An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations (public safety occupations)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Dave Chatters  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 15, 2004
(This bill did not become 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.

Treaties ActPrivate Members' Business

May 18th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

moved that Bill C-260, an act respecting the negotiation, approval, tabling and publication of treaties be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address Bill C-260 this evening. It concerns international treaties to be adopted.

I remind this House that this is the third time the Bloc Québécois has presented such a bill in order to democratize treaty and international relations practices.

I recall that, in 1999, my former colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, Daniel Turp, now a Parti Québécois MNA, presented Bill C-214, on which this bill is based to a large extent. The bill reached second reading, but, obviously, the Liberals opposed it.

In 2001, my colleague, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, who supports my bill, also presented a similar bill. Her bill, C-313, used the wording of Mr. Turp's bill, but added a section providing for hearings to be held in committee with respect to treaties.

Bill C-313 harmonized how treaties are considered with how the House considers bills, meaning that treaties are treated—pardon the play on words—the same way bills are. We demanded that treaties be considered in committee. Unfortunately, the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île never reached second reading.

Bill C-260 is identical to Bill C-313. What are the objectives of this bill? First of all, there is transparency. Our aim, by introducing this bill, is to ensure that treaties are tabled in the House and published so that this process is transparent.

Second, we want to make the process more democratic, by having the House of Commons vote to approve important treaties and by introducing a process of committee consultations similar to that for approving bills.

We also want to respect provincial jurisdiction because, currently, the federal government alone signs treaties and the provinces are not consulted, as we would like. In fact, consultations with the provinces would mean that the federal government could not use its authority to negotiate international treaties to give itself a role in jurisdictions other than its own.

The free trade agreement is a perfect example. Obviously, many areas are affected by the free trade agreement. Many provincial areas of jurisdiction are also affected. Culture is one example of an area we had to defend and which, fortunately, has not yet been affected by the free trade agreement.

For example, a new free trade agreement might be negotiated in the near future, and our partners might ask us to include education, culture, universities and so forth, although these are provincial responsibilities. So the provinces must be able to have their say, oppose such inclusions and have the right to veto, if necessary.

The fourth objective, is to adapt current practices of ratifying treaties to the modern day. We are aware that there are many many treaties now that influence our lives but are negotiated in secret. These impact on our lives daily. I am referring to all of the international trade treaties, as well as to the free trade agreement. If there is one thing that really impacts on people's day to day lives, it is a free trade agreement between several countries, in this instance Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

If that agreement were expanded, it would have a very definite impact on people's daily lives. People must be aware, and well informed, of the impact of these treaties on their lives.

I should perhaps point out that, where international treaties are concerned, democracy is totally absent. There is no complete compilation of such treaties. Governments release them when and if they see fit, and people cannot be sure they are all being disclosed. There may be secret treaties we know nothing about.

At present, the treaty section at the Department of Foreign Affairs does not even have a list of signed treaties that could be made available to the public and the House of Commons, to at least know what they are about.

At present, the government is not required to table treaties in the House of Commons. This, in my view, denies the elected representatives of the people an extremely important power, the power to vote on these treaties and to relay to the government the message the people want to send through their representatives.

As I said earlier, the House does not even get to approve treaties. The government can sign and ratify any treaty it wants without consulting the representatives of the people. At the very most, treaties requiring legislative changes are brought before Parliament before ratification.

In Quebec, since 2002, a vote by the National Assembly is required. This means that only when the federal government has to amend its legislation does the House of Commons get to vote. It does so, however, only on ad hoc matters. We want to correct this approach, which we feel is totally undemocratic.

Being in no way involved in the negotiation of treaties, the House of Commons cannot consult the public. That is why we would like a process similar to the one for passing bills to be used. Obviously, a parliamentary committee can consult the public and those stakeholders who are directly or indirectly concerned by how a treaty signed by the federal government could change their lives.

It is therefore not surprising to see people increasingly expressing their opposition in the streets. In fact, there is no other place for them to be heard. This has become more pronounced in the past few years at world summits like the one held in Quebec City or others throughout the world. Many demonstrations are held at such events, especially on the issue of globalization. People revolt and demonstrate, sometimes quite aggressively, precisely because they are not informed of the content of the treaties and do not know what is happening during the negotiation process.

Obviously, when you do not have the information, and especially when it is being hidden from you, it is easy to assume that the outcome will not necessarily be positive. That is what provokes many demonstrations. People are opposed to globalization, among other things, because they know very little about the content of international treaties or the consequences, since they have not been explained.

The Bloc Québécois hopes that Parliament will give the public the chance to know about the treaties and to be consulted. This would not take any power away from the government. On the contrary, in my opinion this would only enhance it. If this power is based, as it should be in a democratic system, on public opinion, on citizen involvement in the process, then this strengthens democracy and our democratic system of governing.

Allow me to summarize the situation and the bill. The government is not required to consult the provinces. Earlier I gave the example of culture. If, in the future, our U.S., Mexican or other partners wanted to include culture, for example, in an international treaty, Quebec would be in a difficult position since the provinces are not consulted. The francophone population of Quebec, which is a francophone island in North America, could be threatened if culture were included in a treaty such as the free trade agreement.

We think it is absolutely vital, so long as Quebec remains a part of Canada—and I hope it will be a little longer—that we be consulted as is our right, as francophones and Quebeckers. It would be a way to protect our rights, in education, culture or any other area uniquely ours that is distinct from those of other provinces. We could talk about health care and privatization, which were issues at one point.

There is also university education. Reference has been made to the desire of certain American universities to establish campuses here. The public has to be consulted. People have to be able to object if they wish to these sorts of processes and requests from our partners.

Obviously, we want all treaties to be put before the House of Commons, approved by the House and put to civil society by a parliamentary committee before Parliament decides on important treaties.

I may have failed to mention one point. Important treaties are treaties that require the passage of federal legislation, that change government powers, that generate significant financial commitment, such as Kyoto, for example, that change a border, which could obviously happen, or that impose sanctions or the transfer of jurisdictions to international institutions.

In Europe, for example, this type of transfer occurs, given the creation of the European Economic Community, as defined. A new constitution is to be voted on, and certain powers are transferred. In my opinion, this is the best known and perhaps the most obvious example at the moment of transfers of jurisdictions to international institutions. We should therefore be entitled to vote on them. Important treaties are treaties of this kind or treaties that involve government jurisdiction or international trade.

We also want, as I mentioned—and these are the objects of the bill—any treaty to be published in the Canada Gazette and on the Internet site of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is one way to democratize the process, one way to give to citizens access to the texts that are submitted, so that they can consult them. The bill also provides for a mandatory consultation process with the provinces, before negotiating a treaty the content of which comes under their jurisdictions. Earlier, I mentioned education. I cannot think of a more striking example.

Currently, in Canada, Parliament and parliamentarians only play a minimal role in the negotiation and ratification of international treaties. We keep making requests in the House of Commons, but we are constantly turned down. We also asked to vote on certain treaties, but that too was rejected. Yet, it is precisely the role of Parliament to convey the public's wishes to the government's executive branch. In reality, it is the executive branch of the federal government, namely cabinet, which controls all the stages in the treaty ratification process.

This control also applies to the content of negotiations which, as I mentioned earlier, are often secret. In fact, this secrecy is an important tool in the federal government's negotiating strategy. Nothing, or hardly anything, is made public before the parties have reached an agreement in principle on the content, or even on the wording of a treaty.

A few years ago, we got our hands on treaties that were being negotiated at the World Trade Organization, and that might have jeopardized our agricultural sector and supply management system. When farmers managed to get their hands on these documents, they literally rebelled. This was a top secret negotiation process. Of course, when people found out about it, the government had to back off.

Unfortunately, I only have one minute left and I have barely touched on this issue. However, I know that when the hon. member takes the floor later on, she will be able to say more on this topic.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the day

April 11th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks in the debate today regarding Standing Orders by congratulating the Leader of the Opposition, who at the beginning of this Parliament negotiated a number of rule changes with which the House is now experimenting.

The first rule change altered the appointment and selection process of the Deputy Speaker and the other two chair occupants, and obviously that was of interest to you, Mr. Speaker, because you are one of them. Instead of the Prime Minister appointing the Deputy Speaker and the other two chair occupants, the Speaker now selects candidates and presents them to the House for ratification.

To improve debate, it was proposed that all speeches be followed by a period of questions and comments. Often members did not have an opportunity to question the most important speakers leading off debate on legislation. We also made all opposition motions votable.

Since the 1950s, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts was chaired by an opposition member. We now have opposition chairs for the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We opened up vice-chair positions to other parties other than the official opposition and government.

We changed the way concurrence motions would be considered. We had this peculiar situation that caused a motion to concur in a committee report to become a government order. Committees could hardly be considered independent if the government controlled whether there would be a vote on a concurrence motion. We just heard a bit of debate about this change.

One of the frustrations when the House is not in session and when an issue arises where a government response is required, is that there is no parliamentary forum available to debate the issues and government accountability is left exclusively to press conferences and media scrums.

Standing Order 106 was amended to provide that within five days of the receipt by the clerk of a standing committee of a request signed by any four members of that said committee, the chair of the said committee shall convene such a meeting. That way, during a recess a committee could be convened and the minister could be invited to brief members and be held accountable.

The opposition, and in particular the member for Yorkton--Melville, were instrumental in reforming private members' business. We now have all private members' items votable, and that all members be given a chance to have at least one item considered by Parliament between elections has been essentially realized.

The one flaw is the ability of the majority on the procedure and House affairs committee to deem an item non-votable. These members were supposed to be guided by certain criteria that were designed to help them make a non-partisan decision. However, when Bill C-268, an act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights, was deemed non-votable, it demonstrated that we could not expect this committee to make an impartial decision when faced with a difficult issue.

The committee majority decided, on the grounds that the bill was unconstitutional, that it ought not to be deemed votable. The real reason, I contend, was that the government wanted to avoid the embarrassment of voting on something controversial. Bill C-268 has been the only bill thus far in this Parliament to have been designated non-votable. I would recommend taking away the decision of the procedural appropriateness of private members' items from this committee and give it to the Speaker or to the House itself.

Secret ballot elections at committee were brought about by a motion from the former opposition House leader, the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country.

I have outlined the record of the Conservative Party on parliamentary reform in this Parliament in particular. I would like to now turn to the Prime Minister's record on parliamentary reform.

The 1993 red book, written by the Prime Minister, contains commitments to parliamentary reform and more openness to members of Parliament. After nearly a dozen years of Liberal government, we know what those promises are worth. I would suggest to the members of the procedure and House affairs committee, who will no doubt be taking note of the debate today, to consider the Prime Minister's record on parliamentary reform. I would recommend that they draft amendments to the rules that take the opposite position. In other words, if the Prime Minister is against something, then it must be a good idea.

For example, as finance minister, the Prime Minister set up many of the foundations that are outside the purview of Parliament's oversight and control. Therefore, I contend we should establish measures that bring them into the purview of Parliament's oversight and control.

On June 13, 2000, the Prime Minister voted against Bill C-214, an act to provide for the participation of the House of Commons when treaties were concluded. Therefore, the participation of the House of Commons when treaties are concluded must be a good idea.

On making crown corporations subject to the Access to Information Act, the Prime Minister voted against Bill C-216, an act to amend the Access to Information Act for crown corporations. Therefore, Bill C-216 must be necessary and should be implemented.

I think the House gets the idea.

I would argue that the concentration of power in the Office of the Prime Minister, which is at the root of much of our democratic deficit, has grown not lessened under this Prime Minister's watch.

The multitudes of government powers that ultimately rest with the Prime Minister are staggering. The exclusive monopoly over the central powers of government have even led the current Prime Minister himself, in his address to law students at Osgoode Hall in the fall of 2002, to state that the essence of power in Ottawa was “who you know in the PMO”.

This leads me to the recent appointment of the Prime Minister's friend Glen Murray to chair the round table on the environment and economy. Despite a rejection from the environment committee and the House, Glen Murray continues in office. The opinion of the House is of no consequence. It is “who you know in the PMO”.

His recent choices to fill the vacancies in the Senate were a slap in the face to the people of Alberta who elected their senators. The opinion of the people of Alberta is obviously not important to the Liberal Party. Again, it was “who you know in the PMO”.

“Who you know in the PMO” has to go.

At our convention in March of this year we adopted a number of policy items regarding parliamentary reform.

In the area of fiscal management, a Conservative government would strengthen the internal audit and comptrollership functions of government, ensuring that programs delivery would match the intent of the program, spending would be measured against objectives and cost overruns would be brought immediately to the attention of Parliament. Would that not have been a good idea with the sponsorship program?

We would create the independent office of the Comptroller General who would report to Parliament with a mandate to ensure that the highest possible standards and practices of expenditure management would be enforced in all federal departments, crown corporations, agencies and foundations.

A Conservative government would restore the audit role of the Treasury Board. We would allow the Auditor General to table reports with the Clerk of the House of Commons when Parliament was not sitting and have them made public through the Speaker.

A Conservative government would ensure transparency and accuracy of and confidence in the government's finances by providing the Auditor General with full access to all documents from all federal organizations.

A Conservative government would ensure that senior officers such as the Auditor General, Chief Electoral Officer, Comptroller General, Ethics Commissioner, Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner would be appointed by Parliament and report to it.

We would restore democratic accountability in the House of Commons by allowing free votes. All votes would be free except for the budget and main estimates.

We would ensure that nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada would be ratified by a free vote in Parliament, after receiving the approval of the justice committee.

A Conservative government would support the election of senators. The Conservative Party believes in an equal Senate to address the uneven distribution of Canada's population and provide a balance to safeguard regional interests.

Where the people of a province or territory by democratic election chose persons qualified to be appointed to the Senate, a Conservative government would fill any vacancy in the Senate for that province or territory from among those elected persons.

We would consider changes to the electoral system.

We would establish a judicial review committee of Parliament to prepare an appropriate response to those court decisions, which Parliament believed should be addressed through legislation.

A Conservative government would seek the agreement of the provinces to amend the Constitution to include property rights as well as guarantee that no person should be deprived of their just right without the due process of law and full just and timely compensation.

We are committed to the federal principle and to the notion of strong provinces within a strong Canada.

A Conservative government would ensure that the use of the federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions would be limited, authorizing the provinces to use the opting out formula with full compensation if they wanted to opt out of a new or modified federal program in areas of shared or exclusive jurisdiction.

I am proud of the accomplishments of the Conservative Party of Canada in the area of parliamentary reform. We believe that the people of Canada and their Parliament matter when it comes to policy decisions. It is time we turned the page and recover from the embarrassment of this corrupt Liberal government.

However, to end on a positive note, with all the Liberal sham, Liberal corruption and Liberal broken promises, it is still a beautiful Parliament and an honour to represent the people Prince George--Peace River in it.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

October 15th, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Chatters Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-214, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations (public safety occupations).

Mr. Speaker, in the budget plan of 2003, the finance minister increased the maximum pension accrual rate for firefighters from 2% to 2.33%. Historically, police officers, corrections officers, air traffic controllers and commercial airline pilots have been provided the same consideration under the income tax regulations as firefighters.

This private member's bill seeks to provide equal benefit for all individuals who work in public safety occupations. It would allow police officers, corrections officers, air traffic controllers and commercial airline pilots to receive the same pension benefits as firefighters.

Individuals who work in these important public safety professions endure long hours and stressful working conditions to give us the freedom to live our lives with minimal concern. It is because of this important contribution made by these workers that I believe they should be treated equally under the law.

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