House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. Members

Nay.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Pursuant to Standing Order 76, the division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, October 21.

The House resumed from October 9, 1996, consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, an act respecting the Oceans of Canada, be read the third time and passed.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

October 10th, 1996 / 4 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, after trying unsuccessfully to amend the bill, after attempting to be heard in committee, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill for several reasons, some of which I am going to mention.

This bill, which is entitled an Act respecting the oceans of Canada, is prefaced by some rather surprising "whereases". This is indeed surprising in a bill that is supposed to outline the way things will be done; these "whereases" are statements of intent, the kind one would expect in the preamble of a policy paper rather than a bill.

I will read a couple of them to give you an idea of what I mean. The first one states:

Whereas Parliament wishes to reaffirm Canada's role as a world leader in oceans and marine resources management;

This bill might have been coloured by the minister who initiated it, but the, not a policy statement, states:

Whereas Parliament wishes to reaffirm Canada's role as a world leader in oceans and marine resources management;

In our opinion, this is not only pompous, but in view of the resources not provided for the implementation of such a policy, rather misleading.

I will read another one:

Whereas Parliament wishes to affirm in Canadian domestic law Canada's sovereign rights, jurisdiction and responsibilities in the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

What is interesting, in this instance, is that Parliament wishes to affirm its sovereignty or Canada's sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone when, in the first whereas, it was said that Parliament wishes to reaffirm Canada's role.

In committee, the Bloc Quebecois proposed an amendment to clarify that "Whereas" so that this paragraph would not mean we are changing the respective roles of the provinces and the federal government in the control of the territory.

Yes, as Quebecers, we are concerned by this provision and no, the government did not follow-up on our propositions.

Let me quote the bill again:

Whereas the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in collaboration with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and with affected aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies,-is encouraging the development and implementation of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems.

That statement, which appears in various other places in the bill, is quite clear on the role of the provinces in the distribution of powers and responsibilities as the government sees it. Even if it comes from one department, that bill is presumably endorsed by government as a whole.

It is odd that, at this time in the history of Canada, the federal government would present a new bill where it treats provinces as private individuals or corporate bodies with whom it could eventually co-operate if it sees fit to do so, considering that, during the recent Jasper conference, in the absence of Quebec, provincial premiers examined their respective powers, agreed to follow-up on that point and talked about their eventual shared management of canadian federalism in areas like social programs and such, and at a time when there is, all over Canada, and not counting Quebec once again, a great determination to review the dynamics of Canadian powers and responsibilities.

I am talking about this issue because, in Canada, Quebec has been too often identified as the spoilsport, the one making it impossible to come to an agreement, while what we find out is that, on many issues, aside from Quebec which has its partnership project, Canadian provinces or at least a number of them say they want to take part in the management of this country. It is true in the social sector and in many others.

This bill is totally unacceptable to us because it divides the Department of the Environment who is already conflicting with the provinces in some areas of jurisdiction. It seems to divide the department into sectoral components. Thus there would be a sector for fisheries, oceans and ecosystems, which is very surprising and worrisome because it is obvious that, when dealing with ecosystems, even though it says in chapter 2 that this part does not deal with rivers, the department can also meddle throughout the territory.

Since the Department of the Environment is announcing 30 per cent cuts over three years, how can we increase its activities if it does not get any means to do so?

Finally, it has been said time and again that the department's power to impose user fees for the coast guard and the minister's authority to impose registration even on pleasure craft constitute an

outrageous abuse that leads us to foresee further centralization that makes no sense at this time, not only in Quebec, but throughout Canada.

We asked that this bill be postponed; it is definitely in no shape to be passed by this House.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-nuclear test ban treaty.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to the bill on Canada's oceans, because this is an important strategic tool of which Quebec will be deprived. We have a very good case in point. This bill will regulate the setting of fees for services including ice breaking and navigational aids like buoys on the St. Lawrence. There is already a unanimous consensus in Quebec against the measures proposed in this bill. Since this is a federal jurisdiction, we must express Quebec's views and let the House know that this bill will reduce the competitiveness of all the industries along the St. Lawrence.

The government made an important, deliberate choice in deciding to reduce by 50 per cent its involvement in the area of transportation. Transport Canada is in the process of divesting itself of its port facilities. It is proposing that local authorities take responsibility for the future of port facilities. This could be an interesting proposal, because it has done such a terrible job for so long that, if it gives these facilities back to the local authorities, they will at least have control over the decisions affecting them.

I think it was malicious on the part of the government to, at the same time, make the Department of Fisheries and Oceans responsible for setting the fees to be charged for services on the river. On one hand, they are asking local authorities to take over the facilities and telling them: "Make them viable so we can do something interesting with them in the future. On the other hand, we will continue to set fees for services on the river and impose significant increases". As a result, boats, stevedores and transport management workers will face new choices in the future and wonder whether they would be better off going through New England, through U.S. ports on the Atlantic side rather than through the St. Lawrence.

One might say: "The opposition party condemns this, that is all does". That is the position of the Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent, which raised the matter in a letter to the Minister of Transport.

This corporation represents, according to this list here, at least 30 different organizations, including members of Quebec's aluminum industry association and some big names like Alcan Aluminum, the Alouette aluminum smelter, and so on. It also includes the Association des armateurs du Saint-Laurent, the Association des industries forestières du Québec, the Administration de pilotage des Laurentides, the Bateau-Mouche du Québec, stakeholders from various areas.

The Act respecting the oceans of Canada will give the federal government, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in particular, the authority to raise fees, putting into question the competitiveness of port facilities along the St. Lawrence River. That is why this bill absolutely must be opposed, because it takes away from Quebec a major development tool which is also used everywhere along the St. Lawrence seaway.

It could have a major negative impact on all shipping to Ontario. Behind all this are choices to be made and, in a way, the federal government has chosen to fail Quebec in that respect. While a completely different decision could have been made, a choice was made to protect the bureaucracy. There is an major clean-up to do with regard to icebreakers and in the federal St. Lawrence River management system.

Take for example the fact that all icebreakers in the Atlantic region operate out of Halifax. This may be very interesting for people in the maritimes, but icebreakers work mostly in the St. Lawrence and every time they have to fill up, they must go back to Halifax. This is strange, because it is from Halifax that the Irving corporation controls oil operations.

Why is such a situation not corrected? Why did the department not clean up its act? Instead of asking for a fee increase, it might have been better to do a cleanup inside and to say: "We have to review the coast guard issue. We have to see if we can provide the same services at a lesser cost, or in a different way".

This is not what the act will do. It will make sure that the bureaucracy is being taken care of, at the expense of the businesses that have to live with these economic realities. We are talking about cost for icebreaking and fees for navigation aids, buoys. What is tragic is that this measure jeopardizes the reform of port activities in Canada.

The parliamentary transport committee is currently travelling across Canada regarding Bill C-44. Everywhere it will stop, people will tell its members, as was the case in Vancouver, where the issue was not icebreaking but dredging costs: "You are generating costs to us that will kill any desire on our part to take over the facilities you are offering us".

Same thing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Let me give you a concrete example. In Cacouna, the port development corporation has already issued a letter of intent to the government and it is prepared to take action, to negotiate with the federal government. In fact, negotiations are about to be undertaken, and consultations are already taking place on a regular basis.

But the biggest fear in that community is not so much over what is going on at Transport Canada-in fact dealing with transport officials can be interesting-but rather how the port will be affected by the new fees imposed under the Oceans Act and the increase in fees.

There are so many negative consequences involved that people often say: "Let us take a little more time before making a decision". We should look into this, because these are questions that SODES, the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, asked the Minister of Transport. because it would appear that he listens better.

They have a vision, and I think the government should have kept all these services under the authority of a single organization. This way, decisions could have be made in a more rational and co-ordinated fashion. Right now, there is something machiavellian about the system. We would think that the separation between the two departments was to ensure that the local community remains responsible for the facilities and picks up the tab for related services. These are very bad choices the federal government has made and it does not look good.

These questions that have remained unanswered so far come from the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council. The official opposition is not the only one asking questions. How will these changes affect the selection of operators? Will businesses and industrial sectors be forced to close? Will the higher fees result in services being provided elsewhere than on the St. Lawrence River?

Are there financial losses involved for these businesses, not only losses resulting from closures but also other types of losses? Will the investment potential be affected? This is a fundamental question. The decisions that will be made under the marine act will affect economic choices in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years. Major corporations such as Alcan, which is a member of SODES, do see this.

This is the type of issues people wonder about. With its Oceans Act, the federal government deliberately chose to take this strategic tool away from Quebec and this is why we must oppose the bill. The government must absolutely redo its homework and give the federal transport department responsibility for user fees again, so that there will be only one decision maker, who will take into account all the economic criteria, before making a choice.

It is not true that we only have to subsidize coast guard icebreakers. The decisions made must take into account the economic reality as a whole, and we must make sure that, in the end, no additional damage is done through a fee increase, which would mean more costs to the economy as a whole and also to the governments involved.

In conclusion, the bill should be rejected. It is not a measure that will serve the interests of Quebec, and this is why the official opposition will vote against it.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is the House ready for the question?

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those in favour will please say yea.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Oceans Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

All those opposed will please say nay.