House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Questions on the Order PaperPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario


Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments. This matter has already been raised in the House. I believe that the Speaker is taking the matter under advisement. I would add my own comments to this and would challenge the hon. member, who just made that intervention, on his reading of the spirit of the Standing Orders.

I would suggest that the question very clearly, if I can call it a question without pluralizing it, violates the spirit of the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders are there to provide answers to members of Parliament. It is a system that has worked well, but when an hon. member tries to jam 47 questions under the guise and trying to pass it off as one question, this goes far beyond what was contemplated in the Standing Orders. Quite frankly, it is not reasonable and is a violation of the spirit. I believe it is technically out of order as well. Mr. Speaker, I know you will take all that into consideration when looking at this case.

I challenge the hon. member as well. He indicated he believes the government is saying this because the government's motivation is not to answer questions on the subject of Afghanistan. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are here to provide information to hon. members. The member has unfairly characterized the motivation behind what the government is doing. We are here to be reasonable. We are here to provide answers to hon. members.

Quite frankly, I could say the same thing. The motivation behind the hon. member is to highlight the NDP's opposition to what Canada is doing in Afghanistan. I could make that claim if that is what it really wants to do. Again, I do not particularly want to probe that nor do I think the hon. member should draw the conclusion that the government is in any way not forthcoming on this issue.

We are very clear where we stand on the subject of Afghanistan. The President of Afghanistan gave a magnificent address and put very clearly before this nation the reasons why we are there. The government is very pleased to talk about Afghanistan and to provide information, but any time an hon. member tries to pack 47 questions under the guise of one question, surely that is far beyond what is contemplated in the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker, and I would ask that you take that into consideration in your ruling.

Questions on the Order PaperPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to thank the hon. government House leader and the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for their interventions. Both submissions will be taken under advisement.

The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we last considered this item, the hon. member for Yukon had the floor and he has eight minutes remaining.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to continue my remarks on Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts.

Members may recall that in the first part of my speech I started out by saying that Liberals support the bill. It is just a reintroduction of a Liberal bill, with a few changes in the basis of the excellent work that we had done related to security after 9/11. We dedicated $9.5 billion on security. We created a department of public safety and emergency and established a national 24/7 government operations centre.

Then I talked about how we are in a new world now, a world that we have to change. We need bills like this to change emergency measures to keep up with a changing world, since 9/11, since the Montreal shootings, and climate changes. Then there are things like ice storms, dramatic hurricanes and tsunamis that we have had, potential meteorites, and diseases like SARS. It is very important that we change with the times and have administration chains to deal quickly with problems.

I also talked about how important it was to have coordinating efforts with the United States because in geographical disasters a border is artificial. We need the people along both sides of the border to have cogent plans to deal with emergencies quickly. Then I went on to talk about how the bill had neglected in certain instances the territorial governments.

I would like the people in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut to know I am constantly standing up to ensure that they are included. If they have any other issues that they think have been left out, not included, or having problems, they should please contact me as the critic for the north.

This modern management of emergencies is related to an issue that is dear to my heart and I want to talk about it for a while. I am referring to search and rescue and the ability to have search and rescue planes placed north of 60.

Right now all our search and rescue planes are based along the border of Canada and the United States. Certainly, that is where our greatest population is and certainly, that is where the greatest number of incidents occur. However, that does not mean that we should ignore the north.

In fact, half the range of those planes is really not used. They are in a spot where half of the range is not used because half the range would be in the United States, to the south, and some would be out over the oceans, to the south. Whereas, if we had one or two or three, the northern half of the country would be covered. We had actually promised to put four planes north of 60.

Just because most incidents are in the south does not mean we ignore the north. For example, the vast majority of crime in this country is in the south. It does not mean we do not have RCMP in the north. It does a wonderful job in the territories. It does not mean we do not have doctors in the north; they do a wonderful job. It does not mean we do not have food stores in the north because there is a very small population. They all do a wonderful job. Therefore, it is very important that we protect those people.

In the south, arguments could be made that there are a lot more civilian resources available to search for someone in densely populated areas than in the north. In fact, in the north, an accident could be far more critical. We have thousands of flights going over the pole now and a vast increase of activities because of global warming.

The Prime Minister has talked about sovereignty in the north, which is a result of global warming. He should accept that. With all this activity going on an accident there could be far more dangerous and critical than one in the south. There is less civilian capability to get to people, drop supplies, drop something warm, and far more chance of dying of hypothermia either on land or in the water.

I definitely want to continue the argument that I have been making for a long time at the defence committee for search and rescue planes with reasonable coverage north of 60.

I can be reasonable in the sense that I know these are expensive and there is a whole array of services that go with them, mechanics, et cetera. I am not opposed to a compromise so that these planes could have dual functions because there are other military planes in the north that need to be replaced or other planes that are used for various purposes. I do not mind if we have a dual purpose plane in the north that can do search and rescue and can do these other functions. Therefore, northerners and people who are not Canadians but end up having an accident in the north would be far more protected.

I encourage everyone involved to support the contract which we approved in Parliament some three years ago and see to it that it is finally tendered and done so in a manner that will allow us to have search and rescue planes to cover and protect northerners, people in the territories, the same way they presently protect people in the provinces.

The next item I want to speak to is sort of an esoteric part of the bill. I do not think anyone has spoken to it. It would allow businesses to share information to protect critical infrastructure. In the new world, that I spoke about earlier in my speech yesterday, one of the items under attack is infrastructure. Infrastructure is absolutely critical to the smooth functioning of our society, to the health of the economy and the people, and we want to protect it.

A lot of the information that is required to protect that is in private hands. The bill would allow for the cooperation and coordination of businesses to provide that private information to the public sector, so that it can be included in the emergency plans in order for our emergency plans to be comprehensive, make sense and contain all the information necessary.

Some of that information businesses would not normally give because it is protected, confidential and could help their competitors or terrorists who want to attack them. Therefore, there is a provision in the bill that, under these circumstances when it makes sense, would protect information and use it for the purpose for which it is being shared, which is to protect during emergencies.

Finally, in my last minute I would like to talk about the ability the bill gives to the Minister of Public Safety to monitor, evaluate and coordinate federal plans. All the institutions and departments must have a plan, but the reason I strongly support this is that sometimes it falls between the cracks if we do not have someone overall in charge. I will give one example.

The Liberal government put in a policy called a rural lens which means everything that goes through the Government of Canada, every program and every new law, should be looked at through a rural lens. Deputy ministers are required to report every year on that rural lens on what success they have had in promoting things for rural Canada. The member from Prince Edward Island and myself have been great champions of this.

I have asked a number of times in committee and some of the deputy ministers did not even know about it or had no reports. That is why it is important in this bill that theMinister of Public Safety has an umbrella authority over the various plans from the federal departments to ensure they are good and that they work.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 22nd, 2006 / 12:35 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Yukon for his thoughtful remarks on Bill C-12.

One thing he raised was that in the north, and in fact much of the hinterland, people are faced with circumstances that we do not consider too much in urban Canada, and that is the threat of forest fires.

I know my friend is aware that I spent many years as a forest ranger in the Yukon territory. Our primary concern was fighting fires and fire management, but we also had a dual function as land use managers. The smaller communities would look to the forest service as their emergency measures operations leaders. It was really the only representation of that aspect of civil society to which they could look.

In a small community such as Dawson City where I lived, there was the school board, the mayor and city council, a couple of RCMP officers and the forest service. When it came to emergencies, or at least emergency measures preparations, people would look to the forest service as having the best capability of implementing whatever measures may be put in their emergency measures plan.

When my colleague mentions the need for more search and rescue, et cetera, one of the things I found useful in the development of those plans, and practising the constant evening rehearsals to be ready for emergency measures, was that we needed sometimes dual purpose functions, and we ran into jurisdictional difficulties.

Does the member see in the bill any opportunity to try to cut through the jurisdictional red tape so the emergency measures team could in fact use tools, airplanes, equipment and trucks that belong to some other jurisdiction without having to deal with red tape, protocol and stepping on the toes of other people from other levels, not of government but of civil society?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member mentioned that point. This is the intent of the bill. It is a good point to raise in committee, that organizations outside of government such as the firefighting volunteer groups are not specifically mentioned in the bill, but various orders of government are. As I mentioned, it is too bad that the territories were not mentioned because in Yukon forest firefighting is now under Yukon, so it would need that coordination.

In my earlier remarks yesterday, and maybe the member was not here, I mentioned that because of the spruce budworm and global warming, forest firefighting in Yukon has more potential for disaster than ever. We have a huge swath of forest right beside one of our communities that is like a tinderbox ready to burn. This would put that community, and maybe other communities, at risk.

I agree totally with the member that we need this coordination in governments, which is in the spirit of the bill, but maybe there should be references to other organizations. There are some references to local governments, but that should be made quite clear, including the territories.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the member for Yukon mentioned the rural lens.

I do not expect, and I will be speaking on it in a moment, that the Canadian government would use measures in the bill for alternative motives, but we have seen that happen in the United States. With the new regulations coming out under its inspection agency, the U.S. claims it is fighting bioterrorism and it is placing fees on agriculture products, animal and plant products. I believe it is $5.25 per truck crossing the border, $5.00 per passenger on planes, $566 for ships and then so much for a railway container.

It is really protectionism in the United States under the guise of security. It is going to cost $77 million and Canadians are going to pay it all. Yet the new government has failed to challenge those measures in the United States to anywhere near the extent it could. It relates in part to what the member has said about the rural lens.

Does the member see any difficulties in the bill where something similar could happen or does that just happen to the friends of the Prime Minister in the United States, who would impose those unnecessary measures on Canadians?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks.

All members of Parliament should keep in mind that any time a bill comes up, these types of things may either inadvertently or purposely be included.

To give an example of what he is saying, there is a very broad reference to military in this bill, support for plans and our allies, and that is virtually all it says. It does not say what part in the world nor does it give any definitions of the circumstances. It is great that it is in the bill, but more clarity might lead to the intent and avoid the type of abuse that the member has suggested.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, previous speakers have opened the door on any number of interesting aspects of Bill C-12. We cannot look at the context of this actually quite thin and straightforward bill in isolation. By its very nature, it has broad, expansive implications into the very fabric of how we structure ourselves in many aspects of civil society, not the least of which is the point my colleague from Malpeque just made. I thank him for doing that because it segues nicely into some of the concerns and reservations I want to raise about the bill.

We have to use an abundance of caution and be ever vigilant that the things we do in the interests of national security do not trample and interfere on some of the very values by which we define ourselves as Canadians. We also have to be abundantly cautious and use great vigilance to ensure that those who would use the bill to advance other secondary objectives be cautioned now by astute members of Parliament, doing diligence in their study of the bill, that we will not tolerate this.

I want to stop short of impugning motives in the introduction of bills of this nature, but we can learn by example from other countries, certainly our neighbour to the south. I can say without any hesitation at all and without any fear of contradiction that the United States administration has used the national security crisis to achieve other secondary objectives, some of which have been punitive to Canada. I do not think that is telling stories out of school and it is not showing any disrespect to our American neighbours to point out that we are not idiots, we have noticed this.

My colleague pointed out some very helpful specifics in terms of levies and fees and stuff that are administered now to Canadian shippers as they export goods to the United States. An added burden is being put on them to meet the new standards put in place by our American neighbours, under the umbrella of national security, or fear of bioterrorism or any number of enabling themes and motifs they are using in those arguments. There are a number of examples that we could use.

We are very cognizant of personal freedoms and will not allow them to be violated, but let us be equally cautious that people are not using public fear to justify the unjustifiable in any other context. That would certainly apply to the U.S. experience of using the threat of bioterrorism to disadvantage Canadian exporters and essentially to put up what would otherwise be viewed as illegal tariffs and subject to trade sanctions or trade complaints being filed.

None of the parties that I have heard speak to the bill seem to find fault with the idea that emergency measures preparedness needs to be reviewed. The previous Liberal government in the previous Parliament had an almost identical bill, Bill C-78. With very minor tweaking and adjustments, we are seeing it reintroduced to Parliament today.

The times we are living in warrant greater scrutiny of our emergency measures preparedness. The jurisdictional question came up quite clearly in interventions from members of the Bloc. I think we can all agree, when it comes to personal safety and national safety, that there needs to be agreed upon crossover not to show disrespect for any jurisdictional boundaries, but to acknowledge that timeliness is of the essence when people are at risk or under some kind of natural or unnatural external threat.

I can speak from personal experience how, in the event of natural disasters, Canada is quite well served and quite well prepared. I will speak from personal experience in the Red River flood that affected my region as recently as 1997. I see a colleague here from the province of Manitoba from the government side. We can say, without doubt, that as we observed that freak of nature slowly inching toward us, pieces began to fall into place. I should remind people who were not there that the Red River was 50 miles wide. That is an unnatural circumstance for people. I am used to paddling on the Red River with my canoe. The Red River is usually not as far across as this chamber, so for it to be 50 miles wide and advancing relentlessly and steadily toward the city of Winnipeg, we were in a legitimate crisis in slow motion.

I suppose we could argue that perhaps we had the luxury of time to put together an effective emergency measures reaction. It was not like the ice storm that affected Ottawa where overnight the infrastructure, certainly the electrical infrastructure, of Ottawa collapsed. However, I can say with some sense of pride that the people of Ottawa had in place measures and circumstances that served the residents here very well too. I was a member of Parliament then and I watched how this city was able to react and absolutely minimize, not only the inconvenience, but the loss of life, the injury and the risk to services, to property and to people.

What I want to raise with the Red River flood, though, Mr. Speaker, if I could--I hope you feel it is in the context and order of the debate--is that there is a case to be made for collective, cooperative action in the preparation for and administration of emergency services. I cite as an example something that happened in the 1960s in Manitoba that could never happen today, and that is the digging of the Red River floodway, the largest engineering feat in history in terms of volume of earth moved, bigger than the digging of the Suez Canal. It was a public infrastructure initiative where, if we raised something of that scope and magnitude today, we would be laughed out of the room. People would say that we could not afford it, that it would be a waste of taxpayer money, that it would be a boondoggle. They would find 100 reasons to say why it should not be done and maybe they would say that we should let the private sector build it in a public-private partnership and maybe it could get done that way, but probably not because we are so timid now.

We are timid as rabbits when it comes to doing things like building a nation and building great projects. There is no collective vision and no national dream any more. That is the guts that it took. A Conservative premier, I will give him credit, named Duff Roblin simply would not listen to the naysayers and that investment, the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history and in the world at the time, has saved the city of Winnipeg, three, four and five times over. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when $100,000 meant something but it saved billions. It saved hundreds of thousands of homes and probably thousands of lives because somebody had the guts to show some real leadership, stand up to the naysayers and say that some things are important enough that we have to invest in the future.

To this day we invite Premier Roblin to the edge of the Red River floodway and collectively thank him for being that aggressive and that stubborn and not taking no for an answer. As we speak, that floodway is being widened. We are actually digging it deeper and wider because it is the best thing we ever did as Winnipeggers.

We cannot have enough emergency measure preparedness but it takes a collective wisdom and a collective political courage to implement that kind of collective action. I can just imagine the reaction of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation if we were to here with a proposal and said that we needed, for our own well-being collectively, to undertake an initiative the scope and scale of the Red River floodway. We would be laughed out of the room. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation would set up shop right outside of here and hold a press conference and ridicule us for being a tax and spend party or something. There is justification for that kind of thing when our national well-being is at stake.

I can say too, during the flood of the century in 1997, how heartened I was by not only the mobilization of the citizenship but the mobilization of the military for non-military purposes. The same training that goes into making great soldiers and an effective military unit is applied readily to emergencies such as forest fires, floods, et cetera. No one else has that capacity, whether it is the machinery, the engineering, the technology or the sheer manpower of a couple of thousand fit people who are used to working in a coordinated effort. That is a rare thing. Who else do we look to but the military when that kind of thing takes shape?

The only person who disappointed us was the prime minister of the day when he came to view the flood lines. We were all sandbagging into the middle of the night. The prime minister of the day made his obligatory visit and got his Guccis a little wet walking into some of the sandbag areas. Somebody gave him a sandbag and he said, “What am I supposed to do with this?”, and kind of turned and walked away. We were disappointed that the only person we could not get really interested in the initiative was in fact our own PM. The rest of the electorate was out there, the mayor of Winnipeg, the premier and all the MPs were on the sandbag lines, and I think citizens were glad to see that kind of effective mobilization.

The other thing I am proud of in the city of Winnipeg, in my home riding of Winnipeg Centre, is that it is home to the only level four virology laboratory in the country. We received this in kind of a backhanded way. Back in the mid-1980s, the Mulroney government gave a CF-18 contract to Montreal, even though Winnipeg had a far better bid and a far lower price. We had everything ready to go. It was an absolute slam dunk that the CF-18 contract would come to the people of Winnipeg. However, for political reasons, as happens so often, it had to go to the province of Quebec at a higher price. It was a bad deal for the taxpayer and certainly a slap in the face to western Canada.

I suppose as a booby prize, Jake Epp, the senior minister from Manitoba at the time, brought home the federal virology lab. Quebec received the billion dollar CF-18 contracts, maintaining our jets and promoting and advancing even more its aerospace industry, and we received a disease factory plunked down in a residential neighbourhood in the middle of my riding. We were not too appreciative at the time. It was a laboratory that the city of Ottawa turned down because it did not want ebola virus and every other disease in the country in its backyard, so we wound up with it.

In retrospect, we are delighted to have this level four virology lab and the international expertise that it brings to our community. However, we were concerned about the safety aspects. I can give an example of something that is in the context of an emergency. We were not so concerned about what happened in the laboratory and in the safety of handling the world's deadliest viruses in the context of the laboratory. I have toured the place. It has thick concrete walls and it is bombproof and bulletproof. However, what we questioned was the shipping and transporting of these deadly viruses from one place to the laboratory. That was the weak link in the chain. We were guaranteed this would be done with the utmost highest protocol, that Brinks trucks would be hired and they would travel in convoys, that there would be three of them and only one would be carrying the virus, so there would be decoys in case terrorists wanted to strike the one that was carrying the virus.

What happened was that as soon as our backs were turned, this was contracted out to FedEx. During a traffic accident on the corner of Logan and William where a FedEx truck ran into another car, what spilled out of the back of the van? It was a bunch of anthrax and Newcastle disease virus, which wipes out chicken populations immediately if it gets into the atmosphere.

Anthrax by FedEx is a far cry from Brinks trucks and decoys. I almost fell off my chair. I could not believe what a violation of trust this was. At the time I said, anthrax by FedEx, what is next, ebola virus by bicycle? That would be the only thing more ridiculous than anthrax by FedEx.

We were disappointed and let down in terms of emergency measures preparedness because that could have been a catastrophe. This level four laboratory is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. It is not on the outskirts of town and it is not in an industrial park. As far as I am from you right now, Mr. Speaker, are occupied homes in a poor end of town. I guess that was some of the thought process, that it did not really matter that much because it was just in a poor end of town. It would not happen in Tuxedo, River Heights or some affluent end of town. They would not put up with a level four disease laboratory with guys shipping anthrax by FedEx but they did not seem to have any hesitation doing it in the middle of my riding, the poorest riding in Canada.

We are conscious of these things. It is a net benefit, I suppose, to the Health Sciences Centre campus that is in the heart of my riding and that this level four disease laboratory serves a national and international function in assessing and analyzing dangerous viruses, whether it is in animals or a threat to people. I should recognize and pay tribute to Dr. David Butler-Jones and Dr. Frank Plummer, the senior officials who run our level four laboratory in Winnipeg and my comments are in no way to show disrespect for the valuable work they do. I just wish they would tighten up their protocol for shipping their bugs around my city.

The last issue I would like to raise in terms of emergency measures and in the context of Bill C-12, which was also raised by my colleague from Yukon which was very helpful, is the issue of global warming. I hope the bill acts as the enabling legislation to allow senior ministers, no matter what their jurisdiction, to contemplate, prepare for and be seized of the issue of the consequences of global warming. On television the other day, I heard a climatologist say, with some sense of pride, that in the next year or two we would be able to sail the Northwest Passage uninterrupted with no icebreakers. He said that it would be open as a shipping lane and he cited the advantage to this.

I remind anyone who is thinking in those terms of the cautionary note of Tim Flannery, the world's leading authority on climate change, who was a guest at our convention in Quebec City not two weeks ago. He cited the fact that if we were ever to have the Northwest Passage open as a shipping lane, every other port in the world would be under four feet of water. He said that there would be no place for those ships to load and unload their product because we would be in a Noah's ark situation here. The world would be underwater and certainly coastal regions.

I raise that perhaps as the ultimate cautionary note as we enter into an analysis of our emergency readiness as a nation. Are we ready for this onslaught that we are bringing upon ourselves with climate change? What concrete steps are ministers of the Crown taking today to prepare ourselves for what could be a self-imposed Armageddon? I am not one of those to stand around with a sign saying “the end is near”, but I say to my colleagues and friends in the House of Commons that the end is near if we do not turn ourselves around and stop this looping effect, this compounding effect of global warming that we are doing to ourselves.

If there is any one single thing we need to do to prepare for emergencies, it is to prepare ourselves for this doom that will be upon us if we do not correct our practices, our man-made polluting of this planet to the point where it will not be habitable any more. We are soiling our own nest to the point where we will not be able to live on this planet and there is no amount of bills and legislation that we can pass that will turn that around without the political will of every minister, of everyone in authority at every level of government in the world in fact. If there has ever been an argument for world cooperation, it surely has to be to save the planet, and that transcends Bill C-12. That will need to be the motif that becomes a thread through all of our actions as elected officials.

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg talked about a lot of different issues and only a very few of those really refer to the bill itself.

The bill talks about increasing the cooperation between all jurisdictions in disasters. My hon. colleague made mention of the Red River flood in 1997. It was devastating for the province of Manitoba and for my riding. I was out sand bagging. I made sure I went along with our Canadian soldiers who were also sand bagging and helping the local residents and our province in protecting our assets. We are extremely grateful for that.

It is that type of cooperation among all jurisdictions, Manitoba, all provinces, the federal government and the municipalities, that made it happen.

In my riding just in the last two years we have had two disasters that required EMO services. We had a flash flood that went through Lester Beach, which was extremely devastating and completely unpredictable. There was no way we could have had any preventative measures in tact to prevent what happened. Cars were washed into the river and houses were lifted off their foundations and moved 20 feet or 30 feet.

This year a tornado went through Gull Lake and killed one lady. We had a lot of damage in the community. Houses were completely destroyed. Seasonal residences were completely demolished. We could not even make out what was there before.

Because of those situations we need to ensure that we strengthen the whole Emergency Measures Act. That is why I support the bill.

The member talked about the Red River floodway. The bill is also trying to address the whole issue of being preventative. He mentioned Duff Roblin, the Conservative premier of Manitoba. Back in the sixties he had the vision and the dream to build a giant ditch to divert water. I think only construction of the Panama Canal moved more earth than the Red River floodway in Manitoba to divert water around our capital region and protect the city.

There have been some problems with that, and we have an expansion going on right now. A lot of the negative impacts are happening in my riding. We might sacrifice the city of Selkirk and historic site of Lower Fort Garry because of not taking the extra preventive measures to ensure that we have riverbank stabilization down the entire river right out to the mouth of the Red River into Lake Winnipeg.

When he is talking with his NDP colleagues back at the provincial level in Manitoba, does he feel we need to ensure that we have preventative measures in place so we are not just dealing with mitigations and trying to address things after the fact, after the damage is done, like groundwater contamination, property damage and ongoing infrastructure damage, because of not having that foresightedness?

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1:05 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Selkirk—Interlake has a legitimate point. There is a cautionary tale for anyone who interferes with nature. The flow of a river is not something to be taken lightly. It can have adverse consequences that we might think we can control as engineers, carpenters and builders, but often we are powerless to stop. There is a legitimate caution that nothing we do should adversely affect those downstream.

That goes back as far as the Magna Carta. One of the very first things cited in any kind of written record about how we relate to each other and govern ourselves is the rights of those downstream. Thou shalt not do something that is going to affect the water rights of one's neighbour down the stream.

The city of Selkirk has a legitimate argument as do the people of Manitoba as the Governor of North Dakota seeks to divert Devils Lake through the interbasin transfer of water into the Red River system and to pollute our beloved great inland sea, Lake Winnipeg. That is worth noting in the House of Commons in the context of an emergency measures debate as well.

The state of North Dakota is acting like a rogue state. I think it is acting more like North Korea than North Dakota in its absolute intransigence to listen to the scientists, to listen to reason, to listen to the pleas of its neighbours to the north who have a legitimate grievance. It is not allowed to violate the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act just because it has a water problem in Devils Lake, North Dakota. That lake is full of invasive species that will get into this other whole drainage basin that flows up the Red River to Lake Winnipeg and into Hudson's Bay.

It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It is a violation against nature. It is a crime against Mother Nature to divert water in this interbasin way. I hope our emergency measures team are ready to cope with this lack of sensitivity from our American neighbours to the south. It is a pressing problem that deserves the attention of the House. I know it has the attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his counterpart in the United States, Condoleezza Rice, but we had it on the table for years.

I personally have gone to Washington with Lloyd Axworthy to appeal to American senators from those northern states and said, “Don't do this for heaven's sake. Don't commit this crime against nature”, and they continue to plough ahead with it. It is an emergency for the province of Manitoba.

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1:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Drummond.

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1:05 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not want to participate in this debate.

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1:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The member for Ottawa Centre, then.

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1:05 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, has outlined for us what the parameters are when we are dealing with emergency preparedness.

When we dealt with the ice storm in Ottawa and Quebec as well, when I was volunteering to help out the army and others, one of the things that became crystal clear was that we relied upon the front line workers, the men and women, who are nurses, paramedics and people in our military, and we need to support them.

One area that concerns me greatly is the public health issue in emergency preparedness. We do not have enough public health nurses ready to go because we have abandoned public health. We need more capacity.

How can we better prepare ourselves in our communities by involving, training and building more nursing capacity?

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have been generally lucky that we have been relatively free of catastrophic events. I am 50 years old and very few events stand out like the Ottawa ice storm or the flood of the century in 1997 in Winnipeg.

I am concerned as well that perhaps we are not building a culture of preparedness and not preparing in anticipation of these events. We can be sure that as climate change becomes more and more a reality, radical climatic events are going to happen more frequently. The magnitude of the ice storm itself ground down a great city in a few short hours. We can be assured that there will be similar events all over the world on a more frequent basis. There is no way to ensure against that level of devastation, but we can prepare for the human effect, and that is workers on the ground, public health workers, people who are deputized to leap into action.

I am surprised we do not have the type of emergency measures preparation going on today like we did during the Cold War. Drills would be held now and then in classes and students would be told to dive under their desks. They were told what to do in the event of nuclear fallout.

We do not contemplate disaster and happily go along because we are a peaceful nation and blessed with very few natural catastrophic events in terms of earthquakes, floods, ice storms and hurricanes. Let us not kid ourselves, though. We are bringing this upon ourselves, and we will realize more of these events with a vengeance as climate change becomes more of a reality.

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1:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12, which is an act to provide for emergency management. It is a very important bill.

In summary, the bill is designed to strengthen Canada's readiness to mitigate the impact of, prepare for, prevent and respond to all hazards. It really replaces the Emergency Preparedness Act of 1988 and is virtually identical to Bill C-78 introduced in 2005 by the previous government. Even though there is a new government in place, there is not much new. The Conservatives are still building on the good acts of the previous government. There are exceptions to that, such as where they sold out to big rail in terms of the Canada Transportation Act and they are selling out to big grain under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, but we will leave that for another day.

In short, the Liberal Party welcomes the government's reintroduction of the emergency management bill tabled by the Liberal government in November 2005. The introduction of the bill last year fulfilled a promise made in our national security policy of April 2004.

The act builds on the excellent Liberal record on security since 9/11: one, an investment of over $9.5 billion to strengthen national security, to improve emergency preparedness and to contribute to international security; two, the creation of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and three, the establishment of a national 24-7 government operations centre to coordinate federal emergency responses.

Having been a former solicitor general after 9/11, I can certainly vouch for the measures that are taken in this bill. It is a strange thing about us as a country. Canada is a great country. We are tolerant people and we have many benefits, but sometimes we take safety and security a little too much for granted. The Red River floods were mentioned earlier. There is the odd hurricane in the country. In fact, during hurricane Juan in eastern Canada I lost two barn roofs in my own operation. But those events are small compared to what happens in other countries around the world. Then we add some of the terrorist actions that are happening. In fact, the President of Afghanistan spoke about some of those activities this morning.

We have to be vigilant on all fronts in terms of the natural hazards and in terms of the man-made hazards through terrorism and other means. As a former solicitor general I know from having seen things up close how important some of these measures that are proposed in this bill are to the safety, the security and the preparedness for emergency events within Canada.

It is important to review some of the activities that have taken place since 9/11. These measures add to that. I know the government opposite tends not to mention these, but it is important to see what we are building on as we provide greater safety and security for the country.

On October 3, 2003 the deputy prime minister of the day, John Manley, announced the smart border action plan. There was NAFTA a little earlier, but at that point in time he gave a fairly substantive report on it.

I want to outline for Canadians some of the things that have been done through that 30 point plan on which this bill actually builds. Canada and the United States had agreed to develop common standards for biometrics which both countries use and they had agreed to adopt interoperable and comparable technology to read those biometrics. That is still being worked on; progress is constantly being made in that area. There was the announcement of permanent resident cards, a single alternative inspection system, the NEXUS highway system at the border crossings.

The amount of trade that goes on between the United States and Canada is to the tune of between $1.6 billion to $2 billion a day. We saw what happened in the wake of 9/11 when the border system virtually shut down and how it affected both economies. It is important in what we do in terms of emergency preparedness and security measures, that that commercial activity is still able to flow and that residents of both countries can feel secure with those measures in place.

As I said in a question earlier, I am extremely disappointed by the action the United States has taken with the new inspection fees. It is really disguised protectionism under the guise of security. I may talk about that later in a little more depth.

Other measures were taken in the 30 point smart action plan. There was a refugee asylum processing system, a statement of mutual understanding which would allow countries to more effectively exchange information on immigration related issues. That is the way we should be moving, with a processing system that actually looks at the facts instead of the fiction that some congressmen and senators in the United States are talking about, such as putting up the towers as if there were a major immigration system coming from Canada. There is not. For whatever reason, some people around the President of the United States like to operate on the politics of fear and try to blame Canada as if we were part of the problem. We are not.

We have made major steps ahead, as I said, with the expenditure of $9.5 billion to ensure the security of our country, the security of our border and indeed, the security of North America.

There was agreement on a process of managing those refugees and asylum claims. We had improved a better visa policy coordination.

Point seven in the plan was air preclearance. Probably most people in the House have taken advantage of air preclearance at several airports within Canada and the United States. If we go through preclearance, it saves time, it is better for business, it is better for people doing commercial business and it is indeed secure.

We had worked on the advanced passenger information and passenger name record. I agree that is somewhat controversial, and the Minister of Transport certainly knows how controversial it is. I will state unequivocally that even though it is controversial, it is one of those areas we have to look at it in order to give the assurance of security.

I might just move aside from the 30 points for a minute and say that one of the greatest difficulties in my experience in this whole area of security is the balancing of civil liberties and the protection of security in a country. It is a difficult area. There always will be grey areas, but we have to find that balance and it is not always easy to do.

Point nine was the joint passenger analysis units.

We established stronger measures for maritime security and ferry terminals. I have had the opportunity to see some of those in action. Containers are passed through X-ray machines to ensure there is not material in those containers that would have an impact on the country.

We have moved toward compatible immigration databases, immigration officers overseas, international cooperation between Canada and the United States and other countries. We harmonized commercial processing in a number of areas. There is still a lot more work to be done but it was a key point at the time. That was trying to provide clearances away from the border which would give a greater measure of security.

We established a number of joint facilities, common customs data, container targeting at seaports, infrastructure improvements overall, better intelligence in terms of the transportation system, and better critical infrastructure protection.

The member for Edmonton Centre yesterday spoke on this whole area of infrastructure. We are not only talking about roads, highways, water and sewage. In this new era we are talking about communications and related areas and food security. All those infrastructure areas have to be protected in the kind of world we live in today.

Point 22 was better aviation security. We have succeeded in doing that.

Point 23 was integrated border and management enforcement teams. We called them IBETs. There were some 14 established across the country. I have seen them operation. People in Canada and the United States can have great confidence in how those IBETs work. They bring together a cross-section of law enforcement agencies, whether it is the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police, the New York State Police, marine police and so on. They communicate and coordinate in a fashion that will make a difference in terms of the protection of the country's security.

We had established joint enforcement coordination at a number of locations at a cross-border crime forum for the prevention of crimes and the protection of the security of the nation.

We moved ahead with integrated intelligence in areas that we called integrated national security enforcement teams, or INSETs, which I think moved a long way since 9/11. The security bodies, whether it be the CIA, CSIS and others, came together for coordination and cooperation.

I see that time is passing, so I will just mention the other points by name.

There was the agreement to continue cooperation in the removal of deportees; counter-terrorism legislation; freezing of terrorist assets; joint training and exercises between the two countries; biosecurity; and science and technology cooperation.

Those were some of the advances that have in fact been made by the previous government, an expenditure of $9.5 billion. This bill moves forward in some of those areas. The revised act grants new powers to the Minister of Public Safety to exercise national level leadership in emergency management in four areas.

First, coordinating federal responses to emergencies in Canada and the United States. It is extremely important in those areas on this continent that our ministers responsible act concisely and coordinate their efforts.

Second, establishing standardized elements for the Government of Canada in terms of emergency plans. As a country we need to know what our plan is before it happens. That is extremely important.

Third, monitoring and evaluating emergency management plans of federal institutions. If there was an incident in this country, that is absolutely necessary, whether it is a natural, man-made or terrorist act.

Fourth, enhancing cooperations with other jurisdictions through common standards and information sharing. We have made massive moves ahead in that area of cooperation and coordination.

I want to close though in terms of one of the areas that I am disappointed in, as I said earlier. We can see the measures that the Government of Canada has taken in our country and in coordination with other countries around the world, and especially in coordination and cooperation with the United States, to ensure that we live on a safe and secure North American continent.

Yet, the Americans have imposed these fees under the guise of security, which I think are protectionist measures. I am disappointed in that because when we look at the record, this country stands at the front of the line in terms of security and emergency preparedness. This bill will in fact assist in that regard and I support it.

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1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

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Some hon. member


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An hon. member

On division.

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1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

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

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

moved that Bill C-295, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand in the House to debate C-295, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of strikebreakers

Strikebreakers, scabs and replacement workers, call them whatever, they have no place in modern labour negotiations. The issue has been coming up in the House for well over 20 years. Similar bills have come close to being passed that would eliminate the use of strikebreakers.

In 2002 and 2005, anti-scab bills were lost by only a handful of votes. It is time for this Parliament to deliver what Canadian workers have been asking for: fairness, justice and equality.

I would like to recognize the work that our party has done over the years for labour rights in Canada. We have fought, since our inception, to bring equity and fairness to workers because what is good for workers is good for all Canadians.

The NDP understands that workers' rights are human rights, that workers have fought for and won the right to form unions, to bargain collectively, to withdraw their labour to achieve gains in the workplace, or to stop destructive practices.

Personally, I feel very strongly about this amendment. Working in the labour movement for over 12 years, I have seen firsthand the devastation that scabs have on a workforce and in communities. I have seen families torn apart and alienated over many years because of an ideology that does not support workers' rights.

Fair wages, a safe workplace, health care and pensions are just some of the things that the labour movement and collective bargaining have achieved. Many of these things are now taken for granted, gains that our forefathers and mothers fought for and even died for, so that future generations would have better working conditions and better lives.

The bill that we are debating today is fundamental to protecting those hard-fought gains. The bill contains a consequence when workers' rights are ignored. Without real deterrents the use of strikebreakers will continue to erode the legacy of generations of past workers.

The bill is similar to another private member's bill currently making its way through the House. I would like to thank my hon. colleagues from the Bloc for the work that they are doing, and have done in the past, standing up for working women and men in Quebec. The province of Quebec understands and respects the rights of workers and has had anti-scab legislation for almost 30 years.

I hope my hon. colleagues will support this bill and give workers across the country the real protection that they deserve.

C-295 is a much stronger amendment to the Canada Labour Code. It would prohibit the use of replacement workers and it has a real deterrent, a consequence if replacement workers are used in a strike or lockout. Without deterrents that will make employers think twice before breaking the law, the amendment is less effective and leaves workers without protection.

I know there will be arguments from other hon. members who disagree with this amendment, so let me say how these changes will benefit workers and their employers, their workplaces, the community and the economy.

Currently, 97% of collective agreements are negotiated without a strike or lockout. That is because most employers know they have a legal responsibility to negotiate with their unionized employees. However, when that does not happen, when an abusive employer ignores that responsibility and strikebreakers are called in, tensions rise in the workplace and on the picket line. Both sides generally get dug into their positions and the strike or lockout is left to drag on. The scabs are generally caught in the middle of what becomes a volatile situation and are often used by the employer.

These situations leave lasting scars on workplaces and communities and sometimes never fully heal. The cost in reduced or lost production can have devastating effects on local economies for many years to come.

By eliminating the practice of scab labour, we are likely to see the amount of strikes and lockouts drop and those that do happen will not last as long.

In Quebec, for example, since adopting anti-scab legislation in its labour code, it has gone from an average of 39 days lost due to strikes down to 15 days. In B.C. there was a 50% drop in the number of days lost in the first year the law was introduced there. In Ontario, where it had anti-scab law in place for only two years, there were similar results.

Shorter lockouts and strikes mean the impact of work stoppages on families and communities is lessened. As strikes and lockouts drag on, other businesses suffer. Workers on strike or locked out do not have the money to spend that they once had. This can have a prolonged impact on small and single industry towns and that impact could last for many years after the dispute.

Scabs are also generally exploited. They tend to be desperate, in need of a job, and can be paid less than unionized workers to do the same job. They have no job security. The conditions they work in are generally worse as health and safety standards, hours or work, as well as other conditions of the collective agreement do not apply to them.

By lowering working standards we are putting workers' safety and possibly other lives in jeopardy. Scab workers bring out the worst in employers and employees. Their use creates strife and malice. Those who do cross a picket line are not quickly forgotten.

C-295 would go a long way toward reducing tension and violence on a picket line. Strikes and lockouts are hard enough without watching day after day someone else goes in to do someone's job. Sometimes tensions and frustrations build until it is expressed in violence.

There is evidence that domestic violence increases during periods of labour unrest. While violence is never excusable, it helps to understand the root cause so we can act to prevent this type of behaviour.

By ending scab labour we will create a more peaceful picket line. Resentment on both sides will not be as strong and therefore productivity and company loyalty will return sooner, making the employee-employer relationship much more healthy and productive.

Others have argued that the current labour code already deals with replacement workers. They point out that the current law, subsection 94(2.1), which reads in part:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union’s representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit--

It goes on to state that this current language was created through consultation between labour and management and is therefore fair and balanced.

However, subsection 94(2.1) explicitly allows the use of scabs, replacement workers, as long as the employer is not undermining the collective bargaining process. By their very nature, scabs undermine collective bargaining.

When they are used, there is no incentive for employers to go back to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith with their employees. If there is no ability to use replacement workers at all, the ability to undermine the bargaining process would be diminished.

The Ekati diamond mine strike in the Northwest Territories is a recent example of how employers like BHP Billiton, a multi-billion dollar a year company, took advantage of the current legislation. During negotiations, BHP tried to remove articles that had previously been negotiated and it took the union months to present its case in front of the labour relations board even though BHP was in clear violation of the labour code.

The company continued to operate with replacement workers and there was no significant penalty for trying to undermine the collective bargaining process. Without serious deterrents or consequences there is nothing stopping this type of behaviour from happening again.

Another recent lockout of Telus employees that was allowed to drag on for months causing tension on both sides could have been a lot shorter if the company did not have the ability to use replacement workers. I salute all those workers who hung in there to maintain the gains that they made under very trying circumstances.

We know this legislation can work. In Quebec, there has been virtual silence from employers whenever the labour code is up for review. In my home province of B.C. in 2002, the government left the anti-scab clauses alone in its rewrite of the provincial labour code. It knows, as employers do, that anti-scab legislation works.

Progressive changes at the federal level will send a strong signal to the remaining provincial governments to introduce bills to end the use of replacement workers.

Canada's federal labour laws cover one out of every ten jobs across the country, jobs that play a critical role in our national economy. In today's world, reducing the risk of disruption at our borders, airports and telecommunications networks is vital. This debate has gone on for well over 20 years. I am sure that if we listen closely, we can still hear the sound of the previous debates echoing in the chamber.

As parliamentarians, we must come together and say, no, to the arcane and destructive practices of using scabs, replacement workers and strike breakers. We must do what is in the best interests of working families. We must support this crucial amendment to the Canada Labour Code.