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House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

ImmigrationRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

New Brunswick Southwest New Brunswick

Conservative

Greg Thompson ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 2006 annual report on immigration.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 61st annual meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments in Chicago, Illinois from August 20 to 23, 2006.

As well, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 2006 annual meeting of the National Governors Association: Healthy America, in Charleston, South Carolina from August 4 to 7, 2006.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The committee has considered the matter of procurement policy changes by the Department of Public Works and Government Services and has agreed to send a message to Senator Fortier to appear before the government operations committee in the next two weeks.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in relation to its study on the policy direction to the CRTC.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-376, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to table a bill to amend the Criminal Code, impaired driving, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The bill would reduce the blood alcohol concentration limit to .05% from the current .08% without being unduly punitive or creating greater burdens on the police and the courts.

Impaired driving remains the number one cause of criminal death in Canada, more than all other causes of homicide combined. Our youth are particularly vulnerable.

The legislation would not punish people who enjoy consuming alcoholic beverages and it would not impede one's ability to drive. It does say, however, that our laws need to reflect the true risk to ourselves and others of drinking and driving.

I urge all members of the House to carefully consider the bill and to lend their support.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Climate Change Accountability ActRoutine Proceedings

October 31st, 2006 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

Mr. Speaker, this bill seeks to ensure that Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

It is clear that climate change represents a serious threat to Canada's economic well-being, public health, natural resources and environment. The impact of climate change is already being felt in Canada, especially in the Arctic.

This bill, once established, calls on the government to bring into place, very rapidly, regulations on the emission of greenhouse gases. It will also set interim and long term targets for Canada that meet the scientific basis on which such objectives must be established. It also instructs our government to pursue these objectives and goals in international negotiations. It provides an ongoing role for the environment commissioner to report to the House and the people of Canada on progress and on plans.

I am very pleased to table this legislation on such an important issue facing all Canadians, indeed, all citizens of the world.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-378, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations (drug export restrictions).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce the bill, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations. In view of the recent law enacted by the U.S. Congress after October 4, President Bush has opened the border to prescription drugs which has caused the U.S. customs service to stop seizing these purchases entering America from Canada.

We believe this is a first step to the full legalization of prescription drug imports from Canada that could come by the end of this year. We need to protect ourselves from this dramatic expansion of importation. We need to ensure that we avoid becoming America's drug store and yet we believe that since coming to office the new Conservative government has taken no action and, in fact, the health minister has said that he is not worried and that he will only respond when drug shortages occur.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-379, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (increase of allowance for surviving spouse and children).

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth for seconding the bill. Unfortunately, in this country when a veteran or RCMP officer passes on, his or her spouse is entitled to only 50% of his or her pension benefits but, alas, when a member of Parliament passes on, his or her spouse is entitled to much more. We think that must change and with Veterans Week coming up next week it is a timely opportunity for the House to move on this very quickly.

We are asking that when veterans or RCMP members pass on that at least 60% of their pension be contributed to their spouse until that spouse passes on as well. That would be more fair for the people who serve our country with bravery, distinction and courage. It is time to update that pension legislation so they in turn can leave more for their surviving spouse.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

First reading of Senate Public BillsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the same point in routine proceedings, tabling of Senate public bills, I rose as the sponsor of Bill S-202 and asked if I could briefly explain the bill. The Speaker responded:

We do not normally speak on Senate bills. The hon. member for Mississauga South is asking for unanimous consent to give a brief explanation of the bill.

Unfortunately, unanimous consent was not forthcoming.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 21 under “Private Members' Business”, at page 900 under “SENATE PUBLIC BILLS SPONSORED BY PRIVATE MEMBERS”, which I believe this is the case. It states:

Some private Members' public bills originate in the Senate and are sent to the Commons after passage by the Senate. When the Speaker calls “First Reading of Senate Public Bills” during Routine Proceedings, the Member sponsoring a Senate bill in the House is permitted to give a brief explanation of its purpose, without engaging in debate. The motion for first reading is then deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put, and the bill is automatically added to the bottom of the order of precedence for Private Members' Business without having gone through the draw process.

All bills coming before this place have a very important matter to consider by hon. members either in this place or from the other place. I believe this particular bill is excellent and I was hoping to have the opportunity to make a brief explanation on Bill S-202 for the benefit of all hon. members.

First reading of Senate Public BillsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have to say to the hon. member for Mississauga South that I appreciate him drawing this matter to the attention of the Chair. In my experience in this House, which has gone on for some time now, I have never seen a member rise on the introduction of a Senate bill and give a brief explanation, so I am surprised to see this in Marleau and Montpetit.

However, I accept the citation that the hon. member has referred to in our practice and I apologize for not having allowed him to give this explanation yesterday. Perhaps he would like to give the House the benefit of his wisdom now in telling us what the bill concerns since, obviously, I made a blunder yesterday in suggesting that he required unanimous consent in order to do what he now wishes to do.

Statutes Repeal ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to sponsor in the House of Commons Bill S-202, which was proposed by the hon. senator, Tommy Banks, and which was passed by the other place on June 22.

The bill seeks to establish appropriate provisions to repeal any legislation that has not come into force within 10 years of receiving royal assent. Failure to proclaim a bill passed by Parliament is simply unacceptable.

I trust that all hon. members will give speedy passage to this responsible piece of legislation from our other place.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved:

That the third report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the House for the opportunity to speak on what I consider a very important matter related to people who live in our northern territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and of course the northern part of Quebec.

I also want to thank my hon. colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal Party, and the fisheries and oceans committee for helping me get this through the committee and report it in the House of Commons.

I will provide a brief history of this issue. We are basically talking about the marine service fees that had an exemption in 1997. Unfortunately, the exemption was never implemented. These fees are having quite an economic effect upon shippers and users of shipping services, plus consumers in the far north.

The statutes are already on the books. We are asking the government members, who supported it when they were opposition, to support the exemption of 1997. We are asking to remove the additional fees that the people in the north have to pay.

For those who are watching, it is quite simple. If a ship transits from Montreal to Iqaluit, it has to pay additional service fees for the privilege of sending freight or cargo up to the far north. If a ship comes from Antwerp or Amsterdam to Iqaluit, no fees are applied. That is unfair and it is time to change it.

I am going to read the motion of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I thank the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, the chair of the committee, for presenting it to the House as a report. It states:

The Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommends that the Government:

1. Not apply Marine Service Fees on Canadian commercial ships transiting to and from waters north of 60° based on the socio-economic conditions of the North consistent with the fee exemption established in 1997;

2. That the exemption be appliely without any further ded immediatelay and that the Canadian Coast Guard's cost recovery policy with respect to the North be subject to further review in the development of a national Future Approach to the Marine Services Fees;

3. Whereas the Marine Service Fees collected by the Canadian Coast Guard on the provision of sealift services to the Eastern Arctic is not consistent with the current exemption based on the socio-economic conditions of the North, specifically the reality that the Eastern Arctic is dependent on re-supply by way of the south given its unique socio-economic conditions;

4. Whereas the peoples across Canada's North including remote communities experience the highest costs of living in Canada; and

5. Whereas the communities and residents of the North maintain and exert Canada's Arctic sovereignty across the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Northern Quebec, and Labrador.

These people are the ears and eyes of our north. There has been a lot of talk lately about Arctic sovereignty. We think that the people of the north have a right not only to live in the north of course and have economic opportunities, but we also believe the exemption should remain in place. We think it is inconceivable that the government in 1997 placed the exemption but never enacted it. We could not help but notice that when the Conservatives were in opposition they supported this particular indication.

I would like to read a couple of quotes by someone we all know. A letter was sent to Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon; Joseph Handley, Premier of the Northwest Territories; and Paul Okalik, the Premier of Nunavut. I will let you guess who said this, Mr. Speaker, on January 6, 2006. The letter states:

We recognize the unique circumstances faced in the north regarding the delivery of programs and services to residents and we are prepared to discuss the challenges regarding the costs and circumstances for the delivery of those services.

It also states:

3. the need to simplify the spiderweb of federal regulatory authority which threatens economic development in the north;

Mr. Speaker, guess who said that ever so eloquently? It was none other than the Prime Minister himself when he was in opposition. We thank the Prime Minister for recognizing the unique economic conditions of the north. We would like to thank him one more time by accepting this report and removing the fees immediately.

Again, if the government members wish to follow through on their own commitment to the people of the north, we would be glad to support them. Unfortunately, in the estimates we do not see anything of that nature in this regard. Thus, the opposition needs to get the issue back on the table in the House of Commons.

It is time that the government fully recognize the exemption of 1997. That is basically all we are asking for and if we do that I honestly believe we could help the people in the north develop their economies even better.

We cannot sit down here in the south and say one thing and then tell the people in the north another thing. It is simply unacceptable. As a person who lived in Yukon for nine years, I understand quite uniquely the conditions under which the people live in terms of trying to compete with its southern neighbours, and trying to have health and educational services, transportation services and economic opportunities. We need to assist them.

The overall cost to the government is really peanuts when we look at the big budgets it talks about. This would go a long way in assisting the three premiers of the north and their constituents, and the three members of Parliament who represent those areas from Yukon, Northwest Territories and of Nunavut. I thank all three of them for helping us in this discussion and moving this issue forward.

We honestly think that this is something that would be very helpful. I want to thank a couple of people for their assistance, Mr. Richard Selleck from the office of Senator Willie Adams who has been very helpful. Senator Willie Adams represents the north in the Senate. I also thank Mr. Francis Schiller, who has been working very hard and a long time on all aspects of marine service fees trying to get them in line, so that the people of the north, and the people who do business and trade with the north, will be able to have a competitive level playing field when it comes to the same aspects of the economy that we have in the south.

This is a very proper and opportune time for this debate to happen in the House of Commons. I thank all my colleagues here, but I especially want to encourage my Conservative colleagues to move forward on this, especially the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who himself is from Newfoundland and who has commented before about the unique situations in the far north. He knows the unique conditions of outports in the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador and how we need to help those communities and assist those businesses in creating economic development in the far north.

If the exemption gets into place immediately, we are then as a Parliament telling the north, everybody north of 60, that we understand the situation they go through, the complications that they have, and we will do everything in our fiscal power to assist them.

At this time I would hope that the House would seek a fairly quick recommendation on this and pass it unanimously, so that we could collectively tell the north it is trick or treat time and today, here is a treat and no tricks.

I wish to thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso who understands the great challenges that we have in helping out the north. I look forward to the debate and I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on this issue.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments and a couple of questions.

The hon. member talked about saying one thing and doing another. It kind of reminds me of his position on supporting the troops in Afghanistan, and yet he stood in the House and voted against the mission. That is the first thing I want to get off my chest.

The second thing is, what is it worth? The NDP talks about stifling the northern economy. What would the cost be? My understanding is that the marine service fees for north of 60 amount to about $100,000 a year. We do not have the same deal for any other provinces like P.E.I. or Newfoundland. The amount of $100,000 a year is not going to stifle the northern economy. Are we going to offer this same reduction of fees to all the land routes that cross 60°? Are we going to offer the same reduction of fees straight across the board? What about the diamond industry? It is a fairly lucrative industry. Should we be assisting it? Should we be assisting oil and gas exploration industries in the high Arctic. Can they not afford to pay service fees?

I would like to know the cost and to have a rational debate about this instead of a political debate because we can all be guilty of that. What is the cost and why can the north not afford to assume those costs on its own? Is it stifling the northern economy? I think there was a reason the bill was enacted and there was a reason that it was not brought in because I think cooler heads prevailed and they took a look at it. I do not think this is about holding the north back at all, but I think that we have to be fair throughout the country. What is the cost? That is my question.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, first of all, on the member's first question, if he thinks that the lives of the troops and billions of dollars of expenditures toward the country of Afghanistan is only worth a six hour night debate and then a rush vote in the House of Commons, without fair and proper consultation with all Canadians, it is absolutely unacceptable. I would never support that.

On the member's issue of the service fees for the north, I cannot stand in the House and say here is the exact figure because if those fees were removed, we may have even more additional services to the far north.

I remind my hon. colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's that it was his Prime Minister who stated what I quoted here in the House earlier. It was the government when it was in opposition that supported the implementation of the exemption. If the member wants to know the true figures, he can easily ask the parliamentary secretary who is sitting right next to him or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

He has had ample time to learn about these figures. These figures change all the time. We do not know the exact costs. We do know that the north has asked us for this. The north has been asking since before 1997 for the removal of these fees. If the member wishes to have an exact penny to the count, hopefully by the end of the day I will get him those figures. I believe his $100,000 figure is way too low.

The fact is that the member cannot compare southern operations to that of the north. It is simply unacceptable. The member knows better than that.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will follow up on those excellent questions from the government member. I am curious because I hear the Bloc members and the NDP very often talking about subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry and some of the big companies, such as De Beers, and other diamond companies and so on.

Is the member seriously telling us here that when it comes to major oil and gas developments in the north or mining ventures by companies such as De Beers or building the Mackenzie Valley pipeline by Exxon, one of the biggest corporations in the world, that he is actually advocating that we give them a reduced arrangement on fees for transporting products and stuff to the north? Is that what the member is saying? Is he talking about another subsidy to the oil and gas industry which his party seems to be preoccupied with? Is he talking about another one?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is quite amazing when we sit and listen to some of the comments from the hon. member for Prince Albert.

I would remind the hon. member of an announcement that the government recently made and which I fully supported. It was subsidizing and helping Marine Atlantic from Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick. That was a crown corporation that went private. The private corporation could not make any money doing it in private hands. The government is now putting over $4 million into something that it does not know if it is going to be successful in the end. The government is doing what it can to help the communities in those areas. This is something I fully support.

If the government can help a private company, a ferry from Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick, surely it can honour the exemption which is on the books as of 1997. That is basically what we are asking for.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in the north when we ship goods by boat from Montreal to Iqaluit for instance, the price of these goods is raised. When goods are bought in Montreal and the 6% GST is paid on them, we must add on the price of the freight and the GST on the cost of the freight on top of the goods when it arrives in Iqaluit.

The tax system in Canada is not set up to be fair for northerners, for people who live at the end of the supply chain and have the highest cost. These people pay the highest consumption taxes.

In fact, northerners are paying more than their fair share of taxation right now. Whatever we can do to reduce the cost to northerners is a good idea. Would my hon. colleague speak to the concept of reducing costs to northerners?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate for my hon. colleague what the Prime Minister said. These are his own words:

We recognize the unique circumstances faced in the north regarding the delivery of programs and services to residents and we are prepared to discuss the challenges regarding the costs and circumstances for the delivery of those services.

Those are not my words. Those are the Prime Minister's words.

It is ironic to have the Conservatives stand up and say “what are you doing giving subsidies and breaks to these companies?” Their own leader, the Prime Minister, said those exact things to the three premiers of the north. I do not want to have a hypocritical conversation here. I am basically asking the government to honour the Prime Minister's words and remove those fees and implement the exemption.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP member said, it is surprising to hear the Conservatives stand up and say that a great deal of money will be spent on this issue and that that will open the door to other initiatives or other fee reductions. But when oil and millions of dollars are involved, it is a different matter. Here, we are talking about thousands of dollars only.

I fail to understand the Conservatives' attitude toward the current situation. When we talk about helping people who live in remote areas, we are criticized and told that the money could be spent elsewhere. But when it comes to helping companies that do not necessarily need assistance, such as the oil companies, there is no debate.

I would like to hear what the NDP member has to say about that. I would like to know his opinion and how he reacts to this situation, because it reflects a double standard. At the same time, I feel as though the government is making a big deal out of something that should be logical: helping people who live in remote areas.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from the Bloc is a very strong and proud member of our committee and I thank him for his work, but I also want to mention to the Conservatives that it is the Coast Guard that has set up a national review process on all service fees that it charges to shippers, not only in the south but in the north.

We mentioned to the Coast Guard that on its initial panel of experts it had nobody from the north. In committee, when we addressed this to Mr. DaPont, the commissioner of the Coast Guard, he realized the mistake. He is going to correct it. He is now going to have people from the north.

If the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's and others think this is a waste of time and are asking what we are doing, then why is the Coast Guard having a national review of all marine service fees? It seems quite comical that they say one thing, yet the Coast Guard is holding a national review process.

We basically want to skip ahead of that and tell the Coast Guard and the government to just implement the statute that gives the exemption on marine service fees north of 60. That is it.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the motion by the NDP member for concurrence in the third report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I thank him for his work on this issue and on many others.

Canada's new government shares the committee's regard and concern for this country's citizens of the north. We fully appreciate the unique socio-economic conditions facing this part of our vast country. However, this motion as it stands now ignores much of the work already completed and currently under way on the question of federal marine services fees and their application north of the 60th parallel. It also ignores the realities of maritime transport in keeping our waters safe and accessible for those who sail them. In the few minutes that I have, I want to develop these themes.

The motion calls for an immediate exemption of marine service fees on vessels that transit to and from waters north of 60. It also calls for a further review of the Canadian Coast Guard's cost recovery policy with respect to northern Canada. As well, it accuses the Coast Guard of being inconsistent with existing exemptions for the north in applying fees on sea lift services to the eastern Arctic.

Let me remind this House of the facts on marine services fees and what Canada's new government is doing to work with industry and the government of Nunavut on this matter.

Marine services fees were initiated in 1996 on commercial shipping in Canadian waters. They apply to commercial ships that derive a direct benefit from the navigational and icebreaking services provided by the Coast Guard. They exist to recover a portion of the costs incurred by the Coast Guard in providing these services.

I should note that the Arctic is not subject to the icebreaking fees. I will come back to this shortly.

Therefore, the fees in question are those charged by the Coast Guard for marine navigation services. These include maintaining aids to navigation such as fixed beacons, lights and floating markers, as well as vessel traffic services.

As part of a national program, these navigation service fees are applied to all commercial cargo vessels, including those that traverse the 60th parallel. Most of this traffic is of course generated by ships delivering goods north, as there is very little north to south commercial traffic. The fees are charged to individual vessels in waters subject to cost recovery and are paid to the Coast Guard. In the case of the eastern Arctic sea lift, the fee is applicable only on the portion of the trip south of 60.

From the outset when the marine services fee program was established, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard recognized the fragile economic conditions and unique challenges facing the north. The program recognized that without additional analysis of the northern situation it would have been premature to apply cost recovery for these services north of 60. The program also excluded cost recovery from transit between remote ports designated by Transport Canada's national marine policy.

In 1998, the marine services fee policy was extended somewhat by replacing Transport Canada's definition of remote ports with places in prescribed zones as designated by the Income Tax Act. These places are typically in areas that rely primarily on marine transport for resupply but whose ports are not economically viable on their own. The ports are usually owned and operated by the federal government.

In taking this step, the Coast Guard accepted the finance department's view that areas in the north deserve special consideration, as they did in the Income Tax Act, based on their economic situation. So it switched from Transport Canada's listing of remote ports to the finance department's listing of places in these prescribed northern zones. The Coast Guard believed this to be a fairer and more representative listing of locations that merit exemption from marine services fees, which is where we are today in regard to marine services fees.

At present there are two exceptions to this national policy that deal with northern and remote areas: commercial ships operating in waters exclusively north of 60, or those that sail between the places in prescribed zones listed in the Income Tax Act. Those are the two exemptions.

All other commercial vessel traffic is subject to the fees as part of the Coast Guard's partial cost recovery. When I say partial cost recovery, I mean just that. The cost for providing these navigational services to Canada's commercial shipping industry south of 60 is in the neighbourhood of $66 million annually. For navigational services exclusively north of 60, the figure is an additional $17.6 million, but as I said, it is not subject to cost recovery.

The total revenue generated from marine navigation services fees last year was about $31 million. Of that, about $100,000 a year comes from the fees levied on ships crossing the 60th parallel, only $100,000 a year. That equates to adding about $1 to the $300 cost of shipping a snowmobile, for example, from Montreal to Iqaluit, or $8 on a $2,000 shipping charge for sending a pickup truck along that same route.

This of course raises some concerns from the government of Nunavut and the shipping industry. Naturally, shipping companies would prefer to see no fees at all.

In terms of added value, I hasten to add that fees for icebreaking services, from which the north receives some benefit, are not applicable north of 60. In fact, last year the cost for icebreaking services provided by the Coast Guard in these waters was about $41 million.

We do not charge for these services because we see icebreaking in the north as an essential service for the public good. It means that northern residents and commercial interests can access safer waterways and access them earlier in the year. It means open harbours and greater opportunities for the people of the north, who maintain Canada's Arctic sovereignty on our behalf.

Moreover, even though most vessels engaged in the sealift begin their journey south of 60, they pay no icebreaking fees there either. This is because the Arctic sealift typically operates from July to October, before the start of icebreaking season.

As well, the Coast Guard provides a number of other services to Canada's north. These services benefit the eastern Arctic resupply, commercial shippers and northern residents to varying degrees, but they are services to which no cost recovery is applied.

In addition to icebreaking, these services include search and rescue, marine communications, environmental response, and direct funding from DFO to maintain 37 remote resupply landing areas.

There is yet another service that the Canadian Coast Guard continues to provide the industry and the residents of Nunavut, despite differing opinions on official responsibility: the Iqaluit beachmaster-harbourmaster program. With no commercial port facilities in Iqaluit, the Coast Guard supplies personnel and equipment to coordinate the arrival, safe mooring and unloading and departure of commercial cargo ships conducting the sealift. The Coast Guard also directs vessel traffic and places mooring buoys in the harbour.

This program is not an official duty of the Coast Guard. As part of the sealift, it should rest with the government of Nunavut. This has been a topic of discussion between previous federal governments and Nunavut for years. In fact, the debate continues today.

However, we continue to provide this service, one that directly benefits the industry and the people of Nunavut. It costs the Coast Guard somewhere between $150,000 to $175,000 to do so. This alone outpaces the $100,000 a year I mentioned a moment ago that is collected from ships transiting to and from north of 60.

In 2005, the Nunavut government asked the previous minister of fisheries and oceans to review marine services fees. Nunavut's Minister of Economic Development and Transportation expressed his government's view that no such fees should be applied because of the already high cost of shipping to the Arctic. This review was completed in June of this year. Shortly thereafter, we shared its findings with the current Nunavut minister and the president of the Chamber of Maritime Commerce.

The review, which has been made public by the Canadian Coast Guard, focused on ships conducting the Arctic sealift. For the sake of clarity, I should add that the sealift is primarily composed of well-established marine companies that provide these resupply services to Nunavut for part of the operating year. It is not an Arctic fleet operating solely north of 60, which would make it exempt from marine services fees.

The review looked into assertions that marine navigation services fees are an unfair burden on Nunavut. It examined the assumption that the fees are a major cost component of transportation and that the policy on these fees is applied incorrectly.

The review found no immediate or compelling reasons to eliminate these fees on commercial ships sailing between south and north of 60. It found that the fee is not a significant contributor to the cost of transportation, citing the figures I stated previously. Generally, the fee adds less than 1% to the cost of shipping to north of 60. In other words, if the marine navigation services fees were to be eliminated, it would not reduce the cost of shipping to the people of Nunavut in any meaningful way.

The review also found that application of this fee was consistent with the exemptions established previously, which I have already discussed. These exemptions were never intended to be permanent. The government of the day implemented them with the understanding that the policy would be reviewed periodically. Adjustments to the new policy could be made as a clearer picture of the northern shipping situation emerged. In effect, that happened in 1998, when the program was only two years old, and it is happening now as the entire marine services fees program is being looked at. This is being done by industry and government together.

I stress, again, that the marine services fees are part of a national cost recovery program that covers part of the expenses incurred by the coast guard in providing safe and accessible waters. As such, there was never any plan by previous governments to extend exemptions perpetually. Periodic reviews of the program allow governments the opportunity to work with industry to bring policies in line with current shipping conditions.

However, the government does share some common ground with the motion before us today. We agree that the Coast Guard's costs recovery policy for the north does merit further consideration as part of a national discussion. At this time we are engaged in discussions with the marine industry to develop a future approach to marine services fees. The goal is to develop a long term arrangement that addresses some of the outstanding issues on this matter between government and industry.

For the shipping industry, we are striving to bring greater stability and predictability to the marine services fees program. For government, or more specifically for the Coast Guard, a renewed approach to marine services fees could better reflect the current realities of commercial shipping. It could also serve to resolve an issue that is impacting the Coast Guard's relationship with the major client group.

These discussions are moving well. Both sides seem to agree that a comprehensive national framework on marine services fees is best for all concerned. Admittedly, the structure of marine navigation service fees is pretty complex. It is made up of an interwoven web of regional rates and applications to reflect commercial shipping patterns in different parts of the country.

Substantive one-off fee adjustments in particular regions could inadvertently and negatively impact the industry in other areas. That is why we have agreed that any changes to the fee should be undertaken at the same time on a national level and in a transparent manner. This, of course, would include fees applied during the Arctic sea lift.

The government does see the value in further discussing this matter with industry in a national context, and we recognize that there could be some benefit to exploring the possibility of a single rate for the Arctic. We will have more to say on the future approach to marine services fees in the coming months. We look forward to discussing our progress with the standing committee at that time and with the members of the House.

I was particularly disappointed, as we discussed this in committee, that this approach was not applied. Why we would proceed on this while there was a national discussion taking place was confusing and disappointing to me.

The government is sensitive to the fact that Canada's north faces unique environmental and socio-economic conditions. We recognize that a high cost of living and the distinct means of resupply are among the challenges of living north of 60.

Governments have tried to provide some relief through tax deductions for northern residents. This appears to me a more appropriate measure to addressing socio-economic imbalances than eliminating fees that go toward much needed navigational services. These services help ensure the safety and timely delivery of the eastern Arctic's critical resupply and they help provide mariners safe passage through often hazardous northern waters. Marine operators there often face high tidal ranges, ice infested waterways and limited port infrastructure.

In our view, these navigational services are as much a necessity to the safe operation of vessels as are the cost of adequate fuel, crew or vessel maintenance, among other expenses. However, as I stated, the cost of these navigational services is small compared to other shipping expenses and the return is very great.

In fact, as the review also noted, increased economic activity in the Arctic will bring greater demand and opportunity for shipping companies operating in the north. The government of Nunavut estimated a 32% increase in the number of scheduled stops as part of the sealift arrangement with suppliers. This in turn places greater demand for Coast Guard services. Eliminating the modest cost recovery associated with marine services fees does not appear to be a feasible option at this time.

The government does not concur with the motion before the House today. What we do agree with is continuing our efforts, in partnership with the industry, to find reasonable options in regard to marine services fees.

The Canadian Coast Guard is an indispensable part of our country's marine transportation network. Ask any mariner who has faced treacherous waters or trouble at sea. The talented and dedicated people behind this unique organization are committed to providing safe passage to all those who ply our waters, but they need the right tools and the right support to do their jobs properly.

We in government are tasked with making the right decisions that balance service to the public with sound fiscal stewardship of public resources. Marine services fees are part of this responsibility in ensuring the Coast Guard can continue its key role in marine safety.

We are committed to the best interest of our northern citizens. For the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, these interests are best served by providing safe and accessible waterways, vital to the well-being of Canadians north of 60.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to comment on my hon. colleague on the issues he has raised. He mentioned the tax system as a way to compensate northerners for increased costs.

The northern residents tax deduction, which came in the eighties, has been maintained at the same level since then. The cost of living has gone up over 50%, so we saw a degradation in the northern residents tax deduction while the Liberals were in power.

In his speech, my hon. colleague mentioned that he though this was a more appropriate way to deal with the inequities in the cost of living. Would he comment on the government's interest in reviewing and reassessing the very important northern residents tax deduction as part of his government's effort to alleviate the high cost of living for northerners?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that my hon. colleague agrees with us, that finding some way other than changing, in a very small way, the cost recovery system, which the Coast Guard applies, is probably the way to approach this issue.

I am not in a position to speak for the Minister of Finance or other members of the government, but we are always open to reviewing the taxation system to ensure it is as fair and balanced as it should be. I am confident we will be doing this in this regard as well.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the parliamentary secretary.

There are costs associated with the issue we are discussing today. With regard to maritime law north of 60, there is little marine traffic in that area.

My question is simple. How much money exactly does the issue we are discussing today represent?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much my colleague's interest in issues related to fisheries and oceans. He is a very important member of our committee.

I want to ensure that there is no confusion on this issue. There is no cost recovery for transportation that operates exclusively north of 60. It has worked this way since the initiation of the cost recovery program for service fees in 1996. There is an exemption and there always has been. In fact, there has always been the other approach. There is a cost recovery for transportation that comes from the south and goes to the north until it reaches north of 60.

After the first stop, let us say it goes to Iqaluit and then perhaps a number of stops after that, and there might be a fair number of those north of 60, there is no cost recovery charged to those. That is why there is a very small amount, in fact about $100,000 of marine services fees for trips that are taken from south of 60, say Montreal or some other place, and then into the eastern Arctic north of 60. It is a relatively small amount of money.