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.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act to give effect to a Protocol to amend the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air and to give effect to the Convention, Supplementary to the Warsaw Convention, for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air Performed by a Person Other than the Contracting Carrier, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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June 4th, 1999 / 12:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

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12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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12:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Atikokan Ontario


Stan Dromisky LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-23 on the occasion of its third reading in the House.

On May 27 the members of the Standing Committee on Transport examined the proposed legislation in detail and voted unanimously to send it forward for third reading. I thank my colleagues for having dealt with this bill so expeditiously.

Members will recall that the purpose of Bill S-23 is to amend the Carriage by Air Act so Canada can officially ratify and become a party to two international instruments dealing with air carrier liability, those being Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara convention. These two documents update and modernize elements of the Warsaw convention which sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of the carrier, passengers and shippers in relation to international air transportation.

This bill will enhance air carrier liability coverage and requirements.

Montreal protocol No. 4 amends the liability regime as it applies to cargo by providing stricter carrier liability and establishing maximum limits. It also simplifies the cargo documentation requirements and authorizes the electronic transmission of information. This transmission of cargo information usually means other than the traditional multicopy air waybill and will provide significant cost savings to carriers and shippers.

It has become extremely important that Canada act quickly to see to this protocol as it came into effect internationally in June 1998. This means that until Canada has been able to deposit its own ratification documents and have the protocol come into effect in Canada, our carriers and our shippers are at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis their counterparts.

The Guadalajara convention on the other hand clarifies the relationship between passengers and shippers for the first part and carriers for the other. This convention is already widely in force. It distinguishes the contracting carrier from the carrier performing the carriage on its behalf and sets out the varying liability of each. This sharing of the liability between contracting and operating carrier when they are not the same has become increasingly important as international carriers, including both Air Canada and Canadian Airlines, join together in global commercial alliances and carry each other's passengers.

Both Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara convention have the unanimous support of the aviation industry. The industry supports Bill S-23 without reservation and urges parliament to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

I conclude by saying that the intent of Bill S-23 is both timely and non-controversial. It will provide clarity and certainty not only for our Canadian carriers, but for the international carriers with whom they co-operate or compete. It should reduce the potential for litigation and bring improved economies of time and cost to carriers and shippers.

We should move quickly to adopt this short but important bill. To delay would be to increase the length of time our carriers will be at a competitive disadvantage.

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12:35 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to briefly address Bill S-23, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act.

This is routine legislation to amend the Carriage by Air Act and bring Canada into line with other countries in order to implement Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara supplementary convention. These were themselves extensions of earlier agreements, the Warsaw convention of 1929, which is the basis of all rules governing international carriage by air, and The Hague protocol of 1995 which updated the Warsaw convention.

Among other things, the Montreal protocol simplifies and decreases cargo documentation and brings air billing into the 20th century by authorizing electronic transmission of documents. Unfortunately, it took 23 years to round up the requisite 30 national ratifications of the protocol in 1998, but at least the new rules are in place for the 21st century. It is now imperative that Canada get on board to help its carriers remain competitive.

The protocol also clarifies limits of carrier liability in order to avoid complex international conflict over the settlement of claims. A carrier will be responsible for damages even if it is not overtly negligent, but on the other hand, it cannot be assessed for damages beyond a mandated maximum even in the event of gross negligence. Thus both shipper and carrier are protected from catastrophic losses.

The Guadalajara convention extends the rules of the Warsaw convention to carriage performed by a carrier other than the one with whom the passenger or shipper actually entered into his contract. Why we are adopting this convention 38 years after its initiation is beyond me. The mills of the gods may turn slowly, but compared to the adoption of international rules with respect to air cargo, they are spinning wildly. In any event the bill is now before us and I urge the House to pass it without further ado.

My only serious problem with this legislation derives from its origin down the hall in what, because we are not allowed to call it by its proper name, I generally refer to as hog hollow. Some members refer to it as the other place. The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans refers to it as the other house. Perhaps outhouse would be more appropriate.

The Senate as currently constituted has no legitimacy and it is not supported by the people of Canada. Nobody elected it and although I would be the first to admit that it does include a few hard working and public spirited individuals, it is overflowing with defeated Liberal and Tory candidates, retired bagmen and other assorted political hacks. At the moment it even has a couple of convicted felons clutched to its bosom.

One might think that because I so thoroughly dislike the institution as currently constituted that I would share the view of those MPs including the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs who at one time or another have called for its abolition. Not at all. The Fathers of Confederation created the institution for a good reason. That reason, although they referred to it as sober second thought, was really to protect the citizens of Canada from their own duly elected legislature.

Now that the House of Commons has degenerated into a rubber stamp for an elected dictatorship, we need an effective Senate more than we ever did. Right now it is not protecting anybody. Why not? Because its appointed Liberal majority has become a mere extension of the PMO, a yes sir, of course sir institution, as malleable and ineffective as the Liberal backbench.

The answer to the problem is not to precipitously trash the institution. The answer is to fix it. The ideal Senate would be a triple E Senate, elected, effective and equal. This is a concept I heartily endorse. I realize there are barriers to getting such an institution and that these barriers are formidable since this would require a major constitutional amendment requiring the consent of all provinces. But reform can proceed as it did in the U.S.A., incrementally.

The United States did not always elect its senators. As a matter a fact the first state to do so was the state of Oregon around the turn of the century. Once it set the precedent, the idea caught fire. It was only about a decade before all of the then lower mainland states had fallen into line.

One E, effective, already exists in theory in the Canadian Senate because the Senate has great power under our constitution. However, it is not generally exercised because of the institution's illegitimacy.

The second E, elected, requires no change other than a change in the heart of the Prime Minister. We have already had one highly respected elected senator, the late Stan Waters. We have right now revved up and ready to come to Ottawa two Alberta senators in waiting who were elected at large by the electors of the entire province of Alberta, Mr. Ted Morton and Mr. Burt Brown. However, the government of today refuses to recognize the wishes and desires of the people of Alberta and those two senators, even though senators—

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12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is the hon. member going to deal with this piece of legislation at any point in time in his diatribe?

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12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must ask the hon. member who has the floor to try to be more careful in the words that he chooses when he speaks of the other place and also to debate the bill before the House.

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12:40 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, had the hon. member for Brandon—Souris had his ears open, he would have heard me speaking at some length on the details of the bill. I am sure the hon. parliamentary secretary will confirm that.

There is a direct relevance and connection between the use of the Senate as a vehicle for transmitting bills to the House and the bill which was actually transmitted. To me this is a fairly logical connection.

This is a matter of grave importance to the people of Canada. Nothing is more important at the end of the day than the way in which we are governed. All of the other decisions that are made hang on that particular aspect of our lives. If we do not have a good framework for government we cannot have good government. That is fairly simple.

I would reiterate that I never again want to see important legislation coming to the House from that other place and, in effect, taking over the powers of the House of Commons. This is not right. It is not done to my knowledge in the mother of parliaments on which we base our procedures here. It is high time that we brought ourselves into the 20th century and have in the Government of Canada an elected, effective and, hopefully one day, equal Senate.

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12:45 p.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak directly to Bill S-23. Everyone has concerns about the origin of the bill, but we also have to acknowledge to Canadians and to parliamentarians that the bill is to amend the Carriage by Air Act. Canada passed the Carriage by Air Act in 1947 to enact the 1929 Warsaw Convention. Back then, we had biplanes.

Flying to orbit the globe, as Ms. Payette, one of our honourable Canadians, has done and who is now on her way back home, and this whole evolution of air transportation and aerospace transportation is now before us. However, with this modernization came two agreements: the 1988 Montreal protocol and the 1961 Guadalajara convention.

This modernization by amending the Carriage by Air Act is long overdue. The last update, as we said, was over 40 years ago. We have challenges before us in this whole development.

I would like to place a challenge before the House, the government and I guess the Senate. Perhaps there was shortsightedness in the Senate, or perhaps the day was a little blurry or a little too busy, but I think it has overlooked a major issue, a passenger bill of rights for Canadians. We recently witnessed the drafting of such a bill of rights in the United States which will protect the rights of passengers.

The bill is not only about modernizing the whole issue of primary carrier responsibilities. If I board an Air Canada plane tonight and I then have to switch planes, which happens to be Canadian Airlines or Athabaska Airways, the primary responsibility for any rights or liabilities I have would rest with the primary air carrier, which would be Air Canada. Whichever carrier owns the plane I first board becomes the primary carrier. This is highlighted in the bill.

The Montreal protocol is very interesting. It allows air carriers to now use new technology to transmit documents electronically and updates the currency references in the conventions from French francs to the International Monetary Fund of conversion units.

I would like to speak about the first issue of new technology and the whole issue of the environment and how much paper is being wasted on the issue of air transportation in the country.

When we board a plane today, our plane tickets and boarding passes are all made out of flimsy paper that is derived from the fibre of trees. With the millions of passengers, not only in Canada but worldwide, this whole issue has to emerge to a new format. It could be done through the electronic monitoring of passengers in some shape or form, either by card registry or as we do with Interac. A few years ago we dreamed of not seeing a plastic based currency but it is now a reality.

This bill amending the Carriage by Air Act will require and challenge the air transportation industry in Canada to look at the new technologies that will be available for them to be competitive.

In my closing comments, I will speak about competitiveness. I read an article about Canada being pushed on several fronts toward integration with the United States. There is a fear that our Canadian airlines, such as Air Canada and Canadian, would be swallowed up and integrated into an American interest in the future.

We are here to protect our sovereign rights and to make our rules, regulations and passenger bill of rights. We must protect our needs and our industries and make them competitive. One way of doing it is by bringing this forward into the House and by regulating and modernizing our laws.

Unfortunately, the bill before us originated in the Senate and it might be a little shortsighted in terms of not expounding on a bill of rights. If there are opportunities for the government and the minister to possibly amend this bill, it should be done in the near future. Maybe in this parliament we will see that take place here in Canada.

A passenger bill of rights and electronic forms of transactions for passengers, which will eliminate the use of cutting down trees for paper, will protect our aviation industry and the rights of passengers.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not wish to take up an extraordinary amount of the House's time, but I would like to speak on behalf of our transportation critic for Cumberland—Colchester.

I would like to take a moment to express our support for Bill S-23. The bill not only receives our support but the support of the Air Transport Association of Canada, a body representing the major airlines and many cargo operators as well. The industry regards this legislation as long overdue and essential for the modernization and commercial viability of Canadian commercial aviation.

I would be remiss if I did not respond briefly to the member from the Reform Party who suggested that because the bill is an S-bill that came from the Senate that perhaps it does not provide a good service for Canadians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not everybody has a lock on all the ideas. The Reform members should certainly recognize that because, quite frankly, I do not believe they have a lock on any good ideas.

The Senate, in its wisdom, decided to bring forward a piece of legislation that is needed and necessary in the industry. The bill amends the Carriage by Air Act by implementing two international agreements respecting air flights, the Montreal Protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara Supplementary Convention.

These multilateral agreements modernize the rules regarding airline liability for passengers and cargo, and also simplify documentation for the international carriage of that cargo. They were originally established under the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and its amendment, the Hague Protocol of 1955.

The Montreal Protocol No. 4 deals exclusively with cargo. It provides that a carrier is liable for damages to cargo to the limits of the liability, but only after those damages have been estimated. As a result, the carrier cannot escape liability by taking all necessary precautions and cannot be assessed damages beyond the maximum limit, even in the event of gross negligence.

Another important feature of Protocol No. 4 is that it changes airline liability for damage to cargo on board an aircraft by removing the requirement that a plaintiff prove that the airline was at fault. Together, these changes will reduce the litigation and contribution to controlling costs associated with insurance and cargo rates.

The Montreal Protocol No. 4 came into effect in the United States in March of this year and thus puts U.S. carriers at a competitive advantage over Canadian carriers.

The Guadalajara Convention clarifies the relationship between passengers and shippers on the one hand and air carriers on the other. It is also widely in force and clarifies the application of the Warsaw Convention to situations where the contract of carriage was made by a carrier that did not actually perform some or all of the carriage by air.

Bill S-23 has received unanimous support. I say that again. Bill S-23 has received unanimous support. All potentially affected parties, including carriers and their associations, the Air Transport Association of Canada, manufacturers, shippers, tour operators, consumers and the legal profession were consulted.

As I have stated, the legislation is long overdue. All aspects of the bill are already in practice worldwide. Canadian carriers and airlines realize it is good business, so does the PC Party. We support the bill and urge quick passage.

Because it came from the Senate does not mean that it is an inferior piece of legislation. What it means is that it was brought forward by a group of individuals who saw a need, reacted to that need and brought it forward to this House.

The Reform Party will never accept that. It never has, it never will and it never can accept that principle. Quite frankly, it is very frustrating for not only myself but most Canadians.

We will support the bill regardless of the letter on it because it is the right thing to do.

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

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12:55 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.

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12:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba


David Iftody LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak once again in this place to Bill C-49, the First Nations Land Management Act.

I would like to inform my colleagues that I will not be exercising the full time allocation to speak to this. I thank the members across the way for agreeing to move quickly so that we can proceed with the bill. I also have a colleague from the Bloc who wishes to speak to this after I have concluded.

I want to say that we thank the members in the other place, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in the Senate, for their very constructive work on the bill. We met with them and made representations to them and they to us. We have understood one another and clearly worked out what I think are some of the more contentious elements of the bill.

I am pleased to state that I believe when the bill comes forward hopefully next week that we will again have unanimous support in the House.

I would ask my Reform Party colleagues to join with all of us in the House of Commons to once again support this very important legislation, which will move along in those 14 first nations in respect to areas of land management. It will deal with the very important topic of private sector investment so that they too can participate in the 21st century. It will ameliorate the poverty and the concerns that are expressed here every day in the House by the opposition, particularly the Reform Party, raising those even again this morning on those questions. This will deal with those matters in a very capable way and will act as a precise instrument to move those first nations to places where we all want them to be, which is to participate in Canada and become full members in that process.

With that, I will thank my colleagues for their help here this morning. I look forward to their help again next week when the bill comes back before the House.

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12:55 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-49 and the amendments that have been passed in the Senate.

The reason the bill went to the Senate for amendments was that the Liberal government did not have the courage, or maybe I should say did not want to admit to the serious flaws in the bill when they were brought to their attention late last fall and again early in the spring.

These flaws were not only brought to the attention of the government by the Reform Party but by many Canadians, particularly aboriginal Canadians across Canada and especially those in my home province of British Columbia.

The Senate amendments are a small step in the right direction. They certainly are an improvement to the bill. We had three major concerns with Bill C-49 which we presented to the government in December 1998 and again in the spring 1999. They had to do with the vast expropriation powers granted under the legislation; the lack of matrimonial property rights, particularly for aboriginal women; and the fact that there was no requirement on the part of aboriginal bands and adjacent municipalities to consult with one another on areas of mutual concern and interest when it came to development issues such as sewer, water and road projects and so on.

The bill came back from the Senate. It addresses in a small way our concern with respect to its expropriation powers. However, it does absolutely nothing to address our concerns with respect to the disposition of matrimonial property in the event of a marriage breakdown. It does nothing to address the concerns of adjacent municipalities that wish to be consulted and are quite willing to provide an obligation to consult them on issues of joint concern when it comes to land development.

I will talk a bit about private property rights issues, a key question aboriginal people living on reserves in Canada face today. Aboriginal people do not enjoy property rights like all other Canadians when they choose to live on reserve. The reserve lands are owned collectively. They are not even owned by the band council, by the band or by the collectivity of the particular tribe or tribal council. The underlying title is vested in the crown, which is to say the federal Government of Canada.

When there are no private property rights there cannot be a proper disposition in the event of marriage breakdown. There is not even the ability to provide an inheritance for children and their children when it comes to the house or property parents have resided in all their lives.

Speaking to that point for a minute, I had an opportunity to meet a wonderful lady several months ago. I hope she is watching today. Her name is Mazie Baker and she comes from the Squamish reserve. She has been fighting for a long time for the right to be able to pass along to her children the house in which she has lived all her life, the house she grew up in, the house she considers her home but to which she has no title. She does have a certificate of possession but she does not have title to the home because there is no such thing as title on reserve. There are no private property rights.

Mazie is very concerned about Bill C-49. She is representative of many aboriginal people living on reserve we have talked to. I spent a couple of hours with her in Vancouver in February this year. She asked me how the fruits of her labour, the house that means everything to her and her family, where they had their Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners together, could be passed on to her children if there were no property rights. Then she looked at Bill C-49 and said that it was not taking her closer to a private property right, that it was taking her further away.

The bill is concentrating the decision making power of who is to possess what land and live in what house on reserve in the hands of chief and council. Band members will be dependent on the good will and the sense of fairness and justice of the band council.

In many cases band councils will be fair about it but in other cases they will not. That is human nature. I would not want to be dependent on the municipality I live in right now to be fair about the inheritance of the property I own by my children. I would not want to be dependent on them. I would want something firm and solid, a property right, but that is not granted on reserve.

I want to talk about what happens in the event of a marriage breakdown. Aboriginal women in Canada do not enjoy the same rights as all other Canadian women. I could provide many examples. I think I may have spoken about the case of an aboriginal lady who splits from her husband but it bears repeating.

In the last election I was campaigning in Prince Rupert, a significant community in my riding. A relatively young aboriginal lady came up to me in tears and asked whether I could help. I asked her what was the problem and said I would see what I could do. She had three young children all below the age of 10. If my memory serves me right, two of them were below the age of 5.

Her husband had left her on her own. She could not get a job because she had to look after her kids. Her husband was not paying any child support. He was making good money. He was a fisherman.

I asked why she did not do what what everybody else does, go to court and get a court order forcing him to pay child support. That is what we do in Canada. That is how we protect not the women but the children. That is what it is all about.

She said that she went to court and obtained a court order, but he moved back on to the reserve where the court order was not enforceable.

How is that fair to this woman and thousands of other women who end up in the same situation? How can Canadians sit back and say this is the best country in the world in which to live when that kind of inequity exists?

If one spends time talking with aboriginal people and visiting them on reserve and off reserve, one will find out that most often when an aboriginal woman marries a man she moves on to his reserve. Most of these communities are small communities with small populations, so he is living in a community where he is either related to or has a very close association with some of the people on the band council.

They live in a house which is not owned by them but by the band. They may get a certificate of possession if they are lucky, but the band decides who will live where. People in the community do not decide that; the band council decides that.

Let us take the situation of a couple that is married for some 5, 10 or 15 years. For whatever reason marriages breakdown, they decide to live apart and their marriage is dissolved. In that situation who will be out on the street?

Most of the time it is the woman because she has no private property rights. She is not protected by any of the other laws that protect Canadian women from coast to coast. The chief and council make the administrative decision about who will retain possession and custody of the house.

Is that what we in Canada want to see? Is that fair to women who are already dependent on government because of the paternalistic system that has been constructed around aboriginal people over the last 130 years?

Is it fair for the Government of Canada to do that? I would argue that it is not. I would argue that we have a very serious moral and possibly even legal obligation. Certainly we have a moral obligation to make sure that aboriginal women who end up in that situation are protected.

Bill C-49 does nothing to address that issue. It puts the decision making power in land management and land use in an even more concentrated form into the hands of the chief and council. How will that advance the cause of aboriginal women?

I know all parliamentarians have received pleas for help from aboriginal women. The Aboriginal Women's Association of British Columbia and the Aboriginal Women's Association of Canada have come to us. We were not the ones who raised the issue. These people came to us when they became aware of Bill C-49. They came to me and to my colleagues on all sides of the House and asked us not to compromise their interests but to do something in the bill to protect them so they have the right not only to protection for themselves but for their children.

When a marriage breaks down, most often it is the woman who ends up with the care and custody of the children. We said this to the government last fall in the debate on Bill C-49. In committee we asked the government to rethink the bill and to include some clauses in the legislation that would provide some guaranteed protection for aboriginal women in the event of marriage breakdown.

Some kind of property right should be included even if it is not the fee simple land ownership the rest of us enjoy, something that moves further in the direction of the private property rights we all enjoy. The government said no, that it would leave that up to the chief. It did not want to interfere in what the chief and council were doing.

We have an obligation. We live in a democracy. The party across the way and some of the other parties in the House have lost sight of this fact. I say very seriously that in a democracy we ought to have a deeper commitment and a deeper obligation to the rights of individuals over the rights of collectivities.

That is the crux of what is wrong with the bill. It speaks to the rights of collectivities. I know our friends in the NDP would be happy with that because they believe very much in collectivities. We believe in individual rights. Democracies are founded on the principle of individual rights. The bill is not founded on the basic principles of democracy. It talks about buttressing and strengthening collective rights.

There are collectivities in all democracies and there is nothing wrong with collectivities. The Reform Party of Canada is a collectivity of some sort. There is no question that collectivities are legitimate and have a place in society, but we must ensure individual rights supersede collective rights.

The government across the way has been in government for most of the past 30 years but not all of it. Our friends close to the door were in government for about 9 of those years. However our friends in the Liberal Party have lost their way.

Back in the latter part of the 19th century liberalism meant something completely different from what it means in modern day terms. A liberal in the latter part of the 19th century was a person who was very much committed to the notion of individual rights, a person who was very much committed to the equality of all people in society. They have lost this and the bill reflects that point very clearly.

I will talk a bit about what happened when the bill went to the Senate. The government and some of its backbenchers, actually the member for Vancouver—Quadra made statements that were printed in the Vancouver newspapers. He talked about the fact that this bill was seriously flawed and needed to be fixed. He said that before the bill went to the Senate. The government did not have the courage and not just that, I submit it did not want to suffer the embarrassment of acknowledging in the House that the bill was flawed. It would put its own political interests ahead of doing what was right.

What the government did is it made some backroom deal. The evidence of that is everywhere now. It has spilled out to the media. Some of the government's own backbenchers said they were not going to deal with the problems in this bill in the House. They said they would send it over there and instruct the Senate to bring in the amendments to fix it. So the government sent the bill to the Senate as it was unwilling to address the serious flaws in the bill.

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1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

We cannot instruct the Senate.

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1:15 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

The member says we cannot instruct the Senate. He knows full well that the Prime Minister is the one who appoints the senators and the senators are beholden to the him. He knows full well that the Senate will do the Prime Minister's bidding virtually every time. That is one of the problems my colleague from Cypress Hills was alluding to a few minutes ago.

The government sent the bill to the senate. A backroom deal was made and the government got the Liberal senators to agree to propose amendments to it.

The Senate decided to hold committee hearings on the bill. We found out about this and made sure that the people who had approached us, the Aboriginal Women's Society of Canada, the Aboriginal Women's Society of British Columbia, Mazie Baker and Wendy Lundberg from Vancouver had the knowledge that this would be in front of the Senate. They came to Ottawa and testified in front of the Senate. I could not sit in on all the Senate committee meetings unfortunately because my parliamentary duties would not allow it, but I sat in on as many as I could. It was an eye opener to hear what those ladies had to say.

Judging by the looks on some of the faces of the senators, they were absolutely astounded and had no idea how to deal with this. It was almost as if everybody was afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. I can assure everyone that the emperor has no clothes. We cannot pass this kind of legislation on the one hand and on the other hand say that we are concerned about the rights of aboriginal women. The two are incompatible.

These women came from British Columbia and other parts of Canada and made presentations to the committee. They were very compelling in the arguments they advanced and in the stories they told in their own languages and in their own words. They were plain spoken, direct and no nonsense. They did not use six and seven syllable legalese terms. They talked about how it affected them, their families and their children. The senators sat and listened.

I talked to some of the senators. I did have personal contact with some of the senators on this. Many of them felt at a loss as to what they could do. I think the Liberal senators, who are a majority in the other place right now, were instructed by the minister and her department as to what they could or could not do in terms of amendments. Judging by the amendments we see today, I think the minister gave them a very short leash.

There are some changes with respect to expropriation but they are not sufficient by half. There is nothing with respect to marriage breakdown and marital property. There is nothing with respect to inheritance and nothing with respect to any kind of requirement for adjacent municipalities and aboriginal communities to have some kind of consultation when it comes to property development.

I want to talk for a minute about what happens when government passes this kind of legislation without wanting to think about what the ramifications are. Some of its members are very intelligent people. They do not act like it a lot of the time but I know them and they are very capable people. I submit that at times they do not want to look into the future, they do not want to admit what the net effect of these policies are going to be.

Let us look at what happens when government deals in this kind of legislation without that kind of consideration.

Back in 1965 the Government of Canada, the department of Indian affairs, encouraged the Musqueam band to get into the land development business. The Musqueam band owned a piece of property located in Vancouver. There was nothing on it. I am sure this is how it happened. The Department of Indian Affairs told the band that since it did not need this property it should subdivide it and lease it out.

The band, the department and a private enterprise developer in Vancouver entered into a deal. The Department of Indian Affairs signed on behalf of the band. It signed on behalf of the Government of Canada actually because the property is still in the name of the crown. The Musqueam leaseholders came into being. That was in 1965.

When the master lease was signed in 1965, 74 leasehold properties were created. The department of Indian affairs signed the master lease and all of the subleases. The master lease governs the entire 74 properties but each individual property is considered a sublease.

Once the department of Indian affairs had signed the master lease people living in Vancouver started to buy the leases. At the time it cost $18,000 to buy a lease and people had an obligation to pay so many dollars a year. The lease price for this land was negotiated in 1965 at about $350 a year but on top of that property taxes had to be paid. It was a 99 year lease with the initial term being 30 years. It was up for renegotiation in 1995.

The people living in these houses believed they had a 99 year lease with a 30 year term which would be renegotiated in 1995. They believed they were dealing with the department of Indian affairs, the Government of Canada. They thought they could not go wrong. Surely the Government of Canada would never do anything to compromise good taxpaying Canadians, some of whom were veterans of World War II. The Government of Canada would never do anything to compromise their interests.

In 1980 the federal government, the minister of Indian affairs signed a deal without giving any notice, without any consultation or discussion with the leaseholders and transferred the federal government's authority for the leases over to the band. Nobody was aware of this except the band. No disclosure was made at all.

Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s people continued to buy and sell houses which everyone understood were on leased land. Nobody ever bothered to tell the leaseholders that this huge change in administrative authority had taken place. It was done under section 53 of the Indian Act which the minister of Indian affairs at the time was empowered to do, but there was no disclosure.

In 1991 the federal government signed a further deal with the Musqueam band allowing it to enter into direct taxation for property taxes on these leases. Until that time there was a deal between the federal government, the band and the municipality of Vancouver wherein the municipality of Vancouver would provide the services and collect the taxes.

In 1991 the band became the property tax collector. It passed on some of the money to the city of Vancouver because the city of Vancouver had to be paid for the services it was delivering. The residents had no knowledge that this was going to happen. There was no consultation. It was just done. It was done without their knowledge as a fait accompli.

After it was a fait accompli residents became aware of it very quickly. Their property taxes skyrocketed. The band since that time has been collecting property taxes. It will argue that it is not collecting school taxes, but I would argue it is collecting much higher levels of taxes now than what was collected when the city of Vancouver was the property tax assessor and collector.

The band is not providing school services to those residents. It is not turning over any of the tax revenues it is collecting to the Government of British Columbia in aid of providing school services for the children of the leaseholders who live on that reserve. In some cases it has almost as much as tripled the property taxes these people pay.

In the municipality in which I live, and all municipalities are the same, property taxes are not there as some kind of cash cow for the municipality to do whatever it wants. Taxes are tied to the services the municipality delivers. Municipalities by law are not allowed to run either a deficit or a surplus. They collect only as much taxes as are required for them to operate the municipality on an annualized basis. I would submit that because the people who pay the property taxes in municipalities get to elect their municipal councillors, these people are also very accountable for how those tax dollars are spent.

We have a completely different situation in Musqueam. There are 74 people who are paying property taxes to the Musqueam band council but they are not allowed to vote for any of the band councillors. They are not allowed to run for office. In fact, they are not legally entitled to even show up at the council meetings. Now I ask, is that a very wise decision on the part of government?

This is why I am very concerned about this bill. The government makes decisions and it does not consider the long term impact of those decisions. On the Musqueam reserve, because of this taxation policy, there is the absolutely unbearable prospect of taxation without representation. The American break from Great Britain happened over taxation without representation. That is how important it is to people.

Do we in Canada think we are so clever and so intelligent that we can reinvent these failed policies and somehow make them work? I do not understand the thinking behind this. There are far too many people involved in the policy making decisions in this country, particularly in the bureaucracy around here, who are clever, well educated and totally impractical and who totally blind themselves to history.

I would submit that the Musqueam leaseholders story in the chronicles of modern Canadian history is an absolute nightmare. It is absolutely beyond my ability to comprehend. I have gone there and met with the leaseholders. I know what kind of pain and suffering these people have been through and are still going through.

A fellow the other day sent me the lease bill he had just received from the Musqueam band. His lease bill was $74,000 for the property that his house is on. There was a tiny little polite note at the bottom to please pay it within 30 days. Is that not interesting? I wonder how the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would like it if we sent her a bill like that. I wonder how anybody else in the House would feel if they received a bill like that.

We have to be so politically correct we are not even supposed to discuss these issues in the House of Commons. We are not even supposed to raise these issues.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business according to the order indicated in today's order paper.

Natural GasPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide initiatives to deliver natural gas to unserviced regions, to address environment concerns and high energy costs.

Madam Speaker, I am truly proud to rise to speak to my first private member's bill of the 36th Parliament on behalf of Canadians in the riding of Churchill River, Saskatchewan, and all Canadians.

The initiative of Motion No. 292, which was deemed votable, will be a benefit which all Canadians will be able to enjoy, as well as future generations.

Motion No. 292 reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide initiatives to deliver natural gas to unserviced regions, to address environment concerns and high energy costs.

Canada is the third largest producer of natural gas. Without a doubt, continuing developments and discoveries such as the Northwest Territories and Sable Island fields will ensure that a fair share of our natural gas resources will be distributed in the country, not only in royalties or opportunities but the distribution of natural gas itself.

Natural gas presently is distributed to more than four million customers in six provinces. Natural gas provides 26% of Canada's energy needs and this number is increasing each year.

In addition, Canada's natural gas exports are experiencing exponential growth. When we have natural gas exports it means we have surplus supply. In terms of trade we must take care of our own families first before we share with the rest of the world. That is the whole context of sharing with unserviced areas of this country.

We share our natural gas with major cities in the south, but there are entire regions of this country that do not have natural gas service which are being disadvantaged because of lost economic development opportunities. Natural gas provides an opportunity for economic development in unserviced regions. When major industries and manufacturing companies, pulp mills, sawmills, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and university campuses calculate the energy costs of certain communities and certain neighbourhoods, energy is the major portion of their high cost of maintaining these facilities. If natural gas were to be provided equally to certain neighbourhoods, certain communities and certain regions, this disadvantage would not be there. Not having this service is detrimental to job creation, community growth and community maintenance.

I believe that we as parliamentarians can contribute to the progress of this country into the next millennium. We have the opportunity to ensure that all regions can afford the economic and environmental benefits that natural gas presents. There are several options to look at. The biggest option for us to consider when natural gas is being distributed is that it is one of the cheapest and most economically sound of all the fossil fuels.

The fossil fuel industry in Canada has been a growing and vibrant industry. However, in recent years greenhouse gas emissions and the Kyoto protocol have challenged what we can do in the future. The first thing we can do is consider the cleanest of the fossil fuels, which is natural gas. This should be shared with all our communities so that we make a conscious effort to use heat and energy without polluting in the extreme our environment and our children's health.

At Kyoto I had an opportunity to look at the future development of the Kyoto protocol and its implications. One of the issues that I would like to raise is the domestic greenhouse emission credits that should be considered. When Europe considered the Kyoto negotiations it considered itself a bubble, so that certain regions of economic and industrial development would not suffer in terms of their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada has to look at itself as a bubble as well. There are regions that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, on coal-fired electrical generation and on the coal industry. Greenhouse gas is another consideration. We could equalize these industries. We could normalize our total output and meet our commitments.

The scary side of emission credits is that if we continue to increase our greenhouse gases we will be paying hard cash to other countries when they diminish their greenhouse gases in the future. This credit trading will be a major issue. I would rather see that hard earned Canadian cash invested in our own communities.

Any initiative to increase a cleaner carbon source is of course environmentally sound. As part of environment week, I am very honoured to raise Motion No. 292. There should be a conscious effort by parliamentarians to rally behind this motion and to challenge the federal government to undertake initiatives to share our natural resources.

Access to cleaner fuels is an economic advantage, but it is also a major win. The Kyoto credits would be another win. In terms of air pollution there is another consideration which we cannot overlook and that is health care. There are health care costs such as asthma and other illnesses caused by air pollution in our communities and neighbourhoods, especially in major urban centres. If there is any way we could reduce air pollution it would be a major win for the health care of the country.

In terms of high cost, there are far northern communities which do not have natural gas. There are major subsections of our communities, even here in Ottawa, which do not have natural gas, especially in older sections of town. Maybe the older sections of Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary have been overlooked, but some of them have been served for many years and it is taken for granted.

I ask that parliamentarians consider all Canadians in an equal light and share our natural gas. Families could realize savings against the high cost of living, not only those living in remote areas but those living in the high cost regions of the country. Savings would be made on the maintenance of their homes. Canada has a northern climate where 40 below is a natural phenomenon in January and after Christmas when people are huddled around. Natural gas would certainly be an advantage.

Looking into the future we see the development of fuel cells and the whole technology of solar and wind energy. That might take a decade. It might take a few decades to bring forward, but natural gas will always be accessible to all of our communities.

Natural gas is being used by many taxi companies. Many communities have had opportunities to look at other sources of energy for transportation. If it is distributed equally throughout the country, it would mean that vehicles adapted for this type of fuel could be used by Canadians to travel more widely. Travel would be more accessible.

Motion No. 292 is a votable motion. I would humbly ask for the support of all parties and all members of the House. I believe it is a win-win situation. It is a win situation for the natural gas resources industry. We have distribution companies all over the provinces and regions. It is also a win situation for the health and educational industries. We have institutions that have high costs. Imagine the cost of heating and cooling the House of Commons.

These institutions, which we take for granted, might be generations old. They need to be retrofitted. It is a win-win situation for the trades industry. Tradespeople will retrofit the heating units of many facilities. It is a job intensive situation. It will take people off the unemployment lists. There could be seasonal work for young people. If this work could not be done in the winter, it would certainly have to be done in the summer when heating systems are shut off. Students could gain employment and maybe valuable apprenticeship positions as a result of this.

Industries would consider our small communities that do not have the distribution. Industries certainly look at high energy costs and natural gas has proven itself as an energy efficient and a cost effective way to provide energy to any facility, including manufacturing facilities. For example, the lumber industry uses kilns for drying lumber. We have kilns in the arts industry. We have heating systems in many car plants and hospitals. To make Canada a more self-sufficient country, let us consider sharing the abundant natural resource of natural gas.

There could be a major development in relation to the Sable Island project. Big pipelines will be installed along highways, but they will not be shared laterally. Lateral pipes will not be available to the neighbourhoods which this major pipeline will run through.

I challenge this government to look at initiatives. It might be a new infrastructure initiative. It might be a millennium initiative. It might be a greenhouse gas initiative. Let us not overlook natural gas.

While we are ripping up our highways and redoing the potholes in our back roads, highways, streets and sidewalks, while we are fixing up the infrastructure of this country, let us lay down natural gas pipelines and share our resources with all the people of this country. It is a win-win situation which we should not miss. Our children will have to do it if we do not. We should consider our infrastructure in that vision.

I ask for a national vision. I know there are provincial interests and industry interests, but I think the federal government could tie up all of the initiatives. The Department of Finance, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Industry all deal with major resources. All of these departments may have separate initiatives, but let us share a national vision. Let us make sure that all Canadians are treated equally and that we share our natural resources equally.

Natural GasPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to private member's Motion No. 292. I support the principle which the member speaks of, but the initiative is perhaps somewhat misplaced in that this motion proposes that the federal government provide the delivery of natural gas to rural regions in Canada. While I can accept that the federal government would and should make a contribution to the process, the provision of public utilities falls under the responsibility of provincial and municipal governments. As well, there are existing federal programs which might apply to this kind of program. Accordingly, I do not support this motion for the simple reason that it brings federal interference into an issue of provincial jurisdiction.

Many provinces already have in place programs to address the intention of this bill, to deliver natural gas to unserviced regions. I will quickly go over an example of such a program in my province of Alberta. Alberta has had just such a program and has been helping Albertans since 1973.

The natural gas distribution system serving rural Albertans began in the early 1960s with small systems built and operated by local groups and co-operatives. Interest in natural gas services grew throughout the decade. In the early 1970s the provincial government took action to expand the provision for natural gas to rural Albertans at a reasonable cost. This action was taken in accord with the general conclusion that it was in the public interest to improve the economic viability of smaller centres and that the family farm should be preserved.

It was felt that all Albertans, including those in rural Alberta, deserved a fair share of the benefits enjoyed by the people of that province from the ownership of natural resources and the revenue that flows from the development of those natural resources.

Because of the higher cost of serving scattered rural areas, it was decided that a provincial funding program to support construction of rural gas distribution systems was needed. To support this initiative the rural gas act was enacted in 1973 and soon after the rural gas program administered by the rural utilities branch of Alberta Energy was established.

This program brought many benefits to program users. The primary benefits included affordable installation costs where adequate gas sources are available, lower costs and reliability of fuel supply. Obviously all these benefits are crucially important to those living in rural areas.

Under this program approximately 4,000 new rural gas services are installed each year. Eligible services include uses such as homes, outbuildings, irrigation, grain drying, poultry and hog barns, greenhouses and more. Until this program was established individuals simply could not afford to access gas distribution in rural areas past already established transmission lines.

However, this program attempts to reduce consumer costs to a reasonable level by establishing a grant program under which participating utilities could receive grants based on a cost sharing formula from the provincial government. Under this arrangement consumers in the same class pay the same contract amount in any year, even though the costs to provide the service may vary widely.

Funding for the new gas installation is based on a formula that calculates the pooled costs per service within each franchise area. For example, for a rural installation service that has a capital cost of up to $2,600, the capital cost is shared 100% between the distributor and the customer. However, for a rural installation that costs above $2,600 and up to $15,000, the distributor or consumer covers 25% of the cost and 75% is covered by the provincial grant. With this formula a typical farm installation costing $5,000 would receive a grant of $1,800. Obviously this makes the convenience of natural gas much more affordable to those living in rural areas.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the success of the rural gas program. First, with the expansion of natural gas services into rural areas, a new system of franchising had to be created to focus on the special requirements of rural areas. This concept of franchise areas was applied in the rural gas act to ensure a customer base for future viability of the new distributors.

Other criteria included consideration of major obstacles to pipeline construction such as rivers or highways. Under an assigned franchise a distributor has the right and responsibility to offer service where economically feasible to all potential rural and urban residential customers who did not have natural gas service prior to 1973.

Second is the formation of member owned co-operatives in the less populated areas of the province. The provincial government recognized the dedication, initiative and independent spirit of rural dwellers and felt the program had a better chance of success in these areas if the local community controlled its own destiny. Where have we heard that statement before?

Third is the provision of grant funding on a cost shared basis to make rural gas systems economically viable. Through contributions by the customer, government and co-ops, the resulting gas rates could be competitive with urban rates.

Finally, Gas Alberta was established to negotiate price and arrange for gas supplies for the co-ops. Through a postage stamp wholesale rate throughout the province, all co-ops were on an equal footing with respect to gas costs.

The rural gas program has been very successful in Alberta. To March 31, 1999, services have been provided or systems upgraded for over 171,600 rural, urban, irrigation, grain dryer services by over 90 distributors throughout a network of pipelines totalling 116,521 kilometres.

The point I make by referring to the Alberta example is that obviously programs such as those proposed by the motion already function and are doing well under provincial jurisdiction. As well, keeping in mind it is the province that collects royalties from the export of natural gas and oil, the provinces already have a built in funding system without asking Canadian taxpayers to unnecessarily subsidize a rural gas installation program.

The Reform Party supports the principle that the provinces should have exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources and that citizens of the provinces should all benefit from the development of those resources.

Alberta is not the only province that receives substantial royalty income from the sale of natural gas. The province of Saskatchewan received $44.5 million last year in natural gas revenue. It would seem reasonable to me that all the residents of Saskatchewan, even those in remote northern communities, should benefit from the development of natural gas resources as much as any other province.

However, the prime responsibility for making that happen lies first with the local community and second with the province. Third, there is room for federal participation through existing programs such as the PFRA or prairie farm rehabilitation program.

For all these reasons I will not support the motion and I would encourage other members of the House to do the same.

Natural GasPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Churchill River is proposing that the federal government should subsidize natural gas expansion projects for remote communities as a way of reducing the cost of living of residents and achieving environmental benefits.

I thank the hon. member for his interest in this very valuable natural resource. Natural gas is a cleaner burning, efficient, cost effective fuel which is why it has become one of Canada's number one natural resources. Canada also has an abundant supply with an estimated available total of between 504 and 617 trillion cubic feet.

It is the stated objective of the Minister of Natural Resources to make Canada into the world's smartest natural resources steward, developer, user and exporter. To become the world's smartest resource developer means in part adopting a considered, practical market oriented approach that balances the needs of all interests. It is this type of approach that is behind the natural gas success story. It is a thriving competitive industry that has followed a course of continuous and sustainable growth.

To understand the present, it is important to look at the past to see how the natural gas industry developed in Canada. Members in the House may remember the energy crisis of the 1970s and the concern for Canadian energy security that followed. In response, a group of off oil programs were designed to expand the use of domestic natural gas in Canada. These programs were phased out in the early 1980s when world crude oil markets stabilized and crude oil prices fell.

In the mid-1980s the crude oil and natural gas markets in Canada were deregulated. For the Canadian natural gas industry this resulted in lower natural gas prices and a surge in natural gas activity. Since then natural gas production, along with associated transmission and distribution infrastructure. has increased at a healthy and in some cases dramatic pace. Expansions to Canada's natural gas infrastructure whether of a local or international dimension have been governed by a combination of economic opportunity, economic viability and technology development.

It is the government's current energy policy not to fund energy megaprojects but to leave it to the competitive market to decide what goes forward and what does not. This is one reason we have difficulty in supporting the hon. member's motion. This policy has not resulted in a stalled natural gas industry, far from it. The result has been some very exciting private sector driven developments, including the expansion of natural gas distribution and production into new previously unserviced regions.

Let us consider the Sable offshore energy project. In late 1999 natural gas resources from off the coast of Nova Scotia will be coming ashore. The onshore maritimes and northeast pipeline will make natural gas available in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for the first time. Natural gas was first discovered at Sable Island in the 1960s, but it had never been economically viable for production until now, thanks to new drilling technology and new alliances between oil companies and engineering and construction contractors.

I must emphasize that the building of laterals within a province such as the hon. member is suggesting falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces as my hon. friend from Athabasca said. In the member for Churchill River's case it is the province of Saskatchewan.

In these cases expanding the distribution system is the responsibility of provincially regulated local distribution utilities. Provincial regulators set financial tests for new projects. Where a project cannot generate enough revenue to justify its capital cost, the local distribution company will ask potential gas consumers to make financial contributions, as my friend from Athabasca so ably pointed out. They are known as grants in aid of construction to bring the project to the point of economic viability.

If converting to natural gas offers an opportunity for reduced fuel bills, consumers can use a portion of their savings to finance the cost of conversion. From 1995 to 1997 there was an average of 125,000 new residential hookups per year. Of these customer additions, 70,000 were new constructions and 55,000 were conversions from other energy sources. What this means is that 48% of Canadian homes are now gas heated on a normal commercial market driven supply system.

From an energy policy point of view it would not be sensible to depart from the principle of the market must decide where laterals are built. However, for other non-energy policy reasons there may be programs in other departments which seek to achieve economic development or environmental or other goals through the subsidization of laterals. I invite hon. member to investigate those.

In the hon. member's home province of Saskatchewan, for example, the western economic partnership agreement between federal and provincial governments allowed for such funding. Indeed the federal government approached the provincial NDP government to explore whether a portion of the economic partnership agreement funding could be reserved to build laterals in remote areas. The provincial NDP government said no, not the federal government.

Another example of federal funding that was available to help with laterals was the Canada infrastructure works program which the government introduced some five years ago. In the province of Manitoba natural gas laterals to rural communities were identified as a priority and a portion of Manitoba's infrastructure funding was set aside to help build these laterals, not for energy policy reasons but for local economic and community development purposes.

Let me assure the House that the Government of Canada is also very sensitive to the fact that many remote rural areas face high cost energy and general environmental sensitivity. That is why the department has specifically designed alternative and renewable energy programs, as well as energy efficiency in conservation programs, that will help these communities meet their energy needs, lower their cost of living and receive environmental benefits.

Pursuing these initiatives is the most workable, economically viable and environmentally friendly way of meeting the needs of rural and remote areas. Adapting these new technologies could bring these communities savings of $200 million per year, not to mention significant environmental benefits.

For example, some communities are totally dependent upon fuel oil that is shipped at great expense. There are new technology programs in the energy section of NRCan that focus on developing alternative and renewable sources of supply, including bio-energy, small hydro, wind, photovoltaics and active solar energy.

In addition to these technology initiatives the department has developed tools to help communities analyse what kind of supply source would be reasonable and what they would need to pursue it.

Another initiative is the development of community energy systems to improve energy efficiency and allow the better use of waste heat. Under this approach energy use is reduced by integrating conventional energy supply, renewable energy sources, the energy demands of the building, transportation and industrial sectors, and the use of waste heat. The department is also working toward increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. Consider the following example: This year's federal budget allocated $1.6 million over three years for Natural Resources Canada to establish a program with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to identify opportunities for energy efficiency retrofits in municipal buildings. Under this initiative, municipalities expect to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% to 40% and save $108 million to $175 million.

Initiatives like this are the best options for delivering a lower cost of living and environmental benefits to rural and remote communities. They are the wave of the future for rural and remote areas. I urge the hon. member for Churchill River to investigate all of them thoroughly.