This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was preclearance.

Topics

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, there is the issue of committee leaks. I think the Chair is quite correct, but this is quite aside from that.

Three or four weeks ago the hon. member for Provencher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, accidentally released information from a committee and was forced to apologize on the floor of the House for something accidental and did so. The exact same thing was done deliberately this time and deserves no less consideration. That is the point that is different from the initial leak.

If there was a leak made by whoever it is who leaked it, and that is totally unacceptable as well, that is one matter. However, the matter of someone else deliberately after that saying “given that someone already leaked it I am exonerated from my obligations”, is not correct. That is separate issue and I would ask the Chair, perhaps not now, but to review that matter as well.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Matthews Progressive Conservative Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans I want to make a brief comment on what I consider to be a very serious problem which has plagued the work of the fisheries and oceans committee since I came here two years ago.

Every report gets leaked to some extent, but I think what differentiates this circumstance is that before the committee did not know who was leaking the reports and everyone was guessing it was everyone else. In this case I think what makes it different is that this time we know who gave the information to the news media. I think that makes it quite different.

This kind of thing undermines the work of the committee. It weakens the committee and in my view breaches the privilege of members of parliament.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know you have not ruled on this matter and you may want to check into it in further depth before you do so. However, I agree with your preliminary comment, as Beauchesne's says, that reports from committees may be presented to the House. Beauchesne's says that the committee has the authority to report back to the House if it feels that its privileges have been compromised. By all means it is free to do so. I would encourage committee members to check into it if they want. I do believe that is the proper way to go about it.

It is true that the draft report of the committee was already in the public domain. Unfortunately, as has been mentioned before, I think every draft report of every committee in the House of Commons in a year has been released to the media.

We have a report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that dealt with leaked reports, and that report was leaked to the press by someone before it was released. In other words, even that report having come to the House has not even yet been concurred in. The suggestions in that report are put forward as a means to try to help solve this continuous problem.

I urge the government as it considers this matter to take that report, look at the recommendations that are contained therein, and implement them as a first step toward solving the problem with continuing leaked reports.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I know the Speaker takes this matter very seriously. Aside from the specifics of this instance, the questions of trust between us as members of parliament and our ability to do our work in an atmosphere of trust are seriously affected when people in trust are not able to make a comment or ask a question in camera.

I know the Speaker takes this matter very seriously. I will consult with the Speaker. The Speaker will read the transcript and will make a decision on where it will go. I will recognize the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and that will be it.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to confirm what the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said. He did send me a note yesterday saying that he would possibly be talking to the press based on the report. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, what I sent back and I confirm it. I said “This report has not been tabled yet and I would advise you that if you talk on this report you are in breach of parliament, in my view”.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That is it. It is over and I wish to thank everyone for their interventions. I understand that everyone takes this very seriously and I acknowledge the fact that we want to have an end to this.

Ways And MeansRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act, a related act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Income Tax Act and the Tax Court of Canada Act.

I am also tabling explanatory notes and a background document and I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to present two petitions signed by people from in and around the city of Edmonton, Alberta. Both petitions call for the same thing.

The petitioners would like parliament to pass legislation incorporating the rights of children and principles of equality between parents for the benefit of our children. The petitioners and I think that this kind of legislation would be an excellent opportunity for the justice minister to finally accomplish something.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Reform Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning from 54 people in my riding concerning the EI fund and its intended purposes.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Reform Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I also have a petition containing 312 names of people in my riding who are asking the House to reject the recommendations of the MacKay task force with regard to the banking industry becoming involved in the insurance business.

Finally, I would like to say with regard to the point of order that was brought up that I think the question is not who leaked more, but rather—

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Order, please. This is the time to present petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to present a petition that was brought to me on the subject of undocumented convention refugees in Canada. The people who have signed this petition believe that the waiting period should be two years rather than the current five.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I also have a petition from residents of Winnipeg who believe that the Senate should be abolished and not reformed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I have another petition regarding Canada Post. These people believe that rural route mail couriers should have the right to form a union. They are the only group of workers in Canada who do not have the right to bargain collectively. Therefore, they would like the government to delete section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-22, an act authorizing the United States to preclear travellers and goods in Canada for entry into the United States for the purposes of customs, immigration, public health, food inspection and plant and animal health, be read the third time and passed.

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to Bill S-22, the preclearance bill.

I would like to state upfront that my only reservation is the fact that it was introduced in the Senate. Many of my colleagues have raised the same point. I do not think this bill has the same credibility, having been introduced by a body which is not elected and therefore not accountable to the Canadian people.

Many in this House would have liked the opportunity to speak to or speak longer to this bill. We are down to the wire with the closing of parliament and we have approximately one hour of debate at third reading, which makes it a bit difficult and also leads to some misunderstanding.

As the trade critic for the Reform Party, the official opposition, I think it is very important that this bill be passed as quickly as possible. The reason I say that is because of our tremendous trade relationship with the United States, our biggest trading partner. Over 83% of our exports go to the United States. Therefore, a lot of Canadian companies and Canadian business people are involved and they need increased ease of access.

The amount of trade export and imports between the United States and Canada is massive. We have the biggest trade relationship in the world. There is $1.5 billion a day in trade crossing our border. It works well in most instances, but we have to continue to work to make it easier to do business across that important border.

I returned about three weeks ago from meetings with U.S. senators in the western states. There was a meeting in Great Falls, Montana. I saw the problems facing the border states and the border provinces. I saw sweet grass in Montana cross the line from Alberta. I saw thousands of Canadian trucks moving cattle into the western United States.

Commerce is going to do nothing but increase. We have a number of integrated economies. We see it continuing to develop. These economies include steel, the automotive sector and the cattle industry, and there are going to be more and more integrated economies with the United States in the future.

We are in the process of trying to negotiate a hemispheric free trade agreement, free trade for the Americas, which will bring South America, Central America and North America into one trade agreement. Therefore, there is all the more need for arrangements which make it easier for our business people to cross those borders in a timely fashion. Time means money and these people have to have ease of access. That is what this is really about.

This is a preclearance bill. Preclearance means that we do not have to clear customs in the United States. It can be done in Canada prior to boarding a flight to the United States, for example.

As my colleague said, as well as making it easier, it will build economies at some Canadian airports. Vancouver is a good case in point, where travellers coming from Asia will probably use the Vancouver airport to access the United States. We want to encourage that. We do not want to put roadblocks in the way. Hence, the need to have this preclearance bill.

I want to talk for a moment about the trends in trade. In the 1960s Canada exported approximately 60% of its goods to the United States. People were concerned about that. I remember at the time trade minister Allan MacEachen and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson wanting to diversify that trade into other areas, Europe for example. However, that was not to be because Europe was looking inward to the European Union. We know the kind of arrangements they have there. They have a customs union, which means that the trucks do not even stop at the borders in the European Union. Commerce flows across those borders every day.

I am not sure if that will ever happen between Canada and the United States, but we know that the trend is that more business people will be travelling and there will be closer linkages.

There is an excellent article today in the Globe and Mail by Heather Scoffield which suggests that integration is speeding up more and more and there are calls for tax harmonization and a common currency. We hear that right in this House.

The trend after the free trade agreement with the United States, and following that the NAFTA, is that more Canadian companies are looking for markets outside Canada. They see that a 30 million person market is not good enough to serve them in the future. They look at the big market south of the border and they want a piece of it.

In fact, because of the free trade agreement and the NAFTA with Canada, Mexico and the United States barriers have come down. That means that tariffs and duties have come down. Between Canada and the United States all duties are gone except for a couple of selective industries. Small Canadian companies which were doing business in Canada only had a protected market here because of high tariff walls. They no longer have those high tariff walls. There are companies from Mexico and United States that are looking at Canada as an attractive place to do business. There is fairly heavy competition for these Canadian companies right in their home market. Therefore, they have to look elsewhere for markets and they are looking into the United States and Mexico where duties have also disappeared.

I am suggesting that the trend will be to more movement of business between our three countries. As we expand free trade into the Americas, into the hemisphere, there will be more need to accelerate programs that can ease the way we do business in Canada and how we clear customs in this preclearance fashion so that goods are moved quickly.

I was at a conference in Mexico last year, five years after the NAFTA. There were legislators there from Canada, the United States and Mexico. I think all of us agreed that we will have to move quickly to try to remove any impediments that we can to the movement of goods and services, and people.

The air cargo industry made excellent points. The way business was conducted some time ago in Canada was that small companies would build a product which they would sell in their home community, and that was it. Things have changed. Those companies started looking at bigger markets, the province and the country. Now, with barriers gone, those small companies are building products and are sending them to destinations all over the world, and they want it done in a timely manner. Hence, the growth in air cargo. Products are being shipped by plane.

Companies want legislation such as Bill C-54, the electronic commerce bill. I would suggest to the government that it is important to have that bill passed quickly. There are a lot of Canadian companies that are asking for that electronic commerce bill to be passed because it will speed up how they can get paid for their products. That is what this is all about.

Bill S-22, although I disagree with its origins, is a good bill. It needs to have speedy passage and our party will support it.

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Preclearance ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)