Madam Speaker, it is such an honour to rise on such an important discussion as lobbying. With all the inappropriate lobbying done by SNC-Lavalin, I would like to think that my colleagues in the Conservative Party would come forward with a really strong bill to deal with the power of lobbyists, but this bill is about going after grassroots people who dare to oppose government policies.
If I read this bill as being something that was proposed in Saudi Arabia, I would not be all that surprised. The Conservatives are so angry about the right of ordinary citizens to talk to international organizations about fundamental issues like human rights and the environment, that if they oppose a government policy then all of their communication has to be registered.
I certainly remember when Stephen Harper was here and he attacked charities across Canada. There were attacks against Amnesty International. Saudi Arabia might attack Amnesty International, but why would Canada? Stephen Harper saw it as a threat.
One of the other charities the Conservatives went after was PEN. PEN, technically, is a very small charity, but it represents writers around the world who speak up for the right of dissent and imprisoned writers around the world. So powerful is the moral affect of PEN, the Conservatives lined up with their evening gowns and tuxedos to be at the PEN gala event while the Stephen Harper government was targeting it to try to shut it down.
What is this bill? This bill is specifically tailored to stop citizen engagement in taking on potential projects that could affect the environment. It is so specific that it says that lobbyists or any international organization, anybody doing environmental work, must identify “grass-roots communication”, which is defined as appeals to organizations or the public that are intended to encourage recipients to “obstruct, delay or otherwise negatively affect” government policy. Welcome to Canada. There we have it.
If one attempts to involve and work with any international organization, to speak up on policies that the government does not approve of, one could be illegally covered under the Lobbying Act. The Lobbying Act, by the way, is supposed to cover people like Arthur Porter. Everyone remembers Arthur Porter, the international criminal who was involved in the SNC-Lavalin kickbacks. Stephen Harper appointed Arthur Porter to the top of the securities oversight committee because that is how powerful Arthur Porter was with Stephen Harper. Of course, Arthur Porter ended up in a Panamanian jail. He was good enough to go to jail and good enough to have all the secrets of the Canadian state. I would think that it is something we would involve in the Lobbying Act, but no, what Conservatives want to go after are grassroots people.
I came into politics by taking on massive environmentally threatening companies that were brought into Ontario by the Mike Harris government. We were rural people, farm families and indigenous communities, and everything that the Harris government did was to limit our ability to even talk about the health affects of detrimental projects in our region.
For example, a small company called TCI came into our region to do what it claimed was local recycling of PCB products in local mines and it seemed like a great idea. It talked about cleanup, because we have many old mills and many mines, and TCI said that it would do that. Then we found a very small article in a U.S. military paper that there was a ship called the Wan He that was carrying 90,000 kilograms of PCB-contaminated materials and it was headed to a facility run by this company called TCI.
TCI was an American company. I always wondered why it came up to Canada and it was that, under American law, it was illegal for the Americans to reimport all the damage of the PCBs that was caused by American bases in the Pacific. We began to ask if it was attempting to bring PCBs into Canada, because it did not have a licence for it. It did not have a licence from the Canadian government or from the Ontario government, but this ship was carrying 90,000 kilograms that were destined for Vancouver harbour.
We were a small rural region. What did we do? How did we deal with international PCB travel? We had to call the Basel Action Network, an international organization and, my God, Stephen Harper would have just railed about them. It is an international organization that ensures that countries respect the rule of law on PCB exports. What we have is the creation of sacrifice zones, where very wealthy companies or very wealthy countries identify poorer regions in which to dump waste. We counted on the Basel Action Network, which is out of Seattle.
We were also looking for anyone who could tell us about the effects of PCBs and how to stop these imports. Of course, Greenpeace had a long history of that. Now, Greenpeace is the devil incarnate to the Conservatives, but to our rural farmers, we called out to them. We worked internationally to stop the Wan He. It was denied access in Vancouver harbour by the longshoremen and by the agents of Greenpeace. Then they tried to move it into Seattle where the teamsters stopped it. Then they shipped it back to Guam. We were able to stop that toxic waste from coming into northern Ontario because of those connections we made.
Then of course it did not stop there. We dealt with the Mario Cortellucci gang and the Adams Mine dump. Mario is back. He is best buddies with Doug Ford. He is attempting to build a massive garbage dump, shutting down public consultations with farmers, first nations and the miners, who all stood together against that project. Then they tried to bring in what was called the Bennett toxic waste incinerator, to bring in toxic waste from Mexico and the United States.
They always tell rural Canadians, “My God, this is such a great project. We are going to bring waste from across North America and give you jobs.” If it is such a great business opportunity, why did Bennett not set it up in Oakville where the company is centred? They did not set it up in Oakville, because, again, they are looking for sacrifice zones, the ability to target poor, rural, marginalized or indigenous communities with toxic waste.
We had to do a major crash course on the effects of these incinerators, which they called state-of-the-art thermal oxidizers. It was basically a burn can with a claptrap on top that spilled dioxins out. We did not know the effects of dioxins, and we had a massive dairy business region right beside this. If dioxin gets anywhere near milk, the dairy industry is done. We saw that happen in France and Belgium with these bad incinerators.
Who did we reach out to? We had to reach out to international experts like Dr. Neil Carman, who came up from Texas, and Dr. Paul Connett, who came up from the United States, who worked with our local organizations and local farmers. I remember meetings where local farm women sat down and went through the EA line by line and learned the bogus science of toxic waste incineration, and learned how to challenge the environmental assessment against very powerful companies, against a government that was committed to making this go through.
It was possible because we were able to work with international organizations. These international organizations and these grassroots people are the direct target of a bill that wants to criminalize dissent, to make any efforts to stand up for the environment, any efforts to stop this kind of thing, whether it is toxic waste or the Trans Mountain pipeline going through indigenous territory, illegal, and to deny the rights of citizens to have public input.
That is what the Harper government did not get. That is why it never got a pipeline. To get a pipeline, there has to be social licence. The National Energy Board was little more than a bunch of hand puppets for the oil industry, and it limited public consultation again and again. Lo and behold, the courts ruled that this was a bogus process because there needs to be fair, open, public consultation: the bigger the risk, the bigger the obligation.
This bill to criminalize the rights of citizens to organize, to work with international organizations on bettering the plan, is fundamentally wrong and goes right to the rot that exists in the Conservative Party, which is to protect its big buddies and not to stand up for grassroots people.