House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vancouver.


The House resumed from June 10 consideration of the motion.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Peter Thalheimer Liberal Timmins—Chapleau, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am responding to private member's motion M-205 which seeks to provide further protection for property rights pursuant to the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The Canadian Bill of Rights is part of this country's long and strong commitment to protecting human rights. With the coming of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, which duplicated many of the provisions of the Canadian Bill of Rights, it is important to understand how the bill of rights enacted in 1960 fits into the larger scheme of human rights' protections in Canada.

The Canadian Bill of Rights remains in force, but it is substantially different from the charter as it does not apply to provincial legislation or actions. It operates as a federal statute which is applicable to federal laws and actions. The charter expressly overrides any act that is inconsistent with it, while the Canadian Bill of Rights does not have an express provision which permits it to override other federal statutes.

A noticeable difference between the bill and the charter is that the bill does not have a limitation clause as provided by section 1 of the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What does the lack of a limitation clause mean for the protection of property rights?

It is important to understand that no rights are absolute. It is often necessary to limit rights to protect the widely shared values of the larger community.

The hon. member for Comox-Alberni, in seeking to provide greater measures for the protection of property rights, has recognized that we cannot provide absolute protection for individual property rights.

Many laws also recognize that others may have a legitimate interest in the property rights of another individual, including family law and environmental protection. Even provincial builders' lien acts recognize and impose limits on the individual's right to dispose of property.

The bill of rights already contains a due process provision to protect property rights. The bill states:

It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of the law-

While there have not been many cases interpreting what this provision means, Walter Tarnopolsky, the noted scholar, in his commentary on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms finds that the bill undoubtedly imposed a requirement of fair procedure and may also have imposed a requirement of fair compensation.

The due process clause in the 14th amendment of the United States constitution, which protects life, liberty or property, has been held to impose a requirement of fair compensation for the loss of property. It can therefore be argued that the Canadian Bill of Rights continues to operate and provides sufficient protection for property.

It should also be mentioned that some provincial bills of rights include protection for property rights. The Alberta bill of rights, now the Alberta individual rights protection act, protects the enjoyment of property by a due process clause. The Quebec charter of rights and freedoms gives some protection to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of his or her property to the deprivation of rights.

Why is it necessary to protect property rights? In a liberal democracy such as Canada, the protection of property is fundamental to encourage growth and development. For this reason our society recognizes and protects property in a number of ways.

It is important to protect property. It is sufficiently protected through a host of common law statutes, including the bill of rights.

Our history is one of recognizing and protecting real and personal property. As Canadians, we also value other rights as important.

That is why I like the 14th amendment of the United States constitution which protects life, liberty or property. Section 7 of the charter of rights and freedoms protects the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

Our primary concern is with protecting an individual's physical integrity. The issue of whether section 7 will be interpreted to include economic rights has not been determined. There can be no doubt that the drafters of the charter intended to protect the rights to life, liberty and security of the person as a primary right which is not to be deprived of, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

We need to celebrate and be proud of our strong history of protecting human rights, including the right to own and dispose of property. Property rights in Canada are adequately protected. From a practical perspective, it is hard to think of a situation where the state would confiscate someone's property without providing for fair compensation. This amendment, to put it quite simply, is not necessary. It will not add anything to the numerous statutes and common laws that already protect the property rights of Canada.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of M-205. I want to commend the work of my colleague from Comox-Alberni for bringing this motion forward and also to note the work done by the member for Yorkton-Melville who has brought in Bill C-284 which has a similar purpose to this motion.

This motion is designed to strengthen and protect the property rights of Canadians. I wholeheartedly support M-205 for many reasons, which I will elaborate on momentarily.

Let me review very quickly what this motion says. M-205 reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide a greater measure of protection for individual property rights by amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to read:

"1. Subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's personal and real property and the right not to be deprived thereof unless the person

(a) is accorded a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and

(b) is paid fair compensation in respect of the property, and the amount of that compensation is fixed impartially, and is paid within a reasonable amount of time after the person is deprived of their property.

  1. Any person whose rights, as set out in section 1, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances".

It is my pleasure to speak today about this very important motion because I believe in the rights of Canadians, and specifically, the need to strengthen the protection of property rights.

The motion would amend the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding two sections. The first section would protect Canadians' rights with respect to property. In any case where this right were to be restricted, this motion would guarantee the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The second section gives individual property owners the right to fair compensation for their property and ensures compensation within a reasonable time period.

What I find most surprising in this debate is that it has taken so long for the House to make a clear expression of its support for the protection of property rights. The importance of protecting property rights has long been recognized in Canada and around the world. Property rights are included in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is a signatory. Other democratic countries have already taken the lead in property rights' legislation, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Finland. Several Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, New Brunswick and Ontario have also initiated resolutions supporting stronger protection for property rights.

The debate about the protection of property rights is not new to the House either. In 1988 a motion to protect property rights received overwhelming support and was adopted as a resolution of the House. This was an example of cross-party support for the protection of property rights in Canada.

The Deputy Speaker of the House at another time and in another capacity expressed the view of the importance of property rights and his concern with the adequate safeguarding of these rights in Canada. In his words: "We must entrench the right to property in our Constitution. The right to hold and enjoy property provides one of the checks and balances against undue concentration of power in government at any level".

In fact, many members from the government side have in the past deemed there to be a need for stronger protection of property rights. In the early 1980s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who had originally written against property rights and the current Prime Minister both expressed the strong desire to strengthen the protection of property rights, so much so that the current government party wanted to go beyond this motion and entrench property rights into the charter of rights and freedoms.

Back in 1980 the current Prime Minister said: "In deciding which rights should be included in the charter, we have selected only those which we feel reflect the central values of our society. Each of the rights we have listed is an essential ingredient for the charter and all are rights which all Canadians should have regardless of where they live in our country". This statement was made as part of his presentation to the provinces on the importance of strengthening the protection of property rights by entrenching them in the charter and they were included in his list.

At the time several Canadian provinces as well as the opposition parties at the time frustrated the inclusion of property rights in the charter.

While I am pleased to see that members of the government side, including their leader, have in the past recognized the need to better safeguard this important category of rights, entrenching them into the charter would require a constitutional amendment. This would be problematic, as we are all aware of the difficulty of amending the Constitution at the current time.

The beauty of this motion is that it does not require an amendment to the Constitution. Because this motion targets the bill of rights as opposed to the charter of rights and freedoms, it is easier to amend and well within the jurisdiction of the House.

Another advantage of M-205 is that the motion avoids concerns about encroaching on areas of provincial jurisdiction. In past debates on the issue concerns were raised about protecting property rights by including them in the charter. The objection was not about the importance of property rights, but rather about the encroachment of the federal government in areas of provincial jurisdiction through the charter.

My colleague, in designing this motion deliberately targeted the bill of rights as opposed to the charter of rights and freedoms. The reason for this is that the charter applies to the provinces as well as to the federal government while the bill of rights applies only to areas of federal jurisdiction. By targeting the bill of rights this motion avoids intruding into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to add my personal voice as a citizen. I do not believe any level of government should infringe on property rights in an unjust manner.

In the debate following the introduction of this particular motion on property rights, the government members who responded expressed their support for property rights. However, and there is always a but, they said they could not support the motion because they believed property rights already have adequate protection. I am pleased that the members opposite support property rights, but I would challenge them on their assertion that property rights are adequately safeguarded.

The bill of rights makes mention of the right of Canadians to enjoy property. However, this is simply not enough. Section 1(a) of the bill of rights states: "The right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof, except by due process of law".

Section 2(e) provides that no federal law "deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights an obligations".

While I think all members of the House would support the principles outlined in the bill of rights as they apply to property rights, there is a problem. Unfortunately, while the bill of rights mentions property rights, the guarantee of protection and compensation in cases where private property has been surrendered is not explicit. This weakens the level of protection for property rights. Because the bill of rights is a regular statute, it can be overridden by a new federal statute. Without the explicit mention of compensation, a new federal statute could rather easily restrict the right of Canadians to fair and prompt compensation. M-205 would correct this by making explicit the government's requirement to provide fair and prompt compensation in circumstances where it is necessary for an individual to surrender property.

I am quite surprised by the current government's opposition to this motion. While members of the government party previously advocated entrenching property rights in the Constitution, they now seem to believe the status quo is good enough. I fail to see what could have changed their minds.

We have had in Parliament the Pearson airport bill which provides a precise example of why we need this kind of protection. While this bill ultimately died, had it been passed it would have cancelled agreements to privatize and redevelop terminals 1 and 2 of Toronto's international airport. Parts of the bill would have absolved the federal government of any liability associated with the cancellation of the agreements. As we know it would have gone further and even basically cancelled recourse to the courts. This is precisely the kind of example of why we need stronger protection of property rights in this country.

No one is suggesting there are never occasions where it may be necessary for individuals to surrender property. The motion recognizes this possibility. The difference between the status quo and the amendments this motion would bring about is that Motion M-205 would ensure that the property rights of Canadians could not be infringed upon without due process and fair compensation.

The existence of fundamental rights and the importance of fairness and justice are principles that Canadians have come to expect. If the government truly does support the property rights of

Canadians and the principles of fairness and justice, I am confident it should have no reservations about supporting Motion M-205.

Let me add in concluding that we cannot understate the importance of property rights in the maintenance of a free society. We all know that free society and freedom in human history have been a fleeting thing. Only under certain legal, cultural and economic conditions are we able to enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.

We had an example of another kind of society in this century in the Soviet Union. We all know that the Soviet Union had one of the most democratic constitutions in the world in terms of its symbolic recognition of rights. What the people of the Soviet Union ultimately lacked was the right to own property. Without the right to own property and without iron clad guarantees that cannot be taken from you except by legal and just processes, all other rights are meaningless. That is precisely what happened in that society. All the other human rights, all the democratic freedoms enunciated in that constitution were absolutely meaningless because there was no fundamental right to property without which there is not a free society.

There are numerous examples in this country of the unjust expropriation of property by governments, governments forcing people to sell land and other material without compensation, without alternatives or without recourse to the courts. I know in Calgary it happened in the establishment of a transportation corridor. There have been other examples. It is not true to say we have adequate protection of property. Until we ensure these rights to property in the bill of rights, the charter and many other pieces of legislation, our freedoms will always be in jeopardy.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Motion M-205 of my colleague from Comox-Alberni.

The defence of property rights is arguably one of the most worthy matters of debate in a democratic society. The weakness of property rights protection in Canada compels us to revisit this issue today.

The 1982 charter of rights and freedoms which protects Canadians' right to life, liberty and the security of the person makes no mention of property rights. For Canadians that protection lies only in the common law tradition and in the bill of rights which guarantees "the right to enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process".

Close inspection reveals the guarantees in the bill of rights are only marginal at best. Also, both of these protections which do exist can be overruled by any other statute law. Even the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her property".

Canadians need stronger guarantees on their right to own private property. Motion M-205 opens up the debate on this issue by highlighting the weaknesses of the present system. It guarantees a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It guarantees fair compensation within a reasonable amount of time. It allows for the protection of the rights of others by prescribing reasonable limits to property rights demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Historically, property rights have been fundamental in the interpretation of individual freedoms. Individuals and democratic nations have defended these rights through history and history has recorded not only the struggles but the consequences for those nations which choose to ignore these basic rights. Take for example, as my colleague has just mentioned, the record of the USSR where lack of property rights, due process and fair compensation left those citizens powerless in the face of an intrusive state.

In short, there are many compelling reasons to discuss property rights. The government has argued against this notion. One of its objections is that property rights should not be unlimited. However this proposed legislation does recognize the importance of establishing parameters as well as offering recourse within the definition of reasonable limits as outlined in the motion.

Thus the proposed legislation continues to protect society for instance against crime even if it is committed on one's own property. More fundamentally, it provides protection for individuals and families when competing interests arise, and it provides redress to ensure protection and consideration for all parties. This is important in a variety of situations including, as has been brought forth by other members, divorce property settlements and recourse in the case of neighbourhood disputes.

Within these parameters however it does offer hope for families with protection against devaluation and confiscation of their property. For example, let us say the government needs access across personal property for a new road or power line. While the motion allows for such action, if it directly affects the family's investment or its very security and future, it also ensures just remuneration in the law. There is no such guarantee in Canadian law today.

The fact that the Liberals have indicated they do not support such a fundamental principle of freedom is troublesome indeed, especially when considering their existing record of abuse of property rights. I can think immediately of Bill C-28 and Bill C-68. Bill C-28 of course revoked the former government's Pearson airport contract without providing due compensation to the contractual

partners. Bill C-68, the gun control bill, has dramatically devalued possibly millions of pieces of private property again without guaranteeing due compensation.

Let us examine in more detail another of the concerns submitted by the justice department. The parliamentary secretary said that environmental legislation must not be restricted by private property protection and alluded to problems in the U.S. over such concerns as protecting endangered species. But in the United States, despite the nation's strong record of private property protection, two pieces of environmental legislation, that is the 1972 Clean Water Act and the 1973 Endangered Species Act, bypassed the constitutional protection of property rights and did so with some scandalous results.

In one case a rancher made a lake on his own property; as a result it classifies as a wetland. Instead of encouraging this private initiative, the U.S. government warned him that he would be charged if he violated wetlands regulations. This included accessing his own property with his own truck.

In another case a land owner was sentenced to three years in prison and a $202,000 fine for violating the Clean Water Act by dumping landfill on his own property without a federal permit. A stream bed that was dry all year except when it backed up briefly during the rainy season justified the reclassification of his property as wetlands. The existence of skunk cabbage and sweet gum trees helped build the government's case which was originated by an unrelated complaint of a disgruntled neighbour who did not like the noise of the trucks driving past his house.

A vast amount of research in recent years has demonstrated the superiority of private property ownership over government regulations in resolving many environmental problems, not least the protection of animal species from extinction. A growing number of environmentalists are among those who are beginning to recognize this fact. Nevertheless, placing ideology before valid research, the environment minister refused to acknowledge competing evidence in a recent op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen .

The plight of the buffalo has been blamed on the tragedy of the commons: the fact that no one owned the buffalo or the land on which they roamed. If they had been privately owned, the owners would have had a vested interest in ensuring that this resource was not destroyed. The illustration of the buffalo is often contrasted with the survival of horses or cattle which have been bred as valuable resources for centuries.

Another illustration of this principle is the ivory trade. Most nations have argued for banning international trade in ivory while elephant numbers continue to decline due to poaching. However in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the government transferred elephant ownership rights to regional tribal councils. This privatization made game ranching possible with substantial profits accruing to the property owners. This financial incentive has guided the behaviour of property owners such that the elephant population in Zimbabwe increased while it declined in the rest of the continent.

Another example of the importance of property rights comes from western Canada. Here there is much debate over the large tree-cutting projects which largely exist on public lands. It is of interest to note that in Sweden not long after forest land was largely sold into private hands, the government had a forestation crisis, not a deforestation crisis, on its hands.

The simple fact is that private ownership is wedded to the reality of sustainability. Forests owned either by individuals or by the companies which harvest them have been shown to fare much better than land purchased from governments at below market value as is done in Canada.

The concept of property rights is evolving with new technologies. The Liberals argue that the protection of these rights should not be stricter so as to accommodate these new issues. One such area that has already been recognized as important and will continue to grow in its importance is intellectual property.

Here again though the government's position appears questionable when compared to the way it uses the existing flexibility in property rights against Canadians. Just this month the front page of Ottawa's leading business paper, the Ottawa Business Journal , featured a story which revealed Industry Canada's violation of business owners' property rights over intellectual property.

The study, which has been buried for a year, revealed that despite a Treasury Board policy that says intellectual property rights belong to the firms contracted by the government, bureaucrats have been claiming these rights for the government. According to testimony from some business owners, especially small business owners, these rights were often surrendered for fear that obstinacy would make it more difficult to win future contracts.

It is this very insecurity, the fear of law-abiding citizens that they cannot appeal to a justice system to protect their basic freedoms and the results of their often many years of hard labour, that is anathema to a free society. Canadians must be assured that their property is protected from the arbitrary hand of government by the guarantees such as those proposed in Motion M-205.

In conclusion, the principle of property rights is basic to the freedoms inherent in a democratic country. As the Liberals refuse to endorse the explicit protection of property rights in law, they perpetuate a troublesome trend of real and potential government

intervention in matters that I say belong not to the state but to the citizens of Canada.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here today to support the member for Comox-Alberni on the motion he has brought before the House.

This issue was probably one of the most important ones in terms of drawing Reformers from western Canada into the Reform Party in the first place. People recognized from one example after another of what had happened in their area that this was necessary and that property rights in fact should be enshrined in the Constitution. That is of course a Reform policy although it is not fully what we are dealing with here today.

I will start by repeating what this motion is about for those watching or listening or for those who may read this in the future:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government provide a greater measure of protection for individual property rights by amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to read:

"1. Subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's personal and real property and the right not to be deprived thereof unless that person

(a) is accorded a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and

(b) is paid fair compensation in respect of the property, and the amount of that compensation is fixed impartially, and is paid within a reasonable amount of time after the person is deprived of their property.

  1. Any person whose rights, as set out in section 1, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances".

That is what we are debating today. I will talk a bit about the importance of having property rights clearly defined.

Property rights are really the cornerstone of human freedom, as some of my colleagues have expressed. These rights mean freedom from arbitrary interference in one's life by government. Property rights depend on the notion that you own yourself and your labour.

In 1690 John Locke wrote:

The great and chief end of men-putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.

In 1790 Edmund Burke wrote:

The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue; it grafts benevolence even upon avarice.

Burke recognized clearly the importance of property rights.

A property rights guarantee ensures that government can only take your property under three very limiting conditions. First, the taking of your property must be for public use. Second, the taking of your property must be through due process of the law. Third, the taking of your property must be with just and timely compensation.

Various polls and surveys have demonstrated clearly that Canadians support a property rights guarantee. A poll commissioned by the Canadian real estate board in 1987 found that 81 per cent of Canadians considered property rights very or fairly important and that the Constitution should be amended to include property rights.

In 1992 a Gallup poll demonstrated that 87 per cent of respondents characterized the fundamental right to own property as either very important or important, and 87 per cent said that it should be in the charter of rights and freedoms.

To make this point stronger, a higher percentage of Quebecers supported a constitutional guarantee of property rights than supported a constitutional guarantee of distinct society. This issue is certainly important to Quebecers.

The Prime Minister also supports a property rights guarantee. One of my colleagues brought this up and it is worth mentioning again. During a presentation to the provinces on including property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms he stated: "In deciding which rights should be included in this charter, we have selected only those which we feel reflect the central values of our society. Each of these rights we have listed"-and that includes property rights-"is an essential ingredient for the charter and all are rights which all Canadians should have regardless of wherever they live in our country".

That was spoken by the Prime Minister a few years ago. It is interesting that now his government seems to be holding back on its support and is speaking against a first step toward providing for property rights in a meaningful way.

There are other countries which have enshrined property rights in their constitutions. Canada is in the good company of the United States, Germany, Italy and Finland. The fifth amendment of the United States constitution limits federal powers and expressly provides for a right to compensation. The fifth amendment states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without due compensation.

The 14th amendment of the American constitution stipulates that no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of the law.

Property rights were not included in our charter mainly because of the objections of the provinces of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The reason is important to note. These provinces felt that it was an attempt by the federal government to intrude into provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights granted to them by section 92(13) of the British North America Act.

The Canadian Bill of Rights does include property rights, but the guarantee of protection is minimal at best. There is no requirement in Canadian constitutional law that removal of private property be covered by a fair procedure to deal with compensation to the owner and there is no guarantee of fair treatment by the courts, tribunals or officials who have the power over individuals or corporations. Without the rights of due process and fair compensation individual property rights are meaningless.

The power of government in this area is unlimited. Any valid statute can expressly state that no compensation is payable when property is expropriated. That is the very thing which Canadians do not want.

How would Motion No. 205, presented by my colleague from Comox-Alberni, improve the current situation? Motion No. 205 proposes to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding two new sections. The first section would allow citizens the right to their property unless the person receives a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The second section gives the individual property owner the right to fair compensation for the property within a reasonable amount of time.

Since the Canadian Bill of Rights applies only to federal law and operations, this motion would avoid the provincial concerns raised during the debate on including property rights in the charter. However, since this legislation applies only to federal jurisdiction, clearly similar protection is needed at the provincial level. I would strongly support the provinces making similar changes in their legislation to protect property rights.

I would like to give a couple of examples of things that have gone wrong because there is not proper protection of property rights. The first example would not be protected if the bill is passed, but I would like to mention it anyway. This is something which happened in Calgary. I have had this story related to me on a couple of different occasions, so I believe it is worth mentioning. It affected the people who mentioned it to me in a very negative way.

Calgary had a green zone around the city which was protected by law. When this happened there was no compensation as a result of the damage to land prices. There was no expropriation on the part of government. It just declares that this zone would be a green zone and that caused property values to drop dramatically. People who had property within that zone in many cases, people who had talked to me, lost much of their life savings. It was clearly unfair and I think it is important that we have legislation that would protect against this.

The second very important example has been demonstrated already and explained by some of our members, although I think it would be worth repeating, and it has to do with the rights under Bill C-68 to take guns from people without any compensation.

From the gun collectors I have talked to, in a couple of cases gun collectors had tied their life savings up in their collection. This law has destroyed the value of that collection with no compensation. These examples point out the need for this to pass the House. I ask all members in the House to support my colleague and to vote in favour of this private member's motion.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today and support this motion brought forward by my hon. colleague for Comox-Alberni.

I believe he should be commended for his tenacious attitude with regard to this motion. The issue of property rights has been debated in this House of Commons numerous times over the last 30 years and unfortunately for Canadians they still do not enjoy adequate protection of their individual property rights.

The fact that my colleague has been diligent enough on behalf of Canadians to correct this alarming oversight by hammering away at this issue once again shows his dedication and the dedication of the Reform Party to fight for equity and justice.

This issue reminds me of another battle that has been carried out on the floor of the House of Commons throughout the past 20 years. Like property rights, capital punishment has maintained overwhelming support by Canadians. The reinstatement of capital punishment has been favoured by 70 per cent of Canadians since it was abolished 20 years ago. Throughout that time MPs such as me have introduced legislation to fulfil the wishes of the majority.

Unfortunately too many MPs forget that it is their constituents they represent first and foremost. They forget that they are not in Ottawa to conform to the wishes of their political masters or to satisfy their own conscience. They are here to debate and vote on behalf of the people in their constituencies. Instead, as in the case of capital punishment, many have ignored this fact and so it is left to a few select members of this House to hammer away and reintroduce legislation until hopefully someday we will succeed and therefore ultimately Canadians will succeed.

In the matter of property rights we are faced with a similar situation. A poll commissioned by the Canadian Real Estate Association in 1992 showed that 87 per cent of respondents considered the right to own and enjoy property of all kinds a fundamental right.

Another poll by the Canadian Real Estate Board in 1987 found that 81 per cent of Canadians considered it either very or fairly important that the Constitution be amended to include property rights. A 1987 Gallup poll demonstrated that 87 per cent of Canadians supported increased property rights protection.

Needless to say, this all indicates significant and overwhelming support and reflects Canadians' concern that their property rights can too easily be infringed upon. But still there is no guarantee in this country that private property will not be removed for public use and there is no provision that government must provide for fair compensation when it expropriates property for public use.

This is despite numerous attempts by Canadian legislators to protect property rights. As has been mentioned, these legislators include John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau enjoyed excellent support from his justice minister at that time, the current Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, these efforts have been impeded by, among other issues, constitutional concerns and protests from provincial governments worried that their jurisdictions were being invaded. For example, during constitutional debates in 1992, the province of Prince Edward Island strongly protested the inclusion of property rights in any constitutional proposals. The premier of P.E.I. at the time went so far as to inappropriately state: "If we cannot control the destiny of land in Prince Edward Island, we will soon no longer be a province".

As we in the House are aware, the general sentiment among the majority of Canadians is that they are reluctant to see the constitutional can of worms opened at this time and it is easy to understand why. Fortunately, the motion recognizes this sentiment as well as the misguided fears of certain provinces. It strengthens property rights without constitutional change or the need for provincial consent. It applies only to federal law and the operations of the federal government.

It dictates that the federal government uphold a reasonable standard of fair and just compensation in exchange for personal property. While it does not involve the provinces, it sets a standard to follow and a precedent for individual property rights in the eyes of the law. Regardless of jurisdiction, it will strengthen and respect the rights of Canadians who believe their private property cannot and should not be arbitrarily taken from them by the federal government without compensation.

This is a simple and logical solution that does not infringe on the provinces and shows that the federal government is concentrating on cleaning up its own backyard.

It also rises above partisan politics. As I mentioned earlier, former prime ministers from both the Liberal and Conservative parties have seen fit to support property rights and the current Prime Minister once spoke very strongly of securing them for Canadians.

The Prime Minister's attempts at protecting property rights were unsuccessful. I hope he seizes this opportunity to support the motion which, as I have mentioned, accomplishes the task at a federal level in a relatively simple manner through the Canadian Bill of Rights.

While reviewing the motion and the debate on it, I became concerned that some members were confused about its intended results. First and foremost, I would like to reiterate to all members that this motion does not involve constitutional amendments. I repeat the statement that my colleagues and I have already made today because in past debate the hon. member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead in Quebec expressed worry that the motion would limit the ability of a provincial government to legislate in the environmental sector if property rights were enshrined in the Constitution. This motion will affect neither the provinces nor the Constitution.

Another point I would like to clarify with respect to that hon. member's statement from June 10, 1996 involves the importance of property rights to a person's identity. He does not seem to realize the fundamental importance that property rights hold for individuals. In the case of a home or a farm it often identifies who they are and who their ancestors were. It provides them with a heritage, a past, a sense of pride and a constant source of solace in times of difficulty. Certainly I can speak from experience about what has become known as the love of the land, being a farmer, and the pride that comes from the ownership of property.

In the early 1970s hundreds of families in rural communities near Pickering, Ontario were surprised when they began receiving form letters telling them their homes and farms were going to be expropriated to make way for a new international airport. No consultations were carried out with the residents or even with the local municipalities. People were forced to sell homes and land which some families had occupied for nearly 170 years. The federal government expropriated 7,527 hectares for an airport it never built.

Since they were expropriated the lands and homes of these Canadians have been mismanaged by Public Works Canada on behalf of the transport minister. The loving care that many owners put into their homesteads suffered vandalism and bulldozing. One of these homeowners, who is now in his seventies, said: "I could not believe the government's arrogance. It made me absolutely livid".

After suffering through the tragedy of having their homes and farmland taken from them and witnessing its destruction, these people were enraged at the federal government's declaration two years ago that 2,000 of these hectares were now deemed surplus. How could anyone bear the indignity, frustration and heartache of having their homes taken from them, then hear that part of their heritage was being declared surplus?

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK


Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

That is right. Shame on government. With this motion, fiascos such as this would not be allowed to happen. The federal government would not be permitted to arrogantly, without consultation and fair process, expropriate a family's homestead for a project that would probably never happen.

In the matter of other property, to have it taken away, also leaves an individual feeling violated and helpless. I agree to a point that these are only material goods and pale in significance to the well-being of loved ones or to freedom or to the other fundamental rights.

Members have to keep in mind that we are talking about an individual's property being expropriated by the federal government. If that process is not done fairly and with due compensation, it can be traumatic and as consequential as losing a loved one, particularly in the case of a property that has been in a family for generations.

In the case of freedom, can it truly be said that Canadians enjoy freedom when an individual is free to possess property only until the government has need for it or decides to take it away for some supposedly higher public purpose.

As previously noted in the House by some of my colleagues, there is no doubt that the legitimate owner of a firearm does not feel he or she is a free citizen of Canada when the federal government can dictate whether he or she will be allowed to keep property.

This is a frightening concept in what is supposed to be one of the leading industrialized and free nations in the world. It makes me feel as though we really have not come very far since the internment and expropriation of property from 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the second world war. At that time, the federal government said a higher purpose should supersede an individual's property rights. The federal government has a responsibility to its citizens and a responsibility to govern by example.

This motion would not limit the federal government to never being able to expropriate land for public works projects. However it would ensure that owners are guaranteed that any expropriations would be carried out in a fair and reasonable way, consistent with the standard expected in a free and democratic society. It would also mean that there would have to be fair compensation for expropriation.

There have been many embarrassing incidents in Canadian history that involve the unjust seizure of property by the federal government. As members of the House will acknowledge, we continue to grapple with the fallout of these injustices to this day.

Motion No. 205 will ensure that future generations and MPs are not left to remedy any further violations the federal government might commit in the absence of property rights' protection. It is the least we can expect from a responsible government in a free and democratic society. Therefore, I urge all my colleagues on both side of the House to please support this motion.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, members of the House will know that I have used, from time to time, New Zealand examples to press home how important it was for us to get on top of our debt and deficit problems in order to create an investment climate that would create jobs. I have used these New Zealand examples not because New Zealand has done everything right but because we can learn from the experiences of other countries and choose the best things to implement here in Canada.

There are lessons to be learned from history and the experiences of others in connection with property rights as well. We can easily see that by taking a look at the enormous amount of historical material available to us.

We know the history of ancient Rome and Greece, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. We know what happened in classical times, medieval times and in the industrial revolution right through to modern times. We know plenty about Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Russia, Cambodia, sub-Saharan Africa, you name it. By studying the historical records of those times and places we can quickly see that when governments do not respect property rights, the people eventually end up living in poverty and misery.

Perhaps it starts innocently enough. A government promises to regulate the economy for the common good, redistribute the wealth more fairly, make the rich pay their fair share, close the loopholes. I have a feeling I have heard this stuff somewhere before. It is a naive assumption that the government knows best and that the average citizen needs to be protected from himself.

History is full of examples. Whether they are headed by madmen like Stalin or Hitler or by well-meaning dreamers like Nehru or Nyerere, they always fail. Along the way they produce conflict instead of peace, famine instead of plenty. Instead of more and better rights than those we hold in the line that we receive from the

Magna Carta, they deliver fewer and lesser rights. They promise a gilded cage and they deliver only the cage.

I challenge members to name one society that respected property rights where the people were not happier and better off for it. I challenge them to name one society that did not have property rights where the people are not more miserable as a result of that. The more protected the right to property, the better the living conditions and the better the societal order.

History also teaches us that where property rights are not respected, neither are personal rights. Along with the loss of property rights comes loss of liberty, loss of freedom of speech, loss of decency in society.

In her speech earlier today, my colleague from Port Moody-Coquitlam mentioned the benefits of transferring ownership of forests into private hands, for example. She gave an example of how sustainability was ensured by transferring the property rights to private hands. This same benefit can be seen in New Zealand which has transferred part of its forests to the private sector. It raised $2.5 billion to pay off the final portion of its foreign debt by doing so. What results from that is we have private investors who have to protect that property in order to recover the $2.5 billion investment and to receive an ongoing income. It is the guarantee of sustainability, it is the guarantee of replanting of those forests and it means that the government now is only in a regulatory role, instead of interfering in the marketplace.

Similar experiments with ownership of lakes have shown that when a camp ground owns the lake it makes sure there is no pollution in that lake. It makes sure that fish are stocked in that lake. With private ownership comes the desire to protect the property.

Property rights are the foundation of a decent and responsible society. They are the most important human right. It amazes me that we have a Constitution and charter of rights that guarantees the lengthy avoidance of deportation by known criminals and bogus refugees, but it does not guarantee property rights to law-abiding citizens. It amazes me that we have a Constitution and charter of rights that permits crimes to be committed without penalty by people who are under the influence of drink or drugs, but it does not guarantee property rights to law-abiding citizens. Canadians are supposed to feel good about their Constitution and charter but for the most part they are frustrated by it and with it.

Motion 205 put forward by the Reform Party member for Comox-Alberni is an excellent one. I urge all members to support it for our own well-being.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my appreciation for the support I have received from my colleagues with regard to this motion. It is fundamental to freedom in our society and I think the point has been made adequately.

In summary, it must be pointed out to the government that property rights are not adequately protected in Canada. Things are happening today that are not acceptable in a free and democratic society and the examples given clearly demonstrated that. We have to ask the question: Why would a government not want to protect them more adequately so that all citizens could go about their business with the freedom to which they are entitled?

In summary, there are three reasons property rights are good: they make a society richer; they protect the freedom of individuals; and they protect the environment. Those are the arguments we as Reformers have been trying to make.

Property rights make society richer in that they spur the creative effort of individuals to improve their own circumstances. Property rights are a guarantee that we get to keep what we own, we can dispose of what we own, enjoy the fruits of our labour and our property cannot be arbitrarily taken from us even by government. These rights are important to an economy such as ours. For societies to flourish and for things to be as they should, countries need to guarantee those property rights.

People should be free to make their own decisions about how to best use their possessions, including the fruits of their labour. For those not already enjoying material wealth, their labour is the most valuable thing they own. It is particularly important that everyone be guaranteed the right to improve their situation and benefit from the improvements they make. In the long run the right to make decisions about one's own life and work is the foundation of human dignity.

My last point is that property rights protect the environment. The problem of pollution is not that people pollute their own surroundings, but that they pollute the surroundings of others around them, including air and water. Without property rights, a distant government rather than the afflicted individual makes a judgment about how much pollution should be allowed. Governments weigh the political benefits of such pollution against the political costs and most often favour the polluter.

In conclusion, this debate highlights the fundamental difference between a Reformer and a Liberal. In order to maintain a free and democratic society, individual rights must be protected. This is something that must be fundamentally supported by every member in this House.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper .

SupplyGovernment Orders



John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC


That this House support British Columbia as Canada's gateway to the Asia Pacific and recognize British Columbia as a major economic power in the region, and as a consequence, this House condemn the federal government for impeding progress in Western Canada by its mismanagement of the affairs of the nation, exemplified by the government 's mishandling of the west coast fishery, Coast Guard services, the closure of military bases at Aldergrove and Chilliwack, B.C., the elimination of federal Ports Canada policing in B.C., the movement of grain to Prince Rupert, B.C. and other issues detrimental to the state of the nation.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to present this supply day motion on behalf of the Reform Party.

This motion may speak to British Columbia issues, but it also speaks about Confederation and British Columbia's place in our national mosaic. If there is one way I could characterize what I am going to talk about today, it is a lack of vision on the part of the federal government; there are broken promises on behalf of the federal government; and there is a one way street between British Columbia and Ottawa.

My colleagues will be discussing federal mismanagement of issues surrounding the Prince Rupert grain terminal, the fishery, the military bases, ports policing in B.C. and the coast guard. I will specifically talk about the recently announced downsizing proposals for the combined DFO/coast guard operations which are scheduled to take effect soon.

The federal government has displayed its inability to effectively manage or priorize sensibly and it has shown disregard for the public in its actions. Immediate corrective action is required to bring some sense to the discussions and to ensure that the public interest is represented rather than the interests of the bureaucracy or the minister.

The B.C. chamber of commerce is on record as expressing serious concerns about federal government priorities in its recent cuts to coast guard services. Its letter of September 13 to the Prime Minister stated what many others have stated very well and what the people of British Columbia are saying. The letter reads:

We recognize the necessity of budgetary restraint but the responsibility of government to maintain public safety in marine channels must not be abrogated by the need to save money. We realize-that cuts may have to be made. We do ask, however, that your government prioritize allocations for public safety.

Your government is responsible by law not only for safety in marine channels but for navigational aids (lighthouses), small harbours management, and search and rescue. Even the recent assignment of responsibility for environmental cleanup to the organization responsible does not relieve the coast guard of environmental first response in potential disaster situations. Given the isolated nature of the west coast, cuts made without due care and attention can worsen an already dangerous situation. For example, mariners and fishers in the Hecate Strait near Prince Rupert already rely on the American coast guard in rescue situations due to the fact that the local coast guard helicopter is not fully equipped or always available for marine surface rescues.

Cuts we believe to be unwise include excessive reduction in the number of vessels and the subsequent reassignment of remaining vessels, resulting in units not fully capable of responding in search and rescue operations (reassigning The Point Race , for example, a vessel specially fitted to deal with the high speed, tidal currents in Discovery Passage near Campbell River to Port Hardy and replacing it with a vessel lacking its capabilities); destaffing lighthouses, which serve as important navigational aids for aviators as well as mariners, without providing an alternative for the essential services they provide; and reducing certain services to only a twelve hour standby when emergencies can happen at any time.

We believe it is the government's responsibility to provide Canadians with a reasonable opportunity to work and do business safely. Consequently, we strongly recommend that your officials re-examine the substance of the cuts to services and make a greater effort to exercise restraint in administrative areas. Where safety is concerned there must always be other options.

On Saturday at McInnes Island, 40 miles west of Bella Bella, which is a very isolated area, a lightkeeper called in that a float plane was down. That was the immediate response which allowed the pilot to be saved by the search and rescue team.

Today on Chrome Island, Merry Island and Entrance Island people are pouring pads to put in automated equipment. This situation has gone into overdrive. People are trying to stop the destaffing.

There are other signs of revulsion coming from British Columbia. The Union of B.C. Municipalities had its annual meeting two weeks ago. On September 20 an emergency debate was held on this issue. A unanimous resolution was passed regarding the disastrous effect the proposed cuts would have on boating safety.

The Coastal Communities Network sent a letter on September 25 to the minister. The letter states that the minister has broken two promises to British Columbians regarding destaffing light stations before demonstration projects have proven the safety viability of automated equipment; and he has negated the December 1995 national marine policy to ensure search and rescue operations are an essential service.

This motion is a wake-up call to a lethargic federal government that has ignored and dismissed B.C.'s contribution to the wealth and dynamism of the country.

British Columbia has 12.9 per cent of the total Canadian population, over 3.8 million people. Federal statistics indicate that for a decade or more B.C. has averaged 6 per cent of total government procurement and capital spending, which is nowhere near its population base or contribution to the federal coffers.

British Columbia's representation in federal cabinets has been characterized by weak ministers who have lacked clout at the cabinet table and who have been unskilled in how to play the federal influence game.

B.C. is the only province which year by year continues to have increases in live births. Two-thirds of the new migrants coming to British Columbia every year are under the age of 35. Our demographics are such that we could very nicely carry CPP and medicare programs, unlike the rest of the country.

British Columbians welcome downsizing of the federal government. We cannot afford the current contraption because of the combined Liberal debt which next year will cost us over $50 billion per year in interest charges alone. What we want is fairness, good priority setting and true savings. Savings, not political transfers.

The concerns of coastal communities are being virtually ignored as cutbacks in basic marine safety and navigation services for which the federal government is responsible continue.

Information has been very hard to come by. To illustrate the arrogance of the senior bureaucracy, I have a timeline from the downsizing proposals which trickled out to the marine advisory groups in the last week of August: August 20 to August 30, client consultations; September 3 to September 6, assess client impacts; September 30, final funding decision.

The communities and anyone else who has been involved in this initiative have not even had time to catch their breath. As Robert Mason Lee of the Vancouver Sun observed at the UBCM conference in Penticton, the government has essentially stopped seeking public advice and is desperately cost cutting with poor rationale.

The minister from B.C. has not even represented B.C. interests when they have fallen into his portfolio. British Columbians are paying more and getting less.

To show that the operations people from the federal bureaucracy do understand program delivery but cannot win the debate with the senior bureaucracy, I would like to quote from the content of a report which I received this weekend. It is a DFO operations branch impact analysis which was leaked to me.

I will quote selectively: "The ability of multitask vessels to deliver fisheries patrol duties remains unclear. All vessels tasked to fisheries patrol will have search and rescue as primary tasking. In the extreme there may be no vessels available for fisheries patrol during peak periods. Peak periods for fisheries patrol and search and rescue occur at the same time".

Second, "the current proposal does not meet operations branch fleet mix requirements. There is the need for a much larger number of flexible inshore vessels".

Third, "our ability to meet international commitments outlined in the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the free trade agreement and the Canadian shellfish sanitation program will be significantly reduced. Canada is required to collect data and enforce provisions of specific fisheries agreements in the Pacific Salmon Treaty".

Fourth, the ability of vessels to remain away from home port on a regular and or sporadic basis is critical to both fisheries enforcement and management. This will not occur under this plan either.

Fifth, uncertainty about vessel support for multitasked vessels and or insufficient vessels will result in fewer fisheries. The new initiatives implemented to rationalize the salmon fleet-known as the Mifflin plan, very controversial-will be compromised.

Less precision in in-fishery catch information and escape estimates for salmon enhancement in the short term will result in over harvest or under harvest and in the long term stock collapse.

A gradual reduction in the number of ships will have less impact in the sharp reduction plan for 1997. Considerable time will be required to train personnel in multitask duties.

There is currently a demand for increased habitat investigation and monitoring of projects in remote areas as a result of the new oceans act, the Canada Environmental Assessment Act and agreements made with First Nations by aboriginals, fishery strategy and land claims initiatives.

Initiatives to implement a community based strategy for fisheries management and enforcement in remote coastal communities will be compromised.

This report goes on. This is a damning indictment of what is being foisted on British Columbia right now. These proposals for Pacific coast operations lack any vision or entrepreneurship. It is typical Ottawa policy making done in a void. It is a myopic, lacking long term strategy thinking of the kind that characterizes most of this government.

Have these policy gurus thought about what the impact of these life threatening cuts will say to insurance companies and marine underwriters who cover the cruise ships or floating hotels which carry hundreds or thousands of people a trip? Have these policy gurus and our two esteemed ministers involved in this mess thought about Canada's liability for not providing adequate aids to navigation, search and rescue, vessel traffic and control and

weather forecasting equipment to ensure safety for these visiting vessels, not to mention our own west coast fleet of private and commercial vessels?

The fixation of cutting at the service level with no plan or strategic policy is a classic Ottawa closed loop philosophy. Around it goes and the dollars keep going in but they do not escape to serve society. We do deserve better.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I felt the speech given by the hon. member dealt very well with a number of the problems faced by the coast guard and light keepers on the west coast.

I know the member is the critic for Indian Affairs and I wonder if he could give us the benefit of a few minutes explanation of some of the problems that have been created in British Columbia, which has the largest number of Indian bands of any province in the country; if he could expand a little on the problems that have been created by this government for the people of British Columbia by the actions and the policies that have been foisted on British Columbians.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the time allotted for me to speak was 20 minutes and I used my 20 minutes. If I were to address all the concerns this motion addresses just from my single perspective, I would need at least two hours in this House. There is a reliance by me on some of my colleagues which will happen today.

In terms of the question that my colleague asked about aboriginal issues, I have several major concerns, one of which is that the federal treaty office in British Columbia in a growth industry and has shown a lack of discipline in terms of its posture, attitude, behaviour and fiscal responsibility at a time when all other departments and operations in the province which are federally funded have been very much squeezed and pressured. There have been several instances of lack of financial control and a lack of terms of reference which would be applied in any other federal department. I think those have been reasonably well covered in the major media.

We do have an arrangement, an aboriginal fisheries strategy which is an allocation by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which started in 1993. It allows aboriginal fisheries for commercial sale. This basically means that we now have a much bigger mandate in terms of enforcement and management. It is a much more complicated situation.

It is no surprise to people that we have fought against the aboriginal fisheries from the beginning on the basis that we do not believe there should be two commercial fisheries, one based on race and the other an all-Canadian fishery.

The document from the operations division of DFO I quoted from indicates that indeed those complications are ever more complicated by the downsizing and will very much put the stock at risk. Specific comments have been made about the lower Fraser River. There are 98 Indian bands in British Columbia on the Fraser system alone.

The comments in this document deal with the lower Strait of Georgia, which I will cite. There are extensive delays in responding to fishing violations on the international boundary. American seiners and gill-netters often venture into Canadian waters to intercept Fraser River salmon stocks during the absence of Canadian fisheries patrol vessels equipped with modern tracking technology. The international consequences of not having an enforcement platform on the boundary in 1994 were highlighted by the press in Canada and the U.S.

Commitments to the Pacific Salmon Treaty require specific information and enforcement activity in this zone. Reduced enforcement capability on the most extensive aboriginal sales fishery in the Pacific region and escalation in non-compliance in closed periods and mandatory landings will result.

I appreciate the question from the member.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague from North Island-Powell River on this very important topic today, the alienation that British Columbia has felt over the last few years. This has escalated over the last three years with the present Liberal government. There are many issues and examples of the neglect and ways the government has taken British Columbia for granted that it would take days to detail them.

It is no wonder that particularly in the northern part of British Columbia there is a real sense of northern alienation and we are not just physically a great distance from Ottawa but certainly a great distance when it comes to the thinking of this government. It is exemplified by the fact that last December the government did not even deem it appropriate to consider that British Columbia might be a separate region when it was doling out vetoes for future constitutional amendments. That is how it manifested itself.

I was reminded of this just this past weekend when I flew home to my riding of Prince George-Peace River to attend a very special event in the city of Dawson Creek. Due to the efforts of a lot of people we found that the Alaska highway was being dedicated as the sixteenth civil engineering wonder of the world, so to speak. It takes its rightful place with other engineering projects such as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and

the Panama Canal. Quite frankly, I was absolutely appalled that there was no federal representation there.

This is a transport issue. This government deemed it appropriate to have the Minister of Transport from British Columbia. He was not present at that ceremony. No designate was present. This exemplifies the attitude of the federal government toward British Columbia. This was such an important event and there was no one there representing the federal government.

I wanted to bring it to the attention of the House as simply the latest example I am aware of where this federal government gives British Columbians a slap in the face. I say shame on this government.

I ask the member if he can think of an example similar to that, perhaps in his riding, perhaps in southern British Columbia, to relate to the people of Canada who are watching today of how the thinking of this federal government ends at the Rocky Mountains despite the fact that we have at least one federal minister from British Columbia, whom we certainly dearly missed in Dawson Creek last weekend.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

I have only one minute, Mr. Speaker, and I can think of several issues but I cannot obviously talk about all of them.

If I get down to riding specifics, the minister from British Columbia promised a community in my riding that the dock which burned down in 1989, which was uninsured because the federal government self-insures, would be replaced. That promise was made in 1995. I have pursued it with the minister and I have not received satisfaction. That is a clear broken promise.

There are other issues locally. One that concerns me a lot which is a B.C. issue happens to involve an air crash in Campbell River which took eight lives. We have clear recommendations from the transportation safety board that the visual flight rules in effect in Canada which were changed in 1990 against its recommendations need to be changed back to pre-1990 or there will be more fatalities as a result.

The senior bureaucrat responsible on the same day that investigation was announced after 11 months of study was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying they had no intention of changing the visual flight rules. The marginal weather in which these things happen is very much indicative of British Columbian weather. We are probably the major influence and I have not received any response from the minister to my representations in that regard.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Reform Party for once again providing an opportunity for the government to look good. Its members have worded its resolution in a manner that is negative but, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, it gives us the opportunity of pointing what the facts are.

The motion, although confused, deserves a straightforward response. This government over the last three years has put the right priorities in place for British Columbia. I would like to talk on that point in five specific areas.

First, the economy and how the government is successfully following policies on the deficit and on jobs that fit well with the aspirations of British Columbians and, indeed, Canadians from one end of this country to the other. This the hon. member and his friends over the last three years have completely forgotten.

Second, I would like to point out that the government's emphasis on Asia-Pacific is good news for all of Canada, but no part of Canada more than B.C. It is in British Columbia that this emphasis on Asia-Pacific context with the Pacific rim, trade with the Pacific rim, has benefited us enormously. I am sure my colleague, the hon. secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, will be speaking on that.

The third point I would like to stress is what someone might call the political or constitutional-not that we are keen on the word constitutional these days-which is the government's historic recognition of British Columbia as a distinct region of this country, instead of simply being lumped with the prairies as has been the case when we used the term, the west, and included all four provinces. British Columbia is different. It is important that that be recognized. I am very pleased it has been recognized.

Fourth, the Reform Party's motion refers to British Columbia's position as Canada's gateway to the Pacific. I would like to mention some of our policies in transportation and elsewhere that are making British Columbia, particularly the airport in Vancouver, not just the gateway of western Canada or even North America to the Pacific but the whole western hemisphere. I will be talking about that at some length.

Fifth, I would like to mention several specific issues that relate particularly to British Columbia where we have had, thanks to the government's actions, B.C. priorities brought to bear on national decision making.

The final point I would like to make is that in all these major areas of concern for all British Columbians, the Reform Party has been a non-factor. It has been invisible. It has been insensitive. It has been ineffectual. It has been incompetent and, generally, it has been in a tailspin. This is shown clearly by the polls that have them falling rapidly and steadily in British Columbia from the position it held at the time of the election.

First is the debt, deficit, economy and jobs issue. In the last election campaign in British Columbia, British Columbians and Canadians across the country made it clear that the government had to get its fiscal house in order. The government promised that and it is delivering.

Job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand. With a balanced and prudent approach, the government set out not only to meet but to exceed the targets set in 1993 one after another. Remember that not too long ago, Canada was faced with a deficit annually of $42 billion. By 1997-98, that will have been cut to $17 billion, which represents a 60 per cent reduction over that period.

We have worked hard on the government side to create a climate in which Canadians in business can expand, can grow, can hire more other Canadians and can provide the opportunities which result from that.

In British Columbia, the results are encouraging. It has one of the strongest provincial economies in the country. In fact, in most of that period it has been the strongest. British Columbia has created 100,000 new jobs since 1993 and the provincial inflation rate has dropped on a year over year basis of 1.2 per cent in April 1996. The employment growth is the highest in the country.

We expect this to be exceeded in the future. Over the next decade, it is expected British Columbia will create approximately 400,000 new jobs. It is not a question of the federal government doing this alone. However, the policies put in place allow the private sector to achieve the successes necessary for expansion and improvement in the job position.

We also of course are extremely lucky because of our strategic position on the edge of the Pacific and in relation to the Asia-Pacific trade. British Columbia is also endowed with resources which contribute dramatically to its opportunities.

However, the government has done its appropriate part to make sure British Columbians and British Columbia take advantage of those opportunities that I mentioned. We have the fundamentals right. The fundamental fiscal problem is being dealt with and we are getting the situation in the country as a whole, and in particular in British Columbia, into a far happier situation than it was three years ago.

Interest rates have declined three percentage points in the past 12 months. British Columbians know well, as do others across the country, that lower interest rates are the key to job creation because it encourages businesses to make investments and expand. It also, I might add, allows families to save thousands of dollars on their mortgage payments.

The inflation rate is the lowest in 30 years. British Columbians know how important it is for attracting foreign investment. Cutting the deficit, lowering interest rates and controlling inflation mean a stable economic climate in which foreign investment can be attracted and the economy can grow.

My second topic is Asia-Pacific. Canada is a Pacific nation and the government has brought that fact to life more than any previous government in recent history. The Pacific advantage is an advantage for all Canadians wherever they live, but it is particularly important in British Columbia.

The province of British Columbia is showing the way by taking advantage of the opportunities in the most economically vibrant region of the world. We are trying to work together with our fellow Canadians to make sure we benefit by the opportunities provided on the Pacific rim.

APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, will be held in Vancouver, which is in my view the premier international city now and a jewel on the Pacific rim. As a British Columbian, I am pleased to see this city develop into a major commercial, cultural and tourism centre for the Pacific rim but also for the world. Its role as the gateway for the Asia-Pacific market will be showcased when the Prime Minister hosts the heads of state for the APEC leaders' summit in November of next year.

Our active participation in APEC over the last three years ensures that the interests of British Columbia and Canadians are fully taken into account in any decisions which strengthen trans-Pacific trade. We are in constant contact with other nations of the region in all sectors, private and public, so that the trade, economic and cultural objectives in Asia-Pacific can be realized.

There will be a series of other meetings taking place next year with respect to APEC. We have indicated that 1997 will be Canada's year of the Pacific. I, for example, as Minister of Transport, have invited my counterparts to a transportation ministerial meeting to be held in British Columbia in June 1997, the theme being "transportation supporting trade and growth in APEC". I believe the involvement of the government in APEC is a pretty clear indication that when it comes to looking to the future and expanding opportunities we are doing what we can and doing it well.

Team Canada has been talked about frequently. The trade missions have been outstanding successes. Members will recollect that the emphasis of those trade missions has been the Pacific rim. In the red book we made a commitment to strengthen our trading relationship with the Pacific rim and those trade missions were a direct result of that red book commitment.

We have had Team Canada trade missions to China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaya and they have proved to be extremely successful in providing opportunity for British Columbia and other Canadian businesses to obtain entry into other markets.

The figures of billions of dollars of trade have been explained at other times in the House. I need not go into them again. All I can say about the specific British Columbia component is that the

increase in trade with the Pacific throughout the country inevitably benefits the city and the province best suited to take advantage of its geographic position on the Pacific rim.

We are not, however, resting on our laurels with respect to trade. We intend to have a further mission. The Prime Minister in January will lead another trade mission to Asia. Once again I confidently expect that British Columbian entrepreneurs and business people will be among the most active of the people who accompany him.

The recognition of British Columbia as a fifth region of the country is important.

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12:40 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC


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David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

The hon. member says "belatedly". I wonder where they were when this issue was being debated.

Last December a bill was introduced which indicated how the federal government would approach the constitutional amending formula. It outlined a regionally sensitive formula, but it did not include British Columbia. As a result of representations from myself and my colleagues in the British Columbia caucus-

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

The peanut gallery is making comments. They did absolutely nothing to achieve the recognition of British Columbia as a distinct region of the country. They did nothing at all. Months later their complaints start.

The Prime Minister listened to our caucus. The result, for the first time, was that British Columbia was recognized as a distinct region for constitutional purposes. We are no longer lumped with the other western provinces.

I would like to go back about 50 years and quote from Bruce Hutchison's book The Unknown Country . He said: ``Crossing the Rockies you are in a new country, as if you had crossed a national frontier. Everyone feels it. Even the stranger feels the change in tempo, in outlook and in attitude''. That was 50 years ago. Fifty years later it was recognized by the Prime Minister. That is what leadership is all about.

I would like to speak on transportation, tourism and Asia-Pacific. The Reform Party's motion refers to British Columbia's position as Canada's gateway to Asia-Pacific. I would like to mention some of the policies, which are apparently unknown to Reformers, in transportation and in other areas which are helping to make British Columbia not only Canada's gateway, but, as I indicated earlier, the hemisphere's gateway to Asia-Pacific.

We are making it a priority to maximize the blessings of geography, for example, with respect to Vancouver's airport. The Reform Party is proposing today that we recognize B.C. as the gateway to Asia. That has already been done. As the saying goes, better late than never. It is better that the Reform Party recognize now what has gone on over the last three years rather than continue in the ignorance which its members have displayed to date.

Sweeping and bold changes were introduced by the government which are liberating business in B.C. from red tape and bureaucratic clutter. They are allowing businesses to compete successfully with the very best of European, Asian and American businesses. They are strategic, forward looking and they are helping to position British Columbia as the international gateway.

Let me cite a few examples. The Vancouver international airport is fast becoming the hub for passengers and cargo travelling between Asia, Canada, the United States and Latin America. The Vancouver international airport served more than 11 million passengers in 1995. Its growth in that year out performed the national averages in every single sector. Indications are that 1996 will be even better, with the airport reporting a 21 per cent increase in passenger handling as of the end of July. This is not happening by chance. Policies laid down by the government are making it possible. Open skies, signed in February of 1995, is an excellent example of how policy helps the private sector.

It is not the impediment to growth that the Reform Party is indicating today. Rather, it is a landmark new initiative which gives Canadian air carriers unlimited route rights from any point in Canada to any point in the United States. It provides reciprocal rights for American carriers across Canada except with certain limitations in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal where there is a phase-in period.

Vancouver, as much as anywhere in the country, has seized the opportunity this government created with the open skies accord. To date, approximately 25 new routes between Vancouver international airport and the U.S. have been introduced. That is a massive leap in traffic at a time when most airports are experiencing far slower growth.

Air Canada has added services from Glasgow, Osaka, Paris, Seoul and Zurich to Vancouver over the past three years, as well as the Canadian international flights which are long established and better known.

In addition, we have been negotiating with many of the countries of the Asia Pacific region to establish new services. These include Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines. The Philippines only two or three weeks ago established a daily service to Vancouver.

The distance from Hong Kong to Chicago is almost 1,000 kilometres shorter when you use Vancouver instead of San Francisco as the gateway. We are making sure those advantages are realized.

The advantages of the new airport policy have again been seized enthusiastically by Vancouver. We now have in Vancouver one of the most successful modern airports in the world. I toured it

recently with the American secretary of transportation and it was pleasant to hear his compliments on this score.

The port of Vancouver is another extremely important element in the transportation system. In terms of tonnage it is among the top three ports in North America and is the major generator of jobs, growth and economic benefit in Vancouver.

The port's activities generate more than 10,700 full time jobs, and that is directly. The government looked at ports, looked at Vancouver, looked at the other ports of the country and then asked how can we make this better. And in fact, we did.

We want to ensure more local control, more businesslike approaches and less red tape. All this is taking place under the new marine policy. We will have greater efficiency, cut costs and we will give communities more control over their ports. That will allow Vancouver to further take advantage of its geographical and ice free port position.

Last year the port of Vancouver handled approximately 71.5 million tonnes of cargo from over 10,000 foreign and domestic vessels. Cargo worth more than $29 billion went through the port's 20 major terminals to and from more than 90 different countries. With the introduction of Bill C-44 by this government, the subsequent years are likely to be a great deal better and stronger.

The cruise passenger industry is another area of great success. Once again positive policies of the government have contributed to that success.

Among other examples I will mention is the customs accord which was signed at the same time as the air accord in February 1995. We are expanding and improving the facilities at the border, thus making travel easier, thus making cross border trade a great deal better.

I could give figures on tourism but I think they are well known. Tourism has dramatically expanded. The gain from this tourism increase to the Canadian and British Columbian economies has been dramatic.

I might add that the party opposite certainly did not support the Prime Minister when he tripled the amount of federal funds that went into tourism promotion; indeed it opposed it. Now it sees the results, a greatly expanded economy, and naturally it is trying to swim on board.

Specific B.C. issues have made British Columbia's economy more effective, more competitive and more stable for investment from overseas. As my time is limited, let mention three examples: softwood lumber, B.C. Tel and the Triumph decision.

Softwood lumber is an area where we heard next to nothing from the Reform Party and yet a critically important issue to British Columbia. We have had over the last 10 years constant U.S.-Canadian bickering over softwood lumber exports, and Canadian exporters posted approximately $800 million worth of bonds and cash as countervailing duties just to get their products into the United States.

This government brought an end to all of that and we now have the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, announced in April of this year. The U.S. has now made the unprecedented commitment not to launch any trade actions on softwood lumber exports from Canada for the next five years. Thus stability for the industry, thus an industry which is nowhere in the country more important than in British Columbia, a definite economic gain.

Softwood lumber exports are 65 per cent from British Columbia to the United States. The remaining provinces have the remaining 35 per cent.

On the quota, province by province, British Columbia lumber companies receive the initial allocation of 59 per cent, which was welcomed by the industry both publicly and in private communications. I think the Reform Party probably now understands that and once again would like belatedly to get on board.

With regard to the B.C. Tel issue, an exception was made for British Columbia telephone which allowed the national policy to work effectively and which satisfied the important considerations of British Columbia at that time.

Similarly for Triumph, the research facility at the University of British Columbia, once again steady funding over the period, an opportunity for that to do its very best and to expand the economy of our province.

In summary, we have a clear example here of government policies which have led to improved economic conditions, an improved position for British Columbia. Our only problem we face in this House is that we have 24 Reform MPs from British Columbia who do not seem to understand the importance of working constructively to make sure these advantages are made even greater by working collectively in the years ahead.

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Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my question very short because I know a lot of my colleagues would like to ask a question of the minister. It is not often that we get the opportunity.

My question deals with a specific case which I referred to a few minutes ago in the House. What we have seen this last weekend is the Alaska highway achieve its rightful place in world recognition as the 16th international historic civil engineering landmark. It is now in the company of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Panama Canal, et cetera.

This minister did not deem it important enough to show up. This minister did not deem it important enough to even send a letter. This minister did not deem it important enough to send even a message that could be read at the ceremony on Saturday. I wonder, if this is an example of how he treats the importance of British Columbian issues?

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David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it shows the difference between Reformers on that side and the Liberals on this side. They are concerned with pomp and ceremonies. We are concerned with actual concrete results to achieve an improved economy for British Columbia. It is a simple example of the difference between our two parties. They go for show, we go for substance on this side of the House.

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Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister says everything is just wonderful in B.C. and everything that has gone right is because of his personal intervention.

The minister seems to avoid any public accountability in B.C. for the actions of his party. He was a guest on the David Mitchell radio show a couple of weeks ago, but he only took one phone call from the public on the open line. That one phone call was extremely critical of his government and its policies.

There is another major talk show host in Vancouver, Rafe Mair, who constantly requests the minister to come on the show to answer questions and take an open line to the people of B.C.

I would like the minister to answer why he will not go on the Rafe Mair show or whether he will give a commitment in the House today that he will go on the Rafe Mair show and take open line in order to be accountable for the actions of his party in government.

I would also like the minister to comment on an article that was written by Barbara Yaffe in the Saturday edition of the Vancouver Sun . That article mentions a special report prepared for the intergovernmental affairs minister by the member for Simcoe North who recently travelled throughout B.C. and discovered that ``the people in B.C. are feeling a sense of alienation and are mistrustful of Ottawa''.

The minister was called for comment by Ms. Yaffe and he declined to return the calls. Sure there is a feeling of alienation and miscommunication. The minister is responsible for it.

Why did he not return the call and could he please comment on the report prepared by the member for Simcoe North which indicates clearly that there is major alienation in B.C.

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David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Mr. Mitchell's hotline program, the hon. member is apparently unaware in his innocence of these matters that it is the host who determines how many questions go on the air, not the guest. That deals with that issue.

With respect to Mr. Mair, for whom he appears to be the agent, I have been on that program at least twice. I do not object to going on

there again, but there is a certain predictability of that program. There is a certain predictability of the audience which makes me feel that I am not truly speaking to ordinary, average British Columbians when I am on his program.

The Reform Party, which is sinking so rapidly in the public opinion of British Columbia, should begin to understand the message I am giving it. Wake up. Find out where the real majority of British Columbians stand. They are not restricted to the audience of one or another hotline radio program.

With respect to Barbara Yaffe, I have not read her column. I do not recollect receiving a call from her on Friday. I will check my file. There may be dozens of calls a day from the press at particular times when there are issues such a WestJet and others which take the time of a minister. However, I will check. The normal course of events for Barbara Yaffe as a columnist in Vancouver is that the calls are all returned to her.