Appropriation Act No. 2, 2014-15

An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2015

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Tony Clement  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 10, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 10, 2014 Passed That Bill C-38, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2015, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 10, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole.

Opposition Motion—Energy East Pipeline ProjectBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Thérèse-De Blainville.

I welcome this opportunity to speak to a motion put forward by the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar. The motion is timely. It comes during a week when the Prime Minister clearly outlined the government's role in looking out for Canada's best interests during pipeline reviews rather than acting as a cheerleader.

The motion comes a day after the Minister of Natural Resources and I announced an interim approach and specific measures to immediately strengthen environmental assessments in advance of a review of environmental assessment processes.

I am certain that MPs would like to know how we reached this point. First, I will provide some context.

The federal system for project reviews, including energy projects and pipelines, includes environmental assessments, consultation of aboriginal groups and decisions on issuance of permits.

This system is important for protecting the environment and the safety of Canadians. Meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples are essential. The process must consider the views and concerns expressed by Canadians and affected communities. Achieving these objectives is important for the economy and the environment.

In 2012, omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, significantly changed the system for project reviews by replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with CEAA 2012, amending the National Energy Board Act and Fisheries Act, and amending and renaming the Navigation Protection Act. For such important legislation, Parliament did not spend long examining the bills: three months for the first bill and two months for the second one. This motion speaks to important issues that have been affected by the changes made in 2012.

We know that natural resources projects play a vital role in our economy and we recognize how important job creation and economic growth are to Canadians. We believe that it is important and essential to rebuild Canadians' trust in our environmental assessment processes. That is the only way to get resources to market responsibly in the 21st century.

The fact that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources are working together on this sends an important message. It indicates that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.

We know that natural resources projects play a vital role in our economy and that they create jobs for Canadians and grow our economy. We also know that in 2016, projects will only get done if they are done sustainably and responsibly. We believe it is important and essential to rebuild Canadians' trust in our environmental assessment processes. We need to take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and support our natural resources sector. That is the only way to get resources to market responsibly in the 21st century.

Yesterday, we made the first steps toward that goal. The principles we announced will allow the government to make better evidence-based decisions on major projects. These principles will apply to projects currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment until legislated changes can be implemented.

The principles that we announced yesterday will allow the government to make better evidence-based decisions on major projects. These principles will apply to projects currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment until legislated changes can be implemented.

The principles are clear. They were part of our platform last fall. Canadians gave us a clear mandate to implement them. Yesterday, we delivered on that mandate. Our goal is to restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication. Our goal is also to ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence and serve the public's interests. They are also to provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and they will require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.

With these goals in mind, we will be engaging Canadians through an open, inclusive, and respectful review of environmental processes. However a review will take time. Any proposals for legislative change arising out of the review will have to be carefully considered by Parliament. This raises the question of what to do with projects currently undergoing environmental assessments.

Yesterday, we announced the interim approach, including clear principles that the government will follow to make better decisions on major projects. These principles are based on the fact that protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals. In fact, our future success depends on us doing both of those things.

The principles are clear. They were part of our platform last fall. Canadians gave us a clear mandate to implement them. Our interim principles are, first, no project review will return to square one; second, decisions will be based on science and evidence, including information on climate change and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples; third, decisions will be informed by consultation and input from Canadians, including indigenous peoples and affected communities.

Consultation is, and will continue to be, a driving force of our government in how we approach environmental assessments. As the Prime Minister has said, there is no relationship more important to our government than the one with indigenous peoples. It is time for a renewed nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

The principles underscore our commitment to work in partnership with indigenous people and to ensure that their rights and interests are respected. Greenhouse gas emissions must also be taken into account in decision making. Addressing climate change is a key priority for the Government of Canada.

Gathering evidence and facts on greenhouse gas emissions from a variety of sources, including environmental assessment, will further help inform our national climate change plan. At the same time, the private sector has a role to play as a source of dynamic innovation for greener and cleaner technology and practices. Environmental assessments can help promote this innovation. After all, the goal of environmental assessments is to improve the way projects are designed, built, and operated.

I want to emphasize that the interim approach released yesterday and our commitment to review environmental assessment processes are actions that I believe will help restore public trust in environmental assessment processes and the decisions that result.

Canadians voted for a government that understands that the economy and the environment go hand in hand. Yesterday, we gave business people the certainty they need to plan and build and grow, and we provided Canadians with the reassurance they want that their environment will be protected.

In 2016, that is the responsible thing to do and the only way we will ensure both our collective prosperity and our future. I am very pleased to read some reviews of yesterday's announcement of interim principles. Adam Scott of Environmental Defence said that to have all of the material in hand when making the decision will make for a better and higher-quality, informed decision.

Shannon Phillips, Alberta environment minister, said that she and I have had ongoing conversations about our role with respect to climate leadership; the importance of access to tidewater. She said we have in our initial meeting talked about environmental assessment processes, and so there have been conversations along the way. She said the federal government works productively and collaboratively with them, and they appreciate that respectful relationship.

Mark Cooper, TransCanada spokesman, said:

We support a strong and clear regulatory framework that helps Canadians see our commitment to building and operating oil and gas pipelines in the safest and most environmentally sound way possible.

Opposition Motion—Energy East Pipeline ProjectBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

January 28th, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, as to the opposition motion before us today, I want to go on the record as saying it is quite bizarre to hear from the opposition benches that the current government is ideologically driven in changing environmental reviews after the horrors of Bill C-38, the omnibus bill, that, as my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona has already pointed out, gutted the Fisheries Act and repealed the Environmental Assessment Act, which, up until that point, would have required a greenhouse gas assessment as part of an environmental review of any pipeline project.

The motion today makes a rather large leap, which is not factually correct. It claims that the energy east pipeline is for the purpose of transporting oil. Words matter. The pipelines, whether energy east, Kinder Morgan, or Keystone, were all for the purpose of transporting a raw product, not even crude, bitumen mixed with diluent. Would the minister consider the importance of being precise in our language, that when we are talking about exporting a raw product to bypass Canadian jobs and Canadian refineries, we ought to say so?

Motions in amendmentEconomic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 9th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North allows me to point out that, under this Conservative administration, the treatment of legislation through the House amounts to contempt of Parliament. There has been a series of abuses, from the use of omnibus budget bills to time allocation, to converting what used to be a very consensual, non-partisan study of bills in parliamentary committees into a scripted, whipped vote process in which amendments that should be accepted because they represent misunderstandings or typographical errors, even clerical errors, were pushed through, in bills such as Bill C-38. It is, in fact, a contempt of Parliament.

Motions in amendmentEconomic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 9th, 2015 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak at report stage. I understand I am speaking to my amendments that were the deletion amendments and that substantive amendments that I put forward still await a ruling.

As I have the floor now, just in brief response to the point made by the government House leader that he was somewhat caught unaware by my point of order, I have checked with my staff on the number of times the government House leader has risen on points of order directed at restricting my rights as a member of Parliament. I have not received any advance notice from the government House leader. Not that I was in any way suggesting tit-for-tat, but I did not realize it was a convention in this place to give the government House leader more notice of my points of order than he has ever given me.

Turning to the substance of Bill C-59, I appreciate the remarks from my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The substance of the bill needs to be put forward again clearly that this is an omnibus budget bill once again.

This is an omnibus budget bill that amends 20 different Canadian laws. These are 20 completely different things.

Therefore, there is no single unified purpose, which is the underlying principle of why we would ever have omnibus legislation in this country. Under this administration, the use of omnibus budget bills is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, as is the use of time allocation. We have never had any other administration ever put forward so much legislation through the form of omnibus budget bills with sections that are unrelated to each other and equally unrelated to the budget.

This one is not as lengthy as others. Certainly, Bill C-38 had over 400 pages and was followed by Bill C-45 at over 400 pages. In earlier times, when the Conservatives were a minority, they brought forward 800 pages of omnibus budget legislation in 2008. I think it was over 900 pages in 2009. In terms of page length, this one is just under 160 pages. It is less lengthy but no less complex than previous omnibus budget bills. As a result, it has had inadequate study. It was pushed through committee and pushed through this place, with time allocation at every stage.

In looking at it in any level of detail, I think it is worth reviewing with other members of this House because we have had so little time to study it, how many different sections of laws are affected by this.

It affects parliamentary precinct security. That is one thing I want to return to because it is a fundamental and very important constitutional question of who is in charge of security in this place.

It changes the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA.

It makes amendments to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, a good piece of legislation that we had been waiting for for some time, which really deserves its own care and attention through this place.

It makes changes to the Trust and Loan Companies Act.

It makes changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, which are quite egregious in that they pre-empt collective bargaining. I will stop at this point to say that this pre-empts collective bargaining to make changes to sick leave provisions for our very hard-working federal civil servants.

The changes that would occur to the National Energy Board Act would change the maximum duration of licences for the exportation of natural gas issued under the NEB Act.

It goes on and on in terms of the number of distinct and different pieces of legislation, none with a relation to each other, none receiving adequate study.

I will add one anecdote. I presented amendments at committee on a previous omnibus budget bill. It was not until I presented the amendments that the committee realized that there had been no witnesses on that particular section. None of the committee members remembered having read it, so my amendments could not be adequately discussed because nobody really knew about that section of the omnibus bill. There were just too many sections to give it adequate care and attention.

Let me just touch on some of the ones that are concerning.

I certainly was concerned to see the changes to the Copyright Act. These are changes that benefit the music industry, particularly the large U.S. companies, not the songwriters and not the musicians of Canada, by changing the copyright for a song recording from 50 to 70 years.

There are also changes in division 9. I mention these briefly but without describing them. The natural gas exportation licence would be extended to 40 years, up from 25. That is quite a significant change. It was opposed in committee by the witnesses from West Coast Environmental Law. I will just quote from their testimony. They said:

It is quite possible that something thought to be a good idea today may not, in 25 years' time, with the advent of climate change, economic shifts, an increasingly harmed environment, and other potentially unforeseen alterations in the landscape...

be considered a good idea in four years' time. These are significant changes that did not receive enough study.

We heard from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and I completely agree, about the precarious nature of interns working in the federal civil service. All parties have at various times said that they want to do something to ensure that unpaid internships and student work within the government are protected properly. The access is going to go in that direction, but as a submission from the Canadian Intern Association made clear, much more needs to be done if these workers are not to be exploited in the system.

Given the time I have at the moment, I will move on to other areas of the bill that really should have had greater study. The biometrics piece is one that came out with witness testimony at the very last minute. It was actually on the morning that we moved to clause-by-clause. We realized how sweeping the changes are in terms of collecting biometric information. They might even apply to people who want to come here as tourists, given the changes that were made in the fall of 2012 in Bill C-45. For people seeking to come here on vacation, if they are not in a country that requires a visa, these potential tourists would also have to apply to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for permission to come to Canada. The sweeping nature of the changes under biometrics information could apply to tourists, even though I do not believe that that is the government's intent.

Let me just make sure that in the three minutes remaining, I concentrate on the two most egregious changes in Bill C-59.

I mentioned earlier the change in security in the parliamentary precinct. There could not be a more serious issue for those of us assembled in this place. We had the attack and the tragic murder of Nathan Cirillo on October 22, 2014, and what could have been a far more devastating tragedy had the security team of the House of Commons, the RCMP, and the Ottawa Police had not acted as they did and ended that crisis.

The conclusion being reached that we need a unified security team is exactly right. We do need to ensure that the outside grounds and the inside of Parliament are all protected by people who are in one unified system. The large question, and one that has been rushed through this place without adequate study, is which of the security agencies should be in control. It is deeply embedded in parliamentary tradition. The first reference to this that I could find goes back to the year 1500. It is deeply embedded in parliamentary tradition that you, Mr. Speaker, are the person, the entity and the office that protects the security of the members here.

A change to give control to the RCMP, which ultimately reports to the Prime Minister or to the executive part of government, is a fundamental change that is unconstitutional. However, because of the privileges that surround Parliament itself, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to challenge this in a court.

It should not be rushed through this place. It is a fundamental change in the relationship between the Speaker, the members of Parliament who look to the Speaker for the protection of their rights, and the risk of an abuse of that authority to impede access to this place, based on party membership. I am not going to suggest that it exists with any particular prime minister. There is a significant risk that remains for potential future prime ministers if we do not change this.

The last point I want to raise is best expressed in the words of the Information Commissioner of Canada about the changes to undo laws in effect. She said:

These proposed changes would retroactively quash Canadians’ right of access and the government’s obligations under the Access to Information Act. It will effectively erase history.

...[it] is not an attempt to close a loophole; but rather it is an attempt to create a black hole.

Such changes should not be allowed in any democracy. Bill C-59 should therefore be defeated.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this House to speak to this critical bill. I want to begin by correcting the record. The minister who just spoke characterized support from Yukon first nations in a way that is simply not the case.

I am proud to be part of the NDP, the official opposition that stands with Yukon first nations. We categorically oppose Bill S-6, not as the minister said. We oppose it along with many Yukoners, members of the legislature, members of organizations, environmental organizations, esteemed Yukoners who were part of putting together YESAA, and members of industry. They are all expressing their opposition to this bill. I am proud that we are standing with them today to do so as well.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development travelled to the Yukon to hear testimony from those who will be affected most by Bill S-6. We now know that Yukoners do not want this bill. We know that first nations do not want this bill. To pass it would be imposition on their right of self-determination, and in the case of Yukon first nations, it will be a breach of the final agreement.

The callous disrespect that the Conservative government repeatedly shows towards treaty rights is both outrageous and, frankly, illegal. It knows that. It knows that Bill S-6 will send them into the courts, battling against Yukon first nations.

The fact is that Conservatives do not care. We know that the government is currently engaged in litigation with 95 first nations. It has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars fighting indigenous rights in court. Enough is enough.

As I attended the truth and reconciliation closing events this week, I saw thousands of Canadians who are ready to repair the ongoing violence of colonialism. However, we need our government to be a partner in this great task. Knowingly brushing off the Yukon first nations final agreement is illegal, immoral, and it will be expensive. More importantly, this week, it is also opposite to the spirit of reconciliation.

It is perhaps most disappointing in this case that Yukoners of all kinds are in fervent disagreement with Bill S-6. They want to uphold the final agreement. They see it as their agreement as well. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, known as YESAA, is a made in Yukon program, and they worked hard to achieve it. They want to be good neighbours and good business partners with first nations and the federal government.

What is clear, since hearing testimony from Yukoners, is that the territorial Yukon government does not speak on behalf of the people. This is clear, as it supports this legislation.

I remember communicating with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ruth Massie, who stated:

This whole process attacks the integrity of our constitutionally protected agreements and Yukon First Nations will stand by their agreements even if it means going to court, they give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts but we will protect them.

The people of the Yukon and first nations alike are baffled by the contents of Bill S-6. The YESAA recently underwent a five-year review, through which recommendations were made. However, the four amendments that are the cause of concern appeared nowhere as recommendations in the five-year review.

These four changes are contrary to the intent of the land claims agreement and undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process. The changes are that the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs will be endowed with the authority to provide policy directives to the YESAA board; that the federal minister will be given the power to delegate his federal powers to the Yukon government; that the exemptions for renewal and amendments could work to eliminate requirements for projects that could have major effects on the environment and communities; and, finally, that the condensed timelines on the YESAA assessments will limit the thoroughness of environmental assessments and limit the opportunity for first nations input.

Grand Chief Ruth Massie said this of the amendments in Bill S-6:

Yukon First nations have met with the Government of Canada, specifically [the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada] and have asked them to remove four problematic amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act [that was] established in Chapter 11 of the Umbrella final agreement and each final land claim agreement of the eleven Yukon First Nations.

1. Yukon First Nations are opposed to the proposed amendments to YESAA because they undermine our Aboriginal rights, titles and interests.

2. The four proposed amendments were not discussed with the agreement signatories prior to being considered, a complete surprise to Yukon first Nations. This is a direct breach of the constitutionally protected agreements for all eleven Yukon First Nations in regards to consultation and accommodation.

3. Canada's decision to impose the four proposed amendments will likely result in litigation with Yukon First Nations. This will affect the Yukon economy and cause [an impact on] any future resource development. Very unnecessary actions!

The question, why is the current government taking actions that it knows are unlawful and will lead to litigation? Why do Conservatives consistently force first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities into costly, protracted court battles that they will ultimately lose? The answer, I am afraid, lies in the Conservatives' willingness to put the perceived interests of extraction companies above environmental and first nations rights.

As with so much other legislation we have seen in this Parliament, the Conservatives intend to obliterate the environmental assessments and protections that Canada has established. I am speaking of Bill C-45, the omnibus bill that destroyed the navigable waters act; or Bill C-38, which made sweeping changes to Fisheries and Oceans.

What is most interesting about Bill S-6 is that a good portion of the businesses and extractive corporations with interests in the Yukon are also opposed to it. Industry is learning faster than government that in order to have sound, productive business dealings on or affecting indigenous lands, industries must secure meaningful consent and partnerships first.

I would like to read from a letter sent by a CEO of the Casino Mining Corporation, Paul West-Sells, who wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.

It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investments in the territory.

In other words, if there is no confidence that first nations will support the government's environmental assessments, there can be no confidence in the investments that businesses want to make there. Bill S-6 could have disastrous implications on the Yukon economy.

I have been told that Yukon is proud that YESAA is homegrown and serves Yukoners and first nations. It is their tripartite agreement that created it. The current government is focused on destroying the protections over so many local and beloved waters and ecosystems. Yukoners know that YESAA is unique, and that it stands to protect the biosphere and their relationships with the indigenous communities they live with.

One of the repeated concerns that has been raised by Yukoners is that their voices have not been heard throughout this process. I quoted Grand Chief Ruth Massie, and I also want to read into the record the voices of other Yukoners who have been fighting Bill S-6.

Mary Jane Jim, councillor of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, provided testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. She said:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with amendments to the YESAA.

A great friend, Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson, said in October 2014:

Eleven years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management. This was an important step in Yukon’s history and crucial in Yukon’s ability to determine our own future, a future grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government.

With these proposed amendments to what is a made-in-Yukon environmental assessment process, YESAA, it’s no longer ours.

The NDP leader Liz Hansen also said:

What we need, what is sorely missing, is a willingness to engage in an open and honest manner. We need a relationship built on dialogue and respect, rather than on lawsuits and secret negotiations.

A Yukon news editorial in June 2014, entitled “Environmental assessment reform should be done in the open”, wrote:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

Chief Eric Fairclough, chief of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, is quoted as having said:

—YESAA originates from and is rooted in our land claim agreements. It manages the use and the development of lands, waters, and resources in Yukon. As a result, implementation of YESAA may affect the exercise of aboriginal treaty rights. In this case, the crown has not acted in accordance with its constitutional duties owed to Yukon first nations. The crown has breached its duties to work with Yukon first nations and take steps to accommodate our concerns. The crown has not acted honourably or fairly. The crown has breached its constitutional duty to act in the honour of the crown.

Chief Carl Sidney of the Teslin Tlingit Council is quoted as having said:

Industry and development come and go, but we are here forever and we carry that sacred responsibility. YESAA is connected to those beliefs and values through our agreements and should not be amended without our consent. We entered into the agreements as a way forward as an expression of who we are as people. An essential part of that vision was the recognition of and respect for our land, our water, and the air we breathe. They are a part of us and we are part of our environment for all time. It is our collective responsibility as a treaty party to ensure these unique relationships will be part of our future.

The amendments in Bill S-6 imposed by Canada at the last minute undermine what we have created together. It is critical to success that we continue to work together as was the vision under our agreements. Canada's stated intention in entering into final agreements was to create certainty about the use and ownership of Yukon land and natural resources. Substantial aboriginal rights, including title, were exchanged for constitutionally protected treaty rights. That was a high price to pay to achieve certainty for all Canadians and the Yukon first nations who have signed agreements and have paid it in full.

I would like to read into the record Chief Angela Demit's words, the Chief of White River First Nation, who said:

We participated in meetings with Canada about the changes to YESAA. Through that experience we have understood that the changes being proposed by Canada have much more to do with an agenda made in Ottawa than with the recommendations that came out of the YESAA five-year review process.

Mr. Tom Cove, director of the Department of Lands and Resources for the Teslin Tlingit Council, said:

If I may, if the bill passes as is, the potential for litigation is a virtual, absolute certainty and is a great concern to Teslin Tlingit Council, other first nations, and a lot of Yukoners, and to investors outside the Yukon who have an interest in investing further in natural resource development, but in many other ways as well. It's of great concern and it is a virtual certainty. I'm not exactly sure, but the last time I looked I think there are five law firms already hired to prepare the work that's necessary in anticipation of this bill going forward. That's a lot of momentum in that direction.

Chief Doris Bill, the chief of Kwanlin Dün First Nation, stated:

Providing a single party with authority to direct the board is fundamentally inconsistent with any legislation that stems from our tripartite treaties. While the treaties obligate Canada to enact YESAA, it does not own YESAA and cannot choose to dictate its own policies on the independent assessment body.

Ms. Millie Olsen, deputy chief of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, stated at committee:

YESAA currently has timelines for assessors to review each iteration. This approach encourages proponents to prepare comprehensive applications that minimize iterations. Proponents who prepare adequate applications quickly are rewarded under the current process because they can proceed quickly.

On the other hand, the Bill S-6 approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline will reward proponents who prolong the adequacy review phase by using up time with multiple iterations. The approach will penalize assessors and reviewers like first nations because it will shorten the most important public review phase, infringing on our right for comprehensive reviews of projects.

Chief Steve Smith, the chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, testified at committee. He stated:

Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. The unconstitutional bill demonstrates the federal government's unilateralism and lack of understanding of the relationships that arise from the final agreements, the federal government's failure to abide by the collaborative development assessment regime mandated by the final agreements, and the federal government's indifference to fostering productive and collaborative treaty relations with Yukon first nations. This is fundamentally unacceptable.

Ms. Wendy Randall, the chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, YESAA, stated at committee:

It is important to note that YESAB is not part of government. We are not a regulator. We do not issue permits or authorizations, and we do not make final decisions on projects. We are an independent board that conducts environmental and socio-economic assessments and makes recommendations to decision bodies. Those decision bodies are the three orders of government that have control over land and resources in Yukon, so federal, territorial, and first nation governments....

We have 10 years of experience conducting environmental assessments on projects, from very small projects to very large [ones]. We have flexibility now in timelines that we have established under our rules, which for the most part, I feel, work fairly well.

Certainly there are areas in which things can be improved. We have proponents. We have first nations. We have other groups with sometimes different interests who feel there could be improvements made. I'm unsure until I see how these changes would play out or be implemented whether they would accomplish that or not.

Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president, Lands and Environment for the Kaminak Gold Corporation, stated:

—Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

I have shared the voices of Yukoners of Yukon first nations who have stood up against Bill S-6. They are standing up against the government's agenda.

As a proud northerner myself, I stand with them, along with my colleagues in the NDP, in solidarity against Bill S-6.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House decline to give third reading to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, because it:

(a) was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon First Nations, as per the government of Canada's constitutional duty, and without adequate consultation with the people of Yukon, as per the government's democratic duty;

(b) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to unilaterally issue binding policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which undermines the neutrality of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process;

(c) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of First Nations;

(d) provides broad exemptions for renewals and amendments of projects; and

(e) includes proposed timelines on the assessment process that will affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for First Nation input on major projects.

Second ReadingEconomic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

May 14th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and offer my thoughts on Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill.

Once again, I have a number of reservations about this budget. Sadly, we on this side of the House cannot support it. Once again, the Conservatives have slipped several measures into this budget in order to justify their lament that the opposition does not support certain measures.

For example, we would like to support the measures to assist veterans, but the Conservatives have slipped them into a mammoth budget implementation bill.

At 150 pages, it is shorter than some, like BillC-38, which had hundreds of pages. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they denounced mammoth bills, even if they had only a few dozen pages. Today we are looking at a 150-page bill.

This is stopping us from holding a full debate on the provisions of the bill. This was the case with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, and now it is the case with Bill C-59. The opposition members, like the government members, who should be keeping an eye on their own government, are simply not able to do so with the means available to them.

I would like to point out that the Conservatives have imposed time allocation for the 96th time, limiting the time available to debate a bill as important as the budget. This makes no sense. The NDP would have liked to support certain measures in the bill, because they are ideas put forward originally by the NDP that the government decided to borrow. For this, I congratulate the government.

For instance, the tax rate on small and medium-sized businesses will go from 11% to 9%. The change will be made over five years, because the Conservatives have decided to spread the measure over a number of years, but it will be quite helpful to SMEs, which are the ones creating jobs in Canada. This measure deserves our support, but unfortunately, the Conservatives have combined measures that we can support with ones that we simply cannot support.

Moreover, the budget contains no measures regarding the Transport Canada wharfs. The Conservatives were very happy to spend time in eastern Canada recently, to underline their $33 million investment in the Transport Canada port divestiture program.

Unfortunately, this is the same $33 million that was announced last year, and $9 million of it has already been spent. There is only $24 million left to be shared among the 50 wharfs that the government is proposing to transfer. Two of the Transport Canada wharfs are in my riding, and just these two would exceed the amount of money that remains for the 50 wharfs across Canada that the government would like to transfer.

When the government says it is helping people, what does that mean in concrete terms? We cannot accept their offer, because it is just too little.

Recently, I heard a Conservative MP saying that the Conservatives had introduced one of the largest infrastructure programs in Canada’s history. However, this money will be spent in the future. They have announced amounts of money that the budget does not cover at all, and they are trying to make us believe that with a budget of $54 billion over 10 years they are going to spend the largest amount of money in Canada’s history on infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the facts tell quite a different story. Last year, the government spent only $250 million of the $54 billion. Its assistance to municipalities and organizations to implement infrastructure programs was extremely discreet.

It is disgraceful that the government is congratulating itself about money it has never spent and that it is trying to make people believe that it is carrying out this program, even though it is a phantom program, since we are unable to find this money.

Furthermore, this budget does not help the regions, and in fact the opposite is true.

The Conservatives say that they have balanced the budget, but once again, they have done so using both the contingency fund and the employment insurance fund.

This year, the government is planning to filch $1.7 billion from the employment insurance fund to balance its budget. It likes to brag about its $1.8 billion surplus, but it is pretty clear where that money came from. The government is even planning to help itself to $17 billion from the employment insurance fund over five years. It is quickly catching up to the Liberals' record. They too bragged about balancing a budget, and they too did so at workers' expense. Since the Chrétien government's reform, the government has taken $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. The Liberals swiped $50 billion, the Conservatives $7 billion. Now they are planning to snatch another $17 billion from the fund.

They say they are going to balance the budget, but they are doing so at the expense of the poorest, the neediest. Seasonal workers and workers who lose their jobs will pay the price. Roughly four out of 10 workers are not even entitled to employment insurance benefits even though they all contribute to the fund. Those people will never see a penny. The government is busy taking money from the insurance fund and, instead of giving it to the people who contribute, funnelling it into programs that will benefit Canada's wealthiest people.

With regard to the Conservatives' proposed income splitting, the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly said that only 15% of Canadians will benefit, and most of them are among the wealthiest people in this country.

The wealthiest people do not need more help. There are some Canadians who are unemployed and others who are facing job losses. Today, 1,700 employees of Bombardier, a pillar of Canadian industry, are unemployed. They are facing an employment insurance fund that has been pillaged repeatedly by the government. There is no more room to manoeuvre.

When the government says that it has balanced the budget, it means that we are at the point where the government has squeezed programs so much that there is no more room to manoeuvre. Someone who has lost a job or works part time will find it very difficult to make ends meet.

Today's budget is simply not going to help the poor, and that includes measures like income splitting and tax-free savings accounts, or TFSAs. The tax-free savings account limit is being raised to $10,000. In my riding, I can tell you that the number of people who can take advantage of that and put $10,000 into a tax-free savings account is very small. What is more, that money will then not be spent in the riding; it will sit in a savings account.

We need programs that put money in people's pockets and encourage people to have a greater impact on their local economy. Those are the kinds of programs that will help grow the economy. We need to help small and medium-sized businesses, because they create jobs, and that is what will help create wealth. What matters to the NDP is putting money into the pockets of people who really need it, rather than giving more to rich.

I am very disappointed in this budget, which once again gives priority to people who will perhaps vote for the Conservatives in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, the people who are being ignored by this government and who will not get the help they need from this budget are precisely those who are currently unemployed or otherwise struggling. The budget contains very little for those individuals.

However, the budget does include something that I think is good for retirees regarding registered retirement income funds. Now people will have the choice to put off withdrawing from their RRIFs a little longer. This will help people who are retired. However, let us not forget that those who do not have the means to put enough money in an RRSP will have to wait until they are 67 before they can get old age security. They will pay dearly for not having enough money in an RRSP. This was done without warning and without consultation. The government simply imposed this.

These people did not have enough time to adjust their budget and now have a major deficit for their retirement years. This budget will do nothing to help them.

We absolutely need to have a budget that will help the less fortunate. The government has a role to play as an advocate for the people who are most in need. The government should help those in need, but unfortunately the budget before us does not do that.

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2015 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to rise to comment on Bill S-3. As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, this is the act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, also know as the port state measures agreement implementation act.

The title does not really explain what the bill does. It is not really about protecting the coastal fisheries, but rather controlling illegal fishing as well as unregulated, illegal and unreported fishing. That is a good thing. The bill goes in the right direction and it deserves our support. It is about time. As the parliamentary secretary said, certain aspects of the bill were already brought forward by the United Nations several years ago. Now with Bill S-3, we can ratify the UN agreement. That makes me very happy, and I am very grateful to the government, which rarely acknowledges the United Nations and its agreements. I am very pleased that today the government is prepared to support an international agreement. It seems to me that the Conservative government is uncomfortable with international agreements, and it is about time that it took them seriously.

Before I continue with the rest of my speech, I want to point out something that the parliamentary secretary said about the ships entering our ports. As he clearly indicated, in the past and even still today, until this bill is passed, ships that come into port undergo inspections on a voluntary basis. It is true that, with this bill, the minister will have the discretionary power to authorize an inspection. However, once again, he can do so only if the state that issued the vessel its licence gives its approval and requests an inspection. It is not just a matter of ministerial discretion. The foreign country must first authorize the inspection. I would like to come back to the testimony we heard when this bill was sent to committee. It is extremely rare for a country to ask Canada to inspect a vessel because of the possibility of illegal fishing.

I do not see anything in this bill that will really improve the situation. Other members have mentioned it and it is true that illegal fishing in Canada is mostly under control. It is mainly a problem in the Canadian areas outside the 200 mile limit. I am thinking, for example, of the Grand Banks off the eastern coast of Newfoundland, which are outside the international limit of 200 miles. Canada does not really have surveillance powers and cannot prevent ships from engaging in illegal fishing there.

Even though Canada has had a moratorium on cod fishing since the early 1990s, illegal cod fishing continues outside the 200 mile limit. I do not see anything in this bill that would give us the tools we need to better control the situation and ensure that this fishery is managed properly. The parliamentary secretary was saying that the bill would help achieve a sustainable fishery. It will support over 80,000 jobs in Canada that depend on the fishery, but once again, it will not help reduce illegal fishing in Canada's offshore waters.

I would have liked to see a much better international agreement than what we have in Bill S-3, since illegal fishing will continue on the Grand Banks even if this bill passes. We missed a golden opportunity here. However, once again, I will say that this is certainly a step in the right direction.

I would like to point out a few facts. A 2008 study commissioned by the United Kingdom estimated that the global economic loss due to illegal fishing is over $23 billion per year, representing 11% to 19% of total global reported legal catch.

This is obviously something that we need to get under control. A few minutes ago my colleague mentioned that illegal fishing has an effect on prices. This is true. The facts show that illegal fishing drives down the prices of fish products. Passing Bill S-3 will finally help bring about better control of the prices on the international market. That is certainly a good thing. However, one of the big problems with this bill is that 25 states will have to ratify it before it becomes binding. Just 11 states have ratified it so far.

I have not heard anyone talk about any plan the government might have to ensure that enough other countries support the agreement to make it binding. I am confident that Canada will ratify this agreement if we pass the bill. However, we need quite a few other states to make it binding, and there is no plan for that. I did not hear the parliamentary secretary to the minister say anything about a plan to make the agreement binding on the international stage. I hope that the government will provide more details about that because the clock is ticking. This agreement has been awaiting ratification for several years, and we will have to keep waiting until 14 more countries ratify it.

Let us remember that the bill amends a number of Canadian bills. Bill S-3 itself will not create a new law. It will ratify the international agreement and amend existing Canadian laws. Since that has already been covered, I will not talk about the bills that will be amended. I might get back to that in a few minutes.

I would like to reiterate a point made by my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam a few moments ago. It is fine to amend the laws in order to ratify the international agreement, but Bill C-38, an omnibus budget bill, amended the Fisheries Act and the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. The amendments went so far that we wonder whether the government is serious about protecting the environment and the fishery. With the amendments in Bill C-38, we have reached a point where the federal government is shirking its responsibilities with respect to protecting the fishery, and with Bill S-3 the government is saying that we will have a sustainable fishery. I find it very hard to believe that we can have a sustainable fishery in Canada if we have reached a point where we cannot even report on the state of the species in our waters.

During debate in committee, we heard that the bill did not address the problem of the cuts made to Fisheries and Oceans Canada in recent budgets. The budget for monitoring illegal fishing, the focus of Bill S-3, was cut by $4.2 million. Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not have the tools to do what it is being asked to do in this bill. It is all well and good to say that we want a sustainable fishery, that we want to more closely monitor illegal fishing in Canada, but we need the tools for that. With budget cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, we suspect that our ability to perform these roles will diminish.

I would also like to point out that marine communications and traffic centres are being closed. The government wanted to close the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, but fortunately the NDP was there to defend it.

All of these valuable tools allow better surveillance of our waterways and illegal fishing. However, when these surveillance tools are eliminated, any legislation we pass becomes meaningless. We should reject bills that are of no real substance. There have been too many cuts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and this government has basically gutted the Fisheries Act. We all remember how much frustration there was when Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 passed.

Fishers, coastal communities and the fish processing industry are being asked more and more to be the only protection officers. They are being asked to do what Fisheries and Oceans Canada should be doing. All of those people pay taxes and expect certain services, but unfortunately, those services have been eliminated. The role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in coastal communities is diminishing every year, and now we have a bill before us that claims to increase surveillance of our waters. The people of my region would therefore be right to question how this is going to be done. How can our waters really be monitored with so many cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and, more importantly, the Canadian Coast Guard?

To come back to the bill and the amendments it will make, it is important to note that this bill is not just about surveillance and control. There are some aspects of the bill that we did not talk about today but that deserve our attention.

For example, the bill will change the definition of “fish” and add a definition of “crustacean” and other species that will now be subject to the protection regime set out in the international agreement signed through the United Nations. That is a good thing. We need to broaden the definition so that it covers more than just traditional products. Things are not at all like they were in the 1980s, when we could fish large quantities of cod. Crustaceans have become much more popular on the international market, and the government is right to add them to the definition to widen the jurisdiction.

However, where is the support? This year, coastal communities had a lot of problems because the winter was so cold. Unfortunately, the Canadian Coast Guard and icebreakers were not around very much to help coastal communities prepare for the shellfish season. In eastern Canada, the start of this fishing season was significantly delayed, which will affect the industry's profitability and the income of many fishers. We can do as much as we want to control illegal fishing, but if our fishers are the last ones to get their products on the international market and that market is already flooded with legal products from other countries, it will be difficult to remain competitive internationally.

The bill supposedly enhances protection for legal fishing, but fishers need certain tools in the field to benefit from that protection. I am wondering why this government believes that this bill will be enough to help coastal communities.

Even today, fishers in the Magdalen Islands think that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not consulted with them enough regarding a number of aspects of the fishery. That is something that I hear often. There is almost no consultation. Consultation was conducted fairly regularly on this bill. For example, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans examined it and heard from witnesses, which is a good thing. However, when it comes to consulting coastal communities on the real impacts of legal fishing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is basically missing in action.

I am very grateful to the parliamentary secretary and the members of the standing committee for studying this bill so thoroughly, but I would like them to go much further.

When the parliamentary committee is called on to discuss the impact of a bill on the other changes Canada has made to its laws, then maybe it should focus on that, especially on the changes made by Bills C-38 and C-45.

Let us come back to the bill before us today. The international fish trade is worth roughly $130 billion. International fishery is a highly valuable industry on the world market.

However, there is practically no illegal fishing in Canada according to testimony in committee. When departmental representatives were asked the question, they were unable to describe the extent of illegal fishing in Canada. They said it was hard to put a number to it because there were very few facts available and, if I understand correctly, little to no monitoring.

Again, we would be hard-pressed to improve our ability to monitor and quantify illegal fishing in Canada with this bill, if the resources are not on the ground to truly assess the extent of illegal fishing.

It is all well and good to give the minister discretionary power, but, to start with, the government always grants fishing vessels a licence. The licence request is key in ensuring that Canada can monitor and search a ship suspected of fishing illegally.

This bill goes in circles. I would have liked to see measures that were much more beneficial to the fishery.

The testimony in committee was given by a Fisheries and Oceans Canada representative, Allan MacLean, on March 12, 2015. That was not that long ago. A question was asked in English by an NDP member:

If the purpose of this is to prevent illegally caught fish from coming into Canada, don't you have any estimates on how much fish is coming into Canada, or any idea of what kind of problem it is, or the extent of this problem?

Mr. Rosser replied:

—it's hard to be certain about the level of illegal activity.

Once again, the department is simply not able to tell us the extent of the problem.

Today we are debating a bill that the parliamentary committee spent a lot of time studying, and the department itself cannot answer a simple question about the extent of the problem. The department does not even know.

I think it is important to ratify United Nations agreements, and I am pleased that the Conservatives are ratifying an agreement, because I think they have some reservations about ratifying UN international agreements. Nevertheless, they will do so with this bill and that is very good.

However, I do have to wonder something. If the government does not even know the extent of the problem, would it not be a good time to conduct an investigation? Should we not beef up resources at Fisheries and Oceans Canada so that the department can do the work this bill is asking it to do?

The government cut $4.2 million from surveillance, maintenance and marine traffic and rescue centres. We should beef up these resources. We are jeopardizing mariners' lives and the outcome and value of the fishery if we do not improve the resources at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Unfortunately this is not addressed in the bill, but the bill is a step in the right direction. The government should start investing in the fishery instead of just passing bills that have no substance.

March 30th, 2015 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Chief, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

Chief Steve Smith

Good morning, Mr. Chair and fellow committee members.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee this morning. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations fully support all statements made by the Council of Yukon First Nations and other first nations partners at the table today.

I'd like to open by telling you that my father was Elijah Smith. It was he who, some 43 years ago, presented the original Yukon land claim to then prime minister Pierre Trudeau. He was the driving force behind the negotiation of our land claim and self-government agreements. He served for six years in World War II. It was that experience which taught him that confrontation is always the last resort, and that negotiation and compromise have to be the preferred methods to settle grievances. This is the sentiment that Yukon first nations have always held when reconciling our claims. This ideal is something that we hope Canada and Yukon would subscribe to as well, not always having to settle disagreements in court.

Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. The unconstitutional bill demonstrates the federal government's unilateralism and lack of understanding of the relationships that arise from the final agreements, the federal government's failure to abide by the collaborative development assessment regime mandated by the final agreements, and the federal government's indifference to fostering productive and collaborative treaty relations with Yukon first nations. This is fundamentally unacceptable.

Our final agreements entailed a promise. They are modern treaties protected by section 35 of the Constitution. They are vehicles of reconciliation between first nations and Canada. The final agreements look backward to address historic grievances, and they also look forward to the future, towards evermore cooperative and collaborative relationships between Yukon first nations, Yukon, and Canada.

The final agreements represent a significant compromise, and they create a new constitutional arrangement in Yukon. Yukon first nations abandoned their claim to aboriginal title over 90% of their traditional territories, an area of almost 484,000 square kilometres roughly the size of Spain, in exchange for the commitments made in the final agreements. That was an enormous compromise.

The establishment of an independent development assessment regime created through negotiation and collaboration between first nations, Yukon, and Canada was one of the treaty commitments in the final agreements. YESAA was the means by which that commitment was fulfilled. YESAA is mandated by, and founded in, the final agreements. It is not an ordinary piece of federal legislation. It emerged from the constitutional compromise that underpins our final agreements

The final agreements required first nations, Yukon, and Canada to negotiate guidelines for drafting YESAA. We did so. We drafted the legislation and regulations together. Establishing YESAA was a success and a demonstration of the cooperation and reconciliation that our agreements demand.

YESAA is a made-in-Yukon law designed to meet the needs of Yukon first nations and Yukoners alike. It is unlike other assessment legislation in Canada because it is guided specifically by treaty obligations.

The federal government had an obligation to enact YESAA, but the federal government does not own YESAA. YESAA is not legislation that Canada may simply alter as it wishes. The federal government cannot unilaterally modify YESAA for its own benefit, or to suit its own preferences.

As we have said, we do not oppose all of the provisions of Bill S-6, but we oppose it unless the unilateral federal amendments to YESAA that undermine the spirit and intent of the final agreements are removed. The details of the changes we expect were identified in Chief Massie's opening remarks today and in our written submission.

By empowering itself to issue binding policy directions to the board, Canada would overturn the careful balance struck during the treaty negotiations and the subsequent constitutionally mandated negotiation of YESAA. By appropriating powers that imperil the board's independence, Canada imperils reconciliation.

In the final agreements, the parties agreed on the constitutionally protected framework for the creation of development assessment legislation in Yukon. Such legislation is to be drafted based on guidelines negotiated by parties, or failing agreement on guidelines, following consultations with first nations. Canada has failed to do that.

In short, Bill S-6 demonstrates Canada's disregard for its treaty commitments.

For development in Yukon to be successful, it must be sustainable. It must have social licence. It must have Yukon first nations' and Yukoners' support.

The final agreements and YESAA are designed to ensure sustainable development by, among other things, ensuring trust in the assessment process that leads to development. First nations trust the YESAA regime because they are co-creators and because they have the confidence that the assessment process is independent. By unilaterally amending YESAA in violation of its treaty commitments, Canada undermines first nations' trust in the YESAA process. This will undermine the promise of the agreements and threaten the ability of first nations to support development in our traditional territories.

Recent court decisions, such as the Peel land use planning case in the Yukon Supreme Court, the Tlicho injunction over changes to the land and water boards in the Northwest Territories earlier this year, and the Mikisew Cree case on the federal omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 demonstrate what happens when our treaties are threatened. That serves no one's interest.

In conclusion, the final agreements will never fulfill their purpose of reconciliation if the federal government persists on its path of unilateralism and disregard for the views of its treaty partners. Our treaty is as much about building relationships as it is about the settlement of past grievances. When Canada unilaterally undertakes major changes to treaty-mandated legislation without collaborating or even truly consulting with first nations, it inflames grievances and strains relations.

By going it alone, Canada has left the honour of the crown behind.

I would like to thank the committee members for their time today.

Kwä`nä`schis.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2015 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and participate in this debate on Bill C-628 and to bring a perspective from the east coast, one of Canada's other two coasts, as the member for Halifax West in Nova Scotia.

The bill calls for a ban on oil tanker traffic from the inland waters of Canada's Pacific north coast, which is a magnificent area that includes the Great Bear Rainforest, many species of wildlife, and runs of salmon. It is a magnificent area that is important to preserve and protect.

Coming from Halifax West as I do, I appreciate the strong desire that people have in British Columbia to protect coasts and coastal communities. I understand the concerns that many have with respect to the potential of supertankers, which are the very large crude carriers, or what are now called “VLCCs”. They carry far more oil than the Exxon Valdez carried when it went aground and leaked so much oil back in 1989. I think it is about eight times as much. People have very great concerns about tankers that huge travelling through such sensitive areas.

As I have said, I come from a coastal community, and we see the snow starting to melt in Nova Scotia. We have had an awful lot of snow this year. As my colleague says, I can dare to dream, but I am looking forward to the summer and kayaking along the coast of Newfoundland if I can get a little time away from the long campaign that we expect to start once the House rises.

I guess there is no surprise when we look at the situation and the position of the current government. First of all, it is difficult to understand why the Conservatives would not support the bill before us, but on the other hand, it should not be a surprise to anyone who has seen how the Conservative government has systematically dismantled so many critical environmental protections during what can only be described as a decade of devastation.

The proposed legislation closely resembles previous bills that have been brought forward to the House a number of times, the contents of which will be familiar to members. Of course, amendments to the Canada Shipping Act are the main focus of the bill before us. While much of this was in earlier legislation, there is one notable difference in Bill C-628, which is the addition of provisions to amend the National Energy Board Act to require the NEB to take into account certain factors before making a recommendation to the minister with regard to the issuance of a pipeline certificate. For example, one element of the bill asks the NEB to ensure that consultations on pipeline projects occur and to report on those consultations in its consideration of a project.

These consultations are more important than ever these days. I think we see today that even when the National Energy Board approves a project, it does not necessarily mean it is going ahead, because there is that question of social licence. One has to have a considerable amount of community support before moving forward with a natural resource project of any size. I think that is why it is so important that we develop greater confidence in the public in terms of the regulatory processes we have in this country as they relate to the approval of those projects and to environmental assessment.

Therefore, when the government has gutted the programs and the assessments in the way it has, it is a great concern. I look forward to discussing this aspect of Bill C-628. Hopefully when it goes to committee, as I hope it will, this aspect will get great discussion there as well.

However, the fact is that the government has undermined public trust around pipeline projects. In fact, I hope we hear more today from Conservative British Columbians, who will really share their views on this topic. I wonder if they will reflect on the fact that eight out of ten British Columbians are in favour of the kind of measures that are being proposed here and are opposed to ships carrying crude oil travelling through the waters we are talking about. That will be interesting.

Maybe they will explain why the government felt the need to change the National Energy Board process to further limit consultation about pipelines or to shorten the National Energy Board regulatory reviews to a maximum time limit of 15 months. The question is how this makes sense—that is, to limit the consultation of Canadians—when they are more engaged than ever before on these issues. Is it not a time to give them more opportunity to have a say?

We are not talking about foreign radicals, as was said by the Minister of Finance, who was or the Minister of Natural Resources at the time. That it is what members opposite want people to believe. In fact, National Energy Board officials testified recently before the natural resources committee, of which I am member, and said that the Canadian energy industry is in the midst of a “perfect storm”.

The NEB noted, in fact, that in March 2010, when the board released its Keystone XL decision, it was to relatively little fanfare, and there were only 29 intervenors in the process. We can contrast that with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which has 400 interveners and more than 1,300 commentators. Then there is the energy east application and the hearings related to that, where there are close to 2,300 application participants. We can see a great deal of public engagement these days, yet the government wants to cut that short.

When more and more Canadians are engaging in the debate about pipelines and pipeline safety, the Conservatives think they should have fewer and fewer opportunities to express their opinions. They are out of sync with Canadians on this, and certainly with British Columbians, as we can see from all the surveys that tell us about concerns British Columbians have on these topics. I think they are out of line.

In my province right now, the roads are in rough shape after the winter we have had. There are lots of potholes, and I am sure that more than one person over the course of this spring is going to have to pay for a wheel alignment to keep his or her vehicle going straight. Canadians are going to want a realignment of the Government of Canada as well, so that it is aligned with their priorities, views, and values, which the government clearly is not.

It makes no sense to cut this process short. That is a big part of the reason that there is so much mistrust of the government these days, and why there is so much mistrust of the processes that I have been talking about. Of course, the Conservatives have fed that mistrust by gutting elements of the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act in their several omnibus bills, particularly Bill C-38.

As my party's critic for natural resources, I am keenly aware of how important, and at times how highly controversial, the issue of pipelines has become for Canadians. Given the sustained interest on the subject of Bill C-628, the fact that we have had this issue come to us in various forms over the years, including in bills introduced by my colleague from Vancouver Quadra, and coupled with the Conservative government's rollbacks on environment protection in recent years, it is clear that additional study of the concepts raised in Bill C-628 is very much needed and warranted.

Many of my B.C. colleagues, including the sponsor of this legislation, have already spoken about how the bill would impact the west coast and how important it is to residents of northwestern British Columbia. Coming from Atlantic Canada, representing Halifax West, I can assure my friends on all sides that the folks on the east coast share the pride in maritime traditions and have a connection with the ocean similar to that of people in British Columbia.

Nova Scotia, for example, has 20 companies involved in our ocean research in areas like fisheries, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, maritime security, and shipbuilding. There are many areas in which Atlantic Canadians are connected to our oceans, as British Columbians are. It is important to support this bill and send it to committee for further study.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource DevelopmentPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a difficult act to follow, but I will do my best.

Motion No. 533 is very specific in what it requests. It talks about how the federal government, in exercising its jurisdiction, should be submitting natural resource development projects to a broader consultation with first nations and citizens in communities and urban areas. That is the breadth of what is being proposed here. It makes a very broad yet very succinct request of this House.

In addressing the motion, I would like to talk about the nature of public participation, the nature of environmental assessment processes and the aboriginal issues relating to that, and finally about projects in British Columbia that are before us today, namely the Enbridge northern gateway and the Kinder Morgan projects, a lens through which I hope to examine the failure of a credible public participation process—not only, as the motion said, for first nations, but also for citizens in our various communities.

There is a vision for a new energy future that the Leader of the Opposition has articulated in the Policy Options magazine in September and October last year. It is quite interesting, because in that article he starts by talking about the crossroads we are at when it comes to aboriginal involvement in development. He talks of the Supreme Court of Canada's watershed case in the Tsilhqot’in matter that has driven home the fact that resource development will simply not happen without proper first nations consultation and accommodation.

I stress the word “proper” because it is not a “nice to have”, as the government treats public participation; it is a constitutionally required activity, a consultation that is not just about counting boxes and putting little ticks beside them to confirm we have had a chat. It is about a genuine good faith engagement with first nations when resource development affects either their rights or aboriginal title. When I say “title”, of course that is the burden of the Tsilhqot’in case that has been such a watershed development in our part of the world and across Canada.

Let us remember that in the Haida decision, the Supreme Court of Canada said:

Prior to establishment of title, the Crown is required to consult in good faith with any Aboriginal groups asserting title to the land about proposed uses of the land and, if appropriate, accommodate the interests of such claimant groups.

In comparison, the court was clear in Tsilhqot’in that after aboriginal title has been established, the default focus is consent:

After Aboriginal title to land has been established by court declarations or agreement, the Crown must seek the consent of the title-holding Aboriginal group....

What has the Government of Canada done in response to that? What has it done in response to the excellent report by its hand-picked appointee, Mr. Douglas Eyford, who worried that projects are failing because industry has been left alone to navigate the consultation and accommodation process? The government has done nothing. It has left us with a vacuum. It has left us with projects that may or may not be in the public interest but will never proceed, because first nations have not had the constitutional rights accorded to them by the current government.

The government first tried to download it to industry, which pushed right back and said that it was the honour of the crown that was at issue and that industry was not the crown. That has been a bit of a dead end, and it is tying up development that may be in the public interest across this land. It is simply shameful.

The ultimate form of consultation in our province is called the treaty process. This past week we heard that the Government of British Columbia is essentially walking away from the BC Treaty Commission. It cannot seem to find a person to appoint to that process.

Has the Government of Canada been yelling from the rooftops that it is committed to this process, that it has spent billions of dollars trying to engage first nations in unceded land and that through the process of good faith negotiations, it is trying to address those land claims? The answer is no. I have not heard the government say one thing about the crisis facing the BC Treaty Commission. I have heard Chief Sophie Pierre say it and I have heard Jerry Lampert, the federal appointee on the commission, say it, but I have not heard the Prime Minister or a single parliamentarian address that crisis.

It is a crisis not only because billions have been spent, but because that is the way in which we truly engage with first nations to achieve resource development that is meaningful and in the interests of not just the first nations communities but the people of Canada. It is a crying shame the Conservatives seem to have let that wither on the vine.

Douglas Eyford, whom the government appointed after the debacle of the Enbridge process, recommended a special fund for consultation with first nations. That dies this year. The government will not bring a budget forward and we do not know whether it will be continued and, if so, to what degree. That is another example of the lack of concern the Conservatives have for engaging in what the courts have termed “nation-to-nation consultation” with our first nations communities.

It is no wonder this motion was brought forward to demand that this occur. It is not only in the interest of first nations, it is in the interest of all Canadians that the process of reconciliation, which the Supreme Court has demanded of us, be finally addressed, and it is not.

I could spend time on first nations and more so, but I want to talk about the environmental assessment process.

Everyone knows that Bill C-38 gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We heard that loud and clear in the travesty of the Enbridge northern gateway consultation process. Over 130 first nations across British Columbia announced their opposition. Nearly 10,000 Canadians told the joint review panel that they opposed this project. Towns and cities across Canada oppose it. The community of Kitimat, in a referendum, told the people of Canada that they did not want any of this. Was it approved? Yes. The Government of Canada did not seem to care. So much for consultation. The level of cynicism that the Conservatives have engendered in the people of my province is absolutely tangible.

When we talk to younger Canadians about their engagement in the process, they say “Why bother?” The Conservatives create these little processes and ignore them. It does not matter how many people speak out because it does not seem to make any difference.

If we get into a protest, for example on Burnaby Mountain, and Grand Chief Stewart Philip is arrested, he tells us that under the new and improved national security legislation, his advocacy, protest and dissent will not be in that context lawful because it is subject to an injunction and that he will somehow be on a terrorist list. So much for participation in that project.

What the Conservatives do not seem to get is that they cannot proceed with resource development that may well be in everyone's interest unless they get a social licence. People in our province are having none of these projects because they realize the process by which they are being reviewed completely ignores the consultation that is required.

That is why I was so proud to stand in this place and support a bill introduced by my colleague, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Bill C-628. It would, among other things, absolutely improve the level of consultation that this motion would require us to do. One of the things that bill would do would require a report to be submitted to a joint review panel or National Energy Board, as the case may be, that would include a summary of those positions taken by municipalities, first nations and individuals and specify how the board took each position into account in deciding whether to recommend the issuance of a certificate for a pipeline. Accountability is about that. It is ensuring what people say actually matters. That is why they would be unable to ignore the 10,000 people opposed to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline proposal. Yet the government has the audacity to simply say no problem going ahead.

Closer to home, in my community, we have another proposal coming forward, and that is the famous Kinder Morgan project, in which Trans Mountain's application to double its pipeline and radically increase the number of tankers on our coast is being considered. How can the proponent ever achieve the social licence required when so many people have said that the process of consultation is broken?

The former head of BC Hydro, in a scathing letter, withdrew, saying it was a joke. Standing is being restricted to those “directly affected, reducing the number and diversity of interveners and limiting the participation to a single letter”. That is of course is subject to a charter lawsuit claiming it violates freedom of expression.

Consequently, that is another example of why the motion is so desperately required that government can begin to take consultations seriously so it would improve the life of not only first nations, but all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Environmental impacts of microbeadsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2015 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about microbeads or small plastic beads in consumer products, which enter our environment and can have serious harmful effects.

The United Nations Environment Programme looked at plastic waste in the ocean in 2011. Since then, concern has grown over microplastics, particles up to five millimetres in diameter, either manufactured or created when plastic breaks down. Fish, mussels, seabirds and sea plankton ingest microplastics and that is harmful.

A growing concern is the increasing use of microplastics in consumer products, namely microbeads in facial cleansers, gels and toothpaste, which are released into rivers, lakes and the oceans. Microbes have been discovered on microplastics at multiple locations in the North Atlantic. This so-called plastisphere can help the transport of harmful algae species, microbes and pathogens. Microplastics are also a threat to larger organisms such as the endangered northern right whale.

Closer to home, scientists have found millions of these microbeads in just one square kilometre of parts of our Great Lakes as a result of a number of companies adding them to their consumer products. Sometimes microbeads are used to help exfoliate the skin. Other times they are added to products to make them sparkle.

Research by the Institute for Environmental Studies found that a 200-millilitre bottle contained as much as 21 grams of microplastics, or roughly one-tenth of its weight. Microbeads are commonly made of polyethylene or polypropylene and they range in size from .0004 to 1.24 millimetres, making them too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants. As a result, these tiny beads pass through our wastewater treatment filters and end up in our lakes and rivers.

These beads are often buoyant and can soak up toxins like a sponge. Since they resemble the size of fish eggs, environmentalists are concerned that the microplastics are making their way into the food chain via fish, birds and mammals. Scientists have recently raised alarm, warning that microbeads might have harmful effects on human health. For example, some evidence suggests that microbeads can absorb persistent organic pollutants.

Research spanning all five Great Lakes was undertaken in 2012 and 2013. Unlike in the ocean where the researchers found “confetti-like” bits of degraded plastic up to five millimetres in size, the researchers trawling the Great Lakes found large amounts of really tiny plastic fragments and beads up to one millimetre. As they followed the flow of the water through the Great Lakes, the plastic count increased. The highest concentration was found in Lake Ontario with counts of up to 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometre.

There is increasing momentum in the United States to get microbeads out of products. Last year, Illinois became the first state to pass legislation that would outright ban the sale of personal care products that contain microbeads by the end of 2019. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said:

Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow. Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources.

Chemist Sherri Mason, an associate professor at the State University of New York, who conducted the first study that found microbeads floating in the Great Lakes, said that while she is glad to see Illinois leading the way, she is troubled by the far-off deadline. She said, “The later date means more microbeads are going down the drain before we're really taking the measures that need to be taken”.

Just this week, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation, making New Jersey the second state in the United States to ban the substances. The law prohibits the manufacturing, sale and promotion in the state of any personal care product with microbeads made from polyethylene.

Senator Christopher Bateman said:

By signing this bill into law, we are placing our state at the forefront of a national effort to eliminate the dangers this product poses to our environment and our water supply.... The only way to keep our drinking water safe and protect our beautiful rivers and lakes is to stop production and get these items off the shelves.

The law would be phased in, beginning with a ban on the production of products containing microbeads in January 2018. By January 2020, people would be prohibited from selling or promoting over-the-counter products containing the substances.

According to Environmental Defence, “A ban is looking promising in Indiana and lawmakers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Maine, California, New York, Ohio and Washington State have also considered, or are considering, new laws banning the beads”.

To reiterate, in the United States, two states, Illinois and New Jersey, have passed laws banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. Nine other states are considering similar measures. In Canada, a private member's bill to ban microbeads has been introduced in Ontario's legislature, but neither the federal government nor the other provinces have taken similar action.

In addition to legislative action, the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of Canadian and U.S. mayors from 114 cities along the water bodies, has raised awareness about the microbead problem within their communities and pushed companies to eliminate them from their products. “We think we've done a pretty good job”, said executive director David Ullrich, though he acknowledges, “there is always more that the initiative could be doing”.

CBC reported in June 2014 that a number of personal care product manufacturers have promised to cut microbeads from their products in the coming years, but dates vary.

In January 2015, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Netherlands issued a joint call to ban the microplastics used in personal care products, saying the measure will protect marine ecosystems and seafood, such as mussels, from contamination. The joint statement was forwarded to the European Union's 28 environment ministers and stated that the elimination of microplastics in products and, in particular, in cosmetics “is of utmost priority”.

According to UNEP:

Although it is evident that alternatives to microplastics are available, hundreds of tons of microplastics are still being released onto the EU market each year. The Netherlands is particularly worried because of concerns that seafood--including its national production of mussels--could suffer from micro-plastic pollution.

“There is a still a large degree of uncertainty but what we already know gives us cause for concern,” the Netherlands state in its call for action. “In this case, the precautionary principle applies.”

Governments from around the world present at the first UN Environment Assembly adopted a resolution on marine plastic debris and microplastics. They called for strengthened action, in particular by addressing such materials at the source and requested UNEP to present scientific assessments on microplastics for consideration by the next session of the Assembly.

UNEP through the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is also supporting initiatives such as the “Beat the Microbead”--a phone application that allows consumers to quickly identify personal care products containing microbeads--in its efforts to reduce influx of waste in the marine environment.

Concern is growing over the threat that widespread plastic waste poses to marine life, with conservative estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems standing at U.S. $13 billion each year.

The UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director said:

Plastics have come to play a crucial role in modern life, but the environmental impacts of the way we use them cannot be ignored. These reports show that reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits--from reducing economic damage to marine ecosystems and the tourism and fisheries industries, vital for many developing countries, to bringing savings and opportunities for innovation to companies while reducing reputational risks.

...in the polar regions, scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic trapped in sea ice. Transported by ocean currents across great distances, these contaminated particles eventually become a source of chemicals in our food. The key course of action is to prevent plastic debris from entering the environment in the first place, which translates into a single, powerful objective: reduce, reuse, recycle.

There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste: illness or death when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles; entanglement of animals such as dolphins and whales; and damage to critical habitat such as coral reefs. There are also concerns about chemical contamination, invasive species spread by plastic fragments and economic damage to the fishery, fishing and tourism industries in many countries.

What recommendations have been put forth to address this issue?

Companies should monitor their plastic use and publish the results in annual reports. Companies could commit to reducing the environmental impact of plastics through clear targets and deadlines, and innovate to increase resource efficiency and recycling. There should be an increased focus on awareness campaigns to discourage littering and prevent plastic waste from reaching the ocean. There should be an application that allows consumers to check whether a product contains microbeads. This is already available and is expanding its coverage internationally.

This is a motion that the NDP brought forward. We heard today that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment is asking people to support this motion. It is important.

Since plastic particles can be ingested by marine organisms and potentially accumulate and deliver toxins through the food web, efforts should be stepped up to fill the knowledge gap.

These beads are affecting our water. The plastics absorb dangerous chemicals and are ingested by fish and other wildlife, causing DNA damage and even death. The link between the problem and the cause is clear. The beads found in the Great Lakes were tested and were found to have come from products like body wash, facial cleansers and toothpaste.

Microbeads is an important issue and this is an important debate. It is really positive to see this Parliament coming together and recognizing this problem. We have not always agreed when it comes to the environment. The government does not have a positive record when it comes to the environment.

The 2008 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009 and again in 2013, The Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrial nations on environmental performance.

In 2010, Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. It is important that we are coming together and that everyone is saying that microbeads are an important issue.

The government also gutted environmental legislation of the last 50 years through economic plans 2012 and 2013, and Bills C-38 and C-45. It severely cut the budget to Environment Canada and cancelled the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Government scientists have been muzzled. The government's environmental policies have been criticized by policymakers, scientists, Canadians and the international community, and repeatedly by the prestigious international journal, Nature.

Water is the foundation of life, and it is essential for socio-economic systems and healthy ecosystems. The World Bank states that “Water is at the center of economic and social development” and is elemental across economic sectors, including agriculture, energy and industry. The government stripped federal oversight from thousands of Canadian waterways through Bill C-45 and reduced the protection of thousands of Canadian lakes.

Going forward, Canada needs a national water strategy, and our country is well placed to become a global leader in water. For example, the Canadian Water Network, a national network of centres of excellence, can address practical challenges to be a source of new start-up companies and train the next generation of researchers and skilled workers.

Canada also has a relatively high level of water infrastructure regulation and water management systems. The most recent Conference Board of Canada report on the environment ranks Canada 4th of 17 peer countries in water quality. Canada also has a growing number of competitive water companies providing goods and services to world markets.

I thank the NDP for bringing this forward. I thank the parliamentary secretary for asking everyone to support this motion. I also hope the government will work to protect Canada's coastline, establish a network of marine protected areas in Canada's waters, encourage the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, prioritize clean water, restore our freshwater ecosystems, work to clean up contaminated sediment, and protect and restore essential habitats.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

February 17th, 2015 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this bill. I have heard my hon. colleagues from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and Malpeque, and I agree with much of what they said. I will try to avoid repeating the good points that they made and focus in on why I agree that this bill is so very lacking.

The essential difficulty goes beyond the fact that the bill does not address the serious problems within our prisons or the issue of drugs and addiction in any way that would make a meaningful difference. The essential difficulty—and this is something that bears repeating—is that as with so many bills in this place, the legislation coming at us has not been designed through the lens of someone who wants to improve public policy in an area for which the federal government has jurisdiction but rather through the lens of someone designing a brochure for the next election campaign. The titles are whiz-bang, the claims are extravagant, and the bills themselves are, in some cases, wide-ranging and disastrous, as in the case of the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38.

In the case of this bill, it has an overreaching title. Of course, who would not agree that it would be a good thing to have drug-free prisons? The title of the bill is the drug-free prisons act. In a grand total of five clauses, one of which is “This Act may be cited as the Drug-Free Prisons Act” , we have a regime that would require an offender who has already been granted parole to be subjected to a request for a urine analysis. If they refuse or test positive, the bill would then have this information referred to the Parole Board to determine whether the parole should still be granted.

There are a lot of things wrong with this idea just as a practical matter. For one thing, the Parole Board already has the power to take into consideration whether an offender is currently drug-addicted or has substance abuse issues that would affect whether they will reoffend.

The nature of urinalysis testing is that some drugs will be detected for quite a long time after the offender's use of that drug, whereas other drugs could be in and out of the offender's system rather quickly. For instance, we could have an offender in prison who was a cannabis user. That drug would still show up a long time after the last use. However, if the offender had been using cocaine, it would disappear within two days. The bill does not actually address the question of whether we are releasing someone who has a drug addiction onto the streets; rather, it answers the question of particular drugs.

As it has been pointed out by witnesses before the committee, the bill would certainly do nothing about someone with an alcohol abuse problem. In terms of the percentage of dangerous offences committed by somebody misusing alcohol versus using cannabis, I cannot tell members how often I have talked to RCMP officers who tend to relax when they approach a house and are told to be very careful because someone in there has been smoking marijuana. I have heard this story from so many of them. However, if they are told to be careful because someone in the house has been drinking heavily, they worry, because the tendency is a violent reaction.

I am not encouraging marijuana use, but when we talk about violent criminal acts, alcohol is a serious problem. This bill would do absolutely nothing to determine if this is someone who might reoffend because of a substance abuse issue that relates to alcohol.

Let us talk about the state of our prisons. We have had some claims made so far in the debate today, but I found statistics online from the Correctional Service of Canada and from the Correctional Investigator's report that were not in recent evidence before the committee, and they indicate that between 1997 and 2008, the percentage of offenders in Canadian prisons who were dealing with mental health issues doubled. The issue of mental health in the prison population is more prevalent today than it was in 1997.

Substance abuse issues are often linked to mental health issues. This point has been made, including in the debate today. The problem with substance abuse and people with mental health issues who self-medicate to try to deal with their own demons in the absence of counselling and help is that they turn to drug addiction.

Quite a significant proportion of people in the prison system were really in need of mental health assistance, support, counselling, and treatment before they entered the prison population, and are still in need of it as they leave the prison population. Some of those people are also, as an aspect of their mental health issues, dealing with substance abuse and addiction.

We have heard it claimed here today by the parliamentary secretary that we should be extremely satisfied to hear that $9 million was spent this year on addiction counselling for substance abuse in Canadian prisons. I am happy to accept the $9 million figure, but if we go online and look up Correctional Service Canada, we see that $11 million was spent on substance abuse in 2008-09. From the testimony of Conservative members of Parliament, we know that $2 million less is being spent this year than four years ago, and we also know that the prison population has been growing in that time. We also know from earlier statistics that the trend lines show that more offenders in our prison system have mental health and addiction issues than a decade ago.

I could speculate as to why that is. We do know that cutbacks, which I lament and which I know a lot of Conservative members of Parliament have raised while I have been here as a member of Parliament, to kill the deficit back in the 1990s, the cuts to transfers to provinces, downloaded a lot of problems on provincial governments, including cuts to a lot of mental health services. We transferred a lot of social problems from mental health services at the provincial level to the people who were essentially living on the streets, which I think has contributed to the fact that the offender population with mental health issues has gone up.

What on earth would this bill do to improve the situation? The answer is absolutely nothing. Not one more dime will go to mental health treatment or addiction counselling. Nothing will improve the situation for either the offender population or public safety under this bill. This bill pretends that we are doing something about drugs in prison, because it will make a good brochure for the next election campaign. It does nothing for the prison population. It does nothing for public safety.

To confirm that point, I turn to the evidence of Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I know that some of Mr. Sapers' testimony has already been referenced by members of the official opposition and the Liberal Party, but I do want to draw attention to a number of his conclusions. He points out the following:

Four out of five offenders arrive at a federal institution with a past history of substance abuse and dependancy. The use of alcohol and drugs is a criminal risk factor for a significant proportion of the offender population; however, urinalysis testing is ineffectual in monitoring or reducing the risk linked to alcohol use and dependency.

I want to underscore this. This remedy this bill puts forward will not create drug-free prisons—and the text of the bill in fact makes no pretence to having anything to do with drug-free prisons but rather punishing someone at the point of parole who might test positive—and will do nothing about one of the largest criminal risk factors, which is alcohol dependency.

When looking at this issue, we know that we need an integrated, coordinated program throughout Correctional Service Canada to redouble our efforts. This ties into another issue that has been raised recently, that some of the prison population can be radicalized to terrorist ideology when they are in prison. These are people in desperate need of mental health services and addiction counselling.

Specifically, the shooter who broke in here on October 22 had earlier begged a judge back in 2012 in a Vancouver courtroom to send him for addiction counselling, to send him to a place that could help him with mental health counselling. I believe that if we had had those services in place, we might have saved two lives on that day. Most particularly and most importantly, we could have saved the life of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, had his attacker got the help he desperately needed.

We cannot second guess these things but should be investing in mental health treatment, counselling, addiction services, and in making sure that offenders in our prison system are treated in ways that would allow them to re-enter society as contributing citizens. We should not be finding ways to deny them parole at the last minute.

I close with these words of Howard Sapers:

A better and more cost-effective way to prevent crime is to put more of our limited resources into addiction treatment and prevention programs. Zero-tolerance or punitive-based approaches to drug use and abuse and addiction simply do not work in prison.

Let us be smart. Let us do what needs to be done. Drug-free prisons are a fine goal, but the bill is a fraud on the goals the Canadian public will be told that the bill serves.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will take your good counsel on this matter.

To further debate on this bill, it is very important that the government understand that environmental protection is a fundamental obligation of this House. We need to ensure that our environment is going to be there for future generations. We all want to benefit from its wealth, from the bounty it brings us, but we need to do it in full consultation and full agreement with the people who live on those lands.

The current government has had extreme difficulty in being able to bring forward legislation that brings this consultation process to the fore. We need to recall previous bills that this side of the House certainly had a lot of difficulty with, such as Bill C-38, which gutted environmental protections in this country. We see with this bill that we are again going in the same direction.

Environmental protection is an obligation; it is a duty on our part. We want to ensure that resources remain. We want to ensure that people can continue to benefit from the wealth that this land brings us. It is not simply a theoretical question. In my riding, when we speak to environmental protection, we are talking about the fundamental industries that make my riding economically viable: the forestry industry, the fishing industry, the mining industry. We need those environmental protections so that future generations can exploit those resources and, unfortunately, Bill C-38 scrapped those.

With Bill S-6, we have a situation where those who live in Yukon have challenged this legislation insofar as they have not been consulted adequately. In fact, there have been threats of legal action against this bill. I sometimes wonder if the current government is not simply here to ensure that lawyers have as much work as possible challenging its bills before the courts. Let us remember that the Supreme Court, over and over again, has identified that the duty to consult is not a duty to be trifled with.

My colleague recently mentioned that the courts, in June of this year, came up with even stronger language. The court has made it clear that the government not only has a duty to consult but has a duty to accommodate. The duty increases with the responsibility and the rights of first nations on their land. In the case of this bill, we have a number of first nations representatives who have told us precisely why they do not agree with this bill.

A few representatives of first nations have been very clear. I will start with Mary Jane Jim, councillor from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. She has already testified and has said very clearly that in her opinion there are concerns regarding Bill S-6. They are subject to the matters raised during the five-year review. It is her view that the Yukon environmental assessments have been operating effectively and efficiently since 2003, but that Bill S-6 would amend this process so that the proposed Bill S-6 would breach the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate with respect to the proposed changes to YESAA.

Mary Jane Jim goes on to point out that:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with amendments to the YESAA. These are matters that were not discussed or raised during the five-year review or, in the case of the amendment that would create exemptions for project renewals and changes, contradict agreements reached during the five-year review.

This is the opinion of one person, a representative of first nations. I am going to bring more testimony that was brought to the fore already, to the other House.

Let us be clear. The representatives of first nations are dissatisfied with this bill. This bill does not go far enough in consulting first nations, nor does it go far enough in protecting the environment. It was done in a secretive way. There are a number of organizations that feel that the five-year review process was not respected and they were not allowed the input not only that they were expecting but also that we are duty-bound to supply.

The Nunavut Water Board, for instance, has a number of concerns. It has already brought forward possible amendments; one of them being the question of anticipated duration, which Mary Jane Jim, the councillor from the first nations, has already brought forward in the testimony I just cited. The question of the anticipated duration of appurtenant undertaking is a very ambiguous statement.

The question from the board's perspective is that there is an absence of regulatory definition of what is an anticipated duration, what it means, and it seems to create confusion regarding enforcement. What is an anticipated duration of any project? One would have a hard time defining that from the get-go.

The difficulty is that, if there had been an adequate process of consultation, maybe these issues would have been addressed in the first place.

The problem, again, with the current government is that it is in a terrible hurry to adopt legislation, it does not take the time to consult, and it comes up with legislation that is often flawed, forcing many organizations to bring legislation to tribunals and, ultimately, possibly even the Supreme Court—a very costly, time-consuming undertaking—when in fact it would have been simpler and much more effective if the consultation had been done properly in the first place.

I would like to comment on an issue that the member for Hochelaga also brought forward, that there seems to be a strong sense, a strong flavour of paternalism in the way we deal with first nations, in the way we deal with our territories. When we do not have adequate consultation, the solutions are made in Ottawa and imposed upon people in the north.

Why would we not take the time to bring their concerns forward and have them properly addressed and accommodated for?

The consultation process is not simply a theory where we put up a website and wait for comments to come in. There is an obligation to bring those concerns forward, to address them, and to accommodate them to the extent we are legally obligated, and more. The obligation here is to respect first nations' rights and respect our environment in the long term.

Unfortunately, we seem to making legislation that brings the possibility of exploiting our natural resources at the first possible occasion and in the quickest way to make a buck. However, that is not a long-term view. That is a view that can only bring us forward for a few months, for a few years, but in the long run, we all end up losers in that process.

We should really be looking at why we put in the YESAA in the first place. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has a reason to exist and it was done through partnership. We brought this legislation forward in partnership with our first nations. We brought it forward in partnership with those who live in the Yukon.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, we have decided that it is much more efficient—and it is certainly not my view, but it seems to be the view of the current government—to just bring down legislation as fast as possible, to use the language of the parliamentary secretary, to “knuckle under”, if we do not allow the process to just be steamrolled forward.

I do not see this as a confrontation. “Knuckle under” sounds awfully violent to me. In fact, we should be looking at a process that is conciliatory, a process that is understanding of people's concerns and that takes the time that it takes to bring legislation that upholds our rights and obligations.

There should not be a massive hurry to exploit our resources. They are not going anywhere. We need to be doing this carefully. We need to be doing this properly. We can only extract a resource once. We cannot extract it over and over again. Let us do it properly, let us do it right, and let us do in full respect of our first nations.

When it comes to what we should be doing, we should have a broad public consultation process, not a process that seems to breach the five-year review that we are legally obligated to bring forward. The YESAA should be operating effectively and efficiently, but at this point it does not seem that the amendments that are being brought forward by this bill would support the process that was put in, in the first place.

When it comes to our NDP leader from Yukon, Ms Liz Hanson, she made a very good point at the Yukon legislature, I thought, where we need a relationship built upon dialogue and respect.

She pointed out that 11 years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management, that this was an important step in Yukon's history and that it was crucial to Yukon's ability to determine its own future, one that was grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon first nation governments and the Yukon government.

With the proposed changes that the YESAA brought forward, there was a made in Yukon solution for a made in Yukon economy. It was a made in Yukon proposal that was adopted by those who lived in Yukon. Today we have a relationship that does not seem to be based on dialogue and respect. It seems that we are trying to barrel it through.

There was an editorial in Yukon News in June, 2014, around the same time the Supreme Court came down with the ruling that amplified our duties and obligations to first nations. I would like to quote this editorial from Yukon News on June 13. It said:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics.

The newspaper goes on to say “shame on them”.

I have difficulty with a process that does not seem to have widespread support and that does not seem to reflect the obligation of consultation.

Let us go back to some discussions that were brought forward by the leader of the Council of Yukon First Nations. Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, who pointed out, “The Council of Yukon First Nations reiterates that the five-year review has not been completed”. Are we respecting our terms, agreements and the obligations? According to the Council of Yukon First Nations, the answer to that is a clear no.

There are three issues that the Yukon first nations say remain outstanding. It is worth mentioning what they are.

The first is:

Future Review: It is expected that the YESAA process will require adjustments to deal with future circumstances and ensure effectiveness and efficiency. Some provisions have not been operational. Therefore, it would be prudent for the parties to commit to undertake another review of the YESAA process in the future.

We need to have continuous reviews and input to ensure our legislation stands up. We need adequate funding for Yukon first nations. This is something we have heard frequently in the House. The government seems to impose obligations on first nations, especially lately. It seems to be imposing obligations that are very onerous. They are obligations that we do not even impose upon ourselves, yet we do not give the first nations the capacity to meet them effectively.

Going back to the testimony that was brought forward by the Council of Yukon First Nations, it says:

If the YESAA process is to operate effectively and efficiently, Yukon First Nations must have the resources to fulfill their duties and participate fully in the assessment of projects within their respective traditional territories. Due to the significant increase in the number, scale and complexity of projects proposed in certain areas of the Yukon Territory, this issue has been raised repeatedly by the Council of Yukon First Nations.

The third point that the Council of Yukon First Nations wish to underline and address as a strong objection to the bill is the engagement with affected Yukon first nations. It said:

The CYFN has proposed that a territorial or federal decision body must engage with the Yukon First Nation when it is considering recommendations from the executive committee or a designated office with respect to projects that may affect its Aboriginal treaty rights, titles and interests. This engagement must take place prior to the issuance of a decision document.

This is probably the one that is of greatest concern to me. I do not understand, knowing what the Supreme Court has said over and over again about our duty to consult and to accommodate, how it is possible that first nations are coming back and saying, yet again, that we should be consulting with them before we impose a decision upon them.

I thought that was made clear by the Supreme Court of Canada. I thought the government actually listened to the laws of this land. We are certainly very busy legislating in this place, but we do not seem to be taking the time to read in this place.

I would really enjoy hearing from government members as to why first nations of our country continuously repeat that they are not being heard. The consultation process is clearly inadequate. From the readings I make of the Supreme Court of Canada rulings, it agrees with first nations on this point. They simply are not being heard as far as our obligations toward them is concerned. First nations have the right to be heard and they have the right to expect that we will accommodate them. Unfortunately, we seem to be steamrolling decisions that do not accommodate them, making it possible for companies to come in and exploit the resources regardless of local concerns.

It is a poison chalice when companies come in and try to exploit a resource without adequate consultation and without adequate local support. Ultimately, the process becomes flawed and those companies must expend enormous resources to backpedal in order to compensate for the lack of work that was done by the government with its legislation. We should not be imposing that kind of burden on our resource companies. We should help them to adequately, properly and respectfully exploit our resources so that long-term benefits can be had by all.

There is no reason why we all cannot benefit from our resources, but unfortunately the Conservative government insists that it knows better than anyone else and steamrolls legislation through at all costs and with all speed. The fact that today two motions were brought to this place regarding time allocation speaks to the fact that the government just simply does not want to take the time to listen.

Bill S-6 proposes amendments that were not even discussed with the Council of Yukon First Nations. This is reason for deep concern. How is it possible that the Council of Yukon First Nations was not consulted regarding the modifications? The Conservatives say that they consulted hundreds of people in Yukon regarding this legislation, and I am happy they have.

However, the Conservatives seem to have side-stepped consultation when it comes to representatives of first nations. I do not understand their reasoning for this. If the Council of Yukon First Nations is saying that it is not being heard, then I suspect this bill is probably yet another one that will be brought before the courts because of its inadequate consultation process. Ultimately, bad consultation means bad legislation. We are not going to have the proper safeguards in place and we are not going to see the benefits being shared as they should.

We should stop being paternalistic in this place. Yukon has the right to govern itself. We have had that discussion in the House. There seems to be agreement in principle that Yukon should have much more autonomy than it has now. Unfortunately, with Bill S-6, we seem to be turning the clock back to a process where the House will decide for first nations and for Yukoners what is best for them. I do not agree with that process.

It is important that we take time to reflect on this legislation. I would like to hear from the parliamentary secretary. I would like to hear from all members of the House. I would especially like to hear any comments that the member for Yukon might have regarding the legislation.

Motions in amendmentEconomic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

December 2nd, 2014 / 11 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for taking the floor. I have read the bill carefully and I have to agree with my friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. However, it is in the tradition of this place to both force down omnibus budget bill measures and to debate things that are not in them. On Bill C-38, we often heard from ministers of the Crown about sections of the bill that did not in fact exist.

November 18th, 2014 / 9:15 a.m.
See context

Mostafa Askari Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, Economic and Fiscal Analysis, Library of Parliament

Thank you.

Good morning, Chair, Vice-Chair, and members of the committee.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today.

I will make a few brief remarks to set the context for the questions that you may have regarding the small business job credit.

While PBO shares parliamentarians' concerns with the cost-effectiveness of the small business job credit in improving employment outcomes, I would like to stress the importance of the bigger picture.

This proposal and any proposal that would affect the premium rate paid by employers or employees acts against the legislation that has been established over recent years for the purpose of detaching the EI program from discretionary policy decisions and ensuring that the contributions from workers are used only for expenses of the EI program.

Following a number of interventions in the premium-rate setting process, in 2012, Bill C-38 provided for the premium rate to move to a 7-year break-even rate after the account came into balance. The Economic Action Plan Act, No. 2, 2013, Bill C-4, amended the Employment Insurance Act to freeze the EI premium rate at $1.88 in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The policy announcement was accompanied by a report from the chief actuary updating the status of the EI operating account.

With the data in this report, PBO was able to show that barring a significant unexpected economic decline, a rate of 1.88 in 2015 and 2016 would be a premium rate increase compared to the rates that would have been set prior to Bill C-4, and that it would contribute considerable extra revenue to the budget outlook over the period of 2015-16 to 2016-17.

The PBO reported this in its fall economic and fiscal outlook update on October 25, 2013, and updated it in its October 2014 economic and fiscal update.

The government has never provided an explanation for why the premium rate is set well above the level required to eliminate the surplus in the EI operating account in 2015 and 2016 or why the break-even rate is not set immediately after the account goes into surplus in 2015. This is contrary to the government's stated objective of having a transparent premium-rate setting process.

It is important to underline that, given the requirement that the premium rate is set to balance the operating account over a seven-year period, any changes to the premium rate now must be offset by a change in the opposite direction later, and any impact that the rate change has on job creation today will be offset in the future. This applies to the small business job credit.

According to the PBO's estimate, this measure has a small temporary impact on the level of employment of 800 jobs in 2016, but this increase will be offset by a slightly higher than required EI premium rate for all employers and employees when the government sets the seven-year break-even rate in 2017 or earlier.

I am pleased to answer any questions you may have on this topic.

Thank you.