House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hunting.


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4:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier the member for Vegreville—Wainwright decided to try to denigrate the hon. member for Malpeque. I can only say that I cannot think of many members of Parliament who have worked so hard and championed the agriculture files and the plight of farmers in Canada and he should be congratulated for his service to the country.

It really is a problem for me to understand how the Conservatives could come in this way when it is their proposal for instance to basically abolish the Wheat Board and to basically permit direct sales that would benefit those who are closer to the U.S. border. It would not be representative of all farmers. Talk about hypocrisy.

I would like to ask the member if he would elaborate just a little on the importance of the Wheat Board to Canadian farmers.

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4:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture I had the opportunity to have consultations with the farm industry, based with primary producers themselves, looking at the issue of low farm incomes. There is no question that incomes are the lowest they have been in Canadian history.

While there are some who like to blame the farm community for that, our farmers are the most efficient and productive in the world, but the problem is other factors. I entitled my report, “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace”, which is what needs to happen to deal with the problem. We need to empower Canadian farmers in the marketplace.

The new government is doing two things that go in the opposite direction. First, it has taken power away from primary producers in terms of dealing with the railways through section 43 of Bill C-11 by cancelling the agreement with the FRCC.

Second, it is taking away the power of western grain farmers by undermining the single desk selling aspect of the Canadian Wheat Board. The minister announced a task force yesterday in which the government will try to achieve that objective without first giving farmers, the people who are under the Canadian Wheat Board, their democratic right, as stated under the act, to have a vote to determine which way they want to go.

The government is moving in the opposite direction by taking power away from farmers rather than empowering farmers as should be done.

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4:15 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill, a bill that has captivated the attention of government members who are taking copious notes and paying deep attention to the debate today. By not presenting speakers any more shows the profound lack of commitment the current government has toward a transportation strategy for this country, for the ability to actually address some of the transportation situations that are going on around our nation from coast to coast to coast.

While most of Bill C-11 occupies what we call the administrative side of things, it is a bit of a housekeeping bill, which I am sure the government will call a progressive and aggressive form of legislation because there is nothing else going on when it comes to transportation, particularly when it comes to sustainable transportation.

I represent a riding in the northwest of British Columbia that relies very much on the rail system to move goods in and out of our communities, particularly processed goods and, increasingly, the entire nation relies on the Port of Prince Rupert. It is a terminus that is meant to be an alleviation of the pressures on the other west coast ports, in particular the Vancouver area ports which have been clogged for far too long, mostly due to government neglect and lack of planning both at the provincial legislature with the Liberals in Victoria, the previous government, and the present government seems to be taking up the charge just as slowly.

With no national public transportation strategy or planning of any kind, communities are left to struggle along as best they can attempting to alleviate the congestion in urban and, in many cases, rural communities.

I want to talk about the need for a strategy. If only the bill, in addressing some of the major aspects of transportation, had within it the opportunity to show what this so-called new government might present to Canadians as a vision for our transportation sector. Instead, it chose to allow that opportunity, like so many others to this point in this hopefully short mandate of a minority Parliament, to pass it by, the opportunity to actually invest in the places that the manufacturing sector has been calling out for, for too many years.

I would also like to talk briefly about Transport Canada and the role that it has played in my community and in communities across British Columbia in particular.

The Library of Parliament did a study for us earlier this year to assess what has happened in rail safety just in the province of British Columbia over the last number of years.

We have what some have called the diabolical sale of BC Rail to CN by the Liberals in Victoria, British Columbia, with little public input and few conditions upon that sale. We have now seen an absolutely dramatic increase in sometimes fatal accidents. These are not simply a slowdown of trains or an inability of shippers to get their product to market. Those things were going on and are going on even more so. What is even more drastic is that when a company comes in it is the responsibility of the government to hold that company and the transportation sector to account for its safety practices but the government has neglected its duties, as the previous government did. The present government is continuing that bad practice and it is putting the lives of people working on that rail at stake. We have seen a tragic loss of life in British Columbia.

We have seen increasing numbers of accidents month in and month out with ne'er a word from the transportation minister and not a murmur from the government at all about the concerns for what is happening in British Columbia along our rail system that, as I said, the entire country is now coming to rely upon, certainly if they want to ship anything to the Far East or to other countries and cannot get it through our currently congested ports. This is an absolute shirking of responsibility.

In researching the accidents, we looked at not only the negligence of the companies involved but of the Transportation Safety Board, again filled with appointments by a previous Liberal government who may or may not have had experience in the transportation sector but they all had at least one thing in common and that was a strong allegiance to a formerly misguided Liberal government.

Now we see the current government proposing appointments for this commission which speaks much to transparency but walks in the opposite direction. We have had no assurances to this point of what that process will look like.

Will it be an open and fair transparent process? Will the public have input? Will there be local community involvement in that commission, or will it simply be people who wrote the appropriate cheques prior to the last federal election and made good with the current bastions of power?

It is important to consider that many Canadians watching the debate will not realize that many of the goods being shipped by Canadian rail are somewhat innocuous in nature. There are parts, widgets and various things, but there is an increasing amount of hazardous materials being transported on the rail system as well. When we combine that reality with a deplorable record on safety, we start to create the perfect forum for not only ecological disaster, but also grave consequences for the communities in these regions. They rely on the ability to trust the government to do what it is meant to do, which is to protect the interests of the public, not the narrow interests of a CEO from Texas running a rail line, but the interests of the people who voted all of us into this place. To this point, the government has not shown a commitment to that.

A rail shipment passes through my riding of Skeena once a month. It passes into a community through shipping, lands on our shores at Kitimat and travels up major waterways, which thousands of people rely on for food sustenance. Businesses absolutely depend on these river systems. These rail systems are now carrying some of the most noxious and hazardous goods we have. Has there been an environmental assessment of this process? Has anyone looked at what would happen if yet another CN car tipped off the tracks? Absolutely not. Has there been any public accounting for what it means to destroy a major tributary or to destroy a major river habitat for what could be years?

The substances contained in some of these tankers are used in the oil and gas sector in northern Alberta: condensates and various substances that are far more toxic than any oil spill could really be. Here we have a government that is hoping it can simply slap the blinkers on, as the last government did, and not account for proper protections. It holds the public trust in its hands.

Recently CN sent letters to the various volunteer, I stress the word “volunteer”, fire departments up and down the rail line to notify them that if there were a major spill on this line, if a hazardous material spilled into a river or alongside a river, they were to hold the fort for a minimum of 12 hours. These fire departments survive and subsist on the many thousands of hours put together by these teams of dedicated people and the donations from our communities. After that point, CN might show up with a hazardous materials crew. It is an absolutely deplorable sense of responsibility.

This is a place where clearly, in the interests of the public, the government needs to step in and say, “We have licensed you to operate a rail system in this country, but we have not licensed you to play Russian roulette with the communities and ecosystems through which the rail systems pass”.

Whether it is through a major urban centre or through the ecosystems and the environments upon which we rely, this company has decided, for the interests of profit and the maximization of that profit, to change the length of cars against Transportation Safety Board recommendations and to lower the amount of braking that these cars can do in some of the most mountainous areas of the world and the government has been silent, allowing this to go on and accidents have happened.

The trust that has been eroded has been dramatic. This goes across all partisan lines and interest groups. People no longer trust the regulators to regulate the industry because there have been accidents after accidents, spills into lakes and rivers near communities where people survive on the drinking water into which this toxic sludge is seeping. The government to this point has been quiet.

The bill does not speak to it. It does not address a need for an increased level of assurance and safety and a clamping down on those companies that refuse to listen to their workers and to the communities. They simply fire off missives every once in a while to tell volunteer fire departments that is it their responsibility, departments that do not have the training nor the equipment to handle a major hazardous spill. CN will relegate all of that responsibility to those communities. It is absolutely unacceptable by any standard and any stretch of the imagination.

The investigations that have come from Transport Canada have laid blame. We are still looking for answers, and I am sure the parliamentary secretary can answer this question. To our knowledge it has not levied any serious fines and reprobations for the company even when there has been loss of life and even when negligence has been proven in the maintenance of the rail system on various bridges, on the capacity of engines to break when going down these mountains. When there has been negligence at that level, what has the punishment been? It has been near to nothing.

The commission appointments that are called for in the legislation must be taken into the public realm. They must be given the clear light of day so communities can feel confident with the few people appointed, of which there are only five to my understanding. They are meant to oversee such a broad ranging mandate and must have the confidence of the public, those who use the rail system, work on the rail system or have a rail pass through their community or environment.

A second and critical point, which we are looking to the government to respond to since the last one did not, is on the required infrastructure developments, particularly for rails like the ones that pass through Skeena. After much browbeating, haggling and demanding the last government at the eleventh hour, it decided in its benevolence to fund in some small way the Port of Prince Rupert. Everyone in the industry and across the country who had anything to do with this issue had asked that the Port of Prince Rupert be given the capacity the country needs in order to ship its goods. The government finally showed up.

In showing up, the government neglected to talk about the other aspects of this deal. Overpasses need to be created. Safety regulations do not exist with regard to carrying double stacked cars through some of the most mountainous regions in the world. The government must step up to the plate. It must join with the citizens in the northwest, the people of Prince Rupert, who have staked much on this development. They want to become facilitators for the trade our country needs so much, in light of the disastrous so-called softwood lumber deal negotiated yesterday, which will rob the communities in my area of their ability to attract investment dollars to manufacture wood products any more.

We have a government that has somehow twisted itself into the perverse notion that self-imposing a tax on Canadian industy is the wise way to create wealth and generate prosperity and jobs, Canadian companies that are lawfully transporting materials across a border, which was supposedly open under a previous government's claims of free trade. If only we could have free trade with our American partners, instead of being dragged into court and being punished over and over again with illegal tariffs. At the end of the day, when we are on the edge of winning important court cases that would mean so much to the communities I represent, when victory is within our grasp, defeat is put in its place.

For the communities I represent, a major infusion of economic diversification dollars is needed if these communities will have any hope whatsoever. According to the forestry council of British Columbia, the effects of climate change ravage our forests with fires and pine beetle infestations and it is because of negligence. The previous governments and governments around the world have refused to act while some of the more progressive and noble ones have chosen to do the right thing and make something happen with climate change.

Due to that fact the communities got kicked in the head once. Now, after years of punishing duties and illegal tariffs, they are being kicked in the head again. They are being told that investment dollars have not been secured for the diversification they need. They are being told that companies wish to invest in Canada, to process some of our wood rather than just ship out raw logs and jobs to other countries. I can remember the slogan in the last election, standing up for Canada.

We are lying down in front of our American counterparts and saying, “Please don't kick us, we will kick ourselves”. We'll pound away happily on ourselves for years to come. If you don't like the deal, by a simple whim and demand of your own decision decide that we are falsely supporting our exports again, you can pull out of this absolutely erroneous and silly deal”.

For goodness sake, the communities of this region finally was able to cajole the previous government into supporting proper infrastructure and transportation investment. We need to move it to the second level if these communities have any hope of surviving whatsoever.

We saw it on the east coast when the fish stock started to collapse. There were calls from members of all parties for the government to step in after so much mismanagement and bad decision-making. The communities simply could not survive. It was just not a fair setting of the table. How can they compete? How can they survive if a government is enacting policies that go counter to the interests of the communities? They are not asking for help.

We conducted a study through the Library of Parliament last year and we asked simple questions. With respect to the federal riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, a very proud and hard-working riding, we asked people: Of all the tax money collected and then given back through program spending, what has the ratio been over the last decade? They were able to pull up information between 1995 and 2005. Revenue taken from Skeena was close to $1.1 billion. The federal government has done very well off the mining, resource and forestry sectors in my riding. All transfer payments into the riding through the province was one-tenth that figure. It was 10:1 ratio of tax dollars out to tax dollars in.

The provinces are asking for fairness. Fiscal imbalance is an absolute joke with respect to the resource economies of our country. Canadians work hard, earn honest livings and pay their taxes. Industries pay their taxes, some of them better than others, but when the taxes are paid and when it is time to reinvest back into these communities, the federal government says that it has a lot of pressing needs such as a critical highway between Vancouver and Whistler that needs its immediate attention, or a conference centre that needs to be expanded, or a rail line somewhere else.

Communities ask for some sort of basic notion of investment, investment in the truest sense where tax dollars are collected from the public, invested into an area, returned back to the public coffers and increase economic growth. As if there had been a single economic study by the federal government before it started shovelling money into the VANOC. As if there was any concept of what a dollar was given and what dollars would be returned. The government believed the false promises of VANOC and the Gordon Campbell government as to what this thing would actually cost. So much for prudence. So much for true fiscal imbalance.

The government claims to listen to Canadians. The bill talks about noise, traffic congestion and the need to listen to Canadians. Here is an opportunity to listen to Canadians. This is an opportunity to finally get serious about a national public transportation plan, a strategy that would allow the country, as vast and broad as it is, to realize its full economic potential. This would allow those regions that have for so long contributed to the public coffers, that have so long supported the growth of our cities and enabled the folks, who push papers from one desk to another in those cities, to earn a living, the places that the hewers of wooden haulers of water, it has often been called, the places that generate wealth in the truest sense of the wealth of this nation, to receive wealth in return.

Here is an opportunity for the so-called new government to move away from such misaligned and inappropriate actions like those we saw in the former Mulroney government. We now see our current Prime Minister doing his best to emulate what it is to sell out, what it is to lay down. This is an opportunity for our country to grow, to prosper and to achieve the dreams of all Canadians.

The legislation needs a bit of work. We need some answers from the government. We ultimately need a plan and a strategy for the country and for regions like mine to prosper. It needs to come from this Parliament.

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4:35 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member and I thought about my own constituency in north eastern Alberta. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of $12 billion comes out of that area per year in taxes. I would like very much to bring that $12 billion back to my constituency for infrastructure and transportation in the area.

We are one country and we must, as a country, bring ourselves together to support other areas that are not as well equipped as far as resources and other interests such as manufacturing et cetera are concerned. We are one country and we have to support each other. The argument that the member used was interesting, but we have to come to more logical conclusions. We have to support each other.

I did have the opportunity as parliamentary secretary to travel in the Lower Mainland. In fact, I put some 3,000 kilometres on my vehicle travelling, looking at railroad crossings, highways, infrastructure and transportation initiatives taking place in that area. There is a need for some huge investment in the area, both from the province and we will see from the federal government. This government has already committed major dollars to the area in the way of the Pacific Gateway initiatives.

I would like to bring to the member's attention the fact that a report is being done by myself for the minister as far as what is taking place in that area and throughout Alberta. The minister and the government are very interested in having someone from the government on the ground looking at what is taking place, solving the problems and issues for Canadians. Our agenda is to solve the issues of Canadians.

I know the member expects miracles, as most Canadians do after 13 years of neglect by the Liberal government, but we have been sitting in the House for five months as government. I would ask the member to be patient and wait for us to do the job for Canadians in the best interests of Canadians.

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4:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, patience is indeed a virtue. It is a challenge only in the respect that this government now has been claiming to have been a government in waiting for some number of years.

When we take a quick gander over at the climate change file, I can remember standing in this place and the former environment critic for the Conservative Party was very knowledgeable on the issue. I asked him if he had a climate change plan ready. Of course he did. His party was the government in waiting.

The Conservatives shifted into government by the narrowest of margins and lo and behold there is no climate change plan whatsoever. It was a ruse, a farce. It was a misleading notion. It was a notion that in fact the government in waiting was a little more interested in those drive by smears that we watch back and forth and now the roles are reversed. It is quite amusing I am sure for some Canadians, mostly disappointing to watch, who were looking for earnest and honest debate. Patience is required, but we do not have a lot of it. We need the investment dollars now.

The Pacific Gateway is an excellent example. The parliamentary secretary referred to this $560 million or some figure that is meant to be rolled out. We have asked for the commission or the committee or whatever form it takes that will be appointed by the government to be an open and public transparent process to allow committee members to be placed on that panel to decide where all of this money is going to be spent, to not be partisan, to not be concentrated in Vancouver, and to have a diversity of views.

We have yet to hear that commitment from the government that there will be anyone from the rural sectors and anyone from even outside the Lower Mainland. That type of accountability and transparency would show walking the talk.

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4:40 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the official opposition critic for transport it is enlightening to hear an evolving NDP position on the bill.

I would like to go back to a theme the member raised and put a couple of questions to him. He did raise the question of transparency and accountability and then really took it quite hard to the government in terms of its accountability and appointments process. I have a hard time reconciling those comments with the activities over the past six months of his colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has been in large part the stalking horse and the apologist for this government on its Bill C-2, the federal accountability act.

I would like to remind the member about some of the wonderful appointments taken on by the previous government in the past, including the appointment, for example, of Stephen Lewis, for whom we fought tooth and nail to get appointed as Under-Secretary-General to the United Nations. There was the appointment of Ed Broadbent for seven years as the President and CEO of Rights and Democracy in Montreal and, of course, my very good friend Mike Harcourt, the former NDP premier of B.C. who was appointed on three separate occasions by the Liberal government to take on some very important public policy work.

My question for the member, now that he has raised a number of issues which I am looking to discern through to find out how we can improve the bill, is the environmental question. There is no greenhouse gas reference in this bill whatsoever. This is at a time when the government purportedly is in the process of devising some sort of new environmental plan or strategy. I guess it will go along with the theme of a new government, a new environmental policy. I am not sure where it is. It has been seven months, to correct the record. How does the member take the fact that under Bill C-11 there are no environmental measures, no greenhouse gas references and, clearly, no effort to deal with the environmental and climate change challenge?

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4:40 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is a former member of the environment committee who worked very hard in the previous government to see an actual climate change plan come to fruition with hard targets, auto emission standards and various things that were unfortunately not delivered.

Quickly, on the appointments process, I can also recall bringing before the committee one of the failed Liberal candidates who was appointed to the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment. I entered the committee meeting with an open mind, asking the appointee some questions about the environment.

As it went round the table and question after question was simply not answered or there was no knowledge of the issue, this person who was meant to be taking over such a critical educational and core institution as the national round table was not up to the task.

We brought the motion back to the House that this person might not yet be appropriate for this and that the government should go out and find another one. The motion passed. The government ignored the will of the House stunningly.

In terms of greenhouse gases and this government's intentions, it would not know greenhouse gases if it was suffocating on them. There is no intention at the core and the fabric of this party to actually address climate change.

In a couple of weeks we will see a so-called green plan that will try to blur the issue. The government will try to confuse Canadians about what is actually happening with respect to climate change. The proof is in the pudding, if there is any true determination to aggressively go after a real revision of our economy, we could take the energy sector. We have a government that purports to roll out a green plan in two weeks, but still coughs over $1.5 billion or more per year to the oil and gas sector in the tar sands to retrieve more.

The most profitable companies in the country are receiving government largesse. They are receiving money from the taxpayers of Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. When all these people buy a candy bar, they are helping out EnCana make a little more profit. It is absolutely bizarre and hypocrisy to a profound level.

If the government wishes to do something about the environment, then the economy must be transformed. In order to do that the government simply cannot keep subsidizing the practices of the past.

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4:45 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the great opportunity to travel from one end of this country many, many times in my previous career. When one travels across the length of Canada, one realizes how spread out we are, how small our populations are, and how vast the distances are between them.

It has always struck me as absolutely bizarre that we do not have a national transportation strategy. On top of that, we have seen undermining of transportation policies. This is not strictly a partisan issue. The previous Liberal government undermined its commitments to regional airports causing problems for communities across this country.

When the Conservative government came into Ontario, it cut norOntair on the principle that the private sector could step up and fill the gaps that would allow for proper transportation into isolated regions. Nothing filled that gap. People are not being served.

We see more and more pressure on our highways. I live on highway 11 in northern Ontario which is the national transportation corridor. When anyone travels from Europe and sees this two-lane piece of moose pasture and they are told that is the Trans-Canada Highway, two lanes with rock cuts on either side and little crosses all along the way, that is the extent of our national corridor.

I would like to ask the hon. member why he thinks, in a country as vast as ours, we have not committed to infrastructure to maintain the ability to transport not just goods but people across this country?

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4:45 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Timmins speaks to the true heart of these decisions that get made. Time and time again when there are dollars to be spent, certainly it has been for no lack of money over the last decade, this country has increasingly been doing better and better. We have been in a boom for some time. The government had all sorts of dispensation to spend money.

The current government is looking at another surplus that by every news report seems to be growing. So in this overtaxed world, there is an opportunity to spend money and invest and truly invest. For the price of one of those more elaborate pieces of art at the Toronto International Airport that somehow was sloughed onto the taxpayers, decided by a previous government costing some billion dollars or more at this airport, we could have had a thousand foot extension on a runway in northwestern British Columbia to allow a $500 million mine to go ahead, producing all sorts of wealth not just for the region but for the entire country.

Instead, for political partisan reasons of these various committees and commissions that get appointed, decisions get made and money gets put into all sorts of silly little pet projects rather than where it is really needed in our infrastructure to make this country stronger.

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4:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak at second reading of Bill C-11. This bill is about 60 pages long and is one of those bills that we cannot read in isolation. We have to have the existing legislation there so we can follow the amendments. Unless the House is prepared to give me an extension of about two hours, I am not going to address the whole bill. I will address certain aspects of it.

We are talking about the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. There are certainly many provisions of interest in this bill and they have been debated and discussed by hon. members through this debate, but I would like to look at a couple in particular.

Bill C-11 proposes that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be allowed to regulate the advertised pricing of airfare. This is an issue which is of great interest to Canadians, considering the recent history and volatility within the airline industry. It remains to be heard from the minister what his specific intentions are with regard to future airfare advertising regulations.

The whole question of regulations is kind of interesting to note for all hon. members. When we debate bills and vote at the various stages, we do so without the regulations, which do not come until after the legislation is passed, has gone through the Senate, received royal assent and is proclaimed. Then we get the regulations. There always has been this issue about whether or not there is this creeping problem where we have executive-made law, where the cabinet is enhancing what the insinuation of the legislation is through the regulations. It is the reason why we have the scrutiny of regulations committee, a joint Commons-Senate committee, to look at those regulations as they come through and to ensure that the regulations are authorized by the legislation.

I thought I would put that in because it is a very important aspect as it relates to this bill and it is incumbent upon the committee to do this. I am sure we will see this bill go to committee for review. We have to ensure that we get an indication from the government, from the minister, about the intent. What is the intent here? How can we, from an informed point of view, make decisions with regard to appropriate amendments to the legislation, if necessary?

The bill itself provides hints but no guarantees, and that is the issue. That is the problem with the regulations. Subsection 86.1(1) states:

The Agency may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting advertising in all media, including on the Internet, of prices for air services within, or originating in, Canada.

Subsection 86.1(2) of the same clause suggests that the minister may require that prices should include all costs to the carrier and all charges, but it does so without limiting the generality of the minister's power to regulate under subsection 86.1(1). Again it is this uncertainty, as a consequence of having the details, and the devil always is in the details with regard to regulations.

Members may recall that the issue of airfare pricing attracted a great deal of attention a few years ago when airport improvement fees and security charges became prevalent throughout the airline industry. At that time, the Liberal government recognized that protecting consumers was of utmost importance. Much of the materials we find in Bill C-11 are the provisions of the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, which have been presented in bills in prior Parliaments, but which did not proceed through the full legislative process due to the call of an election.

The provisions that are in question today were inherited from the previous legislation. There are too many situations right now, quite frankly, and what we are trying to address is that every day Canadians are faced with misleading and simply false information. That is the reality that we are faced with when we are trying to decide, as consumers, how to spend our hard-earned dollars.

The wide range of fees and taxes on airfare can be particularly confounding as well. Charges vary depending on which airport one is in, the airport of origin and the destination, then based on whether it is domestic or international. Even then, in some cases when a flight connects through certain particular airports rather than others, there are other complications, so the comparabilities from airline to airline are in some difficulty too.

Then, of course, we cannot forget the taxes. When all the charges, fees and taxes are summed up, the actual price of an airline ticket can be substantially above the base price, which is usually the advertised price. Let me repeat that. The base price, without all those add-ons, is the one that usually appears in the advertising. The consumers really get a surprise when they see the add-ons.

The right to set regulations could simplify these charges into a single tax-inclusive number, which when advertised by one airline would lend itself to comparison with other advertisements by other airlines. It is possible to take for granted the importance of advertising in our society. Market economies depend on competition. The competition itself depends on the ability of purchasers, in this case the Canadian consumers buying airline tickets, to distinguish between prices in a meaningful way.

I would go so far as to say that the efficiency cannot be properly encouraged in a market without clear pricing. That is the issue. We do not really have clear pricing, at least in the eyes of the consumer.

We must see prices clearly in order to choose based on price. Only when we choose based on price do we encourage businesses to offer a better deal. This is competition. That is the purpose of healthy competition. It is to ensure that there is fair pricing. Competitive pricing means that there is a win-win.

Clearly we are supportive of the principle of price advertising clarity. However, we do not know precisely what kind of price advertising regulations the minister intends to undertake. This is a problem and it is something that I encourage the committee to address exhaustively when it looks at this legislation.

Specific types of regulation can certainly have some unintended effects as well. Forcing airlines to disclose a certain amount of information in their advertising may in fact interfere with the message in unproductive ways or confuse the consumer. If we go a little too far we may find that people do not focus in on exactly the key elements of the pricing mechanism.

We have all seen the commercials for automobiles, which contain a great deal of detail. That is an example of listing all these little things. In fact, many Canadians would argue that they contain too much detail to be of much use. Calling on the airlines to display a similar level of detail may in fact not be where we want to go. I think this is another issue that the committee should address very carefully.

As we know, industries are thoroughly interconnected. I am not just talking about the airline industry. When we think about it, even the advertising industry is obviously affected. Depending on what our requirements are, certain modes of advertising are more desirable, more productive or effective than others, so that depending on what we do in this legislation may have some consequential impacts on other industries. We have to ask ourselves whether or not new regulations will cause one type of media to take a greater share of advertising dollars than another type. It could have any number of effects, all of which we can only speculate about.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities began his remarks by outlining some details. We will be required to do our jobs, but full disclosure in any event is certainly essential. We do not know what regulations the minister will be eventually bringing forward. It is going to be difficult for us to assess some of these finer points in terms of the impacts on the industry and related industries or linked industries.

This brings me to another important point. As parliamentarians, we obviously have a duty to consider legislation very carefully, but the government is understandably anxious to more forward with certain priorities. This is one that we cannot rush. This is one that we have to be very careful of. We know it has taken some time to get to this point yet again. When we start the House every day we say prayers and one of our pleas is that we make “good laws and wise decisions”. That is always the case. Certainly we want to make sure that Bill C-11 ultimately makes the necessary amendments to make the Canada Transportation Act a better law.

Whether the bill is the size of Bill C-2, the accountability bill, which is five times the size of a normal piece of legislation, or whether it is like Bill C-3 on international tunnels and bridges, a very few pages, we cannot forget that when we give a bill our approval it eventually becomes law, with consequential effects for Canadians, whether we have had the foresight to see them.

This bill in particular has some potential pitfalls that are going to call on those responsible for scrutinizing the bill at committee to do their very best, to engage the best possible witnesses, to try to foresee, to try to identify some of those pitfalls and to absolutely ensure that the legislation does not have unintended consequences.

In terms of Bill C-11, we are asking the government and the minister in particular to take the time to properly address the many questions that flow from the amendments it proposes. The Minister of Transport spoke about another provision in Bill C-11 that is of interest. He indicated that he intends to amend the Canada Transportation Act to create a mediation process for disputes concerning federal transportation matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

This is very interesting. It is an evolution that was previously found in Bill C-44 in a prior Parliament. Proposed subsection 36.1(1) would require a unanimous agreement of the parties in order to proceed, but in those circumstances it would seem to be a very useful process.

Any time that we can provide for alternatives to litigation in the area of transport, we do a favour to the parties who are looking for win-win solutions. We would like to explore that as fully as possible as well. The process suggests a quicker timeline and would inevitably be cheaper than lawsuits. That usually is the case. Many of our legal friends in the chamber certainly remind us of that from time to time, although for the life of me it really makes me think of the softwood deal and some of the dynamics that have occurred there.

To go back to this bill, in February 2004 CTA chairwoman Marian Robson wrote that 95% of matters that had been referred to mediation by the agency were resolved to mutual satisfaction. We can see that the history is very good in this regard.

Entities that fall under the domain of the Canadian Transportation Agency are more than likely parties that have ongoing contractual relationships. By its very nature transportation infrastructure is not particularly fluid and there may not be many possible alternative commercial relationships. Quick, amicable resolutions free up resources and ultimately lead to better prices and better services for Canadians.

My colleagues and I are supportive of these measures and commend the minister for bringing back these elements of amendments from previous Liberal bills.

Finally, I would like to dwell very briefly on the issue of corporate governance. It is a subject matter that has attracted quite a bit of attention these days and the CTA is a very important agency. The agency is responsible for balancing divergent interests in a fair and open manner. It licenses air and rail carriers and resolves complaints between shippers and railways regarding rates and service. It approves proposed construction of railway lines. It even participates in international bilateral negotiations and administers bilateral agreements.

Eyebrows were raised in the House when the minister asserted that changes to the makeup of the Canadian Transportation Agency will provide for cost savings. I think people's eyebrows usually go up when governments say they are going to save--it is almost like “show me”--but these are initiatives through which, if they are sound in terms of their operational impact, that is possible, and we certainly would like to see that.

It appears that the current board made up of seven part time members will be replaced by a board of five members in the full time employ of the CTA. These five members would be located here in the national capital region. The minister talks about efficiency of centralization, noting that more than one member must sign off on decisions the agency takes, and I would like to hear from the minister about how the agency will do its job better.

As we know, the bill is the third attempt to bring forward legislation on these particular matters. Let me say that Bill C-11 is made up of many, many amendments, some 60 pages of them. It was very difficult. I compliment all hon. members who took the opportunity to do the necessary work, the due diligence, to review the legislation so they could bring an informed debate to the House at second reading and so we could move the bill on through the legislative process with our eyes wide open with regard to the key elements that are of concern to parliamentarians and to consumers and the service providers as well.

An important part of our review was the statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act. I was very interested to hear the Minister of Transport, standing in his place earlier, mention that he would be tabling further amendments addressing the subject of rail shipping disputes. Certainly we have had a great deal of discussion on that. I know that the committee is going to be very cognizant of the concerns raised by all hon. members.

He talked further of consultations that are now complete and new conclusions that the Conservative minority government has drawn. I should note that Bill C-11 requires another statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act, something that makes a lot of sense given its primacy in an area, namely transportation, that is of broad importance to Canada and certainly to all Canadians.

As my hon. colleague from Ottawa South, the opposition critic for transport, has stated, we are looking forward to seeing the bill examined and revised as necessary at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I think we all fully recognize that all of us on this side of the House are very interested in transportation, because transportation is the keystone of our economy. We certainly need changes in terms of the matters that the bill brings forward, but we also have to be concerned about the reviews, which apparently will be a report to Parliament once every three years and, second, a complete review of this change within the transportation system by a commissioner after an eight year period.

In Atlantic Canada, transportation is very, very important. I know that the minister responsible for transportation has to be concerned about some of the factors that have been affecting transportation, especially with the ferry between Digby, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick. For those living there and doing business and wanting to travel to western Nova Scotia, that ferry has operated for many, many years. In fact, it gives our industries and our fishery groups in western Nova Scotia an opportunity to get their goods to the Boston market with efficiency and with the good transportation that people in the New England states would require. I hope we will look at that when this bill gets to committee.

As the previous speaker has indicated, we have to be concerned about air safety and the selling of air tickets and the good air traffic that we need for this country, but railways are important. I believe it is section 53 that talks about relationships with provincial railway companies. I would hope that if the minister is to regulate and bring forward regulations dealing with his connections with our provincial railway companies, the federal standards and the federal methods will be applied to the particular arrangements that might be made.

We want to see good legislation. We will work in committee to improve it. Hopefully, those users of our transportation sectors, those who may complain about being captive shippers or others who are concerned about matters relating to their industry, their region, their city or their province, will make their requests to appear to the committee. I know the committee will work in good faith to make sure that Bill C-11 reflects a high standard of legal documents and will provide a good transportation system to all Canadians.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Miramichi for highlighting yet again for the House and for Canadians the integration of our transportation network and the vital importance in terms of so many areas, whether it be efficient operations or safe operations. We have talked about the transportation of dangerous goods. The member for Malpeque did a wonderful job in laying out the issue of our wheat system, the hopper cars, the transfers and some of the other issues. The member for Miramichi kind of wrapped all this together.

We are talking about an integrated transportation system which is very vital to Canada. It is important that the committee be cognizant of the excellent summary he has made of the points to keep in mind as we move through the legislative process and hear from witnesses to make sure that we make the best possible laws for Canadians.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague about the need to have a transportation vision. Rail is part of that, but so are air and roads.

I am particularly concerned about the fact that it was the Liberal government that decided to walk away from regional airports across this country, leaving many regions to scramble. After the SARS outbreak and the downturn in the economy, many carrier services particularly in northern Ontario stopped servicing smaller airports and they were no longer eligible for any kind of support.

I use the example of the Earlton Airport in Armstrong township, which is a class one facility. It is central in a region where there is a very large and growing mining exploration boom happening, but it needs an airport. Without an airport in that region, development will not happen. That airport is left on its own.

We have been working to find a new carrier, but the federal government under the Liberals said that it had no interest in maintaining these pieces of vital infrastructure. To me it is the same as walking away from the train system, saying that we are not going to maintain the trains or the roads.

How do we develop an economy that is vital for the rural regions of the north if we do not have a federal presence in areas that have been identified? I am not talking about every little puddle jump along the way, but areas where we can clearly identify the importance of maintaining some sort of regional transportation infrastructure. The government walked away on those decisions and the community simply cannot make up for the loss.

If we are going to maintain a country with an economy that is growing, particularly in the rural north, we need a transportation vision and we need the federal government at the table. I would ask the member if he does not believe at this time that the federal government should look again at that decision to walk away from regional airports in light of what has been discussed here today and maybe put forward plans to start rebuilding our federal commitments on regional development in transportation.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with the member. I understand and we all understand what happened in terms of the airline industry and the impact, some of the tragedies and the failures that have occurred within the airline industry. They negatively impacted on regional airports.

In Canada not only is the health care system a common bond of association but the transportation network links Canadians. When things happen such as what happened with Earlton Airport, we understand that is a negative in terms of linking Canadians together.

I hope the member will bring that same enthusiasm to the debate when we talk about Bill C-20, which the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has on the order paper. If he thinks that the impact on regional airports in the recent past has been bad, I would encourage the member to have a close look at Bill C-20 to see the further serious damage that Bill C-20 is going to do to regional airports. We look forward to working with the NDP to make absolutely sure that Bill C-20 is a better piece of legislation than is being proposed.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I want to point out at the outset that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle. Naturally, more in-depth consideration is advisable in order to grasp all aspects of the bill. Amendments will likely be necessary to improve it. But on the whole, as I said, the Bloc Québécois supports it in principle.

I want to make clear that my remarks will focus exclusively on the part of this bill dealing with railway noise, specifically clause 29. As we all know, the racket made by trains is a widespread problem. My riding of Drummond is unfortunately faced with such a problem.

Located close to Drummondville, the community of Saint-Germain de Grantham in particular is seriously affected throughout its jurisdiction. This is a rural community of nearly 4,000, with five railway crossings. The railway goes through it over a stretch of 8.5 kilometres, running alongside hundreds of homes.

Train whistles can be heard from one end of Saint-Germain de Grantham to the other at all hours of the day and night. There are engine noises, bells, squealing brakes, vibrations, smells, and the sounds of iron hitting iron. One can easily imagine what residents of that municipality must put up with. And because Saint-Germain de Grantham is in the middle of a boom, the problem is only getting worse. More and more residents are forced to endure this noise pollution.

Everyone recognizes that rail traffic is a necessity and that it contributed to the development of several municipalities. Everyone also acknowledges that rail safety is very important. However, the rights of those residents affected cannot be ignored. Solutions to this noise problem exist and must be brought forward. The quality of life of citizens must be considered in this debate. The interests of rail companies and the pursuit of economic development cannot be the only acceptable arguments. We cannot ask the people of Saint-Germain de Grantham, who are my main concern here, to pay such a high price.

What power do they have against the rail companies? The power to discuss and negotiate, but that may not be enough. When the power to make decisions lies only with the other party, abuses can occur.

Let us review how Saint-Germain de Grantham has attempted to deal with this problem.

In 1993, residents wrote to CN to complain about the noise. They received no response.

In 1994, the municipality requested that train whistling be eliminated, at least at night. In its response, CN said that each level crossing would have to be inspected.

In 1996, three level crossings were inspected, and it was found that constant warning time devices and barriers would have to be installed.

In 1997, these devices were installed at two level crossings.

In 1999, the municipality asked me to intervene on its behalf to have the devices installed on the third level crossing. The minister responsible at the time said that even though the crossing was near Saint-Germain's urban area, it was not considered a priority. At the same time, CN demanded a $2,000 dollar report on the possibility of enacting a regulation to eliminate train whistling.

Work was done on the third level crossing a few years later.

In 2004, at the municipality's request, I wrote to CN asking what more Saint-Germain de Grantham had to do to put a stop to train whistling within municipal boundaries. A stakeholder meeting was arranged, and it turned out that improvements would have to be made to yet another level crossing to fulfill the requirements.

Steps were taken to get this done, but funding was delayed and still has not come through.

So, the municipality is waiting. In the meantime, the train is whistling away, and the people are suffering.

In fact, early in 2006, a citizen wrote the city council, reminding it that the people of Saint-Germain de Grantham have been asking for 13 years that trains stop whistling. We can only sympathize with their frustration and despair. “When can we hope to finally be free of noise pollution from trains when we sleep?”, she asked the council.

In bringing up such representations, we realize that there really is not much the municipality of Saint-Germain de Grantham and its residents can do. What can one do against a giant like the CN?

They are also dependent on government decisions about grants, because this kind of work is very expensive. At the same time, it is important to point out that all this work is designed to enhance public safety, thus improving the railways' quality of service. Following the same logic, this work also has to help ensure that the quality of life of our fellow citizens is respected.

These people need a mechanism through which they can make themselves heard. They need a mechanism to increase their strength and add weight to their legitimate demands.

The provision contained in Bill C-11 which deals with railway noise is giving these people some hope. Clause 29 of the bill gives the Canada Transportation Agency the authority to investigate complaints about unreasonable noise, with a view to forcing railway companies to make changes to prevent unreasonable noise.

This clause gives the Canada Transportation Agency jurisdiction to weigh the need to allow railway companies to operate against the right of those living alongside railroads to quiet enjoyment. The agency will therefore be able to force rail transportation companies to make changes to limit the noise associated with their operations.

The municipality of Saint-Germain de Grantham has carried out all the work requested over the years. Major changes have been ordered over the past 13 years. After the work was completed, more was ordered.

These men and women are right to be angry today. They want their questions answered. This little game of delays and grant requests has to stop. The time has come to show them some respect. I hope that Bill C-11 will make that possible.

They have been patient enough. They have paid enough.

In 2005, l'Union des municipalités du Québec prepared a brief regarding Bill C-44, which was also introduced to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act.

The Union claimed that:

Railway companies under federal jurisdiction are not subject to any legislation governing damage caused by their activities. They are like aliens in our regions. This situation was confirmed in a December 2000 decision made by the Federal Court of Canada in Oakville, Ontario, which deprived the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) of its power to make decisions concerning irritants, such as the noise arising from railway activities.

The Union des municipalités du Québec also pointed out the fact that a number of municipalities have failed to reach agreement with the railway companies and Transport Canada on the requirements for a no-whistle by-law. In this respect, the UMQ recommends that the CTA be given authority to examine any request to prohibit the use of train whistles within the limits of a municipality in the event that the municipality, railway company and Transport Canada fail to reach agreement concerning the requirements and conditions of a no-whistle by-law.

I wish to conclude by indicating that I am in favour of the principle of Bill C-11 as it will give citizens of Quebec and Canada some power in dealing with railway companies.

I am in favour of this bill because I want the citizens of Saint-Germain de Grantham, after 13 years of negotiating, searching for solutions and hard work, to be heard and to have their rights acknowledged.

I believe that it is our duty as parliamentarians to provide such legislation. It is our responsibility to meet the legitimate expectations of the residents in our ridings

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for her comments on Bill C-11.

I would like to ask her a specific question. The minority government has been saying for some months now—in fact, since it was elected—that it intends to present a new environmental plan for Canadians and to share this new approach. Apparently this is “Canada's New Government,” as we now see on the Internet.

The government has also cut funding for the Pacific Gateway in western Canada. The minority government is in the process of compromising our relations with China. It has come to a point where even the Ambassador of China refuses to attend official meetings with the government.

Could the hon. member help us understand the following? How can the government talk about new environmental strategies when there is no reference in the bill to greenhouse gases, no reference to an environmental strategy and no reference to the Kyoto protocol except in the preamble of the bill, which mentions the word “environment” just once?

Yesterday we heard the Minister of Transport tell Canadians that apparently Bill C-11 would have a rather positive impact on protecting the environment. I believe he was referring to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Could the hon. member help us understand how it is possible for us, as parliamentarians, to reconcile what the government is saying with how the bill is currently worded?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my Liberal colleague had asked me whether this bill is enough, I would have answered obviously that the bill is not perfect.

I said that we supported the bill in principle. In my speech, I focused on the important issue affecting my constituents: the noise that trains make in my riding. Obviously, the bill is not perfect.

For example, the bill does not limit nuisances other than noise. We feel that the agency that will be created to resolve disputes related to complaints has enough credibility to be given broader jurisdiction and handle complaints about oil, gasoline and vibrations. I also think that the noise from train whistles, along with all the other noises I mentioned earlier, constitute what is called noise pollution.

I hope that the agency that the government wants to set up at the Transportation Agency will have teeth so that it can resolve these disputes.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, air travel has been of great interest to many of our constituents across the country because it is something many Canadians engage in quite frequently and security is very important.

I would like to ask the hon. member about the future of the Air Travel Complaints Commission. These are trying times and I know it has been very difficult for the airline industry and for individuals to work in the post-9/11 era but it has also been difficult for travellers at times. They have had complaints, sometimes justified and sometimes not, but it is very important that these complaints be answered in an effective way and that an oversight mechanism that works in a functional way be there for them.

We know that changes will be taking place with respect to the Air Traffic Complaints Commission. Would the hon. member edify for us whether these changes will be useful or not and offer solutions to ensure this commission works well?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I repeat what I said to my colleague who asked me a question earlier.

This bill is not perfect. Certainly we will still have to discuss some things. It will be sent to committee. Then it will be up to us to improve it, to make amendments and to put it to a vote in the House.

Obviously I hope that it will be as perfect as possible as regards both air and rail security.

The House resumed from September 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Development Assistance Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-293 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #34

Development Assistance Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Consequently, this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Speaker's RulingCanada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on June 6, 2006 by the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean in relation to the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-257, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).

I would like to thank the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean for his very thorough presentation, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. government House leader for their contributions on this point. The Chair appreciates greatly the seriousness with which they have approached this matter.

The central issue relates to clause 2 of the bill, which would insert new provisions in section 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code allowing the minister to designate investigators who would have the power to verify and report on whether replacement workers were being employed during a strike or lockout.

The key question is whether the designation of these investigators constitutes an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. As part of its review of the bill in attempting to find an answer to this question, it is helpful for the Chair to determine whether new functions are being contemplated or whether the functions proposed are already foreseen as being part of the usual workload of existing personnel.

With regard to Bill C-257, the Chair has taken note of the points raised by the hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and Vancouver East, namely that other sections of the Canada Labour Code contain provisions for inspectors, albeit not for investigators. Sections 248 to 251 describe the duties of inspectors who may inquire into employment in any industrial establishment, and in particular, matters relating to wages, hours of work, or conditions of employment.

Do the new provisions proposed in Bill C-257 alter the statutory functions of inspectors so significantly as to require a royal recommendation? The hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and for Vancouver East made arguments to the contrary and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform did not contest those submissions.

Having heard arguments and reviewed the provisions of the parent act that describe the duties of inspectors, the Chair is prepared to conclude that the provisions in Bill C-257 which relate to the designation of investigators by the minister do not constitute an authorization for new spending for a distinct purpose. The functions which are already being performed by inspectors would appear to be reasonably similar to the functions envisaged by Bill C-257.

Therefore, I am prepared to conclude that Bill C-257–in its present form–may continue to be considered by the House of Commons without the need for a royal recommendation.

As the hon. member for Vancouver East has rightly pointed out, BillC-295, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North, is very similar in nature to BillC-257 and indeed contains provisions that are identical, particularly with regard to the work to be performed by investigators.

Accordingly, I am prepared to indicate to the House immediately that Bill C-295 does not require a royal recommendation.

As members can appreciate, the determination as to what legislative initiatives require a royal recommendation can be a highly complex exercise. At the outset, the Chair wishes to dispel any notion that there is one set of rules on the royal recommendation for majority government situations and another for minority government situations. The preoccupations of the Chair concerning the royal recommendation may seem to be new, but are well grounded in constitutional principles and will continue to exist regardless of the composition of the House.

As I indicated in my statement to the House on May 31, 2006, the reforms adopted in 2003, the coming into force of which has coincided with the minority situation that has since prevailed, have resulted in more private member's bills being votable, thereby increasing the number of bills with the potential to reach the third reading stage.

In addition, as members have only one opportunity to sponsor an item over the course of a Parliament, the Chair has sought to provide members with ample opportunity to address possible procedural issues in relation to their bills. For these reasons, a number of new practices have been instituted.

Where it seems likely that a bill may need a royal recommendation, the member who has requested to have it drafted will be informed of that fact by the legislative counsel responsible for drafting the bill. A table officer will also send a letter to advise the member that the bill may require a royal recommendation.

The Chair relies on our clerks and on our legislative counsel to make a first determination on what may appear to infringe on this financial initiative of the Crown. Of course, our clerks and legislative counsel are wise in these matters but they are not omniscient. That is why the Chair alerts members when, prima facie, a provision appears to contain a new authority to spend. Members are then expected to rise and explain precisely what these initiatives entail, so that a final judgment may be made.

To reiterate what I indicated on May 31, I would welcome any suggestions from the House, the House leaders or the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, on how to improve this process related to the royal recommendation.

In the meantime, to conclude, Bill C-257, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), and Bill C-295 which has the same title, may proceed as they stand, neither requiring a royal recommendation.

Once again, I thank all hon. members for their patience in dealing with this complicated issue.

It being 6:12 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

moved that Bill C-222, An Act to recognize and protect Canada’s hunting, trapping and fishing heritage, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great honour to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-222. There is no question that this is a heritage bill. Bill C-222 is an act to recognize and protect Canada's hunting, trapping and fishing heritage. I will be brief so that we can hear from as many members of the House as possible.

Canada prides itself on Canadian heritage. We are proud of our culture, our history and our roots. From a historical perspective, hunting and fishing have always been part of aboriginal life in Canada, going back to before the arrival of the European settlers. This right is protected in the Constitution of Canada. In no way does Bill C-222 affect their charter rights.

The first settlers relied on hunting, fishing and trapping for their survival. For over 300 years since their arrival Canadians have enjoyed the practice of hunting, fishing and trapping and continue to do so to this very day. Millions of Canadians fish and hunt. Most of us either are involved in those activities ourselves or we know someone who is involved, our neighbours, our families, our friends. That is why those activities should continue to be heritage activities.

Today hunting, fishing and trapping contribute over $5 billion to our economy annually. There is no doubt that hunting, fishing and trapping are part of Canada's heritage and history.

The intent of Bill C-222 is to make a statement about hunting, fishing and trapping, to acknowledge their history and to protect their future as legitimate activities. That is the bill's main purpose, to acknowledge their history from cultural, historic and heritage perspectives, and also to protect their future as legitimate activities.

There are three clauses in the bill. It is a very short bill. I know that clause 3 intrudes into provincial jurisdiction. That is why I would recommend that we remove that particular clause from Bill C-222.

British Columbia, Ontario and a number of other provinces have legislation in place for the protection of hunting, fishing and trapping. The House of Commons needs to follow the same road that some provinces have already done so.

I would recommend to the committee that clauses 1, 2 and 3 be replaced by one clause: That a person has a right to hunt, fish and trap in accordance with the law. I say again, that it is to be in accordance with the law. This right is conditional; it is not absolute. That is the key difference. That same clause is actually found in the B.C. legislation.

The easiest way to succeed is to keep this bill very simple and to make Bill C-222 a one-line bill. Bill C-222 has very broad support across the country. Literally millions of Canadians would like to see the bill succeed. This bill is supported in principle by the all-party outdoor caucus, which is made up of members from all sides of this House.

I look forward to hearing from other members of the House.