House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was foundation.


Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology Act
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3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


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3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The recorded division on Motion No. 10 stands deferred.

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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS


Motion No. 3

That Bill C-4, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing line 22 on page 6 with the following:

“viour for terms that do not exceed five years and that are staggered so that not more than four terms will expire in any year.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-4, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 34 and 35 on page 6 with the following:

“for one term not exceeding five years.”

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 3 is an amendment to clause 10 which amends the terms held by the directors of the foundation.

As the legislation exists now, directors are appointed to terms of five years. The motion would ensure that terms are staggered in such a way that there would be a turnover of directors to bring in new ideas and prevent stagnation at the director level. In short, directors would serve staggered terms so we could bring in new directors. The directors would appoint new directors. We would continually bring in new ideas from professionals, university professors and many different segments in Canadian society.

At the same time, we would state that no more than four terms would expire in any year. That would mean continuity and that directors would never be left completely in a void. They would have some institutional memory of the board and would understand and have some knowledge of the history of the board. If we did not do that there would be a risk that they would lose that institutional memory. That is the reason for this amendment.

I would hope that the House and the members of the Liberal caucus and the government would support that amendment.

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3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak once again to Bill C-4 and to speak to Motions Nos. 3 and 4. I will start by repeating my position that the bill has real merit. If the government sees fit to support my amendment in Group No. 3, we may yet have a chance as a party to support the bill at third reading.

Motions Nos. 3 and 4 are a credible effort by the member for South Shore to tighten up the bill, at least to some degree. Even if he were to achieve what he is suggesting in the motions, the bill would still leave a lot to be desired, but at least it would be a step in the right direction. We would be willing to support those two motions.

The whole bill has been created like a sieve, and I suspect that was deliberate on the part of the minister and the government. When the minister was before committee he suggested that some of the vagueness and loose wording in the bill was put there to allow maximum flexibility in the application of the principles of the bill.

That was admirable, but I think it is incumbent upon us, as an opposition to the government and in representing the concerns of Canadians, to demand some checks and balances in the bill that would protect value for money when we are spending taxpayer dollars. The issue of this particular group around the membership of the foundation and the directors of the foundation is one of the areas of concern.

The government refers to reasonable expenses and reasonable costs. To some degree it addresses the issue of remuneration for directors. It specifically leaves out any mention of remuneration for the chairman who is appointed by the governor in council or by the Prime Minister. This is reason to be concerned.

When we last visited the bill some days ago some members presented a number of examples of extravagant or ridiculous use of taxpayer dollars in government operations, boards, foundations and departments. Some of those examples were a bit extreme but they did point out why we should be concerned.

The example I would use concerns Mr. Ted Weatherill who was a government bureaucrat. He was under the same guidelines of reasonable expenses and reasonable remuneration. He turned in a bill to taxpayers for $21,000 in three years for his travel expenses. These things actually happen. It is not a figment of anybody's imagination. The concern is legitimate when we are dealing with this matter.

We could fix the bill. We could make it a bill that we could support in the interests of cleaner air and a cleaner environment. However we cannot support it because it is custom made for the abuse of tax dollars. It would not take an awful lot to fix it.

When we were last debating the bill the minister said that the criteria and the funding agreement would be tabled in due course and that if we or other members of the House had a problem with it we would have an opportunity to bring it forward and discuss it.

That is quite true, but if there is one thing I have learned in the seven years I have been here, it is that a member can bring things to the House and discuss them until he suffers from premature failure of his vocal chords and nothing will happen. The fact that we can discuss issues in the House does not mean that the concerns are ever addressed.

It would be much more prudent to fix the bill before we passed it and to address our concerns so that we could then support the bill.

We support this group of motions. They are well intended and move in the right direction, although they fall far short of fixing the bill. At least it is an honest effort in the right direction. When it comes time to vote we will be supporting the motions.

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3:45 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the motions in Group No. 2. I spoke last week to Group No. 1.

Group No. 2 includes Motions Nos. 3 and 4. I will say the Bloc Quebecois will support these two motions. Despite what they say, they concern a foundation that already exists in Quebec along the lines of what the federal government wants to duplicate.

We can see that with the attitude it displayed earlier this government is not in any way prepared to have an open mind with respect to constructive ideas put forward by the opposition, be it the Alliance, the Bloc, the Conservatives or the NDP.

I said it last week and I reiterate it today: this government is arrogant and self-important. It suffers from self-importance because it thinks it has a monopoly on the truth. When people think they have a monopoly on the truth, that is when they lose it.

In my opinion, instead of totally recreating what is already working in the provinces, this government ought to be taking steps to give back the money it has taken away. Do hon. members realize where the budget surplus came from? The government took it out of the pockets of ordinary people, people earning less than $50,000. As well, it has cut transfer payments to the provinces for health, education and social assistance.

Measures in these areas are provincial. This government should return the money to the provinces, which have good systems already, so that they may improve them. What does it do instead? It duplicates what is already in place.

When someone duplicates what others have already done it is called plagiarism. It is duplicating at the expense of others, in order to gain visibility by putting up a little flag. That is not the reason Canadians and Quebecers elected these people. They elected them to administer public funds that do not belong to them. This is money that belongs to all Canadians and all Quebecers.

Obviously, with the election the government wanted to pull one over on the Canadian Alliance, which was not caught unprepared last November. Let us face facts. This government no longer listens to anyone. It is deaf, dumb and blind. It will only go where it wants to go.

This is not what Canadians and Quebecers expect of the government. Until further notice, it is Canadians and Quebecers who provide the government with the money so that it may administer and pass legislation that will improve their situation.

Sustainable development is extremely important. We know how this government toots its horn when it provides any funding for the environment and sustainable development. I note that is not what it is attempting to do with this bill. It wants to ease its conscience and interfere in the jurisdiction of others.

I find the government's approach very offensive. Under the proposed amendments all appointees would not have to leave at the end of their terms. They would not all leave at once. These departures would be spread out over a period of four years to allow some people to remain on the board of directors so that the foundation can continue to function.

In addition, under Motion No. 4 members of the board of directors would be eligible to be reappointed only once.

Enough of appointing one's friends for life. That is not what Canadians want. They want more transparency, more availability. They want the people representing them to listen.

We on this side of the House represent many Quebecers and Canadians. The government thinks that it has a monopoly on the truth.

The day they begin to understand they should be listening to Canadians and Quebecers, we will no longer have to go through what we have been going through in the last little while in the House of Commons.

Let us just take the example of the young offenders bill. This is a matter of great interest to Quebecers. It is an area which works tremendously well in Quebec. All Quebecers are opposed to the Minister of Justice's bill. And, what does this government do? It turns a deaf ear and plows ahead. That is precisely what the Minister of Natural Resources is doing. He is looking out for no one and he is forging ahead. One fine day he will meet up with the train, and trains go fast and stop for no one.

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3:50 p.m.



Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the House is once again considering Bill C-4 at report stage. A number of amendments were suggested subsequent to the work on the bill in committee.

We are dealing with motions that the Chair has designated as Group No. 2, specifically Motions Nos. 3 and 4 moved by the member for South Shore, in an effort to provide more restrictions in the bill to the terms of office of the directors.

I will deal with those specific points in just a moment, but I wish to make a couple of observations in response to the hon. member from the Bloc who has just spoken. Her criticisms of Bill C-4 were not in terms of what the bill is trying to achieve with respect to sustainable development.

As I understood them, they were twofold: first, there had not been ample consultation with all other players and stakeholders, particularly the provinces and, second, the foundation being proposed in some way duplicates that which is already in place in some provinces, most especially the province of Quebec. With the greatest of respect, neither of those criticisms is valid.

I say this for these reasons. First, Bill C-4 and all other measures included in Government of Canada action plan 2000 and identified in the budget of February 2000 with respect to climate change flow from over two years of the most comprehensive, open, transparent and inclusive consultation there has ever been on an environmental and developmental topic.

Members will recall that the Kyoto conference occurred in December 1997. In a meeting with the Prime Minister not more than 48 hours after the conclusion of the Kyoto protocol, the provinces insisted that there be a very thorough process of consultation. It would specifically include the provinces, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, the municipalities, and virtually all Canadians to fully scope out what the climate change issue was and what the implications of the Kyoto accord would be.

The Government of Canada agreed with that initiative and in the spring 1998 the consultation process began. It involved at least 16 different issue tables. It involved over 400 Canadians from every province and territory. It involved all municipalities that wanted to be involved, as well as scientific and non-governmental organizations. It included every dimension of Canadian life from coast to coast to coast. It was open, transparent, inclusive and comprehensive.

The idea for the sustainable development technology fund flowed from that process, which went on for the better part of two years. It cannot be said that there was not ample consultation. There was fulsome and very strong consultation which most definitely included the Government of Quebec and a whole range of non-governmental interest in the province of Quebec.

The proposed sustainable development technology foundation does not duplicate work that is already being undertaken by somebody else in some other jurisdiction. We have been very careful in defining the role of the new foundation. It is filling a gap in the innovation chain. It is not duplicating or overlapping with something that is already there. It is filling a gap that is problematic at the present time. There is common agreement among our private sector stakeholders that the gap needs to be filled and the foundation is the preferred method of filling that gap.

We have continuity from the very early stages of abstract and pure science through all the intermediate stages where that science becomes more defined and more applied, to the final end of the process where it is commercialized and put to work in the economy. This new fund and the new foundation will not cause an overlap or a duplication with something that somebody else is already doing in some other jurisdiction.

What it does is that it adds new funding to help us all meet the challenge of sustainable development. All federal, provincial and territorial ministers of energy and the environment, all those in the private sector that we consulted, the environmental organizations and the scientific community, would all agree that if there is one thing we need from all sources, federal, provincial and territorial with the private sector, is more money into the equation to help us find those sustainable development solutions.

We are not overlapping. We are not duplicating. We are acting on the basis of ample consultation, bringing another $100 million to the equation to help solve the challenges of sustainable development for the future.

When we have an absolute shortage of funding, adding another $100 million to the overall pot does not constitute overlap or duplication. It represents a very solid investment toward a larger solution.

Specifically on the points raised by the member for South Shore in Motions Nos. 3 and 4, Motion No. 3 is essentially aimed at staggering terms of office and Motion No. 4 is aimed at limiting the time in office that any particular director can serve.

While I recognize what the hon. gentleman is trying to accomplish, I respectfully suggest that the language already in Bill C-4 provides flexibility for the ongoing board of directors to function in a most appropriate way and that the restrictions and the meaning proposed by the member for South Shore would really be counterproductive.

We cannot determine the value of directors in advance by arbitrarily saying that they will only have good ideas, that they will only serve in a proper fashion for one term and that then they will be burned out and we should cast them aside and get somebody else.

While it is desirable to have turnover, new blood and new ideas brought into the equation, it is better to leave Bill C-4 in the form as it presently stands, which provides flexibility in dealing with the terms of directors rather than trying to precisely describe when a particular director must leave office.

Directors who serve well, that bring energy, ideas, vitality and enthusiasm to their task, ought to continue, and perhaps indefinitely. They do not run out of ideas because they serve a certain number of terms or reach a certain age. These people may want to leave after one term. They may want to continue for three or four. We need to retain the flexibility to capture their maximum vitality rather than try to prescribe and limit in advance.

I simply do not accept the notion that we necessarily have to say in the legislation that they should be turfed out at a certain point. The legislation provides flexibility. It provides for appointment and then the possibility of reappointment.

Obviously at the time of reappointment an assessment would be made as to whether the person wants to continue and whether in the view of the responsible government of the day the person is making a valuable contribution that ought to be continued. It is proper to leave it flexible on that basis so that there can be rejuvenation from time to time and that those who are making valuable contributions can continue for the long term.

On the point about staggering, I certainly agree with the objective that we do not want all the directors coming and going at the same time. Obviously we would have to reinvent the wheel with each new board of directors every time.

That is a reasonable proposition. My only comment would be that the staggering of terms is already possible under Bill C-4 as it is currently drafted. Therefore specifically Motion No. 3 is unnecessary because the foundation already has the flexibility that is required to stagger the terms.

Points Of Order
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March 28th, 2001 / 4:05 p.m.

Hamilton East


Sheila Copps Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising from question period. In the course of rather heated debate, the member for Edmonton North passed a comment on the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism in which she accused her of attacking Christians.

Whereupon I responded by saying what would she know about Christians, in reference specifically to the very important Christian value of forgiveness. I am sorry that members opposite have tried to construe these comments as being something that they utterly were not.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, we appreciate what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said but she also uttered the same comments when I was asking a question. It was after three other questions were asked in between.

I am offended too. I believe the Chamber should respect all religions equally. I am not a Christian. I am a non-Christian. I am a Sikh. I expect the hon. minister to address the issue with respect to when she spoke during my question.

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4:05 p.m.


Sheila Copps Hamilton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is precisely why I came forward and make no mistake about it. The comment was in direct response to the member for Edmonton North who stated that the secretary of state was attacking Christians. I passed the comment directly to the member for Edmonton North. She is obviously aware of the context, the context of which was that one of the basic tenets of Christianity is forgiveness. That was the context of the comment.

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4:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Obviously we have a disagreement and, as I said earlier, I urge all hon. members to be very respectful to each other at all times.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is the time to move on. The people of Surrey Central are pleased to have me participate in the report stage debate on Motions Nos. 3 and 4 in Group No. 2 concerning the establishment of a foundation to fund sustainable development technology.

The government has earmarked $100 million as the amount of initial funding to be doled out. The sustainable development technology foundation is to operate at arm's length from the government, or at least it is supposed to be.

We on this side of the House want to support Bill C-4. However we want to see some more amendments in the bill. We had suggestions for the Liberals concerning the bill. Our suggestions do not have anything to do with the sustainable development aspects of the bill. The amendments needed do not have anything to do with the projects related to greenhouse gas reductions and improving air quality.

Our amendments have to do with Liberal Party arrogance. The Liberals are proposing to turn the sustainable development foundation into a Liberal patronage pork barrel. That is what we are up against. The Liberals are trying to make it so that the chairperson along with a minority number of directors and members are appointed by governor in council, which then appoints the remaining members to complete the 15 person board of directors.

Let me read for the Liberals a simple paragraph from the Canadian Alliance policy which is dictated by grassroots members. It states:

We believe that a non-partisan civil service, and independent judiciary and competent leadership of government agencies, boards and commissions are vital in a democracy. We will therefore ensure appointments to these positions are made through an open and accountable process based on merit.

When will the government stop implementing its system of disenfranchisement? The patronage practices of the government are virtually fascist by strict political definition.

How could there be this foundation at arm's length from the government while the weak Liberal government appoints its board directly and indirectly? The Canadian Alliance will put a stop to this sort of thing when we form the government.

There are two motions in Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 3 and 4. I will not read the motions, but we would like to support them because both of them aim to limit the terms of appointment of the chairperson and the board of directors appointed by the governor in council and the staggering of appointments to ensure continuity on the board. The amendments may not accomplish exactly what the official opposition wants the government to do, but it is a step in the right direction.

The amendments moved by the hon. member for South Shore will tighten the bill and limit the number of terms of the board of directors. It is a step in the right direction. On behalf of my constituents and my colleagues I will be willing to support the two motions.

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4:10 p.m.


Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased once again to take part in the debate on Bill C-4, which was of course Bill C-46 in the previous parliament.

There is no doubt that the objectives of the bill, which establishes a foundation to fund sustainable development technology, are noble. They are very noble indeed. Sustainable development is very much a concern among the public. Today, at noon, I was watching a television program and the topic happened to be the environment. People are very concerned about the environment, sustainable development and the reduction of greenhouse gases. They are also concerned about air quality.

Today's program also dealt with other environmental issues, but we know them. We can identify them because they are a permanent concern among the public. The objectives of the foundation are noble.

Personally, and this should be kept under wrap, I have my pink side, with a dash of blue, which pleases my spouse and my children. I also have a considerable green side, though. The environment is one of my major concerns. In the case of the foundation for sustainable technology, however, one cannot help but draw a parallel with the millennium scholarship foundation.

There were already policies in place in Quebec and this was an area under Quebec jurisdiction. Still, they doggedly insisted on creating a federal level foundation. The same thing goes for this one, the foundation in Bill C-4.

There is considerable expertise in Quebec, yet in the same broadcast today at noon it was said that Quebec has half the greenhouse gas emissions most of the others have. There is therefore expertise in Quebec. There are technicians. Technology is being developed. As the minister has said, he considers this new foundation a kind of fund. He also said that everyone expressed a need for more money.

Thus, the foundation could to all intents and purposes exist with its most noble objectives. After the consultation, which dealt mainly with the technical aspects of sustainable development, everyone was in agreement. When the time came to talk money, however, Quebec wanted the funding to be transferred so that it could carry out implementation or expansion of the foundation already in place in Quebec, which moreover constitutes a fund of some $45 million.

If Quebec had its fair share, it could advance still further in the area of technological development and make of itself an international showcase of cutting edge technologies, therefore stepping up its promotion of technology for sustainable development.

In the group we are currently studying, Group No. 2, there are two motions the Bloc Quebecois will support. If we look at the bill, it provides at subclause 10(4):

(4) A director is eligible to be reappointed for one or more terms not exceeding five years each.

To all intents and purposes this could go past the time limit for senators. This is another place the Prime Minister and his group will appoint a chairperson and members, who will then appoint other members. It is also up to the Prime Minister to choose to revoke certain positions. There may be lifetime appointments.

They talk of new technologies for the environment. They are running the risk that some who are there just about forever will lose the spark of the imagination and that the spark of renewal may not exist as long as one might like in these technologies.

Obviously, in view of the Liberal majority, the government will proceed with this bill. I am convinced of that. We cannot say enough that there is overlap again. The bill still gives the appearance of giving people, friends, contributors, positions that may last their lifetime. We will therefore support the two motions in Group No. 2.

We must not let a motion provided for periodic change go unmentioned. The bill would have done well to provide for a change of members on a rotational basis in order to ensure continuous renewal. Thus, limiting a term to five years is a good thing. If at some point some do not suit the other levels, they may be removed. At that point they will be in the middle or at the end of a term, even at the start of it. Motions provided that, in addition, at the end of a term, a person could remain another five years.

In fact, because the foundation will be created and will duplicate what the provinces, including Quebec, are doing and because we will have to endure that, such an amendment is very relevant. The Bloc Quebecois will support them, but we will never lose sight of the fact that we will always oppose the bill so long as it cannot be improved throughout.

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4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?