House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled “Canada and the Crisis in Sri Lanka”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

May 14th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, an amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, amendment read the second time and concurred in)

The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill affects a number of regions of Canada. I should start by saying that, naturally, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill in principle. This bill follows on the signature by the Government of Canada of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001, as well as the protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992,

It was high time that the government honoured its international commitments. Not only does integration of these new instruments and principles into federal law guarantee higher compensation to victims of marine accidents, but it will also have positive repercussions on the Canadian compensation fund.

Withdrawing the prohibition for adventure tourism activities to use waivers in order to be exonerated of civil responsibilities toward their passengers is a good thing for us as well. By their very nature, these activities involve a degree of risk that participants must assume. Although this change may at first glance seem to be sufficient, it will be necessary to evaluate its repercussions in committee. The creation of a maritime lien for Canadian ship suppliers against foreign vessels was equally desirable, but again it is essential that it be studied in committee because that will make it possible to determine the scope of this addition and to suggest improvements to it as well.

I will close by stating that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill.

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.

I have the honour to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act. I will restrict my comments to the maritime lien that is proposed in clause 139.

I am not a member of the transport committee but I have attended four different meetings. I was a substitute at the first meeting and I noted a serious problem in the legislation, so I came back for three other meetings to see if we could fix it. I proposed amendments specifically with respect to this maritime lien and those amendments were discussed on May 7. I am disappointed to say that the government voted against them so I am here today to explain the situation and ask the Conservatives to reconsider them. However, at a minimum, Canadians need to know that they voted against these proposed amendments and why they did.

Specifically, clause 139, the maritime lien, which is what we call a right, states:

A person, carrying on business in Canada, has a maritime lien against a foreign vessel for claims that arise

(a) in respect of goods, materials or services wherever supplied to a foreign vessel for its operation or maintenance, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, stevedoring and lighterage; and

(b) out of a contract relating to the repair or equipping of a foreign vessel.

It is a lot of language but, in short, it means that if a foreign vessel comes into Canada and a person supplies services to it, the person has a right to get paid and attempt to exercise that right against the actual ship.

The next question is whether this right actually does anything for the person. The problem is that it does not because, in most circumstances, that right would be meaningless. Although the person would have the right to get payment, how would the person actually do it because, generally speaking, people will have extreme difficulty trying to get the money?

We need to look at this on a very practical basis. If people are owed $200, $500, $2,000 or whatever it may be, how will they get their money? Although this proposed maritime lien would give people the right to try to get the money, what do they need to do? With the way the current system is written, which has a gap in terms of the remedy, people must sue. Therefore, if there is a foreign vessel in a port that owes people money and it is about to leave, there is nothing people can do about it. If it is from a foreign country, people will need to hire a lawyer and try to sue somewhere even if a judge will accept jurisdiction in a foreign country. This is not a practical right because there is no way to exercise this.

Even if the ship were to remain in Canada, people would need to hire a lawyer, which means money. Whatever the bill may be, whether it is $400, $500, $800 or more, people need to hire a lawyer in order to sue, pay a filing fee and then try to get an order to stop the ship or sell the ship in order to get their money. People would then need to prepare motion material, which means a notice of motion, an affidavit or two and a documentation order, that is assuming they could even find a lawyer who can get it into court. Even if they do find a lawyer who can get into court, they then have to wait. It could be a number of hours and the lawyers charge by the hour. Assuming they could even find a lawyer and even find a judge, they may end up spending a few thousand dollars trying to enforce a debt of a few hundred dollars that is owed. People will not do it.

Once again, I am not on this committee but I kept coming back because I thought this would be better for Canadians. Sections 128 and 129 already have a provision for a designated officer to direct a ship to stop and to issue a detention order if it looks like something untoward has occurred. What that would really mean is that some problems would be solved. First, a ship escaping or leaving Canada would be stopped. Once it is here it would not be able to go anywhere, which means we are preserving that right and that lien.

Second, if a detention order were issued, part of it would say that the foreign vessel must pay a certain amount of money before it could be released. It just keeps the status quo. It keeps it there. The owner can pay the money and go or go in front of a judge, which puts the onus on the foreign vessel owner to actually do something. At least Canadians would be protected.

With the amendments that I proposed, which I am disappointed to say that the Conservatives voted against, ships would be kept in Canada and they would either have to pay or go before a judge. That would skip the first layer of having to actually hire a lawyer and spend all that money.

The Canadian Bar Association had a representative who said that he was opposed to these amendments. I understand that because I am the former secretary of the Ontario Bar Association representing approximately 17,000 lawyers. The job of the Ontario Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association is to represent lawyers. I am particularly disappointed with the parliamentary secretary, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, who is also a lawyer. He said that he knows how a court works, and I believe him, but he was supporting lawyers. In essence, he said, “You can hire a lawyer, you can pay a lawyer and you can get into court and we'll leave things the way they are”. That means that people who cannot afford a lawyer or people who have very small claims will not have any fair redress. I am very disappointed with that because our job is not to represent a particular constituency group, but Canadians in general. Although I am lawyer, I am here to represent the people of Brampton West and Canadians. I am very disappointed with the government for this.

I would like to read some specific quotes by the parliamentary secretary when he was at the committee on Thursday, May 7. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure gave examples and said, “You've got a large, expensive ship...with a small bill, whatever it may be, owed to Canadians, and I just don't see that as being appropriate”.

In essence, he was siding with the foreign vessels and with the lawyers over Canadian citizens who may be owed money but, for some unfair reason, the foreign vessel has refused to pay them. I do not see that as appropriate for a member of Parliament.

A second quote by the parliamentary secretary reads, “I believe lawyers can be called on a phone--I know I was available most nights until midnight--and can do a lien and find a judge in time to do it, even after hours”.

What he is saying is that we will not be changing the system, we will not be making it better for Canadians and constituents. We will keep it with lawyers. We will keep this as an expensive system even though the amounts in question are so small that either people will not bother and, therefore, will be treated unfairly, or they will not be able to afford to exercise their right. I find that quite disappointing.

The legal counsel for the Department of Transport acknowledges that this change would be something that would be added to the legislation. He says that it would be an element to the way in which a maritime lien is enforced and a positive step to help Canadians and our fellow constituents.

Despite that comment, the parliamentary secretary and the government, for whatever reason, just voted against all of this to defeat what I think would be a very positive change for Canadians.

Although this may seem complicated, it is not. It is as simple as this. There is a new right, a maritime lien under clause 139. There would be no way to practically use this unless there is a substantive change. It just would not happen on an everyday practical basis.

I proposed a substantive amendment that would create a remedy so Canadians could enforce and use this maritime lien. It would help Canadians, who we should be focusing on, and innocent service providers, not advocacy groups, such as the owners of foreign vessels or lawyers. There is nothing wrong with lawyers making a decent living but we can cut out the first step for the benefit of Canadians and still require a court as a second step. This would save money and protect the rights of Canadians.

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Brampton West for his insightful contributions to a sometimes very technical debate that has everything to do with serving Canadians and ensuring the commerce of this land operates on an even keel, no pun intended, and with total transparency so that all consumers and contributors are protected.

As he said, his suggestions were turned down by the government even though virtually all of the representatives who came forward said that the rights of Canadians could be protected if we could have a minor amendment linking the vessel owners in a contractual arrangement with those who were utilizing the vessel for purposes of commerce. They do not necessarily need to be the same individual. However, as long as there could be a contractual connection, then we might not need those amendments.

I am wondering whether the member for Brampton West would clarify that for us, because the government accepted neither of those positions. In negating either of those positions, is it his opinion that the rights of Canadians are that much diminished? Could the House stand for diminishing the rights of Canadians?

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for supporting my amendment and recognizing immediately that additional work was required to make this legislation better.

I am always concerned when somebody puts something down on paper that sounds good and looks good but does not actually do something, which is what the government has done with respect to this maritime lien in clause 139. The average person will not be able to use it or will choose not to use it because the amounts of money that we are talking about, generally speaking, that Canadians will seek to go after are quite small in relation to what they will need to pay a lawyer. On a practical basis, they may not even have the opportunity because these vessels may leave Canada. Some may come back and some may not come back.

I believe that to make this maritime lien an actual right that will work, we need to do more. Why put it in there if it is not going to work? I would encourage the government and members of the committee to reconsider this for the benefit of their constituents.

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for noticing this and taking the time and effort to go back three times. He clearly feels very strongly about this. I also thank him for his attention to the bill and for his very thoughtful discussion.

I am wondering if the member could share why he thinks his amendment was voted against, especially when the vote was in favour of a foreign vessel over Canadians.

Marine Liability Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I think that it was voted against simply because of politics. From what I saw in the committee, there was an agreement that they would simply vote against all Liberal amendments. I do not think they actually considered it.

When I was able to sit down with some of the members of the committee afterward, I believe many of them were actually supportive, in theory, of this extra protection but I think politics trumped what was right on behalf of Canadians. That is why I am here and that is why I am asking the Conservatives to consider this and to do what is right on behalf of Canadians, rather than simply focusing on what their political objectives might be in trying to defeat Liberals no matter what.