House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was companies.


Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Natural Resources who unfortunately cannot be with us.

Bill C-3 is an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. This is the same bill as Bill C-39 which received second reading last fall but died on the order paper.

At that time, three out of four of the opposition parties in the House agreed to support that bill. I do hope that we will have their support for the bill today.

Members will recall that when the bill was first introduced, it was done extremely capably by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Timiskaming—Cochrane. He spoke eloquently of the merits of the bill and of our natural resource sector. He pointed out that resource industries are not relics of the past. They are important engines of economic growth in Canada.

Energy, mining, forestry, geomatics and related industries currently account for 11% of our gross domestic product and 22% of new capital investment. They employ directly 780,000 Canadians and drive the economies of over 600 of our communities from coast to coast.

In 1998 the resource sector exported $97 billion worth of goods and services. Our resource sectors are in fact dynamic and vital elements of not the old economy but the knowledge based economy of the 21st century.

Resource companies are not in competition with high tech businesses. They are high tech businesses. They are investing $35 billion a year in leading edge technologies and other capital. Their productivity is growing three times faster than the rest of the economy.

Several factors explain the excellent performance of the resource industry in the world economy. The policies based on economic tendencies and markets which successive Liberal governments have implemented are good examples of this.

That being said, this kind of work is never finished, and our constant challenge is to ensure that the Canadian resource industry remains competitive and continues to support our economic prosperity. We must keep fine tuning our legislative and strategic framework so that companies in the resource industry have the leeway and capacity they need to make strategic decisions and secure a better position on the Canadian and world markets.

That is the rationale for the bill. The legislative amendments being proposed today are intended to allow two of our major performers in the natural resources sector, Cameco Corporation and Petro-Canada, to continue their record of economic growth and environmental stewardship.

I would like to quickly review the history behind these proposed amendments.

At one time both Cameco and Petro-Canada were crown corporations wholly owned by taxpayers. By 1995, however, the Government of Canada had sold all of its shares in Cameco, which is the dominant company in Canada's world leading uranium industry. As for Petro-Canada, although the government currently owns 18% of its shares, it does not influence the management of the company.

At the time of privatization, certain ownership restrictions were placed on both these companies. These restrictions were implemented at that time for good reasons, but circumstances have changed within the continuing evolution of global energy markets. The bottom line today is that some of these ownership restrictions have outlived their usefulness and are actually preventing these companies from taking advantage of new business opportunities.

Changes are needed, obviously. Restrictions on ownership provided in the two statutes do not give these companies the freedom enjoyed by their competitors to be able to grow and face competition on the world market. If Cameco and Petro-Canada are to continue performing well as private businesses, we have to ensure that the rules of the game are the same for everybody. The government also intends to ensure that these two corporations continue to make their decisions in Canada, with due consideration for Canadian interests.

To accomplish that, the bill will modify or remove certain restrictions that are limiting the ability of Cameco and Petro-Canada to attract new investment capital to forge new strategic alliances.

Specifically, the bill amends the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act to increase the limit on individual ownership of shares from 10% to 20%. It will also eliminate the 25% limit on the quantity of shares that could be collectively owned by non-residents of Canada. In other words, we are removing the restrictions on foreign ownership of Petro-Canada.

As for Cameco, we continue to believe in the need for some restrictions on foreign ownership. The bill therefore proposes to increase the limit on individual non-resident share ownership from 5% to a maximum of 15%. Similarly, the cap on total non-resident ownership of Cameco will increase from 20% to 25% of the company's shares. The current ownership limit for individual Canadians, which is 25%, will remain in place.

At the same time, the bill insists that these two corporations remain in Canada and be managed in Canada.

To further ensure that Cameco remains under Canadian control, the legislation will continue to require that the company's head office be located in Saskatchewan and that the majority of its directors be Canadian residents.

The legislation also requires that Petro-Canada's head office be located in Calgary and that the majority of its directors also be Canadian residents. The 20% limit on individual ownership of voting shares of Petro-Canada will prevent a takeover by a large multinational.

Finally, Petro-Canada has reoriented its major activities so that they are truly Canadian. They are concentrating on the east coast offshore and on the oil sands.

Bill C-3 will prevent Petro-Canada from disposing of all or substantially all of its commercial or production assets. The goal is to give Petro-Canada far greater freedom in administering its portfolio of assets, at the same time ensuring that it cannot dispose of these assets through a wind up.

The outstanding Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources made it clear in the previous debate that the sole intent of these changes is to give Cameco and Petro-Canada increased agility and better global positioning. It does not reflect a major shift in energy policy. These changes confirm our commitment to allow market forces to work, but within reasonable and responsible limits.

Officials of both companies have strongly supported these changes, showing that they are not trying to entrench their management positions as some might have otherwise suspected.

In closing, I should like to address briefly two of the other issues that were raised in debate when this matter came before parliament last spring.

First, let me reassure members that the proposed amendments will have no impact on the price of refined petroleum products. Gasoline and diesel oil prices in Canada rise and fall with crude oil prices, which in turn are set by supply and demand in a global market. They are not set by ownership rules applying to any one company in the Canadian petroleum industry.

Second, let me assure members that Bill C-3 does not affect Canada's commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or to nuclear security.

As I outlined earlier in my remarks, these amendments have been supported and endorsed in principle by a big majority of the House, with most hon. members recognizing that these changes will be good for the two companies, will be good for investors and will be good for all Canadians.

In this spirit, I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly this morning and I commend the bill to all members of the House, asking humbly that it receive quick passage at second reading and go to committee for full discussion.

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are speaking on Bill C-3 this morning, which pertains to the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and also to the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. The enactment relates to the mandatory provisions in the articles of Cameco Corporation and Petro-Canada. Cameco was formerly Eldorado Nuclear Limited, to which many Canadians can relate.

This enactment provides that the articles of Cameco Corporation will have to contain a 15% individual non-resident share ownership limit for voting shares as well as a cap of 25% on aggregate non-resident share ownership voting rights. The enactment also provides that the articles of Petro-Canada will have to be amended to allow for a 20% individual share ownership limit, while the aggregate non-resident share ownership limits will be eliminated.

In addition, the prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of Petro-Canada's upstream and downstream assets will be replaced with a similar prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of its assets, without distinguishing between upstream and downstream sectors of activity.

That is a pretty concise legislative summary.

I think what is important to many Canadians is that, one, we are dealing with two assets that Canadians, either historically or today, have considered strategic assets. One of course is uranium and that is why we had special rules for Eldorado Nuclear. The other is the grand experiment known as Petro-Canada, which was brought in by the Trudeau government in 1975. This all became part of the national energy program of the early 1980s, so as a consequence it has been very controversial.

We have heard much discussion recently about the possibility that Petro-Canada could be on the chopping block in terms of the remaining ownership of shares held by the Government of Canada. That is in the amount of 49.4 million shares. As of a week ago, at an ownership or market price of $36.70, the shares would be valued at approximately $1.8 billion.

The question is, is this the platform to sell off the remaining shares in Petro-Canada? Bottom line, that would still not recoup the government's investment in Petro-Canada, but I think many Canadians, the international community and certainly the business community would be satisfied if the government was finally out of this business.

It is important if we are going to take that step that the government does the right thing in terms of what it does with those moneys that would be accrued at that time. My personal view is that seeing as how the taxpayer subsidized this and it has contributed to our previous deficits and our debt and is currently the subject of interest payments coming from all of us, the moneys should go to debt retirement automatically, without debate.

As for Cameco, this bill ensures that foreign ownership is capped, thereby eliminating the risk of foreign ownership of uranium resources.

On this question I believe Canadians think very differently than they do about our oil, gas and other resources. The main reason is the fact that uranium, obviously, is involved in nuclear energy and nuclear fuel. That whole area is one that we want to tightly regulate and highly regulate, which is appropriate. There is a big difference. If we look at the oil and gas sector, for example, when this whole national energy program was put into place Canadians were told by the government that we had less than 20 years' worth of recoverable oil reserves and that a high gasoline tax burden was justified in order to conserve for future energy needs.

Canada is in a unique position. We know now that was an incorrect statement. We now know that in northern Alberta alone we have 400 years' worth of recoverable oil reserves in the tar sands, which will obviously supply our needs well into the future, and that changes everything. We are very skeptical about the need for government to retain any ownership in Petro-Canada for any purpose.

In 1991 the government decided that Canada no longer needed a crown corporation in the energy business and began the privatization process. We all know that. That is why current ownership is at 18%, not something much higher. In the end it became clear that after fluctuations in the markets, business setbacks and the ever present political struggles, Petro-Canada ended up basically as an oil company, much like any other in Canada except that the taxpayer still owned 18% of the company and was the single largest holder of the stock. No one but the government could own more than 10%.

In 1994 we questioned why the government would not sell off its national oil company while the industry was strong to recoup some of the billions of taxpayer dollars that were used to create Petro-Canada in the first place. In 1994 we asked the government why it would not do something significant and use the revenue from the sale of Petro-Canada to reduce Canada's debt burden. We know there was a crushing debt burden in 1994. It is still a crushing debt burden, but it was much worse in 1994 because we were still incurring annual deficits at that time.

In 1995 a Liberal budget promised to totally privatize Petro-Canada. We can see how reliable Liberal budget promises or even red book promises are. Indeed, that is something we should consider deeply, particularly after the events of this week which saw the government say that if its members voted for a red book promise it would be a confidence motion and the government could fall if its own members voted to keep a government promise. This turns parliament and parliamentary principle upside down.

The fact remains that Petro-Canada cost Canadians over $5 billion. Petro-Canada has never provided a benefit to Canadians that could not have been provided by the private sector, and when it was finally privatized, guess what? Petro-Canada started making a profit and competing effectively.

Governments since Petro-Canada was established have never had the courage to admit to Canadians that they will be able to recover less than $2 billion, 40% of the original cost of Petro-Canada. If Bill C-3 is indeed, as we think it is, the first step in the process of the government selling off its remaining shares of Petro-Canada, my only response can be that it is finally time, long past time.

I am curious about why we are getting this bill now. Petro-Canada's share prices have moved up in anticipation of the government selling off its shares. The shares have gone up by at least 50% this year and there is potential for the price to go higher. Also, with the bill in place, foreign ownership restrictions are removed, which will allow for an expanded market and that theoretically should expand the price once again.

As a business proposition this was a poor one. We are recovering less than 40% of what we put into the exercise and that is with rather inflated dollar revenues and non-inflated costs. This has basically been a disastrous business transaction. Since taxpayer dollars originally paid for Petro-Canada, I have already explained that the best way to go would be to put it into debt reduction.

There are other things that might be considered, such as our looming crisis in transportation needs and the need for transportation improvements. Or we could actually be really revolutionary. I know when it comes to these kinds of initiatives that the government has great difficulty prying its fingers away from these revenues, but we could be really revolutionary and use these moneys to cut taxes. However, that is a rather clear cut, simple, direct way to deal with the problem, so as a consequence it may not occur.

The bill does some things I can support. Referring to Petro-Canada, it does move toward opening up ownership of the company to national and international interests while still ensuring that the majority of the company is Canadian. The legislation clearly states that resident Canadians must still make up the majority of the board of directors. It also stipulates that the head office will remain in Calgary. The Canadian Alliance supports the removal of restrictions on Canadian businesses to allow for both domestic and foreign investing. We expect to see that Petro-Canada, once it is no longer manipulated by the government, will continue to show profits and growth.

Of course the legislation does not just address issues surrounding Petro-Canada. It addresses issues relating to the sale of shares in Cameco, Canada's largest uranium producer.

Canada's Kyoto commitments have increased the need for Canada to find green energy. One option of course is nuclear energy. That needs to be examined. At this point today I do not want to get into a debate about the merits or lack thereof of nuclear energy. However, the fact remains that uranium is a resource that, should nuclear energy be a factor in the world's efforts to reduce CO2 levels, will become a very important resource.

We all intrinsically know this. Nuclear energy has become a very controversial way of providing for our energy needs, but we have some nations in the world that are almost singularly reliant upon nuclear energy. We do not think about that from time to time.

France, for example, in the European community is over 70% dependent upon nuclear energy for its needs. That has all occurred over a long period of time. It continues to be the way that it functions. Its operations have never created an incident that has been worthy of international comment. That is a wonderful track record. We need to keep our minds open and our options open in terms of that whole field of endeavour.

The bill regarding Cameco raises foreign and individual ownership limits. Individual non-resident ownership increases from 5% to 15%. The limit on the total amount of non-resident ownership of shares increases from 20% to 25%.

I am pleased to see that the legislation is still mindful of the possible consequences of high levels of foreign ownership of our uranium resources. The lower limits on Cameco shares reflect across the board government restrictions on foreign activity in uranium mining.

While the Canadian Alliance is all for Canadian businesses having the opportunity to succeed, we must also be conscious of the need to keep such a potentially volatile resource within Canadian control. The bill in effect allows for greater flexibility in the selling of shares in Canadian companies. We can certainly support that effort.

As I have already stated, if the legislation leads to the government finally selling off its remaining shares of Petro-Canada, it would be legislation that is long overdue. We will just have to see what initiative will come next from the government.

At this point in time the government and many parts of the public have long since forgotten what the original purpose of Petro-Canada, emanating from the government of the day, was actually supposed to be. Unfortunately, many taxpayers have also forgotten how much money was sunk into this enterprise, never ever to be recovered.

Our policy document in regard to this whole initiative says:

We will foster a healthy economic environment for the benefit of consumers by pursuing free and open trade at home and abroad, including the elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers. We will withdraw government from areas of the economy where the private sector could deliver the same services more efficiently and will end the unfair practice of providing subsidies to industries, businesses and special interest groups.

There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. If the government of the day had subscribed to that policy statement we would not have sunk money into a sinkhole. We would not be looking at a multibillion dollar loss at a time when the country had a debt. That added to our debt and contributed to our interest payments today.

Even today with all the health care debate that we are going through on an almost daily basis, we are paying twice as much federally to service interest on the debt as we are in contributing to health care transfers to the provinces. That is a very strong indictment of mismanagement of the first order and just displays what a country Canada could have been if we would have had appropriate fiscal management throughout the years.

The people know it. That is why they endorsed this policy when it was created. As a matter of fact they were instrumental in creating this policy.

We are in favour of privatizing Petro-Canada. This bill does set the stage for doing that. The legislation ensures that foreign ownership of uranium resources will be monitored and capped. It is important for us to make sure that our support of free market competition and access does not however give away our uranium resources to foreign ownership. I want to be very clear on that and I think I have been consistent throughout my statements today that that is a direction we are simply not coming from.

I recognize that I have not used up all the valuable time of the House but I certainly put across the points that I wanted to get across today on Bill C-3.

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I proceed, I request unanimous consent of the House to share my time with my colleague from Lotbinière-L'Érable.

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with rather mixed emotions that I rise this morning to speak to Bill C-3. There are so many important issues that should be discussed with some urgency in the House that I do not see the point in debating the bill before us today, because it will not change much of anything for Canadians, in my opinion.

There certainly is a problem in the oil industry throughout Canada, but the government is ignoring it and keeps on introducing bills that do not do anything to solve the problem. It is as if the government were telling us that it wants to keep the House busy.

Bill C-3 is entitled an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act

In short, this enactment relates to the mandatory provisions in the articles of Eldorado Nuclear Limited—now Cameco Corporation—and Petro-Canada. It provides that the articles of Cameco Corporation will have to contain a 15% individual non-resident share ownership limit for voting shares as well as a cap on aggregate non-resident share ownership voting rights of 25%.

It also provides that the articles of Petro-Canada will have to be amended to allow for a 20% individual share ownership limit, while the aggregate non-resident share ownership limit will be eliminated.

The prohibition of the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of Petro-Canada's upstream and downstream assets will be replaced with a similar prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of its assets, without distinguishing between the upstream and downstream sectors of activity.

Today, I will be focusing mainly on the provisions concerning Petro-Canada, but I still want to say a few words about Cameco.

In the press release announcing the proposed changes to the legislation, the minister made the following statement, to reassure the public, I guess:

These amendments conform to the Government of Canada's policy on non-resident ownership in the uranium mining sector and do not impair Canada's ability to fulfill its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

We could carry on for hours and hours about the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. I have the honour of having the Minister of the Environment in front of me this morning. The Minister of the Environment is currently promoting nuclear energy at the international level while industries throughout the world are opting for new approaches. I find that rather bizarre.

Actually, it is not that bizarre when one is aware that the Canadian government is trying to sell its Candu reactors to underdeveloped countries, just to make money.

We went through the same thing last autumn, during the previous parliament, when a very hot topic, the transportation of MOX, gave rise to heated debate throughout the country.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the residents of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and the hundreds of thousands of people who opposed the movement of MOX from Russia and the United States for testing in a nuclear plant. In his last report, dated December 2000, the auditor general says these nuclear plants are now very dangerous because they have not been well maintained. Huge investments are needed to make them properly operational.

During the debate on this, the Minister of Natural Resources, the hon. member for Wascana, consistently refused to hear the voice of the ordinary people, despite what was stated in the Baird commission report. In this report it was said that before moving forward in such an important area there had to be public consultations.

I think this week we have had yet another example of the kind of government we have. In its 1993 red book, the Liberal Party had solemnly committed to appointing an ethics counsellor who would be accountable to parliament. This week, representatives of that party broke their promise.

They are not here to protect the environment for the future; they are here to work on a piecemeal, short-sighted basis.

I am concerned, and I think the MOX issue is a good example. I can tell the House that we will not give up, that we will scrutinize what the hon. member for Wascana says and does to ensure that he does what he said he would do when answering the questions I asked him during last parliament.

I wonder about the relevance of the government's approach. Is it really necessary to seek more foreign capital for the extraction of uranium? I hope the minister will adequately answer our questions in committee. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the head office of Cameco is located in the minister's province, Saskatchewan.

Petro-Canada has its head office in Alberta because it used to be a crown corporation. Now, the federal government owns approximately one fifth of its shares. In our opinion, this corporation already belongs to foreign interests. Therefore, even if the individual share ownership limit is increased from 10% to 20%, this will not impact on the problem of competition in the gasoline market.

It is amazing to see this bill being presented when the Conference Board is currently conducting a review of this whole issue. Would it not have been preferable to wait for the conclusions of that review before making any changes in the share ownership of Petro-Canada?

The report from that review, commissioned by the Minister of Industry during the last parliament, should be tabled soon. It was to be submitted at the beginning of January 2001, but we have not seen it yet. The review will cost nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

In my opinion it would have been better to wait for that report before making any commitments. Studies are now underway which might give us another standpoint on whatever is happening in the gas industry, on the issue of competition in that industry and on whatever is being said across the country.

Also surprising is the fact that Petro-Canada contributed a little over $5,000 to the campaign fund of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1999. I would like to give our viewers some information regarding other contributions made that same year. The Alberta Energy Company contributed $17,233 to the Liberal Party campaign fund; Amoco Canada, $14,433; Canadian Occidental Petroleum, $52,676; Golf Canada Resources, $7,233; and Imperial Oil, $25,000.

I suppose that when the CEOs of these companies ask for changes to the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, close attention is paid to what they have to say. All roads lead to the campaign fund of our friends across the way.

As for the review being carried out by the Conference Board, I want to remind the House that a parliamentary committee examined Petro-Canada and the fuel industry in 1998. In one of its recommendations, the committee warned against a possible merger of Petro-Canada and another oil company. This is another fine example of the Prime Minister ignoring the work of his own members. Despite all the work that was done, he is trying to hide the fuel issue by commissioning the Conference Board to conduct a review.

The federal government is not only collecting fuel taxes, it is grabbing part of the huge profits being registered by the oil companies this year. Petro-Canada's profits increased by $195 million during the second quarter of the year 2000. That is a 304% increase. To increase its tax revenues, the government will stop at nothing. During the next campaign, the Liberal Party theme could very well be “We want nothing but your good, and your goods”.

Increasing the foreign ownership limit to 20% will not allow an individual to take control of Petro-Canada. However, 20% of the shares of a company can give someone a lot of power.

We, in the Bloc, think that competition is one of the major problems in this industry. The federal government identified a dangerous level of concentration in the industry, but it decided against doing anything until the problem reached crisis proportions since the winter of 2000.

The Bloc Quebecois has been demanding for some time that the federal government make sure there is more competition in the Canadian oil industry. Three refiner-marketers control 75% of the wholesale trade in Canada, which is reason enough to wonder if there is any real competition in this industry.

The Competition Act should be amended to guarantee competitive prices for consumers. The House committee that has been poring over this legislation for a year has clearly indicated that the Competition Bureau had a very hard time enforcing the law. There are two things that could be done immediately in this regard: first, there could be changes made to the onus of proof with respect to anticompetitive behaviour and, second, the Competition Bureau could be given the authority to initiate investigations.

Despite what the government says about Canada's refineries, right now Esso, Shell, Petro-Canada and Ultramar have a monopoly on distribution. The four oil companies serving the Canadian market posted a record overall net profit of close to $2.5 billion in the first nine months of 2000. It is a bonanza for shareholders.

Petro-Canada alone made record profits of $893 million in the last year, almost three times more than the preceding high of $306 million reached in 1997.

There is other problem with the federal government's attitude with respect to fuel price hikes. Only 17% of federal taxes on fuel are invested in the transportation infrastructure on a Canada-wide scale.

The federal government then feels it has to set up infrastructure programs in order to gain more visibility.

The member from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area who sits across the way was a Progressive Conservative, then an Independent and is now the Liberal member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. He says that he is a regionalist.

I have a brief comment for him. The federal government collected $35 million in fuel excise taxes in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in 1997-98. Our return on this was 0.8%, because all the federal government reinvested was $287,000 on highway 175. What happened to the other $34.3 million?

The member is still staying that Quebec does not look after the regions. I am going to give an idea of what is being said. The Quebec government collected $37 million and reinvested $30 million for highways in my region alone. That is an 80% return.

The cat is now coming out of the bag. As we say back home, the truth will come out, and it will, faster and faster. We will discuss the real issues. Right now, this government is taking money from the pockets of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers and using it to pay off its debts. That money is being used to pay for something other than what it is collected for.

I find it hard to see the relevance of this bill. I am not opposed to it and nor is the Bloc Quebecois. But I wonder why the government is introducing this bill now. Is it because some foreign investor who is anxious to invest in Petro-Canada and contribute to the Liberal Party's campaign fund needs a higher ceiling for foreign ownership?

I suppose the Minister of Natural Resources will be able to explain to us in committee why this bill is being introduced now and why the government does not deal instead with the issue of competition in the gasoline market across Canada.

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable can begin his speech if he wishes to do so, but unfortunately I will have to interrupt him very shortly, because we are about to proceed to statements by members. The hon. member has one minute if he wishes to begin.

Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization And Divestiture ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to postpone my speech until after statements by members and oral question period.

National Microbiology LaboratoryStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the last three weeks the National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, situated at the Canadian Science Centre for Animal and Human Health in Winnipeg, has been called upon to respond to three separate incidents: two involving testing a potentially lethal material and the third to provide urgent diagnostics on a Congolese woman suspected of having viral hemorrhagic fever. In all instances the staff responded in a competent, timely and highly professional manner.

The Canadian Science Centre for Animal and Human Health is a maximum containment, state of the art facility which houses what many believe to be the premier level four containment laboratory in the world. It was built to enable Canada to respond to current and emerging infectious disease threats which seem to be on the rise. It is heartening to see that the staff of the facility have responded so capably to these major challenges.

Events of the past week have reinforced the wisdom of the investment in the laboratory and have shown that it can be considered to be on equal footing with other maximum containment labs in the world.

Canada Customs And Revenue AgencyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, now that the finance minister has announced some teeny tiny tax cuts, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency is trying to fill those little holes. It has harassed employers who are now ferreting out taxable benefits.

B.C. Ferries has implemented new parking rules as a result. I will quote from a bulletin to its employees:

The terminal managers will record the period of time you parked...You will accumulate a taxable benefit for each day worked based on the daily parking rate of ten cents...based on a personal tax rate of 40%, the cost to you is eighty cents per month...Please note: Employee parking lots will be monitored by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

This reads like a Monty Python skit. Total revenue will be exceeded by new administration costs. Is it any wonder people think the bureaucracy has gone mad?

National Flag DayStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was National Flag of Canada Day. Thirty-six years ago, many of us were assembled in schoolyards to proudly witness one of the key events in the history of our country. Even the cold wintry day could not dampen our enthusiasm in hearing the story of the creation of a distinctive symbol that was soon to become recognized and respected throughout the world.

For months, debate and controversy had surrounded the creation of our flag. Hundreds of design submissions, hundreds of speeches in parliament, but all focused on one common goal, finding an emblem for the Canadian people that would represent justice, peace and equality for all.

We attained that objective. Whether it flies over our efforts to build a country or our assistance to another country in time of need, our flag inspires respect and harmony. We can feel justifiable attachment and pride in the flag of Canada, for it is the symbol of a united society.

Regional Economic DevelopmentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jean Guy Carignan Liberal Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 26, the Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State for Economic Development Agency of Canada announced a contribution of $10 million for the establishment of a national downhill ski training and competition centre at Le Massif de Petite-Rivière-Saint-François.

Completion of this project should in fact lead to the creation of 75 seasonal jobs with the resort corporation, as well as to additional economic spinoffs of more than $16 million over four years.

We feel it is important to point out that this initiative by the Government of Canada is part of its strategy to provide all regions of Quebec with the opportunity to fully develop their economic potential.

The government is proud to associate itself with this project which will enhance the ski area's international reputation.

Shirley HarrisonStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the outstanding volunteer efforts of Ms. Shirley Harrison.

Ms. Harrison went on assignment to Russia to assist a fashion house to become more competitive. She provided vital guidance on marketing strategies, recommending a company logo, fashion shows and brochures, not to mention her key role in drafting a marketing plan so the company owner could upgrade his store.

Finally, Ms. Harrison proposed administrative changes to delegate responsibilities to the employees so as to provide some relief for the company owner.

Ms. Harrison's work will have a tremendous impact in alleviating the stresses and challenges associated with running a company in Russia. Her wealth of experience and generous volunteer spirit demonstrates the best of Canadian values. Ms. Harrison is an exemplary grassroots ambassador.

I am sure all of my colleagues, as well as Shirley's many friends and family, join me in commending her for her impressive contributions and accomplishments in Russia.

Way to go, Shirley.

LabourStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a very clear pattern in the way the government handles labour disputes falling under federal jurisdiction: wait for a problem to occur, wait for some real damage to be done and then legislate an end to the strike.

In 1994 longshoremen at the Port of Vancouver went on strike. They lost wages, the port lost business and farmers thousands of miles away came one step closer to losing their farms.

In 1997 Canada Post went on strike, with the same results for the employer and employees, and thousands of small businesses suffered major losses as the Christmas shopping season approached.

In both of these examples and in many others, the dispute was ended by legislation after the damage had been done. The losses suffered by everyone were for nothing. This year we are facing the possibility of more disruptions at our ports, with both the national railways, with the air traffic controllers, among others.

Does the Minister of Labour have any proactive ideas to end this lose-lose situation or does she simply plan to allow Canadians to continue to suffer because of her failure to act?

Black History MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you may know, in December 1995 parliament officially designated February as Black History Month.

Black History Month provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the importance the history of Blacks in North America.

In Canada, Black History Month gained acceptance in the late 1960s and has become an annual event across the country, particularly in major urban cities.

The federal government's commitment to the recognition and education of Black History Month is the Mathieu Da Costa Awards Program. Mathieu Da Costa was the first of many persons of African origin who have made important contributions to the building of Canada. The program encourages Canadian students to research, discover and celebrate the contributions of Canadians of ethnic and racial minorities who have contributed to the building of Canadian society and allows them to develop a more inclusive notion of Canadian citizenship and identity.

I encourage all of you take part in the events and activities of Black History Month and to recognize the extraordinary contribution Black people have made and continue to make in building Canadian society.

Summit Of The AmericasStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, globalization is a very covert phenomenon. The person surfing the Internet, the pensioner examining the state of his pension fund, the farmer milking his cows and selling the milk are all affected by various aspects of globalization.

The issues are determined around international tables. Only sovereign states sit at these tables. Quebec, a mere province of Canada, does not exist for the world. The country of Quebec would.

The Summit of the Americas to establish a free trade area for the entire hemisphere will be held in Quebec's capital city. The Premier of Quebec, the Premier of all Quebecers, has not received any sort of an invitation to this summit, which nevertheless will be held in Quebec's capital city.

The federal government is trying to minimize the Quebec nation. While Quebec's economic future will in part be decided at this summit, Quebec itself will be absent.

One day, Quebecers will truly host the whole world in the country of Quebec.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, oil development in the Sudan may not be a cause of one of the most deadly killing fields in the world, where two million have died and four million have been internally displaced, but it is certainly a catalyst, if not a condition, for its continuance and the obstacle to any peace.

Indeed, Sudan has not only used its oil revenue to double its military expenditures in the last two years while using scorched earth warfare to secure the oil fields, but it has breached its promise to Canada and the international community to increase vital investments in agriculture and food security. Rather, the warfare exposes its people to more depopulation, more human misery and more killing, including the warnings from the United Nations of a war induced famine and a genocide warning from the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Canada must use its good offices to press the Sudanese government to cease and desist from its scorched earth policy, to negotiate peace in good faith, and to provide its people with food rather than target them with oil generated weapons.

We in this place must explore the legislative means—

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, today in Washington state hundreds and perhaps even thousands of Canadians will be gathering at a public hearing where the decision on granting a permit for the Sumas 2 power plant will be announced.

This power plant will be built within a stone's throw of the Canadian border, spewing its pollution into the air and drifting north into the Fraser Valley of B.C.

Because of the geography of the area, which is surrounded by mountains, and the prevailing wind patterns, the poisonous particulate will hang over the residents of our communities.

My constituents oppose the project because of emissions into the air shed, electrical transmission lines and polluted waste water. This power plant would also violate the spirit of the 1991 air shed agreement signed between our two countries.

The environment minister has dropped the ball on this file and has even said “How can Canada ask America not to build Sumas2?”

It is obvious that our environment minister does not care about clean air in my community. However, I will stand up for my constituents against Sumas 2 at hearings next week, along with my Alliance colleagues, to counteract the minister's muted silence.

Montgomery LegionStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Montgomery Legion in my riding will be hosting a charity auction this Thursday, February 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in support of the branch.

For many years Montgomery Legion has been at the heart of my community and an active supporter of local charities. Now the Montgomery Legion needs the assistance of the local community to carry on. I am extending an open invitation to join me and my highly talented staff for this very special event.

All those in attendance will have the additional pleasure of having dinner cooked by me, proof that elected representatives can serve their constituents in more than one way.

I ask everyone to please show their support for the Montgomery Legion on February 22. They can buy tickets by calling 233-7292. For $10 they can have a wonderful chicken served à la Mac.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Innu of Labrador are not registered as Indians under the Indian Act and consequently are not allowed access to the range of programs and other services generally afforded first nations.

In September 2000 the minister agreed to seek cabinet approval for the registration of the Innu under the Indian Act.

The minister's colleague, the former premier of Newfoundland, now the minister of everything, actually called upon the federal government to grant the Innu status. He said:

The Innu communities of Labrador need the tools that can only be made available to them if they have First Nations status.

The failure of the Government of Canada to recognize the constitutional status of the Innu constitutes a breach of its fiduciary obligation to the Innu as an aboriginal people. The Innu have been waiting for equal treatment since 1949. How much longer must they wait?

I take this opportunity to call upon the government to move quickly to grant the Innu of Labrador first nation status as an integral important first step in healing these troubled communities.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General of Canada is very critical of the federal government's misappropriation of the surplus in the EI fund, and I quote:

The Canada Employment Insurance Commission has not explained how it sets premium rates under the Employment Insurance Act. These rates have resulted in the rise of the Employment Insurance Account's accumulated surplus. Although it is notional in nature, the accumulated surplus balance has increased by $7.2 billion for the year to $28.2 billion at 31 March 2000. This is almost twice the maximum amount considered sufficient by the Chief Actuary.

Clearly, this shows that the federal government has used employment insurance premiums to pay down its deficit on the backs of the unemployed, workers and employers. Now it wants to use Bill C-2 to legalize this misappropriation of funds.

Seasonal workers in Quebec and in Canada are entitled to ask the federal government for what is owed them and in fact is theirs.

Young OffendersStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week in the House, the Minister of Justice reintroduced her youth criminal justice bill.

Bill C-7 provides for a fairer and more effective system by setting out to prevent youth crime, ensure the reintegration of youth into society and provide for consequences that offer positive outlooks for young people who commit offences.

Above all, this bill offers the required flexibility so that Quebec and the other provinces can continue to pursue the approach they feel is effective for them.

I therefore urge all members of the House to support Bill C-7 and to help develop and maintain the best possible youth criminal justice system.

FisheriesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, concern has been expressed about the state of the snow crab stocks in Newfoundland. Last year when such concern was expressed the minister made an across the board cut. This year he has committed to zone by zone management.

Zones 8A and 6C have managed their stocks extremely well. In fact, experimental fisheries have shown that returns are four to five times the acceptable rate.

We are asking the minister to make sure this year that instead of being cut these areas are rewarded. It is also about time that fisher persons in that area are given licences to fish crab rather than having the permit system under which they presently operate.

Jeff SpencerStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 6, 2001, acting Captain Jeff “Spinner” Spencer, of the Toronto Fire Services, lost his long and courageous battle with brain cancer, a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board recognized occupational induced illness.

Mr. Spencer, a resident of Whitby, was 45 years old and had over 20 years of service on the job at the time of his death. He leaves behind his wife and three children, as well as many other family members, co-workers and friends.

Mr. Spencer was diagnosed with primary malignant brain cancer just after completing his 20th year as a firefighter in the Toronto Fire Services. Since 1999 there have been over 10 cases of firefighters with brain cancer reported and the number continues to grow.

Firefighters are exposed to a number of substances dangerous to their health in carrying out their duties. The mixture of these substances in unknown quantities presents a serious health hazard to firefighters.

I take this opportunity to extend my sincerest sympathies to the Spencer family for their loss. I hope this loss brings attention to the numerous hazards faced by firefighters every day and inspires people to do their part for the Fire Fighters Cancer Research Fund.