House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

(Bill C-71. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 22, 2005--The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development--Consideration at report stage and second reading of Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, as reported by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development without amendment.

(Bill concurred in at report stage and read the second time)

(Bill C-57. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 18, 2005--The Minister of Finance--Consideration at report stage of Bill C-57, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions, as reported by the Standing Committee on Finance with amendments.

(Bill concurred in at report stage)

Bank Act
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In my point of order I referred to an order in council. I have it here and would like to table it in both official languages.

Bank Act
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to table the document?

Bank Act
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved that Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, be read the third time and passed.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak in support of this bill, the first nations commercial and industrial development act, a logical, sensible and progressive piece of legislation with a wide range of benefits for first nations and for Canada.

I would like to discuss the benefits of the bill in some detail. The bill is intended to remove the impediments that stand in the way of major commercial and industrial projects on reserve for first nations.

The existing barriers to development on reserve come in the form of inadequate federal legislation adopted under a different set of economic circumstances. Today, as first nations pursue complex large-scale commercial and industrial development projects with enormous potential to improve their quality of life and economic prosperity, it is up to us as legislators to facilitate that development.

It is instructive to look at a concrete example of a major industrial development project which is likely to be realized under this legislation. Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta is developing a multi-billion dollar oil sands project in partnership with Shell Canada, but the dollars themselves generated through projects like this are not the only benefit to first nations such as Fort McKay. Increased revenue and economic growth lead to other tangible, measurable and positive outcomes.

The projects would, for example, improve the quality of life through ensuring industry-wide standards in environmental protection, public health and safety. They would also create more jobs on reserve. At the same time, such projects offer first nations unprecedented opportunity to build capacity for the future. The new jobs that are created bring along with them education, training and skills development.

All of the short term benefits that first nations citizens will enjoy from new jobs, such as higher incomes and better skills, for example, over the longer term will result in access to other opportunities that would previously have been out of reach.

For first nation communities as a whole over the longer term, revenues generated from large-scale commercial and industrial development projects can be directed to upgrading road, water and sewer infrastructure as well as building playgrounds, schools and medical centres.

It is because first nations themselves see the significant benefits that are possible under this legislation that five partnering first nations have been front and centre in developing and advocating it. They are Fort McKay First Nation and Tsuu T`ina Nation in Alberta, Fort William First Nation in Ontario, Squamish Nation in British Columbia, and Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan.

These partnering first nations, all of whom are considering proposals for major commercial and/or industrial development projects, have designed this initiative as an important tool to help them access engines of economic development on their reserve lands. They have all shown their support for this initiative through band council resolutions and they have been engaging other first nations and first nations organizations across the country to build further support. In fact, the flexibility of this legislation will allow first nations in all parts of Canada to enjoy its benefits.

Closing the gap in socio-economic conditions between first nations and other Canadians is the principle objective of this legislation. I call upon all members of the House to support this legislation, which fills the regulatory gap that has to this point hindered first nations economic development for far too long.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-71, the first nations commercial and industrial development act.

The reason I feel so privileged to speak to this on behalf of the Conservative Party is because of the work the Conservative Party has done to bring the bill forward in the dying days of what has been a very frustrating legislative period.

We had lots of opportunities throughout this Parliament to bring this forward. The critic for the official opposition, the member for Calgary Centre-North, recognized that this legislation had virtually stalled in the House. It was through his efforts that it has been brought forward and we are likely and certainly hopeful to see the bill passed.

I also need to recognize the amount of effort put into this and the background work done by the specific first nations named in the bill. I will read the names out because I think it is most important to recognize the efforts of the first nations in bringing this forward. These are forward-thinking nations who understand that the present Indian Act is not working for them and not working for any of the first nations in this country. Accolades go to the following first nations: the Squamish Nation of British Columbia, the Fort McKay First Nation, the Tsuu T`ina Nation of Alberta, the Carry the Kettle First Nation of Saskatchewan and the Fort William First Nation of Ontario.

I would like to bring it to the House's attention that the Tsuu T`ina Nation, which is within my riding, is a very proud, individualistic group that have put forward some of the best initiatives that, frankly, we have seen. Not only does it have one of the most beautiful reserves within my riding, it has an incredible view to the west of the Rocky Mountains, second to none in this country, of course.

I have spent a great deal of time working with these people and have a great deal of respect for them. I am very proud to say that they were one of the main proponents of bringing the bill to the position it is at today. They recognize that they have great opportunities ahead of them. Therefore I strongly endorse the legislation so they will actually have the opportunity to seek a better future for their children. We all seek that but this old Indian Act that we are dealing with and have been dealing with for years is outdated. It does not allow these people the opportunity to plan for their future.

The other one that needs to be recognized is the Fort McKay reserve with a $4 billion project in conjunction with Shell oil sands. This is one of the shining lights in Alberta, and I am sure the House is well aware of it. However this opportunity will not be within the reserve's grasp if we do not move the legislation forward, which is why we on this side of the House were so concerned that the bill had been stalled and why we are pushing it forward to actually get it to move ahead. Certainly some other pieces of legislation have not made it quite that far.

We would strongly encourage all sides of the House to support this legislation. It is a great opportunity for all of these first nations to actually seize their future and to control the future of their nations and their children.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Cleary Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands.

The purpose of Bill C-71 is to correct what the government calls “regulatory gaps”. This is an expression it uses to cover up the absence of an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework to encourage and regulate economic development on aboriginal reserves.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-71.

Quebec, like the other provinces, moreover, already has a legal framework governing commercial and industrial activities, but the division of powers under the Constitution means that some of those standards do not apply on reserve lands. This results in inequalities that put aboriginal people at a disadvantage.

The purpose of the bill, therefore, is for the federal government to inaugurate on the reserve, at the request of a first nation, regulations similar to the legislation of Quebec or of the province in which the reserve is situated.

Although the genesis of this bill came from five first nations—the Squamish nation in British Columbia, the Fort McKay first nation and the Tsuu T'ina nation in Alberta, the Carry the Kettle first nation in Saskatchewan, and the Fort William first nation in Ontario—none of the first nations in Quebec were consulted. Bill C-71 will have repercussions on Quebec and it would have been better to consult more with the aboriginal peoples concerned.

The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador asked the chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that the Quebec communities be consulted so that they might examine the bill and analyze the specifics of applying such legislation. It is regrettable that the government once again broke its promise to consult the first nations.

Several years ago, Quebec adopted an approach based on respect for aboriginal peoples. The Bloc Québécois is proud of this direction and recognizes aboriginals as a distinct people entitled to their culture, language, customs and traditions and their right to develop their own identity their own way.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that in order to do this, aboriginals must have the tools they need to take charge of their own economic development. That is why the Bloc Québécois hopes to review Bill C-71 with the first nations of Quebec, since it affects this important aspect and needs to be analyzed thoroughly with the first nations.

Although passing this bill will engender improvements, the federal government must do a lot more for aboriginals. The housing conditions, education and health of aboriginals are inferior to those of the rest of population.

On the reserves, most families—65%—live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that the lack of affordable housing of adequate size and quality for aboriginals has consequences beyond simple housing standards.

Various medical and social problems are linked to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the effort needed to correct the situation without simply handing over the problems to the first nations.

Ways and Means
Government Orders

November 23rd, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act and descriptive documents pertaining thereto. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, be read the third time and passed.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to represent the position of the NDP in the House today. Our critic and spokesperson for aboriginal affairs, the member for Winnipeg Centre, was not able to be here as he is at the aboriginal conference. I know he has worked very hard on the bill, as he has with all other initiatives, to pursue equality and rights for aboriginal people in Canada.

We support the bill. The fact that it is being given speedy passage through the House is necessary and important. We want to ensure there are no barriers or obstacles to economic and industrial development for aboriginal people on reserve. From that point of view, the bill is important and we certainly want to see it go through.

I would also make a note that from our perspective it is important to provide aboriginal people with the tools and the resources that are necessary. As others have noted, the socio-economic status, the environment in which aboriginal people live is appalling. The government's record of not dealing with the abject poverty that exists is appalling.

We have many issues before us in terms of the aboriginal peoples who have not been dealt with. However today we have an opportunity to at least get this bill through to provide some support, the resources and the necessary tools and regulations. On that basis, the NDP of course is supporting the bill as are other parties.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the question is deemed put and the motion is deemed carried on division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Barrie
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll for the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-57, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions, be read the third time and passed.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-57 at third reading.

In budget 2005 the government committed to introduce the proposals in this bill, which now fulfill our government's commitment to bring the governance standards for financial institutions up to the levels adopted in 2001 for other federally incorporated companies. Bill C-57 also proposes to update certain governance standards that are unique to financial institutions.

I am told by my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, that the members on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance worked very constructively and collaboratively on this initiative. We want to thank them for doing that.

There is little doubt of the important role that financial institutions play in the lives of Canadians. They provide services above and beyond what we most often think of as banking services, services such as chequing and savings accounts, and mortgages.

Financial institutions, though, are much more than that. For example, they provide the capital necessary for new or existing businesses. They sell insurance and can administer estates, trusts and agency contracts. In addition, they play a key role in helping governments and corporations to raise capital, as well as offering individuals an opportunity to invest in stocks, bonds and other securities.

The financial services sector is more than a provider of services. It is a critical part of the infrastructure of our economy, employing over 600,000 Canadians with a yearly payroll of over $35 billion. I can say that where I come from in Toronto, the financial services sector is a hugely critical employer in the business activity in the area. Let us not forget also that the financial services sector contributes approximately $13 billion in taxes to all orders of government.

I think everyone would agree that for Canada to continue its economic success, we must think beyond our borders. The same is true of Canadian businesses such as financial institutions. Let us face it, the reality is that we are operating in a global context and in global capital markets, but in order to compete in such an increasingly competitive global marketplace, the financial services sector needs to have a modern and up to date regulatory framework.

It is in this spirit that the government has taken action in recent years to ensure that financial institutions have the up to date regulatory framework they need to compete in today's global economy. In fact, this framework is reviewed every five years. Bill C-57 builds on those initiatives. It equips financial institutions with the modern governance tools that they need to compete in a global economy.

I would like now to quickly outline the five main elements contained in this bill. First, the financial institutions statutes recognize the importance of an effective board of directors. Bill C-57 contains proposals to clarify the role of directors in carrying out their important functions, for example, by explicitly allowing for a due diligence defence and clarifying the conflict of interest rules. I am particularly proud to see that. My first private member's bill called for the defence of due diligence for directors of corporations in Canada incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act.

Second, shareholders have certain rights, such as the right to participate in the major decisions of a financial institution in which they have an interest. The proposed legislation enhances those rights. For example, once this bill is passed, shareholders would be permitted electronic participation in meetings using technology such as video conferencing.

Third, Bill C-57 recognizes the importance of good governance in the well-being of a financial institution. As such, the government's framework needs to be kept up to date with best practices in this area.

Fourth, the legislation proposes to strengthen a number of governance elements in the regulatory framework, including improving the flow of information to the regulator. It also harmonizes various governance standards within and across the financial institution statutes.

The fifth element relates to changes in the policy holder governance framework for insurance companies. These changes would work to increase disclosure in respect of participating in adjustable life insurance policies.

We do not have time to go into any more detail on this particular piece of legislation, but it is an important piece of legislation that would affirm the importance of our financial institutions in Canada and would give them the tools necessary to compete in this global economy.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-57. The Conservative Party will be supporting this bill. We believe in strong corporate governance and rules around that sector. We believe they are essential to ensuring that shareholders' rights are protected, that consumers are served properly, and that Canada's financial sector is able to be strong and vibrant.

The Conservative Party will continue to look out for the best interests of consumers and shareholders while ensuring that the regulatory environment contributes to a strong financial sector.

This bill would bring the financial sector under the same rules as other business corporations that are currently under the Canada Business Corporations Act which took effect in 2001.

However, this Liberal government should walk the talk. While it is busy bringing in Bill C-57 on corporate governance, cleaning it up and making it transparent, what do we see from the government itself? Canadians have been subjected to another year of false projection, junk accounting and misleading government spin. The Liberals continue to hide behind phoney numbers and false forecasts.

The Liberal budget of 2005 projection of $3 billion was a lowball figure, as we now know. The government would have presented a budget surplus of $6 billion if it had not been engaged in unbudgeted spending and junk accounting which served to reduce the surplus numbers close to what the budget projection then was.

Parliament's numbers, the work done by the four forecasters hired by the finance committee to check on what the projections were from the finance department and, more important, the finance minister, revealed early on that the Liberals were sitting on billions of dollars more than the budget 2005 projections that were claimed.

In April Parliament's numbers projected a surplus of $6.1 billion and most recently, in July, a surplus of $.64 billion. Now those same fiscal forecasters are continuing on and we hope to get a budget for them to continue their work.

This points out the Liberal government's questionable budgetary practices that underscore the need for a parliamentary budget office, as was presented in the new Conservative federal accountability act. Canadians deserve honest and independent forecast projections, so that Parliament can engage in a debate as to how surplus money should be allocated and in fact, whether those kinds of surpluses should be allowed to build up. In any event, maybe we need to lower tax rates, so we do not run those massive surpluses. We see sometimes that the government gets carried away just before elections and all kinds of crazy spending is coming out most recently.

We are in agreement with this. It would help several sectors. It would help The Co-operators, I know, which is a big cooperative financial institution. We have some concerns for other sectors, like the chartered accountants. We are willing to explore those further. I think it is important to get the financial sector under the same rules that other corporations are under in this country and that shareholders have the transparency they need to make investments in the sectors that are involved under this legislation.