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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-46.

Topics

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6:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Talk, talk, talk, talk.

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6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, could you check with Environment Canada or the Weather Network if a storm is coming? Usually, when children get agitated like this at home or at school, it is because bad weather is coming.

Judging from the way our Liberal friends are behaving, I would say a storm is coming. One is certainly brewing in cabinet, because an incredible wave of change will follow the return of the member for LaSalle—Émard. This is not a forecast by Environment Canada, but the member for Lotbinière. And I think that all political observers will agree.

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6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

If the trend continues.

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November 3rd, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

If the trend continues. We know that in this House—pardon me but they did provoke me to some extent, and they will pay for it—there is the front row, which I call the row of those on their way out. I think that soon there will be so many ministers without any responsibilities that this row will go all the way to the Prime Minister. They are kept either in the front or in the back. It will be up to the whip, I hope, the new whip, the minister of this or that. No one knows where we are going.

I can tell the hon. members one thing: the Bloc Quebecois knows where it is going with respect to Bill C-46. It reiterates its opposition to this bill because it interferes with provincial jurisdictions. If you want to help Quebec, do so within your jurisdictions, and let us act within ours.

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6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. He has certainly shown that, in each and every bill, we can see that the federal government tries to encroach more and more on provincial jurisdictions.

The same thing goes for this bill, which deals with the whole issue of corporate fraud. I would ask my colleague to tell us if he does not see anything insidious in the fact that the federal government is trying to allow federal prosecutors to play a role in an area under provincial jurisdiction.

We know that the idea of creating a national securities commission has been around for several years. When he was finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard raised this issue on several occasions and wanted this project to become a reality. However, he met with all kinds of obstacles, particularly from provincial governments, since they have a system that works.

For the government, is Bill C-46 not—

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6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to bring the opposition members to order. This is an important bill for Canadians. When I listen to them, I hear comments that essentially distort the bill and its objectives.

When they talk about the competitive role—

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6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. This is a point of debate rather than a point of order. The House will resume debate on the question and comment. The hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

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6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with you that it is not a point of order. I will close my speech with one question.

Is Bill C-46 not a clear manifestation of the fact that the federal govenment would like to get its paws on the securities commission? What it has not managed to do by the front door, it will manage to do by the back, by involving federal prosecutors. This is a role they ought not to have. The government ought to be respecting the jurisdictions involved here.

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6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have said it many times in my speech and I think that my colleague has asked the question again to make sure that the Liberals really understand it.

We are saying that the regulation of financial markets comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, as does the administration of justice.

Certainly, the way the bill is presented, that is with a certain amount of cooperation between the federal and the provincial governments, if we let the federal government intrude even only 1% or 2% in provincial jurisdiction, we will see what happens in four or five years. It will not be 1% or 2% of anymore, but 100%. Once more, we would have been taken in. It would have been a step on the road to what we call nation building.

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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, on October 22, I asked the environment minister this question:

Today a meeting was held with people from the Gaspé and northwestern New Brunswick. The Liberal MPs for Gaspé Peninsula, Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Madawaska all agree on the need for an independent environmental assessment.

Will there or will there not be such an independent assessment for the benefit of the people of the Chaleur Bay area?

The minister's answer was as follows:

Mr. Speaker, as I have explained several times in the House, this problem falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Yesterday, officials of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency received a document from some of the stakeholders, and we are examining it at this time. The hon. member needs to realize, however, that provincial jurisdiction must be respected.

Even if this is the third time the Minister of the Environment has said the same thing in this House, the people of Chaleur Bay do not agree with him and neither do the people from the Gaspé Peninsula and northwestern New Brunswick. He has a responsibility to request an independent environmental impact assessment for the well-being of the people of Chaleur Bay and the well-being of the bay itself. The bay provides a livelihood for workers in the fish plants. It provides a livelihood for Chaleur Bay area farmers and fishers living in the Gaspé Peninsula or in New Brunswick. These people are worried and it is the government's responsibility to reassure them.

People are neither for nor against the bill; they simply want to have an independent assessment. A certain number of things appear in internal provincial government documents that come from the Hazardous Waste Officer Approvals Branch.

Even they are worried about it. They received an internal document that was released through access to information advising the Government of New Brunswick about the problem that could happen. I want to take the opportunity to read one phrase that should scare the people of New Brunswick and the Gaspé coast, especially when the document comes from the hazardous waste officers. It states:

Since we have no specific hazardous waste regulations in NB [New Brunswick], we are particularly vulnerable and should be suspicious of the motivation that is bringing this company to our province.

We have all the reasons in the world to be worried about this.

There is no excuse for the federal government not to get involved in the project and request an assessment. Under sections 34 and 35 of the fisheries legislation, the federal government has the authority to request this independent assessment. We now know that even the federal government—unless it can prove otherwise—and Bennett clients have contaminated lands belonging to the Canadian Forces in Canada's far north.

I would like the minister to prove me wrong. I am asking the minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, what the department intends to do. Will it give them this assessment or not?

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6:30 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we are very aware of the passion and concern that has been raised by the member for Acadie—Bathurst.

What I will attempt to do is to illustrate the context, once again, with respect to why this application has been made and then to deal specifically with the member's question.

As members will know, Bennett applied under the New Brunswick environmental assessment process. Environment Canada participated on the technical review committee and provided advice to New Brunswick during the provincial environmental assessment.

On January 17, 2003, the hon. Kim Jardine, former minister of the environment for New Brunswick, conditionally released the project from further environmental assessment, and on September 9, 2003, the Government of New Brunswick granted a conditional authorization to construct the project.

Prior to commercial operation of this facility, however, the company must obtain an authorization to operate the facility from the New Brunswick government. The province has indicated that it will only grant the approval to operate after a public review period under the Clean Air Act lasting at least 120 days. The public review period is expected to start in November 2003. I stress that because it is a provincial process.

The member opposite wishes the Minister of the Environment to intervene in this process and require an environmental assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Officials in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have investigated the applicability of the act in this case and have advised the Minister of the Environment that there are no federal decisions required with respect to this project that would require an assessment under the act.

Agency officials have also reviewed the applicability of the act in a transboundary context, and this is important. The transboundary provisions of the act provide the Minister of the Environment with the authority to refer a project to a review panel or a mediator where a project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another country, another province or on federal lands.

On October 21, officials from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Environmental Canada met with representatives of the coalition opposed to the project at which time a petition was submitted requesting the Minister of the Environment to refer the project to a review panel pursuant to section 46 of the act. The agency has determined that the petition is valid and has initiated an investigation on a priority basis to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant referral of the project to a review panel or a mediator, or another means of conducting an assessment, as provided for in the transboundary provisions.

In conducting its investigation, the agency will consult with scientific experts from other departments, including Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Health Canada. As a matter of standard practice, the agency will provide an opportunity to the petitioners and the proponent to review and comment on the report produced as a result of the investigation prior to making a recommendation to the minister with respect to the appropriate course of action in this case.

This is very much an action that is in progress. We are looking at the results that will come back at this point from the agency's officials and then the minister will advise the various parties as to what action he is prepared to take under the transboundary provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act.

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6:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I understand, Mr. Speaker, but it is very important for the member to remember what I have said. I have a copy of an interoffice memo that was obtained through access to information. It is from the hazardous waste officer, approvals branch. The officer states:

The precedent of allowing such a project to ahead could make us very vulnerable, as it would be next to impossible to atop any other hazardous waste management company from coming to NB to process waste generated in the north-east US. Once the first one is in with such an unbalance of waste coming in from outside our jurisdiction, we could not stop others as they could then issue NAFTA challenges to contest the province's decision to curb the importation of waste.

It, therefore, is very important that the federal government has some say in it, through NAFTA, through the free trade. If it does not take the responsibility, we will pay the price--

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6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

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6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would request that the member make that information available. I have made it clear that the minister has officials of the agency investigating the case as put forward by the petitioners and that consultations will take place, as a result of the information received, with the petitioners and with all parties concerned prior to the minister making a decision under the provisions of the Environmental Assessment Act as it relates to the transboundary issues that have been cited by the hon. member.

I want to conclude by saying that this is a very serious and important issue to the people in Belledune, as the member has illustrated. The minister is taking it seriously and has placed a very high priority on the issue. It will be expedited as soon as possible.

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6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by pointing out that I have been on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for five years now. It is therefore my pleasure to deal with all reports, remarks and comments by the Auditor General.

As hon. members are aware, two weeks ago certain parts of the report were leaked to the press, and I find this regrettable. Normally, when a report is to be released, it has a specific release date. In this case, that date is November 25. The leaks reported in the Globe and Mail of course again referred to amounts that had supposedly been authorized by the Prime Minister. There was mention of $100 million to Bombardier for the Challenger aircraft.

There was reference to the possibility that, during the last election campaign, money had been paid out by the federal government to carry out polls on behalf of the Quebec Liberal Party. That really got my attention, because it took me back to the unfortunate occurrences at the time of the 1995 referendum.

I was present when the big thinker behind that program—what we called the Canadian campaign—said that we were at war. That war later was the excuse for a kind of reward program for the advertising agencies that had contributed to setting up the Canadian pride campaign.

It eventually ended up in the Groupaction affair; that company was found at fault for having published three similar reports. We remember that the Auditor General later asked the RCMP to investigate.

We tried, with the means at our disposal, to establish the links between the Prime Minister's office, Groupaction, and the other companies named in what has been called the sponsorship scandal.

I am on the offensive again today, because I want an explanation. Through these leaks, we are told that, possibly, some money were taken from Canada's treasury to finance studies or polls for the Liberal Party of Quebec; once again it closely resembles what has happened in the past.

I hope that the House will continue to sit and that we will have an opportunity to see the famous Auditor General's report on this matter. In the meantime, however, I would still like to ask the Government of Canada if it has any more information to give us on the subject of the leaks to the Globe and Mail , the questions my colleagues have asked, and the question I asked myself on this specific topic.

I would like to know whether there have been further developments, and whether further information has been obtained about the possibility that funds were used to subsidize polls for the Liberal Party of Quebec.

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6:40 p.m.

York West Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable concerning the Auditor General's report and the public opinion research.

First, it is important to state quite clearly that the member's question relates to unconfirmed stories about a leaked draft report of an officer of this House. Obviously I cannot speak to that. However, I can confirm that the government considers the Auditor General's report to be crucially important and we will act quickly on any recommendations that she makes.

Also it is important to note that throughout the course of the Auditor General's review of sponsorship, advertising and public opinion research, Public Works and Government Services and Communications Canada have cooperated fully and have worked to ensure that she is fully informed in all aspects of these programs.

I can also confirm the government's ongoing commitment to improving these programs. Following a Treasury Board review and a set of recommendations made last year, changes have already been announced to improve and enhance the way that government manages these programs. These changes were guided by the four key principles of value for money, transparency, stewardship and flexibility.

In Treasury Board's conclusions, the public opinion research function was found to be generally well developed and managed. Still, the government consulted with association representatives and public servants and in June 2003 enhancements were announced to increase competition, improve transparency regarding the selection of suppliers and to increase value for money.

Public opinion research is an increasingly vital tool for helping the government meet the needs and expectations of its citizens. With regard to the sponsorship program, Treasury Board recommended revising the program's objective, management and delivery. On April 1, 2003 a new program was launched with improved structure and administration. The program is administered entirely by Communications Canada without the use of third party intermediaries.

A remodelled administration process has clear objectives to ensure transparency, accountability and value for taxpayers' dollars. Also, the new program is national in scope and is designed to communicate with Canada in all provinces and territories. As well, following the recommendations made by Treasury Board, on April 28 of this year, a comprehensive action plan was put in place to renew advertising management practices. Changes will create greater competition for government advertising business and improve the value the government receives for its investments in advertising.

Overall, the internal government capacity in advertising is strengthened with Communications Canada providing support, advice and enhanced training opportunities.

In conclusion, the government is looking forward to the Auditor General's report. It will no doubt give us further means to make sure that past problems are corrected and that safeguards are put in place for the future.

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6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just hope that we will be able to look at this famous report, which is expected to come out on November 25, and that we will have the time to ask questions to the ministers and people concerned.

There are all kinds of rumours in the Parliament of Canada, that is that we might finish Friday and come back after the convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. I understand that the member opposite has made many comments on the recommendations or perhaps on the corrections that were made.

However, I essentially asked her whether public funds were used to support polls to help the Liberal Party of Quebec. She talked about polls, but did not specifically answer this question.

If this is the case, let me tell you that, on November 25, we will once again vehemently condemn the federal government's intrusion in an exclusively provincial jurisdiction. Indeed, it is Quebec that administers a provincial election.

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6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that what the member is alluding to in his questions relates specifically to stories about a leaked draft report. Naturally until we actually see the report, it is assumptions that are being made.

I can assure the hon. member that it is very important to us on this side of the House as it is to members on that side of the House to ensure value for money and transparency and that Canadians get value for their money. We will all be working together to ensure whatever changes are needed are made.

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6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 26, 2003, I rose in this House to put a question to the Minister of Natural Resources about the need to move to phase 2 in order to deal with the softwood lumber crisis.

He answered, and I quote:

We are seeing hardships in certain parts of the industry and we have to ensure that we do everything we can to look at the next phase.

That is phase 2. He added:

Our priority right now is to make sure we have an... agreement with the Americans.

In answer to my supplemental, he said:

I can assure the hon. member that if we do not get an agreement in the near future we will be looking at other measures.

That was back in May 2003. To follow up on what the minister said, now that we know, several months later, that there will not be a short term agreement and that the softwood lumber crisis could last another year, will the government agree with us and with the industry and the workers that we need to move to phase 2 in order to deal with this crisis? Some businesses need loan guarantees and other types of financial assistance might also be helpful to the softwood lumber industry.

For instance, money could be put into the economic diversification program for softwood lumber. While the crisis is ongoing, this program will end on March 31, 2004, and it will be necessary to keep diversifying the economy that way for one more year at least.

What is most urgently needed, however, is to provide help to businesses and workers. Will the federal government act quickly and take what the Minister of Natural Resources said into account?

In May 2003, the minister said an agreement was expected shortly, but five months later, there is still no agreement. Christmas is coming. There are people listening to us today who do not know whether they will qualify for EI for the whole period they will be unemployed. This period will be longer this year because of the problems on the softwood lumber market.

As regards the industries, they are in the process of choosing between investing in equipment or in increased productivity. Instead of relying on a return on their investment over three, four or five years, as previously forecast, they are no longer strong enough to make it through the crisis, now that they must pay a 27% tariff to the Americans. Many small sawmills have closed down.

Is the federal government finally going to act, implement and announce the second phase of the action plan to deal with the lumber crisis?

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6:50 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, finding a permanent solution to this trade dispute which has been going on for 20 years has been and remains without question a priority for the federal government.

In fact, I am pleased with the progress of the legal challenges to the duties on Canadian softwood lumber imposed by the United States. The WTO recently released its final report on the countervailing duty order in which it found that the U.S. violated international trade rules in its determination that Canadian lumber producers are subsidized. In addition, on September 5, 2003 a NAFTA panel decision found that the United States failed to substantiate its claims that Canadian softwood lumber threatens to injure U.S. producers. If the U.S. cannot sustain its determination, there will be no basis for the imposition of duties against Canada's softwood lumber exports. This decision upholding Canada's position will aid the pursuit of a long term durable solution to the dispute that is in Canada's interest.

While we wait for the United States to rescind its trade actions, I can assure members that the Government of Canada will continue to defend in every way possible Canadian industry, Canadian workers and Canadian communities.

As members are aware, to mitigate the various effects of this trade dispute on the entire industry and workers who depend on the Canadian lumber industry, the Government of Canada announced in 2002 measures representing more than $355 million. Funds were targeted toward assisting workers through training and job sharing programs, investing in research to promote the long term competitiveness of the forest sector, opening new markets for Canadian wood products, and helping to address the mountain pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia, to enumerate a few.

Some very positive results have already been achieved in support of the wood products industry. For example, through our market development efforts a new wood frame construction code will soon be approved in China. This will enable Canadian wood products and technology to be used in residential housing construction in China.

The impact of this is already being felt. Our latest statistics show an increase of approximately 60% from 2001 to 2002 in our wood exports to China. As well, our work in Japan has influenced fire regulations to be amended, allowing for increased use of wood in residential housing.

These are just a few examples illustrating the benefits of the programs we announced last year. We continue to monitor the effectiveness of the other announced programs and will make modifications as necessary. In addition, we have been monitoring the impact this trade dispute has had on the wood products industry and we will continue to do that.

The forest industry has made a great contribution to the Canadian economy for more than a century and we will not abandon it. Working with the provinces, associations and industry, we will continue to assess the repercussions of tariff rates on the Canadian industry and on communities across the country.

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6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague; we will win the fight against the Americans. However, it is important that some players still remain, in the end. Even if we win through a judicial decision, if the people at the grassroots, those small businesses in the country thato are the life blood of our regions, no longer exist because they were not strong enough to hold out for those two years, we will have won nothing at all.

Today, the government representative tells me that we must continue in the same direction. I repeat my question: will there be a phase two of this action plan so that we can weather the softwood lumber storm?

I could mention, for example, the workers of Béarn in Abitibi. Members will recall that, when we asked that question, we were a few days away from a byelection in Abitibi. All the parties had made commitments to do everything they could to give a chance to those workers. Today, just like all the other workers, the other plants and the other sectors of that industry, they are waiting for the second phase of the plan to deal with this softwood lumber crisis. Will the government implement some measures so that they can make it through the winter?

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6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as we have stated over the year, we are very responsive to the needs of the people in the lumber industry and we are working with all the stakeholders to make sure that our programs meet their needs. I can assure the hon. member that the government and all who are involved are working very hard on this file.

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6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:56 p.m.)