House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is what I expected.

Did the current Prime Minister not say that he wanted to bring more democratic reform to the House of Commons? How democratic is it when there is one bill out of all the private members' bills that the parties collectively deem should not be votable? What are they afraid of? Why are they not willing to stand before their constituents and be held accountable for their actions?

The House of Commons is in serious need of some democratic reform and it is clear that the current Prime Minister is not going to be able to make good on his words on improving democracy in the House of Commons.

I will conclude by saying this. Marriage between a woman and a man constitutes a unique good for all society. It has a fundamental and irreplaceable role in building societies and civilizations. The social value of marriage comes from its role as a stabilizing force for the family, which in turn is the basic unit of our society.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the private member's bill before us today, Bill C-450, an act to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, addresses a subject matter with which the House is becoming very familiar. It seeks to re-enact the former common law requirement that marriage is “a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife”.

What makes this subject so familiar? The definition of marriage was voted on by the House last fall in an opposition day motion, and then in another private member's bill, Bill C-447, six weeks later. The response then was the same response that we have now. This bill is premature.

The government has set in place a full and responsible approach to this important question of marriage, one which both addresses its complexities and allows for a fully informed discussion. Marriage is an important cornerstone of our society and the expansion to include same sex couples has important consequences both for marriage and for the protection of minorities. It is deserving of this comprehensive and thoughtful approach.

Bill C-450, on the other hand, is simply another attempt to short-circuit that approach and bring the issue forward in a rushed manner that does a disservice to parliamentarians. Members of the House will have an opportunity for a full and informed debate on this very issue, but the time for that debate is not now, because at this time the debate cannot be a fully informed one as we do not yet have the guidance of the highest court in the land.

Let me briefly review the process the government is following to ensure that the debate is a fully informed one and, in so doing, to respect both the role of Parliament and the role of the courts.

Under our Constitution, courts have the mandate to examine laws to determine if they meet the requirements of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was itself, I would remind all members of the House, passed by Parliament in a democratic process. As members will recall, courts in three provinces, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, have now ruled that, based on the equality guarantees of the charter, the law restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples only is discriminatory to gay and lesbian Canadians who wish to demonstrate the same degree of commitment.

Based on these new interpretations of the charter equality guarantees, the government was faced with a choice. Either we could continue appealing to the courts or we could review the earlier approach of restricting the definition of marriage to opposite sex couples.

Rather than leaving this important social policy issue to the courts alone to decide by appealing the unanimous opinions of two appellate courts, the government decided to take a responsible leadership role and proposed legislation that would respect the ruling of both courts.

It did this by drafting a bill with two provisions. The first defines marriage to be “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The second states, “Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs”.

Unlike the bill before us today, the government's draft bill fully respects two fundamental principles: equality based on personal characteristics, in this case the sexual orientation, and freedom of religion. The government believes that it is essential to ensure full respect for both and to ensure that all religious groups continue to have the right to refuse to perform marriages for any couple that does not meet the requirements of their respective faiths.

This is not new. Religious officials have always had the authority to add qualifications, such as attending marriage courses, or refusing to marry couples where it would be against their religious beliefs, such as some religions refusing to marry divorced people or refusing interfaith couples. Because of the importance of religious freedom, the government wanted to ensure that this authority to refuse would also apply in cases of marriages for same sex couples, as we believe that it would.

Because of this, the government decided to refer the draft bill to the Supreme Court of Canada prior to its introduction in Parliament. This was not done to in any way preclude the parliamentary process. Rather, it is to clarify for members of Parliament their choices within the framework of the charter and, in particular, the freedom of religion.

Initially, last July the government asked the court to provide information on three key questions. First, is the draft bill within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?

Second, if the answer to question number one is yes, is the proposal in the draft bill to extend capacity to marry to persons of the same sex consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Finally, does the freedom of religion guaranteed in the charter protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex, a marriage that is contrary to their religious beliefs?

Then, at the beginning of this year, the new administration, the new government, reviewed these questions and made a decision to add a fourth question that would specifically ask about the constitutionality of the opposite sex requirement for marriage. In so doing, the government wanted to respond to concern of many Canadians and members of this House that the views of the highest court in the land on this central question are important to the eventual debate that will take place in this chamber.

It was also consistent with the response of the government to broader concerns over democratic process and with the goal of providing this House with as much information as possible to support parliamentarians, who took part in that debate and in that eventual vote, in their decisions on a very complex issue.

The Supreme Court of Canada will now hear arguments on all four questions this fall, over three days from October 6 to October 8. The court has granted intervener status to 18 non-governmental groups and individuals. Three provincial Attorneys General will also participate in the hearing. In this way, the court will have the advantage of a full range of opinions and submissions before it, and a decision would likely be rendered sometime next spring, although that is not in Parliament's domain but the court's.

It is at this point that the government will table its draft legislation and a full and informed debate will ensue in this House. Members will have before them the analysis of the legal issues by the Supreme Court of Canada and will be aware of the impact of the constitutional and legal framework on the choices available to them. They will also then be in a position to know the court's views on the ability of religions to set their own terms in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Responsible leadership calls for the approach we have chosen: a proposed legislative approach that the government believes meets both of the important charter guarantees of equality and religious freedom; the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada of that proposed legislative approach for its considered legal opinion so that questions and concerns of Canadians can be resolved before the legislation is considered in Parliament; and then a full debate in Parliament culminating in a free vote, at least on this side.

Bill C-450 threatens to cut short this process. Consequently, it is not in the best interests of this House.

Canadians have indicated that the issue of extending marriage to same sex couples is both important to them and extremely divisive. Because of this, it is especially crucial to proceed in this comprehensive and balanced way which ensures that both the Supreme Court of Canada and the members of this House can fully benefit from the full range of opinion on the important aspects of this issue.

Once we have the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada on the legal questions, we can all be in a position to responsibly discharge our duty to our electorate and vote with what we believe is the right approach. At that time, it could be that some of the members of this House will agree that the approach in Bill C-450 is the only choice, although I hope that will not be the case.

Whatever one's position is on the issue, the process that we have outlined will serve us well, better than moving ahead today as a knee-jerk reaction that would render the entire Supreme Court of Canada reference process redundant and would short-circuit the carefully balanced and responsible approach of the government to this complex question. As I said in my opening remarks, this bill is a disservice to this House.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add a few comments to this very important debate. I am somewhat surprised that there is no vote in respect of this bill. I think if the member opposite had the courage of her convictions, she would not have opposed a vote on this matter.

The bill's purpose is to negate the decisions of the British Columbia and Ontario courts of appeal that struck down as unconstitutional Canada's common law definition of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. I think the approach, while admirable, is the wrong approach.

At the same time I want to say that the Liberal approach to this problem has in fact been manipulative and undemocratic from the beginning. Instead of holding a legitimate debate and a vote on a particular bill, in Parliament, where issues of social importance rightly belong, with legislation in front of it, the Liberals have abdicated their responsibility by leaving the issue in the hands of unelected judges.

My Liberal colleague has indicated that there is a bill, but it is a draft bill. Who gets to provide input on the draft bill? Certainly not I as a parliamentarian. I cannot speak to that bill. It is only the government ministers and staff who have had input on that particular bill. It is not in the House. It is going to the courts.

This is not a comprehensive process. This is a process that has been stood on its head.

The better approach is to put a proper bill before the House and have a vote on that bill after the debates have occurred. The Liberals, knowing that an election is coming, have decided to punt the bill in draft form over to the courts so that they will not have to debate this issue during the course of an election.

Liberals say that this is a comprehensive process. It could have been a very simple process. We had the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, we had the Ontario Court of Appeal decision and we had the Quebec Court of Appeal decision. We had all of the issues before us in the context of actual court cases. They could have simply appealed that decision. They chose not to. They chose to take an extraordinary, unusual step. Rather than appeal, they have created the device of a reference.

A reference has been used, especially in cases where there is no appropriate mechanism to bring all the issues before the court. It is especially difficult to get things before the Supreme Court in a hurry if advice needs to be provided, but none of the usual criteria for a reference are present here.

We had a court of appeal decision. It could have simply been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. We had all of the issues that are now set out in this reference document before the Supreme Court of Canada had there been an appeal. This is clearly an evasive measure in order to avoid political responsibility and to punt it to the next Parliament so that Canadians do not see where the Liberals stand on this particular issue. That is why I say it is manipulative, it is undemocratic and it is certainly an unusual process.

On January 28, 2004 it was referenced to the Supreme Court of Canada. References essentially are questions that are put to the Supreme Court of Canada, questions that could have been put to the Supreme Court of Canada in the context of an appeal with all of the necessary factual bases from the cases themselves. This reference was expanded to include the question of whether the traditional definition of marriage, that is, between a man and a woman, is constitutional. However because they expanded the questions, they had to delay the hearing until October, clearly after the anticipated election date.

The government is under an obligation to not interfere with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General in terms of providing legal advice. What is telling about the government is that in this case it has instructed justice department lawyers arguing the case that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional. Those are the directions that have been given to the justice department lawyers.

This is not some kind of discussion of the issues. The Liberal government, under the Prime Minister, has been very clear. He and the Minister of Justice have told Department of Justice lawyers to argue that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional. That is an improper intervention by the Prime Minister in a constitutional case because the Minister of Justice and Attorney General does not speak for the government when it deals with the laws of this country. He speaks for the people of Canada and all parliamentarians here.

We see the reference in this case being used for crass political purposes in a subversion of the role of the Attorney General. The Minister of Justice has complied with that subversion. The Prime Minister has in fact instructed it.

The Minister of Justice has said that the government support of same sex marriage is unwavering. This is not going to be a full discussion of the issues, certainly not by the government. This is going straight to the Supreme Court of Canada and telling the Supreme Court of Canada that the Government of Canada, led by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, declares the definition unconstitutional.

Here we have the unusual step of a Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister asking the court to strike down legislation. That is what they are doing because that is what they have asked their lawyers to do. Those are the comments that were made by the Minister of Justice and by the Prime Minister.

We know that the federal government's position on same sex marriage is that it should be within the definition of marriage and that the traditional limitation of marriage on a man and a woman is unconstitutional. As the Minister of Justice has said, the government's support of same sex marriage is “unwavering”.

In light of the Supreme Court reference and the direction that the court is given by the government, any subsequent free vote in the House is laughable. It is a joke. The government knows, because it is cooking the books in the Supreme Court of Canada by the nature of the representations it is making, it is going to be rubber stamped by Parliament.

Parliamentarians are simply going to say, “The Supreme Court of Canada said so, so we are not going to have any debate. We are just going to rubber stamp this”. That is what is so despicable about the entire process that the Liberals have adopted.

The court has the power to reject the reference. It can say, “We will not hear this reference”. It has that discretion. This is not a hearing of the usual type.

With all due respect, what the Supreme Court of Canada should do is pump this matter right back to Parliament and say, “We will not be used as a political tool by the government to get it out of a jam”. That is what the Supreme Court's obligation is in this respect. That is what it should do.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-450. The NDP supports the decision of the federal government to recognize the equal rights of same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies. The NDP does not believe that the notwithstanding clause of the charter should be used to prevent the recognition of this happening.

I would like to go over some of the recent history of the greater debate around this issue. On June 17, 2003 the Prime Minister and the federal cabinet affirmed their commitment to recognize the equal rights of same sex couples to marry. This announcement came in response to both the judiciary and elected representatives urging the government to respect the charter of rights and ensure equality for gay and lesbian couples.

In a recent unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the current definition of marriage as the union of one man to one woman was deemed to be a breach of the charter as it is discriminatory against gay and lesbian couples. This decision followed the decisions of both the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Quebec Superior Court which also ruled that the current definition of marriage is discriminatory.

The federal government's move to allow same sex marriage also comes in response to a motion passed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights which called upon the government to support the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

It is important to note that the changes that will be made to the definition of marriage in the federal legislation will not affect religious traditions or the ability of faith organizations to sanctify marriage as they define it. The justices, writing in the unanimous Ontario Court of Appeal decision, stated, “We do not view this case as, in any way, dealing or interfering with the religious institution of marriage”.

I would like to add that I fully support the right of churches, such as the Catholic church, to oppose an inclusive definition of marriage, just as it has the right to refuse to marry a divorced person. That is also respected. While there are a number of religious faiths that accept same sex marriage, others do not and their beliefs must be respected. A change in the law would only apply to civil ceremonies. I support the government's reference to the Supreme Court which would ensure that it is made very clear in the law that no religious institution should be forced to marry same sex couples.

I will close my comments by quoting Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert, who said, “I neither believe that the civil law should dictate one's faith position, nor should a single faith position dictate the civil law” of this country.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is another occasion where I was not on any speaker's list, but listening to the debate I have become rather interested in what is going on here. I have some comments I would like to add to this particular debate.

First, I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you can accurately predict what will happen 22 years from now? In what state will the country of Canada be in? What will the world be like? Can you predict that? I venture to guess that you cannot and I would certainly confess quickly that I cannot.

If we look back at 1982 when the charter was put together, I believe that, with some wisdom, those people also said that they could not predict everything and anything that would be in place 22 years from then, in the year 2004.

There were some who recognized that giving unfettered power to the courts without any balance would be an error. Consequently, a section was put into the charter that said notwithstanding, which has come to be known as the notwithstanding clause. Notwithstanding what the charter says, we can do other things.

We do this regularly in this country. We have a law that says we cannot discriminate against a person with respect to race. It says that right in the charter. Yet, we have people, for example, in the Westbank in Kelowna living in a certain territory called the Westbank reserve who, because of their race, are not permitted to vote in the elections of the territory in which they live. There is a difference made based on race. In fact, the government quite happily approved that bill not long ago. It happened last week, I believe. That is considered to be okay, notwithstanding that the charter says otherwise.

I believe that the framers of the charter some 22 years ago, recognizing that there should not be unfettered power given to the courts without some kind of balance, put this notwithstanding clause into the charter.

I can think of another example. We have had quite a bit of debate lately about child pornography. There are some who claim that this comes under freedom of expression. I believe not. Even though the charter guarantees us freedom of expression, there are some limitations to it.

The very common one is that we cannot, in a crowded theatre, yell “fire”, because that would put other people in danger. We can actually be charged if we were to do that because we could cause the death of some people if they were to crowd each other out and trample each other on the way out. We have limitations to every one of the freedoms which is given in the charter.

The bill before us today, as I understand it, simply states that in no way did the framers of the charter, by talking about equality, say that the courts could arbitrarily change the definition of marriage. I agree wholly with my colleague who spoke earlier. He said that this should be a decision of Parliament. It should be done democratically, not by an unelected court. It should be done by the people through their elected parliamentarians.

Since the courts are proceeding in this direction--and, in my view, in a direction which was certainly not envisioned as something which the original framers of the charter wanted to include--I believe that it would be totally appropriate for the Parliament of Canada to say that notwithstanding these court decisions, it wants to respect democracy.

We want to respect the historical meaning of the English word marriage and its equivalent in all the other languages. Notwithstanding that the court has done this, we would like to maintain the definition of marriage.

We are a bit shortsighted when we say that permitting the marriage of any two persons has no ramifications. What happens if someone wants to marry a 10 year old? The charter says we cannot discriminate based on age, but I think we should object to that. I am not sure that will ever be the case, but if the definition of marriage is between any two persons, then that is a possibility.

There is nothing wrong with having restrictions on who can marry. What happens if a man wants to marry someone, notwithstanding that he may already be married to someone else? How can we tell that person that he cannot marry the second woman, or the third, or the fourth? That is a violation of that freedom under the charter. We are going on a very dangerous path.

What societal benefit is there by changing the definition of marriage which promotes the union of a man and a woman? One of the obvious outcomes of that is the production of children and family. I am not denying the fact that there are other arrangements in which families are together. Why should we as a society, as a country, and as a government deviate from that?

I would like to come back to the issue of democracy. We have been deluged with petitions from Canadians. Many people have contacted every one of our offices with many petitions which have been tabled in the House. The petitioners ask that Parliament take all steps necessary to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. These petitions are not just from one religious group but from many, and they also come from non-religious persons.

There is another issue that we ought to take into account as well. When we propose to change the definition of marriage, we ought to look carefully at what the ramifications would be. One of them is the trampling of people's rights. I will give the House an example.

The British Columbia government has given a directive to all of its justices of the peace that they will either, when asked, perform same sex marriages or else resign. I find it difficult to believe that, without exception, every justice of the peace in that province would be comfortable doing that. There must be undoubtedly some people who, because of religious or other reasons, would not want to do it.

What we are proposing is that only people who have a so-called religious attachment have the right to make that choice. What about non-religious people? Will we trample on their freedom to make this choice? This has already occurred in the Province of British Columbia. People have been told to either do it or resign.

What we have here is a collision of competing ideas and forces. I would like to appeal to the House and to all Canadians to go slowly on this issue. Let us use our common sense and ensure that we do the right thing.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Taking note that no hon. members are rising, the House will recognize the hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt for no more than five minutes under the right of reply.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

April 29th, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the comments of the member from the Liberal Party who said that the House of Commons does not have the guidance of the highest court in the land, that any reference that has been made to the courts in respect to the legal definition of marriage would not matter if my private member's Bill C-450 was passed. She said it would shortcut the process and render the Supreme Court reference redundant.

That is the whole point of the bill. I am suggesting that this is such an obvious thing and that the will of the public is so clear and obvious. Certainly, that is the direction I am getting from my constituents. They do not want to see a reference to the Supreme Court because they do not care what will be said by the Supreme Court. They want Parliament to exercise its authority, its responsibility, and make a decision on this matter.

I would suggest that regardless of the arguments in opposition to the very clear and concise nature of my private member's bill, which would resolve this issue, by invoking the notwithstanding clause, the debate would end. Marriage would remain the union of a man and a woman. The Liberals are subverting democracy. There is no legitimate reason for them not to allow a vote.

In fact, I would suggest that not only are they making their intentions clear, clearly they do not intend to protect the legal definition of marriage or they would not be playing the charade that they are. By making the Supreme Court reference and by denying the right of every other member of Parliament in the House of Commons to have a private member's bill voted upon, they are interfering with my duty, my obligation, and my responsibility to my constituents to represent them by bringing forth issues that they want to see debated and voted on in the House of Commons. Constituents do not want to see their elected officials shirk their responsibility by shuffling these issues off to a court.

I think that the government's refusal to allow this to go to a vote in Parliament is shameful. It is a subversion of democracy and is making a mockery of the proceedings of the House of Commons.

Canada Marriage Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 30, I asked the Minister of Natural Resources when he would recommend to cabinet the proclamation of the 1982 Motor Vehicle Consumption Standards Act. Given that reaching the Kyoto targets on climate change will require considerable improvement in automotive fuel efficiency, I thought that was an appropriate question at that time.

The minister's reply was not very encouraging. He provided no evidence of future regulation, but rather support toward the continued reliance on so called voluntary measures. It seems to me at this point that the reply given by the minister was not sufficient, given the following reasons.

First, according to a recent report by Environment Canada, greenhouse gas emissions from all personal vehicles has increased by 16% from 1990 to 2001, and within that figure, emissions from SUVs in particular, as well as pickup trucks and vans have increased by 79%.

Second, as verified by Transport Canada, Canadians are driving more than ever, with large relatively fuel-inefficient cars such as trucks, vans and SUVs becoming the fastest growing segment of the market. At the same time, rising gas prices have been met with popular demand for hybrid vehicles that has been outstripping current supply. That is an interesting development.

Third, if links with the automotive industry south of the border are an important consideration, it is interesting to note that both President Bush and likely presidential candidate Kerry have recently spoken out about promoting alternatively fuelled cars, with Mr. Kerry campaigning on increasing mandatory fuel economy standards to 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres by 2015. It is evident that without mandatory standards, the 12% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions attributed to automobiles and light trucks will only continue to grow.

This evening, could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources tell us when a decision will be made to introduce mandatory standards for fuel efficiency?

Mandatory standards to substantially improve fuel efficiency in the automotive sector are indispensable. They can be particularly effective when accompanied by tax incentives. For example, British Columbia and Ontario already offer $1,000 to each purchaser of a new hybrid vehicle. Ottawa, namely the federal government, presently offers no incentive whatsoever.

The frequently mentioned reduction of fuel consumption by 25% by the year 2015 is possible, but industry needs a lead time to adjust production plans. Therefore, the government, namely the Departments of Transport, the Environment and Natural Resources need to make a decision this year or at the latest next year.

I therefore urge the government, because of its commitment to the Kyoto agreement, to announce a mandatory fuel efficiency program together with a national tax incentive program to encourage the purchase of hybrids and any other vehicle performing efficiently.

Canada Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by giving a brief history of motor vehicle fuel efficiency in North America. The United States passed its corporate average fuel economy legislation in 1975 after the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and Congress set fuel economy standards for cars for every year from 1977 through 1985. Standards were added later for light trucks.

Canada's cabinet approved and announced automobile fuel consumption standards in 1976 that were based on the U.S. standards. Parliament subsequently passed the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act in 1982 to enforce these standards. Vehicle manufacturers then committed to meet the standards voluntarily and proclamation of the act was postponed.

Canadian company average fuel consumption standards currently match U.S. standards. The standards are 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres for passenger cars and 11.4 litres per 100 kilometres for light trucks, including pick-ups, minivans and sport utility vehicles. The standards apply to the average fuel consumption of all new vehicles sold each year in Canada by every automobile company, no matter where the vehicles are manufactured.

Historically, vehicle manufacturers have not only met these standards, but they have exceeded them compared with the U.S. new vehicle fleet. Currently, new cars are 7% lower or better than the standard and new light trucks are 3% lower than the standard.

While the performance of Canadian manufacturers has been excellent in the past, fuel consumption standards have not improved for nearly 20 years for passenger cars and about 10 years for light trucks. There is a need for improvement. I know my colleague knows this.

Canada has ratified the Kyoto agreement and committed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Because motor vehicles account for 11% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency are an important element of any strategy to reduce emissions.

Given this, the motor vehicle fuel efficiency initiative was first announced in action plan 2000, and the 25% target was announced in the climate change plan of November 2002. Our goal with this initiative is to reach a voluntary agreement with manufacturers on a new target for 2010, based on a 25% improvement from our current voluntary company average fuel consumption standards.

We realize this target is challenging but believe it is feasible and cost effective for both manufacturers and for consumers. There are many currently available and upcoming technologies that can be used to improve fuel consumption by 25% by 2010. Moreover, recent Canadian and U.S. studies have shown that reducing fuel consumption does not require sacrifices in performance and other attributes consumers value, and the cost of most technologies will be paid for through fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.

Canadian consumers, by way of their purchasing choices, continually demonstrate that they value fuel efficiency. The Canadian vehicle market is quite different than the U.S. market in that Canadians mainly buy smaller vehicles with better fuel efficiency. A new fuel consumption agreement will stimulate fuel efficiency innovation and will therefore make more choices available to Canadians in these market segments, and improve technologies in all segments. With NRCan's enhanced programs in consumer education and awareness, we are optimistic that Canadians will respond positively to a wider range of fuel efficient vehicles.

We regard these consultations as a first step to addressing the longer term issue of reducing vehicle greenhouse gas emissions in North America. Improving vehicle fuel efficiency is a necessary step.

I have more information and perhaps I will pass it directly to the member.

Canada Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for giving us the brief history on this issue and the developments that have taken place over time. I am glad that she also included the fact that the legislation, which was approved by this chamber and by the Senate in 1982, was never proclaimed.

I would like to share her belief and the government's belief in the ability of voluntary agreements to reach the desired targets of reducing emissions by 25% by the year 2010, but I cannot share it. I am glad to hear that the parliamentary secretary in her intervention has recognized that there is a need for improvement. The question is how do we get to this reduction of 25%.

I would submit to the parliamentary secretary this observation. By relying on a voluntary agreement, we will not get to that destination and we will not achieve the desired results. We will discover that when it will be a little too late.

The tax incentives that have been provided by British Columbia and Ontario have not been matched or emulated by the federal government. I would ask the parliamentary secretary to comment on this aspect.

Canada Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did want to talk about the fact that we have voluntary agreements. They have been successful in the past at reducing the fuel consumption of Canadian motor vehicles and are currently being used to improve fuel efficiency in other major markets. It is reasonable to make this the best choice for an agreement in Canada.

Voluntary agreements do have an advantage in terms of flexibility in design over regulated standards and ultimately the voluntary approach, which leaves the choice of vehicles and technologies to the marketplace, will lead to the most economic solutions for manufacturers and consumers alike.

While the government does have an authority to regulate vehicle efficiency, the government at this point in time would rather make serious efforts toward the voluntary approach, considering the potential benefits it offers. If we are unable to come to a mutually acceptable agreement, other approaches, including regulation, should and will be examined.

I hope that gives an indication to my hon. colleague who I know has worked very long and hard over many years in all the environmental areas.

Canada Marriage Act
Adjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.24 p.m.)