Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fréchette, thank you for being here with us today.
Could you describe for us, if you will, the changes in your office since your mandate and powers were amended by Bill C-44?
Bill Morneau Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.
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.
May 24th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fréchette, thank you for being here with us today.
Could you describe for us, if you will, the changes in your office since your mandate and powers were amended by Bill C-44?
May 8th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
Jean-Denis Fréchette Parliamentary Budget Officer, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As per your committee order of reference related to vote 1 under the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer's main estimates for 2018-19, I am glad to report that our estimates have been considered by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who conducted their thorough due diligence. Following that, the PBO's CFO and DCFO—Sloane Mask—exercised oversight attesting to our budget requirements. As per parliamentary procedure, our budget has been referred to your committee for final approval.
The PBO's budget totals $7.6 million, including a total voted budgetary requirement of $7 million, as well as a statutory budget component of $600,000 to fund the employee benefits program.
The budgetary request for the PBO's first full financial cycle as an independent entity supports the fulfillment of Parliament’s desire for transparent, timely, and credible electoral platform costing, in addition to funding non-recurring transition expenses to establish the office in accordance with Bill C-44. The request can be detailed as follows: a transferred appropriation from the Library of Parliament of $2.6 million for direct operating costs; $1.5 million to enhance economic, analytical, and administrative capacity; and $2.9 million for professional service and transition requirements.
For the current year, the $7 million is because of the transition to a new structure—outside the Library of Parliament—through the requirement to establish service agreements and the anticipated increase in requests from parliamentarians and parliamentary committees because of changes to our mandate.
For the next fiscal year, which also corresponds to a general election year, the amount requested will be $7 million as well, but this time mainly because of the statutory obligation to assess the cost of election platforms. Subsequently, the annual budget of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), will decline once again to $6.5 million a year. It will be constant during the first three years of the new, or the next Parliament.
As per the PBO's legislative mandate to provide impartial, independent analysis to help parliamentarians fulfill their constitutional role, which consists of holding government accountable, we published last week a report on the 2018-19 main estimates, which support the second appropriation bill for the current fiscal year. It follows the 2018-19 interim estimates, which was tabled in Parliament on February 12, 2018.
The government's expenditure plan and main estimates for 2018-19 outline $276 billion in total budgetary spending authorities. This represents an increase of approximately $18.1 billion compared to the total budgetary authorities identified last year, in 2017-18.
Statutory budgetary authorities are projected to be $163 billion in 2018-19, which is an increase of $7.2 billion compared to the total estimated statutory spending in 2017-18. Seniors' benefits and the Canada health transfer are two of the largest contributors to this increase, and are set to rise by $2.6 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.
The federal organizations with the largest increase in their total budgetary authorities from the main estimates 2017-18 are the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, with $7.1 billion; Finance, with $3.8 billion; Employment and Social Development Canada, with $3.5 billion; National Defence, with $1.7 billion; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with $709 million.
Finally, Mr. Chair, in November 2016, the PBO applauded the government's objective to enhance Parliament's role in upfront financial scrutiny. More recently, in our May 1 report, we said that the changes reflect an effort on the part of the government to improve alignment between the budget and the estimates. However, full reform requires that alignment to be accompanied by an alignment with parliamentary procedure, which means providing clear, specific, and transparent information to members in the object of the vote itself, which we haven't seen and therefore reported.
We welcome the statement of the President of the Treasury Board, who said that he would now correct the situation by including the table in the vote for the supply bill.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We will be happy to answer your questions.
March 1st, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It is always interesting to talk about elections and Bill C-44.
What challenges need to be addressed? Obviously, we have still not gone through an election year, as you mentioned already. What do you think the challenges we must address are? What can you already suggest as a movement or improvement to be made, so that, in 2019, we don't end up in a funnel, as has been the case in the past? What are the gaps? A piece of legislation is never perfect. It can always be improved, even if it is very recent.
I would like you to provide us with more details on this.
March 1st, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
Chief Financial Officer and Senior Director, Costing and Budgetary Analysis, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
It was. The business case was developed over the course of the summer once C-44 had received royal assent. We finalized it at that point.
February 28th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
Catherine Ebbs Chairperson, Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board is an independent quasi-judicial statutory tribunal with the unique expertise required to deliver on its two key services, adjudication and mediation.
The FPSLREB was created on November 1, 2014, from the merger of the former Public Service Labour Relations Board and the Public Service Staffing Tribunal, bringing staffing and labour relations under one umbrella. The board and its predecessors have been responsible for administering public sector labour relations for 50 years, and for resolving public sector staffing questions for over 10 years. With public service modernization in 2005, the board gained jurisdiction in the human rights area, both in staffing and labour relations.
At its foundation, the board's purpose is bringing the highest values of Canadian justice to bear on labour relations, grievance adjudication, and employment and staffing issues in the federal public sector. It is committed to resolving those issues impartially and fairly. This contributes to a productive and efficient workplace and helps to achieve harmonious labour relations and a fair employment environment for public sector employers, employees and their bargaining agents.
The FPSLREB operates with neutral and impartial board members. Most board members come with deep expertise and experience gained by working either on the management or the bargaining agent side of labour relations and staffing. As prescribed by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board Act, their appointment is made in recognition of that expertise with, to the extent possible, an equal number appointed from among persons recommended by the employer and from among persons recommended by the bargaining agents. However, despite being recommended by the employer or the bargaining agents, they do not sit on the board as representatives of the viewpoints or interests of either side.
At present, the FPSLREB's composition consists of one chairperson, two vice-chairpersons, and seven full-time members, as well as one part-time member. The board is currently working with the government to fill board member vacancies. A selection process is under way to appoint full-time and part-time members.
The FPSLREB has jurisdiction over several areas of federal public sector labour relations and staffing matters. Specifically, the board administers the public sector collective bargaining and grievance adjudication systems for the federal public service as well as for the institutions of Parliament. It resolves complaints related to internal appointments, appointment revocations, and layoffs in the federal public service. It resolves human rights issues in grievances and complaints that are already within its jurisdiction, as well as pay equity complaints in the federal public service. It also administers reprisal complaints of public servants under the Canada Labour Code.
Through the board's dispute resolution services, expert mediators and panels of the board help parties resolve a variety of labour relations and staffing disputes and complaints coherently and consistently and reach collective agreements often without resorting to a hearing.
Through the board's adjudication services and via fair and impartial hearings, it ensures that well-reasoned decisions are produced by an expert board for the federal sector.
The decisions made by panels of the board add to its growing case law in both staffing and labour relations, which is accessible to anyone.
During a continued period of legislative change affecting its work, the board has revisited how best to ensure uninterrupted service excellence while looking toward the integration of its additional mandates. This holistic approach to the formulation and implementation of a renewed vision in the efficient delivery of its mandate encompasses the values of fairness and transparency in its proceedings and includes one-stop shopping for mediation, adjudication, arbitration, and conciliation for the federal public sector.
The board has set a clear direction on providing a fair hearing and rendering well-reasoned decisions with a dedicated focus on dispute resolution.
Now I'd like to talk about the current mandate of the board under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.
While the bulk of the board's caseload comes from its stakeholders who fall under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, the board also has significant experience with the issues of parliamentary employers and employees. It has been the board responsible for this area since parliamentary employees first attained the right to bargain collectively in 1986. The FPSLREB is the expert board with respect to parliamentary labour relations. Part I of PESRA is administered and applied by the board, which hears various kinds of labour relations disputes, including such things as applications for certification, unfair labour practice complaints, and designations of persons employed in managerial and confidential capacities. The board also adjudicates grievances referred by parliamentary employees.
Now I'd like to talk about the impact of Bill C-65 on the work of the board. The FPSLREB has significant hands-on experience and expertise with labour relations and employment matters in the federal public service and for parliamentary institutions. From 1986 to 2000, public sector employees had recourse to the board, which was called the Public Service Staff Relations Board at the time, to challenge work refusal “absence of danger” decisions. These were not called appeals at the time, but they served the same function. During this time, parliamentary employees had no recourse with respect to occupational health and safety matters under part II of the Canada Labour Code.
In 2000, recourse for both private and public sector employees was transferred to appeal officers of the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada. Beginning in 1986, public service reprisal cases were heard by the board. This continues to the present. Reprisal complaints were not included in the transfer to the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal that took place in 2000.
The FPSLREB also has a great deal of experience with issues of harassment. It has dealt with these issues for many years. Harassment matters have come before the board through various legislative routes, such as grievances for violation of a collective agreement, grievances against disciplinary sanctions, matters pertaining to duty of fair representation and unfair labour practices, and staffing complaints.
Under Bill C-44, which received royal assent in June 2017, parliamentary employees will have their ministerial appeals and their reprisal complaints heard by the FPSLREB. Most political staffers will be added to the parliamentary employees and will also have their appeals and reprisal complaints heard by the FPSLREB.
To summarize, the board has extensive expertise and experience with occupational health and safety reprisal claims under the Canada Labour Code. It will retain its current mandate for reprisal claims from federal public service employees, and will acquire a new mandate for parliamentary employees, including most political staffers, for appeals of ministerial work refusal decisions regarding absence of danger, appeals of ministerial directions regarding contravention complaints, and reprisal complaints.
Given the board's substantial experience with the matters I've just described, I would like to conclude by saying that the FPSLREB has the adjudication and dispute resolution expertise to deal with appeals under part II of the Canada Labour Code, as it did before 2000, and to extend its current public sector mandate for reprisal claims for the federal public service to include parliamentary employees.
Thank you very much.
November 7th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
Josette Roussel Senior Nurse Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to be here with you this afternoon.
I'm a registered nurse representing the Canadian Nurses Association, CNA, the national professional voice representing more than 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners. Across Canada, there are close to 5,000 nurse practitioners who provide care to over three million people in Canada.
I am pleased to be here today to speak about the specific measures related to nurse practitioners, or NPs, in Bill C-63, budget implementation act number two. We are pleased to be here to discuss this important bill ahead of nurse practitioner week, which starts on November 12 and ends on November 18.
On May 17 of this year, CNA appeared before this committee to inform members about the important role played by NPs in our health care system. Our official testimony before the committee on Bill C-44, budget implementation act number one, noted that NPs conduct physical assessment, order and interpret tests, write admission and discharge orders, and prescribe medications.
As an update, I am pleased to say that NPs enthusiastically joined our October 24 webinar entitled “Updates of Form T2201 Federal Disability Tax Credit Certificate: New Authority for Nurse Practitioners”. NPs have certified the DTC since March 22, 2017, budget day, the day the changes took effect. The proposed amendments in Bill C-63 will provide Canada's NPs with the capacity to treat patients to the full extent of their qualifications. As this committee is aware, these qualifications include the ability to complete documentation about their patients' medical conditions.
CNA has gone through the proposed amendments in Bill C-63. We are pleased to let the members of this committee know that the amendments complete the remaining clauses where NPs needed to be added to fully modernize the legislation. As a result of these changes, NPs will be identified in the Income Tax Act and the income tax regulations as eligible to provide certifications or reports related to other tax measures wherever certification or reports are currently provided by medical doctors.
We are pleased to see that these changes will lead to amendments to the medical expense tax credit, the child care expense deduction, the definition of qualifying student, the registered disability savings plan, and the registered pension plan regulations. We therefore encourage members of the committee to accept the proposed changes. These changes will enhance access for patients whose primary care is delivered by an NP in rural/remote and urban communities across Canada.
As we move forward, CNA anticipates that similar changes will be made to the Canada pension plan disability benefit. CNA has met with both ministerial and departmental officials at ESDC about changes that will authorize NPs to complete the disability-related medical reports for patients. These changes will not only enhance access to care but also lower health care costs.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage members of the committee to support the recommendations that were outlined in CNA's 2018 pre-budget submission. The recommendations outlined in our brief aim to strengthen public health education of health care providers, including nurses. Our key recommendations to the federal government include investing $125 million over the next five years in public education in advance of the passage of Bill C-45, including a one-time investment of $1.5 million to increase the level of cannabis education for nurses. We also recommend an investment of $45 million over the next five years to scale up provincial and territorial acute care and community-based antimicrobial stewardship programs, including a one-time investment of $1.5 million to increase AMS competence and capacity among nurses through a nursing profession-led knowledge, education, and mobilization program.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders
November 7th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is going to vote against the budget implementation bill, mainly because of the way it was introduced. Bill C-63 is a 318-page omnibus bill. It amends 19 acts and creates a new one. Some of the measures are budgetary, but others have absolutely nothing to do with the budget. What is more, they are all mixed in with such a hodgepodge of technical measures that we cannot debate the bill properly. Here is what the Prime Minister had to say about omnibus bills during the election campaign, and I quote:
Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will...bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
What a great promise. Yes, this is an undemocratic practice, and I am not the one who said it. Members can read it for themselves on page 30 of the Liberal Party's election platform. However, we are starting to get used to the government's shell games.
Every time the Liberals introduce a new bill, it is the things they do not say that we need to be careful of. For example, six months ago, they hid a measure in their last mammoth bill, Bill C-44, that would do no less than give investors in the Canada infrastructure bank the power to disregard Quebec's laws. There was no agricultural zoning, no environmental protections, and no municipal zoning. Under the bill, Toronto bankers were considered agents of the federal crown and could do whatever they wanted in Quebec.
Six months before that, the Liberals sought to give Toronto bankers another gift with Bill C-29, another mammoth bill. On that occasion, the government was seeking to allow bankers to circumvent Quebec's consumer protection legislation. To heck with consumers and the little people who are getting ripped off, we know that the government reports to Bay Street.
Today, we are being presented another omnibus budget implementation bill. Once again, the government has a nasty surprise for us. On page 277 of the document and on the following pages, we see that the government is amending the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. With this apparently innocuous, or at least highly technical, amendment, it is establishing the legislative architecture for imposing a federal tax on cannabis.
We all know that cannabis will be legal in eight months. From that point on, the federal government will no longer have a role to play. All it will have to do is pocket the tax it is setting up in this bill. Healthcare services, prevention, drug treatment and public safety will all be under Quebec’s jurisdiction. It will be very expensive.
In other words, the government is creating a problem, telling the provinces to deal with it and making money all at the same time. Quebec and the other provinces are saying that they need more time. We understand that the Prime Minister is really intent on rolling his joint in front of the cameras on Canada Day 2018, but the government’s attitude toward Quebec is nothing less than scandalous. It is shovelling problems into Quebec’s and the other provinces’ yards, and has the gall to make money as a result.
The government cannot hide behind the fact that Quebec can impose further taxes if it so desires. It does not work that way. There is a maximum price beyond which black market cannabis will be less expensive for consumers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said so. He issued a warning. If the government tries to make marijuana a cash cow, it might very well foster organized crime. In Bill C-63, the government is opening the door to this possibility.
The Bloc Québécois recently introduced a bill to prevent outlaw motorcycle clubs from acting like rock stars, waving their banners, intimidating citizens and making a show of force. However, the Liberals and the other parties did not even want to read the bill, and rejected it out of hand. I am therefore not surprised that the government is not concerned about organized crime. However, with Bill C-63, it will be giving organized crime yet another break.
The provinces will have to lower taxes and forgo revenues so that the Hell’s Angels’ cannabis is not a better deal than cannabis sold legally. For that reason alone, I encourage all hon. members to oppose the bill. It is scandalous.
However, there is more. The main reason why we are disappointed with Bill C-63 is because of what it does not contain. There is nothing at all in the bill to solve the problem of tax havens.
Madam Speaker, you may not have noticed, but we are celebrating an anniversary today: it has been exactly four months since the government signed the OECD’s multilateral convention to prevent tax evasion and tax havens.
Canada signed the BEPS Project agreement on July 7, but it has not yet ratified it, because Canadian law, essentially the Income Tax Act, does not meet the agreement’s requirements. Today, four months later, how many measures from the international agreement are included in Bill C-63? Not a single one.
We are extremely disappointed, but not particularly surprised. I have been a member of the House for two years now. Almost every day, I see the exceptionally powerful lobbying of the five major Canadian banks on Bay Street in Toronto. The Minister of Finance, himself a major shareholder of Morneau Shepell, uses tax havens, is involved in financial schemes and advises people to use tax havens to divert money from Canada.
For example, his company advised the Bahamas on how to better attract Canadian insurance companies. It is written on the website of the Minister of Finance’s company. It is also written that he advised Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in methods of fostering access for his client companies.
In terms of economic policy, there is not much difference with the previous government. The Prime Minister is a great communicator, but the fact remains that this is an old government that is more interested in finances than in Canadians. The financial lobby runs Ottawa when it comes to economic matters. This is nothing new. Paul Martin had a shipping company registered in Barbados so he would not have to pay income tax.
If you look at the Income Tax Act, the Bank Act or the Canada infrastructure bank, you can see that Canada’s economic development is wholly based on the interests of the financial lobby in Toronto. After Barbados in the 1990s, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government legalized 22 more tax havens in 2009 by signing tax information exchange agreements.
Last spring, the Liberals added the Cook Islands to the list. That is the history of Canada. The financial community has the government’s ear, and, really, who is governing who? The Minister of National Revenue keeps repeating that we are investing historic amounts, “zillions and zillions”, in the fight against tax evasion and that the net is tightening. I am all for prosecuting fraud, but the problem lies elsewhere. Essentially, the use of tax havens is perfectly legal in Canada. That is the real problem. As legislators, that is the problem that concerns us here in the House.
When the minister says that the net is tightening on those who abuse the system, she is mistaken. It is still wide open. For example, Canada accounts for 2% of global GDP, and yet, last summer, the IMF reported that three Canadian banks, the Royal Bank, Scotiabank and the CIBC, represent 80% of all banking assets in Barbados, Grenada and the Bahamas. In the eight other tax havens that make up the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Canadian banks own 60% of banking assets. That is considerable.
Canada is not an economic superpower, but it is a superpower in tax havens. Nothing in Bill C-63 addresses this problem. Every Canadian has to pay the income tax that these freeloaders are not. The middle class that the government is so fond of talking about will be footing the bill. The regulatory framework was written specifically to allow banks and multinationals to avoid paying income tax in Canada.
I say “regulatory framework” because the problem is in the regulations. No tax treaty condones the use of tax havens. Even the treaty with Barbados does not cover the empty shells that enjoy tax breaks in that country. As for the other tax havens, Canada has not signed tax treaties with them. When you look at the Income Tax Act, it does not condone tax havens, either. When Parliament passed the act and adopted the treaties, it never condoned tax havens. Members of Parliament did their job and prohibited them. It is the government that failed in its task. In obscure regulations, it contravened Parliament’s decisions. It decreed by regulation that the act and the treaties adopted by Parliament do not apply, and that bank profits can be exempted by having them go through the West Indies.
For this reason, and because of what this mammoth contains and does not contain, we will be opposing it.
Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders
November 7th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak today on what is proving to be one of the least popular budget bills in modern Canadian parliamentary history, although I regret not having the opportunity to address the ill-conceived Canada infrastructure bank directly, since it has been embedded in one of those omnibus bills and legislation. I will therefore dedicate my remarks to talking a bit about another Liberal boondoggle.
Bill C-63 is a continuation of the decline we have seen the government taking Canada on since it was first elected. Why is this a surprise? It is the Liberal way to tell Canadians one thing at election time and then do something completely different while it is in power.
I remember the election campaign. The Liberals promised a small deficit of $10 billion to fund infrastructure. Many Canadians voted for a modest deficit, taking the Prime Minister at his word, in contrast to the fiscal responsibility promoted by my own party and also, quite frankly, by the NDP.
It did not take long for the concept of a modest deficit to fall by the wayside, and since then it has spiralled out of control. The last economic update did not even offer a plan for balancing the budget. No plan at all. It is unbelievable.
What is worse is the conduct of the finance minister in regard to his own affairs. In case anybody has forgotten, let me remind the House.
First, the minister failed to put his assets from his family firm Morneau Shepell, a human resources and pension management firm, in a blind trust, despite saying he would do so. These assets consisted of millions of shares, which are worth approximately $21 million in current stock prices.
Second, the minister continued to receive dividends on these shares, dated from the time he was elected. At a dividend rate of about 6.5¢ a share, the minister was roughly earning $65,000 a month over the past two years. For comparison, according to Statistics Canada, the median wage of an individual worker in the province of Ontario, the area I represent, is just over $44,000 per year. That is $20,000 less per year than our finance minister was earning per month from dividends alone. That is on top of his salary as a cabinet minister. Said another way, the average Ontario worker makes $20,000 less over the course of a year than the minister made per month. Now, there is a clear message for the middle class.
Third, we also learned that while the minister was calling small business owners tax cheats, he apparently forgot to disclose that he owned a private corporation, with a sole purpose of owning a villa in the south of France. I guess it is a small villa, maybe a “villette”. Why own a corporation to own a villa? To avoid paying inheritance tax, of course, the same tax the minister has proposed to the farmers of my riding when they transfer their family farms to the next generation of Canadians. We should be proud that the next generation of Canadians wants to farm our great country.
Fourth, we also learned that Morneau Shepell, the minister's aforementioned family business, had an $8 million contract to manage the pension and benefits of the Bank of Canada. What minister is responsible for the Bank of Canada? Why, the Minister of Finance.
To summarize, the minister continued to hold shares in a company he regulated, while the company signed a contract with a department for which he was responsible. It is really quite astounding. One would think that this minister would have been fired for this clear conflict of interest. The Ethics Commissioner, to her credit, has fined the minister for this breach. However, the Prime Minister continues to defend him and allow this attack on our farmers to continue while not dealing with his own minister.
Bill C-63 would simply continue the out-of-control spending of the Liberal government and would further hike taxes on everyone it has claimed to help. The Liberals are adding debt at the twice the rate that promised and the minister's own numbers project debt for every year in the future. Unfortunately for Canadians, someone has to pay for this Liberal spending spree, and it is middle-class Canadians. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80% of the middle class pay more tax today under the Liberals than under the previous government.
Regarding some of the specifics of the bill, the Liberals are now going to tax our beer. Breweries in my riding, whether it be Creemore Springs, Side Launch Brewing Company, Collingwood Brewery, or Northwinds Brewery, all create jobs. They attract tourists who are eager to sample their products, and they already pay enough tax.
However, it is not enough for the Liberals, who look at successful entrepreneurs as tax cheats and a source of revenue. In fact, the Liberals are so desperate for money that they are also targeting type 1 diabetics. They have now decided to deny type 1 diabetics their tax credits. Individuals who need help are going to help the Liberals get back into the black, I guess.
The Canada Revenue Agency itself confirmed that with respect to insulin therapy, new direction was given at the beginning of May regarding applications under the disability tax credit. This change in direction was unannounced, and it has caused huge confusion and suffering for those suffering from type 1 diabetes. It has resulted in hundreds of diabetics receiving less funding by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
What is worse is that the minister has the power to stop it today, but she and her fellow cabinet colleagues, her government, her colleagues on the other side of the House, have not reverted the directive. It is simple. A directive from her to her department will reverse the changes and allow those type 1 diabetics to receive their tax credits until further consultation could be done. I raised this in the House last Friday, but to my knowledge, the minister has yet to act.
Another item that would be created with this omnibus bill, Bill C-63, is another infrastructure bank support. We saw in the omnibus bill, Bill C-44, the creation of the Canada infrastructure bank. It is a $35-billion boondoggle. François Beaudoin, the former CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada and witness at the Gomery inquiry into Liberal corruption, stated that this new bank is easily open to “political interference”. However, in the rush to create that fund, the Liberals ignored everyone.
This time there is a commitment to support another infrastructure bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for an immediate investment of $256 million, and a further authorization in the future for the potential of another $480 million. The Liberals will have bought 1% of this bank. What do taxpayers get back? Nothing. We commit money as Canadians so that other countries can get cheaper loans and build their infrastructure. By bringing Canada into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Liberals would be sending hundreds of millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars to foreigners with no control over how the money would be spent or whether or not Canadian companies would benefit, let alone Canadian citizens.
As I have said previously, I am very confident in saying that Canadians want investments in our infrastructure here in Canada. Whether it be in my riding, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Adjala-Tosorontio, Angus, or Alliston, we know that infrastructure is needed. Canadian citizens need it so that they can make their businesses more successful, and so that they can make sure their children get to school safely.
I was happy to be a part of a previous government that understood that we worked with our allies, the United States and Japan, and did not support this bank. We could not then, and the Liberals cannot now, ensure that the bank would follow environmental, social, and human rights standards that we expect of our institutions. Therefore, while they preach about human rights and environmental policy standards here at home and to others abroad, they are prepared to turn a blind eye when it suits their needs.
Bill C-63 is a continuation of a shameful decline in our government finances. I will be voting against it, and I encourage all members on both sides of the House to vote against the bill, which is one that invests in others outside of our nation's borders and not in Canadians.
Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders
October 31st, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Red Deer—Mountain View.
Bill C-49 has a number of legislative gaps.
This bill is simply an omnibus bill. It is a whole bunch of random ideas tossed together to make one large omnibus bill.
Obviously, the transport minister looked around his department and asked if anyone had anything he or she wanted passed in legislation. He took a list of requests, put them in this bill, and that is what we have. Besides having some loose connections to transportation, there is little common among the items in this bill.
One component of the bill outlines a passenger bill of rights, but there is nothing concrete, no details outlined in the bill, that truly protects passengers. The reception of this bill by passenger rights advocates has been the political equivalent of standing for three hours on the tarmac on a hot summer's day. It is really terrible. That is because the Liberal government is proposing a passenger bill of rights that fails to actually do much for passengers. However, the one thing it would do is allow the Minister of Transport and the Canadian Transportation Agency to set monetary compensation for passengers on their own, with no oversight, yet again another constant theme of the Liberal government.
We all know that the last thing Canadians want is the Liberals having an easier time spending tax dollars. Along those lines, there is more.
The Liberals have also suggested possible increases to the cost of airport security charges.
The Liberals also opened the door to possible increases in security service fees at airports. To top it all off, the minister also gave himself the power to approve or reject risk ventures between airlines, which could diminish the role of the Competition Bureau, which is independent and non partisan.
This is yet another scenario under which the Liberal government has placed more power in the hands of the minister and less power and control in the hands of Canadians, where it rightfully belongs.
Not to be outdone by other omnibus bills, the government has also decided to tackle the issue of grain shipping by rail. I am certain prairie producers, just like those in the riding of the member for Brandon—Souris and other members who represent grain farmers, were delighted when they heard the Liberals would tackle this grain shipping issue. As part of the previous Conservative government that supported the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, greater opportunities were provided for grain farmers. The Liberals are not focused on that.
What have the Liberals done? They have proposed major changes to shipping policies that were introduced by a former great minister of agriculture and member of the House, the Hon. Gerry Ritz, and the very capable minister of transport at that time, the member for Milton. By changing the interswitch rate, the Liberal government will make it more difficult for shippers and farmers. We will also see an increased use by American railroads without reciprocal rights for Canadians. Again, I am not sure what the logic of that is. Last I checked, the Canadian government should be putting Canadians first.
One hopes this is not the Liberal negotiating strategy for NAFTA, literally giving the farm away. The Liberals could and should keep the Conservative policies in place, policies that were designed by people who actually have experience in this area and who are working, or have worked, with grain farmers. Instead, they have chosen to side with the industry, making life far more difficult for shippers and farmers.
Another part of this omnibus bill, and, as I said, this is just a laundry list of things, is a proposal for the railways to have locomotive voice and video recorders. This has already been mentioned in the House today. I believe this initiative is designed to help prevent further rail accidents, but, again, this is another item that has been added to the list and the legislation has not been thoroughly thought out.
There is not a person in the chamber who does not want to improve rail safety. We want our railways to be as safe as possible. As a former minister of labour, I understand the call for locomotive voice and video recorders, the LVVR, to be installed, but I do not think this legislation has been thoroughly thought through.
First, Transport Canada just launched a review of the Railway Safety Act in May. Why would we not wait until that review comes back before moving forward?
Further, the public has not seen the analysis of the privacy aspect of this initiative. Regulations mandate that airline cockpit voice recorders keep only a record of the last two hours of a flight. Thus far, all we have heard is that an entire transport trip would be recorded with respect to rail. The minister needs to clarify this, and fairness is important. As I have mentioned before, details are important, and the details of this legislation simply do not exist.
There have also been concerns raised about the use of this data. The legislation states that it would only be used for Transportation Safety Board accident investigations and for rail corporations to inform their safety management systems. However, there are concerns that there would be no limit on LVVR usage in the legislation and that the rail industry would use it for employee discipline beyond the intended purpose. This initiative clearly needs to be better thought out, and quite frankly, clarified. Workers need to know what is happening, and the rail industry needs to understand as well.
If all these loose ends do not demonstrate the weakness of, and the concerns about, this omnibus bill, I have decided to save the best for last. In one of the two marine-related clauses, the minister is proposing to amend the Canada Marine Act to allow port authorities and their wholly owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
As members know, I have some strong views on this bank. First of all, it seems like just another classic example of an ill-thought-out component of the Liberal omnibus bill. Despite calls from every party and every sector in Canada to separate the Canada Infrastructure Bank from omnibus Bill C-44, the Liberals ignored everyone and rushed ahead with this flawed initiative. Even the bible of the Liberal elites, the Toronto Star, demanded further parliamentary review. This $35-billion slush fund, as the Star says, “should not be railroaded through Parliament as a mere footnote in a 300-page omnibus budget implementation bill”.
The only people in Canada who seemed to have been in a rush for this infrastructure bank to be created and the legislation passed were those who use their connections with the Liberal Party to make a few more dollars. The infrastructure bank has been a boondoggle from day one. The budget in 2017 revealed that $1 billion of lapsed infrastructure funding from 2016 will not be reallocated until fiscal year 2022-23. If that is not bad enough, we learned that $15 billion will be taken away from community infrastructure projects to finance the infrastructure bank.
Municipal leaders in my riding and others across the country, particularly in small communities like my own, are wondering why they never seem to benefit from the Liberal government. I wonder if part of it is that the Minister of Transport comes from a large urban area, and the Minister of Infrastructure comes from a large urban area, and they just do not seem to understand that small communities like Collingwood or Alliston, or others across the country, actually need help as well. Small municipalities may never benefit from the infrastructure bank, because even if they scraped together all the money for a large proposal, they would be competing for the minister's approval. While folks like the Minister of Infrastructure and the transport minister live in large cities, small-town Canada actually has no place in the Liberal infrastructure plan.
If the clear favouritism toward big cities over the rest by the Liberals is not clear enough, the governance of the infrastructure bank is so vague and open-ended that we can see a governance scandal on the horizon. I will start with the mandate of the bank. What mandate? There does not seem to be a clear one. The mandate of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is so vague that we are not sure what it is actually supposed to target, and there is no policy directing the bank's investments thus far.
There are also no criteria to determine whether the bank has made investments that benefit Canadians, or whether it has been a huge waste of money and resources.
It will certainly be the latter, as the bank duplicates the work of the P3 Canada fund, which is a completely independent crown corporation.
Alarm bells have also been rung about the bank and its potential for political interference, and there is good reason for this. Final sign-off on the project will be in the hands of the minister, and we know that this is a flawed initiative.
We have learned that foreign companies are able to apply for it. Let us say that a Chinese donor to the Liberal Party applies to the bank and receives $100 million as a loan, and the project goes bust. Who is on the tab for that? It is Canadian taxpayers, people in my riding and yours, Madam Speaker.
I will be opposing this legislation, as will my colleagues on this side of the House.
Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings
October 30th, 2017 / 7:35 p.m.
Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON
Madam Speaker, last spring, I asked the minister about the infrastructure bank and the fact that it would result in user fees and tolls on Canadians. It is an important issue for a vast majority of Canadians, who deserve a real answer. I hope the Liberals will, despite previous practice, be honest with the people they serve, just as they promised when they came to power.
The 2017 budget, as well as this fall's economic statement, represented great opportunities for the government to build an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthiest. Sadly, the Liberals did quite the opposite in both cases. Despite sunny ways, it appears that the current government remains focused on using governance as a means to increase the wealth of its friends at the expense of hard-working Canadians. Where is the promise to be transparent and accountable? The infrastructure bank proves, on several fronts, that the Liberals cannot keep their word.
The infrastructure bank project was included in an omnibus bill that was about 300 pages long. I recall the Liberal promise during the last election campaign to abolish the use of undemocratic omnibus bills, which the Liberals vigorously denounced while the Harper government was in power. Can the minister explain why the use of such undemocratic practices has suddenly become acceptable?
In 2015, the Liberals promised that the Canada infrastructure bank will provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure programs. One year later, we learned that the infrastructure bank will be largely financed by private sector investors, who would demand significant returns on that investment. Projects funded under the infrastructure bank will have to produce revenues, notably by imposing user fees, tolls, and other new costs to citizens throughout Canada. I do not recall the Liberals being transparent about tolls at the time that the legislation was introduced. The bottom line is that Canadian taxpayers will be funding private corporations for public services. The infrastructure bank represents nothing less than the privatization of our infrastructure, privatization that benefits wealthy investors at the expense of hard-working Canadians who rely on public services.
It raises the vital question of whether public services would be deemed unessential if they do not meet an acceptable profit margin for infrastructure bank investors. For example, would the public safety of rural areas and impoverished regions be overlooked because they would not generate enough profit? Once again, profit appears to trump the public good and the sunny ways rule book.
The NDP has been very vocal in its opposition to the infrastructure bank. It does not serve the needs of Canadians. This privatization is disastrous for all of us. Infrastructure should first benefit all Canadians, including workers and families, not the financial elite and corporate friends of the Liberals. We should most certainly not be double billing Canadians with additional user fees and tolls for essential infrastructure that they have already paid for with their tax dollars.
Earlier this month, a report from the Columbia Institute, echoed by Canada's Information Commissioner, argued that Bill C-44, passed in June, will further undermine the public's ability to access information about the infrastructure bank. The report clearly stated that private sector interests are given a veto over releasing information about how public money is spent. It is clear that nothing has improved since I first asked my question in May. In fact, it looks worse than ever.
Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders
October 30th, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to address the House today on Bill C-49. We have covered a lot of ground in the debate today.
The word “omnibus” has been used by both the official opposition and the NDP to describe this bill. The vision that came from committee and the minister is that this bill reflects the nature of transportation. Transportation, as we know, is now called logistics. It is more than just moving goods and people; it is also the data behind the networks. It is tracking packages as they go from one form of shipping to another. Whether it is from a ship onto a container at a transloading facility, onto rail, and then onto a truck, we need a transportation network that has an act behind it that reflects the true nature of transportation.
The acts that this legislation would cover, the CN Commercialization Act, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, would attract investment up to 25% of the ownership of CN or CP being covered by international investment, to look at attracting international capital into Canada.
The Railway Safety Act, as was just mentioned, would include the use of devices for the safety of rail and, as we saw in the disaster in Lac-Mégantic, how to avoid disasters in the future through the use of technologies, so we can make sure that the equipment is operated safely and effectively. It is governed by subsection 28(1) of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act. We have a backstop. We will not have to focus on conversations in the cab between the engineer and other operators. We are looking at safety and the safe operation of equipment, and we have acts to govern that. We are looking at the comprehensive nature of safety between air travel, road travel, shipping, and rail.
We are also looking at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act, to authorize the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to enter into agreements for the delivery of screening devices on a cost-recovery basis. That concern was mentioned by the NDP earlier, but cost recovery can take many forms in terms of financing activities, such as improving screening devices within facilities.
The Coasting Trade Act looks at repositioning empty containers on ships that are registered in any register. There can be tracking of empty containers and a more efficient way of handling the movement of containers across Canada as they become unloaded and go to other forms of shipping, and then eventually get back to the registered owners. It is to make use of the containers throughout the time they are in Canada.
The Canada Marine Act permits the port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada infrastructure bank. That infrastructure bank, which has been discussed in this place on other occasions, looks at how to attract international investment. It looks at how to maintain control of it through our management of foreign capital within our shores, knowing how expensive it is to operate ports, to add rail infrastructure, to build bridges, to improve our transportation network across Canada. There are international markets looking for investment, looking for projects to participate in. As long as Canadians know how we are doing that and we are transparent in the way the conditions of Bill C-44 will be coming forward to Parliament so that it can get royal assent and we can get on with investment in transportation, that is what we want.
There are also other acts, as always, including the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Competition Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Air Canada Public Participation Act, the Budget Implementation Act, 2009, and also the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
This bill is not omnibus; it is omni-transportation. We are not suggesting that we cut down environmental protection in the middle of a budget bill or other things that have been termed omnibus in the past. We are not bringing this forward in any way, other than to make sure we have an integrated act that reflects the integrated nature of transportation in Canada.
When we look at integration and different forms of travel, we also have the competition between freight and people. How do we manage the investments in our infrastructure? In my riding of Guelph, people are trying to get down Highway 401 to Toronto on the train, and the train gets waylaid as freight comes through. Freight makes a profit for rail organizations. Freight always takes precedence over people. People are trying to get to work or trying to get home, and they cannot do that efficiently.
The only way to get past these problems is with comprehensive legislation that allows investment, so that we can get dual tracks between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, including Guelph, to have one track for freight and one track for people.
Transportation 2030 is looking at where we are going in the next 20 or so years. We want to have an integrated nature of transportation that can also pave the way to use the new forms of transportation, autonomous vehicles, new ways of moving goods through new ways of port control, and new transloading facilities for rail. We need to have comprehensive legislation, such as Bill C-49, in order to make way for future carriers of people and goods across this great country that we have.
When we look the scope of Canada, we also need legislation that is as broad in scope as we are as a country, so that we can reach northern Alberta, reach Windsor, and so we can have proper control in our major centres of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, and all points in between.
When we look at the joint ventures, attracting the most efficient use of travel, we do not want part carriers on part carriers and two operations losing money, but a means in which they can collaborate and work to the benefit of Canadians under the new legislation.
Competition is essential, and competition, as I mentioned earlier, includes attracting international participants. We can look at countries where there is best practices that we can borrow from, such as China and the United States. Europe has border issues that it has been able to solve. We are are still working on old border issues that will hopefully benefit from this legislation as well, as we open up our roads and bridges and our rail lines to international markets.
Finally, I mentioned in the question section that Guelph is looking at increasing our opportunities for air travel. We have YKF, which is the international regional airport in Waterloo that is partway between Guelph, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge. To come to Ottawa this morning, I had a 4:15 a.m. pickup and a shuttle to Pearson. I had to go through security, so I was dropped off an hour and a half before my flight. I got to my office here for 8:30 a.m., after having left Guelph at 4:15 in the morning. If we had YKF operating and we had a low-cost operator, as we almost had last year—we had it for a very short period of time—I would have been able to drive 20 minutes to the airport and be at the office an hour earlier than I was. I would be able to get home to my family a lot easier once we are finished with the work of the House.
However, we cannot do that without good legislation such as we have before us, which attracts investment, attracts competition, and enhances the network that we have in Canada, bringing it into the next century with transportation 2030.
I will be supporting this bill as it comes forward.
October 30th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
Robert Ramsay Senior Research Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Good afternoon. My name is Robert Ramsay. I work as a senior research officer with the Canadian Union of Public Employees at our national office here in Ottawa.
I want to start by thanking the committee for this opportunity to present our thoughts on Bill C-58. We look forward to seeing our recommendations as well as the serious concerns expressed by the witnesses in previous sessions reflected in your committee work.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, or CUPE, is the largest labour union in Canada. We represent 650,000 workers across the country in sectors as diverse as health care, social services, child care, municipalities, schools, universities, and transportation, among others. Our members provide a range of vital public services in thousands of communities, where they and their locals are engaged civic partners.
Since our founding in 1963, CUPE has been one of the strongest and most consistent voices defending public services in Canada. We know that robust, well-funded public services serve Canadians best and that the privatization of these services leads to higher costs, as Auditors General have revealed when they gain access to the full range of information about a privatization project. Privatization, whether through asset sales, P3s, outsourcing, or social impact bonds, also represents a real threat to the quality and level of access that public services should provide. As such, CUPE has serious concerns about Bill C-58, both about the parts of the current Access to Information Act that it proposes to amend and about the existing deficiencies that it fails to correct.
First, this bill leaves intact sections 18 and 20, which exempt from disclosure any material or information that falls under the broadly undefined category of trade secrets of either the government or a third party. The language removes from public scrutiny any financial, commercial, scientific, or technical information that has what is called “substantial value” or is reasonably likely to have substantial value in an undetermined future.
The current language allows the government to refuse to disclose third party information that was treated confidentially by that third party. It exempts from disclosure, in a preposterously broad limitation, any information that “could reasonably be expected to be materially injurious to... the ability of the Government of Canada to manage the economy of Canada”. The scope of information that can be exempted from public disclosure under this language is virtually infinite: contracts with private security or accounting companies, pharmacological research, reports by consultants on proposed government actions, records of foreign investment, information relating to the health and safety performance of a third party entity providing public services. These are some of the possible exemptions under sections 18 and 20, and they are also examples of material and information that must be accessible to Canadians if access to information legislation is to be meaningful.
Certainly we understand that there are legitimate grounds for non-disclosure, such as national security and personal privacy, and that access requests can sometimes require judgment calls by government officials. These exemptions, however, like those in other sections that hide from view the actions and decisions of the PMO, cabinet, and ministers' offices, are overly broad, not subject to a test of real harm, and not subordinated to a meaningful public interest override.
We must note as well the dangerous ways these exemptions intersect with other legislation this government has proposed in what others more cynical than we are might characterize as a war on transparency. For example, Bill C-22 gives the staff of the Department of National Defence the authority to decide what is excluded from disclosure without any independent review. In Bill C-44, section 28 of the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act expands exclusions to include information about proponents, private sector investors, and institutional investors in infrastructure projects, again with no independent review.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank Act provides a clear example, in fact, of the regressive nature of the current legislative trajectory. Not only does the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act lay out overly broad additional exemptions, it also places final decisions before cabinet, essentially shrouding the entire process in darkness, out of the reach of the Information Commissioner, the Auditor General, and even the federal courts.
Let us provide a concrete example. CUPE recently filed an access to information request for information and material related to the government's participation in the private REM light rail project in Montreal, specifically for the reports and analyses prepared by a third party consultancy called Blair Franklin Capital Partners. This is a project to which the government has committed 1.3 billion public dollars, and it is something the government has indicated the Canada Infrastructure Bank may take on as one of its first projects.
Is this a good investment? What information has the government relied on to make that decision? Were environmental, health and safety, or accessibility concerns integrated into the decision? What is the business model and the business case? What is the projected fee structure, and will it be regressive or restrict access?
Answers to these questions are central to the public's understanding of this particular public investment. In other words, the public interest is immense. However, when we received a response—after a delay, of course—Infrastructure Canada invoked section 18 to redact virtually all of the records, making the entire 613-page disclosure incomprehensible and useless.
Rather than apply the exemptions narrowly and with respect for the public interest, it has become common practice for the government to redact by default, to exclude by default. This is an application that runs counter to the stated aims of the act and the bill under review, and counter to international standards of open government.
While there may be legitimate exemptions for disclosure of third party information, they would need to pass the test of real harm in each case. It is not legitimate for government to refuse disclosure simply because the information is related to a third party interest.
A recent report by the Vancouver-based Columbia Institute, entitled “Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Public's Right to Know”, notes that there is virtual unanimity among information commissioners across Canada that private entities that receive public funds or perform a public service or public interest function must be covered by access to information legislation. This is the emerging consensus internationally as well.
Here, though, this government has moved in the opposite direction by establishing a regime in which information on how our public services and public infrastructure are provided, how they are funded, how these decisions are made, and even who is involved in the work can be hidden behind a curtain of third party privilege. CUPE submits that the government instead needs to ensure that access to information under sections 18 and 20 faces far narrower exemptions that are subject to a test of actual harm, to a strong public interest override, and to review by the Information Commissioner, and that this act take precedence over any other act, such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, that seeks to unreasonably limit the public's right to know.
We would also like to take a moment to echo the serious concerns of your previous witnesses. Proposed section 6, as written, creates new hurdles to gaining access by establishing requirements for the structure and content of requests that void the government's duty to assist and that defeat the very purpose of the act. Proposed section 6 also would allow the government of the day to create unilaterally a “do not respond” list of troublesome Canadians who always seem to want to know something and ask too many big questions. The determination that an access request is frivolous, trivial, vexatious, or made in bad faith is one that cannot and should not be made by the government of the day to whom the information request is made. This is a subjective determination that is necessarily rife with conflict of interest.
Another barrier to access is cost. Bill C-58 leaves open the possibility of government requiring new and onerous costs for access. Where is the promise for a nominal $5 fee with all other costs voided, and for the $5 fee itself to be refunded if timelines are not met?
We also agree with other witnesses that Bill C-58 represents a missed opportunity. There are serious problems with the current legislation, problems that the current government correctly identified while in opposition and that remain wholly unaddressed in the proposals before you. Canada, despite its leadership in other areas, sets a very poor example globally with the current act. According to the global right to information index compiled in part by the Centre for Law and Democracy and based on 61 indicators, Canada is ranked 49th out of 111 countries on the quality of its access to information laws.
News Media Canada has criticized this government's approach to access to information as being “even worse” than the previous government's. Your own outgoing Information Commissioner has called Bill C-58 “a regression of existing rights”, as has been mentioned many times at this committee. We urge you to take her 28 carefully considered recommendations.
To summarize, we submit that the law must apply to private third parties who receive public funds or perform a public service function. All exemptions must be discretionary in practice. The Information Commissioner's office must have at its disposal a full tool box of real order-making powers and the authority to enact penalties. We agree with Democracy Watch that the appointment process for the Information Commissioner must be changed so that it is open, merit-based, and not controlled by the very ministers the commissioner will be reviewing.
In conclusion, we cannot recommend that Bill C-58 proceed as written. It is, quite simply, bad legislation. It makes access more difficult rather than improving it.
Instead, CUPE calls on the government to review the problems that these hearings and previous commentary have identified, to research the best examples from your provincial and international counterparts, and to draft amendments that have as their guiding principle what Mr. McArthur, the acting commissioner from B.C., called “access by design”: an act that facilitates access rather than blocks it and that leads to a government that is truly open by default and closed only in the narrowest, independently defensible circumstances.
Thank you again for the time. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Access to Information ActGovernment Orders
September 22nd, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
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.
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.
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.