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.

Canada's Oil and Gas SectorEmergency Debate

November 28th, 2018 / 10:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was one part of the member's speech with which I completely agreed, and that is that the experience of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is the worst horror movie anyone could imagine, and it just keeps getting worse.

I want to put in her mind this notion, because I followed the process carefully. I was an intervenor. Every single step that led to the Federal Court of Appeal quashing that permit was virtually in concrete before the election. The NEB process was set up under Bill C-38 rules, and the process was moving in that direction. The advice from the NEB panel would not have been different if Stephen Harper had still been prime minister, and I doubt that the cabinet under Harper would have done anything different than what the cabinet under the current Prime Minister did, which was ignore the flaws and approve the pipeline.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders

June 18th, 2018 / 8:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would say this to the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. I remember the fight we had in the 41st Parliament with respect to Bill C-51, the so-called Anti-terrorism Act, which I believe made Canada much less safe. It is hard for me to actually vote for Bill C-59 now, especially when I hear his very good arguments.

However, I will tell him why I am going to vote for Bill C-59. I am very relieved to see improvements to what I thought were the thought-chill provisions in Bill C-51, the rules against the promotion of unexplained terrorism “in general”. There are big improvements to the no-fly list. However, there are not enough improvements, for my taste, to the ability of CSIS to take kinetic action. The big failure in Bill C-59 in front of us is the information sharing around what Canadians are doing with other governments.

The irony for me is that the Liberals voted for Bill C-51 in the 41st Parliament and voted against the destruction of environmental assessments in Bill C-38. Ironically, I think they have done a better job now of fixing the bill they voted for than of fixing the bill they voted against, at least as far as environmental assessments go. Therefore, I am voting against Bill C-69 on environmental assessments. However, I am voting for Bill C-59. I am influenced a lot by Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who overall think this is an improvement. I do too, overall. However, it does not fix everything Bill C-51 did to make us less safe.

I appreciate the member's thoughtful analysis, and I am going to vote for it, but with misgivings.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard referenced a number of times in this place that municipalities across Canada were upset with the Fisheries Act, and that is why the Harper government acted to change it.

I just want to reference this again. I mentioned it earlier in debate. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities dealt with this issue in 2012. They brought before the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' annual general meeting a motion to urge former prime minister Harper to protect habitat and to take those sections out of Bill C-38 that weakened habitat protections. The motion was brought forward by a British Columbian, and former Conservative minister of fisheries, the hon. Tom Siddon, who happened to be an elected official within his own area of British Columbia. It was brought to the floor of the FCM, where it passed.

Where municipalities have weighed in on this issue, they have called for the protection of fish habitat. There is no question that there can be times when there are conflicts for some rural municipalities, but those issues have been largely dealt with in Bill C-68. It certainly has the support of municipalities across the country.

Federal Sustainable Development ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2018 / 11 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to present my thoughts on Bill C-57. I regret very much that we have time allocation on this bill, and even more so the hour of 11 p.m. that is now approaching. This important legislation deserves to be heard in a normal fashion with full debate.

Let me go back to when this bill originated. The Federal Sustainable Development Act was actually passed in the era of a Conservative government, and was one of those rare pieces of legislation that originated with the opposition. It was brought forward by a former Liberal MP, John Godfrey. It was one of his last contributions as a very diligent and thoughtful member of Parliament. He went on to leave Parliament and go back to his old stomping grounds of education.

Sustainable development and aspects of sustainable development had been in Canadian law before. This bill managed to get through Parliament in 2008, and the successor bill that we have before us tonight does improve some elements of sustainable development as originally put forward with a lot of co-operation in this place back in 2008. I was not yet a member of Parliament in that year, but I followed very closely the development of the Federal Sustainable Development Act because it was really a high-water mark for the minority-government years of former Prime Minister Harper, because opposition parties were willing to work together. The opposition parties had a majority, but very rarely used it. In this case, the Federal Sustainable Development Act was brought in. This act could have been improved and strengthened, but there is very little that I would say is wrong with it. I am disappointed that we will repeal the definition of the precautionary principle, but overall the bill will strengthen the application of sustainable development principles to more parts of the federal government, and I do like the creation of a sustainable development advisory council. The bill has real potential, but I do not think the government plans to do with it what I hope it will do.

Going back to the early 1960s, for decades the Canadian government benefited from well-researched, strong public policy advice from institutions that we no longer have. We used to have, starting in 1963, the Economic Council of Canada. We had as well the Science Council of Canada. In the early 1970s, we had the creation of the Canadian Environmental Advisory Council. In 1993, all three of those agencies were wound up and repealed. That meant we lost the Economic Council of Canada, the Science Council of Canada, and the Canadian Environmental Advisory Council. They were wound up and repealed because in 1993 the federal government brought in the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. This was our first substantial sustainable development tool. To quote the late Jim MacNeill, a brilliant Canadian diplomat and former deputy minister who really challenged the ideas of sustainable development, one of the core ideas was that “If we change the way we make decisions, we'll change the kind of decisions we make.”

The idea of the national round table was that by bringing together people from different perspectives, including trade unions, large corporate enterprises, academics, environmentalists, indigenous people, as well as government ministers and agencies and so on, the resulting give and take and shared learning would create decisions that met the challenge of sustainability, because sustainability is not the environment by itself. Sustainability has at least three legs to the stool. They are the environment, and social and economic concerns, but those are within a very clear mandate to ensure that the decisions we take today do not compromise the ability of future generations to make their own decisions and to meet their own needs. In other words, sustainability requires that we think about intergenerational equity.

Here I have to confess that I was a member and vice-chair for quite a while of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Its work was substantial. I do not want to blow my own horn, but a lot of work was done by a lot of people over many years, and I served for only a relatively brief period.

In 2012, under omnibus budget Bill C-38, the national round table was eliminated. No one at that point said that we had better bring back all those other advisory bodies that we had eliminated in 1993 when we created the national round table. There is no longer the Economic Council, no longer the Science Council, no longer the Canadian Environmental Advisory Council, and there is no national round table.

This is the first time something has been created that could meet that need, namely a sustainable development advisory council. It is pretty thin gruel. It could do a lot. The Treasury Board within the act could establish policies or issue directives and could be adequately funding this new agency, which is quite modestly proposed in the act. That said, I certainly hope that the government will realize that we desperately need sound advice on what is sustainable and what is not.

Speaking of what is not sustainable, it includes today's announcement that the Government of Canada is going to form a crown corporation that will now be the management entity for a pipeline that the federal government proposes to buy with a closing date in August. I can only hope that something goes wrong with this sale because this is monstrous. We are proposing to spend $4.5 billion to buy the assets of what is called the Trans Mountain pipeline, but owned by Kinder Morgan of Houston, Texas.

The Trans Mountain pipeline was built in 1953 by a Canadian company with the goal of bring crude or synthetic crude to Burnaby, British Columbia, where over time they developed four refineries. The Trans Mountain pipeline was all about bringing Canadian crude from Alberta to Canadian refineries in the Lower Mainland for domestic use.

When Kinder Morgan bought the assets of Trans Mountain, which are now more than 60 years old, in its valuation to the National Energy Board, the company put the value of the Trans Mountain assets at $550 million. Those are the assets that today the Minister of Finance announced he would buy at a price of $4.5 billion. That is astonishing. Kinder Morgan has certainly achieved a very rich return on investment without having invested new infrastructure.

Kinder Morgan wanted to build a new pipeline, but I think it has lost interest in it. That is why it kidnapped its own project and said that if we did not have a solution by May 31, it would walk away. Clearly for political reasons, primarily for the impact in Alberta, the federal government decided that anything was preferable to having Kinder Morgan walk away, so it has done something astonishing. It is planning to spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing assets of the old pipeline and to take on, as yet undescribed by the Minister of Finance, but said by Kinder Morgan to be a $7.4 billion project to build the expansion. The government is taking on a project that has not yet cleared its conditions with the National Energy Board and is still before the courts in 15 different court cases for violation of indigenous rights, and is doing so with a completely scandalously inadequate environmental review before the National Energy Board within which evidence was put forward by Kinder Morgan and at which no intervenors were allowed to cross-examine.

We now find ourselves asking if the government understands sustainable development, because overarching all of this is the most fundamental and pressing question, what about the climate crisis? How can we possibly claim that Canada understands the pressing imperative of the transition away from fossil fuels, whether in 10, 20, or 30 years? We need to make plans. How can we understand the imperative of avoiding the kind of disaster that deprives not hypothetical future generations but our own children, children alive today that we tuck in at night? How can we possibly think we understand sustainability while building pipelines?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in my place today to talk about this important issue.

It is nice to see an injustice done to a fellow colleague undone, just before I speak on this particular issue.

I was elected to this chamber in 2006. At that time, I was the proud member of Parliament for a constituency then known as Wetaskiwin, a large rural area between Red Deer and Edmonton. One of the biggest concerns I heard about at that time, from all the municipal reeves and councillors, was the onerous and very expensive, time-consuming process of doing something as simple as replacing a culvert under a gravel road out in one of the hinterlands of these counties. Some of these counties, such as Clearwater County, represent a massive tract of land. There are very few people in the eastern portion of that country.

There are massive numbers of roads, including forestry service roads, trunk roads, and all kinds of roads. There are constant little streams and so on in the foothills, and lots of small bridges and lots of culverts. The same thing could be said for Lacombe County, Ponoka County, Wetaskiwin County, Leduc County, or virtually any county or municipal district in Alberta. This would be the same for virtually any county or municipal district across the Prairies or anywhere else in the country, for that matter.

The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, the AAMD, SARM, in Saskatchewan, and various other organizations, all the way up to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, had the onerous and odious situation of dealing with the Fisheries Act. In particular, the habitat alteration damage and destruction clauses, and their implementation thereof, were simply causing numerous delays. Fisheries officers would show up at a construction site, and the term used was “showing up with guns drawn”, where a couple of county workers and a contractor might be trying to fix a culvert or unplug something. These are the situations that these folks faced on a daily basis in our vast rural areas.

This is moving back regressively, taking this legislation back. We just heard the parliamentary secretary talking about how they are going back to the way it was before. That is simply another attack and another assault, in a legacy of assaults that are happening right now, on our rural communities across this country, whether it is regressing in the firearms legislation, the carbon tax, all the environmental legislation, getting rid of the National Energy Board, imposing a tanker ban off the west coast, cancelling pipeline projects, like the northern gateway, and changing the goal post so many times on development projects that companies are pulling out of projects they have spent years developing and that had prior approval from very competent authorities set up under legislation. We just seem to be going backwards.

I have a degree in zoology, fisheries, and aquatic sciences from the University of Alberta. I do not want to date myself by saying when that happened, but it was a long time ago. I worked proudly for a number of years for Alberta Fish and Wildlife doing walleye minimum size limit experiments and working with DFO when I was a fishing guide in the Arctic. I know intimately some of the issues facing our country. I was an enforcement officer. I was a national park warden. As a conservation officer and a park ranger for the Province of Alberta, I enforced the Fisheries Act. I enforced the fisheries regulations therein, so I have a little knowledge about what I am talking about.

I am not saying, in any way, shape, or form, that the Conservative Party does not believe that we should be protecting our fisheries, protecting the environment, and making sure that we have sustainable development going forward. That is simply not the case.

In Alberta, some of the most active conservationists are people who work in the energy sector, people who work in the oil patch, people who work in rural areas, and people who work in the forestry industry. They come out of our cities, come out of Edmonton and out of Calgary. The May long weekend is coming up. The entire west country in Alberta is going to fill right up. There are going to be 40,000 or 50,000 people in Clearwater County alone over the May long weekend. They are going to be fishing in the Ram River and all the little lakes we have out there, and they are going to be enjoying themselves.

These people go to work every day, and they understand that they can get the balance right. What they do not understand is legislation that keeps on coming from Liberal governments, past and present, that denies them the opportunity, the livelihood, that would allow them to actually go out and enjoy the environment by preventing energy projects from going forward and by preventing all kinds of development.

There is so much capital flight happening right now. The lack of foreign investment in Canada is striking. The government says that it has all this economic growth. It is propped up by deficits. If the Liberals actually believed anything they said over there, they would have no trouble balancing a budget in so-called economic good times. The people of Canada have everything to fear from a government that says everything is going well but cannot balance the books. That is a different debate for another day.

I want to talk about the Fisheries Act and the onerous provisions that would come back on our counties. Our counties and ratepayers in our municipal areas will have to pay three to five times as much to replace a culvert and to repair a bridge. They will face delays. They will face road closures as a result of these delays and the enhanced enforcement.

Do my Liberal colleagues want to lose all their rural seats in the Prairies? Oh, they do not have any and here is why. After years and years of not listening when fisheries officers showed up, guns drawn, for something as minuscule as somebody wanting to drain a ditch off their property, this caused people headaches. They do not want to deal with this anymore, but we are sadly going back in that direction. Therefore, it will be more red tape, more delays, more costs, less development, and capital flight will be leaving.

I was proud to be part of some of the changes we made. In fact, I was even the legislative chair of the subcommittee on finance that brought in Bill C-38, which made common-sense changes. I remember bizarre stories coming out of Manitoba. For example, a farmer, after the Assiniboine and Red river floods, was charged for draining his field because carp had escaped the river during the flood and were in the field. Because he was draining his field, thereby taking away the fish habitat in which the fish were living in his wheat field, he was charged for destroying a fish habitat. This is how bizarre the implementation of the legislation was before, and we are going back to that legislation. We can count on a whipped vote on the other side, ensuring the legislation goes through, and we will be able to count on bizarre stories like this one coming forward again.

We do not need to go back to legislation from the 1940s and 1950s in this modern era. Counties and municipal districts are far more knowledgeable and far more responsible. There is far more education out there and far more oversight. We have social media oversight. We have all kinds of mechanisms right now. Not a single county wants to end up on the front page of a paper or anything like that after doing something that harms fish habitat.

That is the problem with the legislation. The legislation is not just focused on fish habitat, but focused on the harm of even one fish. If it happens, it is unfortunate and I get that. However, if we are not looking at the big picture of what we are trying to do and if we are focusing on something as minuscule as one fish and stopping an entire project because all the approvals are not in place, it does not matter what the methodology if going to be. The methodology will be the same. There are only so many ways to replace a bridge and only so many ways to replace a culvert. These things are well known and people will do them. However, if they do not have all the paperwork in place, they will be criminals it if they happen to kill a fish, notwithstanding the fact that the habitat was fine, all the process was followed, and all the offsets and restoration guidelines were followed. This is the problem with the legislation.

There was a great opportunity for the government to go in a positive direction, to send a positive message to the investment community. The Liberals tell us that they can get the balance between the environment and the economy right. They got it right from their perspective: no economy, all environment. That is the problem. They could have focused on natural fisheries sustainability. They talk about implementing the Cohen report. There are things in the Cohen report they will not do because they do not want to simply focus on natural fisheries and sustainability.

On fisheries enhancement, both in saltwater and in freshwater, my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, I and several other members advocated in past budgets for fisheries programs where we would partner, through these organizations, to enhance freshwater fisheries. Why are we not asking organizations or companies like Shell to, instead of rebuilding lakes in northern Alberta where mining projects are, use the same offsets and enhance fisheries where the actual people would be, so people could enjoy those enhancements. Restore the disturbed area to what it was, but do the enhancements where the people are. Make the fishery opportunities better. There is a sad situation here, a missed opportunity in the bill to be progressive going forward in looking after not only fisheries and fisheries habitats but looking after the people who sustain them.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note that my hon. colleague mentioned technical briefings to understand Bill C-68. I assure him that I did not need a technical briefing. I was so relieved to read legislation that made sense again.

When I was in this House in 2012, when Bill C-38 was tabled at first reading, it was over 440 pages long and changed 70 different pieces of legislation. We were never offered a technical briefing. There was a rush to push it through. Former fisheries ministers, two former Conservative fisheries ministers and two former Liberal fisheries ministers, ministers Fraser, Siddon, Dhaliwal, and Anderson, were united in saying that what was happening was the gutting of the Fisheries Act.

I would ask my hon. colleague to reflect that perhaps this legislation coming forward to re-establish the protection of fish habitat and to re-establish fundamental notions that we protect our fisheries and fish, regardless of whether they are destined for human consumption, would be an improvement in Canada's ability to steward the natural environment. We, as Canadians, hold an obligation to take care of these living marine resources far better than we have in the past.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I remember clearly the debates that we used to have here as Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill of spring 2012, barrelled toward us.

It was interesting to hear the member reference Tom Siddon in his speech. I recall clearly when the former fisheries minister Tom Siddon, Progressive Conservative, joined with former fisheries minister John Fraser, also Conservative, as well as two former Liberal fisheries ministers, David Anderson and Herb Dhaliwal, and condemned what Harper was doing to the Fisheries Act. In fact, Tom Siddon was quoted in The Globe as saying, “They are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act...They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act...”

It is the first chance I have to take the floor on this debate. I want to thank the Minister of Fisheries from the bottom of my heart for restoring lost protections, restoring habitat, and putting a focus back on fish and its habitat, as the Fisheries Act must do.

How did the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa end up so far away from the great Conservative fisheries ministers of the past?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

February 12th, 2018 / 7:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to return to a question I asked on October 23 of last year. Some will remember this question only for the uproarious laughter that ensued, most inappropriately, as some members in this place thought the Minister of Transport had misspoken. He referred to the kind of sense of shared commitment the opposition benches all felt in opposing the omnibus budget bills put forward by the previous government.

In the spring of 2012, the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, repealed our environmental assessment act and destroyed the Fisheries Act. We fought very hard against that, and then in the fall of the same year, there was another omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45, that gutted the navigable waters protection act. In referring to that, the hon. Minister of Transport referred to remembering spending the whole night with me, which of course, was in this House over 24 hours of straight voting. Very few members actually stayed in their seats voting continually on every amendment and every motion, but since most of the amendments were mine, I stayed here in my seat for 24 hours voting straight through. It certainly was not an occasion for raucous laughter, but we know sometimes people in this place do not rise to the occasion. They sink to grade two or maybe kindergarten.

In any case, I want to return to that, because now we have seen the proposed amendments to the Navigation Protection Act. In fact, they were tabled in this place just last week. I have reviewed them thoroughly. I had extreme concern, which I raised in my question, that the Minister of Transport was not likely to meet the mandate letter, in which the Prime Minister had instructed him to restore lost protections to the Navigation Protection Act. It appeared from discussion papers and from the report of the parliamentary committee on transportation that the government was going to be prepared to say that this is what the previous government did, that it took some 99% of navigable waters from our inland waterways out of the act and created a short list of about 100 named waterways that are internal to Canada, and that is that. If a waterway is on that list, it is navigable water. If it is not on the list, it is not. It appeared for quite a while that the Liberal approach would be to say that they would create a system whereby people could add waters to the list by application.

It was a real relief, in reading Bill C-69, one of the few places in reading that bill that I was actually relieved, that the definition of navigable waters has been changed such that it is not just the schedule of waterways that will be considered navigable waters but any waterway human beings are currently using. It would not be as broad as what there was in 1881, but any body of water, anywhere in Canada, in which one could put a canoe or a kayak and navigate one's way through would require a permit from the federal minister before that body of water could be obstructed. It is much broader than it was under Harper. It is not a complete restoration of lost protections, but a much bigger swath of interior waters of Canada would now be under a navigable waters act.

One of the aspects of the lost protection was that the issuance of a federal permit would trigger an environmental review. Under part 1 of Bill C-69, we would now have what would be called an impact assessment, but without any triggering to review projects where a federal minister had to give a permit. We await finding out what the designated projects would look like, but it would still fall short of what was promised.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

February 8th, 2018 / 5:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking tonight in adjournment proceedings, and the timing is almost impossible to believe. On October 20, I attempted to warn the Minister of Environment and the Prime Minister of how very dangerous it would be to give the offshore petroleum boards in Atlantic Canada any power or role in environmental assessment. The idea that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board should have any role in the environmental assessment of projects over which they have regulatory authority is desperately worrying. I say that because these boards were created by legislation to expand offshore oil and gas. That is their role. They have a mandate to expand offshore oil and gas.

I said to the minister on October 20 that offshore petroleum boards in Atlantic Canada have legislated mandates to expand oil and gas activity. They have never had any role in environmental assessment, and if they did, it would be a conflict of interest. Now it appears that the Liberals are following through on Stephen Harper's plan to put these boards into environmental assessments, where they should not be.

I have to say that my final question to the Minister of Environment was whether she could assure this House that she would keep these offshore boards out of environmental assessment. Her answer was not very clear on October 20. The answer is really clear today, because we now have omnibus Bill C-69, which entrenches a role for these very boards in environmental assessments, where they have no business being.

There has been a bit of fancy footwork in the Liberal talking points. Expert panels reviewed the broken laws left after the Harper era by omnibus budget bills C-38 and C-45. We had massive consultations. Very high-powered expert boards were commissioned to look at the National Energy Board and provide recommendations and to look at the environmental assessment process and provide recommendations. Both recommended that energy regulators should play no role in environmental assessment and that there should be a stand-alone environmental assessment agency.

In some ways, if we were to read the press releases and the talking points, one might think that is what was just done today in Bill C-69. There is one agency, called the impact assessment agency, except for one thing. When one reads it in detail, one finds that when there is a project that would be regulated by one of these boards—what we used to call the National Energy Board, which we will have to get used to calling the Canadian energy regulator; the offshore petroleum boards; or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which, for the first time ever, Stephen Harper put in the frame of environmental assessment in 2012—under the Liberals, these boards would continue to play a role in environmental assessment.

This is how they did the fancy footwork. There is only one environmental assessment agency, but when a project falls into one of those jurisdictions, the people put on the panel to review the project must be taken from the boards of those agencies. They will apply their other laws at the same time as they go through environmental reviews.

Let me talk about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. I am going to quote Dr. Lindy Weilgart, an adjunct professor at Dalhousie University and an international expert on seismic blasting. She talked about the seismic surveys, approved by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, in the migratory habitat of the endangered right whale. Air guns are shot every 10 seconds around the clock. It is the loudest human-produced noise right after nuclear and chemical explosions. That is why she said that in 2016, 28 right whale experts declared that the additional distress of widespread seismic air gun surveys represented a tipping point for the survival of this species. The Liberals today have given these boards a role in environmental assessment.

I am horrified by this. I ask my colleague, the hon. parliamentary secretary, how she can live with what the government has just done.

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

December 5th, 2017 / 7 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question that I asked on September 20. It was to the Minister of Natural Resources. As congenial as it was, I did not find the answer satisfactory, because it did not actually answer my question.

My question related to the changes made in the spring of 2012 to Canada's National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which had existed since the early 1990s, was repealed. That was a tragedy that I hope we will see reversed, but I am afraid that the train of the debate tonight will reveal my very diminishing hopes that we will see our laws restored to what they were in 2006.

One aspect of what the previous Conservative government did in its omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, was to massively change the way environmental assessments were pursued. One part of that was to say—and this was never defended as a policy choice, and no rationale was ever offered—that we should treat certain energy projects as distinct from all other projects in terms of environmental review under federal law. Pipelines, for the first time, had environmental reviews done by the National Energy Board, offshore drilling had environmental reviews assigned to the offshore petroleum boards from Atlantic Canada, and changes to new projects that involved nuclear energy would have environmental reviews by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This was unheard of.

What I pointed out in my question to the minister on September 20 was that the National Energy Board, in doing environmental reviews on pipelines, was showing a much greater willingness to approve a project that interfered with caribou habitat than when Environment Canada reviewed a mining project in the same region with the same caribou herd. Mining projects were given a much rougher ride than pipeline projects. My question to the minister was if he would confirm that the National Energy Board would get out of environmental assessments once and for all. That was the expert advice given to the new government by two different expert panels: one expert panel on the National Energy Board and another on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Both expert panels said that the National Energy Board should get out of environmental reviews.

The National Energy Board is not an institution that knows how to do environmental reviews. The National Energy Board expert panel said very clearly that the board should be renamed the Canadian energy transmission commission; its mandate should be clearer; and it should be doing more to explain what it means by “national interest” than it has in the way it has been operating for the last number of years. Under the topic of environmental assessment review, the environmental assessment expert panel recommended putting one agency in charge and giving it quasi-judicial status. The National Energy Board has quasi-judicial status and the Environmental Assessment Agency should have it.

To me, it has been devastating to watch the government ignore the reports of two different expert panels. I say it has ignored them because it has not responded to them. A discussion document pushed together four different reviews. The discussion document came out at the end of June, but it was very clear that the government had no intention of fixing environmental assessment and getting the National Energy Board out of environmental assessment, because the discussion document said that the National Energy Board, the offshore petroleum boards, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would be involved in environmental reviews, working alongside a revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that the government is interested in fixing this problem and getting the NEB out of environmental assessments?

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 28th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to review Bill C-63 at report stage. I lament that we have time allocation in place, but I am grateful that I was able to grab the slot that occurs every 34 slots for someone in a position like mine: being in a party with fewer than 12 MPs. Time allocation tends to be a real detriment to the principle that all MPs in this place are equal. That is the principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy. Of course, the increased power of party whips and the increased partisanship within the House means that all MPs are equal in the way that George Orwell described all animals as being equal in Animal Farm. Some are more equal than others.

Regarding the rules on recognized parties, I only recently discovered that Canada is the only Westminster parliamentary democracy that has the notion that a party needs a certain number of MPs before they get the same rights as their colleagues. It is unique to Canada. It is replicated in our provinces and is something I would like to see removed someday.

In the meantime, the bill has already made history. It is the first time the new rules for parliamentary procedure on omnibus bills have been applied. I appreciate that the Speaker accepted to look at this and separate out the sections that did not appear to be within the same theme of action.

Omnibus budget bills became, I have to say, horrific in the Harper era. We had two omnibus budget bills in 2012, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, that had nothing to do with budgets and were omnibus bills of the most egregious kind. The term “omnibus budget bill” became, in the public mind, something to be absolutely rejected and condemned. However, there is such a thing as a legitimate omnibus bill; there is such a thing as a legitimate omnibus budget bill. This one came close, but there were sections I appreciated the Speaker separating out.

For the most part, the debate in this place has been misplaced in tending to be, from the opposition benches, primarily about the Minister of Finance's personal finances. We need answers to those questions, but not in the context of a debate on Bill C-63. Bill C-63 has much in it that I would urge colleagues to read closely, because I have read the bill closely, and there is much in the bill I like.

Although it did not go far enough, I certainly want to support the steps toward something the government promised. The Stephen Harper government promised to remove fossil fuel subsidies at the 2009 G20 summit. The promise has been on the books for some time that Canada would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. It is, in that sense, a government promise that is not strictly a Liberal promise, but it is also a Liberal promise, and it was made in the platform and in the Speech from the Throne. We have seen very little done at the federal level to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels. The accelerated capital cost allowance for oil sands investments was tapering off under the previous Conservative government. It remains in place for existing projects that are grandfathered under this very advantageous tax regime. It continues to amount to about $1 billion a year for oil sands companies, but it was once closer to $3 billion a year. People debate what is a subsidy and what is not, but a capital cost allowance is seen as pretty advantageous tax treatment that amounts to a subsidy.

The other one that has not been touched at all by the Liberals was one Stephen Harper brought in after he pledged to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies. That is the subsidy for the production of natural gas, particularly to assist liquified natural gas companies. It is hard to beat the one the former premier of B.C., Christy Clark, left in place for the Woodfibre LNG plant, which will amount to about $4,000 in public subsidies for every job created. Therefore, we are still subsidizing fossil fuels provincially and federally.

However, I was pleased to see what the bill would do on oil and gas drilling, in part one, although it would not go far enough. If a company had an unsuccessful oil and gas drilling experience, it used to get a 100% writeoff. Under Bill C-63, that would now be reduced to a 30% writeoff. That tax treatment would be better. It is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

The other piece in that same section that certainly is encouraging is better tax treatment for a real winner in renewable energy, and that is geothermal energy. We have known for a long time that we can do a lot with geothermal. We have seen countries around the world benefit from geothermal. The bill includes very good new tax treatment to encourage geothermal electricity.

There are also improvements in the bill on the donation of ecologically sensitive land. I was part of the national round table on the environment and the economy back in the day when the member for Ottawa South was the CEO. We took a real fight on to try to convince then minister of finance Paul Martin not to treat the donation of ecologically sensitive land as something that penalized the donor. People used to get dinged with a deemed capital gain, when they did not actually get anything; they were making a donation.

Over time, our tax code has moved consistently in the direction of better treatment. Bill C-63 would expand the kinds of land that could be donated and would improve the tax treatment. The ecologically sensitive land donations are quite welcome.

I also want to support the improvements in the tax treatment of nurse practitioners so that they would have some of the same tax treatment as other health professionals, which would improve their day-to-day lives.

Similarly, in division 10 of part 5, there are improvements to how the Energy Efficiency Act would operate. We definitely want to see more energy efficiency programming. It has been a big disappointment to me, and the Minister of Finance knows this, as I mentioned it to him recently, that we are not using the tools in the federal tool kit to approach climate change as if we take it seriously.

If we could go back and look at the current Minister of Public Safety's budget when he was minister of finance, in 2005, and pull all those measures out and decide that they were a top priority for the government to put in the 2018 budget, I would be one happy camper. That would include ecoenergy retrofits, which we do not have. It would include support for electric and hybrid vehicles and improvement of the east-west electricity grid.

Those are the things we do not have in the budget, but at least in Bill C-63 we have amendments to facilitate a lot of energy products to include harmonization of regulations to enhance energy efficiency. Those are very welcome.

What I tried to change the most in committee, through amendments, was something that is generally positive or a step in the right direction, which is to give people the right to time off work if they or members of their family are victims of violence. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it or has gone through it. If a person has been a victim of a violent assault, or if someone in the family, particularly a child, has been the victim of a violent assault, it takes time. That child will have to be taken to therapy appointments. People will have to go to therapy appointments.

If people are going to recover from the trauma, they need time off work. This legislation is very welcome. It would give employees, by right, time off work. However, the bill operates in such a way that employers would have the option to say that someone could not take less than a full day. Employees could not say that they just wanted a couple of hours off, because that was all they needed. Employees would have to take a full day, and this would be time off work without pay. I am very disappointed that my amendments did not get through, because in committee, we said that this should be time off with pay.

The evidence we heard in committee was overwhelming, certainly from Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, who pointed out that 90% of domestic violence survivors experience financial control issues.

If a spouse has been violently assaulted by a spouse, and in most cases it is the male partner who violently assaults his wife, and the wife is, generally speaking, in a reduced financial situation of independence compared to her husband, how does she manage, if taking time off work means she might lose her right to raise her own children because of the financial duress? These are the parts of the bill I would have liked to see fixed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 7th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to give a speech on Bill C-63, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures. This is an omnibus budget bill.

In speaking to this, I wanted to also start with the big picture. Most of the speeches in this place since we began the debate at second reading of Bill C-63 have not delved very much into Bill C-63 itself. I plan to go into it in some detail. Most of the speeches have dealt with the general question of how much we, depending on which side of the House we are on, like or dislike the budget itself. There are some big picture comments I also want to make.

In debates in this place, the Conservative official opposition members berate the government for spending too much and adding to the debt. It is as though we have forgotten how to distinguish between the deficit, which is rising, and debt. Debt is a more permanent condition, and unfortunately, it is very hard to eliminate debt once it has been added on. We have not reduced any of the $150-billion addition to the national debt accrued under former prime minister Stephen Harper. The debt increased quite a lot in that period, although in the final term, we saw a balanced budget. Deficit is an issue of concern, but not nearly as much as debt.

In looking at the deficit and deficit spending, this current Liberal government was elected promising to run a deficit, although a much smaller one than the one we now see.

Here is what concerns me on the subject of government spending and increasing deficits. We are actually in a situation in this country where we need more, not less, government spending. The strictures on spending the current government appears to feel constrained by on things that need to be addressed come from an unwillingness to spend more than the large spending announcements that have already been made, which were for needed spending.

We need spending on infrastructure across Canada. In a sense, we have been like a homeowner who has deferred maintenance on the home in order to afford the other things we need in our household budget. However, deferred maintenance adds up. When the deferred maintenance is on water works and sewage systems, bridges and roads, and social infrastructure, such as affordable housing, and those things come home to roost, we need to spend more.

At the same time, there is a deep aversion to raising taxes. There have been a lot of claims that the opposite side has raised taxes a great deal. The reality, which I support, and it was in the Green Party platform to reduce the tax on small business to 9%, is certainly applauded. However, we in the Green Party are urging the government to look at the need to raise taxes on large, profitable multinationals.

The tax on large business was, in the year 2000, 28%. It is now down to 14%. It certainly should be raised, because if we look at the percentage of our total government revenues that come from corporations versus individual citizens, the portion on individual citizens has gone up while the portion on large corporations has shrunk dramatically.

As the economy is recovering, and that is good, there certainly is no reason or excuse to not go after, as my hon. friend from South Okanagan—West Kootenay just pointed out, the big fish. The big fish are in offshore tax havens. The big fish are in large, profitable multinationals. Going after people who are seeking to avoid, or worse, criminally evade, taxes should be a top priority.

I note, and it is a personal story, but I think it is quite bizarre, that my daughter, who is a university student, reported to me that the CRA is wasting tax dollars asking for proof of various items on her income tax return. She is a student. She is not making enough money to pay much in taxes or anything in taxes, I think. However, she is being asked to provide proof of the cost of books. I said that it was bizarre, and she said that another friend of hers is doing the same thing.

I would suggest that CRA could adjust its sights on millionaires and billionaires as opposed to students. I think that would be something most Canadians would support.

Turning to Bill C-63, I have to say that I read it with a growing sense of happiness. No doubt it will surprise people that anyone on the opposition benches would. However, when I pick up an omnibus budget bill I still have a sense of, I guess, PTSD from having read the omnibus budget bills in the 41st Parliament, particularly Bill C-38, which destroyed our environmental assessment regime and wrecked the Fisheries Act; and Bill C-45, which devastated the Navigable Waters Protection Act, removed the inspector general for CSIS, and various other measures that had nothing to do with each other.

Reading Bill C-63 confirms in my mind the strong need to simplify our tax code. When we talk to tax accountants, they generally agree that it would be wonderful if the Minister of Finance went in for root-and-branch tax reform to simplify the tax code to remove so many boutique exemptions. I commend the Minister of Finance for removing a number of boutique exemptions, but the tax code, and therefore the omnibus bill we have before us, is very complex on very specific items, such as straddling tax years and figuring out how to deal with different derivatives and the use of various tax mechanisms, such as going through trusts or going through additional corporations and how we end up taxing.

For the most part, I actually find myself wondering if I am going to vote for this particular budget bill if we can make some amendments. I want to point out the areas I like in this bill and the areas I think would benefit from amendments.

As it is an omnibus budget bill, I am pleased to see that there has finally been a tepid move, although it could go much further, to eliminate some of the fossil fuel subsidies. This was a large-ticket commitment in the Liberal campaign platform. Most of the large fossil fuel subsidies remain in place, despite a pledge in the Liberal platform to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.

This would be a parallel and needed measure that would go along with eliminating the market distortions that are created by both subsidizing fossil fuels and failing to put a price on dumping waste into the atmosphere. That is equivalent to having a municipal waste dump where there is no tipping fee. People are not encouraged to avoid dumping if it is free. That is why a carbon price makes sense, but we need to move to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

The move that is happening here is in relation to changes to the Canadian exploration expense. This happens to be in part 1 of Bill C-63. It would change the tax treatment of Canadian exploration expenses to reduce the tax deductions that are available now from 100% to about 30%. By the way, the way this is structured has created an incentive for accelerated drilling prior to this kicking in in 2019. This could be an unintended but environmentally damaging period. I am holding in my hands advice from Bennett Jones to that corporate sector suggesting that if any oil and gas companies can hurry up and start exploration activities and get commitments in writing before 2019, they can continue to take advantage of the 100% deduction on capital expenses.

I also welcome the changes to the donation of ecologically sensitive lands. I worked on this, back in the day, on the now defunct National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, repealed in the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38. We worked to persuade the minister of finance of the day, the Right Hon. Paul Martin, to create special tax treatment for the donation of ecologically sensitive land. The revisions in Bill C-63 continue along that road to clarify and improve that system.

I am not at all unhappy to see the follow-through on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This is part of Canada's development portfolio. We still lag far behind the commitments made by previous governments, including every government back to Lester B. Pearson, Jean Chrétien, and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, who all committed that Canada's development assistance should equal 0.7% of our GDP. We are nowhere near that, but certainly the provisions around the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are welcome.

There are a number of other provisions I was pleased to see, particularly those in the Canada Labour Code that would provide more flexible work arrangements and give Canadians prescribed statutory time off work to recover after experiencing family violence. I would like to see those sections amended. I would like to see that time off work as paid leave. I would like to see a single woman without children receive some assistance if she has been the victim of violence. There could be some tweaking of provisions in there.

I am very happy to see the new tax treatment for geothermal energy and an Energy Efficiency Act.

There are many provisions in a bill of 275 pages, but I will stop there and say that I am generally pleased with the contents of this bill.

Omnibus BillsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 7th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will have an opportunity to address Bill C-63 in its substance very shortly in the speaking order in debate today, but I appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether the bill is appropriately put before us. It is the first real test of Standing Order 69.1 on omnibus bills.

I made many attempts in points of order in the 41st Parliament to argue for the splitting of omnibus bills, for setting them aside. The Speaker at that point, currently the leader of the Conservative Party, ruled that was not for the Speaker to decide, and the House had to speak to the matter of whether a bill was properly an omnibus bill or not.

By way of background, there is nothing wrong with an omnibus bill. In tradition, all the Speakers in this place have said if a bill has a central and primary purpose, in order to achieve that purpose, amendments or repeals to other bills are acceptable. What was unacceptable in the 41st Parliament was randomly putting in so many bills. It was not only in the 41st Parliament. It happened in 2009 and 2010. When a bill is a budget bill, to defeat it is to bring down the government, so in a minority government it became political leverage to push through unpalatable bills all at once, with inadequate study. In a majority Parliament, it became a way for the government of the day to move through things expeditiously.

It put us in mind of the statement from Speaker Lucien Lamoureux years ago, who said he supposed there would come a day where the business of the House would be one omnibus bill that goes through all at once.

In this case, we now have guidance. I agree with previous speakers that it is lamentable that the Standing Order changes were brought in by majority rule as opposed to by consensus. However, Standing Order 69.1 is helpful. It gives us guidance, and it gives the Speaker the discretion to separate out those sections that are not properly within the bill.

I will be speaking to this in Bill C-63 in my second reading debate to say this kind of omnibus budget bill bears no relationship to the kind of egregious abuse of process that we saw in Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 in 2012. Those were bills that achieved things that had nothing to do with the budget, were not mentioned in the budget, and were egregious in their impact. This is of an order that is quite different.

I do not find Bill C-63, as an omnibus budget bill, objectionable, but it is quite right, as the hon. NDP House leader has pointed out, that where there are provisions that were not mentioned at all in the budget, if we are to uphold Standing Order 69.1, the Speaker has the discretion to move those parts out and allow separate debate and study of those portions only.

Standing Order 69.1 is an improvement over our previous Standing Orders. It does give guidance. However, I would hate to see the debate in this place misunderstood by anyone observing as representing an abuse of process, abuse of Parliament, and an affront to democracy that we saw in previous Parliaments under the previous government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

November 6th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring us to the topic of today's debate, which has been completely absent for the last half hour or so. That is Bill C-63, the omnibus budget bill.

This is my first chance to speak to this, so I would like to mention that I read it over the weekend. It is a bill of 275 pages, with 11 different divisions. As much as I am genuinely fond of my friend from Cariboo—Prince George, I was disappointed by his speech, because vacuous rhetoric around the Prime Minister's socks is not as valuable as actually diving in and discussing the bill.

I have read a lot of omnibus budget bills. As for the ones under the previous government, I can genuinely and honestly say that turning page after page of Bill C-38 I moved from anger to grief. I was crying by the time I finished reading it. I am very happy to say that having read Bill C-63, I was nearly very bored. That is a good sign when dealing with a budget bill.

I would like the member to tell me if he likes or does not like the amendments in division 8, part 5, which would allow for flexible work arrangements for employees, or further in that division, the part that would guarantee time off work for families who are victims of family violence.

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the House

October 16th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Banff—Airdrie's speech was premised on many things that he may believe to be true but that are not true. There was no plan to stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, or Norway should energy east have gone ahead, because energy east was primarily an export pipeline. There is, in fact, no refinery in eastern Canada, in New Brunswick, that has the capacity to upgrade bitumen and refine it, which puts a bit of a problem to this idea that getting it to New Brunswick was somehow going to reduce the importation of 800,000 barrels of foreign oil a day.

I would agree with my friend that it would be far preferable to refine bitumen in Canada and use it domestically and therefore not be importing foreign oil, but energy east would not have accomplished that at all. The way to accomplish that is to look to Alberta and build upgraders and refineries in Alberta to end the divisive pipeline battles we see that do Canadians no good at all, pitting Albertans against British Columbians or against people from Quebec.

The other thing that is absolutely mistaken is the notion that TransCanada cancelled because of something that was done by the current Liberal government. I would congratulate the current Liberal government if it had lived up to its promise in the election campaign to make decisions based on evidence and to look at the absolutely disastrous mess created by Bill C-38 that put the National Energy Board, for the first time, in charge of environmental assessments of pipelines. It is not working. It has not worked since it started in 2012. We have pipeline reviews that have gone completely off the rails and have taken the NEB out of its usual regulatory role. As a former practising lawyer, I used to appear before the National Energy Board. It was a reliable agency. One could appear before it and expect procedural fairness under its quasi-judicial status. Throw in environmental reviews and we have a gong show of an agency that has lost respect from the public.

Back to my friend's point that this was Liberal interference in the review process, there is a very simple explanation. It is economics. It is that there are so many pipelines now approved, two of them that would affect TransCanada's delivery on the project. With Keystone being approved, energy east did not make economic sense anymore for TransCanada. That is understood by resource economists.

If my friend thinks I am wrong, could he name a refinery in New Brunswick that has the capacity to process bitumen?

Changes to the Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure they do, because they seem to drip of cynicism and hypocrisy. To simply talk about prorogation but do nothing about it suggests that they really do not understand the abuses the Harper government brought to that process. Regarding omnibus bills, the big one was Bill C-38, the famous Harper budget implementation bill that included everything under the sun. This motion would not touch those budget measures; it would, rather, touch other measures.

Again, one wonders if they are cynical or are simply trying to check a box on some campaign program and say that they delivered. Meanwhile, the Liberals talk about things today that are not even there, such as the Prime Minister's question period, yet we are still supposed to take it on faith that they really mean it. I find it confusing.

Bill C-44—Time AllocationBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1Government Orders

May 9th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, with respect to these debates about time allocation, I would have wished we could ask questions of the Government House Leader, because decisions about the way the government is proceeding and the increased use of time allocation is the House leader's area. The breakdown in relations between the House leaders of the largest three parties in this place is leading to an increased use of what I would call Harper tactics.

Although this is not an omnibus budget bill with the weight of the egregious misuse of power we saw in Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 in 2012, this is nonetheless an omnibus budget bill, and unfortunately so. While there is a connection to the parliamentary budget officer, because “budget” is in the title, the creation of a stand-alone parliamentary budget officer as an independent officer of Parliament, as promised in the Liberal platform, is a subject of such importance that it would have been preferable to have that discussion separate from the passage of budgetary measures.

Time allocation at this point has the effect of disadvantaging those members of Parliament who belong to parties with fewer than 12 members. Our constituents are equal. Our rights, in theory, are equal. It is disproportionately disadvantageous to members of smaller parties or independents when time allocation is used. In my view, it should be used extremely rarely. To say, as the Liberals now do, that they are using it less than Harper did is no excuse for adopting bad tactics and majority rule in a way that hurts the healthy functioning of this place.

I would urge the government to reconsider and not apply time allocation. The Minister of Finance will tell us that it must be done, but it must not be done.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

April 10th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by accepting the gracious apology from my friend from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa and move to some of the topics that were a focus of his speech.

The member suggested that Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill of spring 2012, merely amended the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It actually repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as crafted and passed under the previous administration of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and replaced it with an entirely new act, and that act did include timelines.

I am wondering if the member has read the recent expert assessment of the new act, which found that it completely failed to meet the objectives. The review committee was chaired by the former commissioner of the environment, Johanne Gélinas. The report was released last week, and tellingly, it said that Enbridge found that under the new act, the Harper-era environmental assessment act with timelines, the timelines worked against it and the process took longer.

November 23rd, 2016 / 4:15 p.m.
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Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law

Linda Nowlan

Yes, I'd be happy to. Thank you.

The only case I could find that did interpret that section was a Federal Court case, where the Mikisew Cree First Nation objected to Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill, which weakened habitat protection, on the basis that they weren't consulted. They were successful, but as the bill had already become law, there was no remedy for them, unfortunately. In that case, commenting on the impact on their aboriginal rights to fish, and the duty not to cause serious harm to fish, the new provision in the act, the Federal Court said that the amendments to the Fisheries Act removed the protection to fish habitat from subsection 35(1) of the act. In that, they also said that the amendment “clearly increases the risk of harm to fish”.

November 21st, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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Chief Robert Chamberlin Vice-President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

[Witness speaks in Kwakwala]

I want to also acknowledge that I'm on Algonquin territory, the unceded territories, and I do not take this acknowledgement lightly. It is something that's very serious and dear to us as first nations people.

My traditional name is Owadi. I'm the elected chief councillor from the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation. Many of you may know our territories as the Broughton Archipelago, or ground zero of the fish farm fight in British Columbia. I've served as the elected chief councillor for 12 years, six consecutive terms. I am finishing my second three-year term as the vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. I am also the chair of the first nation wild salmon alliance, and I have a deep background in fisheries, especially as it relates to aquaculture, fish farms, and the Cohen commission. I'm really happy that I made some very brief summary notes of the presentation that I was planning on making, so I'll just go through this and touch on some of the other aspects.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has been in existence since 1969. We take a very strong view, perspective, and stance on aboriginal title and rights. We seek every opportunity to advance the recognition of the inherent right and authority that first nations have in Canada. We advocate at every level possible. That's why you find me sitting here at this table with all of you this afternoon.

In terms of the topic at hand, I want you to understand the background of my people. Wherever I travel, I'm always very proud to say that we are clam diggers and fish eaters, and very proud of both. When you consider that statement, clams are found below the ocean floor and the salmon are found in the watersheds of our territories, so we have environmental concerns that extend below the surface of the ocean to the very tops of the trees at the height of land in our traditional territories and everything in between. When the government takes steps to make changes that are going to affect various industries and activities found within our territories, we are going to demand that we have a great say in what is going to occur.

Of course, now, with the new Liberal government, first nations across Canada, including myself, have taken great hope in the statements of this new government wanting to redevelop a relationship with first nations people, and most importantly, to revisit any legislation, regulation, management practice, or policy that was not properly and adequately consulted with first nations to satisfy the honour of the crown. As first nations people, we live in a world of the Constitution and Supreme Court of Canada rulings, and we are forever pushing the government and reminding them as gently or as strongly as necessary of their very own laws that they choose to abrogate, disregard, or take on with the most minimal of views.

Certainly, this is very much true and what we're here to talk about today with those omnibus bills that changed no less than 70 different pieces of legislation and law within one bill. Certainly, I've read in the newspaper many times over about this being construed as a miscarriage of democracy within the Canadian government. I certainly heard that loud and clear from the opposition parties.

Here we are today looking to what Prime Minister Trudeau included in the DFO minister's letter, where he spoke very much about reinstating all of the things that were less than gloriously ripped out of the oceans act, such as the HADD permitting, making sure that there is habitat ready provide for the sustenance and abundance of wild fisheries across Canada. The omission at the minister's whim to remove tracts of water from this very protection is just unfathomable, when you think of it, from a country such as Canada that has enjoyed a great foundation built upon marine resources. The traditions of our people in British Columbia, coast-wide and well up into the very headwaters of the Fraser, the Skeena, and the Nass rivers, have provided fish for our people's sustenance.

As all of you are probably more aware than most Canadians, I've been privy to various reports on the state of first nations economy and the poverty that many of our communities live in. When this is true, and I know that it is true, then we rely our upon our traditional foods for the very survival of our people through the cold winters. It is not that we happen to enjoy barbequing a salmon or having clams in the winter; it is what we require to make it through life on a daily basis. This is heightened as you go into the most remote communities and as you learn the challenges that they face in terms of economy and of accessing foods to live.

I think about what's happened here with Bill C-38. It went through the phased approach, where it gets royal assent in the first go-round and then we leave the second phase up to the Governor General. Theoretically, the second phase would open up a door for some measure of consultation with first nations, but the problem is that the whole ball of wax has already gotten royal assent, so it's a meaningless consultation. This is not what I see as the crown's duty to uphold its honour.

When I think of this Canadian government now unequivocally embracing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there are very significant portions of that which relate to the topic at hand today with regard to the environment, our traditions, our cultures, our values, and our traditional food sources. Canada, on one hand, is now embracing the UN declaration, and we are faced with the changes that came through the omnibus bill. All of the safeguards that were taken out of this act need to be reinstated, at minimum, right now. We need to turn our attention to the developing leading-edge science, which is becoming available through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other sources, to further inform and guide the management practices of the DFO.

In British Columbia, my focus has always been on wild salmon, and I've learned that the outward migrating salmon are probably the least understood. That component of this sacred resource is not understood. How can we adequately develop management plans when this one very significant piece has no science to validate management decisions?

Of course, when I start to think about the changes in the definitions of aboriginal fisheries and commercial fisheries, it's really offensive to me that the Supreme Court of Canada has defined aboriginal rights and access to fish, yet this bill—taking in all the many components—attempts to limit that to a fishery, rather than a right to fish. The problem that I see with that is.... I think of my dear friend Grand Chief Ed John of the Carrier Sekani people and the early Stuart sockeye run of the Fraser River. They have not touched that run in decades. The reason is that it is so depleted, they can't fathom taking fish out of there for worry about the annihilation of the run. That portion of the Fraser River, conceivably, could be forgotten under this existing Bill C-38.

We have to really take a look at what is an aboriginal fish. We have to reinstate the HADD permitting. When I think about the portions that talk about the agreements with the province to take on pieces of this work in conjunction with DFO, I am appalled that there is no mention of the same arrangement with first nations people.

When it talks about the province being well suited to engage on the management of fisheries, there is nobody in this country who is better suited to participate in the active management of fisheries—certainly in British Columbia and, I would say, across Canada—than first nations people. We are born into this. It is part of our genetic makeup. We understand our lands. We know what's going wrong. What we have is a government that has turned a deaf ear to the things that we express and to what we see as a meaningful path forward to safeguard the resources that we rely upon. The government must pursue a co-management agreement with first nations.

In my experience as elected chief of the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis, I've learned about the HADD permitting in relationship to fish farms. What I found was appalling. There's this one company—I won't name the name—that was able to develop a marine bank, an area where they restored so many hundred thousand cubic metres of underwater environment. That was their bank, so they could destroy that same amount in our first nations territory. It made no sense. It would be like tearing down the arena here in Kenora and rebuilding a new one in Toronto as some sort of way to compensate. It does not make sense.

When I say that I want to see the reinstatement of the HADD permits, I want to know—and I want to advance to each of you—that when mitigation measures are going to be developed and there is going to be a permit, then they will be developed with the first nations who hold the title for the lands where the destruction is going to occur. Anything less is not going to be very successful to first nations.

We must really understand that this bill contemplates looking after fisheries rather than fish. If we're not going to take our greatest minds and learned execution of understanding into the protection of habitat, we are not going to have fish. If we don't have healthy and abundant ecosystems that will lay the groundwork for the fish to be able to produce and survive, then we will have nothing.

I want to impress upon you the catastrophe that I know has happened with the cod stocks in Newfoundland and on the east coast of Canada. We must embrace the principles of the Cohen commission in British Columbia. We must understand that there are a lot of holes in the science that guides management of fisheries in British Columbia, and we must expand on things such as the genome work that Dr. Kristi Miller is doing with DFO.

We must expand on the closed containment initiative of Kuterra, of the 'Namgis First Nation on the north end of Vancouver Island, and we must take the fish farms out of the ocean and put them on the land. If you think about it, we will then be able to provide a greater opportunity for economic development to a broader range of first nations that don't necessarily have to be coastal. It will meet many of the goals that the government has stated to close the socio-economic gap that first nations are faced with.

As we go down the road, it must be done hand in glove with first nations people. We must take a look at all the various sections from section 35, 37, and 38, and understand that we must revisit these with first nations, and I say re-engage, not consult and accommodate. We must re-engage with first nations, consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so we will accomplish what the Supreme Court of Canada has given direction to Canada to do, to uphold the crown's honour and to move toward true reconciliation of presumed crown title, with the underlying aboriginal title of first nations people in Canada.

I want to ensure that we move forward collectively with first nations and that we reinstate HADD, at a minimum, and build on that with current and emerging science, such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and their Salish Sea marine survival project. These are wonderful examples of new tools that are consistent with the Liberal government's commitment to do so.

Thank you, Scott.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

November 1st, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-29. I have been listening to all the debate that has been taking place, and I note that we as members of Parliament seem to be debating lots of different things all at once, and not necessarily always Bill C-29, especially on a day such as today when we are eagerly awaiting the Minister of Finance's update.

Obviously today we are anticipating the fall update on the economy and the state of public finances. I look forward to that. Although I have the opportunity to deliver a speech now, I plan to take part in the lockup on the economic update.

We know that any minute now we will be getting additional financial information from the Minister of Finance, and some of the media reports that foreshadowed what we may see in that report have become part of this debate as if they were in Bill C-29. They are not, so we do not know much about what will be proposed. There are concerns, as many colleagues have raised, about what might be proposed around infrastructure, what might be proposed around specifics of an infrastructure bank. It is not in Bill C-29. We are also talking today about the budget document itself, and much of what is in the budget document is not in Bill C-29.

Let me just clarify for parliamentarians and those who may be watching us today across the country what Bill C-29 is.

I try to be as fair as possible in all circumstances, and I railed against the omnibus budget bills of the previous government such as the spring omnibus budget bill of 2012, Bill C-38, which changed more than 70 different laws and regulations and abolished important institutions of public policy such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. It did many things that were never referenced in the budget. It extended itself well beyond what a budget should usually do. This was the spring omnibus bill of 2012. The fall omnibus bill was Bill C-45, and it completely gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act, while the spring omnibus bill gutted the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I reflect on that just to say that there are different kinds of omnibus bills. There are illegitimate omnibus bills and there are bills that take into account many different measures but all flow from the budget. This is in the category of legitimate omnibus bills. There is nothing in here that is not required by what was in the budget document that we received last spring. Last spring's budget set out changes, particularly to the Canada child benefit. It set out changes to various aspects of the Income Tax Act. If Canadians were to pick up Bill C-29 and read it, I do not think I am making too much of a stretch to say that they would find nothing that would be alarming.

There are provisions to begin to understand how we measure carbon emissions in terms of emissions allowances, how taxpayers would account for that, and how Revenue Canada and the Department of Finance would account for that. There are certainly new rules for charities and extensions for what kinds of donations could be considered charitable donations. There are provisions that are purely to do with the tax code, as one would hope when one is looking at a budget bill.

It is not an illegitimate budget bill, but it does of course allow us to turn our attention to the budget and to reflect on what was there and what was not there in relation to the promises made in last year's campaign.

We are just about at the one-year mark for this new administration and it is fair to reflect at the one-year mark on policies related to budget matters today, so I will stay within the frame of budgetary matters in my presentation. However, I have to say, in providing commentary on Bill C-29, and I want to be honest with Canadians, there is nothing here that gets me worried or upset except for what is missing. I want to be clear about that.

What is missing is that the Liberal platform last year committed to getting rid of subsidies to fossil fuels. There were really only three bullet points under the Liberal platform commitment to climate action.

One bullet point was that they would attend at Paris and negotiate. The Liberals did that and they did it superbly. The second was that they would put in place a national carbon price, and that is a work in progress. I bemoan the fact that the starting price is $10 a tonne but the architecture of it is fair and will only top up those provinces that have failed to define how they want to price their emissions.

This missing piece really deserves much more attention.

The commitment was clear that subsidies for fossil fuels would come to an end. The 2016 budget on page 221 commits until the end of the period in which the previous government had already committed subsidies for a new class of subsidies for liquefied natural gas in 2015. Some may say that LNG, liquefied natural gas, is a fairly clean burning fossil fuel but when it comes from fracked gas, which the LNG industry in British Columbia is projected to come from, it has the same carbon footprint as coal. Seeing a provision in the legislation that would continue this well into the future is a concern. That should come to an end much sooner.

We also were promised a lot of spending on infrastructure but when we look at the actual budget figures, only one-tenth of what is promised on infrastructure will occur before the next election. I really am keen to hear what our finance minister is about to announce later today. If we are trying to stimulate the economy through investments in infrastructure, then we really have to make those investments in infrastructure and we have to do it sooner rather than later. We have only one chance of the money flowing to things like public transit, which we urgently need.

There is reference in the budget to a small amount of money over a two-year period for examining what we need to improve Canada's east-west electricity grid. We need that urgently. Canada is a big country and we tend to have far too many interprovincial barriers. We are familiar with talking about interprovincial barriers to trade but we do not think so much about the interprovincial barriers to electricity. Why is it that provinces struggling to go off coal are having trouble buying renewable energy from the province next door? We really do need to invest in what is a real nation building project. It would create jobs and the fastest root to de-carbonizing our electricity grid is to improve access across provincial boundaries.

We can look at the absurdity right now of what is going on in Newfoundland with respect to Muskrat Falls. Nalcor is building Muskrat Falls, and CEO Stan Marshall has already referred to Muskrat Falls as a boondoggle that should never have been built. Newfoundland will be coming cap in hand to the federal treasury to look for money to bail out that project but it will find that it is throwing good money after bad. Nova Scotia says it cannot shut down coal until it gets an underwater cable all the way from Muskrat Falls.

Hydro-Québec sits right next to the Atlantic provinces. Hydro-Québec's electricity could get exactly as far as Moncton, turn a switch, open up the electricity grid, and work out the financing. Part of the problem may be that Manitoba Hydro and Hydro-Québec prefer to sell south to the United States because sales to the U.S. do not affect their equalization payments. If we start thinking like a country, we might figure out how to maximize the benefit from electricity generated in one province and ease access in another.

Going off fossil fuels as quickly as possible should be a national goal, while at the same time ensuring that the fossil fuels we use in Canada are the ones manufactured and refined in Canada. We have the beginning of a made-in-Canada solution for our energy, for our workers, for the Alberta economy, if we are willing to invest in refineries instead of pipelines and take away the subsidies to fossil fuels as was promised.

September 20th, 2016 / 8:15 p.m.
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Alon D. Weinberg As an Individual

Thank you for having me speak here.

If you consider that the largest block controls the whole territory in every riding in Canada, what else works that way? Gangs work that way, where the largest block controls the whole territory. You can see the behaviour in question period over the last two decades. You can see the gangs are at play. Most Canadians are turned off by that, and I say it's the logic of the system that we currently have.

First past the post is a blank cheque for governments to dominate the other parties and Canadians through fake majoritarian rule. One need only look at the countless constructive amendments to the previous government's budget bill, Bill C-38, that were roundly voted down, one demoralizing whipped no vote after the other. You can watch the video of them sitting there all night. I know a few of you were there.

It's important to recall that less than a decade earlier the then leader of the opposition, Stephen Harper, also railed against such omnibus bills, which were then introduced under the Chrétien government and its own series of false majorities.

This bipolarity of decade-long swings between one party and another through our country's history is the direct result of an electoral system designed for two parties back in England a few centuries ago, and it's been toxic to the development of our democracy. This swing between one government with total control over Parliament and another breeds alienation, disempowerment, and disenfranchisement. It's an affront to the most noble visions that Canadians have for this country, the second-largest land mass on earth. We have a responsibility that is not being met by our democracy. It resembles instead the long heavyweight boxing match, with each trading decade-long blows, at one moment champ another moment vanquished. Heavyweight boxing often leaves the combatants bloodied, bruised, and brain damaged. That, I submit, is the state of Canadian democracy today.

What is the answer? The two dominant systems are majoritarian, represented by the alternative vote and various systems of proportional representation. I encourage everybody here to read carefully Fair Vote Canada's submission to the committee, which models three different models for a new electoral system, including a very innovative and new one that is rural-urban proportional. This is similar to what we had in Manitoba about 70 to 100 years ago, except with a proportional system in the rural area, which still would have a single member riding.

This is not a new process for Canada. In 2004, this was published by the Law Commission of Canada in Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada, presided over by Irwin Cotler. I could go through all the meetings that were held in 2002, in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Charlottetown, Montreal, London, Calgary, and on and on. This has already happened, and that commission recommended a mixed member proportional system.

I'll quickly read what it had to say about the alternative vote, and then I will finish.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 7th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his question.

I think that this budget implementation bill really is an omnibus bill. However, it is not at all like the omnibus budget bills introduced by the previous government. At least this bill does not contain changes to laws that have nothing to do with the budget, as was the case with omnibus Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012. It was really terrible and gutted certain laws meant to protect the environment.

I think the bill before us would be better if the government would examine certain projects, particularly the one that pertains to the Canadian Wheat Board. I would agree that it is an omnibus bill, but it is not all that terrible.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 7th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel as though this budget suffered from the fact that, when input went into Finance Canada to draft this, ministers were just beginning to establish their staff, just getting briefed up.

I am hoping that this is like a budget with training wheels, and the Minister of Finance will get it better next year.

This does not meet the expectations of proper funding for infrastructure. For instance, having announced $100 million for infrastructure in the first 10 years, only 10% of that funding is in the first five years.

We are talking about the need for economic stimulus. The Liberal government got elected on a pledge to use deficit spending to stimulate our economy and specifically to help infrastructure. It does not adequately help infrastructure. It is too little.

Let us hope that 2017 really addresses the infrastructure crisis and removes fossil fuel subsidies and commits to a revised environmental assessment act, one similar to what we had up until Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 7th, 2016 / 3:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, resuming more or less where I left off, I am speaking to Bill C-15 at report stage.

I had earlier canvassed a couple of key points. One is that this is not an improper use of an omnibus bill, but it certainly is an omnibus bill. It does stay and pertain to one central theme, which is implementing budget 2016. I do remain concerned, however, that we should have spent more time on it.

I mentioned one item in particular where I think the current Liberal government may be flirting with the accusation of it being improper. We did spend some time on this one item in finance committee, but not enough, and that is clause 38, which adds section 135.2 in relation to tax-deferred treatment for transactions under the continuation of the Canadian Wheat Board.

It would have been good to have had this in a separate piece of legislation. The chair of our finance committee pursued the matter of what happened to the assets of the Canadian Wheat Board with some departmental officials. There were billions of dollars there. Where did that money go? How do we find out where it it went?

We know that, in respect of the tax consequences of the trust created in connection with the continuation of the Canadian Wheat Board, the debt of the Wheat Board acquired by the trust is not included in the trust income, but we do not know what happened to the assets of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is a rather substantial question, and whether they were transferred to prairie farmers, as was expected. It appears that they were not.

That is an item that would have been better handled had this part of the budget bill been separated out so it could be properly studied.

There are other aspects that I did not have enough time to address before we stopped for members' statements and question period. I want to revisit one of them in particular that I described as egregious moments ago. Let me explain why.

That is found in the budget, and also, of course, the funds are provided in Bill C-15. On the face of it, if we did not know this issue well, we would think that it was great that the government is providing funding for the improved process under the National Energy Board for looking at environmental assessments.

I found it egregious, and I will read from the budget, at page 166. It says:

Budget 2016 proposes to provide $14.2 million over four years...to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to support the Agency in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

Further up on the same page, there is a similar suggestion that money will be provided:

...$16.5 million over three years...to [support] the National Energy Board...to implement the interim approach.

That was announced earlier this year by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources.

What must not be lost in this discussion of environmental assessment is that the current state of Canadian environmental assessment law is unacceptable, full stop. It is a failure. It is a process that does not work. It does not examine all parts of the environment, nor does it allow the right agency to do the reviews.

Having the National Energy Board do environmental assessments at all is a departure from Canadian environmental law, it is a departure from the National Energy Board's area of expertise, and it is completely unworkable.

We need to go back and revisit the changes that were made in Bill C-38 and repair the Environmental Assessment Act for good, not based on interim measures being spread out for a further three to four years with funding to operate under interim measures to fix a broken process.

It would be far better for all concerned, including industry stakeholders. I was speaking the other day with the Mining Association of Canada leadership. They said they had never wanted the changes that happened in Bill C-38. They do not find the process better.

We need to fix the process, not fund a kind of Rube Goldberg device to try to make something unfixable slightly better.

Those are main concerns with the budget. I find that, although I like this budget a lot more than anything I have read in the last 10 years, I cannot vote for it, because of the continuation of fossil fuel subsidies and the continuation of funding a broken EA process.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 7th, 2016 / 1:50 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise at report stage to speak to Bill C-15. In the seven minutes I have, I will try to be very economical and focus on a few points that have been mentioned by other members.

I have a very strong view about the improper use of omnibus budget bills, and I want to reflect briefly on the history of omnibus budget bills.

The mandate letter to the hon. government House leader makes it clear that he is directed to “end the improper use of omnibus bills”. Therefore, having fought very hard in the spring of 2012 against Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill, I want to canvass this because I think it is important for me to say out loud that this is not an improper use of an omnibus bill but it comes dangerously close.

Omnibus budget bills between 1993 and the 2000 were generally around 12 pages long. The biggest omnibus bill that I had seen was in the spring of 2005 under the previous Liberal government of Paul Martin, which topped 120 pages. People actually protested that the Martin government's 2005 budget bill, at 120 pages, was too long, including the leader of the official opposition at that time, who went on to become prime minister and became the champ of all inappropriate and improper uses of budget bills.

This budget bill, at 179 pages, is clearly the longest omnibus budget bill from a Liberal government. However, it is a piker compared to the abuse of democracy that we saw under the previous Conservative regime.

In the year 2010, we saw an omnibus budget bill that was 883 pages long. In the spring of 2012, we saw the first part of an omnibus budget bill that was 440 pages long, with a second part in the fall, which was another 400 pages long.

What makes an omnibus bill appropriate or inappropriate? If in one piece of legislation we are working toward a single purpose and all pieces of the legislation stem from that single purpose, it is an omnibus bill all right, but it is not improper. What happened in the spring of 2012 is that Bill C-38 destroyed our Environmental Assessment Act, which was not mentioned in the budget, destroyed the Fisheries Act, repealed the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, and changed the National Energy Board Act. No fewer than 70 laws were changed at that time.

Therefore, let us not muddy the waters. The warning to my friends in the Liberal government is that they should not tread too far. This one should have split out the commercialization of the Wheat Board. We needed to study that separately. However, overall, this one is not an improper use of omnibus bills; rather, it just flirts with the word “improper”.

What is good and what is not good about this? Obviously, there is much in this budget to like. I was disappointed because I thought there would be more to like, and there are two specific elements I must mention, before we move to Standing Order 31s, that are really unfortunate and, in fact, egregious.

In terms of the good things, there are changes to the employment insurance program that I welcome. However, as many groups have said, including those who testified before the finance committee, we need to go further and fix EI to get it back to the systems we had before the changes of the Conservative regime. Therefore, while it is certainly better to have the changes we just made, I tried in committee to make amendments to deal with the long-tenured worker, the idea that one has to work for seven years to qualify for those pieces. We have not yet seen the reversal of the changes to seasonal workers. We need to see that.

In the case of the child benefit program, I agree with the Canadian Teachers' Federation, which described it as a good first step to alleviate childhood poverty. However, I found this evidence from the Canadian Teachers' Federation really telling, and we should all take it on board as parliamentarians. It stated:

Each day in our classrooms, Canadian teachers engage with children and youth who are hungry, tired, and struggling due to poverty.

I talk to teachers all the time. We need to do much more for our children. This is just a very small first step.

With respect to veterans, I would say that the Liberals kept their promise to open the veterans offices across Canada that were wrongfully closed. They have done some things that will change the permanent impairment allowance and the grade determination. This is an improvement. However, we still need much more to be done for our veterans, just as we do for pensioners.

The National Pensioners Federation made the same point. The increase in GIS for pensioners is very welcome, but it is $2.60 a day. The maximum improvement for poor seniors in this budget is $2.60 a day. That is not enough.

There is more that I liked in the budget, such as cultural industries and better deals for students, although the money needs to be improved. However, there are two pieces that are completely egregious. One is found on page 221, where the fossil fuel subsidy to liquefied natural gas is left in place until 2024. This is a violation of the Liberal election promise to end subsidies to fossil fuels.

Also, at pages 166 and 167, we see a commitment to keep environment assessment in place under the Bill C-38 version, which as I just mentioned, destroyed our environmental assessment regime. Specific reference to continue to fund CEAA under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, is offensive to all of us who understand environmental law.

May 2nd, 2016 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

May I attempt to answer Don's question?

I've lived with this, and believe me, after several points of order and arguments with the Speaker in the 41st Parliament, there's a distinction at report stage between a substantive amendment and a deletion.

Any member of Parliament, including a member of a non-recognized party, after the so-called opportunity created by this oppressive motion, will still have the right to present deletions at report stage. With this motion in place, no member of Parliament would have the right to present substantive amendments at report stage, whether they had been tabled before committee or not. That's the distinction.

The ability that was supported by the Liberal and New Democratic Party, for instance, with regard to the spring omnibus budget bill of 2012.... This motion is the direct result of an attempt to punish me by the previous Conservative majority for fighting effectively against Bill C-38 in legion with Liberal and New Democratic Party MPs who did not want to see the damage that would happen due to Bill C-38. I put forward 423 amendments to Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill. The Speaker grouped them and we voted. Voting took 24 hours straight, and that's why they brought forward these motions.

First they—in this case Peter Van Loan—tried to get the Speaker to rule that members such as me would have one amendment pulled out of the pack. If that one amendment failed after being put to a test vote, none of the rest would be heard. The Speaker said that it violated the principle of this being a parliamentary democracy, and so that was rejected.

However, the Speaker opened the door by saying, well, if there's some opportunity created.... We've now tried this so-called opportunity and the Speaker said it would have to be satisfactory to members. It's certainly not satisfactory to me. I've lived with it since the Fall of 2013 and it's really very difficult running from committee to committee.

I hope that answers Don's question. Yes, anyone can put forward amendments as deletions at report stage, but nobody can put forward substantive amendments if this motion passes.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

April 13th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, with no offence to my friend and colleague, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I do believe that the wrong department has responded. My question is specifically in relation to indigenous issues, and it is very clear that the ongoing construction is an ongoing daily violation of treaty rights, which the new Liberal government has sworn to uphold, as the hon member says, on a nation-to-nation basis.

This project underwent a robust evidence-based environmental review because it was reviewed under the legislation that pre-existed the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, which wrecked our environmental assessment process and within which the current government finds itself trying to jerry-rig bad processes. This was a fair process. It was a fair federal-provincial review which said that this would cause irrevocable damage, and cabinet overturned that good advice. The current cabinet can overturn that bad decision, stop the project, and respect the rights of first nations.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

April 12th, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also want to begin by telling my hon. colleague, the leader of the New Democratic Party, how much I respect his dignity, his perseverance, and his being in the House today to present a very important speech on this budget.

I find the budget deeply disappointing and perplexing. I know the hon. leader dedicated much of his speech to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the important priorities and promises that were made to first nations. It is too easy to condemn what is in the budget. There are $8.4 billion for first nations, but there is, undoubtedly, a failure to meet the requirements for the care and protection of first nations children. That part is still a gap.

I want to ask a question for the member. There is a gap on environmental protection. In this place, all opposition parties in 2012 fought hard against the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, which destroyed habitat protection under the Fisheries Act and destroyed the Environmental Assessment Act. Those devastating changes are not being reversed.

Will the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party agree with me and join in a call that the current Liberal government reverse immediately the destruction of habitat protection for our fisheries?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

March 24th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the 2012 omnibus budget bill, the infamous Bill C-38, repealed environmental assessment and put in place a bogus, weak Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, so-called, which has allowed the National Energy Board to make a mockery of real EA. I was shocked to find in this budget, at page 166, four years of funding specifically referenced to keeping the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 alive.

Does the Minister of Environment and Climate Change intend to entrench Bill C-38, or do the right thing and get rid of it?

Opposition Motion—Energy East Pipeline ProjectBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

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

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 30th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, before us today is Bill C-43, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014.

This is yet another mammoth bill. It is 450 pages long and contains 400 clauses that affect more than a dozen laws. Clearly, the opposition is not deluded about the future of this bill. As with the bills before it, the debate on this bill is already subject to a time allocation motion. This is the 80th time the government has used this tactic, and in the end this bill will pass very quickly, just as the others did.

When Bill C-38 was introduced, we moved 500 amendments because the 600-page bill contained dozens of laws. I remember quite well that the government did not accept any of those amendments. We know what is going to happen with the bill before us.

To set the stage, I would like to quote from a National Post editorial about a previous omnibus bill.

Not only does this make a mockery of the confidence convention, shielding bills that would otherwise be defeatable [in the House]...We’ve no idea whether MPs supported or opposed any particular bill in the bunch, only that they voted for the legislation that contained them. There is no common thread that runs between them, no overarching principle; they represent...a sort of compulsory buffet.

The government was trying to get us to pass its legislative agenda in one fell swoop, and that is the case again today.

Among the measures included in this bill is the proposal to deny social assistance to refugee claimants, an idea that was brought forward by a backbencher on the other side of the House. The bill also includes hiring credits for small businesses.

I could list all of the laws affected by this bill, but I will stop at those two. We cannot look at this bill without looking at the overall context of the Conservative administration.

Is the economy doing better since the Conservatives came to power? Every week, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance throws some figures at us: 1 million jobs here; 400,000 jobs there; 300,000 unemployed workers here; 200,000 unemployed workers there. People no longer know which figures are true and which have been manipulated.

I looked into whether the economy was doing better in my riding and whether families were better off and people were less poor. On October 17, I participated in the Nuit des sans-abri. I do not know whether my colleagues opposite participate in this event. It involves spending one night with the homeless and talking to them about their lives for 24 hours. I have been doing this for 10 years. I spent the night with them again this year, and I did not notice that there were fewer homeless people. On the contrary, there were more.

However, I did notice that the organizations that work with the homeless suffered budget cuts this year, including an organization that focuses on getting homeless youth into the job market and back to school. This organization lost $400,000 in funding from the skills link program, a federal program that is supposed to support social integration.

Just today, the CBC mentioned a report by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness stating that the $2 billion currently being invested in social and affordable housing in Canada is not enough to meet the needs of the 35,000 people who sleep on the streets every day or the 235,000 who sleep on the streets every year.

According to the think tank, the government needs to invest $1.7 billion more in affordable housing per year to eliminate homelessness in Canada. It would cost each Canadian $0.88 a week to ensure that people are not sleeping in the streets and to make ours a society where a degree of social justice reigns. At the same time, for every $10 invested in social and affordable housing, we save $21 in health care costs because people who end up in the streets eventually end up in hospital with serious health needs. That is a huge cost for society.

When I took part in homelessness awareness night, I did not see fewer homeless people. I saw people who were having a hard time and needed organizations. I also saw organizations that had just had their funding cut. To me, that is just as important an economic indicator as the GDP.

I also want to talk about the number of people who use food banks. In my riding, many people do. Again, is the economy doing well? There are more and more people using food banks. If the economy were doing so well and the mammoth budget implementation bills that keep getting introduced provided something practical for ordinary Canadians, that number would go down.

On the contrary, the number increased by 25% between 2008 and 2013. That means that there are 25% more people in my riding using food banks. Often these people work part time for minimum wage. They are forced to use food banks to feed their children. That is what the economy looks like under the Conservatives, and I would dare say under the Liberals as well.

Currently, every month, 80,000 new people use food banks in Canada. In the measures proposed today and for some time now, I have not seen anything that would improve this economic indicator. Indeed, that is what it is.

I also want to talk about unemployment. Good jobs are rare, and not just since 2009. Since the crisis, we have lost a number of industry jobs, which have been replaced with part-time jobs.

I read the Parliamentary Budget Officer's response regarding employment insurance funding and the recent related measures. I am not sure whether my colleagues across the way read it, but I doubt it, because this document takes a hard look at the employment insurance situation and how the EI-funded hiring credit will cost us jobs. The EI premium freeze cost us jobs, and every job created will cost us $500,000.

I would like to congratulate the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I know that the Conservatives were not very fond of Mr. Page because he pointed out that purchasing the F-35s was foolish. Nor did they like the subsequent report on the sustainability of old age security, which actually is sustainable. They will surely not like this report.

The Prime Minister probably thought it was a good idea to replace the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I believe that he made a good decision when he appointed Mr. Fréchette, who is doing a great job. I encourage all parliamentarians to read this report. It is a fantastic document that shows that the Conservatives are poor public administrators and that they will have to be replaced sooner or later.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 2Government Orders

October 29th, 2014 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to speak to the latest Conservative omnibus bill. This bill is a product of a tired, old Conservative government that has lost touch with the challenges and opportunities of Canadians.

Bill C-43 is overflowing with changes that have no place in a budget bill, such as the petty change the Conservatives want to make to deny refugee claimants access to social assistance.

The Conservatives are actually using Bill C-43 in an effort to deny income support to refugee claimants, right after their attempt to limit refugee claimants' access to health care was struck down by the Federal Court. The court called that Conservative policy “cruel and unusual treatment” that “outrages (Canadians') standards of decency”.

A recent editorial in The Globe and Mail called this bill “an abuse of process and shown contempt for Parliament by subverting its role”. The Globe is right. It is anti-democratic for the Conservatives to once again use a massive omnibus budget bill to limit debate and ram through so many unrelated measures in Parliament.

In the last few years, the Conservatives have concocted and implemented a process that prevents MPs from all parties from doing their jobs in properly scrutinizing legislation. This is leading to a lot of sloppy mistakes. The Conservatives' general disdain for Canada's democratic institutions and their outright contempt for Parliament have led to countless errors being cemented into Canadian law.

This bill would try to fix a number of previous Conservative mistakes. I would like to give members a few examples of areas where the Conservatives are trying to use this omnibus bill to fix errors in previous bills.

First, the Conservatives forgot to include a tax credit in the last omnibus budget bill, Bill C-31, for interest paid on Canada apprentice loans. The Conservatives try to fix that in clause 35 of Bill C-43.

The second is that the government forgot to ensure that PRPPs are subject to similar GST treatment as RRSPs. The fix for that is found in part 2 of Bill C-43.

Third, they forgot to include a refund in Bill C-31 for duties paid on destroyed tobacco products. That correction is in Bill C-43, part 3.

Fourth, they forgot to change a legal heading when the Conservatives used Bill C-19 to transfer spending powers from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Conservatives gave all of the powers in that section of the law to the immigration minister, but still named the section “Minister of Foreign Affairs”.

Fifth, they forgot in Bill C-38 to allow the Minister of Industry to publicly disclose certain information regarding the review process.

Sixth, they forgot in Bill C-31 to include foreign money services businesses as foreign entities under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.

Seventh, they ignored expert advice and capped the size of the Social Security Tribunal in Bill C-38, leading to massive backlogs in the system.

Eighth, they failed to realize in Bill C-4 that the amalgamation of the Blue Water Bridge Authority might not go as planned.

Ninth, they created confusion in Bill C-4 with various amendments related to public service labour, including a reference to the wrong clause number.

Tenth, they forgot in Bill C-45 to coordinate between RCMP pension rule changes in Bill C-42 and rule changes that raised the age for public service pensions in Bill C-45.

There are 10 examples of the the mistakes the Conservatives made in the previous bill that they are trying to fix in this omnibus bill.

The fact is that the Conservatives' game plan of limiting debate and ramming these bills through Parliaments is responsible for creating these mistakes. Parliament is denied its legitimate role to identify these flaws in the process of real parliamentary debate at committee and in the House and fixing them.

The reason these mistakes are made in the first place is because of the deeply flawed process surrounding omnibus legislation.

I would like to talk a bit today about tax policy, GST, EI, and the income-splitting proposal that the Conservatives had in their last platform.

Bill C-43 actually adds GST to some goods and services that are used by or provided by non-profit organizations operating health care facilities. When we asked officials for an example of what kinds of service might get caught up in this GST hike, the example they provided was of a health care facility that also runs a residential apartment building, such as an old age home. Adding GST to services purchased by or provided by old age homes means one of two things: either it will cut into the bottom line of the health care facility, or the old age home will have no choice but to pass the tax hike on to the people they serve. In the case of an old age home, it means that the government is getting ready to hike the GST and punish Canadian seniors, who are already struggling to get by on a fixed income.

In terms of employment insurance, Bill C-43 also gets it wrong. Bill C-43 offers a small EI tax cut to employers, but only if they agree to stay small. Instead of creating real jobs and growth, Bill C-43 would actually encourage businesses to stay small and would punish them if they grow and become more successful. Due to a design flaw in Bill C-43, the so-called small business job credit creates an incentive for some businesses to fire workers. That is why economist Jack Mintz has called it “a disincentive to growth” and why economist Mike Moffatt said “...the proposed ‘Small Business Job Credit’ has major structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.”

Even Finance Canada officials last night acknowledged that this tax credit creates a disincentive for some employers to hire.

Last month the PBO looked at this tax credit and found that it will only create 800 jobs over the next two years, at a cost of $550 million. That means it will cost taxpayers almost $700,000 per job.

In response to the need to encourage businesses to hire and to reduce EI premiums for businesses that do that or reward businesses that hire, the Liberals have proposed an EI holiday for new hires. This plan would only reward businesses that actually create jobs. The Liberal plan has been endorsed by Canadian job creators, including the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which has said that the Liberal plan for an EI exemption for new hires “would create jobs”. The Restaurants Canada organization, representing restaurants across the country, said “This...proposal for an EI exemption for new hires would help restaurants create jobs.” The CFIB said it loves the Liberal plan to exempt small business from EI premiums for new hires, which has lots of job potential.

The same PBO report that looked at the Conservatives' tax credit and identified the flawed program that would cost $700,000 per job also identified that the Conservatives are collecting billions of dollars in excess of taxes in EI over the next two years and that the Conservatives actually have the capacity to cut EI premiums significantly.

The PBO estimates that artificially high EI rates under the Conservatives will cost the Canadian economy 10,000 jobs over the next two years. That is 10,000 more Canadians who will be out of work over the next two years because the Conservatives are using artificially high EI premiums to pad the books to fund pre-election spending. The Conservatives are ignoring the evidence and putting Conservative politics ahead of the Canadian economy and ahead of the interests of Canadian workers and employers.

Speaking of ignoring the evidence, the Conservatives appear ready to go ahead with their flawed income-splitting scheme that was introduced in their last platform. The idea that the Conservatives were putting forth in their last platform has been panned by everyone from the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to the Mowat Centre and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It was even panned by the late Jim Flaherty himself.

It is being panned because, as articulated in their platform, fewer than 15% of Canadian households would benefit, most of them high-income households, at a cost of $3 billion per year to the federal treasury and another $2 billion per year to provincial governments. Provincial governments, as we know, are facing deficits and huge fiscal challenges.

Under the Conservatives' scheme, the Prime Minister, earning $320,000 a year and with a stay-at-home spouse, would save about $6,500 per year. Meanwhile, a Canadian earning the average industrial wage and with a stay-at-home spouse would save less than $10 per week, and most households would get no benefit whatsoever.

We have a different approach. The Liberal approach is that we need to build a plan for 2015 that would be focused on creating jobs and growth to strengthen the Canadian middle class. The status quo is not working. The current federal government is so preoccupied with day-to-day politics that it has lost track of and is out of touch with the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian families. Those are challenges such as aging demographics and a slow-growth economy, which some refer to as secular stagnation. Baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement age, and as they exit the workforce, they will leave a shrinking tax base and labour shortages in their wake. They will also place a greater strain on health care systems as they age. We will end up with more Canadians using the social safety net and fewer Canadians paying into it. These demographic pressures are leading economists to predict that slow economic growth could become the new normal.

The Canadian economy, frankly, is already sputtering under the Conservatives. Job growth over the last two years has been extremely weak, consumer debt is high, infrastructure is in disrepair, and housing prices in our cities are inflated. Last year the Canadian economy created a paltry 5,300 net new full-time jobs across the country. The percentage of Canadians working today is still two full points lower than before the downturn. There are 200,000 more jobless Canadians today than before the downturn, and the number of Canadians who are considered long-term unemployed is twice that of 2008. More than 150,000 Canadians are unemployed and have been searching for work for a year or longer. As we all know, the longer they are out of the workforce, the harder it is for them to get back in.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have young Canadians who simply cannot get their foot in the door of the Canadian labour market. Recent grads are facing huge challenges. There are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than before the downturn, before 2008. Persistently high youth unemployment and under-employment is robbing a generation of people of opportunities they need to succeed. TD economist Craig Alexander and CIBC economist Benjamin Tal describe a scenario of a lost generation of Canadian youth and a lost generation of potential for all Canadians.

This is despite the fact that this generation is the most technologically adept, most educated generation in our nation's history, and therein lies the challenge we face. There is a gap between the education they have and the job market. We have people without jobs and jobs without people.

Too many Canadians in their twenties are left saddled with big student loans and are unable to make ends meet. All too often, it is their middle-class parents and grandparents who are footing the bill. Among the hardest hit are Canadians who are actually squeezed between helping their adult children pay the bills and taking care of their aging parents at the same time, the sandwich generation. In many cases these parents in their forties, fifties, and sixties are taking on additional debt or dipping into their retirement savings. In fact, this is one of the things that is driving record levels of personal debt, which is about $1.65 for every dollar of annual income. According to the Canadian Financial Monitor, Canadians who are 55 years of age or older are two and a half times more likely to refinance their mortgage if they have children than if they do not have children. Their average household debt is twice that of their childless peers.

Meanwhile, many younger families do not actually have a mortgage to refinance. Instead, they are being priced out of the housing market altogether.

On this front, the Conservative government must share at least part of the blame for the high housing prices in Canada and commensurate personal debt. It was the Conservative government, in budget 2006, that brought in 40-year mortgages with no down payment. It introduced them for the first time in Canada. It had an effect, because in the first half of 2008, more than half of all new mortgages in Canada were 40-year mortgages, and 10% of those had zero down payment.

The Conservatives shifted Canada's borrowing culture and lending culture, and that shift has helped fuel record levels of housing prices commensurate with that household debt. They have since reversed course and returned to the norm that was the case under Liberal governments in the past, meaning 25-year mortgages with at least 5% down. However, it is important to recognize the Conservatives' culpability in bringing 40-year mortgages with no down payments into Canada and helping fuel record levels of personal debt related to skyrocketing housing prices.

From the OECD and the IMF to the Bank of Canada, one thing on which Canadian and international economists agree is that elevated housing prices and household debt pose a big domestic threat to our economy. These elevated housing prices have helped widen the generational divide between those on the one hand who have watched the value of their house appreciate and in some cases have tapped into that equity to help fund consumption, and those on the other hand who cannot afford to even enter the housing market.

We are seeing greater income inequality in Canada, and fewer Canadians now think of themselves as being middle class. In fact, the number of Canadians who self-identify as middle class has dropped from 64% in 2009 to 47% in 2014. Even more troubling is that for the first time in recent history, more Canadians now believe that the next generation, their children and grandchildren, will be worse off, not better off, than they are today. That is the first time this has happened in Canada.

What we need is a federal government that will rise to meet these big challenges facing our country: aging demographics, slow growth, soft job market, and high levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. These are all challenges, but they also represent opportunities. I will give one specific challenge to our country that is a big social and economic challenge but that also represents an opportunity if we can get it right.

Over the next 10 years, there will be about 400,000 young aboriginal and first nation Canadians who will be of workforce age. If they have the skills they need for the jobs of today, that would be really good for our economy. If they do not, it represents a demographic, economic, and social time bomb for our country.

The reality is that we have failed collectively as governments at all levels to address this challenge. If we take it seriously, young aboriginal workers can be part of a Canadian growth and economic success story. We have to get it right. We have to take these issues seriously.

Liberals believe that sustainable growth and a focus on creating jobs, growth, and opportunities is the best way to benefit Canadian middle-class families and to restore hope to them. We believe we need to invest in infrastructure, training, innovation, and trade, and we believe that we need to keep our competitive tax rates.

Bill C-43 does nothing to grow the Canadian economy, and it ignores the very real challenges of the middle class and of young Canadians.

In a very short period of time, potentially within days, we will be seeing a fall economic statement. We hope the government chooses to invest in the future by investing in infrastructure, in training, and in young Canadians. We need the government to do so, and if this government does not, a future Liberal government will.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

October 20th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development.

We are obviously very happy to hear that the government will ensure that the laws are being obeyed. Unfortunately, the laws are far from adequate in light of all the amendments made to Bill C-38.

We are very concerned that the government does not seem interested in the project, in light of the criteria and facts we are learning today. We know that there will be dredging, and we do know that it will be postponed.

The project has already been submitted by Chaleur Terminals Inc., and this company already has the facts in hand. I do not understand why the government cannot make a decision today on the feasibility of the dredging and on what will be done with the spoils. The facts are there. The dredging will happen, and the government will have to make a decision.

Opposition Motion—Gros-Cacouna Oil TerminalBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 9th, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville for his speech. I have a clear and simple question for him.

I will put it in English to make it easier.

In Bill C-38, at section 165, and I think most members of the House did not notice it, that administration put the National Energy Board in charge of endangered species if they happened to be in the way of a pipeline. In other words, it has put the mandate for bitumen and diluent as a higher priority over endangered species, taken protection of species in the case of a pipeline, trumped the Species at Risk Act, and handed it to the National Energy Board.

That makes everything else we see in this one instance entirely consistent with a policy that puts bitumen first and belugas last.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to respond to the Thursday question from the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

I know how proud he claims to be about showing up to work. In fact, though, the New Democrats seem to have a spotty record on that. Last evening, that very member rose to speak to our government's bill to protect our communities and exploited persons—that is Bill C-36—and after one whole minute he moved to adjourn the House. He said we should all go home. Maybe that is the parliamentary equivalent of taking one's ball and wanting to go home when one is unhappy with how things are going in another meeting.

In any event, we did all dutifully troop into the House to vote on that at 6 p.m. However, what was very revealing was that only 61 of those 98 New Democrats stood in their places to vote. A few of them were missing their shifts, oddly. We did not find that on the Conservative side. In fact, we just had two votes in the House, and the number of New Democrats who were not standing in their places was very similar to that.

Therefore, when I ask myself who is not showing up for work, I can say it is not the Conservatives not showing up; it is, in fact, the New Democrats.

However, following the popular acclaim of last week's Thursday statement, I would like to recap what we have actually accomplished in the House since last week in terms of the legislative agenda.

Bill C-37, the riding name change act, 2014, which was compiled and assembled through the input of all parties, was introduced and adopted at all stages.

Bill C-31, the economic action plan, act no. 1, was adopted at both report stage and, just moments ago, at third reading.

Bill C-24, the strengthening Canadian citizenship act, was concurred in at report stage.

Bill C-20, the Canada-Honduras economic growth and prosperity act, was passed at third reading. Of course, the NDP tried to slow down its passage, but Conservatives were able to get around those efforts, as I am sure the 50 New Democrats on vigil in the House last night fondly appreciate, and we were able to extend our hours because there were, again, not even 50 New Democrats here in the House to stand in their places to block that debate as they wanted to. So we did finish the Canada-Honduras bill that night, and were able to vote on it.

The government's spending proposals for the year were adopted by the House, and two bills to give these plans effect, Bill C-38 and BillC-39, were each passed at all stages.

Bill C-22, the energy safety and security act, was reported back from committee, and several other reports from committees were also tabled. As I understand, we will see Bill C-17, the protecting Canadians from unsafe drugs act, reported back from the health committee in short order.

Finally, this morning we virtually unanimously passed a motion to reappoint Mary Dawson as our Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Sadly, though, the New Democrats did not heed my call last week to let Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act, pass at second reading. We were treated, sadly, to only more words and no deeds from the NDP.

Turning to the business ahead, I am currently anticipating the following debates. This afternoon and tonight, we will finish the debate on Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, at second reading. That will be followed by third reading of Bill C-24 and second reading of Bill C-35, Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law).

Tomorrow morning, we will debate Bill C-24, if necessary, and Bill C-18, Agricultural Growth Act, at second reading. After question period, we will get back to Bill C-32, and give the NDP one more chance to send the victims bill of rights to committee.

The highlight of Monday is going to be the report stage of Bill C-6, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. Tuesday’s feature debate will be Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, at second reading. Wednesday will see us finish third reading, I hope, of Bill C-6. During the additional time available those days—in addition to Thursday and Friday of next week—I will schedule any unfinished debates on Bill C-18, Bill C-32 and Bill C-35.

I will also try to schedule debates on Bill C-22 and Bill C-17, as well as other bills, such as Bill C-3, the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, at third reading; Bill C-8, the Combating Counterfeit Products Act, at third reading; Bill C-12, the Drug-free Prisons Act, at second reading; Bill C-21, Red Tape Reduction Act, at second reading; Bill C-26, Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, at second reading; Bill S-2, Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act, at second reading; Bill S-3, the Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act, at second reading; and Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act—which I understand we will receive shortly from the other place—at second reading.

Main Estimates, 2014-15

June 10th, 2014 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Main Estimates, 2014-15

June 10th, 2014 / 11 p.m.
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NDP

The Chair NDP Joe Comartin

The House is now in the committee of the whole on Bill C-38.

Main Estimates, 2014-15

June 10th, 2014 / 10:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved 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, be now read a first time.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)