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House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was election.

Topics

Privacy CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Privacy Commissioner on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act for the year 2006.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation at the National Governors Association winter meeting, Innovation America, in Washington, D.C., February 24-27, 2007.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, as agreed on Wednesday, May 30, 2007.

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. In accordance with the motion adopted on Monday, May 28, your committee recommends that the government provide the committee an opportunity to study and provide recommendations to the terms of reference of any review of Canada Post prior to its commencement.

Also, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. In accordance with the order of reference of Tuesday, February 27, your committee has considered Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 in the main estimates under transport for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008, and reports the same.

Terminator Seeds Ban ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-448, An Act to prohibit the release, sale, importation and use of seeds incorporating or altered by variety-genetic use restriction technologies (V-GURTs), also called “terminator technologies”, and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table this private member's bill. Many in Canada share the conviction that Canada should join the ranks of countries like India and Brazil whose governments have already legislated bans on this technology in order to protect their farmers.

It is time to make a commitment to our farmers and the international community so that terminator seed technology will not be allowed to take root in Canada.

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

Canada-Portugal Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-449, An Act respecting a Canada-Portugal Day.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce this bill which seeks to declare June 10 as Canada-Portugal Day in appreciation of the Portuguese Canadians' contribution in Canada and in celebration of the friendship between Portugal and Canada.

On June 10, in Canada and throughout the world, persons of Portuguese origin remember their cultural roots by celebrating the life of Luis de Camoes, the author of Os Lusiadas, the epic poem about the history of Portugal prior to 1500.

Portuguese Canadians have a long history in Canada. Back in the 15th century, on the south and east shores of Newfoundland and the Strait of Belle Isle, Portuguese fishermen caught cod and dried them ashore. Names of Portuguese origin are found along the Atlantic coast of Canada. Canada and Portugal continue to work together and the first annual meeting of the Canada-Portugal committee on fisheries cooperation took place in Lisbon March 16-17, 2006.

In the 1950s, many Portuguese immigrants came to Canada to farm and helped construct railways. Since then, thousands continue to arrive to build our cities and towns. Today almost half a million people of Portuguese descent call Canada home.

With the declaration of June 10 as Canada-Portugal Day, Parliament will recognize and express gratitude for the contribution of the Portuguese Canadian community to Canada.

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

Canada-Portugal Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I hope you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44, except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

Canada-Portugal Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Canada-Portugal Day ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1(1)(a) I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44 except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform moves pursuant to Standing Order 56.1(1)(a):

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44 except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places.

And fewer than 25 members having risen:

Fewer than 25 members having risen the motion is adopted.

(Motion agreed to)

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the ninth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, presented on Friday, May 18, 2007, be concurred in.

I am very pleased to rise in this House and discuss a motion made by the Bloc Québécois and adopted by the Standing Committee on International Trade on May 15.

I should mention that the Conservatives did everything in their power to block and delay the adoption of this motion, but the opposition parties set aside partisanship to address this issue, which is crucial to the sovereignty of Canada and the Quebec of the future.

Before I go any further, I would like to read the motion, as adopted by the committee.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and the motion adopted by the Committee on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 your Committee recommends:

Whereas Canada’s water resources must be protected;

Whereas NAFTA covers all services and all goods, except those that are expressly excluded and water is not excluded;

Whereas this situation puts the provincial and federal laws concerning the protection of water including the prohibition of bulk water exports at risk;

Whereas a simple agreement by exchange of letters among the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico specifying that water is not covered by NAFTA must be respected by international tribunals as if it were an integral part of NAFTA;

That the Standing Committee recommend that the government quickly begin talks with its American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

Considering that the primary responsibility of democratically elected political parties is to represent the people and defend their interests, it is difficult to imagine that a party would refuse to support a motion intended to protect Quebec's and Canada's resources. Such a position has no basis in logic. Many people are afraid to embark on such talks, because reopening NAFTA would be like opening Pandora's box, especially since the winds of protectionism seem to be blowing south of the border.

These concerns are understandable, but it is possible to exclude water, without completely reopening the agreement. Far from being eloquent, the Conservatives' argument is mainly that there is no risk, so why talk about it?

Most of the people who appeared before the committee did not show the same gullibility or naiveté as the Conservatives. In any event, assuming that the Conservatives are right, nothing would stop them from taking a stand on this issue. This would reassure all Quebeckers and Canadians, and would firmly show our American and Mexican neighbours that Canada has a consensus.

Refusing to take a stand on this issue shows the current government's lack of goodwill. Speaking of goodwill, the members of the Standing Committee on International Trade were shocked by the attitude of the committee chair, particularly when it came to the process for discussing and adopting the water motion, which we are talking about today.

We now all understand better what happened: the chair was only doing as he was told. It was a good try, but democracy won out, which goes to show how essential the Bloc Québécois is to the current Parliament.

To get back to the water motion, the question is whether or not bulk water can be considered a good. I would like to warn you that the Conservatives will mainly refer to water in its natural state. What is water in its natural state? It is water flowing down a river, or sitting in a basin. What is water if it has been removed from a riverbed or a basin? Since it has been altered, it is no longer in its natural state.

This distinction is essential in this case. Water in its natural state is effectively protected, but as soon any type of modification is made, water is no longer in its natural state and can therefore become a commercial good.

That is precisely what is pointed out in a document prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade:

Water does not become a good until it is removed from its natural state and enters into commerce as a saleable commodity,

That is very close to what we are saying, is it not? But let us go further. Again, according to the document from the department:

Water in its natural state can be equated with other natural resources, such as trees in the forest, fish in the sea, or minerals in the ground.

Can the government confirm that the forests, fish or minerals are not covered by NAFTA? Obviously not or the problem goes well beyond the debate we are engaged in today.

Therefore, by comparing water to those other natural resources, the government is confirming that water could very well become a commodity regulated by NAFTA. That shows how important it is to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA. The threat is very real, indeed, too real.

In simple terms, water could be a commercial product, but as the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement du Québec (BAPE) has recognized it is only the lack of profit in water exports that has so far protected Quebec water from being exported in bulk.

In 2000, the BAPE noted that the commercial value of water did not make it profitable to export water in bulk. But what would happen if the commercial value of water increased to the point that it made such a project profitable?

Given the climate change that our world is facing, our neighbours to the south expect increasing drought, which will have major repercussions, especially on the American economy. It is because of that very real possibility that we must act now to specifically exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

In its report, entitled L’eau, ressource à protéger, à partager et à mettre en valeur, the Commission sur la gestion de l'eau au Québec asked the question, “Should Quebec export its fresh water in large quantities?” and answered with an emphatic “No”.

The report pointed out that maintaining the status quo would be an unwise strategy given the current state of knowledge and the uncertainty related to climate change. That uncertainty is becoming more of a certainty. Climate change is increasingly considered to be a real and significant threat.

Since the publication of the BAPE report in 2000, scientific advances, such as the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, better known as IPCC, have confirmed the fears raised in the BAPE report.

The report clearly indicates:

In the short term, Quebec must make the Water Resources Preservation Act permanent. On the federal side, the possibility of the renegotiation of NAFTA must be closely scrutinized.

That is what the BAPE had to say.

In other words, the motion presented by the Bloc Québécois is perfectly in line with the recommendation made in the BAPE report on water management. Given that natural resources are under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government must not encroach on provincial jurisdictions; rather, it must fill in the gaps in trade agreements, such as NAFTA, which do fall under federal jurisdiction.

Water, in and of itself, is under provincial jurisdiction, but have the provinces done their homework?

Will the federal government alone protect this resource? Quebec legislation prohibits the export of water in bulk, and every Canadian province, except New Brunswick, has similar legislation.

However, there is no guarantee that this legislation will withstand a possible dispute by the Americans under NAFTA, which is the problem that this motion aims to resolve. The government says that NAFTA in no way limits our ability to protect our water resources. However, the situation is not so straightforward. Water is not specifically excluded from the scope of NAFTA. Most experts agree that water, in its natural state, is not subject to NAFTA. This protection, quite frankly, does not mean much. As already mentioned, water is in its natural state when it is not being used. The Americans would not purchase water from the Saguenay, only to leave it in the Saguenay. They would want to purchase water from the Saguenay in order to use it south of the border. Thus, it would not be in its natural state.

If a proposal to take water for export is put forward, we can no longer say that the water is not being used. If a contract is signed to that effect, a commercial transaction exists and trade agreements apply. Unless a commodity is specifically excluded from NAFTA through an exception under chapter 21 or a reservation, NAFTA applies the moment a commercial transaction is concluded.

In the absence of an exception, it is not the nature of the commodity that determines whether it is a marketable commodity. In other words, a U.S. company would simply have to put forward a proposal to export large quantities of water in order for NAFTA to apply, namely in terms of non-discrimination, national treatment or investment protection.

What about the witnesses who were kind enough to appear before the committee, that is, those who were allowed to speak? I must say that at the May 10 meeting, I was never more ashamed to be a parliamentarian. Preventing a witness from addressing the committee was not just embarrassing, but literally unbearable. Witnesses who had truly travelled from across Canada to provide us their testimony were silenced by the committee's chair. Again today, given recent revelations in the media on the Conservatives' code, we understand things better, but this is still inexcusable. Some had the chance to be heard. I should say “listened to”, but for members of the government I use that term quite loosely.

Allow me to cite Peter Fawcett, Deputy Director at the U.S. Transboundary Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who appeared before the committee on May 10. Mr. Speaker, I presume you will allow my loose translation of what he said, which was, “I just want to emphasize that this is the approach we've taken to deal with water—as a natural resource, in its basin”. What happens when water is no longer in its basin? The witness was unable to give us an answer.

Another witness left quite an impression on the committee: Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who addressed the committee on May 1. Her remarks were clear, precise and easy to understand. Ms. Barlow has published a number of books specifically on water. Allow me to quote a few excerpts from Ms. Barlow's testimony in the committee:

One is that you won't see the word “water” in NAFTA. What you'll see is the reference to the definition of a “good” that was in the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. When you go to that, you will see water in all its forms, including ice and snow. NAFTA adopted the old GATT tariff notion of a good, so water absolutely, definitely, is in NAFTA, which supersedes the provincial laws; not one of the provincial bans on water exports would stand up to a NAFTA challenge. We have to remove water as a good, an investment, and a service in NAFTA. We need to do that.

Ms. Barlow went on to say that:

[The Conservatives are] wrong in saying that NAFTA does not impact on the provinces and does not take precedence. A treaty between two countries, signed by the federal government of those two countries, is the overarching legislation. It implies everything and involves everything about the provinces. Of course the provinces don't have jurisdiction higher than that treaty.

I have here in my hand all of the legislation of the different provinces. It's a mishmash. New Brunswick has nothing--and they mean nothing.

Ralph Pentland, now retired, is considered Canada's leading senior bureaucratic authority on water issues. He is very clear that water is in NAFTA, as are all the legal opinions that you will find from everybody on all sides of the border--and when I say “border” I mean the political border. We even met with lawyers from the Canadian government when the Liberals were in power, and they all said the same thing: water is in NAFTA. You don't see the word. You have to go to the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to get the definition of a good, and there it is. It is in there as an investment.

There is much to talk about. In short, for a brief period of time British Columbia exported water to the United States, specifically to a region experiencing a shortage. However, the province quickly changed its mind at the cost of a secret out-of-court settlement based on the provisions of the infamous chapter 11 of the NAFTA.

Canadian water will not be at risk so long as Americans do not challenge provincial laws, which are all different, and demand the export of water as a commercial good governed by NAFTA.

Although the issue is complex and the implications far-reaching, the solution may be simple and achievable. Excluding water from NAFTA is an obvious example that simple measures often do the trick.

When the government's argument against a motion is summed up by “it is no use”, while representatives of civil society are using every platform to make government aware of the extent of the risk, we should be asking questions.

The Bloc Québécois is proud to have introduced this motion, which is a good example of how the Bloc Québécois supports democracy in this House.

In closing, I will quote a few lines from the Libre-Opinion piece that appeared in Le Devoir on May 30, 2007:

The recent adoption by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade of a motion introduced by the Bloc Québécois, and supported by the opposition parties, to exclude water from NAFTA, deserves to be applauded.

It is in this context that I ask this House and all members to support this motion calling on the Government of Canada to begin formal talks with Mexico and the United States for the purpose of excluding water from the scope of NAFTA.

The Conservatives have told us repeatedly that water is not covered by the NAFTA, that it is excluded. Then why not spell it out? If the government and the Conservative members insist on being unclear, there must be something wrong. This motion is crystal clear.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc member said he is tremendously anxious about water quality and the sale of water. Why, then, is the Bloc prepared to support the Conservatives' new fisheries act given that Bill C-45 gives corporate polluters a free hand to dump toxic substances in many of our lakes, rivers and oceans?

The St. Lawrence River, for example, is intimately connected with the Great Lakes, which are under tremendous stress and pressure. This Parliament should strengthen our laws to protect our water, so why is the Bloc supporting any bill that weakens the protection of our water? How can we talk about exporting water when our water might be further polluted or contaminated?

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a possible export of water and the fact that NAFTA might permit the exporting of water.

I do not imagine that anyone would want Canada's and Quebec's water if it were completely polluted, other than to use for very rudimentary needs that would have no implications. When we are talking about the bulk removal of water, it is just as important, if not more so, to talk about water quality. The water we are conserving will have to be good quality, clean and pollution-free.

After the oxygen we breathe, which is essential to life, the second element that is essential to life is water. We must first ensure that the air is as pure as possible; and our water must then also be as pure as possible. Not only must it be pure, but it must also be protected. Water is not just a natural resource, it is a resource that is essential to life.

For example, I will cite a few situations that have occurred in the world. Let us recall the Aral Sea, which has practically dried up because of irrigation and because the water table was affected. We cannot allow this to occur. In the United States, there are developments being built in the desert, where housing complexes are being constructed and top dollar is being paid to have an oversized artificial lake. This will lead to a need for water. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. On the other hand, the American need for water will mean that the United States will one day be wanting Canada's and Quebec's water.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a follow-up question that is similar to that of my colleague. If we are really concerned about freshwater and water transportation, then we have to look at the largest reserve of water. Let us look at the Great Lakes, which hold 22% of the world's unfrozen freshwater. That is a significant amount of water. Our obligation on both sides of the border should be to protect that water and to make sure it is as clean and as usable as possible, generation after generation, as far ahead as we want to look.

We have been doing a poor job of that. This past weekend the Canada and the U.S. met and I know it is as large an issue on the United States side as it is on our side. We have to work collectively together to deal with that.

However, when we are talking about this motion and NAFTA and removing freshwater to a foreign country, which would obviously be the United States, that is absolutely not in NAFTA. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding on that, in 1993 there was an agreement among the three countries to make that absolutely clear. The NAFTA deal only talks about this if it is a good. It is only a good if it is processed, either put in a bottle or put into some kind of process. In its natural form it is not a good and it is not part of NAFTA.

I do not understand where this motion is going and why there is a problem here. There is a problem, but the problem lies in dealing with that 22% of the freshwater in the world, not in this motion and not in removing freshwater to the United States in a form that would be obligated by NAFTA. I wonder if my colleague would respond to that, because those are the real facts.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Conservative member, is using a bit of a diversionary tactic. What I am talking about is water in the context of NAFTA; he is talking about the water in the Great Lakes. We all know that when it comes to the Great Lakes, we have the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, and that this is under federal jurisdiction, of course. As well, it involves the International Joint Commission. In that respect, when the member says that there are major problems, he must probably be meaning to refer to the problems that the Conservatives are encountering in negotiations about boundary waters.

The fact remains that Canada has to preserve its water. It must also work with the United States, because there are two parties here: the United States and Canada. They must work in the same direction to protect these great bodies of water.

That cannot be done without a firm will to protect not only the quantity of water, the whole range of watersheds, but also the quality of that water. A drop in the water level can have a horrific impact. The Americans will certainly be tempted, of course, to pump water from the watersheds, but because of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, we must ensure that these great bodies of water are protected. That much is obvious.

Once that protection has been granted, under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, we must still consider the question of water that is not expressly excluded from NAFTA. Yes, there are letters. Yes, there is an implementation act; but when will there be action? Is wood not a commodity, just like fish or ore? They are not commodities when they are in their natural state, but as soon as they are no longer in that natural state, they are commodities.

And that is what the United States wants to do, in the relatively short term.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it seems as we move along with the trade agreements we signed many years ago that some of these issues still are not resolved.

I had the opportunity to make a presentation to an environmental assessment panel in Quebec City this winter on the relationship of energy to NAFTA in terms of the liquefied natural gas imports proposed for Quebec. Once again, there is no clarity on the nature of some of these products under these trade agreements.

Does my hon. colleague not agree with me that it is very important to push forward with our position on products, goods and services and to put our case forward as strongly as possible from the government and this Parliament to ensure that our trading partners understand where we are coming from? That is what I think this effort from the committee is working toward and it is certainly something that should be supported.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have here a note that I have to read to you to put things into context. Let us recall that, at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the U.S. president told a reporter that he saw Canada's water resources as part of America's energy security.

We know very well how the negotiations are conducted. For the SPP, the security and prosperity partnership, for instance, there have been discussions between firms of pretty important lobbyists, or at least ones with considerable political influence, from the three countries involved: Canada, the United States and Mexico. They have gotten together to talk about the water issue. That too comes under the security and prosperity partnership of North America and it shows how much the United States cares about energy security.

In this respect, certainly efforts have to be made. Efforts have to be made to defend the interests of Canada and those of Quebec, of course, in any of these forums, because the SPP is doing things that go against the values of Canadians and Quebeckers. There is therefore a need for greater democratization. Canada has to assert its place in these negotiations, but it also has to speak for the values, aspirations and needs of the people, both Canadians and Quebeckers.

The government must therefore show great resolve, so that any dealings with the United States are conducted fairly and everyone wins. Above all, we must not be exploited or let anyone exploit us.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, for raising this today. We all recognize how important water is.

As well, of course, with all the discussions we are having of late about the environment and what is happening with our environment and the quality and quantity of our water, I think it is a relevant debate. It is misleading, of course, because of the premise of the motion we are debating, and I was part of that debate in committee, where I tried to raise the facts for the opposition members, who were not prepared to listen.

We heard a little lecture from that member this morning about committee procedures. I would beg to differ in regard to when a witness comes to committee and is totally off the topic that is being discussed that day and the chairman asks if the witness could please bring it back on topic. I supported our committee chair because we had called in a witness to speak on a specific subject. Our chair made the right decision.

I will stand behind our chair's decision. We were trying to bring the debate around to the topic of that day. Not only did that individual show great disrespect for our chair, who has spent as much time in that chair as you have, Mr. Speaker, but I am sure that our committee chair should not be required to subject himself to disrespect any more than you should, Sir.

It is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to this important debate. As I have said, water is an important matter and an important resource for Canada. Compared to other parts of the world, Canada possesses a relative abundance of freshwater. My hon. colleague from Yellowhead has pointed out the volume of water that is within Canada's--

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Wascana is rising on a point of order.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the parliamentary secretary. I do not mean to interrupt his speech. He will have an opportunity in just a moment to continue, but this has to do with another matter that occurred in the House earlier today at the beginning of the session.

I rise on a point of order concerning the government's use of Standing Order 56.1 to dispose of the committee stage of Bill C-44. This occurred earlier today.

I would like to refer specifically to a ruling by the Speaker on September 18, 2001, in which the Speaker said the following:

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Mr. Speaker, that appeared in Hansard on September 18, 2001.

Therefore, in light of this ruling that is already provided, and referenced, I might say, in Marleau and Montpetit, acknowledging that the committee stage of a bill is a stage of consideration, the government can use Standing Order 78 to limit debate at this stage or at any other stage.

As indicated by the Speaker in the quotation that I referred to, Standing Order 56.1 “was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages”.

I would therefore, Mr. Speaker, respectfully request that you look at the motion adopted by the use of Standing Order 56.1 this morning and rule explicitly that the motion is out of order in relation to Standing Order 56.1.

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the aboriginal affairs committee is meeting very shortly and that is why I have raised the matter at this time. Your ruling in a timely manner would be most welcome on this issue so that the standing committee can know where it stands.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, a similar motion was moved and adopted on October 3, 2006, concerning Bill C-24, the softwood lumber bill. That motion was challenged and the Speaker ruled the motion in order. The Speaker said at that time:

In fact, the effect of the motion is not unlike the effect of adopting a motion under Standing Order 26, which provides for the continuation of debate on a matter before the House, which is to say that it provides for an open-ended extension of the sitting for purposes of continuing debate on a particular matter. This, it can be argued, can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

As I read the motion moved by the hon. the government House leader and adopted by the House, every member wishing to speak to the amendment and the main motion, who has not already done so, will be able to participate. The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure. Instead it simply extends the sitting of the motion then before the House. That is a significant difference. The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are therefore insufficient in my view for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.

The motion the government House leader has moved is not unlike the motion moved on October 3rd. The only difference is that it concerns a bill that is before a committee. There is no deadline dictated to the committee as a time allocation motion would propose. Members are free to sit as long as they wish to consider Bill C-44. There is no deadline for reporting the bill back, except to direct the committee to report the bill back when it finishes its consideration of Bill C-44. The motion does not presuppose that the committee is going to adopt the bill. It simply says that if the committee adopts the bill, that it ought to report it back. That is what would normally happen.

With respect to committees being masters of their own destiny, that principle does not preclude the House from giving committees some direction. Committees are subordinate to the House. In fact, the House is the sole source of direction for committees through the Standing Orders and other motions. This is covered on pages 805 to 809 of Marleau and Montpetit. In part it says:

Standing committees are permanent committees established by Standing Order. They are mandated by the House to oversee a government department or departments, to review particular areas of federal policy or to exercise procedural and administrative responsibilities related to Parliament...other matters are routinely referred to them by the House for examination: bills, Estimates, Order-in-Council appointments--

It also says that the House can give an order of reference including “--conditions that the committee must comply with in carrying out the study--”.

I submit that Standing Order 56.1 is the proper means to achieve the objectives outlined in the motion. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to section (b) of the Standing Order which says that Standing Order 56.1 is to be used:

--for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment

As with the motion that dealt with the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the motion dealing with the committee stage of Bill C-44 can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join the Liberal House leader in asking you to rule this motion out of order and to prevent the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development from meeting today to finish its work on this bill.

Like the Liberal House leader, I interpret this motion as being one of time allocation. As such, there are already precedents on this matter, including a Speaker's ruling on September 18, 2001. In his ruling, the Speaker said that Standing Order 56.1 should not be understood as another procedurally acceptable mechanism for limiting debate. Further on, with respect to government attempts to speed up business, he added:

The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Consequently, the Bloc believes that the motion was misinterpreted and that it should therefore be ruled out of order, as I said earlier.

Furthermore, this is a common sense issue. The witnesses we need to hear in order to debate this bill come from as far away as Saskatchewan and Alberta. This affects aboriginal communities. If the committee is forced to meet today to study this bill, members of the committee will not have access to all of the information they need to make an informed decision. There is nothing in either parliamentary privilege or precedence that justifies the motion before us.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer up the support of the NDP caucus to the point of order of the House leader of the official opposition in that we believe it should be ruled out of order.

I will not go into the clauses and references. That has been done quite adequately. However, I would add the arguments that the NDP have in support of the point being made.

The first one is that we should not be and cannot be using a routine motion to effectively impose time allocation. In particular, we should not be using a routine motion when there are other motions available.

There are three versions of time allocation that would actually be applicable to this particular situation, of which the government has not availed itself, and there is also closure. As much as we may not like closure, it is still a legitimate tool that the government has available if it wishes to apply time allocation to this matter, rather than again using the routine motion provision.

The other thing is, quite frankly the current Speaker and previous Speakers have reiterated that we cannot go through the back door when the front door is available. For that matter, we cannot go through the back door when the front door is not available. The fact is that the government ought not to try to go in through the back door using a routine motion for something that is one of the strongest powers that the House has, which is to shut down debate.

Therefore, if the government feels it wants to go down this road, it should get this back on track and we should proceed with one of the other tools that is available. However, we do agree wholeheartedly with the notion that this particular route is not appropriate, and in our humble submission to you, Mr. Speaker, we believe also that it should be ruled out of order.