An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission

An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


John Baird  Conservative


Report stage (House), as of Nov. 15, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the National Capital Act to
(a) modify the governance structure of the National Capital Commission and increase its transparency;
(b) clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities, including those regarding planning and sound environmental stewardship;
(c) establish the boundaries of Gatineau Park;
(d) enhance the National Capital Commission’s regulation-making powers;
(e) remove the requirement that the National Capital Commission seek Governor in Council approval for real estate transactions;
(e.1) require the National Capital Commission to provide the Governor in Council with a description of the boundaries of the Greenbelt; and
(f) harmonize that Act with the civil law regime of Quebec.
This enactment also amends the Official Residences Act to clarify the National Capital Commission’s responsibilities regarding official residences. As well, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


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.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech on Bill C-20. I have a simple question about the 25:75 rule as it applies to the distribution of jobs between Gatineau and Ottawa. Does he see anything in this bill that would make the NCC the watchdog in charge of ensuring the 25:75 distribution of jobs between Gatineau and Ottawa? I think that we agree on the definition of government employee and on the fact that some status indicator could be used.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for his question, which is a very relevant one. The distribution of jobs within the national capital region has been an issue for many years. So far, the calculations were always based on the number of people having the Treasury Board as their employer.

Unfortunately, this excludes a number of organizations which are part of the Government of Canada. Museums, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Forces, Canada Post and the Revenue Agency are all excluded simply because, at the time when calculations were originally made, anything called Government of Canada came under the Government of Canada and Treasury Board.

Now, in modern days, changes have taken place. We absolutely must include, as the hon. member suggested, not only those employees who are under the purview of the Treasury board, but all jobs.

Why put that in this piece of legislation? The reason for that is simple. The National Capital Commission is talking about a 10-year master plan. I think this would be a perfect opportunity to establish the 75:25 distribution and also to establish job hubs on both sides of the river.

My colleague from Gatineau is quite right. He has heard our message. I think he is also making it his own. The NCC has to be in charge of the 75:25 distribution and the monitoring of that policy.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-20, An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts. The Bloc Québécois has some serious concerns about this bill. We welcome it, but we have some concerns.

When it comes to protecting the environment, our focus is on Gatineau Park. The park, which has an area of 350 km2, is federal land managed by the National Capital Commission. Unlike other national and provincial parks in Canada and Quebec, Gatineau Park is not protected by legislation and has no official status. As such, the park is subject to the whims and decisions of the organization responsible for running it, in this case the National Capital Commission, which, according to its powers under the legislation, can sell land, which includes land on Quebec soil.

A number of environmental groups and citizens' groups are calling for better protection of Gatineau Park, for example, by including a section in the act to give the park official legal status, to clarify its purpose, and to ensure its ecological integrity.

Some of the groups calling for this include the Ottawa valley chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, as well as the Gatineau Park Protection Committee.

The Bloc recognizes how important it is to protect and conserve natural settings. We believe that we must protect Gatineau Park from property development, clarify the purpose of the park and ensure that it is around for future generations.

Respecting Quebec's jurisdictions and the integrity of Quebec's territory, are both very important, and I must point out that in 2006, the House of Commons unanimously recognized the Quebec nation. In short, “nation” is the community to which we belong, the group with which we identify, and within which we debate and decide how our society is to be organized.

And because a nation is the special place where political decisions can be made, recognizing a nation means recognizing a political entity with legitimate political rights and aspirations.

By recognizing the Quebec nation, the House of Commons recognized the right of Quebeckers to control the social, economic and cultural development of Quebec themselves.

By stating that the Quebec nation is composed of all residents of Quebec, regardless of their origin or mother tongue or the region where they live, the federal government recognized that the Quebec nation has a clear geographic base made up of all, I repeat, all of the territory of Quebec.

In short, recognizing the Quebec nation also means recognition of the legitimacy of Quebec's repeated demands that Quebeckers should have the powers and resources needed in order to develop their own society.

To date, Canada has not yet acted on that recognition and continues to behave as if it were composed of a single nation.

However, the minister currently responsible for the National Capital Commission, the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs, has abided by the Allaire report and the Charlottetown accord. Although they do little to satisfy the aspirations of Quebeckers, those two documents were clear about the need for Quebec to have full control over the development of its municipal and regional tourism.

I would like to quote the document entitled A Quebec free to choose dated January 1991 published by the Quebec Liberal Party:

It [Quebec] must also have complete control over regional development. Finally, in terms of sectoral policies, it must repatriate exclusive control over agriculture, energy, the environment, natural resources and tourism.

Regarding the Charlottetown accord of 1992, points 32 and 35 read as follows:

32. Tourism

Exclusive provincial jurisdiction over tourism should be recognized and clarified through an explicit constitutional amendment and the negotiation of federal-provincial agreements.

35. Municipal and Urban Affairs

Exclusive provincial jurisdiction over municipal and urban affairs should be recognized and clarified through an explicit constitutional amendment and the negotiation of federal-provincial agreements.

This is from the 1992 Charlottetown accord.

It is particularly interesting to note that the minister responsible for the NCC, the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs, is part of a government that came to the other national capital and solemnly promised to respect the Government of Quebec's jurisdictions.

I would like to quote the current Prime Minister. This is from a speech he gave in Quebec City on December 19, 2005, during the election campaign:

We will recognize provincial autonomy, as well as the special cultural and institutional responsibilities of the Quebec government. We will respect federal and provincial jurisdictions, as defined by the Canadian Constitution.

Now he must act accordingly.

Based on the fact that the current government has promised to respect Quebec's jurisdictions, the Bloc Québécois expects all activities of the National Capital Commission concerning Quebec to be subject to the approval of the Government of Quebec.

The governments of Quebec have always considered territorial integrity to be inviolable. The federal government, through the National Capital Commission, has gobbled up land in Quebec to the point where the NCC is now the largest land owner in the Outaouais. The NCC owns more than 470 km2 of land, or 10% of the land in Gatineau and Ottawa combined. On the Quebec side, the NCC owns most of Gatineau Park.

On May 18, 2010, the local press informed us that the City of Gatineau had to first negotiate the repurchase of land with the NCC before installing a standard cycling lane on a section of road in the Hull sector.

The message is clear.

Although the federal government and the National Capital Commission consider the Outaouais and the Ontario side as a single entity, we consider Gatineau and Ottawa to have their own identity and interests. The National Capital Commission must recognize that the Government of Quebec and the City of Gatineau, on the Quebec side, are better positioned to meet the needs of their citizens.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the federal government and its agent, the National Capital Commission, have the obligation to respect the integrity of Quebec's territory, both in terms of the land mass and the exercise of power.

The federal government's law and policies should be amended to ensure that: first, the federal government and its agencies cannot dispossess Quebec of its land; second, all National Capital Commission activities, decisions and development projects on Quebec territory are to be approved by the Government of Quebec in advance

In the same vein, but on a different matter—necessary amendments to Bill C-20 to respect Quebec's territorial integrity and jurisdictions—there is the very important point of the national interest land mass.

Bill C-20 would introduce the concept of “national interest land mass”, which would allow the National Capital Commission to designate any land, such as Gatineau Park and other land in and around Gatineau, as being part of that land mass and prescribe the process for acquiring it.

Clause 10.2 states:

If criteria and process are prescribed under paragraph 10.3(a), the Commission may designate all or a portion of any real property or immovables as part of the National Interest Land Mass or revoke such a designation, as the case may be.

Clause 10.3 reads as follows:

With the Governor in Council’s approval, the Commission may make regulations

(a) setting out the criteria and the process respecting the designation of all or a portion of any real property or immovable as part of the National Interest Land Mass and the revocation of such a designation; and

(b) prescribing in relation to public lands that are designated as part of the National Interest Land Mass or classes of those lands — in addition to any requirements under the Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act — the process by which those lands or classes of them may be acquired by the Commission or by which the administration of them may be transferred to the Commission, and any terms and conditions of such an acquisition or transfer.

This concept raises a number of concerns, especially among elected officials of the Government of Quebec, who have written about them to their federal counterparts. In an October 30, 2009 letter to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who is the minister for the Quebec City region, Quebec's Canadian intergovernmental affairs minister, Claude Béchard, shared this concern:

This new tool, due to the NCC's increased presence on the Quebec side of the Outaouais region, further complicates the Government of Quebec's exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to land use planning.

This concept of national interest land mass has been cause for concern to the Government of Quebec since 2007, when on the occasion of the release of the report, “The National Capital Commission: Charting a New Course”, Benoît Pelletier, then the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs and the Outaouais region, had written to the hon. member for Pontiac, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for the National Capital Commission, to express his apprehension.

Thus, the Government of Quebec was already protesting in 2007. I will read an excerpt from the letter from Quebec's Minister Pelletier to the federal minister, the hon. member for Pontiac:

Moreover, despite noting that the Canadian Constitution gives the provinces jurisdiction for land-use planning, the report nevertheless promotes a new idea, that of the “National Interest Land Mass” (NILM): land in the NCC portfolio that is deemed essential to the long-term viability of Canada's Capital Region. This is a remarkably nebulous concept. It could potentially entail a risk of encroachment on Quebec's territorial jurisdiction in the Outaouais, given that a number of important components of the NILM, including the Gatineau Park and other parcels of land in the Greenbelt, are located in Quebec. Such an expansion of the NCC's prerogatives is an extremely disquieting prospect.

As far as transportation development in the Outaouais region is concerned, the section on the National Capital Commission's mandate introduces a new provision in the commission's mission, which may cause problems. The bill proposes that the commission:

(a) prepare plans for and assist in the development, conservation and improvement of the National Capital Region, including in relation to transportation in that region, in order that the nature and character of the seat of the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance;

The Bloc Québécois believes it is clear that developing land within Quebec's boundaries is within the purview of the Quebec government, both in the federal capital region and elsewhere. The same goes for transportation.

The Bloc Québécois believes that until Quebec has full power, the federal government's laws and policies should be amended to ensure that all National Capital Commission activities, decisions and development projects within Quebec's boundaries should be subject to the prior approval of the Government of Quebec.

Just like the “national interest land mass”, the transportation issue could “further complicate the Government of Quebec's exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to land use planning”.

In a letter dated October 16, 2007, Minister Pelletier wrote the following to the member for Pontiac, the Minister responsible for the National Capital Commission:

In the past, the Government of Quebec repeatedly condemned the NCC's methods in the Outaouais region and the impact of its decisions, most often made without consultation following a closed-door process utterly lacking in transparency. The relationship between the Government of Quebec and the NCC is tense, as illustrated by the fact that important road infrastructure agreements signed in 1972 and 1985 were not completed until 2007.

That was a letter from the Government of Quebec to the federal government on the subject.

The Bloc Québécois believes that in general, under legislative power sharing provisions, road development and maintenance, along with public transportation, fall under Quebec's jurisdiction. That is no secret.

Land use planning is and must remain under Quebec's jurisdiction, even in border areas like the Outaouais region.

I would now like to turn to consultation with the Government of Quebec. The letter refers to “the NCC's methods in the Outaouais region and the impact of its decisions, most often made without consultation following a closed-door process utterly lacking in transparency”. Minister Pelletier was writing on behalf of Quebec's National Assembly and the Government of Quebec about Quebec's position on the National Capital Commission's role in the Outaouais.

The recurring problems in relations between the National Capital Commission and the Government of Quebec mainly stem from the fact that the federal government has given this organization too much power. The National Capital Commission regularly oversteps certain boundaries that we feel properly belong in the Quebec government's jurisdiction.

Bill C-20 proposes some amendments that illustrate this perfectly.

Now I would like to talk about the master plan. This bill would require the National Capital Commission to outline its broad objectives in a master plan once every 10 years, which seems reasonable to us.

What seems less reasonable is that the National Capital Commission can do this without consulting provincial governments or the public, including those who live in the areas affected by these broad objectives.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the people and governments directly implicated, especially the Government of Quebec, are best suited to identify what they truly need.

From these statements, it is obvious that the Bloc Québécois will study this bill again very closely, and we hope that this time the amendments we propose will be adopted, if anyone expects the Bloc Québécois to vote in favour of this bill.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly know the region of Gatineau is within the provincial jurisdiction of Quebec and that parts of it are within Ontario but the member never once mentioned the Algonquin Nation. I raise this because I think it is very important. The Algonquin Nation never ceded any territory within Quebec or even within its territorial interests in Ontario. The Algonquin Nation has a very specific, historic and spiritual connection to the Outaouais and the Gatineau region.

I would like to hear from my hon. colleague about efforts that have been made to include the Algonquin Nation in discussions.

I remember the situation on lac Témiscamingue in the 1990s when Parks Canada was going to rebuild the old fort at Ville-Marie and it excluded the Algonquin Nation. The Algonquin Nation was not making any outrageous demands. It just wanted to be part of it because it had been a historic trading centre for the Algonquins for thousands of years. At that time, they were completely left out and many bad decisions were made by Parks Canada in terms of the development and it ended up becoming a confrontation. To settle it all, Parks Canada finally ended up having to make the Algonquin Nation part owners of this historic site.

I think we could do a lot to end any misunderstanding by ensuring that there is consultation from the beginning.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague how he feels about consulting with our first nations peoples, in particular the Algonquin Nation which has such a historic and traditional interest in this territory?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. The land for which the National Capital Commission is responsible is largely located in the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau and also in the municipalities of Chelsea and Luskville, which border on Gatineau.

The Algonquian-speaking community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, which is also known as the Rapid Lake Reserve, is located near Maniwaki. Housing in that region is not actually on National Capital Commission land. However, the Anishinabeg First Nation is making claims that relate to land in the city of Ottawa. In fact, the city should never have been called Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Odawa First Nation, which today lives in Wisconsin and on Manitoulin Island. The Odawa First Nation has always lived in those parts of the world.

Here was where the Algonquins lived. The real name of the Ottawa River or rivière des Outaouais is Kitchissippi, an Algonquin name that means “great river”. It was the trading highway between New France and the Prairies, and in particular was used for the fur trade and for trade in all sorts of goods.

The French met people from the Odawa nation and decided to give that name to the river a few years later. Changing the name of the Ottawa River to Kitchissippi River would be a significant gesture that I would support whole-heartedly. It is also sought by and important to the Algonquian-speaking people, the Anishinabeg of Kitigan Zibi.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
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Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Gatineau, on his presentation. He has raised a number of concerns that I share. The Bloc Québécois would like to state certain reservations concerning this bill, in particular in respect of the thorny question of respect for Quebec’s territorial integrity and protection for its powers. I would like my colleague to clarify this aspect a bit for me.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Estrie, from the riding of Sherbrooke. We do see the big sticky fingers of the federal government and its habit of playing in the government of Quebec’s flowerbeds. Before the merger into the bigger City of Gatineau, over 10% of the City of Hull was under the authority of the National Capital Commission. Imagine what that means for development in the city.

Before prorogation, before we went back and started over from zero, we were considering Bill C-37, which today is Bill C-20. During examination of that bill, our colleague, the parliamentary secretary from Alberta, was asked whether he would agree to have the federal government expand Jasper Park or Banff Park without consulting the Government of Alberta. He said no, never. So we asked him whether the federal government should not also consult the government of Quebec before expanding the area covered by Gatineau Park and taking land from the Government of Quebec. He said that it was not necessary for Quebec, because the Clarity Act was very complicated: a double standard, in fact.

We see that mindset again in the government today. We see it even in the possible operation of the National Capital Commission. And we have a minister responsible for the National Capital Commission who is a former minister from the Liberal Party of Quebec under Robert Bourassa, and who is not doing more to defend the territorial integrity of Quebec. We in the Bloc Québécois will do that, tooth and nail.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
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Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly the Bloc Québécois recognizes the importance of improving protection for the natural environment. We know how important the environment is to our future and how important it is to conserve these habitats. We know, in terms of the economy or tourism, how tempting it might be to try to develop these areas somewhat haphazardly, going off in all directions, to guarantee the financing of certain big corporations.

In a case like Gatineau Park, how can we make sure, when it comes to tourism, that ecosystems will be preserved, and that the federal government is not interfering in matters within Quebec's jurisdiction?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières. One thing is certain when it comes to the environment: we have to make sure that, if this bill is passed, we see it written in the law, in black and white, that Gatineau Park will not be altered.

I know the bill also affects Ottawa’s greenbelt, and other regions might benefit from Quebec’s demand in this regard. We must not alter any form in which our green heritage may exist, including Gatineau Park, the Gatineau River, the shoreline of the Ottawa River—which, I hope, will one day be the Kitchissippi River. This legislation has to abide by the principle that any change must not alter the environment, or at least must not harm it. We can improve a situation, but we must not go from there to development for the sake of development. There is a limit.

There is also a difficult question. Land inside Gatineau Park must not be sold to create little villages for the ultra-rich. In La Pêche, all of the francophones had their land expropriated. Around Meech Lake, I swear that the people are a fair bit richer, and it was not necessarily francophones who were living there, although their land was not expropriated. But they are still in the heart of Gatineau Park. That hurts, and it is the federal government that did this to us.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:30 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to what is now Bill C-20, which started as Bill C-37 last year.

I listened to a number of very good speeches today and some very interesting questions. The discussion appears to be around the creation of the National Capital Commission in 1959. Before the National Capital Commission was created, we have to go back in 1899 when the Government of Canada established the Ottawa Improvement Commission, which was designed to beautify the city, including work on parks and the lands along the Ottawa River.

Unfortunately, a series of incidents occurred in the early 20th century, which had an impact on the region. We all know about the great fire of 1900 and another fire in 1916, which destroyed Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. Centre Block was rebuilt and successive governments at that point realized how important it was to build a strong capital region and a centre that people from across the country would be attracted to. One of the comments I constantly hear from my constituents is they really enjoy coming to Ottawa for all the historical buildings and the museums. The green space in Ottawa is always mentioned in a positive light across the country.

It is important to establish very strong laws governing development in a capital region. Winnipeg, for example, allowed development to proceed on an old railway yard at the Forks 20 years ago. Originally, certainly during the Filmon Conservative years, the NDP was in opposition and did a very effective job of trying to minimize the amount of development in the Forks area. We wanted people to participate in recreation in the area. There was a walkway along the river. The river, by the way, is the longest skating rink in the free world, which has been well established over and over again.

Nevertheless, there was a concern that we in the opposition had about a greater amount of development. There are always development pressures for commercial opportunities. Because the current opposition in Manitoba is very development-oriented and basically rubber stamps anything the city wants to do, there is no pressure to hold back development.

Compared to 10 years ago, the place has become cluttered with too many things. The human rights museum is being built on that land now and there is hardly a parking lot left. There is a hotel there now and parking lots have been built. This is not what a lot of people thought it should turn out to be some 20 years ago. I believe it is very important for people in Ottawa to get this right and make certain that we keep a handle on any sort of commercial development and actions that would reduce the green space and lead to development that really should not be allowed.

The Bloc member who just spoke expressed a concern, which was also mentioned in last year's debate on this very point, that a high percentage of the development was on one side of the river and a smaller part of the development was on the other. I understand there is tension for development, but on the other side of the coin, there are many people who want those pristine areas of the environment left the way they are and do not want developments that are not done in an orderly fashion.

Some improvements would be brought about by this bill. I guess my only frustration is we cannot seem to get this bill, or a lot of other bills, through the House for no other reason than the Prime Minister, now on two successive occasions, has prorogued the House and forced us to start all over over. Here we are back at square one with this bill. I think some of us are losing track of some of these numbers. It started out as Bill C-37 last year and now we are dealing with it as Bill C-20.

We are aware that when we get the bill to committee, which is bound to happen fairly soon, there will be an opportunity for the Bloc member's questions to be answered, hopefully to his satisfaction, and for some changes to be made at committee. The whole process will start over.

For any members who have been unable to get their amendments passed in last year's cycle of this bill, I have good news for them. They are going to have a new chance to get witnesses before the committee. They are going to have a new chance to survey their constituents, send out some letters, make some phone calls, get them involved and active in this file and, hopefully, get them to influence the committee into making the changes they see as being important to the improvement and betterment of this act.

The NDP supported the legislation even last year. We see some positive things that would come about because of the bill. However, the fact is the government started on this whole process back in April 2006. We are already four years into the process. I think we may be a lot older and greyer at the rate the government moves before we get the legislation passed.

This goes for a whole lot of other bills. We are talking about the whole government agenda that has to be reintroduced every time the government decides it wants to recalibrate or it gets fearful and afraid of its shadow and prorogues the House. We hope the government will not do that again. I think by now it probably more or less has learned its lesson. I will make a prediction and go out on a limb and say that I do not expect we will see another prorogation of the House any time soon. I hope I am not wrong. Maybe I should not put much in the way of bets on that point. However, I really think it has learned its lesson and will not do it again.

I have said many times that I believe strongly in minority governments. They can work. It worked with Bill Davis. It worked with Gary Filmon. It is working in England right now. There is no reason why Parliament has to be so acrimonious. Other than the transport committee, some of the committees are falling into a lot of acrimony right now. We saw it in the House today. Maybe it is just the hot weather. However, I suspect this is an ongoing problem. We have to learn to work this out. Otherwise, we will find ourselves very shortly into another $300 million election, which I can assure members will produce the same results. The government will not get any better result than what it has right now. It should wake up and realize that it has had four years already and it may have another four years doing the same thing. However, if it keeps doing the same thing, it is not going to get results. That is what the government wants to show at the end of the game. Any government that gets into this wants to show results.

Look at what happened in the 1960s, from 1962 to 1968, under Mike Pearson. We had a period of a minority government where we brought in a new national flag, we unified the armed forces, we dealt with pensions and the medicare bill. Imagine the huge initiatives that the Pearson government brought in after coming out of four years of a Diefenbaker majority government. The Liberals came in as a minority government and survived a couple of elections. Obviously there was a different mix of people in that environment. That government managed to survive from 1962 to 1968 and dealt with some very contentious issues.

Anybody who lived through that period knows how contentious changing the flag was. It was extremely contentious, yet they got the job done, and they got the job done with the unification of the armed forces. Why they would do that in a minority government, I do not know, but they did it and they got the job done. As my colleague just mentioned, the pensions and the medicare issues were brought up during that time too.

Thus, there is all sorts of evidence to say that minority governments can work. They work in other countries. As a matter of fact, we do not need a majority to get things done. That is the arguments that governments make, but we have seen government after government not only squandering their majorities but also getting themselves into trouble. Majorities are actually not to their benefit. If backbenchers think they are obscure now, wait till they get into a majority government situation. I have been there a couple of times and when we are in a majority situation, it is not a happy time for a lot of the members. This is the members' best time to get their ideas out, to get their ideas up in caucus, and have some influence on their government. That is what they should be doing and they should be working with the intention of making this place work.

In April 2006, the minister responsible for the National Capital Act launched a review to assess the current relevance of the NCC. As I indicated, the commission had been around since 1959, so clearly there were some changes to be made.

We have heard some of the other members talk about the way it was, because when I first looked at the bill last year, I wondered why the government wanted to make these changes after all of this time. If the commission was working so well from 1959, what was the big reason for burning political capital on something like this? However, one of the things we saw was that the National Capital Commission held private meetings; it did not have meetings open to the public. Changing this is one of the positive things that this particular legislation is about to do.

Once again, the government proposed changes and looked for stakeholder input. It wanted to make certain there was a certain amount of feedback. When the minister launched the review, the purpose basically was to assess the continuing relevance of the National Capital Commission and its activities and level of funding. The independent review panel invited a broad range of stakeholders and interested parties to express their views, in addition to a number of individual participants, including from federal departments and agencies.

I might point out at this juncture that it has been mentioned by others in this House that the members of the commission are not just people from the Ottawa area. This is a National Capital Commission; there are people on the board, as there should be, from other parts of Canada.

Other levels of government were also consulted, foreign institutions, parliamentarians, and local and not-for-profit organizations. In this connection, the Bloc member brought up the whole issue of whether or not Quebec was consulted on this bill. I find it hard to believe that it could not have been at some point in the process, but I take the previous member at his word. Once again, as I indicated, he has opportunities to deal with that issue now and to get whatever input into the bill he wants from his local residents, or from the Government of Quebec, because once again, we are just looking now at getting the bill to committee.

The panel released its report in December 2006, and made a number of recommendations concerning the governance of the commission and its activities and funding. I believe a total of 31 recommendations were made and the government, to its credit, has actually taken some action on some of these.

If I recall the speech by my hon. colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre, who has been very involved and very strong on the bill over the last couple of years and who actually had his own bill before the House, he complimented the government and said he had worked very well with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and he certainly gave the government high marks and credit for that. He said in his speech that he believed in giving the government credit where credit was due. In fact, in working on this particular bill, it was a very positive experience for the member for Ottawa Centre, and he did accept that the government was doing the right thing.

In its backgrounder, the government points out that it has taken several steps consistent with the review panel's recommendation. There was an annual $15 million increase in funding for the National Capital Commission. That was announced in budget 2007. In keeping with the Federal Accountability Act, which received royal assent on December 12, 2006, it separated the chairperson and chief executive officer positions as separate entities.

As well, in September 2008, the Governor in Council approved the acquisition by the NCC of private properties in Gatineau Park. There was some question about what the true size of the park was. I believe one of the Liberal members indicated there was no way of telling how big the park was, yet a Bloc member had it down to the nearest centimetre. Clearly, these two members ought to get together and determine what the actual size of the park is, because we have two divergent opinions on that point.

As I indicated before, the board had private meetings. That is clearly something that has gone the way of dinosaur now. Organizations are being forced through public pressure to open up. We do not have to go any further than the current experiences that all members of the House have in dealing with issues where the public wants to know what is happening. Once again, the board meetings were private and now they will be public. The board will now have to have at least four meetings a year. These will have to be open to the public and there is a requirement that if members need to go in camera, it is logical that their meetings be held in camera if necessary—but only if necessary.

Another really important point is the following. I think I asked a question about this last year, and the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor has also talked it. The National Capital Commission is required to submit a 50-year master plan for the National Capital Region at least every 10 years, including its principles and objectives for approval by the Governor in Council and for tabling in Parliament. That is an extremely important proposition for the National Capital Commission to follow, because this requires it to look ahead and not just to do things on a day-by-day, next-day, next-month basis. Certainly, in terms of any type of commercial activity, this requires it to take the long-term view of that commercial activity. So the whole idea of submitting a plan for the area is something that I think must have been borrowed from someone else, as I do not know if it is original to the board.

I just happened to be in Louisiana a couple of weeks ago at a conference, where we had a briefing on the oil spill. That area is an example of where there is extreme environmental damage and absolutely no plan, no plan at all. They were drilling in huge depths with no previous experience at those depths, and no one seemed to be in charge of the ship. That is hardly a direct comparison, but it still shows us that when we start developing or spending money on development we should have some sort of a plan where we are going. We should not be allowing unfettered, free enterprise development here and allow people to simply develop in any way the almighty dollar tells them they should develop. That is really important.

I really applaud the government for taking the initiative here and doing something that will benefit the national capital region and will, in fact, benefit Canadians as a whole.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that in the background information we received from the department, the following was said:

The NCC must manage its properties in accordance with principles of responsible environmental stewardship.

The government talks about that quite a bit. Bill C-9 talks about streamlining the environmental processes and vetting projects through environmental screenings; but in this particular situation, is that going to change in the next little while? Does the master plan look after that? Is he not concerned about that?

I know he has spoken passionately about this issue for quite some time. The government seems to be talking a lot about it, but there does not seem to be a lot of meat to it. I was wondering if the hon. member could address that.

Furthermore, although it is said that that the 50-year plan will be renewed every 10 years and be tabled in the House, does the hon. member not think that we should also vet that plan in some formalized debate?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would want to encourage the member to get involved in the committee process on this, and I know he will. Certainly some of the questions will be answered at the committee.

I share his same concerns as far as the environmental rules are concerned, but am also concerned about the idea that they are going to allow the commission to deal in its own real estate. I understand the reason for maybe not having to refer everything back to the government and cabinet, which might not want to be involved at that level. On the other hand, we must have some sort of process to make certain there are not commercial deals being done that may not be in the interests of the overall National Capital Commission.

I would think these are questions that we would want to ask. We should make certain there is no potential for real estate activities and should ensure that all of these are vetted. Also, certainly, the environmental aspects must be looked at. I recognize that the government is doing some things on the environmental side that we certainly do not approve of.

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I were watching this at home, I might feel that I was having a case of déjà vu or maybe that CPAC had run out of interesting things to cover and was showing us reruns, because we are dealing with a bill that was already dealt with. We had hours of debate. We had testimony. We had witnesses. We had parties working clause by clause to present a bill that should now be law. Yet the Conservatives, as has become their style, flushed the bill down the toilet because they did not want to answer any questions on the Afghan detainees.

Therefore, what we are living here in the House right now is akin to the extras in the movie Groundhog Day, where we come back every day and usually see the same dumb tough on crime bills and the government denouncing this and that. Yet I have seen this pattern since 2007, where the government has flushed its entire legislative agenda and then started everything from the beginning. It did that just this past January.

A legislative agenda is usually the pride of a government. It is something that it shepherds through the House. It is something it believes in. It does not just rip the bills up, throw out all of the witness testimony, spend millions of dollars and then say, “Wait a minute. Now we are serious. We are going to do it over again”.

We are looking at Bill C-20, which was Bill C-37 previously. We are having to go through the same process for something that should have been done. I have never seen a government with such a meagre standard for legislative results.

My hon. colleague spent many years in a provincial parliament and has seen many governments in action. Has he ever seen a government with such little interest or regard for the fundamental job it has as government, which is bringing through legislation, actually seeing the legislation get voted on and bringing it into law?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member makes a very good point, although I must tell him that there have been a lot of interesting speeches today. There is the recognition that we went through all of this last year. Sometimes there are days when I think it is deliberate and this is the way they want to conduct themselves in the House and there are other days when I think that they operate on a day-by-day basis.

There is still that bravado in the Conservative Party that while the Conservatives did not get a majority in actual terms, in their own minds they still think they are number one and they are going to act as though they were a majority government. They are not recognizing that they are not a majority government. I feel that they have that edge, that they have not come to grips with the fact that they really are a minority and that they are going to stay a minority. The public probably likes them that way but just wish they would develop a plan to get things done around here.

Why does the transport committee work so smoothly? Why do things get done in the transport committee? I may not be happy with some of the stuff that comes out of the transport committee and do not get me started on that, but in terms of a committee, it seems to work fairly well. If that one can work fairly well, why can that not be replicated in other committees?

An Action Plan for the National Capital CommissionGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my colleagues and I agree with them that the government is taking a piecemeal approach to management. It is different from one day to the next. One day, it takes one step forward and, the next day, it takes two steps back. I think that the Conservatives do not even know where they are going. They do not have an agenda or anything.

I would like the member to tell me something. Does he think that, given the way they are managing the House of Commons, the Conservatives are taking the public hostage with their agenda, or, rather, their lack of an agenda ?