House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will speak more slowly so the Conservatives across the way can understand. I said that we had read into the record letters that have indicated the concerns raised among farmers and longshore workers. I ask my colleague and other Conservative members to check the blues because the NDP gave it all out them. We provided all that information. The member for Western Arctic did as well.

Essentially the NDP has said that there are deep flaws with the bill. We have produced the letters that have indicated what those deep flaws are. What we have said is that we are willing to help the Conservatives govern right.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how much more I can add to what I have said already. I trust we can move ahead with this motion, we can do the work that is required and that should be enough.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not receive an answer to my previous question. I am simply asking why the member voted to move the bill out of committee, if there were such deep flaws. I am sure he has a colleague behind him from the NDP giving him advice on it. Why did he vote to move the bill on, out of committee and into the House if there were such deep flaws? He raised his hand. It was unanimous. All the members around the table realized the importance of the Olympics and the importance of the bill.

Why yesterday was it good and today it is not? Is he playing politics?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

He should read the transcripts, Mr. Speaker. That would indicate where my dialogue was. We do not need to play silly games.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The vote stands deferred until the end of government orders today.

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading of Bill C-16, the environmental enforcement act, which addresses the important issue of enforcement of our environment and wildlife protection and conservation laws. I would like to compliment the work of the Minister of the Environment for making this bill a priority.

Our government has taken a number of steps since coming into office three years ago to protect our water, air and land through stricter enforcement measures.

The environment enforcement act will complement the $22 million commitment that we made in budget 2007 to increase the number of enforcement officers by 50%, a commitment that has led to the hiring of 100 new enforcement officers, the last recruits of which will be trained by this August.

Among these new officers, nearly two-thirds will concentrate on the legislative and regulatory requirements of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, known as CEPA, 1999, and the Fisheries Act, while the rest will be assigned to commitments under wildlife legislation.

The work they do will be further enhanced by this government's commitment in budget 2008 of $12 million over two years to Parks Canada for the implementation of an enhanced law enforcement program within Canada's national parks and $21 million over two years to enhance Environment Canada's enforcement operations by improving scientific and technical support during enforcement operations, including forensic analysis, expert witness participation and improved laboratory capacity, establishing two major case units dedicated to investigations requiring highly specialized skills and enhancing compliance and intelligence monitoring systems.

These budget commitments will increase the effectiveness of Environment Canada and Parks Canada enforcement officers and help them do their jobs. These commitments will also ensure enforcement activities are able to more effectively support prosecutions.

However, both enforcement activities and support for prosecutions will only lead to long-term results if prosecutions of enforcement offenders result in stringent sentences that act as strong deterrents, that denounce unlawful activity that threatens the environment and that contribute to the restoration and remediation of environmental harm resulting from environmental offences.

Bill C-16, the environmental enforcement act, proposes to introduce sweeping changes to the offence, penalty and enforcement provisions of nine environmental protection and wildlife conservation statutes to ensure they achieve all of these goals.

The application of the bill's amendments to nine different statutes ensures its impact will be far-reaching. Six of the statutes that would be amended by the bill are the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment. These include CEPA, 1999, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, one of Canada's most important environmental protection laws. This act addresses the prevention and management of risks posed by toxic and other harmful substances and the environmental and human health impacts related to biotechnology, marine pollution, disposal at sea, vehicle, engine and equipment emissions, fuels, hazardous wastes and environmental emergencies.

The statutes that would be amended by the bill also include the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994, a key tool for protecting migratory birds in Canada.

The bill would also strengthen the enforcement, fines and sentencing provisions of Canada's trade and endangered species legislation, which forbids the unlawful import, export and interprovincial transport of species on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora control list and of foreign species whose capture, possession and export are prohibited or regulated by the laws of another country.

In addition, the environmental enforcement act would strengthen the enforcement provisions of the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, which implements a protocol to the Antarctic treaty and the Canada Wildlife Act under which national wildlife areas are established and maintained for wildlife conservation and research activities.

The bill would significantly strengthens the International River Improvements Act, a statute that governs the construction, operation and maintenance of large projects such as dams on rivers flowing from Canada into the United States.

Bill C-16 would strengthen the enforcement, fines and sentencing provisions of three other statutes for which the Minister of the Environment is responsible as the Minister for Parks Canada. These include: the Canada National Parks Act, under which our national parks and reserves are created and managed; and the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, which authorizes the creation and management of marine conservation areas that are representative of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans, and the Great Lakes.

Bill C-16 would amend the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act which protects the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.

Hon. members of this House may question why the provisions of Bill C-16 are not applied to the Species at Risk Act. As members know, the Species at Risk Act, known as SARA, was recently referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for its required five year review. Out of respect for that process, amendments to the Species at Risk Act were not included in this bill.

The government recognizes that the Species at Risk Act may benefit from many of the provisions introduced in Bill C-16. I urge my colleagues on the environment committee, many of them here today, to consider the application of Bill C-16 on the Species at Risk Act as we review that act.

The need for the amendments proposed in the environmental enforcement act are clear. At the Global Judges Symposium held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002, where Canada's Supreme Court was represented, the Johannesburg Principles on the Role of Law and Sustainable Development were adopted.

The principles include the following statement:

We are strongly of the view that there is an urgent need to strengthen the capacity of judges, prosecutors, legislators and all persons who play a critical role...in the process of implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law...especially through the judicial process....

Current fines are too low to be effective deterrents. Furthermore, they do not adequately express society's strong disapproval of environmental offences. Finally, when fines are collected, they are currently most often directed toward the consolidated revenue fund. Our government has proposed amendments in Bill C-16 that would see those fines made available for remediation of the harm caused by that environmental offence.

On the issue of fines, although some of the statues amended by Bill C-16 already provide for up to $1 million in fines per day for an offence, imposed fines have never approached these amounts. In fact, the highest financial penalty imposed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to date is $100,000. Given that most offenders convicted under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are corporations operating in a regulated sphere, there is a risk that fines of this quantity may simply be seen as the cost of doing business.

This greatly reduces the deterrent value of fines, not to mention poorly represents society's disapproval of environmental offences. To put this in perspective, we need to consider that penalties for environmental offences in the United States often reach millions of dollars. Bill C-16 would address this issue by providing guidance to the courts in appropriate fines for introducing minimum fines, requiring courts to consider aggravating factors and increasing most of the minimum and maximum fines.

If the environmental enforcement act becomes law, fines for individuals who commit the most serious offences will range from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $1 million per day. Large corporations that commit the most serious offences will be liable to fines ranging from $100,000 to $6 million per day of an offence.

Beyond increasing fines, the bill would also improve sentencing guidance by introducing purpose and principle clauses that recognize the sentencing objectives of deterrence, denunciation and restoration and the importance of taking into account the aggravating factors.

It would also ensure courts have access to a full suite of powers to order offenders to undertake certain activities, including remediating harm caused by their offences, compensating those who take remedial action or who lose property as a result of the offences, and contributing to communities harmed by the environmental offences.

The bill would further enhance the deterrent effect of convictions by improving public disclosure of environmental offences, especially with respect to corporate offenders. It would add a provision to each act obliging the minister responsible for the act to maintain, in a registry accessible to the public, information about convictions of corporations for offences under the act. The objective is to encourage compliance given the importance of public opinion on corporate success. Furthermore, the bill would oblige courts to order corporate offenders who have shareholders to inform their shareholders of the convictions.

Beyond its focus on the outcome of prosecutions, the bill would give enforcement officers better tools for addressing offences that require immediate attention by allowing officers to issue compliance orders.

The bill also sets out the legislative authority needed to establish an administrative monetary penalty scheme for responding to less serious environmental infractions that might otherwise go unaddressed because of the prohibitive cost and time associated with prosecution.

These administrative monetary penalties are relatively low financial penalties that are appropriate enforcement tools for responding to violations of law that are relatively minor in nature.

The new act would authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations needed to implement the administrative monetary penalty scheme, including regulations identifying for what offences administrative monetary penalties may be used and a method for calculating the fine amount. The new act would restrict the amount of these monetary penalties to $5,000 for an individual and $25,000 for any person or ship, creating a continuum of enforcement responses from warnings to compliance orders to administrative monetary penalties to charges.

Persons issued an administrative monetary penalty may have them reviewed by an administrative tribunal to ensure fairness that may determine whether the person committed the violation and, if the tribunal determines the penalty for the violation is not determined in accordance with regulations, it may correct the amount of the penalty.

Finally, as I have already alluded to, the bill would help address the harm resulting from environmental offences by directing all fines collected under the statutes amended to the environment damages fund. Currently, the fines collected under most environmental protection statutes are directed to the Receiver General, from which they are not necessarily available for environmental restoration and protection projects. Moneys in the environment damages fund, however, are available for individuals and organizations for the purpose of supporting restoration and protection projects.

Ineffectual enforcement of environment and wildlife conservation and protection laws make them ineffective. Canadians expect these laws to be enforced and that their enforcement will lead to meaningful sentences.

The budget commitments that this government has made, including the additional officers and now Bill C-16, combine to form a comprehensive, modern and effective enforcement regime for Canada, one that will protect the rich natural resources that define our nation and make us as Canadians so uniquely appreciative of the land that we cherish and so proudly call our home.