Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1

An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures

Sponsor

Bill Morneau  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 implements certain income tax measures proposed in the March 22, 2017 budget by

(a) eliminating the investment tax credit for child care spaces;

(b) eliminating the deduction for eligible home relocation loans;

(c) ensuring that amounts received on account of the caregiver recognition benefit under the Veterans Well-being Act are exempt from income tax;

(d) eliminating tax exemptions of allowances for members of legislative assemblies and certain municipal officers;

(e) eliminating the tax exemption for insurers of farming and fishing property;

(f) eliminating the additional deduction for gifts of medicine;

(g) replacing the existing caregiver credit, infirm dependant credit and family caregiver tax credit with the new Canada caregiver credit;

(h) eliminating the public transit tax credit;

(i) ensuring certain costs related to the use of reproductive technologies qualify for the medical expense tax credit;

(j) extending the list of medical practitioners that can certify eligibility for the disability tax credit to include nurse practitioners;

(k) extending eligibility for the tuition tax credit to fees paid for occupational skills courses at post-secondary institutions and taking into account such courses in determining whether an individual is a qualifying student under the Income Tax Act;

(l) extending, for one year, the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors;

(m) eliminating the tobacco manufacturers’ surtax;

(n) permitting employers to distribute T4 information slips electronically provided certain conditions are met; and

(o) delaying the repeal of the provisions related to the National Child Benefit supplement in the Income Tax Act.

Part 2 implements certain goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures proposed in the March 22, 2017 budget by

(a) adding naloxone and its salts to the list of GST/HST zero-rated non-prescription drugs that are used to treat life-threatening conditions;

(b) amending the definition of “taxi business” to require, in certain circumstances, providers of ride-sharing services to register for the GST/HST and charge GST/HST in the same manner as taxi operators; and

(c) repealing the GST/HST rebate available to non-residents for the GST/HST that is payable in respect of the accommodation portion of eligible tour packages.

Part 3 implements certain excise measures proposed in the March 22, 2017 budget by

(a) adjusting excise duty rates on tobacco products to account for the elimination of the tobacco manufacturers’ surtax; and

(b) increasing the excise duty rates on alcohol products by 2% and automatically adjusting those rates annually by the Consumer Price Index starting in April 2018.

Part 4 enacts and amends several Acts in order to implement various measures.

Division 1 of Part 4 amends the Special Import Measures Act to provide for binding and appealable rulings as to whether a particular good falls within the scope of a trade remedy measure, authorities to investigate and address the circumvention of trade remedy measures, consideration of whether a particular market situation is rendering selling prices in an exporting country unreliable for the purposes of determining normal values and the termination of a trade remedy investigation in respect of an exporter found to have an insignificant margin of dumping or amount of subsidy.

Division 2 of Part 4 enacts the Borrowing Authority Act, which allows the Minister of Finance to borrow money on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada with the authorization of the Governor in Council and provides for the maximum amount of certain borrowings. The Division amends the Financial Administration Act and the Hibernia Development Project Act to provide that the applicable rate of currency exchange quoted by the Bank of Canada is its daily average rate. It also amends the Financial Administration Act to allow that Minister to choose a rate of currency exchange other than one quoted by the Bank of Canada. Finally, it makes a consequential amendment to the Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.

Division 3 of Part 4 amends the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act and the Bank Act to

(a) specify that one of the objects of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation is to act as the resolution authority for its member institutions;

(b) require Canada’s domestic systemically important banks to develop, submit and maintain resolution plans to that Corporation; and

(c) provide the Superintendent of Financial Institutions greater flexibility in setting the requirement for domestic systemically important banks to maintain a minimum capacity to absorb losses.

Division 4 of Part 4 amends the Shared Services Canada Act in order to permit the Minister responsible for Shared Services Canada to do the following, subject to any terms and conditions that that Minister specifies:

(a) delegate certain powers given to that Minister under that Act to an “appropriate Minister”, as defined in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act; and

(b) authorize in exceptional circumstances a department to obtain a particular service other than from that Minister through Shared Services Canada, including by meeting its requirement for that service internally.

Division 5 of Part 4 authorizes a payment to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to support a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy.

Division 6 of Part 4 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to expand eligibility for student financial assistance under that Act to include persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act, whether or not they are Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons. It also amends the Canada Education Savings Act to permit the primary caregiver’s cohabiting spouse or common-law partner to designate a trust to which is to be paid a Canada Learning Bond or an additional amount of a Canada Education Savings grant and to apply to the Minister for the waiver of certain requirements of that Act or the regulations to avoid undue hardship. It also amends that Act to provide rules for the payment of an additional amount of a Canada Education Savings grant in situations where more than one trust has been designated.

Division 7 of Part 4 amends the Parliament of Canada Act to provide for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to report directly to Parliament and to be supported by an office that is separate from the Library of Parliament and to provide for the appointment and tenure of the Parliamentary Budget Officer to be that of an officer of Parliament. It expands the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s right of access to government information, clarifies the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s mandate with respect to the provision of research, analysis and costings and establishes a new mandate with respect to the costing of platform proposals during election periods. It also makes consequential amendments to certain Acts.

This Division also amends the Parliament of Canada Act to provide that the meetings of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons are open, with certain exceptions, to the public.

Division 8 of Part 4 amends the Investment Canada Act to provide for an immediate increase to $1 billion of the review threshold amount for certain investments by WTO investors that are not state-owned enterprises. In addition, it requires that the report of the Director of Investments on the administration of that Act also include Part IV.‍1.

Division 9 of Part 4 provides funding to provinces for home care services and mental health services for the fiscal year 2017–2018.

Division 10 of Part 4 amends the Judges Act to implement the Response of the Government of Canada to the Report of the 2015 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. It provides for the continued statutory indexation of judicial salaries, an increase to the salaries of Federal Court prothonotaries to 80% of that of a Federal Court judge, an annual allowance for prothonotaries and reimbursement of legal costs incurred during their participation in the compensation review process. It also makes changes to the compensation of certain current and former chief justices to appropriately compensate them for their service and it makes technical amendments to ensure the correct division of annuities and enforcement of financial support orders, where necessary. Finally, it increases the number of judges of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Yukon Supreme Court and increases the number of judicial salaries that may be paid under paragraph 24(3)‍(a) of that Act from thirteen to sixteen and under paragraph 24(3)‍(b) from fifty to sixty-two.

Division 11 of Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act to, among other things, allow for the payment of parental benefits over a longer period at a lower benefit rate, allow maternity benefits to be paid as early as the 12th week before the expected week of birth, create a benefit for family members to care for a critically ill adult and allow for benefits to care for a critically ill child to be payable to family members.

This Division also amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things, increase the maximum length of parental leave to 63 weeks, extend the period prior to the estimated date of birth when the maternity leave may begin to 13 weeks, create a leave for a family member to care for a critically ill adult and allow for the leave related to the critical illness of a child to be taken by a family member.

Division 12 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to, among other things,

(a) specify to whom career transition services may be provided under Part 1 of the Act and authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting those services;

(b) create a new education and training benefit that will provide a veteran with up to $80,000 for a course of study at an educational institution or for other education or training that is approved by the Minister of Veterans Affairs;

(c) end the family caregiver relief benefit and replace it with a caregiver recognition benefit that is payable to a person designated by a veteran;

(d) authorize the Minister of Veterans Affairs to waive the requirement for an application for compensation, services or assistance under the Act in certain cases;

(e) set out to whom any amount payable under the Act is to be paid if the person who is entitled to that amount dies before receiving it; and

(f) change the name of the Act.

The Division also amends the Pension Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to remove references to hospitals under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs as there are no longer any such hospitals.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Division 13 of Part 4 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to

(a) provide that a foreign national who is a member of a certain portion of the class of foreign nationals who are nominated by a province or territory for the purposes of that Act may be issued an invitation to make an application for permanent residence only in respect of that class;

(b) provide that a foreign national who declines an invitation to make an application in relation to an expression of interest remains eligible to be invited to make an application in relation to the same expression of interest;

(c) authorize the Minister to give a single ministerial instruction that sets out the rank, in respect of different classes, that an eligible foreign national must occupy to be invited to make an application;

(d) provide that a ministerial instruction respecting the criteria that a foreign national must meet to be eligible to be invited to make an application applies in respect of an expression of interest that is submitted before the day on which the instruction takes effect;

(e) authorize the Minister, for the purpose of facilitating the selection of a foreign national as a member of a class or a temporary resident, to disclose personal information in relation to the foreign national that is provided to the Minister by a third party or created by the Minister;

(f) set out the circumstances in which an officer under that Act may issue documents in respect of an application to foreign nationals who do not meet certain criteria or do not have the qualifications they had when they were issued an invitation to make an application; and

(g) provide that the Service Fees Act does not apply to fees for the acquisition of permanent residence status or to certain fees for services provided under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Division 14 of Part 4 amends the Employment Insurance Act to broaden the definition of “insured participant”, in Part II of that Act, as well as the support measures that may be established by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. It also repeals certain provisions of that Act.

Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Aeronautics Act, the Navigation Protection Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to provide the Minister of Transport with the authority to enter into agreements respecting any matter for which a charge or fee could be prescribed under those Acts and to make related amendments.

Division 16 of Part 4 amends the Food and Drugs Act to give the Minister of Health the authority to fix user fees for services, use of facilities, regulatory processes and approvals, products, rights and privileges that are related to drugs, medical devices, food and cosmetics. It also gives that Minister the authority to remit those fees, to adjust them and to withhold or withdraw services for the non-payment of them. Finally, it exempts those fees from the Service Fees Act.

Division 17 of Part 4 amends the Canada Labour Code to, among other things,

(a) transfer to the Canada Industrial Relations Board the powers, duties and functions of appeals officers under Part II of that Act and of referees and adjudicators under Part III of that Act;

(b) provide a complaint mechanism under Part III of that Act for employer reprisals;

(c) permit the Minister of Labour to order an employer to determine, following an internal audit, whether it is in compliance with a provision of Part III of that Act and to provide the Minister with a corresponding report;

(d) permit inspectors to order an employer to cease the contravention of a provision of Part III of that Act;

(e) extend the period with respect to which a payment order to recover unpaid wages or other amounts may be issued;

(f) impose administrative fees on employers to whom payment orders are issued; and

(g) establish an administrative monetary penalty scheme to supplement existing enforcement measures under Parts II and III of that Act.

This Division also amends the Wage Earner Protection Program Act to transfer to the Canada Industrial Relations Board the powers, duties and functions of adjudicators under that Act and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Division 18 of Part 4 enacts the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, which establishes the Canada Infrastructure Bank as a Crown corporation. The Bank’s purpose is to invest in, and seek to attract private sector and institutional investment to, revenue-generating infrastructure projects. The Act also provides for, among other things, the powers and functions of the Bank, its governance framework and its financial management and control, allows for the appointment of a designated Minister, and provides that the Minister of Finance may pay to the Bank up to $35 billion and approve loan guarantees. Finally, this Division makes consequential amendments to the Access to Information Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act.

Division 19 of Part 4 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to, among other things, expand the list of disclosure recipients to include the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and to include beneficial ownership information as “designated information” that can be disclosed by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. It also makes several technical amendments to ensure that the legislation functions as intended and to clarify certain provisions, including the definition of “client” and the application of that Act to trust companies.

Division 20 of Part 4 enacts the Invest in Canada Act. It also makes consequential and related amendments to other Acts.

Division 21 of Part 4 enacts the Service Fees Act. The Act requires responsible authorities, before certain fees are fixed, to develop fee proposals for consultation and to table them in Parliament. It also requires that performance standards be established in relation to certain fees and that responsible authorities remit those fees when the standards are not met. It adjusts certain fees on an annual basis in accordance with the Consumer Price Index. Furthermore, it requires responsible authorities and the President of the Treasury Board to report on fees. This Division also makes a related amendment to the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 and terminological amendments to other Acts and repeals the User Fees Act.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

June 12, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures
June 6, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2017 Failed Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures (report stage amendment)
June 5, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures
May 9, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
May 9, 2017 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, since the Bill, in addition to increasing taxes and making it more difficult for struggling families to make ends meet, is an omnibus bill that fails to address the government's promise not to use them.”.
May 9, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member must know that past legislation the government put forward, such as Bill C-44, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, actually limited access. Section 28 actually limited the access Canadians could have to documentation related to the Canada infrastructure bank.

The member must know that in this legislation, the government is actually getting rid of the section that forces departments to list the types of documentation and records they keep. That is not me saying it. Ken Rubin and the Centre for Law and Democracy say this. How can the Liberals claim that this is somehow a vast improvement, when they are actually drawing back on certain elements and have kept every single exemption in the law?

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, listening to the President of the Treasury Board speak, I think we should be breaking out the champagne for this once-in-a-lifetime change to the access to information law that will achieve everything. I heard him say that it is early in the day. I am sure he will make some time in the lobby behind us for other government members. However, I have bad news for them. The supposed openness and transparency law that the Liberals have introduced, where they faked themselves into thinking they have accomplished something, falls far short of what they promised during the election campaign. Also, according to the experts, it falls far short of what should have been achieved over this 30-year gap between when the ATIP law was introduced and the amendments they are proposing to make.

What is interesting is that we rise in the House in question period to ask questions that we never get answers to. The Liberals could have provided fulsome answers then. We have Order Paper questions asking for simple definitions that should be textbook, yet they fail to provide the answers for these Order Paper questions. These are privileges that each member of this House enjoys, and the government should be providing complete answers to those Order Paper questions. Therefore, it is no wonder that this access to information amendment it is proposing will fall far short of what should be achieved.

Many times I have heard the member for Carleton ask what the definition of “middle class” is and what the impact of the carbon tax would be. He has tried to get that information through the access to information laws. However, we never get that information from the government. What the Liberals are proposing today will never fix that. What is needed is a cultural change. I call this system that they are proposing the Potemkin ATIP system. It has all the window dressings, the image that is needed, but none of the changes they have promised to make will be in the guts of it.

I do have a Yiddish proverb, because I think it speaks volumes to what the government is proposing to do. It is, “The luck of an ignoramus is this: He doesn't know what he doesn't know.” I am not speaking with respect to the President of the Treasury Board, I am speaking of the government in general.

I will quote from the access to information law experts from the Centre for Law and Democracy, which noted a couple of disturbing elements in this bill.

It stated, “a large majority of the proactive publication obligations are already being implemented in practice by these bodies. While it is some progress to formalise these commitments, this is hardly groundbreaking”. I agree.

It goes on to state, and this is an important point, that the bill “fails to address the serious problem of delays in responding to requests. It does nothing to address the broad regime of exceptions....” That was my first question to the President of the Treasury Board.

It goes on to note that the bill “would also remove the obligation on public authorities to publish about the classes of records it holds, which is designed to facilitate the making of requests for access to information” in the first place. Therefore, that will be removed.

When I came here as a rookie member of this House, one of the very first things I did was to learn and understand how each department worked and the areas in which it specialized. I wanted to understand how to better keep the minister accountable. To do so, I looked for the type of information and the type of records the department was keeping. That was so I could better understand what types of records I could request through an access to information request if I did not get an answer to an Order Paper question or an answer in question period.

The Centre for Law and Democracy notes that section will be removed, which takes me back to my Yiddish proverb. If we do not know that a document exists, then how could we ever ask for it? It is interesting that the government is removing that one section. It is not just me saying that, but so is the Centre for Law and Democracy, which is the expert on this. It does analyses of all access to information laws in every jurisdiction in Canada, and it rates them. It is those experts who are saying that it falls short.

Who else is saying that it falls short? Robert Marleau, the former information commissioner from 2007 to 2008, stated, “there's no one [in government departments] to review what they choose not to [publish]”. This is contrary to the principles of the act. They put the commissioner out of the loop. If we requested briefing notes and parts of them had been blacked out, you had someone to appeal to. This is no longer the case. You cannot even ask the court. It is a step forward, two steps back.

Let us see what the Liberals say they have done. We have heard about mandate letters now being released to the public. It does not help if one does not follow the mandate letter and fulfill what is in it. It is just a letter, a piece of paper. It does not help us to understand anything. Also, I have news. The Alberta government has been releasing mandate letters for well over a decade. Therefore, it is not as if this is groundbreaking and setting some type of new frontier regarding access to information. Alberta has been doing it for years. I remember when the member for Calgary Confederation and the member for Calgary Signal Hill were in the provincial government, and they had mandate letters that were published. The difference is that they followed through with the contents of their mandate letters and were held accountable by the premier of Alberta for the contents. Here, they are not held accountable.

The other thing they say they will be doing is documentation on the training of new ministers, titles and reference numbers of briefing notes, development notes for question period, backgrounders for appearances before parliamentary committees, travel and hospitality expenditures, and contracts of more than $10,000. Other governments have been doing some of these things for a long time now, through freedom of information laws that are provincially based. These are not new frontiers. These are very basic documents.

Some of them are here. However, if they remove from the law the very basis of what type of records the department has to keep, how am I supposed to know that a record exists in the first place? It is like chasing a needle in a haystack a lot of times.

I have experienced this first-hand when doing access to information requests to the health department where I have been stalled out for lengthy periods of time. Sometimes I stumble upon new documents that I did not know even existed before. Then I do another access to information, and my staff and I continue in this manner. Many of the changes being proposed here will not end any of that.

It is hardly historic in terms of changes. There is an RTI rating, which is the methodology that assesses each access to information law to determine its score. The score is based on 150. On the RTI rating, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy, Canada will go from 90 to 92 points. That is a two-point increase. One would think after two years that the government could have cobbled together an amendment to the access to information law that would live up to the promises it made during the last election, because it has broken them here. It could do much better than a two-point increase in its score on access to information laws.

It is not as if Canada will be rising greatly. It is not as if the government did not know how to increase its score. It is not as if it did not have a comparator that it could look at, such as Serbia, which supposedly has a much better rate than we do.

Many experts in the field have said that there are issues, and I note in the law there are interesting oddities and amendments. One of them, and we have heard this before, is with regard to frivolous or vexatious claims for access to information requests. A department would be able to say that they cannot do that.

According to Policy Options, a well-respected think tank, the power to prevent such abuse is included in many ATI laws. However, that power should rest with the Information Commissioner, not the department that is subject to the request. If the department can determine what is frivolous and vexatious, then it can block any type of request it feels is frivolous and vexatious. It could up to the individual civil servant who receives the request.

Bill C-58 also includes a five-year review. The first five-year review would take place only a year after the legislation comes into force. Given the glacial pace of how legislation makes its way through the House and then to the Senate and then bounces back from the Senate, because the government does not really know what it is doing there, I do not think we would have a review of it before 2019, before the next election.

My other concern is that it does not have a sunset clause. Even the Bank Act has a sunset clause. It is set every five years. It forces the parliamentary committee to review the legislation through a mandatory review. It knows that it will sunset unless it provides feedback on its contents. I like the idea of mandatory reviews and sunset clauses in legislation, because it forces us, as parliamentarians, to review legislation on a consistent basis. When I worked as a staff member in the provincial legislature in Alberta, it was one of the things I kept pushing for in regulation and statutes with the minister I had the privilege of working for. I pushed that every single piece of legislation, regulation, should have that included, to mandatorily force members to review the legislation to make sure it still made sense, that the amendments that had been proposed in the last five years, and the improvements, were actually worth carrying on and being included in the final legislation.

I have a page from the Liberal policy platform from the last election. The Liberals promised many things on access to information, some of which they achieve here, and some which they absolutely do not. They said they would expand the powers and role of the Information Commissioner. They have done some of that. They also said that government data and information should be open by default, and that formats should be modern and easy to use. I have no problems with that. That is a great idea.

It is interesting to note that the previous President of the Treasury Board and the previous government started an open data, open government website, where people could download data on Excel spreadsheets. I know this, because we used them in the office that I worked in before. We downloaded bits of data, and used it to supplement Statistics Canada data that we were purchasing as well.

In this policy platform, the government talks about ensuring that the system continues to serve Canadians while it undertakes a full legislative review of the Access to Information Act every five years. I have been to many parliamentary committees where we get a cursory review.

In fact, on the small business tax change, the biggest tax change in a generation, the Liberals on the committee forced it through after we heard only six hours of testimony from witnesses. That was all the time allowed. The Carter commission took six years. If that is the standard the Liberals are going to go by, then I have worries about the mandatory five-year review. I have to wonder if in three or four years will we get six hours to review the legislation. Will the committee be stuffed with members from the Liberal side who will simply say that the committee will be given three hours every five years to figure it out and then they will be done with it? The Liberals have not lived up to the real change, the open and transparent government that they promised.

I will keep referring to the Centre for Law and Democracy, because it has produced a lot of information on the shortcomings and some of the improvements that it sees. There are a lot of shortcomings.

The centre also says that the bill fails to address the serious procedural problems, namely the highly discretionary power of public authorities to extend the initial 30-day limit for responses to requests. I have been the victim of this. I was told that I had asked for too many documents, or they were too difficult to get or too complicated. They tried to get me to pare down my request. That is when I knew I should keep pushing forward and get all of the documentation I was requesting.

With respect to the 30-day time limit for responding to requests, power has been applied with disturbing regularity they say, often to create very lengthy delays in responding to requests. On one access to information request, I was told it would take two years to respond. I reminded them that by then I may no longer be a member of the House and therefore the information they provide may be of limited use to me, which would be a shame.

There are a number of options for reducing official discretion in this area, for example, by requiring officials to obtain prior permission from the Information Commissioner for delays beyond the set period of 60 days. In fact, many access to information laws say that the government must respond within the 60-day time limit. That would be a vast improvement. No courts would be involved, and there would be no need to go to another body to get a document that has been lawfully requested. The documents would simply be released within 60 days.

There are hundreds of thousands of public servants who work for the federal government. Why can they not do a request within 60 days when a reasonable request for documents is made? Why should I, as a member of Parliament, need to go to a court to obtain them? I am not going to get questions answered in the House in question period or through an Order Paper question. My only recourse is to get documentation through access to information.

The commissioner would acquire new order-making powers, but they would be largely crippled and counter-productive. Ken Rubin, the CFE senior fellow who provided a critique on Ryerson University's website on Bill C-58, said it is counter-productive and largely crippled “because no amendments were put forward to change the numerous broad exemptions in the Access to Information Act that cut off access to [these] government records”.

If there are a bunch of exemptions and rules that can be used to not release documents for national security reasons, documents pertaining to cabinet confidences, which is perfectly legitimate, are things like third-party proprietary corporate information at all times really proprietary? It might be better to shed some light on the procurement process so that parliamentarians could better understand what is going on.

We have seen delay after delay, and huge costs associated with the government's failed procurement process. Maybe it is time to shine some light on the problem. The government did not do that in this legislation. It just did the trimmings on the edge, the Potemkin village that I talked about.

The exemptions still exist, and the exemptions are the core of the access to information law. The government has left them as they are so then it could always find an excuse not to release information, to black out information, and to not provide it under the exemptions.

I think the majority of Canadians interested in access to information were looking for the exemptions to be tweaked. The Liberals could have amended, diluted, or removed some of them to make it much easier to access this information.

Another point that Ken Rubin makes is that the Prime Minister has put forward other legislation that makes certain records off limits to the commissioner and the courts for review or their ability to order releases of information. One is the National Security and Intelligence Committee for Parliamentarians, again, on national security grounds. However, that can become overbroad and used as an excuse. We see this in some countries overseas, which use national security to limit access to all types of information, for all types of reasons. It is a blanket catch-all. I hope it does not become that way. However, for national security, I can see legitimate reasons for the government to deny access to information, such as because it would put Canadians at risk or it would put the national security of the country at risk.

The omnibus budget bill, Bill C-44, contains a section devoted to setting up the Canada infrastructure bank. This was a big point of contention in the last session. Section 28 gives the government the power to decide unilaterally what is privileged information, commercial, infrastructure, financial, and political transactions, with no independent review. It is an already controversial enough bill. With these provisions, we can see the government saying that this is a wonderful, new, once-in-a-generation, open and transparent access to information law. However, section 28 limits access to information on the Canada infrastructure bank.

The Liberals are putting exceptions in other bills, but not in the main bill, which should be of great concern to parliamentarians. If the exemptions are not put into the main ATI Act but are put into other legislation, then the government cannot claim to be open and transparent. I do not think anyone would claim that.

Another point Mr. Rubin makes is:

...one amendment in Bill C-58 also directly increases secrecy by expanding and broadening the legal definition of what is able to be exempt under solicitor-client relations.

The Liberals have put some wording around it so the Information Commissioner could have access to it, but they still broadened and expanded it, and Mr. Rubin details that.

Mr. Rubin also makes this point, overall, on Bill C-58, which supposedly would meet the government's promises made in the last election. He says:

It is a stopgap, government-controlled, limited administrative information system not subject to appeal to the information commissioner or the courts, containing a few sanitized offerings the government wants to provide.

I am a big believer in access to information laws. When I worked in the Alberta provincial government, the government there released information. Yes, it took a long time to meet every single requirement. Yes, there were administrative problems. Yes, not everybody was satisfied with the level of customer service they received from the FOIP office there. However, a lot of times it released information eventually and it embarrassed the government to no end. I was in a minister's office at the time, and sometimes it embarrassed our office. However, at least we knew people were getting the same information that we had. The briefing binders were perfectly available to people, and they could ask for the content of them. The only portions blacked out were portions that civil servants determined should not be released. We played absolutely no role in that.

I am sure members on the opposite side, and hopefully all members, will agree that access to information laws are part of our democratic process. People should have a right to get information. I totally agree with that. We cannot fight for the little guy, we cannot fight for the middle class, and then tell them they cannot know things that the government is doing or how it has came to a decision.

However, I will not be able to support the bill, because it does not meet with what the government said it would do during the last election. The Liberals fall far short of the majestic, historic promises they made. This is why I believe members on this side of the House should all oppose the bill. I look forward to continued debate on this.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 21st, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I am seeking unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House:

(a) if Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, is concurred in at report stage later this day, when debate on the said Bill collapses at third reading, all questions necessary for the disposal of the Bill at that stage be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment, provided that, if a recorded division is requested, the bells to call in the members shall ring for not more than 30 minutes;

(b) Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration), be deemed read a third time and passed on division;

(c) Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act, be deemed read a third time and passed on division;

(d) a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that the House disagrees with the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-44, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures, because these amendments infringe upon the rights and privileges of the House;

(e) when the House adjourns today, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 18, 2017, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed to have been adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and be deemed to have sat on Thursday, June 22, and Friday, June 23, 2017; and

(f) when, at any time the House stands adjourned until and including Friday, June 23, 2017, a standing committee has ready a report, that report shall be deemed to have been duly presented to the House upon being deposited with the Clerk.

Message from the SenateOral Questions

June 21st, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-44, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, with amendments to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Copies of the amendments are available at the table.

Amendments to Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what pals he is talking about.

Bill C-44 was introduced as part of the budget. We made it very clear in the budget that we were going to create the infrastructure bank. Our plans to do that were clear. The infrastructure bank is a way of investing and creating a good fund that will make it possible to invest in infrastructure across the country.

In my riding of Laurentides—Labelle, there is a significant need for infrastructure. In many cases, the money for infrastructure just is not there. The infrastructure bank will help in such cases, and that is why it is extremely important for the development of infrastructure and of the country.

June 20th, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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Jean-Denis Fréchette Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

You made a good segue when you mentioned the fall. Should Bill C-44 be passed in the next few hours, all of the PBO team members are looking forward to working with your committee, which is one of the four committees mentioned in the PBO legislation. We're looking forward to that.

Mr. Chair, Mr. Vice Chair, members of the committee. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you to discuss the estimates process and our recent reports on the estimates.

Today, I am joined by Mostafa Askari, Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, and by Jason Jacques and Alex Smith. I feel that Mr. Jacques and Mr. Smith are members of quite a small group of experts who have been following the evolution of the budget process for many years.

Of course, I include in that group Brian Pagan and his colleague Marcia Santiago, who are both not unknown to your committee.

As you know, in October 2016, the Treasury Board Secretariat released its vision for estimates reform. It rests on four pillars: aligning the estimates with the budget, scope and accounting, vote structure, and finally, the departmental plans and results reports.

We welcome the government's efforts to enhance Parliament's role in financial scrutiny. To help parliamentarians examine the government's proposals, we prepared a document outlining issues to be considered when reforming the business of supply. We have also been monitoring the implementation of the government's reforms through our reports on the estimates. While we have observations on each of the four pillars, I will focus on the government's proposal to improve the alignment of the budget and the main estimates by delaying the main estimates—originally until May 1, and now until April 16 based on a recent motion that would amend Standing Order 81. We will come back to that standing order during the question period, if you want.

As the inclusion of budget measures in the spring estimates is an indication of whether delaying the main estimates will lead to alignment with the budget, we tracked the number and value of budget 2017 spending measures in supplementary estimates (A) 2017-18. We found that only 44% of the additional funding allocated in budget 2017 for 2017-18 was included in the supplementary estimates (A). This is a decrease from the previous year, when 70% of the budget funding was included in supplementary (A)s 2016-17.

Given the limited number and value of budget measures that were included in supplementary estimates (A) 2017-18, we are concerned that the government's proposal to delay the main estimates may not result in meaningful improvement in the alignment of the budget and the main estimates.

It is worth noting that, in 2008, the government began tabling spring supplementary estimates with the stated intention of facilitating a closer alignment of the estimates to the budget. As the number of budget measures included in the spring supplementary estimates has varied considerably, it could be concluded that delaying the main estimates would result in similar challenges.

Our examination suggests that successfully aligning the budget and the estimates will require substantial reforms to Finance Canada's and the Treasury Board Secretariat's budgetary approval processes. Thus, parliamentarians may wish to wait for additional details regarding the government's plans to streamline and align those processes before changing the timing of the main estimates.

To help parliamentarians hold the government to account for the implementation of its budget plan, we also decided to track spending and tax measures from announcement in the budget to parliamentary approval through appropriation and budget implementation bills.

As a result of that exercise, we found a number of budget 2016 spending measures, 44% of them, line up with items included in the 2016-17 supplementary estimates. However, many spending measures had more funding or less funding than indicated in the budget, or were simply not funded through the supplementary estimates in 2016-17.

On that basis, we concluded that there is often no clear line of sight between budget spending announcements and their implementation. The different presentation, wording, and accounting methodology makes it challenging to align budget spending measures with items included in the estimates, and it is not possible to track spending on most budget measures beyond the first year or what was actually spent on specific measures. It is thus very difficult for parliamentarians to follow the money and hold the government to account for implementing its fiscal plan as outlined in the budget.

We believe that the government may be able to address some of these challenges by preparing and presenting its budget and estimates concurrently and using a more consistent method of presentation, as was recommended by this committee in 2012.

We have provided copies of the documents I have mentioned to the clerk.

My colleagues and I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have regarding our analyses, as well as the government's estimates process.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 19th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand what the Liberals are missing. The way Bill C-44 is drafted, the infrastructure bank can ignore the laws of Quebec and circumvent municipal bylaws. No agricultural zoning, and the power to expropriate: that is what will come out of Bill C-44. We have said it, the constitutionalists have said it, the National Assembly has said it, the farmers have said it, and even the Senate has said it.

When will this government listen to us and split its bill to have a second look at its infrastructure bank?

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 19th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, the infrastructure bank needs to be split off from Bill C-44. Enough with these massive bills and poison pills hidden in 500-page tomes. The infrastructure bank is a bad idea that is going to weaken Quebec to the benefit of wealthy investors.

Will the Prime Minister listen to Quebec, the farmers, and even the Senate and remove the infrastructure bank from Bill C-44?

Changes to the Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing Motion No. 18. This is a motion in which we see the Liberals making some compromises after the fiasco that unfolded these last few months over their proposed changes to the rules and procedures of the House of Commons.

The government's efforts are doing nothing to improve things in Parliament or to increase government accountability, and neither are they solving the problematic use of omnibus bills and prorogation. However, those are the goals that the government set out with these changes.

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was in appearance to testify on this very matter. During her testimony, she used an expression that I did not at all appreciate given what has transpired. She spoke of a lack of political will. I believe political will is necessary in order to adopt bold ideas and take risks. However, in order to do that and to hold the kinds of discussions the government claims to want to hold, we need a healthy process in which these bold ideas can be heard so that we may then show the political will to move ahead with this so-called modernization of Parliament, to use the terms used by the government.

The government's chosen approach to this issue is a product of its ultimate arrogance. The political will to discuss substantial issues was there. However, without a healthy process in which all voices can be heard, no progress can be made. Unfortunately, that is something the government still does not understand.

Listening to the questions that have been asked and the comments that were made since debate started this morning, it is clear that the government still does not understand.

I do not want to digress too long, because I want to talk about the substantial issues surrounding the motion, but I do want to touch on the question asked by the member for Laurentides—Labelle, for example, who spoke of our search for consensus. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, among others, worked hard for the entire NDP opposition day to try to end partisan appointments. They also worked with the government the entire day to try to come up with an amendment that might allow for consensus, to make the necessary concessions to get the government on board. However, the government voted against that amendment and then voted against the motion.

The member for Laurentides—Labelle accuses us of hypocrisy on this matter. I consider that unparliamentary language. He needs to look at himself in the mirror and acknowledge what has been going on for the past few months. This is not a new problem. We have been dealing with this problem since last year with the infamous Motion No. 6, which sought to remove some of the opposition's powers. When I think about this government's attempts to improve parliamentary life for all members, the expression “do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind.

Let us turn to the substantive issues in Motion No. 18, such as the item on omnibus bills. Instead of putting an end to the practice, to this scourge, which has a negative impact on parliamentary life and prevents members from doing a good job and properly analyzing some extremely important legislative measures, the government is normalizing and validating the use of omnibus bills.

We need only recall what the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said in committee last week on the importance of themes. The problem with themes is that one can always find a way to justify that something relates to the budget. That is exactly what the previous government did with its excessive use of omnibus bills.

Bill C-44, the bill to implement certain provisions of the budget, contains legislative measures to create the infrastructure bank. This involves a fundamental change in how our infrastructure is funded. This has caused great concern among parliamentarians, civil society, and Canadians.

On Friday, I saw Senator Pratte on television saying that he was in favour of the infrastructure bank but did not understand why the government is bound and determined to include it in this bill rather than carrying out an appropriately thorough review of such an important measure.

Even senators who support the idea of the bank do not like its being in the omnibus bill, proof that the government crossed a line. The same thing could easily happen again, even with the changes proposed in Motion No. 18. The Liberal Party would have us believe that these measures will enable parliamentarians to study important legislative initiatives like this one, but what the motion really does is officially normalize the government's use of omnibus bills.

What is even worse is that, by making these measures part of the House rules, nobody will even be able to criticize them. Now, at least, we can say that it is an inappropriate use of legislative tools, but once it is in the rules, any government, current or future, will be able to say that this tactic is fine because it is in the rules.

Let us talk about prorogation. I remember in 2008 when Mr. Harper announced that he was proroguing Parliament. He was trying to get out of a situation where the opposition parties had the audacious political will to form a new government to replace the Conservative government. Let us not forget what happened when Parliament resumed after prorogation. Perhaps that is why the Liberals are not so keen to talk about prorogation and making real changes, because it seemed to have served them well in 2009. They came back and suddenly had nothing more to say about it. They were quite pleased to have Mr. Harper stay in power. However, I do not want to dwell on the past. I want to talk about the current government.

The government is proposing to table a report in the House of Commons outlining its reasons for using prorogation. It essentially boils down to a press release that would be tabled in the House. If the government does not see that any MP or its communications officer could quite easily come up with a justification for using prorogation, then it is dreaming in technicolour.

In that respect, I asked the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs whether there would at least be a vote on this report, as provided for in the Standing Orders of the House in the case of motions to concur in committee reports. She could not even say. She simply said that the use of this mechanism would ensure accountability. That does not mean much. The government is not even considering the possibility of allowing parliamentarians to vote on this report.

Once again, after promising to correct a mechanism that the previous government abused, the new government is simply giving us a fine press release. That is not showing respect for Parliament, quite the opposite.

The government also wants to reduce the time provided for the consideration of the estimates in committee from three months to eight weeks. Once again, I am wondering how giving parliamentarians less time to do this work shows respect for them and the job they do.

In closing, I would like to propose an amendment, but first I would like to say that nothing has been learned with regard to the parliamentary secretaries in committee. If the government really believes that preventing the parliamentary secretaries from voting or moving motions is sufficient to convince us that the PMO and cabinet do not have any power in committee, then it is dreaming in technicolour, because all that the parliamentary secretaries have to do is whisper their instructions to the Liberal members.

That is not the real change the Liberals promised. On the contrary, pretending that this is a real change demonstrates a greater lack of respect for Parliament than simply abusing the mechanisms. At least with the previous government, we knew exactly what it wanted from us. Now, we are getting stabbed in the back. That is not the way to show real respect for parliamentarians.

In conclusion, I move, seconded by the member for Victoria:

That the motion be amended in part 2 by deleting all the words in section 69.1(1) after the words “divide the” and substituting the following:

“bill thematically into separate and distinct bills, each of which shall be deemed to have been read a first time and shall be ordered to be printed. The order for second reading for the newly divided bill shall provide for referral to a committee or committees determined in consultation with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Changes to the Standing OrdersGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, what a long road we have travelled to get here. The process leading us to today's motion has been a long and very frustrating struggle. It was a struggle where the opposition was forced to mitigate the excesses of a careless and arrogant government, a government devoid of any appreciation for what Parliament actually does, a government that insulted the House and dismissed the role of members who sit in opposition to it.

The process has been a sham from the beginning, despite the assertions that we have been hearing about a conversation, a dialogue, and working better together. Over the weeks and months of question period, the House has heard the full word salad from the government trying to defend and excuse its approach to Parliament, a bunch of jargon and buzzwords tossed together with very little substance and very little weight. Given the way the Prime Minister has handled this whole issue and refused for months to acknowledge the need for all-party support, Conservatives will be voting against the motion.

Let me take a few moments to review just how we managed to get here. On March 10, a Friday afternoon, just before we started our March constituency week, the government House leader posted on her website a so-called discussion paper. The House will recall that this Liberal discussion paper proposed, among other things, to reduce the opportunity for members to hold the government to account by eliminating Friday sittings, automatically time-allocating all bills, preventing the opposition from triggering debates on committee reports, and bringing sharp closure changes to committee. It was a shocking set of ideas to think about. Since it was less than a year since we had witnessed the Motion No. 6 fiasco, it was sadly par for the course with the government. The primary driving force for the Prime Minister has been to alter the balance between the opposition and the government by taking away the protections that the rules offer.

The Globe and Mail in an editorial at the time called out the Prime Minister on his ideas and I quote:

[The] government considers the opposition’s limited arsenal to be “tactics which seek only to undermine and devalue the important work of Parliament,” and which “sow dysfunction” and are not “rational” or “defensible,” according to a discussion paper....

Those contentions are cynical bunk. The...government is hawking a utopian vision of Parliament, in which members from different parties politely discuss the government’s proposed legislation on a schedule set by mutual agreement, and there are cheers all around when the House enacts laws that are a perfect reflection of the selfless compromises agreed to in a collegial fashion on committees and in the House....

There are just sunny ways passing beneath crisp rainbows.

They are sunny ways indeed. Had this discussion paper simply been just that when it was published, it would have been read, critiqued, and actually discussed with the flaws being pointed out and the interesting ideas build upon. However, that is not at all what happened.

Later that afternoon, the government House leader's colleague gave notice of motion at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to have the discussion paper studied, with everything wrapped up and recommendations made by June 2. Had the motion at committee simply been a proposal to add the discussion paper to its study of the Standing Orders, it would have been a natural idea and hard to object to. However, that is not what happened. The writing was on the wall. All of the ideas in the discussion paper, which coincidentally all were to the benefit of the Prime Minister, would be rammed through.

Let us fast forward to the procedural and House affairs committee on March 21. The Liberals wanted to pass their motion right away. The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston offered an amendment to observe the longstanding tradition around here of using all-party consensus to change our rules. The Liberals, to their credit, quickly signalled their disagreement with that perfectly reasonable amendment.

We were faced with a completely transparent plan from the Liberals to ram these awful ideas through the House. We simply would not allow this to happen. As a result, we had to stop this reckless Liberal power grab from getting rammed through, so we used one of the very few tools available to opposition parties, the one that the Liberals actually had wanted to remove, and that is the ability to filibuster. Over some six weeks with more than 80 hours of committee meetings, opposition MPs led the fight against the Liberal discussion paper.

I have to give credit to the three Conservative MPs who are members of that committee, the hon. members for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, Banff—Airdrie, and Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock. However, it was not just them; this really was a team effort, and 29 Conservative members of Parliament participated at that committee.

In parallel to the committee proceedings, the NDP House leader and I offered a constructive alternative to the government. We suggested that the House set up a special committee with one member from each party, chaired by our impartial Deputy Speaker, to work on a consensus basis in reviewing our procedures and proposing improvements.

What we proposed was hardly revolutionary. Pierre Trudeau's government set up the Lefebvre committee, which recommended several changes to the Standing Orders, such as bringing in the first time limits to bell ringing, which were adopted unanimously.

Brian Mulroney's government set up the McGrath committee. That group tabled three reports, all adopted unanimously, on a whole range of topics, such as giving our standing committees permanent mandates to study topics on their own initiative.

Under Jean Chrétien, a special committee on the modernization and improvement of the procedures of the House of Commons was created. That committee codified the pattern of goodwill to its rules with an express requirement for reports to be adopted unanimously. Far from that being a veto—and remember that this was back in the days of five recognized parties—the committee managed to adopt six reports.

Most recently, Stephen Harper's government followed the tradition of the unanimity approach, not bringing in permanent procedural amendments with out all-party support.

Those governments proved that reforming Parliament can be done with a co-operative approach. The results were substantive, and they significantly strengthened the role members play in this place.

Indeed, I know the procedure and House affairs committee would have been up to that task. From following their debates, and from joining them for a night, I know that the members from all parties handled the task in front of them with civility and good cheer. They would have handled such a review in a professional and capable fashion.

Sadly, it was quite clear that the Liberals on the committee were under firm instructions from the Prime Minister's Office not to let their members' own better judgment carry the day. Indeed, far from being co-operative and far from her repeated claim to have an open door, the government House leader left the other House leaders hanging. For weeks on end, our letter to her went unanswered.

In addition to a committee filibuster and good faith proposals from the opposition parties, here in the chamber the opposition parties used many of the tools available to us to register our unhappiness and our frustration. The Liberal government desperately tried to get back on track, even shutting down a privilege debate and preventing it from coming to a vote. The hon. member for Perth—Wellington called out the government on this, and the Chair ruled that what the Liberal government had done was entirely without precedent. The Speaker wisely and bravely ruled, allowing the privilege debate to start anew.

Finally, admitting that the Prime Minister was staring at the risk of a total paralysis of his parliamentary agenda, the government House leader finally answered the letter that the hon. member for Victoria and I had sent her. In that letter she indicated that the Liberals were backing away from their discussion paper, but would be pressing ahead regardless of the opposition parties' thoughts with items referenced in the Liberal election platform.

The opposition cannot claim complete credit for the Liberal backdown. I suspect the Liberal House leader may have been under considerable pressure from her own caucus colleagues. Though caucus meetings are confidential, I believe that we witnessed the tip of the iceberg when the hon. member for Malpeque, a veteran of this House, offered this in debate on April 11:

...this place is called the House of Commons for a reason. It is not the House of cabinet or the House of PMO. Protecting the rights of members in this place, whether it is the opposition members in terms of the stance they are taking, is also protecting the rights of the other members here who are not members of cabinet or the government. We talk about government as if this whole side is the government. The government is the executive branch. We do need to protect these rights.

Here we stand today debating government Motion No. 18.

First let me talk about something that we all expected to be in this motion. The headline proposal in every Liberal statement this spring about the Standing Orders was that there was going to be a dedicated Prime Minister's question period. We heard a lot about that.

The Prime Minister was gung-ho and looking forward to having to show up to work for just 45 minutes every week. The Prime Minister was going to show us just how well he could memorize his lines and put on a Broadway-worthy performance with dramatic delivery. He may even have put his hand on his heart a time or two.

We all saw how that experiment unfolded. The Prime Minister quickly saw that his glib platitudes did not give satisfying answers on the concerns of Canadians, the problems facing our economy, or his ethical lapses. It quickly became crystal clear to everyone that the Prime Minister failed to perform and bombed terribly.

Remember the Wednesday when the Prime Minister was asked 18 times if he had met with the Ethics Commissioner? That was May 10.

Although I cannot and I will not refer to the presence or absence of a member, I can say that the House did not hear another Wednesday answer from the Prime Minister until June 7.

John Ivison wrote just this past Thursday about the most recent Prime Minister's question period, noting that the Prime Minister“...did not look like he was having fun Wednesday, when he was pummelled for the entire Question Period on topics ranging from the big issues of the day—Chinese takeovers, rising debt levels—to more arcane subjects like potentially illegal activity at Shared Services Canada and autism funding.”

It is obvious that Liberal bigwigs decided that their leader's performance was actually a liability to the Liberal Party. His performance in question period specifically was a liability to the Liberal Party. If anything, the Liberals' last-minute withdrawal of this proposal only highlights the fact that the government's approach to procedural reforms has been guided solely by Liberal partisan interests. They only want to do it if it is in their interest. That has been made very obvious by their rather rapid withdrawal of a Prime Minister's question period.

Of course, the Prime Minister's good friend, Gerry Butts, was on Twitter Friday claiming that there would never be standing order amendments to create a Prime Minister's question period. To further his alternative facts, the PMO principal secretary then claimed that the Standing Orders were entirely silent on question period. I guess he obviously had not read Standing Order 37, for example, with the big headline above it of “Oral Questions”.

Setting that aside, in her response to written Question No. 1022 tabled Friday afternoon, the government House leader said, “The motion will refer to the commitments made in the platform during the election in relation to...increasing accountability in question period.”

The House leader also testified on Thursday afternoon at the procedural and House affairs committee, where she again reiterated that the Prime Minister's question period would be in the motion. Just a few hours later, though, her words did not match up to her notice of motion, with the Prime Minister's question period being noticeably absent.

We can only conclude that this was a very hasty, last-minute change of heart from the Liberals, likely following last Wednesday's flop by the Prime Minister.

Now that I have spoken about what is not in this motion, let me turn to what actually is in government Motion No. 18.

On prorogation, the Liberals wanted to prevent governments from abusing this routine constitutional procedure. One way to do that is to promise not to abuse it and then follow through on that promise. That would be the good, old-fashioned approach of integrity.

Instead, the government proposes that after prorogation, the government would be obliged to table its reasons, or its excuses, when Parliament reconvenes. Basically, that means that from this time forward, governments can table the press release that it puts out when it announces prorogation. That is really all this change will do.

This amendment makes no sense. It is meaningless. The Prime Minister should be embarrassed to put it on the Standing Orders.

With respect to the Liberal pledge on omnibus bills, we see something even more ridiculous and absurd. The Liberal proposal to end omnibus abuse exempts budget bills, the very bills the Liberals used to complain about. When we look at Bill C-44, which just passed, we see that it is little wonder the Liberals are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

On the other hand, for the few bills the rule might possibly apply, really nothing will change at all. There will be a few extra votes in the House, but no more debate would be held.

The real concern is that the Prime Minister will become more aggressive with omnibus bills. Sheltering under this half-baked reform, omnibus bills will be encouraged. The Liberals can claim that they will be absolved of any fault, because they have changed the rules. This is absolute rubbish. It is not hard to imagine the Liberals taking us to a place where we will soon see things like a throne speech implementation act, with everything thrown into one bill and just a lot of votes to follow. It is actually very worrisome.

However, we should not worry; they say there will be three votes instead of one.

In short, the proposals on prorogation and omnibus bills are so cynical that they are just jokes, plain and simple.

The next item is not as cynical, and it may even have some merit. However, to be successful, it requires the Liberal cabinet to follow through on a promise. Given their record on keeping promises, I have my doubts.

Without getting into a lot of technical detail, government Motion No. 18 tweaks a number of aspects about the scrutiny process for the main estimates. For Canadians not familiar with what the estimates are, they are the proposals that lead to Parliament's authorization for government spending.

The government wanted to achieve a better alignment of the budget and the main estimates. As a matter of principle, Conservatives do not object to this idea. However, the challenge lies in implementation, especially the timing.

Essentially there are two ways to address the timing issues: budgets could be presented earlier or the estimates could be presented later. The government wants flexibility in when budgets are presented, given fluctuating events. That is fair enough, since the previous Conservative government also insisted on the same thing when similar proposals were floated by committee five years ago.

However, last fall the President of the Treasury Board published his own discussion paper on this very issue. He called for a permanent change to the Standing Orders that would reduce the three months currently available to study the main estimates down to 30 days. The Treasury Board president had been promoting this reform, effectively saying that it would give us great documents—so great, apparently, that there really would not need to be time for parliamentary oversight.

Well, hold on. While recognizing the merits of aligning budgets and estimates, the Conservative Party does not want to sacrifice the time available for scrutiny of spending proposals, because we all know how much the Liberals love to spend.

Last fall the Liberals were quite itchy to get these changes through the government operations and estimates committee, but we managed to put the brakes on these hasty, bad changes. For that, I want to recognize the good work of our Treasury Board critic, the hon. member for Brantford—Brant, and his colleagues on that committee, the hon. members for Beauport—Limoilou and Edmonton West.

We were hardly doing this just be stubborn or obstructionist. Outside observers, including none other than our parliamentary budget officer, pointed out concerns with the government's optimistic plans. In November the parliamentary budget officer published a report explaining the promise of the President of the Treasury Board. The PBO had this to say:

With respect to delaying the main estimates, the Government indicates that the core impediment in aligning the budget and estimates arises from the Government’s own sclerotic internal administrative processes, rather than parliamentary timelines.

He went on to say:

This example [of last year's supplementary estimates] shows that it is unlikely that delaying the release of the main estimates by eight weeks would provide full alignment with the budget.

His predecessor, Kevin Page, penned an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, which also poured cold water on the Liberal plan. Kevin Page said:

How does that improve financial control? ... If you start from the perspective of financial control, Parliament should see the fiscal plan...before April 1.

Therefore, this is not just us expressing concerns. There were a number of other esteemed individuals who expressed concern with the government's plan.

More recently, the PBO, in reviewing the spring supplementary estimates, offered this skeptical take, noting his analysis:

...demonstrates the [Treasury Board] Secretariat is further away from its goal in 2017-18, rather than closer to it. This raises a significant question of whether the Government's proposal to delay the main estimates would result in meaningful alignment with the budget.

Basically, the Liberal government was saying to trust them on improving the estimates and wanted Parliament to agree to this change up front, while the evidence of the government's ability to do its part was completely unconvincing.

By standing firm through tough negotiations over the winter and spring, Conservatives reined in these Liberal efforts to slash accountability.

The amendment set out in government Motion No. 18 is now a two-year experiment, providing two months of committee study, twice the amount that the Treasury Board president had originally proposed. By insisting on a sunset clause for this change, Conservatives have ensured we can take an evidence-based decision after the 2019 election on whether the information made available to parliamentarians truly does improve leading to a reasonable trade-off with losing a month of scrutiny.

The ball is now in the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board president's court. Given the government's record, I am not holding my breath.

Finally, there is the amendment that will prevent ministers from sitting on committees. However, it will allow parliamentary secretaries to be ex officio members of committees, with all privileges except the ability to vote or to constitute quorum. They may participate at in camera meetings, question witnesses, and travel. Parliamentary secretaries will maintain practically every tool, except an actual vote, to shape and steer committee work.

Liberal parliamentary secretaries have continued to attend committees, and in some cases strive to shape the committee's work and decisions. This proposal would only further entrench their ability to do this, while claiming to honour platform commitments. How very clever.

If the Prime Minister has concluded that parliamentary secretaries are important to committee work, the Liberals should just admit that and assign them Liberal seats at committees.

The Liberal caucus has dozens of backbenchers with multiple committee assignments. This arrangement may work in the current majority context, but in a minority situation it could become quite an unsustainable burden on any government backbench when 70 or so office-holders would go without any committee assignments and 50 to 80 MPs would have to cover 24 standing committees, plus two joint committees and any special committees. I do not know if the government has thought this through, especially if it does find itself in a minority situation at some point.

A similar arrangement whereby parliamentary secretaries could not sit on committees that were related to their department was implemented in 1986, but it was later scrapped in 1991. We should not be surprised to see another U-turn in the years ahead on this particular change.

As I said in my opening remarks, this has been a long road that we have travelled down. At the beginning, I was not sure whether the Liberal House leader's approach to this whole issue was aggressively ambitious or just very naive, but over the subsequent months, the answer has become increasingly clear.

Shortly after the parliamentary battle launched in March, Andrew Coyne wrote a piece entitled, “Renewed attempt to rewrite House rules confirms Liberals are not to be trusted”.

The article stated:

The [first] 18 months of the...government have been an education in cynicism. Every time you think you have plumbed the depths, every time you believe you have pierced the many veils of their duplicity, you are delighted to discover still another con wrapped inside the last—usually delivered by some smiling minister tweeting variations on “Better is Always Possible” and “Diversity is Our Strength.”

Later the article says:

The latest chance to refresh our acquaintance with how deeply cynical the [Prime Minister's] people are—not have become: are—is the clutch of grubby expedients the government is now trying to stuff down the opposition’s throats, in the name, prettily, of “parliamentary reform.” Scholars of the [Prime Minister's] style will recognize the expression “reform,” like “merit-based appointments” and “evidence-based policy,” as a tell that some kind of humbug is afoot, and this is no exception....

We had an early foretaste of this with the infamous Motion Six... That alone ought to have signalled how sincere [the Prime Minister]’s frequent protests of his devotion to democratic accountability are: as calculated, as fake—and as useful!—as his feminism.

Well now the Liberals are back, with a new, more attack-proof House Leader...

That brings me to the current government House leader.

I truly believe the hon. member for Waterloo is very well-intentioned, but she has been set by the Prime Minister for failure, as a rookie parliamentarian, in taking on the important role as House leader and all that it entails, while at the same time picking this fight.

Veteran parliamentary observer Chantal Hébert recently penned her observations on a pattern of, as she said, “Rookie ministers turned into cannon fodder”. I will read from her recent column. It is extremely relevant and a very clear example. She has articulated very clearly what we are seeing the Prime Minister do with his rookie MPs, specifically women MPs, sadly. The article stated:

[The hon. member for Waterloo] is the first woman to occupy this strategic government position [House leader]. She also brings to the role less hands-on experience in the Commons than any of her predecessors.

To be able to read the mood of the House is an essential skill for one in [her] position. It is also a skill usually acquired over time.

As parliamentary neophyte, [she] would have had her hands full just keeping the government’s legislative agenda on track. Yet, shortly after her appointment she was tasked with implementing a controversial set of parliamentary reforms. Included in the government’s unilateral wish list were measures that would have curtailed some of the few procedural tools at the disposal of an opposition minority.

[The government House leader] might as well have set out for a stroll across a minefield. She pressed on with the plan until a predictable procedural war threatened to bring the House to a grinding halt. At that point she beat back in retreat — at cost to her credibility.

Even veteran Liberal Warren Kinsella reached this conclusion when he tweeted last week, saying that if she was forced to do yet another climb-down, her position would become untenable.

The passage from Chantal Hébert's column was about a broader point: the fact that our self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister has put a number of earnest, well-intentioned, but inexperienced young female ministers into senior roles where they become political roadkill. As a female politician myself, it angers me when I see what the Prime Minister has done with his cabinet and those with immense professional potential. These are young people with huge potential in the Liberal caucus, and they are being put in these positions just to benefit his cynical feminist brand.

Basically, we are seeing some Liberal MPs being prematurely promoted into roles and responsibilities ahead of having the necessary experience to assume such weighty offices and then being asked to do the impossible for the Prime Minister. Some would call this the “glass cliff”.

I recognize that some of this could be inevitable when a party goes from being a third party straight into government. However, we have seen a pattern with the Prime Minister, which has been made much worse by a prime minister who is far more concerned with snappy sound bites and click-bait pictures than actually doing his own members right and putting them in positions where they have experience and are not doomed to fail. He simply does not have his eye on competent management and professional development within his own government.

As Ms. Hébert suggested, these young rookie ministers could well have become formidable forces in Canadian politics. I wish them well in their future, I honestly do. They would have been formidable forces in Canadian politics if they had a chance to mature in their career paths, but instead they have seen their potential sacrificed for the sake of some re-tweets and trending hashtags.

Speaking personally, I know the value of taking one step at a time on a career path. When I was first elected, I did a stint on the backbench and then I got to chair a committee. After that, I worked for a while as a parliamentary secretary and then was promoted into the ministry. Today, I find myself the opposition House leader, a role I am very privileged to hold.

Even though I am learning new things every day, it is not basic principles I am learning. I have had the benefit of adding my lessons to a base of experience and knowledge that I have acquired over almost nine years. Regrettably, for the hon. member for Waterloo, I do not think she has enjoyed the same benefit of incremental growth and development. However, the fault for that lies not at her feet but with the Prime Minister.

What is the lesson to take out of this whole episode from the March discussion paper through to today's government motion?

In a column entitled, “Liberals forced to swallow humble pie — again — on parliamentary rule changes”, John Ivison stated, “the Liberals have learned the hard way that the rules governing this most precious of institutions can only be amended by consensus, not by parliamentary cosh.”

We have long said that the rules of the House belong to all members from all corners of the House. Changes should enjoy consensus support before being implemented. The Liberals have learned this the hard way. Ideas for discussion and debate are to be welcomed. A prescriptive list of proposals strapped to a rocket for rapid implementation rightly rouses suspicions.

However, the government continually demonstrates its contempt for this institution and its history. Most recently, in his proposed nominee for Clerk of the House of Commons, we once again saw the Prime Minister dismiss the consultation process and bypass the established non-partisan professional development practice for career advancement with our procedural experts. There are some very serious and valid concerns with respect to how the nomination of the Clerk has come about.

Prime ministers, even those with majority governments, should not pick a fight with the House of Commons in a bald-faced power grab to neuter what tools this House has. After all, the core constitutional role of the House of Commons is not to pass bills but to hold the government to account.

Barely a year in office, the Liberals found this reality to be a pesky inconvenience. They tried to eliminate this, to remove the distraction from a government built on platitudes and selfies. The government has created a distraction, falsely called our calls for consensus to be a demand for a veto. It was not a demand for a veto; it was our right. There is a significant gulf between a demand for a veto and a consensus.

Negotiations and horse-trading inevitably lead to a result where one has to give up something to gain something. However, that is not how the government chose to approach the Standing Orders. It should not have ended up this way. It chose to provoke a procedural war in an effort to get its own way. As in every case throughout the centuries when power-hungry kings and governments sought to curb Parliament's powers, the House of Commons fought back. Just as in the past, the elected House won. We are grateful for that, and will keep fighting the government and doing our job.

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 16th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, not a single soul in Quebec supports the federal government on this. Not one expert agrees with the Liberals. The Quebec National Assembly is unanimous. Is that clear enough?

The Liberals do not have any friends in Quebec when it comes to Bill C-44. The entire agricultural industry is opposed to it. The government is on its own on this issue, with the exception of the 40 phantom MPs from Quebec who are being irresponsible about this.

Will someone on the other side of the House stand up, just once, and say that they will not allow Quebec to be at the mercy of bankers?

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 16th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is another meaningless answer. Through the infrastructure bank, the Government of Canada can exempt the financial world from the laws of Quebec. Environmental protection, farmland, city planning: nothing is sacred. Quebeckers are being put in their place. Toronto is making the decisions. For weeks, the Liberals have been telling us that this is not their intention. If the Canadian government does not intend to deliver Quebec up to Toronto bankers, why does it not amend Bill C-44?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and add my remarks to the debate on Bill C-49.

Before I begin, I would like to take a second to acknowledge a very poignant moment today in the House. I was here when the Clerk, Marc Bosc, arrived for his last shift here in the House of Commons as Acting Clerk of the House, as we have heard from a number of sources.

Mr. Bosc was the person who welcomed the members who had been newly elected in 2015 to the House. It was a very emotional time for us. To us, Mr. Bosc is the Clerk of the House, because he is the only one we have ever known. Mr. Bosc has always been there for us and has always shown the utmost professionalism. He was respected by all, at least by everyone on this side of the House. Mr. Bosc has always served with enormous professionalism, and we have always respected him.

For me, Mr. Speaker, it was a very poignant moment to see him enter the chamber this morning and take his place before us, to begin his final sitting day in the House of Commons. I trust that Mr. Bosc will always hold a place of honour here in Parliament.

In closing, we found out about this rather suddenly. I would have liked the opposition parties to be consulted more on the process to replace the Clerk. No offence to the incoming Clerk, but I just wanted to take a few moments on behalf of my colleagues, myself, and my family, who shared in all the emotion that we experience when we first arrive here, to acknowledge Mr. Bosc's excellent work.

Mr. Bosc has been here much longer than I have, but like me, he has seen his share of governments and their different approaches to ensuring that their bills get passed.

Bill C-49 is another example of the government using closure to prevent giving the opposition opportunities to speak to this bill or criticize it. By the minister's own admission, this bill is quite complex, and it will make significant changes to Canada's transportation industry. Even so, we will have just a few of hours of debate to discuss it and raise what I think are some very important points.

Why is this especially troubling in the case of Bill C-49? It is because this bill does not amend just one or two sections or one or two acts. It amends 13 pieces of legislation.

For the past two days, I have been listening to the arguments given by the Minister of Transport who says that the opposition is overreacting, since 80% of the changes proposed in Bill C-49 will amend just one law, and therefore the opposition has no reason to protest so loudly. What? How is that an argument? It is as though one section of an act were more important than another. If the 20% of Bill C-49's clauses that amend 12 other laws are not all that important, why bother including them? Why are we talking about them? If they are not that important, if everything is focused on just one law and the opposition is outraged, why keep the other 20% of the amendments? Why not remove them and create another bill with those amendments and consider it separately? It does not matter, because everything is in the same bill.

Clearly, this argument simply does not hold water. It is particularly troubling. As members know, I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities since I arrived in this place. Obviously, transportation affects all Canadians in every field. Transportation has an impact on the daily lives of all Canadians, whether we are talking about the transportation of goods or people.

They say this is a complex bill, that they will not give the opposition much time to talk, and that, since 80% of it is specific to one act, there is no need for us to protest so loudly. I think the minister should go back to the drawing board, take another look at what is in his bill, and think carefully about the repercussions that each amendment in Bill C-49 will have on the day-to-day lives of all Canadians.

Here is the lowdown on Bill C-49. The Liberals' omnibus transportation bill will establish a new air passenger rights regime; liberalize international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers; enable the Minister of Transport to consider and approve joint ventures by two or more airlines; update the Canadian freight system; require railways to install audio-video recorders in locomotives; expand the Governor in Council's powers to require major railway companies to provide rate, service, and performance data; and amend the Canada Marine Act to allow port authorities to access Canada infrastructure bank loans.

However, there is nothing there. According to the Minister of Transport, a few hours of discussion are enough to address all of these issues, since he did not think that the opposition had anything relevant to say during the first hours of this debate. Why would the government want to continue listening to opposition members provide supposedly irrelevant information when it can simply expedite the process by muzzling them? At least, that is what the minister seems to think.

Since when are opinions that differ from the government's irrelevant? The big problem with the Liberals is that, when we do not agree with them, on this or any other issue, they feel threatened and under attack. They think that anyone who does not share their opinion and does not think like they do is irrelevant, and so they have no reason to take any interest in what those people have to say in the House. That explains a lot.

It explains a lot, such as Motion No. 6 and the many time allocation motions that have been imposed on us since the beginning of this session. It explains the infamous discussion document that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled to supposedly improve the way the House operates. When we read that document carefully, we learned that the Liberals' intention was once again to avoid hearing what the opposition parties had to say.

It is not complicated. When things do not sit well with the government, it decides to muzzle dissenting voices that cast grey clouds over Liberal sunny ways. Well, I have news for the Liberal government. The official opposition and all the other opposition parties, I am sure, have no intention of staying quiet. We have no intention of letting changes slip through. We have no intention of completely agreeing with everything the Liberals put in front of us. We have no intention of being the people who enable the Liberal Party to push through their entire election platform. That is not our role here. Our role is to present criticisms.

As an aside, let us talk about the Liberal platform. It did not take long for the Liberals to realize that much of what they wanted to do is simply impossible. They promised big spending and small deficits. They kept only one of those promises. They are spending big, but they have come to realize that that requires huge deficits. That is something the government does not want the opposition to criticize. They would like us to keep quiet and just watch them and applaud them because they really like applause. That is not what we are going to do. That is not our role.

Let us come back to Bill C-49 because it seems like we are off topic, that we just keep providing an overview, and that we keep talking about everything but Bill C-49. Let us talk about Bill C-49 and what it amends. As I was saying, it significantly amends 13 different laws and has repercussions on three modes of transportation. This legislative measure will weaken legislative protections for shippers and western Canadian farmers.

We want to concentrate on proactive measures to make travel less expensive and more convenient for all travellers. This would include abolishing the carbon tax, instead of the Liberals’ plan to establish reactive compensation that will benefit only a small segment of the population.

This bill provides very little detail about the proposed air passengers’ bill of rights, and it does not have the support, in its current form, of many passengers’ rights advocates. Also, port authorities and their wholly owned subsidiaries will have access to loans and loan guarantees from the Canada infrastructure bank. There is an inconsistency here. That does not make any sense to me, since this bank does not exist yet. It remains a proposal for now, and it is held up in another house, for very good reasons.

Like us, the senators think that the infrastructure bank warrants its own bill, given the impact it will have and the $15 billion that the government intends to provide to it. That is $15 billion from Canadian taxpayers to be given to a board of directions to manage on our behalf without any accountability to Parliament.

These points alone justify our opposition to the passage of Bill C-44, which is currently being studied on the other side in its current form and includes all these budget measures as well as creating the infrastructure bank. I hope that people will get the message.

In Bill C-49, they already assume the outcome. Port authorities are being given approval to access loans from the non-existent infrastructure bank. What I do not understand is that the government, ever since it began telling us about the infrastructure bank, keeps saying that it will be an independent bank. As an aside, the process to find the president for this non-existent bank has already started.

Therefore, the infrastructure bank, which does not exist, will be made up of a so-called independent board of directors who will manage the money given to them by the Liberal government. At the same time, these supposedly independents will be told that they have to invest $1.3 billion in Montreal’s Réseau électrique métropolitain and provide loans to port authorities. To sum up, here is an independent infrastructure bank that will not be independent and does not yet exist. However, we are being asked to approve a clause of the bill that will allow port authorities to secure loans from this infrastructure bank that will be created in the near future.

It is clear that something is not working, that they are improvising, and that the minister wants to move quickly. We do not understand why he insists on moving so quickly. Some will tell us that it is because they want to settle the matter of Bill C-30 before it expires on July 31 in order to protect western grain producers in their rate negotiations with the railways. That could be the case, but that is not what is going to happen, since even if Bill C-49 is rushed through today or Monday and is referred to committee, the committee meetings are scheduled for September.

The committee was prepared to meet in July if the government agreed to hive off all the measures concerning Bill C-30. That would have allowed us to study them quickly in order to avoid having a legal vacuum for western grain producers. These meetings could have been held before August 1. The committee was prepared to meet in the middle of summer, during vacation—at least, the opposition members of the committee were. That would have been a major sacrifice for some of us to show up and study a bill to help western grain producers.

Why was the official opposition prepared to do that? Because we get that this is important. Right now, grain producers are concerned about what is going to happen this fall if there is a legal vacuum. We do not know exactly how the market will react. These people are negotiating right now.

We see another problem here. I myself am not a grain producer. However, several of my House of Commons colleagues represent western Canadian ridings, and they know a lot about grain production. From what I understand, grain producers usually harvest their crops in the fall. What time of year is busiest for grain producers? The fall, when they are bringing in the harvest.

The government is going to ask grain producers to testify on Bill C-49, which will have a major impact on their future, in the fall. The government is going to ask them to leave their machinery and their fields so they can come testify in Ottawa in September. That is when they should be in their fields doing their work, doing what we support them doing, and making their contribution to Canada's economy by producing and working. This makes no sense.

That is why the opposition was prepared to agree to move quickly on that part of the bill. We were prepared to let many things slide in order to move quickly. Why? Canada's grain producers are far more important to us than adding another number to our legislative record. The farmers need us to come to Ottawa to protect them, stand up for them, and help them succeed. That is our role.

If we are not taking extraordinary measures to get Bill C-30 passed before the deadline, then there is no urgency to justify speeding up the process and muzzling the opposition. The government probably does not want to let the opposition speak because it does not want to hear arguments like mine in defence of western grain producers.

I want to talk about another initiative that was very well received by the public, I admit. This was the main point in the message from the Minister of Transport. Indeed, he wants to create an air passengers' bill of rights. This is urgent. Like all of us, all Canadians who have flown over the past few months have seen the coverage of some of the dramatic incidents that have taken place in the U.S. Since the bill announced the creation of an air passengers' bill of rights, we thought we would get some information. We thought we might be told what to expect, but no, all the minister did was mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to begin consultations that will eventually lead to regulations and, at some point, the air passengers' bill of rights.

Do we really need a bill to ask the Canadian Transportation Agency to begin consultations on a bill of rights? It makes no sense. There is no need for urgency when it comes to Bill C-49, apart from the legislation protecting western Canadian grain farmers; on that, we agree.

We believe that the only way to go and the only explanation or justification to make this measure acceptable, to make this gag order acceptable, would have been to split the bill and immediately pass the measures in Bill C-30, in order to make certain temporary measures permanent. We were ready to go ahead with that, but everything else could have waited; there is no need to panic. The only emergency here for this government is to silence the opposition. The government is not ready. It is improvising and presenting measures that just do not make sense.

For all these reasons, and despite a few good measures in the bill, the official opposition cannot support Bill C-49.

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 15th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, that answer is a real letdown for our artists.

Many constitutional experts, a unanimous National Assembly, and now the Union des producteurs agricoles have all appealed to members of the House of Commons.

What they want is simple: divide Bill C-44 to ensure that the infrastructure bank will be subject to Quebec laws, especially the Act Respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities.

The government has ignored our National Assembly. Will it now listen to Quebec farmers, yes or no?

InfrastructureOral Questions

June 15th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, continuing with the infrastructure bank, the government's arrogance is on full display yet again. The two chambers have not even completed their study of Bill C-44, but the Liberals have already advertised the position of chairperson.

Today the Prime Minister announced that an independent bank that does not yet exist could potentially invest $1.3 billion in Quebec, thereby replacing a federal investment. I think it is time to press the pause button.

Will the Prime Minister split Bill C-44 and finally allow parliamentarians to have their say on the bank the Liberals are setting up for their friends?