House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was panama.

Topics

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation Motion
Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #275

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Status of Women; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Fisheries and Oceans.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to offer some supplementary comments to the point of order raised on Monday by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and further to the submissions that were just advanced by the House leader for the Liberal Party.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in her arguments went on to cite at some length some academics and some press clippings, but not really zeroing in on the full content of Speakers' rulings.

She did reference a few Speakers' rulings and did the odd selected quotation from them, but I think it would be useful for the House to hear some more complete citations or quotations from those decisions of the Chair that actually capture the essence of those decisions on how a bill such as Bill C-38 should be dealt with.

In the ruling on the 1982 energy bill, Madam Speaker Sauvé said, at page 15532 of Debates:

It may be that the House should accept rules or guidelines as to the form and content of omnibus bills, but in that case the House, and not the Speaker, must make those rules.

Therefore, having heard argument and having examined Bill C-94, I must now rule on the basis of existing precedents, which do not support the proposition that the bill should be divided or struck down.

I emphasize “or struck down” because that is what she is asking you to do in this case.

Madam Speaker Sauvé also ruled on June 20, 1983, at page 26538 of Debates, on the western grain transportation bill, as follows:

—although some occupants of the Chair have expressed concern about the practice of incorporating several distinct principles into a single bill, they have consistently found that such bills are procedurally in order and properly before the House.

This bill does not even meet that test of distinct principles. It is all one principle, the implementation of our budget.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands also quoted some decisions of Mr. Speaker Fraser, including one reference which even she acknowledged was “at best obiter dicta”.

In his June 8, 1988 ruling on the Canada-U.S. Free-Trade Agreement, he cited the 1982 ruling of Madam Speaker Sauvé, who called it, at page 16257 of Debates, “the Chair's traditional position”. That led Mr. Speaker Fraser to say:

Until the House adopts specific rules relating to omnibus Bills, the Chair’s role is very limited and the Speaker should remain on the sidelines as debate proceeds and the House resolves the issue.

He cited himself in his later rulings on April 1, 1992, at page 9149 of Debates, and December 7, 1992, at page 14735 of Debates.

Underpinning her submissions were what the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands described as Mr. Speaker Lamoureux's so-called misgivings in a January 26, 1971, ruling.

Let me add to the record the paragraph she left out on page 284 of the Journals, which immediately followed the one quoted by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The Speaker went on to say:

At the time, having now reached second reading and having had this bill before us for some time, I doubt whether we should take the very drastic and extreme position, as I suggest to hon. members it would be, of saying that this bill is not acceptable to the House, that it should not be put by the government and that it should not be considered by hon. members. In my view it should be the responsibility of the Chair, when such bill is introduced and given first reading, to take the initiative and raise the matter for the consideration of the House by way of a point of order.

Indeed, as the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands opined in her opening remarks, at page 8719 of Monday's Hansard:

—I still think there is a compelling case that the House must act to set limits around omnibus legislation.

Later, at page 8720, she conceded that:

It is clear that the Speaker is not, at present and in absence of rules from the House to limit the length and complexities of omnibus bills, entitled to rule that an omnibus bill is too long, too complex or too broad in scope.

What she is seeking to do, through a point of order, is try to have the Speaker in fact implement new rules, effectively new Standing Orders. That is, of course, not the proper way of proceeding. Moreover, it is worth noting that over the decades of the prevailing status quo, the House has not availed itself of any opportunities to vary the status quo with regard to the Standing Orders in this matter.

I will not repeat myself from Monday afternoon when I articulated the consistent theme of Bill C-38, as it related to the implementation of this year's budget, economic action plan 2012. It is a comprehensive suite of measures designed to ensure jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, a package which, as you will recall, Mr. Speaker, was endorsed by a vote of the House on April 4.

Therefore, in conclusion, Bill C-38 is not only built around a consistent theme, but its construction is not, as noted by your predecessors, for the Chair to veto.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to respond briefly to my hon. friend the government House leader.

I am aware of the fact that the official opposition has requested time to present its view on this extremely important point of order. I say that not out of any personal hubris but because I think it is a matter that should occupy, and has occupied previous Parliaments, but not in the form in which the House leader misconstrued my argument.

I was not selective in quotes. When I quoted Speaker Lamoureux, it was to point out that what he referred to was the problem of omnibus bills—

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Nice try.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak without the hon. gentleman trying to interrupt me.

What I was speaking to was that if it is a proper omnibus bill, in other words if it has a theme, if it has a single purpose or relevancy, then it is not for the Speaker to intervene. However, it is clear on the precedents I cited, particularly Speaker Fraser's ruling from 1988 on the free trade agreement, that a bill must first be accepted as a proper omnibus bill. That is the first test. It does not require a rewrite of the standing rules. It is a matter of precedent. If it is not a proper omnibus bill, it violates Standing Order 68(3).

I will not replace my arguments at this time or repeat them. I want to merely distinguish for you, Mr. Speaker, that every thing the government House leader has said misses the entire legal point that I made.

A Speaker will not intervene to change the complexity, length or number of bills within an omnibus bill if it is properly an omnibus bill. This one fails that test. It is not derived from items solely found in the budget. It is not derived solely from anything that can be called one theme. There is no excuse for putting in sections that have to do with changing the oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, altering fish habitat legislation or changing the role of Parks Canada wardens.

The number and scope of the changes that were never mentioned in the budget itself, combined with the number of things that hon. members from Privy Council believe to actually be in the bill, which clearly are not there, suggests the bill, as the French version of the rules says is, incomplète, or the English version, imperfect. It is imperfect in shape and form. It is not a proper omnibus bill.

I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, to await arguments from the official opposition. I look forward to what I hope and trust will be an impartial, fair judgment in the interest of protecting Westminster parliamentary democracy and the institution of this Parliament itself.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher has seven minutes remaining.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting for a long time to have the opportunity to speak on this exciting subject. It was so exciting to once again witness a vote to stop us from speaking. It is rather pathetic. I do not think it is right. I am smiling a little but there is nothing funny about this. In fact, it is completely disgusting. There is no other word for it.

The people at home who are watching the proceedings of the House of Commons are saying to themselves that, at some point, their member of Parliament will be allowed to speak, but then they realize that he was not allowed to do so or that he was allowed to speak for only two minutes instead of five.

Since this 41st Parliament began, the people in the riding that I represent have been finding that I do not speak very much. The members do not really have the opportunity to speak because 25 gag orders have now been imposed on us. The cynic in me would like to point out that this is our silver gag order. When you get married, you celebrate your silver anniversary after 25 years, so this is our silver gag order. At the rate things are going, we will be celebrating our golden gag order before Christmas. It is absolutely pathetic.

I would like to add that after a while, unfortunately, we get used to this dictatorship and the extreme lack of respect for democracy demonstrated by the members opposite.

I will get back to the matter at hand because, clearly, the Conservatives are amused by my objections to how they are treating us.

With regard to Panama, I read a short paragraph on the Amnesty International website that summarizes the situation. It states:

Safeguards of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples remained inadequate, especially in the context of large infrastructure projects built on Indigenous land. There were concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression.

That is written on the Amnesty International website, and I will come back to this in a moment. However, I would point out that the publication L'État du monde is no more encouraging.

Anyone who follows current events, watches the news and hears anything about free trade with a country might think that this is a free trade agreement with the United States, and that it makes sense because they are our neighbours and we need to makes things easier. When one realizes that we are talking about Panama, one might find that strange and decide to do a little research. That is what we did.

Clearly, during the many committee meetings when we discussed this potential trade agreement, our representatives stated repeatedly how important it was to be cautious and express our concerns about this agreement with Panama. One such person was the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

The Canadian government even made some requests of Panama, which refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. That is another issue. The way I am addressing this is somewhat awkward, but the reality is that Panama is not a simple county to enter into an agreement with.

The Conservatives are saying that this agreement may be a bit complicated, but that we have to trust them. Excuse me? How can we trust them? Do they take us for fools? I am asking the question today for the second time: do they think I am that easily manipulated? It does not make any sense that they want to teach us a lesson and that they are surprised that we want to continue to debate and discuss this subject. Really.

The Conservatives are not proposing something clean and simple; rather, they are proposing a free trade agreement with a country that it is completely legitimate to have doubts about. But no. We do not have the right to do that, apparently. This is another example of the bad faith of this government, which claims that we are against the economy, against progress and against trade. Come on. The Conservatives are always trying to sneak things through and do things at the last minute. They keep everything to themselves and are really the champions of poor communication.

One thing I would like to address is the report found in L'État du monde. It is worth reading a few excerpts.

The second year of Ricardo Martinelli's mandate was marked by considerable tension. His popularity declined rapidly. Many criticized the president's entrepreneurial rhetoric [that sounds familiar], his authoritarian decisions and lack of dialogue.

Goodness me. These are the Conservatives' pals.

Labour code reforms affected unionization conditions and the right to strike, resulting in major demonstrations and a general strike on July 13, 2010...

How about that? It is clear who they have been swapping houses with.

Violent clashes between demonstrators and police in banana production regions resulted in the deaths of at least two people.

Fantastic. Reading that really makes me think, gee, maybe we should trust the Conservatives and let them ram this down our throats without a word of protest. It makes no sense.

Moving on. Here is another really excellent part.

The president's anti-judge [and anti-government official] decisions, appointments of friends to strategic positions and frequent about-faces on critical issues were also the subject of much controversy.

I understand.

I have only one minute left. It is too bad that time is so short. What can I say? We do not have time to fool around here. We put as many bills through the machine as the public can handle. As soon as the Conservatives' popularity plunges, they will become very nice and come and tell us that they want to listen.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, my question is direct. The NDP members have delayed this bill, not only in this Parliament but in the former Parliament, at committee in the former Parliament and at committee in this Parliament.

It begs two questions. First, what do the NDP members have against trade? Second, if they are willing to pass the free trade agreement with Jordan, which is built on exactly the same template as the free trade agreement with Panama, why would they not pass the Panama free trade agreement? They are identical agreements with identical templates.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

This is nice; at least we are having a conversation. But, really, we are going in circles. This is certainly not because of our questions, but more because of their answers.

The big difference is what is written practically everywhere. Try Googling “Panama” and the first thing you see is “tax haven”. Everyone is talking about that. That is a huge difference, and I think that is enough.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, we often hear the government side say that they are all about law and order, and are against criminals.

However, when it comes time to sign a free trade agreement with a country that is a known tax haven and that protects money laundering for criminal organizations like the Chinese triads, the Cosa Nostra and drug traffickers, it is a different story. In 2010, old friends of Manuel Noriega were part of the government with which this agreement was reached. I am old enough to know what happened in the 1980s with Manuel Noriega. It was the same gang.

Can my colleague explain why we might have some concerns about giving carte blanche to that country by signing this free trade agreement?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments.

His question is very eloquent. I know how proud we can be of our team in the New Democratic Party, because we have a lot of people who are very well-informed on these subjects. I am thinking of my colleague from Vaudreuil—Soulanges who just asked me a question, or our member from Ottawa. They are experts in the field and they are the first to stand up and tell young people to pay attention: the Conservatives are trying to pull a fast one. That is what we are watching out for.

Obviously, in situations like this, we do not have a history of good works, of inclusive consultations and of consensus. I even wonder whether the Conservatives understand the translation of those words. They are words that they are obviously not at all familiar with. If they at least had that past, if they had that approach to doing things, we could say we have major doubts about the subject, but we will discuss it. But no; there is no discussion; everybody has to be quiet and that is it; we have to pass the bill. That is what they expect.