An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act

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


Jean Lapierre  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment transfers powers, duties and functions from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to the Minister of Transport.


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.

February 25th, 2014 / 8:45 a.m.
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Anne Legars Vice-President, Shipping Federation of Canada

Mr. Chair, and committee members, thank you for having invited the Shipping Federation of Canada to testify before you this morning about part 4 of Bill C-3, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act.

The federation, incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1903, is the representative in Canada of the owners, operators, and agents of ocean ships trading at ports across Canada from the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes to the west coast. The ships operated by our members carry Canada's imports and exports throughout the world. These ships are part of the world ocean fleet that sails around the clock, 365 days a year, from one country to another to deliver world trade.

These fleets are governed by a web of international conventions that cover the ship, its building and equipment, manning requirements, and operations, etc. These conventions are incorporated into Canadian law through the provisions and regulations flowing from the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. This world ocean fleet is also governed by a set of liability conventions. These liability conventions are incorporated into Canadian law through the Marine Liabilities Act, which will be amended by part 4 of Bill C-3, which we are here today to support.

These amendments to the Marine Liabilities Act do not come as a surprise to us as they are a step in a long process that started many years ago with the 1996 HNS convention, which did not gain much traction due to a number of implementation issues. Canada subsequently stepped in and provided leadership in the development of a protocol that solved these issues. The upgraded 2010 HNS convention therefore benefits from Canada's input.

The federation, along with industry and other stakeholders, has participated in the government's consultation and Canada's ratification of this upgraded 2010 HNS convention, and has expressed strong support for such ratification. We are not alone in that respect. The 2010 HNS convention has been targeted by the Comité Maritime International, which is the international association of maritime law national associations, and various international industry associations, as one of the priority conventions for worldwide ratification.

We support this international liability regime introduced by part 4 of Bill C-3 because we believe it is the most efficient way to offer efficient liability coverage for ship-source chemical spills. We believe so because for mobile assets that trade across the world on a continual basis, as ocean ships do, an international regime avoids the high transactional costs that would be attached to a fragmentation of national liability regimes, each of which would have its own rules, liability limits, paperwork, and so on. For us, the first element of an efficient regime is that it is an international regime.

Maybe of more interest to your side, the international regime contained in the 2010 HNS convention pools the risk and its financing among a large number of players, which minimizes the marginal cost of covering the risk for each of them. The international regime grants access to an international fund funded by HNS receivers at a higher limit of indemnification than shipowners alone could provide. Also, this regime is modelled on the ship-source oil pollution liability regime that has been in place and is functioning well.

For all these reasons, we respectfully submit to this committee that Parliament should pass the amendments to the Marine Liabilities Act that are contained in part 4 of Bill C-3, and it's why our organization sent a letter on January 23 to this committee to support the passing of this part of the bill.

Thank you.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:55 p.m.
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Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague makes a very good point. Most of the discussion this afternoon and morning did not focus on the bill at hand. What the minister indicated earlier on today was the importance of us following through on a commitment and not allowing the period to elapse, ending up with a very untenable situation. I believe everybody here is very much on board in terms of whether we should discuss Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. We should review them at the same time. I think everybody agrees with that. I do not think there is a dispute there at all. It only makes a lot of sense.

My feeling is that if we had kept to the discussion at hand, we would be talking about a government that is prudent, that ensures that we do the right thing in a minority situation.

When it comes to electoral reform or democratic reform, my colleague makes a very good point. One thing I would like to talk about, which I have not heard here, is free votes in the House of Commons. On this side of the House, we have had the most free votes in a long period of time. I am very proud to talk positively about that. I am not sure I can say the same thing about the other side of the House, but my colleagues will confirm that.

Again, with respect to private members' business, we have been very aggressive in ensuring that private members get their say and get to discuss their bills in the House.

In terms of democratic reform, we have absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:45 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, my response to the question about the uncertainty of when an election would occur is to go through the various scenarios. Let me start with the one that the Prime Minister has said will take place.

The Prime Minister said that 30 days after the final report of the Gomery commission he would call an election. That would take about a month. Therefore, sixty days after the final Gomery report we would have an election. That means an election would be held some time around May of next year, just when this bill will expire.

If an election were to occur then, one of two things would happen. First, we would either have dealt with the review of Bill C-3, a review which I do not think would be that difficult or complicated, and we would have passed whatever changes or amendments needed to be made. It could go through the House very easily and be in place before that election. That is one alternative.

Alternatively, the hearings would have taken place and the evidence would have been collected. If we go into an election after May 16 but before the bill has been passed, Bill C-3 would remain in place because of the provision within its sunset clause stating that it is possible for the bill to be extended a further 90 days in the event the House is not sitting. The dangers of an election occurring without a new bill having been passed or with no legislation in place at the time of the next election are very slight if we follow the Prime Minister's guidelines.

If the election happens anytime earlier than that, then presumably it is very straightforward. Bill C-3 would remain in place. There is no danger if an election is called as a result of a non-confidence vote prior to the date proposed to us by the Prime Minister.

The only other possibility would be if the Prime Minister were to break his promise to call an election 30 days after the final Gomery report, which is likely to happen if the polls are not in favour of his winning an election. That is a real danger. Surely we can have the replacement for Bill C-3 put forward before he invents his excuse for delaying the election yet further.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, the bill before the House today, Bill C-63, would make permanent an earlier law, Bill C-3, which came into force in May 2004 on the understanding that it would be a temporary law. Because it was meant only to be temporary, Bill C-3 contained a sunset provision that would cause it to lapse on May 16, 2006, two years after the day on which it had received royal assent. Bill C-63, which is the bill we are debating today, would remove that sunset clause.

The earlier law, Bill C-3, was enacted in response to the 2003 Supreme Court decision in the Figueroa case, which struck down certain provisions of the Canada Elections Act as being in contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, the provisions were seen by the Supreme Court, quite correctly, as an unconstitutional attempt to limit free speech by placing unreasonable restrictions on the ability of new political parties to compete on an equal footing with the existing major parties.

The Supreme Court stated in its ruling that the offending provisions of the Elections Act would be allowed to remain in place for six months, until June 2004, in order to allow Parliament the necessary time to design amendments that would ensure the smooth functioning of a new charter compliant election law.

Bill C-3 was hurriedly drafted in the spring of 2004 when it became clear that the Prime Minister's rush to call an early election would not leave the House with sufficient time to hold the hearings necessary to meet the looming June deadline set by the Supreme Court and still, within that deadline, properly design a new law.

Thus, when he introduced the bill to the House of Commons, the then minister for democratic renewal, the predecessor of the current minister, made it clear that Bill C-3 was an imperfect stopgap intended solely for the purpose of getting us through the impending election. After the election, a more considered and thoughtful law would be enacted.

I would like to read what the minister, the predecessor of the current minister, said in the House in 2004:

Bill C-3 represents the government's proposed response to the immediate consequences of the Figueroa ruling. This bill does not, however, necessarily constitute a permanent solution. The Figueroa ruling is highly complex, and a more thorough study of its impact is required.

This is why I have written to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to encourage a broader examination of the Canada Elections Act. I have asked the committee, moreover, to present all of its recommendations in the form of a draft bill, within a year's time

Then he added as an editorial:

This is a concrete example of application of our democratic reform.

In order to buy itself a year's grace in which to design a proper law, the government added a sunset clause to Bill C-3, which causes the law to lapse after two years from the date at which it was enacted, which will be May 16, 2006, eight months minus one day from today.

After the election a new minister for democratic reform was appointed. Then he was supplemented by a second minister for democratic renewal, whatever that might be, and they in turn were supplemented by not one, not two, but three parliamentary secretaries for democratic reform and democratic renewal, the hon. members for Beauséjour, Peterborough and Bramalea—Gore—Malton.

I am not sure what the Prime Minister's point was in inventing so many new posts for so many new ministers and secretaries. A surplus of ministers will not solve the democratic deficit. It will create organizational chaos, the same chaos that has caused the government to so completely lose its grip over the electoral reform file, arguably the most important aspect of democratic renewal or democratic reform to face the House of Commons in the 38th Parliament, and that both ministers claim that it is me, not the other minister, who is responsible for this key aspect of the democracy agenda.

In fact, when it comes to electoral reform, the two ministers are so confused as to who is in charge that they have proved incapable of acting on the recommendations of the procedure and House affairs committee, which last June unanimously recommended that the minister, or one of them anyway, set up a consultation process by October 1. That was 17 days ago. Then, having missed the deadlines, the ministers told us they would be ready to have a response for the House by October 20, according to the minister for democratic reform, or else by October 14, according to the minister for democratic renewal.

In the end they wound up proposing a response and bringing it to the House on the Friday before the break. I think they were so embarrassed by it that they did not bring it to the Table. I was in the House that day. I only learned that they had submitted a response when I got a call from a reporter about it. They had submitted the response through what is called the back door. They had taken it directly to the Clerk's office. This is a highly irregular process and one which I think was designed to ensure that there would be no attention to their report, or their non-report, in which they made a serious of outrageous claims about being unable to meet the deadlines set by the committee. This is a committee that negotiated its terms with the full cooperation of the Liberal members of the committee, including one of the three parliamentary secretaries responsible for this.

The confusion was so bad that in late September I had to propose a motion at the procedure and House affairs committee to require the two ministers to appear side by side before the committee to explain who was actually in charge. As to the three parliamentary secretaries, let us look at the grandiose mandate that they were given according to the Prime Minister's action plan for democratic reform in February 2004. It stated:

Parliamentary Secretaries will now play a more active role in ensuring meaningful relations between Ministers and Parliamentarians. In Committees, they will support productive dialogue by sharing departmental information and acting as the Minister's representative to address political issues--

The procedure and House affairs committee held its first meeting of the 38th Parliament over a year ago. One might think that with three parliamentary secretaries charged with responsibility for ensuring meaningful relations and sharing departmental information, the government would have been able to find the time to initiate permanent legislation and make its proposal to the committee, as the former minister for democratic reform had promised before the election. He was, after all, the minister for the same Prime Minister who is in office today.

But as the months that had been purchased with the passage of Bill C-3 last May dribbled away, not a word was breathed on the issue, at least not until early October, when Bill C-63 was introduced by the minister for democratic reform in the House of Commons.

This bill does not propose the necessary improvements or changes anticipated by Bill C-3. Instead, it eliminates the sunset clause, thereby making this inadequate and temporary stopgap law permanent. It proposes and I quote from the text of the projected law:

Within two years after the coming into force of this section, the committee of the House of Commons that normally considers electoral matters--

In other words, the procedure and House affairs committee:

--shall undertake a comprehensive review of the amendments made by this Act and submit a report to Parliament containing its recommendations concerning those amendments.

This means that the six month grace period granted by the Supreme Court in 2003, which had already been extended by two years in 2004 because the Liberal government had frittered away the allocated time, preparing for an early election, when it thought it could capture the polls, without launching a review process to produce adequate legislation, will now be extended for a further two years to provide room for further dithering. This time there is no sunset clause.

If the government does not initiate the review within the next two years, that it has failed to initiate in the past two years, no consequences will ensue. Bill C-3, which was enacted as a legislative band-aid, will become the permanent law of the land.

The small army of ministers and parliamentary secretaries responsible for this portfolio will no doubt protest that this law contains a legal binding requirement for committee review of the provisions contained in the old law. I would have to take off my shoes and socks to count on my fingers and toes all the legally mandated legislative reviews that this government has failed to meet.

On some occasions, mandatory legislative reviews have been dealt with by means of pro forma discussions that are so brief as to be an insult to the legislative process. I will take one example, the Referendum Act contained a provision requiring a mandatory review by the procedure and House affairs committee to take place within three years. The review that took place took less than one minute.

Even if the Liberals permit a review to take place, what guarantee do we have that these two ministers and three parliamentary secretaries or their successors will not treat the recommendation of the procedure and House affairs committee with the same disregard they have just treated the most recent recommendations of this very same committee regarding electoral reform?

Today the government is caught in a bind of its own making. It really will have to conduct the legislative review made necessary two years ago by the Supreme Court's Figueroa decision or else the provisions of Bill C-3 will expire next May, not replaced by any new statute.

This means that if parliamentarians defeat Bill C-63, the government will have no choice but to allow the committee on procedure and House affairs to proceed with the review that the government promised in early 2004, but was too disorganized in 2005 to initiate. If we parliamentarians let the government off the hook by enacting Bill C-63, unless we put a sunset review clause into that bill, this much needed review will never take place.

There are still eight months left prior to the expiry of Bill C-3. That is two months more than the original six month grace period granted in 2003 by the Supreme Court for remedial legislation to be debated. That is plenty of time to bring witnesses, to suggest amendments to the Canada Elections Act and to complete the job that the government with its surfeit of quarrelling ministers seems incapable of initiating on its own. It should be possible for the procedure and House affairs committee to produce a bill and for both Houses of Parliament to pass a new and better act prior to that date. Even if an election intervenes and the House does not resume sitting until after May 16, the sunset provision of Bill C-3 allows an additional 90 days prior to the expiry of that law. If the 38th Parliament cannot complete all stages of the new law, there would still be time to reintroduce what is likely to be a non-confrontational bill.

Nobody disagrees with the basic premise of the bill which is to ensure that a party cannot masquerade as a political party, collect donations, get tax receipts for it and proceed to use them for other purposes. A non-confrontational bill could be dealt with quickly and move through all readings in the 39th Parliament and become the law of the land, assuming of course that we engage in that review process in this Parliament.

With these considerations in mind, I ask that all members of Parliament oppose this bill.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba


Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Madam Speaker, it is important for us to get back to the bill at hand which is Bill C-63. The minister spoke earlier about the fact that it was very important to link Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. Would my hon. colleague agree with that? It seems to me that it would be reasonable for the process to be done at the same time. When we are talking about the government not allowing the review to take place, the opposition has a majority on the committee and in fact control the outcome of the review. Maybe the member could respond to that.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's comments were not mostly about the bill at hand. They were mostly about electoral reform.

He is quite right to be frustrated and a good deal more over the way the government is not dealing with electoral reform. He is quite right in his assessment that we can kiss any prospect of electoral reform or any serious discussion of it in this Parliament goodbye as a result of the way the government has gone about frittering away the available time.

He is right also about the general lack of interest. I do not know whether it is insincerity or just a lack of interest in democracy on the part of the Liberals. Whatever it is, we can certainly see nothing happening.

Given these facts, I have to admit that I am a bit surprised that the member indicated that his party will be supporting the bill. I ask why it would be doing this for this reason.

There is a required legislative review of Bill C-3 that is currently in place. There is enough time over the next eight months to engage in this review and to hear the witnesses necessary to learn how other jurisdictions have dealt with this problem. We could have the chief electoral officers of other jurisdictions come before us. This is actually longer than the six month grace period that the Supreme Court originally gave for legislation to be drafted when it passed its Figueroa decision in November 2003. There is plenty of time to deal with this.

Moreover, if an election occurs, the sunset clause says that a further 90 days will be added. There is no prospect of an election occurring during which there would be an absence of law. We would either have Bill C-3 in place, the current provisions, or the new improved provisions that could be put forward if the proper review and sunset clause and therefore new legislation were to come forward as opposed to merely saying, as the Liberals are saying in Bill C-63, “Let us just not have the sunset clause and leave the review in place. We will get around to having a review whenever. Trust us, we will take care of this. Just remove anything that would make us comply with our word”.

Given the Liberals' history with that committee, the member and myself, why on earth would we trust them again? I am wondering if I misunderstood the hon. member when he indicated that his party would be supporting this bill, given the abominable record of the government in so many parallel cases.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister earlier was constructing a narrative about why he had to put forward legislation that would remove the sunset clause in Bill C-3 rather than engaging in a review of Bill C-3, the legislation that deals with smaller parties and the potential for money to be given to organizations that masquerade as parties. That is the purpose of the bill.

Now his narrative goes like this. I use the word “narrative” because it has only a marginal connection to the truth. It is not a lie; it only has a marginal connection to the truth.

First, he said that the bill was passed days prior to the election of 2004 so there was no time for any review at that time.

Second, he said that the bill must be reviewed in connection with Bill C-24, the electoral finance law, which deals with among other things restriction of individual donations. He asked the committee in a letter he sent out in November 2004 for this to take place, and nobody objected. He got no response to the letter.

I have my researcher trying to find the letter, the existence of which I have to admit was a mystery to me. Perhaps I did not see that correspondence. The parliamentary secretary sits on the committee. One might have thought that at some point he would have said a response was needed to the letter. The minister could have done it. The minister crosses the floor to chat with me all the time. This was almost a year ago and I do not recall this. Anyway, nobody objected and therefore it must be done in conjunction with Bill C-24.

Finally, he said that the Chief Electoral Officer's report on Bill C-24 was delayed and it would not happen until later. Therefore, we could not review Bill C-24 so we could not review Bill C-3 either. This meant we would miss the legislative deadline, which meant it would be irresponsible to go ahead and not pass a law getting rid of the sunset clause, ensuring we could deal with Bill C-3 and its subject matter off at some distant time. I want to emphasize that this is nonsense, and I will ask my hon. colleague a question that relates to this.

However, first, with respect to the logical link to Bill C-24, one would expect to see this in the original letter that was sent to the procedure and House affairs committee. A letter was sent by the prior minister for the portfolio dated February 10, 2004. Members will note that this was not right before the election. It was long before an election. In it, he asks the committee to take a look at this. He makes no reference to any connection with Bill C-24. In the letter to the committee he says:

Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that the Bill is necessarily a permanent solution. The Supreme Court's ruling in Figueroa is complex and may well have broader implications, which the Committee should have a full opportunity to assess.

For this reason, I would invite the Committee, following its consideration and reporting of the Bill, [Bill C-3], to begin a more extensive study of the wider implications of the Figueroa ruling on the Canada Elections Act. I also welcome the Committee's views on other aspects of the electoral process that it believes warrant attention.

There is no necessary connection to Bill C-24.

The review could not begin until right before an election. However, the letter was sent out. That minister then became minister in June and proceeded never to bother following up. Where does the fault lie? Is it with all those incompetent members of the committee who just could not get around to it or is it with one minister who just could not remember to take care of his own portfolio until a year had gone by?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comment and the respect he showed me by not rising on a point of order. Of course, what I was doing was citing many examples of why the opposition distrusts the government when it comes to a bill like this that is going to commit the House to a review to take place in two years.

As I pointed out through all my examples, when it comes to parliamentary and electoral reform the government has come up short time and time again. This is just the latest example. I am sure when my colleague speaks to the bill he will as well cite some examples of how the government consistently comes up short.

The issue at hand is the government's suggestion, followed by some suggestion from the committee, that somehow we should link the review of Bill C-3 with Bill C-24. As my colleague from Lanark—Carleton addressed during questions and comments to the minister, once the government knew it had the responsibility to conduct this review in a timely manner and understood that it would be unnecessarily delayed by linking it to Bill C-24, it certainly had the wherewithal, as I indicated, to come before the procedure and House affairs committee, on which it had members, and suggest, in the strongest possible terms, that if the House must adhere to the law then the committee should undertake the study right away.

As my colleague said, there is no reason that the committee could not be seized with this and do it between now and the deadline of May 16. We do not need this legislation to remove the deadline and establish instead this potential two year time period, which once again could be ignored. In fact, if Bill C-63 were to pass, it would not surprise me at all that in two years from now, if I am lucky enough to be re-elected by my constituents, I might still be standing here and the government will be bringing forward a new Bill C-63 to once again extend the deadline.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba


Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Madam Speaker, I would like to indicate to the hon. member that I was going to rise on a point of order to bring him back to the topic at hand. However, as I know he is the opposition House leader and should know better, out of respect for him I did not do that.

However we should come back to the bill at hand. It is very important that we focus on Bill C-63. I did not hear my colleague disagree with the minister in terms of the importance of interlinking, for instance, Bill C-3 and Bill C-24. We feel they are very closely related. I learned, however, that my hon. colleague watches too much TV and too many Monty Python movies.

The mandatory review would be done by the procedure and House affairs committee. In fact, the opposition has a majority on that committee. It seems to me that we should be sending this mandatory review to committee and allow it to do its work. Maybe he could comment on that, please.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
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Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today and add some comments on Bill C-63. As we have just heard from the minister responsible, the deputy House leader for the government, Bill C-63 is a response to Bill C-3, adopted in the third session of the 37th Parliament, which replaced the Elections Act requirement that a party field 50 candidates in one election in order to qualify for party status in the next election.

With much more relaxed criteria for the establishment of party status, Bill C-3 was a response to the Supreme Court's 2003 Figueroa decision which ruled that the 50 candidate requirement was indeed unconstitutional.

Bill C-3 was intended to be temporary and therefore included a sunset clause that will cause the law to cease to be in force on May 16, 2006, as we have just discussed. The purpose of Bill C-63 is to replace the sunset clause with a comprehensive review of Bill C-3, to take place within two years of the passage of the new law.

I have my doubts as to whether or not we can trust the government to ensure that this review takes place. On September 12, the Ottawa Citizen reported that under the stewardship of this Liberal government Parliament is breaking its own laws while shirking self-imposed obligations to watch over rights and freedoms of Canadians.

The article disclosed that Parliament sometimes fails to make a timely study of contentious and sensitive statutes, which the committees of the House of Commons or Senate are legally obliged to review within a set timeframe, usually within three to five years. A spokesman for the Canadian Bar Association was quoted in the article as saying, “If a review has not been undertaken as required by law, one must question the value of the oversight mechanism”.

At the same time, a House of Commons official was quoted as saying:

Everybody has got egg on their face. Even if (a mandatory Parliamentary review) is in a statute, it's virtually unenforceable. If you or I broke a statutory provision that is mandatory, the forces of law and order would come after us and probably inflict some penalty, but in fact with the Senate or the House no one can inflict any legal penalty.

The article pointed to a number of specific examples, including the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, whose five year review was supposed to begin in a committee of either chamber by last July. The mandatory five year review of the new Canada Customs and Revenue Agency's operations also began six months late.

The justice minister has yet to refer for legislative scrutiny the bill that gave police what is arguably the western world's most sweeping immunity from prosecution. Even the parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister made the following admission in the article in regard to a mandatory review of new powers given to the RCMP when he said:

I can't justify the unjustifiable. Clearly if the act, which is an Act of Parliament, says that it has to be reviewed within three years, we should be doing that.

Thus, while ministers are ignoring laws left, right and centre, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, in response to a question about the Chief Electoral Officer suggesting that he might violate the Canada Elections Act, preaches to the House that no one is above the law; maybe he meant to say no one who is not a Liberal cabinet minister.

There is another contrast. While the government pitches these mandatory reviews, the parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister told the Ottawa Citizen :

Frankly, and this would be my personal opinion, I think that sometimes it's a bit of a cop out to say we will review (a given law) in three years. If (a bill) is right, then it's right.

Then we have the NDP. That party supports the government and is responsible for its continuation in office, making a mockery of Parliament and the doctrine of responsible government. At the same time, the member for Ottawa Centre accused the Liberals of backing down on a promise to launch consultations this fall on electoral reform. On September 28 he stood in the House and asked:

Is this not another extraordinary example of the cynicism and empty rhetoric of the government that the people of Canada want removed...?

I think the member for Ottawa Centre should direct that question to his own leader.

The Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has known for a year about his obligation to come before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, yet he has done nothing, nothing, I might add, other than revealing that he did write a letter almost a year ago. Either he has been knowingly in dereliction of his duty or he has just been unaware that he had to do this, which arguably is even worse since it betrays a lack of competence.

In his annual report to the House of Commons, the Chief Electoral Officer endorsed the idea of a new bill to put off the expiry of Bill C-3. However, his report states that it is only because there has been no action that a rush bill to cancel the expiry of Bill C-3 is necessary.

The minister may suggest that it is the obligation of the committee to initiate new legislation, which I suppose would free him from taking responsibility for having failed to act for a year; however, the minister's parliamentary secretary sits on the committee, so why, for a full year, has the parliamentary secretary failed to point out to the minister that nothing is happening at the committee, at least nothing on this issue, or to remind the committee that the minister would like something to happen?

The fact of the matter is that this government has a terrible track record on following through with meaningful democratic reform, whether it be electoral or parliamentary reform. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Liberal leadership cannot even respect the rules that are currently in place and is making a mockery of Parliament on a daily basis.

Let us remember what took place in the spring session, when the government House leader held back scheduling opposition days because he was afraid we might hold his government to account. We suspected that they would try to break from past practice of generally scheduling one opposition day per week, so I presented a motion on April 18 that essentially scheduled one opposition day per week. When the government House leader got wind of my intentions, he immediately rushed into the chamber, cancelled the day and refused to schedule another opposition day for something in the order of five weeks.

It then became clear: there was enough evidence that the government might not enjoy the confidence of the House and, as a result, the matter of confidence had to be settled. We made several attempts, in committee and later through the adoption of committee reports in the House, to try to place a motion of non-confidence before the House. Through procedural tactics, the government avoided a vote until May 10.

The May 10 confidence vote took the form of an amendment to a motion to concur in a committee report. It carried by a vote of 153 to 150. It was similar to an amendment moved in 1926 against the government of Mackenzie King. The Mackenzie King situation was considered a matter of confidence. Even the Speaker ruled that our May 10 amendment and the 1926 amendment were not significantly different.

Notwithstanding that fact, the government ignored the outcome of the vote. It was absurd, and if it were not so serious, it would have made a wonderful comedy skit.

Come to think of it, I believe that skit has already been done. Did it not remind members of the dead parrot routine from Monty Python? When the government was defeated, its House leader tried to pull the wool over everyone's eyes by saying, “No, no, the government is not dead. It is just resting”.

The public and constitutional experts then said, “Look, we know a dead government when we see one and we are looking at one right now”.

“No, it is not dead; it is resting. There. See? It moved,” said the minister.

“Now look here,” we said, “we have definitely had enough of this. This government is definitely deceased. We discovered that the only reason it has been sitting on its perch in the first place is that it has been nailed down”.

“Of course it was nailed down”, said the government House leader. “If I had not nailed the government down, it could have exposed its members to an election”.

In the Monty Python skit, the humour was in the audacity of the salesman thinking he could get away with selling a dead parrot. The government House leader expressed the same boldness in pretending that his government was not defeated, but Canadians know better.

The government House leader finally got the message and the drama ended on May 19, when the government promised that it would respect the outcome of confidence votes on two budget bills. Of course by that time a certain member was enticed to cross the floor to sit as a Liberal cabinet minister, and the NDP was bought off with billions of Canadian tax dollars.

What was alarming about the whole affair was that the government acted illegally for nine days, from May 10 to May 19, and used that time and Canadians' money to secure enough votes to win the second vote.

The scenario of ignoring the outcome of a vote and waiting for another opportunity is discussed in Eugene Forsey's “The Question of Confidence and Responsible Government”, where he states, “to allow such a principle is to make a mockery of the doctrine of confidence”.

The government House leader is once again making a mockery of Parliament this fall. He is using the same tactics he used in the spring. The only thing new this time around is his excuse. He said that the Prime Minister had fixed a date for the election, which he promised would be called 30 days after the final report of the Gomery commission expected in February. Obviously the minister does not understand the parliamentary system of government. Even if we had fixed election dates in this country, in a parliamentary system there is always the potential to trigger an election outside of a fixed date due to the government losing the confidence of the House. Furthermore, the government House leader has an obligation to provide the Leader of the Opposition with the opportunity to put that to a test.

The 22nd edition of Erskine May states:

From time to time the Opposition put down a motion on the paper expressing lack of confidence in the Government--a 'vote of censure' as it is called. By established convention the Government always accedes to the demand from the Leader of the Opposition to allot a day for the discussion of such a motion. In allotting a day for this purpose the Government is entitled to have regard to the exigencies of its own business, but a reasonably early day is invariably found. This convention is founded on the recognized position of the Opposition as a potential Government, which guarantees the legitimacy of such an interruption of the normal course of business. For its part, the Government has everything to gain by meeting such a direct challenge to its authority at the earliest possible moment.

While it is the government's prerogative to schedule the business of the House, it would be unethical and against convention to suggest that the government could abuse its authority in order to avoid a confidence vote and govern illegally. If the Leader of the Opposition feels that the government has lost the confidence of the House, the government is obliged to schedule a day to settle the matter. We cannot have another situation like we had in the spring. It was a sham and should never be repeated.

When the government responded to the 43rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs called “Democratic Renewal”, it indicated that the committee's recommended timeframe was unrealistic. The government then suggested a timeframe that will not allow this special committee to finish its work. The Liberals forgot that they have a minority and that this Parliament is not long for this life. In fact, it already technically died once.

The response also attempts to establish some government achievements that have been made in strengthening the role of Parliament, including the creation of an independent ethics commissioner reporting to Parliament. The Prime Minister sat on that promise for over 10 years. He even voted against an opposition motion that called on his government to implement that very promise which came straight from the Liberal red book. The Liberals had to be embarrassed into implementing that change and only after being pressured by the opposition for over 10 years.

The government also crows about its commitment to democratic renewal that was set out in the October 5, 2005 Speech from the Throne where it pledged “to examine the need and options for reform of our democratic institutions, including electoral reform”. What about the commitment in the Speech from the Throne that promised to allow members an opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the missile defence agreement and to vote prior to a government decision? The government completely ignored that commitment.

The response also stated:

In February 2004, as the Prime Minister's first order of business, the Government tabled its Action Plan for Democratic Reform. The initiatives outlined in the Action Plan were developed to ensure that Members of Parliament play a significantly larger role in the decision-making process.

Those are nice words, but as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Well done is better than well said”. How does ignoring the wishes of the majority of members help the government play a significantly larger role in the decision making process in this place?

We all remember when the Prime Minister was running in a leadership contest and portrayed himself as the man who would slay the democratic deficit. He was successful at creating and popularizing the phrase “the democratic deficit” but that was his only success. He created words and expectations. That was it. He had no intention of slaying the democratic deficit, nor did he have any plans to respect this House and its members.

If actions speak louder than words, let us review some more of his actions. On November 30, 2004, the House supported a motion sponsored by the Leader of the Opposition that called on the government to take the appropriate measures to sell the 11,000 acres of arable land back to families and farmers whose land was expropriated to build the Mirabel airport. The Prime Minister refused to comply with the wishes of the House.

This affront to Parliament was repeated on February 8 regarding a motion to farmers.

I could go on and on listing other motions. Indeed, I have questions on the Order Paper now dealing with the inaction of the government in respecting the wishes of Parliament as expressed by the majority of members when they voted on these motions.

I want to get back to Bill C-3. The need for such a bill is a mystery since there is plenty of time, as my colleague from Lanark—Carleton pointed out, for the committee to draft replacement legislation between now and when Bill C-3 expires on May 16, 2006. Moreover, an election in the intervening period would not throw off this process, as my colleague just pointed out. The sunset clause in Bill C-3 states that in the event that Parliament is not in session when the bill expires, the bill will continue to function for an additional 90 days after the first sitting of the new Parliament. Thus, a new Conservative government could easily deal with this legislation if an election were to take place prior to May 2006.

There is no reason that we cannot provide Canadians with a Parliament and an electoral system they can be proud of. It has so much potential and so much to offer. Unlike the Liberals, the Conservative Party has clearly shown that it respects and recognizes this potential. It demonstrated that it is prepared to diligently and aggressively create more opportunities for democracy within the parliamentary structure. No party has pursued democratic reform in Parliament more than the Conservative Party in the last 10 years.

We have been successful at making improvements to private members' business, accountability in getting questions answered by the government, secret ballot elections at committee and democratic selection of senior officers of Parliament, such as the Privacy Commissioner, the Access to Information Commissioner and the Clerk of the House of Commons. Thanks to the initiatives brought in by the three opposition parties at the beginning of this Parliament, recommendations that flow from committee reports will no longer be shelved by the government but instead will be taken up by the House. We now have more opposition members chairing standing committees. The nomination of the Deputy Speaker is no longer selected by the Prime Minister but is now the prerogative of the Speaker himself. We now have question and comments that follow every speech, including speeches by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Many of these successes did not come easy. When the Liberals had their majority it took 10 years of persistence to change the process for private members' business. First, the Liberals ignored our suggestions, then they ridiculed them, and then their own backbench began to embrace them. Then the fight was on with the front bench. They were eventually outmanoeuvred and proposals were reluctantly adopted.

The issue of secret ballot elections at committee followed a similar path but did not take quite as long. We managed to get support of some Liberal backbenchers after we reminded them that in the 19th century, prior to secret ballot voting in general elections, all kinds of methods of coercion were used to influence voters. Parties often hired bullies who moved from riding to riding in fact.

The government then realized that was exactly what the government whip did each September during the chairmen elections at committees. The chief whip, his or her deputies and staff, moved from committee to committee to ensure their members voted the right way. The tactics used by the government whip during the election of chairmen and vice-chairmen of committees were not that different than those tactics used to influence elections in the 19th century.

Who in their right mind would not want to change that? Against all rational thinking and common sense, the front bench of the Liberal caucus fought tooth and nail against any such change.

The then government House leader, after we had introduced a motion that would have allowed for secret ballot elections at committee, performed procedural aerobatics and employed shameless bullying tactics, much like what is taking place today with the current House leader. Once again their motives are to hold on to power at the expense of democracy.

Nothing positive has changed under the Prime Minister and the leadership of the House leader and deputy House leader. If anything, the situation has grown worse. The democratic deficit is greater today than it was under Jean Chrétien.

On the inevitable day when the Prime Minister must let go of the reins of power, he will wake up in a cold sweat and plead, “Don't let it end like this. Tell them I did something”. However it will be too late.

In summary, Bill C-63 is an affront to the House and its members. It is a perfect example of how not to legislate and is indicative of the way Liberals manage the business of Parliament. They give themselves a deadline, ignore the deadline, wait until the last minute and then declare an emergency. That is no way to legislate or to govern.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:25 p.m.
See context


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, if Parliament is sitting next May and this has not been addressed, then there will be a vacuum. That is a situation which should not be left to happen. Therefore, we are proposing an amendment to the Canada Elections Act which would give two years and oblige a committee to do the review that has not now been done, for the reasons I have explained.

There is absolutely nothing nefarious here. Everybody agrees that Bill C-24, political financing, and Bill C-3, political registration, are intimately linked and that the revision of both perhaps should be done at the same time. No one on the committee has disagreed with that and this is why we are now in this situation. There is absolutely nothing nefarious about keeping a window open for two years in order for a committee of Parliament and Parliament to reconsider the rules concerning registration of political parties.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
See context


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, people watching in TV-land may be misled by what the minister has just said. He made a factually incorrect statement. He said that we could be in a situation next May where we would go into an election and there would be no rules governing the conduct of smaller parties because this legislation would have run out. That is actually not so.

There is a well constructed sunset clause and what it says is that the legislation will run out on May 16 of next year. As I have mentioned, May 16 is seven months from now, which gives us plenty of time to deal with the matter at hand, with passing new legislation and having witnesses and so on. But in the event that Parliament is not sitting when the expiration occurs, the legislation is automatically extended for a further 90 days, meaning that in fact there would be legislation in place at that time. The danger the minister is describing is a non-existent danger. The fact is that this legislation will not put us in any danger.

The real point here is that going into the next election we should have a proper replacement for Bill C-3, something that takes care of the underlying problem of moneys potentially being collected and used for groups that are not really parties. This could be done by the next election if we pass the legislation that I am proposing we pass instead of simply having the sunset clause eliminated.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
See context


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague opposite said, I wrote to the committee in November 2004 suggesting that it made sense to deal with the review of Bill C-3 at the same time that we were dealing with Bill C-24. None of the members of the committee, government members or opposition members, disagreed with that.

Only in August of this year did we find out that the Chief Electoral Officer's report vis-à-vis Bill C-24 would be tabled in the House later on, perhaps in December. Given that, we did the responsible thing and we suggested a course of action. If the committee wishes to act otherwise, it has the entire discretion to do so.

This course of action now is taking us into a situation whereby we could end up in May of next year with a vacuum in terms of rules for registration of political parties, which is an untenable situation, so the government is acting responsibly by presenting Bill C-63, which would add two years and oblige the committee to do a review of Bill C-3.

No one on the committee, government members or opposition members, disagreed with the notion that Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 are tied and interrelated and that the revision of both together would be a good thing to do.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
See context


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister said he wanted to engage in a review of Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 together. That is peachy. However, the fact is that there is no legislative requirement. Bill C-24 is not about to expire. Bill C-3 will expire May 16, 2006.

There was over a year during which, with this minister as the minister for this portfolio, a review could have taken place. In fact, virtually that entire time, with the exception of the first month of that two year period, he was the minister. During all this time, this review could have taken place. There is almost exactly an additional seven months before May 16, 2006 when this bill will expire.

The question I am working up to is twofold. First, why did he wait an entire year, as minister, indeed why did he wait an entire 16 months now before bringing this matter before the committee or before the House, when he had this large amount of time set aside to deal with the bill?

Second, we still have seven months before the expiration of Bill C-3 and the provisions it contains. That is plenty of time to bring witnesses before the committee and to hear from witnesses who could be chief electoral officers, for example, of other jurisdictions or other provinces to take a look at what they do.

Why the rush to simply replace the sunset clause, which forces his government to deal with this, with something that means that a review is not necessary when his record clearly indicates that the government is not going to respect the kinds of reviews that are put into legislation, that it is not going to follow through? Why would we want to replace a mandatory review which now forces the government to take action with a non-mandatory review which means it can dither around for another year or never get around to dealing with the bill?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalMinister for Internal Trade

moved that BillC-63, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-63, which is entitled an act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act.

We are referring here to a change to the act providing new rules for the registration of political parties, passed by this House in 2004 under the name Bill C-3. I will provide an overview today of the context in which the new rules were adopted in 2004 and will speak to the need to act quickly in order to preserve the system for registering political parties.

Bill C-63 proposes to do this by abrogating the sunset clause included in Bill C-3. It would be replaced by a provision requiring mandatory review of the new registration rules by a committee of this House.

The party registration rules adopted in 1970 required a party to endorse 50 candidates at a general election. It was believed that this would ensure that opportunistic groups masquerading as political parties did not gain access to the public funding that flowed from being a registered party.

The adoption of new rules was made necessary after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the 50 candidate threshold in the Figueroa decision. The threshold was found to be contrary to the right to vote and to be a candidate as guaranteed by section 3 of the charter. The Supreme Court suspended its decision for one year to provide an opportunity for Parliament to amend the Canada Elections Act and it was in this context that Parliament considered Bill C-3.

Bill C-3 was introduced on February 10, 2004 to lower the threshold to just one candidate and make other changes to prevent abuse of the public funding of political parties.

In particular, there is a new definition of “political party”. It states that one of the fundamental purposes of a party must be to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more candidates in an election. To determine the eligibility of a party that applies, the Chief Electoral Officer will require a valid declaration from the party leader that his or her party meets this definition and he or she must be satisfied that it does.

During the various steps in the study of this bill, many people raised concerns about the new rules under consideration. Some wondered whether setting the threshold at a single candidate would not allow opportunistic groups to get public funding. Others were concerned that as a result of the one-year suspension of the Supreme Court decision, no complete examination had been made of the Canada Elections Act to identify other provisions that might be challenged like Figueroa. Finally, the Chief Electoral Officer was opposed to this new job of evaluating whether applicants meet the definition of a political party.

In view of all these concerns, all parties agreed to add a two-year sunset provision to Bill C-3.

Since the former Bill C-3 came into force on May 15, 2004, the two year sunset will operate on May 15 of next year, if it is not repealed beforehand. The sunset of the former Bill C-3 would mean that there would no longer be rules for the registration and deregistration of federal political parties. Such a closed system would be contrary to the charter and would be contrary to the democratic standards of Canada.

Some may question why a review of the new rules was not carried out previously within the period of time of two years provided in the sunset clause.

In response, it is important to remember that the adoption of Bill C-3 was closely followed by the dissolution of Parliament nine days later. The minority Parliament that resulted from this election was opened on October 5, 2004.

Soon after, and at the request of the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I wrote to the committee to suggest that the government's preference would be to review the new registration rules at the same time as the statutorily mandated review of the political financing regime adopted in 2003 with Bill C-24. Indeed, since these issues are intricately linked, such a joint process still makes sense.

The review of the new political financing rules will be carried out by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs once the Chief Electoral Officer issues his recommendations on political financing.

When I wrote to the chair of the standing committee in November 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer's report was expected in the spring of 2005. However, due to the need for his office to focus resources on election preparedness, because of the minority Parliament, the Chief Electoral Officer has since indicated that his report would only be submitted this fall, in two volumes.

In the first volume submitted in September, a few days after the opening of this session of Parliament, dealing with non-financial matters, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended that the sunset clause in Bill C-3 be removed. His second volume of recommendations, dealing with political financing, will be submitted later this session and a joint review of Bill C-3 and Bill C-24 would then be possible.

Given the need for a comprehensive review, and the government's commitment to hold an election 30 days after the issue of the final Gomery report, the government's proposal in the bill is prudent and responsible. Bill C-63 would provide a two year period during which this review is to take place to account for all contingencies, including election scenarios.

I want to close by saying that the registration and financing rules for political parties are closely linked. Registration gives parties access to public funds, which allows them to take part in the elections and maintain their registration. Bill C-63 will lead to a full examination of these fundamental aspects of the Canada Elections Act.

For all these reasons, I am calling on the hon. members to support Bill C-63 and to refer it to a committee for consideration so that we can pass it as quickly as possible.

Thank you.