An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act

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


John Manley  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to join with my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in speaking to Bill C-6. The protection of freshwater is a global as well as a major national responsibility. Canadians are deeply concerned about the long term security and quality of our freshwater resources.

There are concerns for Canada's freshwater on a number of fronts ranging from the safety of our drinking water, and I remind everyone of the problem of Walkerton, to pollution, to floods and droughts, and to the potential impact of climate change on the future availability on our freshwater resources. We are working with the provinces, the territories and internationally to ensure that these and other issues are addressed and that Canada's water is protected and conserved for future generations.

Last June my provincial and territorial counterparts and I agreed that we all share the common objective to ensure a clean, safe and secure water supply for our country. In meeting those objectives all orders of government, whether territorial, provincial or federal, and all Canadians have roles to play.

Among the issues of concern to Canadians is the possibility of removing and exporting large quantities of water from Canadian watersheds.

In February 1999, the government announced a three part strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water from large Canadian watersheds.

When we talk about protecting wildlife, we also want to protect watersheds. The strategy recognizes that the safest and most effective way of protecting Canada's water resources is through an environmental approach enabling us to preserve our freshwater in its natural state, and not through an approach based on trade.

Our goal is to turn off the tap at the source, not at the border. The bulk removal and transfer of freshwater from lakes, rivers and aquifers can have profound environmental, social and economic effects.

We could witness the introduction of parasites, diseases and harmful non native species, the deterioration of ecosystems and the disruption of communities that rely on a natural water supply from a watershed.

The impact is the same whether the water is destined for foreign markets or other places in Canada.

Canadians are already informed of these matters based on experience with project effects of all kinds. To cite one instance, we continue to oppose the Garrison diversion in North Dakota on the basis that it would introduce non-native or invasive biota and pathogens from the Missouri system across the continent's divide to the Hudson Bay watershed.

Bill C-6 covers one of the three elements outlined in the government's strategy that I announced in February 1999. I therefore strongly support the bill introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs as one component of the federal strategy on bulk water removals, which is intended to cover all of Canada's water resources and at the same time respect the shared jurisdiction in Canada over water.

The amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would give the federal government the legislative authority needed to prohibit bulk removals from the boundary waters shared with the United States, principally in the Great Lakes, but also on the New Brunswick-Maine boundary.

However the issue of removing water in bulk from watersheds is a complex one and the consequences can be wide ranging. These amendments are a key tool for assisting us in working with our American partners to protect the ecosystems in and around the Great Lakes which we share.

Freshwater is the glue that sustains the health of the environment, and if we change conditions in the water we risk irreversible damage to our North American ecosystems.

This is why the federal government has chosen an environmental approach to deal with this issue. It has to be a cautious approach based on objective scientific principles and an integrated response, taking into account the fact that it is a shared resource.

With that in mind, we must ask ourselves some important questions regarding the long term effects of bulk water removal, particularly in light of the cumulative impact of such a practice and the potential changes in the distribution and abundance of water as a result of climate change.

The need for better quality information brings me to the second component of the Canadian strategy on bulk water removals.

We requested, with the United States, to have the International Joint Commission study how water consumption, removal and diversions could affect the Great Lakes. Our objective here is to provide a basis for ensuring a consistent management regime for water shared with our American friends.

In March 2000 the International Joint Commission presented its final report to the Canadian-U.S. governments entitled “Protection of the waters of the Great Lakes”. The report is entirely consistent with and reinforces the federal strategy to prohibit bulk water removals.

The International Joint Commission concluded that international trade law does not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserve the integrity of the Great Lakes. To those watching or to those in Canada concerned about the issue of the exportation of water, I urge them to read the International Joint Commission report. They will find material there of great interest with respect to trade law and water exports.

This brings me to the third element of our strategy which is the development of an accord with the provinces and territories to prohibit the bulk removal of water from major drainage basins of our watershed.

Each and every province and territory supports our goal to prohibit bulk removals of surface water and groundwater. Most of the provinces and territories felt that the agreement was the best way to protect our resources and that is why they ratified it.

In fact, I am pleased to say that all of the provinces have passed or are about to pass legislation and regulations prohibiting bulk water removals.

Such a high level of commitment guarantees that no bulk water removal or export project will be carried out in the near future.

To sum up, Canada's environmental approach, which is to prohibit the bulk removal or transfer of water from its watersheds, is the best way to protect Canadian water resources.

Our approach aims at preserving the ecological integrity of our watersheds. Also, it ensures that Canadians, and not, I repeat, not international trade tribunals, will be able to decide how our waters should be managed.

Since my time is running out, I will not go on with the speech I have prepared, but I do want to emphasize that Bill C-6 must come into effect as soon as possible.

This law is for Canadians a major indication of our commitment as a parliament and of the commitment of the government as the government of the country in the direction that we wish to go to protect our waters.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:40 p.m.
See context


John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on second reading of Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

All Canadians recognize that water is a natural resource unlike any other. It plays a key role in every aspect of our daily lives: at home, at work and many other places or occasions. A bountiful supply of fresh, clean water is the basis for much of Canada's economic and agricultural development, and the towns and cities of our nation. Last, but certainly not least, it plays an absolutely critical role in ensuring the continued health of Canada's ecosystems, and every living thing that depends on them.

Canadians look to all levels of government to take action now to protect Canada's water. We must ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a Canada in which our freshwater resources are secure.

For decades Canadians and the Government of Canada have given a consistent response to extravagant schemes to redirect the waters of the North American continent: Canada's water is not for sale. Many such designs have involved the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world's fresh water.

The government is taking action now. Bill C-6 would protect boundary waters, including the critical resource of the Great Lakes, from bulk removal under federal law.

The existing act implements the 1909 Canada-U.S. boundary waters treaty. It is one of our oldest treaties and a landmark in Canada-U.S. relations. With over 300 lakes and rivers along the Canada-U.S. border, the drafters of the treaty recognized the critical role played by water and the importance of providing a structure and mechanism to prevent and resolve disputes between the two countries. Ninety-two years later we are using the same mechanism to ensure these waters will be protected for future generations.

The amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in Bill C-6 are based first on Canada's treaty obligation to the U.S. not to take actions in Canada which affect levels and flows of boundary waters on the U.S. side of the border. I would note that the U.S. has the same obligation to Canada, that is, not to take actions in the U.S. which affect levels and flows of boundary waters on the Canadian side of the border.

The amendments also have a second objective, to protect the integrity of boundary water ecosystems. The amendments have three key elements: a prohibition provision; a licencing regime; and, sanctions and penalties.

The prohibition provision imposes a prohibition on the bulk removal of boundary waters from the water basins. Exceptions will be considered for ballast water, short term humanitarian purposes and water used in the production of food or beverages.

While many boundary waters along the Canada-U.S. border are affected by the prohibition, the main focus would be on the Great Lakes. This would enable Canada to stop future plans for bulk water removal from the Great Lakes.

There would be a licensing regime separate from the amendments dealing with prohibition. Licences would cover dams and other projects in Canada that obstruct boundary and transboundary waters if they affect the natural level and flow of water on the other side of the boundary. Under the treaty such projects must have the approval of the International Joint Commission and the Government of Canada.

The process of approving such projects has taken place under the general authority of the treaty for the past 92 years without any problems. In essence the process would not change except that it would now be formalized in a licensing system. The licensing regime would not cover bulk water removal projects. These, if proposed, would be covered by the act's prohibition provision.

Bill C-6 will also allow for clear and strong sanctions and penalties. This will give teeth to the prohibition and ensure Canada is in the position to enforce it.

I would also like to set Bill C-6 in the general context of Canada's strategy announced on February 10, 1999, to prohibit bulk removal of water out of all major Canadian water basins.

Why did the Government of Canada take this initiative? The removal and transfer of water in bulk out of a water basin may result in irreversible ecological, social and economic impacts. We want to ensure, for future generations of Canadians, the security of our freshwater resources and the integrity of our ecosystems.

However, any credible policy approach to the issue of bulk water removal must address two important elements. First, the management of Canadian waters involves multiple jurisdictions. Second, any approach should take into consideration the many factors, man-made and natural, which exert significant stresses on our water resources.

To pretend that one government can solve the issue with a wave of the legislative wand, or that the issue may be simply reduced to one aspect, such as “water export”, in the words of some critics, is unrealistic, ineffective and undermines the goal we all share.

Flowing water does not respect political boundaries. In the case of the Great Lakes system, two federal governments, eight state governments, two provincial governments and a number of regional and binational organizations are involved in managing and protecting freshwater resources.

The question of bulk water removal involves the significant pressure and uncertainty of removals, diversions, consumption, population and economic growth, and the effects of climate change and variability. Finally, we must factor in the important influence of the cumulative effect of all these factors on our water resources.

All levels of government must act effectively and in concert with their respective jurisdictions, hence Canada's February 1999 initiative included three parts.

First, Canada would act within its jurisdiction. Bill C-6 fulfils this commitment.

Second is the recognition of the primary responsibility of provinces and territories for water management. The Minister of the Environment proposed a Canada-wide accord to prohibit bulk water removal out of major Canadian water basins. As of today all provinces have put into place or are developing legislation and policies to prohibit bulk water removal.

Third, Canada and the United States agreed on a reference to the International Joint Commission to investigate and make recommendations on consumptive uses, diversions and removals in the Great Lakes, the greatest of our shared waters.

The IJC in its February 2000 final report concluded that the Great Lakes require protection from bulk water removals and other factors. Bill C-6 is consistent with and supportive of the IJC's conclusions and recommendations.

It is self-evident that we must work closely with U.S. jurisdictions, both federal and state, to ensure that the regimes on both sides of the border are as consistent and restrictive as possible. In the years ahead, the Boundary Waters Treaty will remain a critical instrument in protecting Canada's rights on the Great Lakes and other boundary and transboundary waters.

Also, the eight Great Lakes states, and Ontario and Quebec, have been working for over a year on the development of common standards to manage bulk water removal on the Great Lakes. The draft plan, unveiled for public comment in December 2000 by the Council of Great Lakes Governors, attracted a good deal of criticism in both the U.S. and Canada as being too lax. The Government of Canada shared these concerns and made its views known.

Earlier this month Ontario and New York State announced that they could not support the proposed standard. In future discussions we will urge these governments to consider seriously the recommendations contained in the IJC report.

By adopting Bill C-6 parliament would set down in law an unambiguous prohibition on bulk water removal in waters under federal jurisdiction and especially in the Great Lakes. This is a forward looking action which places the highest priority on ensuring the security of Canada's fresh water resources. It demonstrates leadership at the federal level. It affirms an approach which is comprehensive, environmentally sound, respectful of constitutional responsibilities and consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. I urge all members to give their support to Bill C-6.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I begin by asking consent to divide my 40 minute time slot with my colleague the Minister of the Environment.

Computer HackersPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this place on a Friday afternoon to speak to the motion. There is always such excitement in this place on Friday afternoons that it is a real pleasure to be able to share that with all my colleagues.

I congratulate the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who in his wisdom saw the increase in the amount of Internet trade that takes place in Canada and around in the world. In trying to facilitate that sort of trade and growth he has introduced a private member's motion which would require the government to amend the criminal code to create a separate category of offences and punishment for persons found guilty of wilfully disrupting the conduct of electronic business.

The motive of the motion is definitely in good standing. There needs to be some concern when it comes to security and protection of information, protection of privacy and protection of very important documents as they travel across the Internet, particularly as Internet trade continues to increase. Yet as my colleague said earlier, the criminal code, law enforcement agencies and the courts are not properly equipped to lay criminal charges and prosecute matters that involve the Internet. Creating a separate category would facilitate the prosecution of such crimes in a consistent manner.

It gives us the chance to talk about the issue and at least evaluate it to see what can be done to improve the measures of security around Internet trade.

Most of my colleagues would remember from the last parliament a landmark bill that was passed. Bill C-6, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, dealt with electronic commerce and specifically private protection of information. I was fortunate enough to work on that bill because I was a member of the industry committee.

There was a lot of good work in that bill which laid a foundation, with help from all parties in the House to move it forward. However, the issue that still needs to be addressed is the one my hon. colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt brings up today. That is the issue of security and the measures that are needed in order to be able to lay fraud charges against people who are abusing the Internet or abusing e-commerce or doing anything else that may arise from wilful wrongdoings.

Bill C-6 initially created a legal and regulatory framework for electronic commerce by introducing measures to protect personal information in the private sector, creating an electronic alternative for doing business with the federal government, and clarifying how the courts assess the reliability of electronic records used as evidence.

The framework of the bill obviously was suited to putting a mandate on the future growth of electronic commerce in the country. However, again the area that I think was a bit weak, which we talked about—and I believe the government said it planned to work on that area—was the area of security.

What was supposed to be developed in that bill, which I think also touches on this private member's motion, was the idea of improving the security of electronic signatures through the use of encryption. That was going to be part of the bill. I know there is still an effort going on to develop that, but ultimately we would like to see it brought in sooner than later.

The private member's motion today at least addresses that to some extent. It opens up that debate, not only to look at the criminal aspects of what can be done to make sure we try to deter illegal activity within Internet commerce, but as well to look at ways within the framework of the legislation the House has already produced to increase security through forms of encryption or other forms of security currently on the Internet, perhaps without even looking at going down through the criminal side, as my colleague suggested. That at least gives us the opportunity to be able to debate it.

Bill C-6 also went beyond the scope of electronic commerce in that it created a legal and regulatory framework to be applied to the commercial use of sensitive and private information in all areas of business. During that debate there was much concern from people in health care, areas of commerce, small businesses and obviously consumers. Consumers are one of the most important aspects of Internet commerce. They want to make sure their information is protected if they are doing transactions over this new medium, the Internet. Their information, whether it be financial records, Visa numbers or whatever, is being submitted and can be accessed almost anywhere, especially, as my colleague mentioned, by hackers or by others trying to do wrong on the Internet.

There is no doubt about it. This is a concern to many Canadians and we need to address what we can do to deter criminal activity on this new medium, which increasingly the majority of Canadians will be using. We need to address how we can do it.

There is one thing I encourage my hon. colleague to consider, especially as we continue to deliberate on his motion. Hopefully the motion will continue on its way and maybe even get to committee so we can make amendments to it. We should look at ways to continue to work on the area of security through encryption. That is something that is within the mandate of the government and the House. We can look at ways to improve that legislation, as we talked about prior to it passing in the House and receiving royal assent earlier this year. Also, we can look at ways to see how that can be co-operatively strengthened on the criminal code aspects.

Based on my hon. colleague's comments when he made reference to the RCMP and a few other police organizations, there is no doubt that they are feeling left out in the cold in regard to doing their part in strengthening the security around Internet transactions. They need to be able to prosecute and lay criminal charges against people who disrupt e-commerce business in Canada.

There is obviously a reason to debate this. There is a reason to strengthen what we have done already in the House. Hopefully we will keep strengthening the ability of Canadian consumers to use the e-commerce medium and to be able to trust it. We need to work in a voluntary and co-operative way with industry, because there are a lot of great innovations happening out there that do increase security on the Internet. I believe there are many things we can do.

I will take a moment to once again congratulate the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, who I think brings a very important motion to the House to at least begin the debate on how we can continue to improve the medium of electronic commerce in the country.

Freshwater ExportsOral Question Period

April 5th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member clearly has not understood the importance of making sure that water is not considered an item of trade under NAFTA or other trade agreements.

We have to make sure that we do not get into a situation, through inadvertence or any other reason, whereby water then comes under NAFTA provisions. To do that we have an accord with the provinces and territories. To do that we have legislation in the House, Bill C-6, to deal with boundary waters.

It is clear that we must follow the procedures we have laid down and follow them to the letter.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

April 5th, 2001 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear on this. The Government of Canada will oppose the bulk removal of water from any of our major drainage systems, period, point final, c'est clair.

Control over boundary waters is covered in Bill C-6, which is currently before parliament. As for control over waters that are entirely within the jurisdiction of the provinces, each province has taken action with respect to that.

Our position is clear: There will be no removal of bulk water from drainage systems in Canada.

Freshwater ExportsStatements By Members

March 29th, 2001 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a news flash. Tragically I have to announce that the Liberal Party is now in favour of encouraging bulk water exports, jeopardizing Canada's natural ecological heritage.

The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Premier Grimes are guilty of this crime by pushing forward with the plan to export freshwater from Gisbourne Lake, a scheme first envisioned by our current Ministry of Industry.

Equally guilty as an accessory to the crime is the Liberal Party of Canada for remaining silent and not condemning the actions of its Liberal cousins. Moreover, the Liberal government is guilty in failing to deliver a national strategy to ensure the prevention of interbasin transfers and bulk shipments of freshwater. Bill C-6 falls short of the mark and does nothing for non-transboundary water.

For eight years we have watched the Liberal government neglect the environment. I ask the ministers of the environment, heritage and international trade, as well as the Prime Minister, why they have flip-flopped and are now encouraging bulk water shipments through their silence and legislative inaction.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

February 19th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent question. Today I make the assumption that since the House reconvened the federal government has been introducing environmental bills that intrude in provincial jurisdiction, for example Bill C-6 amending the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, the bill respecting species at risk, and this bill establishing a foundation to fund sustainable development.

Could the federal government not look after areas under federal jurisdiction rather than meddling in provincial areas of jurisdiction? Let it proceed with land decontamination in Shannon, at CFB Valcartier, or at the airport, in Sept-Îles. That is all we ask. The federal government has no say in provincial jurisdiction, particularly not as regards drinking water management. This side of the House does not need any lectures.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

February 19th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
See context


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology.

One would think this is truly environment day here in the House, after considering the motion by my hon. colleague from Davenport, in which he specifically asks the government to conduct studies in order to get a clear idea of the impact on the environment of fish-farming and its industry.

Today, we are studying Bill C-4. We do not know when but perhaps in a few days we will study the bill on threatened species.

Quite honestly, when I read the bill, I rather supported it. The bill advocated a number of principles, which one cannot oppose.

In Quebec, it is often said that it is impossible to oppose virtue and apple pie. This is where we are at with this bill at first reading. In other words, it permits the creation of a foundation which has basic funding, which would permit the funding of research on sustainable development, but more specifically, in order to work on the development of energy to fight climactic change and atmospheric pollution.

When I read the bill, I said “Finally the government is doing something to respond properly, by allocating the necessary resources to meet international objectives on greenhouse gases”. I said “This is a way for the government to meet its international commitments, especially those pertaining to climatic change and the Kyoto conference”.

This foundation provides financial assistance for the development and demonstration of new technologies to promote sustainable development, including technologies to address climate change and air quality issues. It is a foundation which would operate like a non profit organization, with a chairperson, 14 directors and 15 members, all appointed by the government.

Quebecers remember what happened in the case of the millennium scholarship fund, an endowment fund or a foundation with a chairperson and a number of directors that was supposedly set up to achieve the laudable objective of helping students pursue their studies.

When we took a closer look, we discovered that this foundation was not necessarily there to meet the needs of students. The millennium scholarship fund was not established to meet the essential and critical needs of students and help them achieve their educational goals but, rather, to award scholarships based on merit. The fund had been set up so that the maple leaf could appear on the cheques.

Today, a similar foundation is proposed. Its members will be appointed by the government and, more often than not, for the government. Under the bill, the foundation would receive an initial endowment of $100 million per year. Is this a realistic figure to achieve the objectives agreed to before the public and before the heads of states at the Kyoto summit? One hundred million dollars per year to achieve the Kyoto objectives is not acceptable.

If the government had really wanted to adequately meet these objectives, it would not have created a foundation which, in a way, is a bogus foundation.

Clauses 11 and 15 deal with the appointment and selection of directors and members. Clause 11 reads:

  1. The appointment of directors shall be made having regard to the following considerations: a ) the need to ensure, as far as possible—

Remember these words “as far as possible”. At any time, about half of the directors will represent persons engaged in research, while the other half will represent people involved in the business community and not for profit corporations.

In selecting the directors we must “as far as possible” ensure that half of the appointees are from the research sector. There is no obligation to ensure that these people have the required knowledge, expertise and experience to make a major contribution that would give Canada the means of production to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

Also, clauses 11 and 15 stipulate that the appointment of members shall be made having regard to the following considerations: a ) the need to ensure, as far as possible—

Therefore, at all times, the membership must be representative of persons engaged in the development and demonstration of technologies to promote sustainable development. There is a need to ensure “as far as possible” that the members of the foundation are experts.

If the government were truly honest and really wanted to make a serious commitment to the environment and renewable energies, would it have included in its bill clauses to ensure that experts would be appointed as far as possible? The answer is no.

If the government were truly sincere, it would have ensured that experts would be appointed to this foundation, not friends of the Liberal Party. What we want is more transparency. I am not sure the foundation will have all the transparency needed to ensure that its goals will be reached.

I want to come back to the $100 million initial funding for the foundation. Will it be enough? One could put that question to all the experts, not to the environmental groups, not to the so-called green organizations. One could ask the experts in the field of technology and renewable energies. They would say that $100 million, that is peanuts.

I want to remind the House of the Bloc Quebecois' commitment to sustainable development. The Bloc Quebecois suggests that the federal government invest a further $1.5 billion over five years to better meet sustainable development requirements. We are not opposed to a fund, we are in favour of a real fund with real resources to ensure that the real goals are met. On this side of the House we are not convinced that this fund will make it possible to meet these goals.

Why do we have reservations concerning the resources available to the fund? I will say honestly that I would rather be on this side of the House today, I would rather not be on the other side of the House and have to introduce a bill such as this one which is providing $100 million a year to deal with a fundamental issue requiring a major shift in terms of energy, namely renewable energy. We have doubts as to the government's goodwill when we look at the results concerning its international commitments.

I remind members that in 1992 the federal government signed the Rio framework convention on climate change and the ensuing Kyoto protocol containing more definite commitments, namely, for Canada, a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. Are we anywhere near achieving the Kyoto objectives? The answer is no. To meet these objectives we need real resources, not $100 million a year.

Far from dropping, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 13% in Canada. They have not dropped. We are not on our way to meeting the targets set by the federal government in Kyoto, far from it. In Canada, there has been a 13% increase in greenhouse gas emissions and, according to the figures put out by the federal government and the Royal Society, we are far from meeting our targets.

A report was tabled at the end of May by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who was quite critical of the federal government. He faulted the government for its failure in the fight against smog. On a more global level, he underlined the importance of reducing air pollution, which causes disease and death. Even though the government and the Minister of the Environment announced, yesterday and last Friday, a policy to help us reach that goal, we must realize that we are still very far from it.

Even worse, in terms of the financial means available to us to meet our targets at the international level, the insignificant amounts included by the federal government in its 2000 budget show the Liberals' lack of vision with regard to the environment. Just for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government should be spending $1.5 billion over five years, not $100 million.

The urgency of the situation requires a $1.5 billion investment, but instead, the government is planning to spend a total $700 million over the next four years on all environmental issues.

A $100 million investment will not be enough to help us face these environmental changes, and neither will the $700 million included in the last budget. We need $1.5 billion. Here is the situation: in 1997, Canada's emissions were 13% higher than in 1990.

With regard to the issue of climate change, I reviewed Quebec's position, its performance and how we fare compared to the other provinces and to Canada itself. That review shows that Quebec is clearly performing better in that area than the federal government and the other provinces.

Why do we have a better performance? Because we made the green revolution several years ago. When we look at the energy policy of Canada, of western Canada, with due respect to my colleagues, we realize the energy policy is still based on fossil fuel energy sources. There are three fossil fuel industries: natural gas, coal and oil.

Western Canada is a major producer of greenhouse gas, an oil producer and an oil user, which mainly produces greenhouse gas. However, since the 1960s, Quebec has had a totally different energy policy.

We have been using an energy that is called renewable. Hydro-electricity has contributed concretely and totally to Quebec's economic growth. Besides, it has allowed to stop the production of greenhouse gas.

This is a practical application in a country, the country of Quebec, of the sustainable development concept. We do not put the sustainable development concept in a bill such as Bill C-6. It does not belong in a bill such as the one the minister has introduced today. Sustainable development calls for a practical application. This means economic growth and the use of our resources with consideration for environmental protection.

Mrs. Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway, had defined this sustainable development concept that we are now applying in practical terms in Quebec. We have given ourselves all the tools required to achieve these environmental objectives without necessarily neglecting economic growth. This is what is different.

Often, people think that a change in energy policy leads to reduced economic activity. Quebec is a prime example. A few years ago, how many homes used coal, natural gas or petroleum? How many businesses and industries used them in order to produce consumer goods? How many houses were heated with oil? A very heavy majority.

Yet today, we use another source of energy, what is termed renewable energy. In the case of Quebec, it is hydroelectric power, electricity. Yet the economic activity of Quebec has not been affected by this pro-ecology and pro-environmental move.

On the contrary, Quebec's government corporation has been able to export energy, to the U.S. for one. This goes to show that a change in energy use does not necessarily mean job losses, as some would have us believe.

How often we hear the comment “The petroleum industry is so important to Canada, and jobs connected to that industry must be preserved”. I say there is a way of making a logical and balanced change of direction toward Canada's use of a sustainable energy source.

I am referring to hydroelectric energy. It is not the only type of renewable energy there is; there are other kinds. Among other things, there is solar energy, which works fairly well in certain countries. Proper investments would ensure that this technology could be developed.

There is wind energy as well. This energy has been tried out in many countries, including Quebec and Canada. Wind energy is used in Europe, among other things, as a primary source of energy, and not just as a secondary energy.

I will conclude by talking about the principle underlying the bill. As I was saying, I agree with the principle of the bill. It is impossible to oppose investment in technology that will mean the achievement of the objectives of sustainable development.

However, I have some doubt as to the vehicle for achieving these objectives, namely a foundation appointed by the government, with, in my opinion, insufficient funding.

My final remark is to the effect that the foundation would not permit the achievement of the objectives and the environmental green shift. I fear instead that it will manage to sprinkle a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars about without really achieving its target objective, that of producing while respecting and protecting the environment at the same time.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate today. The member who just spoke talked about the need for seasonal workers to be covered. I note that in Bill C-2 there has been a longstanding problem where farmers, for example, who work off the farm have always had to pay into the employment insurance fund but have never been able to qualify. That is seasonal work too. It should be one way or the other. If they cannot qualify, they should not have to pay into it. That is a needed reform that has bugged me and a lot of people in agriculture for a long time.

I want to ask why it is so important today to rush the bill through the House by using time allocation. This is a leftover from the last parliament. In fact, it probably was created as a result of the Liberals losing a number of seats in the Atlantic provinces in 1997. I think the member who just spoke would agree with that. He is one who moved over to the Liberal Party as a result of those changes, so it was politically motivated I suspect.

It seems to me that if the bill was so important when it was introduced last year, why did the government not see it through at that time? The question of how important it was did not seemed to deter the Prime Minister when he called an early election after only three and a half years. It was left to die on the order paper along with a number of other bills that the government had as its priorities.

Why was parliament not continued on at that time and allowed to have the kind of debate we needed to properly debate this bill? No, we had to have time allocation again today. I have been in the House since 1993 and I think it is the 69th time that the Liberal government has used time allocation on these types of bills.

The part that bothers me more than anything is this: what is so heavy on the government's agenda that it would force us to move this quickly on Bill C-2? There is a total of eight bills that have been introduced so far, hardly a heavy legislative agenda from my point of view. It is the first bill that was introduced by the Liberals this session and they are using time allocation to ram it through parliament. What kind of signal are they sending to the Canadian public?

Why did they call an election so early? Why did they not have it as a priority to continue on and resolve this last fall, instead of having to go to an election which caused the House to be dissolved? In fact, they were not in that much of a hurry to come back in January. If it was that important why did they not call the House back in January to get right at it? No, they did not do that.

Now we have this ludicrous situation where the Liberals have now exceeded Brian Mulroney's terrible record in terms of time allocation on bills. I noticed that they managed to be very critical of that when they were on the other side of the House, They said it was an affront to democracy. The Liberals have passed Mr. Mulroney's record in roughly the same amount of time. They are going to continue to use that as a club in the House of Commons.

This is not the first time it has affected me, either. On October 20, 1999, I spoke about time allocation and how it affected my ability and other members' ability to speak on the one of the bills in the industry category, Bill C-6, the privacy bill. I had just been appointed the industry critic for our party. I have the Hansard here. It was another bill the Liberals seem to have been in trouble with. They had not consulted the provinces to any great length. The Senate had to bail them out in terms of a lot of amendments that came through to pick up the bill and make it better. I give the Senate credit for doing that.

Yesterday Senator Grafstein was very critical of the House of Commons for running bills through this place without proper debate and proper consideration, in a hurried manner, and therefore leaving the Senate to clean them up. I suggest that this is one of those kinds of bills. Why the hurry? Why can we not have the proper debate in the House? It does not make any sense. This is the place to debate. I know a lot of our members would like to speak on it and are not being allowed to.

This is an old tactic. I was restricted in October 1999. I said at the time that it was the 65th time they had used time allocation. We are now up to 69. The clock is ticking. I am not sure why the Liberals have to do this, but they seem like they want to poke the finger in the eye of those people who want proper debate in the House of Commons. It does not make any sense.

We have the Canada employment insurance program. The government seems to think that it can put in a program that can substitute for a job. That is wrong. Thirty years ago it was an insurance program and the government has moved it away from being that. We would like to make changes to that and have the employers and the employees administer this program. However, that is not the case. In fact, I read in my notes that in Bill C-2 the Liberals even want to change some of the aspect of consultation and advice provided by the Employment Insurance Commission. Its advisory capacity is being taken away. It seems like the Liberals want to control this.

The government had a $35 billion surplus in the EI fund. The people who watch this said that we probably need $10 billion to $15 billion to be prudent. The fund is roughly $20 billion over those amounts. What is the government doing with the fund? It goes into general revenue and gives the Liberals a chance to play with the hard-earned money which has been taken off the paycheques of employees. It also affects employers as well.

Canadians would be far better served if that amount were lowered to a prudent calculation, roughly $10 billion to $15 billion, stop the payroll taxes on hardworking Canadians. The finance minister said that in 1994. When he needed more money to play with, suddenly it was not a payroll tax anymore. That is really what it is.

Some people would argue that the government has balanced its books on the backs of employees and employers who contribute to the fund. There is some justification for that and it needs to be reviewed.

There is no substitute in Canada for real employment. The employment insurance program that the government has been tinkering with will not do it. It has to get the fundamentals right and get taxes down, including payroll taxes, personal taxes and corporate taxes. We see the United States moving in that direction. Canada has not caught up from the last round in terms of corporate and personal income tax. We are at a real disadvantage. Our employers and companies are at a real disadvantage if we compare them to those in the United States.

Twenty years ago the productivity of Canada and the United States was almost exactly the same. What has happened in twenty years? The United States is still number one in terms of productivity. Where is Canada today? Canada is ranked 13th in the industrial world.

It is no coincidence that these things have happened. They have happened because of thirty years of mismanagement by the government across the way, a big interventionist government and growing government programs, programs which were financed with deficit financing. Increasing deficits require payments to pay off the interest on the huge national debt.

Canada is faced with a 30 year decline in our dollar. We have a 30 year decline in direct foreign investment in Canada. Even Canadians are looking outside our country for a place to invest because they cannot get the kind of return on investments they need. The EI fund is one of the funds responsible for this.

Up until 30 years ago, when Canada made those changes, Canadian and American unemployment rates could be charted. They were basically the same year in and year out, in good times or bad. Canada had a divergence in that 30 year period and we are roughly 3% to 4% higher than the United States all the time.

There need to be reforms. There needs to be proper debate in the House. I am very concerned that the government is moving so early in this new parliament to cut off debate on such very important issues. It should be chastized for doing that and should not follow that course of action in the future. Members across the way should be ashamed to support that kind of government intervention.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2001 / 4:45 p.m.
See context


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions.

This bill replaces Bill C-38, which as they say died on the Order Paper when parliament was dissolved last October, after the Prime Minister decided to call an early election, having not yet completed four years of his mandate.

To begin with, this is essentially the same bill. Bills C-38 and C-8 are twins. But they are not identical because, in addition to a few minor amendments to ensure a closer match between the English and French texts, there is a major change with respect to the demands made by the Bloc Quebecois and by Bernard Landry, Minister of State for the Economy and Finance and Deputy Premier of Quebec, a change which would ultimately make the bill more acceptable by adding amendments anyway.

I was saying that the federal government decided to respond in part to the demands and expectations expressed by minister Landry by incorporating in its bill four points the Government of Quebec felt were important. However, these points were incorporated not in the bill itself, but in the guidelines on the reclassification of the banks listed in schedule 1 whose equity capital is under $5 billion.

The guidelines that accompanied the release issued on the day the Minister of Finance introduced his bill, clearly stated that, and I quote:

Any transaction involving a recategorization will be considered on its own merits, and should demonstrate that it would foster opportunities for the bank to grow and better serve the customers of the bank.

In considering whether a proposed transaction involving a recategorization is in the public interest, the Minister shall take into account all matters that the Minister considers relevant, including:

safety and soundness of the bank;

direct and indirect employment;

the location of the mind and management of the bank;

needs of consumers;

businesses and operations of the bank;

and prospects for the bank in the context of the global marketplace.

However, since these elements were not included in the act, they could be changed by the minister who could, for example, yield to the pressures of powerful international lobbies.

That being said, I must say without any hesitation that Bill C-8 raises many questions in my mind. When I think about what I have seen and observed with this government over the past eight years, I am concerned. I am concerned by, among other things, the government's arrogance, its contempt for democracy, its inability to fulfil its own promises and by the ease with which it yields to the pressures of the well-to-do and crushes the poor. I could go on and on, because there are so many reasons to be concerned about this government.

Let us take a look at a few things that are scary in this bill.

Bill C-8 gives full power to the federal Minister of Finance to decide, alone, the future of Quebec banks.

With Bill C-8, the Minister of Finance will be able to decide alone, at his own discretion, the future of Quebec banks. I find it truly unacceptable that this discretionary power is as strong as if not stronger than the act itself.

The Bloc Quebecois is concerned that a single shareholder could, with the agreement of the Minister of Finance, own 65% of the shares of the National Bank, the number one bank in Quebec. There is no need for the Minister of Finance to authorize this excessive control to ensure the flexibility of the National Bank. How is it that a shareholder owning 65% of a bank will give it more flexibility than 65 shareholders owning 1% each?

We need legislative guarantees against any negative impact these new ownership rules might have on employment, for example, on consumer services, on small business services, on decision centres and, most of all, on Montreal's role as a hub in the area of international finance. The stakes are just too high for Quebec to rely on only one person, the federal Minister of Finance, especially since Bill C-8 offers no real legislative guarantees. As I said earlier, the bill does nothing more than list some elements to consider that do not go far enough and that are under the sole control of the Minister of Finance.

Even worse, it seems to me that the finance minister's bill is full of holes which should be cause for concern to any person of goodwill. Why must the government write such thick bills if it does not seek clarity? How will this government be able to judge the clarity of others if it is incapable of seeing its own lack of clarity? One factor which contributes to clarity is precision. See for yourselves. On page 55 of the bill, clause 385 sets out the public holding requirement for banks. However, we learn a little further on, in clause 388, and I quote:

On application by a bank, the Minister may, if the Minister considers it appropriate to do so, by order exempt the bank from the requirements of section 385, subject to any terms and conditions that the Minister considers appropriate.

As well we see that the provisions of the act cease to apply if the minister so decides. In other words, this is a bill with flexible parameters, one that will allow Ottawa and the Minister of Finance to decide unilaterally on the future of the National Bank.

It is not obvious that the federal Minister of Finance's bill as presented will ensure healthy competition in the national market. Yet this competition is more important to future economic development than striving to be bigger internationally.

But the Minister of Finance has decided to make legislation in favour of the big banks, even if by so doing he has to sell out the banks of Quebec, including the National Bank, the one known as the bank of small and medium size business in Quebec.

When I think of the way certain individuals, including the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and member for Saint-Laurent, want to see Quebec suffer, I tell myself this is a really powerful weapon in the hands of the federal Minister of Finance, if ever the federal government decides to act.

In this case I say to my fellow Quebecers, here is another really good reason, just one more, to create our own country, so that we can make our own decisions on what we want to do with our banks.

As regards consumer protection, the Minister of Finance remains vague and expresses more wish than real policy.

Bill C-8 will establish the financial consumer agency whose purpose, according to the finance minister, will be to protect consumers.

The Bloc Quebecois is and has always been a protector of human rights and citizens as evidenced by the debate held in this House on Bill C-54 that dealt with the protection of personal information and died on the order paper in 1997 to be reintroduced as Bill C-6 and given royal assent on April 13, 2000.

I want to remind the House that Quebec already has several laws protecting consumers. For instance, there are the consumer protection act, the privacy act, as well as all the legislation on insurance companies, trust companies, savings and credit unions and securities.

This new agency will only create duplication in regulations, given all the measures that have already been taken by the Government of Quebec in this area which, need I remind the House, is under provincial and not federal jurisdiction.

The finance minister takes the credit for including in Bill C-8 a measure, the low-fee retail deposit account, as described in section 448.2, that would provide low income people greater access to financial services.

With regard to this famous low-fee retail deposit account, nobody except the minister knows exactly what it is all about. Nobody knows what are the prescribed characteristics mentioned in this clause and which would entitle an individual to a low-fee retail deposit account. Nobody except the minister of course knows whether such an account will be available everywhere, in every bank in Canada and Quebec.

How is it that, as we are talking, the minister is the only one who knows the answer to all these questions? It is very simple. The minister is the only one who knows, because all these issues will be defined in the regulations. As we are having this debate in the House, we do not have a clue about what will be in the regulations.

True enough, if the regulations had been made an appendix to the bill, it would have increased the thickness of an already voluminous piece of legislation. For the time being, all we have to go by is the minister's word.

Once bitten, twice shy, however. Members of this government have made so many promises during three election campaigns, in 1993, 1997 and 2000, without keeping their promises or being true to their word, that I must say the fine words from the Canadian Minister of Finance are not enough to be able to categorically state that consumers will be better protected under this new law.

I also question what is in the bill regarding branch closure; I wonder what will happen with the reduction in services available to consumers. The only measure provided by Bill C-8 is that a bank must give a four month notice before closing a branch.

Before, people learned about the closure the very morning their branch was to close. With the finance minister's bill, they will know about it four months ahead of time.

With this bill, the government can do precious little to prevent, through legislation or coercion, the anticipated closure of a branch. With a clause that is so unrestrictive, how can one claim, like the finance minister does, that this bill will improve access to financial services? The minister is the only one who can have this kind conviction and optimism.

Bill C-8 does not provide any concrete measure to ensure greater access to financial services for the poor. That would have been a step in the right direction. The minister should know by now that there is a real problem there. He could have made use of the bill introduced by my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, in the second session of the 36th parliament. The bill was entitled an act to amend the Bank Act and the Statistics Act (equity in community reinvestment). Its main goal was to ensure that certain branches of banks take measures to facilitate access to credit for persons who have a residence or a place of business in a federal electoral district in which the branches are located.

Bill C-8 does not give any guarantee that the minister will take into consideration the specificity of the financial system in Quebec. Madam Speaker, if you and I could have a conversation on the subject, I am almost convinced that you would tell me “The hon. member is well aware of the fact that the minister is himself from Quebec, and he takes Quebecers' interests to heart”. I would regretfully have to tell you that the minister is indeed the member for Lasalle—Émard, but that he ignores or purports to ignore that Quebec is a people whose financial system has its own specificities, and that the minister in no way takes that into account in Bill C-8.

I might add that we would have this conversation if you did not hold your present position. I know that you now have to be of the utmost neutrality. But if you were a backbencher, as I am, we could have had this little chat.

My colleagues, the members for St. Hyacinthe—Bagot and Drummond, who are finance critic and assistant finance critic, respectively, will propose amendments to Bill C-8 on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to counter the inequity towards Quebec's major banks. I hope the extended Liberal caucus from Quebec will keep its promise of standing up in Ottawa for Quebecers. To this day, this caucus has given its support to the government each time it has introduced bills going against promises made during the recent campaign. Will I be forced, once more, to conclude that the population has been misled? I am waiting for proof and it is much too long coming.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

February 8th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the Alliance Party motion.

Tomorrow, we will complete the Address Debate. Votes from Thursday and Friday will be deferred to Tuesday evening, in accordance with an agreement between the parties.

On Monday, we will begin debate on the financial institutions bill. Later that day we will return to Bill C-2, the employment insurance bill.

On Tuesday, I hope to call Bill C-6 respecting boundary waters, and Bill S-2 on marine liability.

I should like to advise the House at this time that it is the Government's intention, continuing in the spirit of parliamentary reform, to propose that Bill C-6 be referred to committee before second reading, pursuant to Standing Order 73.

Next Wednesday, I expect to call Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. Next Thursday will be an Allotted Day.

In the area of parliamentary reform, I am pleased to inform the House that I have offered all House leaders full briefings on the international trade issues relevant to the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. I hope members will avail themselves of this opportunity.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Brant Ontario


Jane Stewart Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

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