Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege and pleasure to speak tonight to this important bill. I am going to take a bit of a different slant on this.
As members know, I was first elected in 2019, so I am a relatively new member of this House. This period of time just before the session ends for the summer is a very busy time, as I understand. This is my first experience with it. It is the first time I have gotten to see the government trying to complete its agenda, which is kind of lagging. What I have been expecting is the very best the government has to offer to get its agenda through before the House rises for the summer.
My background, really briefly, is that I come from the accounting world, and specifically the management accounting area. Efficiency was one of the things I really focused on. I worked in a manufacturing plant and I helped people figure out the easiest way to do their job so that it required the least amount of labour and we could produce the best product, most efficiently, at the best price. Essentially, it is where I learned one of my mottoes, which is “Work smarter, not harder.”
As I have watched what has gone on here in the last couple of weeks from my lens, a relatively new lens, I have witnessed the exact opposite of efficiency. It has been quite fascinating. In fact, I imagine that when our Prime Minister was on his way back from his vacation trip to Europe a couple of weeks ago, he had to stop in a quarantine hotel like all other Canadians, except that he of course stayed in a special hotel that was close to his house and was only there for a few hours—but I digress. He probably would have called his government House leader to ask how things were going and how the legislation was coming along. Unfortunately, the government House leader would have had to give him the sad news that nothing had happened, that in fact everything had stalled out because of the many mistakes made by the government. In fact, everything was in chaos, as he could see if he looked at Bill C-30 or Bill C-10 or anything else.
As we look at this bill, the government House leader has denied many times that the Liberals are going to call an election shortly, saying it is the event that just is not going to happen. However, in April, on this bill, the Liberals seemed to suddenly realize that they needed to pass something, and that is where Bill C-12 came into the picture. They needed to pass something just in case the event that is not going to happen happens.
After months of inaction on this bill, suddenly there was a big panic. Why is the government willing to ram through a flawed bill just before the summer? It is just in case that event that is not going to happen happens. Of course, the Liberals could wait until September, but here we are instead. It is the last panic time before the event that is not going to happen happens. This is hypocritical, and it is very disrespectful to our democracy.
I want to look at Bill C-12 through my new eyes. I had a front-row seat to this bill because I am on the environment committee. I have been able to see this first-hand. One of the questions I was asking myself was, “How do we have success when creating a new law?” Of course, the first step is to write a good bill. When the minister came to our committee, the first thing he said was that he was open to amendments. I am assuming he said that because he knew that the bill was not well written and that it had many flaws.
He just opened the floodgates, because there were 114 amendments that came to committee, and 17 of those came from the government itself. The bill was only 10 pages long at that point. That is over 11 amendments per page, or four per clause. That is a lot of amendments. Those numbers alone should prove that this bill was flawed.
Every morning we are led in a prayer by the Speaker, and one of the lines in that prayer is “Grant us wisdom....to make good laws....” I cannot sit back and watch this law come into force. It is a bad law. The number of amendments also showed that this was true.
The second way that we could have success when creating a new law is to get feedback. There was a lot of feedback. There were 75 briefs received by the environment committee, which is great. A lot of Canadians put in a lot of hard work to write reports and provide information to the committee. The bad news is that only eight of those briefs were received before we started our study. That was because the study was jammed in. It was rushed into committee with a very short deadline.
That means that 67 briefs were received after we did our study. It means that the work of many Canadians was ignored, and the government was happy to ignore it. It was not particularly interested in listening to the views of people who submitted the briefs. It had a plan, an idea of what it wanted to accomplish, and that is what it was going to do.
The third way we could make sure to have success in creating a new bill is to let the committee do its work. The first thing the government did was make a deal with the NDP. It did not want the committee to get bogged down in any details of actually providing useful information. It wanted to be able to ram things through.
The Liberal-NDP coalition did exactly that. It rammed this bill through the committee. Almost every single vote at the committee was marked by the Liberal-NDP coalition. The Liberals and the NDP made no bones about their coalition.
The NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley posted to his Twitter before the clause by clause started, “[T]he NDP will be proposing amendments that the government has agreed to support.... We have also jointly agreed to a number of other amendments.”
What was the practical result of this? The New Democrats and the Liberals fell silent. They did not ask questions. I am not even sure they read many of the amendments or even understood what they were. They had a plan. They just knew to vote for this and not vote for that. Therefore, it fell to the Conservatives and the Bloc MPs to scrutinize these amendments. As for me, I asked reasoned and thoughtful questions of the departmental experts as to the consequences of certain amendments, but the problem was that there were 114 amendments, as I said.
As I also mentioned, the government put forward 17 of its own amendments. That means that on 17 separate occasions, the minister messed up drafting the bill and he needed his MPs to fix it. That is like us buying a new car, driving it off the lot and just as we are leaving, the salesman says he has scheduled 17 appointments for us to come back for maintenance because the dealer messed up and there are a bunch of problems with the car. Therefore, we drive it off the lot, go back tomorrow and the dealer starts fixing it. It makes no sense.
The Liberals and the New Democrats on the committee were only interested in their amendments. They refused to engage with us on our amendments. To prove my point, there was kind of a funny example.
Subsection 7(4) of the original bill required that the minister would set national targets five years in advance. The government and NDP wanted to change that to 10 years in advance. The problem was the Greens put forward an identical amendment and because they got there first, we dealt with their amendment first.
As was the practice of the government and the NDP members, they did not want to support anyone else's amendments and certainly not the Greens'. Therefore, the Green amendment was voted on and was rejected. Next up was the government amendment that was literally identical. The chair, rightly so, ruled that it was inadmissible because we had just dealt with this at committee and we had decided not to proceed with it. That was a big problem. Everybody wanted to vote for that second one because the members actually wanted the amendment. However, I do not think they read the first one from the Greens, which was the same, and they did not realize they had just voted down, essentially, their own amendment.
In the end, after a very long discussion and a lot of time wasted, the government members finally realized that instead of saying 10 years, they could say “9 years 366 days”, which was different enough to get it passed. I found that quite humorous, that the government members were not able to accomplish this.
I have an amendment that was read tonight, and it is in a section of the bill referring to the work of the advisory body, specifically the annual report that it has to submit. My amendment would require that the minister make the annual report public and, further, that the minister publicly respond to this report. It would require the government to actually take action, which is something we all know the Liberals are quite allergic to. The Liberals tried to make an amendment on this section at committee, but theirs was sloppy and it left the legislation in very bad shape.
Essentially, the Liberal-NDP amendment added words but it did not remove redundant words, so the bill as it is written right now makes no sense in that section. It still includes a long sentence that should not be there and it starts with a partial word. It just does not make a whole lot of sense. My amendment allows that wording to make sense again.
The Green Party put forward some really good amendments. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands was quite frustrated at committee. I want to quote her because it is quite telling. She said:
I have to say that this is the most dispiriting process of clause-by-clause that I've experienced in many years. Usually amendments are actually considered, people actually debate them and there is a good-faith process....
I condemn this government for what it has done: for telling people like me, who believed in good faith that there would be an actual appetite for change to improve the bill and who accepted it and prepared amendments, only to show up here and watch Liberals stay mute, the NDP stay mute and march through their amendments, passing them in force, and not listening and not caring about the possibility that other amendments might work.
What happens when there is a flawed committee process? Flawed legislation results. Bill C-12 is flawed legislation.