House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

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The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Western Arctic.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-9, a bill to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. This is a bill that was introduced into Parliament yesterday by the government and which is a very important piece of legislation in many respects. I am very glad to see the legislation coming forward.

Yesterday we had a chance to start debate on a number of issues. I want to take the time right now to comment a little bit on one of the things that I found very pleasing yesterday.

As a New Democratic Party member of Parliament in my second term, I was pleased during the debate to have the counsel of two new NDP MPs, both skilled lawyers in their fields. I speak of course of the new member for Vancouver Kingsway, a person who has had decades of work, although he appears very young, in the labour legislation field and will be a great addition to the House of Commons in identifying issues that surround the rights of working people and the rights of all of us. I was very pleased to see that. That provided an element that perhaps I did not have as much of in the previous Parliament.

To my left I have another lawyer, a very skilled environmental lawyer, our new member for Edmonton—Strathcona, a person I have worked with personally on environmental issues for over 25 years, going back to the days when we worked on issues like the Slave River hydro project in northern Alberta.

These people are a great addition to the House of Commons. When we have new members in Parliament, I think it is incumbent on all of us to understand what they bring to Parliament, what they bring to this place to provide that additional knowledge and understanding that can do so much in making good legislation, ensuring that what we are doing is correct and will serve Canadians over a long period of time, as legislation should.

As to the background on the bill, the public consultation began almost five years ago. There have been meetings on a continuing basis with provincial and territorial governments. I am sure that there will be some continuing consultation after the bill has passed.

The bill is the result of a process that has gone on for quite a long time. The safe transport of dangerous goods will remain a shared responsibility between the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments and the industry. It will be based on agreements and understandings, and working together to enforce requirements for protecting the movement of dangerous goods on highways in Canada.

Transport Canada would remain responsible for enforcing regulations that govern transport by rail, ship and air. The federal government still has a very large role to play, not simply in making legislation but ongoing enforcement, ongoing consideration of how best to ensure that dangerous goods are handled and identified in a manner that Canadians can remain protected.

Identification is important as well. I refer to a previous experience I had with the illegal movement of dangerous goods when I was mayor of my small town in the Northwest Territories. We had a case once that came out of a practice in Alberta where there is a black market for the sale of hazardous products.

Individuals could take a 45-gallon drum of hazardous products away and have $1,000 given to them on the black market. If the hazardous waste is taken away, they do not have to send it to the disposal site. We found someone in our community who was doing that and mixing it with home heating oil, burning it in buildings and spraying it all over the community. The movement, identification and understanding of where dangerous goods are is very important. It makes a difference and can make a huge difference to the health and well-being of Canadians if it is not handled correctly or taken care of in a proper fashion. Of course, we are very interested in making sure that this bill does the job it is supposed to do.

However, much of the bill does not talk about safety. Much of the bill deals with security, which is another matter of great importance to people. The government has said that it wants this bill moving ahead for security, the Olympics and a variety of other reasons. Within the bill, it would set up a transportation security clearance system where Canadians would be reviewed for security clearance by the Canadian government. The process would include appeals and disclosure of reasons for denial of clearance, but at the same time the bill is very open on this issue. It is enabling legislation. It does not lay out the conditions for the security clearances. It simply provides that the government can do this.

According to the proposed bill, under transportation security clearances, we see:

5.2 (1) No prescribed person shall import, offer for transport, handle or transport dangerous goods in a quantity or concentration that is specified by regulation — or that is within a range of quantities or concentrations that is specified by regulation — unless the person has a transportation security clearance granted under subsection (2).

(2) The Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, grant or refuse to grant a transportation security clearance to any person or suspend or revoke such a clearance.

It is pretty open-ended. The bill has been presented to us in a fashion that says that, while we currently have inter-country transport between ourselves and the United States, the U.S. has very onerous provisions for security clearance. This would take the responsibility of performing clearances from the United States and put it in the hands of the Canadian government so that shippers who are working in the transportation of dangerous goods across borders would find that their clearance is established within Canada. That is, ostensibly, its purpose.

However, none of this was laid out in the bill. The bill enables the development of transportation security clearances for virtually any part of our transportation net that handles dangerous goods. Of course, that is pretty well the entire transportation net because every carrier, airline, train and ship carries dangerous goods at one time or another. We have an act that enables the minister to make some fairly large and unknown security decisions about Canadians. That, to us, is a bit of a problem within this act, because we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our sense of privacy here is much different than in the United States. It is much more held in trust by Canadians and by their governments.

This act creates a framework that enables the creation of regulations but gives the Minister of Transport enormous powers to control Canadians and the transport industry. The minister will also be able to enable the use of security measures, in secret, for any perceived situation where dangerous goods may be part of any particular criminal occurrence.

In other words, under this legislation the minister would be able to decide not to move something, not to allow a company to operate, many different things, without any recourse and without anyone understanding the reasons. Some strong powers would be given to the minister, powers that the minister would be able to wield in secret. We do not know how those powers would be defined.

The bill is not a prescriptive bill. It is an enabling bill. In some ways the law would allow the minister to create a secret national security system that would demand of people whatever the minister, through regulation, would set as a security clearance.

Do we know what those restrictions are? The government says it is not interested in doing anything except catching up to our U.S. obligations. This has been reported to me through the department.

The government is not interested in providing security clearance for somebody hauling dynamite from Ontario to Quebec. That is not what the government is doing here. That may not be what the government is planning to do, but the bill would enable the minister, through regulations, to set conditions on security clearances for every aspect of our transportation system that deals with dangerous goods. This is a pretty strong piece of legislation.

The argument against secret laws dates back thousands of years. In 449 B.C. the Romans published the Law of the Twelve Tables creating an official public legal code that had to be published so that ordinary people would know the law. The principle that laws must be public has been the foundation of our law system since then.

The government says we need flexibility to protect Canadians, and this really concerns me. What we need are laws that protect Canadians, that are laid out so that Canadians understand the limitation of the law. Giving ministers this kind of overwhelming control over a situation, I find difficult.

When things are done by regulation, the vital process of public review and debate is short-circuited. Parliament is removed from making the laws. As a democrat, as a person who believes in the rule of Parliament, I find this difficult. I do not believe in enabling legislation. I believe in prescriptive legislation that lays out what we want to accomplish.

Just yesterday Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart delivered a stern warning to the federal government saying she is strongly opposed to any legislation that would allow the mass surveillance of private emails and phone calls. That is part of the government's plan to update Canada's wiretapping laws with new police powers to monitor criminal suspects in the digital era of cell phones and chat lines.

What did the Minister of Public Safety have to say about this? He said:

The concerns of the Privacy Commissioner are quite legitimate. We don't want to have legislation that intrudes on privacy rights and I can assure you we wouldn't come forward with that kind of legislation.

Let me get back to Bill C-9. This legislation would create a situation where the minister would be able to impose, through regulation, conditions on Canadians that may interfere with their privacy rights. It is a difficult situation for any of us who believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, civil liberties, the protection of the rights of an individual, and the right to privacy. These are all things that are important to us.

If the security clearance that is required by the United States is put into place by Canada for our people who are involved in cross-border trade and movement of goods, I think we would all understand that. We all understand that we would rather have our Canadians being judged by Canadians rather than by Americans. That is a fair thing and it is good. When it is presented in that fashion and the scope of what can be accomplished by the bill is clear that that is what is at stake here, I do not think we have a problem with that.

I do not think we have a problem with giving those kinds of conditions within a bill, but when we do not have that clearly outlined, when we have a bill that would allow much more than that to happen without the will of Parliament behind it, that is not a correct situation.

There are things that we really need within the bill. This bill is important but it is not important enough to give up the concept of civil liberties, privacy rights and the concern of Canadians to work and live in an environment where their rights as individuals are not threatened. We need to work on the legislation.

To that end, I can see us going along with this legislation moving to committee, but at the same time we do have some serious concerns with the legislation. We do not see that this is a direction in which we want to go, giving a minister of the Crown the kinds of powers without prescription, which the bill represents.

As we move along with this bill, we will see what kind of willingness the government has to support amendments, to support clearly defining what it wants to accomplish. If the government wants to define what it wants to accomplish in this bill, it would make the bill much better and more complete. It would not simply be a way for the government or future governments to intrude into the important aspects of Canadian rights and freedoms.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened with a degree of interest as my colleague across the way spoke to a number of issues in the bill, I tried to get a real grasp as to his position on the bill. On the one hand, he said that it was a dangerous bill that would give the minister far too much leeway and sweeping powers, but, on the other hand, he said that it was a pretty good bill.

Not only since 9/11 in 2001, but over the past number of years I think Canadians have recognized the need for security, not just from terrorist attacks from outside but also security on our highways and in and around our country. Bill C-9 does deal with security for Canadians, security in regard to dangerous goods that are being transported around our country, not only the goods that are involved in some kind of a terrorist attack but goods such as propane, fuel and hundreds of other products that we see moving up and down our highways every day. Most parties here recognized that there is a real need for this legislation.

I have a bit of a concern with the New Democratic Party when, regardless of what type of bill we bring forward that would give Canadians more security and safety, it seems it is always throwing up roadblocks. This bill has come out of public feedback to the government. I think other parties have recognized that the Canadian public is on the side of protecting Canadians through the transportation of these goods.

What does the member opposite have against protecting Canadians and keeping them safe?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's question is an important one. He wants to know whether the bill would change the way we deal with dangerous goods and propane on our highways? No, it does not because we have a very good system in place, one that is copied worldwide, for the movement and for the response to problems we can have with all measure of dangerous goods. It is written in a handbook that is reprinted over and over again and sent to people all over the world.

This is not about what we are doing with the product. The bill is about what we are doing with the people who are involved in the system. What we are doing is not going to change the way we deal with dangerous goods. The bill deals with what we are doing with the people who move those dangerous goods and who work in the industries, real Canadians. The bill is about Canadians. It is not really about dangerous goods. We need to keep on what the bill is about, not say that somehow we are standing in the way of a good, safe system of dangerous goods.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague on joining the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I thank him for his speech.

My question is simple. On a couple of occasions he mentioned the culture of secrecy that the Conservatives again seem to want to keep in this bill, such ministerial powers that are not transparent and the lack of public accountability. I saw a Conservative colleague asking questions. The Conservatives themselves must be careful. When we talk about being transparent, we must mean it. I would like my colleague to talk a bit about his position on the culture of secrecy that the Conservatives seem to want to establish in this bill.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, not only in the House but on the standing committee because we will be working together very closely on all these matters and I look forward to that as a parliamentarian.

The principle of secrecy is important with security, and I am not going to say that it is not and that there are no grounds to continue to look at ways to make things more secure for Canadians, but we need to put it in legislation. We need it in front of us so we know what we are talking about.

It is not to enable some minister, maybe not the current minister nor the government, to do things to Canadians that are not appropriate and do not match up to what Canadians stand for, not only in this country but everywhere else in the world. We need to ensure we do things right. I do not like enabling legislation because to me it shows that the thinking has not been done and that the process has not been completed.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think my colleague from the Conservative Party will have any concerns from this side about security and supporting security. After all, it was our party that supported the hiring of more RCMP officers and the government did not get the job done. We asked that the government not claw back the RCMP wage increase, which it is doing, not us. We support keeping a fair wage for the RCMP. We have no lessons to be learned from that side.

However, I want to ask my colleague from the north about his concerns about consultation and the importance of having real consultation. Is he satisfied? Some good work has been done, and we support the idea of the legislation, which the member has made clear, but when it comes to consultations, does he think we have met the test of sufficient consultations and should there be more consultations when it comes to this bill to ensure we get it right?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, we are in a situation where the government has introduced legislation that is open-ended. We need to understand, very well, what security measures would be enacted with this bill and we need to talk about them.

We do not need to show the terrorists where all our planning is but we do need to talk about what the parameters of the security are, and that needs to be done in committee. We need to understand, perhaps from the Privacy Commissioner or from human rights lawyers, where this fits in a spectrum. We need to know the kind of security clearance the U.S. is demanding of our people right now and how that information is being used.

Many of those questions need to be answered and they can only be answered through consultation. As parliamentarians, that is how we get the information and expert opinion on these bills that can actually guide us in making good decisions.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have one other question for my colleague from the north. I just want his take on the privacy issue and his concerns around how this bill would affect privacy.

When it came to changes in the Elections Act for photo ID, one of the problems around the government's legislation when it came to privacy was that we did not have the Privacy Commissioner at the table. I wrote to her. There were concerns about birthdates on election lists that would be shared with political parties. That is in the amendments that some of the parties wanted. I was against that.

On this bill, does the member think it would be a wise idea to ensure that the Privacy Commissioner is actually consulted and that, when the bill comes to committee, we ask Ms. Stoddart to appear before the committee to hear her concerns and essentially give us the principles of and the criteria for privacy when it comes to this bill?

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I could not have said that better myself.

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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about the act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. I will talk bit about the threats and responses to deal with the problems of the transportation of dangerous goods.

I think most Canadians would find it very interesting to know that literally tens of millions of times every year dangerous goods are shipped somewhere in our country. Problems can arise either from a domestic accident or, as some of my colleagues have mentioned before, from a terrorist activity.

We have seen much in the way of domestic challenges at home. Basically, there are two factors in the response. The first is the people and the second is the infrastructure, and we use the word “infrastructure” quite liberally.

Let us talk about the response from the people. We have first responders, which are ambulance personnel, police forces as well as firefighters. Firefighters do not have the equipment, training or tools to engage in what we call hazmat. Hazmat training, material and infrastructure is what they need. They are the first people in line to address these dangerous situations. Part of the challenge is to ensure that we have some level of coherence in how things are labelled.

As everyone can appreciate, first responders, such as firefighters or RCMP officers, need to know what is in a shipment. That is part of the problem. When people respond, they do not necessarily know what they are up against. What the hazardous material is determines in many ways what one needs to do and how to respond to that threat.

I recommend that the government listen to what first responders say they need in infrastructure, training and personnel and let them have it. Them not having it compromises their very lives.

I want to talk about the RCMP. I think most Canadians would be shocked and appalled to know that before Christmas the government tore up the wage agreement that the Prime Minister announced in Vancouver. He stood in front of the RCMP and said that the government would give it a wage agreement, an agreement, I might add, that was nothing more than to provide parity between our RCMP, one of the finest police forces in the world, and provincial and municipal forces. That is all it was asking for. What did the government do, without any consultation? It tore that up.

This has huge implications. We know we have a manpower deficit in the RCMP across the country. In my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, many times our RCMP officer contingent is down by a third or more. How does officers respond to urgent situations, particularly in view of the fact that RCMP officers now have to respond in twos situations?

This means they are unable to respond on the ground to a number of call-outs important to the public, such as public security. The fact that the government has torn up this agreement is not only an affront to one of the finest police forces we have in the world, but it is also exacerbates the deficit because it will make it more difficult to recruit and retain RCMP officers.

When RCMP officers ask themselves why they should not get more money on a municipal or provincial force, with less risk, not having to move around as much, which is better for their families, they decide to do that. It not because they do not love the RCMP, but it is an affront.

On behalf of our front line RCMP officers, I ask the government to honour its wage agreement and its promise. I ask the Prime Minister to honour what he said and allow the wage increase to happen. It is a matter of honour and fairness to RCMP officers.

The Department of National Defence firefighters, and there are only about 400 of them in our country, respond to some of the most serious threats in hazardous spills. DND works with some very dangerous materials.

The average lifespan for a firefighter is about 59 years. The average lifespan for a male is 79 years and for female, it is 82 years. We can see there is quite a difference.

When we were in government, we negotiated a change with the firefighters in the accrual rate for their pensions, so they could increase the payments they made into their pension to make up for the fact that they retired early and they did not live as long as other Canadians, in part because of the dangerous work they do.

The government agreed to this. It was all signed. The problem is it has not been implemented. It is sitting on the minister's desk. We ask the minister, again, to do the right thing and honour the accrual rate for our DND firefighters and implement it today. There are only 400 of them. Again, it is a matter of fairness as they engage in very hazardous work. It is a matter of fairness and it makes actuarial sense.

On the other aspect of infrastructure, search and rescue operations are very important. We have Buffalo fixed-wing search and rescue planes. They are excellent, but they are old. We had an agreement that was to go cabinet. Unfortunately, there was a change in government and that sat there, and it sits there today.

The need is there and the process is there. The problem is the Conservative government will pursue a single-sourced contract. A single-sourced contract with who? With an Italian company. Why is the government doing this when we have Canadians, like Viking Air on Vancouver Island. It has the contract to build the a modernized version of the Buffalo fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. Why can it not to compete? It is not asking for the contract, although it would like to have it. It is asking to have the chance to compete. A Canadian company is asking to compete fairly, openly and on a level playing field with other competitors, whatever they may be.

Why is the government preventing an open contract to bid for the replacement for the Buffalo fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft? My province of British Columbia has more than 50% of the search and rescue needs in Canada. It is very important for my constituents and my province. It is, in fact, a matter of life and death, not only for the citizens of my province but also for the brave men and women who work as SAR techs, the search and rescue technicians who do extraordinary things, under extraordinary circumstances, to save lives.

Again, we ask the government to honour the agreement. Do what is right and have an open contract, with a fixed period of time, with a simple statement of requirements so our Canadian companies can compete. Do not close the door on them and allow a foreign company to come in and take this contract.

The Internet is an area where there are many opportunities to buy and sell products, but it also has a black side to it. In other words, we can buy and sell all manners of things, including potentially illegal products. I ask the government, and this is a new area, to explore ways to work with Internet providers to prevent the trafficking, buying and selling of products that can be used by terrorists for terrorist activities.

A very sensible thing was done by eBay. On the issue of the trafficking of endangered species products, eBay took the extraordinary act and said that it would not allow that to happen because it would contribute to the destruction of endangered species in our world. Good for eBay.

I ask the Canadian government to extend the thinking on that and pursue, with Internet providers, a list of products that can be bought and sold and used by terrorist groups to kill people or those who simply want to kill people en masse.

On the issue of terrorism, last night I listened to an extraordinary speech by a former prime minister, the Right Hon. Joe Clark. If I may humbly say so, I strongly recommend that all members of Parliament, and in fact all Canadians, if they have the chance, to listen to Mr. Clark's speech. He gave parliamentarians and Canadians an option. He looked at where the nation would go in the future. He contrasted this with what is taking place south of the border and the changing administration in the U.S. in the way of governance.

Mr. Obama has recognized that we can no longer do the things we have done to provide our security. A military option will not solve these problems. We need to utilize our diplomatic skills, our development skills and our military skills as well. We need to use all those in an integrated fashion and intelligently. He is putting a much greater emphasis on the diplomatic and the development side of the equation to address the challenges and threats abroad.

Some people who blow themselves up and kill innocent civilians are simply terrorists. Others are Islamic fundamentalists. Others form a wide range of groups and individuals with varying interests. It is absurd for us to lump everyone into single group and suggest that their motivations and objectives are the same. They simply are not.

Mr. Clark posed the following. He said that there was a greater emphasis on diplomacy and development south of the border. Where is Canada? Where is the Canadian government? What is it doing? This is fascinating. In the last year the government has reduced spending in foreign affairs by 18%. It rightly increased spending for defence by 9% and it increased development spending by a whopping .68%. That is shocking.

One of the major tools and opportunities we have as a country are our extraordinary diplomats. Many other countries do not have this. We have an extraordinary foreign service. However, the government cannot eviscerate our foreign service and expect us to deal with the international threats before us today.

Because of the diaspora in our country, because of our linguistic capabilities, we have opportunities to do what few other countries in the world can do. We are an interface between our friends south of the border and the European Union. We are an Asia-Pacific country. We sit at the crux of major centres of power in the world. We are in some ways a sort of glue.

In this mix we have in our great country we have opportunity: diplomatic opportunities, development opportunities and military opportunities. The point is there has been an absence of foresight, vision and planning in foreign affairs and development, not because of an absence of skill in those areas in our public service, or an absence of NGOs in our country, or an absence of Canadians wanting to contribute and deal with the big global challenges that affect us in Canada and around the world. It is an absence of foresight on the part not of the ministers necessarily but on the part of the Prime Minister and the small cabal of people who surround him where decisions are made in our country. Therein lies the fault.

In my view the Prime Minister has to start changing his thinking in a big way. He must start reaching out in a meaningful way.

We have in my party, as in other parties, wonderful people with great skill sets. They can contribute to dealing with these challenges, and I will name a few.

There are enormous problems In Pakistan, which is the epicentre of what is driving terrorism today. We have Pakistani and a south Asian diaspora in our country that is willing to help.

Is the government reaching out to them? No. Why not? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. These people have skills. They are Canadians, they are Indo Canadians, Pakistani Canadians, individuals who want to contribute and can contribute. Where is the reach out? Where are the initiatives to do that? They are not there. It is an absence of foresight.

Corruption is killing Pakistan. There is an interplay between the ISI, between the politicians, between al-Qaeda and between the Taliban that has refuge there. This will require significant diplomatic and development skill sets that are not being utilized by our country.

On the issue of Afghanistan, for two years now my party has been offering the government solutions to deal with Afghanistan. The government has turned a deaf ear to them. It has produced a military option. Our forces are doing an extraordinary job there. However, we will not enable our forces to do their job and we will not protect them and reduce their threat level unless we address the diplomatic initiatives that are required.

For example, why is the government not pursuing a grassroots, Afghan-led tribal reconciliation process? Why is it not doing that? Internecine conflicts have been taking place in Afghanistan for decades and across generations. Why is the government not working to pursue a regional working group with India, with Pakistan, with China, with Iran, with Afghanistan? Why is it not doing that? We cannot deal with the conflict in Afghanistan unless we have the regional players there. If we do not deal with that, then our threat levels are not reduced here at home.

Why is the government not doing that? Why is it not dealing with the opium crop, which is the substrate that feeds the financial abilities of terrorist organizations to fund themselves, by producing a plan that replaces poppies with the plant artemesenin. What is artemesenin? It produces a drug of the same name that is the drug of choice to treat malaria. Malaria kills three million people a year. Why does the government not do a crop replacement to replace poppies with artemesenin, a high-level crop that gives farmers a high rate of return, and in doing so undermine the financial underpinnings of terrorist groups?

Why does the government not help by working with people like former foreign affairs minister Flora MacDonald, who is doing an unbelievable job in the Bamyan province of Afghanistan dealing with the Hazara people? She is doing extraordinary work. When she asks CIDA for money, what does CIDA say? They do not have any. They are not willing to engage a former Progressive Conservative foreign minister, one of the extraordinary women of our country, who is doing wonderful, amazing work in a country that is a primary development interest of this government. They shut the door or her. Why is that so? This is absurd. The government has to start thinking out of the box and must start engaging with other countries.

I will close off with the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Palestinians cannot keep living in a cage. That is what they are living in. Rockets cannot keep going over to Israel. Attacks cannot happen against Israel, but the Palestinians cannot continue to--

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is more a point of clarification. I have listened with some interest to what the member has been saying. He has spoken about CIDA, about poppies and about Afghanistan, and now he is on a rant about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

I am just wondering whether we have moved off Bill C-9 or whether we are still on Bill C-9. If indeed we are still on Bill C-9, I would encourage the member to bring his speech back to some point of relevance that deals with transportation of goods here in our country and with providing safety and security here in our country, which is what Bill C-9 does.

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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Crowfoot for raising this point of order. I did ask for a copy of the bill so that I could see if the hon. member was tying in some of his remarks. The member for Crowfoot is right: we are still on Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. The member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca has a very short period of time, so perhaps he could use the remainder of it to address his remarks to the content of the bill.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it deals with the movement of dangerous goods, and I was talking about threats to our transportation arteries. One of the threats that has been brought up by members of the government is the issue relating to terrorism. Part of that is rooted in the lack of resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why is the government not pursuing a UN stabilization force in the West Bank and Gaza that would terminate the attacks against Israel? Why is it not pursuing an effort to stop the settlements that are continuing to take place on Palestinian territory? Why does it not--

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, unfortunately the member is just continuing his rant against Israel. We are dealing with Bill C-9, which is a transportation act here in Canada.

I would again ask the Chair to again ask the member to bring his speech back to something relevant to the topic of debate today.

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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the remarks by the hon. member. The hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca has a short period of time. Perhaps we could move on to questions and comments, or he could just wrap up with some comments relevant to the bill.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I assume that time has not been taken from my time.

In closing, this issue is very important in terms of security. They have to pursue a two-stage solution that both Israelis and Palestinians want. They want to make sure that they open borders. The people of Palestine want to be able to have an economy. As I said, the UN stabilization--

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

We will move on to questions and comments.

The hon. member for Western Arctic.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak to the relevancy of the hon. member's remarks in his speech, because in a way I can see where he is going with it: the burden to be put on Canadians in terms of their rights and freedoms depends upon the problems in the world that are going to create the situation for terrorism.

He is correct in that the debate is around our setting up a law to put burdens on Canadians to prove their ability not to be involved in terrorism and not to be a security risk to the general population. The security risk is measured against the security situation in the whole world. I see his point.

I would like to have a debate about the bill as well. That is important here too, because we are talking about the rights of Canadians. If the hon. member has made his point about the world situation, perhaps he could give me an idea of what he feels this bill does to an ordinary Canadian, to a trucker who is trying to make a living in this country and now has to face this security clearance that might actually prevent him from doing his work.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, our position as a party is to move this bill forward to committee, where we can listen to groups such as truckers and others who can provide their concerns and their solutions to any problems with respect to this bill.

In my comments, I hope I have made clear the challenges we have in our country with respect to providing the personnel and the infrastructure to respond when we have dangerous goods spills, the challenges in identifying what those are and the challenges in identifying what our first responders and second responders need in order to be able to deal with those challenges when they arise.

In my comments I was relating to the international scene for the very reasons that my hon. colleague mentioned. We cannot divorce ourselves from that. It is a concern for all of us. It is a concern of Canadians. It is a concern of the opposition, the government and our partners.

I was outlining some of the international challenges taking place in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel, and some of the solutions we can proffer if the government is willing to act in an innovative way. If the government is willing to be a leader, not a follower, it could actually make a difference in trying to reduce our threat level here at home and abroad.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Western Arctic has asked, I would like to hear comments from my colleague, the member from British Columbia.

My border crossing at Windsor-Detroit is the busiest one in the country. We have had an ongoing problem with transport trucks getting across the border and being stopped on the U.S. side because the Americans are very concerned that we have not done enough to protect the transport of hazardous goods. This has mostly been from the security standpoint, but it is also from concerns over the potential degradation of the environment on their side of the border.

Does the hon. member have an overall analysis of this legislation as to whether it is going to be strong enough in the security and environmental areas to give our partners on the U.S. side some relief and some satisfaction?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, obviously security is a two-way street when it comes to our borders. We have to work together with the Americans. I am hoping this issue will be on the Prime Minister's agenda so that we will have a border that enables us to move goods and services back and forth in a streamlined and efficient way while still ensuring that security is paramount.

The issue of shipping by sea receives short shrift. Sea lanes, sea shipping and containers that come into the country do not receive the checks they ought to receive. This is a very serious problem. Interestingly enough, the technology that would enable us to check the compartments does exist, so I believe that what we have are technological and human resource deficits. We do not need to develop and devise new technologies. They already exist.

I would ask the government to adopt and use the technologies that exist to check not only the products coming by land, but also those coming by air and sea.

Anti-Semitism
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government condemns the latest anti-Semitic outburst at York University. This week, chants of “Zionism is racism” were heard, and one person was called a “dirty Jew”.

Sadly, incidents like these have become far too prevalent on college and university campuses across Canada. I am reminded of the violent left-wing mob that shouted anti-Semitic curses at a former Israeli prime minister and prevented him from speaking at Concordia University in 2002.

I fear there is a rise among the extreme left of a new anti-Semitism. We see it in the instances that I mentioned. It lies below the surface of the public discourse waiting, waiting for us to let our guard down, waiting for the outrage to subside, waiting for the right time to flourish. We must confront it, fight it, and defeat it.

Mount Pearl Sports Alliance
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride that I rise today to recognize the outstanding work of the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance. The Mount Pearl Sports Alliance is a model of community sports development. It is a partnership of sports organizations that work together in consultation and coordination, maximizing resources and improving sporting opportunities in the vibrant community of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance honoured those with the highest achievement in sport. The criteria for selection involved not only individuals and teams that excel, but also recognized service to organizations. I would like to recognize: Adam Keating, Kelly Whitelaw, Pearlgate Girls Bantam Bowling Team, Janet Maher, Eddie Hynes, Darren Reid, Stephanie Dyer and Chris Bishop.

I want to congratulate the award winners and the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance for their good work in promoting sports and active living.

Félix Leclerc Félins Provincial Basketball Tournament
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 10th edition of the Félix Leclerc Félins provincial basketball tournament was held from February 6 to 8. Over 120 high school teams participated in the tournament, the largest of its kind in Quebec.

All told, some 1,700 athletes aged 12 to 17 played 202 basketball games. It was an excellent opportunity for them to show off their athletic prowess and share their passion for basketball.

The tournament was also an excellent opportunity for the city of Repentigny because it generated half a million dollars in profits.

On behalf of myself and my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate all of the students who participated in the tournament. I would also like to congratulate Alain Doyon, who oversaw the tournament, all the members of the organizing committee, and the 350 volunteers for their participation.

Outremont Rail Yard
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Outremont rail yard is a site with tremendous development potential. One precondition is cleaning up the site, since it has serious environmental liabilities.

The former Liberal member of Parliament for Outremont had promised $25 million for that, but never kept his promise. The Conservative government is promising money for infrastructure, but that money is conditional and, above all, partisan.

Citizens groups are worried because their social objectives and quality of life could be compromised if harmonious, sustainable development is not ensured. The City of Montreal, the Université de Montréal and more importantly the public have been waiting for years and deserve to see some action.

The Conservative government must therefore recognize the historic role of the federal government in such a rail site and use some of the money earmarked for infrastructure to finally develop this exceptional site in a way that is socially acceptable.

The Budget
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians re-elected our Conservative government to stand up for Canada during the current global economic turmoil.

Budget 2009 delivers an economic action plan that provides a multi-year approach to stimulate our economy and protect Canadian jobs. We are acting to provide targeted and temporary measures that will build on Canada's long-term strengths and help hard-working Canadian families through the short-term challenges. Our government is delivering access to financing, taking action to stimulate the housing market, building infrastructure to create jobs sooner rather than later, and providing extra support for communities and business.

In my riding we will be taking advantage of the recreational infrastructure program in Canada. This program helps communities build new facilities or upgrade existing ones. Arenas, swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts and soccer fields are examples of recreational facilities that could qualify for 50% funding from the government.

Let us keep building Canada.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, plant closures and layoffs have been happening almost daily and Canadians are losing their jobs. A recent survey showed that half of all Canadians are worried about losing their jobs.

In my riding, Formulated Coatings Ltd. laid off 60 workers two weeks ago when it announced bankruptcy. Also, the Chrysler assembly plant just announced a second temporary shutdown in two weeks.

Every day more and more businesses are declaring bankruptcy. More than 129,000 jobs were lost in January alone. We are sure there are more to come. We have heard nothing from the Prime Minister, who seems to me missing in action during the worst recession in decades.

Why is the Prime Minister and the government silent on the issue when they should be providing Canadians with immediate action to put an end to Canadian job losses?

Heart Month
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we flip our calendars to February, our thoughts turn to matters of the heart. While romance is in the air, we also need to pay attention to our heart health.

February is Heart Month in Canada. It is a time to reduce our risk of heart disease, Canada's leading cause of death. About 40,000 people experience cardiac arrest or a heart attack each year in Canada. Some of the contributing factors that one should be aware of include a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

For the past three years I have served as a director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon. During this time I have learned that in many cases heart disease can be prevented. Being physically active, following a healthy diet, and eliminating tobacco use can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Mr. Speaker, put your heart into it; who knows, one day the life you save might just be your own.

International Childhood Cancer Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, February 15 will mark International Childhood Cancer Day and so I would like to mention a few facts about this illness.

The most common cancers in children and adolescents are leukemia, lymphoma and tumours of the central nervous system, and they are different from those that affect adults. Cancer is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 0 and 14. This year in Quebec 230 children in this age group will contract cancer. Sadly, 40 will die as a result.

Although a great deal of progress has been made, the fight is not over yet. Therefore, I invite my colleagues to salute the volunteers, doctors and other health professionals in their communities devoted to working with children suffering from cancer.

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to congratulate the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics on its appointment of nine additional distinguished research chairs.

The new chairs include: Yakir Aharonov of Chapman University; Nima Arkani-Hamed of the Institute for Advanced Study; Neta Bahcall of Princeton University; Juan Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute; Gia Dvali of CERN and NYU; Subir Sachdev of Harvard University; Ashoke Sen of the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Leonard Susskind of Stanford University; and Xiao-Gang Wen of MIT. This teams joins Stephen Hawking at the institute.

This government is proud of its commitment to the Perimeter Institute as it continues to strive to be a world-class facility and retain world-class talent.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in recent days, letters from students of Mr. Mitchell Bubulj's grade 11 genocide and crimes against humanity class at Silverthorn Collegiate Institute have been arriving at my office. These students are part of a groundbreaking course studying genocide, established by the Toronto District School Board.

The students are profoundly moved by the horror and scale of man's inhumanity toward other human beings: the Holocaust, the Holodomor, Rwanda, and today Darfur.

Braden Page wrote, “every month 5,000 lives are lost in Darfur”. Alicia Rogers noted, “the genocide in Darfur in relation to Ontario...would be like wiping out all of Toronto...so please help”.

The Toronto District School Board is to be congratulated for establishing this course. Mr. Bubulj is to be congratulated for implementing it at Silverthorn.

We often repeat the phrase “never again”. High school students from Toronto are asking their members of Parliament, when will we mean it?

British Columbia
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has delivered tangible benefits for British Columbia.

B.C. was the first province to sign an infrastructure agreement with the federal government. This will help deliver B.C.'s share of the $18 billion over two years to help build roads and bridges and fund the Evergreen transit line that will serve Burnaby and the tricities, growing communities that will benefit for decades from this investment.

B.C.'s Conservative MPs fought hard to deliver for our province and I am proud of what we have accomplished. We have met the downturn in the forest industry with billions of dollars toward hard-hit communities across Canada. Much of this will be directed toward communities in British Columbia. The people of the forest sector will benefit from our expanded EI program.

Our record has been made in B.C. front and centre. The residents of B.C. recognize that by re-electing Conservatives and decreasing Liberals and New Democrats, they are getting true representation in Ottawa.

The few remaining Liberal MPs have been demoted by their new leader.

Xstrata Layoffs
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Monday my constituents were victims to this economic downturn when foreign-owned mining company Xstrata announced the layoff of 686 workers.

The government had an agreement with the company that there would be no layoffs for three years, and they broke it. The government claimed Xstrata would invest millions in Sudbury. We now know this money was already committed.

While the government tries to save face, the New Democrats and I are calling for real action for those who have lost their jobs. My party is behind the 686 laid-off workers. We have been standing in the House all week to hold the government accountable, to stand up for my constituents who have lost their jobs and their security.

Next Tuesday, New Democrat leader Jack Layton will be in my riding to listen to the concerns--

Xstrata Layoffs
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. The hon. member has 15 seconds left and he should refrain from using proper names.

Xstrata Layoffs
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, next Tuesday, our leader will be in my riding to listen to the concerns of the nearly 700 workers and their families who are now facing this economic crisis without a paycheque.

It is now time for solutions and that is exactly what the community will be addressing Tuesday night in my town.

Bloc Québécois
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, one wonders how the Bloc can claim to be the supreme defender of Quebec's interests when, in all the years it has spent in Ottawa, it has never been able to give Quebec a single cent. The Bloc has aligned itself both with the father of the clarity bill and with extremists. It is hard to know what it stands for.

It is becoming clear that what the Bloc wants, above all, is just plain confrontation. Yet Quebeckers do not want confrontation. The men and women of Quebec have always sought consensus. By advocating confrontation, the Bloc is going against Quebeckers' values.

The Bloc's latest achievement is to try to make Canadians believe Quebeckers are bitter and vindictive. The Bloc is tarnishing Quebec's reputation by making fear and hatred its favourite topics.

International Year of Astronomy
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 15, UNESCO launched the International Year of Astronomy. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first observations using a telescope.

With the theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover”, UNESCO hopes to make this year a real opportunity for all people to learn more about the latest astronomical discoveries and inventions, as well as about the universe and our place in it.

Quebec has long shown an interest in astronomy, and this is reflected in such facilities as the Montreal Planetarium, the ASTROLab in Mont-Mégantic, the astronomy observatory at the CÉGEP de Trois-Rivières and the Club d'astronomie le ciel étoilé in Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud.

I hope that Quebeckers will take advantage of this year of astronomy to discover the wonders of our universe.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it should not be necessary to remind this House and Canadians that the United States is our largest trading partner and our closest ally. The visit of President Obama underscores the importance he places on our bilateral relationship.

President Obama has acted swiftly to bring about a stimulus package to get Americans working and the economy flowing. The government is challenged to work with the United States administration as it sets its course. As the United States announces unprecedented spending on economic stimulus, the government must ensure that Canada's interests are protected and advanced.

From energy to the environment, border issues to the automotive and forestry sectors, Canada and the United States share the opportunity to show the world the difference between vision and division as we engage global recession, climate change and desperate world poverty.

We should begin by working constructively to prevent American protectionism and stimulate the trade that has and must continue to flow across our borders.

Justice
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the influence of organized crime and gangs in our society continues to grow at an alarming rate. Criminal gangs disrupt our society and represent a real threat to the safety and well-being of all Canadians.

I am pleased to report that, yesterday, our law enforcement agencies struck a huge blow to organized crime and gang activities in Montreal. This massive effort was the result of more than three years of investigation as part of Operation Axe. I would like to commend all those officers involved and congratulate them for their great work.

Under this Prime Minister and this Conservative government, we have made significant investments to support law enforcement. We are now giving them the tools they need to take action and shut down these gangs.

We promised to get tough on crime and we are making good on that promise.

Airline Crash
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, a tragic plane crash occurred last night near Buffalo.

Fifty people were killed.

We all express our sincere sympathies to their families and loved ones.

The Buffalo airport is frequently used by Canadians just across the border. Could the government inform the House whether any Canadians were involved in last night's tragic accident? What do we know at this point?

I would like him to respond in both official languages.

Airline Crash
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, clearly, we as well are extremely saddened by the loss of life and want to extend our deepest sympathies to the families that are involved.

Representatives from the Consulate General in Buffalo, as a matter of fact, are at the crash site and remain in contact with local and airline authorities. Canadians are advised to consult local news reports for the latest information. To be specific, we do not have any proof as yet as to whether or not Canadians are involved.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, in less than a week President Obama will make his first foreign visit and we are very glad it will be to Canada. However, Canadians are anxious to know what is on the agenda. What will the Prime Minister raise with the new President? Canadians do have a right to know that.

We are suffering through the worst recession since the 1930s. Just this week we have had devastating reports about job losses, bankruptcies, housing drops, and now a trade deficit. Out of all of that carnage, what will the Prime Minister say to the President to help fight U.S. protectionism and save Canadian jobs?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are extremely pleased that the President has made Canada his first international destination. Quite obviously, the discussions on the agenda will be on the economy. As we know, the Prime Minister travelled to Washington in November and met with G20 leaders. He went to the APEC meeting as well. There again the economy was top of discussion and we expect that will be the subject of discussion.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, hopefully the Prime Minister will learn about empathy from President Obama.

When people are seriously worried about their jobs and their family livelihoods, they need to know that their leaders really care, that their government is stepping up to the plate to help them with some enthusiasm. It is all about building confidence. President Obama obviously gets it, and it shows.

When will the Prime Minister rid himself of ideological millstones and embrace, with conviction, a vigorous role for government in recharging our economy and restoring Canadian confidence?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, as has been stated on numerous occasions in the House not only by myself but as well as other members of the cabinet, this government has taken action. We have taken action not only through budget 2009, the one that we are looking at now, but also through budget 2008.

This government is dedicated to getting this country back in shape, making sure that the action program that we put forward will come to full fruition and be able to help Canada, as well as the other countries, come out of this situation. I hope that we can count on the opposition's support.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to this important question. On January 18, the minister himself publicly announced that he was working with his American counterpart to set the agenda.

The event takes place in almost a week, and we are not sitting next week. Transparency will be important. I do not know if he has secrets, but can he give us the specific agenda for President Obama and the Prime Minister?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, anyone who is following the news, no matter what is happening around the planet, knows that the main concern, the top priority, is stimulating the economy.

Obviously, out of all the of the topics that will be discussed between the President and the Prime Minister, the economy will undoubtedly be the most important.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the economy. The trade relationship between Canada and the United States is worth close to $1.7 billion a day. However, in these difficult times, we are obviously worried about protectionist measures being implemented, and with good reason.

Although we do a lot business with the United States, there are still some important issues such as intellectual property and regulations such as ITAR.

Will the Prime Minister raise this question with President Obama since it will affect the growth of our industries?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I can reassure this member and all members of the House. Canada's best interests will be taken into account when our Prime Minister meets with the President of the United States. My colleague was referring to the important trade relationship between the two countries. Let me reassure him that we will continue to defend Canada's interests.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has dragged its feet on this issue for three years, and now it is using the economic situation and the arrival of the Obama administration as an excuse to delay the implementation of regulations to reduce greenhouse gases even longer. The fact that there is a new occupant in the White House should have prompted the government to do more, not less, as is now the case.

Does the Prime Minister realize that his government's inaction is scandalous and that the Conservatives' fight against climate change no longer has any credibility here at home or internationally?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we are working with President Obama. We are working with the provinces and the territories, and all our international partners to tackle climate change. Our targets in Canada, 20% absolute reductions by 2020, are some of the toughest in the world.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's decision to pit the economy against the environment is misguided. Many countries are already looking to green-collar jobs to stimulate their economies.

Is the Prime Minister aware that by refusing to use 1990 as the base year and to set absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets, he is penalizing Quebec's industrial sectors, such as the aluminum industry, which are waiting for regulations so they can sell their carbon credits on the international market?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, our commitment to cleaning up the environment has never been stronger.

In our budget we have $1 billion for green infrastructure, $300 million for eco-energy retrofits, and $1 billion for clean energy projects like carbon capture and storage. These investments in green technologies of tomorrow will help us combat climate change. It will clean up the air. It will provide good clean jobs.

The Bloc needs to support the budget.

Transfer Payments
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec has been given a raw deal on the environment and on other fronts too. Alfred LeBlanc, of Finance Canada, testified in committee that unilateral changes to the equalization formula would leave Quebec with a $991 million shortfall.

This government promised stable equalization funding, so how can it make Quebec's already difficult financial situation even worse by taking this kind of unilateral action?

Transfer Payments
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, most of that question was false. We have the record of restoring fiscal balance which was not recognized by the previous government. In fact, transfers and equalization to Quebec are at all time highs and they continue to grow. Last year alone they increased by 37%. I am not sure from where the hon. member is getting her question.

Transfer Payments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is completely false. I encourage the Minister of Finance to talk to the Government of Quebec.

By treating the transportation and distribution activities undertaken by Hydro Quebec and Ontario's Hydro One differently, the federal government is cheating Quebec out of another $250 million in annual revenues.

Why is the government still giving Ontario preferential treatment at Quebec's expense?

Transfer Payments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Speaking of false, Mr. Speaker, that appears to be false again.

I will quote the number. Total federal support for 2009-10 was $17.6 billion. That is an incredible number. As we say, that is a 70% increase since this government has taken power. I would suggest the hon. member get her facts straight before she starts making public comments.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the budget bill will allow more and more foreign takeovers of Canadian companies. The people of Sudbury are suffering the consequences of the Conservatives' inability to ensure that the agreements associated with such takeovers are honoured. When the government allowed the Swiss group Xstrata to take over Falconbridge, the deal was that there were to be no job losses for three years, yet nearly 700 people are unemployed.

How can anyone possibly hope that the government will protect jobs during future takeovers, if it cannot even protect the workers at Xstrata today?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, of course we are disappointed by the layoffs in Sudbury and the impact they will have on the families in the surrounding region. These are challenging times for mining companies around the world due to the global economic crisis.

At the direction of the minister, Industry Canada officials have been in extensive discussions with Xstrata over the last several days, which have resulted in further commitments to Sudbury. As a result, Xstrata has committed to invest between $290 million and $390 million in the Sudbury area over the next two years and that will secure at least 300 jobs.

This government acted quickly to stand up for the people of Sudbury and will continue to do so.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is especially during tough economic times that working families need to know that their government is on their side. They want to know that when their government has a legal agreement with a company to protect jobs that it will enforce it.

It has been a long week for Sudbury since we learned that Xstrata plans to throw 700 out of work.

Now it is time for the government to decide. Will it turn its back on the agreement and allow the layoffs or will it enforce the agreement and protect the jobs of working families in Sudbury?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I already answered that question.

However, it is interesting to note that on January 29, during the budget discussion and before we voted on the budget, the NDP member for Hamilton Mountain said:

Every single important piece that people in the community were looking for is mentioned.

She was speaking about the budget. However, the NDP decided beforehand that it would vote against the budget. I would ask the hon. member and his party to carefully consider how the steps in the budget will help all Canadians and to quickly pass this budget.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Sudbury here. With early retirements and the elimination of casual workers, the true job loss from Xstrata is closer to 1,100 workers. Families are devastated. Workers are wondering what is next and yet the Conservative government is simply turning its back on Sudbury.

Local unions are trying to find solutions for their members such as job sharing and other innovative ideas. If the government refuses to enforce the agreement, will it at least commit to resources to help Sudburians through this crisis?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I have already answered the question regarding the Sudbury issue. We are very concerned about Canadians who lose their jobs due to this global economic slowdown.

However, I would point out that in Canada we have a situation that is very different from other parts of the world. In fact, the Canadian economy is stronger than other parts as we go into the global economic slowdown and we will come out sooner and stronger than other countries.

I would urge members of all parties to carefully consider the measures in the budget implementation act and quickly pass it in the interests of all Canadians.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, every time we take a closer look at the government's record on delivering infrastructure, the numbers just get worse. The department's own performance reports show that over the last two years only 4% of promised funding was actually spent.

The agreements are in place and a list of $13 billion in shovel-ready projects sits on his desk. Why does this minister have a 96% failure rate?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that is simply not the case. This government is delivering more money to Canadians to get action on the economy. We are delivering more money and allocating more money than ever before in our history for infrastructure revitalization.

We want to talk about failed governments. In 13 years, that government barely delivered any money for infrastructure across this country. Every province knows that and that is why we are working with the provinces, territories and municipalities to get positive results for Canadians.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, he must realize that they have been in power for three years. March is usually the end of the big freeze but the Conservatives are still holding onto the funds for infrastructure. Of the $1.5 billion promised for the past two years, only $80 million from the building Canada fund has been paid out. March 31 is fast approaching.

Will the $7 billion that should go to infrastructure be given to our cities in order to create jobs and encourage investments before the end of the fiscal year?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I quote:

We're creating jobs for families and making our communities stronger by investing in infrastructure in rural Ontario.

I did not say that. That was said by Leona Dombrowsky, the Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

In fact, today the Minister of Transport, along with the deputy premier of Ontario, is announcing $1 billion for 289 infrastructure projects in Ontario communities with populations of fewer than 100,000 people.

We are getting the job done and delivering for Canadians real results.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the environment minister's assertion about the similarities between his approach on climate change and the Obama administration is a farce.

Eleven independent analyses conclude that the government will not meet its reduction targets. In three years, not a single regulation has come into force and each of the three ministers on the file have failed to track federal efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

This is not President Obama's position. Why does the government pretend that it is?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that 13 long, dark years of Liberal neglect on the environment has ended.

This is a quote I would like to share with the House, “I think our party got into a mess on the environment. We didn't get it done”.

Do members know who said that? It was the Liberal leader.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the greatest budget in Canadian history and the most aggressive plan of the G8, not 13 dark years. Unfortunately, that member does not read very well.

When President Obama says cap in trade, he means hard caps. The government's proposal does not cap emissions at all. Its intensity-based targets would see polluters profit by qualifying to trade credits as overall emissions go up and not down.

Will the minister simply admit that in order for Canada to participate alongside the U.S. cap in trade, his entire plan would need to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, today is Friday the 13th and, under the Liberals, every day was Friday the 13th.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I know it is Friday but we need to hear the hon. member. The hon. parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is, now we have turned the corner and those dark years are over. We have the toughest targets in Canadian history: 20% absolute reductions by 2020.

However, the question still rings within this Parliament, the question from the leader of the Liberal Party, which is why did they not get it done.

Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the $25 million earmarked in the budget for the Canada prizes for the arts merely serves to satisfy friends of the minister who, without consulting anyone, tried to suggest that they had a project of which the artistic community unanimously approved. However, we now know that this project is neither desired by nor desirable for the cultural community.

Will the minister do the only sensible, intelligent thing given the number of objections and abandon this project once and for all?

Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan, budget 2009, established record funding for the arts. One of the things we really wanted to do was to create an award that would recognize excellence in the arts, like the awards we created for health and sciences.

This will be an outstanding celebration of arts and culture right here in Canada. It will be a tremendous legacy coming out of this particular economic action plan.

Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government does not respect the cultural community. What is needed are real programs that meet artists' needs and can help them promote our culture abroad. That is what all stakeholders in the cultural community are asking for.

The question is simple: will he finally listen to reason and create real programs to promote our culture abroad?

Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure who the Bloc member is listening to but I do know that the Bloc voted against $530 million worth of investment into arts and culture through the economic action plan.

I will read what The Globe and Mail had to say about the new awards. It stated:

It's a visionary notion.

To seed such an enterprise in the midst of a worldwide recession is so bold as to be virtually unheard-of.

This is about giving a jolt of entrepreneurial energy to the arts, about putting young artists in a borderless world on centre stage, and with them, Canada, as a country that is open to world culture, and cares about the arts and artists.

Artists should be thrilled. This is their moment.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, even though the U.S. Senate toned down the Buy American Act to bring it into line with the trade agreements that are in place, this is not enough. It will still be possible to exclude steel from Quebec and Canada from nearly all the infrastructure projects supported by the Obama administration.

Will the government take advantage of President Obama's visit to Canada next week to obtain the assurance that the steel industry in Quebec and Canada will not be hit with any prohibitions?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we have been in very close contact with our American colleagues over the buy American act. We are very satisfied with the changes that have been made to it. We will continue to monitor this very closely to ensure we end up with an act that does not discriminate against Canada.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions took effect on March 18, 2007. Pressed by Quebec, Canada signed this convention, along with 95 other countries.

Since the United States still has not signed the convention, will the Prime Minister put this item on the agenda for his meeting with President Obama, in order to convince him to sign this convention?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am always interested in the questions the Bloc asks about language, culture and the promotion and expression of Canadian culture. I would like to remind my hon. colleague, however, that it was this government that gave Quebec a seat at UNESCO.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, when asked yesterday about the Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages said, “in this budget we will create prizes for Canadian artists”.

That is quite a flip-flop. We had understood that these prizes were meant for foreign artists. Just to be perfectly clear, are the Conservatives saying that the Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity will be awarded to Canadian artists?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, what we seek to do is create an international competition that awards excellence. It will create a centre of excellence right here in Canada. The world will be watching and we will be promoting artists from right here in Canada on the brightest stage in the world, created by this measure that is spun out of this economic action plan. It is a great victory for arts and culture in Canada. We are very proud of it.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian prizes for the arts were created on page 175 of the budget, which reads:

The Canada Prizes for the Arts...will bring the world’s best new artists...to Canada....

Nowhere is it mentioned that these prizes will be awarded to Canadian artists. Did the minister change his mind? Will those prizes reward Canadian artists or foreign artists, or has the minister misled the House?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I will speak a little slower. The awards will recognize excellence in the arts. It will be a very bright stage on which Canadian artists will have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. We will create a centre of excellence right here in Canada.

It is a huge victory for arts and culture in Canada, a celebration of arts and culture in a borderless world where our artists want the opportunity to compete and to share their talent with the rest of the world. This is a great story.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, in June 2008, the public safety committee called for tighter restrictions on the use of tasers. For eight months, the government and the commissioner ignored the recommendations saying that “tasers are here to stay”.

Yesterday, we saw an about face. Suddenly, not only is there a new policy, but we were told that it was there all along and that they had just kept it a secret. This came as a shock, not just to the public but to RCMP officers themselves. Last night, they denied any changes were made.

How could the minister allow such confusion and mismanage a matter this critical to public safety?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member was present when the commissioner explained that the policy had changed as a result of the standing committee's recommendations. I do not know what the surprise to him is that he would think that it would only change because he asked the question.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a disconnect between what the commissioner said and what RCMP officers, who actually hold the tasers and make the decision, said.

Further, yesterday in committee the commissioner said that tasers can take lives, that there have been 11 deaths related to tasers in Canada. Later in the day he said not so.

Yesterday the minister and commissioner said there is a new policy that was secretly implemented. Then later the same day the rank and file officers say that no real changes were made. The staggering mismanagement of the government puts civilian and RCMP lives at risk.

When will the government implement the committee's recommendations and get on with the work?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, when the member opposite uses half-truths and tries to indicate that they are the truth, he should really go back and review the evidence that was presented before the committee and what the commissioner had to say. He indicated that the tasers had been used a number of times, there had been deaths, but they have never been attributed to the taser.

Public Opinion Research
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has always been committed to the responsible use of taxpayers' money while ensuring that we meet the needs of the constituents that we serve.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services released an annual report on public opinion research. While the government has a duty to better understand the needs, priorities and expectations of Canadians, there was a clear need to control spending in this area.

Could the parliamentary secretary inform the House on the POR spending?

Public Opinion Research
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

This government made a commitment to spend wisely and according to the priorities of Canadians. This also speaks to our commitment to ensure openness and transparency.

In February 2008, our government announced the implementation of spending controls. I am pleased to inform the House that the value of public opinion research contracts awarded in 2007-08 was $6.6 million lower than the preceding year, a 21% reduction.

Once again, we are keeping our promise to manage public funds responsibly.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week Canadians were surprised to learn that the lawsuit involving serious allegations of bribery offers to the late MP, Chuck Cadman, had been suddenly withdrawn with no answer.

According to an expert hired by the Conservatives, journalist Tom Zytaruk was falsely accused of tampering with the audiotape record of his interview with the Prime Minister. Despite this, the government continues to claim Mr. Zytaruk tampered with the tape.

Would the government today either provide evidence that Mr. Zytaruk doctored the tape or apologize to him immediately?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we need not provide that evidence because it was already provided in court. It was proven that the tape was doctored, but happily the issue has been resolved now. There has been a settlement and we are very pleased with that settlement.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

It is not over for Mr. Zytaruk. The member just maligned him again, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to suggest to the parliamentary secretary that he leave the House after question period and repeat that statement, so Mr. Zytaruk can sue him for maligning his reputation.

Will he do that or not?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have said before and will say again that the matter is settled.

Air Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the dismantling of ACE Aviation, the parent company of Air Canada and Aveos, does not respect the spirit of the Air Canada Public Participation Act regarding maintaining overhaul centres in Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto.

What will the government do to ensure that ACE and its corporations comply with this act?

Air Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian aerospace industry is not unlike other industries and will feel the effects of the global economic crisis. In 2007 we announced $900 million for the industry through SADI and $153 million invested to date.

Through the IRB policy and the Canada first procurement strategy, contracts are going to Canadian firms. Today the Prime Minister will be making an announcement in Montreal that I encourage all members to watch.

Air Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, we referred to the Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto overhaul centres. I see that the parliamentary secretary does not understand.

The 2009 budget implementation act will increase foreign ownership of Air Canada from 25% to 49%. The government's attitude towards Air Canada is becoming clearer by the day.

Does the government deny that it is subjecting the carrier to blind deregulation, with the disastrous effects that this approach had on employment in the United States?

Air Canada
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that I have already answered the aerospace question, but I will talk a little bit about the budget.

We are coming up on some really important votes to do with the budget, a budget that will help provide support for Canadians who are out of work due to the global economic slowdown. It will help Canadians get re-trained and get back into new jobs, those Canadians who can do so, as soon as possible.

Because of the steps that we have taken, Canada is in a position that is the envy of the rest of the world as we head into this slowdown. I would encourage all members in the House to pass this budget as soon as possible.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is refusing to disclose how much it will contribute to security for the Olympic Winter Games that open in Vancouver a year from now. The B.C. government is tabling its budget next week, but it cannot tell British Columbians how much it has to pay unless it knows what the federal government is going to pay.

My question is very simple. What is the federal government going to contribute to the games' security and when will it tell British Columbians what it is going to pay?

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, both the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia are continuing to work on the cost sharing agreement. Because negotiations regarding that arrangement are still ongoing, we cannot provide further comment at this time. The Government of Canada is committed to transparency and will disclose the full amount of the security budget once all the agreements have been finalized.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is something the government can do very quickly. It can honour the wage agreement with the RCMP that it tore up just before Christmas. The government promised a wage increase for the RCMP, tore up the wage agreement and, by doing that, it is comprising the ability of the RCMP to recruit and re-train officers for the games.

My question is simple. Would the government do the honourable thing, do the right thing, and honour the wage agreement it made with the RCMP just before Christmas, so it can provide the officers our games need?

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the government respects the good work that the RCMP is doing to keep our communities safe. This is why we are increasing the force by 1,000 officers. It is critical, given our current economic circumstances, that we all tighten our belts. Everyone is being asked to do their fair share to help manage government expenditures. The RCMP is no different and we appreciate its support.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, forestry communities across northern Ontario are at risk. This week there was another announced sawmill closure, throwing 200 more people out of work, resulting in a ripple effect across the riding. This is placing a strain on available credit and threatening jobs. In Manitouwadge one of the creditors has already cut 38 jobs and 100 more are at stake in the next two weeks.

Would the government provide immediate access to reasonable credit to the forestry sector, so that northern Ontario communities can stop losing jobs?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan addresses exactly those issues. It is the NDP that is holding it up in the House. It is time it started co-operating with the government and pass this legislation, so that we can get moving ahead and protect those communities.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's answer on the lack of access to credit is inadequate.

We can see the consequences: 70% of contractors have been forced to close their doors and only 10% say that they might re-open.

Many of these communities have to rely on forestry and diversification is very difficult. Without forestry jobs, we are going to have ghost towns throughout northern Ontario.

Does the government realize that without access to credit, northern Ontario is losing jobs and that its failure to act is making things worse?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the question makes no sense at all. We are providing access to credit through the economic action plan. We are providing companies with the opportunity to get the tools necessary to raise capital for mining exploration. We are providing support through the community adjustment fund. The NDP needs to get on board with this program and support the budget.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a major blow was dealt to organized crime and criminal gangs in Montreal. Hundreds of officers from various agencies made a series of coordinated arrests and seized illegal drugs, computer equipment, cash and firearms. This bust came after years of investigation by various agencies.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety provide the House with some information on this operation and tell us how this federal government is getting tough on crime?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to Operation Axe, which was part of a three year investigation involving more than 700 police officers in the Montreal area.

Yesterday the police community made a series of coordinated arrests and dealt a serious blow to both organized crime and the illegal drug trade. By working together, law enforcement agencies are getting criminals off of our streets and keeping our communities safe. This is all part of our government's national anti-drug strategy and is a reflection of our commitment to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

These arrests would not have been possible without the dedication and diligence of police officers who work tirelessly to protect our neighbourhoods from criminal elements.

Human Rights
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the systematic and systemic abuse of the Baha'i minority in Iran unfortunately manifested itself again this week as seven members of the Friends of a Free Iran group, already being held for almost a year in the notorious Evin Prison, were charged on Wednesday with spying for Israel, insulting Islam, and spreading propaganda against the state.

These trumped-up charges also carry the threat of capital punishment, with Iran already being among the world leaders in carrying out the death penalty.

What action will the government take to protect this persecuted Baha'i minority and the persecuted prisoners in Iran?

Human Rights
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, obviously, my colleague has raised an important issue.

Larger than that of course, the Government of Canada has been extremely active in terms of human rights in Iran. One can refer back to the condemnation. Canada led a multinational initiative at the United Nations where we condemned Iran for its human rights behaviour. I can assure members of the House, as well as the member for Mount Royal, that we will continue exactly in that direction.

Passport Canada
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, in June 2009, it will be mandatory to show a passport in order to enter the United States. This new rule has led to an increase in the number of passport applications. To better respond to this increase, the department planned on opening six new counters in Montérégie. To date, only three service points have been opened and they have given up on the other three.

How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs justify this decision when the number of passport applications keeps on growing?

Passport Canada
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government has been moving forward with initiatives throughout the country to stimulate the economy, to give Canadians and consumers more choice in air travel, and to make sure that we can provide Canadians with what they demand. That includes passport offices and other services that we provide.

We are listening to Canadians and we are getting the job done for Canadians.

Portrait Gallery
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have just learned that the government wasted another $7.5 million in its ill-conceived mismanagement of the portrait gallery. The portrait gallery file is another example of the financial incompetence of the government. This partisan approach to culture has wasted millions of taxpayers' dollars with no portrait gallery to show for it.

When will the government get back on track, create jobs and help tourism, by building a portrait gallery right here in Ottawa?

Portrait Gallery
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, we are currently living in challenging economic times. Unfortunately, the minister had to withdraw a process that had been set in place on the portrait gallery, but it is something that we look to revisit at some point in the future.

Having said that, the member of the NDP is asking about support for arts and culture and heritage. I have to wonder why those members are missing in action on an action plan that would put $530 million into arts and culture in Canada. Why is the NDP voting against that? Why are those members holding up a budget that would support heritage, and arts and culture in this country?

Arctic Sovereignty
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned that Russia would be placing top priority on staking its supposed claim to the Arctic. It is reported that the Russians intend to modernize their icebreaking fleet and to station more research personnel in the Arctic area. Canadians are rightly concerned about these competing claims to the Arctic.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs please advise the House and clarify the government's strategy to affirm Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic?

Arctic Sovereignty
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada's sovereignty over the lands and the waters of the Arctic is long-standing and well established. This government is doing something about it, much more than any other previous government did.

In fact, the government has allocated monies in the budget to take care of Canada's Arctic seabed by doing the mapping. We have initiatives in terms of our Arctic patrol ships. We are looking at constructing deepwater ports as well as re-equipping our Canadian Rangers. My colleague from defence knows quite a lot about that.

Let me quote what the premier—

Arctic Sovereignty
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. We will not have time to hear the quote.

The hon. member for St. Paul's.

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday at committee, the health minister claimed that her government remained dedicated to reducing the youth smoking rate. However, contraband tobacco accounted for almost 33% of tobacco products sold in Canada last year. Kids are becoming addicted to tobacco at alarming rates.

Why have the Conservatives done absolutely nothing to combat the illegal cigarettes that are undermining the hugely successful programs that our former government put in to reduce children smoking?

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. This government and the Prime Minister are 100% committed to cracking down on all tobacco products marketed to children. That was a clear commitment made by our Prime Minister in the last election. That is why we are taking decisive action by setting a minimum package size for cigarillos that are less affordable for children, prohibiting flavours and additives that would appeal to children and banning all tobacco advertising and promotion in print and electronic media, which may be viewed and read by kids.

We will not tolerate tobacco being marketed in this way and enticing children. Let me assure the House that the promise made—

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Laval.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, as many countries have stated during the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Canada is being lax when it comes to a number of UN recommendations, notably the recommendation regarding violence against aboriginal women.

What is this government waiting for to comply with its international commitments to aboriginal women?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, obviously Canada was very happy to comply with the provisions in this universal revision. Of course, anyone who reads this document will also realize the extremely important role Canada plays, especially in terms of human rights. As for aboriginal rights, no government has done as much for these people as this government.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period, I posed a question to the Minister of Public Safety, which was responded to by the parliamentary secretary. The parliamentary secretary stated that the commissioner, in committee yesterday, said that tasers were not responsible for deaths.

I will quote from the blues yesterday what the commissioner had to say. These are his words,“I think there have been, in total, about 11 death proximal to the use of the taser since the weapon was introduced”. This is a deliberate misrepresentation. He continued, “I can probably get you immediately some information with respect to the number of overall deaths”.

This was a misrepresentation of facts.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

To the Chair, it sounds like debate. If the member wants to follow up perhaps in a different question period, he can raise it then.

Office of the Correctional Investigator
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, 2007-2008, as required under section 192 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Under part III of the act, the Correctional Investigator serves as the ombudsman for federal offenders.

Law Enforcement
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2007 annual report on the Law Enforcement Justification Provisions. This report addresses the RCMP's use of specified provisions within the law enforcement justification regime, which is also set out in sections 25.1 to 25.4 of the Criminal Code. This report also documents the nature of the investigations in which these provisions were used.

This regime applies when designated law enforcement officers commit what would otherwise be considered criminal offences during investigations and enforcement of federal laws. It provides these officers with a limited justification defence, provided that the conduct is reasonable and proportional under the circumstances.

The law enforcement justification regime is particularly helpful for the investigation of serious offences and to infiltrate and destabilize organized crime groups.

Biological Security and Safety
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 32(2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Kyrgyz Republic Concerning Cooperation in the Field of Biological Security and Biological Safety”. An explanatory memorandum is included with the treaty.

Afghanistan
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present this petition signed by the constituents of my riding. In large numbers, they are demanding that Canadian troops withdraw from combat zones in Afghanistan in February 2009, in other words, immediately. There have been three votes in this House on the issue. Unfortunately, because of the successive support of the Liberals and the NDP, the government was able to extend the mission past February 2008.

The people of my riding will get together on February 23, 2009, to call attention to the fact that Canadians are still in combat zones in Afghanistan because of the irresponsible actions of the Liberals and the NDP, who allowed the government to pursue this unjust war.

Canada Post
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today from the residents of Coderre, Saskatchewan.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to have the bilingual essential clause deleted from their postmaster's job description due to declining population. They do not want to lose their post office in the event that a bilingual person is not available for that position.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition signed by many constituents of mine.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition for my residents of Langley.

The petitioners say that a number of severe potential life-threatening conditions do not qualify for disability programs because they are not necessarily permanent.

They therefore call upon the House of Commons to enact specific and precise legislation to provide additional EI benefits to at least equal, if not better than, maternity guidelines.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with some relief that I rise in the chamber today to speak to Bill C-9 in that this bill is long overdue, at least that part in dealing with the issue of transportation of dangerous goods.

The riding that is immediately adjacent to mine is held by the NDP member for Windsor West. It contains several border crossings that are the busiest not only in Canada and the United States, but we believe the busiest between two sovereign countries anywhere in the world. More passenger vehicles and vehicles carrying cargo cross that border daily in numbers that are not matched anywhere else in the world.

The issue of moving dangerous goods in this country has been a long-standing problem from an environmental standpoint. I can remember dealing with this issue over a good number of years. The municipal levels of government, the city of Windsor and the county of Essex, were greatly concerned about the movement through their jurisdictions of goods that were not properly regulated. Safety regulations were not in place. There were no requirements in provincial or federal legislation to identify that dangerous goods were moving through their jurisdictions. Over the years there were a number of incidents where it came to the knowledge of the municipal governments that on a regular basis certain dangerous goods, toxins, and in some cases even radioactive material such as medical isotopes, were moving through their jurisdictions and they had no idea it was happening.

This has been a great concern not just to the elected officials in the municipal governments in my area, but also to our firefighters and police and emergency responders. Oftentimes they are called to scenes of motor vehicle accidents involving goods that are unknown to them in terms of the quantity and how dangerous the goods are. Historically, on a number of occasions, we have been very worried as to whether our emergency responders, police and firefighters have been exposed to toxins and other serious pollutants that would damage their health and the environment in the region around the accident.

This is not something that has been going on for the last few years while consultation on this bill has been going on; it has been going on literally for decades in our area because of its geographic location. Much vehicular traffic moves through our area on a daily basis. In order that people can appreciate the significance, in terms of the numbers, more goods and vehicular traffic goes through our city and crosses to the American side and vice versa on a daily basis than all of the traffic that goes across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island in a year. Having to cope with that traffic has been a major issue, and perhaps the major issue, in our community for a long time.

It became even more of a concern when the incident of 9/11 took place. It moved from being an environmental and health and safety issue to one of national security. Since 9/11 there has been a significant slowdown in the traffic patterns across the border, at the bridge, at the tunnel, and even with regard to the rail tunnel that moves a huge amount of cargo between the two countries on a daily basis.

The United States has been very adamant and protective of its side of the border. The U.S. refuses to accept that our standards, our safety and precautionary measures are sufficient to respond to the concerns the Americans have. Again, this is around the transport of hazardous waste and goods, but also with regard to the potential for that transportation network to be used by terrorists to attack the United States.

It has been a grave problem for us since 9/11, one to which the government has finally responded. In the last few years the Conservatives and the Liberals before them were very slow to pick up on it. In a number of other ways, we have spent huge amounts of money to deal with national security issues. One can argue that it was probably spent unwisely in a number of areas and that it would have been much better to have spent some more time and to have been more focused on this particular area so that the legislation and standards would have been in place and we could have been moving to deploy and enforce those standards.

I am going to use one example to highlight one of the concerns. The City of Toronto has been transporting huge volumes of municipal waste, general garbage from households in particular, to the state of Michigan. In the last few weeks the City of Toronto has announced that because of some recycling programs it has put into place and other policies around the reuse of items, it has been able to reduce the number of trucks crossing at the border crossings in Windsor and Sarnia by almost 50% in the last year. That is a good development, but one of the reasons it was pushed to do that is that the state of Michigan had taken some very strong measures to prohibit the importation of that garbage into its jurisdiction.

Michigan specifically used the example of the number of times that hazardous goods had gotten through the Canadian side and the American side of the border and ended up in the landfill sites on the Michigan side, and it was discovered only at that point that there was hazardous waste in that garbage. The state of Michigan has now taken steps to pass legislation that has curtailed the amount of garbage that is being transported into its jurisdiction.

This legislation is badly needed from that perspective with regard to environmental and health and safety factors. It is also badly needed to satisfy our concerns on this side of the border with regard to items that are coming in from the U.S. side. By raising our standards here in Canada, we would be able to prohibit goods coming in from the United States that we do not want in our country. That part of the legislation is badly needed. It is a good step forward.

Since 2004 the government has spent an extensive amount of time on consultation. However, that consultation was over in a meaningful way sometime around 2006 or 2007, at least two years ago. This legislation should have been before the House in that period of time. It should have gone through committee, been amended, clarified and refined as necessary, gone back into the House, passed through the Senate and given royal assent. We should have been at that stage at least a year and a half ago, perhaps even as much as two years ago. We could have been at the stage now of deploying the bill and the law and, in particular, putting in place the regulations that would flow under this law so that we could dramatically increase the safety in our communities. I mean safety in terms of the natural environment of my city and county and the national security items that this bill addresses.

There is one significant negative in this bill. Generally, members of the NDP are supportive of this legislation, but we have a significant concern with regard to the methodology that is going to be used by the government with regard to security clearances for truck drivers, but also for personnel at our border crossings such as in my area, but also at our airports to some lesser degree, and most important, at our shipping ports on our coasts. The difficulty we have with the legislation is it would appear on the surface that a good deal of the methodology that will be used to institute the surveillance of employees will be done in secret.

If we are trying to satisfy the Canadian people that we are serious about these security clearances, they will have to be done in an effective, efficient and state-of-the-art way. We have to do it as well as anybody in the world does, and hopefully better. It is hard to imagine how we are going to instill that confidence in the communities most affected by these types of goods being transported through them that we are doing it effectively. We cannot convince people that we are doing a good job unless they can see it. It is an issue of transparency.

I have heard no argument on the part of the government as to why there is this insistence on these regulations that will govern how people will be cleared for this type of employment. How does not telling the general public the criteria that people have to meet and the process they have to go through in any way enhance that sense of confidence in our government and our government institutions, that we are doing a good job in protecting our citizens? I say protecting them both from a personal security basis, that their personal security is assured in this country, but also that the natural environment around their homes and businesses will be protected as well as it can be, and that our emergency responders will be protected as best they can. This insistence on secrecy makes no sense to us in the NDP.

However, there has been a history, and it has been particularly true that some of the tools that we have tried to put in place at our ports to screen employees and the types of methods that were being used were, quite frankly, offensive to our charter of rights, basic human rights and civil liberties. I am going to use one example that came up, I think it was a couple of years ago, when I was a member of the public safety and national security committee.

Transport Canada was proposing at the time to do clearances not only on the employees but on a very wide range of people who were associated with candidates for employment, the candidate's immediate family and extended family, without any reasons for doing that. There would be no suggestion that the person had an extensive criminal record or was associating with people with extensive criminal records. Transport Canada was going on the assumption that everybody was a potential criminal or a potential terrorist, rather than doing the reverse and assuming that unless there was at least some indication that the person was a security risk, it would do a fairly conventional security clearance for the person through our regular police forces.

We are concerned and we will need to take this up, to a significant degree, assuming we can get the government to move beyond its secrecy, almost paranoia, to understand why the security clearances are being done, it appears from the legislation and from some of the comments we have heard from the government, behind the scenes in total secrecy. That does not advance the level of confidence and security in the country. It certainly does not give our citizenry additional assurances that things are being done properly and that we are advancing the level of security, both with regard to environmental issues, health and safety issues and national security issues, if they do not know what is going on.

I can well understand, because of the extensive amount of work I have done in national security since 2004, that there are times when we do need to do things behind the scenes, to do them undercover and to maintain them that way when national security is at issue.

However, I also learned throughout that period of time that oftentimes national security is used as a cloak for breaching civil liberties in this country. It is used as a cloak to, at times, cover up mistakes made within the public service. This, obviously, is a rare exception, but if we start with a system that says that we are entitled to keep everything behind closed doors, that we will not tell the citizenry anything about it nor will we tell members of Parliament about it, we will not even give access to this kind of information, then that is the wrong approach. It is one the NDP will be looking very closely at in committee and moving amendments, if that is necessary.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

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

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

moved that Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have the pleasure of introducing Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act.

In the recent Speech from the Throne, the government committed to take steps to ensure that aboriginal Canadians fully share in economic development opportunities and this legislation is a concrete example of that commitment.

The oil and gas sector provides a real source of promising economic development opportunities for first nations. Few other countries in the world can lay claim to the secure, abundant and diverse energy resources we enjoy in Canada. This energy wealth has fueled tremendous economic growth in many regions of the country.

The world's need for Canada's oil and gas holds significant promise for development for many years to come.

Since the government was formed, we have made clear our determination to ensure first nations share equally in our country's prosperity and that they are able to build stronger and self-reliant communities that can manage their own affairs.

Bill C-5 would help to advance these goals by enhancing Canada's capacity to assist first nations in managing their own affairs. The management and administration of oil and gas resources is governed on reserve lands by the Indian Oil and Gas Act and it is administered by Indian Oil and Gas Canada, a special operating agency within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

The mandate of Indian Oil and Gas Canada is to assist in fulfilling the Crown's fiduciary and statutory obligations related to the management of oil and gas resources on reserve lands and to ensure first nations initiatives for greater control over the management of their resources. In practical terms, this means that the agency issues and administers agreements on first nations lands, monitors oil and gas production and collects royalties for the benefit of first nations.

I will now speak to why the existing act needs to be amended.

The legislation under which Indian Oil and Gas Canada operates has not kept up with the times. The act first came into force back in 1974 when the industry was in the midst of a global energy crisis. Since then, most provinces have overhauled their laws and updated their regulations numerous times. For example, Alberta's legislation, the Alberta mines and minerals act, which governs resource development, has been amended more than 15 times since the 1970s. In contrast, the Indian Oil and Gas Act has remained unchanged for the past 34 years. We need to change that.

Furthermore, oil and gas exploration and exploitation on reserve lands and the revenue that these activities generate are significant. Over $1 billion in revenues from on reserve oil and gas activity have been collected on behalf of about 60 first nations over the past five years alone. This revenue is credited to those communities in its entirety. The industry is continuing to invest millions of dollars in exploration and exploitation activities on first nations reserve lands, more than $300 million in the past five years for drilling alone.

I realize that these amendments are very technical in nature but they are important. The broad changes brought forth can be grouped under three themes: first, amendments that would bring clarity to the oil and gas regulatory process; second, amendments that would ensure and strengthen accountability of Indian Oil and Gas Canada; and finally, amendments that would enhance the protection of first nations environmental, cultural and natural resources.

In terms of bringing clarity, once adopted, the amendments would ensure that the role and powers of the minister and reference to the courts are clear and provide for broader regulation-making authority. They will, equally important, allow federal regulations governing oil and gas projects to be harmonized with provincial oil and gas regulatory regimes. Co-operation with provincial authorities is key.

I want to make it clear that Bill C-5 would not increase the jurisdiction of provinces. It would allow for federal regulations to be made that are consistent with provincial laws, which is important to create clarity and certainty for both first nations and industry.

Enforcement powers would be clarified, as well as modernized. The current act limits fines to $5,000. This would be increased to $100,000 per day and sometimes more could be imposed by the courts.

In areas of high risk, such as the seizure of records and equipment, this would all be governed by relevant Criminal Code provisions and overseen by provincial courts. These amendments would ensure that the government, through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, can provide certainty and consistency for first nations, for industry and for provincial stakeholders.

The amendments that strengthen accountability to act on behalf of first nations by Indian Oil and Gas Canada are examples such as clear audit powers for Indian Oil and Gas Canada and accurate reporting and paying of royalties due to first nations when companies operate on reserve lands.

As another example, rules would be put in place to address complex relationships, not only between unrelated corporations but also between an existing corporation and its subsidiaries.

Bill C-5 would authorize new regulations to prevent companies from using non-arm's length transactions to unjustifiably reduce the royalty which would otherwise be payable to first nations. A company would not be able to sell oil or gas at a reduced price to a company it already owns in order to pay less royalty.

Furthermore, the limitation period to commence legal proceedings would be extended to 10 years and there is no limitation period in cases of fraud or misrepresentation.

The final set of amendments deal with enhancing protection for first nations' environment, cultural and natural resources. These amendments would balance the development of oil and gas resources with environmental protection. This is of interest to all Canadians. The current act has limited remedies in the case of non-compliance. Under the amendments, provincial environmental laws can be incorporated by reference into the federal regulations that apply to first nations reserve lands.

It is very important, of course, that anyone doing work on a reserve respect first nations' cultural and spiritual values and their special relationship to the land. Bill C-5 would authorize the minister to suspend operations of a company if areas involving these special values are at risk.

There are some further concerns from first nations. They wish to have a remedy when companies trespass on their property. With this legislation, there would be specific offences so that Indian Oil and Gas Canada would have more options to deal with these breaches.

A key policy objective for the government is ensuring our legislative framework supports first nations. The current Indian Oil and Gas Act falls short in this area. Many first nations are concerned that they will not be fully benefiting from the increase of exploration and development taking place around them. The Indian oil and gas industry is equally frustrated.

The reason behind these changes is to provide consistency and certainty to the oil and gas regime. That is one side of the equation. For the affected first nations, the revenue generated by this activity translates into increased economic development, new jobs and improved living standards.

The money being raised is used by first nations for training, housing, water and sewer projects, building stronger communities and a brighter future for their children. This modern suite of tools will better enable first nations to seize opportunities.

The amendments, as I mentioned, are very technical in nature. The first nations have been asking for these changes, and Canada started the process to modernize the act in 1999.

The Indian Resource Council is a national aboriginal organization advocating on behalf of 130 first nations with oil and gas production or the potential for production. We had extensive consultations with first nations and with oil and gas interests. First nations have validated the principles embodied in the legislation and have made suggestions for improvements.

Most noteworthy was the need to amend and modernize the legislation, and this need was endorsed by the Indian Resource Council at annual meetings in 2006 and 2007. Thanks to this close working relationship, oil- and gas-producing first nations have had the opportunity to influence the development of the amendments and will be called upon again to participate in the development of the regulations that will flow.

This support is reassuring, but the council went even further in order to make sure all communities with oil and gas interests had the opportunity to become fully aware. It held a symposium earlier this year in Alberta. Over 100 members representing more than 60 first nations attended. Their involvement and support were encouraging, and we are on the right track. We will continue to work in partnership, and this will lead to greater first nation control and management of petroleum resources on their lands.

The key to unleashing this potential lies in modernizing the legislative framework. Strong regulatory regimes are essential for both economic and social development. That is why we are bringing the Indian Oil and Gas Act up to 21st century standards.

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is great to hear the parliamentary secretary here today speaking on these important amendments to an act that I am sure will be important for aboriginal peoples and in particular northern communities.

I would like to put a question to the parliamentary secretary, if I may. One of the things I understand is that the amendments will modernize the regime for the management of oil and gas activities, but in the course of that, the government has not done anything to affect its fiduciary responsibilities with first nations or to affect aboriginal or treaty rights.

Could the member expand on that subject for the House?

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question came from the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and he is doing an excellent job.

The fiduciary obligation of the federal government is obviously paramount in any legislative changes that we undertake in Parliament. I mentioned in my speech the fact that this act has been subject to major consideration since 1999. Indian Oil and Gas Canada made presentations to every one of the Indian Resource Council's annual meetings. It advocates for the first nations involved in oil and gas productions.

Formal consultations started in March 2002. We had a stakeholder involvement package sent out at that time to 120 first nations, to 200 energy companies with active leases, to the four oil and gas provinces involved, to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and to the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. We had Indian Oil and Gas Canada holding one-on-one sessions with 85% of all the oil- and gas-producing first nations, and it also met with tribal councils.

The first nations position generally has been very supportive of this legislation. The modernization and harmonization themes have been very well accepted, with most comments supporting the strengthening of Indian Oil and Gas Canada.

This legislation is broadly supported by all stakeholders, and I believe it has broad support from all parties in the House of Commons. I look forward to swift passage at second reading and moving it to committee.

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at second reading of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act. The Indian Oil and Gas Act was first introduced in 1974 and really has not had any major amendments. There were only some minor amendments in 1995.

This is the third time in as many sessions of Parliament that these more substantive and modernizing amendments have been brought forward. Unfortunately, between early elections and early prorogations, there has never been enough time in the parliamentary calendar for consideration of the substance of this bill. In fact, merely by getting to second reading, this version of the bill has outlasted its predecessors.

For the benefit of all who have a stake in this bill, there will hopefully be no more parliamentary hiccups keeping it from continuing through the proper legislative process here and in the other place.

Since the bill in its previous form was introduced in the last session, I have had the opportunity to read it and to study the background information explaining why these changes are needed at the present time.

In the past number of years, we have seen a massive increase in the natural resources sector in Canada, particularly in oil and gas exploration. My own riding, while not known for its onshore oil and gas, has significant offshore potential. We are also one of Canada's main mining regions, and in fact the Voisey's Bay nickel project in Labrador is an example of how resource industries and aboriginal peoples can work together.

The people of my riding are also well acquainted with the oil and gas industry in other parts of Canada, especially in Alberta and other western provinces, where many of the people I know have gone to work on petroleum industry projects. The recent economic downturn is affecting these industries, just as it is touching all industries and sectors of the economy.

We on this side of the aisle are very concerned about the economic direction of the country and the need for stimulus in the short term to get people working and get industry moving. However, in the long term we also have to look at making Canada a good place to do business and taking the steps to ensure that our resource and other industries will resume their growth and provide jobs for the future.

We also have to take steps to ensure that first nations people are brought in as true partners and participants in the development of natural resource industries.

During the latest boom, many mining and petroleum projects were crying out for employees, due to an acute labour shortage. Despite the current economic situation, the long-term trend is that Canada will require more skilled workers in all sectors of the economy, including the natural resources arena.

At the same time, there is a large and growing population of aboriginal Canadians, and far too many aboriginal communities are at an economic disadvantage. There is an incredible opportunity here to develop the industries with aboriginal people as owners, participants, partners and workers over the coming years and decades.

Modernizing the Indian Oil and Gas Act is one step that may help achieve these goals in respect of oil and gas exploration and development on first nation reserve lands. This bill contains a number of technical changes to the way oil and gas resources on reserves are administered and managed. I will describe the broad strokes of these changes.

The bill addresses the regulatory gap between on and off reserve oil and gas activities. Second, the bill would expand the powers of councils of first nations to delegate any of their powers under the act to any other person, effectively allowing first nations councils to hire experts to act on their behalf.

The law would also require a minister to exercise his or her power under the act only if the council of an affected first nation has given its permission. The bill includes a non-derogation clause, which states that nothing in this act shall be deemed to abrogate the rights of Indian people or preclude them from negotiating for oil and gas benefits in those areas in which land claims have not been settled.

A new section added to the bill governs the payment of royalties from oil and gas recovered on first nation lands, which are paid to the Crown in trust for the first nation in question. There are also greater audit capabilities.

There is a new section providing further powers to make regulation for the purposes of the act. One interesting provision, from my point of view, is the power to require petroleum operators to employ members of the first nation in question in the exploration or development of oil and gas from first nations lands.

Again, my own riding saw similar issues during the exploration, construction and development of the Voisey's Bay project.

I look forward to hearing more about how similar adjacency or hiring rules will apply under this bill to the oil and gas industry.

I will also be interested to learn from the experiences of first nations in other parts of Canada, who may have valuable lessons for people and communities in my riding.

My party's position is that we support the bill in its broad strokes and agree that a package of amendments must be brought forward for consideration. I have already had productive meetings with some of the stakeholders, like the Indian Resource Council and look forward to hearing other points of view, both one on one and in committee. It is in committee that I trust we can get down to some of the details.

The industry is generally positive towards the package of amendments contained in the bill, indicating that it will bring greater clarity, strengthen accountability and enhanced protection of first nations, environmental, cultural and island gas resource. If there are differing viewpoints, I look forward to hearing them once the bill has been referred to committee.

With the new spirit of openness and co-operation that is said to pervade in Parliament these days, I trust that all parties will be interested in hearing from a number of witnesses representing those with an interest, one way or another, in this legislation.

I also trust that the government will be willing, where appropriate and necessary, to be open to amendments if the committee's work leads us in that direction.

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member's remarks in regard to the co-operativeness that we see to move this package of amendments forward.

Could he perhaps reflect on the notions that he has heard in regard to these amendments, particularly from first nations communities, and does he believes they will embrace the kind of changes suggested and proposed in the bill?

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Simcoe North, for his co-operation. We have seen that in committee thus far and we look forward to more of that in the future.

The stakeholders I have had personal contact with, particularly the Indian Resource Council, which represents 130 first nations that have oil and gas interests on reserve, are amenable to this legislation. They have been involved in at least in the drafting of the recommendations of the legislation.

They feel it will put them on a level playing field with off-reserve oil and gas exploration. It will also help solve some of the regulatory gaps that may now exist. It will help them gain greater benefit from their resources through other capacities.

On environmental protection, there are certain fines or penalties that can be brought in under the legislation.

Generally, the stakeholders I have talked to are in agreement with this. They want to see it move forward in an expeditious manner.

Indian Oil and Gas Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns we have is whether the consultation process leading up to this should have been dealt with a good number of years ago. Some of the litigation that has gone on has finally forced the government, both the current one and the prior one, to begin to engage in serious consultation as required by the Supreme Court in some of those decisions.

Does my colleague feel that the consultation process on the bill is adequate and, more important, is satisfactory to the first nations across the country?

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the duty to consult, the entire House knows that the government has a legal duty to consult with first nations. A consultative framework has been adopted by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Some would argue whether that framework is adequate or whether it fully addresses the issue of consultation with first nations.

I cannot say whether first nations that are impacted by the bill have been adequately consulted. They will have to speak for themselves on whether they feel adequate consultation has taken place. However, the stakeholders I have met with feel the legislation is long overdue, that it has come about as a result of many talks, much information sharing between the various stakeholders, and they would like to see it expedited.

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12:50 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a comment to the response from the member for Labrador.

The NDP representative on committee has said that the consultation on the bill would serve as a potential model for other consultative mechanisms. I think it is quite clear that we have seen a very good example here, and continuing support. I expect this is the kind of testimony we will receive at committee.

The member for Labrador may wish to make a comment as well to further that.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt, as I said earlier, that the issue of consultation is one that arises many times, but it has not arisen as an issue today or in the past with regard this bill.

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12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. This bill amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act.

Allow me to summarize. The summary of this 24-page bill is worth reading.

This enactment amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act to clarify and expand the existing regulation-making powers and to add new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands and the determination and payment of oil and gas royalties. It also puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the Act as well as provisions for its enforcement.

The Bloc Québécois has always respected the rights of aboriginal nations. That sense of respect will inform the Bloc Québécois' participation in committee through our critic, the excellent member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who will defend the interests of both first nations representatives and the Quebec nation.

Naturally, the Bloc Québécois supports the principles underlying this bill. Despite its imperfections, the bill will provide the necessary tools to harmonize existing laws and regulations governing reserves with the laws and regulations of the provinces in which they are located. When this bill goes to committee, our party, the Bloc Québécois, will ask for more details about, among other things, the terms and conditions relating to authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserve and, subsequently, oil and gas exploration and exploitation permits issued by the federal government.

The Government of Canada must not use Bill C-5 to abdicate its fiduciary responsibilities toward aboriginals. We must clearly identify the oil, gas and lands that may be affected, as well as the federal government's fiduciary obligations toward aboriginal peoples.

The government is responsible for rectifying inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. We do not feel that this bill does that. This is part of a bigger picture; it addresses and resolves part of the problem, but it would be false to suggest that this bill can resolve or rectify inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

I will reread the summary:

This enactment amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act to clarify and expand the existing regulation-making powers and to add new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas...It also puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the Act as well as provisions for its enforcement.

We can see here that Canada made a choice long ago to turn over oil and gas exploration and exploitation to the private sector.

Many countries in the world develop their own oil and gas resources. That is a choice. Canada, like the United States, simply decided to put this in the hands of private enterprise. When a country does that, it must pass legislation and provide for sanctions in the event that legislation is violated. Clearly, this is what part of this bill is intended to do.

I would remind hon. members that the development of a new fiscal relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has been the focus of discussions and analyses for more than 20 years. It has been talked about for over 20 years. As early as 1983, the Penner report, a report by the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations be redefined.

In 1996, the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—also known as the Erasmus-Dussault commission—also recommended a full review of the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations. The proposed initiative focused on redefining this relationship within a broader context based on first nations self-government. The Tlicho self-government act that we passed in this House is an example of this.

The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2006, was one of the first steps in this new fiscal relationship between the first nations and the federal government.

This optional law contains two new provisions: the first makes it possible for first nations to manage and regulate oil and gas activities on reserves; the second, to manage funds held in trust for them by Canada. A first nation can choose either option. In other words, they need not own oil or gas to become responsible for managing these monies.

This legislation will change the way oil and gas are developed and it will allow first nations which are self-reliant to develop these resources on their own land. Previously, first nations have had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which has not allowed them to manage these resources directly.

The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act allows first nations, that choose to do so, to be excluded from the application of the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations.

That act, the Indian Oil and Gas Act, is the legislation governing exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources on reserve land. This legislation does not allow first nations to manage the oil and gas resources on their land directly nor does it allow them to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.

Since 2006, the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act has allowed first nations, if they so choose, to create regulations concerning oil and gas exploration and conservation, on the spending of moneys derived from the exploitation of these resources, and on the protection of the environment.

As for regulations to protect the environment, those established by first nations will have to at least meet the standards of Quebec or the province in which the aboriginal community is located. This is important to us, the Bloc Québécois. Protecting the interests of Quebeckers is just as important as protecting the interests of first nations and aboriginal peoples. Obviously, the law that applies to first nations must be the same as the law that applies to Quebec.

In terms of managing their finances, those first nations choosing to come under this new legislative framework will be subject to different regulations regarding money. This money is currently defined in the Indian Act as all moneys collected, received or held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of Indians or bands.

For these first nations, the provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. They will therefore be able to manage the amounts collected directly, rather than letting them be managed by the federal government. As a result, they will be able to make their own choices for investment in their communities instead of letting the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dictate priorities to them. Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out in her 2004 report that this department is not doing a good job of administering the billions of dollars intended for the aboriginal communities. The best way for aboriginal communities to do this is to negotiate with the federal government as equals.

If a first nation does not feel it would be advantageous to come under the new legislative regime, the current standards will continue to apply to it, so it will continue to benefit from the provisions of the Indian Act, including those that apply to the administration of Indian moneys.

Bill C-5, which is identical to Bill C-63 and Bill C-5, which died on the order paper June 17 and December 3, 2008, respectively, amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act.

It is important for those watching us to understand why bills die on the order paper. As we all know, this is because an election is called or the House is prorogued. In that sense, since the Conservatives have been in power, they have had the pleasure either of calling an election, even though it went against their own legislation regarding fixed election dates, or deciding to simply prorogue the House in order to stay in power. The adverse effect of that, of course, is that all the bills needed for the well-being and progress of the people, such as aboriginal communities in this case, are lost simply because the Conservatives decided either to call an election or prorogue the House.

At present, under the 2006 legislation, first nations that have oil and gas resources but are not managing them must leave the management of their resources to Indian Oil and Gas Canada, a government agency that falls under the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Indian Oil and Gas Canada, or IOGC, has a mandate to manage and administer the exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources on first nation reserve lands. This organization encourages production and ensures proper collection of royalties on behalf of first nations.

But the Indian Oil and Gas Act has not been amended since it was passed in 1974. Of course, in 1995 a regulation was passed concerning Indian oil and gas, but that is not satisfactory given how the market has evolved since 1974. As the industry has become more and more complex, provinces have constantly modernized their oil and gas legislation. And that is why the federal government is now deciding to modernize its legislation—to bring it more into line with reality and various pieces of provincial legislation.

This bill would apply to reserves that have not chosen to exercise rights under the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act. This bill would apply to first nations that are subject to the Indian Oil and Gas Act. That represents approximately 200 First Nations that produce or could be producing oil and gas.

Currently, more than 80% of these activities take place in Alberta. In 2005 and 2006, more than $270 million in oil and gas revenue was collected by the federal agency that manages Indian oil and gas resources, IOGC. This organization has signed active production agreements on behalf of 60 first nations.

This bill would give the same weight to the industry's activities both on and off reserve—based on provincial legislation—in order to decrease the number of obstacles to first nations economic development, in order to ensure environmental protection on the reserves and in order to allow the government to better fulfill its obligations to first nations in terms of managing these industries by respecting regulations and collecting royalties and other applicable types of revenue.

Under the Indian Act, oil and gas revenues are collected by the federal government and are then to be completely redistributed to native peoples. This money is referred to as “Indian moneys” in the Act and the federal government has fiduciary responsibility for it.

This bill does not transfer to first nations the federal government's power to manage and administer oil and gas exploitation and production activities on reserve lands.

Its purpose is to update the Indian Oil and Gas Act and harmonize the federal legislation with the legislation in the provinces where first nations communities are located. Incorporating the provincial acts and regulations will neither remove any jurisdiction from the provinces nor confer any jurisdiction on them. For example, reserves' environmental regimes will continue to be harmonized with provincial requirements.

The bill replaces almost all of the provisions of the existing six-section Indian Oil and Gas Act and includes a number of matters that are currently provided for in the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations, 1995.

Bill C-5 expands the Governor in Council's existing regulation-making powers and adds new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands.

The bill also makes changes in respect of the limitation period for actions to collect amounts owing and the determination of royalty payments. It puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the act as well as provisions for its enforcement comprising fines and penalties, a remedy for trespass, environmental protection clauses and authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserves.

It would be interesting to have more information about lands added to reserves and to know what measures are being put forward in negotiations with the provinces. The Bloc Québécois plans to ask some pointed questions about this in committee. We could ask what is meant by expanding the Governor in Council's regulation-making powers and how the provinces will be consulted before regulations are introduced.

For example, even though the bill states that these lands have been absolutely surrendered under the Indian Act or the First Nations Land Management Act, it would be interesting to get some clarification about the negotiation process with the provinces and obtaining a permit on these added lands.

The bill also requires the minister to undertake ongoing consultations with the first nations involved with respect to negotiations with industry. The new section 6(1.1) states that:

The Governor in Council may, by regulation,

(a) require that a power of the Minister under this Act in relation to first nation lands be exercised only if prior approval of the council of the first nation is obtained, if the council is first consulted or if prior notice is given to the council, as the case may be;

(b) require that any such power of the Minister be exercised only if prior consent is given by any first nation member who is in lawful possession of the first nation lands; and

(c) require that notice be given to the council of the first nation after the Minister exercises any such power.

Through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, and in cooperation with the Indian Resource Council, the government consulted most oil-producing first nations and 130 band councils in 2002 and 2003.

The Indian Resource Council was founded in 1987 to represent first nations' collective oil and gas interests with both government and industry. Current membership exceeds 130 first nations from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories. Six non-producing first nations in Quebec are also members: the Odanak Abenakis; the Natashquan Innus; the Kanesatake Mohawks; the Gesgapegiag Micmacs; the Kahnawake Mohawks; and the Wôlinak Abenakis.

Our aboriginal affairs critic met with Indian Resource Council delegates. Some council members are dissatisfied with certain aspects of the bill, but on the whole, the council is happy with the bill and the consultations that took place.

The Bloc Québécois will therefore support the bill in principle.

While far from perfect, this bill will provide the tools needed in order to standardize the legislation on reserves with that of the provinces where they are located. The Bloc Québécois will demand clarifications during the committee's study of this bill, for example, regarding the terms and conditions relating to authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserve, as well as oil and gas exploration and exploitation permits issued by the federal government.

The Bloc Québécois will ensure the Government of Canada does not use Bill C-5 as a means to slough off its financial obligations with respect to first nations. The Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation to aboriginal peoples and it cannot shirk it.

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.

Once again, although not perfect, this bill may help create an environment that we hope will be conducive to first nations obtaining resource royalties and reinvesting them in their own communities.

The Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. Autonomy cannot be attained unless a nation controls its economic levers.

I am the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and my riding is adjacent to the Kanesatake Mohawk nation. It is important to try to understand others. Last year, I had a rewarding experience with young artists. The Centre de l'image et de l'estampe de Mirabel decided to sponsor aboriginal artists who are now touring Canada. For the past two years, this centre has taken under its wing young Mohawk artists from Kanesatake, our neighbours, and it has been an enriching experience with the results now touring Canada. It is an honour for a population that is often forgotten by governments and left to its own devices. When we try to help these nations to help themselves good things can happen. I hope that this bill will attain its objective.

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1:15 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and was most grateful to hear his comments.

There was some discussion in your speech about the environment. I know that the bill deals with the environmental measures in a significant way. One of the ways is to introduce authorities related to carbon capture and sequestration, so that first nations can continue to move in a way that would reduce their environmental footprint. It would also increase the ability of the Government of Canada to incorporate provincial laws by reference. It would strengthen and clarify all of that. I wonder if the member has taken note of that. Are you supportive of those two measures?

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would remind the hon. parliamentary secretary to address comments through the Chair and not directly to other members.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is true for one simple reason. The Bloc Québécois' goal is to ensure that all exploitation on Quebec and aboriginal lands complies with the same environmental standards as Government of Quebec projects do. That is important.

What happens in Alberta is not the same as what happens in Quebec. The environmental standards that the Government of Canada wants to enforce are not the same as Quebec's standards. If Quebec were a country, its environmental standards could meet the Kyoto targets. Our businesses, our paper mills and our aluminum smelters would be able to sell credits on international carbon exchanges, which is not the case for others.

That is why, when we are defending Quebeckers' interests, particularly in the context of a bill that talks about the environment, we think it is important that all exploitation activity on aboriginal lands satisfy the same criteria and requirements as activities in the rest of Quebec. This is a good thing for aboriginals in Quebec, who will see that the environment and the economy now go hand in hand.

There is now a green economy, and a lot of jobs are being created. Constrained by its ties to Canada, Quebec has been unable to ride the green economy wave.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I probably will not be taking my full 20 minutes allocated to this bill. As members have heard already from both the government and the opposition parties, there is general consensus that this legislation is badly needed. It is very timely in the sense that it has been a long time that amendments have been necessary to the Indian Oil and Gas Act.

It also would appear, and we share in this sentiment, that it has widespread support from the first nations. I would signal in particular that the Indian Resource Council, which was formed in 1987 I believe, has come out very strongly endorsing the legislation. I am sure we will hear from the council that it is not absolutely perfect and maybe at committee some additional and probably minor amendments will be necessary. However, the council is quite strong in supporting the legislation and encouraging all parties to support it.

I think that has to be the controlling factor. The council is clearly identified as the group in the country among the first nations. It does have representation from a large number of the first nations, but it is the group that has been identified as dealing with this particular issue, this sector of the economy for the first nations, and it is quite supportive of the legislation.

This legislation goes back to 1974 when it was first passed in the House. It has not been amended since that time. Regulations were changed to some reasonable degree around 1995 but other than that the act has remained as it was in 1974. It is obvious that over that 35 years things have changed.

The relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has changed dramatically. As we finally began to recognize, we are nowhere near finishing that agenda, but we began to recognize the significance of working with them on a nation to nation basis on all sorts of issues.

That recognition in particular has taken first nations coast to coast to coast to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions, particularly around, as the Supreme Court of Canada has found now repeatedly, the requirement on the part of the federal government of the day to consult in a meaningful way with the first nations. The Supreme Court and the lower courts have as well found breaches of that responsibility repeatedly. Projects that were to move ahead had to be stopped and meaningful consultation taken up with the first nations.

It appears quite clearly that on this particular piece of legislation consultation has taken place. It actually was completed before the calling of the last election. There was a prior bill introduced by the government, Bill C-63 in the last Parliament, which basically is the same bill as we are seeing now in Bill C-5. That of course died on the order paper when the Prime Minister opted to break his promise and call a snap election in September. Otherwise, this bill probably would have been through the House and been law by this time. This was further extended by the government's dodging of its democratic responsibilities with the prorogation of Parliament last December.

We now have the bill in front of us. The opposition parties are generally supportive. It will go to committee for final review, but I expect, in listening to our critic in this area, that the review will not take very long, so we should see the bill back before the House fairly quickly, and hopefully quick passage on to the Senate and royal assent.

The intent of the bill is to modernize it, to bring it into the 21st century, and in particular there have been conflicts between the federal legislation and the provincial legislation. This goes some distance to clear that up.

The first nations feel that the relationship between the federal government and the first nations that are affected by the legislation will be enhanced by the amendments that are going through. The bottom line is that this would bring clarity.

There are a number of provisions in the bill around the responsibility of the minister to deal with environmental issues. Most often what happens is that multinational corporations come in to do the exploration and withdrawal of oil and gas from the site, including, in some cases, coal deposits, to which it extends, but in the course of doing that it can cause environmental damage. The minister has very clear authority to deal with the remedial action that would be necessary to correct that environmental damage but the minister would be given additional powers to do so, which is an important factor in the bill.

I was caught also by the responsibility of the minister to ensure historical sites, which would, almost exclusively, be for the first nations, are protected, as well as archaeological sites. Over the years, many times first nations have been rightfully indignant, angry and bitter over the treatment of their archaeological sites with no particular sensitivity to their spiritual beliefs and their historical importance. The legislation would strengthen the responsibility of the minister to ensure that sensitivity is assured and guaranteed. That would be a major improvement to the relationship between the Government of Canada and the first nations.

There are a good number of important provisions within the legislation that provide for an enhancement of the role of first nations in the governance of the oil and gas reserves that they have on their lands. That only goes to further strengthen their desire to be independent of control by the federal government. It is clear what the responsibilities are of the federal government, which will continue, but it also significantly enhances the role of the first nations, and that can only be seen as a positive development.

We will be supporting the legislation. I suppose it is always possible that evidence and witnesses at the committee may produce some concerns, but the strongly felt sense we have at this point is that, because of the substantial support from the first nations and the support from all parties, those concerns would be of a very minor nature and again it would be back here for quick passage, hopefully as early as within the next month or so.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. Resuming debate.

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal affairs and Northern Development.

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

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government had intended to call another bill for debate today, however, upon consultation with the opposition, two parties have indicated that they are not ready to proceed with that debate at this time.

I would also like to thank opposition parties for their cooperation this week in considering government business.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you seek unanimous consent to see the clock at 2:30 p.m.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock at 2:30 p.m.?

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1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until Monday, February 23, 2009, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 1:30 p.m.)