House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.


National Parks ActGovernment Orders

9:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is right. The debate is on Motions Nos. 1 and 2 on the Order Paper , which are amendments to Bill C-38.

I hope the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will direct his comments to these motions and amendments.

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9:30 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for allowing me the opportunity to speak to Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

Bill C-38 will create a new national park. The creation of national parks is important. The minister has said before that one of the objectives of this government is to expand the habitat of our national parks and we agree with that objective. However, it is important for her to realize that with the expansion of the parks the individuals within those parks will be unable to raise the money to develop them because there will be no new funds.

How will we manage to develop parks such as Tuktut Nogait? How will we manage to buy the land and provide the money for the conservation officers, the habitat protection, the scientific research and the equipment that is required to be able to manage these parks?

The minister should look at some of the good work that is being done by the World Wildlife Fund. The World Wildlife Fund has utilized a basic theory in various parts of the world, including Central America where a number of species, including the golden lion tamarin, were becoming extinct. They asked themselves “How do we manage to rescue these animals when we do not have very much money”? They utilized the basic theory that parks have to pay for themselves. They utilized the park and were able to generate revenues in an environmentally sound fashion. With those revenues they managed to hire park staff, to do research and to expand the park to the surrounding areas. They also used the revenues for health care, education and many other services.

By doing that they created a buffer zone around the park. The people took ownership of the park themselves because they derived benefits from it and they saw the value of the park in their own lives. Without any new funds they expanded the habitat of the park. They managed to raise funds to research the flora an fauna within the park and saved many useful species that were becoming extinct. This was accomplished without using any new revenue. It was extremely clever. We need to learn from this experience.

There is not any new money, but parks have an unusual ability to raise funds and use the funds for expansion. As Motion No. 1 attests, the development of habitat is exceedingly important in the ability of flora and fauna to exist. The destruction of flora and fauna is intimately entwined with the destruction of habitat. Therefore, the expansion of habitat is exceedingly important in saving flora and fauna.

How do we manage to expand and develop a park such as the one mentioned in Motion No. 1, or Banff, without providing new money? We can do that by generating revenues within the park.

I will use Banff as an example.

Banff has an ability to raise funds. The people within Banff are asking for 850,000 square feet of land to be developed within the boundaries of the city. They do not want to expand Banff into other areas. This is exceedingly important to understand. They will be able to generate funds from that development. Within the boundaries of the park that money could be poured back into Banff National Park for the expansion of the habitat and the development of conservation initiatives. That would give the conservation officers the tools they need to do their job.

One of the biggest problems we have is that our conservation officers do not have the tools. The argument that was put forth by the minister was that conservation officers are spending too much time on developmental work. If we want to give conservation officers the necessary tools, we should use the money generated from the development of the park. That money could easily be put back into the park as designated revenues, rather than general revenues, to be used for something completely different.

Some places in the world charge a 1% or a 2% surcharge on hotel accommodations and other tourist facilities. That money is designated for park services.

This would help our threatened flora and fauna. It would enable the minister to fulfil her objective in expanding habitat and providing funds to preserve our wilderness areas.

The models around the world which are used by the World Wildlife Fund and others can be adopted in Canada. However, we have to have the political will to do that. I hope the minister sees the opportunity to generate revenues within the parks which could be used to preserve them.

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9:40 a.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am looking for a clarification. Are we speaking about the strip mall in Banff National Park or are we speaking to the amendments that the hon. member from the Bloc has put forward?

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9:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thought the hon. member was discussing national parks in a fairly general way, but he was, in theory, discussing the amendments that were put forward by the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis on Bill C-38, Motions Nos. 1 and 2.

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9:40 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, for clarification, this does relate in particular to Motion No. 1. We are talking about the development of a new park. I hope I was presenting some constructive solutions that he might take to the minister that can be applied to the new park.

As I mentioned before, one of the threats to the parks, be it the park mentioned in Motion No. 1 or any other park, is the threat to habitat. The threats to Banff National Park and the threats to Tuktut Nogait are one in the same in many ways.

I would implore the minister, rather than penalizing the parks, to use the model of the World Wildlife Fund. Those funds could be generated by a surcharge of 1% or 2% on hotel accommodations and other tourist facilities and that money could be directed back into the park for the development of habitat. If we do not do that we will be in trouble.

We as a country are one of the leading conduits of endangered and threatened species from around the world. Animal parts from tigers to rhinos to endangered birds are coming into Canada and being distributed around the world. We are a major conduit. Poachers and traffickers of endangered species know this. They are using our country illegally for this illicit trade that is destroying populations of threatened species around the world. Money is required to combat that. This is a way we could generate the money to give our conservation officers the ability to preserve flora and fauna not only in our country but around the world.

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9:40 a.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, these two motions deal with the creation of Tuktut Nogait National Park and the effect that will have on our caribou calving grounds.

I would point out that this park is being created specifically in the settlement region of the Inuvialuit.

I agree with Motion No. 2, that the Western Arctic claim and the Inuvialuit final agreement should be recognized. The Tuktut Nogait National Park, also known as the Bluenose National Park, should include the Nunavut settlement region and the Sahtu Dene settlement region, which is another 12,000 square kilometres of park. It should be all encompassing.

This government should not have dragged its heels in the last few years. It should have been finalizing the agreement of the total park boundary and not just dealing with one region, the settlement region of the northern Arctic.

The community has made specific claims. I believe that the next motion will deal with the requests it has made.

With respect to retaining the integrity of our national parks, I am sad to see that the Reform Party has taken a pro-development position within our national parks. The integrity of the ecology of our national parks should be preserved for future generations. There should be sustainable development. The species and the beauty of these parks should be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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9:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Motion No. 1, which was put forth by my hon. colleague from Rimouski—Mitis.

On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party I support this motion. It puts a bit more meat or teeth into the beginning of the bill to say exactly what we are creating. Therefore, I support the motion.

National Parks ActGovernment Orders

9:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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9:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


National Parks ActGovernment Orders

9:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The difficulty the Chair is facing is that we have a House order that requires that all questions are deemed put, divisions demanded and deferred, but I understand there may be agreement to carry one of these motions now.

Is it agreed that we proceed and put the question on Motion No. 1?

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9:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


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9:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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9:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion No. 1 agreed to)

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9:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The next question is on Motion No. 2. In accordance with the order adopted yesterday, this motion is deemed to have been put, a division demanded and deferred until later this day.

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9:45 a.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC


Motion No. 3

That Bill C-38, in Clause 1, be amended

(a) by adding after line 15 on page 2 the following:

“Thence north along longitude 123 degrees 20 minutes west to a point at the intersection with latitude 68 degrees 55 minutes north;

Thence easterly along latitude 68 degrees 55 minutes north to the intersection with longitude 122 degrees 49 minutes west;

Thence northeasterly to the intersection of longitude 123 degrees west and latitude 69 degrees 13 minutes north;

Thence westerly along latitude 69 degrees 13 minutes north to the intersection with the surveyed boundary of Paulatuk lands at longitude 123 degrees 10 minutes west;” and by”

(b) by deleting lines 26 to 37 on page 2 and lines 1 and 2 on page 3.

Mr. Speaker, so that it can be noted for posterity, I would like to take the time to read this motion, which is a very lengthy one and which would amend the park's boundaries in line with what the Inuvialuit themselves are requesting. I will read the motion, which is also somewhat technical, for the record.

The amendment I am moving would delete lines 26 to 37 on page 2 of Bill C-38. The amendment reads as follows:

“Thence north along longitude 123 degrees 20 minutes west to a point at the intersection with latitude 68 degrees 55 minutes north;

Thence easterly along latitude 68 degrees 55 minutes north to the intersection with longitude 122 degrees 49 minutes west;

Thence northeasterly to the intersection of longitude 123 degrees west and latitude 69 degrees 13 minutes north;

Thence westerly along latitude 69 degrees 13 minutes north to the intersection with the surveyed boundary of Paulatuk lands at longitude 123 degrees 10 minutes west;”

This lengthy amendment gives a very clear idea to inhabitants of this region of exactly where the park's boundaries lie. The average person would need a course in advanced geography to know exactly where the park is located. We have specified the boundaries.

Why am I moving this amendment? I find myself in a rather difficult situation. For the first time since being elected to the House, I really feel that I have not had enough time to do my homework and I am still a little uncomfortable with the situation.

First of all, I wish to thank the secretary of state responsible for parks for agreeing to see me and for providing me with additional explanations. It helped me understand some of the government's arguments.

First, there was the Western Arctic claim, which led, in 1984, as I mentioned earlier, to the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. This agreement states clearly—I will not read the entire agreement, rest assured—in paragraph 16(2) that:

16.(2) Canada and the Inuvialuit agree that the economic measures set out in this section should relate to and support achievement of the following objectives: full Inuvialuit participation in the northern Canadian economy; and Inuvialuit integration into Canadian society through development of an adequate level of economic self-reliance and a solid economic base.

This was the agreement the government concluded with the Inuvialuit in 1984. A lot of water has flowed into the Beaufort Sea since then and government representatives have met with the Inuvialuit to try to reach an agreement on park boundaries.

That agreement was concluded in 1996. I must acknowledge that there were five parties involved in signing with the government. One of those parties now wants to reopen it and ask that 2.5% of the land be removed.

One of the government's arguments is that acceding to this request from the aboriginal people would set a precedent which could led to a whole series of debates to discuss the borders of the parks that have not as yet been developed.

Another of its arguments is that the caribou breeding grounds need protection. However, if that is what the aim is, a still bigger park should have been created in order to protect all of the lands occupied by the caribou.

Caribou do not stay in one place. They move around, and so we should have gone over to the Nunavut side to create a bigger park so as to protect all the herds. One day, perhaps, that will be done, but at that time it will have to be seen as a new park.

This matter of the caribou is an argument raised by the animal protection people and the associations of ecologists who have tried to lobby my office. They could not understand why I did not accept Bill C-38 with my eyes closed. My biggest problem is that I have met people who were used to seeing caribou in their area, but had had to have food animals brought in specially. Caribou had to be brought in from elsewhere because there was no herd in their area that year, so they would have had trouble finding game for food.

We cannot pretend that the caribou herd is that strong an argument for not taking 2.5% away from the park.

Restricting mining exploration is an excellent thing in itself. However, what I see as important is the arguments of the Inuvaluit themselves, who see the mining potential of the territory as a means of creating more lasting employment, more worthwhile jobs, so they may be more independent economically. I think it is important that subsection 16(2)(b) of the final agreement be a concern of the government.

Without prejudging the results of the vote, several parties have already made their position known on this motion. I hope the government will make a firm commitment, which will encourage the community to ensure they are given a chance to develop economically and open up alternatives to always relying on welfare.

I seems important to me to give them this economic tool and I very much regret that this bill had to be considered in such haste that we did not have an opportunity to really weigh the pros and cons. There is no environmental study showing there is any risk in changing the park's boundaries and none showing it would be a good thing either. This is very unusual for me since I was elected to this place, but this dilemma I am facing is making me feel uneasy.

I think the government moved too quickly for me to have time to assess the situation properly. The government will probably proceed with the current boundaries. Obviously, it does not need the opposition's support, it has a majority. Still, I really think that the government should commit, in this House, to promoting the economic development of the Inuvialuit outside the park.

National Parks ActGovernment Orders

9:55 a.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I might start by offering some thoughts from some of the people who were present at the committee. They had the same difficulties as the member had in wrestling with this most difficult question with regard to the boundaries and the requested change for the boundaries.

Basically it boils down to one thing only, a request from a mining company. It is simply that. I put a question to one of the witnesses who came forward in trying to find a solution that might be somewhat flexible and workable. The question I asked was is there any reason other than pure economics or the money generated from this mine in the park to move forward on this or change the boundaries. The answer was no. It was pure and simple mining.

There are three main points why the government cannot support this motion. The first one is the integrity of the park. The integrity of the park or the ecosystem within is extremely delicate and the boundaries of the park, agreed on some years ago, need to be maintained not just for our generation but for future generations. To allow a chunk of land, some hundreds of thousands of acres, to be severed off for purely economic reasons, this government can simply not support that.

The second reason is the animals within, the calving groups of the bluenose caribou. They do shift but, as I mentioned earlier, the ecosystems are extremely delicate and to take up several hundred thousand acres of the mating or calving grounds of these animals is simply not appropriate. These animals play a huge role in the overall diet of the native people within that area.

My third reason is economics. This process has been going on for 20 years. It has involved all parties. The agreement was put in place I believe in 1996 and due to some new ways of testing for mineral resources in the latter part of 1996-97, a mining company found deposits within the national park itself.

This is not contingent on the mining process moving forward. Only 20% of the total find is within the national park. What they are asking for is to mine that 20%, to compromise that very delicate ecosystem and to compromise the bluenose caribou.

It was for no other reason than economics.

This government and certainly all parties were having a difficult job with it because they certainly do not want to appear as if they are not supportive of the economics and the native people moving forward and having job opportunities from mining.

That is why I bring to the House's attention that it is only 20% and it is important to understand that. Based on the testing this is not the number one site for exploration. This was the third site on the priority list for exploration and thereby is not simply the only place they are pursuing.

The government simply cannot support this for the reasons mentioned. It is an extremely difficult thing but when one looks at these three reasons it becomes very simple.

National Parks ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I begin by speaking on Motion No. 3 put forth by my hon. colleague from Rimouski—Mitis. She is a very diligent, hardworking and conscientious member of our committee and I totally respect the motion she has put forth.

All members of the committee were faced with a very difficult situation because we wanted to do what was right. That was the intent and I sensed that from all members of the committee. It was difficult to deal with this and I had to do quite a bit of soul searching and reflection on the representations made to the committee.

An agreement is an agreement. There had been an agreement signed by all six parties involved. The agreement stated that if all six signatories were in agreement the agreement could be renegotiated. Not all six signatories wanted it reopened. What happens if, for example, the federal government comes in as one of the signatories and decides it wants to reopen? Other members of the agreement might not be in favour of that. An agreement is an agreement and unfortunately or fortunately we have to stand by that agreement.

As my hon. colleague mentioned, the group that made representations to have this reopened stated this was done purely for economic reasons so that the people of the Inuvialuit region could derive some financial benefits from that. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is 80% to 90% of the anomaly of the potential mineral find that falls outside the boundaries of the park. This in no way will prevent these people from being able to earn income from this mineral find. This is another reason I have trouble in supporting this motion.

There is also the bluenose caribou herd whose main calving ground falls into this area which some people would like to see changed or carved out of the park and I therefore have concerns with this.

If we change the boundaries set forth in this park we are setting a dangerous precedent. There are other parks that fall into this category such as Gros Morne Park as well as other parks and if we change the boundary for this one then we are leaving a lot of other parks open for renegotiation. I think that sets a dangerous precedent.

With all due respect to my colleague for Rimouski—Mitis, on behalf of my party, we cannot support this agreement.

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10 a.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also share the views of the hon. member regarding hearing the community's point of view in making this decision.

As the government speaker said, keeping the integrity of the Tuktut Nogait is of the utmost priority. I also come back to the point that there are two additional proposed areas for this park, the Nunavut area and the Sahtu area.

No discussion or reference has been made to these two regions because the bluenose herd requires the entire region for its protection. The community of Paulatuk and Inuvialuit settlement region are compromising their lands to create this park. There is no assurance that the other lands will be included in future park expansion with the existing bill. There is no reference to this. The speaker did not mention this at all.

I would beg that this government make this clear to the people in Paulatuk who are reconsidering a new economic opportunity by the anomalies that have been discovered, the distance they are from the surface. The anomaly inside the park is of prime mineral extraction.

I also go back to the agreement that says protecting the herd is most important because for generations the people of the north have been provided life and sustenance by this herd. I believe this herd can still sustain life in the northern regions of this country without compromising the ecology, practices and traditional way of life of the people of the north.

This government has made a parks agreement with the people of the Inuvialuit settlement region. The agreement includes job creation, training for the people and human resource development and also the environmental and ecological creation of eco-based tourism that the people of the north could benefit from. This agreement gives them first opportunity to gain access into that sort of industry.

There are also agreements in the park legislation for creation of co-management to include the people in making decision on how the park is developed, land use decision and development within it.

There is the question of adjusting the boundaries to gain access to minerals. Our party has always spoken in favour of creating and keeping the integrity of the parks. We cautioned this government during creation of the Cheviot mine neighbouring the Jasper National Park.

In other regions of the world parks also have a sphere of influence surrounding them for the integrity of the species and the ecology. If this were taken into account in this country the development of Banff, the development of Jasper and also the mineral extraction neighbouring some of these parks would be scrutinized in a different light. I think that should be done. A short term gain of mineral extraction and the impact it leaves in most cases must be taken very seriously.

For the time being I challenge the government to include in the Tuktut Nogait national park all the proposed boundaries and clarify to the people of the north that the entire park and its proposed boundaries will be included. It would be like if we live in an urban centre and the local government decides to put an easement between people's properties it is not fair that the local government make an easement on my property first before it makes a total easement on all the properties affected.

In dealing with the Inuvialuit settlement region let us be fair with them. Let us be up front with them that they are not going to be the only ones comprising their lands to create a national park for this country. We must be up front with them and tell them that the Nunavut settlement region and the Sahtu settlement region will also be contributing to this huge national park which has a better chance of keeping the integrity of the ecology and also the integrity of the bluenose caribou herd.

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10:10 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario


Andy Mitchell LiberalSecretary of State (Parks)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment as the Secretary of State for Parks to thank the committee members who on this piece of legislation have done a lot of work, have examined it. We see some of the results of their analysis and soul searching as we hear the debate taking place here at report stage. I would be remiss if I did not take an opportunity to thank the members for their work.

Some of the members have said in debate that part of the overall agreement revolves around helping the people of Paulatuk and the community in terms of pursuing economic development opportunities. There are parts of the agreement that indicate that there is the intention of parks to work with the community on economic development opportunities presented by the park. We will work with the community and with the Government of the Northwest Territories to move forward on these things. That is one of our intentions as a department and as the federal government and we intend to pursue this.

My colleague has talked about the government's position on this amendment. I will not reiterate his position but I did want to take the opportunity to thank the committee and to make the point about moving forward on economic development.

National Parks ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question on Motion No. 3 is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until 1 p.m. today.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 1998 / 10:10 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Massé Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak on Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act.

I begin by putting this bill in its proper context. The judiciary is one of the fundamental institutions of our democracy. Since 1982 Canadian judges have been asked to assume increasingly demanding constitutional functions, determining issues of fundamental importance to all Canadians.

This government recognizes that in doing their job judges in their decisions are not always popular. It seems to me that this is inevitable given that we as legislators have given them the sometimes unenviable task of determining some of the most difficult and divisive legal, social and economic issues of our time. It is for this very reason that we do not want popular judges. Indeed it is and has always been of primary importance to all Canadians that judges are independent and free to make those difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.

It is the principle of judicial independence that provides the foundation for a strong and courageous judiciary as well as being a cornerstone of our democratic society, a principle clearly reflected in and protected by sections 96 through 100 of the Canadian Constitution.

In 1981, in recognition of the importance of judicial independence and the unique constitutional role of the judiciary, Parliament provided for an independent commission to examine the adequacy of judges' salaries and benefits.

In September 1997, the supreme court underscored the importance and necessity of the role played by such independent commissions in ensuring public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the Canadian judiciary. The supreme court gave the example of the federal commission.

In its recent decision, the supreme court stressed the importance and necessity of the role played by such independent commissions in ensuring public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the Canadian judiciary.

A key part of that decision is to require public justification by government for a decision not to implement, or to only partially implement, the recommendation of such a commission.

The most recent triennial commission headed by David Scott heard from a range of organizations and individuals including all the provincial and territorial ministers of justice and attorneys general before putting forward a thoughtful and comprehensive set of recommendations. This government continues to support the principles that led parliament to institute the judicial salary commission process 17 years ago. In light of those principles and of the enhanced constitutional role of independent salary commissions following the supreme court decision, we have given serious consideration to all the recommendations of the Scott commission.

It was not unexpected that the issue which has evoked the greatest interest since the response was released and Bill C-37 was introduced is the proposed judicial salary increases. The Scott commission recommended an appropriately phased upward adjustment of 8.3% on the expiration of the salary freeze on April 1, 1997. We have accepted this recommendation and Bill C-37 will implement the Scott recommendations by providing a phased-in increase to judicial salaries of 4.1% per year over two years effective April 1, 1997.

The proposal is consistent with the government's view that it would be unreasonable for the judiciary not to share in the necessary economic restraint that was exercised from 1992 until very recently by all Canadians paid by the federal government. I want to express my strong agreement with a statement made by former Chief Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada in a seminal decision on the issue of financial security for judges in R. v Beauregard.

The chief justice observed “Canadian judges are Canadian citizens and must bear their fair share of the financial burden of administering the country”. This view is echoed in the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada where the Chief Justice of Canada observed “Nothing would be more damaging to the reputation of the judiciary and the administration of justice than a perception that judges were not shouldering their share of the burden in difficult economic times”.

Canadian judges are entitled to receive fair compensation that reflects both the importance of their role and the personal demands of their office. In deciding what was reasonable, the Scott commission in my view correctly recognized that a whole range of factors must be considered in establishing an appropriate level of remuneration, including the need to ensure levels of compensation that attract and keep the most qualified candidates for judicial office. That is what we are seeking, the most qualified candidates.

Bill C-37 would also implement the Scott commission recommendation for certain pension related amendments to the Judges Act, including the rule of 80 which will permit retirement when the sum of a judge's age and years of service equals at least 80 and the judge has served on the bench for a minimum of 15 years. In our view the proposed rule of 80 responds in an important way to the changing demographic profile of the judiciary. More and more judges are being appointed at a younger age. I would like to add that many of these younger judges are women. The government has made many attempts to assure that there be equality on the bench for the two sexes.

The current provision, although based on the rule of 80, requires a minimum age of 65. A judge who retires before 65 has no right to a pension at all. Therefore, a judge appointed at the age of 50 can retire with a pension at 65 with 15 years of service. However, a judge who is appointed at 40 must serve 25 years to receive any pension at all. This is a situation that is increasingly considered unfair.

This situation is even more unacceptable when we consider that it has a particular impact on women judges who constitute the majority of those appointed at an early age. The rule of 80 would allow older, longer serving judges to retire when they feel they no longer wish to continue in the role. Permitting this will be good for them and for the court itself as an institution.

The Scott commission has proposed a different retirement option for the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. It recommended eligibility for retirement with a full pension after serving a minimum of 10 years on the bench. The government agrees with the commission that the immense workload and heavy responsibility inherent in membership on the supreme court justifies the proposed retirement provision. However, the government proposes to limit it to those judges who have reached the age of 65 years.

The bill also makes a couple of other changes to judges pensions in the interest of fairness. It will allow common-law spouses to receive surviving spouses' annuities. It will give a judge who marries or commences a common-law relationship after retirement the option of receiving an actuarially reduced pension which continues until the judge and the spouse have both died. These are both common features of other pension plans.

A very important part of Bill C-37 is improvements to the judicial compensation commission process designed to reinforce the independence, objectivity and effectiveness of the process as a means of further enhancing judicial independence. The Supreme Court of Canada in its decision of last September set out guidelines for such process improvements.

In order to be independent, commission members must enjoy security of tenure by being appointed for a fixed term and the judiciary must nominate a member. To be objective, a commission must use objective criteria in coming to its recommendations. And to be effective, governments must deal with the commission's recommendations with due diligence and reasonable dispatch.

The supreme court also expressly stated that it was up to the executive and the legislator to define the institutional models, and that the administrations should be free to choose the procedures and provisions best suited to their own reality.

In our proposed design, the length of time between commissions would be extended from the current three to a four year period. The new commission would conduct an inquiry similar to that conducted by previous commissions, including public hearings and inviting submissions from all those interested in judicial compensation, including all Canadians.

While this will be a permanent commission in the sense of having a mandate for a fixed period of time, the members of the commission would be part time only. As a general rule, members will only be active during the first nine months of each four year period until the report is delivered. Furthermore, the members will only receive per diem fees for the time they are actually performing commission business.

The commission would have nine months to complete its inquiry and submit a report to the Minister of Justice. To provide flexibility, the period to report could be extended on agreement of the minister and the judiciary.

The exception to the general nine month period of activity would be when the minister decides to submit a matter to the commission for its inquiry as permitted under these proposals. This provision would allow for changes to judicial compensation to be made where necessary between the fixed four year timeframe. This is necessary in light of the new constitutional requirement established by the supreme court that future changes to judicial compensation cannot be implemented without prior consideration by a judicial compensation commission. This power to refer matters might also occasionally be used to have more detailed and informed consideration of particularly complex policy issues.

The independence of the commission would be enhanced by our proposal that it would have one member nominated by the judiciary and one nominated by the Minister of Justice. The representatives of each side would in turn nominate a third member who would be the chair. Members would be appointed by the governor in council for a fixed four year term, on good behaviour, removable for cause. Terms would be renewed once on renomination.

The bill also includes a proposal that the Minister of Justice be required to respond to a report of a salary commission. The role of parliament in reviewing the commission recommendations has also been preserved in the continuation of the current requirement that the report of the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission be tabled before both houses of parliament.

I am delighted that another key element of Bill C-37 appears to have secured widespread support across party lines. It provides for the largest ever expansion to date of unified family courts in Canada. This broad support is natural and welcomed since unified family courts are widely recognized to be responsive to widespread concerns that the family law system is too slow, confusing and expensive and intensifies and prolongs the degree of family conflict.

Delay, conflict and confusion arise in large part because of jurisdictional overlap and the traditional emphasis on courts and litigation to resolve family issues. Unified family courts reduce these problems by enabling a single judge to hear all family matters under both federal and provincial law. Unified family courts also provide access to an array of services which promote durable, mutually agreeable solutions to family law disputes and improve the long term outcomes for children and their families.

I must say that being a member of the mixed committee of both houses on custody and access, a lot of the witnesses that came before the committee praised this type of move on the part of the government. They encouraged the federal government to work with the provincial governments in ensuring that this type of system is available from coast to coast to coast.

I am therefore very pleased that the level of funding provided in the 1997 budget will permit the appointment of 24 additional judges to unified family courts. The cost will be $4.4 million ongoing to support the salary and benefits of federally appointed judges. Three other positions are currently available under the Judges Act for a total of 27 new unified family court judges.

Unified family courts demonstrate an effective federal-provincial partnership to meet the needs of children and parents when family disputes occur, reflecting the high degree of interdependence in this area of law and social policy. The federal government provides and pays for specialized family law judges with complete jurisdiction. This allows for one-stop shopping, less delay in costs and better understanding and outcomes. The provinces use the resulting savings to provide and pay for an array of social services for families experiencing disputes which will result in reduced levels of conflict, mutually agreeable outcomes and better futures for families and children.

In the long term, this bill will benefit children, because the risks of conflict will be lower and these conflicts will be settled more quickly. Children's needs will be better cared for, the results will last longer and, in terms of protection, child support, custody and access, the approach will be based on intensive and integrated services.

Once again, this reflects exactly the views expressed by those who appeared before the joint committee of the House and the Senate to the members representing all political parties, and to the senators.

In conclusion, these amendments will serve to strengthen what is already one of the best judicial systems in the world by enhancing the independence of our courts and improving access to justice. The improvements to the judicial compensation process will ensure continued public confidence in the independence of our judiciary.

Increased judicial resources for unified family courts combined with provincial commitment of support services will improve the way our courts respond to families and children in crisis. That certainly is one of the priorities of the government and I am sure of all members of the House.

I hope we can look forward to the support of all members in moving these important amendments to the Judges Act quickly through parliament to the benefit of all Canadians.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I extend my appreciation for the clear and forthright manner in which the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister has put forward the program of government in the bill and the rationale that she has presented. We can examine that and we can critique that, and I appreciate that.

I rise today to debate Bill C-37 for the last time. This is the third occasion I have had the opportunity to state Reform's opposition to the bill which grants judges an unprecedented salary increase within the public service of 8.3% over the next two years.

For those who are listening or who may be reading Hansard either in paper form or on the Internet, I want to point out that 8.3% over the next two years does not tell the whole story. We have to ask 8.3% of what. It is of the base salary judges are making at this time. The average salary of federal court judges is approximately $140,000 a year.

The question is whether this is the appropriate time to be taking more wealth out of the hands of the people to give our public servants, in this case our federal court judges, a raise at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet and to keep body and soul together.

As I said in earlier debates on this subject I think this is wrong. It is the wrong time. I often wonder about the Scott commission which made this recommendation to parliament and that representation to the justice committee when witnesses were called. Mr. Scott himself appeared. I wonder if members of that commission went to the people of the country, to the families that money will come from to grant federal court judges that kind of a raise. I ask as well if members of the government have considered this not only in view of Bill C-37 but also in view of the report table that will give MPs a 2% raise, which amounts to about a 10% increase over the next four years. Is this the time to be doing this?

I say that it is not. We should be asking the people who will pay more in taxes whether or not this is fair and whether or not judges and members of parliament at our salary levels can suffer a bit longer, perhaps another two or three years. Perhaps we can see our way clear to giving the people of the country an economic benefit either through enhancing the economic climate of the country or reducing taxes to them and allowing them to take home more pay.

Would it not be wonderful if we did that first? The Scott commission and the government are now asking the people of the country to dig deeper into their pockets to give someone making the pay of an MP or the pay of a judge, $140,000 on the average for a federal judge, more pay so that they can take home a greater benefit. There is something wrong with this, and I just want to give some statistics.

Before I go any further I express my gratitude to the House and to the government for accepting my amendment to Bill C-37 that was supported and passed earlier this week. As a result every four years the standing committee on justice will have the opportunity to review the report of a commission on judges' salaries and benefits.

This task will not be left solely to the Minister of Justice. We will be able to call witnesses from the public to see whether any increase recommended by the commission to be established by the bill is fair, to see what are the economic conditions of families and people of Canada at the time, and to see whether there is a proper balance between the need for more take home pay by judges and the plight of Canadian families. We must remember that it is reported that one child in every five is living in poverty.

Did the Scott commission consider that? Did the commissioners realize that by asking for this kind of pay raise for federal court judges they would be taking money from the families of those children who are reported to be living in poverty? They are living in poverty while our judges are taking home a minimum of $140,000 a year on average.

There is something wrong. I understand the need to attract the best in the legal community to the bench. Surely there are top legal minds out there who are prepared to serve their country and its people and to show the leadership we so desperately need in this area.

A poll in July 1997 showed that 52% of Canadians had little faith in their courts, in their judges. Why is that? The people are saying to us, to the courts and to other Canadians that they are dissatisfied with the leadership being shown in some of the decisions being made by judges, which indicates very clearly that some decisions are not being made in the best interest of the majority of the people.

Are they pleased to be taxed more? Are they pleased that the power of the state is being used to take more money from people including families whose children are reported to be living in poverty in order that judges might have more take home pay? This is the wrong time.

I agreed with my Bloc colleague on the committee when he pointed out that it was not the right time. Should we not wait until we see the heads of families taking home more income than they are now before we begin to give ourselves and judges a raise? There is no question in my mind. If the government would take the proper economic course we would not be far from that.

The government has balanced the budget mainly on the backs of taxpayers. We are now in a position where we might be able to offer tax relief and debt reduction and to give our children and grandchildren hope that one day they will be able to take more of their dollar home. Fifty per cent of every dollar the average Canadian earns is taken by taxes in one form or another, and now the Scott commission and the government are asking that they take less home. Why? It is be cause we must have a pay raise of 10% over the next four years and the judges must have a pay raise of very close to 10% over two years, compounded as it is.

Let me give some statistics. According to an Ottawa Citizen article on June 10, family incomes are still dropping. As a result Canadians need to stretch the family budget more to keep a roof over their heads. The reason is that while housing costs eased during the first half of this decade family incomes declined even more. That nudged the proportion of Canadians who spend at least 30% of their income on shelter and thus potentially face problems covering their housing costs to one in four households or almost 2.8 million households. These are the people the government and the Scott commission are asking to pay a little more.

Why? First, the judges want more money. We have to make sure they take home more pay even though the people of Canada will not be able to take home to their families more pay to provide for their children and their needs in the areas of clothing, food and shelter. We spend more on taxes in Canada than we do on those three items. We are the highest taxed country in the G-7. Why? Is it not because of decisions such as this? Is it not because of legislation such as this? Through the force of law we are to take more money from these people. I do not think that is right.

The findings I referred to were released by Statistics Canada and were derived from the 1996 census. An additional Citizen article on the same date also revealed that more and more two parent families had two parents in the workforce in 1996 while at the same time the number of children left at home was increasing.

Statistics Canada reported that the overall lower incomes among Canadians in 1996 is the reason both parents were being forced into the labour market. Is that not wonderful, while judges and MPs will be taking home more money? How can we go back to our constituents and argue that? How can we do that? How can we say to those folks that we know they are struggling?

My constituency is facing a drought. I received a call from a rancher out in the Byemoor area of my constituency who said they were finished if it did not rain. They will have to sell off their herds. Their cattle are being moved out to the grasslands now because there is no grass. We are saying to them that is their problem but we need more money from them. Why? It is because we want to have more take home pay and we want the judges to have the same. How can we do that? I cannot do that.

We stand as the opposition to cry out against it. Although there are good things in the bill to which I will come that we could support, we cannot support a bill that will do this to the people of Canada. We just cannot do it. How can we look in the mirror and say this is fair? How can we do that?

As elected representatives of the people we are required to justify this to the source of our authority, the people who elected us, the people we represent. We represent everyone in our constituency, even those who voted against us. We have a duty to stand on guard to protect the economic viability of their farming and ranching operations. Some of them take home meagre pays.

My wife and I raised four children. I have young twin sons who are in the labour force now. The tax return of one son showed that he made $14,000 working at just above minimum wage. He had to pay with taxes and deductions almost $2,000. The bill is saying that Spencer Ramsay will be required to pay more. Why? It is because judges want to take home more pay and members of parliament want to take home more pay. He will have to provide that for us through the force of law and if he does not we will take him to court. We have ways of dealing with him.

There is something wrong with this story. There is something wrong when we do this to our own people and then we cry—

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

An hon. member

We can sell Stornoway.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

We could deal with that and we could deal with a lot of other things.

We are talking specifically about a bill that is designed on the surface to look good. Judges do a tough job and are required to interpret the law. They have studied long and hard and were found worthy to be appointed to august positions of responsibility. However, when we compare their lifestyle with the lifestyle of one out of every five children reported to be living in poverty surely we can tough it out a bit longer.

Surely the judges can go another year or so. Hopefully the economy will provide an upturn for them so that the wealth we tax from them will not be in as great a proportion as it is today. Surely we can do that. As members of parliament, we should be able to do that as well.

Yes, our judges need decent courts. They need decent facilities to function in, as we do. The people do not begrudge that but we are not talking about that in this case. We are talking about our take home pay. Really we are saying taxpayers are going to have to take home less pay because we want to take home more. How can we say that?

We confuse the issue. We mix it up with legal jargon and we put it in a bill. We have a commission look at it. It makes its recommendations. Then we do not go beneath that to look at what it has been looking at.

We just say this is the recommendation by the commission. Its members have looked at it. We have assigned them and we have appointed them to do the job. That is it. We are going to take their recommendations and go forward. The bottom line always is where does the wealth come from.

Governments do not create wealth. They only take it from people who do. We must do it in a balanced and fair way. I do not think most of our judges are selfish people, not at all.

How many of them are saying a raise would be nice, but let's consider everything, consider the people who are going to have to pay for their raise, how are they doing? I am sure they would say that.

We are not involving them directly. It would be hard, I understand, perhaps to do that. Nevertheless, when we look at a $17,000 pay raise over two years for some of our federal court judges, when my children and the children who are now entering the labour market take home $14,000 after labouring for a year at just above minimum wage and our judges are going to take $17,000 more home in the next two years and we as MPs over the next four are going to take home another $5,000, I can suffer a little longer. I think the judges can as well.

I want to point out what we can support in this bill, the appointment of additional family court judges to the bench.

Although this speaks of certainly a social if not a moral condition existing within our country where we need more judges in family court to deal with the increased workload, the backlog of cases coming forward, we can support that.

We do not think individuals who require the services of a court and the wisdom of a judge to decide the legalities of their precarious situations or any situation that might demand the scrutiny of a court should have to wait and wait. In the criminal court in B.C. I understand there are over 40,000 cases backlogged.

I cannot support this bill because of the financial burden it is going to place on our taxpayers. I think at times when we have to provide greater services in needed areas, we can do that.

If we have to ask the people to sacrifice more, it has to be in those areas and not to provide judges and MPs with more take home pay. We cannot do that. If we can, then I am missing something in this whole debate.

If we can say to my son and all our sons and daughters who are out there entering the labour force and making minimum or just above minimum wage that we are going to take more from them to give someone making $140,000 a year more take home pay, I cannot argue that. I cannot debate that with them because I will be on their side saying it is not fair because it is not fair and it is not right.

The greatest threat to the economic stability of the family and the individual is the unlimited power of the state to take, to tax away their wealth which they create. That is the greatest threat. Since I have been in this House since 1993 we have seen the continued erosion of the take home pay of our families.

Since 1993 the average family's disposable income has dropped by some $2,500. That is probably the minimum. We just go blindly on because the minister has brought in a bill. We are going to pass this and suffer the consequences. Who is going to suffer? Not the judges and not the MPs. We are not going to suffer but our sons and daughters will, our children will and our grandchildren will.

What are we getting to? Are we going to take more and more out of the economy and away from the families? Are we going to see the number of children living in poverty increase because of this? This bill is just a symptom where people are saying they want more and we are going to have to give more. We are saying that to the taxpayer.

I cannot support this bill, although there are parts of it that I can support. Not unlike the report tabled in the House on this benefit package, there are some things there that I can support, others I cannot. I cannot support the bill.

In this area I want to touch on something that is extremely important. It is the motivation for this bill. This bill was motivated as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on the Alberta case and the P.E.I. case where those governments were attempting to roll back the salaries of judges because of the economic conditions existing in those provinces. They were trying to get their spending under control and so the judges fought that and took it to court.

The Supreme Court of Canada has simply decided that all governments in this land, including the federal government, must set up a commission which will at the federal level at least every four years examine the need for increased benefits to the judges.

The most alarming part of that decision is that it has been inferred that any unwarranted interference by the government, unwarranted in the eyes of the courts, interference in the pay and benefits of the judges, can be considered an interference with the judicial independence of the court. I say that is a grave decision because of what it means.

It means that if in dire circumstances we want to reduce as a government the tax burden on the people of this country and roll back the salaries of the civil servants, including MPs and judges, the courts alone can say we cannot do that because that constitutes in their judgment an interference in the judicial independence of the court.

I support the dissenting opinion of Judge La Forest that the Parliament of Canada and the governments of the provinces do have that right and that it does not constitute an interference in the judicial independence of the courts.

The spinoff effect of that is if this thinking and rationale are to be accepted by this parliament, what it means directly or indirectly is the courts impinging on the power of parliament to tax.

What they are saying is that we cannot reduce taxes to lower pay. We must maintain the taxation rate or increase it. That is an encroachment on the supremacy of this parliament in the area of taxation.

Although I would like to see the people of Canada have the power to encroach on parliament's power to tax, if the courts are going to do that then I think we are moving to the edge of a slippery slope. As this bill goes forward and as this parliament accepts that decision and the consequences of that decision we will see where this eventually leads this country.

It is so important that we maintain the division of powers between the executive and the judiciary. Do we not see the disintegration of the division of powers between our judiciary and the executive or the Parliament of Canada in some of these decisions, particularly this one? Where is it going to stop? How do we stop it?

How do we intervene? This bill does not intervene. This parliament is accepting and embracing it. I hope the upper chamber, the chamber of sombre second thought, will click in and take a look at this because it is obvious we cannot stop it here. We have not even looked at that aspect of it.

We had two hearings before our standing committee with two sets of witnesses where we could not even broach that question because it was outside the realm of this bill. It motivated the bill. It directly related to this bill because this is what spawned the bill. That decision created the need for this bill.

Is the Government of Canada prepared to hold back a minute to question whether it is prepared to accept the consequences of this decision? Are we prepared to accept an encroachment on our right of taxation? Are we prepared to accept that the Supreme Court of Canada appears to have read into the charter of rights of freedoms this whole question of judicial independence being interfered with by the Governments of Canada and the provinces? If they decide they cannot give a raise or they have to roll back pay, if this in a subjective way is not agreed to by the courts of this land, that is what we are looking at.

The gravity of that is yet to come and yet we are seeing that. If we see the collapse of the division of powers in this country what are the consequences of that?

Where did our parliamentary system evolve from? It evolved from the divine rule of kings. When we saw the split and division that occurred between those who create the law and those who interpret and enforce the law, that created the basis for a democracy. When we see the collapse of that then what are we going back to? Are we going back to the divine rule of kings where we are going to exclude the division of powers and the groups that represent the competing responsibilities in this country? Are we going to do that?

I say that this bill is heading us in that direction. In fact, I see the judicial activism in this bill loud and clear. The warnings are there. As the official opposition we are putting that warning on the record and have expressed that concern in committee.

I hope that other members who will be speaking on this bill will express their opinion on that. If I am wrong, then show me where I am wrong and I will accept that. Show me what I have not considered.

As a policeman I always followed the truth: the evidence, the facts. I based my decisions upon them. At the end of a day I might come to a conclusion based upon all the facts gathered, but the next day might bring additional facts which would expand my conclusion or change my opinion.

I invite members who might have an interest in this particular area of the bill to address it, to add their experience, knowledge and wisdom to this particular question.

Are we seeing in this country an erosion of the division of powers between our executive and our judiciary? If we are, what can we do about it?

I have great concerns about the bill. Earlier I spoke about it being the wrong time to give judges and others, including ourselves, a pay raise, when families are struggling to make ends meet. I recognize the need for us to suffer a little longer with them until the economy turns around and we can grant them greater take home pay through cuts in taxes and so on.

We are supposed to be working for them. If we deserve a pay raise, why do we not ask them? If we have done our job well and they are taking more pay home and doing well, and if there are no longer families and children living in poverty, at that point we could ask, if we are doing a good job and working very long hours, do we deserve a 2% raise? Do the judges deserve a 4.5% or 4.3% raise over each of the next two years? I think questioning that would be fair. Right now it is not fair.

This bill is heading in the wrong direction. The timing is wrong. I hope I hear from some of my colleagues in the House. I respect their opinions and always have in this area. I hope this area might be addressed. Are we witnessing a disintegration of the division of powers between the judiciary and the state? If we are, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Or am I seeing something in this bill that does not exist? I will leave it at that and wait with anticipation to hear from some of my learned colleagues who will be speaking to this bill.