House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.


Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his comments but point out that this is the second time I have been up in less than half an hour. It is not true that we are not participating in the debate.

I thank him for raising the good point that three bills have started in the Senate. In a bicameral system every bill must go through both houses. If all bills started in the Senate the House of Commons would sit around for a week with nothing to do until something was passed, and vice versa if they all started here.

I thank the hon. member for congratulating those who brought forward the improvement of splitting bills so that both houses could work on them. If the Senate could remove some of the fine details in its extensive committee consultations we would not have to worry about them and would have an even better bill when we got it.

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have never heard a more eloquent plea from a member on the Liberal side for a seat in the Senate. I suggest he make that plea on an individual basis to the Prime Minister. I wish him luck in his quest for a senatorial appointment.

I agree with the member that a significant amount of valuable work is done in the other place on legislation like this one. This House, the lower House, benefits from the work of many of our senators, particularly at the committee level where there is a significant level of expertise and talent.

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am especially grateful to have the full attention of the government House leader. The Canadian Alliance, as my colleague has indicated, will support Bill S-16 which comes to us essentially as legislative amendments the Senate has sought to Bill S-22. I echo the concern of my colleague from Elk Island about the growing practice under the current government of initiating legislation in the other place.

However I would also highlight that Senate committees, in particular the Senate banking committee in this instance, do good work. Frankly they pay more attention to the details of legislation of this nature than do some of our own committees.

The bill deals with the proceeds of crime, otherwise known as money laundering. I rise to make the point as finance critic for the opposition that Canada's laws with respect to proceeds of crime are unfortunately not as robust as they ought to be. Other jurisdictions have taken far more significant legislative steps to plug loopholes which allow those who benefit from proceeds of crime to secrete assets in Canada.

I also second the remarks of my colleague from Kings—Hants who pointed out that although we have a legislative framework to deal with the proceeds of crime, we do not provide nearly sufficient resources to law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws.

In particular, the proceeds of crimes division or white collar crime division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is constrained by quite finite resources. This means major fraudsters have pretty significant resources at their disposal.

These people benefit from tens, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars of defrauded moneys and assets. They can afford the very best legal advice, lawyers, financial advice and accountants to hide their illegally gained assets and launder them so they become ostensibly legal funds. This is because police simply do not have sufficient resources to combat the problem on a large scale in Canada.

Consequently, victims of commercial crime increasingly are turning to lawyers to pursue civil remedies. That is a concern. I want to raise in the debate the need to consider giving, through our laws, greater latitude to victims of fraud to pursue civil remedies in court. In many Canadian jurisdictions it is difficult, if not impossible, for victims of fraud to collectively pursue so-called class action cases against fraudsters.

The legal framework in the United States allows for fairly robust civil remedies. For instance, when a telemarketing scam defrauds thousands of American seniors, they can put together a class action suit. They can find and hire skilled lawyers to investigate, track laundered assets, seek and in many instances obtain judgments against fraudsters, and restore defrauded moneys to the people to whom they rightfully belong.

In many Canadian jurisdictions similar remedies are not available. Individual victims of fraud are not able to collectively pool their resources and pursue legal remedies. In Canada police do not have the resources or advanced legal expertise to pursue money laundering cases, and affected individuals cannot collectively join together to finance the expensive investigatory and legal work required to pursue these cases. I raise this as an important point.

We need to join growing international efforts to stamp out money laundering. Literally billions of dollars are laundered in and through the Canadian economy every year. Multiple billions of dollars of assets in Canada belong to criminals indirectly and are controlled by criminals. Our police forces do not have the resources or expertise to fully trace the laundering process and restore justice to victims of fraudulent activity. Our legal framework limits the remedies available to those people.

I raise this as a matter of concern. I invite the government to revisit the issue in a broader perspective to find out how we can amend laws to be more clearly in compliance with the growing international intolerance of money laundering. I invite the government to find out how we can give more powerful civil remedies to victims of fraud. Finally, I invite the government to find out how we can better equip the RCMP and other police services across the country to plug loopholes, track down fraudulent and laundered assets and enforce the law to protect the tens of thousands of Canadians who are the unwitting victims of fraudulent scams.

I invite the government to consider all these things. However we in the Canadian Alliance Party will be supporting the bill.

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

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

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for St. John's West, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.



Lawrence MacAulay for Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on third reading of this very important bill, Bill C-24. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has reported the bill to us with only a few changes. The bill deserves to be sent to the Senate without delay. We know that police and prosecutors need better tools to fight organized crime and criminal gains.

The bill is important because fighting organized crime is a key part of ensuring safer communities and that is why the government tabled the bill.

We know that the actions of organized criminals are felt across the country and around the world. They are at the heart of serious social problems like illegal drug use and organized prostitution. Telemarketing, Internet and credit card fraud cost victims thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, and stolen cars from Canadian communities end up around the world to feed illegal markets. Sometimes the costs are not obvious but the impacts and costs are real and they often can be very significant.

This is why the new definition of a criminal organization in the bill targets those who seek “material benefit, including a financial benefit”, through crime. These new provisions would allow police and prosecutors to target the professional criminal at the heart of so many of the criminal problems that we face. In addition, the three new offences in the bill related to the criminal organizations would further help us to focus on those who lead gangs, those who participate in offences to benefit criminal organizations and those who participate in order to enhance the criminal organization's ability such as recruiting youth or others into gang activities.

These tools are what the RCMP, other police forces and provincial governments have told us that they need to deal with the organized crime problem today and in the future. The provisions on intimidation are very important for Canadians and for the health of our institutions.

Intimidation of witnesses and jurors and criminal justice officials can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice process. Likewise we are all aware that parliamentarians and other legislators can be subject to intimidation. This is unacceptable in this democratic society. The new offence of intimidation of a criminal justice system participant would help us address this threat and take firm action against those who would seek to undermine our institutions.

The standing committee did amend the bill to include journalists in these provisions. This is very appropriate. The media are a very important part of the democratic process and public debate free of intimidation is crucial.

I would like to note the importance of the provisions in the bill regarding proceeds of crime. Right now there are a number of offences in which illegal profits can be seized by police and ordered forfeited by courts, like drug trafficking or murder.

The bill also expands the range of offences to include almost all indictable offences. This would mean that police could take away the proceeds of crime from criminals more effectively.

On the question of protection from criminal liability for law enforcement officers, the bill would put in place important new provisions to provide for limited justification for law enforcement officers. It would allow designated officers, under strict conditions, to perform for the purposes of investigations acts and omissions that would otherwise be offences. The supreme court has recognized that officers operating in good faith may need to have such powers. It also recognized that it is up to parliament to provide for them. That is exactly what we do in Bill C-24.

During the committee hearings on the bill we heard from police and other witnesses on the need for these provisions. Since the supreme court's decision two years ago, many investigations have been affected. It has been felt most strongly in complex undercover operations against organized crimes. A number of the operations have had to be suspended, modified or stopped entirely, but the effect of the decision has not been limited to organized crime investigations. It also has affected other operations such as law enforcement purchases of contraband tobacco and alcohol and counterfeit currency in order to gather evidence.

Few would dispute that enforcement officers should have the power to gather this kind of evidence, but the statutory authority must be put in place. Also, there are serious crimes outside the area of organized crime where these powers are needed. Investigations in areas like murder and kidnapping sometimes require undercover operations where officers must gain the confidence of their targets before making arrests and bringing an operation to an end.

The need for the limited justification for the police has been well established, but the debate on how it should be put in place has been useful and important. One of the main issues has involved the question of judicial authorization. It was rightly pointed out that certain law enforcement powers, like wiretapping and search provisions, require judicial authorization. However, it is not appropriate for this law enforcement justification system. That was made clear during the standing committee proceedings.

Unlike wiretapping and searches, this system does not involve precisely defined police actions that can workably be made subject to prior judicial authorization. As well, the broad nature of decisions about police operations that a judge would be asked to make during the investigations themselves would lead to inappropriate judicial involvement in investigations.

Another important question also raised was whether the limited law enforcement justification should be restricted to investigations of organized crime. The effect of the supreme court decision has not been limited to organized crime investigations. An appropriate system must recognize this and provide for the full scope of activities where the justification is needed.

However, the concern about these powers being used for minor operations is understandable. The concern is addressed in the bill. A fundamental requirement of the bill is that the use of the law enforcement justification must satisfy a condition that the conduct is “reasonable and proportional” in the circumstances. Enforcement officers would weigh matters like the nature of the act or omission that would otherwise be an offence, the nature of the investigation and the reasonable availability of other means for carrying out of duties. Failure to respect this requirement would be serious. The justification would no longer apply and officers may be subject to criminal liability in the courts.

There are many other safeguards in the bill. First and foremost is the role of ministers responsible for policing in designating those who are eligible for the law enforcement justification.

As solicitor general, I will be responsible for designating members of the RCMP. This role would provide an important measure of control and accountability. The designations will be based on the advice of senior law enforcement officials and reviewed with them before they are made. They may be subject to specific conditions. If designations are misused, they will be taken away. I should also stress that the bill is clear that this role would not involve ministers in individual investigations.

Still more safeguards under the bill include: the exclusion of certain types of conduct such as causing bodily harm, sexual offences, or the obstruction of justice; the provision for a public annual report; and the requirement to notify persons whose property may be lost or seriously damaged.

As I said, if the enforcement officers step outside the condition of the provisions, they would be subject to criminal liability in the courts. Officers would remain subject to internal discipline for unprofessional behaviour or other misconduct and public complaint mechanisms would continue to apply.

New provisions added by the committee include: specific examples of conditions that ministers might apply; clarification of the requirements on the police agents under the system; and the requirement for a parliamentary review after three years. The government supports these changes.

The law enforcement justification under Bill C-24 is not a blank cheque for law enforcement officers, far from it. It is a balanced system with strict limits and conditions. It responds to very real and substantial law enforcement needs. Together with the other provisions on criminal organizations, intimidation and proceeds of crime, the bill represents a major step forward in the public safety agenda.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to do something that does not happen very often, at least for me, and that is to praise a government bill. I am actually surprised that Liberals would do the right thing on this issue. I know it was very difficult for them given the fact that in committee most of the Liberals had trouble supporting the bill. In fact, in committee the Canadian Alliance had to encourage them to do the right thing.

I am pleased to see that the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice have brought the bill forward and have, I think, moved in the right direction. I would like to thank the minister for bringing forward this bill as well as the members who have worked so hard to get this vital legislation before the House.

Both government and opposition members have taken the proposed legislation very seriously during the course of debate in committee work and I am relatively satisfied with what has been accomplished here to date. At long last we have legislation that gives the police many of the tools they have been asking for and, I might add, not simply because the police have been asking for it. I believe that they have been asking for these tools for solid public policy reasons.

We have known for years now that our law enforcement officials are at a severe disadvantage in their efforts to combat organized crime. We know that sophisticated criminal organizations have access to virtually unlimited resources, state of the art technology and unlimited funds, all derived from their illegal activities, while our police forces are barely getting by.

When the solicitor general indicated that this was not a blank cheque for the police, it would have been nice of him to say at least that it would have been a bigger cheque in order to fund some of these operations. I do not think the police forces expect a blank cheque in terms of either the legislation or the funding, but I think an increase in the amount of money available to conduct this very worthwhile endeavour is of course necessary. Frontline officers feel that they are fighting a battle without ammunition.

Bill C-24 is in many ways a long overdue response to a number of concerns raised over the years by federal, provincial and municipal law enforcement officials.

My praise is not entirely unqualified. Bill C-24 is a great step forward but we must not close the book on this issue. We must continue to ask ourselves as elected representatives what we can do to ensure that our law enforcement officials have the necessary tools for keeping Canadians safe and secure in an ever changing world.

We must recognize that police power must be exercised for the common good of the public. Police power is certainly a very important one not simply for itself but for of us to enable society to proceed and to develop in an orderly fashion.

I echo the comments of RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli who said that Bill C-24 was a work in progress. He said that many of the amendments in Bill C-24 were absolutely critical, but he hoped for more work in this area. He hoped that we as parliamentarians would keep the radar screen alive. The commissioner is all too aware of the ever changing nature of organized crime and that these kinds of criminals always seem to be two or three steps ahead of the law.

Beyond the very real need to continue our legislative work in the area of our justice system I have to say, as I alluded to earlier, that I continue to be disappointed with the level of funding that the government has provided to fight organized crime. Given the fact that a relatively simple prosecution under legislation like this could cost up to $10 million or more, the $200 million over five years the minister has announced is really a small amount of money.

It seems strange to say that $200 million is a small amount of money, but when we look at each individual case and the costs involved, it is a staggering amount. I have had experience in the provincial sphere of being responsible for the costs and the administration of those types of cases.

We must make the money available for our police. If we do not, it does not matter how good the legislation is or how good our intentions are. If organized crime realizes that frontline police officers do not have the necessary funding in place, all of this is for naught, and that would be a disappointment.

During committee testimony on May 10, Toronto city police Chief Fantino and Winnipeg police Chief Jack Ewatski both indicated that the new funding they were to receive was insufficient. Chief Fantino said he felt totally inadequate in his ability to direct resources away from the day to day pressing issues he had to contend with. He stated:

I do not have any direct federal funding to help me dedicate the necessary resources to sustain the very labour-intensive, difficult work that has to be done in this area to the extent that we should.

I have to wonder about the $100 million we are putting into a failed long gun registry. Everybody has acknowledged that the long gun registry has failed. It is not doing the job and it will never do it. Yet through blind political allegiance to a failed idea the Liberal government continues to pump $100 million into a registry that has not worked and will not work. The only thing it is doing is destroying the hunting industry and the tourism industry in my area.

I do not understand it. If we gave that $100 million to frontline police officers and asked them if they could do better than the long gun registry, there would not be a police officer or even a police chief who paid lip service to the long gun registry who would not say, given that choice, that they would put it into frontline policing. Why? It is because every police officer in the country cares about reducing crime and is not concerned about a failed political agenda.

Directing resources into very complex investigations often puts tremendous pressure on routine policing operations. Our frontline police officers are saying that they feel like beggars trying to find the resources to do the things of national priority. Because of the lack of resources our municipal forces may not be able to support additional investigations regardless of the legislation we pass today.

I urge the minister and the solicitor general to take a look at areas where we can find existing funding that is not being used appropriately. If we want to find $100 million today, we can find it in the failed long gun registry which is making criminals of ordinary hunters and farmers and destroying tourism and other industries in constituencies such as mine.

Why will the minister not listen? Why will the minister not do anything? The answer is simple. The minister would rather spend $100 million a year than face the political embarrassment of saying that they have made a mistake and have to find a policy that will stop criminals.

There has been a fair amount of public debate on certain aspects of the legislation, particularly in the area of the immunity provisions for peace officers. I should like to discuss that briefly because it is a very important topic.

The legislation would not give police officers any additional rights that they did not enjoy over the last 100 years or so. They always assumed that they had a measure of protection when conducting investigations where in certain situations they were called upon to break the law. That is a very difficult thing for a police officer or anyone to do. Yet it was a necessary aspect of carrying out some very delicate operations.

Police chiefs and crown prosecutors knew about it. It was accepted. It was done in the vast majority of cases in a responsible manner because police officers knew of their responsibilities to our citizens. Crown attorneys and police chiefs who supervised police officers understood it was necessary but uncomfortable, given the fact that it was a breaking of the law.

Therefore the legislation sets out in statutory form with clear criteria the conditions under which this may occur. This is not granting police officers new powers or new steps that they did not exercise before. It simply is a response to the Supreme Court of Canada.

For those concerned about constitutional issues, if one looks at the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada and the legislation in place, I do not think the Supreme Court of Canada was asking that there be any pre-authorization by judicial figures in this matter. It simply said that police officers do not enjoy an immunity in respect of these matters.

If we as a society expect police forces to do the necessary things on our behalf, we must give them legal sanction to do it. I liken it a bit to war because when we are dealing with crime we are at war. In the context of war, our soldiers must do things that would not be otherwise acceptable in society. Our soldiers kill on behalf of our country when it is necessary for them to do so. All of us regret the killing and no one believes that killing is good. Yet as a civilized society we understand that at times it will occur and we give police officers that legislated common law immunity.

In the very same way we are giving our police officers that immunity, but that immunity is very clearly defined and closely supervised. It complies in every respect with the concerns of the Supreme Court of Canada in its judgment in Campbell and Shirose. Given the nature of undercover operations and general policing activities, this immunity is essential in continued efforts in our war against crime and organized crime in particular.

Despite initial misgivings many concerned people, including a number of committee members and witnesses, ultimately expressed support for these provisions in Bill C-24. Provincial and municipal leaders and law enforcement officials alike have recognized that there may be concerns regarding the potential for abuse of these powers that could harm innocent third parties.

However, in light of the fact that criminal organizations have increased in sophistication to such a degree that police cannot keep up with them, there is a general consensus that police must have the ability to conduct undercover operations and reverse sting operations to make a significant impact in this area. Later I will talk about innocent third parties because it is an important issue that the bill overlooks.

After careful consideration of the provisions in Bill C-24 members of the committee as well as a number of witnesses decided that these concessions were necessary to allow police to carry out its duties effectively.

Legislation is not always a precise art. I recognize the difficulties the minister had in weighing some of the concerns on both sides of the issue. I am satisfied the minister has been reasonably prudent and careful in ensuring appropriate checks and balances are provided in the legislation to protect the public.

At the same time these protections are not so overly restrictive that they would impede police investigations. They would also provide police protection from prosecution in very specific and carefully delineated circumstances. I put on record that there are only clearly delineated circumstances where this authority can be exercised.

Ultimately by supporting these provisions we have respected the decisions made by justice department officials who have reviewed the law, who have considered the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Campbell and Shirose, who have dealt with police officers on a day to day basis over the years, and who have listened to the provincial attorneys general across Canada that are on the frontline of fighting crime.

However, should these provisions require improvement, an amendment was passed in committee that would provide yet another check. With this amendment parliament would now conduct a mandatory review of the sections in the criminal code dealing with these provisions every three years.

The three year time frame is appropriate and prudent. If any concerns arise in the operation of this bill, and I certainly hope that is not the case at least in respect of substantive concerns, in three years we will be here to review the matter and make appropriate corrections. We should not leave it for the next group of members to fix any problems that might arise.

While many of us recognize that the legislation may not be perfect, our support for these provisions stems from the fact that the safety and security of Canadians continues to be a considerable risk as a result of criminal activity, and citizens want protection by our police who they understand must be governed by reasonable laws and reasonable conditions. Generally speaking, the bill reflects that reasonableness.

I was also pleased to see that the minister took the suggestion from the Canadian Alliance to include provincial leaders in the list of justice system participants, thereby extending to them additional protection against intimidation from criminal organizations. That protection must be recognized given that they, even much more than many of us, are involved in the front lines of fighting organized crime.

The minister took this one step further and added municipal leaders to the list, and I commend her for that initiative.

I would also like to thank my colleague from the Bloc from Berthier—Montcalm who brought forth an amendment to extend this protection to journalists as well. We are all aware of the important role that journalists play in our society. They are fundamental to free speech in a democratic society and as a part of the exercise of free speech, they are engaged in the fight against organized crime.

As a number of recent cases demonstrate, journalists who serve the public interest by reporting on organized crime are very much in need of and deserve enhanced protection under our criminal law.

I want to briefly deal with the concern that I raised in committee and which, unfortunately, the committee voted against. I introduced an amendment that would have ensured the right for innocent third parties to sue for damages that were caused by a peace officer carrying out his or her duties.

I was disappointed that the amendment was defeated, since it was a very worthwhile amendment that deserved our consideration. The main thrust of the amendment was that a private, law-abiding citizen should not be penalized if his or her property was destroyed in the course of a police investigation or action, even when the police were acting in the context of the authority of this proposed legislation.

Some of the members in committee said that it was a matter for provincial rights because they dealt with civil property and civil rights under section 92 of the Canada Act, 1867. That is not entirely correct. What in fact we may be doing is granting an immunity from civil process by this section. I simply wanted that amendment, given the priority of criminal law when it comes into conflict with the property and civil rights, as a matter of clarification so every that judge was assured that this legislation would not interfere with property and civil rights and that the innocent third parties would still have the right to sue where their property was damaged.

If we expect our citizens to co-operate in this fight, the least we can do is compensate them for any damage that they might suffer as a result of police actions. Although the amendment was not supported in committee, it is an important issue to consider for the future.

The bill is a very important step forward, but I express the concern that there is a lack of funding. I hope the justice minister will ask her colleagues to consider allocating to our police forces and to frontline police officers, the funding they so desperately need.

I certainly hope she will be open to consider future amendments to the criminal code that will further streamline our justice system. We have made great gains with Bill C-24 but we must not become complacent. We need to continually revisit this issue in order to combat organized crime effectively at a national level and to offer all Canadians the greatest possible protection from this kind of criminal activity.

I also want to stress that this bill is an example where all parties in the House can move together. Yes, we might disagree on certain aspects, but I think that the disagreements were relatively minor. What I appreciated about dealing with this bill was that I did not feel that there was an underlying political agenda to embarrass one political party or another.

I wish the minister would take the goodwill she has earned and the good work she has done on the bill and turn that goodwill and that good work to Bill C-15, where I think the most crass Liberal politics is at work. That is very unfortunate.

Government members have placed together child protection laws, firearms long gun registry laws and treatment of animal laws into one bill. Of course we know what the politics behind it are. They want us as opposition members to vote against the bill, then they will come into my riding and say that I did not like children, or that I did not want the protection for children, or that I did not want police officers to have additional protection and therefore I voted against the disarming of police officer section, or that I did not want to see an increase for penalties for home invasion so I voted against the bill.

In fact government members know what the truth is. They knew that we could not support amendments to the gun registry, which is sending $100 million a year literally down the toilet. That and that is why they put it all into one bill. They knew that people in my riding, hard-working farmers and those involved in the animal husbandry industry, in food production, in livestock and otherwise, had legitimate concerns about the treatment of animals laws. What did they do to avoid discussion? They put it all into one bill.

If I ask my colleagues to vote for the bill, because we want to protect children, or we want to create an offence of home invasion or at least increase the penalties in that respect, then they will go to my constituents and say that I flip-flopped on Bill C-68 and now voted for provisions of long gun registry. They may say that I do not care about the livestock industry because I voted for the treatment of animal sections that may imperil their livelihood.

The people of my riding work hard. They are an industrious people. Yet government legislation has destroyed their livelihood in respect of the hunting industry. It has destroyed their livelihood in respect of tourism. Political pride, nothing less, prevents the government from standing up and saying it made a mistake and can we work together to fix that problem.

I want the members opposite to know that on Bill C-15, I am prepared to work in the same open way that members of the opposition, regardless of party, worked to get Bill C-24 through to protect our people. I would be willing to do that with Bill C-15. Why will Liberals not do it? Political pride.

I would ask the minister to reconsider her position, look at the good she has done here, take that good and put it to use in terms of the political mileage she has gained now on this bill and do the right thing, which is split Bill C-15.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

June 11th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to the main estimates which were tabled in the House on Tuesday, February 27, 2001, and which have recently been returned from committee studies and are to be concurred in tomorrow.

My point of order concerns an irregularity with the estimates. I have an interest in ensuring that parliament retains its power over the public purse. This power has been eroded over time.

I refer you to the remarks of Madam Speaker Sauvé on June 12, 1981, at page 10546 of Hansard , when she said “it matters not whether the amount spent is a large sum or simply one dollar”. The issue is whether parliamentary process is properly being followed.

Speaker Lamoureux properly stated on March 26, 1974, at page 896 of Hansard that “Parliament cannot legislate by estimates”.

Speaker Jerome has also stated, at page 607 of Hansard on March 22, 1977:

—the government receives from Parliament the authority to act through the passage of legislation and receives the money to finance such authorized action through the passage by parliament of an appropriations act. A supply item in my opinion ought not, therefore, to be used to obtain authority, which is a proper subject of legislation.

Marleau and Montpetit made note of this on page 735 at note 223.

I believe there is a prima facie case where an estimate this year should be ruled out of order. I am bringing this matter to your attention at this time because your predecessors, Speakers Jerome and Sauvé, have indicated that such points of order be brought up on the next to last allotted day of a supply period. This is noted in Marleau and Montpetit, at page 735, note 221.

I bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, specifically to National Defence, Vote 1, and the creation of Parc Downsview Park Inc. and to the report of the auditor general of October 2000, chapter 17, pages 18 to 21.

In its 1994 budget, the government announced the closure of Canadian Forces Base Toronto at Downsview. In its place, Downsview was to be held in perpetuity as a unique urban recreational green space for the enjoyment of future generations.

In order for the project to go ahead, the government has first, issued an order in council authorizing Canada Lands Company Limited to incorporate a new crown corporation, Parc Downsview Park Inc. as a subsidiary of Canada Lands Company Limited, pursuant to paragraph 91(1)(a) of the Financial Administration Act.

Second, it has transferred control and responsibility, as well as the benefits from management of the Downsview lands, from national defence to Canada Lands Company Limited and subsequently to Parc Downsview Park Inc. under a management agreement with national defence, while national defence continues to hold title to the lands.

Third, it provided initial funding to Parc Downsview Park Inc. from an existing national defence vote.

Fourth, it issued an order in council authorizing the transfer of the first parcel of land, about 32 acres, to Parc Downsview Park Inc. pursuant to paragraph 16(1)(a) of the Federal Real Property Act.

Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to page 17-19, paragraph 17.58, of the October 2000 report of the auditor general, which was tabled in the House on October 17, 2000, wherein the auditor general specifically states:

Parliamentary authority was not sought for any of the above-noted activities.

The litany of the government's failure to recognize parliament continues. The auditor general said in the same report that “no parliamentary approval to spend funds on the Park” was sought.

In August 1999, the treasury board approved the first transfer of land for commercial development and acknowledged that Downsview Park would not be in a position to pay anything for the land for “decades”. Normally the government acquires lands to meet its needs and to deliver a program, such as national defence. When the land is no longer needed for program purposes it is declared surplus and is sold. The proceeds from the sale are returned to the consolidated revenue fund. Parliament then votes on its program priorities and appropriates money from the consolidated revenue fund through the estimates process. This process is intended to ensure that spending of public money is authorized by parliament.

In the case of Downsview Park the government has in substance transferred assets to another entity and, by developing these assets, would have proceeds available to fund new program activities without parliamentary approval. Parliament has not been asked to appropriate funds for development of the park and for park activities.

During 1999-2000, national defence spent approximately $4.8 million for Downsview Park operations and development, which of course, we will remember, is under a subsidiary of Canada Lands. It expects to spend $4.5 million annually on Downsview Park for the next three years. To date, these expenditures have been charged to national defence's Vote 1, which parliament has authorized to be used for the department's operating expenditures, not for Canada Lands.

In the view of the auditor general, the expenditures related to the development of the Downsview Park site, approximately $2 million of the $4.8 million, are not a valid charge against national defence Vote 1. The Department of National Defence should clearly not be funding Downsview Park from its operating expenditures. If the government wants to develop and operate Parc Downsview Park, it should introduce legislation accordingly, then seek the appropriate funding through the estimates rather than through national defence.

I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to spending for our hard working men and women in the Canadian forces in the Department of National Defence. In fact, I support increasing their funding. However, we have a case where parliamentary approval has not been sought for expenditures.

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could ask you to only rule the money in Vote 1 for Downsview Park out of order, but I cannot. I can only ask that you rule the vote out of order in its entirety even if one dollar has been spent without proper parliamentary approval.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to send a message to the government that such methods of deception are not acceptable. Parliament is supreme and its authority has to be respected.

This is the first time since the auditor general brought the matter to parliament's attention that we will be voting on the main estimates. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, using the criteria established by previous Speakers on several occasions, which I quoted from earlier, and with the information provided by the auditor general, I am asking you to strike the national defence Vote 1 from the estimates and the subsequent supply bill, since it is clear that millions of dollars are not a valid charge against the public purse, the national defence, and are not in order.

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5:20 p.m.

Don Valley East


David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, certainly I had no notice of this coming forward, but I am speaking in the context of being a former minister of national defence who oversaw the dissolution of the Canadian forces base at Downsview and also the minister with geographic responsibility for the greater Toronto area, where I and the current minister of defence sort of share shepherding responsibilities for Downsview Park-Parc Downsview.

I think that the point made by the hon. member is very specious in the main. First, when we closed those bases, in particular Downsview, we said that the land would be retained in perpetuity for future generations, primarily as a unique, open, recreational green space. The reason we put primarily in there is that other ongoing uses would still be permitted, for example, national defence still has housing on that site and there is now an armoury that has been announced by my colleague the Minister of National Defence, as well as other activities. It was always intended for that portion of land to remain in the title of national defence so that if, God forbid, we were in an emergency situation whereby that land would be required for emergency defence operations, it would be there.

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

You didn't say that.

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5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Chair is listening to a very substantive intervention. The House heard uninterruptedly from the hon. member for St. Albert and I am sure the same courtesy will be extended to the Minister of Transport and other members who might choose to make an intervention.