House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mai.


Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK


That, in the opinion of this House, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be amended to recognize the right of every person to own, use and enjoy property; and to not be deprived of that right without full, just and timely compensation and the due process of law.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to lead off debate on Motion No. 269.

The motion seeks to amend the charter of rights and freedoms to include property rights. At present there is no mention of property rights and therefore no protection from confiscation of personal property by the government. There is no requirement for the government to provide compensation to an individual if Ottawa confiscates their property.

This Liberal government has become a master at violating the property rights of Canadians. Whether it is gun control, the Canadian Wheat Board, endangered species legislation or direct to home satellite systems, this government has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the property of Canadians. All Canadians should be concerned that the Liberal government so easily and so quickly tramples on their rights in order to achieve certain specific policy goals.

It is clear from the actions of this government that it has no regard for the property rights of Canadians. As a result I have introduced Motion No. 269.

Red flags surrounding this issue were first raised during the 35th Parliament when the Liberals introduced Bill C-22. This bill dealt with the cancellation of the Pearson airport development contract. The Liberals attempted to annul binding contracts and then exempt themselves from liability. In short they tried to confiscate property and then place themselves above the law.

However, pressure from the Senate, threatened lawsuits and questions concerning the constitutionality of the bill led to its collapse. All the while the former justice minister, now our health minister, insisted that everything was above board and that Bill C-22 was totally conventional. This gives some insight into the mentality of Liberals and their position on the rights of Canadian citizens.

Although the Liberals backed down on Bill C-22, they went on to introduce Bill C-65. This bill dealt with endangered species in Canada. Serious concerns were raised about the effect this legislation would have on the property rights of landowners. Specifically some landowners were afraid that the government would confiscate their property in an attempt to protect endangered species.

Again the Liberals downplayed the legitimate concerns of landowners and treated those questioning excessive government powers in Bill C-65 as environmental terrorists. Thankfully Bill C-65 died on the Order Paper as a result of the 1997 election, however it is still waiting in the wings and there is little doubt that the government will reintroduce the bill in the near future. Before it does so, our debate here today gives all opposition parties the opportunity to go on the record as to where they stand on the property rights of landowners.

Unfortunately the Liberals' legislative assault on property rights did not end with Bill C-65. They went much further with the introduction of Bill C-68. More than any other initiative, the Liberals' misguided gun control legislation has sparked a national discussion on property rights.

Armed with the provisions contained in Bill C-68, the justice minister is able to pass order in council regulations and confiscate the rightful property of Canadian firearms owners. I am speaking of property which has been duly acquired. The owner has paid taxes on the firearm and complied with all other regulations.

Regardless of this, along come the Liberals who say to law-abiding gun owners “We are going to take your property because we know what is best for you. We are socially re-engineering Canada into a gentler, kinder society”. That is what the Liberals say.

It is ironic that these same Liberals have created a justice system where rapists walk out of courtrooms because of conditional sentencing. Young offenders who kill are sentenced to a few months at youth internment centres. Serial killers are given the tools through section 745 of the Criminal Code to revictimize their victims' families. That is the record of this government when it comes to engineering a kinder society. Criminals are given the gold mine while law-abiding gun owners get the shaft.

Members of the House will know that C-68 is being challenged in the courts with respect to its infringement on provincial jurisdiction in the area of property rights. Four provinces and the territories had the good sense to stand against this bill and its attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms of law-abiding Canadians.

Treating ordinary Canadians worse than violent criminals is nothing new to this government. David Bryan, a Saskatchewan farmer who tried to sell his grain outside the Canadian Wheat Board has been led around courtrooms in shackles. His heinous crime: trying to sell his own crop, his own property without the permission of the Canadian Wheat Board. In the eyes of the Canadian Wheat Board, David Bryan does not own his grain, Ottawa does.

Russ Larson who attended Mr. Bryan's trial said “It is like we are peasants who are supposed to grow grain, turn it over to them and shut up”. In other words, you work for the Canadian Wheat Board not for yourself. The grain is the property of the government, not the producer.

Incidentally, only farmers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are subject to the violation of their property rights. Farmers in other provinces can market their crops however they see fit. That is why farmers on the prairies are increasingly referring to the wheat board as the OWB, the Ottawa wheat board, because it is run by bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians in Ottawa instead of by western farmers.

Motion No. 269 allows all parties in this House an opportunity to rise and defend the property rights of farmers. I also challenge members of this House to rise and defend the rights of Canadians who choose to watch what they want on television.

Direct to home satellite owners have been compared to drug pushers by the industry minister simply because they are using American hardware and services. Direct to home satellite owners have been threatened that their equipment may be confiscated by the RCMP. Customs officials have seized direct to home satellite equipment that is being imported from the United States of America, equipment on which all duties have been paid and which rightfully belongs to the Canadian retailer or wholesaler. “No matter,” say the Liberals, “in the interests of cultural protectionism, that is, government knows what is best for you, we will trample on the property rights of Canadian citizens”.

Without the strong protection of property rights, the social engineers have the upper hand. It is in their power to decree what is acceptable and what is not, what is safe and what is not and what we should do and what we should not do. Property rights are not just about firearms or land or satellite dishes; property rights are about freedom.

But do not take my word for it. Listen to the comments made by our present Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa. In 1985 he delivered a speech in Edmonton where he said “I believe 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”.

Even the creator of big government, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was an advocate of property rights during the repatriation of the Constitution. However, property rights did not make it into the final draft of the charter.

Members should be interested to know that property rights are entrenched in the United States constitution. Article 5 of amendments to the U.S. constitution reads in part “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 just compensation”.

Opponents of my motion may argue that property rights are already guaranteed under John Diefenbaker's bill of rights but that is not true. The bill of rights is simply a statute which can be overridden by any government legislation.

The Library of Parliament concluded that “there is no requirement in Canadian constitutional law that compulsory taking of property be effected by a fair procedure or that it be accompanied by fair compensation to the owner”.

In a March 1995 paper on property rights the Library of Parliament determined that “in Canada there is no constitutional guarantee for compensation and that the power of the government in this area is unlimited”. Motion No. 269 seeks to place limits on the government and Ottawa's ability to simply strip Canadians of their personal property.

This is not the first time property rights have been discussed in the House, and I know it will not be the last. My hon. colleague from Yorkton—Melville led the charge on this issue in the 35th Parliament. I am pleased to help advance the cause of property rights in this parliamentary session.

I remind all members that this issue strikes at the heart of our rights and freedoms in a democratic system. I look forward to the rest of the debate on this motion. I encourage members to speak in favour of Motion No. 269 so the House can move to protect the property rights of all Canadians.

Considering the importance of entrenching property rights in the constitution and despite the fact that the subcommittee did not find the motion votable, I seek unanimous consent of the House to deem the motion votable so we can have a full three hours of debate instead of one and can put the issue to a vote as to whether or not we entrench property rights in the constitution.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House to move such a motion?

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I will stick to the motion and not raise every hodgepodge piece of legislation that has been passed in the House. I will talk about the due process of law, which opposition members probably do not understand or do not respect. I fail to understand what the gun legislation, the wheat board legislation and other pieces of legislation have to do with this important motion. I will only speak to the issue and will ignore the blatant partisan remarks of the hon. opposition member.

The enactment of the Canadian bill of rights stems from our desire to ensure the atrocities that occurred to millions of Jews, ethnic minorities, political dissidents, people with mental and physical disabilities and homosexuals do not happen again. That is the reason we have a bill of rights. The bill of rights already protects an individual's rights to the enjoyment of his or her property.

The United Nations responded to some of the atrocities during the second world war and to some of the other issues I brought forward by drafting the United Nations declaration of human rights. The parliament of the day in Canada enacted the Canadian bill of rights.

The Canadian Bill of Rights has quasi-constitutional status. A number of its provisions were repeated in specific provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since the Charter contains no specific clause on property rights, it may be held that the following clause in the Bill of Rights continues to protect property rights:

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 law—

It can be held that this clause provides protection to property rights in that a person cannot be deprived of his rights except by regular application of the law. The Bill applies only to federal laws, unlike the Charter which applies to provincial laws.

Numerous laws also regulate and protect the ownership and enjoyment of property in Canada. For example, real and personal property laws regulate the acquisition and disposition of all kinds of property. These laws protect individuals from fraud and other mistakes that may result in someone losing property.

There has been an evolution in what we think of as property and protecting individuals in a fair manner from losing their right to enjoy property. The federal Divorce Act and provincial and territorial family law acts ensure that women are not deprived of their right to a fair share of matrimonial property and assets regardless of who has legal title.

There are common law rules which govern the purchase and sale of land and the taking of interest in mortgages or leases. There are statues that protect an interest in property, from cars to patents. Like all other rights the right to enjoy property is subject to some limitations in society.

As I said, the federal Divorce Act and provincial and territorial family law acts ensure women are not deprived of their right to a fair share of matrimonial property and assets regardless of who has legal title.

There are laws to govern the use of property in the public interest. For instance, there are land use and zoning laws with the power to limit the type of construction allowed in a residential area. Environmental legislation establishes a whole body of regulations governing everything from the disposal of hazardous waste to felling trees. There are laws that govern ownership of shares by limited companies, bankruptcy, and ownership of land by non-Canadians. Cultural heritage laws guarantee respect for the interests of native peoples with respect to use of their lands, and so forth.

All these laws place real limitations on property ownership and use. Everyone recognizes the need for these limitations. If the government were to consider amending the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sight should not be lost of the important limitations on the enjoyment of property.

The procedure for amending the constitution is quite complex and would require the following elements if we chose that route: a resolution of the Senate and House of Commons and a resolution of the legislative assemblies of at least two-thirds of the provinces that have a least 50% of the population of all the provinces. Obtaining approval for this type of constitutional amendment, as we have know from the past, can be quite difficult.

The notion of property is far greater than real property. Given the broad notion that can be applied to real property, we must be careful if we are able to alter the existing protection for property rights in a quasi-constitional document.

It should also be noted that women's advocacy groups have had a number of concerns with the further entrenchment of property rights. A man's home is his castle is a disturbing concept to many women who have been denied their share of family assets. It has only been a few years since Mrs. Murdoch was denied a share of the family farm where she had worked for many years.

In a complex society with many interests and competing rights from the division of the matrimonial home to environmental laws and zoning bylaws we must recognize that rights are not absolute. In many countries of the world women are legally and effectively denied the right to own, inherit or control properties. In Canada today this is not the case. Women have the right to enjoy property to the same extent as men. There are many existing protections for property rights in Canada both in the Canadian bill of rights and other statues and through common law, as I stated earlier.

Other challenges facing the government are more pressing than the need to provide additional protection for property rights.

This government must deal with more pressing challenges than providing additional protection for property rights. The government is determined to protect our social safety net, our health system, and youth employment, to name just a few areas of concern.

The protection of property rights is important for Canadians' prosperity. Property rights are, in our view, already protected by existing legislation.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with another member.

The question of property rights is certainly bigger than physical property as in land and other things we own and are physically able to touch. It is important to protect the other property rights and intangibles such as the property rights my friend was talking about with regard to land, Bill C-68, guns and other property.

If we do not have security of property, it brings into the question the security of a lot of things. We will be debating the MAI which will have to do with foreign investment in Canada. Once again property rights will come up as part of that discussion.

The hon. member on the other side was talking about the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The question of property rights has to be entrenched in the constitution, because we feel that having that right should be fundamental to being a Canadian.

It was certainly mentioned in the U.S. constitution that it was a fundamental right for Americans. I think we can look toward the way its society has evolved. There is no reason we could not have evolved in much the same way. In keeping with that theme I would like to point out there is still time for us to do that.

If the motion would have been made votable, it would have been an indication from the House of whether or not Canadians across the country were concerned about the issue and whether or not there was more support for it than what the members opposite and the government indicate.

This confiscation of property tends to leave the person from whom the property is taken without adequate compensation for what is being done to him. As a result it takes away from basic rights.

The hon. member next to me will continue my portion of this presentation.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the issue we are speaking about today in the private member's motion my friend has introduced is entrenching property rights in the constitution.

It is something I also agree is extremely important. A number of issues are an example of why all Canadians need to have it protected and to ensure it is enshrined in our constitution.

Let me give the example of gun control. This may have been talked about before but it is worth repeating. I have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of people. One example of where their firearms are to be taken away is collectors' items which they have saved for a long time and which are very valuable.

In my riding a number of seniors have been collecting firearms. In order for them to keep the firearms because of whatever type of weapon they are—I am talking about veterans and all types of people who collect firearms—the bolts have to be welded shut and have to be disabled. These are antiques they are being forced to destroy.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Not true.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I hear a member from the other side of the House telling me that this is not true. I can tell the member that I have spoken to a number of organizations, antiques collectors' clubs and veterans who have already been forced to have some of these weapons and antique firearms, of which there are very few around, changed and altered. The bolts were permanently welded shut. They are very distraught about it.

In speaking to every one of these groups it brought me back to the whole firearms issue. They are as concerned about crime and justice as anybody else in the country. They want to make sure our streets are safer. We have the government saying that this will solve our justice problems and look after crime. It brings me back to why we need these rights enshrined in our constitution. It is absolutely fundamental.

This is the way the government is going to solve crime which is not going to make one iota of difference to crime. It is not going to make a difference. There are many other ways to solve the crime problem. These are taxpayers, the best citizens in our communities, role models in our communities, who are being faced with this legislation. They are saying “we need constitutional protection, what is happening to us is absolutely dead wrong”. This is one example and there are many others.

We have just seen the debate on the wheat board. The farmers are coming forward. They feel their rights are being trampled on. The government is suggesting there will be some elected officials on the new wheat board, but still it is a government anointed and appointed board, the president, the CEO and the people running this organization. Farmers really do not have any true input. They want to make sure that their rights are protected.

The way this can be done most effectively is to ensure that their rights are enshrined in the Constitution, that they are guaranteed and they are protected. That would go a long way to making sure that Canadians feel secure without the government being able to trample on them.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, as the Bloc Quebecois's justice critic, I am pleased to speak to this motion. Some of my colleagues may find it amusing to see the Reformers trying to use a run-of-the-mill motion to bring in by the back door what they could not get in through the front, as if parties are going to be asleep at the switch, and will not voice their opposition.

It is important to understand the motion, which I will read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be amended to recognize the right of every person to own, use and enjoy property; and to not be deprived of that right without full, just and timely compensation and the due process of law.

I think that a member of the Bloc Quebecois is in a good position to talk about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, given that, for us, it is part of the 1982 Constitution, which was imposed on us even though we never signed it, but which nonetheless contains rights and obligations.

Like the good citizens we are, Quebeckers of various political stripes, we are looking at it and trying to find out its scope. In in Quebec we have a Quebec charter of rights and freedoms, which was passed even before the Canadian charter and which contains certain obligations and rights.

Unless I am way off the mark and am horribly wrong, both the Quebec and the Canadian charters accord Quebeckers and Canadians the right to own what they will. I think this is a now considered to be fundamental right, unless the Reformers have been reading different texts than I have. I think both charters contain provision for this.

However, even if I wanted to, I would not be permitted to have a tank at the bottom of my garden or grenades in my kitchen in a free and democratic society. This annoys me a bit. The Reformers are trying with this motion to do what the firearms registration legislation precludes and to fire up a debate where none exists.

There is no debate in Canadian society, I would hope, and there is certainly none in Quebec society. I think there are far greater concerns within our system than that of having rights and freedoms under the charter to own firearms or whatever. This is what the Reform Party is after with this motion.

We have to look at the person who tabled the motion; it was the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. We have to know what he wants; to do that, I looked at the member's various statements under Standing Order 31. We have to look at what this sort of motion means to the member.

I will not read everything he said, only a few passages. The member made the following statement under Standing Order 31: “Once again the Liberal government is way off target”. It is true that the Liberals across the way are off target every now and then, in fact more often than not.

He added “Rather than cracking down on the use of firearms to commit crimes, and rather than strengthening enforcement measures along our borders to stop the illegal flow of handguns, the minister would prefer to continue to harass ordinary law-abiding Canadians, even going so far as to deny them use of their own private property”.

We can see where the Reformers are going with this. In another statement he made under Standing Order 31, he said that the Liberal government should be ashamed of trampling the property rights of Canadians. The Liberals should be ashamed of many things, but perhaps not of what the Reformers are accusing them of in this particular case. I can hear them laughing across the way.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

That is the former Liberal showing through.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

A leopard cannot change its spots.

More seriously, through their motion, Reformers are trying to sway members, but we must realize what their ultimate goal is: the sacrosanct debate held in this House on the gun registration bill.

As flawed as it may be, I think that this legislation has become generally accepted by the public at large. This morning I inquired about the registration process on behalf of a constituent, and I was told that the forms will only be available in October. So, let us first see how the system is working. Let us give it time to show its flaws, its weaknesses and its strengths. Because there is surely some good in the legislation. Then we can try to make it better. But let us not try to block a law that has yet to be implemented.

To put things in perspective, before challenging such an act or making proposals in this House, we must first look at the purpose of the charter, at what may be enshrined in it. The whole issue must be looked at in light of the specific objective of the Reformers, which has to do with the gun registration legislation.

As regards the purpose of the charter, the relatively recent constitutional entrenchment of human rights in charters shows a tendency to protect individual rights. However, such efforts must respect the essential balance that must exist between the rights of individuals and those of the community.

Without this balance, it would, for all intents and purposes, be impossible to administer the state. The rights of the citizens of a state must be in harmony with the common good of the community. This is why it is essential to respect individual rights, to the extent that the community's safety is not jeopardized.

I believe that is a principle recognized by any person of good faith, by any person who examines a bill or anything else, correctly, intelligently, using common sense, and sees that it can be applicable and appropriate to its intended objective, within a framework many may find suitable, in this case the constitutional framework.

Individual rights must not prevail over collective rights, or vice versa. A balance must be sought and I believe the legislator—by which I mean all of the members of this House, whether in government or in opposition, all of us together—has this desire for balance in mind when passing legislation, proposing amendments or voting for or against a bill.

In the firearms registration legislation, which as I have already said is the real object of this motion, I believe that balance has been achieved. The future will no doubt prove whether anything needs to be changed or not.

I would remind you that the Bloc Quebecois introduced a series of amendments. It called for the government to make changes on a number of specific points. The government, it must be admitted, did agree we were right on certain points. In committee, the Minister of Justice at the time agreed that the Bloc Quebecois was right about certain amendments.

We are grateful to him for that, because I believe it was best for the public, best for the legislation involved, that the minister listened to the Bloc Quebecois at that time. However, some of the changes and amendments we suggested were rejected. Perhaps the future will prove once again that we were right and that the Liberal government ought to amend its legislation along the lines of what the Bloc Quebecois was proposing at that time.

One thing is certain, however, and that is that the legislation was passed and is now in effect. It has gone through all the stages of the democratic system in Canada and Quebec, and you can be sure that not a single Bloc Quebecois member of Parliament will oppose the proper workings of democracy in this country called Canada, and in the emerging country which will be called Quebec.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell you a little story and it starts back around 1215. King John came back from a war in France and his coffers were empty.

He went to his barons and his lords and demanded taxation moneys from them to fill the coffers of the lands so that he could once again wage war. His lords and his barons at that time said that this was inappropriate since they were receiving nothing in return from the king. He was merely taking tax money from them with no benefit derived whatsoever on their part.

They forced the king to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. That is the first time that we know of in modern western history of a recognition of the right to own property. There have been many other precedents since that time.

Particularly noteworthy is when in 1776 a large part of the colonies on this new continent broke away from the United Kingdom and British rule because they did not believe in taxation without representation. They believed in the right to hold and to own property.

The right to hold property has several important components, many of which are touched on in this private member's bill. It recognizes that people have the right to own property, that they use and enjoy it, that they not be deprived of that right without full, just and timely compensation in due process of law. If we do not have a process of law in terms of the recognition of property, it is merely at the caprice, the will of the government.

We all recognize that laws and statutes are important. Indeed that is why we sit here today. That is why we have this assembly, this commons, so that the people of Canada understand the laws, the regulations and the rules. Without that there is anarchy. As a result, point one is that the process of law must be recognized.

Point number two is that people have timely, just and fair compensation. Without fair compensation there is no true value in property or for what people hold. For example, the Bloc member spoke to Bill C-68 and gun registration. It touches on many others such as Bill C-4 and the wheat board act. There have been several others that have been passed in this House that touch on this as well.

If people do not have a sense of fair, timely and just compensation, then indeed things can be taken from them. Something worth a dollar can be taken from them and they are given back merely pennies, a dime or a nickel in exchange for what its true value or worth is.

We see in our history not long ago where that was done. It was the Japanese internment during the second world war. It has been widely recognized in this House I think by all parties that those Japanese Canadians were done a wrong. Why they were done a wrong? Property was taken from them without fair, just and timely compensation, something we recognize happening less than 50 years ago and yet we see the importance of it. We make corrections at a later date.

Another important criterion is that it is transferable because if the property is not saleable or transferable, if I cannot pass my ability to own that property to another, then indeed is it really mine and do I have full jurisdiction over it? This touches on the jurisdictional aspects of private property. Someone should have complete and full jurisdiction of their property in order for it to be considered private property. With this comes the whole idea of transferability. Therefore the state should not be able to regulate or restrict an individual's ability to transfer that property.

We have recent developments in this country that call attention to the whole idea of the right to own property. One of these is the bill of rights which included the right to own property. It is interesting how later on when we tried to constitutionalize this in 1982 there were objections to including the right to own private property in the Constitution which later became the Constitution Act, 1982.

One of the provinces that opposed that right but claimed it was not involved in the final negotiation of the Constitution was Quebec. Prince Edward Island was another. Unfortunately due to the objections of a few of the provinces we did not see the inclusion of private property entrenched in the Constitution of this land.

As a result, what have we seen come down the pipe? Bill C-68, the gun registration act, speaks to this. In Bill C-68 there are provisions for the confiscation of private property. Somebody can own a collection of firearms and be unable to pass that on to their children, nor even be able to sell it. Why? The government has made provisions for confiscation, confiscation without fair compensation. There is not provision for what the real and true value or marketable value of those firearms may be.

Bill C-4, the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which was recently passed in this House, does not recognize the right of farmers to own the grain they produce by the sweat and toil of their own labour, to be able to sell that freely as they so choose. It violates their transferability because they are not allowed to sell that to whomever they wish. It violates their fair, just and timely compensation because they cannot get the full value and true market value of their grain. They are forced to sell it through the wheat board. They are also deprived of what I consider to be a fundamental process of law when we have people who want to exercise the transferability right and the compensation right and yet they are jailed and shackled and deprived of their machinery, fined and cannot work the family farm.

All three of these fundamental tenets have been violated with the Canadian Wheat Board Act. As I say, they were also violated with Bill C-68, the gun registration bill.

It is not that these things have been done in the past because that is water under the bridge. If we form government we hope to repeal some of those pieces of legislation. More than that, this government is also proposing and considering ideas on endangered species legislation. I would like to enlighten the House in terms of what that means.

It means that in a given section of land that somebody may own, if it is found to be that there is a habitat they did not even know existed and they are found to have potentially violated that habitat by driving in, around or near it, they can have that entire section of land quarantined from their use even though they did not know it existed. They can also face heavy fines and jail terms as a result of violating that habitat according to the way the law is defined.

What is that going to encourage? It is going to encourage people to go ahead and decimate their lands and get rid of any of those special habitats rather than to go ahead and protect them with some form of incentive. Using only disincentives will encourage people to go ahead and obliterate those lands and get rid of any of those special habitats that may exist. As a result, I do not think that helps the populations that we are trying to protect in terms of endangered species or any wildlife. I do not think that does anything to help the owners of the property. I also do not think it does anything to help advance the cause the government claims to be supporting.

When we look at all these things, I do not think the government has learned the fundamental lesson. I hope at the next election it pays the price for that. It so sorely does not understand the whole idea of private property. Nothing violates someone so badly as having their private property taken from them. I will speak about a personal experience, the reason my family came to this country.

We were farmers is eastern Europe. We had our farm confiscated and nationalized by the state. We had our granaries taken. We had our land seized. We had our horses taken. We came to Canada to seek the freedom it provides. Unfortunately 100 years later we see what is happening here by not recognizing the right to private property. It chokes me up to think the government is going to come through with this type of thing and not recognize this. It is intolerable. Other governments in the past have paid the price for not recognizing this fundamental right. Shame on them.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Motion No. 269 put forward by my colleague for Saskatoon—Humboldt. I indicate at the outset that we are in support of this motion for reasons I will outline.

Right away I state uncategorically that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has always supported the principles of individuals' unencumbered rights to own property. The best guarantors of prosperity and well-being of the people of Canada are found in the freedom of individuals to pursue their enlightened and legitimate self-interest within a competitive economy. That goes further to say that the freedom of individual Canadians to enjoy the fruits of their labour and to the greatest extent possible to have property lies within that right.

There is currently no provision in the charter of rights and freedoms that prevents the government from taking away a person's property, something that is owned rightfully by them. There is nothing there to restrict the government in any way from passing laws which prohibit the ownership, use and enjoyment or further the reduction of the value of property owned by an individual. That is very frightening thing to think that those violations could occur without the protection of our charter of rights and freedoms.

I want to highlight the fact that the provisions of the charter of rights and freedoms require that the government provide fair and timely compensation. That again is drawn into question without the entrenchment of property rights within our Constitution. Surely we do not want any restriction on the use and enjoyment of property or the government's ability to interfere with the value of a person's property.

It is trite and perhaps goes without saying that it is a fundamental human right to own and use property in the way which a person deems appropriate, with the stipulation that as long as it does not infringe on the rights of another.

Property rights are natural and fundamental and are based on hundreds of years of common law. One might suggest that common law in itself is sufficient protection. I disagree. For that reason among others it is necessary that we have these rights entrenched in our Constitution.

I suggest the government may have intentionally left property rights out of the Constitution in 1982 for fear that there would be some detriment to Canadians' democratic rights and economic freedoms. This motion is a step in the right direction. It is a step toward bringing about a change, a much needed and necessary change to our charter of rights and freedoms.

Presently the only legal protection that does exist in federal law rests in the Canadian Bill of Rights which was introduced by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Section 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights states specifically: “The right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and the enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law”.

Since the Canadian Bill of Rights is a federal statue which can be overridden by any other federal statue, mainly the charter, this protection is not enough. Why does this omission exist? Why is there an omission of property rights within our charter of rights and freedoms? It is a significant omission. Aside from the poor guarantee of the bill of rights, there is no requirement in Canadian constitutional law that compulsory taking of property can be effected by a fair procedure or that it can be accompanied by a fair compensation for the owner.

On that point I quote a well known professor of constitutional law, Professor Peter Hogg: “The omission of property rights from section 7 of the charter greatly reduces its scope. It means that section 7 affords no guarantee of compensation or even a fair procedure for the taking of property by government”.

This again is a frightening situation when it happens to any Canadian who rightfully owns property. As has been suggested throughout some of the remarks, an individual who may have inherited property that was passed down through generations, that a family has saved for and done without, is suddenly faced with this type of confiscation of property. There is a real need to ensure this does not happen.

If we did not have a Constitution the protection of property rights would then revert to what I spoke of earlier, the common law. But since we have a Constitution with entrenched rights within our country it only makes sense to broaden the net to include specifically the property rights of all Canadians.

Property rights are recognized from time immemorial in common law but with our Constitution in this country this omission is something that has to be remedied.

To not make sure the law protects property rights would leave it upon the courts to address this situation when it arises. Again, I suggest that it is incumbent upon this House and members of Parliament and this procedure to address this inequity.

Many other Canadians and I have waited long enough for this to happen. All members of the House appear for the most part to be in support of this. But what are the exact property rights that we are talking about? Property rights mean freedom from arbitrary interference by one's government. They mean a guarantee that one's rights will not be deprived, that one's property will not be taken away or restricted in any way by undue government interference.

It also sets out three very limited conditions where a government might infringe on that right in this piece of legislation. The taking of property must be for public use. There are instances that we are all familiar with where there may be an expropriation of property for a throughway, a pipeline, a power line or some legitimate use. In those cases there are easements available and the law can address it in that way.

Another instance where government might deprive an individual of a property right would be the taking of the property through due process of law, that is, a confiscation based on a bill that is owing, an outstanding debt that has to be addressed.

Third, the taking of property must be done with just and timely compensation. That is, an arbitrary seizure of property without compensation or done so in an unfair and arbitrary way would be outside the rule of law.

With respect to this issue 81% of Canadians consider either very or fairly important the right to include property rights in our charter of rights and freedoms, and 81% of Canadians are not wrong in this. The Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canada Real Estate Association as well as many other organizations support the inclusion of property rights within our Constitution.

Including property rights also follows the fine example of many other countries around the world. Some of those countries, the United States, Germany, Italy, Finland, have seen the need and have done so within their charters.

Property rights are an issue that transcend any partisan politics. They have widespread application and appeal and are something that all members of this House should consider very seriously before casting their vote against.

The following prominent Canadians have voted in favour in the past on property rights being included in our Constitution: John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Paul Martin Sr., Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and many others.

Again I would suggest there is a tradition to be followed. There is an opportunity now for this House to put these rights in place to ensure that inequities as they arise from ownership of property are going to be addressed and addressed in the proper forum, which is this House. For these reasons and many others, I support this motion as do the members of my party. I encourage all members of this House to do the same.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business



Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, the motion by my colleague on the other side of this House calls states that the charter of rights and freedoms be amended to recognize the right of every person to own and enjoy property—

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business



Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders indicate that the member who moves the motion has the right to speak for five minutes at the end of debate. We have about five minutes left so the time should revert to him.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The rule pertaining to this states that the member who has proposed the motion has the right to five minutes only if another member does not rise to complete the hour.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business



Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, Standing Order 95(2) says that “provided that the member moving the item may speak for not more than fifteen minutes”—that is at the beginning—“and provided that the said member may, if he or she chooses, speak again for not more than five minutes, commencing five minutes before the conclusion of the hour during which the said item is to be considered”.

It is quite clear in the standing order that it is the choice of the member. The member has chosen to exercise that right and I ask that he be given that right.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The Speaker of the House has already ruled on that issue and has stated very clearly that the member can only use the last five minutes if nobody else rises.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business



Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, as I was stating, the motion of the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt asks that the charter of rights and freedoms be amended to recognize the right of every person to enjoy and own property and not be deprived of that right without full, just and timely compensation and due process of law.

Perhaps the hon. member has not read the charter of rights and freedoms. Perhaps the hon. member is not cognizant of our Canadian Bill of Rights, but property rights are already protected in the Canadian Bill of 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.

This bill of rights remains in force but 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. Whereas the charter expressly overrides any act, whether it be federal or provincial that is inconsistent with the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights does not have express provisions that permit it to override other federal statutes.

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

I would ask that the hon. members on the other side of the House who are supporting this motion listen carefully to what I am about to say. They might actually learn something.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid I have to interrupt the hon. member. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 1998 / 12:05 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB


That this House condemn the government for: (1) failing to explain why it is negotiating the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (the MAI); (2) failing to explain what benefits and costs it foresees for the Canadian people; and (3) failing to take part in public discussion on the Agreement.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to lead off this debate today. A number of my colleagues will be speaking as well because this is a very big concern in their ridings. Some of them will be speaking from their critic area, such as fisheries, culture and other areas where there are some concerns.

It is important to point out at the outset that the multilateral agreement on investment which is being negotiated is a Liberal government initiative to make Canada a part of the negotiations at the OECD in Paris. Our negotiators have been there since 1995.

It was interesting that during the election campaign in June there was hardly any mention of the multilateral agreement on investment. In fact some Liberal members when contacted denied that negotiations were going on. People who heard about the negotiations were concerned and they raised the issue during the election campaign.

When we in the Reform Party were asked what our stand would be we said that we did not know much about the negotiations, but that we were in favour of free trade in principle and free trade in investment. We supported the free trade agreement and also the NAFTA, both of which have substantial investment sections. In principle we are in favour of the MAI, but we want to know a lot more of the details.

By way of background, the government had to name a new cabinet after the election. In September when the government returned, a new minister was appointed to the international trade portfolio. We thought that he would explain what the MAI meant to Canadians. In fact we asked the minister if we could meet with the chief negotiator, Mr. Dymond, to explain it to us because we wanted to be up to speed on the negotiations.

Mr. Dymond told us that the directions from the new minister were to be a lot more open and to tell people what the deal was about. The minister himself when he came to committee assured us that the government would be much more active in explaining the deal to Canadians. As a result of that we gave the new minister the benefit of the doubt. We expected that he and the chief negotiator would be addressing the concerns being raised across the country. However we were surprised when that did not happen.

The minister's answer in mid-November was to ask the Sub-Committee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment to do a study. We were told that we had a very short time to do that study. The government wanted the report before the House rose in the middle of December. By the time we factored in a week to put the report together, it only gave the subcommittee three weeks to hear witnesses. It did not give us time to travel across the country to places like British Columbia where the concern seemed to be the greatest.

It is important to note whose job it is to inform the public. I would submit that it is the government's job. It is the Liberal government's job to inform the public of what the benefits are and what the downside may be in negotiating a multilateral agreement on investment. It is the government's job to take it to Canadians.

Why are we condemning the government for its failure to explain why it is negotiating the multilateral agreement on investment? Why is it failing to explain the benefits and costs to the Canadian people? Why is it failing to take part in public discussion on the agreement? We will endeavour to smoke out the government today and try to engage it in this debate.

Canada has been negotiating the agreement for two years at the OECD. Largely the negotiations have been secret. There was no mention during the election campaign, except for some groups that came that were getting wind of it like the Council of Canadians. The NDP started to raise it as an election issue. Some Liberal members, even cabinet ministers, were in denial. They said that Canada would not be doing that.

As I said, we were in favour in principle of an agreement depending on how it came out. We recognized that investment leads to trade and trade leads to jobs but we wanted to see what was being negotiated.

It is really ironic. There was no mention of distrust back in 1993 in red book No. 1 or in red book No. 2 for that matter. There was no mention in the throne speech. These were all areas where the government had a chance to outline what its initiatives were going to be for the upcoming mandate. There was no mention of it. Why not? It is difficult for us to understand why it would not be trying to inform the public.

As a result there was growing interest in what the MAI really meant. Many of our members, and I am sure government members, must be getting a flood of mail in their offices. There are a lot of people out there who are spreading what I think is false information, but nonetheless information and accusations that have to be met head on by this government in answers to things such as Canada is going to lose its health care, Canada is going to lose sovereignty as a result of this, government will no longer be able to make laws and so on.

The MAI is a major initiative yet requires support building from this government. That simply is not happening. As a result the public is only getting one side of this issue. Those from the flat earth society would have us believe that the free trade agreement with the United States, which contained an investment chapter, expanded to NAFTA in 1992 were bad for us and it would roll that back. The same group seemed to be lined up on the side of the MAI debate saying no, do not go ahead with it.

Where is the minister in all this debate? Is he out doing talk shows? Is he doing radio presentations to Canadians? Television? Where is he? He is nowhere at all. No town halls. I should not say that. He actually gave a presentation last week to a bunch of business executives at the Chateau Laurier hotel. That is important but it is vitally important that the minister explain this deal to Canadians and he is simply missing in action.

The minister points to the subcommittee and says he gave it to the subcommittee on international trade to study. That is true. He did. He gave us a very short time frame, but he did. Three weeks. What did we hear from witnesses at the subcommittee? Let me just read a few of the quotes.

Elizabeth Smythe from Concordia College in Edmonton said “More public consultation on negotiations should take place.” We heard all kinds of comments like that from almost every witness at committee. Elizabeth Smythe also said “It is not enough for citizens to get a chance to vote for a government once every four years if the kind of trade-offs and choices on important international investment rules are never outlined during an election campaign”. Absolutely.

We heard all kinds of that. What was the government's response? Let me read it. The committee of which I see a couple of members here wrote a report as a result of the three weeks of hearings.

The first recommendation was that the government should stay engaged at the OECD and try to achieve an agreement. The number two recommendation of the committee, an all-party committee, was the government should continue to increase its efforts to inform Canadians of the merits of negotiating an MAI while addressing the concerns brought forward by this committee in public hearings. Exactly what I am saying.

Of the few people that had a chance to come to the committee, the 75 groups or whatever, many of them raised concerns. They said that they were not hearing enough about it, that they did not know exactly what the government was intending to do. The committee recognized that and made the recommendation that the government should explain this deal to Canadians.

In fact the Reform Party, while in general agreement with the thrust of trying to negotiate an agreement said in the second paragraph of its dissenting opinion “While we believe a good agreement will be in Canada's best interest, we acknowledge the apprehension felt by many Canadians in our country. Given the amount of genuine concern around the MAI, we are perplexed that the Liberal government has not put a concerted effort into an information campaign”.

Many witnesses before the subcommittee commented on the need for much wider public consultation. At least the three weeks of hearings by the subcommittee should have been extended to include a week or more of hearings in the west. It simply did not happen.

It even got worse. That committee report came down in December. Where was the minister after that? As I said, at one appearance at the Chateau Laurier for breakfast. He expects people from Victoria, Kamloops and Grande Prairie to come to the Chateau Laurier for breakfast with him. What kind of consultation is that?

What did Liberal members say when they were in opposition? What did they say about this kind of approach to big government? They said that in the red book that the Liberal government would govern with integrity and that open government would be the watchword of the Liberal government. What does open government mean?

They also went on to say that the most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. There is evidence today of considerable dissatisfaction with government. They talk about the Mulroney government and a steady erosion of confidence in the people and the institutions of the public sector. This erosion of confidence seems to have many causes. Some have to do with the behaviour of certain elected politicians but others have to do with an arrogant style of political leadership.

The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them or that disregard their views or that try to conduct key parts of public business behind closed doors. Is that not deja vu? Why have they not learned their lesson? They said they would consult with people.

We have to briefly review where we have been in terms of investment in Canada in the last 30 years. We had a Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau that actually tried to discourage foreign investment with the Foreign Investment Review Agency. It had the effect he wanted. It discouraged investment. Then Brian Mulroney came in, in 1984, and changed the style. The Conservatives said we needed investment in Canada, that investment was good for us. They instituted Investment Canada and tried to encourage investment. Then we went as far as signing the free trade agreement with the United States in 1988. A big section, chapter 11, dealt with investment and the rules needed for investment. We expanded that in the NAFTA in 1992 to include Mexico.

At the same time we were negotiating at the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We were trying to get an investment section there, but there was something like 130 member countries, not all of whom were interested in investment. Their economies were simply too small. The Ivory Coast and many countries in the third world have economies that are simply not ready for investment.

It failed, but there was still a need to have a common set of rules for investment in the same way as we have rules for trade in goods and services. They tried again and the initiative went to the OECD in 1995. It was all great; there was no problem with it. The only problem I see is that we had a Liberal government that did not want to explain it to Canadians.

What is at stake in this multilateral agreement on investment? We need to know. There is growing interest. Other people want to know what is at stake and there is concern. It is entirely possible the entire deal may fall through. Countries like the United States have said that there is not enough in the agreement for them to sign it.

The NDP would love that. We saw what happened in British Columbia when the NDP government was in power from 1991. Investment dropped off every year the NDP was in government in B.C. All of a sudden I see big ads in the Globe and Mail and other places advertising for investments. I guess the NDP government now recognizes it is important.

This deal may fall through because too many countries are saying they need broad exemptions for this and broad exemptions for that. Exemptions are fine if they are in our national interest, but let us define them as closely as we need to, to protect that interest, not take a broad brush and try to paint it so we essentially have a shell deal here.

Another benefit is that Canadian investors are investing abroad in increasing numbers. We had $170 billion of Canadian investment outside our country last year. That was almost equal to what our investment is in Canada. They need the rules that some kind of international agreement would provide, rules that say we have to treat foreign companies in the same way as we treat domestic companies. We can still make regulations and rules, but we have to treat them in the same way. In the event of an expropriation it would be done in a just and timely manner.

I will read a couple of quotes of people who appeared before the committee. First is a quote by Steven Stinson of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, a pretty big employer in Canada:

—evidence of increasing trade and investment flows among the three signatory countries suggests (NAFTA) has been of broad benefit.

George Miller of the Mining Association of Canada said:

Trade follows investments. Because of the expertise gained in Canada and the entrée provided by Canadian mining investment—our suppliers of mining equipment and services are welcomed to Latin American countries and other parts of the developing world.

He also said:

Investment is the lifeblood of economic development.

We know there is something like $7 billion of Canadian mining investment now in countries like Chile. Alan Rugman of the University of Toronto, said:

It would logically seem to me—that if we can get an MAI—that has the same rules as in NAFTA, we will have better access for the outward investment in which Canadian firms engage.

Mike Percy, dean of business at the University of Alberta, said:

We live and die by competing in international markets. Our standard of living depends on our ability to be competitive.

He also said:

One of the remarkable things that has happened in western the tremendous expansion in tradable services...—business services, environmental services, oilfield services—(that) have been directed not only to the U.S. market but worldwide.

Canadians are gaining confidence in investing outside our country, Canadians like Canadian Fracmaster in Calgary where there are people I know personally working in places like Russia and China and bringing paycheques and dividends home.

What is the Reform position in terms of investment? We recognize the linkage between investment and trade. We recognize the linkage between trade and jobs. It has been very good for us to be part of a NAFTA type arrangement.

We recognize that Canadian companies need a physical presence abroad. To make trade work they have to make some kind of an investment in another country usually before trade can take place. We support free trade in principle. We believe in the protection of private property. We supported the free trade agreement and NAFTA which both have investment rules. We also supported GATT and the Uruguay round. By the way, GATT has been in place since 1947.

Therefore we support a NAFTA style expanded investment agreement, but we want to know that it is a NAFTA style investment agreement. We want to know what we are dealing with.

In terms of an investment agreement we want to see these principles: transparency and openness in multilateral negotiations, and there is no reason why this should not take place; a national treatment, investment protection and effective dispute settlement mechanism; the elimination of performance requirements; the freedom to transfer payments and after tax profits; free movement of key personnel and minimum sectoral exemptions. If we need exemptions, let us define them as clearly as we can.

Sometimes I wonder why the Liberal government is not trying to sell this deal. I am not sure what it is afraid of. We know it was very much opposed to the free trade agreement. It fought the free trade agreement and NAFTA. In fact the present trade minister was one of the biggest proponents of not signing.

I want to read a couple of quotes from what he said in the past. I wonder if that is why the Liberals are so lukewarm to the agreement. In 1992 he said:

I commend (the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) for suggesting that this House condemn the government for its failure to be completely open with Canadians about its principal goals and objectives in the current North American free trade negotiations.

With all due respect, it is a shame that we have to rely on our newspapers to begin to enlighten not only Canadians but elected Canadians who are supposed to deal with issues on behalf of the 26 million shareholders of this company called Canada.

Why is the House of Commons not debating the parameters of what it is that Canada should be pushing for or what Canada should not be encouraging?

Yet back home, on an issue that is fundamental to the livelihoods of all Canadians, there is silence and ignorance.

I challenge the government. Why is it not involved? The present Minister for International Trade said all those things in 1992. These were very good questions. Why were there not open negotiations? Does the same thing apply in 1998 on the multilateral agreement on investment?

The Liberals do not really believe in free trade. It is either that or an awful lot of arrogance on the part of the government we are facing across the way, the Liberal government.

It is the same kind of deal we had with the Kyoto summit. There were no negotiations with the provinces until the last minute. In fact we had that again with the MAI. The minister did not meet with the provincial counterparts until last week. Does that not sound familiar?

Arrogance, that is what I believe it is. It is shameful. I challenge the government to get off its butt and get out there to explain to Canadians why this deal may be good for them, or at least meet the challenges head on of what people like Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians are saying.

If they cannot meet those, if they cannot dispel stories that these are very bad for Canada, maybe it is not a good deal for us. I think it is, but the Liberal government has to take up the challenge.

Protection for Canadian companies is at stake, Canadian companies that have increased the amount of foreign investment outside our country by 50% in the last 10 years. That will continue, but we need some rules.

It is clear that investment leads to trade and trade leads to jobs. Mike Percy of the University of Alberta business school said about three months ago in response to the expansion of the oil sands, the tar sands in northern Alberta and the big pulp and paper projects that were under way in the forestry industry that Alberta would require $20 billion of new investment money over the next 10 years.

We need to encourage investment in the country but we need to know the rules and we need to know that Canadian sovereignty is not at stake. If there are areas where we have sensitive industries that need protection, let us protect them but let us define it as narrowly and clearly as we can so that we do not scuttle a deal in the process.

In conclusion, the government has not shown leadership. It must take up the challenge and deal with Canadians, go out and tell Canadians what this deal is all about and why the government is negotiating it on their behalf.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Halton Ontario


Julian Reed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I just wonder if the hon. member would tell me what he calls the 35 meetings with provincial and territorial officials since 1995.

I wonder if my hon. friend has forgotten that there are consultations on an ongoing basis and have been since that time. Could he tell us whether he counts that? Maybe he does not count the ongoing meetings.

When we had the delegation from British Columbia before the committee—I believe my hon. friend was there—the official from the department acknowledged that the province had been very well informed on an ongoing basis and commended the government for that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, those comments are very interesting.

Representatives of the provinces were in town last week. There was considerable complaint that they were not part of the process. The government is negotiating on their behalf. While officials from the department may have been meeting on a low level basis, essentially they were not part of it at the ministerial level until last week.

The point I am making, though, is that the public has not been informed. The minister and the department have not been engaged, and I cannot understand why. Why have they not gone out and talked about what the proposed benefits are to Canadians? What are they afraid of?

It is ludicrous. When I talked with the chief negotiator in September and when I questioned the minister in committee in October, I believe, I raised these concerns and said there were people on the other side. I thought he was causing himself a lot of extra work and damage that was not necessary. A lot of the objections were being raised out there that were not accurate but somebody had to deal with them. The chief negotiator at the time said the minister's direction was for them to inform the public. It simply has not happened.

Why are we getting stacks of letters? Why are we getting all these phone calls? It is because the minister has not gone to British Columbia to talk with Canadians about it. That is where the biggest concern is. That is his job. Even Brian Mulroney in the free trade debate and NAFTA went out and sold what he thought were the benefits of that agreement. It amazes me why this government would not be doing that. I cannot understand it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member from Peace River could clarify something for me. There is no such thing as an MAI agreement. There is no signed agreement. Why is the member from Peace River engaging in the same kind of conspiratorial theory that the NDP wants to bring out? How can we have a reasonable discussion on a non-existent agreement?

As my hon. colleague the parliament secretary said, I have a list of consistent meetings with the provinces, the private sector, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Association, the Canadian Federation of Agricultural, the dairy farmers, and so on. There has been a consultative process. The member is falling into the very trap that these people want us to believe, that somehow there is a conspiracy.

Will the member speak to that issue?