An Act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Paul Martin  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
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Mississauga West Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, whatever parliamentary secretary I am, I am not quite sure on this wonderful Monday in Ottawa. Whatever it is, I can assure members that I will continue to perform to the best of my ability.

Members opposite have come over and suggested that I do not know anything about animals. I find it interesting when people stand up in this place and talk about their family pets as if that is somehow the issue here. I e-mailed my wife to make sure that my 80 pound Lab Duke is watching, so he knows that I support obviously the proper care, nurturing and feeding of all animals, two legged, four legged or whatever kind.

What I find really interesting are the objections to putting in law the definition of animal and the concerns about that. Frankly, I do not have a problem with people expressing concerns on behalf of the farming community to ensure that we all understand the impact the bill would have.

The fact of the matter is most jurisdictions have defined animal. People at home watching might think that is kind of bizarre. Let me share some of the definitions. A broad definition of animal is consistent not only with definitions found in some provincial statutes, but also with some United States statutes.

Let me give some examples. The province of Alberta says that it does not include a human being, an exclusionary definition. The next definition from Manitoba and New Brunswick is “non-human living being with a developed nervous system”.

The definition from Arkansas includes every living creature. That is pretty broad, even more so than what we are talking about in the bill, which requires a vertebrae to be in existence.

Here is one that could apply to members of the opposition. It is a definition out of Colorado, Florida and Ohio. The definition reads “means any living dumb creature”. Those are not my words. That is the definition. If the shoe fits maybe they want to wear it.

It goes on and on like that. The point of the matter is what we are trying to do is put in place a definition so that when it does come to a decision in the courts, some rules will be there which can be followed.

One member opposite with the fifth party suggested that somehow this would impact mosquitos. Talk about going over the top, if we want a humane way to take care of a mosquito. It is so ludicrous that we have lowered the level of debate to the point where we are talking about somehow being charged for killing a mosquito that is in the bedroom trying to take some blood. This has become silly.

I think it is because members opposite feel the heat and the pressure that we have all felt. All of us have received, e-mails and phone calls. There have even been demonstrations on the front lawn of Parliament Hill . People have called on us to invoke closure, get the bill done and put in place some laws that will provide protection for animals. Have members ever in history seen a situation where people have demonstrated and called for the government to invoke closure? It is unheard of.

Let us put this issue of time allocation in perspective. The bill was originally introduced in this place as Bill C-17. That was December 1999. There were howls and complaints from members opposite that we needed to split the bill, that it was too much like an omnibus bill because it dealt with guns, animals and child pornography. I remember the hue and cry from members opposite that we needed to split it up so we could deal with the child pornography issue separately.

The government agreed and brought in Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. It is almost like the opposition cannot take yes for an answer. We split the bill, and now we are dealing with the issue that concerns Canadians.

At third reading alone there were over 40 speakers in five days. Committee hearings took place and the bill was reintroduced in September 2001. Two years later there was a new bill. It was split at the request of the opposition and of caucus to allow us to deal with it separately.

There is fearmongering going on that somehow if someone killed a cow, maybe it should not have been killed because it never did anything and people say it is awful. Animal husbandry, the way of dealing with animals on the farm, is not being threatened. We are concerned about abuse.

I am sorry to say that just two weeks ago in my riding two dogs were left in a car for four hours outside a bar while their owner was inside and obviously had too many drinks. One of the dogs died and the second dog almost died. I have not heard whether or not it was able to pull through.

Should society not do anything about that? Should we not take it seriously, to make it a crime that is punishable? One can be punished for that kind of crime for up to five years. The fine can be up to $10,000. It is absolutely unconscionable that there is some perception that a farmer is going to be told he cannot take the tail off a pig or a lamb as we heard earlier, because it is cruel and unusual punishment. Clearly if it is part of common law and I would add if it is common sense and it is a tradition, then what we do not want is to rip the tail off. There is a proper procedure for doing it.

When I was in the Ontario legislature we dealt with the issue of research. Companies and people were using animals for research purposes. We recognize the importance of using animals for research but if it is done properly those animals do not suffer unduly. Care is taken with the animals. I invite members to take some time to visit a research lab to see the love, caring and tenderness of the people who deal with those animals, whether they are monkeys, hamsters or whatever they are. They are not people who are savagely trying to inflict pain and getting great pleasure out of it. They are people who are doing cancer, heart and blood research. They are doing research on the immune system and research in all kinds of areas that are good for human health. Those people are not in jeopardy with the bill.

What we dealt with in the province of Ontario was a private member's bill that would make it illegal to use a rabbit's eyes to test for cosmetics. Let us get real. Somebody drops mascara or something of that nature into the eye of a rabbit, or puts it in with a needle to try to find out if it will harm the eye or create an allergic reaction. Surely to goodness there are ways of determining that without inflicting that kind of pain on any given animal.

If it is for the good of humanity, for medical purposes and there are reasons to do this kind of thing, the bill would not prohibit it. There would be a defence based on common law. Clearly the bill would put the onus on the crown to prove that there was some kind of objectionable conduct. We have to realize that if we want to get to the bottom of this, if we want to attack the puppy mills, the people who put cats in microwaves or the people who leave their animals in hot cars in temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we need a bill with some teeth in it that will allow the government to stand up for the living beings that cannot defend themselves.

I want the Canadian public to know the kinds of objections that are being made here and how outrageous and ridiculous they are, such as the suggestion that the bill would actually create problems for someone who killed a mosquito. Imagine that someone actually said that.

Years ago when I was a member of Mississauga city council, a director of the humane society used a weapon to shoot dogs in our facility in Mississauga, having determined it was a safe and harmless way of killing seal pups. It was an Ontario humane society official who did it. There were pictures of dogs lying bleeding because the shot did not work or the gun missed. It was an appalling situation. At the time I took on the director.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B respond directly to the concerns of Canadians.

Over the past three years Canadians have been consistent and clear in their demands for action by the federal government to update the cruelty provisions and create stiffer penalties for acts of cruelty against animals. Bill C-15B would meet these expectations without changing the liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect. Nothing in the bill would in any way put at risk lawful and humane activities involving animals for purposes such as agriculture, hunting, trapping and research.

To be absolutely clear, the former minister of justice introduced an amendment that was adopted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment states that all justifications, excuses and defences available in common law would apply to proceedings under the animal cruelty provisions. The amendment is the latest in a series of modifications to the animal cruelty provisions to address the concerns of critics.

The animal cruelty provisions in Bill C-15B were contained in a previous bill, Bill C-17, which was introduced in parliament on December 1, 1999 and died on the order paper when the federal election was called in October, 2000. The amendments had two primary objectives. First, they would have consolidated and simplified the existing law on animal cruelty by organizing offences in a more rational way and removing outdated distinctions and expressions. Second, they would have enhanced the penalty provisions by increasing current maximum sentences such as terms of imprisonment, fines, and orders prohibiting the possession of animals, and by creating a new power to order offenders to repay costs incurred by humane societies in caring for animals they leave unattended.

Bill C-17 was enthusiastically supported by thousands of Canadians. However a number of associations representing agriculture, hunting, fishing and animal research made submissions to the Minister of Justice expressing specific legal concerns about the bill, largely to the effect that the amendments could increase the risk of prosecution for people engaged in such activities. The minister benefited from the input of these groups. Although Bill C-17 would not have increased the risk of prosecution for people engaged in lawful activities, the amendments contained in Bill C-17 and replicated in Bill C-15B contain several important improvements that would make the intent and effect of the law more clear.

Such changes include: spelling out the necessary criminal state of mind with words like wilfully or recklessly instead of leaving it to the courts to interpret the proper standard; offering a definition that clearly establishes a standard of criminal negligence and removes all doubt that simple or civil negligence is not enough; adding the word unnecessary to the offence of negligently causing pain to clarify that there may be situations where the pain caused is necessary; clarifying and limiting the scope of the offence that deals with trap shooting to shooting at animals the moment they are liberated and not some time after, which would leave no room for people to argue that the section prohibited pheasant hunts in enclosed spaces; and taking animal cruelty provisions out of the part of the criminal code that deals with sexual offences and public morals and placing them in a separate part, thus clearing up the concern that it is inappropriate to group animal cruelty offences with certain other types of offences. With that we fully agree.

These improvements more clearly establish that the law deals with criminal intent and criminal neglect rather than the causing of incidental or unavoidable pain to animals in the course of lawful activities.

I suggest to the hon. members of the House that the concerns of industry have been heard. The government has done everything that could reasonably be done to accommodate those concerns.

Bill C-15B does not need any additional tinkering. It is time to act. I urge all hon. members to do the right thing and pass the bill.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill at third reading.

It is time for the House to act on the will of Canadians. Legislation that would update animal cruelty provisions and provide enhanced penalties for animal abusers has been before the House in one form or another since December 1, 1999. That is two and a half years during which there have been numerous opportunities for organizations from a broad spectrum of interests to come forward and make their views known. They have shared their views with the Department of Justice, members of parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the media and other members of the public. There has been a full and comprehensive debate on the issue of the changes that must be made to modernize the animal cruelty provisions.

During that two and a half years the former justice minister listened carefully to the concerns of all Canadians, including industry. In fact, to be absolutely clear that criminal liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect had not changed, the former justice minister made several accommodations to industry when the animal cruelty provisions were reintroduced in Bill C-15 after an election was called and Bill C-17 died on the order paper. The accommodations did not change the legal tests for liability but provided further clarification about the elements of the cruelty offences.

After Bill C-15 received second reading in the House of Commons on September 26, 2001, it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with the direction that the committee split the bill into two parts.

Bill C-15B contains the provisions regarding cruelty to animals and firearms. The committee heard from a wide variety of groups with diverse views on the issue of animal cruelty. At the committee hearings the Criminal Lawyers' Association confirmed that removal of the animal cruelty provision out of the property section would not cause accused persons to lose any available defences. The association did indicate however that if there was a desire to make this absolutely clear one of two options was possible: either make an express reference to subsection 429(2) of the criminal code which outlines defences of legal justification, excuse or colour of right; or specifically confirm application of the common law defences under subsection 8(3). Again, in the interests of accommodation to reassure critics of the bill, the government introduced a motion adopted by the committee to confirm application of subsection 8(3).

Following the suggestion of the lawyers association one would have thought opposition critics of the bill would agree that all accommodations could be made. They have been made without changing the test of legal liability. Unhappily, with the notable exception of the New Democratic Party, this does not appear to be the case. Critics among the opposition parties want more.

I take this opportunity to look at their position more closely. These critics have been clear that they are not supporting an exemption for industry. They maintain that all persons should be subject to the animal cruelty provisions. Yet, what they are asking for appears to be an exemption in anything but name.

Some members of the opposition parties maintain that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provide them with a justification for their industry practices, even if those industry practices cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. They maintain that these defences effectively give industry the protection that anything they do pursuant to lawful purpose is itself lawful. This is simply not the law.

Equally inaccurate is the position maintained by some hon. members that the cruelty provisions prohibit the infliction of any pain or suffering and that it is the defences that legitimize the infliction of pain. This position completely ignores the tests for liability for cruelty that have been in the criminal code since 1953. The issue of defences does not even arise until after the crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the infliction of pain or suffering was unnecessary.

The test for unnecessary pain or suffering is clear in case law. The courts have recognized that avoidable pain is unnecessary. Pain is avoidable if there are equally accessible, reasonable, and affordable practices available to achieve the same lawful purpose.

What is interesting is that opposition critics maintain their position even though they have cited not a single case of support for their position and have been unable to identify any relevant offences under subsection 429(2) which would not be available as a common law defence subsection 8(3) of the criminal code.

I do not believe for a moment that industry wants its activities exempted from the application of the criminal code. Those members of the opposition who suggest that industry has this protection currently or who argue that somehow lawful industry practices would become unlawful after the bill is passed are misrepresenting the state of current law.

No one has been exempted from the application of the animal cruelty law. This has never been the law in Canada and the government is not proposing to change this law now.

One of the most basic notions in Canadian criminal law is that the law applies to everyone. Canadians have made it clear that they support a law which imposes at least a minimum standard of behaviour on everyone. It is time for this House to answer the expectations of Canadians and move on this legislation.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 5 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate concerning Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.

The purpose of the bill is to reintroduce the proposed amendments to the cruelty of animals provision of the criminal code while consolidating animal cruelty offences that were introduced in Bill C-17 with a few changes, some of which we consider improvements and others which are of concern to Canadians.

Among the improvements are increased maximum penalties for persons found guilty of cruelty to animals, those who act willfully and recklessly in killing or harming animals. However, with a widened definition of the term animal, it creates a number of concerns for those who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood.

The new provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law would only proscribe illegal activities. The problem is, and therefore the concern, these new provisions would narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities. Why does the minister not simply raise the penalties for committing animal offences?

Problems arise with the definition of animal in the bill. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15 would include non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. This new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection. This definition is too wide and would open the door for the prosecution of those who earn their livelihood working with animals. Our key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices.

The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. The parliamentary secretary to the minister attempted to assure the justice committee that it is the government's intention that the defences in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code would continue to apply to cruelty to animal offences and that those defences would be implicit in the new legislation. Both the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc members moved amendments that would have made these defences explicit and the government members opposed them.

However in the new bill animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own which would remove these provisions outside the scope of that protection. By moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences would emphasize animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principle of the legislation, and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

Our concern is that the legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers would be unjustly prosecuted. As a result, animal rights groups in Canada would use the new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions. They have already stated their intentions to do so. Liz White, a director with Animal Alliance of Canada, has said:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

The people who are most concerned about the bill are the agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers. They do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. It is fundamentally important to the success of their livelihoods that they treat their animals with the care and respect that the bill intends to afford animals.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section on its own is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This significant alteration and the underlying principle of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered.

The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused. Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Our party supports increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences. However we do not support the widening scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence against animals.

The amendments to the Firearms Act are of an administrative nature and would simplify the registration process and reduce costs by incorporating information technology. My Canadian Alliance colleagues and I are opposed to these provisions on the basis that we have long held that the act be repealed entirely. We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We would replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that would be cost effective and would respect the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

I support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but I cannot support widening the scope and definition of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. This legislation would influence and cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different way which may have a detrimental effect and implications on farmers, hunters and agricultural producers.

The minister amended the bill to provide a screening mechanism for indictable offences. That would allow a provincial court judge to prescreen such prosecutions and decide whether they should proceed. The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty to animals and supports increasing the penalties relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry.

We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my hon. colleague for Yukon that I respect him greatly as a person. I want him to know that the points I will make in my speech are valid points, and they are not being made just by me. They represent much of the opposition to the bill as it presently stands.

The bill before us today was introduced and discussed by the Liberal spin masters on many different occasions but I still do not think the government has it right. Bill C-15B reintroduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provision of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament with certain changes.

However, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, many people who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood still have a number of concerns with the bill.

One concern with the bill is that the definition of animal is too broad. The proposed definition of “animal” in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and “all animals having the capacity to feel pain”. This new definition extends legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification, excuse or colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence.

However, in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would remove these provisions outside of the scope of that very protection.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences to a new section in its own right, emphasizes animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I think that is the big difference that we need to be clear on here. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts.

This legislation could open up, for instance, the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecution and in fact have already stated their intentions to do exactly that.

Liz White, the director of legislative revision of the Animal Alliance of Canada, has been quoted as saying:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

Those are not my words. Those are the words of one of the directors of the Animal Alliance of Canada, an animal rights group. Animal rights groups are already gearing up to test this law. We hear reports of them harassing feedlot owners, cattle sales ring owners, rodeo workers and even veterinarians about possible cruelty to animals. Those are ordinary Canadians who make their livelihood working with animals. The bill opens up this legal Pandora's box which will cost Canadians much down the road.

The former federal justice minister has offered assurances that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities will be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. However the problem is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

We have all been witness to time after time when we were told by the government “don't worry, it will never happen that way, just trust us”. In the present climate of the government in this country today, that is a statement that just will not wash with the Canadian public.

The long and the short of it is, unless it is clearly spelled out in the legislation, I do not trust the legislation. I believe the government has passed legislation before that will have devastating effects on the future of this country and yet may not be seen for years to come. This legislation is just one more example of that.

As I turn to the second part of the bill I note that the government has failed dramatically in its efforts to curb violence through its ill-fated gun policy. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the Liberal gun registry has failed miserably both administratively and financially, the government blithely carries. The emperor has no clothes and yet no one on that side of the House is prepared to state the facts as they really are.

The Hells Angels think that the gun laws are just fine. Just ask one of their leaders who was recently convicted of a number of crimes and was known to be directly associated with the most elite division of this infamous motorcycle gang and yet successfully applied for a firearm acquisition certificate. Yet the minister stands before the House expecting to be believed when he states that the registration program is working just fine.

My colleagues in the Canadian Alliance have stated before and I will state again that we support increasing penalties for cruelty to animal offences but we do not support widening the scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. New animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant and detrimental implications for farmers, hunters and other agricultural producers who are dependent on animals for their livelihood. If it is not the minister's intention to change what is lawful today, he should simply raise the penalties for existing animal cruelty offences.

The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However new animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant implication on all those who are dependent on animals for their livelihoods.

With regard to firearms, we believe that there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer.

Certainly if we ever become government, and it may not be long, we will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

In closing, I believe we need to have a strong dose of reality injected into both this debate and this bill. Let us not get caught up in the hyperbole that can elevate any debate beyond the realistic to the surreal. All Canadians would agree that cruelty to animals is wrong and that realistic gun control should enhance the safety of Canadians. However, if we do not define the limits of the legislation in a careful and reasoned manner, keeping in mind the need to have realistic applications of these changes, then we are only making life more difficult for everyone and unhelpful to anyone.

For those reasons and the lack of reasoned ability to apply these new changes to the laws of the land, I will be opposing, on behalf of my constituents, Bill C-15B.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-55 and on the amendment.

The bill is unnecessary, as was Bill C-36. Bill C-36 was unnecessary because we already had a new version of the War Measures Act known as the Emergencies Act. That is the purpose of the Emergencies Act. There is no reason the government cannot invoke the Emergencies Act during such times.

Since being passed by both Houses, how many times has Bill C-36 been used to fight terrorism? It has not been invoked once. I voted against Bill C-36 because it is bad legislation. It jeopardizes the values of a free society under the smokescreen and rationale of security. The real way to make Canada more secure is to have good intelligence, good police forces, good immigration policy and good customs and border personnel.

Bill C-55 falls under the same category as Bill C-36. If Bill C-36 has not been invoked up to this point in time why would the House and the country need another bill called Bill C-55, a so-called second version of Bill C-36 under the guise of national security?

Like Bill C-55, the Liberal government's gun control bill, Bill C-68, was not necessary. A report by the Library of Parliament to the House committee stated that Bill C-17, the former Tory bill for gun control which was brand new at the time, had not had time to be implemented before the Liberal government started another gun control bill. The Liberal government did not listen and we ended up with the big mess we have today under Bill C-68.

Canada has always had gun control. Handguns have been registered since 1934. Will registering all firearms make the country safer? Of course it will not. We all know that. Let us look at the statistics. Over the last four years since Bill C-68 was implemented gun murders have doubled. An Ontario study showed that 80% to 90% of illegal handguns are Saturday night specials that come over the border from the U.S.A. Canadians who own legally registered handguns are not potential criminals. This is an illustration of how unnecessary Bill C-55 would become.

Through Bill C-68 the government has criminalized all Canadians who use firearms legally. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has divided Canadians along urban-rural lines. As has been said many times, rural Canadians use firearms as necessary tools in their culture and environment.

Canadians support gun control but not the kind created by the Liberals to gain votes from urbanites. There has been little accountability from the Liberal government regarding gun control expenditures. Other than buying votes and creating jobs in Liberal ridings the government's expenditures of over $700 million have done absolutely nothing for the health and safety of Canadians. I am comparing Bill C-68 to Bill C-55 because I hope doing so will foreshadow the bill's possible effects.

Cancer kills many more people annually in Canada than firearms. In 1999 there were 536 homicides of which 165 were shooting deaths. In 1997 there were 58,703 deaths due to cancer. The Liberal government has spent over $700 million on gun control in the last eight years. How much do members think the government has committed to cancer research? Since 1992 the government has committed only $25 million to breast cancer research. In the 54 years since 1947 only about $700 million has gone to cancer research. Those are pretty lopsided figures.

There is something wrong with this picture. Statistics Canada tells us we are 320 more times likely to die of cancer than by being shot. Is it not ridiculous that the Liberal government has spent over 25 times more on gun control than breast cancer?

Bill C-55 would give the optics of security. However it would do nothing more than give Canadians a false sense of security. It would attack whatever was left of the freedoms of being a Canadian and living in a democracy.

Part 6 of Bill C-55 would impact every firearm owner in Canada. In amending the Explosives Act it would give the government the right to regulate and put an end to the making, purchasing, possession and use of all ammunition. It would take us back to a time when one had to write in a permit book how much and what kind of liquor one purchased at a vendor. Will the next step be to control the amount of bullets and empty cases one can have in one's home? Part 6 of the bill defines “inexplosive ammunition component” as:

--any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm--

Would plumber's lead come under this class? It has the potential of being made into bullets. Perhaps lead fishing weights and jigs would qualify. How about shotgun wads, felt pads and patches? I do not imagine too many Liberals even know what a patch is.

How would part 6 of Bill C-55 protect Canadians from terrorists? Terrorists would keep bags of bullets and empty cartridge cases hidden. As far as I am concerned, poor unsuspecting law-abiding Canadians would be the victims of another Liberal bill much like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36. With laws like C-55 why would law-abiding firearms users or any other Canadian trust the Liberal government?

The biggest problem in Canada is that the Liberal government thinks it knows what is best for Canadians. However it does not listen very well. We have heard over and over again that in Canada we have government by one Liberal. It is not far from the truth. Is it surprising to see the Liberal government embroiled in corruption charges in recent weeks?

The government pays only lip service to the needs of Canadians. Let us look at our problems in softwood lumber and agriculture. Europeans receive 56 cents on the dollar in subsidies. The Americans will end up with the same. The poor Canadian farmer fighting to survive receives only nine cents on the dollar in subsidies.

Like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36, Bill C-55 is nothing more than a snow job and a power grab. Canadians need to wake up before it is too late. Canadian values are being attacked daily by the Liberal government. It is time to change the government.

An Act To Amend The Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2002 / 10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-15B, an act to amend the criminal code and the Firearms Act. The stated purpose of the bill is to amend the criminal code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties. The bill would also add administrative provisions that are intended to simplify applications of the Firearms Act.

Bill C-15B re-introduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provisions of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament with certain changes. However, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, many people who are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihoods still have a number of concerns with the bill.

One concern is that the definition of animal is too broad. The proposed definition of an animal in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. The new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection afforded at present to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices.

The phrase legal justification, excuse or colour of right in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. However, in the new bill, the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would remove these provisions outside of the scope of that protection.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the range of property offences to a new section in its own right would emphasize animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation and could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts. The legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers would be unjustly prosecuted.

Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use the new legislation as the basis for such prosecution and have already stated their intentions to do so. Liz White, the director of legislative revision from the Animal Alliance of Canada has stated:

My worry is that people think that this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn't matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. That's what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

The former federal justice minister assured us that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. However, the problem is that these new provisions would arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

The changes to the Firearms Act are administrative by nature. The provisions of the bill are intended to simplify the registration process and to incorporate information technology to reduce costs. Regarding the Firearms Act, I refer to section 31 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy where it states:

We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly.

We support increasing penalties for cruelty to animals offences but we do not support widening the scope of what currently constitutes a criminal offence. New animal cruelty legislation may cause the courts to interpret such offences in a different light. This could have significant and detrimental implications for farmers, hunters, and other agricultural producers who are dependent on animals for their livelihoods.

We do not support the amendments to the Firearms Act as we have a long held feeling that the act should be repealed entirely and replaced with a practical, cost-effective firearms control system.

To reiterate, the Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty to animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. Moving animal cruelty provisions out of property offences to a new and separate section of the criminal code could elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the courts. The defences currently available would no longer apply in the new section. The new definition of animal would include an extremely broad definition that includes a vertebrate other than a human being and any other animal that has a capacity to feel pain. This new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never been provided that kind of protection before.

The former justice minister stated that what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent. If it was not the former justice minister's intention to change what is lawful today why did she not simply raise the penalties for existing animal cruelty offences?

Without substantial amendments to address the concerns I have I must join with my colleagues of the official opposition party and oppose the bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2002 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the member stands up and accuses me of being irrelevant by addressing Bill C-15B, which I think has been mentioned by every Alliance member except him this afternoon. It was to that I was responding. He then proceeded to ask me a question on a topic I did not mention in my speech. This is surely irrelevance.

I would like to say that my point of view on this is very strong. I represent farmers. I have represented them since Bill C-15B was Bill C-17. I believe that it is our job as members to examine the legislation and to explain it as well as we can and truthfully to our constituents. That is what I have tried to do since the days of Bill C-17.

An Alliance member stood up earlier today and said that rural members on his side have recently discovered something about this legislation, but we have been working on it for three years and, by the way, to the satisfaction of many of our farmers. I believe this is what has happened. A year or so ago supporters of the gun lobby got a spurious legal opinion that included the matter of property, which is also an irrelevance, and they have been arguing that spurious legal opinion they have developed on the backs of the farmers.

As it came from the gun lobby and the hunting groups, why do they not use hunting examples when they are considering cruelty to animals? Why do they persist in raising all these standard practices of the farming community, which, as I have explained, have been protected for a half a century? Why do they do that?

I would say they are hanging the farmers out to dry. They should be talking to their farmers and educating their farmers on what not just this legislation but all legislation means.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
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Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address hon. members on the occasion of the consideration of an amendment to the motion to proceed to third reading.

It is time for the House to respond to the expectations of Canadians. Legislation that updates animal cruelty provisions and provides enhanced penalties for animal abusers has been before the House in one form or another since December 1, 1999. That is two and one-half years during which there have been numerous opportunities for organizations from a broad spectrum of interests to come forward and make their views known.

They have shared their views with the Department of Justice, with members of parliament, with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, with the media and with other members of the public. There has been a full comprehensive debate on the issue of the changes that must be made to modernize the animal cruelty provisions. I want to take this opportunity to thank rural caucus members for their extensive contributions to the debate and the shaping of this legislation.

During the two and one-half years, the former minister of justice listened very carefully to the concerns of all Canadians, including industry. In fact, to be absolutely clear about the fact that criminal liability for intentional cruelty and criminal neglect had not been changed, the former minister of justice made several accommodations to critics of BIll C-17 when the animal cruelty provisions were reintroduced as Bill C-15 after an election was called and Bill C-17 died on the order paper. The accommodations did not change the legal test for liability but provided further clarification about the elements of the cruelty offences.

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly review the changes that have been made already to the animal cruelty amendments since Bill C-17 was introduced in the House two and one-half years ago.

Critics of Bill C-17 were concerned that the opening paragraph of the intentional cruelty offences did not set out an express mental element. Even though not required as a matter of law, the section was changed when it was reintroduced into Bill C-15 and retained in Bill C-15B to expressly require that the intentional cruelty offences must be committed either wilfully or recklessly.

The negligence provisions in Bill C-17 were also modified when they were reintroduced in Bill C-15. These modifications were made despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence made it very clear that they were not necessary as a matter of law. Nonetheless, in the interests of providing further clarification, subsection 182.3(1) was modified to include the word “negligently” as well as the word “unnecessary”.

The result is that the wording was changed from “by a failure to exercise reasonable care or supervision of an animal, causes it pain, suffering or injury” to “negligently causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal”. This modification was made even though proof of criminal negligence requires that the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of the accused constituted a marked departure from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances.

Another modification between Bill C-17 and Bill C-15 was to accommodate the concern of hunters that the use of the word “when” in the trap shooting offence might be interpreted as restricting the ability of hunters to conduct penned hunting. It should be noted that in the current animal cruelty offences, the word “when” is used in the English version of the criminal code, whereas “au moment de” is used in the French.

The offence in Bill C-15 was modified to indicate that the prohibited conduct related to shooting animals “at the moment” they were liberated. This wording provides greater consistency between the English and French versions of the criminal code.

A definition of negligence was also added to the negligence offences in section 182.3 to make it absolutely clear that a criminal standard of negligence rather than a civil standard was required.

A further change between Bill C-17 and Bill C-15 was to move the animal cruelty offences out of the part of the criminal code dealing with sexual offences and public morals and into a separate part of the code that deals with animal cruelty offences alone. This change addressed the concerns of critics that it was inappropriate to group animal cruelty offences with offences against persons.

After Bill C-15 received second reading on September 26 of last year, it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with a direction that the committee split the bill into two parts. Bill C-15B contains the provisions regarding cruelty to animals and firearms.

The committee heard from a wide variety of groups with diverse views on the issue of animal cruelty. At the committee hearing the Criminal Lawyers' Association confirmed that removal of the animal cruelty provisions out of the property section would not cause accused persons to lose any available defences. The association did indicate that if there was a desire to make this absolutely clear, one of two options was possible: either to make an express reference to subsection 429(2) of the criminal code which outlines the defences of legal justification, excuse or colour of right; or to specifically confirm application of the common law defences set out in subsection 8(3).

Again, in the interests of accommodation and to reassure critics of the bill, the government introduced a motion adopted by the committee to confirm application of subsection 8(3) of the criminal code. To add clarification to the negligence provisions, the committee adopted a government motion to specify the mental element of “wilfully or recklessly” for the offence of abandoning an animal in paragraph 182.3(1)(b) of Bill C-15B, as well as the mental element of “negligently” for the offence of failure to provide suitable and adequate food, water, air, shelter and care for an animal.

One would have thought that following a suggestion of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, as well as further clarification of the negligence offences, would have caused opposition critics of the bill to agree that all accommodations that could be made without changing the test for legal liability had been made.

Unhappily, with the notable exception of the New Democratic Party, this does not appear to be the case. Critics among opposition parties want more. Meaningful accommodations have been made as a result of extensive representations over two and one-half years.

It is time for the House to act. It is time for the House to answer the expectations of Canadians and to move the legislation forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret and trepidation that I rise to speak to Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation. I am sure all members agree that this legislation is seriously needed.

It has been 100 years since the legislation was updated. It is an issue of great importance to the country and an issue that needs to be dealt with by the Parliament of Canada. As I said, I rise with some regret and trepidation because as a member of parliament, a farmer and hunter, I cannot support the legislation. It needs to be improved and modernized.

What we have before us is the complete dereliction of duty by members of the Liberal government. This is a complete denial on their part of grappling with a difficult issue and coming out with an evenhanded and balanced approach to complex problems. This is not what has happened here.

I have no idea how rural members of the Liberal government, the agriculture critics, and the committee members will vote. Actually I have an idea how they will vote, but I do not know where they stand on this issue. I do not know why we have not heard more from the government side on this issue.

Bill C-15B is a bad piece of legislation. Anyone who has taken a moment's time to read it, who has a rudimentary understanding of rural issues, animal husbandry and cruelty toward animals legislation, and anyone who has the barest opinion on this subject cannot support the legislation. There is no way I can envision support for the legislation.

I received a letter from Doug Bacon, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He writes:

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and its members have been following the progress of the cruelty to animals section of Bill C-15B with close attention. Since a key component of the agricultural industry relies on animals, this proposed legislation has the potential to seriously impact our livelihoods.

We are supportive of many aspects of the legislation, including tougher penalties for animal abuse, and while the previous Minister of Justice was very compelling and her amendments helpful, we are not convinced...

This is from people the legislation is directed toward. The legislation is not directed toward some university student who throws a cat out a window albeit that would be a horrific offence. The legislation is not directed toward pet owners who neglect, abuse and torture pets every day in Canada. The legislation is directed toward people who are legitimate animal owners.

I do not know what category animals would be included once the bill is passed. However I do know in what category they would not be included. They would not be put in the property section of the legislation. What are they then? The government thinks they are kids. They are not kids and are not about to be kids. It is time for the government to wake up and smell the roses. It is time for the government to look at the legislation for what it is.

The letter continues:

Bill C-15B must be amended to ensure legitimate animal practices will not be frivolously targeted. We need your support to ensure:

  1. Animal cruelty provisions are put back in Part XI of the Criminal Code. Animals are property and such classification does not impede or prevent appropriate animal care practices;

  2. If animal cruelty provisions stay in Part V.1, it must be amended to read, Cruelty to Animals: Private and Public Property.

If pet owners want to think that their animals are somehow public property or somehow different than agricultural or domestic animals, so be it. A provision should be put into the bill to accommodate those people. I happen to disagree with that, but animals should not be put under the provision of being property for farmers because that is a huge mistake which will do nothing but generate millions of dollars worth of lawsuits that are just waiting to happen.

The last amendment reads:

  1. The definition of animal be amended as per the testimony of the Criminal Lawyers Association before the Standing Committee.

Mr. Bacon goes on to say:

These changes will not weaken the law but will serve to clearly establish in law the intention to protect the rights of animal users--an intention that has already been communicated by the minister. We are not asking for special treatment under the law, we are only asking for a law that will respect standard animal practices.

The bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons on December 1, 1999, as Bill C-17 and died on the order paper with the call of the election in October 2000. It is currently before parliament as Bill C-15B. It was studied by the justice committee and received testimony from numerous legal experts and representatives from both animal rights groups and organizations representing hunters, anglers, trappers, farmers and other stakeholders.

When re-introducing the bill, the Minister of Justice heeded the concerns of the opposition parties and stakeholders and made amendments from the previous Bill C-17 to provide clarification to the cruelty to animal provisions, encompassing those who willfully, recklessly or without regard to the consequence of their acts, cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal. Despite these improvements further amendments were needed before the Progressive Conservative Party could support these provisions dealing with crimes against animals.

It is not because this is not an important issue. It is not because this issue needs to be dealt with. It is because this is a bad piece of legislation. Certainly it is not the job of parliamentarians to leave the decision on what constitutes cruelty up to the courts. If we were to leave every decision that needs to be made in this country up to the courts, we would live to rue that day. We would regret it, it is quite simple. We cannot, as representatives of Canadians and protectors of animal rights, take farm animals out from under the property act. That would be a huge mistake.

It is a mistake that this parliament and other parliaments and Canadians would pay for. It would be impossible to guarantee the safekeeping of every animal owned, and I say owned because they are property, by every farmer in Canada. Without question, the bill needs to come before parliament but it desperately needs to be amended. It needs to be improved upon. We need to put it back in the realm of a bill that when we leave the House after it is passed, because the government will pass it, we can say it is a good piece of legislation and we did the right thing.

I expect there will be many Liberal members of parliament who, if they vote for the bill, will hang their heads in shame after they have done it.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2002 / 5:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, in listening to my colleague's wisdom on so many issues pertaining to the bill, I was so excited, especially when he mentioned that I was to stand and speak, and how I would delay the bill. I beg to differ on that part because I know that my words will be just illuminating to the other side, to make changes to the bill, to improve the bill and to actually have democracy work in this place once and for all. I know you have faith in me, Madam Speaker, to be able to so do. I hope not to let you down.

As I stand in this place at this time of the day, the energy and the electricity in this place are beyond words. I am so excited to see that there is an audience here who wants to hear what I have to say and what I would like to add to the bill. For the people who have been tuned in watching their legislators talk about the bill, I am sure it has evoked a lot of emotion.

Cruelty to animals is something that all Canadians clearly are concerned about. Almost everyone I know has a pet of some sort at home. They love their animals and they want to make sure those animals are loved and protected and that no one abuses their well-being. I do not think we would find very many Canadians who would disagree with that sort of principle, but in attempting to look at the bill we are discussing here today, Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill, there obviously are some concerns, which many of my colleagues have raised during today's debate, as to how in fact this may affect one side of the equation in trying to approach protection of animals.

As I said in one of my earlier comments when I was asking one of my colleagues a question, it seems to me that the government, when producing legislation, tends to try to divide and conquer Canadians rather than bring all stakeholders together, which is such a shame. We saw that sort of attitude when it came to the endangered species legislation. We have seen that sort of attitude with other legislation. Instead of trying to find consensus and bring the various stakeholders together, the attitude is to divide and conquer and see if it can pass legislation where unfortunately one side over the other will be negatively affected.

When I talk about the stakeholders in this case, I am talking about people who are involved in the production of animals in the form of livestock, such as ranchers and farmers, and those who are obviously far from that sort of production and activity, people who live in urban centres or larger towns. Unfortunately many of the arguments on both sides are not coming out. They are not being dealt with effectively and are not being held at merit for the base of their arguments.

In my own riding I have had so many constituents who have taken the time to communicate to me how important they feel the bill is and how they would like me to support it. I think I will support it on that basis because I have had an overwhelming indication from my riding that my constituents would like me to do so. That still does not make it right, because on the other side, the rural arguments I spoke about, there are real concerns. The government has done such a terrible job in trying to raise those effectively so that we can get people on the same page.

We know what the bill is supposed to do. I will just take a moment to read it into the record. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides a definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from the property offences part of the criminal code.

A lot of Canadians may ask what has changed since the last time this type of bill was presented in the House or since the last time we debated it. The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was a requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals. However, there are still significant concerns that many organizations, businesses and individuals have with respect to the bill. I started to talk about some of those concerns among some industry people. The people who do have concerns about this legislation, and I will go on to talk about some of them, are agricultural groups, farmers and industry workers. As well, one of my colleagues addressed the idea of medical researchers quite thoroughly this afternoon in regard to some of the concerns they have raised.

All these groups have consistently said that they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty. They obviously do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups obviously rely on the production of livestock. Their whole livelihoods are based on that. In the production process, some of them actually have relationships that are of the utmost respect for these particular animals because they know that their livelihoods are based on that. The last thing they would ever imagine is to put any type of livestock under any form of cruelty. In fact, they look at ways to be able to minimize the risk or hurt to many of these animals in their production processes.

Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect, but they do, however, have some concerns as to how far the bill can then penalize them if there is an unfortunate feeling that there has been neglect on their part. As I have said, many of them have never approached the issue of animal cruelty in a negative way. They do not intent to hurt the animals. Despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated. There are a number of main concerns they have raised.

I would like to focus on just a couple of these issues. My colleagues have talked about a few of these issues, especially when it comes to the definition of animal. The definition in the bill is so broad that we could have a number of challenges in court and a lot of confusion as to how animals may fall into these categories. It sure raises fear in my mind about what sort of door the government is opening by not looking specifically at how we can tighten up that part of the legislation.

There is also this idea, which I think hits it on the head, of moving the animal cruelty section out of property offences to a new section in its own right. That is seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This is a very important point because the significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance told the government in committee, at question period and in other ways, that this is something that really needs to be considered carefully. The Canadian Alliance asked government members to retain the cruelty to animal provisions in the property offences section of the criminal code but they refused.

It becomes a fine line, especially when it comes to the idea of animal welfare and animal rights. That is something we all have to come to terms with, because when it comes to the development and production of many of these animals there is no doubt that the concern among Canadians is that these animals are being treated properly, cared for and not being abused. As I pointed out, many of these groups that have a concern with the change realize that it is the last thing that they do when they approach how to treat these animals. They actually treat them with the utmost respect and try to make it as painless as possible and give them the best conditions they can have outside of the wild.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the whole process of trying to put forward amendments. We in opposition try really hard to work with the government, to improve its legislation and support it where we can, but we are shut out at every turn. The opposition has tried on a number of occasions in committee to make legislation better. We know that there is a majority government and that the government will pass the legislation it wants passed.

What disappoints us is that when we try to put amendments forward and try to work with the government to improve legislation so that everyone can live with it happily ever after, the government is concerned only about itself and its own interests and refuses to bring stakeholders together. That is just a shame. I wish we could work together more effectively to protect animals and to bring all stakeholders together but in fact the government is going to force the opposition to vote against the bill and that will not do animals any good.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, again it is my privilege to stand and speak to this bill, although, as with many of the bills that come to us from the Liberals, I can assure everyone that the content of the bill does not contain anything with which I am particularly happy.

The first item that I would like to draw to the attention of members is that in my constituency we have a tremendous number of very responsible firearms owners. They are taking a look at the content of this bill and other provisions that have been brought forward by the Liberals over a period of time with respect to the original bill, Bill C-68, which absolutely makes them want to pull their hair out.

They are looking at the fact, for example, that the government has spent and is in the process of spending more than $700 million on a useless gun registry when in fact the government very proudly talks about the fact that it will be spending $200 million to protect us from terrorism. I think that spending $200 million against terrorists, Osama bin Laden and his ilk, versus $700 million against law-abiding Canadian gun owners is just obscene. I think the tinkering around the edges contained in Bill C-15B is an example of the government making policy and laws on the fly.

The difficulty we have with this is that it is all bits and pieces. This is an omnibus bill. Omnibus, for those who are interested, simply means that it is a catch-all, a bill where the government threw everything into the hat. Originally this was Bill C-15. In this omnibus bill, the government thought it would do more tinkering around the edges with respect to the issue of gun registry. The tinkering around the edges is absolutely inadequate. The only thing we should be doing with respect to the gun registry is immediately withdrawing it and replacing it with measures that would actually make our streets safer.

It must be said that it is understandable that we should know who should be allowed to legally posses and carry firearms. That is logical and totally understandable. I do not see having a licence for that as posing any particular problem. As a matter of fact, it could well be a benefit. It certainly would give the prosecutors and the police in Canada the ability to take action under law that might be required to diffuse particular situations. The whole issue of this useless registry is that it is sending millions and millions of dollars completely down the drain. I say with respect to Bill C-15B and the whole issue of the tinkering with the firearms registry that it is an absolute waste of time and an absolute waste of money.

I also mentioned that the bill is designated as Bill C-15B as opposed to Bill C-15A, which supposedly we will be discussing at some future point in this parliament, because what the government did at the outset was create a grab bag of things that do not relate to each other in any way, shape or form. For example, what indeed does cruelty to animals have to do with the gun registry? I do not see any connection there at all.

Bill C-15A supposedly also has to do with protecting children, and we will be having a debate about that later, as well as the whole issue of safety for police officers. What does that have to do with cruelty to animals? Only when the Canadian Alliance dug in its heels and said no, it would not be going that route, and this goes back to last June, did it finally force the government into a situation where a legitimate vote could take place on the issue of Bill C-15B, primarily on the issue of cruelty to animals.

The fact that it decided to continue to have the catch-all of the change with respect to gun registry still contained in Bill C-15B was something that was really quite unfortunate, but nonetheless those are the choices that the government made.

What does the bill do? First, with respect to cruelty to animals, there is not a person in the House, much less anyone in the Canadian Alliance, who would not want to see the protection of animals. Of course we do. Any humane human being does. The stated purpose of the bill is to consolidate animal cruelty offences and increase the maximum penalties. It also provides the definition of animal and moves cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences.

A couple of days ago when we were speaking at report stage on this, I drew out the point, and I draw it out again, that if we are moving the cruelty to animals provisions from part XI of the criminal code, property offences, to another part of the criminal code, that is not just incidental. I pointed out, hopefully fairly forcefully, that an animal is an animal, a human is a human and a human may own an animal. That is pretty simple and straightforward, but not in the minds of animal activists, particularly extreme animal activists. That is what the Canadian Alliance Party and I are concerned about. We are concerned about the fact that if the definition of animal is removed from property offences and put into a different section, this will really open up the door to the potential of vexatious prosecution.

We have been told not to worry about it, that no crown prosecutors would do anything like that, but I had some action take place in my constituency under Bill C-68, which of course is also covered under Bill C-15. That is why I am speaking to it. We had police who unfortunately exercised authority in an area in which they had no right to exercise authority. Not only was the gun owner in this instance personally out of pocket for the cost of the lawyer, that owner was also personally out of pocket for the cost of a door being broken down. There was no authority. Finally when the matter went to court, at great expense I should say, we ended up with a situation where the judge said the police should not have done that. In other words, whenever there is new legislation there is always a trial of the new legislation, either by the police or, secondly, by the prosecution.

Where are we going by removing animal provisions from part XI of the criminal code? What has changed since Bill C-17, which also dealt with these issues? The government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, Bill C-17. The main change was the requirement for a person to act “wilfully or recklessly” in killing or harming animals.

However, many organizations, businesses and individuals still have significant concerns with respect to the bill. Who are they? Agricultural groups, farmers, industry workers and medical researchers have consistently said they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty and that they do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups in fact support the intent of the bill, as the Canadian Alliance and I do, as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect. However, and this is the however, despite the minor improvements to the legislation, these groups advise that the bill requires significant amendments before their concerns are alleviated.

The Liberals have a terrible tendency that I have noted particularly of late. Perhaps it comes from smugness or complacency or the fact that they feel they know everything and what is best for everybody. I do not know what it is. However we end up with recommendations for legislation, whether it is in Bill C-15B or Bill C-15A, or the species at risk act, SARA, that are heartfelt recommendations that reflect the values and concerns of the people to whom we answer. Liberals just stonewall them or at the very best they take them, tinker with them, pound them down, make them almost useless and then insert them. Then they say “See we made the amendment that you want”.

One of the central concerns with this bill is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. Note the word “property”. However in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would effectively remove those provisions outside of the ambit of that protection.

Our party asked that the government members make the defences in section 429(2) explicit in the new legislation and they refused. This is the kind of pattern that I was talking about where we make any kind of reasonable arguments and we are just simply refused out of hand.

Moving the animal cruelty section out of the ambit of property offences to a new section in its own right is also seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. I know this is the third or fourth or perhaps the fifth time that I have said it, but those who choose not to listen try to say that I and the people in my party are not concerned about animal welfare. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we want to ensure is animal welfare. What we want to avoid is animal rights.

This significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to retain the cruelty to animals provision in the property offences section of the criminal code but it refused. This is not a small issue. This is a giant issue.

I say again, I and every member of my party are concerned about animal welfare. We support the bill in its intent to protect animal welfare. We reject the bill in terms of animal rights because we know where that is going. We know under animal rights that there are many activists. We have seen them, we have heard of them, we have seen their publicity and we have seen some of their very vicious and dangerous activity in which they have become engaged. We must stay away from it. Yet the government will not do anything about it.

Many groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could in fact have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses. Another major and very serious concern is that the definition of animal is too broad, it is too subjective and it is too ambiguous.

That is so typical of the kind of legislation that the Liberals consistently bring forward. What did I say it was? It was too broad. It was too ambiguous. That is so typical of just about every piece of legislation.

In committee just yesterday we were discussing Bill S-7, which by the way came to us through the back door from the other place. The bill is so incomplete and is such a skeletal kind of issue. I asked the Liberals in the committee how in the world could we possibly pass something like that. I asked how we could even be discussing something like it when we did not know what the rules, the regulations, the implications would be. There is no meat, there is no muscle, there is no sinew on the bones of the words that are on that piece of paper.

Of course the Liberals said they would get around to it, to just give them some time. They said they would go to the CRTC, have some hearings and after the House rubber stamped it they would then know what the legislation would be; years after.

I cite another example in my particular critic role, that of blank recording medium. When that was brought forward in 1997, we were told it would be 25¢ charge per cassette. Five years later in the year 2002, the 25¢ per cassette charge somehow has gone to $200 to $400 per machine on equipment that now has the capacity to record more. Twenty-five cents to $400 strikes me as a bit of a jump.

I say with respect to Bill C-15B, the difficulty we have with it is we simply do not know where it is going because of the imprecision of the definition of animal. The definition marks a significant departure, by providing protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms that have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection. Where is that going? What are the unintended consequences of that? That is a statement of fact, we have no idea where it is going.

In terms of practical difficulties on how this definition is worded, it could potentially cause enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold-blooded species such as fish, as well as an extremely wide variety of other types of both domestic and wild animals.

There is nothing in the mind of somebody who is an aggressive activist that would amaze me. Aggressive activists will take a look at this legislation and will push it as far as they can conceivably push it. Is it possible that somebody could be harassed by an activist, potentially by somebody in uniform who has an overzealous approach to things, a conservation officer or whomever? Is it not possible that somebody working with fish could end up with a problem because it is not precise?

The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to delete or modify this definition but they refused. In her speech at second reading, the justice minister assured us that what was lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill received royal assent. She promised the House that these changes would not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, medical or scientific research.

The minister's statement was self-evident but misleading. Of course the new provisions will not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law only proscribes illegal activities. The problem is and therefore the concern is that these new provisions arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities.

I say again on behalf of the people of Kootenay--Columbia, I have a wonderful group of people in my constituency. We are about 82,000 people strong. We are the backbone of Canada. These are people who love animals. These are people who understand the relationship between animals and nature. These are the hunters. These are the people who go fishing. These are the people who look after the environment in which these animals live. These are the farmers. These are the ranchers. These are the pet owners who treat their animals with respect, as every member of my party does and I do. On their behalf, I stand here and say that this bill must be voted in the negative.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2002 / 1:35 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the previous speaker for his remarks.

In going through Bill C-15B, it is important to keep in context how the legislation came about. It originally was before the House in the form of what is called an omnibus bill. There were a number of very complex and unrelated subjects that found themselves in the bill which caused a great deal of consternation I think for many members of parliament. It is a usual tactic that the government has employed to have its way, that is to essentially include a number of issues with which most if not all members agree and couple them with other pieces of legislation that the government would like to slide in, putting members of parliament in the uncomfortable position of voting against things of which they actually are in favour.

The strategical tactics unfortunately have blurred much of the merit of this particular bill. However the former minister of justice did climb down from her lofty position and agreed to some extent to split off parts of the bill to allow members to vote more freely and more in line with the wishes of their constituents and their own comfort levels.

We have before us a bill with a number of important amendments, which I would hope the government would consider, that would improve and in fact very much ameliorate the ability of the legislation to address the principle issue, and that is: helping to eradicate and give our law enforcement officials greater ability to enforce laws which are meant to curtail cruelty to animals.

We in the coalition are very supportive of any initiative that will bring about legislation dealing with crimes against animals. This legislation very much puts forward the spirit that we need to punish those who intentionally abuse or neglect animals. Cruelty to animals is an issue that has received significant public attention of late. In recent years psychologists have drawn clear parallels between a child's cruelty to animals and subsequent cruelty toward human beings in his or her adult life as one element to take into consideration.

We support as well the government's decision to put forward an ability for judges to remove barriers, to heighten the sentences and heighten the degree of deterrence that should emerge from cases where there is clear-cut, proven on evidence cases of animal abuse.

We do not, I hasten to add, adhere to the government's position in the legislation that to achieve the deterrents and to achieve the heightened degree of accountability, the government must remove the criminal code provisions dealing with animals from the property section of the code.

The proprietary aspects of animal abuse have always been very important in the prosecution of animal cruelty cases. Moving the animal cruelty provisions out of part XI of the criminal code removes the protection of legitimate based businesses that relate to animals and animal husbandry. By virtue of taking that section out of section 429(2) of the criminal code, this important ability to protect oneself by virtue of the law is removed. Let us be very clear about that.

The current section in the property law allows for legal justification, or excuse or colour of right to be claimed by a person who might be charged. Therefore it affords legal protection for acts which have always been seen as legitimate and outside the gamut of animal cruelty and always based upon the evidence. It is inappropriate and misleading in a malicious way to suggest that somehow removing these sections will protect animals any further than it currently does.

It currently is illegal to perpetrate any sort of cruelty against animals. The problem has been in the prosecution of these offences and further in the ability of the police to lay charges. That also ties very much into the resource allocation currently available for police in the country. Removing the cruelty to animals provisions from this section is of particular concern to hunters, trappers, farmers and to researchers. There is an important element in the use of animals for genetic research. People like John and Jessie Davidson would be the first to say that genetic research is something that has to be given a higher priority by the Parliament of Canada and the people of Canada.

These legitimate individuals who work and depend on animals for their livelihood have expressed very clearly to the government their concerns. They came before a committee. There was extensive study of this issue. Everything the bill seeks to achieve could be achieved by bringing about the amendments but leaving the current sections in the property section of the criminal code. Everything that is sought to be accomplished could be done so in that fashion.

We share the concerns of many Canadians, though, who have spoken about the definition of an animal. Any animal that has the capacity to feel pain does encompass in a large way any sort of cruelty that might be perpetrated. Yet through this definition, the government is putting at risk many activities that currently occur. We have heard examples of those. A farmer who puts a noose around an animal's neck to lead it to pasture or to pull it out of danger could potentially be charged.

We have heard ludicrous examples, such as putting a worm on a hook or boiling a live lobster. Potentially, if taken to the extreme, these types of activities could result in prosecutions. The sad reality of that is that the cost that would be expended and the delay in following through with these types of prosecutions, whether they be brought about by the crown or private prosecutions which currently can occur, would bankrupt and put out of business a lot of individuals who currently rely on animals for their livelihood.

Even the intentional act of stepping on a spider was one example that was given as cruelty to an animal.

My comments are in no way an attempt to make light of a serious situation but to point out that this type of law is very dangerous and should not be proceeded with in this fashion. This law could place fishermen, farmers, hunters, trappers, furriers or any individual that associates with animals at risk of frivolous prosecution and those who espouse radical views about animal protection.

The ensuing lawsuits could paralyze and bankrupt some businesses. It is well intended and there are many individuals who are well intended in their efforts to protect animals, but the reality is the horrific cases of animal abuse are currently illegal. It is a matter of enabling our system further to resource and through attention and priorizing the prosecutions for these types of offences. We support strengthening the criminal code and provisions dealing with animals and many of the improvements that are envisioned by the bill. This punishment and resource question is where the problem lies.

The minister did at least realize the carelessness that occurred in the drafting of the original bill, Bill C-17, and she was careful to now inject the word “wilful” with respect to cruelty and unnecessary pain being perpetrated in the drafting of this new bill.

Regrettably, the former minister did not see the need to keep the animal cruelty sections within the property sections of the criminal code. Thus, this improved legislation would not provide the adequate protection with which the majority of animal business people would be concerned. For that reason, sadly we are unable to support the bill.

We believe the legislation is needed and that further legislation is needed to prevent needless animal pain and suffering. An example that comes to mind is the case that many of us were transfixed on a few years ago when we heard about a Rottweiler dog that was dragged on a chain behind a pick-up truck. There was a case very recently in Kingston that was reported in the Kingston Whig-Standard of horrible abuse to a cat named Solitaire that was bloodied and battered. These type of cases are extremely offensive to the sensibilities of most Canadians.

The traditional practices of hunting, fishing and farming do not fit into the category of mean spirited violence, yet they could very much be caught up by virtue of these changes.

It is imperative that animal cruelty legislation be clearly designated to target those who would engage in brutal, deliberate acts against animals. Just as the other parts of this legislation which deal with firearms legislation, it is fine to try to redefine what the legislation does, yet we know it has been a complete and utter failure. The cost is prohibitive. The intent is such that individuals will not voluntarily participate.

For those reasons, and for reasons which I would like to elaborate on but due to limitations of time I cannot, our coalition cannot support the bill. We would be hopeful that the government would be willing to accept the amendments which would take away those sections which very much undermine the spirit and intent of the bill.

Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

March 20th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise in the House today to take part in this debate on Bill C-15B, entitled an act to amend the criminal code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and to amend the Firearms Act.

I want to begin by stating categorically that I am a great lover of animals. I have a wonderful little dog at home that is probably the joy of my little girl's life and probably thinks I am the best guy in the world too. It is not a question of us on this side of the House and in this party not loving animals or caring for them. We certainly do.

I think that perhaps in our society very often we see great pendulum swings in the mood of society, in the way we approach social issues. If there is a great public outcry about a certain subject, the pendulum swings one way. Then it swings the other way as there is a public outcry on the other side of the issue. It is quite clear in our society, particularly North American society, and with the increase in technological advances and communication we have heard of a number of recent incidents in which animals have been used cruelly and sometimes killed outright by people who have absolutely no right to ever do anything like that.

I suppose that in response to those kinds of incidents, about which we have all heard, there are definitely lobby groups in our society that have pushed the government to bring in stricter laws and stricter controls in terms of cruelty to animals. Of course the government has also lumped in a bunch of other things in the bill, just to confuse the issue.

The stated purpose of the bill, of course, is to amend the criminal code by consolidating animal cruelty offences and increasing the maximum penalties. The bill also adds administrative provisions that are intended to simplify applications for the Firearms Act. Bill C-15B reintroduces the proposed amendments to the cruelty to animals provisions of the criminal code that were introduced in Bill C-17 during the last parliament, with certain changes. We remember some of the outcry at that time about this legislation. Unfortunately, even though there are a few minor improvements to this legislation, there are many people out there in our country who are very concerned about the legislation. In particular, people who are engaged in the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihoods have a great number of concerns about the bill.

I know that government legislation cannot satisfy everybody. It will not satisfy everybody. However, when sufficiently large numbers of people in our country have registered tremendous disapproval of the bill, it is important for us as legislators to take into account their concerns. There are a number of groups across the country that simply do not feel the government is listening to their concerns. They do not feel that we have to go this far to satisfy one group and to perhaps somehow eliminate cruelty to animals.

What we are saying in our opposition to a number of clauses in the bill is that we do not have to go this far. One concern with the bill is that the definition of the word “animal” is far too broad. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15B includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having “the capacity to feel pain”.

Let me show how we can go from the sublime to the ridiculous on something like this. I happen to be a fisherman. That is what I do with my spare time outside the House of Commons. Of course I would rather be here, but in those times when I cannot be here I go fishing, I work in my garden or I take my wife out to dinner, not particularly in that order of priority, but we do have lives outside the House, do we not? I enjoy fishing.

Fishing, of course, means that at times one has to put a worm on a hook. Unfortunately I have not been able to communicate very well with the bait I use, so I have no authoritative voice with which to say whether or not the worm I use actually feels pain. However, in the enjoyment of my sport, shared with perhaps millions of others in the country, I have come to the conclusion that it is probably okay for me to do that and to pursue fishing without the possibility of coming under some kind of cloud of suspicion that I am being cruel to the worm.

However, there just may be someone in my area or in the country who feels otherwise. It is quite possible that some day I might have worm police knocking on my door to tell me I am being cruel to the worms and that under the provisions of Bill C-15B, which would have been passed in the House by that time, they have to take me into custody.

Of course, that would never occur, would it? To go from the sublime to the ridiculous in such a way simply could not happen, could it? However, it might just happen and it might happen for anybody else engaged in any sporting activity in the country that has long been recognized as recreational or that sometimes, for the benefit of those who need the food, is something that is quite legitimate and within the law.

When we see the pendulum in our society move from one pole to the other, very often things like this get caught in the middle. I believe, and I am sure many of my hon. colleagues in the House believe, that we need to have balance in the legislation. The government is not providing balance.

Another key concern is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. Think of all the farmers across the country who are engaged in animal husbandry of some kind or another who could possibly, and I am not saying that they would, be brought before the bar of justice because under the legislation they would be accused of somehow being cruel to animals. What does that do to the agricultural community in the country, which is suffering more and more every day? It is just one more nail in the coffin of the agricultural community in many ways.

We ought to think very carefully about these kinds of considerations and consequences before we pass this kind of draconian legislation.

Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

March 20th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-15B is part of the bill we had asked the justice minister for some time to separate. This has been done and we appreciate that because there were two very conflicting aspects in one bill. One aspect was cruelty to animals. The other dealt with the protection of our children from child pornography and luring on the Internet. We appreciated that aspect and supported that part, but we had some concerns with the cruelty to animals portion.

As my colleague has stated, we in no way condone cruelty to animals. There should be strong legislation in place to deal with anyone who abuses animals in any way. Our concern comes when we look at the agricultural community, people who raise and use animals in their businesses, such as fishermen and farmers.

We are concerned that if certain aspects of the bill are carried out to the degree we think some people will want to push them, it will put animal husbandry practices into question and it will put the people who raise the food we need in harm's way. The whole issue of protecting animals is a balancing act, as is every bill that comes to the House. We cannot go too far one way or we intrude in one area, but we have to go far enough to make sure that what we are trying to do gets done. This is no exception.

We have received in my office, as I am sure have all members in the House, countless letters of support for the bill from animal rights groups. They are doing their job. They are making sure we are aware that this legislation is in front of us, that we need to be aware that cruelty to animals is a problem and that there needs to be strong legislation to protect animals. On the other side we also are receiving letters from people who are concerned for the way of life they have created and the fact that the bill, if it is put into law the way it exists, could very well jeopardize the actions that they take.

People in the agricultural industry and the people who deal with animals are very cognizant of how to treat animals. They do it in the best way they can because it is to their advantage to do that. An animal that is treated properly is one that meets the requirements of the final process. There are all kinds of examples I could put forward about the industry which has governed itself. It has brought forward its own means of regulation to make sure that what is done and what the animals face is right.

The University of Lethbridge is in my riding. Like many universities across the country, it does research. That is another aspect where we have to make sure the animals are treated properly. We have seen a huge movement in the right direction as far as how animals that are kept for research are handled. On the other hand we have seen some people outside the research circles who really do need firm legislation and should be put out of business. That hopefully is where the legislation will lead. We hope it will not lead to the detriment of research and to our agricultural community in general.

We have brought forward suggestions from time to time on what we think needs to be done with some aspects of the bill regarding protection of animals. We hope the government will recognize that the concerns we are bringing forward are indeed legitimate and need to be addressed. If the government can in any way through changes to this legislation recognize all sides of the issue, then that is what should be done to make sure people can buy into this and buy into the fact that our animals need to be protected and treated fairly.

One of ways Bill C-15B differs from Bill C-17 that was before the last parliament is that a person would have to act willfully or recklessly in killing or harming an animal. Many organizations, businesses and individuals have a significant concern with respect to this aspect of the bill, namely that we would need to prove a person was wilful and reckless in his or her treatment. The bill could then come into effect and the law could be applied to the person.

The intent of Bill C-15B is fine. Cruelty to animals is something many of us do not understand. However we need to make sure the bill does not go too far. It must not hamper legal and rightful agricultural producers and others by wrongly accusing them of cruelty.

The idea of elevating the status of animals from property into something higher has many people concerned and rightly so. It would open up a whole different area of legal challenges. At what point would we stop? Do plants feel pain? We would be opening up a whole new area that could and would be challenged because there are people who would take it to the maximum degree.

The definition of animal under the bill would include non-human vertebrates and other animals that have the capacity to feel pain. The definition marks a significant departure. It would provide protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms which have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection. This piece of legislation would change the scope of what is currently in place.

The definition has practical difficulties. As worded it could cause enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold blooded species such as fish, and an extremely wide variety of domestic and wild animals. It would affect the entire fishing industry by raising concerns about how hooks should be baited and how fish are handled after they are caught. It should be done in a humane way but it still needs to be done.

We have asked the government to delete or modify the definition but it has not. The issue could be a major concern as the bill proceeds.

The previous justice minister assured us in a speech that activities that are lawful and legitimate today would remain lawful after the bill received royal assent. The statement was intended to put at ease some of the concerns being raised at the time. She promised the House the changes would in no way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals such as hunting, farming or medical and scientific research.

We hope we can hold the new justice minister to the words of his predecessor. The words mean a lot. They have gone a long way to relieving the concerns of some people. We hope we can make sure they come true.

The previous justice minister's statement was self evident but it could be misleading. She said the provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out but that the law would proscribe only illegal activities. That is a bit of a play on words that negates what she meant to say in the first place. We are concerned the new provisions would narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activity.

These are just some of the issues. As Bill C-15B progresses through the House and we get an opportunity to rise and speak to it we will bring out other aspects.

We in our party support cruelty to animals legislation. However we want to make sure it addresses the issue without invading other parts of society.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

November 8th, 2001 / 6:30 p.m.
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Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the fact that our government continues to listen to the concerns of firearm dealers and owners. They have important points to make and we are very attuned to what they are saying. That is why an amnesty is currently in place for prohibited handguns and unregistered restricted firearms until December 31, 2001.

The amnesty allows individuals who purchased prohibited, that is short barrelled .25 calibre or .32 calibre, handguns after the intended prohibition was announced in February 1995, and dealers who were left with inventory, to take appropriate action as required. The amnesty also protects individuals who may have come into possession of an unregistered restricted firearm, often through an estate, allowing them the opportunity to either register or dispose of it without fear or repercussion.

Responding to concerns from the public and the policing community, the government announced the prohibition of these handguns in February 1995. Incidentally, the police were at the justice committee last night and both the chiefs of police and the Canadian Association of Police again reaffirmed their strong views that this was appropriate and good legislation, and I think the record should reflect that.

However, all individuals who had registered or who had applied to register a prohibited handgun at that time were grandfathered and can continue to use their firearm with the appropriate authorization.

While the prohibition of these easily concealed firearms is in the interest of public safety and security, the government also recognizes the difficult situation of businesses that were caught with large inventories of short barrelled .25 calibre or .32 calibre handguns on February 14, 1995. This situation is addressed in amendments proposed in Bill C-15, which would grandfather these inventories, and was also addressed last year in Bill C-17.

Grandfathering these inventories would mean that businesses could dispose of the prohibited handguns by selling them to individuals who are grandfathered to possess such handguns and licensed to acquire them. This would help businesses and would not affect public safety as only licensed individuals could acquire them.

Another proposed amendment would change the grandfathering date for prohibited handguns to December 1, 1998, from February 14, 1995, so that correctly licensed individuals who lawfully acquired and registered a handgun while it was still restricted, that is between February 14, 1995 and December 1, 1998, can keep it.

Public safety would be maintained with the proposed changes because only those who were already in legal possession of these handguns since December 1, 1998, and who are properly trained and licensed to use prohibited handguns would be able to keep them. Ownership of prohibited handguns would continue to be limited to a very small number of individuals with grandfathered privileges.

Given the government's resolve to address these issues through Bill C-15B, the amnesty was recently extended until the end of this year to continue to protect both dealer inventories and individuals in possession of prohibited handguns until parliament completes its consideration of Bill C-15. I think that represents the values of Canadians and the values of this parliament.

Criminal CodePrivate Member'S Business

October 17th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough refers to Uncle Henry's rifle. I am not sure he actually does have an Uncle Henry, but these shotguns and rifles are essentially tools that a farmer may use for the protection of his livestock and are kept under lock and key.

My party has always resisted the long gun registry because it simply does not work and it targets the wrong group. This bill is what we would rather have. We know that the minister of justice of the day said that the cost of implementing the registry would be at most a mere $85 million. The member for Edmonton North has fought for this legislation tooth and nail since she became a member of parliament.

Let us just say that it was a noble intent, it was the right thing to do. We disagree with it. Even if it were, we now know the price tag is well above $400 million. We know that there are very prudent estimates that when this thing is finally settled it will cost over $800 million to actually implement.

The point that I want to make is we could use those dollars toward a truly safer street agenda, including more money for the RCMP for overtime, for personnel and for new technologies to fight cyber crime. In the context of the world events which have taken place since September 11, there is the very real issue of putting those added resources toward augmenting the budget of the RCMP or even CSIS to help them fight biker gangs and terrorist cells, as opposed to arbitrarily taxing deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers. It just makes a lot of sense.

I am arguing our position from a purely economic perspective in this regard. Even if it was a noble intent, we now know that not only was it misguided and ill-advised but it has become one of the most comprehensive and expensive boondoggles that the federal government has ever had throughout Canadian history.

We are trying to use this private member's bill, although it is non-votable, to help educate the public to the fact that any reasonable parliamentarian is not against gun control or having more stringent provisions to deter accidental harm from firearms. We want to ensure that we have a mandatory additional penalty in place for any criminal act committed with the use of a firearm. These are the kind of things that the public wants us to do. They want us to deter the criminal use of firearms.

If we want to make our streets safer, why do we not use that $800 million? We still have about $400 million that we can save to achieve a truly safer street agenda. That is why I moved Bill C-269. I made a commitment to the constituents in my riding of Fundy--Royal that at the very least I would do my best to keep the issue alive. That is what I am trying to do with respect to this issue. Maybe that says something to accountability.

I know the member from Cypress Hills--Grasslands has been steadfast in his opposition against this arbitrary registry. I applaud him for his efforts. This is an issue that transcends many party lines. It really is a split on rural Canada versus urban Canada. However even urban Canadians are now saying that when they fought this back in the 1997 election, they thought it was the right thing to do. Now that the price tag is $400 million and it might even get to as high as $800 million, they are saying that perhaps we were right back in 1997, that it was a bad idea and that we were concentrating on the wrong element of society.

Let us target our energies toward criminals. Give the RCMP and our law enforcement officers a tool kit to fight crime. We should take the issue and weigh it on one hand, then on the other. Are we concerned with terrorist cells and having the resources from a security perspective with respect to the RCMP to actually flush those folks out? Are we concerned about organized crime? Instead of taxing deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers, why do we not give the tool kits to the RCMP to fight terrorist cells and biker gangs?

We know that long guns principally are not the weapons of crime in an urban context. Therefore, we are really targeting the wrong group.

It may be a noble intent, but all of the good that we are trying to get out of Bill C-269, I can advocate was already in place with respect to Bill C-17. That would have been a better way to go as opposed to using this useless, cumbersome long gun registry. There are a lot of superlatives being added by my friends and colleagues who join me in their opposition to Bill C-68 and in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-269.

It is not even a cash cow for the government. It is so bureaucratic and so expensive that it is not even paying for itself. Any other reasonable government would have actually cut its losses long ago.

I ask all members to reflect on this particular issue and then, as time goes by, find some way to keep the good and the noble intent that might have been in place in Bill C-68 and ditch the long gun registry, which, at its worst, is an attack on rural attack and clearly is an attack on the legitimate long gun owners of rifles, rifles that are used by deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers.

I want to thank my colleagues for their encouragement and contribution throughout my remarks. If I was ever at a loss for words throughout my speech, there was no shortage of assistance from my friends and colleagues. I want to thank them for their support.

Criminal CodePrivate Member'S Business

October 17th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

moved that Bill C-269, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (exemption of long guns from registration), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to have an opportunity to maintain a very strong commitment I made to the constituents of my riding of Fundy--Royal and, I might add, to an issue that resonates very much throughout rural Canada with regard to a piece of legislation introduced by the government that may be very noble in intent in terms of deterring the criminal use of firearms, but which has become one of the largest fiscal boondoggles we have had in Canadian history. The bill I am referring to is commonly known throughout the country as Bill C-68.

Here is what we are advocating. We all categorically agree that any modern society needs to have provisions in place with respect to the handling of firearms so that individuals who acquire them are properly trained in their use. We need to have provisions in place whereby firearms are stored under lock and key in a place separate from the ammunition. The ammunition should be in one compartment and the firearm itself in another one to avoid any kind of accidental harm.

Members may be familiar with the fact that all of the provisions I have outlined were in what was termed to be one of the most progressive pieces of firearm legislation in the industrialized world, that is, this country's legislation formerly known as Bill C-17, introduced by the Progressive Conservative government. It never had a chance to be measured as to the degree of success it could actually entail.

The bill I have put forward does this. All the safe handling provisions, all the acquisition certificates that Bill C-68 and its predecessor Bill C-17 had and all the issues from a safety perspective are still in place, with the exception that it does not call for the registration of long guns such as rifles and shotguns which are utilized throughout Canada by deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers. We know that registering long guns belonging to deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers will not deter the criminal use of firearms. In fact, I might add that it is an arbitrary tax on those individuals. What we want to do is deter the criminal use of firearms.

The bill is a surgical strike on Bill C-68, keeping the good elements contained in it but extracting the most divisive element. Those weapons or firearms that are not restricted or prohibited, essentially long guns such as shotguns and rifles which are used by deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers, are the only firearms that do not need to be registered in a mandatory fashion. That is it.

In our modern society in this great nation hand guns have been registered since the 1930s. We should never touch that issue. However what I am talking about is--

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

September 20th, 2001 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to what my colleague had to say. He recognized that there have been considerable changes since the old Bill C-17. The hon. member mentioned the words wilful and wilfully. It is my understanding that because of representations made by members on all sides of the House these words will be returned in the definition.

The question of an unclear standard of negligence has already been dealt with. The reintroduction of the word unnecessary in the offence of causing pain by negligence has already occurred. I was very interested in that change.

The animal cruelty provisions have been moved from the sexual offences and public morals section to a section of their own. That is important because it shows the industry that animals are not viewed as human beings.

There have been other changes as well. I would simply say to my colleague that the government already made these substantial changes before committee stage.

Does the hon. member not think the best thing we could do with this part of the bill is move as quickly as possible to committee stage? The committee could then have hearings and we could put the bill, which has been before us and has already been modified, into the public eye as quickly and effectively as possible.

Message From The SenateThe Royal Assent

June 14th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence—Chapter No. 7.

Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence—Chapter No. 8.

Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions—Chapter No. 9.

Bill S-17, an act to amend the Patent Act—Chapter No. 10.

Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act—Chapter No. 11.

Bill S-16, an act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act—Chapter No. 12.

Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 13.

Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts in consequence—Chapter No. 14.

Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 15.

Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco—Chapter No. 16.

Bill C-22, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Customs Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and another act related to the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 17.

Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act—Chapter No. 18.

Bill C-18, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—Chapter No. 19.

Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act—Chapter No. 20.

Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—Chapter No. 21.

Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 22.

Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology—Chapter No. 23.

Bill C-29, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002—Chapter No. 24.

Bill S-25, an act to amend the Act of Incorporation of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.

Bill S-27, an act to authorize The Imperial Life Assurance Company of Canada to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Bill S-28, an act to authorize Certas Direct Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 13, the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 5.26 p.m.)

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-17.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just in discussions with the government House leader and my party has decided to withdraw its amendments to Bill C-22 and Bill C-17. I think if you were to seek consent you would find agreement for that.

We will be voting on the main motion to both those bills.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to debate Bill C-26. The bill has some good qualities and our party agrees with some aspects of the bill.

However, I would like to suggest that the government look to the Senate to study a bill that addresses the real problems of tobacco use, particularly with children. Bill S-15 has gone before committee and may soon come before this House. Although Bill C-26 has some good qualities, I believe the bill from the other place really would be more appropriate. It targets youth and suggests a model for accountability of the delivery of government services. I believe, despite our support for Bill C-26, that Bill S-15 deserves more careful scrutiny.

Earlier in the day we debated Bill C-22 and Bill C-17. We talked about the complexity of the imposition of taxes and the tax act. Taxes in this instance are also extremely complex with some 40 pages of legislation and another 50 pages of explanations. My goodness, why does it always have to be so difficult for people to understand the government's intentions?

One of the main difficulties in increasing taxes, particularly for constituents who have service stations and corner stores, and those who are rural merchants, are that their businesses have been so caught up in the economic decline of the country, particularly where I come from, that the loss of this income in tobacco sales is a real difficulty.

Should the bill go forward, I would suggest that there be a commensurate reduction of tax on other economic activities that are sensitive to price changes. A reduction of taxes in other areas for people who are hit with these increases would be appropriate.

While it may seem equitable to some that the big, bad tobacco industry take this on, taxes are not necessarily borne by those who have the responsibility to pay those taxes.

I do not think I need to lecture adults about cigarettes and all the associated health risks but I do want to talk about why I am supporting the bill even though there is much about it with which I disagree.

We all know the facts. What needs to be addressed in the bill is the central reason for this bill coming into existence. We can argue over the wording of the bill. Some may call it a tobacco recovery levy and some may call it a tax. What we cannot argue about is the fact that the tobacco companies target children. These are the smokers of the future who the tobacco industry will depend on for their future income and profits.

Young people are the most important target for smoking prevention activities. Since most smokers in Canada begin to smoke in their adolescence, a major challenge for smoking prevention is to counteract the influences of the tobacco companies. Tobacco use among young Canadians must be reduced.

What does the data say? What are the numbers? There are close to 6.7 million smokers in Canada. Smoking among adolescents aged 15 to 19 has risen from 21% to 29% over the past 10 years, and females make up a large percentage of this group.

Smoking accounts for about 30% of cancers in Canada and 80% of those who suffer from lung cancer are smokers. Cigarette related deaths account for 40,000 deaths in Canada every year. These facts speak for themselves. We must do everything possible to stop children from getting involved with this killing habit. The bill is one step in the right direction.

Some may argue that tobacco farmers would suffer enormous economic hardship. However during the 1980s the number of tobacco farmers declined by about 50%. These farmers began to grow other crops and have benefited from assistance programs. There are others in the retail end of smoking who suffer as well. There must be compensation for those who suffer. There must be an ability for them to continue on but smoking is evil. It is wrong for us to poison our young people and have them sacrifice their lives. This has to be the bottom line.

In 1991 consumers spent over $10.1 billion on tobacco products. Of that amount about $6.6 billion went to the federal, provincial and territorial governments. There is no denying that this is a substantial amount of money but it amounts to less than 2% of federal and provincial revenues. Considering that tobacco taxes make up less than 2% of the federal revenue, there is even more incentive to reduce the number of children who want to smoke.

I want to compare the 2% of federal revenue to the health care costs in our public health care system. With over 40,000 deaths directly related to tobacco, the strain on our overburdened health care system is enormous. Those suffering from lung cancer as a result of years of tobacco use costs billions of dollars in health care costs. By reducing the number of children smoking, we not only save their lives but we can help save billions of dollars in health care at the same time.

These are very important reasons to help stop tobacco use among our children. When people stop smoking completely, the country saves money. In 1993 the societal costs attributed to smoking were estimated to be $11 billion, which is far higher than the income from tobacco.

The Canadian Cancer Society surveyed thousands of smokers and over 85% indicated that they wanted to quit and that they only smoked because they were addicted and could not get out of the habit. In 1994 almost 75% of Canadian smokers reported having tried to quit at least once.

What is needed from the government is leadership on the issue. The Minister of Health has taken some small steps to address the crisis of smoking among youth but small steps in the past have not been enough. The government needs to put the health of young children ahead of partisan politics and show some determination. We all must recognize the enormous health risks of tobacco and the true costs of allowing this habit to continue.

Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society and that is why aspects of the bill are so important. The bill would create an educational fund.

Bill C-26 would put a levy on tobacco and put the health of children ahead of everything else. By reducing tobacco caused illnesses and death through prevention, we are helping society as a whole.

Some argue that non-smokers should impose their views on smokers. Perhaps there is some merit in that. However I am arguing for the vulnerable children. Adults are responsible for the protection of children from this kind of harmful activity. The government is the watchdog and the guardian over that which would harm our children. The societal costs of smoking are tremendous.

We cannot forget that children need our protection from harm. They are vulnerable and impressionable. This is why elements of the bill are worth examining. Children are the future and the reason I am supporting the bill. Let us give them a fighting chance.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague from Calgary Southeast indicated, I will be speaking to certain aspects of the bill. One aspect on which I will focus is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the fact that it is retroactively being exempted from large sections of the Financial Administration Act.

The Financial Administration Act is a very thick document that governs and dictates how the government manages its internal finances. A large number of agencies, boards and so on must conform to the Financial Administration Act to ensure their finances are handled appropriately. Why would they not be? However this clause would exempt the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from the FAA.

Also it is backdated to December 31, 1998. I understand from the government it is the old housekeeping rule that somewhere along the line it was originally exempt from the Financial Administration Act. When somebody was doing some drafting of another piece of legislation they inadvertently omitted to keep the exemption there, but it slipped back in, that they were subject to it.

We know there is a fundamental principle that legislation cannot be backdated. It is never retroactive. Why is it in this case? If we go to some particular piece of legislation and read some fine arcane little rule, it says that where the government makes a mistake it can backdate it if it so desires. Do we live in a real democratic country or do we not? That is what it is coming to.

As I mentioned earlier, when we were discussing Bill C-22 and the $125 grant to all Canadians who qualified for the GST tax credit, I questioned the legality of the information being taken from the Income Tax Act. The act guarantees the confidentiality of income tax returns. The government dipped into it just so it could send out cheques for $125. The Income Tax Act does not give the government the legal authority to get the information.

Here again we are having legislation backdated a couple or three years just because somebody did not do their homework properly or inadvertently made a mistake. The net result is that the Liberals are imposing it in the House. They will use their majority. They will bring out the whip. They will lash people into submission, to say this is good stuff. In a democratic country it is not good stuff when they have to backdate legislation. It cannot be.

What is the government actually doing with the backdating of legislation? It is exempting the board from being examined by the Auditor General of Canada, the watchdog of Canadians. What is the AG being prevented from examining? He is being prevented from looking at the $40 billion or more of money Canadians have set aside for their retirement. It is being held in trust by the government and being managed by the particular board. The auditor general cannot, by virtue of the legislation, go in there to take a look and assure Canadians that all is well. The government does not want that. It does not want these kind of questions to be asked.

I say as a Canadian that the people in my riding of St. Albert, and I am sure I speak for all Canadians, would like to know that the pension plan is being managed properly, securely, safely, prudently and so on. They will never know that. They will never be allowed to ask that question because the auditor general will never be allowed to ask that question by virtue of clause 6 in Bill C-17. It is absolutely despicable. Therefore I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Finance for the purpose of reconsidering clause 6 and to consider the desirability of hearing from the Auditor General relating to his concern about the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board”.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise at third reading of Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act.

There are two parts to the bill. I will emphasize the aspects related to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997. My colleague, the chair of the public accounts committee and chief critic for the treasury board, will address the amendments to the Financial Administration Act.

The bill seeks to increase funding for research and development through the Canada foundation for innovation by some $750 million over an undefined period of 10 years. This follows quite logically the remarks I just delivered on Bill C-22 when I discussed at length the irresponsible approach the government was taking to program spending.

I spoke about how in the fiscal year just ended program spending had grown by 7.1%, how the government had overspent its budgeted amount every fiscal year, and how for the next four years the government was estimated to average spending increases of about 5%. I expect it would be substantially more than that.

I also talked about the phenomenon known as March madness where ministers make spending announcements without proper authorization. I talked about how in April 2001, the last month of the fiscal year, we spent some $16 billion or 70% more than the average monthly amount.

This is of relevance to the bill before us. The government is proposing that we authorize an additional $750 million for the Canada foundation for innovation. Let me say at the outset that the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, supports in principle an appropriate and responsible level of funding for research, development and innovation in academia which can be of economic value to the country. We believe government can play an appropriate role in that respect.

However such funding must be limited by the available resources. We are concerned that the $750 million funding envelope has no defined time period or parameters. It is not limited. The government says it may be spent over the next 10 years or so, or perhaps not. That is not a responsible approach. For a spending program like this the government has an obligation to come before us and detail where it expects to come up with the money and in which years and to book the money as spent in each of those fiscal years.

The auditor general has not only criticized the ongoing practice of March madness as inherently inefficient. He has repeatedly criticized the practice of booking future expenditures in one year as the government did with the famous millennium scholarship program and as it is doing now with the Canada foundation for innovation.

This accounting practice would not be accepted in the private sector. The government is ignoring its own rules and the recommendations of the auditor general in the way it is managing the moneys it seeks to authorize through the bill.

Another concern is that the government does not have a clear framework for financing science or research and development. We are dealing with major scientific and R and D projects on a case by case, piecemeal basis. My colleague from Calgary Southwest, our science and technology critic, has made and will continue to make important remarks on the subject. We need very clear criteria for the allocation of money for science, technology, research and development. Throwing the money into a big envelope and saying it will somehow be distributed on an equitable and meaningful basis is not good enough.

How do we adjudicate the relative economic and social value of a cyclotron project in British Columbia versus a nuclear research facility in Ontario versus a research program for astronomy? All these things come before us. Each has merits in and of itself but parliamentarians have no overall objective criteria by which to judge the value of competing R and D demands.

For that reason our party platform proposes that parliament appoint a chief scientist, a position which exists in many other national governments. Such a person would be the principal adviser to both the government and the legislature on scientific questions. He or she could help develop a clear framework to priorize the many competing demands related to R and D, science and technology. This would not require a large or expensive bureaucracy and it would be helpful to have such objective, external advice.

Those are our concerns regarding the first part of the bill. I will briefly outline our concerns regarding the amendments to the Financial Administration Act, concerns my colleague for St. Albert will elaborate further.

The clause seeks to clarify that parliament must provide explicit authority to departments, agencies, boards and commissions of the government in order to incur debt. That is very interesting.

I was briefed on the bill by officials from the Department of Finance who explained that the clause came about because of one of the government's innumerable legislative drafting errors. The error allows the Financial Administration Act to be interpreted in a way that permits departments and agencies to incur debt on their own authority without explicit authorization from parliament delegated to the Minister of Finance.

Over the past couple of years the Department of National Defence has been in a pitched quasi-legal battle with the Department of Finance over this question. The DND has sought independent borrowing authority not delegated by parliament which of course has the power of the purse.

We therefore support the aspect of the amendment regarding borrowing authority. However it begs the question: How can the government consistently bring forth legislation with such significant drafting errors which parliament must then spend valuable legislative time rectifying? That is a serious concern.

In bill after bill, as finance critic, I deal with all sorts of tax amendments which seek to amend errors in bills originally presented by the government. We must accept to a certain extent the bona fides of departmental officials and the government, the ministers who bring these bills to parliament, that they are technically correct. However too often they are not, as in this instance.

The amendment also deals with certain regulations surrounding the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board because of another drafting error. When the government made amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act it forgot to include the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The CPP investment board is therefore subject to intervention by the finance minister. He can go into the CPP investment fund and strip cash out of it, contrary to assurances given at the time of passage of Bill C-2 in the last parliament which created the CPP investment board.

However because of a drafting error the finance minister, contrary to every assurance granted us, can go into the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and fire personnel, trash or write his own business plan, and strip cash out of the fund. This loophole needs to be plugged. It should never have occurred in the first place.

We will therefore be opposing the legislation. We will urge the government to take a much closer look at bills of this nature to ensure they do not create future problems which we must then go back and solve.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address the House today at third reading of Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, including the provision of additional funding to the Canada foundation for innovation, and to amend the Financial Administration Act.

I will begin by discussing the increased funding for the Canada foundation for innovation. The CFI was established in the 1997 budget and remains high on the government's list of funding priorities for university research.

Hon. members will recall that the foundation, an independent corporation operating at arm's length from government, was established to provide support for modernizing research infrastructure at universities, research hospitals and not for profit research institutions in the areas of health, environment, science and engineering.

The 1997 budget provided for an initial upfront federal investment of $800 million. An additional $200 million followed in the 1999 budget. Without the extra funding, the foundation's awards would have ended in 2001.

A further $900 million was subsequently announced in the 2000 budget and support for the CFI was extended until 2005. To date the foundation's activities have been well received by its partners, groups like universities, research hospitals, business, the voluntary sector, individuals and provincial governments also provide funding.

The provinces, for example, strongly support the participation of their research institutions in CFI programs, either by contributing to CFI supported projects or by establishing complementary funding programs of their own. Quebec and Ontario, for example, provide matching funds for CFI awards.

The CFI provides up to 40% of funding to support research infrastructure projects, all of which helps universities and research hospitals acquire the laboratories and equipment they need for state of the art research.

So far the CFI has supported 95 research organizations across Canada, including 65 universities, 18 colleges and 12 research hospitals. Bill C-17 legislates an additional $1.25 billion in funding in 2000-01 to the Canada foundation for innovation and extends its activities to the year 2010. The amount includes $500 million from the October 2000 economic statement and budget update, and a further $750 million that was announced on March 6 by the Ministers of Finance and Industry.

The $500 million announced in last October's economic statement will be invested in two ways. First, $400 million will allow the foundation to contribute to the operating costs of new awards. The remaining $100 million will help support the participation of Canadian researchers in leading edge international research projects and facilities that offer significant research benefits to Canada.

The additional $750 million announced in March for the CFI will build on this funding by providing additional stability to universities as they plan their future research priorities.

The CFI needs the additional funding to help it support the operating costs of new awards and the participation of Canadian researchers in international research projects. Further, additional funding for the CFI would help the federal government to reach its goal of at least doubling its current investment in R and D by the year 2010, a commitment that was made in the Speech from the Throne in January.

Bill C-17 also amends the Financial Administration Act. It is a statute that encompasses the financial administration of the Government of Canada, the establishment and maintenance of its accounts, and the control of crown corporations. The act also sets out the statutory framework under which the government can borrow money.

Bill C-17 would improve the operation of the Financial Administration Act. It would reinstate the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board as one of the crown corporations exempted from divisions I to IV of part X of the Financial Administration Act. The exemption would protect the independence of the board while the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board legislation would provide a strong accountability regime.

Amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act in 1998 inadvertently deleted the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act, meaning that the board was subject to various crown corporation control provisions under the Financial Administration Act, which put it in conflict with its own mandate. Clearly it was neither wanted nor intended and Bill C-17 would correct that error. This change would be retroactive to December 1998 to ensure that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board had always operated within the laws of Canada.

The second amendment reinforces the authority of parliament over any borrowing by or on behalf of the crown. It provides for greater certainty that it is parliament that must specifically authorize borrowings made on behalf of Canada.

The measure would also provide clarification and consistency respecting the role of the Minister of Finance ensuring appropriate management of government indebtedness. Bill C-17 would ensure that all borrowings, not just the borrowing of money, are subject to the supervision by the Minister of Finance.

In closing, the amendments to the Financial Administration Act would improve its operation. The changes to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 that would provide additional funding to the Canada foundation for innovation and extend its activities to the year 2010 are consistent with the government's commitment to at least doubling its current investment in R and D by the year 2010.

The Canada foundation for innovation is deserving of this increased funding so that it can continue to promote research in Canada and inspire young new Canadian researchers.

I know that my colleagues in the House support investment in education, research and innovation. I encourage them to pass the legislation later this day.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 14th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act, be read the third time and passed.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

May 10th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is the first opportunity I have had to respond to the hon. member in that capacity. Let me begin by congratulating her on the position she holds.

This afternoon we will continue consideration of Bill S-11, followed by Bill S-16 respecting money laundering. As a matter of fact the debate on Bill S-11 may have collapsed just before question period. That means we will start with Bill S-16 respecting money laundering, followed by Bill C-14, the shipping legislation. Afterward, if there is any time left, we will resume debate on Bill C-10 regarding marine parks.

On Friday we will begin consideration of Bill C-22 respecting income tax amendments at report stage and third reading. We will then return to the list I have just described should we not have completed Bill C-14, Bill C-10 or Bill S-16, for that matter.

On Monday next, if necessary, we will resume consideration of Bill C-22, followed by Bill C-17, the innovation foundation bill, at third reading. We will then return to the list that I described a while ago.

On Tuesday it is my hope that we will be able to commence and hopefully complete the third reading of Bill C-26, the tobacco taxation bill, as well as the second reading of Bill C-15, the criminal code.

Next Wednesday it is my intention to call Bill C-7, the youth justice bill at report stage. We also hope to deal next week with Bill S-3 respecting motor vehicles, Bill C-11, the immigration legislation, if reported, and Bill C-24, organized crime. As well there has been some discussion among political parties and hopefully we can deal with Bill S-24 respecting the aboriginal community of Kanesatake at all stages in the House of Commons, provided that it has been reported to the House from the other place.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the report stage of Bill C-17.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on Motion No. 1, which was negatived on the following division:)

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill again and clear some of the way for the industry committee. Between the industry and transport committees, we have been extremely busy in the last while. One would hope that we do not neglect parts of these bills that are not truly addressing the needs of Canadians.

I would like to give a refresher on the bill for those who are listening. We are debating Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act. This too is an omnibus bill introduced by the government to increase the grant to the Canada Foundation for Innovation by $750 million.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation is a government agency that gives grants to the public and not for profit research institutions, such as universities and hospitals, to finance acquisition and the development of research infrastructure. This part of the bill is extremely credible. There is no question that there is a need to invest in research and technology and post-secondary institutions. Our party supports that part of the bill.

Some concern was raised in committee, when discussions were taking place, that there should be more accountability as to the way the money given to the Canada Foundation for Innovation works its way through the system. We need more accountability. The auditor general gave some indication that he would have preferred to see things looked at more thoroughly. However, it is important that we do invest and that we see the dollars go to the foundation.

I want to emphasize at this point that, although it is extremely important that we see investment in this area, we need to recognize that there has been a serious lack of support on the part of the present government in the funding of students attending post-secondary institutions within Canada. As a result, a number of students, who attend university to take advantage of all the wonderful research and technology that is available to them, have huge debtloads. We need a balance here. The government has failed to meet the needs of students attending post-secondary institutions.

The second part of the bill deals with the closing up of loopholes. There are two amendments to the Financial Administration Act. The first amendment closes a loophole that allows government departments, agencies and non-exempt crown corporations to effectively borrow without the approval of the Minister of Finance.

One of the core principles of the Financial Administration Act is that departments, agencies and non-exempt crown corporations must get the finance minister's approval before any borrowing. This way the finance minister is ultimately accountable for any debt taken on by any branch of the federal government. Some departments were able to get around this requirement by taking on financial obligations that did not fall under the current definition of borrowing, such as lease agreements, and therefore did not need the finance minister's approval. Bill C-17 addresses that issue. In that sense, this is a very good part of the bill.

However, our party does not support the amendment dealing with the Canada pension plan board that exempts it from accountability and that does not allow parliament to have a say over investments that it would be making. I believe very strongly that Canadians do not want their pension plan dollars invested in just anything. Parliament needs to make sure that investment of Canada pension plan dollars would not be going into things such as tobacco companies. We are fighting a war against smoking and we are trying to discourage people from smoking.

Should we be seeing the investment of Canada pension plan dollars in tobacco companies? Should we be seeing the investment of Canada pension plan dollars in companies that use sweat shops or have terrible human rights violations in other countries? I do not want to see my dollars invested that way. I am very comfortable in saying that the majority of Canadians do not want that either. They do not want their Canada pension plan dollars going into sweat shops or into businesses outside of Canada or, for that matter, within Canada because we are not above having sweat shops either.

There are situations in Canada that do not meet ideal labour conditions or human rights standards. Those places exist in Canada as well, but we do not have the kind of control offshore that we should have within Canada. Canadians do not want to see their dollars invested in those kinds of operations. Because they are Canada pension plan dollars, parliament should have a say over the way the investments are handled. That has been a serious issue with our party, the people who support us, and Canadians as well.

The suggested amendment to the bill may try to increase the accountability of the pension plan board, but I am not convinced that it would. Our party will not be supporting the bill because there is no parliamentary oversight by the Canadian pension plan board. The board, by the way, has been more or less appointed by the governing side of the House. It does not ensure that it truly identifies with the entire population of the country.

There are very good parts to the bill such as the dollars that would be invested into research and development through the Canada foundation for innovation. If the amendment should happen to make its way we would be support that amendment as well.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the amendment put forward at the report stage of the bill is of such a nature as to satisfy numerous criticisms from various people in connection with accountability and improves the act. I would however like to speak about the reasons why we are opposed to Bill C-17, even with the amendments.

Understandably, everyone is in favour of supporting research and development, and innovation. I sit on the standing committee on industry and as the matter progresses, we begin to wonder if there is not something other than a financial strategy behind the funding of R and D efforts.

At this time it seems to me that there is one aspect that is totally lacking. For example, there are the post-secondary institutions, which are key figures in R and D support and in the training of the people involved in it. The bulk of the funding for post-secondary institutions, which are administered by the provinces, comes from the provinces, but of course there are federal transfer payments for post-secondary education.

All the additional funding since we have moved from a context of zero deficit to a context of surplus has been via initiatives such as the budgets allocated to bodies outside the government, such as the foundation. Non-governmental structures are being created in various fields and then they are given funding.

On the one hand, the government is putting money into human genome research, which is desirable, praiseworthy and correct. Yet there is one essential key element that must not be lost sight of: the funding of basic services and the necessity to increase the budget for transfer payments to the provinces, which in turn have to increase their budgets for post-secondary education accordingly. This is where the first problem with basic activities lies.

There is a second one as well. I have had the opportunity to mention it several times in a parliamentary committee and I once again want to make my message very clear to the government. There is another shortfall in terms of research and development and I am talking about the indirect costs related to the need for post-secondary institutions to submit projects and funding proposals to the Canada foundation for innovation or granting councils. For instance, universities have to pay additional indirect costs related to these proposals while their core budgets remain relatively stable. There have been cuts, but now their budgets are stable and have not been adjusted accordingly.

I understand part of the government's reasoning on this; although I do not agree with it, I understand the logic of it. It believes that this money is not as visible as direct investments in granting councils or agencies like the foundation. These investments are also necessary, extremely important and a top priority at this time. We have to stop thinking in terms of politics and start thinking about efficiency.

One fact remains: we have to be more open about the investment objectives set for research and development. There is no problem with setting a target and saying that investments in research and development will double over the next ten years, but our priorities need to be defined more clearly. If such a vision does exist, it should be more transparent.

The auditor general himself has, on several occasions, criticized the fact that there seemed to be a problem in terms of follow-up, as well as a lack of transparency with regard to R and D investments.

We sense that there is some kind of agenda because huge sums are being invested in this area, but effectiveness should not be measured merely by the amount of money invested. In this case, the bill will authorize an extra $750 million for the foundation on top of the $500 million announced last fall and on top of previous measures. This is a lot of money.

I am convinced that all these people do commendable work. In most cases there are peer review panels where people from the scientific community play a very important role in the selection of projects. However, there is a certain amount of criticism regarding the overall strategy and also regarding the ability of small universities, those located in less populated areas outside the large urban centres, to compete with larger universities. This kind of criticism cannot be ignored.

As a member representing a region, I know what this means in practical terms. We know the importance of post-secondary institutions and of their ability to generate research and economic activity in our communities. A post-secondary institution is an extremely important tool for the economic development of a community. It is also a tool for social development because research is not limited to the economy, but also takes in social and other fields.

Nor must we forget basic research, which is extremely important in increasing our knowledge in all fields. This requires research which is more basic. Educational institutions are far more oriented toward basic research than private companies often are even though it is in their interest and certain companies are very good at it. Unfortunately, they are all too rare because we have a problem here.

The research and development efforts of private companies are not what they should be, with the result that there are often problems of competitiveness which are not solely due to public under-investment in research and development.

The approach needs to be rethought in order to ensure that private sector stakeholders do more and are more aware. There is perhaps also a message here that small companies have trouble qualifying for government programs, which are often geared more toward supporting the research and development efforts of big business.

There are therefore concerns for small communities. There are also concerns for small businesses which often have some very clever individuals. We should make better use of them in order to improve our research and development efforts and bring about innovation.

We are far from being opposed to a research and development timetable, but we do not like it when political objectives take centre stage and funding does not proceed according to a timetable readily understandable to everyone, while at the same time, a very important aspect, that of basic funding through transfer payment programs, is being neglected.

As for the other provisions of Bill C-17 and the amendment moved, the latter will likely set to rest a number of fears expressed by other opposition parties at second reading and in committee. We do not have much to add on this particular amendment.

There is one aspect of the bill which leaves us basically unsatisfied however. Although the amendment is positive in nature it does not change the essence of the bill, nor will it change our position.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Albert exaggerates the case when he talks about a broad exemption. We debated that at committee just yesterday.

The amendment proposed to Bill C-17 by the hon. member would mean that sections 131 to 154 of the Financial Administration Act would apply to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. This was not intended when the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act was passed by parliament in 1997.

Amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act in 1998 inadvertently removed the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act, a change which made the board subject to various crown corporation control provisions under the FAA. The error put it in conflict with its mandate to operate at arm's length from government, a result which was neither wanted nor intended.

The objective of Bill C-17 is to reinstate the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board as one of the crown corporations exempted from divisions I to IV of the Financial Administration Act. This was the intent of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and of parliament in the first place.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was created through federal-provincial agreement to operate at arm's length from government. Its legislated mandate and sole objective is to maximize returns for CPP contributors and beneficiaries without undue risk of loss.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has been structured with great care to ensure independence from political interference. At the same time, the board's own legislation contains strong accountability provisions. The board makes its quarterly reports public and is required to submit its annual reports to parliament. The board is also required to hold public meetings at least every two years in participating provinces.

The auditor general is responsible for auditing the financial statements of the Canada pension plan as a whole. The auditor general has access to whatever information from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board he or she considers necessary to audit the Canada pension plan.

In a 1997 letter to the finance committee chair Mr. Desautels indicated he was satisfied with audit and access provisions for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, information that is contained in the Canada pension plan legislation. For these reasons I urge members to vote against the amendment we discussed yesterday in committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-17, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing lines 14 to 22 on page 3 with the following:

“6. (1) Section 85 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

(1.1) Sections 89 to 130.2 and 153 and 154 do not apply to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to my motion, which is a fairly simple motion regarding a fairly simple bill. Bill C-17 is only about four or five pages long, but it is the last two paragraphs I had a problem with. They are the only two paragraphs in the bill that deal specifically with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. A clause in Bill C-17 asks for broad exemptions in the Financial Administration Act for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

While we agree with exemptions that would allow the board to act more as a private organization, we take serious exception to the fact that Bill C-17 would prevent the auditor general from looking at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

I raised this issue at committee the other day and I introduced an amendment, as hon. members are aware, that the auditor general be allowed to examine the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board if he or she so desires and to be the auditor of the plan if he or she so desires.

The genesis of this clause is that it was inadvertently omitted when we last amended the Financial Administration Act and an exemption that had been granted the board was inadvertently re-introduced. Now the government wants to put the exemption back in place and exempt the board from the Financial Administration Act.

I want to ensure that the auditor general has the opportunity to look at the plan. The reason I put the motion forward on the floor of the House is that when I went to committee we had a debate about whether the auditor general wanted to be involved in auditing the plan. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that it was no problem to the auditor general in 1998 and that the auditor general had said that there was no problem, that he agreed with the amendment and that everything was fine.

However I am a bit concerned that everything is perhaps not fine and that the auditor general did have serious concerns about being prevented from auditing the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

We are talking, first, about a $40 billion amount which is growing. We are talking about an investment plan that is there for all Canadians. We are talking about money that is paid by all employed Canadians and held in trust by the government to be repaid to them during their retirement years. We are talking about a lot of money.

We need a lot more supervision than a financial statement addressed by an auditor once a year to the Minister of Finance. Canadians need to know that the watchdog of parliament, the auditor general, if he or she so desires, has the opportunity to do a value for money audit on the board. That is what my motion intends to achieve. It is more narrowly drafted than the one I presented at committee but it is absolutely mandatory.

We heard the Prime Minister talk today about parliamentary reform, openness and transparency. All I am asking is that the auditor general have the opportunity, if he or she so desires, to look at this plan. Is that too much to ask? I do not think so. I do not think any Canadian would want it any other way. That is what I am arguing for. I am not asking for a change in legislation. I am not asking for a change in the way the board does its business. I am not asking for any change other than some accountability on behalf of the board that holds $40 billion of taxpayer money. I am asking that it ensure Canadians are satisfied that their money is well managed and is held in trust appropriately on their behalf. That is all we are asking for.

At committee I asked that the auditor general come in. Other members said no, that they had a letter and that everything was fine. We moved to clause by clause and then it was too late for the auditor general to speak at committee.

Although I do not have definitive proof, I believe that the auditor general, when it was debated in 1998, had fairly serious concerns about his inability to audit the plan. A compromise was reached because the government in essence held a gun to his head and told him it was all he would get.

That is not fair to Canadians. We must let the auditor general be the watchdog on behalf of all Canadians. We must give him the opportunity to audit the plan. In that way the government and Canadians can be assured the plan is managed appropriately and in the best interest of all Canadians. I ask all members and parties in the House to recognize the importance of the amendment and to support it.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act.

Motion No. 1 will debated and put to a vote.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

May 7th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate today in debate on Bill C-15, an act to amend the criminal code and to amend other acts. When the bill was first introduced almost two months ago, one of my new colleagues asked “Animal cruelty, child pornography, and firearms, what do any of these issues have to do with one another?” and said he did not understand why they would all be put in one bill.

While past practice has often demonstrated that logic is not essential to the legislative process or for the legislative provisions themselves, there is a clear logic to grouping together the diverse provisions of this bill. It is a Machiavellian logic motivated by the politics of cynicism. It is a logic that raises the spectre of the worst of the American legislative process.

It is a logic that attempts to coerce agreement from opposition parties by requiring their consent to a political agenda of flawed partisan legislation as a precondition to the enactment of legislation widely recognized as necessary for the protection of the most vulnerable in our society. How else can one logically explain, for example, the coupling of the provisions seeking to amend the fundamentally flawed legislation concerning the billion dollar long gun registry failure with provisions that seek to protect our children from sexual predators?

This omnibus bill is a deliberate and cynical attempt to curtail any substantive debate on the flaws of the political agenda evident in the long gun registry provisions and to require members either to accept legislation that our constituents fundamentally disagree with or to vote against legislation that our constituents would never want to oppose, such as laws aimed at protecting children.

There is no question that there are some good provisions in the bill. Most important, the legislation contains long overdue laws against luring children over the Internet for the purposes of committing a sexual offence. I commend these initial efforts to protect children from criminals using the Internet.

The Canadian Alliance has consistently called for legislation to protect children from those who keep finding ways to prey on their vulnerability. Law enforcement agencies and child care agencies regularly advise the public through the media or otherwise that predators frequently use the Internet, mask their identities and pretend to be children or young adults in order to lure children into a situation where they could be sexually abused. These situations are becoming more common and I am relieved to see that the government has finally recognized the great need to amend the law. It is a good first step, at any rate.

However, I have serious doubts whether the legislation, which attempts to provide protection to children from sexual predators, will be either effective or sufficiently broad. The same government that has to date failed to create an effective national sex offender registry now wants us to believe it can keep track of the criminals who lure children over the Internet or who deal in child pornography. Why should we believe that it would follow through with effective measures that enforce the legislation?

Furthermore, these provisions would only provide legislative protection for children who are less than 14 years of age. Canadians would be shocked to learn that even under this legislation an adult could lure a 14 year old girl or a 14 year old boy over the Internet with no legal consequences. Parents and children deserve a greater measure of assistance and protection from these predators.

I agree with those law enforcement and child care agencies that recommend that the law set out for child luring should be extended to all children under the age of 16. This way parents and other concerned authorities would have some legal recourse to protect children of 14 and 15 years of age who fall prey to sexual predators they encounter over the Internet.

There are also new offences set out for transmitting, accessing or distributing child pornography over the Internet, punishable by a maximum of 10 years. This is a laudable goal, but I would be interested in being advised of the practical difficulties involved with these kinds of investigations and prosecutions in order to determine whether these legislative proposals meet those very real concerns.

Similarly, I would like to point out that in Bill C-15, although there are provisions for substantial maximum sentences for accessing child pornography, luring children for sexual purposes, animal cruelty, criminal harassment and a variety of other offences, the legislation will be ineffective if judges will not impose appropriate sentences.

When maximum sentences are increased it is rare to see a proportionate increase in sentences, as many judges simply ignore the direction signalled by parliament when it enacts these changes in legislation. Not only do the appeal courts appear to be reluctant to establish sentencing ranges that are proportionate to the crime committed and the legislative penalty provided, there is a corresponding reluctance on the part of the government to send clear, legislative directions to the courts that the sentences imposed on many serious and repeat offenders are simply inadequate.

This apparent reluctance on the part of the government is compounded by the imposition of new and fundamentally misleading sentencing tools that encourage the pretence that offenders are in fact imprisoned, while the truth is that they are free to exploit more victims in our communities.

I refer of course to the practice of authorizing and imposing conditional sentences. As crown attorneys continue to advise, the enforcement of breeches of these conditional sentences are increasingly rare because of the lack of adequate resources to apply these very complex provisions. Then the failure to provide the appropriate resources fulfils another political agenda of the Liberal government to make it appear that these sentencing provisions are in fact working because there are so few reported breeches.

Accordingly, unless the government takes the necessary steps to implement effective and truthful sentencing in the Canadian justice system, these important child protection provisions in the bill will simply be another example of the failure of our laws to protect the vulnerable in our society.

In terms of the animal cruelty sections of the bill, I am aware that the government has made certain changes from the previously proposed legislation, Bill C-17. However there are still significant concerns that many organizations, businesses and individuals have in respect of these provisions.

I know that some of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance will go into further detail on many of these issues, but I would also like to touch briefly on the issue on behalf of the various groups that took the time to contact me personally to raise their concerns. These groups included the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the Ontario Veal Association and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

These organizations have consistently said that they welcome amendments to the criminal code that would clarify and strengthen provisions relating to animal cruelty and that they do not condone intentional animal abuse or neglect in any way. Many of these groups support the intent of the bill as its objective is to modernize the law and increase penalties for offences relating to animal cruelty and neglect. However, despite the minor improvements to this legislation, they advise that this bill requires significant amendments before it becomes acceptable to the vast majority of hunters and farmers, many of whom are dependent on the harvesting and husbandry of animals for their livelihood.

One of the central concerns with the bill is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The phrase “legal justification, excuse or colour of right” in subsection 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection to those who commit any kind of property offence. However in the new bill, the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would effectively remove these provisions outside the ambit of that protection.

Moving the animal cruelty sections out of the ambit of property offences to a new section in its own right is also seen by many as emphasizing animal rights as opposed to animal welfare. This significant alteration in the underlying principles of the legislation is something that needs to be carefully considered. These groups are concerned that elevating the status of animals from property could in fact have significant and detrimental implications for many legitimate animal dependent businesses.

Another major and very serious concern is that the definition of animal is too broad, subjective and ambiguous. The proposed definition of animal in Bill C-15 includes non-human vertebrates and all animals having the capacity to feel pain. This definition marks a significant departure by providing protection for an extremely wide range of living organisms which have never before been afforded this kind of legal protection.

In terms of practical difficulties, this definition as worded could cause potentially enormous problems by extending the criminal law to invertebrates, cold blooded species such as fish, as well as the extremely wide variety of other types of both domestic and wild animals.

In her speech last Thursday, the justice minister assured us that what was lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill received royal assent. She promised the House that these changes would not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming or medical and scientific research.

Her statement was at the same time self-evident, but also misleading. Of course the new provisions would not prevent legitimate activities from being carried out. The law only prescribes illegal activities. The problem is, and therefore the concern, that these new provisions would arguably narrow the scope of what constitutes legitimate activities by increasing the scope of this provision.

If it is not the minister's intent to prohibit the presently acceptable and legitimate activities in Canadian agricultural or fur industries, I would suggest that the wording of the legislation be amended to clarify the intent of these provisions. If it is not amended, I and many of my colleagues will have a very difficult time supporting the bill.

The riding of Provencher, which I have the honour to represent, is primarily a rural riding. The farmers and hunters and other businesses associated with those activities have enough to worry about these days without having to wonder if they are going to be criminalized for practices they have been carrying out their entire lives. I have the option of voting against the bill on the basis that farmers and others who use animals legitimately have voiced reasonable and serious concerns regarding the implications the bill would present. However, in this case I would also be voting against new laws to protect children.

It is a difficult situation and one of which I am certain will be exploited by the Liberals for crass political advantage. It is truly unfortunate that the minister is asking us to consider provisions that deal with the lives of children in the same context with provisions that impose conditions on how farmers and hunters and related businesses should handle animals.

There is no legal requirement to proceed to weigh the merits of this bill on the basis of such inappropriate relative comparison. It demeans the value of human life and at the same time prevents the House from fully considering the impact of the animal cruelty provisions on the economic circumstances of many rural people of Canada.

Bill C-15 contains a number of good things. As I have said, it contains updated legislation to protect children to some extent from sexual predators on the Internet. It would make viewing, transmitting and distributing child pornography over the Internet an offence punishable by up to 10 years.

More important, the bill would increase protection for police by creating the new offence of disarming a police officer. The bill outlines reforms to rules governing criminal procedure. These are procedural reforms that are long overdue. Much of this legislation in the bill is in fact badly needed. The opposition has been calling for these provisions for years. Personally, I am relieved to see that the measures are being finally introduced.

As I have said before, I would like to support the bill. The bill presents a very difficult situation. I am disappointed that the government would put such diverse and I would argue completely unrelated issues in the same bill. As I stated earlier, I see this approach to lawmaking as a blatant and cynical political move on the part of the Liberal government to force flawed legislation through the House. More important, it shows a callous disregard to the constituents who have asked us to serve their best interest in the House.

I would ask the minister to consider introducing a motion to split this legislative package into several bills. That would remove the provisions that have a broad base of support in the House so that those provisions could be fast tracked and proclaimed. We saw an example of that this morning with Bill S-4.

Members in the House are willing to co-operate. I believe that on many provisions there is broad if not unanimous consensus in the House to move them forward. The technique of bringing forward a motion to split the bill would accommodate the need to move those provisions that do have that broad consensus, while subjecting the others to a more rigorous debate and, I suggest, to better legislation. If need be, I am prepared to sit down with representatives from all parties to facilitate that discussion.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 4th, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan—King—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, during the last parliament the Standing Committee on Finance tabled a report entitled “Challenge for Change. A Study of Cost Recovery”.

Parliament was dissolved before the government was able to provide a comprehensive response to that committee pursuant to Standing Order 109. For that reason I have the honour to present the fourth report which restates the committee's request.

I also have the honour to present the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance regarding its order of reference of Monday, April 23, in relation to Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, and the Financial Administration Act.

The committee has considered Bill C-17 and reports the bill without amendment.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin second reading debate on Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts.

As omnibus bills before it, Bill C-15 has a number of diverse elements. Most recently we have seen examples of omnibus bills: Bill C-51 in 1999, Bill C-17 in 1996 and Bill C-42 in 1994. These examples demonstrate that the practice of introducing criminal amendments through an omnibus bill is a longstanding practice and one that has served the criminal justice system well.

The amendments proposed in the criminal law amendment act, 2001 respond to serious crimes against children and other vulnerable members of society, provide additional safeguards for the law enforcement community, strengthen our laws concerning cruelty to animals, make administrative and procedural improvements to the justice system, and make administrative amendments to the Firearms Act.

First I will deal with the proposed amendments to better protect our children. The provisions that deal with protecting children respond to the government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne to safeguard children from criminals on the Internet and to ensure that children are protected from those who would prey upon their vulnerability. They also respond to a consensus of ministers responsible for justice at the last FPT meeting to create an offence of Internet luring.

The Internet is a new technology that can be used to stimulate the communication of ideas and facilitate research, but, as with any instrument, when placed in the wrong hands it can be used for ill and to cause harm. Canadians will not tolerate a situation where individuals, from the safety and secrecy of their house, use the anonymity of the Internet to lure children into situations where they can be exploited sexually.

The new offence seeks to address what has been reported as a growing phenomenon not only in our country but globally. It criminalizes communicating through a computer system for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against a child or the abduction of a child.

We also want to ensure that those who view, or transmit child pornography to others, will not escape criminal liability by using new technologies.

We will extend the scope of current child pornography offences to make it clearer that actions that constitute an offence when committed with traditional means remain an offence when committed with electronic means.

Bill C-15 seeks to create four new offences: an offence of transmitting child pornography to cover one to one distribution, such as e-mail sent to one person only; an offence of making child pornography available to cover those who post child pornography on a publicly accessible website but take no other steps to distribute it; an offence of exporting child pornography to meet our international obligation; and an offence of accessing child pornography to capture those who intentionally view child pornography on the net but where the legal notion of possession may be problematic. The offence is defined to ensure that inadvertent viewing would not be caught under this offence.

I will now turn to three other proposed measures to better protect vulnerable Canadians. The first measure I wish to mention is the offence of criminal harassment, or stalking as it is sometimes referred to. This is a serious offence that can have a devastating effect upon the emotional and physical well-being of the victim.

In Bill C-15, this government is taking strong measures to ensure that the criminal justice system treats criminal harassment as the serious offence that we know it to be.

The government's response to this issue is twofold: first, to strengthen the existing legislation; and, second, to strengthen enforcement of the law through comprehensive guidelines for criminal justice personnel on criminal harassment.

Bill C-15 responds to our first commitment by proposing to increase the maximum penalty for criminal harassment when prosecuted on indictment from five to ten years. This sends a strong signal to would-be stalkers. Criminal harassment is a serious offence and its sentence would now better reflect this serious nature.

With respect to our second commitment relating to enhancing the enforcement of the criminal harassment provisions, I am pleased to note that together with our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts a handbook for police and crown prosecutors on criminal harassment was developed and released in December 1999. The handbook provides a practical set of guidelines for criminal justice personnel on all aspects of a criminal harassment case, including victim safety.

I now wish to address the difficult issue of home invasions, one that has been raised by a number of my colleagues on all sides of the House. The term home invasion is generally used to describe a robbery or break and enter of a private residence when the perpetrator forces entry while the occupants are at home, and this is key, and the perpetrator threatens to use or does use violence against the occupants.

The proposed amendment to the criminal code would indicate that where the offender's conduct was in the nature of a home invasion the court must consider this to be an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed. Such an amendment would provide clear direction to the courts and would express parliament's view that home invasion is a grave form of criminal conduct which must be dealt with appropriately during the sentencing process.

Another important measure proposed in Bill C-15 is the new offence of disarming or attempting to disarm a peace officer. This new offence would apply to anyone who tries to take away an officer's weapon when the officer is acting in the course of his or her duties. It is proposed that this new offence carry a maximum penalty of five years to reflect the seriousness of the offence and to send a clear message that taking or attempting to take a police officer's weapon would not be tolerated. The safety of police officers is a priority for the government.

The criminal law amendment act, 2001, would revive amendments introduced in the last parliament dealing with cruelty to animals. The proposed reforms have two primary objectives: to simplify and better organize the existing laws and to enhance the penalties for animal cruelty.

In particular we are increasing the penalties for animal cruelty offences with the highest penalty being five years in prison, up from the current maximum of six months. We would eliminate the current limit of two years maximum duration for an order prohibiting the offender from possessing animals and would include a new power for the court to order as part of a sentence that the offender repay to a humane society the reasonable costs associated with the care of the animal.

I would like to make clear this afternoon that these changes do not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, or medical and scientific research. These are regulated activities subject to specific technical rules and regulations and codes of practice. The criminal law is not being used to establish or modify industry standards but rather to prohibit conduct that is grossly unacceptable. Simply put, what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent.

The law already requires that we treat animals humanely and with respect. These amendments would ensure that the law can adequately deal with those who would wilfully abuse animals. I believe that all members of the House can support this principle. There is no subject on which I receive more mail from Canadians on a weekly basis than on the question of modernizing our laws in relation to cruelty to animals.

I would like to speak now in relation to the proposed amendments concerning firearms. The Canadian firearms program is an example of the preventive approach our government takes to public safety. Moreover, the program is already achieving higher levels of public safety for all Canadians and the facts demonstrate it.

Since December 1, 1998, more than 3,000 licences have been refused or revoked by public safety authorities. The number of revocations is 26 times higher than the total of the five previous years. Overall the licensing compliance rate in Canada is now over 90%.

However, we have learned from the licensing experience. We have also listened to the concerns of gun owners and other Canadians about program efficiency and client service. We are proposing administrative changes to facilitate the registration process and to continue to ensure a high level of service to clients. These administrative changes do not affect the deadline of January 1, 2003, for registration of all firearms nor the government's commitment to public safety.

We are responding to the needs and wishes of Canadians and firearms owners by proposing changes that will make the program more user friendly, more cost efficient and client oriented. We will design a more streamlined system by simplifying the licence renewal process, by redesigning the registration process and by making better use of new and emerging Internet technology, for example, by allowing for registration of firearms online. We also intend to improve efficiency and reduce costs, for example, by staggering firearms licence renewals to avoid a surge of applications in five year cycles.

With these amendments, we will reach a balance between the interests of responsible firearms owners and our shared objective of public safety.

The efficiency of any criminal justice system depends upon its ability to protect the innocent while bringing those who are guilty of crime to justice. Despite all the precautions that our justice system takes to avoid the conviction of an innocent person, no system is infallible. Wrongful convictions can occur and regrettably have occurred in the past. The names Donald Marshall, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin make my point.

In such cases our entire justice system finds itself in disrepute. That is why Bill C-15 includes important improvements to section 690 of the criminal code, the conviction review process. It is a final safety net for those who are the victims of wrongful conviction.

In October 1998 we released a public consultation paper seeking submissions on how our conviction review process could be improved. The consultations informed the measures now found in Bill C-15.

The ultimate decision making authority in criminal conviction reviews will remain with the federal Minister of Justice, who is accountable to parliament and to the people of Canada. The Minister of Justice can recognize and maintain the traditional jurisdiction of the courts while providing a fair and just remedy in those exceptional cases that have somehow fallen through the cracks of the conventional justice system.

However, maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option. Therefore the amendments to section 690 will provide investigative powers to those investigating cases on behalf of the Minister of Justice. This will allow investigators to compel witnesses to testify and documents to be produced.

In order to make the conviction review process more open and accountable, ministers of justice will now be required to provide an annual report to parliament and a website will be created to give applicants information on the process.

I believe that these amendments are the most efficient and effective way to improve the post-appellant extrajudicial conviction review process in Canada.

Let me turn briefly to the area of criminal procedure reform. The Department of Justice has been working closely with the provinces and territories on criminal procedure reform for some years. This work is now in its third phase.

The objectives of phase three are to simplify trial procedure, modernize the criminal justice system and enhance its efficiency through the increased use of technology, better protect victims and witnesses in criminal trials, and provide speedy trials in accordance with charter requirements.

We are trying to bring criminal procedure into the 21st century. This phase reflects our efforts to modernize our procedure without in any way reducing the measure of justice provided by the system.

As I said at the outset, the provinces and territories support these reforms. As they are responsible for the administration of justice, I believe that we should do our best to give them the tools they need to ensure the efficient and effective operation of the criminal justice system.

In conclusion, I am sure the standing committee will give Bill C-15 its usual thorough review and examination. I believe it contains a number of important improvements to the criminal justice system and measures that will contribute to the protection and safety of all Canadians. I call on all members of the House to support the bill.

With consent, I would move that the debate on Bill C-15 do now adjourn.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

May 3rd, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my opposition counterpart for this excellent question.

This afternoon we will continue with Bill C-6, the water export bill. If this business is finished earlier than the end of the day, which I understand it might be, I would then propose to call Bill C-15, the criminal code amendment. If that is the case, I would ask for the minister and the official opposition to speak. After that, I would adjourn the debate and we would not proceed further.

I want to take this opportunity to indicate that it had been my original intention to call this bill last Monday. However I was informed that the text I had and the text that was provided to other hon. members was not the same. I apologize for the differences that appeared in the texts. It is my intention to at least start Bill C-15 this afternoon. I will get back to the next time we will consider Bill C-15 in a moment.

Tomorrow there has been an all party agreement to consider Bill S-5, the legislation regarding the Blue Water Bridge, at all stages.

We would then deal with Bill S-2 respecting marine liability. That would probably be the end of the consideration of legislation for tomorrow. As a matter of fact I do not propose calling anything else given the progress today.

There has also been similar all party agreement to consider Bill S-4 regarding civil harmonization of civil law at all stages on Monday. We would do second reading stage and by unanimous consent the bill would go to committee of the whole and subsequently third reading all in the same day. This would be followed by Bill C-15, which we will start later this afternoon pursuant to the remarks I just made.

After question period on Monday, regardless of the progress, I would propose to call Bill S-17, the patent legislation. Tuesday shall be an opposition day.

Next Wednesday and Thursday we will be looking at cleaning up any leftover legislation that I have just described and also adding: Bill C-17, the innovation foundation bill; Bill S-11, the business corporation bill; Bill S-16, respecting money laundering; and Bill C-14, the shipping act amendments to the list of matters that may come up.

I will also be speaking to other House leaders about arranging early consideration, and hopefully we can do that now, about Bill C-7, the youth justice bill, given that the committee has now concluded its consideration of this bill.

This is the program I offer to the House for the upcoming week. I thank hon. members on all sides of the House for their usual co-operation.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2001 / 7:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find consent to apply the vote just taken on Bill C-17 to Bill C-22 and to Bill C-4.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2001 / 7 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-17.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 5th, 2001 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak to Bill C-17. My colleague from the NDP quite rightly pointed out that a lot of things are wrong with the bill. We agree with many of the issues she raised today.

She said the bill was anti-democratic. I will make this observation. My colleague from Elk Island spoke prior to her. He addressed his concerns about the bill. Due to a mix up he thought he had 20 minutes to speak but he did not. As he did not have time to make all his points he asked for unanimous consent to be allowed to do so. Members from the government side refused.

What is the government afraid of? This is the house of democracy. The Liberals should let people speak. They are the governing party. They should show by example what is democracy. For the Liberals to deny my colleague his right to speak indicates they are afraid of something. They are afraid we will be able to show what is glaringly wrong. They are afraid of this coming out.

As my colleague from the NDP stated very clearly, the bill is anti-democratic because it has two parts, the Budget Implementation Act and the Financial Administration Act. She rightly pointed that it creates a problem for the opposition as to what it should support.

In reference to the Canada foundation for innovation, let me quote the Canadian Alliance policy of the last election. It stated:

We will appoint a Senior Advisor on Technology with private sector technology experience to report directly to the Prime Minister...We will bring the best ideas in business, government, and universities together to facilitate the transition to the new economy and position Canada as a global leader...We will increase support to Canada's research granting councils, and appoint a Chief Scientist of Canada to co-ordinate science activities in all government departments and ensure that science, not politics, prevails...We will increase Research and Development funding by $500 million.

As far as the Canadian Alliance and its members are concerned, we recognize the importance of technology and of supporting research with public dollars. Our nation has a proud history of producing excellent scientists. Our record shows we are quite capable of being the best in the world.

Everyone in Canada is extremely proud of Drs. Banting and Best who invented insulin for the treatment of diabetes and changed thousands of lives around the world. That is highly commendable and Canada is quite rightly proud of it.

We do not lack brains. We do not lack men of distinction in our nation. We agree with the government that it should support technology and research.

The world is becoming smaller. Borders are disappearing. We are moving into an era of globalization and fewer borders. As borders diminish competition increases. As competition increases, nations that are poised to take advantage of innovation and new ideas are the nations that will progress.

Canada should position itself to take advantage of globalization in the coming years. If we do not, someone else will and at the end of the day we will be the losers. It would be a tragedy not to support it when we have such an intelligent workforce and such illustrious persons in our universities and research councils.

We have no problem supporting the first part of the bill, although we have some questions as to the amount. We say $500 million. The government says $750 million. There is a slight difference there but the objectives are the same. We feel that our overall policy of lower taxation, freer markets and less government interference would eventually see more dollars put into research facilities across the country.

As my colleague from the NDP stated, the second part of the bill, the Financial Administration Act, is where we have difficulty and why we will not support the bill. If the bill had been broken into two sections we would have supported the Budget Implementation Act with reference to the Canada foundation for innovation. However we have a problem with the Financial Administration Act.

Our difficulty arises with a lot of issues. First, the bill was brought forth to correct a legislative error. It is amazing that with all the bureaucrats, research staff and huge departments at the government's disposal it still makes legislative errors. It spends billions of dollars and cannot even make a bill that is right. It then must bring in another bill to correct the mistakes. When opposition members have the opportunity to show what is wrong, the government cuts debate short and does not allow us to speak.

Another reason we are opposing the bill is that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would be exempt from the Financial Administration Act. However, we do like the fact that there will be less ministerial intervention. We have been asking for less government and ministerial intervention. When there is government intervention, it spoils the good intention of a bill because it is packed with patronage. Good programs usually develop implementation problems due to unnecessary ministerial or government intervention. We are happy when we see less ministerial intervention.

We also have difficulty with the fact that the board would not be subject to the auditor general's review. The auditor general should have every right to do an audit when public funds are being used. Public funds have been sent to the government, in trust, to be used wisely and the only person who can advise the Canadian public that the money has been used wisely is the auditor general.

We look forward to the auditor general's report because he has shown time after time where the government has failed to use taxpayer money wisely. We are concerned that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board would be exempt from the Financial Administration Act. The bill would also take away the auditor general's right to audit the board and that is unacceptable.

Similar to what was said by my colleague from the NDP, we have difficulty supporting the bill because it has two parts.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 5th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to take part in the debate on Bill C-17.

I must be clear from the beginning on what we are debating here today. We are debating an anti-democratic, unparliamentary, omnibus bill. The two parts of the bill have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

The first part of the bill appropriates funds for the Canada foundation for innovation. The second part makes amendments to the Financial Administration Act, which has nothing to do with the Canada foundation for innovation. Both issues are separate and should be dealt with in two separate bills.

In the time that I have had the honour to serve my constituents and the Canadian people in the House, I have worked on quite a few bills. Currently I am my party's critic for industry, transportation and infrastructure. I have also been the treasury board critic and housing critic and have worked on bills in those areas. I have also worked on bills, which were of particular interest to the constituents in my riding: everything from health and justice to aboriginal affairs.

I have worked on a lot of bills, and what concerns me is that the more bills I see the more common it is becoming for the Liberal government to introduce these kinds of omnibus bill. This is not a rare occurrence. This is not something the government does once in a while. It does this all the time now, although it says it is for very good reasons.

The Liberal government does not want to let parliament properly debate and scrutinize its legislation so it just slaps a bunch of completely unrelated items together and makes us vote on them all as a package. This is not a transparent and democratic process.

What is so anti-democratic about the bill? Well, as I said earlier, it has two parts. The first part would appropriate funds for the Canada foundation for innovation and the second part would amend the Financial Administration Act.

The problem is that we, in the NDP, support part one, dealing with the Canada foundation for innovation, but we oppose part two, the amendments to the Financial Administration Act.

By putting these two completely unrelated items together in one bill, we are being forced to vote against something that we like and support, the Canada foundation for innovation.

To register our opposition to the government's changes to the Financial Administration Act, we must vote against the whole bill. Members in the House, not just from the New Democratic Party but from all parties, cannot accurately represent the views of their constituents by voting on these two completely different issues together.

I will now say a few words about the parts of the bill that we would otherwise support before I move on to the reasons that we will be opposing the bill.

We support increasing the funding for the Canada foundation for innovation. The foundation does important work to support research and development in Canada's universities, hospitals, community colleges and other public and non-profit agencies.

Canada has a clear deficit in the area of research and development compared to most other members of the G-8 and this deficit has been made worse by the Liberal government's massive cuts to post-secondary education. The Canada foundation for innovation helps in a small way toward overcoming the research and development deficit. My fellow New Democratic Party MPs and I support the work it is doing.

We have heard from representatives of different areas of science and research on the industry committee about the money that was finally put into research and development. I was extremely impressed with the work they have done in such a very short period of time to promote Canadian research and development in science and technology.

I have been truly impressed by the fact that 75% of people involved in these areas are educated in Canadian schools. It is extremely impressive, I must admit. I did not realize it until I was part of the industry committee.

We have gone in the right direction and put federal dollars into research and development. We do not risk creating an environment where, as in the U.S., only the commercialization of science and research and development is able to succeed. We will finally support those programs.

It would be nice if the federal government had kept this issue separate from the other. We have a few ideas on how to improve the foundation's work and I hope we will be able to address them as the bill progresses.

As my colleague from the Alliance has mentioned, it would be nice if the foundation were reviewed by the auditor general. That is what the auditor general recommended, but it is not the case. As a result there has been criticism that the process is not transparent.

I recognize that representatives from the foundation who came before the industry committee were working among themselves to ensure a transparent process. We heard questions from my Alliance colleague about the improper spending of government dollars. There were suggestions that there is government intervention as to where the dollars go. We therefore need a transparent process.

In spite of Canadians not having faith in our democratic system, politicians, the government and specifically the Prime Minister, and believe me they do not, I would wager a fair chunk that they have faith in the auditor general. They have faith in the integrity of the past auditor general and I hope they will have faith in the new auditor general.

One does not hear criticism of the auditor general's reports or of his integrity. Canadians have faith in the auditor general and in the position that he holds, and I hope that will continue. We should listen to the auditor general's recommendation to have the foundation reviewed. As I said, there is not necessarily a problem. However to have faith in the system and ensure public dollars are spent wisely and legally we must do so.

Part 2 of the bill, the changes to the Financial Administration Act, governs the rules for borrowing by government departments, agencies and certain crown corporations to make them more accountable to the Department of Finance. That is a good thing. It closes a loophole that needs to be closed. What we in the New Democratic Party object to specifically and very strongly is clause 6 of the bill which adds the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to the list of crown corporations exempted from the Financial Administration Act.

My fellow NDP MPs and I do not support exempting the CPP Investment Board from the Financial Administration Act. The CPP Investment Board is not like the CBC or the Bank of Canada. It does not need to be arm's length from the government. We believe that the crown corporation entrusted with investing the hard earned pension money of Canadians should not be exempt from democratic oversight.

We said the same thing when the CPP Investment Board was created by the government a few years ago and we stand by that today. This is the pension money of Canadians. It is what many Canadians will rely on in their retirement years. For many people it is pretty much all they will rely on.

The corporation entrusted with that money ought to be responsible to the Canadian people, not to a government appointed investment board. However it is not. The way the Liberals have set up the corporation, the only people it will be responsible to are bankers on Bay Street. That is a dangerous way to treat the hard earned pension money of Canadians. By the time my three kids reach retirement age they will look back on how today's Liberal government handled the Canada pension plan and say that it was a mistake to set up it up as the CPP Investment Board.

My party colleagues and I indicated that we believe pension dollars should be invested into ethical funds and ethical investments. What is the reasoning of a government which promotes healthy living and anti-smoking but allows the CPP to invest in tobacco companies?

What is the reasoning behind that? What is the reasoning behind the board's investment in Talisman, the energy company which is tearing itself through Sudan and which is, from my perspective, certainly a part of the carnage taking place within that country?

I take offence to even a penny of my pension dollars going to Talisman, Imperial Tobacco or any fund like that. As a citizen and a payer of pension dollars, I should be able to tell the government it cannot invest at least my share of CPP payments into those kinds of funds.

Believe it or not, some of us feel strongly enough about the issue to forsake the increased profit of selling tobacco to people in China. As the domestic tobacco market shrinks due to growing public awareness of its health risks, I do not want our dollars to promote it anywhere else in the world.

In conclusion, I reiterate my party's opposition to the bill even though there are parts of it we like. It is extremely disheartening that we cannot support the setting aside of money for the Canada foundation for innovation. We are not able to support it because we must vote on the bill in its entirety. Although we support the setting aside of money for science, research and development, we stand clearly and strongly for a democratically accountable CPP investment board which answers to parliament, and the bill does not provide for that.

I restate once again my profound displeasure with the government for bringing forward these measures in an anti-democratic and unparliamentary omnibus bill. It should have brought in two or three separate bills to allow each issue to be voted on separately. It once again shows the Liberal government's profound contempt for democracy. It is something Canadian people will not let the government get away with forever.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 5th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for that clarification. I appreciate that you compensate for my inabilities. I am surrounded by people who do that for me and I really am appreciative.

I would like to say at the outset that Bill C-17, the act we are now debating, is an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997. This is an act that has been around for almost four years, and we are now going to amend it. It deals with the implementation of the 1997 budget.

Over the last number of years we have had a number of these bills. About a year or so ago we debated an implementation bill that extended back 10 years. It just so happens that the finances of the government are done with the announcement of them in a budget by the finance minister and that makes them law. Then afterward we do it. We tax the people and take the money from them. If the budget includes the giving of grants the money is given, and so on. Eventually we get around to passing what we have actually done.

It seems to me that perhaps some of these things should be done in a more expeditious manner. We would not have the problem of people not really knowing where they stand on different issues.

I would like to talk a bit about Bill C-17 and about the whole idea of budgets and finances of the government in general.

First, one of the features of the bill is it increases funding for research and development. I do not think there are very many Canadians who would not acknowledge the importance of research and development. As a matter of fact over the centuries our standard of living has increased based on the things that people have invented and discovered. Sometimes these discoveries are by accident and sometimes they are very methodically carried forward with years of developmental research. Finally, they zero in on exactly what needs to be done to achieve a certain goal, for example, in the health area.

Many decades ago I remember reading about Madame Curie who invented the x-ray. An interesting thing happened. She put a uranium source in the same drawer as some film and lo and behold the film was clouded. Therefore, she was able to deduce from that that the radiation from the source caused an effect on the film which is of course a chemical reaction.

That was the beginning of being able to analyze what was going on in a person's body, whether healthy or ill. Usually of course this is done for reasons of illness or for injury. We are able to examine what is happening without having to perform surgery. Many times, especially over the last 40 or 50 years, it has still been necessary to perform surgery to see what was going on.

I remember a very pivotal event in my life when I broke my ankle on July 1, 1968. I was out with a bunch of boys at a children's camp. I was acting as a counsellor for a couple of days. I took these boys out for a hike and we jumped a fence. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if you even want to contemplate that. It conjures strange images I am sure when thinking of me jumping a fence, but I did. Unfortunately, when I landed I was in a twisting motion and my ankle broke. I had to hobble back to camp. It was quite a task for a guy my weight to get back since I have always been heavy. It was probably close to a kilometre from where we were to get back to camp. I had to go all that distance on one leg with a makeshift crutch because these little boys could in no way carry me. I am sure everyone understands that.

When I got to the hospital, my leg did not have to be cut off. Although one of the guys at the youth camp had suggested it as soon as I hobbled into camp. He said to some of the others “Hey guys, get the axe. We have to amputate”. We had a little laugh about that.

The first thing they did at the hospital was to x-ray my leg. They determined the ankle was broken and proceeded to put it into what turned out to be an extremely painful cast. I suffered for six weeks in a cast. It was almost two years before my ankle was back to normal. At the best of times my ankles have to work pretty hard in order to carry the burden that is assigned to them. As a result of research they were able to determine how bad my ankle was damaged without having to cut the skin open and get in there and probe.

However, in my own short lifetime I remember a number of occasions where people have had an illness or an injury.

In order to diagnose it they had to do what was in those years called exploratory surgery. It is still done occasionally but much less now. What started out as medical research leading to x-rays many years ago has since developed into other diagnostic tools, including audio diagnosis, CAT scans and magnetic resonance imaging or MRIs. All these different techniques for getting a picture of what is inside a person are very useful. These techniques are a result of very careful research, development and testing.

The question is where the money for the research should come from. I was an academic earlier in my life. I went to university and those were probably the best years of my life. I had more time then, and I say that with all due respect to the pages who are very busy now as students. I had more time then to read books just for the fun of reading them than I have now with the business of life that happens when one accepts adult and family responsibilities and all other things that go with them.

In my career as a student and later on as an educator in a technical institute I always felt that there was a proper role for the use of public funds to fund research and development. One example would be the academic research environment in a university working in conjunction with perhaps the Medical Research Council of Canada. In Alberta we have a very strong Alberta Research Council in Edmonton and Calgary. I am specifically familiar with the one in Edmonton but there is also one in Devon. Each one does different kinds of research and some of it is the medical research I have already talked about.

A lot of research goes into the processing and refining of oil products in Alberta. The council looks at more efficient ways of using energy so that our non-renewable resources are treated carefully and we do not run out of them.

These research projects are very worthwhile. Although there is a proper role for the funding of many of these projects by private enterprise, and that happens big time, there is a role for the use of public funds through the universities, through the research councils and through all the different granting institutions we have developed in the last number of years.

One thing that has happened in Bill C-17 is that there will be an addition to the Canada foundation for innovation. Whereas before it had $500 million in its budget based on the mini budget of the Minister of Finance last fall, the bill would now add another $750 million, making the total $1.25 billion for research. That part of the bill is very worthwhile.

I am rather surprised that you are giving me a signal for time, Mr. Speaker. It was my impression that I had a 20 minute time slot and I am prepared to speak for 20 minutes.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know I only have a few minutes, but I will get right down to business. Bill C-17 is about innovation.

I would ask the government to allow innovation to start at home in this House. I have been here for seven years and never have I been in an environment where we have seen the death of innovation like this. Every member of parliament has had their rights to speak out freely destroyed and innovation has been choked off. If MPs try to be innovative, they are forced to put their ideas through an interminable series of committees where their ideas are chewed up and destroyed. At the end there is nothing more than pablum, gruel and useless stuff that does not challenge the status quo.

The press cannot speak to MPs. It is directed by parties as to who it can or cannot speak to. The individual MP cannot be innovative.

If the public wants to know why their MPs are having a very difficult time being innovative and challenging the status quo, it is because they are not allowed to. They are ostracized if they do. We should be dealing with issues like reforming health care and saving pensions. We should be putting forward new ideas to improve our environment. We should be putting forward new ways to deal with federal-provincial issues, defence issues, our role in the world, innovation that prevents conflict, innovation that enables people to get jobs and innovative ways to reform our tax structure. We should be dealing with large issues in the House. That is a pox on all of us if we do not do these things.

The bill before us is about creating a Canada fund for innovation and spending $1.25 billion. As my colleague from St. Albert mentioned very eloquently, why not allow the fund to be audited? Why not allow the auditor general to look at it? Why leave it up to the government? We know that if governments were allowed to dispense funds through such a mechanism, those funds would not be spent wisely. This has to be done in a different way.

There is a model to do that. The government wisely created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research which works well. It is a public-private partnership. It is at arm's length from the government. It has and will be audited. The institute provides public scrutiny for the disbursement of funds. It is innovative. It allows dynamism and flexibility. That is what this fund needs to be.

It not that we do not support the notion of being able to fund and give our Canadian researchers the ability to innovate, it is the manner in which this fund will be disbursed. That is the problem. It is a matter of accountability and transparency. The government is sorely lacking in foresight if it thinks the public will watch $1.25 billion of its money be given away without having an opportunity to scrutinize it.

There are other things we need to do to allow innovation. First, we must decrease the tax structure. Second, why not put into the tax structure our ability to create foundations like the United States has done? This will enable us to tap into a huge pool of funds that could be used and dispersed according to what the foundations wanted. It will provide researchers and non-governmental and charitable organizations an enormous pool for innovation.

We should allow individuals to donate to non-governmental organizations and innovative groups that do research like the Canadian Juvenile Diabetes Association or the Heart and Stroke Foundation. We should allow individuals the same tax write-off that another individual would receive if they donated to a political party. What is the difference? Why not allow a person who feels compelled to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society the ability to have the same tax write-off as somebody who donates to the Liberal Party or the Canadian Alliance? This is simply an issue of fairness and equitableness.

While the government has been removing funds from these organizations, why not allow the organizations to have the ability to provide for themselves?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the second reading debate on this bill. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for St. Albert, and I am sure the House will look forward to his comments as well.

Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act, has two components. The first is to add additional funding of $750 million for the Canada foundation for innovation to the economic statement and budget update of October 18, 2000.

The second component involves amending the Financial Administration Act to clarify that parliament must provide explicit authority for any voting by or on behalf of the crown. I will deal with that later.

I will now turn to the first part of the bill, the Budget Implementation Act. The bill seeks to extend funding for the Canada foundation for innovation by $750 million to include operation and maintenance costs for research infrastructure. The bill also proposes to extend funding for the foundation to include the purchase access to international research facilities and research projects. The new funding will be spent over an undefined period of 10 years or more but will be booked in the current fiscal year.

The foundation's purpose is to combine government and private sector funding to enhance education and research infrastructure at post-secondary education institutions and research hospitals. The government stated that the foundation would be funded by an upfront investment of $800 million.

In 1997 funding of the Canada foundation for innovation was included in the deficit as if it were a liability at that time, even though the foundation did not exist by the end of the year. The foundation did not exist but the $800 million funding was included as a liability. This made the government depart from its own accounting policies, practices and principles for the third year in a row in contrast to the Public Sector Accounting and Auditing Board, PSAAB, guidelines. The auditor general called it inappropriate accounting and a parliamentary oversight.

The foundation is not obliged to report the results it achieves with $800 million, and parliament may consequently have difficulty obtaining the information it needs on expenditures.

I will quote from the Canadian Alliance policy. It states:

We will bring the best ideas in business, government and universities together to facilitate the transition to the new economy and position Canada as a global leader. We will also increase support to Canada's research granting councils, and appoint a Chief Scientist of Canada to coordinate science activities in all government departments and ensure that science, not politics, prevails.

Let me make it very clear that the Canadian Alliance supports research and development. We regret that the government has overseen and caused our economy to perform so poorly that it is now necessary for the federal government to step in and apply massive doses, hundreds of millions of dollars, to R and D.

The private sector is not encouraged to do R and D by the government because taxes are high. The government is not only arrogant but weak as well. It lacks vision and we cannot trust it. It is unclear what criteria the Liberals would use in granting decisions made by the foundation, which is to be administered by the Minister of Industry.

During the election campaign, the Canadian Alliance proposed an additional $500 million in R and D funding. We support increased funding for research and development. While we support the objectives of the Canada foundation for innovation, technical innovation would be more likely to happen in an environment of lower taxes and less regulation rather than increased bureaucratic spending with ill-defined funding criteria.

The second component involves amending the Financial Administration Act to clarify that parliament must provide explicit authority for any borrowing on behalf of the crown. The bill would also define regulations surrounding what is considered to be borrowing of money.

The bill would require the Minister of Finance to authorize money borrowing transactions. It would give the finance minister the power to authorize money borrowing transactions under any terms and conditions he considers appropriate.

Finally, the bill would amend an oversight in which the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was removed from the list of crown corporations that are exempt from aspects of the Income Tax Act, reducing the possibility of ministerial intervention in the pension board.

The Canadian Alliance policy on financial administration states:

To ensure transparency, accuracy, and confidence in the government's finances, we will authorize the Auditor General to examine all federal government documents, including those from government agencies and crown corporations. The government will be required to report to the House within one year on how it has dealt with issues raised by the Auditor General. We will apply generally accepted accounting principles to government finances.

We will apply them not in the way that suits the government, but will use generally accepted accounting principles.

The bill would correct a legislative error made two years ago which opened the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to interference by the finance minister in various areas such as cash stripping, appointments, and corporate business plan debt.

The government is again wasting parliamentary time with amendments to correct legislative mistakes it has made. The other day I was debating Bill C-4 and was surprised that the government had to amend its own bill six times. That is how poorly designed it was. The government has to recognize that it must draft bills carefully.

Time and again the official opposition finds that we are holding the flashlight for a weak Liberal government that lacks vision. The problem is that when the government passed the Canadian Wheat Board legislation, it took the CPP investment board out of the Financial Administration Act along with the wheat board.

The fact remains that rather than having excuses from the government, the minister responsible for legislation should be responsible for errors. There should be no mistakes because the minister should be carefully scrutinizing the work the government does.

In conclusion, we support the part of the legislation that corrects the government's mistake of two years ago. We support putting a stop to the finance minister's ability to intervene in the affairs of the pension board.

We have seen the government engage in cash stripping when it comes to the EI account. It stripped $30 billion from that account. We are pleased to put a stop to that.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-17 amendments to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997. The absurd nature of being in this place in the year 2001 debating retroactive changes to the budget of 1997 is self-evident. In any case, I will focus most of my comments on the Canadian foundation for innovation fund.

The government has consistently, particularly beginning in 1994-95, slashed transfers to the provinces to such an extent that it created a tremendous vacuum in funding for universities throughout the country. The provinces were simply not able to maintain adequate funding to our post-secondary universities and community colleges across the country.

As a result of the deficit that existed in the funding of post-secondary education we saw, for instance, the doubling of the average amount of student debt after a four year program in Canada. We saw tuition doubling not just in one province but across the country.

The Canadian foundation for innovation was introduced in 1977. The government has tried to make up with its federal granting programs some of the ground it eroded from beneath the provinces in the disabling effect of federal cuts to the transfers to the provinces, which created in many ways havoc across the country.

It is still my belief that in terms of education and health care spending the best decisions are typically made by the government closest to the people affected by those decisions. As such, provinces are in many ways much better suited to make long term and visionary decisions on behalf of the people they represent than the federal government, particularly in the areas of education and health care.

While the government has cut and slashed transfers to the provinces, which are in many ways the most appropriate vehicle for delivery of funding to our post-secondary education infrastructure, it has now tried through the foundation for innovation to make up for lost ground and to try to directly fund infrastructure investment focused on the areas of research.

The notion of government helping in investing in the research infrastructure that is so important for Canada's competitiveness in the new economy is not a bad one. I would argue that the investment being made by federal or provincial governments, preferably by provincial governments, is extremely important. There are some flaws, however, in the Canadian foundation for innovation model as applied over the last three years.

One benefit in a perverse way of debating amendments to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, in the year 2000 is that we actually have the opportunity to be talking about some of the devils in the detail or the flaws in the implementation that are now more self-evident than they would have been in 1997.

In a realistic and applied sense, and not simply as a perceived issue, there is an anti-small university bias in the Canada foundation for innovation granting scheme. As a result smaller universities do not have the same level of access to these grants as some of the larger universities.

This is unfortunate because one of the cornerstones of Canadian post-secondary education infrastructure is the network of undergraduate program universities which perform a very important service to the future of Canada by providing a steady stream of enthusiastic graduates in science programs that may perhaps have graduated with a decision to pursue graduate or post-graduate studies.

In that way the undergraduate programs are performing a very important service to post-graduate institutions by providing an ongoing stream of students and young people with the enthusiasm to pursue post-graduate studies in many of those areas.

Representing a riding in Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotia being the cradle of higher education in Canada, there is a strong tradition in our province of providing some of the best post-secondary university experiences in the country.

There are some challenges. In my riding of Kings—Hants I am very proud to have Acadia University. Acadia University, like many of Canada's smaller universities, simply does not have the same access to the Canada foundation for innovation funding as some of the larger universities.

I have heard the arguments about a need to create levels of critical mass when it comes to research. Some of them are anachronistic. Critical mass can exist through a less parochial approach to research. Universities can co-operate to a greater extent and we should be working to encourage that. Certainly with the death of distance as a determinant in the cost of telecommunications, researchers can be connected via technology and do not necessarily have to be in the same classroom or the same lab, discussing and sharing their ideas.

We should be ensuring that the parochial approach to research which has existed in the past in the university environment is reduced somehow by working with the provinces to ensure and encourage a greater level of sharing of intellectual property between universities.

As a country we need to develop a better approach to commercialization of intellectual property at the university level and to technology transfer. In many ways American universities are much more successful at commercialization and tech transfer than we are in Canada.

As we try to achieve those two goals in that environment we should ensure that granting programs like the Canada foundation for innovation reflect the realities of the diversity of Canada's post-secondary university infrastructure and do not focus purely on some of the larger universities. It should try to address and invest in some of the smaller universities which are providing such an important contribution.

The other issue deals with matching funds. I believe 60% of the funds need to be matching funds. In provinces like Alberta or Ontario where there is a stronger fiscal position than there is in a province like Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, there is an inability on the part of the provinces to participate to the extent of the requirements of post-secondary institutions.

The matching fund issue is very serious and needs to be addressed more thoroughly. We would create a ghettoized post-secondary education granting system if we only contributed through matching fund schemes to universities in those provinces where the fiscal conditions permit an equal or greater investment by provinces and other entities within those provinces.

There has been a problem in the past where not enough foundation for innovation grants were making their way to Atlantic Canada. The government tried to address it last summer with the Atlantic innovation fund. That program was announced in the summer in a pre-election Hollywood-style announcement to try to enrapture Atlantic Canadians with the generosity and general kindness of the Liberal government. It did not work because most Atlantic Canadians saw through this shallow and feeble attempt to make up for past wrongs by a Liberal government that only found Atlantic Canada a few weeks before an election.

The Atlantic innovation fund has not even congealed to an extent that it can deliver any funding. Months later that fund, with its pot of money, is still sitting somewhere in Atlantic Canada with no notion as to how to deliver the money to the universities.

What is really bizarre is that while the government dilly-dallies and dithers with that fund to come up with a delivery mechanism with which to deliver the funding, the Canadian foundation for innovation is still in a position where it is providing money. Over the last several months it has provided an even more disproportionate level of funding to other parts of the country. Atlantic Canada is actually getting less because the notion is that the problem is solved, the Atlantic innovation fund is in place and the Canadian foundation for innovation does not have to be as vigilant now in Atlantic Canada.

That is simply not the case at all. There are also some concerns with ACOA acting in a role of a delivery vehicle for that funding. Concerns have been raised by people in the post-secondary environment and in the technology and high tech sectors. People in the economic development areas of Atlantic Canada have approached me directly to talk about this. They fear there is not enough understanding of technology in ACOA. They feel that ACOA can be an effective vehicle through which to develop a delivery mechanism for the Atlantic innovation fund but that it may not have the level of technical expertise necessary to develop a delivery mechanism for the Atlantic innovation fund. It therefore may not be able to achieve the ends that the government would like to see.

The fact is that if we are to be successful investment needs to take place in our post-secondary infrastructure. The devil is in the details. How are we to find the most appropriate way to ensure that the needs are met and that our competitiveness in this regard has improved?

There is a $3 billion deficit not just in research infrastructure but in general university infrastructure. It is a result of deferred maintenance among other issues and the government's callous disregard for education and health care funding. It let health care and education atrophy as it took its slash and burn approach to fiscal management and offloaded responsibilities to the provinces without considering what the end result would be. We will see a significant price paid over the long term for the loss in future competitiveness in these areas.

One of the fundamental flaws that needs to be addressed by the Canadian foundation for innovation would be the anti-small university bias which denies some of Canada's greatest educational facilities like Acadia University full and unfettered access to important funding opportunities.

The matching fund provision also needs to be addressed. It too discriminates against universities which happen to be in provinces that are less fiscally sound on a current basis. As a representative from Nova Scotia, the cradle of higher education in Canada, it is incumbent on me to defend the interests of my province in that regard.

Some of the macro issues are not addressed in Bill C-17. They deserve some level of debate and discussion when we are talking about amendments to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997.

Looking at Canada over the last 30 years and some of the changes that have taken place in terms of its competitiveness relative to other countries, our investment in post-secondary education can play a role in reversing what has been a very negative trend, particularly in terms of our competitiveness with the U.S.

However there are other issues too. In 1990 Canada had the fourth highest standard of living within the OECD. By 1999 we sank to seventh place with countries like Japan, Norway and Denmark overtaking us. In the last 15 years our real income per capita plummeted from 86% to 78% of the U.S. real income per capita. Ireland soared from 47% to 76%. Over a 10 year period Ireland increased its GDP per capita by 95%. In that same period Canada increased its GDP per capita by 5%. Our performance has been anemic.

We have seen a cyclical decline in the Canadian dollar over the last 30 years. This decline has become precipitous under the government. Over nine years of the Mulroney government the dollar lost one penny relative to the U.S. Since the Liberal government took power the dollar has declined by 12 cents. In 1990 as a Liberal leadership candidate the current finance minister said that if he were given the opportunity he would manage the dollar downward to about 78 cents. He did really well. He overshot his wildest expectations. The dollar is down to 63 cents.

The Prime Minister says that is just fine, that low dollars are good for tourism. The logical corollary of his argument is that if we reduce the dollar to zero we could be the greatest export nation in the world and be really successful. We all know how absurd and perverse is that logic or lack thereof.

There are things we have to do. In terms of government spending Canada's GDP represents about 40%. In the U.S it is 30%. Thirty years ago it was about the same, 30%. Our government's program spending has ballooned in Canada, but it has remained about the same in the U.S.

We have to reduce taxes. As a percentage of GDP, taxes in Canada are 10% higher than those in the U.S. We have to reduce our debt. I will propose one idea that over the next 30 years the government could address reversing some of these negative trends. If we were to reduce our debt in real terms over the next 25 years and apply the interest saved to reducing taxes, our economy would grow significantly both in real terms and as a percentage of GDP.

These are the types of forward thinking and visionary policy measures we do not expect from the members opposite but will see in the future under a different government.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, just to put everyone in context, today we are debating Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, and the Financial Administration Act.

This is the result of several announcements made by the government regarding, among others, the reinvestment of a further $750 million in the Canada foundation for innovation, in addition to the $500 million announced last October in the economic update.

In their eagerness to go to the polls, the Liberals brought down a minibudget, which turned out to be the real budget. Since there is no budget this year, this is how they are putting money into the Canada foundation for innovation.

I will talk mostly about this part of the bill and support for research in general, and less about the other measures contained in this bill, which amends several other acts to correct mistakes, as mentioned earlier, or add things that were missing or corrections that had to be made to the Financial Administration Act.

The federal government, after going through an era of major cutbacks—mainly in 1995, 1996 and 1997—has now started to reinvest in support for research. Granting councils and many other bodies were hit hard, and they had urgent needs. However, they had to wait and this had a negative impact on their ability to support research.

Similarly, cash transfers were drastically cut. As we know, transfer payments to the provinces were used to fund three different programs for health, education and social assistance. They were cost shared programs. However, the money was earmarked and we knew how much of the transfer payments went to social assistance, health and education.

Not wanting to be blamed for making $1 billion cuts in health care, $1.5 billion cuts in education and $800 cuts in welfare, the federal government decided to roll these three programs into one, which it called the Canada health and social transfer. Then it reduced the funding under this new transfer, letting the provinces decide exactly where to cut in those three areas.

The cuts were drastic. Transfer payments fell from about $17.5 billion to $18 billion to a low of $11.5 billion, which meant the provinces had to make cuts in health care and post-secondary education. Of course the latter includes a research component.

Now that the government has the financial means to do something, its first tendency is not to increase transfer payments. It did increase them slightly but mainly for health care. Everybody agrees that health care is important but the government invested very little money in post-secondary education. This is due to the fact that it chose a more visible way of investing in that area, a way which could be effective to a certain extent.

We are not disputing this but the government made this choice not for the sake of effectiveness but rather because it wanted more visibility than it would have had by simply putting more money in transfer payments so the provinces, including Quebec, could support research initiatives based on their own priorities.

We are not talking about petty cash. We are talking about substantial amounts. Of course the granting councils have seen their budgets increase. I could name each of them individually but this is not what we want to do today. However, these councils' regular core budgets are being increased.

It has been said that the government wants to double the research effort by 2010. A timetable has been established and the reinvestments are major. There is therefore a reinvestment aspect in the granting councils.

University research chairs have also been established. We are talking about several university chairs, with a lot of money. Funding for this program will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.

The third component is the Canada foundation for innovation also mentioned in the bill. The foundation will receive $750 million more than originally planned. It has already received more than $3 billion or has assets of over $3 billion. This is a lot of money.

Later on I will talk about some difficulties, some problems that are still unsolved. I will first talk about the first problem that we have with an organization such as the Canada foundation for innovation, without criticizing the people who work for the foundation. It is something governments tend to do, particularly the current government. The same thing happened with the millennium scholarship fund. The same is happening with the Canada foundation for innovation. The government is funding an external organization that does not have the same accountability toward parliament as the department itself.

For members of the opposition, and it should be the same for the government members, it is a bit frustrating to see such huge amounts of money being given to people who are not directly accountable. Of course they are accountable to parliamentary committees but they do not have to justify their decisions here every day.

When a minister is questioned on some contentious issue or a decision that is not in sync with the priorities of the government or of parliament, it is something that has to be dealt with outside the chamber. The minister says that it is an independent agency that carries out its duties as best it can and that the minister cannot always interfere in the operations of such agencies.

Things happen. Take, for instance, the Canada foundation for innovation. More so outside Quebec but even in several regions in Quebec, smaller universities are complaining because they do not have the same capacity as the bigger universities to get the funding and the projects they want.

We have a moral influence over the foundation. We can raise this problem and, in fact, we will do so tomorrow. The chair will be at the committee hearing and we will be able to consider the issue. Parliament put money into this foundation but not without adding some requirements as specific as the ones I just mentioned. That left us with no influence over these decisions and no influence over a minister who would have some say because the money would be spent by his department.

The corrective measures are way too slow and too complex and there is still the problem of accountability. We are talking about public funds. Taxpayer money is handed out to outsiders who have to abide by some rules, but are not subject to the same process as a minister who has to manage a department and account daily for his actions.

If this principle is that good, we will end up—and the process is well underway—handing over all government operations to outside agencies. What role will be left for parliament to play? We cannot support this, whether it is a lofty cause or not. We cannot let the government send money to an outside agency saying “Now you can manage this money as you see fit. We trust you”.

What I have left unsaid is that appointing board members is a way for the government to keep some degree of control. However, this process involves a very small group of people. Very often it involves the Prime Minister, since appointments are made by his office, or the minister himself in the best case scenario. Whatever the case may be, it still creates a situation where the minister and the Prime Minister can influence the board of directors or the senior officers of an organization.

Of course the foundation is sort of a more noble organization. The heads of the granting council are there to ensure a certain cohesion but the fact remains that it should not be independently managed. We have no problem with the department being accountable here. At any rate, when the time comes to make decisions of a more delicate nature, nobody can be sure that these people will have enough neutrality to resist pressure from those who appointed them. It is pressure at a very high level.

Pressure at another level, more appropriate pressure, namely pressure from the people and their elected representatives, is much more indirect and much more difficult to exert. That is the first problem.

For the second problem, taking the case of Quebec, which is in the process of developing a science policy, it is hard to set oneself targets, objectives and a work plan when one has control over only part of the tools. Obviously, there is also health research, but I will focus more on the education sector because this is generally where there is more investment in funding councils and the foundation. The same logic could apply to health, however.

These are matters that are essentially provincial but there is a significant portion still administered by Ottawa, or subject to made in Ottawa decisions or priorities, even if only on the amounts allocated. After that, the areas of focus need to be defined.

When the money is there, the complications of jurisdiction are not something that anyone needs. The government has stupendous financial means and uses that financial clout to become the government that plans future priorities. For many Canadians, this is fine with them. As for us in Quebec, the principal government of the people is the government of Quebec. While it does administer post-secondary education, it does not have all of the means to properly plan the development of its science policy.

Adjustments do need to be made. There is always some way of doing contortions in order to make ends meet. Our system of universities is highly efficient and so is our research. We have no complaints about the amount of funding our universities can manage to get together, for they are successful at getting the job done. They are very good. However, it becomes difficult to be consistent in this kind of situation.

These are the two main problems: accountability and the increasing inability of the provinces to influence the framing of a real scientific policy because Ottawa is using its accumulated surpluses—which came from cuts in transfers, from the EI fund, and so on—to play a planning role and to impose its own vision.

There is no doubt about that, as evidenced by the fact that the federal government is not reinvesting any significant amount of money in transfer payments for post-secondary education. It has reinvested some money in health care but very little in post-secondary education. New funding in this area is administered by the federal government or by an agency appointed by it, that is closer to it.

I cannot ignore one area of criticism that is beginning to emerge but it is constructive criticism. Now that we have said that we would prefer this not be an independent organization, the ideal situation would be to put the money back into transfer payments to the provinces so they can do that themselves, we know it will be very difficult to convince Liberal members to support us in that regard. The day will come when people will be able to settle this debate or to put more pressure so we can at least be more consistent in our actions, instead of having two governments acting separately. This will not always lead to bad results but very often it makes things more difficult. A lot of time is wasted in co-ordination.

Another thing the government must realize is that with all these investments in research chairs, the Canada foundation for innovation and granting councils, two very serious problems are emerging. Clearer directions will have to be given in the short term to correct a problem which, if we wait too long, will become even more serious and create a lot of difficulties, especially for small universities.

Let us be clear. There are not many big universities in Canada. The vast majorities of our universities are small. In Quebec, for example, the Université du Québec network is considered to be a small university by Canadian standards. We have the Université de Montréal, McGill University and maybe the Université Laval that might be called big universities.

Quite often smaller universities cannot rely on private foundations, unlike McGill University in Quebec, or on bequests left to them by some rich donors. Without such financial assistance, they have a hard time covering the indirect cost of the projects. The bigger universities have the same problem but at least they have more leeway than the smaller ones.

Since smaller universities do not have their own source revenues and cannot cut their education budget, because they do have classes to give and not only research to carry out—when they ask granting councils for a subsidy, indirect costs are incurred. From what people in the know tell me, on average, for every project, we have to add 40% for indirect costs.

Provincial programs in Quebec, for instance, pay for about a third of these indirect costs and the rest of the money has to come from elsewhere, by cutting something or making hard choices. Trying to get the money needed to do research can often penalize universities.

This applies to both the bigger universities and the smaller ones. I believe things are tougher for smaller universities because they have fewer tools and fewer choices when cuts have to be made and priorities need to be set. If we do not react quickly, the gap between the bigger universities and the smaller ones will only widen.

The other problem faced by smaller universities is that project approval is based on peer review, which is carried out by a network of peers, and they do not feel like they are really a part of the network. When these tools were brought in, they were not as ready as the big universities, which already had their waiting lists, their contact networks and so on, as well as a much stronger lobbying capacity. They feel they are at a disadvantage because of the initial commitments that were made.

This is even more true in other provinces where small universities have their own specialized areas. Some of them were successful in the first phases. We will have to remember that.

As with the chairs and all those tools, if we do not pay special attention to our small universities, they will have difficulty retaining their good researchers when the big universities or foreign universities from the States or elsewhere come to raid our researchers. This is an emerging problem that could become very serious.

Everybody recognizes that we have to make efforts to keep our researchers in the country and to make sure that our best minds are not exported but if this is true for Canada as a whole, it is also true for the small communities and for the small universities. I certainly hope the government will soon find ways to solve the problems of small universities as compared to bigger universities and of indirect research costs.

Would the best solution be to tell the provincial governments “Listen, we know that you already have formulas to compute payments. We will put money back into transfer payments so that you can better support indirect costs”? It would be one solution. There could also be automatic amounts. When the granting councils provide funding, they could immediately include with it an envelope to help with indirect costs, as do American granting councils.

There is one problem. There is a link missing in the whole research incentive operation. Considerable efforts are being made, admittedly, to increase research capacity. There is also a message that needs to be sent to the private sector. As elected officials, we have a duty and a responsibility to get that message across. Research efforts in any country must not be the sole responsibility of the government. The government must do its part but there is something a little disturbing in Canada.

I will take the case of Quebec. We have very good tax credits and many tools. The private sector has also come up with some of its own, although not as many as comparable countries. A way must be found to stimulate the spending culture, or investment in research, within private enterprises, because their ability to be competitive depends on it. It is not always solely the government's responsibility. Yes, the government must do its part. It must increase its contribution but private enterprise must not shirk its duty to conduct research and always look to the government for help.

The government will always have much of a monopoly on certain very specialized fields, even if there are economic spinoffs. This is clear because there are fewer private enterprises, or because their size does not allow them to conduct certain more fundamental research activities. Here again there must be a more direct dialogue with the private sector to ask it why it is not doing more research than it is at the present time.

Private enterprise is doing more, or trying to do more, but there is room for more to be done.

My other colleagues would perhaps like to address certain other aspects of the bill with which I am less familiar. I am more familiar with the Canadian foundation for innovation.

We will not be voting in favour of the bill for the reasons I have given. First, because allocating money to outside organizations puts them somewhat beyond the control of parliament, if not considerably beyond its control. Second, it is odious and has potential for considerable inconsistency for governments to be competing in the area of public support of research.

I cannot speak for all the provinces but I can speak of Quebec, with which I am familiar. Quebec has a science policy. Ottawa has and spends a lot of money. One does not get the impression that all this spending is necessarily aimed at efficiency alone. There is always a kind of war of visibility being waged by Ottawa and no one finds this healthy.

No one can fault reinvestment in research. That is something on which we will all agree. However, the primary motivation must be efficiency and nothing else. I have some doubts on the government's motivations in this area.

I am convinced that within these organizations, even within the government itself, there are some people whose main concern is efficiency, I am convinced that when the powers that be allocate money, the notion of visibility is foremost in their mind. It has been the case with every decision since 1995, by this government, which is slightly paranoid, thinking that people supported the yes side for this reason, because they had not noticed how effective the government was or because they had seen it as less effective than it really was. This is something we will debate again when the time comes.

With regard to the bill before us today, we will be voting against it for the reasons I mentioned earlier. I urge the government to pay attention to the problems emerging between small and big universities.

Small universities want to expand. They want to retain their scientists but indirect costs and possible raiding from other universities are a problem. And of course there is raiding from foreign universities, but we have no control over that. I am thinking about raiding on the part of our major universities if they are able to raise money faster than our smaller universities.

This is a very real problem for smaller universities. The university in Rouyn-Noranda is very effective, one of the most effective in Quebec in terms of getting funding for research. I know other universities are effective as well; also partnerships are formed.

There is something positive in all this funding issue, namely networks are being created more than ever before. Universities are forming partnerships and I am convinced they are possible in many areas, to find a niche. Universities are faced with similar situations. They can establish partnerships but they need the resources to do it and right now they do not have enough to pay indirect costs.

This is the message I wanted to send. Tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to repeat our message to the chair of the Canada foundation for innovation, who will be appearing before the committee, but for the time being we are saying to all the members of the House and to the government that we want more consistency. We also want smaller universities to have the same ability to grow as the bigger ones.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I did not want to interrupt my colleague on the other side, but I was just wondering about the relevance of what he is speaking about. I have been listening very carefully and I thought we were debating Bill C-17, which has to do with the Canada foundation for innovation and the Financial Administration Act.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

The House leader calls them legislative improvements. Sometimes they are euphemistically referred to as housekeeping amendments. It just sounds so pleasant.

The real ugly face of it is legislative incompetence on the part of the government. The House leader is the first, whenever the opposition drags out debate on a bill as we occasionally do, to raise the alarm about the cost to parliament and the value of debating time in this place.

We spend hours, days and weeks in every session debating bills such as this one, which are, in substance, corrections to legislative errors that the government made in the first place. If the government got these things right in the first place, we would not be spending scarce parliamentary time debating legislative errors such as those contained in Bill C-17.

Sometimes these errors are not just of a minor, technical or dilatory nature. Sometimes they are very serious and grave mistakes. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is a good example. In the immediate past parliament, the government introduced Bill C-2 in order to make some major changes to the Canada pension plan and to authorize and introduce the single largest tax increase in Canadian history. My colleagues will recall that massive tax grab that will cost tens of billions of dollars. They brought—

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition in the debate on Bill C-17. I thank the parliamentary secretary for mercifully abbreviating his remarks.

I will say at the outset that the bill, as the parliamentary secretary has indicated, deals with amendments to two statutes. One deals with funding for the Canada foundation for innovation and the other deals with amendments to the Financial Administration Act, the FAA. Neither are related, but the government has decided to parcel them together in the one bill. Both elements of the bill are evidence of how the government approaches legislation in an inappropriate fashion.

Let me address the bill as it concerns the Canada foundation for innovation. It proposes to give statutory authority to an announcement already made by the Minister of Industry to increase funding to the CFI by some $750 million.

I think many of my colleagues will share this sentiment: I find it troublesome, to say the least, that parliament is constantly putting forth legislation to authorize spending that has already been announced as a fait accompli by the government, in this case by the Minister of Industry.

Rather than coming before the House of Commons to seek the authority of parliament before making public and political commitments, the government ignores the ancient prerogatives of parliament and abuses its executive authority. It makes announcements outside this place and then later comes along to say it needs parliament's approval. After 900 years of parliamentary struggle to give representatives of the House of Commons the power to scrutinize, reject or authorize the spending plans of the crown, this is what we are facing. This is just part of an endless pattern of the centralization of power, the abuse of power and the contempt of parliament, not just by this Liberal government, but its predecessor governments, that increasingly diminishes the prerogatives of this place to authorize spending.

The government might say that it knows for sure that it will get these things passed anyway. How does it know that? The last vote which I was at in this place the government lost. We cannot be certain that announcements made by the Minister of Industry will end up as authorized appropriations by this parliament. There is no certainty in that. To assume otherwise is to exercise a great degree of arrogance.

Also I found it troublesome that the Minister of Industry, that very thoughtful, reflective gentleman and that great contributor to public policy debate in this country, announced this. The Minister of Industry, that great friend of industry, through the Voisey's Bay debacle acted like the dictator of a banana republic by telling a private company that it could not, after having received all regulatory authorization, benefit from its private investment in a major capital investment in his own province. It is an embarrassment that he is the Minister of Industry.

When the minister stood up about a month ago and made this announcement of $750 million for the Canada foundation for innovation, he did so in a context that was completely without any reference in the federal so-called mini budget, the finance minister's political statement of last October and in lieu of a conventional spring budget. He announced nearly $1 billion in new public spending without any broader fiscal context.

We find this troublesome. The fact that he did so at the very end of the fiscal year, which ended this past week, is part of the pattern of spend it or lose budgeting, or March madness, of which this government is a brilliant practitioner. Departments know if they do not fully exhaust money which is on the table or which is available in a given fiscal year, it will be returned and will not be available to them to spend in future years.

The government tells us that this $750 million, and I look forward to questioning representatives of the ministry at committee on this point, will be spent over the duration of something like 10 years. I asked officials in a briefing whether the $750 million would be spent in 10 years. They said “No, something like 10 years”. What does that mean? It is nearly a billion dollars of tax money and the government is not even sure over what duration this will be rolled out.

One thing is for sure. The government wants to book it all in this current fiscal year as part of the well established practice, which has been much criticized by the auditor general, of trying to diminish the size of the surplus in any given fiscal year for political reasons. Then the government can turn around and tell taxpayers that it is sorry it cannot afford to give more real, meaningful tax relief because the surpluses are just not big enough. Year after year we hear this sad story, precisely because the surpluses have been overwhelmingly consumed by huge spending projects and the March madness represented by the announcement which found its way into the bill.

Major spending commitments ought to come before this place in a budget speech in parliament before they are announced by a hyperpolitical minister, like the minister responsible for industry. They ought to be authorized by this place in the context of an overall, long term fiscal plan.

Many private sector economists are agreeing with the official opposition in its assessment that the government's spending program is out of control. Its spending this year will be $35 billion higher than it was projected to be the year before last. That is discretionary spending. That does not include things like the increases for CHST. Spending is out of control.

We see that Canada is headed into choppy economic waters. Growth projections for the current calendar year have been on average cut in half from where they were when the minister's political statement came out in October. At that time he projected a 3.5% growth. We are now looking at an estimated growth of something like 1.5% to 2% this year. That will clearly have an impact on government revenues.

Many economists suggest that in the second quarter of the year, which we are now entering, there will actually be a flat, if not negative growth in Canada. We have a dollar which is teetering on the brink of a near record historic low, having lost 25% of its value under the tenure of the government. Our dollar is now declining against that famed currency, the Mexican peso. The government's reaction is “don't worry, be happy” and that it does not need to bring forward a budget, as is the convention in the House, this spring or even next fall. When the Prime Minister decides by fiat that he is going to deign to come before parliament with a budget he will do so and not before then, notwithstanding that the entire economic landscape has changed dramatically since this government's political statement in October.

Instead of coming before us with a framework to control spending in light of these new realities what does the government do? It presents piecemeal major new spending programs which have not been accounted for in the overall fiscal framework and which have no recognition of the new economic circumstances in which we find ourselves, through the nearly $750 million proposed in the budget.

While we have great consternation about the manner in which this is handled, the amount of spending and the lack of a budgetary authority for it, the official opposition does in principle support the policy objectives of the Canada foundation for innovation. We believe that Canada needs to greater investment in both the public and private sectors in research and development, particularly with respect to hard applied sciences. We have long been an advocate of this kind of policy.

It has been widely remarked that Canada's expenditures and investments in research and development are significantly lower than the average in the OECD and the G-7. This is something we need to correct. Toward that end the Canadian Alliance policy states:

We will appoint a Senior Advisor on Technology with private sector technology experience to report directly to the Prime Minister. We will bring the best ideas in business, government, and universities together to facilitate the transition to the new economy and position Canada as a global leader. We will increase support to Canada's research granting councils and appoint a chief scientist of Canada to co-ordinate science activities in all government departments and ensure that science, not politics, prevails.

We also committed further to that in our election platform an increase in funding for research and development to the various granting councils of some $500 million, an amount far exceeded by the bill before us today. While we believe it is important that both the public and private sectors invest more in R and D, we think that must happen within the context of fiscal responsibility. That means every dollar must be watched with great care.

Another concern that my colleague, the member for Calgary Southwest and critic for science and technology for the Alliance, raised was the manner in which these public moneys were allocated through granting councils, such as the CFI. He interrogated the Minister of Industry on this point at the industry committee, that the government had no clear and impartial framework for granting moneys out of foundations such as the CFI. Also, there was no clear certainty that grants would be done in a completely non-political way and strictly on their merits, as pointed out by the auditor general.

There is no proper reporting on the administration of the grants at research institutes and universities, nor does parliament get proper feed back on the results so we can see what bang taxpayers are getting for their buck.

These are all things that need to be changed. The government constantly comes before parliament or its committees with new ideas about spending on science, technology, research or development. There is a proposal now for major new funding for astronomy. There are various other projects on the table, all which have been dealt with in a piecemeal fashion.

We in the official opposition, and I think my colleague from Calgary Southwest will later speak to in this bill, believe there is a need for a broader framework for funding of science, technology, research and development rather than the kind of political piecemeal approach which we have before us in this bill.

Let me turn my attention to the second section of the bill with respect to the legislation affecting the Canada pension plan investment board and its adherence to the Financial Administration Act.

I find it quite humorous because there are two things that happen in the bill. First, clauses 4 and 5 of the bill clarify the borrowing authority that departments, crown corporations and agencies have. They clarify what we all know ought to be the case, and thought was the case, that parliament delegates to the Minister of Finance the authority to borrow certain sums and he has the delegated authority to authorize or reject borrowing requests from various departments, agencies, boards and commissions.

It turns out that due to typical legislative errors on the part of the government, there are a couple of departments that are not covered by this convention, or legal tradition, of delegated borrowing authority. The Department of National Defence, apparently, had obtained a legal opinion indicating that it had the power to borrow money on its own without any authorization from the Minister of Finance or authorization by parliament. The legal officials in the defence department and the justice and finance departments had a great brouhaha over the past year about whether or not defence department bureaucrats could borrow money without proper legal authorization by this parliament and the minister.

How could we have let that situation get out of control? It is quite conceivable that they could have gone out, done so and contravened a long standing convention of parliament, which is a restriction on the borrowing authority. Because of the government's incompetence and oversights it has taken years to finally come forward with this amendment to tighten up and clarify the delegation of the borrowing authority saying that bureaucrats cannot charge money on the public credit card and tell taxpayers to “pick up the bill, see you later”.

Today it could happen. After this bill it will not be able to but this has stood for far too long without correction on the part of the government.

Then we get to my favourite section of the bill, clause 6. It is really quite marvellous. The government House leader is so proud of his legislative prowess. The problem is that he so often brings bills before this place that are riddled with drafting errors. I spoke about this in debate on Bill C-22. We were making all sorts of corrections to legislation to correct mistakes made in drafting errors in bills brought before parliament by the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak today at second reading of Bill C-17.

The bill amends the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, by providing funding increases for the Canada foundation for innovation. It also contains amendments to the Financial Administration Act relating to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the borrowing power of federal departments.

I will begin my remarks by discussing the additional funding for the Canada foundation for innovation. I had planned to talk about the history of the Canada foundation for innovation but I think members in the House are familiar with the story. With the bill, funding for the foundation will rise to $3.15 billion. That demonstrates the government's commitment to fostering a knowledge based economy and a climate of innovation.

I will move to the specific measures of the bill which pertain to the CFI and I will explain the funding provisions in detail.

The $500 million announced last October will be invested in two ways. First, $400 million will allow the foundation to contribute to the operating costs of new awards. Second, $100 million will help support the participation of Canadian researchers in leading edge international research projects and facilities that offer significant research benefits to Canada.

The recent announcement of an additional $750 million for the CFI will build on that funding by providing additional stability to universities as they plan their future research priorities. At the time of the announcement the finance minister said:

Giving the knowledge economy of the 21st century a preferred home in Canada will lead to higher incomes, better jobs and increased opportunities for all Canadians.

In addition to establishing the Canada foundation for innovation with a series of funding initiatives that now total $3.15 billion the government has implemented other funding initiatives for research over the past four years.

The initiatives include: one of the most generous R and D tax regimes in the world; increased funding to the granting councils, including the creation of the Canadian institutes for health research, to maximize the advantage Canada enjoys in medical research; funding of $900 million over five years for the Canada research chairs program which would establish 2,000 research chairs at Canadian universities; increased funding for the network of centres of excellence; funding of $300 million for Genome Canada; the sustainable development technology fund; and a Canadian foundation for climate and atmospheric sciences.

As announced in the Speech from the Throne in January, the government is committed to at least doubling its current federal investment in R and D by 2010.

The Speech from the Throne also specified that during its mandate the government intends to increase investment in granting councils, accelerate Canada's ability to commercialize research discoveries and turn them into new products and services, and pursue a global strategy for Canadian science and technology so that Canada can be at the forefront of collaborative international research.

Increased funding for the Canada foundation for innovation, CFI, is not the only component of the bill. Bill C-17 also contains amendments to the Financial Administration Act which I will now discuss briefly.

I should first explain that the financial administration of the Government of Canada, the establishment and maintenance of its accounts and the control of crown corporations all fall under the purview of the Financial Administration Act, the FAA.

In addition, the Financial Administration Act sets out the statutory framework under which the government can borrow money. The Minister of Finance needs authorization from parliament through borrowing authority acts before the government can borrow new money. Authority to refinance maturing debt is contained in the Financial Administration Act. The finance minister is also responsible for debt management under the Financial Administration Act.

The first FAA amendment in the bill concerns the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. When the Canadian Wheat Board Act was amended in 1998, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was inadvertently deleted from subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act.

The error meant that legally the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was subject to various crown corporation control provisions under the FAA which put it in conflict with its own mandate. Clearly that was not intended. Bill C-17 rectifies the situation.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board will again be included in the list of crown corporations exempt from part X of the Financial Administration Act. The change will be retroactive to December 1998 to ensure that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has always operated within the laws of Canada.

The second amendment reinforces the authority of parliament over any borrowing by or on behalf of the crown. It also strengthens the role of the Minister of Finance in ensuring the appropriate management of government indebtedness.

The amendment provides for greater certainty that it is parliament that specifically authorizes borrowings made on behalf of Canada. Bill C-17 ensures that all borrowings, not just money but instruments like capital leases, are covered under section 43 of the Financial Administration Act and are subject to supervision by the Minister of Finance.

In closing I will summarize. The amendments to the Financial Administration Act are designed to improve the operation of the act.

The changes to the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, to provide additional funding to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and extend its activities are consistent with the government's commitment to at least doubling its current investment in R and D by 2010.

The Canada foundation for innovation is about looking forward. It is about education and investing in the future. In other words, it is making a down payment today for a much greater reward tomorrow. Let me quote the Minister of Finance when he spoke on October 18. He stated:

—success in the new economy will not be determined by technology alone, but by creating an environment of excellence in which Canadians can take advantage of their talents, their skills and their ideas.

The Canada foundation for innovation and its successes reflect the minister's sentiments. The CFI deserves this increased funding so that it can continue to promote research in Canada and inspire young Canadian researchers, thus contributing to the environment of excellence.

I am confident that hon. members from all sides of this House will agree that investing in education, research and innovation is the most significant investment Canadians can make to foster future success.

Clearly the government is on the right track. I encourage hon. members to give this legislation their full support.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 4 p.m.
See context

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Given the motion that has just passed and the unanimous consent, I would like to clarify the business of the House because it has been changed. In any case, there have been consultations about future business which I would like to share it with the House.

After completing the debate on Bill C-2 at report stage, the House will return to third reading of Bill C-8, the financial institutions bill. After this we will call Bill C-18, the equalization bill; Bill C-17, the innovation foundation; and Bill C-22, the income tax bill, in that order.

Tomorrow shall be an allotted day, as already announced.

Wednesday shall be the day allocated for third reading of Bill C-2. I understand there will be some co-operation to ensure that all parties have a spokesperson on Wednesday. I intend to do my part on this side of the House in that regard.

On Thursday we shall resume the list from today, adding at the end Bill C-9, the elections bill. We shall continue the list on Friday, adding Bill C-12, the Judges Act amendment.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 29th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue consideration of Bill C-2, the employment insurance bill. We will then return to the second reading of Bill C-18, the equalization bill. That will be followed by Bill C-17 respecting the innovation foundation.

On Friday we will consider third reading of Bill C-8, the financial institution, and if necessary we will return to Bill C-18.

On Monday, we will return to Bill C-2. If it is completed at report stage, we will return to Bill C-18, C-17 or C-22 on the Income Tax Act, depending on which of these bills requires further consideration.

Tuesday shall be an allotted day, and I believe it is the Canadian Alliance's turn. On Wednesday, we will return to Bill C-2. We will also try to complete third reading of Bill C-12, the Judges Act amendments, and Bill C-9, the elections bill. If we have the time, I will also suggest completing Bill C-4, respecting the Sustainable Development Foundation, before adjourning for Easter.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 22nd, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make the weekly business statement and to indicate to the House that I intend to do my utmost to have order paper questions answered as rapidly as possible.

This afternoon we will resume debate on Bill C-12 respecting compensation for judges. We will then continue with Bill C-18, the equalization bill, which we started this morning. That will be followed, if there is time, with Bill C-17 respecting the innovation foundation.

On Friday we will consider report stage of Bill C-4 respecting the sustainable development foundation, and any time left will be used on second reading of Bill C-7, the youth justice bill.

In an effort to complete consideration of the youth justice bill, we will continue discussing that bill on Monday next.

Next Tuesday we will commence report stage of Bill C-8 respecting the financial institutions legislation. Should that be completed, we would then continue with Bill C-22, the income tax amendment. As previously announced and as adopted by the House, in the evening there will be a special take note debate on the summit of the Americas.

Next Wednesday, March 28, we will debate Bill C-2, the employment insurance amendments, at report stage and hopefully have third reading on next Thursday, March 29.

That is the agenda of the House for next week.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

March 22nd, 2001 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-18.

The official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, supports the principle of equalization payments, but we do have certain concerns relating to this particular bill.

The official opposition does support in principle the constitutional obligation of equalization but has particular concerns with respect to the bill.

We just heard a fairly comprehensive overview of this legislation from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. We also heard him set it within the larger context of federal fiscal transfers to the provinces. However, the bill is quite narrow in its scope, much narrower than my hon. colleague's comments would suggest. It is strictly limited to increasing or lifting for one particular fiscal year the ceiling for equalization payments. It does so for the fiscal year 1999-2000, now nearly two years past.

At the outset, my colleagues and I are bound by the democratically approved policy of our party to support the principle of equalization. Our manifesto states:

We recognize that different provinces and regions of Canada have different levels of wealth but all wish to provide similar services to their residents. Therefore we are committed to the constitutional principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide the residents with reasonably comparable levels of basic services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

We do support the notion that in a large and complex federation with fairly significant disparities in wealth, income and standards of living the federal government ought to play some function to equalize access to core public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.

Having said that, we do believe that the current formula and structure of equalization should be open for serious debate and review. Most provinces have called for such debate. We in the official opposition would like to be on the record as embracing that. We believe there are many problems with the current system, many unintended consequences that have the effect of both penalizing those provinces that are successful in terms of economic development and growth and penalizing taxpayers in the so-called have provinces.

It is often observed that in a country as wealthy as Canada it is inappropriate to suggest that we have seven provinces out of ten that are perpetual have not provinces. The mentality of the current equalization system perpetuates an attitude among some which is contrary to economic development.

One point we in the opposition have raised and hope to explore is the idea of opening negotiations to look at allowing provinces that are now bringing on stream certain non-renewable resource revenues to not be penalized in their equalization payments from the federal government for those new revenues for at least a period of time.

As the system is currently designed, there is what many economists refer to as a welfare trap phenomenon, where earning incremental income, or in this case developing incremental revenues to the provincial treasury, results in a proportionate reduction in federal transfers to the equalization program. This is a perverse incentive against domestic economic development among the so-called have not provinces. That is one of the many areas that ought to be explored.

We ought to explore whether indeed the formulae are applied or calculated on a fair and equitable basis and whether all provinces rather than some provinces should be included in the calculation of the equalization formula, as some provinces have suggested. We ought to take a hard and close look at the application of both the floor and the ceiling of equalization. We should see whether this program is really working to equalize access to core public services across the country at comparable levels of taxation.

It has been observed by academic economists including, for instance, those at the C.D. Howe Institute, that perhaps a better way of equalizing access to quality public services across this broad nation is through income sensitive transfers to persons as opposed to insensitive transfers from one government to another.

These economists have asked us to reflect as policy makers on the paradox, for instance, that there are members of, say, my constituency, a western riding in Alberta that is the largest contributor to equalization, who earn below average incomes. They are from modest families with modest means who are nevertheless obliged to pay a very large share of federal taxes. A portion of their taxes goes to finance the equalization program.

Most of my constituents would not object to the general principle of sharing opportunity and wealth across the nation. However, these economists ask us to reflect on how efficient this transfer of wealth is from government to government and from taxpayer to taxpayer in a way that is not sensitive to income. When the lower middle income family in my riding pays more taxes to finance equalization, it may have the impact of improving the road system, or the health care system which, for instance, is used by, among others, higher than average income people in other provinces.

Some economists have suggested that the current way the program is designed is perhaps not the best way to maximize the equalization of opportunities across the country. They suggest that instead the best way to do that is to redistribute wealth from higher income people, wherever they live and in whichever province they happen to reside, to lower income people, the working poor, who need a hand up. That is an interesting observation by academic economists, which I think ought to be included in the broader and more thorough review of the principle of equalization and its application.

I also think that this larger debate unfortunately has not been engaged by the government. Instead, the government tends to approach the issue of equalization on an ad hoc basis and in the crucible of very political negotiations with the provinces. That is not necessarily the best way to make good public policy.

I would point out, for instance, that the bill brings to us an amendment that lifts the ceiling on equalization payments for the fiscal year 1999-2000, pursuant to an agreement struck between the Prime Minister and his provincial counterparts on September 11 of last year.

Hon. members will no doubt recall that the date, September 11, 2000, was about a month before a federal election was called. Certainly the Prime Minister had the electoral timeline in mind. All of the premiers and public commentators were certainly aware of the very distinct possibility of a federal election on the horizon. It was in that very politicized context that this agreement was reached.

Some commentators have said that what we have before us today, this lifting of the ceiling, was a political demand put on the table in a horse trading session with the premiers and that the Prime Minister agreed to lift the ceiling for at least one year. That is not exactly how we ought to make serious, sober public policy decisions regarding hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, in this instance increasing equalization payments by some $792 million.

The ceiling is there for a reason: to protect the federal government from unforeseen increases in these payments. It is matched by a floor as well so that provinces are protected from an unforeseen reduction in equalization payments. For some 20 years now, I think, we have had this system that precludes wild variations or aberrations in the payments, either too much or too little, to the provinces. For the Prime Minister to simply politicize this very important part of the equalization structure in the crucible of an election campaign shows that he is not really committed to a serious, sober review of equalization and its application. That is something we would call on the government to engage in.

I am pleased to say that my hon. colleague from Portage—Lisgar, who is the official opposition critic for regional equity, will be speaking to the bill later today and will perhaps outline some of the principles he thinks should be included in a general review of equalization and the federal-provincial transfer arrangements.

Our party did support certain elements of the accord reached between the premiers and the Prime Minister in September of last year, particularly with respect to the restoration of funds stripped out of the Canada health and social transfer fund since the 1995 Liberal budget. I know I do not need to remind this place that in that budget and since that budget, the federal government removed some $23 billion in real hard cash dollars that were designated to the provinces to finance the highest priority program areas of Canadians, namely health care, higher education and other social priorities.

In poll after poll Canadians register health care as their single highest public spending priority. Yet when the government was given an opportunity to demonstrate its fiscal priorities, what did it choose? It chose to slash, gut and eviscerate health care funding to the provinces, a decision that had a very clear and tangible impact on the delivery of care to Canadians in need of health care. My colleagues and I for several years now have been consistent in saying that this was the wrong choice to make, a choice which the Prime Minister sought to undo in the September accord of last year, from which this bill derives.

It was the wrong choice to make because it reflected the wrong priorities. Between 1993 and 1999 the deficit was eliminated. About two-thirds of that deficit elimination came about through increased revenues to the federal government, in part because of higher tax rates imposed by it and in part because of automatic tax increases through the then deindexation of the tax code and various other revenue measures. Basically because Canadians were working harder and working longer hours, they were paying more to the federal government.

About two-thirds of the so-called deficit elimination is attributable to higher taxes which are now at the highest level in Canadian history as a percentage of our gross domestic product. It leaves us with the highest income tax burden relative to GDP in the G-8 and, further, the highest corporate income taxes in the OECD, the 23 principal industrialized economies of the world. That is the legacy of the fiscal policy of tax increases over the past decade.

The other third of the deficit reduction can be traced to the so-called spending restraint. It is the government's worst spending cuts. Three-quarters of the spending cuts involved in the deficit elimination exercise came about in the $23 billion reduction in transfers for health care to the provinces. Another very large chunk came about through gutting the capacity of the Department of National Defence to provide the resources for our men and women to defend our sovereignty and meet our international obligations.

If we take out national defence and the CHST, the rest of the federal government averaged a spending cut of only 3%. That reflects the fiscal priorities of the government. It was willing to cut health care transfers by one-third, by about 33%, and to virtually gut the capacity of our defence forces; but when it came to the myriad of other wasteful Ottawa bureaucratic spending programs they remained virtually untouched.

I will give some examples of wasteful programs: the Minister of Canadian Heritage with free flag giveaways, multimillion dollar handouts, grants to Liberal special interest groups, subsidies to bloated crown corporations, and the Minister of Industry with billions of dollars wasted on corporate welfare.

Then there is the general waste of mismanagement, duplication and misadministration of the federal public sector. It was virtually left untouched because the easier choice for the government was to pass the buck on to the provinces rather than fixing its own problems in its own backyard. They in turn had to pass the buck on to health care consumers. That is a synopsis of the fiscal choices of the government during the past several years.

Bill C-18 has come before us as part of a package. It was a sweetener to have the provinces accept less than a full loaf in terms of restoration of the CHST transfers to 1993 levels. In the September accord last year the governments agreed to increase those health transfers to only $21.1 billion. The money taken out since 1993 was at least $23 billion. The government was still about $2 billion short on its CHST cut in the accord that it negotiated with the provinces last September. In order to make up for this continued shortfall in critically needed health care funding, it offered to raise the ceiling on equalization. That is why the bill is before us today.

I would like Canadians and my colleagues to understand the political and fiscal context of the bill. In other words, had the government not made the wrong choice to slash health transfers by a third in 1995, had it not stubbornly stuck by that, and had it instead made different choices and reduced wasteful spending in Ottawa programs that do not affect real people, we would not have Bill C-18 before us today. The provinces would not have been so short of revenue that the poor ones would have demanded this aberrant lifting of the ceiling on equalization.

In its frantic pre-election effort to cover up the enormous mistake it made in terms of slashing the health care transfers, the government decided to make a change in the pre-existing, longstanding arrangements with the provinces with respect to equalization.

I do not quibble for one moment with certain provincial governments and premiers for seeking any way they possibly could to get more federal transfers into their provincial treasuries to reinvest in the health care and other social spending which had been stripped by the CHST. I do not object at all to their principled and effective advocacy on behalf of provincial taxpayers and health care consumers in this respect.

I am sure all my colleagues would agree that it would be in the best interests of the administration to have predictability and stability in the application of equalization agreements. We ought to try to play by the rules. Surely we could all agree that it is good public policy not to make exceptions from year to year. However the reason the government made the exception it did in the bill before us today with respect to the ceiling on equalization was to cover up for its own political mistake, its enormous policy blunder in its 33% cut in health transfers to the provinces since 1995.

We do not feel the government has much moral authority to come before us and say that it has decided out of the kindness of its heart for one particular fiscal year to raise the ceiling on equalization payments to the provinces to account for unexpected economic events two fiscal years ago. That is nonsense.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance knows as well as I do that bureaucrats in the Department of Finance are no doubt rolling their eyes today as they watch the debate go forward. They know this is undermining the overall integrity of their program. In a way it, politically it had to happen in order to reinvest the money that had been taken out of the health transfer which the government refused to put back in.

Without a doubt the bureaucrats are standing there knowing that it may be good politics but it is awfully bad public policy. I would just say that we see over and over again this pattern of misplaced priorities leading to bad policy outcomes and then the government trying to wiggle its way out. That is what it is doing with the bill today.

Let me also say, lest the government try to paint itself as the great dispensary of Liberal generosity to the provinces, that this is a one time, one year deal. It does not intend to continue lifting the ceiling in perpetuity. If I had an opportunity to ask the finance minister's parliamentary secretary, I am sure he would be opposed to lifting the ceiling in perpetuity.

He would probably argue that it would contravene the rules set out in the agreements and that if we lift the ceiling, we should lift the floor and so on and so forth. I am sure he would make that argument, but somehow he avoided that question. He avoided mentioning why exactly this deal happened and why it applies to one year and one year only.

Another point I would like to add is that the practice of retroactive legislation in general is not a good one for parliament to pursue. When we consider fiscal matters, estimates, spending authorizations, ways and means motions, authorizing tax measures or any form of legislation, a principle of parliament ought to be that it ought not to try to go back and change history, as it seeks to do in this bill. We should make things right the first time.

Later today we will be considering Bill C-17, another example of the ham-fistedness with which the government administers its legislative program. We will be making so-called housekeeping amendments to correct mistakes that were made in the bill some time ago.

An enormous amount of parliament's time is consumed with correcting the mistakes the government makes in its legislation. Today we are seeking to change an agreement with the provinces from two fiscal years ago to help save the Prime Minister's hide. It was a deal he made at the last minute before a federal election to make up for his callous and irresponsible 33% cuts in health care transfers.

On that point I express my disappointment with the government for the manner in which it has handled its fiscal relationships with the provinces over the past number of years. I express my hope, although not my expectation, that it will begin to get things right in terms of long term stable and predictable cash transfers, tax points and equalization to the provinces so that we do not have these last minute deals and we do not need this kind of retroactive corrective remedy in legislation.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997 And Financial Administration ActRoutine Proceedings

March 15th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Liberalfor Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act.

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