Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
  • Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
  • Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
  • Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
  • Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
  • Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
  • Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
  • Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
  • Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

June 5th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would speak against this. I understand how Mr. Bevington feels about this, but it's frankly unnecessary in order to put it into legislation. First of all, the territories approach the federal government for any change in classification, any change in borrowing limits, any change in relation to their financial position. They approach the Government of Canada and speak to it. Don't take my word for it. On May 24, 2012, the Minister of Finance for the Northwest Territories stated that

We worked collaboratively with Canada to secure an increase to our borrowing limit from $575 million to $800 million.

The Government of the Northwest Territories went on to state in a news release on March 15, 2012, and I quote again:

The increase represents the successful discussions between the federal Minister of Finance, the Honourable James Flaherty, and the three territorial Ministers of Finance about the definition and adequacy of the territorial borrowing limits.

It is very clear from the record and from what has been stated by all governments of the territories that there has to be consultation, and it would only make sense, because they actually approach the government based upon their own need in relation to the financing.

I would say as well to Mr. Bevington that the population base—and I know he's from a very large area, as I am in northern Alberta. Mine is much smaller than his, but we have a population of 43,000 in the Northwest Territories, 36,000 in Yukon, and 33,000 in Nunavut. The number of square kilometres that his constituents cover is huge, as is the case with my constituents in northern Alberta, but this arrangement is much the same as that of the municipal government in Alberta. For instance, in Fort McMurray, with all of our problems with infrastructure, etc., we had to approach the provincial government to ask for a change to our borrowing limit, which is the highest, I understand, of any municipality in Canada as far as percentage goes, because of the growth. But it's very common, and none of these discussions would take place without bilateral discussions between the different levels of government. It wouldn't make sense.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Jean.

Mr. Brison, go ahead, please.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

This amendment seeks the recommendation of the Minister of Finance after consultation with the Government of the Northwest Territories. It simply requires that there be consultation. But I think this speaks to a broader issue, which is the diminution and the demise of federal, provincial, and territorial engagement under this government, whether it is on health care or the effects of federal changes to EI on provinces.

Mr. Chair, you've been in the House for some time. For a lot of us who have been around for some time, there was a time, going back even further, when the role of the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs was considered a very senior role. Former Prime Minister the Right Honourable Joe Clark was a minister of intergovernmental affairs under Prime Minister Mulroney. Stéphane Dion was a minister of intergovernmental affairs under Mr. Chrétien. They were well recognized and respected individuals.

Very few Canadians would be able to name the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in the current government, or recognize him in a police lineup. The reality is that he is like a minister without portfolio in the current government. There is no consultation. There is no engagement. And the fact that government members are averse to simply having a requirement for consultation with the Government of the Northwest Territories speaks to that diminution of this very important role.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

I would just remind members to make their arguments as well as possible with respect to the substance of the argument and to not cast aspersions on any parliamentary colleagues.

Mr. Brison, what you said about the minister was not acceptable.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Just to clarify, I am not speaking about the minister. I am saying that he's a minister without portfolio in this government. That's not a reflection.... He has a car. He has an office. He has a staff. He just doesn't have a lot of work to do.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

You just proved my point actually. What I'm saying is I've asked members to make comments that are respectful of other parliamentary colleagues.

I'll go to Mr. Bevington.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Well, just in response to Mr. Jean, I would not characterize the Government of the Northwest Territories as a municipality.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I said it was similar.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

You know, when it comes to these regulations, which constitute borrowing....

I must remind you that the borrowing limit was set by the Government of Canada prior to this budget implementation bill. It really has nothing to do with what you talked about there, because it had already been accomplished.

This bill really speaks to the changes in the nature of borrowing, and that's where the concern lies. Right now about 40% of the borrowing limit is taken up by self-financing loans, mostly through the public utility corporation in the Northwest Territories. The public utility corporation, which has a mandate to return a profit on the investments it makes, constitutes almost half of what the borrowing limit is within the Government of the Northwest Territories.

So the issue in terms of conditions of borrowing, whether the federal cabinet chooses to make self-financing loans part of that overall umbrella of $800 million, is a very serious issue to people in my territory. We have enormous infrastructure expenditures for the future.

I can give a number of instances. In the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories, there's the need for a road from Wrigley to Norman Wells. In the last year we've sold a billion dollars' worth of oil and gas leases in that region. Without the road being built, the cost of drilling a well in that region is extraordinarily high. We need to move ahead with infrastructure and development so that we can make our economy work for us. Without fiscal capacity within the system, that will simply not happen. We can't plan for it. We have to go cap in hand to somebody else for the opportunity to do the things that we see can return investment to us.

Now, very strongly, by not consulting the governments that are engaged in the work of building Canada, with money to do the work, with their own money, to do the work that they need to do for their people, you're simply....

This is missing the boat. And this is not just for this cabinet. When you pass these laws, they're for every other cabinet that follows, unless there's another amendment made.

So I would ask that these laws be made in a careful fashion that respects the ability of our governments in the three northern territories to be assured that they will be consulted before any changes are made to these very important functions of government. Fiscal capacity is the basis of responsible government.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Bevington.

We'll go now to the amendments.

I'll just highlight for members that we have six amendments—three NDP, three Liberal—dealing with clauses 214, 215, and 216.

In clause 214 we have NDP-40 and Liberal-3; in clause 215 we have NDP-41 and Liberal-4; and in clause 216 we have NDP-42 and Liberal-5.

If you look at the amendments, they're very similar with respect to the first part of the Liberal amendment. I'm not sure how the opposition parties wish to proceed.

If we deal, for instance, with NDP-40, one option is to just have the second part of the Liberal motion amended into NDP-40; or the opposition parties could decide to go with the Liberal amendments, because they include both (a) and (b).

Does that make sense to members?

Frankly, I think it would be easiest if we voted on the three Liberal amendments. That's my perception as chair, but....

Monsieur Caron.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would like to suggest that we start with the Liberal amendment, since it has an additional element compared to the NDP amendment. If it is rejected, then we can move to the NDP amendment.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

As I understand it, we have to start with.... If the NDP wants to move NDP-40, we have to start with that.

Ms. Nash.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

We'll just go with the Liberal amendments.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay.

(On clause 214)

You don't have to read it, Mr. Brison, but I would ask you to move amendment Liberal-3.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

I move amendment Liberal-3.