This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that has often been put to me by the genealogical community is that the connection to the past and to family is a very real and practical thing. I can trace my own ancestry to about the 1600s in the Black Forest of Germany and through Danzig on the Mennonite side of my family tree, et cetera. That is for many people a very real and positive thing: the sense of family, the sense of community, and the sense of belonging.

I am not quite sure how effective genealogists are, but I am told that for certain people who are adopted and so forth, it could lead them to trace back and find out even more about their families. To me that is one very practical application of it: the sense of family and the sense of belonging. That would be on the positive side of the ledger for this bill.

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Statistics ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, as reported with amendments from the committee.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2005 / 8:30 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The vote will be deferred until tomorrow at the end of government orders.

The House resumed from June 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Bill C-52, an act to amend the Fisheries Act. I would like to state that I will be splitting my time with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. The member has always had a great interest in the fishery and will bring some very vigorous and intelligent comments to this debate, to which I am sure the government will be looking forward. It has been some time since it has had much vigorous and intelligent debate of its own.

This is an important and serious bill. I think the government expected that we would look the other way, that the bill it would enter through the back door, be approved and give the present minister of the day and future ministers quite responsible powers, powers that they have not had in the past. They would receive these powers without a comprehensive and introspective study of the Fisheries Act. It would allow the government to perhaps open the door to an abuse of the process and an abuse of the power of the minister.

The bill deals with section 19.1(6) of the Statutory Instruments Act and with Government Motion No. 15, which the Minister of Fisheries brought it in on June 3. It needs to be read into the record:

That, given the importance of the fisheries in Ontario and the introduction of Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licenses) by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans which addresses the concerns of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, and pursuant to Standing Order 124 and subsection 19.1(5) of the Statutory Instruments Act, the resolution of the Standing Joint Committee providing that subsection 36(2) of the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 1989 be revoked, presented to this House on May 9, 2005 in its Second Report (Report No. 75 – Disallowance), not be adopted, and that this matter be referred back to the Standing Joint Committee for further study.

Had the motion passed, we would have given the minister the right to lay criminal charges with the idea that there would be a little clause of change that would need to be made for the minister of natural resources in Ontario.

Members of Parliament were misled, if I could go that far, that this was a little housekeeping job simply to address the importance of regulatory change in Ontario. That is not the case. It changes the Fisheries Act across the country, from coast to coast to coast. It gives the minister powers to lay criminal charges that the minister did not have prior to this.

We understand the importance in any regulatory regime of enforcement, of being allowed to lay charges. We also understand we have an act that is 137 years old. It desperately needs revision and renewal and we have nothing to do that.

I would plead with the government side and with the Minister of Fisheries and reasonable people to review the Fisheries Act, to dust off those dusty pages which no one has looked at for over 100 years and be prepared to bring constructive change. Let us look at a regulatory regime with the ability to lay charges. However, do not do it under the guise that somehow we have this little problem in Ontario with the minister of natural resources and it needs to be addressed.

Frankly, that is not the way to seek consensus. It is not the way to come to opposition parties and work in a progressive and comprehensive way toward making regulatory change. It was an excuse, “Let's just fix this little thing and don't pay attention to the details”. Frankly, there are a number of us in the House who are paying attention to the details.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the “That” and substituting the following:

“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences), because the principle of the Bill is flawed in that it violates the principles of law by permitting public officials of the Government to create a regime which could result in severe fines or imprisonment or seizure of property that have not been specifically authorized by an Act of Parliament.”

I would hope all my colleagues would realize that when we talk about a regime which results in severe fines, imprisonment and penalties that should be authorized by an act of Parliament. The amendment clearly speaks to the difficulty we have with the bill, the fines, imprisonment and the enforcement.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The amendment is in order.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, whatever time I do not use, I will share with my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's.

In speaking to Bill C-52, I support fisheries conservation. My riding of Wellington—Halton Hills has the Credit River and the Grand River, two of Ontario's heritage rivers running through it. The Grand River is world famous for its fly fishing. The Grand River Conservation Authority has done much in recent years to rehabilitate the river and ensure its use for future generations.

I also take the opportunity at every chance I get to go up to Algonquin Park and fish. Two summers ago I went down the Nipissing River. I made sure I purchased my Ontario outdoors card first and caught some brook trout in that river. Therefore, I am a big supporter of fisheries conservation.

However, Bill C-52, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, is a short bill hiding a major flaw and a major problem for the government. There is a bit of a historical perspective.

Before 1950, regulations did not come under parliamentary scrutiny. At the time, the size of the government was such that it was not required. However by 1950 the growth of regulation and the growth of government required legislation to be brought in place to ensure that the regulations had some oversight and in 1950 the regulations Act was introduced.

However, a flaw with that was the act did not provide for executive accountability and for ministry accountability back to Parliament for the regulations that were put in place.

Subsequent to that, in 1970 the government introduced the Statutory Instruments Act. This act provided for Parliamentary oversight of the regulations that the ministry or the executive had put in place.

Subsequent to that, in 1978 the statute regulations act was introduce which covered those parts of the consolidated regulations and those regulations enacted prior to 1971, I believe, to also fall under parliamentary oversight.

As I said initially, Parliament has oversight for regulations. However, Bill C-52 circumvents that. This is not about the fish or the fishery. There is a bigger principle at play here. This is about the improper use of delegated powers of the government to create offences that have not been approved by Parliament. Conviction for these offences could result in large fines or even imprisonment.

The problems of the bill are about the reluctance of the government to bring forward new legislation and a new Fisheries Act in this minority Parliament.

The problems of Bill C-52 came as a result of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations that examined regulation 36(2). It did so in its second report which was presented to the House on May 9, and it recommended the revocation of this regulation on the grounds that the regulation created an offence that exceeded the authority found in the Fisheries Act.

The committee found that this regulation violated three principles or three criteria that it had set out.

First, the regulation is not authorized by the terms of the enabling legislation, in this case the Fisheries Act, and it has not complied with any conditions set forth in the legislation.

The second criteria it violated was that this regulation imposed a fine, imprisonment or penalty without express authority of having been provided for in the enabling legislation.

The third criteria it violated was that the regulation amounts to the exercise of substantive legislative power properly the subject of direct parliamentary enactment.

For these three reasons, the committee rejected regulation 36 in its report tabled in the House on May 9.

As a result, the government had to react, and react quickly, to ensure that it had its way. The government, in an attempt to block the revocation of regulation 36, produced Bill C-52.

Before I go into my critique of Bill C-52, let me quote from one more finding in the report presented by the committee on May 9 to this House. It concerns the regulation that the committee recommended be revoked. This is the heart of the matter, both in the regulation that was going to be revoked and in the bill that this government has introduced. The report stated:

To summarize, the purpose of section 36(2) of the Regulations is to make it an offence to contravene the terms and conditions of a licence. In section 78 of the Act, Parliament has provided that only contraventions of the Act and the regulations are to constitute offences. If Parliament had wished contraventions of licence conditions to constitute offences, it could, and no doubt would, have so enacted. Section 36(2) is nothing more than an attempt to treat contraventions of licence conditions, which are administrative requirements, as if they were contraventions of legislative requirements. Regardless of whether this is characterized as creating an offence or not, the requisite clear and explicit enabling authority for such a provision cannot [be] found in the Fisheries Act.

As I mentioned, in response to the committee's finding, this government very quickly introduced Bill C-52, which, I might add, is an extremely short bill that contains only two clauses. The first clause allows the government the authority to enforce compliance with a licence under section 4 of the Fisheries Act. The second part of the bill allows this government to not undergo parliamentary oversight. The second clause in this bill exempts this bill from oversight under the Statutory Instruments Act. This a roundabout way for this government to circumvent parliamentary oversight.

This bill does not address what is fundamentally at heart here, that is, the inadequacies of the Fisheries Act. Indeed, this bill will simply prolong the life of this legislation, the life of a statute that is badly in need of revision. It keeps major reforms out of this minority Parliament.

I have read and heard of concerns from certain people about the revocation of regulation 36 and this bill. In particular, the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources expressed concern about his ability to enforce the sustainable fishery. We too share these concerns. I share these concerns. However, this is not to be addressed in Bill C-52, not in a very poorly crafted bill that circumvents parliamentary oversight by not allowing the Statutory Instruments Act a purview over this amended section of the Fisheries Act.

This government has failed to introduce modern fisheries legislation and this bill is far too vague and far too encompassing and sweeping for us to support. With Bill C-52, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is trying to slide through Parliament an amendment to the Fisheries Act that would allow the jailing of fishers who might fail to meet a condition attached to a licence created by the department.

In principle, we are not against toughening penalties or fines for those who are found in violation of fisheries legislation. Indeed, I am not against jail terms for those caught polluting or damaging our fisheries or our environment. However, I believe that this should be done through legislation. It should not be done through regulation. The big principle here is that Parliament should be making these decisions concerning fines, penalties or imprisonment, not the minister through orders in council.

In conclusion, let me note that I find it highly ironic that while this Prime Minister has talked about the democratic deficit it is exactly legislation like Bill C-52 that circumvents the democratic will of Parliament. While many people who are watching this or who will read about this later may find the points nuanced and may find these points to be finer, I do believe that this is at the heart of the problem. That is, the democratic will of Parliament, the democratically elected members in the House, not only should have oversight of the regulations but should have a say in crafting legislation that would enforce penalties, fines and imprisonment. It should not be the minister through regulation and orders in council who does it.

I would like to move a subamendment to the motion. The member for Calgary Centre-North will second my motion. I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding the word “unelected” after the word “permitting” and before the word “public”.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague. At the beginning of my comments I read for members some of the findings from the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. My colleague mentioned section 36 of the regulations.

The scrutiny of regulations committee was basically saying to the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources that the minister did not have a clear understanding of section 36(2) and that his interpretation was wrong. The committee went on to state:

Disallowance of that section may change the manner of enforcing compliance with terms and conditions of licences, but would certainly not affect in any way the ability to impose such terms and conditions.

More clarity is needed in this process. This is just another example of the Liberal government saying to us that it really needs to do something about the Fisheries Act, but it is not willing to have a thorough debate in Parliament and make the consecutive changes that need to be made. This is another example of the Liberal government trying to slip something in through the back door. Perhaps no one will be watching, thinks the Liberal government, and it will be able to move on and give the minister unprecedented powers that he has not had in the past but in such a way as to avoid the parliamentary process.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is indeed correct. The committee found the concern of the minister unwarranted in that the regulation would have been more appropriately crafted if it had said that people who violate the terms of their licence would have their licence revoked. That would not be beyond the bounds of the statute, the bounds of the Fisheries Act.

The heart of the problem was that regulation 36 went beyond this. It said that if people violated the terms and conditions of their licences, they would be subject to penalties in the act, such as fines and other penalties. That violates a fundamental principle, that of Parliament delegating authority to others to make subordinate laws.

The committee's first report, tabled on October 21, 2004, stated that it has responsibility to ensure that “the appropriate principles and practices” are “to be observed...in the drafting of powers enabling delegates of Parliament to make subordinate laws”. The problem is that the act allows the department or the minister to enact regulations concerning the creation and revocation of licences, but not fines and penalties around violating the terms and conditions of those licences.

If the minister wishes to exercise his authority in that area he needs to come to Parliament to have the Fisheries Act amended to allow for fines and penalties in the event that the terms and conditions of licences are violated. That is the heart of the problem.

Not only has this government very hastily brought this legislation forward to address this problem of regulation 36, but it has also, in a very undemocratic and unparliamentary way, exempted this particular amendment to the Fisheries Act from the Statutory Instruments Act, which I think is a very circuitous way of preventing parliamentary oversight. That is why we will oppose this bill unless it is amended.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson Conservative St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to hearing my colleagues as the evening goes on in terms of the bill before us. We have heard some interesting arguments.

When everything is considered, Bill C-52 is a bill that has been around this place on at least a couple of other occasions. It was first introduced as Bill C-33 in the 37th Parliament.

The minister likes to suggest that the bill is only a technical amendment and, in one sense, it is a technical amendment. It is a very short bill with only a couple of paragraphs in it. It is a technical bill in nature but it would grant the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the power to make decisions concerning terms and conditions of licences and permissions without the need for consultation of any kind.

My colleagues are absolutely correct when they talk about circumventing Parliament without any parliamentary oversight. The bill would give the minister powers that we are a little bit concerned about.

It would give the minister sole discretion without the checks and balances that we would normally expect in a bill. In other words, Parliament, basically, would lose control. All the control would be exercised by the minister and we know what happens in government when ministers are allowed a free rein in terms of what they do and how their department behaves. For that very reason we are proposing amendments to the bill and we would only support the bill if these amendments were approved by the House.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans could be doing many things but it is not. We have heard some of that here as well. We do not have to look very far in any of our constituencies across the country that have a fisheries component in them to recognize the difficulties in our fisheries.

Today, for example, a story came off the CBC network about the red tide in the shellfish market. In other words, we are talking about a red tide that creates a toxic algae, a difficulty that makes it almost impossible for harvesters of clams to make a living. The shellfish industry is in difficulty and we know this a recurring phenomenon just about each and every summer. It is now occurring in New Brunswick and in other parts of North America as well.

If the department wants to do something, we are suggesting that it take some action to support some of our clam diggers where a little bit of money could make the difference in terms of compensation for fisheries that are shut down through no fault of the fishermen, in this case, clam diggers.

One of the points raised today in the media is that the state of Massachusetts, which is also suffering because of the red tide, in other words shutting down its shellfish industry, has come up with money for those fishermen. They are down at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of the pecking order in the eyes of the present government.

One might argue that if the government wanted to do something it should assistance of some of those fishermen who need help, much as we did in the cod fishery. We came in a little too late. The industry was in a state of collapse so the government had no option but to do something to help out those fishing families. I am suggesting it should do the same thing with our clam fishers.

The other point I want to make is that the government has done a number of things right in the fishery. I was pleased when the minister announced funding for some wharves in New Brunswick Southwest of about $5 million in the last few weeks on some much needed work on infrastructure. Our fishermen absolutely need wharves to do their work, in other words, to fish.

This is not all negative but, as members know, there is always more to do and more work has to be done and we are encouraging the government to do some of that. If we are going to spend resources, let us spend it on the fishermen and in a way that would be beneficial to them, not in a way that would give the minister an arbitrary power in terms of the actions that he can take against fishermen in terms of their licences and the responsibilities of those licence holders.

That issue was brought out in a weekly newspaper back home, the St. Croix Courier Weekend edition by Dick Wilbur who writes the Fisheries File, the article he writes every week in that paper. He was talking to the member for Delta--Richmond East. When the member for Delta--Richmond was speaking to this particular reporter this is what he had to say about Bill C-52:

--the bill would empower bureaucrats to attach terms and conditions to fishing licenses having the force of law would have the effect of undermining the accountability provisions in the Fisheries Act legislation that has stood the test of time.

That pretty well sums it up in terms of what it would do.

In all fairness, Mr. Wilbur went to department officials to get their take on the issue. Of course when one is speaking to a senior official in the Department of Fisheries, one can only expect one thing, for them to support the legislation and they do. They dismiss what our member for Delta--Richmond East had to say but the interesting thing is that the member for Delta--Richmond East is a fisherman and when he speaks in this House on those types of issues he knows what he is talking about. He is not talking as a lawyer or as a journalist. He is talking as a fisherman, someone who has witnessed the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and how it can, from time to time, overstep its jurisdiction. In this particular case, we will be giving the department more authority to do that without any parliamentary overview.

Another area I want to touch on in terms of enforcement is the need for enforcement when enforcement is required. None of us would dismiss that and, as some of the members mentioned, we have a Fisheries Act that is over 130 years old and it has to be updated, but it has to be updated in a responsible manner and in a manner that respects the rights of individual fishermen.

Some members in the House will probably remember a bill I introduced two or three Parliaments ago entitled the fisherman bill of rights. It was a private member's bill that came to this floor and received quite a bit of support on both sides of the House but, unfortunately, it was never passed.

What we do not want to see impeded are the so-called rights that fishermen enjoy, rights that are not legislated, such as the right to get in their vessels and catch fish. We do not want to see those rights restricted by the fisheries department.

When we really take a look at the department on both coasts, one of the difficulties in terms of enforcement is simply the lack of resources to do enforcement. In some parts of the country the department does not have moneys in its budget to put fuel in its boats to enforce what it is supposed to be enforcing.

We also do not have enough fisheries officers to do the job. We witnessed it on the west coast and have seen that happen time and time again with some of the off shore fishing that we see. There is a lack of enforcement because there is a lack of resources for the department.

If the minister is arguing that he has to strengthen the act and give himself more powers, we would argue that the minister should simply have the money to do the job the act entitles him to do now. Again, he needs the money to do that and we need the fisheries officers to do their jobs. Unfortunately, that is not happening. It is not a case of us picking on individual fisheries officers. That is not the point at all because they have a job to do and, in most cases, they do it very well, but they need the resources to do it. If we do not have enough manpower in the field the job cannot get done. A change in the regulations or a change in the act will not do that.

I will leave it at that and maybe my colleagues have some questions. The bottom line in all of this is that it is a power grab by the minister and we believe the fishermen and the industry would not be well served by it. It is a bill that we cannot support.