Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006

An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.


David Emerson  Conservative


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.

The purpose of this enactment is to implement some of Canada’s obligations under the Softwood Lumber Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States, by imposing a charge on exports of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States and by amending certain Acts, including the Export and Import Permits Act. The charge on exports will take effect on October 12, 2006 and will be payable by exporters of softwood lumber products. The enactment also authorizes certain payments to be made.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 6, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 50.
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 18.
Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 17, be amended by: (a) replacing lines 42 and 43 on page 12 with the following: “product from the charges referred to in sections 10 and 14.” (b) replacing line 3 on page 13 with the following: “charges referred to in sections 10 and 14.”
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 17.
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 13.
Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing lines 2 to 13 on page 8 with the following: “who is certified under section 25.”
Dec. 4, 2006 Passed That Bill C-24, in Clause 10.1, be amended by: (a) replacing line 27 on page 5 with the following: “referred to in section 10:” (b) replacing line 12 on page 6 with the following: “underwent its first primary processing in one of”
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24, in Clause 107, be amended by replacing lines 37 and 38 on page 89 with the following: “which it is made but no earlier than November 1, 2006.”
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24, in Clause 100, be amended by replacing line 3 on page 87 with the following: “( a) specifying any requirements or conditions that, in the opinion of the Government of Canada, should be met in order for a person to be certified as an independent remanufacturer;”
Dec. 4, 2006 Failed That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 8.
Oct. 18, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
Oct. 16, 2006 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following: “the House decline to proceed with Bill C-24, An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence, because it opposes the principle of the bill, which is to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement, to condone illegal conduct by Americans, to encourage further violations of the North American Free Trade Agreement and to undermine the Canadian softwood sector by leaving at least $ 1 billion in illegally collected duties in American hands, by failing to provide open market access for Canadian producers, by permitting the United States to escape its obligations within three years, by failing to provide necessary support to Canadian workers, employers and communities in the softwood sector and by imposing coercive and punitive taxation in order to crush dissent with this policy”.
Oct. 4, 2006 Failed That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “specifically because it fails to immediately provide loan guarantees to softwood companies, because it fails to un-suspend outstanding litigation which is almost concluded and which Canada stands to win, and because it punishes companies by imposing questionable double taxation, a provision which was not in the agreement signed by the Minister of International Trade”.

February 26th, 2020 / 7:15 p.m.
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Mike Beck Operations Manager, Capacity Forest Management

Thank you.

I'm Mike Beck with Capacity Forest Management. I'm their operational planner. We have managed over 20 first nation clients in B.C. We help gather tenure through government to government as well as licencee negotiations. We've also been instrumental in two foundation agreements that have taken place in B.C. with the shíshálh Indian band as well as Lake Babine Nation.

I've been invited to discuss the impacts of the softwood lumber dispute and how it is creating issues with first nations businesses and collaborations with forestry licensees, businesses and lumber mills in B.C.

As you know, a few people have already noted that the softwood lumber agreement has basically been a long outstanding issue between Canada and the United States. Basically, this agreement that we've been sitting on has been expired since 2015. The current government hasn't seemed to place the softwood lumber agreement as a top priority to settle during the negotiation processes and ratification of NAFTA between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The softwood lumber issues around the competition between Canada and the United States lumber companies are a major problem resulting from differences in their respective forest management principles.

The dispute is based on the U.S. lumber industry opposing the low Canadian stumpage rates and transportation costs, perceived by the U.S. as an unfair advantage that subsidizes our lumber industry. The U.S. has been imposing duties and tariffs on Canada since the early 1900s, and the softwood lumber dispute is not going away any time soon.

Canadian forest management principles are vastly different, and to compare one against the other is very onerous and well documented. A healthy Canadian log and lumber business requires certainty and fair market pricing. In order to achieve this, the Canadian government needs to bring the softwood lumber agreement to the forefront and finalize a long-term deal that avoids protectionist measures on both sides of the border.

Canadian logs and lumber require unencumbered access to world markets in order to return the highest possible pricing. Protectionist measures in this case create an unnecessary cost to Canadian sawmillers, and these costs are passed on to the log sellers, which pushes log prices down domestically. Recent court decisions and reconciliation agreements for first nations are providing control of their timber resources within their unceded territory. The federal government needs to create forestry policies that will ensure success, sustainability and create long-term, meaningful jobs in the industry as well as first nations businesses and ventures.

Imposed U.S. countervailing duties and tariffs have denied the maximum price on logs, which has impacted profit margins for first nations businesses that sell to Canadian mills. There's a requirement for major reforms and policy to remove restrictions on log exports in order to eliminate uncertainty in the Canadian forest industry and allow the highest return and highest prices for our renewable resource.

Duties and tariffs need to be eliminated and a long-term softwood lumber agreement needs to be ratified to ensure a healthy, sustainable and stable forest industry in Canada. The impacts for first nations forestry businesses are, again, another vital component. It's impacting negatively with our first nations businesses, agreements and collaborations with Canadian forest industry partners.

Canada is required to challenge and amend the Export and Import Permits Act that would ratify the softwood lumber agreement, as there are significant impacts. The current U.S. countervailing duties and tariffs are affecting the economic success of the Canadian forest industry, including first nations businesses that are selling their logs to local Canadian lumber mills.

Some Canadian first nations bands, as part of the ongoing reconciliation process such as foundation agreements, are receiving timber rights to harvest Crown timber within their unceded territories. These first nations forestry opportunities, timber tenures and licences provide economic benefit and stability, long-term employment and training opportunities for first nations communities and future first nations business investment opportunities. The impacts of the current softwood duties and tariffs on the Canadian first nations forestry business is that Canadian local sawmills are basing their log purchase pricing on current log markets but factor in the percentage of the tariffs and duties so that the mills pay to reduce the log prices, which impacts first nations businesses and projects negatively.

As well, the U.S. countervailing duties and tariffs impact the bottom line for first nations businesses and ventures. They're looking for the highest economic benefit for their timber resources within their unceded territory.

Currently, with the economies of scale of first nation forestry businesses being upstream log sellers, they are additionally impacted financially as their businesses will not see any reimbursement of duty deposits from the United States once a dispute is settled, as these costs are typically factored into the local mill log purchase pricing agreements at the beginning of the projects.

Ultimately, I'm drawn back to the current government mandate, in which one of their top priorities is reconciliation with Canadian indigenous people, as well as wanting to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to allow government to bring federal laws and policies for Canadian first nations to pursue economic, social and cultural development needs. Based on the government non-action to settle the long-standing softwood lumber agreement, it is not placed in value for Canadian first nation forestry businesses and the Canadian forest industry. Again, there is a requirement to ratify in NAFTA, Bill C-4, regarding the long-standing softwood lumber agreement, to remove the tariffs and duties. If that is not in place and there's no agreement, this will create considerable adverse effects and restrictions for the first nation forestry businesses.

As for some of the impacts that we're currently seeing with the softwood lumber agreement, some first nations forestry businesses are having a hard time being successful and sustainable. As well, first nation business-to-business agreements and collaborations with other Canadian forest industry partners, ultimately impacting forest economic earnings to the nations and bands, are also creating some issues. Lower lumber market pricing and duties and tariffs, creating mill closures or curtailments, are creating some issues as well around the nations and territories. We're also seeing major licensees establish more mills in the United States than Canada due to the additional duties and taxes, to ensure market competitiveness and balance their dependence on local Canadian log supply. These moves create fewer good-paying jobs for Canadians, as well as first nation band members, and limit log-pricing competition to sell logs at lower market pricing, or better, with these mill closures.

In closing, I want to ensure that the softwood lumber agreement stays at the Canadian government's top priority for settlement and is ratified in some way that will make first nation businesses stay competitive and not be penalized any longer by the unfair and unjust United States' lumber tariffs and duties.

We need our Canadian government to defend our forest management systems and challenge the subsidy, to remove the tariffs and countervailing duties, since wood is used in a wide range of industries and doesn't qualify as a subsidy under U.S. law. As well, the actions of the U.S. are driven by protectionism rather than unfair management practices and stumpage rate determination.

Again, it will be vital to have collaborative discussions and engagement between government, first nation forestry businesses, and the Canadian forest industry to ensure a fair ratification of the softwood lumber agreement to make certain first nation businesses and ventures, and the Canadian forestry industry, economically successful and sustainable in Canada.

That is all I have to say. If you have any questions, I'll look forward to responding.

Opposition Motion—Softwood Lumber AgreementBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2016 / 1 p.m.
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Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the friends and family of Jim Prentice. He was a respected parliamentarian, and my heart goes out to all of my colleagues who are mourning his tragic passing today.

Today's motion is timely, and I am glad my Conservative colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster has brought it forward for debate. The motion urges the government to take all necessary steps to prevent a trade war with the United States over softwood lumber exports.

I absolutely support the motion. For the many thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on this important industry, it is imperative that Canada secures a fair deal with the United States.

Softwood lumber is a vital part of Canada's forestry sector. For many rural communities, it is the backbone of their economy. According to Canada's labour force survey, in 2015, the forest industry accounted for 260,000 direct and indirect jobs, compared to just over 400,000 jobs in 2003. Hundreds of sawmills across Canada have been shuttered, taking with them high quality, well-paid jobs, the kind of jobs on which families and communities depend.

Today, the softwood lumber industry is on the verge of more job losses. With the expiry of the 2006 SLA, producers are bracing for more U.S. tariffs, which will further devastate an industry has has already been hard hit by the long-standing dispute with the U.S., as well as factors like the recent recession, the crash of the U.S. housing market, and domestic issues like the spread of the pine beetle across British Columbian forests.

Canadians producers and workers are hoping that a new SLA will bring fairness and predictability.

The Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute first began in 1982. For nearly 35 years, the American industry has argued that Canadian producers benefit from subsidization, a claim that has been defeated time and time again.

Over the years, there have been several managed trade agreements and upon their expiration, more duties slapped on Canadian exports to the U.S. and more costly litigation. Canada has spent in the ballpark of $100 million in legal fees to defend our position.

After the previous agreement expired in 2001, the U.S. levied $5.4 billion in duties on Canadian imports, money that should have stayed in the pockets of Canadians. It was the beginning of a decade of massive job loss in the Canadian industry.

Soon after the Conservatives were elected in early 2006, they quickly negotiated a new agreement with little to no consultation with Canadian stakeholders. The result was a very controversial agreement that many argued represented a sellout of Canadian interests. For starters, it was based on the falsehood that Canada's industry was subsidized, which tribunal after tribunal has said is not the case. This set a terrible precedent that the rules of trade did not apply.

The agreement provided an option for Canadian regions of an export tax or a quota with an export tax at a lower rate. It took $50 million from Canadian industry to create a binding dispute settlement system where the U.S. was able to bring more actions against Canada. Perhaps most egregiously, the agreement allowed the U.S. to keep $1 billion of the duties it illegally levied on Canadian producers.

At the time, BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst, Stephen Atkinson, said, “Why would you give 22 per cent to your competition?...This money belongs to the companies and their shareholders, and the Canadian government is giving it away.”

Canadians were furious with the 2006 SLA. When the Conservatives brought it to Parliament in the form of Bill C-24, the NDP argued vehemently against the agreement. When we look back at this agreement, it is fair to say that the Conservatives caved to American interests. Today, it is imperative that the Liberals do not do the same.

As we know, the 2006 agreement was renewed in 2012 and expired last October. The Liberals love to blame the Conservatives for failing to initiate negotiations on a new agreement. It would seem the Conservatives made zero effort to work on the issue before the election. However, the current government must shoulder the responsibility for its role in failing to get a new deal done in time. For months, the government has hinted at breakthroughs that have never materialized.

In March, the Prime Minister boasted, “I'm confident that we are on a track towards resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and months.” That is from the CBC. The fact is that the Liberals broke their own commitment and failed to get a deal done before time ran out.

Beyond softwood specifically, the government does not seem to have a plan for the forestry sector. The federal budget contained no vision for supporting this important industry, which provides jobs right across Canada. It also failed to renew funding for the forest innovation program, which expired earlier this year.

The international trade committee undertook a brief study of softwood lumber earlier this spring, given that the expiry of the standstill clause was fast approaching. Over the course of two meetings, we heard from witnesses from British Columbia, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. We heard a lot of frustrations about how Canada had gotten to the place it was at now. The 2006 SLA was a bad deal and the Conservatives did a poor job of negotiating it.

While many concede that another managed trade deal is better than more costly litigation, there is something inherently unfair about the fact that despite continued findings that Canada is not in the wrong, we continue to negotiate agreements that are clearly in the interests of U.S. industry. Many witnesses expressed a desire to see Canada and the U.S. reach a negotiated settlement, one that would work for all our regions. However, I also heard very clearly that people did not want another bad deal. Quebec, for example, has made a lot of changes in its forestry practices and any new agreement must recognize these and other regional differences. A one-size-fits-all solution simply will not do.

One important voice we did not get to hear from at committee was labour. The United Steelworkers, which represents some 40,000 forestry workers, has laid out several requirements for what it would like to see happen now that the 2006 SLA has expired.

It wants the creation of provincial forest community restoration fund. These funds would be invested in workers, forest-dependent communities, and forest health. It wants fair access to the U.S. lumber market and discourages a new quota system. It also wants a guarantee that Canadian producers will have the same access to the U.S. market that other countries will enjoy.

I appreciate the perspective of the United Steelworkers because it represents the workers' point of view. For workers, these three things would help give them greater job security and strengthen, instead of weaken, the industry.

The committee's final report made five recommendations to the government, including that it get a deal done that would serve Canadian interests, that it consult with big and small producers, and that any new deal respect regional differences. The committee submitted its report to the House last spring, but as the summer went on, we continued hearing worry and concern over the lack of progress on the government's part. In August, opposition committee members, including myself, pushed for a summer meeting to get an update from the department.

We also called on the government to broaden its consultations and convene a round table of stakeholders that had been excluded in the past. The Liberals rejected this proposal and, quite shockingly, called the whole meeting a waste of time.

In just a few short months, Canadian producers expect to be hit with U.S. tariffs of around 25%. Mills will be shut down right across Canada. Thousands of jobs will be lost. It is extremely important that the government gets this deal done right and gets it done fast. I hope the government understands the gravity of what these job losses will mean in our communities: thousands of people with no jobs to go to, no more paycheques to bring home, and families worried about how to pay the rent or make the next mortgage payment.

I am from southwestern Ontario and people in Essex know what it is like to lose a lot of jobs in one sector. It is tough and people are resilient, but it is very difficult for families and communities to work through these types of events. I urge the government to act in the interests of those whose jobs are on the line. That means getting the deal right and working collaboratively with the communities that will be impacted by another round of duties.

If the Liberal government is serious about holding out for a good deal, instead of signing a bad one tomorrow, then it owes Canadians more transparency and openness about how it will help Canada's industry weather this impending trade storm. Some in the industry want the government to provide loan guarantees to help them deal with a new round of U.S. duties. If this prevents sawmills from closing and jobs from being lost, then it is imperative that the government provide this support. Canadians deserve answers from the government, not more empty promises and hollow words about meetings and consultations.

The New Democratic Party supports this motion and urges the government to make a new agreement that is in the best interests of Canadians a top priority.

April 12th, 2016 / 9:50 a.m.
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Richard Garneau President and Chief Executive Officer, Resolute Forest Products

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to talk with you today about the future of softwood lumber production in Canada.

My company, Resolute Forest Products, is the largest producer of softwood lumber east of the Rockies. We are also one of the world's leading producers of newsprint and specialty papers, as well as wood pulp, with some 40 plants in Canada, the United States and South Korea. Our main office is in Montreal, and we have more than 7,700 employees.

I am aware of widespread comments to the effect that the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement has benefited Canada. Ms. Hillman, from Global Affairs Canada, testified before this committee in February that the agreement was “a success”. The mantra has been that the agreement produced predictability and stability. Unfortunately, the reality is it absolutely did not. Managed trade is almost always more volatile when embedded in market forces.

As you know, there was no management of the housing market, the primary source of demand for softwood lumber, and there was no management of financial markets. I am sharing with you a graph that shows how unpredictable and unstable trade in softwood lumber was between Canada and the United States during the 2006 agreement. During this time, western Canadian softwood lumber producers benefited from China's extraordinary economic development. In central Canada, however, the Chinese market is logistically out of reach.

Western producers also bought some 40 sawmills in the U.S., with a productive capacity of about five billion board feet, affording them an important measure of insulation from future restrictive measures. To put this capacity into context, it is over 150% of the total existing capacity of Ontario's sawmills and about the same production capacity of Quebec.

Canadian demand is simply not enough to absorb all the production of central Canadian sawmills. We need to be able to sell freely to the United States. Indeed, that was the whole point of NAFTA, and just about every industry enjoys free trade in North America, except for softwood lumber.

Mr. Dhaliwal asked federal officials in February before this committee whether, when they are negotiating an agreement, the implications might be harder on one province or another. Ms. Hillman answered that the recently expired agreement had been the very best deal for the whole country. Regrettably, that conclusion is not supported by the facts. The deal was dramatically harder on some parts of the country than others.

Answering another question from Mr. Dhaliwal, Ms. Hillman repeated that an alternative to litigation would be a deal, and a deal would necessarily be better than litigation. An alternative to litigation does not constitute a trade policy. The Liberal Party knew that and wisely voted against Bill C-24 in 2006. I urge the government to remember that the deal was not good for the whole country. It was in fact incredibly destructive for central Canada.

The purpose of a deal is to ensure fair and equitable trade. The willingness to give up free trade to escape litigation is like offering your lunch to the schoolyard bully before he takes it by force. If you give him your lunch today, he may not be content with only your lunch in the days that follow. Our negotiators, our gladiators, must be concerned not just with getting a deal, but rather with the deal that they get.

From experience, we know that the United States does not always play by the rules, and makes up new rules as it goes to protect its industries. This pattern of behaviour that we have experienced for more than three decades has discouraged our industry. The Americans always find a way to win, even when they lose, undermining our rights under international trade laws and agreements. The U.S. does believe in free trade, fair trade. Their view is that, if they get it for free, then it is fair.

The unavoidable truth is that Canadians have won every legal fight with the United States over softwood lumber. We have played by the rules, but our last government decided not to support its industry and capitulated. The government of Mr. Harper expropriated $1 billion U.S. from the Canadian industry and gave it as ransom to our competitors, even though Canada has proven, according to the law, that its industry was not subsidized and did not cause injury.

Softwood lumber producers in Ontario and Quebec need free trade. Western Canadian producers may be satisfied with another managed trade agreement, what with the benefits of easy access to the Asian market, and their U.S. sawmills. We are not.

The federal government is the government for all of Canada, and it is bound to defend our interests every bit as much as British Columbia's and those of the Maritime provinces.

The government of Quebec instituted in 2013 an auction-based stumpage system producing market prices, a system patterned on that used by the U.S. Forest Service and the states with forest lands.

Quebec industry must have access to free trade because its timber prices are market prices. Quebec has a forestry regime that conforms to all American demands.

Ontario's residual value system was validated by a NAFTA special panel in 2005, a full year before the capitulation and the ransom payment. The special panel determined that softwood lumber producers in Ontario were not subsidized and should, therefore, be excluded from countervailing duties and benefit from free trade. A strong argument for that position remains in place today.

If there is to be a deal, it must recall a principled purpose: that the Canadian softwood lumber industry does compete fairly in North America and pays a fair market price for timber, and that our forestry regimes are market-based. The Government of Canada must not negotiate a deal that does not fully recognize central Canada's right to free trade. The last government did not take central Canada's interests into account. The government today can, and should, recognize market-based changes. It must not negotiate an agreement that fails to recognize that NAFTA also must apply to softwood lumber.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and committee members. I am available to answer any questions.

Report Stage Amendments—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 7th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before addressing the selection and grouping of report stage motions for Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts, I would like to address the point of order raised on May 6, 2014, by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising this matter as well as the Government Leader in the House, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the members for Toronto—Danforth, Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, and Winnipeg North for their comments.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised concerns that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs adopted a motion requiring all remaining questions necessary to dispose of its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to be put by a specified time, effectively creating a deadline for the debate to end. She argued that this motion contradicts an earlier committee order adopted on October 29, 2013, which gives members from non-recognized parties the ability to speak to their suggested amendments to bills before they are voted on by the committee. Because of the imposed deadline, the member's opportunity to speak to her amendments was interfered with, pursuant to the committee order of October 29, 2013. As such, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands suggested that substantive amendments, even if already voted on by the committee, should be selected for consideration at report stage. Several members rose in support of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' point of order.

The government House leader made two central points in response. First, he reminded the House that at report stage the Speaker's authority to select report stage amendments is limited to determining whether they were presented, or could have been presented at committee. Second, he pointed out that the deadline adopted by the committee affected all members the same way, so it is inaccurate to claim that members from unrecognized parties and independents were particularly penalized in this regard.

In examining the matter, it is useful to remind the House of the power of the Speaker to select amendments at report stage. To place the matter in its proper context, it is helpful to refer to the March 21, 2001, statement by Speaker Milliken, found at page 1991 of the Debates, which establishes the guidelines upon which I rely to discharge my responsibility to select amendments at report stage. Speaker Milliken was clear in his intent when he urged:

…all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done…

These principles are also reflected in the interpretive notes attached to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5). House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, further expands on these principles, explaining at pages 783 and 784 that:

…the Speaker will normally only select motions in amendment that could not have been presented in committee.

I would remind all members that the guidelines for selection specify whether amendments could have been presented in committee and whether they were defeated in committee. In the case of the committee's consideration of Bill C-23, all members of the committee, as well as any interested independent member, were given the opportunity to present their amendments at committee, and a certain number of these amendments were defeated. The hon. member is now asking the Chair, in exercising its powers of selection, to evaluate whether the consideration afforded such amendments in committee was sufficient.

It is evident that the committee chose to handle its consideration of Bill C-23 in a particular way. A motion setting out the process to be followed was proposed, debated, and ultimately agreed to. Just as the opportunity to present and speak to amendments was decided by way of a committee motion, the deadline by which debate would end likewise was decided by a committee motion. Such decisions are the exclusive responsibility of the committee. I do not believe that it is for the Chair to second-guess how committees choose to manage their business.

The hon. member has asked that I select motions for consideration at report stage because she was not able to debate them in committee. In doing so, she referred to a ruling I gave on December 12, 2012, whereby I noted that I would continue to select motions from independent members at report stage until such time as a satisfactory method was found for them to participate in the clause-by-clause consideration at committee. I understand that the hon. member found unsatisfactory the opportunities afforded to her at the procedure and House affairs committee in relation to Bill C-23. Other members of the committee echoed they too were not satisfied that certain amendments were not debated once the committee's self-imposed deadline was reached. That said, it remains clear to me that the committee considered and voted on all amendments she is asking me to select.

In 2006, Speaker Milliken dealt with a somewhat analogous situation in relation to Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act.

On November 6, 2006, the hon. member for Burnaby-New Westminster raised a point of order regarding the decision of the Standing Committee on International Trade to limit debate and set a strict deadline by which point debate would end.

Though the situation was different insofar as he was a member of the committee concerned, I believe Speaker Milliken's response, found on page 4756 of Debates, was instructive:

I do think that committees are masters of their own procedure. They are entitled to make provisions in adopting orders in the committee that govern the way they are going to conduct their business...The committee is allowed to make amendments to the bill. The committee has imposed rules on how those amendments will be dealt with in the committee and how members will be able to address the issues raised by the amendments. It seems to me that [it] is entirely within the jurisdiction of the committee and indeed [it] is [a] quite normal exercise of its powers.

When the bill was taken up at report stage, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster submitted a large number of the amendments that had been defeated in committee, and asked the Chair to select them on the basis that they had not been debated in committee.

In a ruling I gave as Acting Speaker on November 21, 2006, found on page 5125 of Debates, I declined to do so, reminding the House that:

...the Chair selects motions which further amend an amendment adopted by a committee, motions which make consequential changes based on an amendment adopted by a committee and motions which delete a clause. Aside from this, the Chair is loath to select motions unless a member makes a compelling argument for selection based on the exceptional significance of the amendment.

As far as the Chair is concerned, in keeping with past precedents, I cannot see how the imposition of a deadline for the end of the debate could constitute a justifiable argument for the selection of amendments at report stage that were already presented and defeated in committee.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

February 11th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Mr. Speaker, while I am on my feet, I move:

That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

October 22nd, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 9, 2009, by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to disallow further amendments and subamendments at the second reading stage of Bill C-23, Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

I want to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. Minister of State and Chief Government Whip for their comments.

The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel argued that the motion of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, having been moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, should be ruled out of order since it does not fall within the definition of a routine motion as prescribed in that Standing Order. Instead, he argued that the Standing Order was used to limit debate, in the same fashion as moving the previous question.

In addition to agreeing with the arguments raised by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the member for Vancouver East expressed concern about the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 and the “creeping, sort of incremental change” accompanying this, which then led her to question the appropriateness of its use in this case. She added that there are other mechanisms available to the government to manage the amount of time allocated to debate on Bill C-23.

The chief government whip contended that the government was applying Standing Order 56.1 correctly and that there had been previous instances where the Standing Order was used in this fashion.

For the benefit of members, the motion adopted on October 9, 2009, reads as follows:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, the second reading stage of Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, shall not be subject to any further amendments or sub-amendments.

As mentioned by the member for Vancouver East, similar concerns over the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 were raised in 2001 when it was used for the disposition of a bill at various stages. When I ruled on that point of order on September 18, 2001 in the Debates at pages 5256 to 5258, I expressed reservations about the trend toward using that Standing Order for purposes other than for motions of a routine nature. My predecessor had already urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the use of Standing Order 56.1, and I reiterated this need for the committee to do so at the earliest opportunity.

In the absence of such feedback, on May 13, 2005 in the Debates at pages 5973 to 5974, I allowed a motion that provided for the completion of the second reading stage of two bills to be moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1. Again, I highlighted the fact that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs still had not undertaken a study of Standing Order 56.1, and as such, I was not in a position to rule definitively on the appropriateness of that Standing Order's use and I stated the following on that occasion.

I believe having had nothing back [from the committee] I can only allow this one to proceed at this time, particularly so when the time allocated here is much more generous than would be the case under closure or under time allocation…Accordingly the motion appears to be in order.

Similarly, on October 3, 2006, I allowed a motion moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 which in part disallowed further amendments or subamendments to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006. Another motion with such provisions was allowed to proceed on December 12, 2007, in reference to Bill C-28, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007.

As was the case in those two most recent examples, even though the current motion disallows further amendments and subamendments, it still allows members who have not yet done so to speak to the amendment and the main motion. Furthermore, as I then stated in my ruling in the Debates on October 3, 2006 at page 3571:

The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure...There is a significant difference.

This does not, however, negate the concerns expressed by members over time about the need for a clearer and agreed upon understanding of this Standing Order. The following quote from my 2006 ruling still applies in this case:

My predecessor and I have both encouraged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of the Standing Order. To date I am not aware of any report by that committee on this question.

Should the House feel the need to change the parameters pertaining to the use of Standing Order 56.1, I would suggest once more that members bring their concerns to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Since the committee has not yet offered clear direction on the definition of Standing Order 56.1, and since motions disallowing amendments and subamendments have been ruled admissible in the past, I rule that the motion moved by the Government House Leader on October 9, 2009 is in order.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Opposition Motion—Forestry IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
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Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all l would like to thank the hon. member for Halifax West for his insightful comments.

I thank my Bloc colleague for his motion and want him to know right off that I share his opinion on the need to establish a plan to help the forest industry. My party therefore supports the spirit of this motion. However, my colleague will not be surprised to hear me say that the plan should apply to the industry as a whole and not just to the portion of it in la belle province of Quebec.

The forest industry in Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia is facing major challenges these days. If we think back, we will remember that the Liberal government itself put forward a forestry strategy in 2005.

On November 24, 2005, the Liberal government announced, in partnership with forest industry stakeholders, a true plan for the forestry sector, a forest industry competitiveness strategy committing $1.5 billion over five years. This strategy included: $215 million for the development of new technologies in areas such as the pulp and paper industry to enhance its competitiveness; $50 million to support the forest industry to develop bioenergy and cogeneration power technology; $90 million to support innovation in value-added wood products; $66 million in wood product market development; $10 million to enhance workplace skills in the forest sector; $150 million to help forest dependent communities diversify economically; $800 million in loan support to help Canada's forest companies invest to improve competitiveness; and $100 million in loan support for small forest sector businesses.

We can see that the Liberal government had anticipated quite a bit of what is happening today. Upon forming government in 2006, the Conservatives, however, cancelled the plan. Today Canadian forestry workers are paying the price for that action. Instead of investing then in improving technology, skills and competitiveness to strengthen the industry and to save jobs, Canada now faces tens of thousands of job losses. Since the Conservatives took over government, Canada has lost 18,000 forest sector jobs. Not only that, they negotiated a poor settlement on the softwood lumber dispute and we are paying the price today.

As regards the softwood lumber agreement with the United States, the Liberal Party of Canada has always supported a two-step approach to resolving the dispute over softwood lumber—arbitration by the courts and negotiation.

On September 19, 2006, the Liberal Party voted against the agreement on softwood lumber, and, on December 6, 2006, against Bill C-24 on the softwood lumber export fees. The Liberal Party wanted to be sure the Conservative government would respect the North American Free Trade Agreement and keep its election promise to recover all the customs duties collected illegally by the United States.

We believe the softwood lumber agreement is full of holes for the following reasons.

It is a reversal of the position adopted by successive federal governments and supported by NAFTA and World Trade Organization trade panels that our softwood lumber sector is not subsidized.

It compromises Canada's chances of helping a sector already in difficulty, by handing part of our sovereignty over our natural resources to our American competitors. The fallout of such capitulation will be felt in future disputes, which will no doubt arise not only in the softwood lumber industry, but also in other sectors facing the same accusations by our American competitors.

It creates an export tax, which, at the current rate, is in fact higher than the illegal American customs duties of the past.

It strips NAFTA of any credibility as arbitrator of trade disputes and voids the principles governing such discussions.

It drops $500 million into the hands of the American forestry sector, which uses it to fund legal and political attacks against the Canadian industry and another $500 million into the hands of the American government.

And, finally, it contains anti fluctuation provisions that will deny the Canadian industry the flexibility it needs to deal with the unexpected, such as the infestation of the pine beetle.

The Conservatives claim that their softwood lumber agreement put an end to the dispute, but the United States began consultations questioning the forestry policies of Ontario and Quebec within seven months of signing the agreement.

Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta face the same attacks. It is the $500 million the Conservatives handed over to the Americans that is being used to finance these attacks. On April 4, 2007, the Liberal Party announced that a Liberal government would organize a national summit on the forestry sector bringing together the stakeholders—public officials, the localities involved and the forestry sector—to work out responsible measures for the environment and protect jobs in the Canadian localities.

Instead of being proactive in investing to strengthen the industry, the Conservatives are now being reactive, announcing band-aid programs. The Conservatives' lack of vision has led to this crisis in the forest sector and caused many Canadians their jobs.

For our softwood industry, the Conservatives' softwood lumber deal has also been a failure. The Conservatives rushed into a flawed agreement that left $1 billion in the pockets of the United States. The Conservative government said that the softwood lumber agreement would put an end to litigation, yet Canada is back in court.

Unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Party believes that there is a role for government to play in helping these sectors and the workers who depend on them.

My party has long recognized that action is essential. Accordingly, it is prepared to support a real plan to help the forest industry, a plan that would include a series of specific measures to ensure sustainable development.

June 14th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Legal Counsel, Liberal Party of Canada

Jack Siegel

Under Bill C-24, the banks, being somewhat conservative in their practices, pulled away somewhat, certainly in my experience, from their generosity in the political process. That was not only because their political giving was so limited but was because the status quo, as it stands today, and in the absence of this bill, is that a loan becomes a contribution if it defaults. They can't just be generous and write it off in accordance with their practices, which is one of the exceptions, in which case somebody is going to scream about who gave the politician a break when they do write it off.

There was a very real concern under Bill C-24 about not getting into the situation of becoming an illegal contributor or taking a guarantee that made somebody an illegal contributor because their guarantee did convert anyhow, if called upon, into a contribution.

So the problem already exists. This legislation.... And I did, when it was introduced, call a friend who works for one of the banks. His answer was that there's just no way he'd be recommending to his client that it engage in any loans here. And the point we discussed was just that of the guarantee, the logistical problem of 50 guarantees, and how much paperwork that is for a $50,000 loan over a short term. There's not much profit in those loans, yet you're going to put a lot of person power into it.

But over and above that problem is the illegal guarantee, because the guarantor also made a contribution to another candidate in another riding, unbeknownst.... You're all innocent in doing this. And the unsophisticated but generous person doesn't even realize that he or she has overstepped. Is that guarantee, being an illegal guarantee under this legislation, an enforceable guarantee? The bank has no way of knowing the answer to that question. They don't want to find out by litigation. We lawyers charge enough that it's going to cost them more than any margin or risk they had on the table to begin with.

It's only one conversation, but if you can ask the banks—and I can understand their lack of great desire to get up in public and talk about what they will or won't do in the political sphere—whether they are really anxious to do this business under these terms, I strongly suggest that the answer is going to be “not really”.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Before going to orders of the day I would like to give the ruling on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Wascana regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1 to timetable the proceedings on a bill in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

On May 31, 2007 during routine proceedings the government House leader sought, but did not obtain, unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44 except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

He then moved the motion again pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 and the motion was adopted when fewer than 25 members rose to object. A short time later, the hon. member for Wascana raised a point of order regarding the use of Standing Order 56.1. He was supported by interventions from the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that the motion adopted earlier had been appropriately presented under Standing Order 56.1.

Given that a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was imminent, I delivered an immediate ruling promising that the Chair would return to the House later with reasons. I am now prepared to do so.

First, the Chair would like to thank all hon. members who intervened on the point of order for their contributions on this question and is particularly grateful that members have taken note of certain key rulings, specifically those the Speaker delivered on September 18, 2001 and October 3, 2006.

A key element in my ruling today is the fundamental precept that standing committees are masters of their own procedure. Indeed, so entrenched is that precept that only in a select few Standing Orders does the House make provision for intervening directly into the conduct of standing committee affairs. In addition to the power the House has to give instructions to committees by way of a substantive motion that is subject to debate, there are, of course, Standing Orders 57 and 78, which can be used by the House to allocate time or for closure proceedings on a bill in committee. It is toward the use of these very instruments that the Speaker directed the House in his ruling of September 18, 2001, on Debates page 5257, where, as the hon. member for Wascana pointed out, the Speaker stated:

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate.

Let us now turn to the Speaker’s ruling of October 3, 2006 allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 to extend, in an open-ended fashion, the debate on Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber bill.

It should be noted at the outset that when Standing Order 56.1 was used in reference to Bill C-24, the bill was then before the House at second reading, not before a standing committee. In allowing the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that case the Speaker did so with some concern and on the basis that:

The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are [therefore] insufficient for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.

This is part of the Speaker's ruling quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. At the time the Speaker had more to say. He also encouraged, as had Mr. Speaker Parent before him, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of this Standing Order, a pretty clear indication of the difficulties with which the House has had to deal when Standing Order 56.1 has been invoked in questionable circumstances.

In the present case, the Chair has looked carefully at the wording of Standing Order 56.1, which states in reference to the House itself that the Standing Order can be used to move motions in relation to “the management of its business” and “ the arrangement of its proceedings”. Interestingly, the only reference to committees in the Standing Order is one allowing motions for “the establishing of the powers of its committees”, suggesting that the rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them powers they do not already possess. A review of the previous uses of Standing Order 56.1 appears to support this. The only examples dealing with standing committees or standing committee activity the Chair has been able to find have to do with granting standing committees the power to travel. The power to travel is, as all hon. members know, a power standing committees do not possess and so the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that regard falls squarely within the parameters of the rule.

Accordingly, to repeat the words I used when this matter was first raised, the use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.

I thank all hon. members who intervened for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2007 / 10:55 a.m.
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Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their interventions, although I believe that you will find in your ruling that there has been precedents set, as was in the case of Bill C-24, and you will rule this motion in order.

I just want to respond to my colleague, the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois, who was making the argument that perhaps in some manner, witnesses coming from far afield would be inconvenienced. In fact, just the opposite is true. Witnesses are already here, witnesses from Saskatchewan and other provinces, since there is a committee meeting starting in approximately four minutes.

Therefore, there is absolutely no inconvenience to any witnesses. In fact, it gives them an even longer opportunity to present their case before the committee so that the committee will have the ability, should it choose to sit extended hours.

I would argue that there is more opportunity for not only witnesses but committee members to discuss this bill and in fact, that is quite the opposite of closure. It is giving all committee members an opportunity to speak for as long as they wish, which I think, quite frankly, is entirely democratic.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

May 28th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for Halton wants to continue to heckle, perhaps he can add to the debate after I am done instead of just shouting out his nonsense.

The reality is that this is a similar document that all parties produce to help train their individual members. I note that this internal document, as I say, is not a government document. It is something that was produced by the Conservative Party to assist our chairs.

Since the NDP members are so concerned about this, perhaps they could reveal to us their playbook or explain their tactics when they were delaying and continue to delay Bill C-45, the Fisheries Act; or Bill C-44, the amendments to the Human Rights Act; or their earlier extensive delay in filibustering Bill C-24, the softwood lumber act. In all of those things they employed tactics to delay passage of government legislation.

What about a chapter from their playbook dealing with moving concurrence motions to obstruct government legislation from following the due process and the procedure that we have become accustomed to in passing through the chamber? Instead, they resort, almost daily, to moving concurrence motions to delay that legislation.

I have remarked that the further training of our chairs, our committee members and, indeed, all of our caucus is to ensure that we are well aware of any procedural tools that we might have as a government, recognizing that we are a minority government and that we are outnumbered, not only in the chamber but at each and every standing committee. When we are confronted, as we have been by the opposition parties, which have become increasingly obstructionist, with a lot of legislation, we need to ensure we use every possible tool at our disposal to get our legislation passed through the committees, passed through the chamber and ultimately passed through a Liberal dominated Senate to become law in order that we can keep the promises that we made to the Canadian people in the last election campaign.

I have been noting that the people of Canada did not elect a coalition government of opposition parties. They elected a minority Conservative government and we have been trying to govern as such.

It is certainly my contention that this is an internal party document and that all parties have similar types of documents. It is beyond the pale that we would start out this final week with this bogus question of privilege.

May 1st, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Cannavino, Mr. Francoeur, good afternoon. I have a few comments to make. Mr. Francoeur, thank you for your testimony and, in particular, for pointing out the contradiction between the fact that the government wants to have stiffer sentences, but is not concerned about the easy availability of weapons. You will not have to work very hard to convince a number of us.

It seems to me that there are two types of measures that are really needed to fight crime. First, there is the firearms registry. If I were appointed Minister of Justice or Public Security, the first thing I would do would be to look at parole. I do not think that this bill will have a big effect on the problems you are describing.

Mr. Cannavino, you will be pleased to know that the Defence Lawyers' Association supports this bill. They told us—see how all is right with the world!—that in practice, magistrates, justices of the peace and judges did not release people on bail who had committed firearms offences. Obviously, not everyone might agree. I introduced a motion on street gangs, and I hope that my colleagues on the government side in a great gesture of friendship such as we have seen all too rarely over the past few years in this committee, will pass it on Thursday morning.

Mr. Cannavino, you were there when parliamentarians considered Bills C-84, C-24 and C-36. You know how concerned the Bloc Québécois and others are about gangsters and street gangs. People in Montreal and Toronto, especially your colleague Mr. Robinette from Montreal, have told us that drive-by shootings are not covered by the definition of criminal organization in the Criminal Code. Should we not include that immediately? When people are intercepted, a drive-by shooting is not enough to prove that they belong to a street gang and can therefore be charged. They can obviously be charged with homicide and other offences, but it would be better to have a charge of gangsterism, since that delays parole and results in longer sentences.

If we have to choose between a bill like C-35, which seems to us to entrench a practice which already exists, and not being more vigilant with the firearms registry and not changing the definition of criminal organization in the Criminal Code, I would opt for the latter approaches.

I would like to hear from your colleague, Mr. Francoeur, yourself or any of the other witnesses who might like to comment, but I would first say that I find the current system, which allows people to serve only one-sixth of their sentences, totally unacceptable. One-third would be understandable. But the revolving door scenario that you have described does not seem to me to have too much to do with Bill C-35; it stems more from the fact that people can serve just six months of a sentence—Some crimes that allow perpetrators to be eligible for release after one-sixth of the sentence are much more serious than these. Gun smuggling is a real concern. There are people eligible to serve no more than one-sixth of their sentences who pose a much greater danger to society, in my view.

I would have liked us to review this issue of serving one-sixth of sentences and of amending the Criminal Code to change the definition of criminal organization, which seem to me to be much greater priorities than bail for firearms offences, which is basically a non-issue in practice, if we are to believe the people who work on the frontlines.

April 24th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
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Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice Canada

Greg Yost

I won't go into the financial end of it, because I'm on the legal issues committee and we have no mandate on the finances. I rather suspect that will be an interesting issue when we get further down the road.

Basically, Bill C-240 was in the House and Bill C-279 was in the House, and when we did the consultation, the support was for a national one run by the RCMP. That's what we've been focusing on. If the federal government passed amendments to the DNA Identification Act or a separate missing persons data bank act with these kinds of safeguards and consents, etc., then the provinces would be under no obligation to make use of it. It would just be a service there for them to use if they wished. The higher your fee for service, the less likely they are to take advantage of it, I would imagine.

February 15th, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Chair, the motion I've introduced is further to the testimony we heard — as you'll remember — at the time of the summary of Bills C-95 and C-24, and to the consultations I've had with Montreal police representatives. It has four objectives. And I'll be introducing a minor amendment that I'm going to explain to you.

First, I was very surprised to learn that the existing definition of criminal organization — that is to say a group that is not randomly formed, of three persons or more, one of the members of which commits serious offences, punishable by a prison term of more than five years, resulting in a material benefit, especially a financial benefit — does not cover the phenomenon of drive-by shootings.

This morning, for example, the Montreal police will be holding a press conference. Six crimes like the one I've just described to you have been committed since the start of the year. I don't need to tell you that that's also true in Toronto and Vancouver. I think we have to amend the definition of criminal organization to include acts by members of street gangs and that we wouldn't be able to rely directly on material benefit.

That's why it is not my intention to reduce the scope of the definition of criminal organization. However, I believe we should include drive-by shootings in it. For example, there have been 120 victims of street gang confrontations in Montreal in the past 10 years. That was the first aspect.

The second aspect relates to Mr. Bélanger's remarks, that the warrants that police officers obtain for GPS systems, which are a device used to follow a car, must be harmonized. This isn't wire-tapping; you can't intercept communications. However, it makes it possible to follow a car's movements and to link individuals to each other. It's very useful for making demonstrations in court.

By way of a third point, I'd like to introduce a minor amendment. The idea is that there obviously are more specialized prosecutors. We're winning the battle against organized crime because Crown attorneys have agreed to specialize. That takes two, three or four years of work; you have to be aware of that.

I think there'd have to be specialized attorneys in connection with street gangs. They have to know their modus operandi, how the individuals who belong to street gangs operate. However, I won't be talking about money because I wouldn't want the government to feel bound. We could remove the reference to the $5 million fund. The government could just make a sufficient fund available to the attorneys general of the provinces, over five years, to help them train specialized Crown attorneys. I wouldn't refer to any amount in particular.

In addition, I've learned that the government made specific amounts of money available to the City of Toronto to train Crown attorneys. I wonder whether Montreal, Vancouver and other communities could benefit from that. It's not that we want to be “Montrealists”, but that's a reality.

For the rest, the fourth part of the motion is obviously that the government establish a data base, a Web site where all court decisions and evidence gathered in all street gang trials would be available to all stakeholders. I want to be clear on this, since I took the trouble to state it: all stakeholders, in my mind, are police officers, Crown attorneys and obviously the ministers concerned, but not necessarily defence counsel.

At the trial stage, the Stinchcombe decision will apply and everyone will obviously have access to the evidence. However, I think that the immediate stakeholders, that is to say the police, the public department and the Department of Justice should have access to a secure file.

That, Mr. Chair, is the gist of my motion, even though you're not listening to me, which obviously gives the impression that we're an old couple. I hope that the proposal to withdraw the $5 million fund will help make everyone more comfortable.

February 8th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Commissioner of Canada Elections, Elections Canada

William Corbett

Two phenomena have caused me concern in this. If we have elections every two years, we're in trouble because it doubles the workload. The effects of Bill C-24, which requires more and more reporting of financial matters--I think associations have to report certain particulars now that they didn't have to report before--give Elections Canada a much greater grasp of the financial aspects of how campaigns are run. Elections Canada is getting much better at identifying breaches of the rules, if you will.

So the workload is driven by the increasing ability of Elections Canada to monitor and identify non-compliance, and elections every two years. I would say there's roughly two and a half years' work after a particular election. So if we have an election in 2004, 2006, and 2007, the workload will become quite problematic.