House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rehabilitation.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following reports of the Canadian delegation of the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, FIPA, respecting its participation at the meeting with the General Secretary of the Organization of the American States; the 19th meeting of the FIPA executive committee held in Washington, D.C. on June 23 and 24, 2009; and the sixth plenary meeting of the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas held in Ottawa, Ontario, September 12 to 15, 2009.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association, NATO PA, respecting its participation in the Political Subcommittee on NATO Partnerships held in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., from October 14 to 16, 2009.

Old Age Security Act
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-516, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments).

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to introduce this bill, which would increase the guaranteed income supplement paid to our poorest seniors and ensure that pension benefits are paid to individuals whose spouse or common-law partner has died.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the living conditions and dignity of seniors are not only major issues for society but are also matters of social justice.

Since income is the most important determining factor in a senior's well-being, we, as a society, must ensure that our seniors have a decent income that enables them to participate fully as citizens.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

moved:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Finance that it have the power to divide Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, into two or more pieces of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to my motion, first tabled before the House April 20, 2010 and today.

Why have I moved this motion? The pattern and practice of the government to institute significant legislative reforms under the cloak of budget bills has been loudly criticized by the Canadian public. This is the second time that the government, during this Parliament, has chosen to make major changes to the environment through a budget bill.

What has caused such broad consternation is the fact that the subject area of at least one part of Bill C-9, part 20, is by law required to be referred to a parliamentary committee for comprehensive review this year; the fact that the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development has already agreed to undertake this review. and that this review is scheduled to commence within weeks; and the fact that the same law requires the committee to report back to Parliament on its review and any recommended changes within a year of completing that review.

There is a clear intent expressed by legislators: of who is charged with reviewing changes to the bill; the process to be followed and, in other words, an open participatory process to review any legislative changes; responsibility already taken on by the parliamentary committee; and that the review is likely to be substantive. For these reasons I am recommending that the finance committee, having been charged to study Bill C-9, be empowered to consider dividing the bill. It is my recommendation to the House that it consider empowering the finance committee to split the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Outremont.

The very title of the budget implementation bill makes clear the narrow thrust of Bill C-9. It is entitled “Jobs and Economic Growth Act”.

While a good number of provisions of Bill C-9 arguably fall within the purview of a budget implementation bill and that narrow context, under the rubric of jobs and growth, I submit a number of parts of Bill C-9 clearly do not. Counted among those are: part 18, which is about the reorganization of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited; part 19, amending the National Energy Board Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to allow for participant funding; and in particular, part 20, which brings forth substantial amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

I wish most specifically to speak to parts 19 and 20. These parts provide for significant reforms to the federal environmental assessment law: procedures and critical rights. To provide a context, the legislative purposes of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act include: to ensure projects are considered in a careful and precautionary manner in advance of decisions to ensure they do not cause significant harm or adverse impacts; to ensure coordination among federal authorities; to ensure communication and co-operation with aboriginal people; and to ensure opportunities for timely and meaningful public participation.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act requires that the government minister, the CEA agency and all federal authorities exercise their powers in a manner consistent with protecting the environment and human health, and observing the precautionary principle. No such similar broad duties can be found either in the NEB Act nor the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

The CEAA does allow the Minister of the Environment, on a project-specific basis, to assign environmental reviews to other bodies, but with conditions that there be identical factors, as considered under CEAA, and equal public participation rights. What the government has proposed in the bill is hardly equivalent and a major step backwards in participatory rights and opportunity.

The amendments under part 20 provide for the transfer of responsibility of the CEA agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for any comprehensive study of projects under their purview, so it is a broad policy assignment of power.

Of concern to me is the fact that the National Energy Board has apparently already posted on its website that these reforms are already in legal effect. The CEAA requires the minister to establish a participant funding program, while Bill C-9 reforms really grant the discretion to the National Energy Board and the Nuclear Safety Commission to consider establishing participant funding.

Of greatest concern, Bill C-9 also exempts a broad category of federally funded projects from environmental assessment, regardless of the significance of their environmental impacts. The minister may reverse the exemption if significant impacts are identified. It hardly provides for the legal certainty that the government promised in its throne speech.

Projects that would be exempted include: the building Canada fund, the green infrastructure fund, the recreational infrastructure fund, the border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, and on it goes. Bill C-9 also changes CEAA to grant the minister broad, undefined discretion to narrow the scope of any environmental assessment or, in other words, allow for the introduction of inappropriate, potentially political considerations.

Concerns about this provision have been voiced strongly by a number of sectors including first nations. In particular, first nations are concerned that their constitutionally protected rights for advance notice, consultation and accommodation may have been violated by bringing forward these amendments without first contacting them.

I might add that the government appears to also be failing to adhere to its commitments under the North American agreement on environmental co-operation, where it is obligated to provide advance notice and opportunity to comment to anyone in North American who may be impacted by such reforms. The amendments strike at the very heart of the federal process negotiated among all interests over past decades. The reviews could have gone to the regulatory advisory committee, which the government has not brought together for the last year and half.

In summary, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review includes a review and reform process. It prescribes who is to undertake that review. The matter has already been taken up by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, one of the two bodies provided in law that may take on such a study. The parliamentary committee has already scheduled public hearings on this matter, which will proceed within weeks.

It appears, therefore, logical and respectful to empower the finance committee to split its review of Bill C-9 and to delay review of specified parts, in particular parts 19 and 20, until such time as the CEAA review, mandated first to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, is completed and the recommended reforms submitted to Parliament.

This would enable a full and open review of the proposed reforms to assessment law, including hearing testimony from interested Canadians, including industry, provincial governments, first nations, the territories and the general public, on the proposed legal reforms. To do otherwise would ensure a slippery slope to the democratic process.

Canada has long stood as an example in the Western world for having among the best environmental impact assessment processes. Many Canadians have gone to court to fight for strong federal environmental assessment laws. Yet, with one broad brush of a budget bill, open to potentially having the government fall to a confidence vote, is not the way to proceed with a sensible, open discussion on these critical amendments.

In closing, I would just add again that I recommend to the House that it consider giving this power to the committee to consider splitting Bill C-9.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank our environment critic for raising this motion today. It is a very important motion and she has laid out some very clear, solid grounds as to why Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill, should be split and sent to committee.

She has raised the issues of environmental regulations and how the government is trying to truck through massive changes in public policy under the cover of a budget bill. However, there are also many issues in the budget implementation bill that are of great concern to us as New Democrats. When we look at what is not in the budget implementation bill in terms of helping people in their everyday lives, whether it is housing, help for students and seniors or pensions, there are huge issues here that are not being addressed.

I wonder if the member, in moving this motion today, could also address some of the issues regarding Bill C-9 and the problems that it has presented. On the one hand, it contains huge flaws in terms of trying to push through these massive changes, but on the other hand, it is neglecting the real priorities that people have concerning things like pensions, housing and child care.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, one could perhaps stand in the House for a long time talking about what is not in the budget implementation bill that one would expect to implement measures which would actually provide economic opportunity and equity to all Canadians. That is all the more reason to agree to the splitting of this bill because there are limited opportunities.

Potentially hundreds of people will be interested in discussing this bill before the finance committee. It covers such massive areas, such as access to housing, access to child care, access to fair compensation upon retirement, access to pension protection, and most certainly, very serious changes to environmental law which have implications all across Canada from sea to sea to sea.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is another delay tactic by that party. We are a little shocked and dismayed that the hon. member would try to split a bill that has received accolades all across the country, accolades from all sectors of the economy.

The member just mentioned pensions. Has she actually taken the time to read this bill? If she had she would find that there are provisions in the bill to make changes to federally regulated private pension plans that are very important to Canadians. Has she even read that?

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little puzzled because it is my understanding the government has undertaken to go across Canada and consult with Canadians on what they would like to have in their pensions, which is exactly why the Conservatives are stalling on making any substantial changes to pensions. I am left completely puzzled.

Far from a delay tactic, I have said very clearly that the legislation itself requires a full comprehensive review this year and recommendations made on potential needed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We are already apprised of that matter before our committee.

Far from people being in favour of the budget, I have a letter from the Green Budget Coalition castigating the government for making broad-brush changes to a critical bill through a budget bill. The same thing has been said in a letter that has come from more than a dozen first nations expressing grave concerns with the process in bringing forward these changes to a critical environmental law.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona for her truly wonderful work on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

According to the Conservatives, Bill C-9 is both extraordinary and fantastic, but at the same time, they have slipped some poison pills into it. One of the pills they seem to have included in the bill—and I would like to hear my colleague's opinion about this—would now give the Minister of the Environment the option of whether or not to hold public hearings. They have included this in what they say is a budget implementation bill. What will the minister do? Will he stand up for the oil sands or fish?

What does my colleague think the minister will do once he has discretion over public hearings?

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the questions and comments from the hon. member. I enjoy his participation on our committee immensely. He has contributed greatly to the development of environmental law in Canada.

The member raised two separate points about the budget bill which are of concern.

One is the fact that the government, on a project by project basis, is providing the minister with the power to decide to have an agency other than the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which has the expertise, to undertake the environmental assessment. With a broad brush the government is granting that power to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Grave concerns have been raised about this by Canadians across the country.

The second issue the member raised is the matter that under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act there is an obligation to provide funding to any participants engaged in a public hearing whereas there is the mere discretion that the other two agencies may decide to provide participant funding. Obviously, this is not a fair and equal process.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have subtitled this bill the everything but the kitchen sink bill. The Conservatives have thrown in virtually everything they wanted to get through on their agenda.

There is also an element that expands the hated HST. I do not need to explain how people in British Columbia are reacting to this appalling abuse both by the federal Conservatives and provincial B.C. Liberals to expand the HST, to throw in all of these elements that penalize ordinary families in British Columbia, on average $2,500 per family. British Columbians are reacting in an unprecedented way. Over 80% of British Columbians support signing a petition that will force a referendum on this issue.

This is a completely inappropriate use of government legislation. The government is throwing in a whole bunch of elements that Canadians reject under the guise of a budget bill. Thankfully, the member is bringing forward a motion to split the bill, which is what the government should have done in the first place. The government really should be looking at splitting it in more than one way.

Could the member comment on the appropriateness of expanding the HST when nobody in British Columbia wants it?

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak first to the member's good point about when an omnibus bill is appropriate. The idea of an omnibus bill was initially instituted because a lot of minor changes could be made to the Criminal Code and it made sense to bring forward all the changes at once rather than debate them one by one through a series of bills.

A valid use was the recent tabling by the Minister of the Environment of an omnibus bill to improve the enforcement of a wide array of environmental statutes, although there were some critical ones missing.

What is not appropriate is the use of an omnibus bill for purposes beyond implementation of the budget. It is very clear there should be a lot of things split from the bill. We are looking at substantive matters of introducing taxes that are going to put higher costs on citizens in those jurisdictions. There is a continuous denial by the federal government of any responsibility for imposing that tax.

Bill C-9--Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It has been brought to my attention that the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona did say that she wanted to split her time with the member for Outremont and she did complete her speech within 10 minutes. I did not hear that and we have gone through 10 minutes of questions and comments, instead of 5 minutes.

Having said that, the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona did say that she was splitting her time and on that basis we will resume debate with the hon. member for Outremont.