House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was theft.

Topics

The House resumed from June 15 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Monday, June 15, 2009, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain relating to the business of supply.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek it, you would find agreement to apply the vote from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting no.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Securities Regulation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

(The House divided on the motion which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #91

Business of Supply
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:08 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 14, 2009, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the need for a royal recommendation to accompany Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, a bill standing in the name of the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this matter, as well as for his detailed submission.

In presenting his case, the parliamentary secretary noted two aspects of the bill which he argued violated the financial prerogative of the Crown.

First, since the bill seeks to establish a new government agency, the economic development agency of Canada for the region of northern Ontario, he argued that the establishment of a new department or agency entails those operational expenditures necessary for it to function on a day-to-day basis.

Second, he made reference to the fact that the bill provides for the appointment of a variety of officials and other personnel. He indicated that since remuneration or the possibility of remuneration is provided for in the bill, a royal recommendation is therefore required.

I have carefully reviewed Bill C-309 and given particular attention to both the establishment of the new agency and the appointment of various officials and employees proposed in the bill.

With regard to the establishment of a new agency, the parliamentary secretary cited a ruling of July 11, 1988. As the parliamentary secretary noted, in that ruling the Chair stated that an amendment to establish a separate government department “undoubtedly would cause a significant charge upon the federal treasury in order for the new department to function on a daily basis.” (Debates pages 17366-7) This observation is just as valid when applied to Bill C-309. Accordingly, the Chair believes that the establishment of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, as proposed by Bill C-309, would give rise to new and distinct government expenditures, thus requiring that the bill be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-309 also provides for the appointment of members of an advisory committee as well as an agency president, and their remuneration is stipulated in clauses 4 and 9 of the bill. It is well established that such salary provisions constitute a charge on the public treasury.

Furthermore, clause 13 provides for the appointment of officers and employees in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act. Undoubtedly, such appointments would necessarily include remuneration and thus would also involve a new government expenditure.

Clearly, Bill C-309, by providing for both the establishment of a new agency and the appointment of officials, involves the expenditure of funds. Such spending, for a new and distinct purpose would need to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its current form. Today, however, the debate is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has five minutes remaining in his time slot.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting patiently, but certainly looking forward to concluding my remarks on Bill C-309, which proposes, at a significant cost to the taxpayer, to create a new federal agency, with its own deputy minister and bureaucracy, to administer economic development programs exclusively to northern Ontario.

If we are to make these kind of expenditures, I think it should be on the stimulus package and the efforts that have gone forward in this budget to help Canadians versus to build a larger bureaucracy.

Nonetheless, to summarize, in addition to some of the initiatives that I had mentioned previously, the FedNor organization today administers two very important programs that directly benefit northern Ontario: the northern Ontario development program, which is the program that represents the organization's original mandate to serve these areas; as well as the community futures program. These programs serve as a foundation of FedNor's holistic and highly successful approach to community economic development. Unfortunately, the organization's evolution, which I have tried to capture in my comments, has led to confusion about FedNor's role and responsibilities.

Please allow me to clarify.

Because of its original mandate to serve northern Ontario exclusively, some have been led to believe that FedNor funding aimed at northern Ontario is somehow flowing south. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is important to understand is that what used to be referred to as the FedNor program has now become the northern Ontario development program. Through this program, FedNor, the organization itself, funds economic developments exclusively in northern Ontario. Even though FedNor has grown and some programs have involved delivering provide-wide funding, each of these programs, including the northern Ontario development program, has its own distinct budget.

In fact, the northern Ontario development program and its budget has steadily increased over the years. Today, it is much larger than it was when FedNor started assuming responsibility for the other two programs. This means that funds destined for northern Ontario are not flowing south, contrary to what is being claimed by some members in opposition.

Let me be clear. Even though the organization has received increased responsibilities over the years, these have not detracted from FedNor's focus on northern Ontario. Bill C-309, in essence, aims to create an agency to do what FedNor is doing today through its northern Ontario development program. However, as it stands, the bill would effectively turn back the clock on the progress made by FedNor. The bill, as written, would remove the flexibility that has helped make FedNor so valuable to the people it serves.

Recently the Government of Canada announced Canada's economic action plan, which will provide much needed support for businesses, industry and all Canadians during economic slowdown. As part of that plan, FedNor will be administering northern Ontario's share of the $1 billion, over two years, allocated to the new nationwide community adjustment fund. FedNor's flexibility to deliver this type of programming is what makes the organization so effective.

I should also note that delivering additional programs like the community futures program and the community adjustment fund actually creates jobs in northern Ontario. By delivering these initiatives through an established organization like FedNor, instead of creating new layers of bureaucracy, the Government of Canada and all citizens benefit from important cost savings.

The clients of the community futures program and other FedNor-delivered initiatives also benefit by drawing on FedNor's substantial program delivery expertise and recognized sound management practices. The potential severing of the community futures program, which supports 24 community futures organizations across northern Ontario, would have a particularly negative impact on northern residents. FedNor has established long-term relationships with hundreds of community futures staff and volunteers who serve on these boards. These relationships have been built over many years and have created strong bonds between the federal government and community stakeholders.

Let me illustrate this by making a point. At last year's Ontario Association Community Futures Development Corporations annual conference, prior to the minister's keynote address, the board chair told the 250 delegates in the room that, “Not only does FedNor enable access to the funding which fuels the efforts of our respective organizations, but it's the ongoing management of the program and the advice they give us combine to give us a serious strategic advantage”.

In short, Bill C-309 aims to create a new entity to what FedNor already does, through the northern Ontario development program, yet it would limit the capacity of FedNor to contribute to other economic development initiatives in northern and rural Ontario.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to add my voice to the debate tonight.

I would like to acknowledge the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming for introducing Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario.

I would thank the member, but I must remind the House that his party had ample time to implement what it is calling for today and chose not to do so. That is the curious case of the Liberal Party. It says in opposition what it dares not do in power. It is entirely predictable really, but it is also a bit sad. We do not know which version to believe, which version to take at face value.

On this issue, we seem to view things in a similar light, and I would like to think the Liberals believe what they say. What I would also like to think is the Liberals will act on their beliefs. I would like to think it, but sadly, history does not back this up.

Recent parliamentary history is full to brimming with tales of Liberal about-face manoeuvres. Issue after issue they have turned coat and run from them. We have come to expect it. We know they like to sound like New Democrats for public consumption and then act like a backroom, Bay Street, old boys' club, charter members when the doors are closed and the real decisions are made.

We know we cannot count on the Conservatives to support a stand-alone agency from FedNor. That may partially explain the terrible showing they had in northern Ontario in the last federal election. The Conservatives see FedNor as nothing more than an adjunct office for the ministry of industry. They have consistently rebuked calls to have FedNor made into a stand-alone agency.

That pretty much leaves New Democrats to fight for this change. We have the courage of our convictions and remain steadfast in our beliefs. New Democrats see that northern Ontario is a unique region that presents unique economic challenges and requires a stand-alone agency to be able to deliver concrete strategies that will allow this region to bloom.

Northern Ontario is rich in resources. Among many other things, we are miners and foresters, mill workers and farmers. There is a strong tradition of entrepreneurialism that makes for a vibrant society. This needs to be encouraged further. We should be doing all we can to help. We should be scouring the region for every opportunity to grow the economy even more. An independent FedNor would go a long way to helping with this.

If people felt that FedNor was a responsive agency that was in place to help northern Ontario develop opportunities, there would be a stampede to take them up on that. Instead we have an ineffective agency that is defined more by what it is not and those who feel left behind, out in the cold and on their own.

Earlier in this debate, we heard from my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt. He had a laundry list of FedNor failures, of opportunities lost or in danger of being lost. Why? Is it because there is not the political will on the other side of the House to help this region? Is it because it is not sexy enough? Is it because there are relatively few seats for the amount of work needed to really hear the residents of northern Ontario? Is it because those members see the north only as a place from where raw resources come? I would really like to know because my constituents will tell us that often it is the way we feel like we are being viewed.

My colleague from Nickel Belt rightfully pointed out that FedNor must be able to adapt to the changing economy and ensure the economic prosperity of the workers of northern Ontario and their families. Its mandate must be drawn up at the local level by the people who live in the region, not by some faceless bureaucrat in the Ottawa offices of Industry Canada.

I would like to address a second point and give an example of the inability of the agency to understand the true nature of northern Ontario.

In northern Ontario a lot of our buildings are multi-purpose structures. Many of these buildings have health care components to them. It could be a clinic or a public health office. I want to make it clear that we are not talking about hospitals here. The problem is because of these health care components in these multi-purpose buildings, everything else in that structure is automatically disqualified from FedNor funding, a classic example of the agency having no real understanding of the true nature of the region it is meant to serve.

If only that were all we had to say about the delivery of services from FedNor. I have seen first-hand how even approved projects take forever to negotiate. In Nairn Centre, a feasibility study for a project that will run water to Baldwin Township has finally been approved after a lengthy application process.

Long delays ignore the fact that smaller centres do not have the budgets to be able to employ an engineer. They bring in consultants. The consultants offer tenders for a project within a given timeframe. When a project incurs long delays, these tenders can expire. Ultimately, when the project is ready to proceed, there may be no engineering consultant in place and tenders need to be resubmitted. The cost can be thrown out of whack if fees increase over these long periods.

I have seen how FedNor has given the town of Hearst the complete runaround in its attempt to help with a proposal to create a green technology centre. It told the town that it should repurpose the initial application and make it a business centre as opposed to the tourist centre that was originally envisioned. Hearst took that advice and re-applied. When it heard back from FedNor next, it was to say the application was not appropriate for FedNor and that it should submit it somewhere else. What a shame.

It makes people shake their heads. It makes them wonder if FedNor is in place to make these small towns burn through all their resources on proposals.

I know that FedNor is not working as well as it could or should. It is a small cog in a larger department and is treated like a poor cousin, just as northern Ontario is often treated. The bill would go a long way to rectifying some of the problems we see with FedNor today. By making it a stand-alone agency, it could be more responsive and flexible.

This is repurposed legislation that was originally drafted by the member for Sault Ste. Marie. I would like to salute him for his tireless work over the years on behalf of the residents of northern Ontario. His vision for FedNor is one to which New Democrats will honour and remain committed. When we make it to that side of the House, we will not forget our commitment.

As we can see, a stand-alone FedNor agency for northern Ontario would be the best way to go. Many of my communities have indicated the need to ensure we have a proper FedNor program in place. They are struggling right now, given the fact that northern Ontario has been hit so hard with job losses.

I encourage the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming to ensure that Liberals will be supportive of this bill. I know they have introduced it, but we need to ensure they will save face and ensure it gets put in place.

Over and over again, my communities have indicated the need for a stronger FedNor program and to ensure it is stand-alone.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Stronger than ever, record investments.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

The member for Kenora can provide all the rhetoric he wants, but we know he does not support these issues. We need to ensure our people are well taken of in the north.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

It is working just fine in my riding.