House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protocol.


Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved that Bill C-203, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this private member's bill that would, at long last I would hope, change the Canadian oath of citizenship to better reflect who Canadians are. It would change the wording of the oath to reflect the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would suggest that, more than anything else, what defines Canadians is: our respect for the rule of law, freedom of expression, equality of opportunity, democracy and basic human rights.

I would like to begin, however, by reviewing, if I may, the current oath of allegiance. When new Canadians come to this country seeking citizenship they are required to say the following words. They are:

I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Everyone will be interested to know that the New Zealand oath of citizenship states as follows:

I... swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of New Zealand, Her heirs and successors according to the law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen. So help me God.

Members will note that there is a direct similarity between the two oaths. Indeed, they are almost exactly the same. I should say that only New Zealand and Canada have this oath which basically is derived from the British colonial period of the 18th century. The British at that time had many colonies across the world. Britain was an empire very much like the United States in the sense that it was a mercantile empire that was acquiring colonies around the world in order to develop a vast commercial enterprise, a vast world commerce.

In the middle of the 18th century, as we know, Britain went to war with New France. France at that time controlled all of what we know as Quebec and much of what we know as Nova Scotia. When Britain went to war, it was the umpteenth war. Britain had been at war with France in a struggle for the continent for many years. A terrible tragedy occurred with the Acadians at that particular time. Because the power was in Quebec and the British conquered Acadia--Nova Scotia--taking some of the forts there and establishing a presence, the British government authorities required the Acadians, who were all French speaking, just as they were in Quebec, as Quebec had been a colony of France, to take an oath of allegiance to the king. That oath of allegiance was essentially the same oath that I just recited. When the Acadians were reluctant to take that oath, one of the great tragedies of Canadian history occurred, and that was what is known as the Acadian expulsion, which actually occurred on a Sunday. The British fleet happened to be in port and it seized all the Acadian males at their churches attending mass, put them on board ship and dispersed them down the entire coastline of the United States, as well as to Louisiana. It took many years for a few of them to return. It was a terrible tragedy and, of course, it changed the complexion of Nova Scotia. I am proud to say that we still have an Acadian presence but had the British not done that, Nova Scotia today would probably be a French speaking province, very much like Quebec and much of New Brunswick.

It was that oath of allegiance that I recited earlier that was used for the dispersal of the Acadians because the Acadians could not bear to swear allegiance to the king.

What one must understand is that the British crown in those days did not have an oath of allegiance in England. In fact it did not have an oath of allegiance, of citizenship or of naturalization until the 1980s. In England the people were all British subjects but for the colonies they had to devise this oath of allegiance to the king. People had to pledge fealty to the king as a way of guaranteeing that the people who were not British subjects, who were perhaps French speaking or perhaps living in the colonies in the Caribbean or in Australia, for example, who were all convicts, would bow to the power of the crown. It ordered them to take an oath of allegiance, which is the oath we have today.

When new Canadians come to this country and swear that oath many people have difficulty with it because some of them come from Commonwealth countries where, in their own colonial history, pledging allegiance to the Crown meant slavery. Therefore it is perhaps an oath that needs to be changed.

In the citizenship bill that is now before the House, Bill C-18, the government has revised the oath. The government did this without any consultation with Parliament. It was done following hearings by the citizenship and immigration committee in 1994-95, which universally said that Canada needed an oath that reflected Canadian values. What we have now before the House is this oath which states:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

I suggest that this new oath is not much of an improvement over the oath that is currently being used by people taking out Canadian citizenship. There are a number of things about this. Most of it is taken from the Australian oath of citizenship, which revised its oath in 1993, and it is an echo of the oath I just read.

The oath has some very obvious flaws in it. There is the redundancy of, “I pledge my loyalty and allegiance”. These are the same things. I think, more important, it is not enough simply to ask the people who are taking out Canadian citizenship to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill their duties as citizens of Canada.

I observe for members that world history is replete with examples where governments change laws so that they do not reflect basic human rights, do not respect the rule of law and deprive people of freedom of speech and equality of opportunity.

I refer members to the numerous European examples where citizens were obligated to obey laws that were unjust. The classic example of course is what happened in the interwar years with Germany and Italy, where people were forced to obey laws that were brought in by totalitarian governments. It is not enough to ask people to obey the laws of the land. We must tell them what the laws are that they must obey, that really do define who they are, and define the rights and freedoms of the people who are joining.

I would like to propose to the House another version of the oath. This is the version of an oath I crafted after consultation with many Canadians and as a result of many hours interviewing new Canadians on the citizenship and immigration committee. The oath I would propose states:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by their solemn trust to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

I would suggest that is the ultimate definition of who we are as Canadians and how we are seen as Canadians around the world. People do not see us as British. They do not see us as people who perhaps have come from Greece. They do not see us as anglophones or aboriginals. They see us as a people who are renowned for upholding those five principles.

We had a charter of rights when there was no charter of rights in the United Kingdom. There was no charter of rights in Great Britain. We invented it. We brought it forward and it defines us as Canadians. I also have another version that properly reflects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it reads:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God, whose sacred trust is to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

Now the reason that we have to have a version that makes reference to God is because it is in the charter, it is in O Canada, but also because there are those who have strong religious beliefs and do not feel that they can make a real pledge unless there is a reference to God.

On the other hand, we have many people coming from other lands who have come from places where there has been oppression in the name of religion and they want a version in which they do not have to make reference to God. Therefore, I offer in Bill C-203 the two choices.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, you will note that in the version that I present to you, there is no reference to the Queen. I would suggest that is hardly novel. In 1993 Australia revised its oath of citizenship which was very much like our current oath and the oath of New Zealand. Australia changed it. The Australian oath of citizenship is quite nice, it says:

As an Australian citizen, I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share,whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I uphold and obey.

I think that is very nice and actually is an attempt at poetry. And when the Australians brought if forward--and it is important to remember that Australia, like Canada, is a parliamentary monarchy--they had an extensive debate about whether they should retain the monarchy. Australians said overwhelmingly that they wanted to retain the monarchy as the head of state just as we have here.

However, in 1993 Australians appreciated that they needed an oath of citizenship that reflected Australian values. It is interesting when Australian Senator Nick Bolkus spoke at that time to the Australian citizenship pledge. He said:

Citizenship proclaims and defines our Australian identity and it is appropriate that new citizens pledge loyalty first and foremost to Australia and its people. Some Australian residents have been reluctant to apply for citizenship because they found it difficult to relate to the current Oath of Allegiance.

We heard that repeatedly during our citizenship and immigration committee hearings in 1994-95. We heard that from people who came from all over the world to Canada. Approximately 160,000 people a year pledge allegiance to Canada. People say, “Why is it the Queen? Why is it not Canada and Canadian values?”

The Australians, almost 10 years in advance of us, changed the oath to reflect Australian values. I think Canada is a greater country. Senator Bolkus also said:

As a truly multicultural society, it is proper that the Pledge of commitment be one which will be equally meaningful to all people.

I suggest that the current oath and the oath that has been proposed by the government in Bill C-18 is not meaningful to all people. We need to change it to an oath that when people say it they know that they are becoming Canadian and they are sharing our values.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-203, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the oath or affirmation of citizenship. Under this bill, sponsored by the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, it is proposed the oath of citizenship be amended to reflect what it means to be a citizen of Canada.

The current oath has been in place for decades and reflects the sentiments of the time during which it was crafted. The current oath states:

I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The government recently introduced Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship which, if passed, is intended to modernize and update the old Citizenship Act which was enacted in 1977. Part of Bill C-18 includes a change to the oath new Canadians are expected to take at their citizenship ceremony. Under Bill C-18 the new citizenship oath would be:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

It is imperative that we recognize the importance of the oath and what it means to the thousands of new Canadians who utter it each year as they begin their lives as citizens of Canada.

This is explicitly addressed in Bill C-18, where it is specified that, generally, an oath of citizenship is to be made with solemnity and dignity during the course of a formal citizenship ceremony. At this ceremony, which is viewed as a milestone in the lives of new citizens, we are reminded that all citizens of Canada should demonstrate mutual respect and understanding, so that each citizen can contribute to the best of his or her ability in Canadian society.

While the proposed version of the oath under Bill C-18 more clearly defines some of the values Canadians hold dear, there is still room for improvement. Under Bill C-203 the oath of citizenship would be as follows:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God whose sacred trust is to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.

For those who wish to swear their allegiance in accordance with religious convictions, the oath is changed from “a people united by their solemn trust” to “a people united by God”.

At the outset I should note that Bill C-203, which would otherwise be votable, is no longer votable due to the fact that the oath is being addressed in government Bill C-18. Therefore, the main purpose of the debate today is to speak to the proposed revisions to our oath of citizenship and to lay the groundwork for amendments to Bill C-18 which could be voted on.

I am concerned that the oath proposed under Bill C-203 is not framed in the active tense in terms of any formalized pledge. I believe that either form of pledge under Bill C-203 would be improved by the term “in pledging” being replaced with “I pledge”. A person in short transition to Canadian citizenship is thereby required to make the following statement, explicitly and without reservation: “I pledge allegiance to Canada”.

In these uncertain times, it is important that the allegiance of any Canadian citizen is to Canada. Canada has it own social, cultural and historical identity. Why not embrace moves to modernize citizenship by crafting a uniquely Canadian oath that reflects not only the values of our nation, but also the responsibilities that go along with citizenship in such a country?

In proposing a new oath under Bill C-18, some of the emphasis on the monarchy has been removed. The pledge of allegiance is to the Queen alone, rather than also to her heirs and successors.

Under Bill C-203, the proposed oath contains no reference to the monarchy at all. Rather, new citizens would be asked to unite with other Canadians in upholding and promoting the fundamental principles by which we live and govern ourselves.

Canada attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world each year. These are people who choose to make Canada their home. Those who become citizens do so by choosing to embrace those principles that are the essence of Canada. It does not seem unreasonable to have those principles enunciated explicitly in the oath of citizenship.

My primary reservation concerning the proposed oath in Bill C-203 is that it does not require that a new citizen clearly acknowledge that there are responsibilities as well as rights and values associated with citizenship. Let there be no mistake. Let there be no mistake, for those who choose to settle in Canada, Canadian citizenship is a privilege. It allows freedom, democracy, security, prosperity and education, among so many other opportunities.

In addition, Canadian citizenship means more than a technical designation of nationality. It is also about responsibility. Each and every citizen, whether new to Canada or born here, has a duty to conduct himself or herself in a manner consistent with Canadian values and the concepts outlined in the proposed oath we are debating today.

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has acknowledged both in committee and in debate in the House that his purpose in framing the oath in Bill C-203 is to specifically reference the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He stated earlier in debate that the five principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the law above the laws of Parliament and, indeed, they are in our constitution now. He stated that he tried to capture in the five principles of the charter the ultimate law that governs being Canadian.

I will leave it to others to debate the specific charter references in the proposed oath of citizenship. There are many who still have reservations concerning the establishment and interpretation of our charter. However, irrespective of one's view of the charter, the oath proposed in Bill C-203 references well established and shared values among Canadians which may be respected in their included context here.

The hon. member stated in debate that he believes the responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen are encompassed by the term “solemn trust to uphold these five principles” in his proposed oath. It is important to spell out those responsibilities rather than let them be implied. If Bill C-203 were votable, I would be proposing that the oath be reworded to include something like the following statements.

I pledge allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty the Queen as I take my place among Canadians, a people united by five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. I solemnly promise to respect these rights and freedoms and to uphold Canada's democratic values as I fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

I have blended the proposed oaths in Bill C-203 and Bill C-18 in the interests of incorporating the best elements of each suggestion.

I would further note that in Saskatchewan the citizenship ceremony officials take great pride in the ceremonies held to welcome new citizens. I suggest that, with their experience and expertise on the subject, such officiants may be able to contribute to the discussion of what should be included in a meaningful citizenship oath.

I would like to conclude my remarks by discussing the nature and responsibilities of citizenship as seen through the eyes of others. I recently found passages from an old banking newsletter published in 1966 that summarized nicely the spirit of citizenship in Canada. These passages are as relevant today as when first published nearly 40 years ago. I will paraphrase the thoughts as follows.

Good citizenship can be simple if Canadians will think of it as not something merely legal or intellectual, but something transcending law and reason, something deeply felt, deeply believed, dominant even in our dreams. Our citizenship stirs us to enjoy and contribute to the best sort of society yet offered to people who are advancing together in search of equality of life. This is time to read the record and find our citizenship 10 times more meaningful than it has ever been before. Having made ourselves sovereign as a nation, we must now behave intelligently as citizens. A citizen is not only an individual but a member of a family--

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry, but the hon. member's time is up. The hon. member for Mercier.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to acknowledge the work done by my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot. I see that he did his research, but unfortunately for us Quebeckers, he completely missed the point.

The bill states the following, and I quote:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God—

I would like to focus on “a people”. However we may view the history of Canada, there are two peoples, except when the word “Canada” refers to the St. Lawrence Valley in the history of New France.

“A people” is an affront, an attack on the heart of who we are. There are two peoples, and I would even say three, including the aboriginals, following the Dussault-Erasmus report that was so carefully shelved. After the work and effort that was put into that report, it has now been shelved.

The least the government can do—I already mentioned that the aboriginals should be recognized as a people—is to recognize Quebeckers as a people and a nation. We are a people and a nation. Any solemn declaration made before God that does not acknowledge this, that is the right to our language and our culture in general, is an affront.

I understand the effort involved in determining the five fundamental values, but they are not enough for us because they do not take into consideration the heart of what we are.

I would like to remind everyone that Gérard Bouchard—our former leader, Lucien Bouchard's brother—wrote an article in Le Devoir today in which he responded to the criticism from those who oppose the fête des Patriotes in Quebec. This criticism came from Montreal anglophones who said that it had ethnic overtones. According to Gérard Bouchard, they missed the point completely.

It is important to remember that the movement that led to the insurrection of 1837 also included anglophones, and that Alfred Nelson was one of those who proclaimed independence in the spring of 1838. So in every sense of the word, we are a people and a nation.

Therefore, an oath of citizenship that would be pledged to “a people”, leads me to conclude, unfortunately, that my colleague from this committee with the very long name has missed the point. I'm sure his intentions are good, but he cannot not know, if he knows us even a little, that saying “a people” is an attack on us, it does not include us.

I would add that, given the circumstances in which we live, any citizen who settles in Quebec, who is a Quebecker, shares the rights of Quebeckers, of our people and our nation.

It really bothers me when I see that, on an issue as sensitive as this, we are incapable of coming together. There is recognition. It is not an ideological recognition, it is a recognition.

I have just returned from a meeting of the European Union with the Canada-Europe Committee. Countries like Belgium have one, two or three different peoples, and countries that used to be at war, are now trying to reach a compromise, foster tolerance and recognize each other.

Canada should also look to the European Union to see what it is attempting to do, instead of taking advantage of every opportunity to impose a single reality that does include us, that does not correspond to our history now or that of the future.

I am sorry to say this. I hoped to be able to say something different, because I do find the idea of these principles to be a good one. However, I say this in all honesty, the ideas presented by the member opposite struck quite a chord with me.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-203, and I too want to thank the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot for his contribution to the House with respect to citizenship.

It is a timely private member's initiative given the fact that after a good nine years Parliament is finally discussing seriously legislation pertaining to citizenship. As we speak, Bill C-18 is being pursued at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration with great purpose and thoughtfulness.

I appreciate the suggestion by the member for renewing our oath of citizenship to make it more meaningful in what it means to be a Canadian and the values of Canadian citizenship. I appreciate the suggestions that our oath should somehow capture those fundamental values of being a Canadian, including equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. Those are fundamental values for Canadian citizenship and I respect his commitment to include those words in the oath. However I am not so sure that it is an initiative that I can support at this time. I will listen very carefully to the debate, consider the proposition and include the reflections of members in our deliberations on Bill C-18.

I speak today not giving enthusiastic support to this initiative simply because there are so many aspects to citizenship that we have to deal with as a Parliament that are not captured in the issue of the words around the oath.

We as a Parliament have to deal with a fundamental neglect in this area with respect to the way in which the Government of Canada has enveloped the notion of citizenship and what it has done to encourage good citizenship. I would suggest that on a number of fronts the government has done the antithesis of what is required to encourage civic participation and to ensure that both the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship are taken into account.

There is absolutely no question that Canadian citizenship is the highest right we, as a democratic nation, can confer upon those living within our borders. These rights and responsibilities define the egalitarian and democratic values that we all hold, and the member reflects those values in his private member's bill.

We all agree that no one has legal or political rights extending beyond citizenship and we affirm many times a citizen's right to vote and run for office are fundamental democratic rights. We have to ask today the following questions.

First, what have we as a nation done to redress serious grievances in terms of our first nations? That point was made previously. On that front our record is deplorable. We have not conferred upon our aboriginal citizens, first nations, Metis and Inuit communities the rights of citizenship. We have denied consistently the ability of those original peoples of Canada to enjoy the full rights of citizenship, particularly those rights enunciated in this motion about equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

I would suggest that, before we get down to fiddling with the words and changing the oath of citizenship, we look at the basics.

First, I would recommend that as a Parliament we finally address the fundamental issue of what it means to be a Canadian and what is the value of citizenship.

Second, I think we have many historical grievances that have yet to be addressed by the Government of Canada pertaining directly to citizenship. For example, we have yet to deal, as a Parliament and as a nation, with correcting the injustices that occurred as the result of the Chinese immigrant head tax and the Chinese exclusion act. That is issue is still before Canada and before Parliament.

I suggest also that as a Parliament we have not dealt with the matter of redress for Ukrainian people who were interned during World War I. Valiant efforts have been made to have this matter addressed by Parliament but to date the Government of Canada has chosen not to, so with respect to our multicultural mosaic there are many shortcomings that have to be addressed if we are truly serious about citizenship.

My third point has to do with the fact that as we speak, as we try to deal with the citizenship oath, the government is not prepared to stand up strongly and firmly against the United States, which has chosen to treat many of our citizens as second class. As we confront the issues of citizenship today, we must confront the matters of racial profiling and the fact that the United States of America has made subjective and unilateral decisions pertaining to which Canadian citizens are above suspicion and which shall be fingerprinted, interviewed and questioned even though they are citizens.

Relating to that, I suggest that it is very difficult to deal with a citizenship oath when the Government of Canada is proceeding with policies that run contrary to the notion of citizenship. I think, for example, of the safe third country being negotiated outside Parliament. Even though the immigration committee has had a chance to give some reflections on the regulations pertaining to this deal, the fact of the matter is that the minister and the government are proceeding full bore ahead without consulting Parliament and without considering what this means in terms of our fundamental views about citizenship and our treatment of refugees contrary to our traditions of compassion and a humanitarian approach.

I also think about some of the changes made in the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which make our whole notion of citizenship questionable. The fact that individuals can be denied citizenship without due process certainly runs counter to everything the member is suggesting in Bill C-203. The rule of law seems to have gone out the window on many fronts when it comes to citizenship.

My fourth point is that when it comes to creating a sense of civic participation and the need for citizens to be involved in our political life, in the electoral process and in all aspects of society in this country, it is very hard to persuade and encourage them to take that process seriously when the government negates decisions made by this Parliament that have been agreed to sometimes on a unanimous basis. When the government makes promises and breaks them it fails to live up to the expectations of the electorate. It is very hard to persuade people to be involved in civic politics and take citizenship seriously when their own government seems to break faith each and every time. We can imagine what new Canadians must think when they hear about a Parliament that passes a motion on a unanimous basis to ensure that we treat people with disabilities with respect and that they have the services they need, and the government of the day turns around and says it has to think it through more carefully.

If one wants to practise good citizenship, one has to be a good example. We must be able to always say that not only is citizenship important out there in terms of classes leading up to an individual actually becoming a citizen, but it must be something that we live and breathe each and every day. It clearly means that we as the Parliament of Canada must ensure that the government practises what it preaches and that we translate that into the statutes, programs and regulations of the land. This comes down to the fundamental concept of saying what one means, doing what one says and being consistent at all times.

The member makes a good contribution in Bill C-203, but I urge him to go back to his government and address all of these issues that deny citizenship and do not allow this country to live up to its high standards with respect to welcoming newcomers, redressing past grievances and leading by example.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot for his sincerity and certainly his passion, not only in bringing forward this piece of private member's legislation but also for his interest in and his passion about the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I am not a member, but I do know of his input into that committee. I know that is certainly agreed to by most members of the House, both government and opposition, so I thank the member.

I am not going to lecture the member, as perhaps has been done just recently with respect to Bill C-18 and other legislation and perhaps on some other deficiencies of the government. If that were the case, I would stand here for hours to lecture this member on the deficiencies of his government, but I would like to deal with the issue at hand, which is that of the oath of allegiance.

Before I get to the oath and to this resolution specifically, I do know that it is a non-votable item. I do know, from sitting on a committee that deals with private members' business, that there will be an opportunity to have votable items come forward in the future. Each member will have that opportunity, so perhaps this member may well wish to again bring forward a similar type of resolution or bill at a later date when it would be votable. I personally wish it were votable, but since it is not we will go from there.

I have had the opportunity of taking part, as have most members of the House, in citizenship courts in this country. I must say that the opportunity to attend is the most moving experience that I as a member of Parliament have had. To see citizens of other communities, cultures and countries coming forward, making applications to become citizens of our great country, giving up passports and citizenship in other countries and embracing the democratic rights of Canada is one of the most moving experiences that I have had. I have to say that after quite a number of these ceremonies, I too went through the process and reaffirmed my Canadian citizenship simply because I felt so strongly about it. In fact, I did take the oath of allegiance that currently is in the Citizenship Act.

I say that because it was not so much the oath of allegiance itself, but certainly the indication or the understanding of what it meant to be a Canadian and to have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at my disposal as a Canadian citizen. I was very pleased to be able to do that as an individual. I believe that we as a country would be much better off if all our citizens, each and every one of us who take for granted our citizenship in this great country, not only went and observed the citizenship court, but after seeing that had the opportunity and the ability to exercise this oath of allegiance or reconfirm our oath of allegiance to this great country.

The oath, as we recognize, goes back to previous legislation. As a matter of fact, it is worth noting that before 1947 all citizens of Canada were British subjects, a common status shared by all citizens of the British Commonwealth. Any person in Canada applying to become a British subject accepted without question the oath of allegiance and references to the sovereign Crown. After the end of World War II, immigration to Canada increased dramatically, mainly from the British Isles and continental Europe. Of course during this period the Canadian Citizenship Act had come into force.

Unexpectedly, many new residents applying for Canadian citizenship have over the years expressed their concern when it came to the point of swearing the oath of allegiance. British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth expressed surprise at being required to subscribe to the oath of allegiance. They believed that they already had given allegiance to the Crown and expressed their concern that they were required to take an oath of allegiance to the head of another country. Commencing in 1967, the government announced its intention of introducing revised citizenship legislation.

Among other things the legislators noted that the phrasing of the citizenship oath was a point of difficulty with some citizenship applicants. Following interdepartmental legal discussions with the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office, the title in principle was accepted, together with the proposal that the new oath clearly indicate, to avoid further misunderstanding, that Her Majesty, by title, is the Queen of Canada, hence the 1977 oath for affirmation of citizenship.

We would think that after three tries the government would finally get citizenship and immigration right. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hon. members may remember Bill C-63 and Bill C-16, which are no longer on the Order Paper and were put off. They have now been replaced by Bill C-18, which, I am told, not having been to committee, has its own difficulties, its own flaws and its own deficiencies.

The reason I mention it is that those flaws and deficiencies can now be corrected in committee if the government and the committee on citizenship and immigration are prepared to take open, honest direction, not only from members of the opposition but from members of the government.

I would ask the member who has tabled the bill, this change of oath, to go back to that committee and not only ask for, but perhaps even insist, that his changes to the oath be incorporated in Bill C-18 and also that other flaws and deficiencies of Bill C-18 be amended in committee so that it comes forward as a much better citizenship act for this country and for the people it is administrating.

We as citizens of this country should stand each day and be very thankful for the rights and privileges that we are given as Canadian citizens. I accept the fact that the member certainly believes very strongly in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I, as a Canadian and a part of the House, congratulate him for bringing this forward. Excuse me for my voice, as I do have a bit of a cold, and otherwise I could go on for a longer time and probably more passionately as well. If nothing else, the member has allowed us to stand and think about what our citizenship means to us. That in itself is worth everything that the member has done.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much to the member and to the House for allowing me to speak.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by thanking my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, first, for the work he has put behind this private member's initiative, but more so for the thought behind the initiative.

In his proposal he has put forward two different versions, which pleases me very much personally and I know a lot of Canadians. The one version, where he makes reference to God, makes me very happy. In the other version, appreciating the diversity of our country, he does not make reference to God.

Without going into the historical aspect of it, because most members have covered that, and for the purpose of saving time, I too find great pleasure when I attend citizenship courts and see the many different people willingly coming forward and wanting to become part of the country, not just by saying that they want to live here but by taking oaths and becoming citizens of Canada and, I stress, of Canada.

I have also heard, as many members indicated today, including the member moving the bill, why they are not pledging allegiance to Canada, as we do in reverse. I too bring that message from citizenship courts that I attend in the greater Toronto area.

As most members here are very experienced parliamentarians, they know that in today's changing and trying times no legislation ever written is perfect. It is written with good intent and good thought and along the way, as time and circumstances change, we make amendments.

I remember growing up as a young boy when we sang God Save the Queen every day at school. Even today, according to the circumstances, I get goose bumps when I sing that song. I look forward to those opportunities. At the Remembrance Day services, for example, in Scarborough it is part of our activity, and I am very pleased for that.

We also did not have a flag some years back and today we have the maple leaf. We made those changes. God knows, maybe 10 or 20 years down the road we will possibly make some other changes according to how our country changes.

I came with a thought to talk to Bill C-203 but as the debate unfolded I guess I was provoked a little by the Bloc Quebecois member who referred to the European Union. Let us look at the European Union. When the president of the European commission, Mr. Prodi, first took office he said that within the confederation called the European Union the Italians would never stop being Italian, the Portuguese would never stop being Portuguese, the French would never stop being French and the Greeks would never stop being Greeks. It does not take their identities away because they fall under the European Union.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Don't forget the Dutch.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

The Dutch as well, and the Brits.

She also said something that kind of irked me a bit when she said “we as a people, as a nation”. During the referendum of 1995 we went out and spoke to the nation. Let us look around the room. The member, who is moving the bill and whose ancestors are from Great Britain, is not here to diminish the honour and respect he has for his ancestors. If anything, he is building the country that he now calls home, this beautiful country called Canada, this beacon of hope to the world and this diversity that makes up Canada today, which is really where our strength lies.

When the member talks about a people and a nation, I want to remind her that when our ancestors came to this country they came to build it and share in it, which is what we are doing. Whether they went to Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia, her ancestors and my ancestors came to Canada to build and unite, not to separate.

I know my time is closing and as much as I want to refer to others, I want to at this stage, although I know I might be out of line, but because I feel so passionately about this I would like to seek unanimous consent to have the bill made votable.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has five minutes to conclude the debate.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I may say that a one hour debate on a subject such as this is so little. There were many other members who wanted to speak.

I would like to make one very important point in answer to the member for Mercier.

The most important point of all is in response to the hon. member for Mercier, to whom I would say that the key words of the oath that I propose are that we are united as Canadians by the five great principles of the charter, which are as follows, and I quote:

—equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

Whether you are a Canadian from Quebec, an Acadian, someone living in Alberta, or are of Greek, English or French ancestry, we are all Canadians; we are a people united by the five principles contained in the charter. We are Canadians.

As Canadians, we believe in the principles contained in the charter. It is that simple. Therein lies our strength, therein lies our tolerance, and therein lies our pride. All the world understands this.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion was not selected as a votable item, this item is now dropped from the Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 29 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

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December 2nd, 2002 / noon

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter some comments on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada to today's debate. It is probably appropriate for us to shape this debate in a current context in terms of a lot of the speculation by other members of Parliament on this particular issue.

I must say that I was completely taken aback and shocked by the revisionist words of the former finance minister, the current member for the riding of LaSalle—Émard, concerning the Kyoto protocol itself.

At the Liberal Party convention in the province of Quebec over the weekend, he mused about the fact that the federal government was completely ill-prepared to address Canada's climate change obligations.

I find it very difficult to understand why the member for LaSalle—Émard would proclaim himself to be the promoter of technological innovation when he alone, as the finance minister, had the ability to initiate tax incentives in those very sectors that he spoke about over the course of the weekend. The member for LaSalle—Émard is the person most responsible for Canada's ill-preparedness. Those incentives he spoke about are initiatives that could have been put into place as early as 1998.

Mr. Speaker, you may be quite familiar with those incentives through the course of the debate that you had and in particular in the citations from the member for Red Deer.

We have always promoted what we call a no regret strategy, a program that would be based on tax incentives for renewable sources of energy and investments in energy efficiencies. The Tories have always promoted consumer tax incentives to foster the growth of blended fuels, such as ethanol, a world loan guarantee program for the retrofit of buildings, and those kinds of investments into energy efficiency. These are all tax measures that could have been in place for the last five years. Canada could have actually moved forward in developing a progressive climate change strategy in advance.

Mr. Speaker, you may also be aware of the fact that in 2005, as part of the Kyoto agreement, Canada is to provide the international community with demonstrative evidence that our climate change strategy is in fact on track and that emissions targets under the Kyoto protocol will in fact be achieved by 2008 and 2012. These incentives that I just spoke about and that the revisionist former finance minister spoke about last weekend needed to be in place for the last five years in order for us to hit that first benchmark.

The member for LaSalle—Émard clearly had an opportunity to actually have these no regret initiatives in place. He was in charge of the tax code. He neglected to actually put these initiatives in place. It is his fault that we are in a situation right now where parliamentarians are going to be asked to blindly ratify an accord that we are not equipped to do.

Canada is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases on a per capita basis in the industrialized world. We have a moral obligation to pull our weight for a progressive country like Canada to have a progressive climate change strategy. However I want to illustrate how ill-prepared our country was benchmarked against other developed nations.

Sweden, for instance, told its European Union partners that it had concerns about the Kyoto target that the EU was proceeding toward on the basis that it had a cold climate with a large land mass relative to a small population, with an export driven and energy intensive economy. Sweden has similar characteristics to Canada, I might add. Sweden told the EU that it would accept a target similar to what the EU was pursuing but in fact it is only 20% of the reductions that the rest of the EU is doing.

Canada is Sweden too. We have accepted some of the most arduous targets that the industrialized world could ever expect a modern industrialized country to actually accept. As I have said, we need to have a progressive climate change strategy but it has to be doable. First and foremost, we cannot implement an accord of this nature without the active participation of the provinces.

I think it might be helpful for us to take a moment to reflect from an historic perspective on how we arrived here.

I am a very proud member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. I am proud of our environmental legacy and our active record on environment, from establishing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to our world leadership on eliminating ozone depleting gases to, above all, the accord we negotiated on behalf of Canada with the United States on the acid rain protocol which resulted in a 50% reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions in power generating plants. That is tangible evidence that a consensus can be reached with the provinces. In contrast we have complete acrimony at the provincial level at this moment.

In 1988 the eighteenth prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, brought the international community together on the issue pertaining to greenhouse gases.

In 1992 the Brian Mulroney government helped shape world leadership at the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro. Two conventions came out of that summit. The first initiative was for the signatories to develop legislation to protect the biodiversity in their jurisdiction.

Today Canada is still without endangered species legislation, over a decade since we were in Rio. In 10 years the government has failed to honour the first convention with respect to protecting endangered species legislation and has allowed that law to die three times on the Order Paper. We may be close to seeing a law passed in the Senate, a mediocre law I might add, on that initiative.

The second initiative in 1992 was a convention to develop a climate change strategy.

Our party might have been downsized a little the following year. However for the last nine years the Liberal Party of Canada has been the Government of Canada. For nine years, under the former finance minister and under this Prime Minister, we have not had any significant initiative brought forth to develop a climate change strategy. That is incredibly appalling.

The first initiative that ever took place, which related to climate change, occurred when the provinces finally got together and met in Regina on November 12, 1997. That led toward the Kyoto debate. At that time the provinces knew, before Canada went to Kyoto, that they had to have a consensus position pertaining to climate change. The provinces agreed to stabilization to 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by essentially 2010.

The very next morning the then minister of natural resources, the current Minister of Public Works, said that might be our position. The government broke faith with the provinces the very next day. That is a very sad illustration about how ill-prepared the government has been with respect to developing its climate change strategy.

When representatives came back from Kyoto, an immense amount of acrimony existed among the provinces. The premiers met at 24 Sussex Drive for dinner in late December or the front end of January to at least cool the water pertaining to this issue.

I want to cite one particular comment made by our former leader, the right hon. Jean J. Charest, with respect to the acrimony that existed between the federal government and the provinces pertaining to its deliberations after the Kyoto protocol. I quote from the December 12, 1997, Globe and Mail , in which Mr. Charest stated at that time:

I can't see how they will make this agreement happen without the active engagement of provincial governments, but now they've irritated them to the point where it's going to be very difficult.

He went on to say that the government had poisoned the well in terms of relations to the provinces. He also said that there was no evidence that Ottawa had the means to implement the accord under the new commitment without the active participation of the provinces. Nothing has changed since that initiative.

Since 1997, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has always said that we need to have a no regret strategy, an incentive based program, to get the progress going and not to worry about the targets and time lines initially but to see if we can get close to the Kyoto target. Instead, we have had a public relations program over the last number of weeks to try to fool Canadians that the Government of Canada has been working in a very collaborative manner.

To illustrate how wrong-handed the federal government has been in building consensus with the provinces, I will read from a letter on November 27 from the Premier of Newfoundland, Roger Grimes. He said:

The necessity of addressing climate change and our willingness to participate is not at issue. What is at issue is the divisive and deliberate manner in which the federal government has chosen to address climate change without full participation of the provinces and territories.

He went on to say:

Canada needs a plan that is based on the full and cooperative consultation with all jurisdictions--something that has not taken place to date.

Our leader, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, wrote to the Prime Minister last January and wanted to know what the federal government's intentions were with respect to ratification. The Prime Minister wrote back to the right hon. member on February 26. He said:

We have been working closely with the provinces and territories on climate change, both at the official and ministerial levels, and are collaborating with them on the analysis of these policy options.

That was penned by the Prime Minister of Canada. Why is the Premier of Newfoundland now saying that the federal government has had a deliberately divisive approach with respect to building a provincial consensus? Why are only two provinces out of the eight on board with the earlier ratification? He claimed that they were working closely with the provinces at that time? Clearly the Prime Minister's Office was not genuine with the right hon. member in these remarks.

It raises the very issue as to why we are having a vote on the Kyoto protocol? The parliamentary secretary of public works stated that this vote was not binding on the government. Then why have the vote?

I will explain why? The vote is about camouflage. It is to hide the fact that the government has no plan to implement the Kyoto protocol. It is meant to camouflage the statement that there is some form of a consensus in the country. In other words, the Parliament of Canada has spoken for early ratification of Kyoto to hide the fact that there is no provincial consensus.

I was embarrassed by the remarks made by the Minister of the Environment pertaining his working relationship with the provinces over the protocol itself. He said:

Have we agreed on everything? No, we have not. Is that so surprising?...I am hard pressed to remember many occasions when there has been unanimity of all 14 jurisdictions in the country on major issues which involved costs: constitutional reform, no; health care, no; and on this most complex of issues [or any other issue].

I can cite some particular examples where we built a consensus with the provinces. First is the environmental issue on acid rain. The Progressive Conservative Party painstakingly earned the support of every provincial and territorial jurisdiction on a bilateral basis with the result that we have an acid rain protocol where we now have a 50% reduction in SO


emissions from power generating plants. On environmental issues, we can do it.

Also, on trade and tax issues, we had the active participation of the provincial governments as well. That is another example of work done by the Conservative Party of Canada. We treated the provinces with respect. We saw them as partners. We knew we could not implement accords of this nature without the active participation of the provinces.

Another example is constitutional issues. I make no apology for our party's efforts regarding the constitution. Not once but twice the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada had the unanimity of the provinces leading up to the Meech Lake accord. Therefore, if we look at Meech Lake, free trade and acid rain, we can build a consensus with the provinces if we want.

This do nothing government has done what it does very well: nothing. For the last five years it has not tried to bring the provincial partners together to develop the progressive climate change strategy this country categorically needs.

I call this the camouflage debate. We will vote in Parliament to say that Parliament has spoken for early ratification, purely to camouflage the fact that the Government of Canada has no consensus with the provinces and to camouflage the fact that it still does not have an active plan.

Therefore I do not want to support an accord or a vote and play the Prime Minister's game in this regard. I do not support the blind ratification of anything, especially internationally binding agreements.

I will be very interested to hear what the former finance minister has to say on this file. I am extremely curious. I know that members of the House will ask him the following questions. If we should be investing in innovative technologies with respect to renewable sources of energy and if we want to foster growth in that sector, why did the former finance minister not use the tax code in an aggressive way to foster the use of renewable sources of energy? Why did the former finance minister not use the tax code with respect to any kind of investments of energy efficiency, such as the retrofit of buildings? Why did the former finance minister not choose to lower the excise tax on blended fuels to foster the use of blended fuels and ethanol?

That was exclusively under his purview and now we will see complete revisionism from an individual whom I call Canada's best Olympic fence sitter on just about any issue. This will be his personal best in terms of how many times he has changed his position on this issue.

Many members of the government side are saying one thing on the one hand and are going back home to their constituents and saying another thing. We know that the Minister of Health has said that she has trepidations about ratification and would not support ratification without a plan. She will have a vote. There is no plan, so one should conclude what her vote would be.

I also remember the Minister of Natural Resources making a similar comment. Above all he told the provinces that there was no time line, that we were not rushing into anything whatsoever.

We know as fact that there is no need to have ratification of this agreement at this point. We still have time to earn a consensus with the provinces. The accord does not come into place before 2003. Why is the federal government not meeting with the provinces on a first minister level and hammering out a consensus?

I have notes from provincial premiers. I quoted the Premier of Newfoundland who said he was amenable to sitting down at the table. The fact that the federal government has demonstrated disdain for working with the provinces is a particular case in point as to why there are trepidations about going forward.

I believe the role of the opposition is not just to critique. We need to propose solutions as well.

I would like to quote from our platform of November 2000. “We would foster tax incentives for renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency investments”. Tories like tax cuts and the former finance minister had an opportunity to use that initiative.

We go on to say, “We would like to foster the use of ethanol and other blended fuels by lowering the excise tax” which is another example of what the former Minister of Finance could have done.

“We would also like to have a loan guarantee program to encourage energy efficient retrofits”. A similar initiative has been proposed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. This is another example of where municipal and provincial governments are way ahead of the federal government. This government has done nothing over the last five years.

We also said that a Progressive Conservative government would lead by example in purchasing green power. There are a myriad of examples such Vision Quest, a very progressive company that produces wind power. Green power can be purchased in Calgary. The federal government has followed up on that initiative since then. Maybe some of its researchers have been perusing the odd Progressive Conservative platform on occasion.

We would also introduce provincial tax treatment in the centres for renewable sources of energy to encourage consumer and industry buy-in of clean sources of fuel and renewable clean energy.

We would also like to conclude sector by sector agreements with industry to set targets to reduce emissions, to work with industry. We have always said that we need to reward industry for early action. In fact, we even asked questions on November 2, 1999.

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12:20 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see where the Conservative Party of Canada stands on the Kyoto protocol. Prior to the member's discussion, we were unsure exactly where the Conservative Party stood and now it has come four-square against it.

The hon. member mentioned the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I should remind him that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities took a vote among its members and said yes to the ratification of Kyoto.

We know that Kyoto is not perfect. We know that probably when the Liberals or the House ratify it, nothing will be done the following day. We are quite certain of that. We fear that the Liberals will ratify it just to meet their superficial obligations worldwide and then will do absolutely nothing about it.

I would like the hon. member for Fundy—Royal to stand in his place and reiterate the fact that it is the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that said yes to the Kyoto protocol and yes to innovations that he talked about. It is not just Kyoto; there are many other things we could do to promote environmental concerns within the country. I would like him to elaborate on that.

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative Party position has always been consistent, honest and measured. I do not think any member of the NDP wants to provide an opportunity to the federal government to ratify an accord which it has no intention of ever implementing.

I do not know why the NDP wants to support the Prime Minister in the disingenuous ratification of the Kyoto accord. An accord of this nature cannot be implemented without the active participation of the provinces. We knew that on acid rain. It is the exact same toolkit we will need to implement the Kyoto accord.

We do not support the ratification of this accord without the active participation of the provinces. We do not support the ratification of the accord without Canadians knowing what behavioural expectations their national government has for them on a day to day basis.

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, speaking of inconsistent and disingenuous positions being taken, I know that we are all waiting with bated breath to hear from the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. An article today, which I would call an exposé, called “The evolution of a parliamentarian”, outlines in great detail the positions that were taken by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard while in opposition.

We should always be mindful and this is a perfect example of why members in the opposition should watch their words: because they come back to haunt them, they come back to bite them. When these red book reversals are done, when these genuine, Olympian somersaults happen on very specific issues, they come back. When we talk about the record, it is going to be very important, very telling, to see.

My hon. friend from Fundy—Royal in New Brunswick did a terrific job in setting out in detail the Conservative Party's position which would be implemented if our party were in government. It would be implemented in the same way that we implemented free trade, in the same way that we implemented a deficit reduction tax, in the same way we treated our military with respect, unlike the present government and unlike the positions the Liberals took while in opposition.

My hon. colleague from Fundy—Royal has been consistent and specific on issues. What does he think will happen today when the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard stands with or against his government and should Canadians view that as being consistent or as being hypocritical?

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12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a quote into Hansard from March 13, 1991 in terms of what the then environment critic, the member for LaSalle—Émard, stated with respect to making sure we knew what positions we were taking when we headed to the Rio earth summit. He said:

The true question is when will this government understand that Canadians do not want to faced with a fait accompli by a government that is hiding its true agenda under a mound of public relations flackery.

That is a litmus test as to why there are so many multiple positions coming from the former finance minister on Kyoto. All members of the House will want to know how he can proclaim himself to be the promoter of technological innovation when he alone had the capacity to initiate tax incentives in the very sectors he speaks about.

He is the person who is the most responsible for Canada's ill-preparedness with respect to our climate change strategy. He had the tax code under his purview. He could have brought in tax incentives for renewable sources of energy and for investments in energy efficiency.

We have always said that we needed to have similar tax base incentives for the growth of blended fuels and lowering the excise tax. It was under the former finance minister's purview to go down that track.

Now we are going to hear a completely revisionist speech with respect to why we should be investing in innovation and conservation, as if he just walked into the House for the first time today. I have no idea where he was over those eight years as finance minister, from one year after Rio. I do not know where he has been for the last five years since Kyoto. I very much look forward to the immense revisionism we are going to hear in his speech. He is going to be another born again environmentalist, just as he is going to be another born again defender of the democratic deficit.

I might add that I still have a bit of a sore spot in that my private member's motion to allow students to deduct student debt from their income tax upon graduation was lost in a vote, 109 to 103. It was the then finance minister who sent a note out to caucus asking Liberal members not to support the motion, even though 13 principled Liberals did. He is a revisionist with respect to the environment and democratic deficit. I look forward to his speech which will have an immense amount of revisionism.

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12:25 p.m.


Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Atikokan.

The process that has given rise to the Kyoto protocol began at the Earth Summit, which I attended, in Rio de Janeiro in November 1992. In spite of its flaws, Kyoto is an important step along the way to a better environment. Furthermore, I believe international challenges require international solutions. Therefore I will support the resolution.

That being said, I do have problems with how the process around Canada's intended ratification has unfolded. Canadians deserve to know that in order to meet our Kyoto commitments as a nation, we will have to introduce fundamental changes in the way we manage our economy and in the way we live our lives.

Furthermore, it is important to recognize that the nature of the debate in Canada's federation must change. The old dynamic of Ottawa and the provinces pitted against each other has no place in the great national challenge that lies ahead of us. Thus, we must begin to think anew and act together.

It is in this context that I would address the issue that will now be of the greatest importance: the development of the plan that follows Canada's ratification. Let me set out certain principles that I believe will be key to that plan.

First, we need to maintain a strong and growing economy. Furthermore, there must be equitable cost sharing. We must not allow our implementation plan to damage segments of our industrial base or to disadvantage certain provinces or regions.

We have been down this road in the past and we cannot allow history to repeat itself. Western Canada should never again have to endure made in Ottawa discrimination. Atlantic Canada should not have its dreams of new economic opportunity put on hold just as they are about to be realized.

Second, we must maintain a climate of investment certainty. We cannot allow our efforts on emissions reduction to become a decade-long game of Russian roulette where industry is never quite certain what the government might do next. We need to cap the exposure of Canadian business on a sector by sector basis and ensure that we do not handcuff the ability of our companies to grow and to create jobs.

Third, we must reject outright the purchase of hot air credits from abroad. Canadian dollars are better invested in meaningful emissions reduction technologies here in Canada.

We must remember that the Kyoto targets cannot be our end game. The year 2012 is but a signpost to a world of inevitable change. Energy consumption in developing countries such as China, India and Brazil is growing at unprecedented rates.

Their emissions will inundate our planet's atmosphere in a matter of generations if they are not provided with the technological means to reduce them.

So, the fundamental question is how the world will meet this challenge , and in this context, how Canada will turn itself into the most energy efficient, technologically advanced economy among nations.

The answer, no doubt, will be found in clean energies, green infrastructure, more liveable cities, and ultimately, wherever our technological ingenuity guides us.

The choice before us is unequivocal. Either Canada will be a follower or it will be a leader in the global movement for the less carbon intensive economy. Canada is well positioned to succeed in this new world; to build on our indepth expertise and energy production and distribution; to point the way toward the future environmental action that promises remarkable economic advantage; and to show the world how it can be done. The choice is ours.

We must recognize as well that technology alone is not a panacea to the climate change challenge. There is no silver bullet. Our targets would require a conscious and focused effort on the part of all Canadians. We must be realistic and honest about the extent of the challenge before us and about what we are asking of each other.

Thus the fourth principle I propose as we develop the implementation plan is one of embodying the greatest degree of openness and transparency.

I support this resolution, but I do not agree with the way it has come into being. Canadians have the right to expect better in the future. Combating climate change would be a huge national undertaking. As we move forward we must do more to inform and engage the public from coast to coast to coast. To that end, allow me to make two specific proposals.

First, we must have a revitalized process going forward. The government must reach out. Earlier this year I spoke about the importance of citizen engagement, the role of Parliament and parliamentarians in the development of public policy, and the furtherance of national debate. The design of the various Kyoto implementation strategies is a prime example of where such involvement can pay huge dividends. If there are regional sensitivities, then who better than the members of Parliament sent here from all regions to review the plan? If there is a need for greater national understanding, then who better than those elected to stand on the national stage to help bring it into being?

Accordingly, in order to hear from Canadians and to offer the House further input, the current implementation plan should be brought before a special parliamentary committee. The committee should have the opportunity to hold full national hearings and offer recommendations for improvement by no later than early spring 2003. The same process of parliamentary hearings should be followed as the plan evolves. By demystifying the content and consequences of Kyoto, such a process should lead to a better plan. At a minimum it would create greater understanding. Ideally it would lead to a stronger consensus.

The second proposal would ensure that Canada is indeed positioned at the forefront in the development of green technologies. We must meet opportunity with action. I spoke earlier about the advantages Canada has in developing new approaches and techniques. They are very real, but we have only scratched the surface of our potential. To get where we must from here, we need to make the economics of early endeavour more attractive. All this would cost money. That is the scarcest of all resources. Therefore, let us set some of it aside now.

The government has stated a number of times in the past that it intends to sell its remaining shares in Petro-Canada. My proposal would be, when this occurs, to set aside in existing investment vehicles the estimated $1.5 billion in profit, a one time surplus item, so that it could be dedicated to enhancing our ability to develop the environmental technologies of tomorrow.

In conclusion, our task is now to go further than the debate surrounding the ratification of Kyoto. The moment has come to charge ourselves with putting it in place. We cannot allow ourselves to miss this chance. Our success in this area will be measured by our ability to transform challenges into opportunities.

We must address these challenges in a concerted fashion with the provinces, municipalities, the private sector, and relevant NGOs. We must define clear objectives as part of an equally clear plan. We must work together, in a spirit of unity and mutual respect, regarding the obligations and constraints that will be required of each of us. And all of this, while putting our technological ingenuity to work. It is in this way that we will take on the great challenge of climate change. A challenge that concerns not only us, but the future of generations that follow us.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for LaSalle—Émard is correct. Canadians expect better than what they have seen on this file, but we need action now. The best Canadians can hope for in his case is some 14 or 15 months away before he can implement the plan that he outlined and I applaud his suggestions.

However, we need action now. We have four projects in jeopardy in the Athabasca tar sands, including Canadian Natural Resources Limited. The company must make a decision on a multi-billion dollar investment within the next 60 days. We do not have 15 months to wait for the improved plan.

This morning the Investment Dealers Association of Canada is telling us that U.S. investment in energy in Canada would dry up if the Kyoto accord were to be ratified. The member has the power in caucus to influence the defeat of this ratification and give us something better. Why will he not do it?

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12:40 p.m.


Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment made it clear with certainty what would be forthcoming. He made it clear that nothing would be done to inhibit the growth of the tar sands and the oil and gas industry in western Canada. The Minister of Health, speaking as an Albertan, has also made it clear. In fact, what the hon. member is doing is raising problems that do not exist. What he is doing is damaging the investment climate.

The government has made it clear and I said in my remarks that there would be no acts of discrimination against western Canada, against Alberta or against the oil and gas industry. The real difference between both of us is that this side of the House believes that international solutions must find international agreements. We understand that one country cannot act alone and that there would no acts of discrimination against western Canada. The hon. member should not raise this kind of fear.

Kyoto ProtocolGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we understand the message from the member for LaSalle—Émard, who said that real change will come through green energy sources. However, the reality is that between 1990 and 1999, $2.5 billion worth of government support went to the oil industry, compared to a mere $76 million during the same period that went to clean energy sources.

The member for LaSalle—Émard is quite aware of this fact, because he knows some companies very well, such as Cordex Petroleums, in which he has interests, and Commercial Coal and Coke Company.

My question, then, is the following: in order to develop green energy sources, is he prepared, in his future reign, to invest one dollar in environmental industries for every dollar invested in the oil industry? That is what we would like to know.