House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

November 30th, 2001 / 12:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-43, the technical amendments bill. In the unlikely event that some members are not totally familiar with what the technical amendments bill does, it makes some minor corrections to a number of statutes.

Most of the provisions of the bill before us today were in the draft Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act. During the draft bill's review by the House and Senate committees, requests were made for additional information on a number of provisions. I understand this information was given to the committees but in view of the concerns expressed during the committee meetings, several provisions which were not objected to were nevertheless not incorporated in the Miscellaneous Statue Law Amendment Act which the House passed a few weeks ago.

Additional information also has been provided to parliamentarians and the public in the communications material for the bill. As a result, I believe the House could proceed quickly with these provisions. I initially wanted to do all readings of the bill today but I understand the House is not quite ready to do that. I guess it will have to go to standing committee now but hopefully it can be dealt with quite quickly and then brought back to the House.

In the period since the draft Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment bill was tabled last spring, a few other technical amendments have been brought to the government's attention. The bill proposes to amend the Special Retirement Arrangements Act to address incorrect references and cross-references which were omitted in the 1999 public sector pensions legislation that was passed by parliament. These changes do not affect the policies or substance of existing statute but simply ensure that internal references are corrected.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

That is a very good idea.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I am pleased to have the support of the secretary of state.

The Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act would also be changed to respond to a request from lieutenant governors to bring their pension arrangements in line with those of the federal public sector by allowing them to receive a pension at age 60 instead of age 65. I understand they are the only group in the public sector that has this particular requirement right now. It would bring it more in line with others because of course a number of people can retire at age 55 and so on.

I want to assure the House that there are no changes to the overall pension policies or arrangements for lieutenant governors.

Given the other large files we are studying this fall in the House of Commons, the amendments in this bill do not in themselves really merit separate bills. These are minor amendments after all. They are therefore grouped together in this bill.

The government therefore decided to introduce this bill so as to use parliamentarians' time more effectively and, of course, to ensure that our legislation is as accurate and up to date as possible.

By going ahead without further delay with this technical amendments bill, parliament can examine minor legislative amendments without waiting for other bills, which would make fundamental changes to the same bills, to be introduced.

I would now like to go over certain provisions of the bill. A number of amendments have to do with the Fisheries Prices Support Act. If members are wondering what purpose this act serves, it is a good question because this piece of legislation is obsolete. The Fisheries Prices Support Board is dissolved. Because it is obsolete, it has served no purpose for a good number of years.

These provisions were part of the draft amendment act to which I referred earlier. The committee had requested additional information about them while they were examining this bill. That information was provided and, in its report, the committee did not object to our going ahead with these provisions. However, because of the concerns raised during committee study, they were not incorporated into Bill C-40 passed by the House a few weeks ago.

Since we have now provided the information requested, it should be possible to go ahead and examine these provisions without delay.

With respect to Bill C-40, it is interesting to note that the structure that was established was that if one parliamentarian objected to a clause, it was simply removed from the bill at committee study stage. In return, Bill C-40 was passed at all stages in the House without debate. This is the structure which is always used for amendment acts. It is why we are examining some of these amendments today.

Under clauses 5 to 15 the name of the Canadian Film Development Corporation would be legally changed to Telefilm Canada. I was quite surprised to hear this because I for one, and probably all members of the House and the Canadian public, generally thought that Telefilm Canada was the legal name. It appears that it was not inserted in the law although it was the commonly used term. Telefilm Canada is the name that the corporation has used since 1983. It is bilingual and clearly identifies what the corporation does and the name change would be included in the legislation.

The National Capital Act would be amended to take into account changes to the Ontario and Quebec municipal structures. I note that the changes to the Quebec municipal structure only take effect on January 1, 2002. If parliament were to pass the technical corrections bill this fall, the final clause of the bill would allow a national capital provision to be brought into force on or after January 1.

For those members who are not from the national capital region, we have had amalgamation of municipalities. The regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton in Ontario is now the city of Ottawa. Almost the same thing occurred on the Quebec side in the national capital region. It is now one city bearing the name Gatineau. However I understand the jury is still out on that.

Therefore we have to change the National Capital Act for the number of seats to be on the National Capital Commission as a result of the amalgamation of municipalities in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The National Film Act would be changed to allow the National Film Board to administer its human resources in the same way as other separate employers. At the present time it needs a special governor in council approval for certain appointments. That is over and above the treasury board oversight which exists for all similar organizations. The amendment would simplify its hiring practice while not removing the government's oversight of the expenditure of public money.

In other words, we have two cabinet committees reviewing the same thing: the committee that does orders in council, which is called a special committee of council, and treasury board. This would be streamlined since they were essentially doing the same thing twice.

The Nuclear Safety and Control Act would be amended to allow the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to set terms and conditions of employment in the same way as other separate employers and to fix the amount of service contracts. I assure the House that the commission would remain subject to treasury board policies on contracting similar to other federal employers.

There is also an inconsistency in the English and French versions of the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act which would be corrected as part of the bill.

The bill contains in part technical corrections but substantive changes are also included to a degree. The fact that the city of Ottawa is no longer called the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton is something that has to be fixed along with bills that no longer have a use. The bill is a mixture of all these things.

These amendments are minor and technical in nature and do not reflect any significant policy issue. None of the provisions of the bill are substantive in nature, at least not to a major degree. Almost all of them were in the draft miscellaneous statute law amendment bill, 2001.

I understand that the information provided to committees addressed the concerns noted during the committee study regarding the information required for those parts that were in the MSLA. Further material on these provisions has been included in the communications material for the bill. I understand that all parties received this documentation.

I hope all members would support the timely passage of these housekeeping amendments. This would ensure that our laws are up to date and in order. I indicated earlier that if the House were agreeable we could have done all stages of the bill today. I am told that it was not agreeable. Therefore we will not.

We will send it to committee. I hope the committee would give it speedy approval. We could bring before the committee the officials we have prepared so that they are available to answer the technical questions hon. members might want to ask.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This goes to the hon. government House leader's description of the bill and the technical amendments including fish, pensions of lieutenant-governors, film, municipal structures, nuclear safety control and Yukon first nations. He mentioned the bill would be referred to a committee. What committee would the bill be referred to?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I refer the hon. member to page 25 of the order paper where it states that it will be referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations. There was mention of the justice committee earlier and perhaps that is where confusion arose, if I am not mistaken.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, it was interesting to listen to the government House leader today. He said that the acts were precise and as up to date as possible, which was the reason for the bill. I cannot help but wonder, if the bills were done properly in the first place, that we would not have to be doing some of this stuff and taking up the time of the House.

Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act, amends the following: Access to Information Act, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, Canadian Film Development Corporation Act, the constitution of Telefilm Canada, Financial Administration Act, Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act, National Capital Act, Nuclear Safety and Control Act, Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, Privacy Act, Public Service Staff Relations Act, Special Retirement Arrangements Act which I am sure would excite people watching live this afternoon, and Special Retirement Arrangements Act.

The committee will have to get together to make sure there are no special arrangements for MPs pensions or senior bureaucrats. The bill also amends the Telecommunications Act, Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act and repeals the Fisheries Prices Support Act.

We are told the bill proposes minor technical corrections that do not involve any policy changes. I agree with that. The reason the government's legislation is so riddled with mistakes is that it rushes it through the legislative process claiming lack of time. Yet the House adjourns early every other day.

Here is a question we could ask. How many high priced lawyers do we have in all these government departments drafting legislation? It is rather unfortunate that we still have all these mistakes.

I recall being on the justice committee and we had scads of lawyers, 10, 20 or 30 of them. They were all looking at the Extradition Act. I had to hire two professionals to look at the act. About nine or ten amendments were approved that time because we as the opposition hired some top notch lawyers to look at the bill.

I asked these lawyers why, If we could hire two lawyers to do this work for us and come up with amendments the government lawyers accept, they would not pick up on this. They said that government lawyers tended to like things to go to the supreme court for decisions rather than make laws that would never go there under the charter. I sometimes wonder how legislation is drafted that necessitates what we are doing this afternoon: taking up a couple of hours of parliament's time. It is a disturbing trend and this bill is a by product of that trend.

Yesterday the Liberal government attempted to adjourn government orders early due to the lack of government business. Ironically the day before it limited debate to less than two hours on the most important bill to hit the House in years.

I found this to be so offensive, as did most of my colleagues on this side of the House, that we refused consent to adjourn early, giving the Speaker no choice but to suspend the sitting until 5.30 p.m. when private members' business begins. The House was in a state of limbo with no business before it for a couple of hours.

So far this fall the House adjourned early for the same reason on November 22, November 20, November 2, October 26, October 25, October 24, October 22 and October 19. This is why we have a bill like Bill C-43 before us. It is not necessary because we do not have time to deal with legislation in a thoughtful and thorough manner.

Time allocation is not necessary in most cases. In fact there was a time when the Liberal leadership in the House shared that view. As recently as December 29, 1992, on CBC Prime Time the Prime Minister who was then the member for Saint-Maurice declared:

We have closure in Parliament now every day. I think it's completely wrong...And we will have to restore parliament...the parliamentary democracy that existed before.

On January 19, 1993, the same member made the following comment at a press conference in Ottawa. I see that the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary is wondering if I am in order with some of these comments. There is a reason that we talk about bills which are being updated. It is because of mistakes and that is why we have to press these issues. Before becoming Prime Minister he said on January 19, 1993:

I think we should let members of parliament speak their mind as long as it is possible.

If we had the opportunity to get the proper witnesses before committee and took the proper time on some of these bills, we would not make mistakes. It would mean we would not have to be back here bringing in a bill with all these mistakes and trying to correct them.

On October 25, 1989, the Toronto Star reported that the present government whip who in those days was in opposition said she felt the Tory government's use of closure showed it had no respect for the public process--

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Cariboo--Chilcotin.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday we did not have business to do. Today we do not have members to do business. I call quorum.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I see a quorum.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I will go back to October 25, 1989, when the present government whip was in opposition. She said she felt the Tory government's use of closure showed it had no respect for the public process, no respect for parliament and no respect for the opinions of the public.

On November 16, 1992, according to Hansard , the present government House leader said in the House that he was shocked by the conservative government's use of closure.

The government he was talking about used closure or time allocation about 23 times. The present government has used them 73 times. Rushing legislation through 73 times is one of the reasons we have a bill like the one before the House today. Mistakes are made and corrections must be made. We should spend the proper time looking at these bills.

The three members I have referred to, the Prime Minister, the government House leader and the chief government whip, are key players in the House of Commons today.

We in my party support Bill C-43 because it would make the necessary changes. However we would like the proper time to be taken in the House and the proper assistance to be given to members to make sure mistakes do not happen.

Parliament does not need to rush 73 bills through on closure. We should let parliament do its job. If it takes a little longer than the government hopes, that is one thing. We would prefer to avoid making mistakes in the first place. This would be achieved by careful drafting.

As I mentioned, when I was on the justice committee a number of opposition amendments to the extradition bill were approved. This proves my point. The member for Red Deer, our environment critic, has had numerous amendments approved in committee. This shows that if we let the opposition and the government work in committee and give them time to do what they must do, we will have better legislation.

Using the heavy hand of government to invoke closure does not bring about good legislation. Bill C-43 is a good example of that. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The money should have been spent making sure the legislation was done properly in the first place.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak today to Bill C-43. As my Canadian Alliance colleague mentioned earlier, this bill amends various acts.

While reading this bill, which is approximately 15 pages long, one realizes that the government is using a parliamentary instrument, which it is entitled to do, to amend a number of acts.

Several amendments are included in this bill which, to a certain extent let us admit, is of minor importance, but at the same time is rather important in view of the number of acts it amends.

The amendments concern a number of acts and instruments. The government House leader is shaking his head. If you will allow me, I will list the acts Bill C-43 seeks to amend. I am thinking of the Access to Information Act, to which I will come back later, but also of other acts parliamentarians, citizens and journalists commonly use.

Amendments could have been made to this act, which were not merely cosmetic but would have made it easier to use by citizens, parliamentarians and journalists. For us parliamentarians, this act is a very useful and necessary tool to help us do our work.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, with which some of our colleagues in the House are very familiar, is another act amended by the bill. Few from Quebec know this act because, of course, the Bloc Quebecois represents Quebec citizens.

The Canadian Film Development Corporation Act, to which I will get back later on in my speech, is also amended. It is a fairly important act. We need only look at all the events surrounding the CINAR case.

The government had the opportunity not just to change the name of the Canadian Film Development Corporation for the name used since 1994, namely Telefilm Canada, but also to go even further than that and to provide resources.

The Financial Administration Act, the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act and the National Capital Act are also amended. What perspective does this debate on Bill C-43 give us today? It is an opportunity to remind everyone that, in reality, the national capital is not bilingual.

The National Film Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act are amended as well. This bill amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and it so happens that we had an in-depth debate about nuclear waste yesterday. Today, we have an opportunity to debate this amendment. I recognize, of course, that it is not the same bill. However, we must remember that each debate that we have in the House must be put in perspective, and that perspective does not go back very far since it was just yesterday that we had that other debate on this subject.

This bill also amends the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, the Privacy Act, which the government House leader should know pretty well, the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the Special Retirement Arrangements Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act.

Even though the government says—and it is right to a certain extent—that all this bill does is change a few names, members can see that it does amend several acts.

This is why we are against fast tracking this bill. We want to be able to study it.

I also rise today to speak to the second reading of Bill C-43, introduced by the hon. government House leader.

Needless to say that our statutes must be consistent and updated, if we want their enforcement to also be consistent. In order to meet this obvious need, the Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Program was implemented in 1975. This program allows for minor amendments of a non-controversial nature to a number of federal statutes without having to wait for a more in-depth review.

The main purpose of the bill is to correct discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes. In addition, it repeals certain provisions, which is an excellent idea. But how do we explain the fact that we are required today to study a bill, Bill C-43, to correct, I repeat, discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes? Does this not denote, indeed, the lack this government's of commitment, and fundamentally, of Canadian governments past, and an unacceptable lack of insight when it comes to the French reality in Canada?

The first purpose therefore is to correct discrepancies between the French and English versions of statutes. In addition, it repeals the provisions regarding the Fisheries Prices Support Board. I remind the House that this board has not been operational since 1982. This is really quite unbelievable.