moved for leave to introduce Bill C-1, An Act respecting the administration of oaths of office.
(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)
This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session; the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session; the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session; the 41st Parliament, 1st Session; and the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session.
This bill, the first introduced in any session, is a formal tradition rather than proposed legislation. (It has nothing to do with oaths of office. The Senate equivalent is called An Act relating to Railways and—you guessed it!—in no way relates to railways.)
Stephen Harper Conservative
Oaths of OfficeOpening Of The Second Session Of The 43Rd Parliament
September 23rd, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-1, An Act respecting the administration of oaths of office.
(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)
February 25th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.
Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. It is great to be able to join this committee this morning.
I want to thank each of the folks who have come to testify before us. I appreciate that there are three farmers, two business owners and a pharmacist. Your input is very valued here. I appreciate your making the trip and taking the time to share your expert opinions. Your opinions are valuable, and it is appreciated that you have come to be a part of this very important democratic process to ensure that Bill C-4 gets the review required.
I think there is large agreement across the country that free trade is important, that we need to have a strong trading relationship with our international partners, but the various perspectives that have been presented here today emphasize how important it is to have proper oversight and review of this legislation to ensure that Canadians understand the impacts.
My question will be focused on Mr. and Mrs. Erickson. Acknowledging the reality of free trade.... When it comes down to it, the role of a pharmacy as a part of the health care system is ultimately about making sure patients in this country have access to the care they need in order to get healthy, to be treated properly.
Does either of you have further thoughts about the impact of drugs being sold to the United States? Could you elaborate on how that affects your day-to-day operations? Also, for the benefit of committee members, help us understand what options there might be to address this in the future, so that folks can be aware of how serious an issue this is.
February 18th, 2020 / 1 p.m.
Carlo Dade Director, Centre for Trade and Investment Policy, Canada West Foundation
Madam Chair and committee members, before I start, I would like to thank you for inviting me to appear before you in order to present some viewpoints from the west. They are not just about NAFTA, because everyone is well aware of how important it is.
Instead, I'd like to talk about some of the things that need to be considered in our framework for understanding the agreement and in going ahead as the committee debates and, indeed, as the country looks on and debates participation in the new agreement.
The Canada West Foundation, as I'm sure the committee is well aware, was created 50 years ago to lend a voice to the western provinces, to facilitate the participation of the west and to facilitate the contributions of the west to the making of a strong Canada. A strong west is a strong Canada, and today, 50 years later, we realize that some of those debates have never gone away, and the Canada West Foundation remains engaged in them.
We are also one of the organizations most implicated on the trade file, given the importance of trade for the west. You will have seen our work on issues such as Bill C-69. Before it was a national issue, Canada West was there. You will have seen our work in forming the changes to the legislation.
On trade, we modelled the impact of the trans-Pacific partnership trade agreement on the Canadian economy before the federal government did. We continue this advance work. We are modelling the impact of the CPTPP on our trade infrastructure. Even though the government did this for CETA and has chosen not to do it for the CPTPP, the Canada West Foundation has stepped up to do this because of the importance of the agreement for the country, not just for the west.
On NAFTA, I have three points to consider quickly. These lead to my recommendations for action, about which I won't go into detail, because you have them in writing.
First is the rush toward normalcy in thinking about our relations with the Americans simply because we have an agreement. We have seen, time and time again, from the election of Donald Trump through his handling of diplomacy to his conduct of trade, a complete destruction and remaking of how the U.S. does foreign policy, diplomacy and trade policy.
Let me give you one example with this agreement itself. It's usually the process, with a trade agreement, to improve conditions of trade. Parties agree that there are things that can be done to improve conditions of trade, and they agree to meet, either starting from scratch or building on an agreement. We did this in North America. We updated the North American trade agreement to modernize it, to bring it into the 21st century, to take care of labour issues and intellectual property. We had a win-win situation, where all parties made concessions, and all parties were happy with the results. When Donald Trump came in, that was ripped up and we were told that win-win no longer works; what works is “I win, you lose.” Starting from this point is unprecedented in trade negotiations. We had no choice, and the government did the best it could—I think the best that anyone could. Hats off to the government for the job it did under those very difficult circumstances.
That is just one indication of how upended the world in which we are now trying to function is on the trade front. We see the U.S attacking the World Trade Organization. We can't proceed with our old ways of thinking, or our old frameworks, when looking at this agreement. Every witness you have has to tell how the agreement, and their interpretation, fits into this new reality.
Let me give you one example of something we are worried about. Yes, we have an agreement, and Brian is absolutely right: for those areas where the President does not pay attention, or pull the rug out from under us, or change the rules, the agreement will work. It is much better than not having an agreement. The modelling of the trade agreement done by others shows that the agreement is a net economic welfare loss for all three countries. The only thing worse is not having an agreement, which is an even greater economic and GDP welfare loss. I suggest you call in Dan Ciuriak, the modeller here in Ottawa. He does the modelling for Canada West. He used to work for Foreign Affairs. He can fill you in on the details of the modelling. That's a conversation I would strongly urge you to have, to get to the bottom of the modelling numbers and what they show.
Moving on to the statutory authority of the President, we have never seen a president exercise the four or five statutory provisions that the president has to manage trade. These are provisions delegated to the president from Congress.
We saw the steel and aluminum tariffs, Canadian steel and aluminum declared a national security threat. This is not the worst of what the President can do. There is more.
At the end of May, we woke up to see the following from the White House, and this is the White House statement:
As everyone knows, the United States of America has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people coming through Mexico.... Mexico's passive cooperation...constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States.... To address the emergency...I am invoking the authorities...[in] the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Accordingly, starting on June 10, 2019 [less than a week after this announcement was made], the United States will impose a 5 percent Tariff on all goods imported from Mexico.... If the crisis persists...the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1 [basically three weeks or 21 days later].... Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019.
This is the threat that hangs over us should the President decide to ignore the rules and use the statutory power he has. This is something that really needs to be taken into consideration. We need to realize that the signing of the agreement is not the end of our fight on trade with the Americans and trade in North America. It's not even the end of the first period.
This is going to be a long-term game. We are going to have to step up the extraordinary efforts we made to build alliances in the States to prevent this type of situation. We do not fight this in Ottawa with the ambassador. We fight this in Boise. We fight this in Springfield. We fight this in Sacramento. We fight this at the state level where premiers work with our counterparts as governors, and MLAs work with their counterparts at state legislatures. It's imperative that we not drop the ball and think of this as mission accomplished.
The second point, very quickly, is that there are parts of this agreement that I think we really don't understand. I would highlight article 32.10, the article dealing with negotiating with non-market countries. The provision itself isn't problematic. We announce when we are going to negotiate and we have to share as much text as we think is possible—these are not onerous or unusual provisions.
But what is a non-market country? What did we agree to when we agreed that we would give the Americans these powers with non-market countries? We think it's China, but the Americans have a list of 11 countries—10 plus China. Who else is on that list? Well, Vietnam was on that list, and we dodged a bullet by getting the TPP done with Vietnam before the Americans were able to use this for mischief. Again, I would urge the committee to look at article 32.10. Do we fully understand it? Can the government fully explain it?
Regarding cultural exemptions, we've granted the Americans the right to impose countervailing duties should we invoke our abilities under the cultural exemptions. Michael Geist just had a long piece on this. I would urge you to call Michael, Wesley Wark and others, to really go into that.
As for the points I raise in the recommendations, we have to help the provinces do their job in terms of defending our interests in the States. During the negotiations, the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister asked the provinces to do more. They stepped up.
The government gave money to ACOA to help the Atlantic provinces do more vis-à-vis the States. We haven't gotten the same in the west, and the west could really use the support. In a time of financial constraints, in a time of budget cuts, we are being asked to do more, and we don't have the resources, so we really could use the feds to step up.
There are also possibilities to engage the Americans on a bilateral basis for things that we couldn't do with the Mexicans at the table. The greatest failure of this agreement was not to advance provisions for moving business people. We can engage the Americans bilaterally, especially at the state-provincial, the regional level.
In terms of an infrastructure bank, the infrastructure idea is one where the Americans really need help. We can step forward and offer them help, and in so doing create a permanent institution with the Americans to avoid the vicissitudes of political changes and the changing political climate, and have a permanent institution focused on the North American border.
I will leave it there for questions.
Thank you very much.
Oaths of OfficeOpening of Parliament
December 5th, 2019 / 4:30 p.m.
Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-1, an act respecting the administration of oaths of office.
(Motions deemed adopted and bill read the first time)
Customs ActGovernment Orders
December 7th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion dealing with the Senate's amendments to Bill C-21.
The story of Bill C-21 is long and highly problematic, not to say sordid. I will read some excerpts, but first I would like to say that I am naturally in favour of the Senate's amendment. I will explain why.
The story of Bill C-21 is an interesting one, because it was a bill tabled almost three years ago.
It is unfortunate. I am thinking in particular of the No Fly List Kids, a group well known to members of this house. It is a group of parents who have children on the no-fly list who are false positives, because they share a name with an individual on this list who has been flagged.
The reason I raise this issue is that when these parents originally came to Parliament Hill and asked the government to respect commitments that had been made to fix this issue, they were told by the government, and the Minister of Public Safety more specifically, that they would have to lobby the Minister of Finance, because it needed money to the redress system. They did that. They talked to the Minister of Finance. It was fantastic. The money was announced in the last budget. It was a non-partisan effort I was proud to be part of.
Then what happened? We heard that Bill C-59 needed to be adopted, an omnibus piece of legislation dealing with a whole slew of national security elements, one chapter of which, in a bill hundreds of pages long, dealt with the no-fly list. Conveniently, we were saying that the bill needed to be facilitated at the time the bill arrived in the Senate, and it was being held up there.
As the months passed, Bill C-21, which was introduced in the House nearly three years ago, also got held up in the Senate. A month or two ago, at the same time the parents of the no-fly list kids were lobbying the Senate to quickly pass Bill C-59 and fix this horrible problem, the same spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety said that Bill C-21 also needed to be passed more quickly. After three years, and one year in the Senate, the bill finally passed.
I do not want to cast doubt on anyone's good faith, but there is a problem, because I see nothing in Bill C-21 to address this scourge, which has been around for too long and makes life hard for these parents whenever they take their kids to the airport. This debate gives me the opportunity to say this to the House, because even though these parents are a non-partisan group, I am a partisan politician, and so I have no qualms about criticizing the government for trying to exploit this problem to rush its legislative agenda through. If it had done its work properly, the bill would not have gotten held up in the Senate the way it has.
With that point made, I want to address more specifically the amendments from the Senate. I am pleased to see that the Senate has improved on an amendment I presented at the public safety committee that was supported by all colleagues. My amendment was to actually prescribe a retention period for the data Bill C-21 would deal with at the border.
Just to give the background on this, the New Democrats opposed Bill C-21, despite some things in the media I read in June saying that the bill quietly passed in the House. No, we opposed this bill, and we raised some serious concerns about it at committee.
One of the concerns raised by the Privacy Commissioner was the fact that we would be collecting entry and exit data at the border and sharing with the Americans “tombstone“ data, as the Minister of Public Safety morbidly calls it. That data is concerning, because what we are seeing in the national security field, and CBSA is no exception, is a larger net being cast over the type of data we collect. The minister listed a bunch of laudable goals for collecting data dealing with kidnapped children in, for example, horrible custody cases, dealing with human trafficking and cracking down on people who are abusing EI and the OAS system. We will get back to that in a moment.
These goals, certainly on paper, sound laudable. However, that should not diminish the privacy concerns being raised, particularly with respect to the current administration we see in the U.S. collecting this type of information. What civil society tells us about these issues is that there is a web of inference. In this large net being cast in the national security field, data that might seem innocuous, collected for legitimate purposes, can be easily shared with other agencies through this information-sharing regime for a variety of objectives that might not necessarily be the intent of the legislation.
In that context, we heard the concerns that the Privacy Commissioner raised about the data retention period, which was essentially unlimited. The amendment I presented set a time limit of 15 years and was based on a recommendation from the commissioner himself. I read in the media that civil society felt that period was too long. I understand their concerns, but ultimately, we relied on the Privacy Commissioner's expertise.
After my amendment was adopted and the bill was passed by the House, in spite of the NDP's opposition, the Senate heard testimony from the Privacy Commissioner. He pointed out that the wording of the amendment as adopted could be interpreted to mean a minimum of 15 years rather than what we actually intended, which was a maximum of 15 years. He himself said that this might not have been the committee's intent.
The Senate therefore made a correction and improved an amendment that I was pleased to present. I was also pleased to have the support of the other parties on the committee. Obviously, we support the Senate amendment.
The amendment put forward by the government today also supports that amendment. Accordingly, although we oppose the bill, we do support today's motion to adopt the Senate's amendment.
I want to take a moment to address this. I raised some of the concerns at the time on Bill C-21. Earlier I enumerated some of the things the minister said. However, there is another piece, and that is the issue of OAS and EI.
We had the appropriate ministry representatives at committee. They talked about all the great savings they were going to see and about the abuse of the EI and OAS systems. I find it fundamentally offensive to talk about savings in systems and programs that are there to help the most vulnerable in our society. The officials at committee even acknowledged that they believe in the good faith of the people who are claiming EI and receiving OAS.
Here is the problem. I will refer to some news articles that appeared in June of this year. For example, the Canadian Snowbird Association talked about its concern about the kind of information, or lack thereof, being shared, the personal information being shared, in an effort to potentially crack down on supposed abuses. For example, a situation as innocuous as people overstaying a day in a condo they own in the U.S. could mean that they would have their OAS payments or other government programs docked when they came back to Canada, in some cases. On the flip side, with the IRS in the U.S., people are being turned away at the border when they try to return to the U.S. to visit friends or family or to stay in a secondary residence they might have there. Certainly, there are concerns being raised.
I want to open some parentheses here and say that the NDP certainly understands and agrees that we do not want to see these systems abused, because essentially that would mean money is being stolen from those who actually need it. However, we also have to understand that when we are talking about information-sharing in an effort to crack down, I think there need to be more robust parameters in place with respect to how we are communicating with those individuals who could be affected.
Another concern I have obviously has to do with the employment insurance system. I am sure my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and my colleague from Churchill—I apologize, but I forget her riding's full name, which is long—can attest to how badly the EI system needs to be improved.
We are talking about the spring gap, the notorious 15 weeks, the problems that still have not been solved despite the government's rhetoric. What does the government do? It sends officials from the department in question to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security so they can boast about all the money being saved by sharing additional information on travellers with the Americans.
I do not mean any disrespect to our interpreters, but I am going to repeat what I said earlier in English. I completely understand that the government wants to stop the abuse of the system and make sure that the money is going to the right recipients. At the same time, I also understand that priorities seem to be a problem for this government.
It is funny that I talked about the no-fly list at the beginning of my speech. The minister was bragging about the fact that very few identifiers are shared in the system that Bill C-21 is proposing. He talked about basic information and said that that information appears on page 2 of the passport. This creates another problem, because when there are not enough identifiers, it can be very difficult to identify an individual in the context of a government program, the Canada Revenue Agency, and so on.
I need to look no further than in my own family. My younger brother's spouse has a twin sister with the same first initial, but a different social insurance number. They have the same surname, the same birth date and the same first initial, but a different SIN. What happens? They have to fight on a regular basis to have their identity recognized when undergoing a credit or background check. They have all kinds of problems with the CRA, government programs and banks. In short, they have had problems in the past. Unfortunately for them, they will continue to have these problems throughout their lives. Still, I hope they will not.
I am pointing this out because having only a few identifiers, as the minister reassures us, can create problems. For example, someone receiving EI who has not travelled to the United States, but who shares the same name and date of birth with another person who has, could be incorrectly identified by the department, which is not even the same one that receives the information. The Canada Border Services Agency receives the information, which it then passes on to the Department of Employment. As members, we work often enough with government agencies to know that mistakes can be made along the way. I say this with all due respect for our great public service.
Those mistakes are even more troubling for a variety of reasons. First, I specifically asked those representatives in committee about EI, OAS and other payments. I asked them what they would do if there was a mistake, or what if people had their EI cut off because they were told they had gone to the U.S., but they had not. The response I got, if people can believe it, was that they would need to take it up with CBSA.
What happens with CBSA? It is the only national security agency in the country that does not have a dedicated oversight body. Is that not convenient? That is extremely problematic and a far from satisfying response when the most vulnerable, who desperately need EI benefits, are cut off all because of a mistake was made in an effort to share even more information with the U.S., at its request. This whole system stems from that.
Moreover, I pointed out that there was a complaint system built into the law, but CBSA needed the proper oversight. The minister has promised that time and again over the last three years, since he has responsibility for this portfolio, and it has not happened.
Bill C-59, for example, would result in the biggest overhaul to our national security in the last 30 years. Despite all the reassurances about the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the new oversight body, colloquially called the super-SIRC, would only deal with CBSA in the specific context of national security. CBSA is always deals with national security at our borders. However, the question could be posed whether it is an issue of national security when people have their EI cut off because of information collected by CBSA. That question remains unanswered. The fact that it is unanswered is exactly why we have a problem, among other things, with Bill C-51.
I want to raise one last point. Representatives of the Akwesasne First Nation came to both to the House committee and the Senate committee. The community lies across border. Representatives explained to us that they had children who were born in upstate New York and then lived in Canada. They had folks who sometimes worked in the U.S. Sometimes they needed to start in Canada, go through the U.S. and come back to Canada just for the commute home because of the geography of their location. I am pleased to hear they can cross those borders, because those borders should not be imposed on them as the first peoples of this land.
They already deal with certain difficulties, based on the information CBSA shares with appropriate ministries for different government benefits, with receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. Therefore, we can imagine that under a regime like that proposed in Bill C-21, those problems could be exacerbated. Unfortunately, there is no special dispensation for folks like that in the legislation, and that is also a concern.
In conclusion, I am glad I was able to reiterate the reasons for which the NDP opposes Bill C-21. We understand the desire to improve the flow at the border, work with our allies, and ensure that nobody abuses our social programs. However, we believe that Bill C-21 allows for yet more information sharing, despite inadequate protection for citizens' rights and privacy.
We should all be particularly concerned about the fact that Bill C-21 is the first stage of what could become a more extensive information sharing regime in the coming years. The Prime Minister and the U.S. President committed to enhancing border co-operation, but this is not going to make things better. This is about fingerprinting people, searching cell phones, and possibly even having our officers and theirs work in the same space. That came up during talks between the U.S. President and the Prime Minister.
All of these plans are still in their very early stages, and I do not want anyone telling me I am getting worked up and scared, but we have every reason to be concerned, especially considering how the current U.S. President behaves and how we protect our citizens at the border and on our own soil when they need social programs they are entitled to.
The bill's intentions are honourable, but the execution is poor. We support the Senate's amendment, but we still oppose Bill C-21.
Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders
June 12th, 2018 / 8:30 p.m.
Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, again, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-69 on a new impact assessment and environmental assessment process.
I must begin by saying a few words about the approach to adopting this new process. Cloaked in righteousness, the Liberal government set to defending democratic institutions. It sought to give MPs their power and their voice back, respect the work of Parliament, and break from the Conservatives' despicable practice of cutting debates short. The Liberals said they wanted to give MPs time to do their work in order to represent their constituents well.
However, bad habits die hard, and closure has been imposed more than 40 times already. These are what we call time allocation motions that seek to limit the time for debate.
It seems that this bill is important to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. However, the Liberals imposed closure at every stage. At first reading, at report stage, and now at third reading, they gave parliamentarians a maximum of four or five hours before closing debate. We were promised, hand on heart, that a Liberal government would never do such despicable, undemocratic things. It has now become routine.
My Conservative colleague, who is a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, said that the government was bragging about having collaborated, studied amendments in committee, and listened to the opposition. It also brags about the fact that about 100 amendments were adopted in committee to improve the bill. Congratulations. I just want to point out that 99% of the amendments adopted were Liberal amendments. I have no doubt that that makes things easier.
It is mind-boggling to think that the bill was so poorly drafted and cobbled together, right from the start, that the Liberals were forced to present about 100 amendments in committee to try to patch it up and repair the damage. The bill lacked clarity and was poorly crafted, so it needed a lot of clarifications. That gives you an idea of the process, since government members are almost never required to fix a lousy job from the minister's office.
I would now like to talk about timeframes. It took the government 28 months to come up with a bill for a new environmental impact assessment process. During the campaign, the Liberals said that it was a priority because Canadians lost confidence in the process when it was destroyed and dismantled in the previous Parliament. They claimed that the Conservatives' process turned away from science and that we urgently needed to restore a transparent, valid, and scientific process that people could rely on. It took 28 months to come up with this bill.
During these 28 months, the government continued to sit back and to use the previous Parliament's process, a process that was supposed to be terrible.
What did the government do in the meantime? For one thing, it authorized the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which was Kinder Morgan's priority. How convenient that is for the government. When it wants a project to go ahead, it holds off on establishing a more serious, more credible, more scientific, and more rigorous process. The government used the tool left behind by the Conservatives, a means of fast-tracking and rubber-stamping projects, and was thus able to approve everything and anything.
The Liberals go through the motions of sticking a few bandaids on so it appears different, but they are not fooling anyone. Once again, the government used what it once criticized. This is more proof of the Liberals' hypocrisy.
The Trans Mountain expansion was approved in November 2016. It is now June 2018, and we are once again discussing the new environmental assessment process. Halfway through their mandate, the Liberals still have not passed a bill because they keep dragging their feet, citing consultations. The Liberals had no problem speeding some things through; a more rigorous process would have gotten in their way.
They broke their promise to assess the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion under a new environmental assessment process. While in British Columbia during the election campaign, the Prime Minister swore that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would never be assessed under the Conservatives' rules, yet that is exactly what happened. He also promised to change the voting system and institute democratic reform. It seems to be a bad habit of his. When he solemnly swears something, look out because he is about to flip-flop.
We have a new agency that is based on the old environmental assessment agency, but with more powers and a bigger role. It will be above certain commissions, like the National Energy Board, which will become a commission. That is a step in the right direction we had been waiting for, but we are still concerned about the fact that two organizations we have heard little about, which will exist alongside the new impact assessment agency of Canada, will be getting much more authority and a bigger role. I am referring to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.
These two boards are separate, independent assessment committees that are responsible for assessing any drilling that may occur in marine environments, in the oceans, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, potentially, or off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. That troubles us, because the mission of these two boards is to promote offshore oil and gas development. Their job is not to protect the environment, the seabed, ecosystems, or endangered species. It is to promote oil and gas development off the coast of certain provinces.
This flies in the face of everything the government says about how much it cares about the environment and its claims that it is here to protect our oceans, our natural resources, and our ecosystems. In itself, that is a total contradiction. We in the NDP find this really troubling, and I doubt we are the only ones, judging by the spontaneous reaction of the Green Party leader, who is just behind me.
When you tell a story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is not complicated. That is what kids learn in school. I want to talk about those three stages in the context of Bill C-69. In the beginning, a decision has to be made as to which projects will be submitted to the new agency for assessment, because all of this has to be good for something. If it is decided that the project will not be assessed because it is not worth it, everything in Bill C-69 and everything that was said about public consultations, indigenous consultations, and considering reports from climate change experts—all of that goes out the window.
As things now stand, and the minister confirmed it in her speech, Bill C-69 does not establish a list of projects. It also does not set out any clear, definitive, and verifiable criteria that would allow us to determine which projects require an environmental assessment. There is nothing about that at all.
From the start, there has been a very serious grey area. The agency can arbitrarily decide for itself what it considers to be important or unimportant.
It is all well and good to have a good process, which as we will see is not as good as all that, but if that process is never used, then it does not do anything more to protect us as Canadians, as people who are concerned about the environment, ecosystems, and global warming.
Take the following oddity, for example. The bill states that if the project is deemed to be a major project, it will fall under the responsibility of the new assessment agency. If it is deemed minor, then it can be reviewed by a commission, such as the National Energy Board. What is the difference between major and minor? There is nothing in the bill about that, so we do not know.
There are things like the steam-based oil sands development technology called “in situ”, which has been completely left out of the scope of the bill and any new environmental assessment. The government says it will not look at it even though it is an increasingly common technology that could have serious impacts. Those impacts could be relatively minor, but for the people living in the indigenous community or the town involved, it does not necessarily take a thousand-litre spill or a huge amount of pollution to jeopardize their health, pollute their environment, or cause a public health issue.
There is no clear explanation for why in situ bitumen extraction was excluded. Knowing what gets assessed and what does not is just the beginning. There are a lot of vague and arbitrary elements. There is very little clarity, and that is what worries us. That is the first problem.
The second problem is with the middle part, the public consultations, the dialogue with indigenous communities, and the appointment of review panels to do the scientific environmental assessment.
Consultations are another novelty of the Liberal process, and on that topic, assessment timeframes are being shortened. Depending on the size of the project, they will drop from 365 days to 300 days. That means that we will lose 65 assessment days. For major projects, the process will drop from 720 days to 600 days, for a loss of 120 days. This Liberal decision was taken in direct response to the demands from investors and private companies.
The decision worried many environmental, indigenous, and citizen groups. They do not understand, if we want a credible, serious process we can trust, why the government is adopting an attitude where it seems to want to expedite things as quickly as possible and satisfy the desires and needs of the industry first and foremost.
The Liberal government is also saying that first nations will have a greater role to play in the assessment process. Connect the dots to what I just said. If we greatly shorten the timeframes of a project and process, it is rather unlikely that there will be enough time to conduct extensive consultations with first nations. Again, they say one thing, but in fact there is a good chance that nothing will come of it or that the process will be flawed or absolutely incomplete.
That is what we know about the duration, the timeframe of the process.
The second aspect is the appointment of these experts we have been talking about to the panels that will carry out these ostensibly scientific, environmental impact assessments. There are many groups, including the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, that are concerned about the fact that the Liberal plan has no mechanisms to ensure that these will not be partisan appointments, that Liberals will not appoint their cronies, and that panel members will not be prone to making recommendations or a report that merely reflects what the government wanted from the start.
It is a simple process that is already in place in other jurisdictions. I am thinking of BAPE in Quebec, which is well regarded and credible, and has this type of mechanism. Here, we get the feeling that the Liberal government would allow the appointment of people who will not really care or who will listen to what the government says and wants.
It is really not that surprising. If I have time, I will come back to Kinder Morgan and the absolutely ridiculous purchase made recently.
While public consultations were being held on the Trans Mountain expansion, while first nations were being told that they were being listened to, that it was important, that they really wanted to hear their perspective, it became apparent that a decision had already been made. The government was already looking for excuses and reasons to legally say that the decision was made and that it would be approved.
Phony consultations were held very recently, and I believe that people should be concerned about the possibility of these partisan appointments to the expert panel.
After the beginning and the middle, we get to the end. Let us say the project has been assessed. Let us say the consultations lasted long enough and were sufficiently credible, although perhaps a bit limited. Let us say the experts really were independent, they did their job diligently, and they prepared a report with recommendations based on science, social licence, the impact on climate change, our ecosystems, and so on. After all that, it is completely up to the minister if he or she wants to dismiss all the recommendations of the impact assessment agency. All of that good work, even if it is perfect—and we already have some misgivings about that—could very well be taken and tossed into the trash, and the project could be deemed in the national interest and approved.
The national interest is being tossed around a lot these days. It can be made to mean pretty much anything. A majority government can simply declare something to be in the national interest since it knows that it can force it through the House either way, and everyone else will have to deal with it. I think it would be in the national interest to listen to experts, scientists, Canadians, and first nations. When the minister of the day has all of this discretionary power, the process can become arbitrary. Say that you like the current Liberal government, and that you trust its environment minister. That is fine, and I am sure there are people out there who feel that way, but once a bill passes, it will not change with every cabinet shuffle, with every federal election, or with every change in government. Things could turn pretty quickly under someone who has a different style or vision of development. I am really being very kind to the sitting minister, who has the instincts of an industry minister rather than those of an environment and climate change minister. Incidentally, anyone claiming to champion environmental protection and the fight against climate change should not go out and buy a 65-year-old pipeline that is already leaking everywhere.
I would like our Liberal colleagues to take out their 2015 electoral platform and show me the part where they told voters they wanted a pipeline so badly that they were prepared to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to buy one if necessary and that Canadians would have to assume all the risks associated with such a project. Let us be clear, Kinder Morgan deemed the project was too high risk. The current Prime Minister even acknowledged that no private company wanted to take on these risks because legal challenges have been filed by British Columbia and many of its first nations.
There are difficulties and challenges with respect to our international commitments under the Paris Agreement and our greenhouse gas reduction targets. The project simply does not make sense. We will be spending at least $12 billion on infrastructure that might be worthless in 25 or 30 years. On top of taking a huge financial hit, we will have invested in the energy source and jobs of the past, when we could have been investing in renewable energy. Those types of investments create six to eight times more jobs. The Prime Minister would have become a leader with a vision for the environment and for sustainable development. Sadly, that will never happen.
Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders
June 6th, 2018 / 9:55 p.m.
Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-69, an act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, introduced by the Liberal government.
As members no doubt know, this bill would create a new impact assessment agency of Canada to replace the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency. This agency will be responsible for all federal reviews of major projects and will have to collaborate with other agencies, like the new Canadian energy regulator, currently known as the National Energy Board, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore offices.
As a citizen and as member of Parliament for Lévis—Lotbinière, I have always taken an interest in protecting our waterways and keeping them safe. The prestigious St. Lawrence runs not too far from my home, and all of these issues are close to my heart. This is one of the reasons our Conservative government amended the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in 2012.
I obviously have many concerns about Bill C-69, in particular about the merits of these amendments and the Liberal government's flexible ethics. The government claims to be accountable and transparent. In reality, the Liberals keep showing that all they care about is helping Liberal cronies and promoting Liberal partisanship by filling their party's coffers, from coast to coast, under some guise or other.
On the surface, this bill has the noble goal of ensuring that all projects will be assessed on the basis of their impact on the environment and health, and on social issues. However, we may need to cry foul on the practices of these good old Liberals, masters of all that is crooked and scandalous. Take, for example, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and fishery allocations for a highly valued shellfish.
Where things go downhill with the Liberal government is that it puts forward these bills that give ministers more discretionary power, and then issues around the economy and so-called gender and indigenous rights take a back seat to the financial interests of the highest bidders and people with Liberal connections.
The government loves nothing more than a taxpayer-funded spending spree and thinks it can reinvent the wheel. This bill lays out its plan to spend up to $1 billion over five years on the new regime, on necessary changes, and, ostensibly, on increasing the participation of indigenous peoples and the general public.
Let me once again point out that these objectives look very similar to those of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, who we hope will soon be under investigation.
We all know that the former Conservative government knew how to make things better without raising Canadians' taxes. Canada's Conservatives understand how important certainty, predictability, and regulatory clarity are to ensuring the viability of major energy projects.
We know that these projects create tens of thousands of jobs and benefit communities across Canada, without any political favouritism. With the Conservatives, solid economic policies do not come at the expense of solid environmental policies, or vice versa.
Greater prosperity and better environmental performance always go hand in hand, but all the Liberal government sees are enticing opportunities to dole out goodies to friends and family members.
Bill C-69 will create two new regulatory burdens that, combined with the pointless federal carbon tax, will hurt Canada's global competitiveness even more without improving environmental protection in any way. This is scandalous.
These fresh repercussions are troubling, as are so many others we have suffered since this perpetually failing Liberal government took office.
The Liberals have a very long way to go before the next election if they want to start defending Canada's natural resource industry properly, instead of throwing up one roadblock after another.
Fortunately, in accordance with our values and commitments, we, Canada's Conservatives, will continue to oppose costly regulations that hurt jobs, economic growth, and global competitiveness.
Bill C-69 does not in any way meet the Conservative Party's objective of always striking a balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy.
When we look at what is happening with our neighbours, it is appalling to see that, while the American administration is relaxing regulations, lowering taxes, and encouraging energy production from natural gas or coal, Canada is regressing.
We cannot hamper our competitiveness by tightening regulations and creating uncertainty around the environmental assessment process. We need to stand up against and do away with any bill like this one that would harm Canada's economic competitiveness.
On this side of the House, we firmly believe that, in order to be effective, economic and environmental policies must not contradict each other, undermine each other, or cancel each other out. All the empirical evidence shows that prosperity brings with it a better environmental record. It is one thing for the Prime Minister to embarrass us and lose all credibility in our eyes and the eyes of the world, as he did on his trip to India, for example; it is quite another, however, for him to put Canada at a political disadvantage and jeopardize our position in the global economy. We will not allow him to do that.
We have repeatedly seen his picture in every situation and costume imaginable, but what we are interested in and concerned about on this side of the House is not Superman, it is Canada's image, its role, its prosperity, and the well-being of all Canadian families.
I am worried about how this bill will be used to determine whether a project should undergo an assessment by the agency or a panel. Beyond the process that has been set out, the answer is very easy and predictable. The assessment process will remain very political because it is the minister who will determine whether it is in the public interest for a project to be submitted to a panel instead of the agency's shorter impact assessment.
I am also concerned about why the government is saying that the bill will shorten the assessment process for resource projects. The government is misleading Canadians by saying that project assessments will be shorter. The planning phase adds 180 days to the process, even if the impact assessment is a bit shorter.
What is more, Bill C-69 provides for broad ministerial discretion to extend or suspend the process. In the Consultation Paper on Information Requirements and Time Management Regulations, a proposed impact assessment system, the Liberal government recognizes that in some cases, the proposed time limits in the legislation will not be met. In light of this discretionary power that will undoubtedly be abused, there is very little we can support in this legislative measure.
We support in principle the process providing for one assessment per project, as well as the commitment on the time limits proposed under the legislation. However, the bill puts up regulatory barriers and additional criteria that will invariably lengthen the assessment period.
We oppose Bill C-69 for many reasons, including the fact that it establishes a number of new criteria for impact assessment, in particular the impact that the project will have on Canada's climate change commitments. From now on we will have to consider the environmental impact upstream and downstream. The bill also substantially increases the number of people that could intervene in a review even if they do not have specific expertise. Finally, at the end of the planning phase and at the end of the impact assessment, the minister or the cabinet will make the final decision. The process remains political in nature, which creates ongoing uncertainty for investors.
There is nothing in today's announcement that would increase investor confidence or attract new investment to Canada's resource sector. We know that Canadian companies are already facing stiff competition even as the United States implements its plan to reduce regulations, cut taxes, and invest in coal-fired and natural-gas-fired electricity in order to cut energy costs.
Canadian businesses deserve a government that works with them, not against them. Canada's approach to fighting climate change must be realistic and strike the right balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy. The Conservatives support regulation, investment in clean technologies, and the mitigation of climate change if these initiatives produce concrete and measurable results for businesses and the environment.
We do not see any guarantees here.
Third ReadingAccess to Information ActGovernment Orders
December 5th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-58. Actually, that is what I was supposed to talk about, but the government has given me yet another opportunity to talk about its closed-mindedness and lack of transparency by moving another time allocation motion, this one for a bill that has to do with access to information. How ironic.
I am very glad to have the chance to speak after my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, who chose to talk about things that happened in the past. His eloquence and his legendary speaking skills in Parliament are well known to us all. There is a reason he has said more words in the House since the beginning of the session than any other member. He has been more vocal than anyone else during this Parliament as well as during the previous one. I believe that, more often than anyone else, he condemned the Conservative government's time allocation motions, which it did use to get its legislation through. The parliamentary secretary once had some choice words about democracy, the work of parliamentarians, and how outraged he was about time allocation motions.
This government was elected on a promise not to use time allocation motions, in order to allow for full debates. It was elected on a promise of basic openness and transparency. It promised it would be open at all times and would sometimes say no. The parliamentary secretary was the spokesperson of that election campaign.
What have we here today? In two years, this government has broken the previous government's record on using time allocation motions. It has used them on a number of very important files, including marijuana legalization, a subject that Canadians wanted to hear more about. Canadians represented by members on this side of the House wanted them to take the time to express their views on the matter. I am also convinced that many people represented by members across the way would have liked them to speak and fully explain their thoughts on Bill C-45 about marijuana legalization instead of repeating government talking points. Unfortunately, the government has used time allocation yet again, as it has done in so many other cases.
Speaking of flashbacks, the parliamentary secretary should also flash back to the eloquent speeches he gave in the last Parliament. They might inspire him to add to today's debate on time allocation motions. In his presentation, he also talked about the past Conservative government that saw the light on proactive disclosure. The Conservatives in government at the time adhered to that policy. Unfortunately, today's Bill C-58 takes us back to the dark ages. I am not the one saying this, it is the Information Commissioner. I will come back to her in a moment.
If the Liberals saw the light while they were in opposition, the light has unfortunately gotten steadily dimmer since they came to office, and we are heading for total darkness. The parliamentary secretary boasts that Bill C-58 will be open to periodic review. This morning I heard it called a “living document”. However, I wish the government had given life to something better, because right now, its living document seems doomed to a worthless existence.
We can already expect this bill to go nowhere in terms of delivering on the objectives and intentions that the Liberals announced during the last election campaign. It will not meet any of its objectives. Sadly, as far as those objectives go, this document is stillborn. Bill C-58 is not a living document. If it were, the government would have accepted the committee's recommendations. It would have agreed to amend its so-called living document from the outset in order to improve it and eliminate its dark and murky aspects by listening to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. Unfortunately, all of the committee's recommendations were rejected.
That is not what I would call a living, open, and transparent document that can be improved upon. The government had already made up its mind, and it refused to amend and refine the bill into something that we on this side of the House could support.
The Liberals' approach is nothing new. Every time the Liberals introduce a bill on which we could have all worked together to move certain files forward for the good of Canada and Canadians, they find a way to sneak in some totally unacceptable legislation. They know very well that there will not be unanimity and the opposition will vote against the bill. They put things in that go too far or that do not make sense. Then they say that there are good things in the bill and they wonder why the opposition does not support it. It is because the Liberals overlook all the bad things. That is how the Liberals see things. They speak in general terms and have a massive public relations campaign, but when we start getting into the details, when we look beyond all the pretty words and pretty pictures, we find that there are many flaws. The quality and the resolution of the image are not always very good.
We have become accustomed to seeing a lot of shenanigans from the Liberal government. Since I was elected in 2015, I have seen that there are all sorts of ways of using the legislative process. The Liberals are trying to do things and they are especially trying to get out of the promises they made to Canadians in order to get elected in 2015. The Liberals realized that they could promise just about anything but that it is not so easy for a government to keep such promises.
I think the Liberals are going through a tough time right now because they made all sorts of promises in order to get elected. They promised Canadians just about anything, but now they are unable to keep those promises, so they have to find a way to get out of them. They decided to introduce a bill that does not accomplish what it is supposed to accomplish, thinking that would at least get people talking about the issue.
However, talking does not change anything. If all the government does is talk about an issue, if it does not change the laws, if it is not really held to account, and if it does not keep the promises that it made to Canadians, then Canadians end up with a government that does things that people did not elect it to do. That is what is happening today.
A number of things in Bill C-58 do indeed reflect Liberal promises. The Liberals made the following promise: “We will make government information more accessible.” Clearly, based on my reading of the bill and in light of what members of this cabinet have been doing, this government has no intention of increasing government openness and transparency. Instead, Bill C-58 actually undermines access to information in Canada. There is a great deal of opposition to Bill C-58.
This government claims to be open by default, and yet, the fiercest opposition to Bill C-58 is coming from the most loyal defenders of government transparency and access to information. What is wrong with this picture? We are talking about journalists, civil liberties groups, and yes, even the federal Information Commissioner. Indeed, the individual responsible for enforcing the legislation we are debating here today has criticized much of what is in Bill C-58.
In a report released in September, Ms. Legault said that Bill C-58 fails to deliver the fundamental reform the Access to Information Act needs. She said that the government's proposals actually introduce new barriers to the process Canadians must go through when requesting government documents. One would expect to hear that kind of thing from the opposition Conservative Party because our job is to criticize the government. However, that message is from the Information Commissioner, who is responsible for enforcing Bill C-58.
The report is entitled “Failing to Strike the Right Balance for Transparency”. The title says it all. Here is what the report says:
In short, Bill C-58 fails to deliver.
The government promised the bill would ensure the act applies to the Prime Minister’s and ministers’ offices appropriately. It does not.
The government promised the bill would apply appropriately to administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts. It does not.
The government promised the bill would empower the Information Commissioner to order the release of government information. It does not.
Rather than advancing access to information rights, Bill C-58 would instead result in a regression of existing rights.
It is the sad story of a government that promised things it had no intention of doing, or a government that improvises and was clearly not ready to govern. Two years after the election, I think that any political observer can confirm what I am saying. The government was not ready and, now, it is improvising and trying to look like it is keeping its promises, which it is entirely incapable of doing.
Let me get back to the Information Commissioner’s special report. The tables at the end of the report are impressive. They include a comparative summary, as well as information about improvements to Bill C-58, the current situation and other items. In short, we can see whether the various elements of the bill are positive, or whether they constitute a regression.
On the topic of making requests, we have a regression; declining to act on requests, regression; declining to act on requests for institutions, positive. Let us be fair, there are positive elements. The Prime Minister’s Office and mandate letters are neutral; ministers’ offices, regression; government institutions, regression; Parliament, regression; courts, regression.
With respect to fees, the process was to be streamlined and the fees abolished, but the changes still constitute a regression. On the topic of oversight model, we have a regression; seeking representations from the Privacy Commissioner in the course of an investigation: regression. That is a lot of regression, and this is not just my opinion. Mediation will be positive if added. The publication of orders will be positive if added.
The examination of solicitor-client privileged records is a positive. We are not being partisan: the impact of the purpose of the Access to Information Act is unknown. On the transition to a new oversight model, we have a regression; and the impact of the mandatory periodic review is unknown.
I can see why the impact of a mandatory periodic review is unknown. Since we began considering Bill C-58, several good suggestions have been made to improve it. The government did not take any of these suggestions into account. I understand why the commissioner has certain questions concerning the purpose of the mandatory periodic review.
The report ends on a negative note. The changes to Info Source, or the requirement institutions have to annually publish certain classes of information, constitute a regression, and lastly, on the topic of institutions’ annual reports on the administration of the Access to Information Act, we have yet another regression.
We are not the ones saying this. It is in the report of the Information Commissioner of Canada, whose title speaks volumes: “Failing to Strike the Right Balance for Transparency”. This document made recommendations to the government for improving Bill C-58 so that it would meet the openness and transparency needs not of the official opposition, the NDP, the Bloc québécois, the Green Party, independent members of Parliament or Liberal backbenchers, but of Canadians.
Unfortunately, “Failing to Strike the Right Balance for Transparency” is the report card for Bill C-58. That is why the Liberal government had to put forward a time allocation motion today, to silence the hon. members of every opposition party here in the House. It does not want us to spend time repeating that the Information Commissioner said that it was way off the mark.
Mr. Speaker, if you knew everything that people were saying and all the articles that were being written about Bill C-58, you would also have a hard time understanding the government's intention. According to the cofounder of Democracy Watch, the bill constitutes a regression in that it allows government officials to decline requests for information if they believe that the request is frivolous or in bad faith.
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of a member of cabinet who is being asked questions about his villa in France and who decides that the request is frivolous or made in bad faith, since where he spends his vacation is no business of Canadians. This person would refuse to answer the questions. That is what Democracy Watch is denouncing.
Also, well-known defender of Canadian democracy Mr. Conacher says that public servants should not have this power, because they will likely use it as a new loophole to decline giving the public the information to which it is entitled. That is exactly what I have been saying since the beginning.
Bill C-58 also imposes new obligations on people requesting information. The act currently requires government institutions to make every reasonable effort to assist a person making a request, regardless of the information requested. However, under the proposed legislation, people requesting information will have to provide more specific information about the exact type of document they are looking for, the period in question and the exact subject.
In other words, if I want to know more about the elimination of a tax credit for diabetics and I do not give the exact name of the tax credit and the form, the people across the aisle may decline to give me the information. Still, as far as I know, Canadians have the right to know why the government eliminated the tax credits for diabetics. When a major change affects the lives of those who are the most vulnerable, Canadians have the right to know why the change was made and why the minister did not inform the opposition and all Canadians. I think that is logical.
It is as if the government wanted to find more ways of hiding the truth from Canadians. I do not dare say it, but this bill looks like another attempt at a cover-up on the part of the government, and yet, all it is doing is revealing to Canadians just how unprepared it was to govern. That is our assessment of Bill C-58.
It is probably for that reason that the government does not want to have to answer questions about tax reform, the Morneau affair, Netflix taxes, the small deficits they promised, NAFTA, China, home mail delivery, and the Prime Minister's vacation on a private island, which was talked about a lot. It is probably the reason why Bill C-58 is before us today and why we are subject to time allocation.
The promise of openness and transparency is a failed public relations exercise, and I would remind members that, according to the Information Commissioner, the government has failed to meet its goal to be transparent.
National Security Act, 2017Government Orders
November 20th, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that the NDP opposes the motion to refer Bill C-59 to committee before second reading.
Bill C-59 makes a lot of changes, but it does not chart a bold new course for Canada and make civil liberties and human rights central to Canadian security laws. The Liberals waited almost two years to hold a public consultation, promising to correct Bill C-51. They heard countless testimonies and received briefs from experts, and yet they failed to deliver.
Sadly, Bill C-59 does not seek to correct Bill C-51. The NDP opposed Bill C-51 from the outset back in 2015. Now we are faced with legislation that violates civil liberties and privacy rights, and Bill C-59 follows the dangerous path trodden by the Harper government.
The new, limited review and oversight mechanism set out in this bill does not make up for the disclosure of information and the almost limitless power given to our security agencies. The document that came out of the consultations, entitled “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016”, was criticized by civil liberties advocates for being biased. It placed an inordinate amount of weight on safety and security at the expense of protecting Canadians' constitutional values.
The scenarios presented in this document seemed to favour the implementation of the most controversial provisions of Bill C-51. Although the green paper did not provide a balanced view that would allow Canadians to properly assess the potential negative impacts that giving the government too much power could have on individual rights and freedoms, the results of the consultations showed that Canadians still wanted Bill C-51 to be completely repealed and that they would not be satisfied with half measures.
The NDP has consistently called on the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal and replace the 2010 ministerial directive on torture to make sure Canada abides by the total ban on torture, and more specifically to forbid the use, under any circumstances, of information that other countries may have obtained through torture and the sharing of information that could lead to torture.
Canada must not forget the shameful part it played in the torture of Canadian citizens like Maher Arar. Even though the directive was not part of Bill C-51, it is a deplorable component of our national security framework and should have been addressed during the Liberals' study of the framework. Unfortunately, the new directive issued in October 2017 does not forbid the RCMP, CSIS, or CBSA from using information that may have been obtained through torture in other countries.
The new instructions are nothing more than semantic changes, since they authorize the use of information obtained by torture in certain cases, with a very low accountability threshold. This does nothing for public safety and security, since information obtained through torture is not reliable. The new directive, just like the old one, tarnishes Canada's reputation and goes against Canadian values.
Furthermore, if the bill passes, Canada will remain a police state, and Bill C-59 will even make things worse in some specific circumstances.
It will allow the Communications Security Establishment to launch cyberattacks against foreign targets.
The agents involved will thus become terrorists in the eyes of those countries. Ordinary citizens of those countries will have no other means than their own of protecting themselves from potential injustices caused by Canadian secret agents.
This new bill has very few measures that will reduce the broader powers granted to security agencies involved in information sharing under Bill C-51. The fact remains that the definition of national security is still too broad. The legislation still allows departments to share far too much information in their quest to achieve rather questionable security objectives. However, despite the fact that a government has taken steps to create more solid frameworks for the Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, the no-fly list, the concerns raised by the introduction of C-51 remain unaddressed.
The government has not yet demonstrated why this intrusive bill is necessary. I am also concerned about the fact that Bill C-59 seems to create a legal framework that allows CSIS to keep data about citizens that used to be off limits and that there is no reasonable justification for expanding these powers. It also allows CSIS to keep its controversial disruption powers.
I will now turn to other elements of the bill that I have a problem with. Bill C-59 amends the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” to include any activity that threatens the lives or the security of people in Canada or of any individual who has a connection to Canada and who is outside Canada. The definition includes activities that cause “significant or widespread interference with critical infrastructure”. We are concerned that this could be used against peaceful demonstrators protesting things like pipelines.
CSIS will maintain its threat-reduction powers. Bill C-59 just adds torture, detention, and serious damage to property that endangers the life of an individual to the list of things CSIS cannot do when disrupting a terrorist plot. CSIS must also check with other departments and organizations to see if they have other ways to reduce threats.
CSIS can prevent a person from travelling but cannot detain anyone. There is no clear distinction between the two, which creates dangerous legal uncertainty. The bill does not prevent CSIS from collecting related data from Canadians who are not considered a threat.
Finally, the bill fails to address two worrisome aspects of Canadian national security laws, namely security certificates and the ministerial directives on torture, which must be done away with.
In summary, the Liberals were elected on a promise to repeal the problematic provisions of Bill C-51, and they made us wait two years. Their current proposal does not even come close to solving the problems created by the former government's Bill C-51 regarding the violation of Canadians' privacy and the criminalization of dissent. What is more, the Liberal government is using this omnibus bill to create a legal framework that would allow CSIS to store sensitive metadata on completely innocent Canadians, a practice that the Federal Court deemed to be illegal last fall.
Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders
October 31st, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on this issue.
I also want to thank our transport critic, the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, for the excellent work she has done on Bill C-49. I had the pleasure of working with her on this file for a while. I know that she worked very hard on this and that she shares many of the opinions that I am going to express here today. I also want to thank Patrick, my intern from the parliamentary internship program, for his assistance in writing the speech I will be giving today. He witnessed the magnitude of this omnibus bill first-hand.
The scope of this bill is huge; it makes significant changes to 13 different acts. It will substantially affect air, rail, and sea transport. This bill will affect most of the trains, planes, and ships that travel around and across our immense country. It is what is known as an omnibus bill.
I would remind members that, in 2015, the Liberal government promised to change the rules of this place to prohibit omnibus bills. The Liberals made that promise to Canadians over and over again. In its election platform, the Liberal Party said that it would no longer resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny. It added that it would bring an end to this undemocratic practice by changing the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
It was a very convenient promise to make during an election campaign. Now it is more convenient to ignore it. What is even more interesting is that the minister who sponsored the omnibus bill we are talking about today has repeatedly criticized the use of these political games in Parliament. In a motion the transport minister moved in the House in 2012 when he was the Liberal House leader, he suggested that the intentions of omnibus bills were so varied that a single vote on so many matters would put members in conflict with their own principles.
The sponsor of the omnibus bill we are talking about today said those things in 2012. That is a totally different perspective than the one the minister and his government are taking on Bill C-49.
Why did the Liberals change their minds? Where are their principles now that they are in power? Let us not forget that this is not the only political stunt the Liberal government has pulled in order to circumvent the democratic process here in the House. Omnibus bills are not the only trick up the Liberal government's sleeve. To top it off, yesterday it decided to use time allocation to limit the debate on all these proposals. As a result, even though the government's list of proposed changes remains quite long, the time we will have to debate those changes has been shortened considerably. This is the same government that likes to talk about being open and transparent. It claims to be a government that listens, but after having worked with this government it is clear that it really does not.
By all accounts, a bill that changes our transportation system, that weakens the legislative protections for shippers and farmers, and creates a passengers' bill of rights that does not even have the support of passengers' rights advocates, deserves a more thorough and engaged debate. However, yesterday's decision to use a time allocation motion does not really surprise me or any of the other opposition MPs. It certainly did not surprise Canadians who have been watching for weeks as the Liberal government tries to defend their tax reform and the Minister of Finance's decisions in question period.
What is becoming very clear is that Canadians are losing faith that this government has a moral compass. That is another unintended consequence for the Liberals. What is not clear is the bill we are currently debating. After months in committee, and debates and studies on this bill, there are still very few details and explanations.
Let us talk about Bill C-49. The Liberal government says that the measures it is proposing will establish a new air passenger rights regime; loosen international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers; enable Transport Canada to examine and approve joint ventures by two or more airlines; update the Canadian freight system; require railway companies to install voice and video recorders in locomotive cabs; expand the authority of the Governor in Council to require major railway companies to provide information regarding rates; and amend the Canada Marine Act to permit port authorities to access the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
All of that is in the same bill. Whether one is for or against certain of those measures, voting is impossible. One may like some of them, but if one dislikes others, there is no way one can logically vote for this bill.
There is a fundamental lack of respect and clarity in all these measures, including the passengers' bill of rights that the government promised. The Liberals say the measure is a document that will protect travellers, but upon closer examination, one can see that is not necessarily the case. Precious little is known about this bill of rights. Nobody knows what it will look like or what penalties will be imposed on airlines if they break the rules.
Instead of putting forward something very clear, the government decided to let the Canadian Transportation Agency made the decisions. The agency will decide what is in the document and will flesh out the details, details that will affect every air traveller and every airline in Canada.
How can we have an intelligent discussion about a passengers' bill of rights without all the necessary information? How can we avoid other unexpected consequences of the sort that seem to be this government's trademark and that arise, when we are not given details about what it is proposing?
We must not forget the unintended consequences of tax reform on farmers and on small and medium-sized business owners. We must also not forget how this government attacked our most vulnerable citizens by clawing back the disability tax credit. As members of the opposition, what can we do to seek solutions to a bill under the current circumstances? For that matter, we are not the only ones sounding the alarm. We cannot support measures that are unclear. The government is asking us to trust it blindly, but it would be irresponsible of us to do so.
Let us move on to the other proposals in the government's bill. Bill C-49 would permit port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada infrastructure bank . However, this is somewhat paradoxical because, as members may recall, the infrastructure bank does not exist yet. This measure therefore makes no sense.
This bill would allow port authorities to receive loans from a soon-to-be-created infrastructure bank. In other words, they are getting immediate permission to do business with an entity that does not yet exist. What a great opportunity for the Liberal government to create even more unintended consequences with a new bank that has yet to be approved by Parliament and that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
As we continue to consider the impact of this bill on other industries, we find more examples of its lack of clarity. For shippers who use the railways, this bill proposes new 30-km interswitching rates that, according to the government, would be set every year and take into account railway infrastructure needs for the entire system. However, the lack of information about how the bill will implement these rates is leading shipper organizations and producer groups to be cautious regarding their position on long-distance interswitching. Like us, they are not really sure how this is going to affect them.
Shippers like Greg Cherewyk, Pulse Canada's COO, reminds us that the devil is always in the details. In May, he told the Manitoba Co-operator, and I quote, that “every word does matter, and the order of the words matters”. He pointed out that he was not sure about the exact impacts of the government's new proposals.
Today, we are going to vote on this matter because we have to vote on the omnibus bill as a whole. We cannot study this component more thoroughly because the government decided to make it part of one huge bill. We tried to make this part of the bill less vague, but the Liberals voted against those changes, even the administrative ones. It is clear that they do not understand the consequences of these measures, and that will create even more unintended consequences.
The two major railway companies in Canada have also expressed their concern regarding the impact of the new regulations, especially with respect to investments in the Canadian railway system. The president of CN thinks this is an odd decision, especially since NAFTA is still being negotiated and we do not know what impact the negotiations will have on trade. Why then give American companies even greater access to Canada? These are the questions we are asking.
In conclusion, everyone in Canada knows how important transportation issues are. Bill C-49 is an omnibus bill that is forcing us to take a position on measures that might have seemed acceptable but that we cannot support, because there are other, totally unacceptable measures in the bill.
For these reasons, I cannot support Bill C-49. There are too many unintended consequences that we can already foresee.
Once again, I would like to thank my intern Patrick for his assistance writing this speech, and I am ready to answer my colleagues’ questions.
May 16th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
Darshan Singh Kang Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll address this question to Dr. Sareen and Anne-Marie, or you can all answer this, please.
With Bill C-211 we are trying to address PTSD. We are a diverse country, and different communities have different approaches to address PTSD and mental health. Do you think this bill should be broadened to include different cultures and different communities? What steps can we take to ensure that the framework on PTSD respects these different cultures and communities?
Perhaps Dr. Sareen can go first.
May 16th, 2017 / noon
Sarah Ryan Senior Research Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Hi, my name is Sarah Ryan and I'm a senior research officer at CUPE. Thank you very much for inviting CUPE to present our concerns regarding the Canada infrastructure bank today.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, or CUPE, is Canada's largest union, representing 643,000 workers across Canada. CUPE members work in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, emergency services, transportation, and airlines.
As more details about the Canada infrastructure bank have emerged, CUPE members have expressed strong concerns that the bank is essentially a bank of privatization. They are deeply concerned that the bank could lead to the privatization of airports, ports, public transit, roads, highways, bridges, water and waste-water systems, hydroelectric utilities, and transmission grids. These are all key services that the Canadian public depends upon every day.
Bill C-44 states that infrastructure projects financed by the bank must generate revenue and promote the public interest. Revenues can only be generated in two ways: by charging high interest rates on loans, and by introducing tolls and user fees on new infrastructure projects or existing infrastructure assets.
The mandate of the bank is fundamentally contradictory. Private investors will be the clear winners, since revenues from projects financed by the bank will fall into their pockets. Canadians who depend every day on infrastructure to heat their homes, to get them from place to place, and to ensure they have safe drinking water will be the losers. The public will shoulder the costs of the bank's high interest rates and will be hit hard by added costs of living that will result from new tolls and fees.
Bill C-44 will also allow infrastructure projects to be privately pitched through unsolicited bids. This puts private investors in the driver's seat and allows them to set priorities on what gets built.
The bank gives investors unprecedented control over how infrastructure is built, operated, and structured. Infrastructure projects developed by private investors will be tailored to profit the projects' backers and risk being totally out of touch with the public's needs and interests. This eliminates the capacity of governments and citizens to decide what infrastructure their communities need and how it should be built and paid for. It severely limits the public's capacity to influence decision-making on infrastructure investments.
Minister Morneau said that cabinet will have the final say on what gets built, but to sustain a private investment in the bank, CUPE members are not confident that cabinet will be willing or able to deny investors' proposals. Furthermore, the private sector will still play a key role in shaping the project structure to maximize profits.
When governments propose, design, finance, and build infrastructure projects, the public can hold them to account. However, Bill C-44 limits the bank's public transparency and accountability requirements. It allows project information and investor deals to be kept secret from the public. This means that information about how community infrastructure is being funded, who is involved in projects, and how much investors are profiting will not be available to the public. This is bad news for Canadians who have a right to know how public monies, which will partially fund the bank, are being spent and how public infrastructure is being built.
In conclusion, CUPE offers the following recommendations.
First, the government should establish a public infrastructure bank that provides low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects, and that means public financing. There is no shortage of financing available for the federal government to borrow at low interest rates right now. If this is done through a public bank and lending institution, similar to the Business Development Bank of Canada, CMHC, or EDC, then its investments in borrowing wouldn't need to increase the deficit or net debt any more than the current proposal.
Second, the government should ensure there's stronger accountability, transparency, and review by auditors general over the bank and its projects. The bank should be mandated to provide full public disclosure of all business deals, value-for-money assessments, and contracts. The bank should also have public officials on its board to ensure that it acts in the public interest. Public infrastructure projects must remain public and not turn into secret deals with private corporations.
Finally, the government should not allow private corporations to determine infrastructure priorities, including through unsolicited bids. Instead, it should establish a public and transparent process using evidence-based analysis for truly objective planning of priority infrastructure projects.
May 16th, 2017 / 9:10 a.m.
Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON
I appreciate that, but your government legislation is not doing the same thing. It's at odds with itself, with this committee, and with the voting in the House of Commons on Bill C-25, so I'd ask you to consider that as that draft legislation works its way through.
The other one to review as a scientist and working so well within our academic communities is Bill C-36. I won't touch on too much of it, but at this point I would appeal for a review of it. It's amazing, Madam Minister, that despite the testimony of Munir Sheikh and Wayne Smith, and other testimony that we had on this committee, not a single amendment was able to pass through this committee with regard to the inclusion of their contributions.
In fact, several witnesses who have high profiles and respect in academia, not only at home here but internationally, and were also the former census operators, both resigning over differences of opinion in the scientific approach to the census going from long form to short form and so forth and also provisions. Not a single word of their testimony, or of any of the witnesses, will be included in the legislation that's been proposed to go back to the House of Commons at this time.
I would like to move though, Madam Minister, to the review panel and the expectations for it. I think that was an excellent approach. In the 1970s we didn't even have the concept of a mobile phone. I think the first time I saw a mobile phone was in a movie with Mel Gibson. The phone weighed about 10 pounds and looked like a World War II phone.
At any rate, can you give us an indication of when we might hear back about that, and what type of movement and resources the government has committed toward that?
March 21st, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON
My colleagues are agreeing. We were hunkering down for what would probably be.... I don't know, but in my mind I was thinking, well, maybe a couple of or three—and if we really get in the ditch, four or five—committees will be lost to this, and then eventually the government will come to their senses, do what has been done in the past, and in fact do what we've done during this Parliament. That will be the next area I move to, Chair, after I read a letter.
That process, as I'll point out later, was completely done by consensus. There are so many similarities to what the government wanted us to do, and for the work that we did on this committee on that report, yet the approach is completely different. We can say names here; we can't in the House. The previous government House leader, Mr. LeBlanc, used a very different approach than the current House leader, Madam Chagger. It resulted in a report that we just accepted in the House on Monday, I believe.
That's what I thought would happen. There would be a number of meetings—as I said, five or six if we really got in the ditch and the government got obstinate—and eventually they would realize that, okay, that little attempted power play, while it would have been nice, was clearly not going to happen. The opposition was not asleep at the switch and wouldn't allow themselves to be lulled into silly arguments about what this is or isn't—we know very well what it is. At the end of the day, it became clear that the government not only didn't want to do what they had just done the year before, but they were going to launch this from a localized committee “squarmish”. I think that's the right word. I think it's a word. I'm getting close, anyway: “skirmish”? I think that's the right word. I'm getting close, anyway. Anyway, a “skirmish” is a little battle that happens all the time.
I've been involved in all kinds of those. In fact, as I did the one on Bill C-23, oftentimes at committee all I would have to do is threaten that I was about to go into a filibuster and that would be enough to get something moving, because, boy, nobody wanted to hear me do exactly what I'm doing right now for any longer than absolutely necessary. Just having it there and the reference to it and that we were about to do it.... My colleagues do it all the time. Mr. Schmale, even as a new member here, has indicated along the way that, hey, folks, if this doesn't start going a little more clearly, I'm not going to have any.... Then we get over it. We get past that.
That didn't happen here. For some strange reason, the government members believed that it was in their best interests to launch this into the stratosphere, to have all of the national media become aware that a localized issue in a committee is now not only a major blowing up in terms of a 24-7 filibuster, but it's starting to spill over into the House.
I'll add parenthetically that I just thought it was so cute today. The Prime Minister apparently told his caucus that this was going to be fun, and it was kind of cute when he got up and de facto created a Wednesday Prime Minister's question period and answered every question. They were so clever. I'm sure they thought that.... Well, he didn't answer every question, because not every one went to him. Every question that went to the government, the Prime Minister answered, which, as I understand it, is their idea of what this Wednesday Prime Minister's day would look like.
I don't know, but I guess the brainiacs over there in the PMO decided to show Canadians what the benefit would be of having this kind of day when the Prime Minister is on his feet answering every single question put to the government. The problem is that they didn't take the next step and think it through just a little further, because Mr. Strahl and I, during question period, took great delight in thanking the Prime Minister for answering those questions but also pointing out that they didn't need to use their majority to ram through a change to the rules to get exactly what they wanted. They want a Prime Minister's day on Wednesday and—poof—de facto they got one, with no rules changed, no rights abused, no flexing of political muscle.
None of that took place. All that happened was that the Prime Minister answered the questions. All right? If you want to put a special fancy label on Wednesday, which is normally known as caucus day so that it becomes caucus day and “Prime Minister's question period”, fill your boots. Live it up. It was kind of fun.
The next time, we know that we'll be able to line up questions that are meant to go to prime ministers, because, of course, the questions for today were geared to the usual process in which the prime minister answers the questions of the leaders of the parties, out of respect.... Well, most of them. Yes, there's been a change there, too, which is interesting. It was pointed out in one of the articles today.
That's probably the easiest one he's ever going to have, because it was one that we didn't know was coming, but that's a whole other matter. That's fine. That's great. Let the politics of the day take over. If that's what's going to happen on Wednesdays from here on in, then our question period group that makes these decisions in each of our caucuses will take into account that the PM is answering every question today, okay, so our questions will be geared at that level.
It's a very different question if you're asking the prime minister. Even on the same subject, there can be often a difference in the question you would ask the prime minister. It can be a kind of a macro question, whereas a micro question, albeit important, would go to the minister and is sometimes answered by the parliamentary secretary, which is part of our process too.
I thought I would take a minute to point out that while it was very cute and almost clever to have that today, at the end of the day all the government really did was show that with a little co-operation, and sometimes even under the existing rules, they can get what they want. Their first option doesn't have to be the Harper option: “we're going in with a hammer because every discussion is a nail”. That's where we are, yet with a little co-operation, a lot could happen.
Chair, I would now like to shift gears a little and move to a timely piece of correspondence that is 100% relevant to what we're dealing with here today, and it's rather extraordinary. It's not often that you see the House leader of the official opposition and the House leader of the third party sign a joint letter addressing the government. It happens, but not every day. That just goes to show you how important this is and how big this is.
I remind everybody that it wasn't the opposition that made this the 24-7 filibuster that's taking over all of Parliament and looms over everything we're doing. We didn't do that. We were just going to have a nice little filibuster, a kind of respectful filibuster, that you would call a “battle”. I think that's fair. That's what we'd have: a little battle. The government is the one that decided, no, that they were going to take this and throw it into the stratosphere, and blow it up as big as they can. They didn't adjourn the committee, and here we are, over two weeks later, with it front and centre in the national media.
We finally got an awful lot of attention from Canadians. Thank you to the government, because it would have taken us months to do that if we were doing it only from 11 to one o'clock twice a week. I think you should be worried over there that maybe there is a spy working in our best interests. While you may have thought it was a clever move, because at the end of the day you have your majority, look where we are. Way to go. I'd like to know what your objective was, because it couldn't have been getting anything done. There must be some other strange Liberal-think about how this advances the Liberal interests and the government's interests in terms of its process. I don't know. At the very least, it does point out another broken promise, and that is the lack of respect for standing committees.
Again, I've said this over and over, and it sometimes breaks my heart to say it, but as you know, reality is reality. When we didn't win the election, which for a long time or for some time looked like it was going to happen.... I've got to tell you: those were great days. That was nice. I'd never been in that situation before.
I was part of the win in 1990, but nobody knew it was going to happen until election night, so there wasn't that anticipation, that “wow, we're ahead” thing. This time, that actually happened. It was wonderful and glorious, the highlight of my federal time here. It didn't work out in the end as well as I thought it might, and as well as it felt, but you know what, that's democracy, right? You win some and you lose them all. I don't know.
March 21st, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC
It's for the rest of your life, I guess, until someone tries to take it away from you. That's is the point I'm getting at. I was told that during the terrorist attack in 2014, when the person was coming onto the Hill, they were looking for the pins. They were looking for somebody wearing the pin. So it was recommended at the time that you find a way to display it differently.
I have a good friend who's a first nations artist and does incredible work. If you're okay with it, I'm going to mention his name, Keith Kerrigan. He's incredible. He's a lawyer. He was my business lawyer to begin with. However, he's a far better artist than he was...I'm sure he was successful. Anyway, he built this ring for me and I wear it every day. To me this is my Stanley Cup ring. This is my Olympic gold medal ring. This is my Grey Cup ring. It means the world to me. The reason this means the world to me is that I get the opportunity to serve Canadians. I get the opportunity to try to make a difference in people's lives, and I think we're doing that with Bill C-211.