Evidence of meeting #84 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was clause.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Natasha Rascanin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Transformation, Department of Transport
Jennifer Saxe  Director, International Marine Policy, Department of Transport
Joseph Melaschenko  Team Leader and Senior Counsel, Maritime Law, Department of Transport

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Would the department like to comment? No.

Are there any questions on NDP-9?

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 7 agreed to)

Now we will go from clause 8 to clause 23.

Is there any discussion?

(Clauses 8 to 23 inclusive agreed to)

(On clause 24)

Next is PV-5.

You're right on time, Ms. May.

5:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Chair, I'm sorry for missing one of my amendments.

This is a pretty straightforward amendment in seeking greater public access to the information and the documents that are referred to in the act. This would empower the cabinet to make the regulations regarding proactive disclosure of reporting and enforcement information and ensure that there's adequate time to consider and address issues. This was brought up in testimony, which I think members will recall, from West Coast Environmental Law and the Heiltsuk Nation.

Access to information is the goal of my amendment PV-5, which would amend clause 24 on page 14. I'm happy to answer any questions about why I've brought this forward, but it is based on evidence you've heard.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Would the department like to comment?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Transformation, Department of Transport

Natasha Rascanin

I will just say that the way the clause is written—that the “Governor in Council may, by regulation, amend the schedule”—the regulatory process under the Governor in Council does include transparency and consultation and is part of that process. So that process would indeed be followed.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Fraser.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Ms. May. I appreciate the amendment. I have just a couple of questions.

By way of background, I spent a little bit of time previously in my career working for a human rights organization that focused on access to information laws. It escapes me how the permissive ability to make regulations about access to information under this legislation would not be redundant, given that existing access to information legislation would apply. If we make amendments to the schedule, for example, it would follow the regulatory process, and all would be public, with a period of consultation as well.

I appreciate the spirit of it, but when I look at it, it appears to not necessarily add something to the public disclosure process.

5:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

If I may say so, our new access to information law, Bill C-58, does move towards proactive disclosure of certain things but doesn't touch on this at all.

My effort was to ensure that since we have the regulation-making powers of the Governor in Council under this particular bill in clause 24.... At this point the only thing the Governor in Council is empowered to do by regulation is to amend the schedule by adding or deleting any oil or class of oils. Expanding that to ensure that the Governor in Council can make regulations to facilitate public access to information, I think this is very helpful.

I know we're looking at Bill C-48 and not Bill C-58, but I am of the view of the Information Commissioner that Bill C-58 is legislation that takes us backwards and that will make it harder to access information. Anything we can do under this bill to make it easier for the public and first nations communities to have access to that information proactively....

Certainly there's no harm in this amendment, and I think you could ask your officials whether it does any damage. You can keep your fingers crossed and hope the public's going to be able to get at it, but I've said for years—it's a good line, so I'll say it again—that Canada's freedom of information acts have tended to, for years, be freedom from information. I don't think they're getting better, so anything we can do in this bill to create more access to the information that first nations have wanted on a timely basis and that environmental law groups have wanted on a timely basis....

Maybe the officials could tell me how it does any harm. The most I've heard them say so far is that we don't need it because it's redundant, and that's not something I believe.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Fraser.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I think we have counsel at the table, if I'm not mistaken.

Does the proposed amendment add any new protections to the public's access to information?

5:20 p.m.

Joseph Melaschenko Team Leader and Senior Counsel, Maritime Law, Department of Transport

There are no substantive protections in the proposed amendment. It's a proposed power to make regulations about access to information. What's left unclear about this amendment is how that would differ from the existing scheme in the Access to Information Act, and how new rules could apply in the event of a conflict with that act, which would supersede these regulations.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

I'm not seeing any further discussion.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

On amendment NDP-10, go ahead, Mr. MacGregor.

November 28th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Chair, I would direct the committee's attention to clause 24, which states, “The Governor in Council may, by regulation, amend the schedule by adding or deleting any oil or class of oils.”

I'm sure my Liberal colleagues will agree with me that their government's mantra is openness, accountability, and transparency. I think it's fairly critical, to respect that vision of government, that we amend this section so that if the minister decided that a particular fuel type was to be removed from the ban, the minister in question would make a sustained effort, allowing whatever measure he or she wanted, to inform the public as to why that particular fuel type was being removed.

If we look at the different classes of fuel that can be transported over our waters, we know that they behave differently based on their chemical makeup and they behave differently in water. I think that the residents of coastal communities should have that reasoning from the government. They should receive that public notice that this particular fuel type is going to be removed from the ban, and I believe that this fits very well in the spirit of the Liberal government's attempts to be open, transparent, and accountable, and I hope my arguments are enough to bring my Liberal colleagues on board to sustain this amendment.

With that Madam Chair, I move the amendment.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Mr. MacGregor.

Do the department officials want to comment?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Transformation, Department of Transport

Natasha Rascanin

I would like to add an explanation to elaborate on what I said earlier about how the regulatory process that is proposed here is the standard regulatory process that requires quite a bit of transparency. There is publication of proposed amendments in the Canada Gazette and a prescribed consultation process before any changes are approved. It would also, in fact, be subject to the Statutory Instruments Act, and all of those elements are already in the clause.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Fraser.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I might request just a 30-second huddle here. I appreciate the spirit of it. As was just explained, when there's a change made to the schedule, right now it is published through the Canada Gazette and it is made public. If you wouldn't mind just giving us 30 seconds to chat it over, that might be helpful for members on this side of the table.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

We'll suspend for a moment or two.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

I will call the meeting back to order.

Mr. Fraser.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

One of the things I wanted to confirm was that the spirit of it is that it is published through the Gazette, but the additional process through the existing measure requires an open public consultation as well, which I think might actually increase the transparency rather than just saying that the minister can notify the public in any manner they deem appropriate. So I sincerely appreciate the motivation behind it and agree with it, but I think in terms of the process, the ordinary regulatory process might give more protection than the proposed amendment would. That is my opinion on this one.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Sikand.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Just to add to that, you missed it, but your colleague Mr. Cullen had a jovial way of saying this himself and he actually stated that we inform the public through the Gazette as well.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Is there any further discussion on amendment NDP-10?

Go ahead.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Your point, sir, is well taken, and with respect to the department, Mr. Cullen did make reference to reading the Gazette to his children to help them to go to sleep.

I previously worked for a member of Parliament, so I have a fairly long history in dealing with the federal bureaucracy. What I found in my experience was that they are all fantastic people, but sometimes they and civil society organizations are guilty of working in silos, and sometimes the information is made known to stakeholders but not to the general public. I think by codifying the requirements, we add that kind of certainty to this process.

I'll end on that, Madam Chair, and thank you for this opportunity.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Mr. MacGregor.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 24 agreed to)

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Chair, on a point of order, can you seek the unanimous consent of the committee to group clauses 25 through 31 inclusive together as a single vote?