Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have a few things. To answer Mr. Carrie's concern—and I'm not sure this would change his mind in any event—he's quite right. I didn't mean to avoid it. When I changed the words “may take into account” from “shall”, the reason I changed it was because of the words “if any”, so I thought “may take into account evidence, if any”, but I'm happy to put that back to “shall” if that makes him more comfortable. I don't think that would change his view of the amendment anyway.
The problem with this, with great respect to Mr. Oliver, is that we continue to say we want to get these running as quickly as possible. That was said a year ago. The minister stood in the House and said she wanted to get these sites done as quickly as possible, while at the same time saying she didn't think the act necessarily had to be amended. The act is the barrier. The application process is the barrier. We have to acknowledge that.
While we're here at this historic moment with a chance to straighten out the application process, it's our chance to figure out what burden we want to give to the applicant. Applicants have been telling me for a year, “You're making me put stuff in that takes me a long time to gather, that is hard to gather.”
If you're saying that the application has to have expressions of community support or opposition, if any—and I'll get to “if any” in a moment—you're basically slowing down the process. I'm going to go out there, I'm going to get petitions, and I'm going to go knock on doors in the neighbourhood because I'm going to think my chances of getting the minister to approve it will be better if I have expressions of community support. By the way, there will be other people acting to get evidence of community opposition at the same time. Let's not forget that.
I want to talk about the words “if any”. “If any” is extremely confusing. I'm an applicant, and I'm told by a law of Parliament that an application shall include information, “if any”. What is that telling me? Does it mean information if I want to include it—if I have it, I'll put it in—or does it mean if any exists? I'll tell you, there is always information about the impact of the site on crime rates. There are always expressions of community support or opposition.
Any person applying under this section who reads it the way it is, with the words “if any”, will think they have to put that information in or they won't get their application approved, or the chance will be less. That's going to slow down the process.
I also want to be clear that, as I said before, the minister will take into account all those factors. Maybe there will be a countermove and there will be groups organizing to send information to the minister outside the application on expressions of community opposition. The way this is written now, the minister doesn't take that into account. It's only expressions of community support or opposition that are contained in the application.
What I'm saying is that from my reading of the Supreme Court decision, the minister should broadly exercise her discretion and ask what the impact of this would be on crime rates and find out what the community is saying about this issue. Don't put the burden on the applicant to provide that. Widen it so the minister can get that information from anybody she wants.
The last thing I will say is that in my amendment there's nothing that would preclude an applicant from including expressions of public support. An applicant could do everything that you said you want them to do, John. I'm removing the legal requirement, the burden placed on them to provide that.
Really, all I'm doing here is straightening out the burden. Let's clearly tell applicants, “You tell us what the public health benefits of the site are. You tell us about the local conditions. You tell us the resources available to support your site.” Then, when you get that application in, and it will get in quicker now, you can have regard—in fact, as Colin says, “shall” have regard—to the impact on crime rates, the administrative structure, and expressions of community support.
I'm telling you this is better. If we don't pass this, you are telling applicants the process will be slower, and you are passing a section that will be confusing to applicants.