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Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Brison, please.

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

On this, the government is trying to create a false dichotomy that you can't have good environmental policy coexist with good economic policy. The reality is that more progressive economic leadership understands that you must have both, particularly if you want to create the jobs of the future.

The national round table has provided strong leadership in public policy. Again, from time to time it has taken positions that disagree with any government of the day. For this reason it's being defunded and disbanded by this government. It's another attempt to eliminate any dissension or any voices with which the government disagrees.

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Brison.

I have Ms. Nash, Mr. Caron, Mr. Jean, and Mr. Mai.

I'll go to Ms. Nash, please.

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has been around since 1988. Its goal was to provide an independent body, an independent voice, not just as an advocate around the environment, but as a body that had the explicit goal of bringing together dissenting voices at a round table, a place where environmentalists, business, labour, academics, and all kinds of different parties—sometimes with very opposing views—could debate issues, hopefully work through issues, and thereby develop better policy. It has been an organization that has been a strong voice not just in bringing together research, but in promoting sustainable development solutions.

Mr. Mai has just said that there are these opposing views—pardon me, I think it was Mr. Brison—that you can have jobs or the environment and that somehow they're in opposition, when in fact you see successful economies around the world—like Germany, for example, which has been a leader in green technology—using the transition to a more sustainable economy as an economic development measure. You can see how successful they've been at that and how they've been exporting the products they create and exporting that technology.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has produced a number of worthy reports. It has been very active on the issue of water. It has recently looked at Canada and U.S. climate change policy, because of course we want to understand how we work together with our largest trading partner. Also, it has helped build solutions and opportunities for business to evolve by using more sustainable solutions.

But as an independent body, it has not always nodded in agreement with the direction of the federal government. In some cases, it has been critical, but it has also raised warning flags where there are problems. Just recently, the national round table had been saying publicly that delays in regulating greenhouse gas emissions mean that we're locking in old infrastructure for decades to come, and saying how we need to be looking at modernizing more energy-efficient infrastructure. By pointing the way to more helpful directions, these points are perhaps critical of the government but useful to the government.

It's a tragedy and I think a travesty to see this organization cut—eliminated. It's not a large budget, but it's a very useful addition to Canada's public debate. This is part of a government approach that tends to want to eliminate and defund voices and organizations that don't agree with it. It gives the appearance of being anti-science and anti-data, because when they disagree with data and when they disagree with science, they want to silence that science.

We've had a debate today with an NDP opposition day motion on the whole issue of scientific expertise and making sure that we preserve and protect the value of scientific and social science expertise. But much of what's happening through this omnibus budget bill and the other changes the government is making, whether it's cuts to Library and Archives Canada or cuts to the National Research Council, Statistics Canada, the National Council of Welfare.... We've seen so many examples of this.

I can only feel that the officials who work for the federal government must dread the data they come out with if it's at odds with the direction this government takes. I think this is just another example of a paranoid approach. The federal government doesn't want to engage in debate and dialogue and therefore come up with better solutions.

We're opposed to this. Again, it's another example of an item that should never have come before the finance committee. It should be before the environment committee, but here we are.

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

Will this be new information, Monsieur Caron?

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Peggy Nash has already raised most of the points I wanted to discuss.

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Monsieur Caron.

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

No. She has already talked about the points I wanted to raise.

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

I have Mr. Jean, and then I have Monsieur Mai, who is going to make some new points that the chair has not heard before.

Mr. Jean.

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm sure my arguments will convince the opposition to vote for this particular thing.

In 1990, when I started my master's of laws in environment and I wanted to save the world, it was a much different place than it is today. We have computers. Through the Internet we have an unlimited amount of computer information on the environment and what's happening in other jurisdictions, and we're able to communicate with people freely and widely very quickly. So things have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. It's been a long time.

Peggy might want to listen to this. A friend of mine worked for the National Round Table on the Environment this year, did the water report, was a Conservative candidate two federal elections ago, and worked with the Conservative government for two or three years.

But clearly we have Environment Canada, which performs the function the national round table at one time was handy to do, maybe in 1988 and a few years after that. They do an excellent job reporting to the government, and we have a lot of environmental groups around the world that I would suggest provide a lot of information, more than we need at this stage. We have all the information necessary today that's instantaneously shared across the Internet.

I'm hoping Mr. Mai was convinced by that “wanting to put a Conservative out of work” argument. You didn't get that one? Okay.

I think this is a great division and I'm going to support it fully and heartily.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

Did he convince you, Mr. Mai?

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I'm thinking about it.

I want to come back to the issue raised by Mr. Jean. If Environment Canada has done such a good job, it is difficult to understand why the government has made cuts in that department.

I will be brief. It is being said that the government is attacking those who do not share its opinion. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, was very clear with regard to that. He said that the institution has become useless. The government has decided to eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy because that agency was promoting a carbon tax.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

(Clauses 578 to 594 inclusive agreed to on division)

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Hanson.

We will then move to division 41, amendments to the Telecommunications Act. This deals with clauses 595 to 601.

Is there any discussion?

Monsieur Caron.

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I used a good portion of my floor time at meetings with witnesses to explain as much as possible our reservations towards this provision that opens the door to foreign ownership for telecommunications companies—especially companies specializing cellphones—with less than 10% of the current market. We have raised several issues, to which we have not received responses we deem satisfactory when it comes to some of the potentially significant consequences.

We have often talked about small companies that hold 3% or 4% of the market. It was said that they could eventually be acquired by foreign companies and, 10 or 12 years down the line, reach anywhere from 12% to 15% of the market. If that were the case, if one of the current companies saw its market share go up to 12% to 15%, we would end up with two companies of similar size playing by two different sets of rules: one would have access to foreign capital and the other one would not.

That may seem like an exaggeration. We are talking about not only WIND Mobile or Public Mobile, but also Videotron, and potentially Shaw Communications, MTS and SAS Telecom. Those companies could eventually increase their market share—especially Videotron. Let's use the example of Videotron and Shaw Communications, should the latter enter the cellphone market because it already has the spectrum to do so. If those two companies, which own two of the four largest private television networks, were eventually acquired by a foreign company, there would be serious issues in terms of broadcasting and telecommunications legislations. I think that's one of the reasons why the government has been hesitating for such a long time. Consultations on that issue have been held for over two years. We cannot necessarily see those potential consequences. The people who have testified have not provided satisfactory responses.

I would like to briefly talk about risks. That was pointed out in a document on public security obtained thanks to the Access to Information Act. That document discusses national security issues—potential risks—stemming from the fact that our crucial telecommunications infrastructure is being opened to foreign ownership. Considering that whole decision—including decisions that will not be in the bill, but affect the next spectrum auction that should be held by the end of next year—we still think that the government should have leaned toward a formula that would have reserved spectrum for new entrants. If the goal is to improve competition, reserving spectrum is probably the best way to do that, instead of setting a cap as the government has done. That is why we cannot vote in favour of section 595.

However, I don't think our side will provide much opposition to sections 596 to 601, which aim to strengthen mechanisms that prevent telemarketing companies from calling people at home. We actually think it is a bit strange this is included in the same provision. We understand that the same legislation is being amended. Nevertheless, it is related to two extremely different issues. We will also vote against section 595.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Van Kesteren, please.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I think the opposition would agree, though, that the do not call list is a very successful program, and one that Canadians rely on to protect them. This would allow the CRTC...so this is a good measure.

There are two things I want to talk about with this Telecommunications Act.

Number one...and I made the remark in committee when we had the witnesses in front of us. I said I remembered back in 2006, when I was first elected, that we studied this in Industry. Then our chair piped up and said it was 2003. So it was long before my time. This is something that has been beaten to death. We have talked about this and talked about this. Every time it gets to the threshold, it's like the jilted bride.

It just needs to happen.

The second thing is that this is all about competition. We need competition in this industry.

Canadians expect it. Furthermore, I think they demand it. Competition is the very best thing we could ever expect or ever work into our telecommunications industry.

This is a good act. This is something that's long overdue. It's not something new. It's not something that's been sprung on us. It's time to do this, and now is the time to do it.

8:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Both sides have explained themselves well.

Is there more? Okay, Monsieur Caron.

8:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

There are two ways to encourage competition in this area. The first option is opening the doors to foreign ownership, and that's what the government has settled on. The other option is to reserve a block for new entrants at the upcoming spectrum auction, as was done in 2009 for advanced wireless services. The government could have gone with that option, which was successful and enabled new entrants to acquire the spectrum they needed to grow. It could have found another way to help those companies acquire capital other than allowing them to be bought by another foreign company, be it American or European. If the government were really consistent in its willingness to open the doors to competition, it should have reserved spectrum at the auction, but it decided not to do that. Therefore, I cannot accept that argument.

I wanted to raise another issue quickly. This has been debated at length. In addition, the publishing of the outcome of the consultation document from 2010 submitted by Mr. Clement—the Minister of Industry at the time—was pushed back twice because the government was not sure which direction to take. This issue is so complex that we are not sure where this specific recommendation will lead us.

I don't think enough consultations have been held. We must not forget that consultations have been held in the past, but the Parliament of the day had a completely different image. Based on what we know today, there will be other arguments, and other directions will be suggested for the consultation. I don't think that the intervention has changed anything at all.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Mr. Van Kesteren, do you want to serve another volley back?

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

I stand by what I said.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you.

Then I will call the question on clauses 595 to 601.

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

No, I want to separate 595 out, please.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

You want to break out the first one?

Okay. Shall clause 595 carry?