Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act

An Act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions

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.

Motion in AmendmentFinancial System Review ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of the great Kenora riding for giving me the opportunity to speak on their behalf with respect to Bill S-5.

This is an obligatory and largely routine piece of legislation, but it is essential for the continued strength and security of Canada's financial system that our constituents rely on every day, be it to cash a cheque, to apply for a mortgage or to buy that first home.

As background for all Canadians, legislation governing federally regulated financial institutions is reviewed every five years by the government to ensure the stability of the Canadian financial system. The last legislative review was completed in 2007 through Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament. In 2001, a similar review was completed with Bill C-8 in the 37th Parliament.

I should also let the House and our constituents know that it is crucial that today's act be passed by April 20, 2012. This is the legislated sunset date, and passage must be achieved by then to allow the Canadian financial system to function in the manner that it has been doing.

In September 2010, the present five-year review began. This was kicked-off with an open and public consultation process. The Minister of Finance invited all Canadians to give their views on how to improve the financial system. Throughout that consultation, many Canadians gave their ideas and suggestions on how to further reinforce and strengthen our financial system. Indeed, much of that comment is reflected within the financial system review act that we are debating today. To be sure, today's act takes into consideration the feedback from industry groups, consumer groups and other Canadians to make measured, technical adjustments to strengthen Canada's regulatory framework.

I would also draw the attention of Canadians to the fact that today's act has already been reviewed and approved by the Senate banking, trade and commerce committee as well as the House of Commons finance committee and the great work of those members. Both committees undertook a comprehensive and efficient review of this act. It included talking to organizations like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the Credit Union Central of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the Canadian Bankers Association and the Canadian Payments Association. This was an impressive catchment of stakeholders.

I want to thank each of the witnesses who spoke on the financial system review act in front of both committees for providing their important input. I will note that witnesses, while acknowledging the act's technical nature, were very supportive of it overall. For example, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association declared, “Bill S-5 represents a welcome fine-tuning of the various financial institution statutes”.

At this time I will quickly review some of the initiatives taken in today's act.

Once more, even though the majority of these initiatives are largely technical, they are indispensable for the security of Canada's financial system. That is why today's act would make the following alterations: modernizing legislation to uphold financial stability and guarantee that Canada's financial institutions continue to operate in a competitive, efficient, effective and stable environment; improving the consumer protection framework, including expanding powers for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to better protect consumers; and reducing the red tape and regulatory burden on financial institutions.

Other measures contained in today's act include the following: clarifying that all Canadians, including bank customers, are able to cash government cheques under $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada; removing duplicative disclosure requirements for federally regulated insurance companies; offering adjustable policies in foreign jurisdictions, thus cutting their red tape burden; encouraging competition and innovation by allowing co-operative credit associations to provide technology services to a broader market; and improving the capacity of regulators to efficiently share information with international counterparts while respecting the privacy of clients.

There are more, but I want to emphasize that the significance of this act provides for a safe and secure financial system.

It is a system that has endured for Canadians during the recent global economic crisis that saw the failure of some of the best known banks around the world. Indeed, in recent years Canadians have recognized just how important a sound financial banking system really is for our country's economy.

Undeniably our system has been a model for countries around the globe. Canada proudly did not have to bail out, nationalize or buy equity stakes in its banks, in stark contrast to the U.S., the United Kingdom and countries in Europe. In fact the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's financial system as the soundest in the world for four straight years. Our safe and secure financial system is envied the world over.

It was remarked in the well-known publication Forbes, “With no bailouts, it is the soundest system in the world, marked by steady and responsible continuation of lending and profits”.

Constantine Passaris, a University of New Brunswick economics professor, adds:

The financial tsunami of 2008 swept around the world with devastating economic consequences. Banks proved to be particularly vulnerable to the credit crunch that followed....

There is no denying that our Canadian banks proved significantly resilient....

The Canadian way is to record our national achievements in a low-key and understated manner. There is one economic achievement however, that has made the world stand up and notice. Indeed, in this case, we cannot hide from the international spotlight and we can proudly accept the global applause....

We appreciate these comments. Indeed, many of the financial sector solutions now promoted internationally are modelled on our Canadian system. With today's bill, Canada's financial system will remain secure and serve as a fundamental source of strength for Canada's economy moving forward.

The financial system is one of the most important aspects of Canada's economy and jobs, totalling approximately 7% of Canada's economy. What is more, it provides employment, good, well-paying jobs for more than 750,000 Canadians. Our financial sector also provides financing to the housing markets and other markets that rely on borrowing, and in that respect the financial services sector is a significant presence in the day-to-day lives of all Canadians.

The Financial System Review Act will help support a proven framework that benefits all Canadians who use or are impacted by the financial services sector.

The long established practice of regularly reviewing the financial institution regulatory framework is also a distinctive and positive practice that sets Canada apart from the world. Indeed, it has been vital to ensuring the stability of the sector. All Canadians would acknowledge the significance of frequently examining how we can better ensure our financial system's safety and soundness for the benefit of all Canadians. Today's bill accomplishes just that.

I encourage members to support today's bill and ensure it passes in a timely manner. I appreciate having the occasion to support this important piece of legislation.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the chance to address the House in support of Bill S-5, the financial system review act. For the information of Canadians and members of the House, the financial system review act is a mandatory and routine piece of legislation.

To ensure the stability of the financial sector in Canada, the statutes that govern federally regulated financial institutions must be reviewed every five years, a long-standing practice that has carried over from previous governments. As I mentioned previously, it deals with federally regulated financial institutions and, for clarity, those include domestic and foreign banks, trust and loan companies, insurance companies and co-operative credit associations.

The last similar legislative review was completed through Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament. Prior to that, a similar review was completed in 2001 through Bill C-8 in the 37th Parliament. As with the previous five year reviews, there is a timeline for the process to be completed, as the sunset date for the financial institutions statutes is April 20, 2012. The present five year review, which has led to today's bill, commenced in September 2010 when the finance minister launched an open and public consultation process that asked all Canadians to submit their thoughts and ideas on how we could best improve Canada's financial system to make it even more stable and secure.

During the consultation process, I understand that many Canadians provided their feedback and much of that is seen in today's bill. Moreover, the public consultation process itself has been praised. For example, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association told the Senate banking, trade and commerce committee during its study of the bill, “The consultation process was very positive and reflected the technical nature of this review”.

The financial system review act, while largely technical, would take important steps to help guarantee that Canada's fiscal system is securely regulated and remains strong and stable for the sake of our economy. Among the bill's highlights are measures to: First, bring up to date financial institutions' legislation to support financial stability and ensure that Canada's financial institutions continue to operate in a competitive, well-regulated and secure environment; second, better protected consumers with an improved protection framework, including reinforcing the powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; and third, improve effectiveness by reducing unnecessary administrative red tape on financial institutions and adding prudently regulated flexibility.

Again, today's bill is tremendously important in supporting the continued strength of our economy, the main priority of our Conservative government and an area where we are getting results. Indeed, while there are challenges ahead, Canada's performance during the recent global downturn has been strong when compared to other industrialized countries. First and foremost, since our government introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. Some 610,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended, resulting in the strongest rate of employment growth by far among all G7 countries.

Furthermore, about 9 out of 10 positions that have been created since July 2009 have been full time and more than three-quarters of the jobs created over this period have been in the private sector. Fortunately, Canada has fared far better than the U.S. in this regard. Indeed, Canada's unemployment rate has been lower than that of the U.S. since October 2008, a phenomenon not seen in nearly three decades.

On top of Canada's solid performance on jobs, the real gross domestic product is now significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance among the G7 nations. It is clear that Canada has weathered the economic storm relatively well. It is also clear that this resilient performance in a climate of global uncertainty has not gone unnoticed.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that we will be among the strongest economic growth in the G7 over this year and next. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries in which to do business. Three credit agencies, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's, have reaffirmed their top ranking for Canada. Most significant, for the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world. That is something we would reinforce with today's bill.

Clearly, this is a solid performance in volatile times and it will serve this country well. Indeed, in the recent words of Scotia Bank's chief economist, Warren Jestin, “When you look at what exists in Canada, this is still the best country in the world to be in.

To truly understand the strength behind this performance, we need to consider the hard work that took place through the actions that our Conservative government took to pay down debt, lower taxes, reduce red tape, promote free trade and innovation and ensure a stable financial system.

To start with, our government paid down significant amounts of debt when times were good and kept our debt to GDP ratio well below our G7 counterparts. As a result, when trouble hit, we had the ability to respond.

The International Monetary Fund projects that Canada's net debt to GDP ratio for the last year will come in at just under 35%. A net debt to GDP ratio of under 35% is excellent considering that these rates for other G7 nations are much higher. In contrast, Germany is projected to be over 57%, the United States and the United Kingdom at over 72%, France at 81%, Italy at 100% and Japan just over 130%.

Along with this strong fiscal performance, we introduced the tax relief required to create jobs and growth in all economic conditions. In 2007, prior to the impact of the financial crisis, Canada passed a bold low tax plan that helped to brand Canada as a low tax destination for business investment. This low tax plan, along with our sound and safe financial system, plays and will continue to play a crucial role in supporting economic growth and jobs.

Our Conservative government is under no illusions that our work is finished. Major challenges remain both here and around the world. As we know, the global economic outlook remains highly uncertain and the situation in Europe is still very fragile. The changes facing our global economy are far from over and Canada will not be immune.

Despite solid job creation since July 2009, too many Canadians remain unemployed. That is why our Conservative government's main focus will be the continued implementation of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to support jobs and growth as we prepare for budget 2012. That includes today's bill, which would help to ensure the continued strength and security of our financial systems.

Once more, we will continue to focus on improving the well-being of Canadians by sustaining the economic recovery, eliminating the deficit and making investments that will fuel long-time growth. I strongly urge all members to support and vote in favour of this important legislation and help it progress in a timely manner to passage.

February 19th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Duff Conacher Chairperson, Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition

Thank you very much to the committee for this opportunity to present on Bill C-37.

The Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition, which I chair, is a coalition of a hundred anti-poverty, community economic development, consumer, labour, and citizen groups that represent, in total membership, more than 3 million Canadians. As a coalition, it has been advocating increased bank accountability and consumer protection for ten years now.

The coalition is concerned about key gaps in Bill C-37 that have been continued in federal financial institution laws for many years. Citizen groups and consumer groups have been pointing to these gaps for more than a decade, but the gaps have still not been closed. It's a serious situation, because according to 90% of Canadians, access to basic banking service is an essential service—as essential as heat, hydro, or other home services that essentially allow people to live in society.

At the same time, the market share controlled by the big banks in Canada in most main service categories in most parts of the country is higher than in most industrialized countries. As one former head of the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. believes, the record profits of the banks are proof enough of excess market share controlled by too few players in the market.

At the same time, the watchdog agencies watching financial institutions in terms of accountability and consumer protection lack either independence, resources, or a strong enforcement attitude and record. As a result, financial consumers are essentially on their own and up against very powerful, well-resourced financial institutions when shopping for, dealing with, or complaining about financial institution services.

While the past twenty years of response from the federal government have largely seen inaction, there was somewhat of a breakthrough with Bill C-8 in 2001. However, the measures in Bill C-8 all contain key loopholes that undermine the effectiveness of the measures. As a result, in 2007, the 20 million Canadian financial consumers, especially of banking services, lack key protections. Equally, Canadian banks lack key accountability requirements that have been in place in the U.S. and other countries for ten to twenty years.

The first area--of ten--about which the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition is concerned is that of the public accountability statements that now have to be produced by federally regulated financial institutions annually. These public accountability statements pale in comparison to the accountability statements that are required—now for over twenty years—to be produced by banks and other institutions in the U.S.

The big problem is that, unlike in the U.S., the statements do not require the banks to disclose detailed data on their service, lending, and investment records--in particular, demand for lending and investment and the response by each bank, broken down on a neighbourhood basis and by characteristics of borrowers. As a result, it's impossible to tell what the lending, service, and investment record is of any bank in Canada.

At the same time, we are allowing the banks to grow, take over lots of institutions, and possibly merge in the future. With each takeover, as the banks get larger, we're not able to measure whether their service gets better or worse as they get bigger.

In the U.S., the essential rule is that if you're a bank with a bad record, you're not allowed to get bigger. It's just common sense. Why would you want a bank that has a bad service, lending, or investment record to get bigger? Then they're just going to serve more people poorly or continue to increase the discrimination in lending or other unfair lending practices.

As part of the accountability statements being strengthened so that they become more detailed, we also propose that the government would regularly review these statements and grade them, as is done in the U.S., and that growing as a financial institution would be conditional on having a good service, lending, and investment record. This is what has been done in the U.S. for more than twenty years.

A second accountability measure that we propose to be put in place is that government should not contract to financial institutions that have poor service, lending, or investment records. A mandatory condition for bidding on all federal government contracts should be that the institution can show it has had a good record every year for the previous ten years.

Right now the federal government hands out tens of millions of dollars of business to federal financial institutions and requests nothing in return. This is a leverage point, an incentive that can be used very effectively, as it has been used in other areas, to ensure that the banks have a good record and serve every Canadian fairly and well.

I'll turn now to a specific provision in Bill C-37, which is a loophole that was left by Bill C-8, and that is the policies that were required by the banks in terms of holds on cheques. Bill C-8 required only that the banks have a policy. The policy that they've put in place is that you get access to the money you deposit by cheque ten days after you deposit it.

For people with low incomes, that means they'll never open a bank account because they can't wait for their money for ten days. Bill C-37 reduces this cheque-hold period to only four to seven days, but 98% of cheques clear overnight. Our proposal is that this measure be amended so that depositors will have a right to access funds from a deposited cheque the day after the cheque is deposited.

To go through some of the other measures quickly, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is not allowed to name an institution that violates the law unless the institution is prosecuted by the agency. The agency has prosecuted only two institutions in the past five years. All of the rest that have violated the law remain unnamed, and as a result, Canadians have no idea which institutions have a good record or not. The agency needs to be required to penalize and name violators in every case that they find a violation.

As well, the Financial Services Ombudsman needs to be made much more independent and have binding powers. The federal government should not have let the industry set up its own ombudsman, but should have, as Bill C-8 set out, set up the ombudsman itself as a government-run body that would ensure independence and fairness in the operations, and given the body the power to order financial institutions to remedy unfair treatment.

Question No. 83Routine Proceedings

December 12th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
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Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

As required by Bill C-8, the four recently demutualized insurers have a common transition period during which they must remain widely held. No mergers by, or acquisitions of, demutualized firms are permitted during that period. The transition period ends on December 31, 2001.

After December 31, 2001, demutualized insurers with equity of under $5 billion will automatically be eligible to be closely held, however, transactions involving these companies will continue to require the approval of the Minister of Finance. As a matter of policy, those demutualized companies with over $5 billion in equity will continue to be widely held.

While companies are always free to hold commercial discussions with one another, the Minister will not consider any applications regarding mergers or acquisitions of these companies prior to January 1, 2002. More specifically, no applications will be considered under financial institutions statutes and no analysis of potential transactions will be undertaken before this date.

Canada National marine conservation areas ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, normally I would not use the two minutes that I have left, because I had many opportunities to speak this morning. However, given the importance of Bill C-10, to which we are opposed, I will use those two minutes.

Before oral question period, I was saying that there is confusion within the government's own departments, whether it is Fisheries and Oceans, or Environment Canada. Now, in addition to these two, Canadian heritage wants to be responsible for certain areas, this strictly for Canadian unity reasons.

With this much confusion within the federal government itself, it is easy to imagine the confusion there would be at other levels of government. To whom would a provincial government such as Quebec go in connection with the administration of a protected zone? I have no idea.

This confusion gives rise to another problem as well. The problem is a fundamental one. If the departments of a government cannot work together, how can we expect provincial governments to co-operate? It is understandable that the Government of Quebec would refuse to co-operate in this project. The federal government is unable to tell us clearly and precisely why this bill comes from Canadian heritage, when Fisheries and Oceans Canada already has a marine area protection program. The Bloc Quebecois cannot but oppose such an incredible administrative muddle as this.

The way this bill is to be implemented is not clear; it cannot be clear, because of the very nature of its objectives. Canadian heritage is trying to take over jurisdictions that are not its own. It is also trying, with this bill, to take over areas that are not its areas, and thus to meddle once again in provincial jurisdictions and in Quebec's jurisdiction, under cover of the environment. How far will the federal government go in taking over jurisdictions that belong to Quebec and the other provinces?

I reiterate my opposition to Bill C-10 on protected marine areas for several reasons, including the overlap of the responsibilities of departments and especially because of the indirect approach taken in appropriating jurisdictions that belong exclusively to Quebec and the other provinces.

Once again, the federal government has chosen to introduce a bill that ignores action already taken, and successfully. I am talking of course about the agreement regarding the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

I fear for the future of people who believe in this government, which takes no account of their interests. I fear for the future of our environment when the objectives of a bill put before us ignore its primary focus, the environment.

In closing, I want people to understand what we are saying here. The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of protecting the environment, but we cannot be naive to the point of agreeing to pass this bill. The government tried to get the House to pass similar legislation in previous parliaments through Bill C-8 and Bill C-48. Now we have Bill C-10, which creates overlap and through which the government is trying to use crown lands.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2001 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 is a rehash of two predecessors, identified at the time as Bills C-8 and C-48. This raises the following question: why did the government not pass C-8? Why did the Liberals, in their third mandate, not pass C-48?

There are a number of reasons why. In the latter case, it is because the Prime Minister decided to call a hasty election in order to catch his adversaries by surprise, particularly the new leader of the Canadian Alliance. He put vote-getting ahead of a number of bills, and this one, along with 22 others fell by the wayside. I remember, because one of those was a private member's bill on shipbuilding.

Now we are only a few weeks away from the anniversary of that election call, at which time that bill on shipbuilding had gone through all the stages, second reading, clause by clause examination in committee and report stage. All that remained was third reading, but the Prime Minister preferred to call an election. I know that my bill was not the only reason; it was primarily to gain political advantage, one might say.

There is another question. If the government had not yet passed this bill on marine conservation areas, it is certainly not because it was a priority. If it was not a priority during the two previous mandates, is it really a priority now? I doubt it. I would tend to believe that the government does not have much to offer to the House in terms of a legislative agenda while the anti-terrorism legislation is still in the planning and consultation stages. In the meantime, it gives us this bill to discuss.

As I recall, when we were dealing with Bill C-8 and Bill C-48, on each occasion I took part in the debate and spoke against those bills for the very same reasons.

We in the Bloc Quebecois often bring up the fact that there is duplication between the federal and provincial governments. This is another case in point. Under the Constitution, natural resources and public lands come under provincial jurisdiction. It is a proven fact.

Nevertheless and in spite of warnings, in spite of the opposition, and in spite of the result of botched consultations, we have this bill before us. If an independent firm were asked to report on the kind of consultations that were carried out on the bill, it would not be very likely that the same company would be hired again. The data is not conclusive.

Moreover, this duplication is, I do not know how to say this, “intrafederal”. We are talking about creating marine conservation areas which would come under the Department of Canadian Heritage, but we already have marine protection areas under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We also have marine wildlife areas under the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.

It bears repeating: marine conservation areas, marine protection areas, and marine wildlife areas.

This, as my father would say, is a lot of hogwash. It is incomprehensible. By trying too hard to protect natural resources, the government may actually harm them, and I wonder about their motives. Apparently conservation is what they have in mind, but conservation in terms of heritage. I suppose that fish could be admired for their beauty or like any other typically Canadian item.

But these things are related and, during the consultations, people said “Yes, but there is a very distinct possibility when there is a desire to protect natural species for heritage reasons in the same areas as fisheries and ocean's marine protection areas”. But fisheries and oceans officials want there to be more fish and fisheries products to feed us, as well as provide work for people in regions such as the Gaspé or the maritimes. The Department of the Environment is also concerned because all this is very closely related.

And precisely because it is closely related, should these three kinds of areas not come under the jurisdiction of one federal body? Imagine the situation for people in Quebec or in other provinces trying to manage projects or areas under the authority of one or the other of these three departments. The federal government is in the process of inventing a weapon by which it can attack provincial jurisdictions from three different angles. One would think we were in Afghanistan, so intense is the bombardment. This will not do. It is intrafederal duplication.

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is laughing, but I know that he agrees with me. He too thinks it is ridiculous. But now, he can no longer say so because he is sitting with the Liberal majority. He is obviously forced to toe the party line. But when he was on this side of the House, he was in favour. Then, he was right to support the creation of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence marine park.

Why was that a good project? Because there was an agreement between Quebec and the federal government intended not just to protect but to develop this beauty, which the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord could still develop.

I could give another example of co-operation that took place, but that is not moving as quickly as we would hope. I am referring to the St. Lawrence action plan, which concerns primarily the shores of the river. Many projects are waiting for funding and money. I saw the tremendous work done by priority intervention zones. The zone in my region is called the Zone d'interventions protégées de Chaudière-Appalaches. Several projects are waiting for money to develop and protect the environment, and to help the ecosystem.

But instead of that, what we have before us is a virtual bill, since it does not target a specific territory. This is an omnibus bill that would allow the government to get involved in jurisdictions that, again, belong to the provinces, this within a framework that does not include public lands alone, but also natural resources that belong to the provinces. This is being done after a rushed consultation process.

When we want a copy of the supposedly 300 pages on the outcome of these consultations, we are given 73. It is as if the protection of these areas were a military secret. It is almost forbidden to say where these areas will be located, as if this were a highly strategic piece of information. If this were a priority, the government would have included it the first time, in Bill C-8, and the second time, in Bill C-48. But it did not do so.

Now that things are quiet and that the government is not ready to go ahead with Bill C-36 because consultations are still going on, it is making us debate this issue in parliament.

I say that it is too bad for the Liberal government. Every time, we tell the government the same thing and say “You are getting involved in provincial jurisdictions. Instead of doing that, put money in your own jurisdictions, in national parks”.

Instead, a report from the auditor general talks about negligence and insufficient staff and funds, before adding that it is an ill-protected area. And the government wants to develop more areas. This just does not make sense.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2001 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Not on a motorbike, that is true. We want to be able to celebrate marine areas whether they are oceans, lakes or whatever. We have a marvellous heritage and beautiful waterways. We need to celebrate them and make sure that their safety and sanctity remain in place.

The bill would allow for the creation of future marine parks or the enlargement of existing parks by order of governor in council. Members will know that governor in council is a tremendously powerful tool. It can be used for good but it is also an amazing temptation to use for power because one does not need to mess around with all the to-do of having to go through parliament.

It is important to make sure that the House knows, accepts and endorses any changes that would take place regardless of what kind of legislation it is. We are currently working through the anti-terrorism bill after the events of September 11. We know how important it is that parliament be allowed and enabled to speak on it.

We have reservations about governor in council because we must make sure that it does not run roughshod over the democratic process.

A proposed amendment would be tabled in each House and referred to committee which would have the option of reporting back to the House. In order to defeat the proposed amendment the committee would have to report to the House that it disapproved of the amendment. If no such motion were proposed in either House after 21 sitting days the amendment could be made, thereby creating or enlarging an MCA.

It is important to bring things before the House. We are not here for the fun of it. It is not that we all love to debate although I am sure that is a characteristic most of us share. Nonetheless things should not be hived off through a backroom process and people should not whip things through. These things need to see the light of day. Canadians must be ensured that they know exactly what is going on.

The marine conservation areas could include seabeds, including the waters above them and species that occur within them, as well as wetlands, estuaries, islands and other coastal lands.

I am not a serious scuba diver. My husband and I have taken it up in the last few years and we enjoy it. How special it is to be able to appreciate not just what God has created overland and on the ocean but underneath as well. We saw some magnificent things while scuba diving in Mexico and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were unbelievable experiences we were allowed to share and we are very grateful for them.

We are concerned about the environment and about the ecosystem under the ocean. It is essential to make sure we protect them. When I look at the bill I want to make sure that it is safe and environmentally sound for creatures under the sea, for people who will be scuba diving, and for people who will be participating on the water or underneath it.

The concern I raised related to flight and boating patterns for people flying over or boating across conservation areas. We need to ensure that the legislation takes into consideration the concerns of commercial ventures and not simply environmental issues.

There have been some technical and minor substantive changes when I compare the bill to Bill C-8. Some of my concerns and reservations have also been addressed.

Bill C-10 includes the following changes from Bill C-8 which was introduced in the second session of the 36th parliament. There is a stipulation in subclause 2(2) that nothing in the legislation would abrogate or derogate from existing aboriginal rights. Those are things that are essential as well. We want to make sure that the aboriginal communities are consulted and not just having things announced to them. We want to ensure that the ecosystem is very balanced and in place.

There is an explicit requirement in subparagraph 5(2)(b) for provincial consent in the establishment or enlargement of a national marine conservation area. That is important because the provincial governments are the level of government that is closer to the people. Then one has municipal governments which are the closest level to the people, period.

I was at the Alberta urban municipalities association government luncheon in Edmonton on Friday talking to town councillors. All members can be assured that if a sewer backs up or if a dog is barking people do not phone their member of parliament. They phone their town councillor or their county reeve, the level of government which is most closely associated with the people.

The provincial government is just one level closer. It is essential for provincial governments to be able to buy into that. That is very wise. If a federal government ever goes over the head of a provincial government it runs the risk of ostracizing people and pushing people aside. No one stands to gain anything from that.

There is an allowance in subclause 4(4) for zones for sustainable use and for high protection of special features and fragile ecosystems within these marine conservation areas. That is good as we need to have sustainable environmental controls on it.

I will comment on the whole idea of economic development. These are essential things to a commercial airline such as Harbour Air on the west coast of British Columbia. It has been flying over these areas for years. We do not want any government going to an extreme and specifying that there can no longer be commercial flights.

We need sustainable use, economical development and environmental impact studies. All these things have to go together and they should complement each other not be at odds with each other.

There is a requirement in clause 7 for an interim management plan when government tables in parliament a proposal for the establishment of a marine conservation area. We must acknowledge how important this place is to the debate and implementation of those things and how important it is that government be wide open with its intentions.

People across Canada would then feel safer, more special and consulted. They would certainly buy into with a sense of ownership and pride any matter regarding a national marine conservation area. It is not that people are against it. They are nervous about what the government will do. They have had many experiences where an order in council was brought through and a regulation happened.

It is not as if they were asked if this was all right. They were not consulted to work something through together with government. Rather there was some great pronouncement from on high that this would be the way it was. Some claim they are from the government and are there to help them. That makes people more nervous than confident.

I am pleased to see that the government made some changes. I am looking forward to making sure that the bill is not only sustainable but that it celebrates our unbelievable commitment not just to yap about it but to look after our environment, national parks and national marine conservation areas.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2001 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to address the bill again. It has been in the House for quite some time, as we know.

This is Bill C-10 in its latest incarnation. Members will recall that it was Bill C-8 in a previous session. I had serious concerns with Bill C-8 and obviously concerns about this one as well. It looks like the government had some second thoughts about the bill. I am pleased to say that the government is moving in the right direction.

The bill would create four marine conservation areas representing five of the twenty-nine marine regions. I had several people in my office last year who were explaining and showing me maps of the marine regions. I know that we have national parks in the country.

I live in Alberta and we celebrate our national parks there. There is nothing more beautiful than riding a Honda GoldWing across Banff, Yoho and Jasper national parks. It is a tremendous experience. My husband Lew and I were able to do that this summer and we really enjoyed it.

If we are able to celebrate that in terms of national parks on land, we want to be able to celebrate the sea and marine heritage as well.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 19th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on the issue of Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.

Before I begin, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the member for Québec, who has spent a lot of energy trying to make the government understand the importance of consultation about this bill. I congratulate her and I say “Well done and continue your efforts. Sooner or later, our position may prevail.” I believe that is a positive way to work and improve bills.

Again, it is unfortunate. Members will recall that I was, for three years, the Bloc Quebecois' environment critic. A similar bill had been introduced during a previous parliament, but it died on the order paper.

During all that time, I thought that the government would have the decency to take into consideration the work done by the committee, in order to see what suggestions we might make regarding a new bill, and thus ensure progress across Canada.

We must admit, however, that this government has not listened to members of parliament, not even its own members. We had very good discussions at the time. We truly were, as is usually said, for the environment, and I believe it is important to be. We were all acting in good faith.

Yet, when I saw the new bill, I said to myself “They have changed nothing. They have changed absolutely nothing from the previous two bills, either Bill C-8 or Bill C-44”. In other words, they have learned nothing.

Consequently, I wish to say to Quebecers and Canadians that this bill, introduced by this government, does not contribute, as my colleague from the New Democratic Party said, to creating harmony favourable to the environmental agenda, namely marine conservation areas. The Liberals are not acting at all, but they are trying, through fine words, to interfere in jurisdictions that do not belong to them.

We must remember that, under the Constitutional Act of 1867, the seabed comes under provincial jurisdiction. That cannot be denied, it is in the Canadian Constitution. With this bill, however, the government wants to take over areas where it should act in harmony with the provinces and talk with them as it did in the case of the agreement it signed with the Quebec government concerning the Saguenay—Saint-Lawrence Marine Park. That was a model to follow.

It is too bad. I was rereading this agreement the other day and I wished the Liberal member had it in his hands. This agreement was made years ago. It has evolved and has now reached phase three. Each government put money in a concerted fashion to advance an issue.

Madam Speaker, I do not know if you have been to my neck of the woods to visit this marine park. I invite you to do so because it is an example to follow. I have always cheered at the fact that we had finally an example of co-operation, of mutual respect, in order to promote very important issues for present and future generations. Instead of taking this agreement as a model, the government is now trying to reinvent the wheel.

This semblance of willingness to do things for the advancement of a society saddens me. As my colleague was saying, I think they are deceiving the population and are deceiving each other. With this bill, not only are they invading areas that are not under their jurisdiction, they are not agreeing with each other.

All the departments concerned with this bill, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Parks Canada, have specific jurisdiction and their areas of responsibility clash.

I do not know whether members have read the Auditor General of Canada's report. I read it with interest myself. Nothing has changed, so the 1996 report still applies. The Auditor General of Canada published chapter 31 on the management of national parks by Parks Canada. I would like to highlight what he said in this chapter. It is very important, because Canadian Heritage is the department introducing this bill.

He said:

—in the six national parks we reviewed, Parks Canada's biophysical information was out-of-date or incomplete except for La Mauricie.

This is the auditor general. He also said:

—that, on average, the management plans for the 18 national parks were 12 years old, when they should have been reviewed every five years.

He added that:

The park management plans provide the strategic direction chosen for the protection of park ecosystems.

The auditor general also added:

Delays in preparing management plans and ecosystem conservation plans reduce Parks Canada's ability to preserve the ecological integrity of national parks.

I could go on reading quotes by the Auditor General of Canada about Parks Canada all night. I will quote another passage from his report:

We are concerned that Parks Canada's ability to preserve ecological integrity in national parks and ensure sustainable park use will be seriously challenged.

This was the auditor general's conclusion.

There is another reason, which Quebecers and Canadians should know about, with regard to why we in the opposition are opposed to this bill, and that is that there was no consultation. The minister said they sent 3,000 consultation documents to groups in Canada. That is quite something. I was really happy when I heard that.

Sixty-two people replied. Most of them did not comment on the bill; they gave their address so that they could be reached in future. That being the case, on what grounds can the Canadian government say that there was consultation? They will have to try again. Is this consultation?

Nowadays, there is great interest in the environment and ecology. I think that, right now, there are several groups in society interested in really being consulted on issues that will affect future generations. But if this is the kind of consultation they do, I can only say that it falls far short.

When young children fail in school, what do they do? They open up their notebooks again, they open up their textbooks and they start studying again. The Government of Canada should have said, "You are right, we failed. We are going to do our homework over again. We are going to look into why our consultations did not provide us with the results we were looking for. The answer we put down was incomplete for such an important question". But the government did not do this. They continued. They moved forward and said that they consulted.

What is important to say about this bill is that it has nothing to do with partnerships, nothing at all; it does not involve governments; it does not consult with the population as a whole.

Back home, people use the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park. People go to see it. This opportunity to create a park came from the grassroots.

I would like everyone to come and see it. We are talking about extraordinary spaces. It is a wondrous area. It is like being in another world. There are valleys and mountains that connect with the St. Lawrence; it is incredibly beautiful. We have no reason to envy other countries given what we have.

This came from the needs of the grassroots. People got together and called on governments and the governments sat down with them, which led to a phenomenal success.

Why not do the same thing with this bill? If the government wanted to draft another bill, why did it not use this model? This was a success. I am sure that for the 28 marine conservation areas that the government wants to create, there would surely be 28 local groups that would have sat down with them to keep their identity. That is important. We managed to maintain the identity of our beautiful little piece of country in Quebec. That is what we managed to do. But this bill works against any real consultation.

Today, November 19, is my colleague's birthday, the member for Châteauguay I wanted to take this opportunity to wish him happy birthday.

Today, we realize that what this government is doing is inappropriate. Sometimes, I ask myself if it is there to fulfill its election promises, to bring about progress in society or simply to reintroduce old bills and to ease its conscience.

It is not true that we should ease our conscience on environmental issues, particularly it they concern marine conservation areas. I do not go into the forest, I am not a fanatic, but I have an only daughter, and it is important to her. Madam Speaker, I am sure it is important for your children to preserve our natural sites, to develop them in their natural environment that evolved during many generations.

That is not what this bill is doing. I have seen and heard so many things. My colleague, the member for Québec, told me what happened in committee. What did the people who appeared before the committee say? That it is impossible that three departments can say that they have the same job to do.

Heritage Canada wants to look after marine areas. Environment Canada is also in charge of ecosystems, and DFO is involved in this as well. The fishing industry is now in a state of great turmoil in Canada. DFO and HRDC have a project that creates an uproar over the nationalization issue, a project that is ill adapted to the real needs of the industry.

With all this going on in the fishing industry, they would like to do the same for conservation areas. The government will have to do its homework, as the Canadian Alliance member is asking in his amendment, which provides that the government should withdraw this bill, and send it to committee so that it can do its homework. I do not agree with this amendment because I support their position, but because the government should do its homework.

Ministers keep talking about September 11. Every time they are asked a question in the House, they talk about September 11 and say that everything has changed since then. It is true everything has changed. So maybe this bill should be approached differently, in a different light.

Let us have discussions to come to an agreement so that all members end up saying more or less the same thing. The Canadian Alliance is defending a certain position. The Bloc Quebecois cares about the environment and wants to protect the exclusive provincial jurisdiction over submerged lands. The New Democratic Party agrees with our views to a large extent. That is our position.

So, how is it that all of a sudden the truth is in the hands of the Liberal members? I do not think anyone knows the truth after what we experienced on September 11. No one knows the truth anymore. I think we have work to do in the communal sense, for the people and we must make it known to this government, not because we do not want marine areas.

It is not that I do not agree, because we succeeded in Quebec, in partnership with the federal government. The agreement is there. I will get you a copy, Madam Speaker, because it is important. You are a member of the Liberal government. I am sure you wonder about this bill. I think many of your colleagues do so as well. I think we should base ourselves on texts people spent years drafting to ensure we reach a positive conclusion.

I never dismiss out of hand an initiative from the community. That community had an idea and, over the years, was able to get the attention of both levels of government. The governments said “Your idea makes sense. We must sit down together to put that plan into action”. That is what they did, and I congratulate them for having succeeded in doing that.

But why then is the government doing the opposite with this bill? I think we have not seen the last of this government's tricks. One day it says yes, the next day it says no. It is too important. There is a lot of money involved in environmental issues.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois is totally against this bill and is asking the government to go back to square one. It has plenty of time to do so; this is not an urgent matter. It will have to resume consultations. It will have to speak to stakeholders and to come to an agreement with the provinces. It has a lot of work to do.

At this time, it is impossible to make any progress. There is simply too much division. I think we should be able to talk and to agree. If the government does what it can to achieve that, I will be the first one to congratulate it.

But congratulations are certainly not in order today. On the contrary, I am accusing the government of being a source of confrontation, of interfering and of not doing what should be done to protect our environment.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that the government has decided to follow up on parliamentary issues that began during the 36th parliament.

National marine conservation areas have already been the object of two bills, namely Bill C-8 and Bill C-48.

Bill C-8 was introduced by Heritage Canada to provide a legal framework for the establishment of 28 marine conservation areas, representative of each of the Canadian ecosystems.

As always, the Bloc Quebecois supports the establishment of environmental protection measures. We supported the government when it introduced its legislation to create the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

I should point out that the Quebec government is currently taking measures to protect the environment and, more specifically, the seabed.

The Quebec government is also open to joint management, as demonstrated by phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan.

Having said that, we cannot support Bill C-10 for three reasons.

First, contrary to what was done in the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government wants to act alone by giving itself the right to establish marine conservation areas without any regard for Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and environment.

Second, the creation of a new structure proposed by Canadian Heritage will duplicate Fisheries and Oceans Canada's marine protected areas and Environment Canada's protected areas.

Third, although it is unable to protect the ecosystems in existing national parks, Canadian Heritage wants to create marine conservation areas.

The bill is consistent with the course set by a federal government, which is increasingly intruding on areas of provincial jurisdiction. Not only is it intruding, but now it is proposing duplication. In fact it would like to duplicate its own responsibilities.

Is it necessary to stress the fact that the bill before us does not respect the integrity of Quebec's territory? One of the main conditions to establish a marine conservation area is for the federal government to be the owner of the territory where it is to be established. The Constitution Act, 1867, states that the sale and management of public lands are an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

Quebec legislation on public lands applies to all public lands in Quebec, including the beds of waterways and lakes and the bed of the St. Lawrence River, estuary and gulf, which belong to Quebec by sovereign right.

In addition, the legislation would provide that Quebec could authorize the federal government to use its lands in connection with matters under federal jurisdiction but only by order in council.

I would add that habitat and wildlife protection is an area of shared jurisdiction and that the Quebec government is planning to establish a framework for the protection of marine areas in the near future.

It would be in the best interests of the federal government to work with the provinces instead of challenging them.

We already have several examples of co-operation such as the protection of the ecosystems in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and in the St. Lawrence River. All federal and Quebec departments have endorsed the St. Lawrence action plan, phase III.

Can the government explain clearly why it wants clear title to submerged lands to establish marine conservation areas?

Can it give us assurances and commit to respecting Quebec's land claims? Or is it going to ignore them as usual and establish marine areas wherever it sees fit?

It is our opinion that the mirror legislation which established the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park must serve as the model. It provides that both levels of governments, in Quebec City and Ottawa, continue to exercise their respective jurisdictions. There was no transfer of lands. The co-ordinating committee, which was struck to recommend to the minister responsible measures to reach the management plan objectives, encourages the involvement of local communities and is part of a Canada-Quebec co-operation framework.

There are other examples of co-operation. The environment is a shared jurisdiction under the Constitution Act 1867, and Quebec's jurisdiction is also recognized in the British North America Act, 1867.

By rejecting the concept of co-operation and by imposing title to the territory as an essential condition for the creation of marine conservation areas, the federal government is disregarding Quebec's jurisdiction over the environment, a further intrusion into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to illustrate just how complex the situation is in Canada when it comes to bodies of water. I will give an example that I have already given in a prior parliament but I believe it demonstrates just how complex the issues of jurisdiction are in relation to bodies of water, and the duplication between the federal and provincial governments.

Take the example of a fisherman who wants to go fishing on the St. Lawrence River. So far, so good. This fisherman has to ask the provincial government for a fishing licence.

He fishes on a boat he purchased in Quebec but on which he obviously paid a federal tax and a provincial tax. In order to launch his boat he must register it with the federal government.

Up to this point, everything is fine but before launching his boat he gets ready on the shore. He is on a territory under Quebec jurisdiction since the shores come under provincial jurisdiction.

However, the moment he launches his boat he changes jurisdiction because his boat is now on water, which comes under federal jurisdiction.

However, for clarity I must say that the bottom of the river is still under provincial jurisdiction. The fish that swims in the water and that the fisherman will try to catch is, unknowingly, under federal jurisdiction. But its friend, the crab, which is crawling on the bottom of the river, is under shared jurisdiction, even though the bottom of the river is still under provincial jurisdiction.

Once it is harvested, the fish that swims in federal waters will end up at the bottom of a boat. Then it falls under provincial jurisdiction. One must pay very close attention to the regulations, since there are federal quotas for those fish.

If we are talking about commercial fishing, there are federal and provincial laws and regulations regarding food, the environment, safety, equipment and so on. Do members understand? It is very complicated, is it not?

It is even hard for us to find our way through all this, so members can imagine how lost the average citizen who is not familiar with all these jurisdictions feels when he is told to get a licence.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2001 / 11:20 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada, at third reading debate on behalf of my riding of Skeena and my party.

I have much to say about this very ominous bill. My comments reflect not only my observations about the bill but those of the witnesses that came before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage both last month and in late May of this year. My comments will echo the concerns outlined by numerous municipal and chamber of commerce representatives who wrote to the committee but were not afforded the opportunity to present their concerns as witnesses.

It was the government's wish to get the bill out of committee and through the parliamentary process as quickly as possible thereby eliminating debate and discussion. I will endeavour to explain why the government might have wanted to rush the bill through. I hope that the Senate and its committee will take more time to review the bill and consult widely with coastal Canadians before they decide the its fate.

I suggest that members in the other place take the time to travel with their committee to those coastal communities. That suggestion was made numerous times in the House of Commons heritage committee by the communities themselves but it was ignored.

I will speak to the lack of consultation on Bill C-10 by the heritage department and the lack of understanding of the effects of the bill on coastal communities. I am surprised Liberal members representing coastal communities and ridings are not as offended by the legislation as I am. They should take a long look at the impact the bill could have on the economies of their ridings and stand with me in opposition to the bill.

It is worth noting that many times during the clause by clause review of the bill in committee the opposition and a Liberal member or two were united in opposition to a clause or supported an amendment I was making. Unfortunately when it came time to vote the parliamentary secretary called the shots and all the good Liberals fell in line.

They gave the appearance of listening to the arguments of the opposition on issues like guaranteed consultation, jurisdictional concerns and provincial or coastal community vetoes. The record will show that in the end they voted against amendments which would have made the bill far more palatable to coastal communities. Government members were not interested in making Bill C-10 palatable. They were simply tired of the bill dying on the order paper.

Commitments were made that the bill would go through. The government believed that come hell or high water Bill C-10 would see the light of day in this parliament. It is my hope that it will not without serious amendment, and I will speak to that in the body of my speech.

I take exception to claims by government members that we on this side of the House do not care about the environment or parks so why we even consider supporting the bill. This is a totally false assumption on their part.

The Canadian Alliance has a good track record of concern for the environment. We do not, as opposed to the Liberal record, pander to one group over another. We seek a balance in legislation that speaks to the concerns of environmentalists and addresses the realities of industrial and socioeconomic problems.

I consider myself to be an environmentalist. Environmental groups in downtown Vancouver and Toronto may not subscribe to my definition of an environmentalist but that does not make their way any better than mine. I will explain.

I have lived in northern B.C. all my life. When one lives in northwestern B.C., surrounded by coastal mountains, the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Skeena and Nass rivers and blue glaciers, one cannot but have a healthy respect for mother nature in all its glory. Anyone I know that lives in the north respects the environment, not only for its beauty but for what it has given the communities that exist as a result of its riches.

Most northern communities in my riding of Skeena were founded on industries that harvested the renewable or non-renewable resources of nature. Thriving communities erupted as a result of a need for workers because industries took the risk and situated themselves in northern B.C., and the cycle continued.

It is because of one sided legislation like Bill C-10 and poor provincial management by the previous provincial NDP government of B.C. that natural resource industries fled northern B.C. As a result many people in those northern resource based communities had to pack up and leave as well. They had to go where the work was. Unfortunately that has been a reality of much of northern B.C.

I consider myself an environmentalist, not only because of where I am from and my respect for the environment, but because I hunt, fish and camp in that environment. It is in my best interest that I treat it with respect and ensure its strength for future generations to come.

I am not opposed to the creation of marine conservation areas. I am opposed to legislation such as Bill C-10. It was introduced and passed by the federal Liberal government without concern for the effect that it would have on coastal communities and without any real consultation with the people and industries that the bill would seriously affect.

How could bureaucrats in Ottawa really understand what a piece of legislation like Bill C-10 would do to the economies of coastal communities? The reality is that they cannot because Ottawa is too far removed from the issue of life on the coast.

The official opposition would likely have been in favour of the bill had the government taken the time to travel to B.C., Atlantic Canada and northern Canada. It should talked to coastal communities about Bill C-10 before it introduced the bill as opposed to drafting it with only the environmental lobby on hand. We are opposed to the bill because of the Liberal government practice of secrecy at all costs and input at a minimum.

We should not for a second believe what the government says about the environmental record and concerns of the Canadian Alliance. It is just not correct. We are strong on the environment but also strong on balance, and the bill is not balanced.

We have major concerns over the lack of consultation. I will give members of the House some background on the lack of consultation on Bill C-10 prior to it coming back to the House at third reading.

The parliamentary secretary and members of the government will say that in its previous incarnations as Bill C-48 in the first session of the 36th parliament and as Bill C-8 in the second session of the same parliament the subject matter was consulted on widely. Let me clarify that claim by explaining that the government circulated Bill C-48, the predecessor to Bill C-10, to about 700 stakeholders across Canada.

Only a few were ever heard in committee, some of whom came from my riding of Skeena. Many expressed their concerns over the bill's obvious duplication of efforts with the recently created Oceans Act by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

We are told that departmental officials listened to the concerns of those stakeholders and amended the bill accordingly, reflecting their concerns in the new Bill C-10. Not only do I disagree with this claim, because Bill C-10 does not reflect the changes the witnesses asked for, but I find it disturbing that the supposed new and improved bill was never sent back to the original 700 stakeholders to see if the changes met with their approval.

If the government amended a piece of legislation based on comments from the stakeholders from which it had requested comments, it would seem logical that it would take the time to show off how well it listened and acted on their concerns. In this case it did not.

The point could be made by the government that it did not see the point in mailing the new and supposedly improved bill to the 700 stakeholders because it was not new or improved. If the government had done a proper consultation on Bill C-10, it would have found out early on, like its predecessors, that it too was not satisfactory to the identified stakeholders.

I guess the minister did not feel it necessary to tip off opponents to the bill that nothing had changed. She was prepared to push through unwanted, inaccurate legislation that as currently written would have an adverse effect on the economies of most coastal communities in northern British Columbia, particularly in my riding of Skeena.

Many of my constituents and I believe the committee consultation process was equally disappointing. The consultation process prior to the drafting and introduction of Bill C-10 was a farce. I will elaborate.

Bill C-10 was introduced in the House in February and sent to committee shortly thereafter. Initially the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage had every intention to do precious little in the way of consultation and planned to send the bill back to the House for report stage and third reading prior to the House rising for the summer recess. This did not happen as planned and I will explain why.

As a member of parliament representing a coastal riding, representatives of coastal municipalities and various chambers of commerce came to me asking for an opportunity to be heard by the committee dealing with Bill C-10. I immediately expressed this concern to the committee, which had at that point in early May decided to limit the number of witnesses and close off debate. I had to fight hard with the committee members to allow my witnesses to be heard. They used every trick in the book and blamed me, if members can imagine, for my constituents not being heard.

Because I pointed out rather publicly that the committee had only heard from witnesses representing either environmental groups, industries or communities from eastern Canada and had ignored the west coast, the committee reluctantly agreed to re-open the witness list.

Throughout the summer months the concern over certain aspects of Bill C-10 grew in my riding, and in fact all over coastal B.C., to the point where my list of witnesses expanded from a mere 3 or 4 to a full 25 to 30. These were not industry representatives. They were mayors, councillors, presidents of chambers of commerce, small business owners, fishermen and even people currently living close to a marine park on the Queen Charlotte Islands. They all had their areas of concern and all wanted their opportunity to speak to the committee.

Mr. Speaker, you can imagine my surprise when I presented this enthusiastic list of concerned coastal Canadians to the committee and received a less than enthusiastic reply. It was obvious the committee was not pleased with what had transpired over the summer.

I will not single out any particular member of the committee as they know who they are, but I was faced with the committee saying that it could not hear from all my witnesses because it would just take too long. The committee also said that if it heard from all the witnesses from my province then it would have to hear witnesses from other provinces and that there simply was no time.

I think there was a lot of time. If we are going to create a proper bill we should listen to witnesses from all over. If we take the time to do it right there will be a whole lot less opposition to the bill. The committee said that the bill had to be back in the House right away.

Mr. Speaker, I am paraphrasing but I hope you get the picture I am painting about the reluctance of the committee to hear from my witnesses. In the end I was told to negotiate with the clerk of the committee to get my witnesses on the list.

I understand that the committee did decide, reluctantly I believe, to set up video conferencing facilities in my riding and in Vancouver in order to hear from some of these witnesses. It was not enough to open the witness list to witnesses expressing concern for areas of the bill. The government would not be outdone. It filled the witness list with more environmental groups or representatives supporting the bill in order to more than even things off.

In the end the committee heard from more environmental groups supporting the bill than representatives of coastal or affected communities expressing concerns or reservations about certain aspects of Bill C-10.

I have to say that I am particularly disappointed that of my 25 to 30 prepared witnesses I was in the end allowed representation from 12 but only 4 of those were allowed to come to Ottawa. However I will say that those 12 witnesses were very representative of areas in B.C. I had, for instance, the mayor of Prince Rupert, Don Scott; the mayor of Kitimat, Richard Wozney; the mayor of Port Clements, Joan Ann Allen; the mayor of the village of Telkwa, Sharon Hartwell; the chair of the regional district of Bulkley Valley-Stikine, Joanne Monaghan; the regional district of Skeena-Queen Charlottes represented by Paddy Greene; the village of Smithers mayor, Brian Northup represented by Cress Farrow; industries like the B.C. Fishermen's Survival Coalition president, Phil Isaac; and the B.C. Seafood Alliance president, Michelle James. Representatives from the north coast oil and gas task force, Dave McGuigan and Reg Stowell were also present, as was a representative from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce who spoke on behalf of both the B.C. chamber and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, noting that both had concerns about the potential economic effect the bill would have on communities.

I know I am going into a lot of detail about the process of the bill at committee, Mr. Speaker, but to understand just how much distrust there is out there, particularly in my home province of B.C., over the bill and its supposed guarantees of consultation, you need to know how little consultation there actually was and how hard it was to achieve the little leeway I was given for witnesses by the government.

Mr. Speaker, you need to understand that there were a number of letters received by the committee, phone calls to my office, faxes from concerned communities and even a unanimously passed resolution by the Union of B.C. Municipalities. By the way, it is nearly unheard of for UBCM to pass a resolution on the need for further consultation on federal legislation, and to pass it unanimously is an even greater feat. Even with that kind of pressure to slow the process down of approving Bill C-10, and with that strong suggestion from a group of elected officials representing a province with over three million residents, the committee chose to limit debate and discussion and, most of all, testimony from concerned witnesses to a mere 12.

I would suggest that it is no wonder British Columbians take no solace in the federal Liberal government's promise of full consultation with not only the provincial government prior to the creation of an MCA, but there is also no trust in its claim that an MCA will not go ahead if the local affected community is not in favour of it.

I would also argue that the government of British Columbia wanted more time to study the bill. To that end, I believe the B.C. minister of energy himself asked the federal government to delay passage of Bill C-10 until B.C. could complete its study on the potential for offshore oil and gas development in coastal B.C. This was a study planned to be completed by the end of January 2002 and the federal government could not wait a mere three months to appease the province with the largest coastline in Canada.

That is shameful and again exemplifies why coastal communities are simply afraid the federal government will come in with proclamations that it is there to help and charge in with directives and decisions without any concern for the needs and realities of those coastal communities. They believe, and with good reason, that the feds will force MCAs on coastal communities and the reality is that there is nothing in the bill that will prevent it from doing just that.

That brings me to the discussion on the amendments the official opposition tried to suggest in the committee's clause by clause review of the bill and were denied.

First I must say that we certainly did our homework. The official opposition listened to witnesses, read the submitted briefs and reacted. We came to committee prepared with a list of 30 amendments which, in our opinion, would have made the bill more palatable to both the province and, most important, to those affected coastal communities. Disappointedly, the Liberal government dominated committee and voted down all but one of my amendments.

Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to give you a brief synopsis of some of those defeated amendments, what they would have meant to the bill and how they could have been viewed as positive changes by the many concerned coastal communities.

On 10 separate occasions, in clauses 2, 5, 6 and 7, I tried my very best to include amendments that would have guaranteed the provinces a veto over the creation of any marine conservation areas created by the legislation and, as such, by the federal government, on either provincial land or areas where the jurisdiction of the land was under dispute by either the federal or provincial governments.

These were simple amendments that would have allayed any fears of either the province of B.C. or its residents of a unilateral federal government directive to institute an MCA in an area where, quite frankly, either the province did not see the need for one or because the provincial government of B.C. believes in consultation, that the coastal communities obviously did not want one.

In many cases the entire opposition parties were in agreement to these amendments. The Bloc member on numerous occasions expressed her concern about the legislation which once again trounces on provincial rights assured in the constitution. The PC/DR coalition member echoed these concerns as well and yet in the end, as per usual, the government members feigned interest but voted against the amendments.

At first I honestly thought it might be because they realized how good these amendments were and how needed they were to secure the support of coastal B.C. and, believe it or not, I thought the government might actually vote against these amendments in committee to save face and then introduce similar amendments at report stage to make it look like these were its ideas. We all know the government does that all the time with Alliance amendments. However, in this case, unfortunately, it did not.

This speaks to the horrible track record the Liberal government has when it comes to listening to the concerns of Canadians and then acting on them. As I mentioned earlier, it listens and feigns interest but rarely, if ever, does anything unless forced.

Here is an example of the wording of one of these amendments and the rationale I expressed as to why the bill needed to be amended. The amendment, known in committee evidence as CA amendment No. 3, dealt with clause 2. Specifically, we were trying to create a new clause 2, subclause (2) which would have read as follows:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the existing rights of a province over public lands, including submerged lands, which fall within its provincial boundaries. As such, no marine conservation area shall be created without the specific approval of the affected province.

My rationale for such a simple amendment was simply that many of the witnesses on both sides of the issue expressed concern over not having an explicit provincial veto over MCAs in their province. Although clause 5, subclause (2) explains that the land needs to be the unencumbered right of Canada, it does not specifically address the requirement of the province to agree with the creation of the MCA.

Further to that, I explained that the purpose of adding the new clause in that section of the bill was specifically to mirror the reassurances the drafters of the bill felt necessary to include for the aboriginal peoples of Canada. We simply felt that if it was important for the sense of clarity that protection of rights given to aboriginal peoples in the constitution be included that it too was appropriate for the bill to include the rights of provinces to a veto as well.

It was not my intention to delete the current clause 2, subclause (2) dealing with the aboriginal veto to the creation of MCAs, but to move it to a new clause 2, subclause (3), thereby coming after the provincial veto in the bill. Although in my opinion this was, on the surface, a simple and practical amendment, the government decided to oppose it in committee and take another more negative approach to reassuring provincial rights in the bill. Allow me to explain.

The federal Liberal government members on the committee instead supported an amendment to clause 5 which put the onus of fighting the creation of an unwanted MCA on the backs of the affected province. The following is the government's amendment creating a new clause 5, subclause (3). It reads:

If a court of competent jurisdiction finds that Her Majesty in right of Canada does not have clear title to or an unencumbered right of ownership in lands within a marine conservation area, the Governor in Council may, by order, amend Schedule 1 by removing the name and description of the area or by altering the description of the area.

Further to my comments earlier about how this is the wrong way of going about creating MCAs, meaning that if they are created in an area that the province believes the ownership of that area is disputed and the federal government goes ahead regardless of that claim and creates an MCA, as mentioned, the onus is on the province to challenge the ownership of the federal government to that land. Not only could this process take years and end up costing taxpayers a hefty sum, but in the end a new clause is drafted such that even if the province wins the dispute and requests that the MCA be removed, the clause does not require the governor in council to amend it.

Instead it clearly states “The Governor in Council may, by order, amend Schedule 1”. That clearly is a may and not a shall, meaning that even if the province is successful in the courts, the federal government, through the governor in council, can choose to ignore the results of that court case.

For the record let me state that my amendment was not only much clearer and far simpler but was in the end opposed by the government. I hope the members in the House today and the senators, who hopefully will read this testimony, understand the picture I am painting. There is nothing in the bill explicitly stopping the federal government from imposing a marine conservation area on any province, whether it wants one or agrees to cede its rights to the land or not. This is a blatant abuse of power and is exactly why the federal Liberal government has such a poor relationship with the provinces of this great country.

That brings me to my amendment dealing with the environment and with resource uses within the MCAs. I brought forward, on eight separate occasions, amendments that would have made the legislation more balanced. As it is currently drafted, it is, in my opinion, far too heavily weighted on the environmental side of things and does not take into account the realities of life in coastal communities as well as the realities faced by industries that make their livings from harvesting the resources of the seas.

These amendments were not unrealistic and certainly were representative of the sentiments expressed by the witnesses who testified in committee and in written submissions sent by those who did not speak directly to the committee. Among those amendments, the most palatable to the committee should have been my amendment to clause 13. Clause 13 dealt with the prohibition of exploration and development of hydrocarbons within MCAs. The current clause 13 specifically outlines the prohibition of any exploration, development and exploitation of hydrocarbons, aggregates or inorganic matter from within an MCA. When I asked departmental officials to clarify whether this prohibition also outlawed directional drilling underneath an MCA, I was told that it did.

Therefore, again to allay any fears of coastal communities looking to the development of offshore oil and gas as a potential economic boom to their area, and because the passage of the bill would prohibit in perpetuity the development of that potential, I suggested the following amendment: “That clause 13 be amended to include an exception to the listed prohibitions”.

That exemption was to be a new clause 13.1 and was to read as follows:

The minister may permit the use of directional drilling equipment, in the case of sub-seabed drilling for hydrocarbons, from a point outside a marine conservation area, to a point below the seabed, within the marine conservation area, where the practices are determined by the minister to not pose any serious threat to the existing ecosystem of that marine conservation area.

To explain further, the amendment put the onus on the oil and gas industry to prove to the minister's satisfaction that directional drilling techniques are safe and pose no serious threat to the environment. I really thought this would be a win-win for both the government, or might I say the minister, and for the industry. In my opinion this was not slanted in favour of industry but, if anything, it did not close the door fully to oil and gas exploration but did not leave it wide open either.

However, as with the other amendments, the government summarily dismissed it and steadfastly voted against it in committee. That is why I had to move my report stage Motion No. 6 to delete clause 13. I felt that if we could strike a deal on setting guidelines for offshore oil and gas that the government should remove that clause and not specifically mention it so as to keep the door open a crack, just a little bit, for future consideration.

We can see the pattern. The government cracked the whip and its members one by one stood in their places and opposed this report stage amendment as well.

I could go on at length about the concerns I still have with the bill and about the abuse of power by the government throughout the entire consultation process on the bill but I do not have much time left.

I close by saying that this has been my first attempt at what is called shadowing a government bill. Many members may know that this is my first term in parliament and I am certainly new at it.

For a place which supposedly prides itself on its standards of democracy, on representing the wishes of those who elected its members and on working toward modernizing parliament to make it more effective, I can truly say that based on the experience I have had in dealing with the bill since early this year, this place and its committees are neither democratic nor representative.

I know the federal Liberal government has the seats and therefore the votes to pass the bill without a problem. However I stand here to strongly urge those MPs with coastal communities or MPs concerned about giving too much power to the federal government and the erosion of rights given to the provinces in the constitution, to stand strong with me and my party to oppose this badly flawed legislation. Oppose the bill. Send it back to the drafters for some severe editing.

If the government wants to create marine conservation areas, which I believe is a worthy endeavour, let us ensure it is done the right way the first time. I urge members to oppose Bill C-10 at the third reading vote.

Mr. Speaker, I move:

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

Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for the purpose of reconsidering clause 10 with the view to ensure that the affected provinces are given explicit veto powers over the creation of marine conservation areas.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

November 6th, 2001 / 11 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10. This is not a new bill; it follows two bills that were introduced in the House before that last election campaign, Bills C-8 and C-48.

At report stage, we can present amendments. The Bloc Quebecois has supported many proposals made by the government. The Bloc is not opposed to the protection of the environment, but rather to the way the federal government is acting in this matter.

We were against Bills C-8 and C-48 that were before the House before the election campaign, because they infringed provincial jurisdiction. The Bloc Quebecois proposed an amendment that it would have liked the government to accept. This amendment dealt with the protection of territories. The territory is either federal or provincial; as we know, the sea floor belongs to the provinces, according to the Constitution of 1867. The Bloc Quebecois opposes the principle of the transfer of these rights to the federal government.

Clause 10.1 was an irritant. While we were in favour of requiring negotiations with the provinces, it sets out consultations. This bill is weak when it comes to following through on the government's wishes, and history has taught us to be cautious. Members need only think of the millennium scholarships, and the whole issue of young offenders. The Bloc Quebecois will ensure that all of the necessary safeguards are in place to protect provincial jurisdictions and areas of responsibility.

The amendments moved by the New Democratic Party and the Canadian Alliance could be examined individually; they support the zones established to protect ecosystems. This is not the cause of our concern. My colleagues know this; I have already informed them.

There is the whole issue of overlap between different departments. There are three conservation zones: marine conservation areas, which come under canadian heritage; marine protection areas, the responsibility of fisheries and oceans, and marine reserves, which come under the Department of the Environment.

There will therefore be three different structures to complicate the situation. In the case of negotiations with local authorities or the provinces, there will obviously be a certain amount of confusion. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was quite ineffectual in protecting marine areas, marine protection zones or marine reserves. There are several zones and there are three departments to manage the task.

Not only is there overlap within the federal level—and it is easy to see how this will create confusion—but there is also overlap in some provinces between Environment Canada and its provincial counterpart, such as in Quebec.

In Quebec, we have our own way of doing things. We proposed a number of amendments. We know that it is Quebec that established a memorandum of understanding with the federal government, which takes into consideration a master plan. This plan includes safeguards to protect the environment and ecosystems. Everything is in place.

This bill was not based on this approach, or if it was, it follows the federal government's centralist vision, the same way the government always does things.

Quebec had an innovative idea that made provision for jurisdictions. With this bill, the federal government is totally upsetting the approach of the Quebec government. It had proposed the master plan, and a law was enacted to protect a specific marine area, namely the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

My colleague, the member for Jonquière, who has often raised this matter in the House of Commons, is very familiar with the matter and knows what is involved in the law and the memorandum between the Government of Quebec and the federal government. A marine area was established in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region where I come from.

This agreement provides very clearly that the area will not be transferred. It must not be assumed that Quebec will transfer the marine area, which is public land. The constitution provides that the provinces own crown land. This is therefore annoying. It would have been possible, with an agreement, to not go ahead with the land transfer. We would have liked this bill to incorporate the amendments proposed by the Bloc.

As people know, I am not the first to speak to this matter. My colleague from Portneuf is also a vigorous defender of Quebec's jurisdiction and of shared jurisdictions. He too spoke out against Bill C-8, Bill C-48, and now Bill C-10, saying we would not support it.

There are therefore a number of irritants. We also do not agree with extending the scope of the obligations of Canadian heritage. We know the Minister of Canadian Heritage goes in for propaganda a lot. Indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage was saying earlier that they would provide some education on the protection of marine areas. Education is a provincial matter.

Spending is another very subtle way of meddling in the jurisdictions of the provinces. I say spending, because when the government establishes a program, puts an infrastructure in place, we all know there are other officials working on it and setting up programs. The minister could simply say that she would prepare a fine kit for schools on the federal marine areas.

So there is overlapping. There is no agreement to extend the scope of Heritage Canada's obligations. There is also the complexity and inconsistency of the three departments. There is the centralizing goal. We have examples such as the Young Offenders Act, which is contrary to Quebec's legislation. I will come back to this later, since I will have the opportunity to rise several times today.

Thus, the Bloc Quebecois wanted an amendment that went much further to ensure that each marine area, for example, would be debated and negotiated separately. I know that we are not the only ones in the field who oppose the bill such as it is. I do not know how the other parties will vote, but there are several irritants.

We also know that marine areas often disrupt some ways of doing things in other Canadian regions. In the west, we are told that the local economy must be respected. Local economies must also be allowed to develop. Will this be inconsistent with marine areas? There are amendments that tell us we should really first investigate to determine whether a marine area can be established at a certain place. We are not against these amendments. We believe that some of them make sense. But there is more. We can imagine what the major irritant is and the whole underlying principle of this bill, that is that the government seeks to intrude into provincial jurisdictions.

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.)

Private Disability InsurersPrivate Members' Business

May 15th, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Kootenay—Columbia for bringing forward the motion.

Like many members on both sides of the House, I too am sometimes visited by people who have had some difficulties with disability plans, whether they be private or the Canada pension plan disability program.

I understand his sense of frustration, but I would submit that the motion is flawed for two reasons. One has to do with jurisdiction, and he touched on that point, and the other has to do with the fact that it would run counter to a number of initiatives under way right now at the federal-provincial level. I would like to discuss that.

The motion would create the position of an ombudsman to oversee private disability insurers in Canada.

I agree that it is important for consumers of financial services providers to have access to an impartial and fair complaints resolution mechanism that handles complaints about their dealings with financial institutions in a fair and impartial manner.

However, as I say, for two reasons I am not able to support this motion and I will explain why in more detail.

The first reason is it has to do with jurisdictional considerations. The second concerns conflicts with initiatives already under way at the federal and provincial levels to enhance and harmonize existing complaint handling mechanisms. In other words, the motion could lead to duplication and overlap.

In general, the property and civil rights power in the Constitution gives provinces the jurisdiction to regulate the day to day business activity of federally and provincially incorporated non-bank financial institutions, including life and health insurers.

Accordingly, the federal government cannot designate a particular dispute resolution system for non-banks. Provinces have the power to require insurers to be members of particular dispute resolution mechanisms and specify the design of such schemes.

Ontario, for example, has established an insurance ombudsman office to deal with complaints from Ontario policyholders, including Ontario disability claimants. All insurers in Ontario are subject to this regime.

In other provinces, provincial regulators respond to consumer complaints about insurance providers either directly or by referring consumers to an appropriate industry redress mechanism.

Further, as hon. members know, the marketplace in which financial services operate today is characterized by convergence, competition and increasingly complex products delivered through multiple channels.

Given this environment, provincial regulators recognize that financial services providers should be able to assure their customers that complaints and disputes will be handled promptly fairly and impartially through a mechanism that provides a uniform level of easily accessible service.

In this context, a task force on consumer dispute resolution has recently been established by the joint forum of provincial financial market regulators. The task force is comprised of representatives from several stakeholder groups, including the financial services industry and consumer groups, as well as officials from the federal Department of Finance. The task force on consumer dispute resolution is investigating the possibility of a single ombudsman system for Canada.

The federal government recognizes that there are potential advantages for consumers in having a single point of contact for dispute resolution for all financial services complaints. As a result, we are committed to working with the joint forum and other task force members towards this end.

I would also point out that the federal government is working with the industry to establish a new Canadian financial services ombudsman, often referred to as CFSO, as mandated by Bill C-8, which is currently under review in the other place.

As the task force I referred to earlier is still in its early stages and its ultimate outcomes are unknown, we believe that it is essential to press ahead with the CFSO to ensure that consumers will have the benefit of a fair and impartial complaints resolution mechanism at the earliest possible date.

Two points about the Canadian financial services ombudsman are particularly relevant to today's motion.

First, the CFSO would operate independently from government and the financial services industry, with a board of directors that would have a majority of non-financial institution representatives. It would replace the existing Canadian banking ombudsman.

Second, the new ombudsman would reflect the preferences of consumer and small business groups for a cross-sectoral ombudsman office.

To facilitate the creation of a single ombudsman for customers of all financial institutions, the Canadian financial services ombudsman would be capable of accepting all financial institutions as members.

Banks will be required to join. Other federally incorporated financial institutions will be required to be subject to a third party dispute resolution system and, along with provincially incorporated institutions, will be eligible to join the CFSO if they wish to do so.

The Canadian financial services ombudsman would have the power to recommend awards to aggrieved customers and while its rulings would not be binding, it would also have the authority to publicize the names of institutions that did not comply with its recommendations.

Further, the Canadian financial services ombudsman would provide the Minister of Finance an annual report on the number of complaints received and the results achieved in addressing consumer and small business complaints.

The government hopes to have the Canadian financial services ombudsman in place as soon as possible after Bill C-8 comes into force. In addition, the government would explore ways for the Canadian financial services ombudsman to interact with initiatives that may ultimately be launched from the provincial dispute resolution initiative I discussed earlier.

The hon. member has put forth a worthy proposal. However in light of the other initiatives and jurisdictional conflicts I have outlined, the need for an ombudsman to oversee private disability insurers has been overtaken by other measures.

For these reasons I am unable to support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2001 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the Liberal government's attempt to create national marine conservation areas.

The objective of establishing marine conservation areas is to protect and conserve marine ecosystems found in the ocean environments of Canada and in the Great Lakes. The purpose of the bill is to establish rules that would allow the creation of national marine conservation areas.

The bill is actually unfinished business from the last Mulroney government. It took the weak Liberal government more than 13 years to tinker with the idea of creating marine conservation areas. It is still at step one after feeble attempts to introduce legislation in previous parliaments, namely Bill C-48 and Bill C-8. It shows the lack of commitment of the Liberals to protecting and conserving our environment.

In addition to preserving marine areas for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians, the bill strives to establish a framework for regulating marine ecosystems and maintaining biological diversity. It is important to note that while environmental protection and sustainable development are important issues, they do not fall within the administrative responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The bill makes provision for two schedules that are intended to include the names of marine conservations areas and reserves. The minister has identified 29 marine conservation areas and the intent to create new national parks, but in Bill C-10 the two schedules are blank. The actual locations of all 29 parks have not been identified.

As a past co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee I would imagine these lists could be filled in by regulation and we would find the 29 locations somewhere in the thousands of pages of regulations that no doubt accompany the bill. That is governing through the back door, not through the front door and not through the voices of elected members in the Chamber. The bill should describe the location of each park and that information should be inserted in the two schedules. I hope the matter is fleshed out during the committee hearings.

Bill C-10 would limit parliamentary input by giving cabinet the authority to create a new marine conservation area on crown land without going through the normal legislative process. Currently the government is required to come before parliament any time a new national park is to be established or an existing park is to be changed. The legislation would remove the power from parliament and would allow parks to be created or changed by order in council. That is ridiculous.

The minister states that activities such as commercial fishing and shipping would be appropriate in conservation areas. However all fishing, aquaculture, fisheries management, marine navigation and marine safety plans are subject to the approval of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Similarly regulations affecting navigation or safety rules under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport must be made on the recommendation of both the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Transport.

Disposal regulations pertaining to sections 127 and 128 of the Environmental Protection Act require the joint approval of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.

What is to be done about these contradictions and overlapping responsibilities? Clause 13 of the bill would limit or prohibit the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, minerals, aggregates or any other inorganic material in all marine conservation areas. I anticipate hearing from stakeholders about this clause at the committee hearings.

There are considerations with respect to private property and reasonable search and seizure. Clause 22 of the bill states that, in the discharge of their duties, marine conservation area wardens, enforcement officers and persons accompanying them may enter and pass through private property. This is an invasion of the property rights of law-abiding citizens.

The weak and arrogant Liberal government has shown its pattern of disrespect for privacy rights and interference with personal property. We have seen that in Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, where the arrogant Liberal government refused to offer fair compensation to Canadians.

Enforcing regulations is a serious issue and it is not addressed in the bill. In reference to Parks Canada, the director of the organization suggested that the RCMP be allowed to be involved in enforcement activities. Currently Parks Canada is involved in a labour dispute with its park wardens over personal safety. The bill contains the same deficiencies as the National Parks Act. It does not give park wardens sufficient authority to enforce the law.

Since 1993 there have been three separate reports recommending that sidearms be issued to wardens in order to fulfil their responsibilities. With park wardens off the job and other law enforcement agencies overburdened with enforcing criminal code violations, wildlife is being slaughtered in our national parks. The bill does not address any of these situations.

The Canadian Alliance affirms the federal government's role in the preservation of Canada's natural and historical heritage such as national parks. It supports sustaining and developing national parks and marine conservation areas that exist for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone. It also supports sustainable development and environmental protection regulations that have been fully debated by parliamentarians, not through the back door but through this Chamber.

The bill would strengthen the power of cabinet while diminishing the effectiveness of elected representatives. The bill is virtually unnecessary because the regulatory framework already exists to accomplish what the bill purports to achieve. It is just a power grab by a department that understands that it has a weak minister who does not understand that the new regulations are not required.

The legislation would clearly limit the ability of parliamentarians to consider all options when new marine areas are introduced or existing areas are expanded, with no input whatsoever when new parks are being created. The weak and arrogant Liberal government, time and again, abuses the Chamber and uses elected members as a rubber stamp. It does not give enough opportunity for debate by elected officials. There is no reason for this tight fisted form of control and undemocratic manner of proceeding. Like the bogus changes the government is proposing to Bill C-9, the Elections Act, Bill C-10 is also virtually anti-democratic.

The scope of the bill, as it relates to fishing, aquaculture and transportation, is such that changes to any schedule should require an act of parliament. Affected communities would be at the whim of the minister. The bill would give the Minister of Canadian Heritage a free reign to create unlimited advisory committees for each marine conservation area.

Limitations on the size and structure of each committee should have been established in the legislation. Will the committee that hears the bill allow these limits and rules to be established? I doubt it very much.

These advisory committees would give the government an opportunity for patronage in the way membership is composed and would serve no other purpose than that of a rubber stamp under the guise of public consultation. What we have here is yet another job creation program for failed Liberal election candidates and their supporters.

If marine wildlife and ecosystems are to be protected, park wardens should have exclusive jurisdiction in the enforcement of laws and regulations relating to each conservation area. Unfortunately, wardens are increasingly finding that they cannot do a proper job due to interference from Ottawa.

The decision by Parks Canada management to transfer responsibilities from park wardens to law enforcement agencies like the RCMP is Ottawa's way of centralizing tight fisted control away from the frontline officers who have the practical experience to know what does and does not work in Canada's national parks. What a shame.

The bill is a mess. It is as much an assault on our environment as an assault on the stakeholders in the regions that will be affected by it. My heart goes out to my colleague the Canadian Alliance heritage critic because I cannot see how the bill can be fixed or amended during committee stage.

On the one hand, the bill is not required because everything it does can already be done under regulations. On the other hand, it is a power grab by the minister and should be stopped 100%. Those concerned about preserving the environment can see that after 13 years of trying to bring the bill forward for debate in the House the government does not care about the environment.

I hope the bill looks significantly different when it comes back before the House following committee hearings. However, knowing the government's record, I doubt it. I hope the minister's secret agenda of power grabbing is exposed. I hope Canadians see clearly how little the government cares about the environment.