House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ocean.


Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, a series of speakers this afternoon have given us science lessons on the value of the oceans, on the beauty of the oceans and of its inspirational value to various artists. We have now heard about the duplication of federal jurisdiction over provincial jurisdiction. There have been accusations of intrusion into the provincial

jurisdiction by the federal minister. And all this is subsumed under the bill presently before the House.

We have had all these pontifications about the science, the research and the development, the high tech science and technology that will be developed because of the ocean since after all it gave rise to the explorers from across the world, and this is what built Canada. The oceans apparently are the source of everything good and wonderful that has ever happened to this country. If it is so important, why is it that this bill is silent?

Could the hon. member tell us whether he has done any research into the area of the ocean management strategy and the Advisory Council on Science and Technology that is being outlined here? Exactly how is this going to fit in with a further development of science and the culture of science in the Canadian student body and the young people that are going to find jobs in the research and development of oceans in this Canada of ours?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate to my colleague that I am not a member of the government. It is not up to me to find out all the answers. We are here in fact to protect the interests of the taxpayers. We can see today that duplication among departments really exists, even among federal departments.

Moreover, this infringes on the provincial jurisdiction over lakes and rivers. As you know, we have many outfitters in my riding of Champlain. We even have a lake and forest fair. My colleague mentioned earlier the issue of student jobs. Where my riding, which is so rich in lakes and rivers, will be hurt is in its outfitters and fairs. That is why I want to stress the fact that my riding's outfitters and fairs will be ruined.

This is where the student jobs come from. And now, the whole economy of the tourism industry will be destabilized.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Champlain for the speech he just made on Bill C-26. He made a good analysis of this bill, dealing with each of its three parts separately. I took note of his remarks.

But before commenting on the speech made by the member for Champlain, I would also like to mention that the Reform member's question was very appropriate. It is true that my colleague, being an opposition member, does not have to prove the merits of this bill. It is also unfortunate that we do no Liberal member has risen in this House and said: "Yes, we are eager to get rid of this bill because we have other bills to study which will create jobs". In this sense, the Reform member was right to raise this question.

I would now like to come back to the speech made by my colleague from Champlain. In the first part of his remarks, he mentioned that Canada was using the preamble to this bill to proclaim its sovereignty over its waters. This will not increase, and I am sure my colleague will confirm it, the quantity of fish in these waters.

I would like to add to the member's remarks that it is funny to hear that from the Liberals. When we say the word "sovereignty", they think it necessarily means separation. Should we expect a declaration of separation of Canada from the rest of the world? I do not think so. I take this opportunity, since the Liberals now use the word "sovereignty" in its true sense, to do a bit of teaching. Sovereignty means being able to enjoy the rights you are entitled to within your own territory. In a sense, that is what we mean in Quebec when we talk about sovereignty.

I noted that my colleague mentioned that there is no distinction between the rights of the Department of Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is a complete mess. The former fisheries minister has already admitted in committee that the two departments had become the Yin and the Yang. Once again, good marks for the member for Champlain who has understood everything.

The other point he raised deals with the power of the minister to set fees, and many other colleagues of mine will also raise that point. Without having those regulatory powers yet, the minister has already grabbed 20 millions dollars from the marine industry for aids to navigation.

Last summer, during consultations over the issue of pleasure craft, they tried to get an additional $14 million. But because of our protest, and my colleague from Champlain had already begun to raise the issue in his own riding, people came in great number to those consultation hearings and the Canadian Coast Guard had to back down.

Imagine if the power to set fees had already been in place without the transparency process necessary to guaranty efficient services!

When the Coast Guard provides services those services must be efficient. Secondly, there has to be transparency in the establishment of fees. Like myself, numerous other members are wondering how we will improve security by requiring recreational boaters to pay five dollars or even 35 dollars to register their craft. That does not make any sense.

So I would ask my colleague to tell me if he believes that, in the riding of Champlain, thanks to this new legislation and the powers it provides, because it seems that the power to set fees is the only

thing that interests the minister, safety on the lakes will be improved be requiring fee of $ 35 on a pedal boat, for example.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Gaspé for his question. Concerning the fees, we are now visiting our constituents in our ridings and we hear a lot of complaints.

As I said, these fees will ruin outfitting operations and fairs in our ridings, where there are lakes. In Sainte-Thècle, where the lake and forest fair takes place, these fees will reduce the flow of visitors in the nearby communities, affecting the tourism and fishing industries, as well as river canoeing and kayaking. If these municipalities must pay for the lake activities or infrastructures, I think we will see student summer jobs disappear, and this is really too bad. Summer jobs for students as well as every other paying job in our municipalities would be affected.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak again on this bill, which has been around since last spring. I do so as the member for Trois-Rivières, a port city, and as the critic for regional development. I can tell you that regional development gets it in the neck with this bill. I do so also as an associate member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, on which I have the privilege to sit and where I heard the complaints, claims and concerns of users, particularly of the St. Lawrence River and the seaway. They came to try to change the government's mind about this bill.

It seems to me that the federal government has for a long time been considering imposing fees on users of Canada's ports in general and of the St. Lawrence River in particular.

In fact, a few months ago, the government commissioned a study entitled IBI, pretending-according to the witnesses-to ask the users of St. Lawrence ports and of major Canadian port facilities for their opinion. These studies have been described as a farce, phoney consultation, pseudo-consultation and-to use the words of one witness-a study which is not worth the paper it is written on.

This gives you some idea of how well the users agree on this. The key concept in the government's intentions is user pay. Hearing witnesses such as these shows us just what collaboration there is between the two parties.

Clearly, the government has only one real objective: by the year 2000, to extract the tidy sum of $100 million from the pockets of the users, the ship owners who use Canada's port facilities. This amount will be recovered in three stages. The first involves navigational aids, and that is the one that is involved at the moment. The second, coming this fall, involves ice breaking, that is the use of icebreaking vessels, particularly in eastern Canada, on the St. Lawrence. The third will involve dredging the channel itself and whatever passages between the channel and the ports need dredging.

We have seen a great deal of arrogance, a great deal of arbitrariness, a great many decisions not necessarily based on true reflection and consultation. I would say that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans behaved badly in this connection. Not only did it not succeed in convincing the stakeholders that its position was justified, it did not even try.

It carried out no impact studies on the effect of charging user fees in future for services currently offered free of charge in the public interest. I must point out that some witnesses spoke of the devastating effects on the St. Lawrence and Great Lake ports' ability to compete with the American eastern seaboard, with Halifax-in the case of Montreal)-and even with ports along the Mississippi in the U.S.

There has been no impact study demonstrating the risks or benefits of charging fees. There may be long term benefits, but there do not appear to be any short term ones. No one even took the trouble to see what the effects would be.

There was no obligation felt to describe the services actually provided by the coast guard to these users, in order to convince users of the need to charge fees. All that was said was that the coast guard does this, that, or the other thing, in this or that part of Canada, and that starting on such and such a date, users will have to pay for unspecified services rendered.

Contrary to what was immediately requested by users, those who deal with the coast guard, there has been no effort on the part of the coast guard to systematically reduce costs and make this fee setting scheme more palatable, potentially more acceptable. If at least it could be said that the coast guard has made an effort, has been trying to do its part to reduce the deficit by collecting $180 million, has reduced its costs by X million of dollars, we would agree to join in. In no way has the coast guard tried to show its good faith or streamline its operations.

This is serious. But beyond the words, the speeches condemning this, there will be dire consequences. We have heard some troubling facts. I will give you a few examples. According to some users, and not the least of them, if I recall SODES made the following point.

SODES is made up of all the major users, namely the Canadian aluminum industry, the pulp and paper industry, the forest industry, the mining industry, the oil industry, everybody including St. Lawrence Cement, Irving Oil-that belongs to a famous family-and a lot of important people. Even the Canadian government, mainly through Industry Canada, belongs to this group. SODES

found that this will result in an increase of one dollar a tonne for services on the St. Lawrence.

The coast guard said that it was not one dollar, but rather 10 cents a tonne. If SODES is right, one dollar a tonne would be a disaster in terms of international competition. SODES must be wrong, because if it is not, one cannot help thinking this is a machiavellian plot to weaken the Quebec economy, and it might very well be. As a matter of fact, it is an issue which would deserve more in-depth scrutiny because if it were to result in a one dollar a tonne increase, this would mean that the cost of services currently provided would double.

Another troubling fact concerns the way the fees were set, given the competition between the various ports in eastern Canada. You must know that Montreal is a destination for container carriers whereas Halifax, a direct competitor of Montreal, is a port of call.

They had a choice between two ways of setting fees. One is based on the actual size of the ships. A 30,000 tonne ship is always a 30,000 tonne ship whether it is at sea or in port, whether it is full or empty. According to this method, there is an objective fee applicable to all ships and the price is always the same, since it is based on the size of the ship.

The other method, which is also used, is based on the volume of cargo unloaded at a port of call. As we said, Montreal is a destination and Halifax is a port of call. What method do you think the coast guard chose? One discriminates in favour of Halifax and the other one would set all ports on an equal footing. What method was chosen? The one discriminating in favour of Halifax, of course.

So all those containers unloaded in Halifax are taken into account when the fees are set. A more objective method could have been used, one that would have pleased all those people using the St. Lawrence and, I am sure you have guessed it also, that would have been a great help to Montreal's economy which in any case is flourishing because of the constant help it receives from the federal government, which of course decided a long time ago to appoint a minister responsible for the Montreal area, as Quebec did.

There is another element of some concern in the way these fees will be implemented. While we rely on a principle called "coast to coast pricing"-that is to say a fee structure applicable from one end of Canada to the other-the need to reduce the deficit, the mood of the time, the decision to impose a fee, all of Canadian from coast to coast to that point, except that for obscure reasons, it has been decided that Canada should be divided in three large regions: the West, central Canada-that is Quebec, Ontario, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence-and the East. We then have three large regions with, as you might have thought, different fees. We have three distinct societies each with its own fee structures for basically the same services.

An analysis has been done for Quebec, and the proposed fees, just for aids to navigation, will have "potentially devastating consequences", to use the expression of one of the witnesses. For a 25,000 tonne ship using the St. Lawrence Seaway and aids to navigation, the $112,000 will be per year. Can you imagine, when you have a fleet of 25,000 tonne ships how much more this will cost for aids to navigation only.

Therefore, when we talk about devastating effects, this government will never be able to claim that it did not know, it will never be able to say that the opposition did not do its job of raising awareness. We are warning the public that what is going on right now is of immeasurable proportion and will have devastating mid- and long-term effects.

This may seem comical, but we are talking about $112,000 each year for a ship that sails on the St. Lawrence, that goes to Montreal, for example, that uses a port on the St. Lawrence. The ship that sails on the St. Lawrence and goes directly to the United States without stopping in any Canadian port does not have to pay anything.

It will use navigational aids, ice breakers and so on. Until further notice, it does not have to pay a cent. It goes through Quebec and Canada and directly to the United States, and it pays not a cent. If there is any logic in this, it is in Canada's heavy dependency on its dear American neighbours. There is no other explanation for it. How can such an anomaly be justified? No user fees are imposed. This will, as you also understood, greatly increase competition between American and Canadian ports. American ports will not be penalized in any way, while Canadian and Quebec ports will be hit directly.

I would simply like to say, and I speak as the critic for regional development, we should be aware it is Quebec's regions that are affected. It is Sept-Îles and the area around it, Baie-Comeau, Port-Cartier, Quebec City, the Saguenay, Trois-Rivières-my region, Montreal, the south coast of Gaspé, Rimouski, Lauzon, Saint-Romuald, Sorel, the industrial park of Bécancour with its port in Quebec and, of course, Montreal. All these regions will be affected as 85 per cent of the Quebec population lives along the St. Lawrence. This bill and the proposed power to set fees would have a major impact on all the regions in Quebec.

That is why the people must be alerted. The media must examine this issue. As was pointed out earlier, they in no way tried to find out how much it would cost us to collect this $20 million. If it cost 25, 30, 40 or 100 million dollars, should we still go ahead with this? Could we not say, as we have always said, that we will make our services even more efficient so that foreign shipowners want to come to Canada, to the St. Lawrence? We should pay attention to

how we can compete with U.S. and other foreign ports, especially that of Philadelphia, which is very aggressive and very well positioned to compete with Montreal.

We should proceed very carefully in this area instead of barging in without any studies or analyses.

The second part of this fee implementation policy, as you heard from my colleagues earlier, deals with recreational craft. Registration will now be compulsory and owners will have to pay between $5 and $35 depending on the kind of boat. The government says it will consult with people but all it does is ask for their opinion and then forget about it the next day as it imposes measures that have nothing to do with the main purpose of this bill. The government's big excuse is public safety. How can the government argue that having to pay $25 for a canoe or a pedal-boat will make the owner more careful?

What is the relationship? The government's demonstration is flawed. In fact, having to pay a fee in no way guarantees that the owner will be more careful.

As for the user pay principle, there is no evidence in this respect either since in Quebec the coast guard operates on the St. Lawrence, Saguenay, Richelieu and Ottawa rivers but the fees-which are in fact a hidden tax-will be paid by people who own pedal-boats on small lakes north of La Tuque or in the Laurentians, where the coast guard has no business. People will now have to pay for a license to own a canoe. This has nothing to do with the coast guard. Let us call a spade a spade. The government should at least have the decency, instead of talking about safety, to say that they need money, that the cutbacks are not enough.

They say that the Coast Guard has not been able to cut its services first, to rationalize its operations, and so once again they are dumping on the little guy, forgetting that ten horsepower engines have to be registered free of charge, neglecting to perhaps make them pay a bit more. Do you know what the rate is per foot for the luxury boats that use the locks here, not far from Parliament Hill? Do you know what it costs for a thirty foot boat? The charge is 50 cents a foot, 15 cents to open the locks, the staff required, the maintenance and so on. When you can afford that kind of a boat, you can afford all that goes with it and should not be asking those on welfare or unemployment or earning minimum wage, which is worse yet, to help you pay because 50 cents per feet is too high a fee. Why not charge the actual cost to these people so that they assume the full consequences of operating a boat that size.

Another thing bothers me and that is, in its press release, the department's talk about the benefits of imposing fees on boats. My hon. colleague from Bellechasse, who is a lawyer by profession, will understand what I mean. As a benefit of the fee structure, the department lists, and I quote: "The establishment of a computerized system to store up-to-date information on boats allowing the organizations responsible for search and rescue operations and for implementing the act, to have quick access to reliable data, 24 hours a day. This system would greatly increase their effectiveness during investigations relating to theft and other offences, and to search and rescue operations. All those who use Quebec waters would benefit from this improvement".

No one, including myself, can be against virtue, but I think the government is coming up with some fine excuses to monitor people and find out where they are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The same thing happened with firearms. I think this is a little too reminiscent of a quasi-police state in that there has been no debate. This is not necessarily wrong, but there has been no debate. The government makes its own little administrative rules and gives powers to ministers, deputy ministers, officials and police officers under the guise of controlling and getting information. Big brother was not invented by the official opposition, by the Bloc Quebecois. These departments should be cautious and think twice before imposing so many controls on the population. This is dangerous and it does not appear that any such reflection took place within the department.

I now come to the last point. As regards the negative impact of this possible fee structure, we mentioned earlier that outfitting operations could be seriously affected. They have many boats. If an outfitter has 50 rowboats, a fee of $5 to $35 per boat will result in high costs in the end.

The same goes for summer camps who must have pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, windsurfers, etc. Who is going to pay for that? Once again, the father who is sending his kid to summer camp will be told: "It will cost you $80 more because of the government's fees". We should not lose sight of that. That is what impact studies are for. When they are not made, bill are full of holes. One can wonder about the wisdom of this bill. But maybe they are so near sighted they cannot think of any other means. The impact on regional tourism development should also be considered. By increasing taxes all the time, Quebecers and Canadians who spend their holidays in their own country, Canada or Quebec, may very well feel like going on vacation elsewhere.

A person who has a cottage and consumes beer, grocery, bread, etc. and who buys gas in Canada and in Quebec deserves to be congratulated from time to time, instead of being encouraged to go to another country not too far away where prices are cheap.

Fortunately our dollar is low, but it could go up with such policies. What kind of strategy do we have to encourage tourists from Canada and Quebec to stay here? We find numerous ways of making life less pleasant and of reducing the purchasing power of tourists vacationing in Quebec and in Canada.

This bill is particularly appalling, because it strikes at big and powerful users and jeopardizes the economy of Quebec and the whole St. Lawrence Valley. It strikes, underhandedly, at the consumer, at families and at institutions like outfitters and summer camps. It is very disturbing in security terms and it implies, as I said, a certain control over the population, which is worrying for me. That is why I will, of course, vote against this bill.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my hon. colleague from trois-Rivières for the presentation he just made as well as congratulate and thank him because he was an associate member of the fisheries and oceans committee at the time when the committee considered the proposed tariff structure for navigational aids that the coast guard imposed this year.

Thanks also because we had to go so quickly and hear many witnesses. I must praise the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for his regular attendance and say that his remarks were always to the point, just like today, in relation to the concerns he had, along with industry representatives.

That said, the focus of our colleague's remarks was part III of the bill, dealing with the minister's power to fix fees. Even though Bill C-26 has not yet been passed, a great deal of arm twisting has already taken place in the industry. Now, once Bill C-26 is in force, imagine how quick and easy it will be for the government to go around picking pockets, as required.

This may sound slightly exaggerated, but I think my colleague has clearly put the point across that people have had it with having their pockets picked all the time without any impact studies nor examination of the efficiency of the services offered by the coast guard.

At many hearings, people testified before the fisheries and oceans committee that they were prepared to do their share to lower the deficit. Coming from the industry, it does them credit to come out and say something like that. But they added this: "But we do want to be sure, for one thing, that the services are provided efficiently. Also, could there be a fee setting mechanism?"

This bill gives the minister the power to set fees but does not provide, in the name of transparency, for further consideration in this House. We did not ask for much in our proposed amendments, just for another three hours of debate. Why was this proposal rejected?

A feedback process should also be put in place. My colleague, who has very close ties to the industry, knows what a valuable contribution the industry can make. We will need the co-operation of the industry, of these taxpayers, in the future. They are quite willing to do their share, but we must show them how transparent our actions are. We must also tell them how they could co-operate, tell them where cuts must be made, where concessions have to be made. We must do things like that.

One more point, before I complete my remarks. I would like to draw attention to the wisdom of what my colleague for Trois-Rivières said when he pointed out that the regulatory measure establishing the fees to be paid for Coast Guard services, for navigational aids, by ships sailing on Canadian waters, will not apply to ships bound for the United States sailing through Canadian waters. That is unfair.

After having established in the preamble of Bill C-26 that:

Parliament wishes to affirm in Canadian domestic law Canada's sovereign rights

how can a Canadian government do that? If we are sovereign, we should also take the means to enforce the law when those ships sail through our waters. Since I see that my colleague would like to add something to that, I yield to him.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to point out two things. As regards the fees for navigation aids, do you know how much users in the port of Trois-Rivières will have to pay because of these fees? It will cost them $500,000 annually. They will have to pay this amount every year for navigation aids, and it appears this is the least costly part of the whole thing.

Soon they will also have to pay for the removal of the ice and then for dredging. Imagine the impact of these fees on the competitiveness of the port of Trois-Rivières, compared to other Quebec ports, but particularly American ports, given that Quebec ports will all be affected.

When no impact study is conducted because the government wants to immediately bring in $20 or $30 million, it could easily end up costing us $50, $60 or $100 millions, in the medium and the long term.

I will conclude with my second point. I want those who are listening to realize that, in my opinion as a citizen and a member of Parliament, it is almost unthinkable that the Quebec government would consider something like this in the context of sovereignty. In a sovereign Quebec, the St. Lawrence River would, given its important role in Quebec's economy, be made even more attractive to foreign investors and shipowners.

This is an almost machiavellian operation that will have the effect of making the St. Lawrence River an option that is way too costly. I believe there is a real danger of this happening. In Europe and in Asia, people will look at the map and wonder why it has become so costly to go to Montreal, compared to previous years.

It will be because a fee is charged for the ice breaker working up north. It will be because a fee is charged for navigation aids, buoys, beacons, telecommunication and other services. It will be because a fee is charged for everything, including dredging. When they see this, users from Greece, England, Australia, Taiwan or China may well decide to stop coming to Montreal, because it will cost too much. And it will cost too much because Ottawa will have decided so.

As a sovereignist member of Parliament, I am convinced that such a decision is unthinkable in the context of a sovereign Quebec. This is yet another reason to encourage Quebecers to remember this episode at the next referendum.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I went over this bill, I was flabbergasted. I met with industrialists from my riding, who told me that they have had raw material brought by boat from South America, among other places, and that the price difference per ton of using the St. Lawrence Seaway rather than a port in the eastern region of the United States, in Boston or New York, for example, and then the railway system was only about 1 cent.

Now, the fee schedule set by the minister will affect this fragile balance and cause these industrialists to rethink their transportation policies. Members will realize that, if other industrialists react the same way, some resources in the St. Lawrence seaway will have to be shut down, and this will lead to unemployment.

Earlier, my colleague from Trois-Rivières was right to say that we have yet to assess the impact of this decision. It looks like, in the very short term, the minister wants to quickly collect about $20 million a year. But for what? So that his government does not have to cut elsewhere in order to still be able to deal with a deficit without having to take the consequences.

However, the real consequences, as my colleague from Trois-Rivières pointed out, are the medium and long term impacts, which will be much more considerable than the total amount of the expected savings. This could lead, for example, to increased unemployment. In fact, this is exactly what will happen. We are creating unemployment. This government across the way, which got itself elected on a job creation platform, is proposing a bill that will create unemployment. And where? In Quebec, among my fellow citizens, whose principal activity, from the time our ancestors arrived on this continent until now, has been shipping.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is a resource for Quebec. It is a resource that Ottawa, the federal government, has no right to control to the point where we can no longer use it economically. And that is exactly what is going to happen.

The minister does not understand the ramifications of what he is about to do with this bill. The minister does not realize that, as far as industry is concerned, all the ports on the St. Lawrence are going to be dealt a hard blow.

Jean-Marie Vignola, who was given the mandate of studying the economic impacts relating to the port of Quebec City, discovered that the economic contribution of the port of Quebec City, and I am only speaking of that port, over a seven year period, is equivalent to the impact of hosting the Olympic Games. Imagine, every seven years, the port of Quebec City alone generates the equivalent in economic spinoffs for the Quebec region of hosting the Olympic Games.

That is what the minister is monkeying around with, and not just in Quebec City, but in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Bécancour, Saint-Romuald, in fact the length of the St. Lawrence. User pay is all very fine and well. But what is the user using and how much is he paying? Will there be a distinction made between the user who relies a little more heavily on telecommunications and the user who relies a little less so, between the user who uses a satellite navigation system and the user who relies on buoys and lighthouses?

Earlier, my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, quite rightly pointed out that ships travelling the St. Lawrence Seaway to a final destination in the United States will not pay a cent. They will have used the resources to the same extent as any other ship destined for Montreal or Quebec City, but since their destination is the United States, they will not have to pay a cent. Who will pay the bill? It will be split among other users who use the services to reach destinations in Quebec or in Canada.

You realize that this bill is being presented to us under false pretences. The rationale behind it is faulty. And I have not mentioned the absolutely ridiculous provisions that would tax an ordinary citizen, small outfitting operations and holiday camps for their pleasure craft.

Honestly, will it get to the point where they slap a tax on the boats children play with in wading pools or the bathtub? Where will it all end? The coast guard claims that it will provide services. None of our viewers takes that seriously. The only person taking it seriously is the minister.

I see that my time is up and I will conclude as follows: the public cannot accept such a sorry excuse for a bill and I hope it will make its views know. It has the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Portneuf will have eight minutes left next time if he wishes to use them.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Oceans ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a different subject, and not really a more pleasant one, I had the opportunity, a few days ago, to ask the industry minister what he intended to do to ensure that everybody had access to basic telephone services.

The problem is this: the industry minister, in the name of free competition, wants us to believe that the consumer is going to benefit from this competition. However, our telephone bill has already increased by $4. And that is not all. There will be another $2 increase and, on top of that, Bell Canada will soon be asking the CRTC to approve a rate increase that will affect mostly rural communities.

I met with people from Bell Canada and asked them what is going on. They said: "Look, we do not make the laws. The minister makes the laws". But from the moment he makes them, we have to live with them.

Here are the consequences: since there is free competition and since the cost of providing telephone services in urban centres is less, everybody is rushing to take its share of the urban market. Before, since there was a monopoly, part of the revenues from urban areas were used to pay for the additional costs in rural areas. There are more poles to install, more wires, etc. That will no longer be possible.

We will have a problem in rural areas because telephone companies will refuse to provide that service. If that is the message the minister wants to send Canadians, what he is indeed saying to the people and to small, medium and large businesses is that they should stay away from rural areas because they will pay more for telephone services, that they should be closer to the urban centres if they want to reduce their telecommunication costs.

It so happens that telecommunications are very important for a business in a world where information is the cornerstone of the economy. The minister's message contradicts reality. The consumer does not benefit from this kind of competition. The consumer pays increasingly more, and it is not over yet.

So, basically, what I am asking the minister is this: Will he take measures to eliminate or solve the problem? Will he follow the example of California and create a fund to allow isolated areas to reduce their phone bill and to allow the less well-off, people who cannot afford to pay higher phone bills, to have telephone services at an affordable price?

To me, it seems to be fundamental. The minister can no longer wash his hands of it and leave everything to free competition. He has the social responsibility to protect rural communities and the less well-off. I am expecting an answer from the minister.

Oceans ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn Saskatchewan


Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have one of the best and most advanced telecommunication systems in the world at prices that are among the lowest in the world. Canada has achieved one of the highest telephone penetration rates in the world, which is 99 per cent in 1995.

One of the objectives of the Telecommunications Act is to render reliable and affordable telecommunication services to all Canadians. Another objective is to foster competition in the provision of telecommunication services.

Since the late 1980s we have introduced competition in almost all telecommunication markets. As we move to more competitive markets, the government is committed to ensuring that all consumers, those living in rural and remote locations, those in low income groups and those with special needs, continue to have affordable access to central communication services.

Currently the CRTC is considering the need for specific means to ensure that local service continues to be universally accessible and affordable as we move to competition in this market. The government is monitoring these proceedings closely. Our goal is to have the most advanced and lowest cost telecommunications infrastructure in the world, one that offers consumers a broader range of innovative products, services and suppliers from which to choose.

Oceans ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Mr. Speaker, some time ago I raised with the Minister of Justice his handling of Patrick Kelly's section 690 application.

As the minister and the House know, Mr. Kelly, a former undercover RCMP officer, was convicted in 1984 of the murder of his wife three years earlier and has spent thirteen and a half years in jail, the last eight being at William Head Institution.

Patrick Kelly continues to languish in the bowels of the Canadian criminal justice system while the minister drags his feet about ordering a new trial for Mr. Kelly. From day one Mr. Kelly has proclaimed his innocence and from day one the Department of Justice has mishandled the investigation into Mr. Kelly's case.

Three years ago Dawn Taber, the crown's key witness, recanted her original testimony in which she had claimed to have seen Mr. Kelly push his wife from their Toronto highrise balcony. "I did not see Patrick Kelly drop his wife off the balcony. That was a lie". She said this three years ago.

The Minister of Justice took one and a half years after this recantation to even both contacting Dawn Taber for an interview even though she has made herself available and has been a willing witness.

On many occasions, other members of Parliament and I have pressured the justice minister to release critical information from the police investigation that was originally withheld, information that Mr. Kelly's defence lawyers would need in order to properly represent him. But those police reports apparently fell into the chasm of bureaucracy for 13 years until some of them, and only some of them, were released in February 1996.

Why has the tape recording of the interview with Dawn Taber, the key witness, with the police and the psychiatrist mysteriously gone missing? What are the police, the psychiatrist and the Department of Justice hiding? Furthermore, the minister assigned the very officer accused of suborning Dawn Taber's evidence in the first place to take part in the reinvestigation. Clearly this represent a serious problem.

In June 1995 the minister ordered an independent scientific analysis of the evidence. However, to date the minister has failed to ensure that this analysis is completed and calls from Mr. Kelly's counsel for this analysis are going unanswered.

On more than one occasion the minister assured the House that he would prepare an investigative brief and personally assured members of Parliament that this would be done. Yet suddenly after three years of spending public money on this investigation, the minister refuses to supply that brief.

There are very serious questions about the minister's inaction in this case. Why has the report that was prepared by Michelle Feurst, the minister's independent counsel, not been made available to Patrick Kelly and his counsel and shown to the public who paid for it? Again, what kind of justice is this?

The Minister of Justice has mishandled Mr. Kelly's application and it is time that he accepted some responsibility and answered some questions. Is his staff incompetent or are they merely uninterested in pursuing the truth? What about the evidence which is being hidden from all of us, perhaps evidence that shows Mr. Kelly's innocence? What about concerns of wrongdoing by the metro Toronto police, the RCMP and, indeed, Department of Justice officials?

The minister has led an investigation that has acted with no sense of urgency, with a total lack of established rules of procedure and a total lack of disclosure. Why does the minister continue to conduct an investigation in darkness and secrecy?

When the crown's key witness admits to lying on the stand and when police documents show they have hidden information, then it is clear that justice has been violated, a fair trial denied and thus a new trial must be ordered. It is quite that simple.

The minister has repeatedly promised to review the case, to release a brief, to make a decision and yet the silence continues. That silence is the sign of a minister responsible for justice not ensuring that justice is done. This cannot go on any longer.

When will the Minister of Justice do the right thing by Mr. Kelly?

Oceans ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, on May 8, 1996 the hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing questioned the Minister of Justice in the House about the section 690 of the Criminal Code application of Mr. Patrick Kelly.

Section 690 of the Criminal Code provides a person convicted of an indictable offence with a last chance to correct a wrongful conviction. It authorizes the minister to grant a new trial or if circumstances warrant, the ordering of an appeal if the circumstances warrant.

The section 690 procedure allows for ministerial review of cases where, for example, new evidence or information provides a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in the conviction of the applicant. This section gives the Minister of Justice important powers so that each application is reviewed very conscientiously and thoroughly.

The hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing has expressed concern at the department's handling of this application. Mr. Kelly's application has some extraordinary features. One of them relates to the request by the applicant's counsel for all the information gathered during the investigation and not merely a summary of it. An investigation brief only provides a summary of the relevant information and in this case, indeed, the department acceded to the counsel's request and provided the relevant information. Therefore there is no need to provide a summary of the same information.

On July 16, 1996 Mr. Kelly, by his counsel, submitted comments and additional materials which exceeded 500 pages. These submissions have been reviewed by department officials who have recently referred the application and the submissions to the Minister of Justice for his review.

In the circumstances, since the applicant has received the relevant information that was gathered, there is no need to provide a summary of the same information.

Oceans ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 6.49 p.m.)