Appropriation Act No. 4, 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

Dec. 3, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 3, 2014 Passed That Bill C-45, 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].
Dec. 3, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole.

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In the spring of 2012, the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, repealed our environmental assessment act and destroyed the Fisheries Act.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.

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.

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.

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.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2016 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Brampton Centre for sharing his time with me. It is such an honour for me to speak to budget 2016 this afternoon.

I am going to divide the 10 minutes that I have into three general categories: first, the overall quality of the budgetary information; second, a quick review of those things that are pretty good, but not good enough; and third, concerns about the environmental content of the budget.

First, on the quality of the budget, there is something that I think parliamentarians need to spend a lot more time talking about and demanding of Finance Canada. It has been a number of years since I have been able to find in the budget of Canada something that I think most Canadians would expect us to find, something called a budget: a statement of revenues, a statement of expenses, a bottom line, clear information.

I started saying with the previous government that we should really stop calling it the budget and call it the annual spring thick brochure so we would know what we were talking about. I expected more clarity of information, frankly, from the new finance minister, but as we have seen in the information from the parliamentary budget office in its review of this document, we still do not have detailed tables to identify the impacts of changes. Budget 2016 has actually shortened the time horizon on cost estimates from five years to two years, and it is going to be increasingly difficult to reconcile the program information with the budgetary information with our main estimates and supplementary estimates. I urge the new government to make sure that 2016 is the last budget that is not really a budget.

In addition to the things that the PBO has asked for, I would like to see a return to budget documents that include a statement of the budgets that are comparable from the previous year to the next year, department by department. Quite often in the budgets over the last number of years, we can see an announcement that there is money for a department to do whatever, but we cannot figure out for months, if we ever can, whether that is new money, re-profiled money, or whether it is a real commitment. I would like to see that.

Another thing I would like the Minister of Finance to do before next year, and as a matter of fact as quickly as possible, is present legislation to enshrine the parliamentary budget office and the parliamentary budget officer as independent officers of Parliament, properly funded and not subsumed in the budget of the Library of Parliament. The PBO does an amazing job for us as parliamentarians. It should not have to fight tooth and claw for information from Finance Canada. It should be as available to them as it is to us, and we are not seeing that change yet.

This budget is clearly much more welcome to the Green Party of Canada than the ones over the last 10 years. I do not open it and cringe and fear weeping at every page. Therefore, let me go through those things that are good, but not good enough.

It is certainly welcome to see $8.4 billion allocated to first nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. It is good, but not good enough, because it neglected where we really need to see some increased spending, which is on the care of children in those communities. Specific child care dollars were missed. We need more attention on those key areas. It is certainly welcome, but falls a bit short there. Actually, it is more than a bit short. It completely omits, as Cindy Blackstock has pointed out, money for first nations children and to make sure we act on all the commitments under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I was pleased to see action to assist young Canadians or any students with student debt in making that more manageable, but when one reads very carefully, one finds that there is no new money for that. It is re-profiled in ways that will help students carry student debt and ensure they do not have to start paying student debt back until they are making more money. It is encouraging, but not good enough.

There is more money for international development for Global Affairs Canada, but not nearly enough to catch up to where Canada should be. I want to see a reinstatement of our goal as a nation to 0.7% of our GDP into international development assistance. We are far short of that, even with the modest increase to spending in this budget.

It was very welcome to see money for housing and the federal government being involved again in housing. It is very important that we do that, but I was very disappointed not to see money in this budget for energy retrofits. I will return to that.

It is also welcome to see a return to the funding of basic science and away from the notion that we will not fund anything unless it has an immediate commercial application. It is very welcome to see a return to basic science research and more money for hiring scientists, such as the $40 million that was recently announced for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to start rehiring scientists. Parks and marine protected areas also get funding.

One of Canada's greatest environmental thought leaders passed away earlier this year. I would like to take a moment to note that Jim MacNeill's passing is devastating to the whole policy community that has done any work on sustainable development. Jim MacNeill always said that the single most important environmental statement from any government is its budget. After analyzing this budget for the environmental promises, that is where we find the deepest disappointment.

First, on infrastructure, during the election campaign the Liberals promised to spend enough on infrastructure to stimulate our economy to hire a great deal more people to ensure that we have a strong and vibrant economy that could get us out of the deficit. That was the premise of the Liberals' election campaign. I have to say I do not quibble with that. The Green Party platform was a balanced budget, but I am easily persuaded that in a weak, stagnant economy, when the cost of borrowing is as low as it is today, it is not a bad idea to go into deficit to kick-start the economy. It is a good idea. However, the Liberals fell far short of what needs to be done to create the investments that we need in infrastructure and green infrastructure to create that vibrant economy.

In a nutshell, we read in this budget that over the next 10 years there will be $120 billion invested in infrastructure. That is a big number and it sounds great, until we realize that part one is the next five years, past the next election, in which less than 10% of that money, $11.9 billion, will be spent. The 90% of $120 billion will come to us in the second five-year period. That is important to note, because it means that for public transit money, which is desperately needed, there is only $3.4 billion over three years. It is not enough to significantly reduce greenhouse gases by moving us to public transit. A key piece of stimulus spending that would have put tens of thousands of Canadians to work quickly is to fund eco-energy projects.

With the previous Liberal government, under former prime minister Paul Martin who created the program, it was wildly successful. It delivered on greenhouse gas reductions. Homeowners loved it. Contractors loved it. Building supply companies loved it. It worked. It should have come back in this budget and it should have been expanded to include institutions like universities, schools, and hospitals, to replace inefficient furnaces, to bring in heat pumps, and to employ an army of carpenters, electricians, and plumbers who could go to work to deliver. It is missing and that is a shame. I hope it will get serious consideration before the 2017 budget so that we can actually attack the 30% of greenhouse gases that come from leaky buildings in Canada.

However, I have to say the most despairing part in reading the budget was when I came to a section which has the heading, “Restoring trust in environmental assessment”. This is at page 165 in the budget. Restoring trust in environmental assessment requires fixing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, brought in originally in 1993, was repealed in 2012 in the spring omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38.

This section of the budget suggests we are going to keep the broken, bogus, useless Environmental Assessment Act that was brought in under Bill C-38, and that we are going to keep it for four more years. There is a specific reference to it getting funded for four more years. This is an enormous mistake, and it must be reversed. Similarly, we must get rid of what Bill C-38 did to our Fisheries Act, to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was in the fall omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45.

We need to fix our environmental laws if we are going to have a hope of restoring public trust in the environmental assessment process. This must be fixed and it is a budgetary issue. However, it is an urgent parliamentary concern that we undo the damage that every single member of the opposition fought against in 2012. Every New Democrat, every Liberal, and every Green MP fought that. We need to pay attention to the mistakes in this budget and fix them immediately.

Opposition Motion—Energy East Pipeline ProjectBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

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

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Environment and Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Cooper, TransCanada spokesman, said:

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

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

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

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It makes changes to the Trust and Loan Companies Act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NDP leader Liz Hansen also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I move:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Rosser replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chief, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

Chief Steve Smith

Good morning, Mr. Chair and fellow committee members.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kwä`nä`schis.

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.