House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a follow-up question that is similar to that of my colleague. If we are really concerned about freshwater and water transportation, then we have to look at the largest reserve of water. Let us look at the Great Lakes, which hold 22% of the world's unfrozen freshwater. That is a significant amount of water. Our obligation on both sides of the border should be to protect that water and to make sure it is as clean and as usable as possible, generation after generation, as far ahead as we want to look.

We have been doing a poor job of that. This past weekend the Canada and the U.S. met and I know it is as large an issue on the United States side as it is on our side. We have to work collectively together to deal with that.

However, when we are talking about this motion and NAFTA and removing freshwater to a foreign country, which would obviously be the United States, that is absolutely not in NAFTA. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding on that, in 1993 there was an agreement among the three countries to make that absolutely clear. The NAFTA deal only talks about this if it is a good. It is only a good if it is processed, either put in a bottle or put into some kind of process. In its natural form it is not a good and it is not part of NAFTA.

I do not understand where this motion is going and why there is a problem here. There is a problem, but the problem lies in dealing with that 22% of the freshwater in the world, not in this motion and not in removing freshwater to the United States in a form that would be obligated by NAFTA. I wonder if my colleague would respond to that, because those are the real facts.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Conservative member, is using a bit of a diversionary tactic. What I am talking about is water in the context of NAFTA; he is talking about the water in the Great Lakes. We all know that when it comes to the Great Lakes, we have the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, and that this is under federal jurisdiction, of course. As well, it involves the International Joint Commission. In that respect, when the member says that there are major problems, he must probably be meaning to refer to the problems that the Conservatives are encountering in negotiations about boundary waters.

The fact remains that Canada has to preserve its water. It must also work with the United States, because there are two parties here: the United States and Canada. They must work in the same direction to protect these great bodies of water.

That cannot be done without a firm will to protect not only the quantity of water, the whole range of watersheds, but also the quality of that water. A drop in the water level can have a horrific impact. The Americans will certainly be tempted, of course, to pump water from the watersheds, but because of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, we must ensure that these great bodies of water are protected. That much is obvious.

Once that protection has been granted, under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, we must still consider the question of water that is not expressly excluded from NAFTA. Yes, there are letters. Yes, there is an implementation act; but when will there be action? Is wood not a commodity, just like fish or ore? They are not commodities when they are in their natural state, but as soon as they are no longer in that natural state, they are commodities.

And that is what the United States wants to do, in the relatively short term.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it seems as we move along with the trade agreements we signed many years ago that some of these issues still are not resolved.

I had the opportunity to make a presentation to an environmental assessment panel in Quebec City this winter on the relationship of energy to NAFTA in terms of the liquefied natural gas imports proposed for Quebec. Once again, there is no clarity on the nature of some of these products under these trade agreements.

Does my hon. colleague not agree with me that it is very important to push forward with our position on products, goods and services and to put our case forward as strongly as possible from the government and this Parliament to ensure that our trading partners understand where we are coming from? That is what I think this effort from the committee is working toward and it is certainly something that should be supported.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have here a note that I have to read to you to put things into context. Let us recall that, at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the U.S. president told a reporter that he saw Canada's water resources as part of America's energy security.

We know very well how the negotiations are conducted. For the SPP, the security and prosperity partnership, for instance, there have been discussions between firms of pretty important lobbyists, or at least ones with considerable political influence, from the three countries involved: Canada, the United States and Mexico. They have gotten together to talk about the water issue. That too comes under the security and prosperity partnership of North America and it shows how much the United States cares about energy security.

In this respect, certainly efforts have to be made. Efforts have to be made to defend the interests of Canada and those of Quebec, of course, in any of these forums, because the SPP is doing things that go against the values of Canadians and Quebeckers. There is therefore a need for greater democratization. Canada has to assert its place in these negotiations, but it also has to speak for the values, aspirations and needs of the people, both Canadians and Quebeckers.

The government must therefore show great resolve, so that any dealings with the United States are conducted fairly and everyone wins. Above all, we must not be exploited or let anyone exploit us.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, for raising this today. We all recognize how important water is.

As well, of course, with all the discussions we are having of late about the environment and what is happening with our environment and the quality and quantity of our water, I think it is a relevant debate. It is misleading, of course, because of the premise of the motion we are debating, and I was part of that debate in committee, where I tried to raise the facts for the opposition members, who were not prepared to listen.

We heard a little lecture from that member this morning about committee procedures. I would beg to differ in regard to when a witness comes to committee and is totally off the topic that is being discussed that day and the chairman asks if the witness could please bring it back on topic. I supported our committee chair because we had called in a witness to speak on a specific subject. Our chair made the right decision.

I will stand behind our chair's decision. We were trying to bring the debate around to the topic of that day. Not only did that individual show great disrespect for our chair, who has spent as much time in that chair as you have, Mr. Speaker, but I am sure that our committee chair should not be required to subject himself to disrespect any more than you should, Sir.

It is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to this important debate. As I have said, water is an important matter and an important resource for Canada. Compared to other parts of the world, Canada possesses a relative abundance of freshwater. My hon. colleague from Yellowhead has pointed out the volume of water that is within Canada's--

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Wascana is rising on a point of order.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the parliamentary secretary. I do not mean to interrupt his speech. He will have an opportunity in just a moment to continue, but this has to do with another matter that occurred in the House earlier today at the beginning of the session.

I rise on a point of order concerning the government's use of Standing Order 56.1 to dispose of the committee stage of Bill C-44. This occurred earlier today.

I would like to refer specifically to a ruling by the Speaker on September 18, 2001, in which the Speaker said the following:

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Mr. Speaker, that appeared in Hansard on September 18, 2001.

Therefore, in light of this ruling that is already provided, and referenced, I might say, in Marleau and Montpetit, acknowledging that the committee stage of a bill is a stage of consideration, the government can use Standing Order 78 to limit debate at this stage or at any other stage.

As indicated by the Speaker in the quotation that I referred to, Standing Order 56.1 “was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages”.

I would therefore, Mr. Speaker, respectfully request that you look at the motion adopted by the use of Standing Order 56.1 this morning and rule explicitly that the motion is out of order in relation to Standing Order 56.1.

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the aboriginal affairs committee is meeting very shortly and that is why I have raised the matter at this time. Your ruling in a timely manner would be most welcome on this issue so that the standing committee can know where it stands.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, a similar motion was moved and adopted on October 3, 2006, concerning Bill C-24, the softwood lumber bill. That motion was challenged and the Speaker ruled the motion in order. The Speaker said at that time:

In fact, the effect of the motion is not unlike the effect of adopting a motion under Standing Order 26, which provides for the continuation of debate on a matter before the House, which is to say that it provides for an open-ended extension of the sitting for purposes of continuing debate on a particular matter. This, it can be argued, can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

As I read the motion moved by the hon. the government House leader and adopted by the House, every member wishing to speak to the amendment and the main motion, who has not already done so, will be able to participate. The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure. Instead it simply extends the sitting of the motion then before the House. That is a significant difference. The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are therefore insufficient in my view for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.

The motion the government House leader has moved is not unlike the motion moved on October 3rd. The only difference is that it concerns a bill that is before a committee. There is no deadline dictated to the committee as a time allocation motion would propose. Members are free to sit as long as they wish to consider Bill C-44. There is no deadline for reporting the bill back, except to direct the committee to report the bill back when it finishes its consideration of Bill C-44. The motion does not presuppose that the committee is going to adopt the bill. It simply says that if the committee adopts the bill, that it ought to report it back. That is what would normally happen.

With respect to committees being masters of their own destiny, that principle does not preclude the House from giving committees some direction. Committees are subordinate to the House. In fact, the House is the sole source of direction for committees through the Standing Orders and other motions. This is covered on pages 805 to 809 of Marleau and Montpetit. In part it says:

Standing committees are permanent committees established by Standing Order. They are mandated by the House to oversee a government department or departments, to review particular areas of federal policy or to exercise procedural and administrative responsibilities related to Parliament...other matters are routinely referred to them by the House for examination: bills, Estimates, Order-in-Council appointments--

It also says that the House can give an order of reference including “--conditions that the committee must comply with in carrying out the study--”.

I submit that Standing Order 56.1 is the proper means to achieve the objectives outlined in the motion. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to section (b) of the Standing Order which says that Standing Order 56.1 is to be used:

--for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment

As with the motion that dealt with the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the motion dealing with the committee stage of Bill C-44 can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join the Liberal House leader in asking you to rule this motion out of order and to prevent the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development from meeting today to finish its work on this bill.

Like the Liberal House leader, I interpret this motion as being one of time allocation. As such, there are already precedents on this matter, including a Speaker's ruling on September 18, 2001. In his ruling, the Speaker said that Standing Order 56.1 should not be understood as another procedurally acceptable mechanism for limiting debate. Further on, with respect to government attempts to speed up business, he added:

The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Consequently, the Bloc believes that the motion was misinterpreted and that it should therefore be ruled out of order, as I said earlier.

Furthermore, this is a common sense issue. The witnesses we need to hear in order to debate this bill come from as far away as Saskatchewan and Alberta. This affects aboriginal communities. If the committee is forced to meet today to study this bill, members of the committee will not have access to all of the information they need to make an informed decision. There is nothing in either parliamentary privilege or precedence that justifies the motion before us.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer up the support of the NDP caucus to the point of order of the House leader of the official opposition in that we believe it should be ruled out of order.

I will not go into the clauses and references. That has been done quite adequately. However, I would add the arguments that the NDP have in support of the point being made.

The first one is that we should not be and cannot be using a routine motion to effectively impose time allocation. In particular, we should not be using a routine motion when there are other motions available.

There are three versions of time allocation that would actually be applicable to this particular situation, of which the government has not availed itself, and there is also closure. As much as we may not like closure, it is still a legitimate tool that the government has available if it wishes to apply time allocation to this matter, rather than again using the routine motion provision.

The other thing is, quite frankly the current Speaker and previous Speakers have reiterated that we cannot go through the back door when the front door is available. For that matter, we cannot go through the back door when the front door is not available. The fact is that the government ought not to try to go in through the back door using a routine motion for something that is one of the strongest powers that the House has, which is to shut down debate.

Therefore, if the government feels it wants to go down this road, it should get this back on track and we should proceed with one of the other tools that is available. However, we do agree wholeheartedly with the notion that this particular route is not appropriate, and in our humble submission to you, Mr. Speaker, we believe also that it should be ruled out of order.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their interventions, although I believe that you will find in your ruling that there has been precedents set, as was in the case of Bill C-24, and you will rule this motion in order.

I just want to respond to my colleague, the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois, who was making the argument that perhaps in some manner, witnesses coming from far afield would be inconvenienced. In fact, just the opposite is true. Witnesses are already here, witnesses from Saskatchewan and other provinces, since there is a committee meeting starting in approximately four minutes.

Therefore, there is absolutely no inconvenience to any witnesses. In fact, it gives them an even longer opportunity to present their case before the committee so that the committee will have the ability, should it choose to sit extended hours.

I would argue that there is more opportunity for not only witnesses but committee members to discuss this bill and in fact, that is quite the opposite of closure. It is giving all committee members an opportunity to speak for as long as they wish, which I think, quite frankly, is entirely democratic.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Are there any other interventions on this same point of order?

At this time then I will begin by saying that it is unfortunate, although it was in the nature of the circumstances perhaps, that members did not have an opportunity to make the point of order when the actual motion was brought forward. However, it is in the nature of the exercise, so to speak, that members are not intended to be here when it is brought forward.

I have listened to the arguments. I think that the argument that the ruling in the fall somehow has bearing on this particular procedural move by the government is not entirely sound in the sense that that particular event had to do with the business of the House and not with the business of the committee.

I think that use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order. The reasons will be provided in the future by the Chair, in the near future I trust, for the decision that is being made at this time.

I accept the point of order and I find that the use of 56.1 in this particular case was inappropriate.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, because of that interruption, I would hope that the hon. member for Wascana would now stay and listen to this stimulating debate. We are talking about a very important issue, an issue that is important to all members of this House, especially those from Saskatchewan.

As I was saying, Canada has an abundance of fresh water compared to other parts of the world. All of us who represent ridings across this country that are surrounded by water or have water passing through our ridings in the form of creeks and rivers realize this.

Along with our friends and partners to the south of the border, we are joint stewards of the largest group of freshwater lakes on this planet, that being the Great Lakes, as referred to by my hon. colleague from Yellowhead. Communities situated around the Great Lakes depend on this important resource and they look to their governments at all levels to work together to protect it.

That is why this government takes very seriously the protection of our water resources. Let me be clear at the outset that Canada has and will maintain full sovereignty over the management of water in its natural state in Canada. In doing so, we are in no way constrained or bound by trade agreements, including the NAFTA.

The opening comments by the hon. member for Sherbrooke are factually incorrect and in a lot of ways are very misleading. Some of the witnesses that he referred to I would suggest have not done their homework on the realities of what this government is doing to protect that resource.

There is no need to begin talks with our American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA because we already have such an agreement, since 1993, before the NAFTA even entered into force. Canada has a strong, comprehensive and internationally recognized regime of protection for our water resources.

The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act prohibits the bulk removal of water from boundary basins. It has been that way since 2002 when new amendments to the act came into force strengthening Canada's ability to protect this important resource. The provinces and territories have also developed legislation, regulations or policies to protect the water resources within their jurisdiction.

This solid regime is the result of a number of policies that have been put in place over the years including in response to the 2000 report from the International Joint Commission, the IJC, which recommended that we take further steps to protect our Great Lakes, not just at the federal level, but at the provincial and territorial levels also.

In fact since the release of the report, the IJC has commended the Government of Canada for the added safeguards that it has put in place. I think Canadians can take immense pride in the work that their governments at all levels do to protect this important resource.

From a trade perspective our current regime is actually stronger than an all-out export ban could ever be. Water is protected in its water basin, in its natural state, before the issue of its export ever arises. This is an environmental protection measure of general application that helps preserve the integrity of the ecosystems that rely on this water for their health and vibrancy.

An export ban would not provide nearly the same high level of protection. Such a ban would only focus on water once it has become a good or a product, that is, processed or bottled, for example. The NAFTA parties have clarified that water in its natural state is not a good, and therefore is not subject to trade agreement. Under the current regime our water in its natural state is not subject to trade agreements.

I know that media reports, along with the members opposite, have focused on a set of private think tank meetings discussing future options for trilateral discussions relating to water. Let me be clear. Studies from private think tanks do not reflect Canadian policy. They are not funded by the Government of Canada and they are not part of our efforts to make North America more secure and more competitive.

However, I do think there is much scope for making Canada more competitive in the North American context. The NAFTA has given us a great start. There is no doubt that our partnership with the U.S. and Mexico has stimulated business, created jobs, and brought higher wages to Canadians. We continue to work with our partners to strengthen our trading relationships under the NAFTA and boost competitiveness and prosperity in all three countries.

For instance, we are working on reducing export related transactional costs and enhancing industry competitiveness through the NAFTA region. We are also working to bring our standards and regulations closer together to create more efficient supply chains and help our businesses compete. We are examining how all three countries might collaborate in trade agreements with other countries and how elements of newer free trade agreements might inform improvements to the NAFTA.

This focus on competitiveness is essential. When we look beyond North America, we see the continued rise of hugely competitive economies, nations like China, India and Brazil. We see the formation and the consolidation of trading blocs like the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Canada must be able to compete. Our position in North America is not only the basis of our national prosperity, it is a huge competitive advantage, one that we should continue to use for our benefit. That is why we will continue to work closely with our friends and partners in the United States and Mexico through the NAFTA and also through the security and prosperity partnership to bring down remaining barriers to trade and investment and make our economies more competitive on a global scale.

Through the NAFTA we have created the largest free trade zone in the world. Our competitors from around the world look at us in envy as having that opportunity to be part of that large of a trading zone. We have created one of the world's great economic partnerships. We have shown the world how three sovereign independent nations can collaborate for mutual benefit.

This government is committed to ensuring that the North American partnership continues to work for Canada and brings prosperity to Canadians from coast to coast. We are committed to doing this while protecting Canadian interests, including that of our water resources. We have a strong, internationally recognized regime of protection for our water resources. I can assure this House that we will continue to work with the provinces and the territories to ensure this regime protects our interests throughout the country for years to come.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about the international trade committee and the problems that the committee had the other day with the witness. I was at that committee meeting as well and it was very clear to me that the witness was speaking to the subject and was a Canadian expert on the subject in terms of energy security as it fit under the SPP.

For the witness to be characterized in that fashion in the House of Commons, I simply cannot agree with that. The witness was speaking to a matter of great significance to Canadians, that of energy security. How it fits under the security and prosperity partnership is extremely important to Canadians right across this country at this time. For that witness to be muzzled by the committee chair was inappropriate. How does my hon. colleague see that the subject of energy security did not fit under the topic that was being discussed at the committee?