ago fit with legal decisions made in the Federal Court in these cases. In the wake of that, a number of agreements we had, arrangements we had with the fishing industry, were struck down.

In all, we have reviewed 206 activities and projects that could have been impacted by court decisions. In 2006, 68 out of the 206 agreements we have with different groups involved use of fish agreements in exchange for scientific or fisheries management activities; 138 did not. We reported this to you in February. You have asked for more detail and it's in our response.

To recap, all but two of the 68 arrangements have continued in a modified form that is consistent with the Federal Court decision. We have returned most allocations that were previously used to form joint projects to the total allowable catch. We've just put them back in the common pool. Thirteen allocations have remained with the fishing industry association or a community, but now they do not require help in the department with fish management or science. Eleven did not have a use of fish component, while the two that did no longer have an obligation to fund DFO activities.

I have always believed that the fish quota should go to fish harvesters, but in the past, special allocations were provided to some community groups. We are also continuing to review these allocations to make sure they are in line with court decisions.

The bottom line is that we're still gathering the data needed to run the fishery. This is thanks to an increase in our budget of $12 million per year until 2012 and to using the industry resources in a manner that complies with the court. Also, by reducing costs we're focusing on essential conservation information and exploring non-financial options for staying the course.

I'm satisfied these measures are minimizing the impact on my department's programs and services as well as on Canada's fish harvesters.

As I mentioned, to wrap things up, I'd like to say a few words about the coast guard.

We're well aware of the tragedy at sea that took the lives of four sealers—Bruno Bourque, Gilles Leblanc, Marc-André Déraspe, and Carl Aucoin—aboard l'Acadien II in March. This is a loss of the deepest order for their families, the community of the Magdalen Islands, and all of Canada.

I know that one of our colleagues, Monsieur Blais, was very, very close to that. We spoke often during that terrible tragedy, and he certainly did yeoman service for his people in that regard.

In the days following the incident, we sent an official from coast guard to the Magdalen Islands to provide support and information to the grieving families when the bodies of their loved ones were returned home.

I grew up in a fishing village, as did a lot of you. While Renews was a lot smaller than the Magdalen Islands, when we have a tragedy at sea, as we've all had—especially in places like the one Bill Matthews represents, and maybe more so than anywhere—we know what it's like and what effect it has, not only on the community but also on the whole area.

In circumstances like these, people want answers and they want them quickly. As you know, the coast guard is carrying out an internal incident safety review. That review is being led by an independent investigator, retired Rear Admiral Roger Girouard. I've met him, by the way, and I would think he is as fine a person as ever I've met. He certainly knows what has to be done, how to do it, and I have every belief he will do it well. His team will, of course, be cooperating with the RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board, which are also reviewing the matter. We want these investigations to be quick, but we also need to be thorough, so that when all the facts are clear we can proceed accordingly.

We have remarkable people in our coast guard, people who have dedicated themselves to serving others and who don't hesitate to put themselves in harm's way to save another. So this tragedy weighs heavily on their minds, too, I can assure you. Day in and day out, the coast guard does an awful lot of work for Canada. This, too, is worth noting. Even during these difficult times, our work continues. It is still our coast guard, and we are fortunate as Canadians to have it.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

April 14th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
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Mohawk Council of Akwesasne

Grand Chief Tim Thompson

Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, first nations communities, chiefs, and councillors, my name is Tim Thompson. I am Grand Chief for the Mohawks of Akwesasne, a community of approximately 12,000 Mohawks who reside on ancient aboriginal territory along the St. Lawrence River.

Akwesasne has a unique geographical and political location between the countries of Canada and the U.S. and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and New York state. Our community has been involved in several land claims with Canada over many years. Some of our claims are very large. Some are currently being negotiated. Some are being litigated. Some have been in the process for more than 30 years. Some have been rejected. And there will definitely be some Akwesasne claims that will be impacted by this legislation.

We come to the standing committee because we have not been consulted on the new Specific Claims Tribunal, Bill C-30, and we want to bring our concerns forward on this impending legislation.

We believe that the first of many shortcomings surrounding the new bill is the lack of direct consultation with first nations communities. AFN does not represent the Mohawks of Akwesasne. We are a member of the Independent First Nations of Ontario and the Iroquois Caucus, neither of which have had meaningful consultation in this process. Some very important issues, such as claims over $150 million and some additions to reserve issues, have not yet been resolved, even though Canada and the AFN recognize that there are many unresolved issues with regard to this new legislation and have proposed that these concerns will be negotiated through political agreements with AFN.

Without a consultation process, communities like Akwesasne will have no part in the building of legislation that will ultimately affect them. Akwesasne, therefore, does not know the future outcome of some very important issues, if in fact we will be consulted, or if the issues will be resolved to our benefit.

At present, Canada has aligned itself with the Assembly of First Nations as the main counterpoint to the negotiations to move Bill C-30 through Parliament. Akwesasne considers this very political approach to consultation with first nations inadequate. For important legislation such as this, which will impact the relationship of the crown and first nations for decades, real and meaningful consultation must be held with all first nations.

Canadian courts have stressed that negotiation is preferable to litigation to resolve aboriginal claims. The Specific Claims Tribunal will create a new level of litigation in claims, with many of the disadvantages of the court. For example, the political nature of the claims permits them to address flexibility. The tribunal, in contrast, would only be able to offer cash. The political nature of negotiations allows communities to have real control over the outcomes. The tribunal would give increased authority to the lawyers. In court, if you make a statement of claim and the statement of defence raises new issues, you have a right to reply. With the new tribunal, you have no right to bring the evidence to rebut the grounds of the rejection of your claim. It appears to us that the tribunal has a more limited range of processes and remedies available to it than the Indian Claims Commission did.

The present Indian Claims Commission has worked hard to establish a reputation for impartiality. We worry that the new tribunal will be seen as Canada's attempt to replace an impartial body with one that will be more favourable to the federal government's position. One of the most significant issues is the makeup of the tribunal. Currently, Bill C-30 proposes that Canada will appoint Superior Court judges, of which only one will hear any particular claim. We do not believe that decisions on claims should fall to just one judge. Additionally, the selection and appointment process for the members of the tribunal is not reassuring. It is only in the political agreement, not the legislation, that consultation with AFN regarding the recommendation of judges to the tribunal is proposed.

Depending on the makeup of the tribunal, it might provide federal claims officials and negotiators with an incentive to reject claims or have negotiations break down, as the tribunal could be seen as pro-federal rather than impartial.

Bill C-30 will also create a more structured approach to specific claims, which will have the effect of providing very little flexibility to the tribunal to address the unique and complex circumstances that have created the claims in the first place.

The new act provides for monetary settlement only. Other creative solutions or options, which may be more reasonable, productive, practical, or restorative, will not be entertained.

Most claims are about land. The fact that the tribunal can only award cash means it would not be able to address many claims in a way that would satisfy the claimants. The fact that the courts can deliver land at least more often than the federal system will promote litigation. Bill C-30 will completely eliminate the ability of first nations to bring any discussions or studies relating to the social, cultural, and spiritual connection to the land as part of the negotiating process to settle a specific claim. Bill C-30 clearly makes this a non-negotiable issue.

The political agreement states that:

...resolving claims is a legal and moral obligation, and recognizing the cultural, spiritual, social and economic significance to a First Nation of recovering or replacing land that was unlawfully taken.

The words are beautiful, but they fall far short of one important component. They do not allow for the discussion or negotiation regarding injuries to culture that are associated with loss of land. First nations know the impacts of injury to culture that have occurred with loss of land. This obvious injury should not be ignored.

The new legislation proposes to exclude claims in excess of $150 million. This exclusion is something the AFN proposes to address through a political agreement. Meanwhile, its exclusion will allow government officials to coerce first nations to artificially devalue their claims to fit the current criteria. With a cap on the size of the claim that the tribunal can address, federal negotiators will be tempted to collapse negotiations on large claims knowing they have nowhere else to go, while there will be pressure on first nations to accept less than fair value for their claims to bring them under the cap if a claim goes to the tribunal. The presence of the tribunal as a process for settling smaller claims will be accentuated as a further excuse for avoiding settlement of larger claims.

The larger claims represent the greatest benefit for first nations and the greatest accumulated debt on the part of the federal government. However, with a limited annual budget and a fascination with statistics, Canada prefers to resolve smaller claims. If the tribunal is not able to address the larger claims, these larger claims will be further deferred and become even less likely to be resolved. With the cabinet looking at these claims, it surely shows there would be no transparency about the decisions that are made, as these decisions will be made behind closed doors.

With the Iroquois Caucus, many of our claims are above $150 million. When Canada says there are 20 claims in excess of $150 million, sitting at the table are probably 16 of those claims.

One major obstacle to settling specific claims is the lack of clarity in Canadian law. Currently, only the courts can clarify the law, but litigation is currently being discouraged. Unless the rules and practices governing the claims process, including those proposed for the tribunal, are clarified and expanded, claims will remain unresolved.

Bill C-30 also appears to place into legislation the retroactive surrender of lands originally taken illegally as a consequence of settling a specific claim and receiving compensation. There will be no future options available on this point if this legislation is passed by Parliament.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the AFN is not a first nation and does not speak for all first nations in Canada. Akwesasne wishes to make it abundantly clear that support by the AFN does not translate into acceptance of the specific claims bill, Bill C-30, by the first nations who are affected by this bill. It is important that Canada honour its obligation to first nations communities to consult with them regarding the legislation that will affect their claims and their future.

Before I end, we make the following recommendations:

A bona fide consultation process must occur with full participation of first nations communities.

Revisit the terms of reference, capacity, authority, and remedies available to the tribunal.

The make-up of the tribunal should be composed of a variety of disciplines and should include first nations members.

The tribunal should be a three-member panel, one being a Superior Court justice and the other two members representing other related disciplines appropriate to the circumstances of the specific claims, all having an equal voice.

The settlement solutions available to the tribunal should include land, financial, and other creative components in a manner that will satisfy the parties.

There should be consultation with first nations to ensure that the political agreement provides for the discussion on restorative justice with regard to injury to culture associated with the land.

There should be consultation with first nations to ensure that the political agreement provides for the discussion on claims above $150 million.

Consultation with first nations should occur to ensure that the political agreement provides for clarity in the rules and practices that are used in the settlement claim.

Consultation with first nations should occur to ensure the political agreement provides for discussions on options regarding the surrender component of claim settlements.

With that, I thank you. Nia:wen.

Opposition Motion--Climate Change
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 7th, 2008 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speeches presented by both the leader of the NDP and the party's environment critic and what is interesting about their comments is that they are both confused.

On the one hand, the leader of the NDP is actively seeking the cooperation of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois at committee to pass his bill, Bill C-377, which cannot pass without the support of the Liberal Party of Canada.

On the other hand, he refers to Bill C-30, the backbone of which is the Liberal Party of Canada's balancing our budget plan. As the leader of the NDP puts it, the bill was originally punted to a legislative committee because he had a special deal with the Prime Minister. Then he realized that the Prime Minister was not serious whatsoever in seeing that legislative committee bring the clean air act to any successful completion and we brought forward the balancing, our department budget program and plan.

I am confused because one of the longest serving NDP MPs, the member for Winnipeg Centre, believes differently than his own leader. He says that the federal New Democratic Party may need to enter into some kind of informal coalition with the Liberals or risk, in his words, “political obscurity”. That statement came from a veteran NDP MP, one of the top and longest serving MPs in that caucus.

What exactly is the NDP's position here today? In the case of--

March 5th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Chuck Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I'm certainly talking about Bill C-11 in Nunavik. I think that's what we were both talking about. There's nothing in the estimates for that particularly. I think the only dollars were for Nunavut, and we can talk about that, but it's a different thing.

Senate Appointment Consultations Act
Government Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to the bill concerning the appointment of senators. Parliament cannot reform the Senate unilaterally or without a constitutional amendment. At any rate, even a reformed Senate is a useless institution.

Canadian institutions cannot be reformed. The numerous attempts to reform the Senate illustrate perfectly the “Canadian dead end.” Proposals to reform the Senate date back as far as 1874. Barely seven years after the creation of the Dominion of Canada, the Senate was the subject of criticism and calls for reform.

A motion in April 1874, by member of Parliament David Mills, recommended that “our Constitution ought to be so amended as to confer upon each Province the power of selecting its own Senators, and of defining the mode of their election”. Now, 133 years later, we are still debating this issue. Senator Serge Joyal, who wrote a book on Senate reform, identified at least 26 proposals for Senate reform in the past 30 years alone.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the Senate reform proposed by the current government is a slap in the face for Quebec federalists. The minimum position of successive Quebec governments has always been clear: no Senate reform without first settling the question of Quebec’s status.

In 1989, Robert Bourassa said he did not want to discuss Senate reform until the Meech Lake accord was ratified. In 1992, Gil Rémillard said that signature by Canada of an accord involving Senate reform would depend on the outcome of negotiations on the concept of a distinct society, division of powers and the federal spending power.

By means of Bills C-19 and C-20, the current Conservative Prime Minister is trying to reform the Senate piecemeal, without having satisfied the minimum conditions stipulated by Quebec.

Clearly the Senate cannot be changed unilaterally and without a constitutional amendment. The Canadian Constitution is a federal constitution. Consequently, there are reasons why changes to the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made by Parliament alone and should be part of the constitutional process involving Quebec and the provinces.

In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada examined Parliament's ability to amend on its own the constitutional provisions concerning the Senate. According to its decision, known as “Authority of Parliament in relation to the Upper House”, in 1980, decisions pertaining to major changes to the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally.

All reforms of Senate powers, the means of selecting senators, the number of senators to which each province is entitled and residency requirements for senators, can only be made in consultation with Quebec and the provinces.

Benoît Pelletier, the Quebec Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and MNA for Chapleau, reiterated Quebec's traditional position on November 7, 2007, which was not so long ago:

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the regional veto act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.

That same day, in November 2007, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously passed the following motion—I hope the government is listening:

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.

Quebec is not alone in opposing the idea of an elected Senate. The outgoing Premier of Saskatchewan, Lorne Calvert, and the Premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, have called for abolishing the Senate instead of trying to reform it. The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, has also expressed concerns about whether electing senators to the Senate might not make the inequalities even worse.

In summary, indirect election of senators would change the rapport between the House of Commons and the Senate. These changes cannot be made unilaterally without the consent of the provinces and without the consent of Quebec, recognized as a nation by the House of Commons. Whether the Senate is reformed or not, it is a useless institution.

Initially, the Senate was supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought that also protected regional interests. Regional equality in the Senate was supposed to counterbalance representation in the House. However, it seems that partisanship has gained the upper hand over regional representation, thus rendering null and void the purpose of the other place, which has a tendency to follow the lead of the House of Commons.

How can this government justify having a Senate whose responsibilities would be much like those of the House of Commons at a cost of $81 million per year? All the provinces have done away with their upper chambers. No province has had an upper chamber since Quebec abolished its legislative council in 1968, and as far as I know, the provinces are able to govern appropriately.

Bill C-20 would not make the Senate democratic. Public consultation is not binding. Bill C-20 provides for public “consultation” to choose senators. The Prime Minister maintains the authority to appoint or not appoint the senators chosen by the public. The Prime Minister could therefore decide not to appoint a candidate selected by the public. The background paper provided by the government concerning this bill states: “The Prime Minister can take into account the results of the consultation when making recommendations to the Governor General regarding future representatives of a province or territory in the Senate”.

Besides, how can we trust this Prime Minister, who did not hesitate to appoint Michael Fortier to the Senate, even though he himself criticized the Liberals' partisan appointments to the Senate? The current Prime Minister's real motivation is to marginalize the nation of Quebec. Under the pretext of an orthodox reform of federalism, the Conservative government is proposing shattering the balance of the federation.

In Australia and the United States, having an elected senate has enhanced the legitimacy of the federal government and has “nationalized” public life rather than serve the representation of the federated states within federal institutions. To be heard in Congress, the American states have been reduced to being lobbyists. Senators elected to represent an entire province would overshadow the authority of the provincial premiers and run the risk of supplanting them as regional representatives. That is what the proponents of a “triple E” Senate want: a federal Parliament that would be more legitimate because its elected members were more sensitive to regional interests. Quebeckers would never stand idly by as their own province blithely accepted Senate reform.

February 11th, 2008 / 4:50 p.m.
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Director, Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Mark Davidson

When the committee tabled its report in December, it asked for a formal response from the government on the report. And in the normal course of events, the government will be responding to all the recommendations in the bill. I'm here today to give you information about Bill C-37, which certainly is an element. The government will be tabling a response to the provisions not related to C-37 in the normal course of events.

February 11th, 2008 / 4:50 p.m.
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Andre Turmel Secretary, National Environmental, Energy and Resources Law Section, Canadian Bar Association

Thank you.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and all members.

My name is Andre Turmel. I'm a partner at the law firm of Fasken Martineau in Montreal. I'm going to address you in French in the following presentation.

Bill C-377 addresses Canada's non-compliance in implementing international treaty obligations, specifically in regard to climate change. The CBA Section is certainly concerned about the serious consequences of climate change, and about Canada's failure to implement the Kyoto Protocol as a breach of Canada's international obligations. However, we believe that Bill C-377 should not be passed in its current form. Rather than the proposed legislated targets, the CBA Section urges the government to take immediate steps to meet Canada's international environmental legal obligations to address climate change.

International treaties are the primary tool used by the international community to promote collective action on global environmental problems. Canada is a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which provides in article 26 that, “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.” International customary legal norms from as long ago as 1938 recognize a duty among nations to prevent transboundary pollution and environmental harm.

More recently, there was the Teck Cominco case which was decided by a U.S. court of appeal. It ruled that the United States had administrative responsibilities with respect to a Canadian company that was emitting on American soil.

At this time, Canada is entering into an increasing number of international agreements addressing environmental issues. The CBA has urged federal, provincial and territorial governments to cooperate to implement these international agreements in a timely and complete manner, according to their respective areas of jurisdiction. Implementation of international conventions and obligations under international law is a matter of support for the rule of law.

I would now like to make a few comments about Bill C-377. This bill is intended to rectify Canada's non-compliance with the Protocol. It would introduce ambitious, and on the basis of current experience, likely unattainable, deferred targets. If legislated targets are to be adopted, they should be linked to, and coherent with current targets in international law. The existence of two, unrelated and incommensurate standards would likely create confusion as to the role of international law in domestic environmental law, and would downplay the importance of Canada's legal obligations under the protocol and other international treaties.

I would now like to list some of the legal consequences should Canada fail to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.

The protocol's Marrakesh Accords address non-compliance with article 3.1. The accord provides, in particular, that the enforcement branch of the compliance committee—that is how it is called—which is responsible for compliance, must ensure that Canada fulfils its obligations.

It must declare Canada to be non-compliant if it deducts from Canada's assigned amount for the second commitment period a number of tonnes equal to 1.3 times the amount in tonnes of excess emissions. It will require Canada to develop a compliance action plan including information provided in the letter that we sent to you. Finally, it can suspend Canada's eligibility to make emissions trading transfers under article 17 of the protocol.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol dictating Canada's international environmental obligations and subsequent negotiated instruments within the framework of the framework convention are likely to remain the primary international legal structures to address climate change, including climate change impacts in Canada, after 2012.

While recourse by a country against Canada before the International Court of Justice is unlikely, domestic litigation against the federal government can be expected. Already, the Friends of the Earth have launched two cases against the Government of Canada with the Federal Court, one under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the other under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act adopted in 2007.

To conclude, Bill C-377 deals with a subject of profound concern to Canadians and to the international community. However, it would require an 80% target by 2050, a significantly higher target than is currently adopted by most countries, which generally require around 50 or 60% reduction targets by 2050. While high standards are desirable, if attainable, they should be linked to and coherent with target set out in existing international law. The targets in Bill C-377 are not.

We urge the federal government to take immediate steps to honour Canada's international agreements to address climate change before considering the legislated targets proposed in Bill C-377.

Thank you.

February 7th, 2008 / 9:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Chairman, my question will follow up on the minister's opening remarks and on the issue raised by my colleague from the Liberal Party, who asked who would manage, administer and apply Bill C-33 if it is passed. The minister replied that it would be both the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Department of the Environment.

As is often the case, a bill per se does not do any damage, but its enforcement, and the way it is managed and applied, does do damage. Often the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. And this might happen in cases where legislation is enforced by two departments. The right hand won't know what the left one is doing.

Mr. Chairman, you might say I'm being simplistic, but it's like two drivers who are sitting behind the wheel of one car. In that situation, one driver might want to turn left, and the other to the right.

Mr. Minister, can you reassure us this morning? Bill C-33 seems logical, but can you tell us how the two departments, agriculture and agrifood, and the environment, will share its application? How will they do it?

February 5th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

I guess what I'm getting at, the point I'm trying to make, is that it seems to be an entrenched position. To me, it makes good sense to take Bill S-203 now, while we have it. When another bill comes forward, whether it's a government bill or a private member's bill, I think it should be given full examination and every opportunity to be debated as well.

What I'm getting at here is that from your organization's perspective, you're entrenched on this particular issue, and I can't see a good reason for it. You're entrenched against seal hunting, yet you're not entrenched against hunting, maybe, in another way. So I'm just wondering what it is. Is it an organizational thing? Help me understand where the rationale comes from for some of the positions the IFAW takes.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

January 29th, 2008 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague, who has a great deal of experience when it comes to Canadian municipalities—and large ones, at that—how Bill C-27 can be linked to the municipalities, especially the large municipalities.

Should there be a link? If so, what is that link?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

January 29th, 2008 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There will be a 10-minute period for questions and comments for the hon. member when the House resumes debate on Bill C-27.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Perth—Wellington.